Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News published his annual special-teams rankings Sunday. Among anything the print media does, Gosselin's kicking-game rankings are the most respected by coaches and front office people in the league. Gosselin takes 22 special-teams categories and ranks all 32 teams in the league from 1 to 32 -- 1 for the best team, 32 for the lowest-ranked.
Three notable things:
The Patriots won, thanks to a strong rookie season from punter Zoltan Mesko, excellent coverage units and the job done by the first-year special-teams coach Scott O'Brien, clearly one of the best in the business. The Pats edged the hard-charging Titans for the top spot, with Tennessee riding rookie returner Marc Mariani's two touchdowns and 1,859 return yards to respectability.
Though seven of the league's 12 playoff teams finished in Gosselin's top 10, the Super Bowl champ Packers were 29th, the same ranking of the Saints two seasons ago, when New Orleans was champion.
The Chargers, a well-deserved 32nd in the rankings after a disastrous year, didn't make the playoffs in a major surprise. In not a major surprise, they fired their special-teams coach, Steve Crosby.
Here are the NFL's 10 best special-team units in 2010, according to Gosselin's rankings (points in parentheses):
1. New England (269)
2. Tennessee (274)
3. Cleveland (277)
T-4. Chicago (280)
T-4. Oakland (280)
T-4. Seattle (280)
7. New York Jets (294)
8. Baltimore (311)
9. Pittsburgh (314)
10. Atlanta (318.5)
"Last year, I thought we'd win it. This year, I know we'll win it.''
-- Jets coach Rex Ryan, in an interview with MSG television Friday night at halftime of the Knicks-Lakers game at Madison Square Garden.
"There's going to be doubters and haters all the time. It's my job to prove them wrong. Right now they're correct. Never called an offensive play in the National Football League. I'm young and inexperienced to some degree, so it's my job to prove them wrong.''
-- New Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, to WLW radio via sportsradiointerviews.com, on his surprise in getting the Bengals play-calling job.
Gruden's first job is to convince Carson Palmer that his style of the West Coast offense can fit Palmer's game.
"I think it might have been the best goal I have ever scored.''
-- Wayne Rooney of Manchester United -- and I know it's weird to see a soccer quote of the week here, but via Deadspin, you've just got to see it if you have not. It's not only one of the great goals I've ever seen, but also one of the great athletic feats. I played soccer as a kid, and in high school, and I actually coached it for a while in New Jersey. I have seen some players do bicycle kicks. Remarkable enough. But to do one of them and aim the ball at a spot in the goal where you know the keeper would never have a chance to touch it ... Well, that's just beyond anything I could imagine from a kick of a ball you don't have time to do anything with but react in a lightning-quick way.
I've known Jimmy Johnson for 22 years, and in that time, the most incongruous thing about him (and there are a few, such as his love for a band in the Florida Keys called "Big Dick and the Extenders'') that I saw was his love for a tiny Teacup Yorkie, Buttercup. The cute-as-a-button furball came when Johnson began dating a woman, Rhonda Rookmaaker, whose young dog it was. And Buttercup traveled to Miami when Johnson coached the Dolphins -- even going on Dolphin road trips on the team plane -- making her the most famous dog in south Florida.
Well, Buttercup died a few weeks ago. It's still an emotionally raw time for Jimmy and Rhonda, now married, and she can't even think of getting another dog right now.
My personal advice: Get back on the horse. Get a dog. Take it from personal experience -- the new dog will soothe the pain from the loss of the old dog. We have a portrait of Woody, our golden retriever who died in January 2001, on the wall of our apartment, and it will never leave the wall. And that nut job Bailey, our current golden, was wonderful in helping us move on from Woody.
What a column. I even give Jimmy Johnson pet advice!
I was in San Francisco over the weekend, visiting daughter Laura, who has relocated there from Los Angeles. Saturday afternoon around one, we were at the corner of Castro and Market in The Castro, which, according to Wikipedia, is "considered America's first, currently largest, and America's best-known gay neighborhood." I looked over at an outdoor cafe, Twin Peaks, and this is what I saw: a naked man, burly, around 35, with a white cockatoo sitting on his left shoulder. The foot-long bird was eating some seeds of some kind out of a coffee cup in the naked man's outstretched left hand.
The naked man wore nothing other than a narrow satchel that very partially covered his groin. Scores of people walked by and sat in the cafe, barely giving the man a sideways glance. A few minutes later, after leaving a store in the neighborhood, we noticed the naked man and the bird were now seated in the café, the bird eating and the naked man talking to some acquaintances.
Later that afternoon, we met some of Laura's friends for pizza in North Beach, right near the church where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married. I asked her friend Ben: "Is it rare to see men walking around naked?"
"It depends what you mean by 'rare,' " said Ben.
--@jharrison9292, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, in a tweet I'm sorry to say I missed in the mayhem of the Steelers' Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. I assume Harrison tweeted this from the team bus, after 11 p.m. ET, on the night of the game.
Harrison also revealed on Twitter in the days after the game that he will undergo surgery today, presumably on the right shoulder he injured against Baltimore in a playoff game 23 days ago, and said he would be idle for four to six weeks.