Ten intriguing offseason topics (cont.)
6. Will anything or anyone dim the Super Bowl afterglow emanating from the Giants?
This is New York we're talking about, so of course the good vibes will come to an abrupt halt far sooner than they should. Either Michael Strahan will be playing the retirement/leverage game for more money (Do you love me $8 million worth?) or Jeremy Shockey will be griping about still seeing an NY on his helmet, but something's going to pop.
As sure as Tom Coughlin's face gets red, New York will have to deal with some of the ancillary issues that come with winning the Big One. Even Coughlin's own son-in-law, Giants guard Chris Snee, wants his contract upgraded and might make for a potential training camp distraction. Yep, the victory parade is over all right.
7. Will the future be now for the Seahawks and Colts this year?
Seattle and Indianapolis will play out their 2008 seasons under a different type of microscope than the rest of the league, given that Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren has definitively decided to retire next year and the Colts' Tony Dungy is thought to be leaning strongly toward taking the same step.
Their successors have already been named -- Jim Mora in Seattle, Jim Caldwell in Indy -- and that could open up a whole new front on the typical second-guessing game as we know it. Every decision made by Holmgren and Dungy this year will be held up and inspected in light of the present-versus-future debate, and that could quickly grow tiresome for a couple of coaches who own Super Bowl rings.
Mora and Caldwell won't make a collective wave among them, but the fans and us media types won't be able to leave the farewell story line alone all season. It might even make us all pine for the nostalgia of the Brett Favre retirement watch -- but I doubt it.
8. What will happen in Chad Johnson's standoff with Cincinnati?
Keep in mind that Johnson won't really be giving up anything but some training camp sweat until he starts missing regular-season paychecks. That's when we'll know if all his bluster means anything, or if he has no intention of letting his mouth cost him real money. I suspect he already knows that his plan to talk his way out of town is not off to a rousing start.
Bengals owner Mike Brown isn't the nervous type who's going to worry about losing the PR battle -- not that he is -- and cave in to the pressure. The man, for years, had a website in his own town passionately devoted to his removal, and he never blinked, so I don't think No. 85 is going to hold him hostage. Unless somebody makes another really stupid trade offer for him, Johnson plays in Cincinnati this season. Look for him to see the light in time to start cashing those regular-season paychecks.
9. Can Donovan McNabb pick up where he left off at the end of 2007?
When I saw McNabb early in training camp last year, I thought he was in midseason form. When I saw him in midseason, I thought he was toast in Philadelphia after 2007. So don't ask me which McNabb we're going to get this year. But if the No. 5 who wound up winning his final three starts of last season is there from day one this summer, we can all put the Kevin Kolb talk on the shelf for another year.
McNabb finally looked comfortable in December on his surgically repaired knee, and maybe he really did need the year that it is said to take to recover fully from an ACL. All I know is that he'll never have much of a margin for error in Philly, and especially not at his age (32 in November), with all three of the Eagles' NFC East opponents coming off of playoff trips last season. As McNabb's 10th season as the face of the Eagles franchise dawns, it doesn't feel like hyperbole to suggest it's now-or-never time for him in Philly.
10. Will there be any Super Bowl or Spygate hangover effect for the Patriots?
I sincerely doubt that a mention of last year's Super Bowl meltdown or a certain videotaping scandal will ever cross Bill Belichick's lips this season. I've got to believe we're in for the full "We're moving on'' treatment, delivered in a relentless monotone. But you can't say that approach won't work, because we've seen New England's singular skill for focus and concentrating on the task at hand produce results time and time again.
The Patriots had some weaknesses exposed in the Super Bowl, especially along their offensive and defensive lines, but that just means that Belichick once again has been given all the motivational tools he could possibly require. Somehow he'll have the Patriots completely forgetting about the 18 wins last year, at the exclusion of their one, rather shocking, three-point loss. We can all count on that.