Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 17:
a. Jeremy Shockey, who now has become the definition of brittle, missed Sunday's season-finale for New Orleans with a new injury, an ankle sprain. If this trade with the Giants goes down as anything but a big failure for the Saints, it'll be a surprise -- and Shockey holds the fate of that in his hands. He'd better devote more time than ever to getting well this offseason.
b. Raheem Morris really helped himself get the defensive coordinator job at Tampa Bay by running the Kansas State defense for a season in 2006. Now it'll be interesting to see if Morris gets a real head-coaching shot somewhere by an owner or GM who sees him as the next Lane Kiffin or Mike Tomlin, an unproven but precocious guy who you'd better hire a year too early.
c . Ever seen a defense collapse in one month like Tampa's? I haven't.
d. Larry Fitzgerald's hands cannot be matched.
e. Now that Phil Savage has been fired, and examining the Browns' GM job in the light of day, it might not be the great job everyone thinks it is. Cleveland is without third-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in 2009, has to find a trading partner for the flawed Derek Anderson, has some major divas in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and has about 19 people who seem to act as spokesmen for the team when the mood hits them.
f. If I were Randy Lerner, I'd bypass Bill Cowher unless he could get Kevin Colbert to come with him immediately following the Steelers' season. And I'd convince Scott Pioli to come and run my team.
g. San Diego scored 89 points against Denver this year ... and went 1-1.
h. Given that A.J. Smith let Michael Turner walk last year, the most important free-agent he might have to lure back this year is Darren Sproles. I've said it all year -- the Chargers simply have to get him the ball more often. He had 90 touches from scrimmage this year. LaDainian Tomlinson was obviously more of a workhorse, but Sproles average 1.6 more yards per carry than Tomlinson and 3.6 yards more per reception.
i. Ben Roethlisberger's going to be OK, Steeler Nation. Take a breath.
j. It's true: Bill Parcells can walk for 30 days, starting Tuesday, and still get paid the $12 million he's owed by new majority owner Steve Ross of the Dolphins. But don't think it's a done deal, or that he's decided to do it. I've heard Parcells isn't Ross' cup of tea, and if he isn't, then yes, Parcells will leave and take the money.
k. No, he won't coach again. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go work in Detroit, though. He's always had a thing for Detroit.
l. The San Francisco hierarchy is setting up quite nicely for Mike Holmgren in 2010, if the Niners have a typical five- or six-win season in 2009.
2. I think my gut feeling is that Brett Favre will retire, though I have no inside information on it. I hear his offensive coaches all think he's going to retire. I'm sure he's embarrassed by the minus-eight TD-to-INT differential of the last five games. I've also sure his shoulder has been hurting for some time, not that it's been a huge factor in his poor play.
3. I think here's a snippet on every coaching and front-office situation out there:
a. Kansas City. Owner Clark Hunt will go after a GM-type first -- Pioli and Chris Polian of the Colts are on his list -- before deciding for sure on Herman Edwards.
b. Cleveland. Romeo Crennel's gone (UPDATE: Indeed), as is his staff. Randy Lerner wants his new GM and/or coach to be more of a leader of an organization, which is why he's going to investigate Bill Cowher.
c. St. Louis. New GM Billy Devaney will have one hire, and maybe only one year, to ply his trade. Owner Chip Rosenbloom thought he was close to getting a buyer for the team, but the economy has helped squelch bidders' ardor. Devaney will consider Jim Haslett but he can't hire him if he hopes to make his mark and stay longer than a year. Devaney was in Atlanta last year and liked Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan in interviews there. He purposely won't reach out to them in his first round of interviews because he thinks he knows them well enough already. Look for Devaney to cast a wide net.
d. New York. Tough call for Woody Johnson because Eric Mangini's a smart guy who got the job at 35. He's a disappointing, but not horrible, 23-26 since. Do you whack Mangini and risk him going somewhere and reprising Bill Belichick's second job experience? Or do you keep him as a lame duck, or more likely extend his contract one year so he doesn't get the questions about coaching for his job all season? The other problem is Mangini's not a beloved figure in his locker room. Fluid situation. My guess is Johnson makes a change. (UPDATE: Indeed.)
e. Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis likely returns, though he's one of those guys (and there are a few in coaching and management in the league) who I think would love to be fired, get paid and start over somewhere else. Leave it to the Bengals to win their last three totally meaningless games and think it translates to a positive feel for 2009. You beat Washington, Cleveland and Kansas City, Mr. Brown, which is like the Celtics beating Oklahoma City, Washington and Montclair Kimberly Academy.
f. Oakland. I think Tom Cable stays. Nice accomplishment, finishing 3-3 at Dysfunction Junction. But that's not the real reason. The reason is Cable's the best Al Davis can do right now.
g. Dallas. Give Jerry Jones a week. We'll see if he sticks to his vow of keeping Wade Phillips, but indications Sunday night were that he'd do exactly that.
h. Detroit. Clueless, because the owner is. Rod Marinelli (10-38 in three years) left the coaching job having lost 23 of his last 24. William Clay Ford Sr. should wait a couple of weeks, see if Bill Parcells shakes free, then hire him, and let Parcells figure out who should coach the team. Darkhorse coaching candidates if Parcells surfaces here: David "Wildcat Formation'' Lee, Paul Pasqualoni, Jason Garrett.
i. Buffalo. Going winless in the division, blowing a field-goal try at the end of the first half Sunday because of undisciplined pushing and shoving with the Patriots, going 2-8 down the stretch. Those things have to infuriate Ralph Wilson, who is not a patient man. I could see him keeping Dick Jauron or firing him. It's 50-50.
That's it for now. Would I be shocked if Philadelphia turns over? No, but I don't expect it.
4. I think if Joe Flacco completes 65 percent of his throws with two interceptions in January, the Ravens are going to the Super Bowl.
5. I think if Brandon Jacobs plays eight healthy quarters in January, the Giants are going back to the Super Bowl.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 17:
a. Haloti Ngata is downright nimble for a 345-pound man.
b. Roger Goodell visited John Mackey, who suffers from dementia, in an assisted-living facility Sunday. Nice gesture.
c. The Chargers have won 14 straight December games. Bet they wish they had a December date with the Colts, not a January one.
d. The Alex Gibbs-Kyle Shanahan offensive combo-platter really worked well for the Texans, with Gibbs choreographing the Texan running plays and Shanahan doing the pass plays, and Kyle making the play-calls. Points scored, by the way, in the Shanahan family this fall: Mike 370, Kyle 366.
e. This is the NFL: I bet more people in America picked Dallas and New England to play in the Super Bowl -- and neither made the playoffs.
f. I credit Matt Cassel for managing a game with wind gusts up to 55 mph -- and for a very big Sammy Baugh-esque 57-yard quick-kick punt in the third quarter, pinning the Bills at their 2. How about this stat line for the man who played 15 and three-quarters NFL games after not starting a game since high school: 11-5 record, .634 completion rate, 3,693 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 89.4 rating. He may have played his last game as a Patriot, but he will have a long -- and I predict, glorious -- future in the NFL.
g. There aren't two more under-the-radar, very good coordinators in the NFL on the same team as Brian VanGorder (defense) and Mike Mularkey (offense) in Atlanta.
h. Speaking of really good players you don't know yet, here's one you'll get to know next week in the wild card game at Arizona: Atlanta rookie middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who is playing with as much confidence on defense as Matt Ryan has on offense.
i. Andy Reid at Brad Childress on Sunday. Teacher at pupil.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 17:
a. Terence Newman looked awful against Philly. He wasn't alone on that team, believe me.
b. The Giants seem remarkably unconcerned about January for a team that had a 1-3 December -- and they had to go to overtime for earn the one.
c. "I'm taking everyone to the woodshed. Everyone,'' Jerry Jones said Sunday night. Including Jerry Jones?
d. The Patriots are one of the best eight teams in football right now, but they shouldn't be in the playoffs. Fair is fair. No violins because they went 11-5 and didn't get in. If they hadn't allowed Miami to use a high school formation to knock them senseless in September, if they hadn't gotten a silly David Thomas unnecessary-roughness penalty or a Matt Cassel interception two games later at Indianapolis in November, if they'd stopped Brett Favre on a third-and-15 overtime pass play in November ... any of those things go the other way, and the Pats go 12-4, are the third seed in the AFC this morning, and face Baltimore this weekend.
e. You should have had it, Chansi Stuckey.
f. No team in the NFL needs a pass-rusher more than Denver.
g. Or an impact linebacker.
h. "I almost can't believe it,'' Jason Hanson said about 0-16. "It's surreal. Like, did it happen? But this is what people have been waiting for, I guess. Very sad. Very disappointing.''
8. I think there are two sides to the Tom Brady slow-knee-recovery story. Tom Curran's well-researched piece on nbcsports.com Sunday implied Brady was behind schedule in his recovery and would probably need another surgery to feel right for the 2009 season. I have been told by those close to the story that Brady is actually ahead of schedule. We'll find out which it is when the Patriots have to put the franchise tag on Matt Cassel come free-agency time in late February.
The tag would mean only that Cassel would be guaranteed at least $14.3 million on a one-year contract, and then the Patriots could either chose to keep Cassel as Brady insurance or try to make the best deal they could for the most compensation they could get for Cassel. If they hang onto Cassel -- which I don't expect to happen -- then it's a sign they don't trust Brady's rehab.
9. I think you're on the clock, Lions. Can you convince Matthew Stafford to come out in the draft? Or should I say, "Would you scare him off by hinting you'd take him in the draft?'' Draft order: Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. For all my hopes of seeing a good movie over the Christmas weekend, the only one I saw was "Christmas Vacation.'' For the 12th year in a row, I believe.
b. Randy Quaid, you never get old. One of the funniest scenes in holiday movie history, one I replayed six times the other night: Snots the dog underneath the table, chewing on food and assorted detritus, when he dog-belches loudly. Clark W. Griswald tells Eddie (Randy Quaid) maybe he shouldn't be feeding the dog from the table, Eddie says he actually ate from the kitchen garbage, and then the dog makes a long, sort-of-quadruple-belch-and-vomit sound. "He's just yakking on a bone,'' Eddie says.
c. From Forrest T., of Fort Worth comes this e-mail, denoting a word I used last week: "Somnambulant ... seriously. This is becoming a highlight every week reading your column. It's like 'Where's Waldo' except the real name should be 'Peter's Thesaurus Word of the Week.' How about PTWOW for short. Keep it up ... makes life a bit interesting in these dismal recessions days.'' All right, Forrest. This week's PTWOW, from 10b: detritus. Get going on that one.
d. Found another "Family Guy'' fan: James Harrison of the Steelers, who seems totally disinterested in people telling him what a great football player he is. "I don't read my press clippings,'' he told me in a revealing exclusive. "I just do my work, go home, and flip on the Cartoon Network. I can't be a football fan.'' He said "Family Guy'' is one of his favorite cartoons. "One thing I can't figure out though,'' he said. "Who hears what Stewie says? Is it just Brian? I don't think the mother hears him.'' Now you've discovered the real secret to life, James Harrison.
e. Coffeenerdness: Long week. Long hours. Major Dickason's Blend from Peet's got me through it.
f. Greatest Christmas song of the season: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),'' by Darlene Love. Saw and heard her for the second or third time on Letterman, then on the radio. What a powerful voice. Just a beautiful rendition.
g. More fans should feel about their team the way Jeff Miller feels about his Giants "Superfan'' blog. There's something endearing about a blog that's so devotional to a team.
h. Weirdest unis in sports: Those black-and-green jobs the Celtics wore Sunday night in Sacramento.
i. Here's my movie pet peeve: I saw the ads for "Milk'' for six weeks before I could actually go see it in my town in Jersey. I still can't see Frost/Nixon, which frosts me. Used to be you'd see signs for a movie that opened Dec. 25, and you'd plan to go. Now you have no idea. The ad may say it opens Dec. 25, but you may not have it at your Cineplex 'til Jan. 20.
j. I see the Yankees are interested in signing Warren Buffett, then Bill Gates. But that won't be enough for them. Then they're going to ink three Saudi princes to Triple-A contracts.