It sure was nice to have so much hanging in the balance in week 17. If teams weren't fighting for their lives they were fighting for their dignity or not fighting, depending on how you look at it. The great thing about the final week is that the hatchets start swinging early. We've seen several coaches and general managers get their pink slips and Bill Cowher has already turned down an offer to coach the Browns.
Nice isn't in the Job Description
Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage are officially finished in Cleveland. Phil Savage was a bold GM who was able to broker deals to bring in impact players, unfortunately Romeo didn’t coax enough consistent effort from the role players to make it matter. Phil’s problem was that even though he was a solid GM, he was not nearly as valuable as he thought he was. His ego got in the way and he wore out his welcome. Good riddance. Humility is a virtue, Phil. Live and learn.
By all accounts Romeo Crennel was a great guy. In fact, we heard announcers say as much all season long. Well, we all know what happens to nice guys. A few of the players said they wanted to fight for Romeo to keep his job, but if they would have applied that fight to the execution of their plays Romeo’s job would have been safe. Romeo never exuded a sense of control over the team or a firm grasp of the situation they were in. He didn’t manage games exceptionally well and didn’t even attempt to kick start the Browns until the season was all but in the crapper.
Now the Browns have an interesting problem. They have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Can they find the right combination of GM and coach to whip the team into shape, or will Lerner make the mistake of hiring more high profile egomaniacs bent on making their mark by dismantling the team and starting from scratch?
Let the Drama Begin
Brett Favre proved once again that he is a throwback player, except when he has to throw back. He’s a gunslinger, even when he happens to be across the line of scrimmage and on the receiving end of a reverse lateral. For some reason the officials opted not to run off the last seven seconds of the game after Favre hurled the ball forward on a hook and lateral gambit. They decided that he wasn’t intentionally trying to stop the clock, so apparently they believe that Brett Favre is just stupid. That makes sense. Stupid, selfish and childish.
The Jets canned Eric Mangenious in the wake of missing the playoffs but the Jets fans can hang the mediocre way the Jets finished the season of Brett Favre and his old school ways. It’s not his fault the NFL expanded the season to 16 games. He gets tired, and crabby and throws three interceptions when his team is on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs.
Ironically Chad Pennington enjoyed on of his best seasons in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. Unlike Favre, Pennington played smart and stayed focused which allowed the Dolphins to wrap up a division title and complete a historic turnaround from last year’s 1-15 performance.
Favre doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be back. His shoulder hurts and he wants to see what the MRI has to say before he makes any decision. No word on whether or not he’ll have his head examined this Spring when he makes his indecision public. Here's hoping that the Jets exercise his binky option and put this baby to bed.
Loser thy name is Marinelli
Rod Marinelli got the heave-ho after his Lions put the finishing touches on an 0-16 season. How in the hell does that happen? With all the parity in the NFL and a salary cap that makes it impossible for teams to hoard great players you simply can’t lose 16 games. The Lions managed to lose to a Green Bay team that had nothing to play for. That’s special.
I heard somebody say that it wasn’t like the Lions were trying to lose. I beg to differ. They had to be trying. No word on whether or not Rod Marinelli’s daughter is looking for a better defensive coordinator just yet, but we’ll keep our eyes open in the Casual Encounters section on Craigslist.
Marinelli is believed to be considering a move to the business world where he'll parlay his inspirational leadership skills into a career as a auto executive.
Hanging up the Hat
Speaking of heavy drama, how about them Cowboys? They got worked by the Eagles and then blamed Jason Garrett for not being creative enough. Apparently all those turnovers were designed plays intended to catch the Eagles off guard. I don’t know if Jason Garrett’s any better at coaching than he was at toting a clipboard all those years but the Jr. High School antics of TO, Romo and Romo’s butt-buddy Jason Whitten certainly didn’t help the Cowboy’s stay focused down the stretch.
As a football fan I couldn’t be happier. I grew up hating the Cowboys. I still think Roger Staubach is putz and Jerry Jones gives me the creeps. Tony Romo doesn’t impress me and anybody who respects TO doesn’t respect the game of football. I hope that whole wagon full of ass clowns rolls into next season intact and lays another egg right on top of Big D. America’s team my ass. Dallas sucks and it's only fitting that they have a team that does as well.
And that brings us to the post season. The Patriots and Cowboys were the odds on favorites to make it to the Super Bowl and both teams failed to even make the playoffs. HA HA. At least the Patriots can point to the loss of Tom Brady as a problem. To their credit they almost made it. And that's with all of Belichick's brilliant asistants lending their winning ways to other venutres...oh, right.
The Giants really ruled the roost in the NFC and seem to have to best chance at advancing thanks to their bruising running game and a vicious defense. Carolina looks tough but when they are forced to pass they really put their trust into one man and that is not their QB. You can’t be too high on a team that has built its offense around a wide receiver. Steve Smith is a fantastic player, but he can only make a difference if he gets the ball. I don’t know if that’s a Super Bowl winning formula.
After that the NFC gets really thing. Atlanta enjoyed a nice turnaround but they don’t have the depth to advance and it’s hard to picture the Eagles or the Vikings plugging their leaks long enough to float through the playoffs. The Cardinals made the post season by managing to be mediocre enough to stay on top of a lousy division but they aren’t fooling anybody. The Giants will return to the Super Bowl.
In the AFC the picture isn’t so clear. The Colts are dangerous because Peyton Manning is simply the best quarterback to ever play the position. Period. He makes the offense better and if the Colts can score that frees up their defense. Pittsburgh was strong all year and they seem to have their horses healthy. They have a great defense that can keep the game close and that means they won’t have to count on a lot of production from Big Ben, who remains one of the more overrated QBs in the game.
Baltimore also has a liability at the helm but not nearly as glaring in seasons past. Flacco is just a rookie but he’s delivered when he had to. The Ravens also sport a great defense that can keep the game tight enough the minimize Flacco’s deficiencies.
San Diego is a non factor. Phillip Rivers is a clown he won’t rise to the challenge of outsmarting the AFC’s better defenses. He picked apart the Broncos but it’s unlikely he’ll out duel Manning in the first round. Even if the Chargers manage to contain the Colts and advance, Rivers will come unglued against the Ravens, Steelers or the Titans.
For some reason, I don’t buy the Titans. They have a great defense and dominated the AFC all year but I wonder about Kerry Collins in the playoffs. Surely the time will come when he’s called upon to win a big game and I don’t know if he can answer that call. The Only QB in the AFC that you can count on in such a situation is Peyton Manning but it’s going to be hard for him to deliver three weeks in a row. The Colts will probably get past the Charges handily and they might surprise a rusty second round opponent but unless Miami upsets Baltimore and Pittsburgh to advance to the AFC title game I think the Colts will get stopped there. So who will it be?
Baltimore will beat the Dolphins. It’s a great story for Miami but that 10 game turnaround has as much to do with a softer schedule as it does with an improved game plan. That wildcat offense isn’t going to fool the Ravens, not unless Ronnie Brown comes out throwing like Joe Montana…and that isn’t going to happen. The Ravens will wear the Dolphins out and win easily. That would pair the Colts with the Steelers and the Ravens would face the Titans. That’s not good for the Titans. The Ravens will be pumped up after the wildcard game and it will take the Titans a while to get going but it will be too little too late. The score might be close but the game won’t ever be in doubt.
The Colts will face a tall order in getting by the Steelers in Pittsburgh on the terrible turf. If the conditions aren’t absolutely atrocious the Colts might be able to find ways to frustrate the Pittsburgh’s defense and get some points on the board. The Colts will have to come up with big plays on defense because they simply can’t grind it out up front for 60 minutes. They need to force turnovers and coax the ball in to Roethlisberger’s hands. It won’t be easy, but I like their chances if they don’t get banged up in the first round. Those bye weeks can be counter productive and the Colts might be able to stun the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
That would put the Colts at home verses the Ravens or on the road against the Titans. I don’t know if they’ll have enough gas left for either contest. The Colts aren’t built to take a beating. For some reason I can picture an Manning a Manning Super Bowl but I don’t think it will happen this year. The Giants will get Eli to the big dance but the Colts just don’t have the muscle to run the AFC gauntlet. You can never count a player like Peyton Manning out, but that doesn’t mean you should bet on him either.
So after all of that I guess I talked myself into the Ravens and the Giants in the Super Bowl and if the Giants are healthy you have to like their chances. They put on a rushing clinic when the faced the Ravens earlier in the season but that could have been a fluke. It’s also hard to say what the Giants will get out of Eli Manning, especially with Plaxico Burress being weighed down by all that baggage.
Rematches are always tough to call and a lot can happen in the next three weeks. If both teams are healthy and happy going in I think the Ravens will have an advantage simply because they’ll have something to prove, but the Giants seem to have more weapons on offense even if Plaxico Burress is out.
Of course, predictions are only fun because they’re often wrong. They play the games for a reason and if the Super Bowl ends up being a contest between the 9-7 Cardinals and the 8-8 Chargers it wouldn’t surprise me at all. It might bore me, but it wouldn’t surprise me.