Flip-flopping coaches, surprise 3-0 teams ... little's predictable in NFL
Coaches' flip-flopping appears to be the story of the year so far in 2010
Did anyone make a better offseason pickup than Ravens trading for Boldin
Saints will be making a mistake if they overreact to Hartley’s struggles
Before we turn our attention to Week 4 and the Armageddon that will be the Donovan McNabb vs. Michael Vick Bowl in Philadelphia on Sunday, 10 final observations on an intriguing Week 3 ...
1. Hard to know who to believe in the NFL these days. The flip-flop might be the story of the year so far in 2010. Andy Reid says the Eagles are still Kevin Kolb's team, then tosses the keys to Michael Vick. Mike Singletary declares Jimmy Raye's job safe, until it's not. One minute Jason Campbell is the answer in Oakland, the next minute he's the problem. Chan Gailey says he sees the light at the end of the tunnel with Trent Edwards, not long before giving him a plane ticket out of town. Josh McDaniels seems to install Tim Tebow as his backup quarterback, an arrangement that lasts the season's first two weeks. And I do believe Ken Whisenhunt got the whole reverse-field thing started in Arizona when he bailed on the Matt Leinart era in late August.
OK, so coaches are changing their minds faster than ever. Sometimes in a matter of hours. We get it. And in most of the above-mentioned cases, I happen to think the correct call was made upon further review. But that's an awful lot of reversed calls in a very short time. As it turns out, everything that happens in the league seems reviewable. It's making it difficult to form opinions that stay operative longer than the next news cycle. You can't say the NFL is a week-to-week proposition any more. It's day-to-day. Maybe minute-to-minute. So stay tuned.
2. Raise your hand if you predicted the Chiefs, Bears and Steelers would be the last three teams to remain unbeaten through the first three weeks of the season. Anyone? Didn't think so.
Last year at this time, we still had a whopping seven teams with unblemished records -- one each in every division except the NFC West, which was topped by the 2-1 49ers. The Jets, Ravens, Colts, Broncos, Giants, Vikings and Saints all started 3-0 last season, and five of those made it to 4-0 (everyone except the Jets and Ravens).
What do Kansas City, Chicago and Pittsburgh have in common beside their 3-0 marks? Well, they all missed the playoffs last season. So there's that. But based on 2009, a 3-0 start isn't an automatic ticket to the playoffs. Only five of the seven fast starters made it to the postseason last year. Denver squandered a 6-0 start, of course, and the Giants wasted their 5-0 getaway. Both finished 8-8 and out of the money.
3. Did anyone make a better pickup than the Ravens trading for Anquan Boldin this offseason? The ex-Cardinals receiver has come up huge in both of Baltimore's victories so far, and it's not a stretch at all to say the Ravens might be winless without his 20 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Then again, Seattle stealing Leon Washington from the Jets for a fifth-round pick on draft weekend was a pretty impactful move, too. Washington became the 10th NFL player to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the Seahawks' upset of San Diego, and I'm still surprised New York decided it could live without both Washington and 1,402-yard rusher Thomas Jones in 2010.
4. Tell me again how Mike Shanahan's hiring in Washington is going to change the losing culture within the Redskins organization? So far I've seen a Washington team that has played very well one week (beating Dallas at home), couldn't close the deal the next week (blowing a 17-point, third-quarter lead to visiting Houston), and basically didn't show up against an inferior opponent in Week 3 (losing by 14 at St. Louis).
That's essentially the same maddening characteristics we saw out of the Redskins during the Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn coaching eras. Shanahan hasn't yet put a real dent in Washington's issues with consistency.
5. The Raiders' disappointing 1-2 record has obscured the fact that their 2008 first-round pick, Darren McFadden, just turned in three of his four best career rushing days in September. McFadden has run for 95, 145 and 105 yards in Oakland's three games, and with 345 yards on 73 carries (4.7), he's only 13 yards from topping his entire 2009 rushing total, which was amassed in 12 games.
Staying healthy and productive has been the challenge for McFadden, but he's finally looking like the player who might have been worthy of the fourth overall pick in 2008.
6. The Saints will be making a mistake if they over-react to Garrett Hartley's early season field goal misses and cut ties with him. Hartley will be kicking somewhere in the NFL for a long time to come, and guys who can produce -- and produce from long range -- under the pressure that Hartley successfully dealt with last postseason don't grow on trees.
Sometimes you do have to grade on a curve when it comes to NFL kickers. They're all going to hit their slumps from time to time, but if you can ride out a bad month or so, you may wind up getting years of quality service from him. I still think the Cowboys gave up on Nick Folk too soon last season, and he's back on track and healthy again as a Jet this year.
7. While we're at it, after both Hartley (29 yards) and Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski (32 yards) missed game-winning chip-shot field goals on Sunday, we had to once again endure that tired quote from a supportive teammate about how the kickers would have made "99 out of 100'' of those attempts, but just happened to miss this one.
Drew Brees said it about Hartley, and McFadden said it about the man they affectionately call "Seabass'' in Oakland. Can we please retire that cliché? It doesn't help. It only makes it hurt worse. And lastly, no one's ever going to make 99 out of 100 from any distance in a game setting, unless we're talking extra points, and then only maybe. So on top of everything, it's a moot point.
8. I gave the Chiefs' big win over San Francisco short shrift on Sunday, even though I was at the game and saw Kansas City improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2003. Because the 49ers meltdown was so shocking, and I had a sense that head coach Mike Singletary would have to make some changes in light of that catastrophic defeat, I went to the San Francisco locker room and wrote about the plight of 49ers.
But that said, the Chiefs were a revelation in Week 3. I had visited their training camp this summer and thought I saw the makings of turnaround in the early stages, but we might have to accelerate that timetable. And while I hate the comparison game when it comes to young, impressive players, it was hard to not think of Tony Gonzalez when watching Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki make that ridiculous one-handed touchdown catch in the back of the end zone in the third quarter of Sunday's rout.
In the preseason, I thought Kansas City had six- or seven-win potential in 2010. But a 9-7 or even 10-6 record is looking more possible all the time.
9. When the quarterback-heavy Eagles let it be known they were willing to move a passer last offseason, most of the inquiries were about Kolb, with a few teams obviously kicking the tires on McNabb. But the prospect of acquiring Vick, even for a mid-round pick, apparently didn't appeal to any club.
Naturally, Vick and his boffo 10 quarters of work with the Eagles first-team offense is all anyone wants to talk about in this still-young NFL season. Kolb remains on the sideline, while McNabb muddles through early on in his new career as a Redskin, and prepares to return to Philadelphia this weekend for the biggest must-see Eagles game since Terrell Owens came back to town as a Cowboy in October 2006. What's that they say about the deals you don't make sometimes being the best deals of all?
10. And if you think Vick's renaissance doesn't illustrate how quickly fortunes can change for NFL quarterbacks, just ask Mark Sanchez about his last two weeks. Sanchez's game was picked apart by everyone after his shaky showing against Baltimore in the Jets' opening-week loss. I did a story that week digging into what was going wrong with Sanchez and the Jets offense, getting the likes of Trent Dilfer, Boomer Esiason and others to weigh in on his struggles.
But just days later, after two impressive performances in wins over AFC East rival Patriots and Dolphins, Sanchez is generating honest-to-goodness MVP buzz. His three touchdown passes apiece against New England and Miami were career highs, and the Jets offense once again looks to be in the hands of a promising young franchise passer.
Right now the Jets probably wouldn't trade Sanchez even up for anyone. I mean, other than Michael Vick.
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