Frankly Football (cont.)
"Hopefully, we win the Super Bowl," Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette while working at the youth camp that bears his name. "That's my goal this year and I think we've got the personnel for it." For Roethlisberger's sake, I really hope the Steelers have repaired the offensive line problems that prevented them from making a stronger run in the playoffs last season. Roethlisberger is the hardest quarterback in the NFL to get on the ground and always gets a very long whistle from the referee.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that it is "ridiculous to reward untested rookies with lucrative contracts." Goodell wants the issue addressed in upcoming contract talks. "There's something wrong about the system," he said. "The money should go to people who perform." And most of the times it does. The problem lies in the first 10 picks of the draft. That is where the money is just downright ridiculous. My recommendation would be for the league to place a "hard cap" or eliminate the gigantic escalators built into top 10 rookie deals. The best values in the NFL are still second-round draft picks, as clubs can gain a potential starter for a very cost-effective price. As a general manager, I would never trade a second-round pick for anyone -- they are that valuable.
Matt Leinart told the Orange County Register he thinks his extracurricular activities were "mistakes," and he added, "I have to realize I'm a role model and act like one." This was a great idea by Leinart admitting his past was affecting his performance on the field. Leinart needs to lead his team to a victory early in the season and win some favor in his own locker room. As Ben Franklin once said, "Well done is better than well said."
Dolphins running back Ricky Williams opened up last week on several subjects, including his thought process when he quit football the first time: "Looking back, I was so dumb," he said. "Something had to get out of my system. It's such a stressful job. I should have gone up to the head coach and told him what was going on inside of me before it exploded in me. When it did explode, it was too late." And he also commented on the team's chances for 2008: Williams predicts the Fins will win "at least nine games." Williams will need to prove he can maintain his conditioning throughout the game and limit his history of fumbling or he will be in someone's dog house -- big time.
I have a very good feeling that Texans rookie running back Steve Slaton will make a huge difference in Houston's running game this year. He has the right skill set for the offense and with new offensive line coach Alex Gibbs on the staff there will be more mental toughness on the O-line this year.
It's funny how everyone feels Jeremy Shockey and the Giants can't make up and start playing football again. Didn't we all think Kobe Bryant and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would never talk again after all the bad blood spilled last summer? Things change. Bryant went on to win league MVP and the Lakers played in the Finals. Time heals wounds, and I really believe Shockey and the Giants can move forward.
If I ...
Were the Pittsburgh Steelers, I would spend whatever it took to replace the turf at Heinz Field. The Steelers' defense relies on speed and quickness, and when the field is slow and mostly mud, like it will be this November, it makes it very hard for anyone to look quick or explosive. In the last two games of last season played on that "cow pasture," the normally stingy Steelers defense allowed 660 total yards and 60 points (losing both games to the Jaguars). Your home field must match the style and talent of your team.
Were the Jaguars, I would get running back/returner Maurice Jones-Drew extended to a new contract very soon. He is so dynamic in all phases of the game and much of the offense relies on his ability to make plays. His 26 touchdowns in just two seasons is an amazing feat. I look for the Jags to be even better this year offensively as they enter Year 2 under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Was a fantasy football fanatic, I would think about taking a flier on Titans QB Vince Young. Working with new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and having an explosive running back like rookie Chris Johnson will allow him to make plays with his feet and most important his arm. I really believe Young will have a great year, as Heimerdinger has a very solid track record in adjusting his system to the specific quarterback.
Were Marvin Lewis, I would spend extra time this summer in camp preparing for the special teams units of the Browns and Ravens. The Bengals ranked 29th in the NFL last year in opponents' average starting field position after a kick off. They also ranked 17th in the NFL in allowing 9.1 yards per punt return. The AFC North will feature two of the best kicking teams in the NFL this year, and the Bengals will need extra time and more talent to be able to win this phase of the game.
Taking A Knee
As we enter Fourth of July week, it's the perfect time to salute all the men and women who have given up their lives for this great country, including Pat Tillman, the former Cardinals safety who made a conscious choice to serve our country in Afghanistan and lost his life. Happy Birthday, America.