Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 11:
a. I'm not sure what this means, other than I'd say it's very unlikely to happen: I had a dream Saturday night that I was a guest at Al Davis' house in northern California, there to advise him on what to do with the Raiders. The advice part of it wasn't in the dream, but I'm sure if it had been, it'd have been brilliant.
b. Little-known fact about Tom Santi, the Colts tight end who made two catches on the same drive at Baltimore: He had a staph infection last year before Manning did, and the Colts used his infection as a barometer for how to treat Manning.
c. The Patriots are 21-1 in games following a regular-season loss dating to 2003.
d. The Pats and Jets, in their 50th seasons, are 50-50-1 against each other.
e. Sounds to me like Ralph Wilson's a desperate man, and he'll do what he has to do to get one of the really big fish. Mike Shanahan, I hear, is tops on his list. I'd be surprised if Shanahan went to Buffalo before he knew what else was out there in the offseason.
f. I don't care what the Bears say. If they keep going down the drain and Jay Cutler's mentor is on the unemployment line, they have to look at Shanahan.
g. Mike Holmgren? I hear reliably he wants to be a GM/president type, not a coach.
2. I think if you want to be inspired, google Stefanie Spielman, the indomitable 42-year-old wife of Chris Spielman and mother of four who died of breast cancer last Thursday. And read. The story I most fondly remember from a 1998 profile of the Spielmans in Sports Illustrated is of her taking off a brown corduroy hat -- understand that she'd just met me -- at their kitchen table in Columbus. She was bald and pale. "Men go bald all the time,'' she said. "Why should I try to look like something I'm not? I'm sick.'' And for much of the next 11 years, she was ill too. Now Chris is left to be mom and dad to four children. He'll be great at it, but they'll have a hole they'll never fill. What an impressive woman she was.
3. I think Eagles defensive end Trent Cole is one of the 10 most underappreciated players in the NFL. That's what you call a guy who's had sacks in eight of Philly's 10 games, yet won't get a sniff for the Pro Bowl.
4. I think this is what I liked about Week 11:
a. Nice camera work, FOX, at Tampa Bay, showing professional-wrestler-lookalike Chris Hovan putting eye-black on his young son on the field before Bucs-Saints.
b. What a block by heretofore disappointing Washington wideout Devin Thomas on Dallas linebacker Bobby Carpenter on a punt return. Carpenter will feel that this morning, I can guarantee you that.
c. Who'd have ever thought Julian Edelman would be this kind of receiver? Looks like he's been catching passes for seven years, not seven months.
d. The Saints made up quite nicely for their injured cornerbacks -- Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer -- in Tampa Bay, holding Josh Freeman to 126 yards passing and picking him off three times.
e. The responsibility of Kurt Warner. At a time when the league is manic about head injuries, Warner took himself out of the game after taking a middling blow to the head and didn't return. "I just wanted to be smart,'' he said . "I didn't feel perfect, so I just wanted to be cautious with it. I didn't get knocked out or forget anything. I just wasn't perfect and I could tell that.'' The league should hold Warner as an example of when players should stay out of games. Look for him to play next week.
f. Great point by my buddy Don Banks on SI.com Sunday night: never have two teams tied for first place looked so different than the Chargers and Broncos Sunday.
g. James Laurinaitis: 16 solo tackles for the Rams. I like the young crop of linebackers in the league.
h. Rest up, JaMarcus Russell. Bruce Gradkowski's going to have the Raiders quarterback job -- deservedly so -- for a while.
5. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 11:
a. Dropped picks by London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh at Dallas. Either could have been a vital play in a close game for the Redskins.
b. Giants' first 10 rushes: 26 yards. Where is the old Brandon Jacobs?
c. Never, ever have I seen Ray Lewis get faked out on a normal-looking burst over the center as I did when he fanned on a Joseph Addai second-quarter touchdown run. As Dan Dierdorf said on CBS, he's got to be nursing a bum ankle. That was embarrassing if he's not hurt.
d. Chris Simms, in his snapshot start for Denver, looked like he hadn't played football in a long time.
e. The Broncos are cooked. Kaput. Never has a defense seemed like such a mirage as the D of the first six Denver games.
f. Michael Jenkins would have been the Goat of the Week were it not for Hank Poteat tackling Calvin Johnson in the end zone in Detroit. Jenkins dropped a perfect pass in the end zone from Matt Ryan that likely would have won the game for Atlanta at the Giants.
g. Does Seattle have anything to be optimistic about? I mean, other than the 2010 draft? Man, I never saw their horrendous season coming.
h. Tough luck, Perry Fewell. You deserved a better fate. Then again, so did Dick Jauron.
6. I think Terrell Owens has to be sitting there this morning, among the wreckage of the Buffalo season, thinking, "See how it would have all been different if they came to me more often?'' His nine-catch, 197-yard, histrionic-free performance featured a 98-yard catch-and-run TD from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bills still lost, 18-15.
7. I think you have to sit Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan. The game's overwhelming for him right now. His last pick Sunday in Foxboro was just plain stupid, if not panicky. Time for Kellen Clemens.
8. I think this is the most interesting thing, apropos of nothing, that I found out about football this week that I never knew before: In 1989, Tony Dungy was an unemployed coach, having left the Steelers coaching staff. He thought he was going to catch on with the Cincinnati Bengals, working under Sam Wyche as the defensive line coach, but GM Mike Brown was uncomfortable hiring a guy to coach the line who'd never done it before.
The Giants had an opening for a secondary coach. Bill Parcells was shuffling his coaching staff. Defensive backs coach Len Fontes resigned, creating an opening there. Dungy was asked to interview for the job. He walked into a room at Giants Stadium with the entire defensive staff, plus Parcells, there to interview him. Defensive coordinator Bill Belichick was in the room.
First question, from Parcells: "How do you guys play with such small, fast guys on defense [in Pittsburgh]?'' For six hours they grilled Dungy. They wanted him. He wanted them. But the fit for Dungy's family just wasn't right. He couldn't justify bringing his family to New Jersey, where, with an assistant's salary, he might have had to live 30 minutes or more from the stadium. He knew he'd have learned a lot from Parcells and Belichick. But he took a job in Kansas City instead, on Marty Schottenheimer's staff.
Dungy's not the kind of guy who lives with many regrets, but you get the feeling he regrets not taking the Giants' job, particularly after they won the Super Bowl in what would have been his second year in New York. By the way, turns out Belichick took on the secondary job, adding it to his coordinator duties, and the Giants never filled Fontes' job for those two seasons.
How interesting would it have been if Dungy coached with Parcells and Belichick? Would they have become smitten with his coaching ability? Would he have joined Belichick's staff in Cleveland, or gone on the long and winding trail through the '90s with Parcells, or stayed in New York and impressed George Young and Wellington Mara enough to succeed Ray Handley after that debacle? Instead, he ended up in staredowns with Belichick for seven years in the best rivalry in the league. I love these what-if games.
Last night, Dungy told me he thinks all the time about what would have happened if he had taken the Giants' job.
9. I think it's nice Bud Adams took out an ad in the Buffalo News (see right) wishing the Bills luck in the rest of their season. But wouldn't it have been smart for him to use the word "apology'' somewhere in there?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Saw Pirate Radio, in part because I'll go see anything that stars or features Philip Seymour Hoffman. And the movie was good. B-minus good. The star of the show was the soundtrack. That's maybe the first time I've ever said that about a movie. From "Wouldn't It Be Nice'' (Beach Boys) to "Whiter Shade of Pale'' (Procol Harem) to "Sunny Afternoon'' (Kinks) to "Father and Son'' (Cat Stevens) ... terrific. That soundtrack was IPod-downloaded soon thereafter.
b. Thanks to all old and new friends for your support at the Montclair book-signing Saturday afternoon at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State. On a beautiful fall afternoon, I realized how much I miss the people and the place. Thanks for running it, Dave Kaplan. Your museum's going to be a great place after that facelift.
c. You call that a lot of Funkhauser? Come on, Larry David. When I say I want Funkhauser, I mean not just three or four lines.
d. Niggling criticism about a too-short season: I do not know what America is going to do without fresh episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
e. Michael Scott at the Dunder Mifflin shareholder's meeting was one of the great scenes in the history of The Office. Particularly his quasi-moonwalk on stage. Brilliant. Did you notice when Scott and Schrute and Company were driving away, the stock symbol of Dunder Mifflin on the Times Square stock-symbol ribbonboard came crashing through the floor? One of the great understated scenes I've seen on a TV show.
f. Until Saturday, I'd never heard of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. But I have a feeling I'll be typing his name an awful lot in the coming year. What a football game that was in Tucson. Three touchdowns running by Masoli, three passing. What a cool cucumber.
g. Good for UConn.
h. Don't even compare the Yale coach's call -- running a fake punt while up 10-7, under three minutes to go against Harvard, fourth-and-22 at his own 25, best punter in the Ivy League back to punt, no timeouts left for Harvard, Yale defense having controlled the day, runner stopped short of the first down at the Yale 40 -- to Bill Belichick's. Not applicable. Belichick had a fourth-and-2 with Tom Brady on his side, not wanting to punt the ball so Manning could have two minutes to make him regret it. The call by Tom Williams made Belichick look like a Bill Walsh/Albert Einstein combo platter. I don't want to make this a scar-kids-for-life moment, because it shouldn't. But imagine those kids at Yale, walking off a football field for the last time in their lives, thinking, "This is my last memory in football? My coach going for it idiotically on fourth-and-22, causing us to lose to our arch-rivals?''
i. Are you kidding me, Les Miles?
j. Sunday night, 10:47, walking back from NBC to my midtown hotel. Phone rings. It's Brian Hyland, my former compadre on HBO's Inside the NFL. He's at the final Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert of this tour (forever, perhaps?) in Buffalo, and he's now considerate enough to call me as "Tenth Avenue Freezeout'' begins, and he keeps the phone on for the first eight minutes of the song. Thanks, Brian. Not the best sound quality, but I'm a beggar, and I'm not choosy.
Who I Like Tonight
This is the most unscientific pick of the year. Pure gut feeling: Chris Johnson is on fire, Vince Young is gaining traction on a new career. The defense has learned to play without Albert Haynesworth. Tennessee 27, Houston 20 is not an anti-Texan pick, even though the Schaubmen are playing at home. It's a pro-Tennessee pick.
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