Banks Shots (cont.)
Later today, the NFL's Pro Bowl teams will be announced, and that always serves to remind me of one thing: I hate the Pro Bowl. It may be the biggest joke in professional sports, depending on how seriously you take Dancing With the Stars.
It's not solely that I take exception with the idea of the fan balloting aspect of the Pro Bowl selection process, or that it's merely a popularity contest that often rewards undeserving players who go back to Honolulu every year because, well, they've gone before.
It's that the game is inherently meaningless, and winds up being waged by far too many third alternates and injury replacements to deserve true all-star billing. If the majority of players don't care, and they really don't other than having the negotiating leverage of a Pro Bowl selection on their résumé, why should we?
I know the league believes moving the game to the weekend between the conference title games and the Super Bowl might jack up fan interest, and it might. But not much. Now you're going to have Pro Bowl teams that can't have any players representing that season's Super Bowl teams, and that's a ridiculous situation that only waters down the significance of the game in and of itself.
In the contact sport that is the NFL, it's just a flawed concept to think you could have an all-star game with any real intensity or significance. It just doesn't work as a postseason game, and it'll never happen in season. Name the Pro Bowl teams and let the record book show who made it in any given year. Just don't bother with the charade of playing the game. The Pro Bowl is a perennial bore.
Here's something remarkable to consider as we stare down the final two weeks of the regular season: From the 1970 merger on, 203 teams have won at least 11 games in any given season, and 202 of those have made the playoffs. That's a 99.5 percent success ratio, with only the 1985 Denver Broncos bucking the trend (sorry for the pun).
Dan Reeves' team that season went 11-5, but lost out on the two AFC wild-card berths in the NFL's then 10-team playoff format to the Jets and Patriots, who were both 11-5 as well. Making the Broncos even crazier was the fact that Cleveland won the AFC Central that season at a dazzling 8-8.
But this year, we could have an 11-5 non-playoff qualifier in each conference. And it's not even all that implausible. New England in the AFC and Atlanta in the NFC are both 9-5, but out of the money in the playoff chase at the moment. If form holds, both the Patriots and the Falcons could join the '85 Broncos with that dubious distinction.
And if you're wondering why I didn't include the 9-5 Jets and 9-5 Dolphins alongside the Patriots as potential 11-5 playoff no-shows, it's because New York and Miami play in Week 17, meaning one of them would have to win the division at 11-5 in this scenario, and one of them would have to finish 10-6 and out of the postseason.
Last year at this time, the Giants' Tom Coughlin was in the process of going from a guy who was coaching for his job in 2008 to winning a Super Bowl title. If there's a coach I would deem most likely to make the same journey this time around, it'd be Carolina's John Fox, who entered this make-or-break season after having survived speculation last winter that he was in jeopardy of being bounced by the Panthers.
I give Fox a clear edge over Dallas' Wade Phillips, Minnesota's Brad Childress and the Jets' Eric Mangini in the from-the-hot-seat-to-the-victory-parade standings.
And so ends the long reign of "King Carl'' Peterson in Kansas City. Do you imagine they'll ever be another NFL general manager/team president who gets 20 years in his job without at least getting to one Super Bowl?
Yeah, me neither. I'm still not even sure how it happened once.
Let's see how long it takes Marty Schottenheimer to apply for Kansas City's general manager opening? And to repeat, I don't think Cleveland has interest in Schottenheimer in any capacity. Those recent headlines were all trial balloons floated in order to make it known Schottenheimer has interest in Cleveland.
Can you believe that Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel pulled a DeSean Jackson and intentionally dropped the ball shy of crossing the goal line on that interception return for a touchdown Monday night against Cleveland?
I would have bet the Wall Street bailout that another Philly player wouldn't have tried that asinine routine at any point this season after the Eagles rookie receiver got away with it (sort of) in the Monday-night Week 2 loss at Dallas.
What could Samuel have possibly been thinking?
OK, it can't be mere happenstance at this point. Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards, he of the wholly disappointing season, has just three 100-yard receiving games this year, and they're all in Monday nighters?
I get liking the camera and the spotlight, and Edwards told me in training camp how eager he was to play on Monday nights with the whole NFL world watching. But Braylon, try to mix in a decent Sunday afternoon game now and then.
Did you notice that in reaction to my dropping Vernon Gholston completely out of my first-round NFL draft re-do last week, the Jets on Sunday made the sixth-overall pick inactive for the first time this season? Coincidence? Entirely.
What would be the more remarkable accomplishment, the Raiders' streak of six years in a row with at least 11 losses (already done), or the Colts' streak of six years in a row of at least 12 wins (almost there)?
I say the Raiders. It's hard to stay down that long in this league.
Oakland interim head coach Tom Cable on Monday went off on Raiders assistant offensive line coach James Cregg for leaving now to take a job on Lane Kiffin's University of Tennessee staff.
That's like begrudging someone for leaving the Titanic -- women and children first -- and I suspect Cable's really mad about either not getting an invitation to Knoxville himself, or the fact he has to finish out the season in Oakland.
Mark my words: Cortland Finnegan is going to make Titans fans -- and maybe his teammates -- want to kill him at some point with another one of his patented unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Interesting turn of events in Minnesota, where defensive tackle Pat Williams will miss two-to-six weeks with a broken scapula, after last week dodging the league suspension StarCaps bullet -- for now. With the Falcons and Giants coming to town in the next two weeks, the Vikings are going to miss one of their leading run defenders.
Maybe Minnesota can get that federal judge to put forth a preliminary injunction against Williams' injury. Because at this point we know God is obviously a league-office man.
If the Redskins are even considering the firing of first-year head coach Jim Zorn -- and my strong hunch is that they're not -- it would make a mockery of everything Washington owner Daniel Snyder has said about trying to take a more patient, more mature, less-reactionary approach to chasing a Super Bowl championship.
The Redskins went with Zorn last January despite knowing he would be doing some on-the-job training as a head coach. But they invested in his potential, and now's the time they need to remember where their never-ending search for instant gratification has gotten them in the past.