Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 14:
a. Let's hear it for Je'Rod Cherry. You may recall I wrote about Cherry raffling off chances (five for $10) for his 2001 Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. The ring was raffled on Thanksgiving Day, and Cherry raised $170,000 for four children's charities. The winner: a high school football referee from Anaheim. "I spoke with him on the phone,'' Cherry said, "and he could not believe that he won.''
b. Alabama-Florida. What a great football game. That was a good test for Tim Tebow and what he'll face one day in the NFL, the kind of smash-mouth game that shows it won't be easy for him to run at the next level.
c. Did you see Alabama running back Mark Ingram -- yes, the son of the former Giant and Dolphin, now imprisoned for writing bad checks -- score the tying touchdown in the third quarter? Did you see the way the 5-10, 215-pound Ingram sledgehammered into the line so hard that he knocked down the 6-5, 340-pound left tackle, Andre Smith?
d. Keith Olbermann on the happenings in the Motor City: "The Lions haven't won since the presidency of James K. Polk.''
e. Coach Herman Edwards seems pretty solid for 2009 in Kansas City, president Carl Peterson less so. Both have one contractual season remaining.
g. The Saints started something cool (for these economic times, anyway) last week. They partnered with a company called eLayawaySPORTS to allow season-ticket-holders the option of paying for their seats by making automated withdrawals from their bank accounts each week. Say a Saints fan has four season tickets, for a total of $1,200. For the first 32 weeks of the year, the fan could have $37.50 debited from his checking or savings account by eLayawaySPORTS, and by making these consistent payments, the tickets would be paid for by mid-August -- in time for the first preseason game. I like the idea. Reminds me of the old Christmas Club my mother would finance at the bank every year, putting $20 a week away and having enough money to buy all her gifts come Dec. 1.
h. I simply do not understand why the Bills scheduled the Miami game in December as their indoor game in Toronto. What a huge competitive edge for the Dolphins.
i. I'd worry about that Marion Barber dislocated toe if I were the Cowboys.
j. Marvelous Millen Legacy Dept.: Detroit drafted wide receivers Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Calvin Johnson in the top 10 of the draft between 2003 and 2007. Rogers is out of football, and in an Oakland County (Mich.) jail for probation violation. Roy Williams has been traded to Dallas. Mike Williams is out of football. Calvin Johnson looks like he'll be a good NFL receiver. On Sunday, against Minnesota, the following were Detroit's first three receivers: Johnson, John Standeford (up and down from the practice squad much of the year) and Keary Colbert (signed last Monday). What a debacle.
k. With the Cardinals clinching the NFC West, the franchise also clinched its first home-playoff game since 1947. Sixty-one years ago, at a half-full Comiskey Park in Chicago, the Chicago Cardinals beat the Eagles 28-21 for the NFL Championship. In those days, the only playoff game in the NFL was the championship game. Interesting note about that game: The Cardinals scored single touchdowns in each quarter. The Eagles scored single touchdown in every quarter but the first.
2. I think the NFL has to take Pro Bowl voting away from fans. It's silly, it's pointless, and it makes a mockery of the game. How can Joe from Klamath Falls vote for three guards in the NFC? I don't even like players voting. The vote should go to 96 people: two coordinators per team one pro scout per team. Then it would really mean something.
3. I think O.J. Simpson should not be removed from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here's why:
a. Thirty-five years ago he became the first man in the NFL to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
b. Twenty-nine years ago his NFL career ended, and to this day he's certainly one of the top 10 running backs of all time. (He's behind only Jim Brown and Walter Payton -- and, perhaps, Barry Sanders, though that's a close one -- on my list.)
c. Twenty-three years ago he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
d. Three days ago he was sentenced to at least nine years in prison for his part in an armed robbery and kidnapping of two men who had in their possession memorabilia Simpson accused them of stealing. A decade earlier he was found liable in a $33.2-million civil suit that implicated him in the deaths of his wife and a friend.
The bylaws of the Hall of Fame mandate that players be considered for enshrinement based on on-field accomplishments only. I'm opposed to rewriting the rules and including some sort of morals clause. What happens if we find out a borderline guy for the hall had a DWI in his second year in the league, or didn't pay child support for two years after his career ended, or got in a bar fight that left a victim badly injured? Would we then say, "Well, I was on the fence, probably leaning toward supporting him, but this DWI from 23 years ago makes me think no now.''
Murder or participation in an armed heist is certainly more serious, obviously. But it is not our job as a Hall of Famer board of selectors to sit in moral judgment of a man. If it is, then 44 members of the football news media should not be the only arbiters for entry to the Hall. We'd need a couple of moral compasses in the room. Is that how we want to elect Hall of Famers? It's not how I think we should do it.
4. I think this is what I know about the plans for the new United Football League, scheduled to begin play in September on Thursday and Friday nights in, most likely, six markets:
· Two of the possible six franchises still need owners, and in these tough times, that has to be worrisome.
· If Jim Fassel doesn't have an NFL job by February, the UFL wants to hire him to coach the New York franchise. At $1.5 million or $2 million for the season, Fassel could do worse.
· The week after the NFL season ends in February, the league will hold an online poll of fans, asking if they think the league should pursue Michael Vick to play for one of its teams in 2009. If the vote is yes, the UFL will try to sign Vick to play -- presumably while he is under suspension for a year by the NFL after leaving prison on his dogfighting conviction.
· Field goals of 50 yards and longer will count for four points.
· There will be XFL-like locker-room and on-field cameras.
· There will be a female referee.
5. I think the 49ers are going to have to think very seriously of giving their head-coaching job, full time, to Mike Singletary. The 49er defense hasn't let the Bills and Jets breathe in the last eight quarters, and the units on both sides of the ball are playing very hard for a team that's out of the playoff race. That's a head coach's job -- getting his team to play hard at all times.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 14:
a. Roddy White is making a believer out of me. He's a different player under this coaching staff and with a quarterback he believes in.
b. The Lions had two interceptions in their first 48 quarters this year. They had two in the first two quarters Sunday.
d. There aren't many bright spots in any Lions season in our lifetime, but this was one Sunday: Nick Harris kicked a punt from five yards deep in his end zone that traveled to the Minnesota 34. A huge play in a game the Lions led 7-3.
f. The Ravens, even by Rex Ryan's lofty standards, are setting a new record for defensive relentlessness.
g. The Steelers used up one of their nine lives yesterday.
i. The more I see of Shaun Hill, the more I think he's going to be a starting quarterback in the NFL for a few years.
j. Like my good pal Donnie "Brasco" Banks wrote yesterday, Gary Kubiak is very much off the hot seat in Houston.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 14:
a. No quarterback in the wind is very good. Double the wind trouble for Eli Manning.
b. The Lions' players have absolutely no faith in offensive coordinator Jim Colletto.
c. Can you believe the Lions' fourth-and-a-foot call right before halftime by Colletto? Sending Daunte Culpepper behind right guard, into the teeth of the marauding Williams brothers, the best run-stuffing combination at defensive tackle in football? Terrible call, and Culpepper didn't get an inch. What possible logic is there to that call? It's almost a fireable call.
d. Was every Tony Romo throw sailing five feet high in Pittsburgh? That's how it looked to me.
e. Jack Del Rio has looked disinterested two games in a row.
f. Are you kidding me, Terrell Owens? The Cowboys' biggest game of the year to this point, and on the first series of the game, on Tony Romo's first pass to him, Owens gave up on the route? A shameful, pathetic display.
g. The Bills fell out of contention around the same time Trent Edwards fell to earth.
8. I think my coach of the year vote is going to come down to five men: Mike Smith, Tom Coughlin, Jeff Fisher, Tony Sparano and Bill Belichick. I welcome your comments. The last three weeks will weigh heavily, because this is close.
9. I think the Rams are for sale and they're not getting the kind of offer the owners there want.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. You know why I like hockey so much? Because of the effort players give in the 24th of 80 regular-season games -- the effort I saw Saturday night in Devils-Canadiens. Zach Parise diving to keep the puck in the offensive end, Paul Martin and Patrick Elias playing so aggressively smart in overtime.
b. Only one show in history can make me howl out loud over the pronunciation of "Cool Whip.'' You guessed it. Family Guy. I am dying to meet Brian the dog.
c. I wonder what sportswriting will be like in five years. We all better get used to writing for the web. I fear the increasing irrelevance of newspapers and magazines that you can actually hold in your hands.
d. Coffeenerdness: Don't remember ever waiting 18 minutes in Starbucks before, but I did Saturday afternoon in Montclair. Isn't there a recession going on?
e. Why does Rutgers end up in these Single-A bowls every year? There can't be 15 teams in America playing better over the last five or six weeks.
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Tampa Bay 20, Carolina 13. The hardest thing about predicting games is trying to figure out which team will show up on a given night. Not Tampa. Maybe the Bucs offense. But the defense -- that's about as regular as Aunt Mildred on six fiber caplets a day.
There's a sign in one of the Bucs' team meetings room at their spiffy new complex in Tampa defining what a "loaf'' is. That's when players don't hustle from the start of a play to the end. When the Bucs played Minnesota three weeks ago, the three starting linebackers -- Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Barrett Ruud -- were on the field for most of the Vikings' 53 offensive snaps. All three of them did not get a "loaf'' all day, meaning they went all-out on every snap, without taking a play or three off. That's what you'll see tonight, sprinting to the ball ad nauseam. It's the way the game should be played.
Now, for the game: I say the Bucs will slow down (I didn't say "shut down'') sudden ace back DeAngelo Williams, which is how you shut down the Panthers.