December 20, 2010
• Jerry Reese, GM, New York Giants.
I'm not going to defend Matt Dodge(notes) (and to his credit, neither will Matt Dodge, who stood in front of the media and took full responsibility), but how much scorn are we really willing to shovel onto a rookie punter? There are guys making a lot more money, with much bigger roles in the Giants organization, who also need to answer today.
Dodge has been hurting the Giants all year. If he's not struggling to catch a snap, then he's booting line drives. What happened on the historic DeSean Jackson return Sunday is not a new thing. That's been Dodge's M.O. all year.
So if it keeps happening and happening, doesn't some of the blame shift away from the guy doing it, towards the guys just standing there and letting it happen?
I don't like saying this, but on a team with realistic Super Bowl expectations, Dodge should have been replaced by now. That sounds cold and mean, but he just hasn't performed. You're either an NFL-caliber punter or you're not.
Now, if you're 3-11, in full rebuilding mode, and your primary goal is growing towards next year, then having Dodge as your punter makes more sense. I'm not arguing that he can't succeed, of course, and his presence would make sense on a lot of other NFL rosters. He is not without ability, and one day, maybe he'll be one of the finest punters in the NFL.
Heading into Sunday, though, he was a liability. The Giants knew it, and they didn't do anything about it. As brilliant as Jerry Reese has been in building the rest of the Giants roster, he and a lot of other guys who should hold themselves to higher standards than those of a rookie punter made a mistake in keeping Dodge around.
The Cardinals ran the ball 17 times Sunday, getting just 2.5 yards per carry. Their quarterback was a rookie who played last year in the Patriot League.
And Larry Fitzgerald still managed to catch nine balls for 125 yards. That's pretty good for a guy dealing with just about the highest degree of difficulty you can give a wide receiver. Fitzgerald accounted for 57 percent of the 218 total yards amassed by the Cardinals on Sunday.
I don't think he's going to pull a Barry Sanders-like retirement move this offseason, but if he did, would you blame him?
Sunday's beating at the hands of Atlanta might have capped Matt Hasselbeck's not-so-special year. At the time he was benched, he had thrown 17 times, was getting 4.2 yards per attempt and had chucked two interceptions.
One wonders about Hasselbeck's future. There's really no reason not to play Charlie Whitehurst(notes) at this point -- Seattle needs to see if he's a quarterback they can move forward with. And it's not like they'd be sacrificing a lot for their youth movement. Whitehurst was better than Hasselbeck on Sunday.
Whether Whitehurst is the guy or not, it seems really, really unlikely that Hasselbeck would return as a starter next year. Which leaves the question, if he's not in Seattle, where will he be? And wherever he is, is it even possible that he can help someone? Remember when Hasselbeck was pretty good? It wasn't that long ago.
The Dolphins lost by a field goal and Carpenter missed four of them. Two of them were longer than he could reasonably be expected to make, but the two chances inside of 50? When you get to play in Miami, it's 67 degrees, and your team is alive for a playoff spot. You should probably make one of those.
That said, any other Dolphin can feel free to take a share of the blame, too. Did you know that the Dolphins are 6-1 on the road, and 1-6 at home? How does that happen? Somehow, I think this is LeBron's fault.
I'm not sure how it happened, but the Colts and their 28th-ranked rushing defense managed to bottle up Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags running game Sunday. Jones-Drew carried 15 times for 46 yards, and the Jags averaged just 3 yards per carry as a team.
Of all the ways for the Colts to win, I wouldn't have guessed that shutting down Jones-Drew was even a possibility.
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