Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 3:
a. I'm really getting to hate these Personal Seat Licenses. I can see making fans pay $2,000, maybe even $5,000, for the right to control a prime seat. Maybe. But what the Jets are doing with their 2,100 best seats in the place -- putting them up for auction -- is particularly distasteful.
Imagine having had one of the best seats in the house for the past 35 years, and having paid through some of the really tough days (like the 4-28 Rich Kotite era), and now you're being asked to go into an auction with who-knows-who of the corporate and ticket-scalping world. And if you choose not to buy a PSL, you're relegated to who-knows-where in the upper deck. There's just something distasteful about the concept of PSLs, particularly the ultra-expensive ones that gouge the most loyal of fans.
b. How awkward, and bottom-line business, is this? The Packers Pro Shop at Lambeau Field is still selling Brett Favre Packer jerseys.
c. However much money Coors Light is paying Jim Mora, it's not enough. He's a gem in those commercials.
d. Now Brian Billick, that's another matter. Here's the thing I don't get: Billick's had some of the best press conference sound bites in NFL history. Why play the ones that aren't funny?
e. Brett Favre to ESPN's Ed Werder, last Thursday, on the Pack's strong two-game start: "When they have 16 good ones, then call me.'' Mike McCarthy heard that. Aaron Rodgers, too.
f. Navy 23, Rutgers 21. The bloom is most certainly off the Greg Schiano rose. Talk about a team in desperate need of a quarterback.
g. Tony Romo's too careless with the ball when the play breaks down in the pocket. Happened in the end zone Monday night, and happened on a fumble that almost took them out of field-goal range late in the first half against the Pack.
h. If you see Kurt Warner at the Tyson's Corner Center mall today, tomorrow, or any day this week, don't do a double-take. The Cards, with a game yesterday at FedEx and this week at the Meadowlands against the Jets, are staying on the East Coast in a Tyson's Corner hotel through Saturday morning, practicing at Catholic University in D.C. Wednesday through Friday, then taking the train north to Newark on Saturday for the game in New Jersey Sunday.
i. Very nice of the NFL, Houston owner Bob McNair and Chevron to plunk down the first $1.25 million of a hurricane-relief fund, with the goal of $2 million to help victims of Ike.
j. The four first-time coaches -- Mike Smith (Atlanta), John Harbaugh (Baltimore), Tony Sparano (Miami) and Jim Zorn (Washington) -- are a combined 7-4.
2. I think Boys Will Be Boys, Jeff Pearlman's new book about the Dallas Cowboys in their glory days, and their decline from them, should not be dismissed as the rantings of a jaded sportswriter. Pearlman, obviously, has hit several nerves, and I applaud him for it.
Pearlman writes that Michael Irvin, incensed that tackle Everett McIver, in mid-haircut, would not leave a barber chair at training camp in 1998 so Irvin could get his haircut first, stabbed McIver in the neck. McIver was rushed to the hospital and survived, but not without losing a lot of blood. Irvin's silence on the charge has been deafening. I asked a Cowboy who played on that team if the story was true. "Absolutely,'' the Cowboy said. "I'm surprised it was kept quiet over the years.''
Pearlman writes in great detail about the White House, the house of ill repute Dallas players owned and managed near Valley Ranch, and he lampoons Deion Sanders, quoting Dallas corner Kevin Smith thusly: "When Deion came in, something changed for the worse. Guys who should have been studying football on a Wednesday at 12 o'clock were focused on other things. Deion was such a freaky athlete that he could shake one leg and be ready to cover anyone. But the guys following his lead weren't nearly as talented.'
In the first defensive team meeting Sanders attended, Pearlman writes, Sanders put his feet up on a table, and when defensive coordinator Dave Campo asked him to break down a play, Sanders said, "Hey, coach. I got that dude right there. Wherever he goes, I go. All that Cover Two stuff you're talking about -- y'all work that out.''
Pearlman writes that Troy Aikman was disgusted by Sanders. And Barry Switzer, too. He also notes that Switzer's liquor tab during the week of the Pittsburgh-Dallas Super Bowl in Arizona was $100,000. That's a heck of an example to set, Barry. What a great hire.
3. I think we're still waiting for your television fastball, Warren Sapp.
4. I think one reason you won't see the Rams going out and throwing huge money at, say, Ron Wolf to fix and run the franchise is that this regime is hesitant to spend a lot of money to install a new regime for another owner. I keep hearing the Rams will be sold by year's end. If you're Wolf, and even if you wanted to get back in the game, why would you go somewhere where you don't know who's going to be your boss on New Year's Day? By the way, I agree with Tiki Barber on NBC: Jim Fassel makes a lot of sense as interim coach. Dick Vermeil probably makes more. I don't see either Jim Haslett or Al Saunders having the juice inside the organization to get the job.
5. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:
a. Jay Ratliff, Dallas' continuously underrated nose tackle, is off to a terrific start.
b. Speaking of underrated defensive linemen, watch Alex Brown play.
c. No guard in the NFL had a better day than Miami's Justin Smiley, who had three crushing blocks on three of the four Ronnie Brown touchdown runs.
d. Gaines Adams made about as athletic a play as a defensive end can make, picking off a bad pass by Kyle Orton and running it back all the way for a touchdown -- twisting to the pylon to just barely make it in at the goal line.
e. Michael Bumpus was so proud of his first NFL touchdown -- a diving 10-yard strike from Matt Hasselbeck in the first quarter against St. Louis -- that he wouldn't let the ball go as he walked around the locker room after the game. Good story. From the seventh round to the practice squad to -- out of desperation -- the active roster because of six wideout injuries with the Seahawks. (More about the plague of Seattle receiver injuries, and surviving it, in MMQB Tuesday Edition.)
f. Julius Jones is a different runner than he was last year in Dallas. A better runner. He looks more desperate.
g. There aren't many middle linebackers stopping the run better than Philly's Stewart Bradley
h. What a pretty throw from JaMarcus Russell to Johnnie Lee Higgins late in the game at Buffalo, a throw that covered 84 yards and should have been the clincher for the Raiders.
i. Clutch, clutch kick by Josh Scobee, the 51-yard field goal to put the dagger in Indy, 23-21. No pressure there, Josh. Just your team's season on the line.
j. The NFC East is 10-2.
6. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 3:
a. Chicago's tight ends are killing the offense. Last week it was two fumbles by Greg Olsen. This week, a dropped pass at the Tampa one by Desmond Clark.
b. The Rams have lost three games by an average of 29 points.
c. The Saints have had two come-back-to-haunt-you losses.
d. Can the Lions keep losing decisively and convince themselves they're still just fine? How?
e. Back to the drawing board at quarterback, Bears.
f. Matt Schaub is shell-shocked, from what I can see. His line isn't doing him any favors through eight quarters.
g. The Raiders have played 83 regular-season games since going to the Super Bowl. They've won 20 of them.
h. And the Chiefs are worse.
i. Another miserable day for Derek Anderson (14-of-27, 25 yards, one touchdown, three picks), and if Brady Quinn hadn't looked so shaky in the preseason, I'm sure the Browns would be thinking of making a switch Sunday at Cincinnati.
7. I think I haven't spoken to many people whose predictions are in very good shape three weeks into the season, what with five of the favored AFC picks (New England, Indy, Jacksonville, Cleveland and San Diego) in relative disarray, a combined 4-10. "The worst thing you can do this time of year is look at a team's record. Watch and see how they're playing,'' Mike Shanahan said the other day, and he's right -- to a degree. The problem with some of the best teams in the preseason is that they're showing signs of falling out of the race before the races gets to the quarter-pole.
8. I think, based on a conversation I had with Brandon Marshall Saturday, that I'd be very surprised if he were found guilty of anything -- or settled the case involving battery of a former girlfriend by admitting anything other than his innocence. Now, of course, a man is going to profess his innocence, but I learned a few things about the case from Marshall and others in Denver that lead me to believe the case doesn't have much merit.
I don't think the NFL will bring further discipline against Marshall unless he's found guilty of something, so my expectation is that he'll be around to chase the all-time record for catches in a season (143). Marshall has 24 -- and he's only played two games so far.
9. I think the best thing about the Eagles is they can win games in a variety of ways. They can stop the run -- 13 carries, 20 yards for Willie Parker Sunday -- and they can still blitz when defensive coordinator Jim Johnson feels like it. It sounds like Brian Westbrook might miss a week with his ankle strain (MRI to come today), but I don't doubt Donovan McNabb's ability to stand in against a pounding Chicago defense Sunday night and pull out a win.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. You've got to hand it to the Rays. Gutsy team, very good middle and short relief, good defense. And how do all those teams that gave up on Carlos Pena feel about Mr. Clutch now?
b. Joe Maddon can really manage.
c. This is when you know it's not your year: Brewers 2, Reds 1, bottom of the sixth, Saturday, CC Sabathia pitching on three days' rest. Bases loaded, two out -- and there would have been three had Prince Fielder handled a routine bunt without erring.
The Reds, short on the bench (how, by the way, are you short on the bench in September with all the minor-league callups?), send up pitcher Micah Owings to pinch-hit for the shortstop. Owings is a good hitter for a pitcher, evidently, but he steps in the bucket noticeably. Here comes a Sabathia fastball, Owings steps straight at the shortstop and dumps one off the end of the bat over first base, eight feet fair. Two runs score. The final: Reds 4, Brewers 3.
d. I really want to see Burn After Reading.
e. And Body of Lies.
f. Coffeenerdness: Not much of a Starbucks pastry guy -- though my physique would suggest otherwise -- but can't you do better than the paperweightish Top Pot doughnuts? There are 480 calories in a Top Pot glazed, 200 in a Krispy Kreme glazed.
g. Now that's what I call information you just can't live without. I've just given everyone a license to go out and feel good about eating 2.4 Krispy Kremes. It's the same as eating one doughnut of another brand!
h. What a great job by ESPN's E60 show the other night, illustrating how the new Yankee Stadium was ramrodded through the political process and will leave a toll of poor citizens from the Bronx in its wake. I don't know how you could watch that segment and be excited about going to the new stadium, when so many kids are being displaced from the only good park they had in mid-Bronx. Just shameful.
i. I will be shocked if K-Rod is on any team but the Mets next year. How can the Mets not sign him, even if it's for $18 million a year, or some such number? This is the second straight year the bullpen has ruined the Mets' season, and they're moving into a new stadium, charging fans absurd prices for tickets. Those fans won't settle for Brian Fuentes.
j. Not sure what ad agency put out that G2 Derek Jeter commercial, in which he walks through the city, but it's amazing how one of the most charismatic athletes of our time can be made to look boring.
k. They don't grow them much braver than Emma Pacifico.
l. I doubt many in our military deserve leave more than Army First Sgt. Mike McGuire, who is deep into his second long tour in Iraq, overseeing a platoon of men hunting Improvised Explosive Devices on the most dangerous roads in the country. I am so pleased he'll be coming home to the States -- to Missouri, his home, and then to a ceremony in western Pennsylvania honoring the memory of fallen comrade Allan Bevington, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit a wounded man in his platoon, Nick Koulchar.
McGuire e-mailed the other day to say: "Getting out of here next week. Last time I was home was when I saw you at the game [a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium in the summer of 2005]. How about KURT WARNER? Yes, I knew he could do it again. I hope he keeps it up, not to prove people wrong, but to show how good he really is and for himself. He is fun to watch. Everyone here is eating their words now, You know everyone has 'grocery boy' jokes about him, but not me. He is the real deal. And the Bills. Remember me telling you the Bills were turning the corner? They have. Big time. Talk to you soon. Mike.'' Which brings me to ...
Good Guys of the Week
Washington owner Dan Snyder, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger.
The Rams, Mike McGuire's favorite team, aren't home when McGuire will be in St. Louis, but Snyder and Bulger stepped up to take care of that. Snyder will host McGuire, wife Pam, and the brother of the wounded Koulchar at the Rams-Redskins game Oct. 12. And Bulger, whose foundation provides care and R&R for American troops, will host McGuire at Rams Park.
You think those things don't mean a lot? McGuire, like so many of our soldiers, lives for the NFL, plans his week around it, talks endlessly about it out on patrol. And for the owner of the Redskins and the quarterback of his favorite team to take the time and effort to recognize him ... it's something McGuire will remember for the rest of his life.
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
San Diego 29, New York Jets 20.
This is what's at stake for the Chargers: If they lose, they're 0-3, in effect, 3.5 games behind Denver, and staring down the barrel of a brutal 15-day stretch starting Oct. 12 -- New England at home, Buffalo on the road and New Orleans in London. However, I take issue with the Mike Tirico voiceover that ESPN played 63,423 times over the weekend.
"It's a must-win game for the Chargers,'' Tirico said in the promo for this game. You can't call this a must-win, not with Oakland and Miami the next two weeks. If the Chargers are 2-3 going into that Pats-Bills-Saints stretch, they certainly could be playing meaningful football in December.
On the Jets' side, I pointed out in my picks this week that they're not using Favre yet the way they should. Last year, New York called pass plays on 56 percent of the offensive snaps; this year it's 50-50 run-pass. That's got to change, particularly with such a good pair of deep threats in Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles.