"Vote Ray Guy."
-- A hand-written plea, black-markered on white athletic tape and covering the 50th anniversary Pro Football Hall of Fame patch, on the front of Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe's uniform Sunday. Kluwe has been outspoken (to put it mildly) in pushing the Hall of Fame case for the former Oakland punter.
He tossed it away after the game. That would have been a tremendous charity auction item.
"Maybe his wife can teach him how to throw."
-- FOX NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson, on Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder, who was recently engaged to ESPN college sideline reporter Samantha Steele. Johnson also said Ponder is the worst quarterback in the NFL.
"How can he see what he just saw?! ... I'm not sure exactly what Pete Morelli's thinking on that. That's a sack ... If Luck saw that replay, I'm sure he's seething."
-- CBS analyst Dan Fouts, after referee Morelli did not overrule a Tennessee touchdown on a Will Witherspoon interception, when it appeared Andrew Luck's left knee was on the ground just before he released the ball.
"It's been a complete culture shock for everybody. I remember when we first put it in ... It was kind of like learning to walk again. I guess I'm speaking for myself. You play football for a very long time -- through high school, through college, and never been exposed to anything like this, and I think that's a majority of the people in our offense. And then all of a sudden, we're doing all this zone-read stuff and we're letting guys go and pushing the whole offensive line to different guys than we normally do. It was just completely new, like a completely new learning experience. The receivers, they have vastly different responsibilities now. I think this whole process has just been kind of a gigantic learning experience, and something that I'm glad, personally, that I've been exposed to."
-- Washington tight end Logan Paulsen, to me, on this week's "Sports Illustrated NFL Podcast With Peter King," discussing the team's new option offense, run by quarterback Robert Griffin III.
You can find the podcast (with Steelers QB Charlie Batch as well) on iTunes or on SI.com. If you'd like to be educated on the new Washington offense, which, in my opinion, will be the one trend every smart assistant will be studying come the offseason, it's worth your time. Paulsen's a bright guy who has become a disciple of the option scheme.
The New York Jets have a two-game winning streak, and there's a chance it's the ugliest two-game winning streak in their history. Mark Sanchez's last 40 possessions (over the last three games, dating to Thanksgiving night against the Patriots) have produced, among other results: One touchdown pass. Three touchdown runs. Ten turnovers. Fifteen punts.
Forty years ago today, the Miami Dolphins traveled to Yankee Stadium on a raw 44-degree Sunday, got 197 rushing yards from Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, forced six Giant turnovers and beat New York 23-13. There was some fourth-quarter drama -- the Giants were driving with a chance to tie in the fourth when they turned it over again -- but Miami survived the last speed bump on the way to a perfect regular season. The win made Miami 13-0. The Dolphins shut out the lowly Colts the next week to finish the season 14-0, then beat Cleveland, Pittsburgh (a week after The Immaculate Reception game) and Washington to finish the only perfect season in modern NFL history.
A few interesting notes on the game, thanks to Mike Freeman's impressive and engrossing living-history book about the perfect season, Undefeated: Inside the 1972 Miami Dolphins' Perfect Season (itbooks):
The game was a significant marker in the streak because it was the first time the media made a big deal of it, and it was the first (and only) time the franchise ever played in Yankee Stadium. And that week, TIME magazine had a Peter Max-like illustration of Don Shula on the cover with the subtitle: "Building For The Super Bowl." The Giants' coach, Alex Webster, took the cover as a slap in the team's face and put it on a bulletin board in the Giants' locker room as motivation, Freeman wrote.
Shula, according to Freeman, always thought this was one of the more significant wins of his career, because it was against a good 7-5 Giants' team, because the eyes of the world were sharpening focus on the unbeaten team, and because of the venue. (For emphasis, a couple of notes not in the Freeman book. "Our players were awed by Yankee Stadium,'' Shula told friends years later. The Miami locker room was crammed with press after the game, but players told Paul Zimmerman two decades after the game that Shula's words as the season wound down were all about the postseason. As in: Nobody's going to remember this as a perfect season unless you win 'em all in the playoffs.)
After the game, Freeman reported that a writer asked Shula if, to take off the pressure of being perfect with the division already clinched, the Dolphins should have played to lose one of the final games of the season. Steam came out of Shula's ears at that one. "I just can't buy into that attitude,'' Shula said that day. "I don't think there's anything you ever gain by losing. I go along with Jack Nicklaus. He once said, 'You know what breeds winning? Winning breeds winning.' ''
I make note of it today for a couple of reasons: The Dolphins are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their perfection Friday with a dinner in Fort Lauderdale. And because that season doesn't get celebrated enough in the realm of great NFL accomplishments.
The last time Detroit won at Lambeau Field was this week 21 years ago, Dec. 15, 1991.
That day, Brett Favre was a 248-pound third-string rookie quarterback in Atlanta, behind Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver. While Favre sat on the bench, as he always did that season, Deion Sanders had two interceptions and Mike Rozier was the leading rusher for Atlanta.
I was the Passenger You Don't Want to Be Near in the Quiet Car, on an Amtrak regional train, Providence to New York, Saturday afternoon. The idiot passenger. I put my phone on vibrate, and 10 minutes into the trip, it vibrated, and I answered it, bent over and whispering, not sure who it'd be. Of course the conductor came by. "Library-type atmophere, sir,'' he said. "Off the phone.'' I got off. Twenty minutes later, there was another call. Not urgent, but I picked it up anyway. Same deal. Conductor walked over. "Last time I'll tell you this,'' he said. "Off the phone or move."
He was right. I was wrong. The car was half-empty, but that doesn't matter. I was what I shake my head at on the Quiet Car often -- the idiot who whispers on the phone when you're not supposed to be on the phone. Felt like a bum. The rules of the train are not complex. If you can't follow 'em, walk.
"That just happened. Your 2012 season in a nutshell."
-- @cmccosky, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, seconds after the Lions, up 14-0 at one point, fumbled to hand Green Bay defensive tackle Mike Daniels an early-Christmas gift touchdown at snowy Lambeau.
"Definition of team quitting? 9 losses n a row. 9th loss 58-0! Injuries handling of offense worst n NFL. Adrian Wilson&Darnell Dockett situations!''
-- @FitzBeatSr, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., father of the Arizona wide receiver, after the ridiculous loss by the Cardinals in Seattle. The son has been quite quiet through it all, but knowing the Cards receiver as I do, this is killing him -- and he's not going to sit idly by without trying to get out if he doesn't think the team can solve the endless quarterback problem.
"We all know about the tailgating at Arrowhead but #Browns fans won some respect today. Went running downtown this a.m. and . . . lots of fans already tailgating before 7 o'clock. Music playing, grills going and it was still dark. Cold out, too''
-- @adamteicher of the Kansas City Star, on Sunday morning, in Cleveland to cover Chiefs-Browns.
"There are medieval kings who had less job security than Mark Sanchez."
-- @StevePoliti, the columnist of the Newark Star-Ledger, who deserves royalties because of how often he is in this column.
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