From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:55 AM
Subject: Headhunter Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski
Football makes us a little uncomfortable sometimes. It's a violent game, a sport of collisions and not contact, I know. But there used to be a handful of thugs in the league who went out of their way to injure the opponent, and now it seems like there are a handful on each team. The NFL is doing a face-saving PR move in imposing fines and threatening suspensions while still selling photos of the hits on their official website. Can't we just simply say that if you lead with your head, you sit a game once it's confirmed by video review? It's all fun and games until someone dies.
Who are the biggest underachievers in the NFL - Cowboys or Chargers. The Cowboys have lost four straight where they've out-gained their opponent by 100 yards or more. The Chargers are number one in the NFL in YPA gained and YPA allowed with a net of plus-3.1 YPA. I can find only one other team that did that for a season - the 1966 Packers (though my search was far from exhaustive). Speaking of Green Bay, why isn't the current version on the chronic underachiever list?
Most overrated NFL player? Terrell Owens? I call BS on that. The man had a 200-yard receiving game this year. He blocks. He's in unbelievable shape. His coaches say he practices hard every day. I think Owens is the best wide receiver ever. I understand Jerry Rice, but give Owens Joe Montana and Steve Young for the 13 years and see how his stats improve.
My vote for most overrated - Joe Flacco. The man makes his progressions in slow motion. Actually, he never gets past one as dumping off to Ray Rice is the second option after he panics when the first read isn't there.
Tim Tebow? Michael Vick/Kevin Kolb? This week's horribly bad slate of Sunday games? Take your pick. But keep your chin up when crossing the middle. Headhunter Breakfast is served.
From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 10:28 AM
Subject: clearing the cobwebs
To: Michael Salfino
The league is painting itself into a corner with the current illegal-hits flap. I'm all for player safety, but what they've done for the most part this week is confuse the players.
I'm also frustrated by how some of these hits are seen after the fact. James Harrison's work, okay, that looked dirty to me. But I had no problem with Dunta Robinson's hit of DeSean Jackson; if anything, I blame that on Kevin Kolb (leading Jackson into a bad spot).
I feel like we have this discussion once a year, but can they do more with the safety of the helmet? Is there a way to protect a player's head without having the outer shell be such a weapon? Who's working on the better mousetrap?
The pass-interference mess is maddening too; two games flipped on a late PI call last week. The frisky Chiefs have a reason to feel jobbed about the loss in Houston; if Andre Johnson is flagged for pass interference (not Brandon Flowers), Kansas City likely gets the win. And then there's the way the Jets were bailed out at Denver. Sure, Santonio Holmes was interfered with on the long fourth-down pass, but does the punishment fit the crime there? That finish felt cheap, artificial.
I don't grade the Packers with red ink like you do; two of their losses were in overtime, the defeat in Chicago had 500 flukes, and they've had a ridiculous run of injuries. You'll feel differently about them if they take care of business against Minnesota this week (Brett Favre's spaghetti arm is a serious problem). I'd still pick Green Bay to win the division right this second.
Is there a conclusion to be made from the Norv Turner pattern (slow start, fast finish - we'll see if the latter happens in 2010). Are his teams not prepared to open the year? Is he doing something *right* in the middle of the year? If he spent the rest of his career as an offensive coordinator, how would history look at him?
I'd bet on a Cowboys revival if their schedule weren't so ridiculous. In addition to the divisional games (both NYG dates are left), they still have to play New Orleans, Indy, Green Bay. It's almost more fun to speculate on their next coach. Bill Cowher? Jon Gruden? John Fox? Hayden Fox?
I'm with you on Owens. He plays his butt off between the lines, and he's still a viable player at an age where most receivers are retired or severely limited. I didn't like some of the crazy sideline antics that he showed now and then back in the San Francisco and Philly days, but he's toned that down. I think it's a little silly to compare anyone to Jerry Rice for the No. 1 chair all-time, but I'd at least put Owens in the discussion for the next-best seat.
I like Matt Ryan, but he's overrated. Brian Urlacher has been so overrated for years he's almost underrated now. The Minnesota offensive line. New Year's Eve.
Monday Night Football is overrated, too, as a production anyway. NBC is kicking ESPN's ass.
From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM
Subject: Re: clearing the cobwebs
To: Scott Pianowski
I did say that Drew Brees was a stat maker more than a win maker last year. He proved me wrong. But that statement would not have looked so silly had the Vikings not fumbled 27 times in the NFC Championship, but still... Rodgers though very rarely makes the big plays in the biggest moments for someone who otherwise seems great. I like him and I hope he proves me wrong. But he still has a lot to prove beyond the boxscore - that's my point.
How can you have no problem with the Robinson hit? Was that intent to injure more than intent to tackle? I don't think that's splitting hairs. And the Robinson hit was illegal by rule: you can't initiate contact to the receiver's neck or chest until he completes the act of catching the football. Until then, he's "defenseless," by definition. Ergo the fine. Look at that hit again and argue that it was legal. I do not want my Sundays afternoons being more violent than my Sunday nights with Boardwalk Empire. It's really not complicated - you have to control yourself until the guy possesses the ball (above the chest) just like you have to control yourself in touching the receiver until he touches the ball. I don't want to see someone die on the field, which is where we're heading.
Speaking of pass interference, are you trying to bait me? A foul is a foul whenever it occurs. So unless you're arguing that putting your hand in Holmes' facemask and yanking while the ball is in the air is legal, there's no discussion. Blame the Broncos for your not feeling the game was real, not the Jets or the refs. I mean, Holmes almost caught it anyway. No call there would have been the real outrage, especially considering how the Jets were flagged for very borderline interference calls in that game about four times, including two times on offense with the phantom push off.
The idea that pass interference shouldn't be a spot foul is a joke. Otherwise, you'll have defensive backs pulling down receivers every time they are getting beat. Talk about screwing up the game and making results artificial. You want teams to win because they took a smart penalty? There's no such thing now with pass interference. I reject all rules that make fouls "smart." In the NBA in the final 30 seconds, any defensive foul should give you three free throws even if it's not in the act of shooting.
History would not look at Norv Turner had he stayed an offensive coordinator because history doesn't give a crap about coordinators. There's who? Dick LeBeau? Name another who will be remembered in five years never mind fifty, I challenge you.
The Cowboys and Chargers have no head coaching leadership, which is a big deal in football. The Cowboys also have no leadership at QB. I wish I could find the video from ESPN where they just had the camera on Romo with that stupid hat on, head bowed for at least a minute - just totally defeated. Romo must have a Parcells-type of coach. A Rex Ryan. Someone to run interference for him. They have a milquetoast in Wade Phillips. The Chargers are tougher to diagnose. I think it's 30% bad coaching/lack of leadership at the top and 70% bad luck. That 30% will cost you in January, but it shouldn't be enough to push you down to 2-4 with those foundational YPA stats. With the Cowboys, it's 40% bad luck and 60% lack of leadership where it matters most.
I don't think it's silly to compare anyone to Rice. I mean, Rice was undeniably great, but he had the all-time set up. What happens to him if the Jets draft him instead of Al Toon in 1985 and Toon goes to Bill Walsh and Joe Montana/Steve Young, and Rice gets Joe Walton and Ken O'Brien/Browning Nagle? Toon is in the Hall of Fame, that's what happens - with 80 percent of Rice's career at his peak, at least.
I agree that Ryan is overrated a little, too. Urlacher, too. New Year's Eve is second to only St. Patrick's Day when it comes to insufferable holidays. Get drunk on your own time, people. Don't have it bleed into my life. Monday Night Football isn't really that anymore. Sunday Night is the prime-time network bonanza now. I miss that special place for Monday Night though. It's sad that it's become the crappy desert that no one really wants after a full meal. There are exceptions - like this week with the Giants at the Cowboys. But that's the rule - Tennessee and Jacksonville (blech).
Now you close shop before the waitress talk me into one of those pointless black-and-white cookies.
From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 11:22 PM
Subject: all shook down
To: Michael Salfino
I've watched the Robinson hit a bunch of times, and I keep coming to the same conclusion - he's put in an impossible situation. Jackson gets two hands on the ball and seems like he's made a catch, and then presto - Robinson lowers the boom. If you slow the frames down you'll see that Robinson's hit comes fractions of a second before Jackson can secure the ball, but how can we expect players to make these judgments on the field as the chaos blurs around them? Perhaps Robinson broke the letter of the law with that hit, but it didn't seem dirty to me.
The problem with pass interference is that it's not uniform. There are takedowns that eliminate sure touchdowns, and there are ticky-tack fouls that turn into gigantic gifts of yardage. I'd like to see some sort of staggering system where the punishments would closer reflect the actual infraction.
I see your point about coordinators, but nonetheless, here are some names I came up with: Buddy Ryan. The late Jim Johnson. Charlie Weis. Mike Martz. Marty Mornhinweg (pretty much anyone from the Mike Holmgren tree in the early 90s). Mike Mularkey. The problem in all this is the Peter Principle - success ensures that you'll eventually be promoted to your ideal level of incompetence.
I can't get behind your Rice stance. He dominated his position with Joe Montana, he dominated his position with Steve Young, he dominated his position after a major knee injury, and he was still a game-changer into his 40s with the Raiders. There's no other receiver that deserves a seat at Rice's table, and I say all this as someone who never rooted for the Niners.
Consider Rice's fantasy rank at receiver from 1986 to 1996, an 11-season run: 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 4th. That's obscene. The fact that he had a final act after the knee problems in the mid-30s says a lot about Rice's pride, work ethic and raw abilities.
I propose we have a "go-further" bet for the playoffs, Jets versus Steelers. We should be passing props back and forth every week, anyway.
Okay, bring on another week of elegant violence. But let's be careful out there, men.