Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 12:
a. Ominous sign for Charlie Weis. I have no inside knowledge of anything Notre Dame, but how does the Notre Dame hierarchy take a home loss (on Senior Day, no less) to one of the worst teams in major-college football, Syracuse, a 20-point 'dog? And how do they digest a 9-16 record in the last 25 games, with USC next weekend sure to make it 9-17?
b. It must be impossible to recruit for Notre Dame anymore. If Charlie Weis, with his Super Bowl rings, can't walk into the homes of the best offensive players in the country and persuade them to hone their skills in maybe the best NFL-prep program for skill players, who can?
c. It is so great to hear Brent Musburger open a telecast, as he did Saturday night from Texas Tech-Oklahoma in Norman: "You are looking live at a crowd of 82,112 ...'' Too bad the game lasted only about five minutes.
d. Think you've had a busy time at work recently? What about this 11-day stretch for CBS/YES Network/Westwood One Radio play-by-play man Ian Eagle, ending Sunday in Miami:
Nov. 13, Jets-Patriots, radio, in Foxboro; Nov. 14, Hawks-Nets, TV, in New Jersey; Nov. 16, Raiders-Dolphins, TV, in Miami; Nov. 17, Browns-Bills, radio, in Buffalo; Nov. 20, Bengals-Steelers, radio, in Pittsburgh; Nov. 21, Nets-Raptors, TV, in Toronto; Nov. 23, Bills-Chiefs, TV, in Kansas City.
And I thought I was busy.
e. Mike Tice on what he wishes was different when he was a head coach: "I wish the commissioner then was as involved as [Roger Goodell] is now with the disciplinary things. It [would] give you a bit more teeth as head coach because you know someone is behind you.''
f. Look for this to be the last year the Pro Bowl is played the week after the Super Bowl. As I reported on NBC last night, the league likely will announce in the next few weeks the moving of the game to the weekend before the Super Bowl -- either on Saturday night, Sunday, or Monday night, depending on network preference -- as part of the pre-Super Bowl buildup. In addition, I look for the league to play more than half of future Pro Bowls on the mainland instead of Honolulu, mostly at the same site of the Super Bowl to maximize attention and focus on an all-star game that has become totally irrelevant. Next season the Super Bowl is in Miami. I expect the rotation to begin then, with the Pro Bowl quite possibly at Dolphins Stadium either eight, seven or six days before the Super Bowl.
g. Brady Quinn tells me his problem is not just a broken bone near the top of the index finger on his throwing hand. It's a damaged tendon, which makes it doubly difficult to spin the ball with the kind of rotation he usually has coming out of his right hand. You saw that against Houston Sunday, in his eight-of-18 performance before getting yanked for Derek Anderson.
h. Thanksgiving Night in Philadelphia. I'm sure the crowd's going to be in a giving mood. Giving a certain finger, most likely.
2. I think one of the big problems with the NFL's system of fines is this: Jared Allen was tolled $25,000 the other day for a late hit on Green Bay quarterback Rodgers. I'm sure when he got the notice of the fine, he immediately went to his coaches and said, "Guys, this fine money is out of control. I've got to tone down my hits on the quarterback. Don't expect me to be so aggressive from now on.'' Not.
Allen's total compensation this year, in salary and bonuses, is $21,119,256. The 25K fine is around one-tenth of one percent of his 2008 pay. To put that in terms you will understand: If you make $40,000 and were to get fined a similar percentage, you'd be out $48. My point is Allen will not spend three seconds thinking about changing the way he plays football, because the fine is no motivation to do so.
3. I think, if I were Roger Goodell, I'd institute what the NBA has instituted with flagrant fouls, with a little tweak, to make players think twice about over-the-line hits. (Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has a section in his excellent Tuesday NFL column about what he'd do if he were commissioner for a day. Wish I had thought of that. So this week, I'm stealing his idea.)
The league would separate flagrant fouls into three categories. We'll call them Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. A garden-variety late hit or over-the-line hit would merit one point as a Level 1 blow. A cheap slobberknocker (Level 2) two points, and something out of The Longest Yard (Level 3) three points. Once a player accumulates three points, he's suspended for a game without pay. Then, if a player gets any more flagrant fouls, of any level, in the same year, he's automatically suspended for a second game without pay.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I just don't think fining Jared Allen, or any other marquee defensive player making millions, amounts to any deterrent whatsoever.
4. I think most everyone missed a important tidbit about Carson Palmer last week -- most everyone but the faithful listeners to the Opening Drive on Sirius NFL Radio. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said it's very unlikely Palmer will need postseason elbow surgery, and it's quite likely Palmer will play before the end of the year. I've heard people say, "Why risk Palmer's future?'' And they're right -- if there's any risk in injuring the elbow by playing, he shouldn't play. But if there isn't, he should. The other 52 players are playing each week, so why shouldn't their team leader play if he's healthy enough?
5. I think, by the way, it's idiocy for the Bengals to consider bringing Chad Ocho Cinco back for the 2009 season. What's the point? That the Bengals will be able to puff their chests out and say, "Chad Johnson's not going to shoot his way off this team. No one is.'' Great. So you've proven a point. You can hold onto an ineffective player, and if he goes somewhere else, he could have a Randy Moss-like season in another uniform next year. Big deal. Johnson has been repentant since the incident in Pittsburgh, but so what? There will be another one soon, either before the end of this year or during the offseason. Just move on and cut ties. It'll be better for both parties.
6. I think it looks like the NFL will losing a valued member of the Roger Goodell advisory team ... to the office of Attorney General of the United States. As an attorney in Washington's NFL legal firm, Eric Holder helped investigate the physician in North Carolina, James Shortt, found to have supplied member of the Carolina Panthers with steroids. He also acted as the NFL's go-between with attorneys for Michael Vick in the dog-fighting case, and helped develop the personal-conduct policy. "For someone who has achieved as much as he has, Eric is remarkably unimpressed with himself,'' said NFL counsel Jeff Pash. Holder is expected to be confirmed as the nation's first African-American attorney general.
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:
c. Now I see why the 49ers picked Vernon Davis so high last year. Not many tight ends can run go routes and beat safeties, but Davis did twice in Dallas.
d. Doesn't it seem like it's six times a year we're staring at the TV, watching Vinatieri win a football game? I will be very surprised if Vinatieri does not make the Hall of Fame. Too many clutch kicks to be denied.
e. The depth of the Tennessee defensive line is going to pay off in January.
f. Dustin Keller is a better tight end for Favre than Franks ever was in Green Bay. Keller's got better hands.
g. JaMarcus Russell: 10-for-11. If your quarterback has to throw only 11 passes for you to put up 31 points, you've got one heck of a football team. Normally.
i. Trent Edwards went from the brink of being pulled to a 75-percent passing day with two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs. Go figure.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 12:
a. Willie Parker looks like he's running scared. He ran tentatively against those mighty Bengals, tiptoed into holes and actually shied away from a big hit against Rashad Jeanty. A worrisome display for the Steelers, who should be playing feisty backup Gary Russell. Parker's dancing first-half runs Thursday night: 1, 0, 1, 4, minus-2, 1, 0, 6, 3, 1, minus-1. He's obviously favoring his bum shoulder and hamstring.
c. The Titans didn't look unbeaten in the first half against the Jets. They looked winless.
d. The Browns are as far away from offensive competency as they were two years ago, and that's really saying something. Who's their quarterback? The right side of their offensive line? Their tight end?
e. You've got to know when to go out of bounds when your team has no timeouts left, Ted Ginn.
f. This really is some achievement: The Detroit Lions gave up 35 points in 18 minutes to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
h. Remember when Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew were the best 1-2 rushing punch in football. Their Sunday output against Minnesota: nine carries, 24 yards.
9. I think we learned this about the Cardinals on Sunday: They will never win a game at Giants Stadium in January if they have to play there. Come to think of it, what NFC team will challenge the Giants in the NFL Championship Game? I'll tell you the best team, and Cris Collinsworth agrees: Dallas. Number two for me: Chicago.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. If I read one more story about where LeBron James might play two years from now, I'm going to puke.
b. Really: In what other sport are the next two seasons rendered totally meaningless for a cornerstone-of-the-league franchise like the New York Knickerbockers?
c. It's everywhere -- on talk radio, on SportsCenter, in columns, endlessly in every New York paper and Web site. I keep reading how smart and prescient the Knicks were for decimating their current team (playing with seven players Friday and Saturday night) and clearing out enough cap space for this great player, LeBron James.
But the NBA already rivals the PSL-charging NFL for ticket-price insanity; if I wanted to sit two levels up from the floor at the foul line in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for Knicks-Cavs, I'm paying $244.50 per seat. The Knicks have 75 home games remaining before, presumably, LeBron James or some similar star begins to suit up for them in 2010-11 because of all this cap room they've cleared. And they're asking that fan in the second level up from the floor to pay $36,000 for a pair of seats for those 75 games to see the JV team, a team simply playing out the string 'til Superman arrives.
What if LeBron James rips up his knee before then? What if Dwyane Wade, another prospective free-agent who turns 29 in the 2010-11 season, continues to have knee trouble? Here's my question for the NBA: Do you mean to tell me it's good for your game that a team is going to play the next 164 games with an eye not on the present, but on the future? And what about the Cavaliers? Why would their fans show any loyalty to James as he drops all these hints about playing out the string in Cleveland? It's an ugly, stupid, fan-abusing situation. Fans should rebel, not kneel and bow to Knick management and say, "Oh, we are not worthy!''
d. Red Sox traded Coco Crisp the other day. "For Cap'n Crunch?'' a good friend asked. No. For a Royals reliever, Ramon Ramirez, whom I feel sure does not get mistaken for a breakfast cereal. Pressure's on, Jacoby. I've got no problem with the deal, because In Theo We Trust. But I do appreciate the heck of what a good team player and superb defensive center-fielder Crisp was, even if he never delivered 60 percent of the offense his past promised.
e. Coffeenerdness: At a Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Friday morning, a loud but precise woman walked up to the register and said: "Grande skim gingerbread latte, 145 degrees, half-foam, double-cupped, keep the lid off, and instead of the regular gingerbread topping you put on, please put the pumpkin spice latte topping on there.'' Poor register-guy had no idea what to write on the side of the cup. He went and explained to the barista, taking about 20 seconds. Maybe if it takes 33 words to order your coffee, you're getting a little too adventurous.
f. Been nice knowing you, Jack McCallum. You're a credit to our business, and we'll miss you.
g. Where is this business going?
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Green Bay 36, New Orleans 27. The Saints have one more chance -- tonight, at home, in their first game in the Superdome in six weeks (and the NFL should never, ever allow a team to go six weeks between home games again because of this European experiment) -- to salvage playoff hopes, but I don't see it. New Orleans is too beat-up on defense, without a great rushing attack and without the extra dimension Reggie Bush provides.