MMQB Mailbag: How Brady messed up; are helmet mandates coming?
Vontae Davis explains how he got the best of Tom Brady
Kurt Warner explains why he didn't use new helmet Sunday
Mailbag questions on Browns' feistiness, E.J. Henderson, more
Five points to consider after a compelling weekend of football:
1. Tom Brady needs to self-study, if Vontae Davis is to be believed. Ten minutes remained in the Patriots-Dolphins game. Pats, 21-19. Second-and-goal at the Miami 5. Randy Moss ran to the shallow right side of the end zone, with rookie cornerback Vontae Davis in close pursuit by his side, and Brady let a low spiral fly, apparently for Moss' back shoulder. Now, in this case, Brady could throw a fade, where Moss would use his size and go up for an arcing ball over the smaller Davis, or, thinking Davis would surely be looking for the trademark fade, throw it short, at Moss' back shoulder. He did the latter. "I anticipated it might be back-shoulder,'' Davis told me. "Watching film, I know they throw back-shoulder a lot, so I was ready for it.'' After not throwing a red-zone interception in 2006 or 2007, Brady has thrown two in 12 games this year. You can bet Brady will go to school on this pick.
2. Over-officiousness? Or good officiating? After a quick run through TiVo this morning, I'd say only two of the nine pass-interference calls were shaky in the Packers-Ravens game Monday night. Both of the calls that sent Tramon Williams into orbit were legit pass-interference calls. On one of the calls, Williams used an arm bar -- using his arm to prevent the receiver from using his arms -- to be able to catch the ball. On another, he was too physical on the receiver's arms. I think there was so much outrage because we're used to seeing officials "let 'em play'' in the secondary, and Walt Anderson's crew called interference by the book.
3. Think, Joe Flacco. Joe, Joe, Joe. Flacco made a throw last night I don't think he ever would have made in his rookie year, and it showed how much he's pressing right now. Baltimore was at the Packers' 3 on second-and-goal with nine minutes left, down 10 points. If the Ravens score here, they make a game of it and have at least two more chances to score down the stretch. Flacco faded right, looked, looked, looked ... and instead of throwing it away as he rolled toward the right sideline, he threw it against the grain into end-zone traffic, and Williams intercepted for Green Bay. Throw it into the seats, man! Inexcusable.
4. Look for Roger Goodell to focus on helmets next. When I spoke with the NFL commissioner nine days ago, mostly about head trauma, he said he was most concerned now with the fact that many players don't use helmets with the latest trauma-diffusing technology. Long-time neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon echoed that with me. "Players are using their old helmets, either because they feel good, or they're superstitious, or they just don't want to change,'' he said. "They need to take advantage of the technology.''
In fact, Kurt Warner, who is hyper-sensitive to brain trauma in the wake of his concussion two weeks ago, told me via text message that he tried some of the new helmets last week, but "simply based on fit,'' he couldn't find one he liked.
Maroon told me the league might consider taking the issue out of the players' hands -- and enforcing a rule mandating players use one of the new helmets in 2010. Maroon said the league is studying new helmets from five helmet manufacturers, doing 23 biomechanical tests on each helmet to determine which they will recommend. "The difference in the helmets is not the outer shell,'' he said. "The difference is the inner material, where major advances are being made.''
5. Revenue-sharing is not going anywhere. Interesting note by ESPN's Chris Mortensen about how the supplemental revenue sharing adopted in the last contract between the players and owners in 2006 is going away unless there's a new CBA approved by the spring. That supplemental revenue totals about $100 million; it helps low-revenue teams like Minnesota and Buffalo -- teams with stadium revenue shortfalls -- get money to make sure the revenue gap between them and the big-money teams stays manageable.
I'm told eight or nine teams got the money this year, averaging a little more than $10 million per team. It's an important bit of revenue, to be sure, especially when you consider that Minnesota has to battle with revenue heavyweights like Dallas, Philadelphia and the Giants for free agents. But I've had a slew of e-mails and Tweets asking about the death of revenue-sharing, and about how bad it will be for the league. Hold on. Revenue-sharing is not dying. About 1.5 percent of the revenue formerly shared won't be in 2010.
Now for your e-mail:
THE BROWNS AND MORAL VICTORIES. From Cory Vadasz of Mogadore, Ohio: "Is it just me, or are the Browns finally starting to compete? Granted, it's only been the past couple games that they've shown that they're better than a high school team, but at least it's getting a bit more enjoyable to watch. Do you predict they'll have the number one pick in the 2010 draft? If not them, who?"
The strength-of-schedule tiebreaker will determine that, and it's close now. But you should hope for a pick not in the top three. Too often it's more a poor allocation of money ... unless it's a year when you really want one player at the top, like Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. If I were a Browns fan, I'd rather win a game or two down the stretch and pick around six or seven. Then there will still be a quarterback or top player from a rich class of juniors to pick.
I STAND BY WHAT I SAID. From Joern of Hamburg, Germany: "So Michael Vick's got one of the three best arms in football? Interesting. Let me get this straight: So his arm is better than the arm of either Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees? Don't think so Peter. And I haven't even thrown Brett Favre, Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers into the mix. Highly exaggerated in my eyes.''
It wouldn't be if you stood along the sidelines at a Falcons training camp practice four years ago, like I did, and watched Vick throw the ball 65 yards effortlessly, with a single stride. That arm strength doesn't disappear spending two years in federal custody. For raw arm strength, I'd say Vick, JaMarcus Russell, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford would have a good contest. My guess is they'd throw it farther than the others.
HENDERSON'S INJURY ROILS THE VIKES. From Marc Aune of Woodbury, Minn.: "E.J. Henderson's injury in the Sunday night game was horrific and the scene of his brother riding off with him in tears on the cart was heartbreaking. More than the second 'L' in the right-hand column, Henderson was by far the worst loss for the Vikings. Listening to local radio this morning, it sounds like many of the players were just devastated by it. Can you add any insight to this story?''
Only this: Henderson's a very well-liked player on the team, as you probably know. And anytime that happens, players have to turn on the mechanism they've had to turn on at various times in their career -- the mechanism that allows them to go on knowing there's a chance it could happen to them at any time. I think that's the thing that impresses me about players in the NFL who have been playing for a long time. They know an injury like Henderson's can happen tomorrow, yet they go in and throw themselves into the game the same way they did when they were kids.
HE IS BUGGED BY THE OFFICIATING IN THE REDSKINS LOSS. From Patrick of Newport News, Va.: "Peter, great column, but there's one thing that's really been bugging me about the Redskins loss on Sunday that I haven't heard discussed at all. During that last fumble of the day for the 'Skins (the one that the refs overturned and gave to the Saints), the refs ran in and blew the whistle almost immediately after the ball popped out. From what I could tell the 'Skins players didn't even go for the ball. How is it fair that the Saints then were given the ball in the replay? Isn't there a rule that the ball can't be recovered after it is whistled dead? Has this rule changed?''
The NFL put a rule on the books in 2006 that says, in essence, that even if an official blows a whistle or points to the ground -- saying, in effect, the ball is down, and this is the spot where it I'm ruling it down -- either team can in the immediate action after the disputed fumble try to recover the ball. In this case, the whistle blew, and Washington fullback Mike Sellers fumbled, then attempted to pull the ball back in after it came loose, and the Saints then rushed to recover it, and did recover it. So you can dispute the replay reversal, but you can't dispute what happened that resulted in the Saints recovering the ball.
IT'S A LEGIT POSSIBILITY. From Justin Kingsley of Guilford, Conn.: "On the subject of the Broncos, what are the chances they try to upgrade in the draft over Kyle Orton? I like him, but I still pine for the days of Jake the Snake.''
You're in the minority there, at least as far as missing Jake Plummer. But the Broncos could look for a quarterback in 2010, certainly, with Chicago's first-round pick from the Jay Cutler trade. Chances? I'd say Josh McDaniels will see how Orton plays down the stretch, and if McDaniels thinks he can significantly upgrade in the draft, he'd do it.
I DID. From Greg Pannebaker of Sugar Land, Texas: "I am really impressed with Kurt Warner being so up front about the concussion issue and setting a good example. But then I watched the Card-Vikes game last night and noticed he's still wearing the standard issue Riddell helmet, not any of the new anti-concussion designs. Isn't that sort of like coming off knee surgery and not wearing a brace? I'd be interested to know what Kurt was thinking. Any chance you ask him?''
Greg, your question spurred me to ask him. Thank you. His answer is higher in this column. I really appreciate you thinking of this, because it didn't occur to me to look at his helmet.
GOOD POINT. CALDWELL'S GOOD. From J.J. Rouhana of Falmouth, Maine: "I continue to be impressed with the Colts this year. Coming into 2009 I thought they were going to take a step backwards from 2008. Here is my question: How important is the Colts head coach? I think the world of Tony Dungy, but how important was he in the grand scheme of things? Was Jim Caldwell doing a lot behind the scenes already? Is Peyton Manning just as much of a coach as Caldwell/Dungy?''
The infrastructure of the Colts is so good. Bill Polian has set an organization in place, and Dungy fit it perfectly, and Caldwell learned under Dungy, and now Caldwell fits in perfectly. Example: Whatever Caldwell thinks deep down about resting or not resting players for the playoffs, he'll follow the organization's view, which is that they're not going to risk Peyton Manning's health nor the health of other key players like Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne just to make sure they maintain momentum going into the playoffs. But the overriding thing about the Colts is as long as they play decent defense (just decent) and Manning is playing, they'll be serious contenders every year. Manning just does so much that goes unrecognized and unappreciated.
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