We start our Week 15 Scouting Notebook in New Jersey where we saw a fantastic finish that NFL fans will be talking about in 50 years.
Andy Reid and Tom Coughlin took turns trying to coach their way to defeat, but Coughlin won. Being caught with your pants down on an onside kick down 14 with seven minutes left is a joke. But worse was yelling at your 22-year-old rookie punter in the middle of the field and seeming to entirely blame him for the loss when he kicked to DeSean Jackson(notes) who first fumbled and then returned it for a TD with no time on the clock. Why humiliate a kid like that when you could just as easily scream at your reflection in the mirror? We all saw the whole team take turns flushing that win down the toilet.
Maybe Tim Tebow(notes) can be a super-sized Vick. But he runs more like a fullback than a halfback and doesn't throw the ball nearly as well as Vick either. Can you be a mechanical thrower like Tebow when so much of your game is predicated on improvisation (no other way for a running QB to play)? I'll bet against it.
Ray Rice(notes) is a great player who disappointed his investors this year largely due to an inability to find the end zone. The vast majority did not live to see Week 15. He's going to be a very difficult player to price again in 2011. But touchdowns tend to follow talent and he should have a double-digit season somewhere in this future. I'll always like him off the down year.
What a tough year for Steve Smith (the Panthers version, though it's been no picnic for the Giants' one, either). Maybe he has a resurgence next year with Andrew Luck as his QB. It certainly can't get any worse. Luck better come quick because Smith is 32 next year.
Colt McCoy(notes) looks pretty solid to me. Where QBs are drafted matters so little relative to how they actually play at the start. The idea that you need a big arm to succeed in cold weather is very overrated. Fran Tarkenton had a below average arm and played outdoors in Minnesota. Jim McMahon was good enough in cold weather, too, as was Chad Pennington(notes) before he got hurt. Freezing weather by itself hardly moves the passing needle at all.
Tashard Choice(notes) has been terrible in short yardage/goal-line and Felix Jones(notes) is the biggest back on the team. Why assume Jones can't run the ball in short yardage just because he's fast? He's running tough enough inside to my eyes.
So Mike Shanahan wanted to give 30-year-old Rex Grossman(notes) a chance to see what he can do? Don't we have a pretty complete book on Grossman? Everyone puts up big numbers against Dallas these days. McNabb would have put them up, too.
Though the Redskins still are stubbornly holding on to his trade rights and things could and probably will get uglier come March, McNabb should go to Minnesota. Then, the Vikings have two more years to find another QB while they contend with McNabb.
While it feeds into the macho NFL mindset, the truth &ndash: as we saw again today in Indianapolis &ndash: is that even the best running games are very hit and miss. When you think about it, you realize so many more things have to go right on a good running play than on a good passing play (often just a two-man game where even free blitzers don't necessarily have to be picked up). But this fact will be lost on most who will say that the Colts won because they ran it better (after saying they couldn't win because they can't run or stop the run). The running people always convince themselves they are right. The Colts ran so well because the Jaguars conceded it to stop their passing game knowing that they can't cover anyone.
The Dolphins have a good defense, arguably a very good one. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) proved against it that he's a player. The Bills are lucky they won't be able to draft Luck, as they already have Fitzpatrick in hand. He's still learning (just 33 career starts) and has 23 TD passes this year in 12 games. There are no weaknesses to his game. He may never be great but he seems likely to be good enough.
I don't see how the Chargers make the playoffs. Matt Cassel(notes) was gritty off his surgery. Now you expect the Chiefs to lose at home to the Raiders or Titans? If KC does not get upset, the Chargers very likely are home for the postseason just like us. The Chiefs could make things easier by giving Jamaal Charles(notes) the rock more. He has 500 more rushing yards than Thomas Jones(notes) on less carries. This isn't complicated. But the Chiefs will say that Charles is rushing like this because they're keeping him fresh. It's always hard to imagine the thing that didn't happen because you never let it.
Laugh at me again in the comments for saying it, but Drew Stanton(notes) has ability. It helps to have Calvin Johnson(notes), but those Arizona QBs have Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and what good has that done them? I'd trade a second-round pick for Stanton in a second before I used a high-first-round one on some NFL unknown. The problem with the upper reaches of the NFL draft is that they expect you to gamble while paying as if you're wagering on a sure thing.
Wherever Josh McDaniels and Gary Kubiak land as coordinators next year, invest in their skill players &ndash: especially QBs and WRs but even backs in Kubiak's case. These guys know how to design plays and game plans like few others.
Braylon Edwards(notes) really played bigger than his stats (8/100, with no TDs). I'm reminded of how the Jets began to go wrong in the summer when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said his receivers were all interchangeable. How can guys be more different than Edwards (fits the freak profile, meaning he can win even when he's covered), Santonio Holmes(notes) (burner/route runner) and Jerricho Cotchery(notes) (possession/slot receiver).
Why do so many think that BenJarvis Green-Ellis is a scrub who is playing well because of Bill Belichick pixie dust? He runs hard and with decisiveness and also flashes speed and cutback ability. In other words, he's a player.
Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports.
- Tom Coughlin