Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 17:
a. I'm sad for any person in the business whose job gets eliminated, and I've felt awful for my colleagues at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News who lost their jobs in 2009. But this year's off to a rough start with the news that an excellent Redskins beat man, David Elfin, and a wise owl of an NFL beat man, Dan Daly, lost their jobs when the Washington Times, which has been losing money for years, eliminated the sports section of the paper in an attempt to survive.
Elfin and Daly have many fine colleagues, and I don't mean to slight them, but they're the ones I know best from the paper. A better correspondent than Elfin I never had in my years as the "Inside the NFL'' columnist at the magazine. He's battled Redskins management toe to toe over the years but never gave an inch, and I thought it was classy that Dan Snyder gave Elfin a Redskins jersey with his name on the back on his last day covering the team after 18 years. Good luck to all in finding work in this writer-eating business.
b. What a disgraceful last two weeks by the Giants.
c. Actually, I'm not sure which is worse in the last two weeks: the Giants or Curtis Painter.
d. Muhsin Muhammad should not retire. He can still cut, he can still run, and he still has good hands.
e. All four bye teams from last year -- Carolina, the Giants, Pittsburgh, Tennessee -- failed to make the playoffs.
f. If you can figure out what Bill Belichick was doing with his substitution patterns in potentially giving away the third seed (he didn't, because the Bengals lost Sunday night), let me know.
g. Other than Welker, Ed Reed (groin) is the injury that would worry me most this weekend. I expect Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (spiked in the knee) and Anquan Boldin (left ankle) to be OK.
h. How in the world are we going to get people fired up about the the Jets-Bengals rematch Saturday on NBC?
i. Sorry. I don't blame Josh McDaniels for Tony Scheffler saying he can't wait for the season to end, and for questioning Brandon Marshall's hamstring injury when the MRI on it showed no damage.
2. I think this is the way you build a continuum in the NFL: Last year, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez, two of the top four receivers in the Colts rotation, combined to catch 117 balls for 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. This year, Harrison retired and Gonzalez was lost for the season with a knee injury in the first game. In came Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, in effect replacing Harrison and Gonzalez. Their numbers: 106 catches, 1,426 yards, 11 touchdowns. Collie was the 127th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Garcon the 202nd pick in 2008.
3. I think we could argue about this for a while -- particularly at outside linebacker, wide receiver and the offensive line -- but here's the All-Pro team and awards I submitted to the Associated Press this morning: Peter King's 2009 All-Pro Team, Awards.
4. I think if John Fox had his druthers, he'd coach out the lame-duck season of his contract in Carolina, then enter the 2011 season as the hottest coach on the market ... a season that history says will have a third of the teams in the league changing head men.
5. I think those of you worried about Charles Woodson's shoulder, don't be. When he came out of the game at Arizona, he told coach McCarthy he could return to the game if need be, and McCarthy said no.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 17:
a. Good for Chris Johnson, the Tennessee running back who won the rushing title and finished with 2,006 yards for the season and an NFL record 2,509 yards from scrimmage. Goofballs like me wondered why the Titans took another first-round running back two Aprils ago, and Johnson has proven us wrong with not just the speed and shiftiness of a great back, but also the power inside the tackles.
b. Don't sleep on Malcom Floyd in the playoffs for San Diego. He's a 6-5 weapon too, just like Vincent Jackson.
c. Fred Jackson. The running back who went to the same college (Coe) as Marv Levy broke through with a 212-yard rushing game that made him the unlikeliest of 1,000-yard backs this year.
d. Terrell Owens. He passed Tim Brown for third on the all-time receiving yardage list (14,951) and seemed genuinely humbled after the game, thanking the fans for being nice to him in what's likely his only year in western New York.
e. Jamaal Charles. With 25 carries for 259 yards --eighth-most in a game in league history -- Charles now gives Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley reason to think he might be more than just a changeup back.
f. Roger Goodell's gumption. And I've heard some wild speculation about what this advantageous "draft choice'' compensation or manipulation will be for teams that play their starters while other teams sit theirs. I'm told this is simply a germinating idea; nothing is set in stone. Goodell, though, is angry that so many teams (and fans) are affected by the act of a team or two. Let's see if the league office can come up with a plan that makes sense.
g. Isaac Bruce retires, with zero fanfare and 1,024 catches, 15,208 yards and 91 touchdowns.
h. The Atlanta Falcons winning their third consecutive game and finally having back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Oh what a season it might have been if not for all the injuries.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 17:
a. You have to actually cover a player, Giants. Way to let Visanthe Shiancoe go in motion, then go across the formation uncovered, and catch the opening touchdown pass without covering him.
b. You have to actually tackle a player, Saints. Way to let Jonathan Stewart run 68 yards without touching him on the first series of the game.
c. I hear what Sean Payton is saying about keeping his guys healthy, but I've never seen a number one seed go into the tournament as cold as the Saints.
d. The struggles of Kyle Orton. He's proven this year he's a borderline starter, not a player a team can build a long future around.
f. Yikes. Mike Nolan's defense crumbled down the stretch in Denver.
8. I think if records don't matter much to the Colts, why did Indianapolis play Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark only long enough to get to 100 catches? It's fine that they did; I want a player to want to leave his footprints on NFL history. But to say Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark catching 100 balls, or to say the record of consecutive regular-season wins by a team, is more significant to a franchise than becoming the first team ever to go 19-0 (and only the second team in modern pro football history to go undefeated for an entire season) is just flat wrong. And that's what the Colts have said.
This is likely my last word on the Colts' decision to bypass the chance to go for the unbeaten season, but I couldn't let president Bill Polian's comments to Rich Eisen on NFL Network the other night pass without a challenge. Polian said the perfect season "we did not feel was a historic achievement.'' But, Polian said, winning more games than any team in a decade, and winning the most consecutive regular-season games are "historical milestones that were worth going out there and risking everything for.''
I categorically disagree those milestone are more significant than 19-0. In my mind, they're not even close. Every football fan knows there's been only one 17-0 team, Miami in 1972, and never a team better than that. No football fan can tell you (with certainty anyway), nor does any football fan care, which team won the most games in the eighties, or nineties. The consecutive regular-season wins are certainly nice, but it's not imprinted on the brain stem of any football fan. Now, 19-0 ... that's immortality right there. And if you don't want to go for it because you don't want to risk injury, please say that. But to say it has no historical significance -- as Jimmy Johnson would say, "Puh-leeeeze.''
9. I think I've said it before about Tim Tebow and I'll say it again: The NFL team that can't find a spot for Tebow to help it win games is close-minded. I don't know if he can be an every-down quarterback, but I do know 28 teams passed on Joe Montana through two rounds because he was too small, 31 teams passed on Tom Brady through five rounds because he was just another guy, and Kurt Warner went undrafted and twice went knocking on doors as an unwanted free-agent even after he won a Super Bowl in the NFL. Every GM didn't go to Harvard. Every personnel czar is not Ron Wolf. What I do know is if I ran a team, and I've got the 40th pick in the draft, and Tebow's there, I pick him without hesitation and pass the card in as, "Tim Tebow, football player, Florida.'' And I pop the champagne corks.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. In the last 10 years, I've seen one very big game as embarrassingly one-sided as Florida's dismantling of Cincinnati -- the Baltimore beatdown of the Giants in the Super Bowl nine years ago. Fitting that they were both 27-point games. Just as the Giants didn't belong on the same field as the Ravens that day, Cincinnati looked like the Bowie Bay Sox against the Boston Red Sox.
b. Can we savor how great a college football player Tebow was before consigning him to the Bucs' practice squad, please?
c. Devils are amazing. Four straight wins over the Penguins, two straight by shutout, both by Brodeur. Met a guy in Blackhawk garb at the Winter Classic who predicting a Chicago-New Jersey Cup final.
d. Coffeenerdness: Ordered a triple grande hazelnut latte at NBC Sunday, and what came back was a triple venti skim 180-degree hazelnut latte. Uh, don't throw that skim crap at me, Starbucks. Not happening.
e. OK, I promise. Finally this week we're going to see "Up in the Air.''
f. Boy, did this season go fast. Incredibly fast. It's like you get on a roller coaster and just hang on, and before you know it, the Lions are 2-14 again.
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