Category Archives: football

Get your helmet on: It’s football time

Every morning for the past few weeks I’ve woken up to feelings of depression, loss and helplessness.

Why?

Because it’s still February.

Not even a month has gone by since the Super Bowl. The NFL draft is over a month away, training camp is still seven months away and opening kickoff isn’t as much as a gleam in our collective eye.

Sure, I write about other sports, but who am I kidding? Everything I do, this blog included, is merely a faint attempt to pass time until that glorious Thursday night when the NFL reaffirms its grip around America’s neck.

This morning was a little different, though. This morning I woke up to news of new contracts, offer sheets, extensions and GMs willing to listen to trade offers.

Praise the football gods, free agency is upon us.

We haven’t reached our destination as football fans yet, but this will give us the strength to push on until the draft.

Jonathan Vilma has signed with the Saints, Kawika Mitchell headed west on I-90 to Buffalo and Madieu Williams is Minneapolis-bound while Flozell Adams, Derek Anderson and Teddy Bruschi will all stay put.

All this new football news has given my system a bit of a kick-start. I’m done looking back on 18-1, Redskins coaching searches and Brett Favre’s resurgence. I’m ready to look forward to next year (in fact, if I see that David Tyree catch one more time I may throw up).

With that said, here are five things I’m excited to see in the 2008 season.

1) The Seahawks

This coming year is Seattle’s best chance to bring home the hardware. One of the better NFL masterminds of the past 15 years, Mike Holmgren, has one last shot at finishing the job he came to Seattle to do.

The pieces are in place. Matt Hasselbeck has developed into a top-ten quarterback, and somewhere along the way, the Hawks’ went from perennial underachievers to the model of NFC consistency.

They are the only team in the past eight years to make the playoffs after losing the Super Bowl and have been in the postseason five years running. Forgive me if I’m not sold on the Giants as a shoe-in for a repeat, but I think by August the Seahawks (and their sweet neon green gloves) will be the team to beat in the NFC.

2) Jay Cutler

This might make me sound cruel, but the reason I’m so excited for Cutler is because he’s about to crash and burn.

By the end of next season, it should be apparent that the Broncos need to go a different direction under center.
Since the day Mike Shanahan pulled Jake Plummer for “the future”, I’ve been critical of the move. It cost the Broncos the playoffs in 2006 and Cutler made little-to-no progress last year.

The Broncos had some depth issues on their defense, which contributed to their disappointing season, but Cutler isn’t the cure for what ails Denver.

Cutler is another example of what can go wrong when a team puts too much stock into the combine. Backup Patrick Ramsey may never amount to anything in the NFL, but at this point he deserves more of a shot than Cutler does.

3) The Browns

The Browns made the smartest move of this young offseason by keeping Derek Anderson on board. Anderson is a legit NFL quarterback. Unlike Shanahan, I doubt Romeo Crenell will throw away his team’s playoff hopes based on the round he drafted his backup quarterback.

Just because Brady Quinn was selected in the first round, doesn’t mean he’s entitled to a starting job without earning it. Anderson took the starting job and ran with it. He ran all the way to a 10-6 record and the brink of a playoff berth.

Bravo, Cleveland.

I’ll be rooting for the Browns to get over the hump in 2008.

4) Quarterbacks in make-or-break seasons

There are plenty of them this year. I mentioned Cutler, but there are some with a realistic shot of becoming winning quarterbacks.

Jason Campbell may have bought some more time in Washington because he’s learning the West Coast Offense, but this will be his third year as a starter and second as the starter on opening day. Redskins fans get mighty impatient, mighty quickly, too.

It’s also time for Matt Leinart to put up or move on in playoff-starved Arizona, J.P. Lossman could be out as the Bills starter before the end of the preseason if he’s not careful and Alex Smith is running out of rope in San Francisco.

We’ll see if any of these quarterbacks can get up from off the hot seat and take the starting job by the horns.

5) The suprise teams

It’s a little early to predict who they’ll be, but this offseason reeks of unpredictability. There were too many good teams in the AFC last year for all of them to be good again if you’re betting football online.

The Colts, Patriots, Chargers and Jags were all considered powerhouses.

Fans in every one of those cities are sure of their team’s return to the playoffs in 2008, but I know the NFL well enough to know better.

Can the Cheifs, Jets or even the Dophins displace one of them?

The NFC is wide open, but could anyone legitimately see the 49ers, Rams or Falcons making a run for it all?

It should be a wild 2008… if only it weren’t still seven months away.

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Don’t buy what Specter is selling

The sports terrorists are at it again.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R – Pa.) is way out of his element with his recent comments about the NFL’s handling of the Patriots video taping fiasco.

Specter has come out and said some outrageous things over the past 24 hours, so let’s all have a laugh at his expense, shall we?

“What if there was something on the tapes we might want to be subpoenaed, for example?”

Subpoenaed? They’re tapes of defensive coordinators relaying hand signals to a middle linebacker. Does he think there may be some footage after the game of Bill Belichick sneaking illegal immigrants across the border, or Tom Brady selling drugs to kids?

The old man wasn’t done, either:

“You can’t destroy it. That would be obstruction of justice.”

Doesn’t there have to be an investigation to obstruct, or at least a crime that’s being covered up? No legal action is being taken here, so how can one “obstruct justice?”

The tapes were already in the hands of the proper authorities — Roger Goodell and NFL officials.

“It starts with the commissioner. He had the tapes, and he made the decision as to what the punishment could be. He made the decision to destroy them.”

Right. Is there a problem with any of that? Sounds like pretty standard procedure to me.

Should Goodell have called Specter before levying the punishment to make sure it was okay with him? Maybe I’m missing something here, but I was under this zany impression that making decisions was part of the NFL commissioner’s job. Silly me, I suppose.

Specter is way out on a limb here. Just because he didn’t think the Patriots’ penalty was harsh enough doesn’t give him the right to open a full-fledged investigation of Goodell.

If it’s the antitrust exemption that’s cooking Specter’s grits, then he should have come right out and said it, instead of embarrassing himself the way he did.

If I lived in Pennsylvania, I would be furious that an elected official who is supposed to be representing me is wasting everyone’s time with this nonsense.

I’m not sure what Specter’s problem is. Maybe he’s attention starved, maybe he’s a bitter Eagles fan who’s upset his team isn’t playing in the Super Bowl, maybe he’s gone senile or maybe he’s just another sports terrorist that wants to do a little rabble-rousing in hopes of making the NFL look bad.

Whatever his beef is, I’ll tell you this: I won’t let him ruin the best Sunday of the NFL season for me.

It even makes me a little sick that I’m writing about this in the first place, but I won’t let the sports terrorists win.

There is a team attempting to go undefeated and win its fourth Super Bowl in seven years, and another team with a fearless defense and a big fat chip on its shoulder standing in the way.

Right there is your real story. That is something worth writing about and talking about on television and radio. That is what Goodell should be discussing in his State of the League address.

As for Specter, someone — and I don’t know who — needs to sit him down, look him dead in the eye and say, ”It’s none of your business.”

Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone.

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Following the tattered hoodie to greatness

I’m not much into making predictions.

I’m more of a wishful thinking kind of guy.

So, while I think that the Patriots are going to indeed become the first 19-0 team in NFL history, I’m wishing that they pound the Giants so bad that the gap in Michael Strahan’s teeth closes up because it’s too embarrassed to remain open any longer.

Truthfully, I think it’s going to be a close game, and that the Giants are a worthy adversary, but once again, I stay more on the “I hope” side of the spectrum. As in “I hope the Giants are down by 35 at halftime.”

Yes, I have personal NFL allegiances that require me to root against the Giants, but the Patriots are head and shoulders above everyone in the game, and I’d hate to see them falter when it matters most.

I don’t know if they’re the best team of all time or not — that would be a post-Super Bowl conversation — but they’re the best team of right now.

In my 20 years as a football fan (and six weeks as a professional sportswriter), I have never seen a team so dominant, so explosive, so calm under pressure and most importantly, so focused.

Does Bill Belichick do anything wrong? If you’re judging him by wins and losses, then obviously not, but it goes beyond that.

I’ve never seen a coach get the absolute best from every one of his 53 players the way grumpy Bill does.

In interviews, players go on and on about Belichick’s attention to detail, but I feel like that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His meticulousness is well documented, but how does he get that same rock-steady focus from his assistants and players?

That is truly the biggest marvel of the Patriots’ season. The way Belichick’s attitude and commitment to winning is reciprocated throughout his team without as much as a hiccup.

Obviously, Belichick’s attention to detail has gotten him in some trouble, but those of you who are rooting against him because he’s a “cheater” need to let it go.

I’ve got some harsh news for you. The Patriots were going to beat the Jets anyway. We’ll never know if New Engand was using those tapes during the course of the game or not, but even if they were, the Jets were 4-12 this year for a reason.

Video scandal be damned, Belichick is getting the ultimate compliment from his contemporaries around the league.

Gillette Stadium is turning into a head coach factory.

First, Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel. Then Eric Mangini. Now even Josh McDaniels, at 31, is expected to get a look from the Redskins (though to be fair, who hasn’t gotten a look from the Redskins).

General managers around the NFL want coaches who worked for Belichick.

By the time the Bill Belichick era is all said and done, he could make the Bill Walsh coaching tree look like a shriveled up bonsai bush.

As for the Super Bowl, Belichick has his work cut out for him. I would expect that the Patriots will try to give the Giants’ offense as many looks as possible out of that three-four set, and try to use their speed to get to Eli Manning.

I wouldn’t even be surprised to see big Vince Wilfork and Jarvis Green move around from gap to gap on the D-line to keep New York’s offensive line guessing. They’ll need to, because that front five of the Giants has really come together down the stretch.

I’m sure Tom Brady and the boys on offense will get theirs, but that Pro Bowl line in front of him will have to protect him better than they did in their week 17 win against the Giants.

As usual though, I’d expect Belichick to go into the game knowing something that Tom Coughlin doesn’t. I’d expect the Patriots to be more focused and better prepared, no matter how focused and prepared the Giants may be.

Most of all though, I hope — not predict — that the Patriots come out and be the Patriots, and beat the Giants into oblivion.

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