Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 5:
a. Weirdest sight of the opening United Football League weekend: Officials in blood-red shirts and black pants.
b. Second-weirdest sight: Simeon Rice sacking the quarterback. He's 33, and playing for the New York Sentinels. With team training headquarters in Florida, by the way. San Francisco and Las Vegas are headquartered in Casa Grande, a southern Arizona city about 20 miles north of Jackrabbit. I kid you not.
c. JaMarcus Russell has such terrible pocket awareness. It's like he's playing quarterback for the first time. He is so unaware of rushers around him -- like he has no peripheral vision. And quarterbacks are supposed to have clocks in their heads, telling them how long they can hold onto the ball. Russell's clock needs batteries. He is powerfully ill-equipped to be a starting NFL quarterback.
d. Mike Vrabel: 11 career catches, 11 touchdowns.
e. The Broncos uniforms were so ugly I actually like them.
f. The Patriots ought to wear those togs every single, solitary time they wear white. Gorgeous. Classy. And those helmets with the real Patriot snapping the ball ... fantastic. I remember getting one of those for Christmas
g. Bill Belichick has to be verrrrrry secure in his masculinity to wear that cheerleadery pompom ball on the top of his hat.
h. Every Cincinnati game this season has been decided in the final 60 seconds.
i. I don't care that Josh Johnson's stats (26 of 50, 240 yards, two touchdown, three picks) were pedestrian Sunday at Philadelphia. If you saw much of the game, which I did, you saw a bold quarterback with growing confidence. I'd start him not just one or two more weeks -- I'd give him the rest of the year.
j. I recall Peyton Manning telling me at training camp that he didn't want to get too excited yet, but he really liked what he saw in the rookie from BYU, Austin Collie. Sunday night in Tennessee, late in the first half, we saw why. On a skinny post, Collie weaved and broke a tackle and busted a 39-yard touchdown.
k. Every Sunday I do Peyton Manning a grave disservice by not naming him Player of the Week. Like last night ... 20 of 24 in the first half for 200 yards against a team that knows him intimately and was playing a playoff-type game. We're watching one of the great players in any sport in recent history right now.
l. Bad Day For Northeasterners Dept.: Within three hours Sunday, Jonathan Papelbon surrendered his first postseason runs and Brady lost his first overtime game ever. Sox lose. Pats lose. New York erupts in glee.
2. I think if you're a Chiefs' fan, you might want to skip this section. Kansas City refused to give Jared Allen a top-tier defensive end contract 18 months ago, instead shipping him to Minnesota for what appeared to be fair compensation three days before the 2008 draft. Here's how the deal looks today:
What the Chiefs got:
1st round (15th overall) Branden Albert, OT -- Starting LT has a chance to be good. In-and-out work ethic.
3rd round (73) Jamaal Charles, RB -- Change-of-pace back averaging five carries a game in 21 pro games.
3rd round (82) DaJuan Morgan, S -- Sub safety who still has to prove self to new coaching staff.
6th round (182) Kevin Robinson, WR -- Cut by Chiefs in '08.
What the Vikings got:
Jared Allen, DE -- The league's best all-around defensive end has 21 sacks and three safeties in 22 Viking games.
6th round (187) John Sullivan, C -- First-year starting center on one of NFL's best lines.
It's not certain, but it's possible that history will show that the Vikings got a more productive player at 187 (Sullivan) than the Chiefs got at 15 (Albert). Ouch.
3. I think Brady Quinn has played his last significant snaps for the Cleveland Browns. I believe Derek Anderson -- barring injury or an extremely bad stretch of football, even with his 2-of-17 performance Sunday in Buffalo -- will play the final 11 games of the season as an audition to see if the Browns will take their third first-round quarterback in 11 years next April. My hunch is that they will -- almost regardless of Anderson's performance -- unless there's such a good pass-rusher in the draft that Cleveland can't refuse.
4. I think the next new-stadium frontier for the league is in Minnesota, where the Vikings are getting restless after watching the state help the University of Minnesota build an on-campus football stadium and the Twins build a baseball stadium.
"After this season,'' owner/president Mark Wilf said the other day in Minneapolis, "we've got only 20 games left in the Metrodome on our lease. We're here at the bottom of the [revenue-producing] teams in football, and we've got to get moving toward a deal for a new stadium soon.''
Said a Viking source close to the stadium talks: "We're clearly headed for a crisis in Minnesota if our leadership sits back and does nothing.''
The Metrodome sits on the smallest footprint of any NFL stadium, contains only 200 club seats, has one traffic-clogged narrow concourse for the entire stadium, and 28 NFL cities have gotten a new venue in the last 20 years. Minnesota and the three California teams have not. At this point there have been no substantive talks between the state and the Wilfs, who plan to contribute about a third of the costs for the new stadium.
It's too early to start using Los Angeles as a stalking horse, but the L.A. stadium issue will be resolved in the next two weeks, and there's no question prospective L.A. owner Ed Roski will go aggressively after each of the league's wavering franchises, perhaps as soon as after this season.
5. I think this is what you need to know about coaching situations this morning:
a. Dick Jauron would need a miracle to keep his job in Buffalo, but know this about Ralph Wilson: He has not made an in-season firing of a coach since Hank Bullough 23 years ago. Wilson kept Gregg Williams to the bitter end of a 6-10 season in 2003, Mike Mularkey to the end of a 5-11 season in 2005.
This team is awful, but would Perry Fewell or Bobby April be suitable interim guys for the last couple of months? I don't see Wilson doing it, but he's got to be near despondent over how horribly wrong things have gone since a spirited opening night performance at Foxboro.
b. Mike Shanahan, as I said on NBC last night, is not going to coach the Redskins -- or anyone else -- this year. He'll keep his options open and get married to some team after the season. I don't doubt Washington owner Dan Snyder and Shanahan have talked, as FOXSports' John Czarnecki reported this weekend; but it would be folly to go in during the season for a few reasons.
The current staff wouldn't be loyal to Shanahan because they'd know he has his own guys in mind, like defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. And how would he call the offense, which is designed and coached by Jim Zorn? It's impractical to suggest that a new coach could implement a new system during the season.
c. Coaches other than Zorn and Jauron with futures in hand over next two months: Norv Turner, John Fox, Wade Phillips, Gary Kubiak ... and others TBA, depending on the big slumpers over the last two-plus months.
d. I don't see how Tom Cable makes it to the 2010 season. He may not make it to January.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 5:
a. Loved the Chiefs' Texans helmet. Strange, of course, with a map of Texas on the side of helmets the day they play a Texas team, but good helmets nonetheless.
b. Finally: DeMarcus Ware's first sack of 2009 -- after 20 in '08 -- came in the 31st minute of the fifth game.
c. Matt Hasselbeck. I've said it before and will again: If he stays upright, Seattle contends for the playoffs. In the two full games he's played, Seattle has won 28-0 and 41-0, over St. Louis and Jacksonville. His four-touchdown strafing of the Jags Sunday at home gave Seattle a chance to be .500 at the bye in two weeks, with Arizona coming to Qwest Sunday. Now that Hasselbeck's gotten T.J. Houshmandzadeh (two TDs Sunday) into the act, I expect the next man up will be either John Carlson or Deon Butler, both of whom need to be targeted more to make the Seattle passing game unpredictable.
d. Defenses keep challenging Adrian Peterson by clogging the box. Favre keeps completing 70 percent.
e. When the Broncos came after Brady, he kept going to Wes Welker -- 15 times. That's 12 more chances for Welker than Randy Moss.
f. Brian Dawkins is playing great for Denver. What a signing by Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders.
g. I've criticized Julius Peppers enough, so I must credit him for a strong game against Washington -- four tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble. For the Panthers to have a chance to climb back into the playoff picture, Peppers has to turnstile a few more tackles.
h. Rashard Mendenhall, you're making Mike Tomlin's job tough. With 242 yards and a 5.5-yard average carry the last two weeks by the second-year back, what's Tomlin going to do when Willie Parker returns from his turf toe?
i. The Lions are not terrible. They compete.
j. Ed Reed bluffs quarterbacks so well he ought to sell a patent for it.
k. Tony Romo threw for 351 with no turnovers and took only one sack ... without Terrell Owens and Roy Williams. He threw for Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd 25 times and netted 304 passing yards from those throws. What's that say to you? Says it's a blue-collar game to me.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 5:
a. Chad, Chad, Chad. You can't let Ed Reed punch the ball away from you like that, Ocho.
b. Albert Haynesworth on the ground again, hurt. Just what has Washington bought with its $50 million investment in him?
c. Sam Hurd, you have to catch that ball in the end zone. Have to. With Dallas down 10-0 late in the first half, Romo threw one in the end zone behind Hurd but right in his hands -- and it threw flew through both hands.
d. The Dallas punt-return game is a disaster. Either they can't catch the punt (Patrick Crayton) or they unwisely let the ball bounce inside the 10 instead of catching it around the 20 (Terence Newman).
e. Patriots 27 carries. Laurence Maroney five. Wall, meeting handwriting.
f. Rams: 400 yards, 27 first downs ... and four fumbles. Ridiculous.
g. Chris Berman said this Sunday morning, and it's still true: Darrius Heyward-Bey has more names (three) than catches (two).
h. Don't celebrate too much, Cowboys. That was one shaky win against a bad team.
i. Burger King: You're not serious about that Cowboys video on the FOX pregame show, are you? That's the bad taste of the year spot, without question. It must be on YouTube. Try "Crass Jessica Simpson Defamatory'' in the keyword line and see what you come up with. Or click here.
j. Magic's over, Kerry Collins. It's Vince Young's turn.
8. I think the moral of the story on the Michael Crabtree contract breakdown shows pretty clearly he didn't get anywhere near the money of the player picked seventh overall, Darrius Heyward-Bey, who unwittingly helped cause this ridiculous work stoppage. There was no question DHB getting picked seventh rankled the Crabtree camp. And when Heyward-Bey got a five-year deal worth $38.25 million, with $23.5 million guaranteed, that was the golden goose Crabtree wanted. What he got was a six-year deal (more onerous for the player) with $17 million guaranteed for a total of $28 million over the first five years, monstrously lower than Heyward-Bay's five-year payout.
The guarantees for the two players picked ahead of Crabtree -- Jacksonville's Eugene Monroe and Green Bay's B.J. Raji -- were for five-year deals, and both got more. Monroe got $18.9 million, Raji $17.7 million. Now, if Monroe, Raji and Crabtree play five good years with their teams and earn similar incentives, all will make close to $28 million, so in that way, Crabtree's deal is a good one compared to those around him. But the fact is, the 49ers would have done something very close to this contract in August. The deal is a big jump over last year's 10th pick, Jerod Mayo, but that same jump could have been had two months ago.
The net gain for this holdout? There is none. Crabtree didn't come close to Heyward-Bey. He ended up missing the first six weeks of the season. If I were advising him, I'd tell him to go to the 2010 NFL Rookie Symposium and make a speech to next year's crop of newbies entitled: "Don't Make the Same Dumb Mistake I Did.''
9. I think ESPN has a good chance to make ratings hay right now, and for the rest of the season. The Brett Favre game last week was the highest-rated cable-TV show in history. With the exception of Baltimore-Cleveland and Tennessee-Houston, the Monday night slate in Week 8 and beyond is strong and includes Atlanta-New Orleans, Pittsburgh-Denver, New England-New Orleans, Baltimore-Green Bay (Dec. 7 in the tundra), Arizona-San Francisco and Minnesota-Chicago. This could turn out to be the deepest schedule ESPN has had in the four years since going to Monday night.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I demand to know why the volume on some television commercials is 30 percent higher than the volume on the regular program. And if I find out it's anything like the sponsors pay more money to get their volume raised, I vow to never buy that advertisers product again.
b. Mike Scioscia understands the moment, which is one of the big reasons the Angels swept the Red Sox. Game 2, bottom of the seventh inning, no outs, 1-1 tie, cleanup hitter Vlad "The Impaler'' Guerrero walks, and out jogs Howie Kendrick ... to run for Guerrero. Now, immediately go to Baseball-Reference.com and look up Howie Kendrick, because I never remember him being a runner. Sure enough, 11 steals this year, four times caught. Marginal speed. And yet I know what Scioscia is doing here. He's going to try to steal a run, then mix-and-match two or three relievers to get the final six outs.
Kendrick tries to steal twice while the next batter is up, but the ball is fouled off. Then he goes on the first pitch to Juan Rivera and steals. With two out, Maicer Izturis grounds a single up the middle. Angels, 2-1. I like that Scioscia plays desperate like that. Terry Francona's a very good manager. But would he run for David Ortiz in a tie game in the seventh inning of a playoff game? No. Sometimes, as Scioscia does, you have to break the mold.
c. Coffeenerdness: Earlier this morning, 2:06 a.m. Because my hotel coffee stinks out loud, I get my coffee on the outside. (Sound familiar, Mr. Seinfeld?) Tonight, on the walk back from NBC's studios, I stopped at a midtown deli in need of some caffeine. But not wanting to risk the coffee, not knowing how long it'd been in the urn, I got an Illy Issimo cold cappuccino -- 8.4 ounces of (I hope) two shots of espresso and lowfat milk and cocoa. I'll need it an hour from now. The early results are encouraging. That is, I'm not drooling on the keyboard.
d. I wasn't sure it would be possible for the Pam/Jim wedding episode of The Office to be better than I thought, because it was a much-anticipated show. But it was a superb hour of television. I won't spoil it for you, other than to say the real wedding couldn't have been better or smarter, Dwight has a tremendous line about a dental hygienist, Kevin looks good in a toupee and Andy is a godsend to the show.
e. Yes, I am officially the last person on earth to have figured out the Seinfeld stuff on Curb Your Enthusiasm was to be the recurring theme of the season.
f. Jevan Snead. Remember that name? Quarterback from Ole Miss who was supposed to compete with Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford at the top 10 of the 2010 draft. Supposed to are the operative words this morning after Snead threw four picks and completed 11 of 35 against Alabama. After a mediocre first half of 2009 by Snead, now I wonder if he'll be a top-20 pick.
Who I Like Tonight
One of the things I like about Rex Ryan? The Jets deal for Braylon Edwards at 8:30 in the morning, and Ryan's first public pronouncement on Edwards at noon that day is that he'll be starting immediately. For the Jets' sake, I wish Edwards would have a healthy Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) on the other side tonight. I'm counting on Ronnie Brown and Pat White to pick up the slack from Chad Henne, starting his second NFL game against the multiple defenses Ryan will throw at him. Miami 20, New York Jets 17.
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