The opinions came from everywhere this week, with lots of thoughts on the defenses from Indianapolis and Denver and plenty of shots at Tony Kornheiser:
INDY-DENVER THOUGHTS ("Anything but 'Super'", Oct. 29, 2006)
We all know the cliché, "Defense wins championships." Your article had more of an "I have to write an article tonight" feel than one that was well supported with facts and opinions or even one where you firmly believed what you wrote. The bottom line is that the game was a close, exciting matchup and the better team found a way to win. If the Colts don't make it to and/or win the Super Bowl, I highly doubt it will be because of their inability to stop the run. It's more likely the lack of "killer instinct" that doomed Indy which the Patriots indeed had in their run of three out of four championships.
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Trevin, I thought I put a bunch of facts in that story to support my contention that there was little, if any, defense played in that game. As for the tone of the story, I think what you sensed is that I really enjoyed the game. It was truly fun to watch. However, the point I was making was a bigger issue about the lack of defense.
In your article, "Anything but 'Super'" … your conclusion was neither the Broncos nor the Colts are looking like a Super Bowl team. I would like to know in your opinion who looks better out of the AFC? I do not, other than the Patriots, see a team that could stand up to either.
Good question, Jonathan. Obviously, the Patriots would be up there. I think San Diego and Baltimore play the kind of defense necessary for usual Super Bowl contenders. Furthermore, if Jacksonville can get any kind of consistent offense, it has a chance. I'm not saying that neither Indianapolis nor Denver can make the Super Bowl. I just think they face longer odds.
It looks to me like Tony Dungy's D did not get the message. Yet they somehow managed to win anyway. I think you need to realize that is precisely what this team does. Find a way to win.
Daniel, that is certainly true … in the regular season.
Why must you complain? The Colts-Denver game was awesome, so what if there was hardly any defense. Fans want to see a shootout. The thrill of an up-and-down game is what sells tickets and makes ratings soar. I sure don't want to watch a game where the kickers and punters are doing all the work. Would you have written the column any different if it were the Dolphins playing that game?
Brian, I think I made my point that it was a great game to watch. That was why I compared it to the NBA All-Star Game. I was merely making a larger point about the nature of the game. As for your last question, since I'm not a Dolphins fan, I don't think that would have made a difference. In fact, in 1995, the Dolphins won a game at Cincinnati that was somewhat similar to Indianapolis' win at Denver. I wrote about how the Dolphins were in some trouble despite being 4-0 at the time. They proceeded to lose the next three games and their season was turbulent. They finished 9-7, got dusted in the playoffs and Don Shula quit days after the season.
How could you write an article about the Colts and Denver not playing any defense and neither looks like a contender? I saw Philly get dismantled by Jacksonville with no QB. Donovan McNabb is supposed to be a better clutch performer than Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer, according to (Terry) Bradshaw and Howie Long. Please! The Steelers are underachievers getting beat by Oakland. The Bengals lost to Atlanta after Chad Johnson ran his mouth. The Bears won their division last year and have a (simple) schedule. Why don't you write articles about those subjects? These are the ones that deserve criticism. Not Denver 6-2 and Indy 8-0. The Denver and Indy game was exciting to watch. Nothing like a shootout at the OK Corral.
Brett, I was covering the Indy-Denver game. I wasn't at any of the other games you mentioned.
How can you judge the Colts' defense and form an opinion about their Super Bowl potential when the defensive unit is severely depleted by injuries? Your column failed to mention that defensive tackle Montae Reagor, safety Mike Doss and safety Bob Sanders all did not play. All three are key to our defense as run stoppers. … I am not disagreeing with you that the defense didn't play well, but since the facts show that this isn't the normal starting defense, did it warrant a "featured" column calling them out on it and then not mentioning at all they were missing key players? I don't think so. How about writing a column about Peyton Manning's lack of interceptions or how nice it is to have a clutch kicker now so we can win these games or how about the Colts' focus this season after a terrible wrap up of last season? Those articles would be worth reading. Thanks for your time.
Don, that's a fair point. But even without those three players, the defense shouldn't have been that bad.
K.O. KORNHEISER? ("Message received?, Oct. 27, 2006)
After the Arizona Cardinals kicked a second field goal and did not score another touchdown, but took a 20-0 lead in the first half, Charles Barkley said, "That's the turning point of the game. Chicago is going to win it." How did he know?
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Lucky guess, but the point was that the Cardinals didn't put the game away. Barkley made that very clear in a very concise way. It was a great line. Then again, Barkley was talking about the Cardinals, which is explanation enough. It's sort of like at the end of the classic movie "Chinatown" when the guy says, "It's Chinatown, Jake, it's Chinatown." There was no need for further explanation.
Quick question: Who do you think is worse in their respective fields in commentating: Joe Buck or Tony Kornheiser? Personally, I think it's a wash. They both are terrible and if we want to add insult to injury, add a biased Bill Walton on the air and we have the perfect trifecta of crap. When will we be saved from these terrible commentators?
George, to be honest, I kind of like Buck and Walton. In particular, I think Walton really loves basketball. However, I think the "perfect trifecta of crap" line is pretty great.
Tony Kornheiser has too many damn opinions and Joey "Sunshine" Theismann really has nothing intelligent to say. They are by far the worst commentators to listen to and they always argue about the stupidest things. I really hope they replace them with Chris Berman.
Asbury Park, N.J.
Joe, the more important question is: What's up with the Stone Pony? Still there? Is the music scene any good there these days?
In your memo to ESPN, you mentioned Tony Kornheiser on MNF. I agree with you. Tony has done something that I thought was impossible: he has made me miss Dennis Miller! What in the world was ESPN thinking? Who ever made this hire should be looking for a new job.
West Branch, Mich.
Couldn't agree with you more that Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann are just plain awful. I had thought the problem with ESPN's Sunday night booth was a bad mix of two know-it-alls – Theismann and Paul Maguire – who didn't respect each other enough to back down from a fight, and a play-by-play man (Mike Patrick) who, while great at calling the action, simply lacked the kind of booth leadership of even a Don Criqui, never mind a Pat Summerall. ESPN's Monday night booth makes it obvious the problem is ESPN's management. It is clearly incapable of hiring anything but the same old one-trick, sarcastic ponies, which, when combined with competent booth men, makes me glad I subscribed to the NFL's Field Pass play-by-play Internet feed. Kornheiser might be a very funny writer and a mildly entertaining talking head, but he clearly doesn't know enough about football to be a color man. Nor does he have the ability to work off other people for comedic effect; at least, not without coming off as a lout. Theismann comes off as a fairly knowledgeable guy, but his delivery transcends condescending, which clearly rattles the cages of his loudmouth co-color analysts, which in turn degenerates into name-calling and petty insults, which Theismann allows without reproach, which in turn makes him come off like that nerdy guy in the office who could someday be president, if he'd just stand up for his ideas for once and stop letting people push him around. Mike Tirico is a lot better than Patrick was at containing the bully-versus-nerd nonsense caused by ESPN's ham-fisted attempt to combine knowledge and humor, but Solomon himself couldn't make these guys look good together.
Will you please consider writing a continuous barrage of negative comments directed to ESPN about Tony "The Mouth" Kornheiser? Tony has no class; has over-inflated his self- importance; continues to rudely interrupt Mr. Theismann; hogs all the air time up to the moment of play starting. I have friends and relatives who have "Monday Night Gigs" with their friends. They collectively seek radio broadcasts solely to avoid hearing "The Mouth." Kornheiser actually seems to believe what he says is important. What does he add? He needs to be told to "SHUT UP." Thank you.
Jason, you were right on the mark regarding Theismann/Kornheiser/Barkley. It says more about how arrogant and dull Theismann and Kornheiser are than about how bright Barkley is. ABC threw the baby out with the bath water when they let Dan Fouts depart the MNF booth during the Dennis Miller purge. Fouts is the most intelligent, humorous football communicator out there and he's so good ABC lets him do play-by-play and color commentary for college games now. Theismann is elitist and a QB apologist and Kornheiser's smug East Coast bias makes me and millions of others want to vomit. I'm surprised ABC/ESPN doesn't give Kornheiser's arrogant smugness 15 minutes during each broadcast to compare and contrast Jesus' 12 disciples and the New York Yankees. Mike Tirico is an OK play-by-play guy, but he's better suited for ABC/ESPN's golf coverage.
NO LOVE FOR VICK ("Falcons beat the Bengals," Oct. 29, 2006)
Once again, I invest time into watching a football game, specifically the Bengals against the Falcons, and poor officiating rules the game. The game was handed to Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick. Roughing the passer? Please, stop the madness and leave the Bengals alone and let an honest game occur. Vick is completely overrated and he needs special assistance from officiating … to keep his team a winner. No wonder he looks so good on the run. Take away the cheap play by his offensive line and the guy gets sacked. But wait, when he does get hit, there's a totally bogus roughing the passer call. I'm sure we'll see the Falcons in the playoffs, again, thanks to the one-sided officiating.
James Humphrey, Jr.
James, I didn't see the Falcons game, but you're not alone in feeling that Vick is overrated. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of Vick. Amazing athlete and definitely a weapon, but somehow flawed in a vital way. He's not a great passer, yet, and we'll see if he ever gets there. He was good against the Steelers and Bengals, but I really don't see any conspiracy out there among the officials.
IN NEED OF HELP (Also from "Message received?")
How about you give the Cardinals a break already? Yes, we only have one win this season, but I'm tired of hearing all this negativity. (Running back Edgerrin) James wasn't brought in to score a billion touchdowns a game. I blame our offensive line. I challenge you to watch a full game of the Cardinals playing (unbiased view please) and when it's over, ask yourself (and answer honestly) was this game called fairly by the referees. Lastly, is it just me or are helmet-to-helmet hits legal?
Dear Angry, I did watch all but the final nine minutes of the Cardinals game against Chicago (I went to sleep when I thought it was over, silly me). Yes, the offensive line is bad. But James was supposed to help improve things. Instead, he and the rest of the offense have regressed.
MORE DOLPHINS POINTS (Also from "Message received?")
Hey J.C., miss covering the Dolphins this year? I read where (owner) Wayne (Huizenga) is still a baseball fan. Why no mention of his thoughts on the Dolphins? I really think he needs to sell the Dolphins to somebody with some pride and passion for the game. At what point do you think he should address the fans? I don't blame coach Nick Saban for this failure. Look back at how the franchise has been on the downslide ever since Wayne became the majority owner. He ran Shula out, hired Jimmy Johnson, then Dave Wannstedt, hired Marino for a week. etc. How does this guy have any success in the business world? Just got lucky or what?
Dear Russ, I actually think Huizenga has the right idea about how to run a team. He hires people he trusts and gives them the tools to win. Now, sticking with Wannstedt for an extra year was a mistake. Probably just hiring Wannstedt was a mistake. As for the rest, I think he has found the best guy he could in each situation and then tried to stay out of the way. The only problem is that it hasn't worked. That said, I'd rather have an owner like that than one who interferes too much.
You said, "I think Saban took the best option available in the offseason when he traded for Daunte Culpepper." He most certainly did not. As a big Dolphins fan, I spent a couple of months eagerly anticipating the beginning of the Drew Brees era in Miami. Instead, we got a no-longer- mobile project guy with a long ball and little else. Saban met with Brees, couldn't get the deal done, and he's paying for it. He's also getting what he deserves for touching Joey Harrington, a guy who probably shouldn't be in the league at this point. It's not just the quarterbacks either; nobody that Saban has brought in has produced. Wannstedt made coaching mistakes, but he had fantastic personnel moves. Now we have Saban, who seems by all indications to be a great coach, but has yet to make a good personnel move.
Jeff T., Fresno
Jeff, the Dolphins dropped out of the Brees sweepstakes because Brees failed a physical. In fact, when Brees met with the Dolphins, his arm was still in a sling. Furthermore, the Dolphins sent Brees' X-rays/MRI exams to five different doctors around the country for evaluation. All five doctors had serious doubts about whether Brees would play this season and whether he would be able to stay healthy once the injury healed (check Chad Pennington and Tim Couch for evidence on severe shoulder injuries). Furthermore, Brees received a stunning contract from New Orleans. It was worth $60 million over six years, including a $10 million signing bonus and a total of $25 million paid out in the first two years of the deal. Meanwhile, at the time, Culpepper was way ahead of schedule on his recovery. Look, tip your cap to Brees and the Saints. It has worked out for them. By contrast, the worst-case scenario has occurred for the Dolphins. That's the breaks. But if you think Saban didn't make the right call, you're really not a good analyst. Second-guessing him on that is silly. Furthermore, you have to be kidding about Wannstedt. Wannstedt was terrible when it came to picking players. He's the guy who picked cornerback Jamar Fletcher over Brees back in 2001. He's also the guy who traded future picks to get players like linebacker Morlon Greenwood and Wade Smith. His drafts were horrendous. His trades were mediocre and his free agent signings were inconsequential.
SCHEDULE CHANGE ("Moving target," Oct. 24, 2006)
I see the NFL has strong intentions of playing games outside the United States to build by gaining fans. In general, I see nothing wrong with that, except that you rob the (domestic) fans of going to our own games. There are only eight home games per team. I feel the fans will not like losing a game. I know I don't like it. I feel I have a solution to a problem that is about to arise. I feel the fans may revolt. I feel a solution will be to add one game to the schedule for everyone. It has been said repeatedly that the preseason is too long. By having a 17th game, one game can be played by each team out of the country and still keep it that all teams play an even amount of home games and away games. I hope you would bring this up in a column, and perhaps bring this to the attention to the league.
Ken, I sort of see your point, but I don't think it's really feasible. First and foremost, I think playing that many games in other countries is going to create all sorts of issues. In particular, there's security to consider. I think one or two games is workable. The other problem is that if you increase the length of the season by another game, you have to adjust the salaries for players because of the added income. It's not really a simple solution. I think fans will just have to hang in there and live with losing a game occasionally.
ON EDGE (Also from "Message received?")
I'm a Colts season ticket holder and have been since 1985. In defense of Edgerrin James, I'll offer the following: It doesn't appear to me that Edgerrin "chose" to leave the Colts for more money. Based on all accounts that I have heard, the Colts never made Edgerrin an offer to stay. I'm sure they would have liked to, but they placed a higher priority on signing Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and earmarking money for Dwight Freeney – and rightly so it appears. In hindsight, I'm sure that Edge could have chosen a better place than Arizona and still received a good contract, but at the beginning of the year Arizona didn't look so bad, and ultimately may not be if it can get some O-Line help in the offseason. This appears to me to be more about bad luck than greed.
Randy, I think you make a fair point. But what happened is that it was clear long before free agency that the Colts weren't going to meet James' price and vice versa. It's too bad there wasn't a meeting of the minds.
MORE DALLAS THOUGHTS ("Right call," Oct. 26, 2006)
On the Cowboys: Your respondent who said right tackle Marc Colombo couldn't make the Bears should remember Colombo was cut because he was injured, and unable to do any weight training with his legs for almost two years. I think he is a steal who just might develop into a staple on that line. Only time will tell, but if Bill Parcells thinks he's the best option for that team, then I doubt anyone could find a way to disprove him. The games against the Giants and Panthers have shown us just how much of this game has to do with emotional intensity. I believe that both the Cowboys' O-Line and much of the defense were lacking a high level of intensity in the loss to the Giants. One week later, other than the first quarter Sunday night, the entire team seemed to be playing with much more passion than I have seen in some time.
Mark, thanks for the kind message and for the clarification on Colombo. To be honest, I'm a little tired of the Bledsoe-Tony-Romo discussion. I think the fact that Parcells made the decision is proof that Bledsoe just doesn't fit with what the Cowboys can do right now.
Good Lord! I'm reading the people's response to your criticism about Dallas and Bledsoe and I don't get it. Does anyone care to mention that Tom Brady was anointed over Drew and the Patriots won the Super Bowl? It's a known fact that Bledsoe is immobile, holds the ball too long, and is petulant when he's benched as a result of the first two issues. He obviously doesn't progress through his reads too quickly or, when he does, it usually ends up as an interception. The O-line is admittedly terrible in Dallas, but everyone should remember that this isn't the first time that Drew has been benched. If he happens to change teams, it won't be the last time. Just ask Kurt Warner.
Why can't NFL teams find quarterbacks? Is the NFL that tough or are quarterbacks that hard to find? All through college football season, every team has, "the greatest QB that ever lived." But then you have the Bledsoe/Romo controversy. Interesting.
Gordon, it's a great question. But the underlying point is that quarterback is the hardest position in all of sports. No position in sports is more physically and mentally demanding.
What's the deal on Indy playing the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., seemingly every year during the regular season? I know there is not a home/away situation for teams outside your division, but it seems like the Colts are always playing the Patriots in Foxborough in the regular season.
Bob, since the Colts left the AFC East in 2002, the teams have played four times in the regular season. The past three have been at New England, including this season. The reason is that the NFL schedule is a combination of 14 pre-set games and two random games that are contingent on where teams finish the previous season. In short, New England was already set to host Indianapolis this year because the Patriots play all four of the AFC South teams this season. Next year, the Patriots will have one game against the AFC South. It will be on the road against the team that finishes in the same place New England finishes in its division. Thus, it's very likely the Patriots will go to Indianapolis next year. In 2008, New England faces the same situation. In 2009, the Patriots are pre-set to play at Indianapolis. Thus, this could even out in a hurry.
RULE POINT ("Playing the blame game," Oct. 27, 2006)
Thanks for clearing up the PD thing. I was wondering the same thing. Passes defensed … another stat to add to the boggle of stats already recorded. Answer me this: Why is "spiking" the ball to stop the clock not flagged as intentional grounding? The ball is intentionally grounded, it doesn't reach the line of scrimmage and the QB is not outside of the tackle box. All of that screams for a flag for spiking of the ball. When will this rule be changed? It seems to me that if you continue to allow this practice in the NFL, you have to change the penalty called intentional grounding. What are your thoughts?
Jay, Tyler, Texas
Jay, the distinction between spiking the ball and intentional grounding is pretty clear. When you spike the ball, you're giving up a down to stop the clock. It's a pretty fair trade. However, intentional grounding is a way of avoiding a sack, which means not only loss of down and loss of yardage, but also a loss of time because the clock should continue to run. There is no push by anyone in the NFL to change those rules.
GREEN WITH ANGER ("Power struggle," Nov. 2, 2006)
How does Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green still have a job? Getting rid of the offensive coordinator has worked wonders against Oakland and Green Bay. I blame not addressing the offensive line on Green. That said, one way to make up for a weak line is to run screens and swing passes to the running back. They got James, but are not including him in the passing game. With the offensive coordinator gone, this is definitely Green's fault. I thought there was no way that Green would survive the bye.
Chris, be patient. I don't think Green is going to last beyond this season.
With Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green returning after a concussion where he saw Damon Huard do quite well, will Green be looking over his shoulder or can he actually march the Chiefs to the promise land and win a Super Bowl without worrying?
Johnny, that's a tough one. We'll see how Green reacts to pressure after having such a traumatic injury. Green is a fine player and better than Huard, but you never know how he's going to react.
REDSKINS THOUGHTS (Also from "Playing the blame game")
Regarding your comment that the Washington Redskins receivers aren't good enough to execute that attack: … What? I'm sorry, but Al Saunders' offense produced massive numbers in Kansas City and can you name three receivers there that are better than any of the receivers Washington has? Yes, Eddie Kennison is solid, but, in reality, he is a No. 2 receiver. The notion that the wideouts in Washington aren't good enough is not an accurate statement. Right now, the offense can't stretch the field the way Saunders wants because Mark Brunell, who is cautious and very rarely takes chances, will not throw the ball down the field. Saunders' offense requires timing and quick releases. Many times, Brunell is dropping back scanning the field for way too long, then settling for underneath check offs. As a life-long Redskins fan, I know coach (Joe) Gibbs is hesitant to give up on his veteran. I also know that this offense takes time. Just go back and look at K.C.'s transition. It wasn't easy either. (But) to say they aren't good enough to run the offense is just not correct.
Will, you're one of several people to make this point. I think the difference you're ignoring is that Kansas City had perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL over the past five years. It was unreal. Throw in Priest Holmes (and then Larry Johnson), Trent Green and Tony Gonzalez and you have four Pro Bowlers. While the Chiefs wideouts were no better than what Washington has, Kansas City had a far superior foundation. My problem is that Washington made a huge effort to go out and get receivers in the offseason to focus the attack around those guys. Getting Brandon Lloyd and Antwann Randle El were the big moves. Those moves haven't worked. Frankly, I'm a little surprised by that, but that's where I see the problem.
APATHY IN L.A. (Also from "Moving target")
The average person in Los Angeles simply doesn't care if an NFL team comes back here and it's not just about who pays for the stadium even though, as you say, there's absolutely no support for "public money" to be used. Furthermore, L.A. is not a great sports town. It's a "winners" town and has been for a long time. Besides that … the NFL teams in California have had owners who for a variety of reasons, have had terrible relations with local officials and the voting public. So, there's not a chance in hell that a single new football stadium will be built in this state anytime soon unless it's privately built. It's really that simple.
Charles, I disagree on the notion that L.A. is only a town for "winners." The Dodgers have certainly received a lot of support even though they haven't won much of anything since the 1980s (and it hurts me deeply to admit that). The Lakers certainly drew well through the lean years of Elmore Smith in the pivot. In fact, the Rams did fine for years, but couldn't get the stadium they wanted. However, I don't disagree with the notion that L.A. won't support the building of a stadium. But understand that if the city doesn't, it probably won't get a team and it won't ever get another Super Bowl. As long as everybody on both sides understands that, I don't see a problem.
ON THE LIONS
I'm interested in what you think about the Lions and whether they're moving in the right direction. I just can't decide what I think about them. I liked the dumping of Joey Harrington (who I thought lacked the fire to lead the team) and Charles Rogers (who didn't seem to want to catch balls over the middle, even in college), and except for being blown out by Chicago, the Lions have been competitive late in games. If they get everyone healthy and add a few more quality players in the draft and free agency over the next two years or so, I would bet they might have a team with a legitimate shot at the playoffs. However, I'm still seeing a lot of the same old Lions. The pass defense is consistently poor; it draws too many penalties; and can't make plays when it needs them most. Not to mention roster moves that leave me scratching my head … and as a side note, when does (president Matt) Millen's train-wreck tenure finally end?
East Lansing, Mich.
Jon, I think you answered your own question at the end. Millen is a big part of the problem. His personnel decisions have been horrendous. But the bigger issue is that the Ford family has just never learned anything about how to run a team. It's really fascinating to watch the depth of ineptitude exhibited by the likes of the Fords and the Bidwills in Arizona. After this long run, they should have won a title or two just by accident.
WHAT HISTORY? ("Out of focus," Oct. 20, 2006)
I couldn't agree more with what you said about Dan Dierdorf being honored by Arizona. Recently, I was disgusted to see Warren Moon's number being retired by Tennessee. Warren Moon never played in that state and he has no connection with the fans there. It would have almost made more sense for the Texans to honor him, where he could at least be around his former fans.
HEY, AT LEAST I'M HALF-RIGHT
I think Curtis from California is right … you are a Monday morning QB that does not know what he is talking about half the time.