Bus Stops: Eagles are best team in NFC; Tebow showing promise
The ability to beat teams three ways on offense elevates the Eagles
If Tim Tebow can learn how to read NFL defenses, look out
More thoughts on resting players, Pro Bowl team and more
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, SI.com's Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career and is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2011.
The Eagles are the best team in the NFC. The way they've been winning is how you build championship-caliber character. They're beating the teams they're supposed to, pulling out comeback victories and last-second wins, and their only loss since Michael Vick came back from his rib injury was at Chicago, arguably the toughest NFC venue. They're more playoff-ready than any other team, having performed so well with the pressure on. I expect more success against the Vikings tonight.
What makes the Eagles unstoppable isn't just Vick; it's all the different ways the offense can score. Most good teams can only beat you two ways, the quarterback throwing or the running back running. The Eagles can do it three ways. Vick throwing, LeSean McCoy running and Vick running. It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on defenses. The philosophy of defensive coordinators is to take away one of those facets on a particular play. With all the weapons the Eagles have, it becomes a guessing game. Guess wrong, and the scoreboard lights up. We've seen plenty of that.
The only way the Eagles can be stopped is if they stop themselves through mistakes and turnovers. Coincidentally, the best team in the AFC, the Patriots, specializes in mistake-free football.
Detroit's Dominic Raiola is definitely not the first player to yell an obscenity toward a fan. I don't condone his actions, but it can be very hard to hold back when you hear and see some of the things I have while walking into a tunnel. You try to tune it out, and you don't want to seem affected by what's going on around you, but, trust me, you hear it.
Actually, the worst act I've seen from a spectator came at a home game. In December 1998, I was running off the field with our quarterback, Kordell Stewart, when somebody doused Kordell with a full beer, right on his face. It was the most despicable thing I've ever seen. Kordell handled it much better than I would have. He kept going into the locker room (though he understandably lost a lot of respect for Steelers fans). Had it happened to me, I probably would have tried to climb into the stands and gone after the fan.
I'm starting to come around on Tim Tebow. The Broncos are spoon-feeding him the offense, but from what I've seen so far I'm getting the feeling he can be an NFL quarterback. That was a big question coming out of college, despite Denver using a first-round pick on him. His release, also scrutinized, doesn't seem to be as big of an issue as originally made out to be. He's fairly accurate, and he's made some plays with his legs.
Tebow is showing promise, but he has plenty to work on in the offseason before taking the reins in 2011. He's still lacking the technical aspects all good starting quarterbacks possess, especially the ability to read defenses. With experience will come better decision-making and fewer mistakes. If Tebow's work ethic is what it's reputed to be, he could develop into the real deal.
The timing was right for Mike Singletary's firing. The 49ers gave him every chance to regroup and make the playoffs in the league's worst division. Once eliminated, it was time to move on. I wasn't as concerned with Singletary's in-your-face style as much as I was his handling of the quarterback situation in San Francisco. I never got the sense he had a feel for either Alex Smith or Troy Smith, so the organization certainly must have seriously doubted his decision-making. We've seen the Cowboys and the Vikings respond to coaches being fired, but the 49ers weren't sparked when offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was axed after an 0-3 start.
It should be a busy new year, as head coach isn't the only void to fill in San Francisco. In addition to finding a GM, I think they need not one, but two new quarterbacks. The first is a veteran who can step in and play better than either Smith. The second is one they pick up in the 2011 draft, the long-term solution. The 49ers have enough surrounding talent to make the playoffs next year if the right leaders are brought in.
A few more quick thoughts ...
-- It's a delicate question that comes up annually in Week 17 -- should locked-in playoff teams rest their starters? I look at two factors. The first and most important is health. If a player could use a week off, give it to him. Above all else, I'd rather have a healthy player than a beat-up player in January. Second, look at how well a player's performing. If he's in a slump, he needs all the opportunities he can get to turn things around. Rex Ryan is contemplating sitting Mark Sanchez, whose throwing shoulder is banged up, but I would play him for at least a couple series. Another full week of game preparation and mental reps will help the young quarterback.
-- Pro Bowl rosters are announced Tuesday, and I hope one under-the-radar player gets a trip to Honolulu. Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey has started every game and played at a high level all season. Two centers make the team, so Pouncey would have to beat out fan-vote leader Jeff Saturday or reigning All-Pro Nick Mangold. More than anybody else, offensive linemen don't get the credit they deserve, and Pouncey heads that list this year.
-- It looks as though the Rams will win the NFC West at 8-8. I don't think the Seahawks have a legitimate chance of beating them with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. Once either team reaches the playoffs, I predict it'll be one and done, but I'm not totally ruling them out like some. Everybody gets to start over in the playoffs -- remember, a No. 6 seed won Super Bowl XL -- and the NFC West winner will get a first-round home game.