Posted: Monday January 21, 2008 8:33AM; Updated: Monday January 21, 2008 3:37PM
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Championship Weekend:
a. Media line of the week, from Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, after Eli Manning had been delivered a set of DVDs with every Seinfeld episode in the wake of a Green Bay TV station's decision to pre-empt the show when the Giants came to town so Seinfeld-fan Manning could not watch. "Eli Manning can once again be the master of his domain.''
b. How about Miami getting two second-round picks for Wes Welker and Chris Chambers? What a personnel disaster that team in Miami has been. Those are winning players, and the Dolphins get only two picks in the 60 neighborhood.
c. I'd be stunned if Steve Spagnuolo doesn't vault into serious consideration for the Falcons job. Today.
d. What a sad, sad place Lambeau Field was after the game. They get so wrapped up in their team and then there's ... nothing.
e. Ever hear of Felix Jones? You will. He was Darren McFadden's backup at Arkansas. Like McFadden, he has chosen to enter the NFL draft with one year of eligibility remaining. And like McFadden -- most likely -- Jones will be a first-round draft choice.
f. "There will be no trade of Chad Johnson,'' Marvin Lewis said the other day. OK. Now what? How do you get him back on the reservation, Marvin?
g. Is the Seattle deal for Deion Branch turning into a full-fledged disaster or what? Two years of fairly low impact (102 catches) for a high price (a first-round pick went to New England, and $6.5 million per year went to Branch). Now he'll need ACL surgery and probably won't be ready to start the '08 season on the active roster.
h. That's still more than the Titans are getting out of Branch's former running mate, David Givens. He's missed almost all of his two Tennessee seasons with chronic knee problems, and Jeff Fisher says he might not be ready for the start of 2008 training camp either.
i. I see where the Niners are thick into negotiations with Shaun Hill for a new contract before he hits free-agency in March. Smart move by the team, which wants Hill and Alex Smith to compete for the starting job this offseason. Hill would be smart to stay -- unless he gets some ridiculous offer from someone -- because he's got a heck of a chance to win the Niners' starting job. Anywhere else he'd be just another guy.
j. Looks like the 49ers will be building a new stadium just off Highway 101 in Santa Clara. Good idea. The team has given San Francisco long enough to get a deal done.
2. I think I would not be surprised if the Seahawks cut Shaun Alexander in the offseason. And I would not be critical of them if they did. Last week, I had a conversation with LaDainian Tomlinson about a few things, one of which was the pair of running backs I'd seen in Green Bay in the divisional playoff game, Ryan Grant and Alexander. I told him it was amazing how much harder Grant ran than Alexander.
He praised Grant, and while he wouldn't criticize Alexander, he did say: "Look at the great running backs in history. Look at Walter Payton, Jim Brown. What did they have in common? They were hungry. They ran hard every play, right up to the end of their careers. If you don't do that, you won't stay one of the great backs.''
Alexander tap-danced against Green Bay. Grant got shot out of a cannon. Seattle didn't get the same effort out of Alexander this year that it's gotten in the past. It'd be a $6.9-million cap hit to let him go, but I think it'd be addition by subtraction.
3. I think, in the end, there was a faction in Baltimore that wanted John Harbaugh to be the coach, and a smaller faction that wanted Marty Schottenheimer. I don't think that. I know that.
4. I think, speaking of Harbaugh, I applaud Bisciotti for going against the grain and hiring a smart, ball-of-energy communicator -- a guy who hadn't been a coordinator, who hadn't been a head coach. In a way, it almost reminds me of the Steelers hiring Mike Tomlin last year. Though Tomlin had been a defensive coordinator for one season, he was a relatively untested and risky hire, but the Rooneys said, in essence, that they thought he had a bigger upside than the other candidates. Give Bisciotti credit for going with his gut. That's one of the points Harbaugh, 45, the former special teams and secondary coach with the Eagles, made when we spoke Sunday morning.
Harbaugh: "A little bit. I had no idea if I had any chance, really, when I went into my first interview. I think there are only two owners in this league who might have taken a chance like this -- Steve Bisciotti or [Philadelphia's] Jeff Lurie, men who will think outside the box and do something they believe in, not just something that other people think is the right decision.''
MMQB: "You've never been a head coach before. What's your philosophy of what a head coach should be?''
Harbaugh: "A head coach has to be a leader, and he has to be a unifier. Lots of times, owners will select a coach who is basically the coordinator on one side of the football, then coordinators will be picked for special teams and the other side of the ball. The way we're going to do it is have a head coach who touches every player on the roster every day.''
MMQB: "You're inheriting a team with a defense that, from the outside, appears to be its own team. They've seemed out of control at times. How do you get everybody on the same page?''
Harbaugh: "That was really a big part of the interview process. I believe a lot of what you saw this year was snapshots in a frustrating season. I don't think they're bad guys, guys who don't want to be part of a team concept. In fact, I talked to Ray Lewis yesterday. Great talk. I was completely taken with him. He cares passionately about winning, and I know we're going to have a great relationship.''
MMQB: "What are you going to do about your quarterback?''
Harbaugh: "Good question. We're open on that. We'll consider all possibilities. What do you think?''
That, by the way, is what everyone says about Harbaugh. He's a consensus-builder. He'll need to be in Baltimore, to repair some of the post-Billick fractures.
Speaking of my head-coaching thoughts, the trends this year have been to pick new coaches with new ideas, no college coaches (only one of the estimated 52 people interviewed or considered for the four jobs so far, Pete Carroll, has been a college head coach), and for the coach-pickers to choose people in their own image.
In Baltimore, Bisciotti picks an out-going idea man, Harbaugh. In Miami, Bill Parcells picks a Parcells Jr., Tony Sparano. In Indianapolis, if necessary (and we should know by sundown today), Jim Irsay will pick the man he hopes is the next Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell. In Washington, it sounds like Gregg Williams is the leader in the clubhouse, and I'm not sure he fits the mold of the oft-impulsive Dan Snyder; but Williams is a direct, pointed guy.
In Atlanta, my guess is that Thomas Dimitroff, the new GM, will team with Arthur Blank and choose a no-name, pure-football guy. I wouldn't be surprised if they go with hungry and smart Spagnuolo, the Giants' defensive coordinator, who they're waiting to talk to.
5. I think those were some bizarre and dumb comments by Wade Phillips the other day, in the wake of the playoff loss to the Giants. "I feel like the best team lost the game. I thought we outplayed them, but we lost.'' A belittling statement. And one the Giants, if they have any pride, will remember next fall.
One more thing about Jason Garrett's decision to stay: Don't buy the stuff about Garrett making so much money he'll usurp the authority of Phillips. First, Garrett is a coach's son. He's a total team guy, a low-ego guy and never would do anything to make Phillips uncomfortable. Now, having said that, if the Cowboys have another one-and-out exit from the playoffs next season, I think Jerry Jones will take about 10 minutes to fire Phillips, interview one minority candidate and then hire Garrett as his next head coach.
6. I think this is the essence of what makes Bart Starr one of the classiest figures in sports history. On Sunday, my HBO Inside the NFL producer, Brian Hyland, goes to breakfast at Perkins, a mile down the street from Lambeau Field, raises his fork to bite into his omelet, and walking into the place, sitting at the booth right next to him, is Bart Starr.
"Like meeting Neil Armstrong on the moon,'' Hyland said. "You know a guy is from a different generation when he stands up to shake hands with people ... Guys are in the restaurant wearing 15 jerseys, old school Starr jerseys. I see one guy with a Starr jersey lift his eggs to his mouth, look over, see Starr, and the eggs just fell off his fork, he was so shocked. And what a gentleman. One guy asks him to sign his jersey. Bart takes the pen, the guy kneels down, and Bart signs 'To David' on the top of the 5, 'Best wishes' in the middle of the 5, and 'Bart Starr' on the bottom of the 5. Is there a classier guy? Ever?''
Hyland got a little gee-whiz then. He went out and bought a Starr jersey at the Packer store on Holmgren Way.
7. I think this is what I liked about championship weekend:
a. Adalius Thomas' strong pass-rush over left tackle Marcus McNeill was the key to the first sack of Rivers.
b. Great pick by Quentin Jammer. Excellently timed leap. And great stop by Jammer, breaking up a second-quarter third-down-conversion attempt from Brady to Moss.
c. Now that's the way to run the ball, Michael Turner.
d. Kevin Faulk. Terminally underrated.
e. Did your breath get taken away when Antonio Cromartie intercepted Brady in the end zone?
f. I credit the Giants' defensive front more than I criticize Ryan Grant for his 29-yard day. New York didn't give Grant a crease all day. Well, one.
g. Burress is stronger, faster and more sure-handed than you think. He's a great player.
h. Cute note of the week: I met Ryan Grant's dad, Vincent, and gave him a newspaper with a picture on the back of two jerseys for sale at Dick's Sporting Goods -- Brett Favre's and Grant's. "Can I have this?'' he said. "I'd love to frame it.'' It's all happening pretty fast for the Grants.
i. Spagnuolo doesn't give the same look twice very often, does he?
8. I think this is what I didn't like about championship weekend:
a. Very un-Bradylike pick to Cromartie.
b. Amazing. We were all so sure Tomlinson would be the one injured Charger to give Norv Turner four quarters in the AFC title game. He gave them two carries. Turner decided a healthy Michael Turner was better than Tomlinson at 80 percent.
c. Another drop for Welker. Stop the presses, again.
d. It's 14-12, middle of the third quarter, and New England is driving: Brady drops back to pass, he waits and waits, only three Chargers rush, and Moss goes without press coverage and Brady hits him for a completion against soft coverage. What exactly was THAT, Ted Cottrell?
e. Moss: first 37 minutes without a catch.
f. Injury reports are stupid. How about the Chargers playing Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates at length and using Tomlinson for five minutes ... when all indications pointed otherwise?
g. Brett, Brett, Brett. Take it easy. No reason to throw the pick to McQuarters. None.
h. Al Harris will need a while to get over that torching.
9. I think the Starbucks is going down pretty smooth for Ernie Accorsi this morning. Congratulations, Ernie, on your role in the Giants' success.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Broke a lifetime streak last week. Started watching American Idol the other night, and loved it. Never thought I would, but the show is a riot. And when I walked into the Packer locker room Friday, Koren Robinson was signing that Renaldo Lapuz You Are My Brother song. "Can't get it out of my head,'' he said.
b. The Tilted Kilt. Interesting little franchise.
c. Coffeenerdness: Wolfgang Puck is making a nice dark roast coffee. Never heard of it before, but they have it at the Cambria Suites hotel here, for free, and free dark-roast coffee is one of the best things there is.
d. To say I am bad at pool would be a gross understatement. It's more accurate to say I am embarrassing at pool.
e. Work on that sleep apnea, Brian Hyland.
f. Do the Devils ever play a game NOT decided by one goal?
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