Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the playoff weekend:
a. Strong analysis by FOX's Daryl Johnston, about Saints fullback Heath Evans telling Reggie Bush that he's not just a scatback but also a powerful runner with a bodybuilder's lower body. Johnston said Evans told Bush he should not hesitate to play a physical game instead of trying to make people miss all the time, and in the first half, Bush looked like a different back.
b. When I got to the Jets' team hotel Saturday, the Hyatt Regency in La Jolla, there was Ira from Staten Island in the lobby. Ira calls New York talk radio hourly, always to talk Jets, and I think he would follow this team into the valley of death.
c. Good intelligence by my buddy John Czarnecki of FOX Sports, who reported Saturday that it was a running play every time Beanie Wells lined up in the I formation against Green Bay last week -- and on every snap but two that Wells was in the game Arizona ran.
d. I really admire the comeback story of the Saints' Anthony Hargrove, who has overcome a major substance-abuse problem to be an important rotational defensive lineman.
e. Arizona will be back. I just don't know if Kurt Warner will be.
f. "A big hit like that makes you think twice about playing the game,'' Warner said after the Cardinals loss, and he'll give retirement serious consideration. If I had to bet a dollar on his fate, I'd say he's done.
g. The Saints have never hosted the NFC Championship Game. Cool stuff there this week.
h. It's going to be hard to beat the Saints, with the biggest religious presence this side of Vatican City on their side for the title game. Three monsignors from the area attended Saturday's games, and you can be sure the five crazy-fan Dominican nuns -- Sisters Mary Andrew, Mary Pious, Mary Ester, Jon Marie and Mother Mary George -- will accompany the monsignors to the Dome this Sunday. They're quite a compelling sight, in their white habits and crucifixes.
i. Jennifer Austin, sister of Miles, to the New York Times after seeing him on the cover of SI: "I saw Sports Illustrated and said, 'That's my brother?' "
j. Yes, it did bug me to see the Vikings first offensive unit in the game in a 27-3 blowout in the final five minutes, scoring another TD with less than two minutes. It's not a federal case, but I didn't like it.
k. I can give you a lot of reasons why Wade Phillips might be in trouble, the biggest of which is that Jerry Jones was absolutely embarrassed by that performance Sunday in Minneapolis, when this team ought to be over above having a ridiculously non-competitive game like that one. But I can also give you one reason I don't believe he will fire Phillips: He likes working with him, and he thinks the players play for him, and he can't make broken down guys on the offensive line play better against fast defenders on the carpet.
2. I think, if I had to guess right now, I'd say the best shot for Tim Tebow on draft day is San Francisco, at number 13. No proof. No solid evidence. Just this: The Niners gave a tepid endorsement to Alex Smith as their quarterback of 2010 after the season; and Mike Singletary didn't draft him; and Singletary is going to fall in love with Tebow once he meets him after the season; and Tebow is the kind of winner that Singletary has preached he wants since he took the job from Mike Nolan in mid-2008. After Singletary meets Tebow at the Scouting Combine, this is my prediction of his reaction: He'll turn to GM Scot McCloughan and say, "That's my guy. We've got to have him.''
3. I think the Jets' decision on Braylon Edwards, restricted free-agent, won't be as difficult as some of us have thought. Let's look at their alternatives. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is almost certain to put the franchise tender on Edwards, about $6 million for the 2010 season. If a team wants to sign Edwards, it would have to pay a first-round pick to the Jets as compensation. With the receiver's uneven performance this year and continued plague of dropped passes, it's highly unlikely a team would surrender a first-round pick plus a contract of $9-million a year or so for Edwards. So the Jets could pay him $6 million for a year and give him a full season to prove he's not the disappointing receiver he's been in all but two years of a five-year NFL run.
4. I think no coach or GM needing a veteran receiver could seriously consider bringing Marvin Harrison in after reading the damning GQ piece by Jason Fagone. The writer describes in vivid detail Harrison allegedly emptying the chambers from two pistols into the car of a rival on a Philadelphia street in 2008 -- bullets that allegedly hit a bystander and shattered the window in another car and injured a young child in the car? The same story described Harrison "noisily stomping the fat man in the face and gut'' before firing all the shots at his car. Either Harrison is a guy who's gotten away with a brazen crime because of the code of silence on the streets of Philadelphia -- or he has one heck of a lawsuit to file. It's amazing to me this case is languishing.
5. I think one of the reasons the Saints play for Sean Payton was illustrated well Friday morning. Payton starts his team meetings with the news of the day usually, and on Friday he had some team business to discuss. "We've placed Rodney Leisle, defensive tackle, on injured-reserve,'' Payton said, very businesslike. "Signed Deuce McAllister, running back, Ole Miss.'' Stunned, the players erupted in cheers.
Payton smells the coffee. He knows how beloved McAllister is in his locker room and in the city of New Orleans, and he knew how much it would mean for McAllister to be involved with the team he had labored with for so long -- and he also knew he had 52 healthy players on his roster and wouldn't need the roster spot for this game, at least. Why not give the city and the player a boost.
"I appreciate moments like this,'' he told me. "I realize how precious these moments are, and how quickly they go by. With players, you know, they have a schedule and itinerary in high school, then every day in college, then every day in the NFL, and then they wake up one day and it's gone. I just want to make sure Deuce knows how much we appreciate everything he's done for this franchise.''
6. I think one of the sad football things about the death of Gaines Adams, the Tampa Bay-turned-Chicago defensive end who died Sunday of cardiac arrest at 26, is that he was about to be coached into his potential by Rod Marinelli, who believed in him like no other coach he'd had in the NFL. Everyone associated with the Bears had no regrets over trading the second-round pick to Tampa Bay for him, even though it left the Bears without a pick in the first two rounds, because they believed that he'd become a good pass-rusher. Just a sad, sad story.
7. I think this is what I liked about the playoff weekend:
a. What a hit by Bobby McCray on Kurt Warner -- a clean but vicious hit on Warner's first-half interception -- and what a great job by Warner the football player trying to make the tackle on the play.
b. An interesting scene in the bowels of Qualcomm Stadium. Roger Goodell, ready to leave San Diego to fly back to New York near the end of the game, was watching a small TV, not wanting to leave until the game was decided. And when Thomas Jones made two yards on the fourth-and-one call in the final two minutes, Goodell knew the outcome was decided and he could go. He's got big fish to fry, but he wasn't leaving the stadium without seeing what he came to see.
c. Percy Harvin's impact. Can't wait to see Gregg Williams' plan for him Sunday.
d. Reggie Bush finally showing up big. It's been a long time.
e. Nobody talks much about Chad Greenway and Ben Leber on the Minnesota front, but they had impactful days against Dallas and are great backbones for that front four.
f. Antonio Gates' one-handed catch. I know he gave one away later with a big drop, but he's got the softest hands of a tight end in football.
g. Jim Leonhard. He's a star in the making. Great addition by the Jets in free-agency.
h. If that's the last game for Derrick Mason, it's been a pleasure watching him over the years. Tough player, hard-working player. Shy of Canton, but there's no crime in being in the Hall of Very Good.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about the playoff weekend:
a. I continue to dislike the formal title of "divisional playoffs.'' Does anyone ever say, "Hey, come on over and we'll watch the divisional playoffs and have a few beers?'' No, but they do say they'll come over the watch the wild-card games or the championship games. The league ought to call this weekend the conference semis.
b. FOX going to a commercial with a compelling closeup of Kurt Warner laying on the ground, being tended to by trainers, in what might be the last game of his career.
c. The Dallas protection. Don't let me hear a word this morning about "Tony Romo not coming up big.'' Nonsense. He could have made a couple more plays, but not enough to be competitive in a game in which he was pressured on more than half of his dropbacks.
d. Joe Flacco. He's a good player, and the Ravens are in good hands at quarterback, and I'm sure he was hurt more than the Ravens let on, but he didn't make a play all night in Indy.
e. San Diego's sloppiness. In all aspects. Ten penalties, the missed field goals, Philip Rivers not make a single play downfield ... how does a team with an 11-game winning streak throw slop like that on the field in the playoffs?
f. I wish LaDainian Tomlinson the best, and he seems sincere about playing another year. But the Chargers can't count on him as an impact running back anymore. When's the last great run you've see from LT, the last LT-like run? Twelve carries, 24 yards Sunday.
9. I think an imprint on my brain from the weekend will always be the emotional family hugs between Mark Sanchez and dad, mom, kin and friends underneath the stadium. The embrace between him and father Nick was so hard I thought they'd break bones. What a support system for the kid, the kind of support that makes him a good leader at such a young age, and the kind of player afraid of nothing.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I now have figured out how tax audits work, especially for employees like me who have to file in more than one state. One state desperate for money tries to take the taxes you've paid in another state desperate for money. It's not pretty, and I have a feeling I'm going to be in the middle of it for a while.
b. The Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien thing is amazing, if only because I've never seen a guy getting paid millions attack his employer publicly the way Conan has. And Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman jumping in with both feet ... amazing how so many rich people can be so angry, trying to disguise it with humor.
c. There are at least nine TV shows I'd like to see, like "Mad Men,'' but for some reason I just gravitate to reruns of "The Office'' when I've got TiVO time. Must be something wrong with me.
d. Coffeenerdness: Three visits to Peet's in San Diego over the week convinced me that we've got to do something about increasing the Peet's store nationwide. Artful baristas. Great lattes. They must train their people well.
e. Due to the Haiti crisis, I'm going to postpone my appeal for Mike McGuire's men for a couple of weeks. I hope we all give what we can to Haitian relief. It's hard not to feel for those people with the pictures we're seeing on TV.
f. I've sent out all my "Monday Morning Quarterback'' books that got lost in the first mailing. Thanks for being patient, all of you who sent in appeals to have books re-shipped. You should be getting them soon.
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