The headlines keep flying at me like seam patterns in a Mike Martz offense, a dizzying succession of mostly mundane transactions dressed up as legitimate news.
• Texans, linebacker Bentley ink deal (Who?)
• Bell stays put (Where?)
• Payday for Gay (Yay!)
But one signing in particular has roused me from my post-Super Bowl haze since last Friday's start of free agency – former Atlanta Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler's move to the Tennessee Titans. If it plays out the way I think it will, the Music City might be treated to yet another timeless duo of the Johnny Cash-June Carter/Porter Wagoner-Dolly Parton variety.
Or, if you prefer, Steve McNair-Frank Wycheck.
Simply put, Crumpler is exactly what quarterback Vince Young needs as he attempts to make the transition from talented playmaker to battle-hardened NFL quarterback. Though Young clearly leveled off in 2007 after an inspired rookie season the year before, he deserves credit for trying to sublimate some of his improvisational instincts while attempting to become more of a pocket passer.
It didn't go so well, partly because the Titans lacked playmakers at the other skill positions, but I'm expecting a big bounce-back in '08. For one thing, coach Jeff Fisher's decision to fire offensive coordinator Norm Chow and bring back Mike Heimerdinger was a terrific move.
Not only is "Dinger" a shrewd play-caller, but he'll also bring a surly toughness to the practice field and meeting room. The franchise quarterback's workdays may not go as smoothly as they did previously. However, my guess is that Young, pampered by Mack Brown at Texas and sometimes prone to pouting when he doesn't get his way, will come to appreciate the prickly Heimerdinger's insistence on accountability.
Crumpler, who made four consecutive Pro Bowls before injuries and the Falcons' nightmarish Bobby Petrino experiment killed the streak last season, provided a sense of calm for the oft-skittish Michael Vick – and made more plays than a large man with tremendous blocking ability should have a right to make. He has 35 touchdowns receptions during his seven-season career, and he averaged 13.6 yards per catch over the past four seasons, the best among NFL tight ends.
The 264-pounder mauls people on the line of scrimmage, gets open downfield, uses his body to screen off defenders, has excellent hands and breaks tackles after the catch. Yet the Falcons, scared off by his $5.1 million cap number for '08 and rebuilding under new general manager Tom Dimitroff, cut him last month.
My guess is that come autumn, Dimitroff will be receiving loads of thank you cards with Tennessee postmarks. One of them may even come from Crumpler, who joins a Titans team that, despite making the playoffs and giving San Diego a scare in the wild-card round, was last in touchdown passes (9) in '07.
Now, assuming Crumpler's arthroscopic knee surgery last season wasn't indicative of a more pronounced problem, Young finally has an elite target at his disposal when the team gets inside the 20-yard line. And Crumpler, who ripped Petrino last October for dubious play-calling and favoring young players over established veterans, will go from playing for one of the most disastrous coaches in recent NFL history to one of the league's best in Fisher.
After signing a two-year deal reportedly worth just over $5 million – a relative bargain for a 30-year-old star – Crumpler told reporters at the Titans' facility Monday, "I am very excited to play with a guy the caliber of Vince Young. I feel like I can help do some things that can help advance his game. I was itching to get a chance to play with him."
In a metaphorical sense, look for Crumpler and Young to scratch one another's backs while the Falcons wonder how they let this unique talent get away.
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)
"'Trying to mimic '07 Pats is risky.' This is an excellent, brilliant analysis. I think if you analyze the Redskins over the past 8-10 years, maybe longer, we can now see the reasons for their failure. Hopefully, (Dan) Snyder will read your column."
I hate to argue with anyone who calls my analysis brilliant, but I wouldn't exactly call the current Washington operation a "failure." That was a pretty good (and inspirational) team by season's end, with its starting quarterback injured to boot. Snyder's aggressive approach hasn't always paid off, but at least he's going after it. In my opinion, he's growing into his role as a great owner.
"Michael, this is God. Please don't make me wait a month between columns again."
Now that's funny. And all this time I thought I was the deity.
"How can you just undermine the Giants Super Bowl win against the so-called greatest team of NFL history? Yes the Patriots went undefeated in the season and in the playoffs, but look at their weak division which is almost half their season and then sprinkled with other teams that were sub par and three teams that actually made the playoffs and struggled to win those games in their schedule. The Giants struggled and fought to get to the mountain top and conquered everyone in their home turf and then beat the perfect pre-crowned, premadonna Patriots that were supposed to win by 12 points. The New York Giants are the champs and they punched the bully in the mouth and the bully crumbled."
I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that I'm in any way trying to "undermine" the Giants' great accomplishment, but what I really want to know is, how did you come to the conclusion that the Patriots' accomplishments occurred before Madonna's career?
"I usually don't know any of the songs you 'rewrite' (since I wasn't born in the '60s like you), but your take on 'OPP' is nothing short of classic! Not asking for stupid songs like Britney Spears or anything, but let's see some Tupac here next time! Patron shots for more modern songs on The Gameface!"
Duly noted. Though I take it you missed the Tupac offering I altered last December in honor of Eric Mangini's return to Foxborough.
"You should parody a song for the free agent week. I was thinking about something like 'This land is your land.' Something like 'This lad is your lad, this lad is my lad, I'm a good free agent, you're a desperate GM, I'm a football player, you have corporate owners, this contract belongs to you and me …' something like that. I'm sure your amazing talent with words will beat my ruddy version.
This Land Is Your Land? Thanks, Tim, for making me look contemporary, as I'm sure Jerry from Pasadena will agree.
"The modified OPP song just did it for me Mike. You are officially doing the Lambeau leap with your gold chain and platinum grilz."
Yep, (An)Dre Rison-style.
"I cannot imagine a more wasteful use of cyber-print than your drug-induced, sleep-deprived, lyric-altered 'song (??) dedication.' Oh Sorry, I just imagined a more wasteful use of cyber-print … my writing to you to tell you it sucks. Keep up the great sports ("sports" … get it?)!"
Wichita Falls, Texas
I have nothing to add.
"Did you have glasses on at the game on Saturday (Stanford-Cal women?) If so, the camera scanned the crowd and I swear it was you. I could even see the tears in your eyes because Cal let the game get away!"
Yes and yes. Or, maybe, they were tears of joy, after experiencing the charged atmosphere between two top-tier programs I'd been craving all these years. It's also possible that my five-year-old son had inadvertently loogied in my face. As for the glasses, I thought about offering them to the lead official, Melissa Barlow, but she actually called a hell of a game.
"You're very good, but not quite the grammar god that you seem to think you are. Your latest (but certainly not your only) errors occurred in your TAKE IT TO THE ATM segment from Feb. 29. You stated that Randy Moss would 'heretofore be referred in this space as the World's Biggest Con Artist.' Since heretofore means 'up to this time,' or 'until now,' you probably meant either henceforth, or hereafter, both of which basically mean 'in the future.' I believe there should also be the preposition 'to' between the words 'referred' and 'in.' I don't expect to see this in your TRIPPIN' ON E-MAIL segment, since you seem to be far more interested in pointing out the mistakes of others than admitting your own, but I thought you might want to know, anyway. I enjoy your articles, insights, and especially your defense of the language, but if you're going to take shots at others for their mistakes, you ought to own up to yours (or your editor's)."
Idaho Falls, Idaho
My editor and I shamefully claim ownership of these mistakes. We will try not to repeat them henceforth.
"Just wanted to comment on (Jim) Zorn. It seems to me that the Redskins made a good choice … as he might not have worked out as well at other teams. Like you said, they have a solid D, great offensive talent, and a huge QB talent in Campbell. Who best to take a young QB than one who has been with Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck and was working with one of the best QB coaches in (Mike) Holmgren. If you had a little West Coast flavor to that talented offense, I could see the 'Skins doing great things. (Side note: No more grumbling Seattle fans, we all have our complaints but nobody wants to hear about them. Two years of it is enough even for me.)
Side note: Amen, brother. Amen.
"Dear Michael (lesser mental), I strongly disagree with your article about which Superbowl was the best. I did not like even one of your choices. Maybe we watch the games for two completely different reasons, so maybe, you need to tell us something. I have watched all of the Superbowls, and I personally think that the Pittsburg vs. Seattle was the best game ever. If I could watch any Super Bowl again, that would be the one."
Dear Paul (greater mental) – would now be an opportune time to inform you that "Super Bowl" is actually a term comprised of two separate words? Or that Pittsburgh has an 'h' on the end? As for your partiality toward Super Bowl XL, we absolutely watch for completely different reasons. I watch in the hope of being entertained, for starters.
"Michael, this is the first year I even thought about the NFL combine, thanks to your column. So I turned to the NFL Network and wasted much of my weekend watching a buncha guys run the 40. The coaching staffs in the stands looked as bored as I was. Do teams really get something outta this? If a guy runs a 4.38, will that move him ahead of a guy with a 4.42? A guy who can jump an eighth of an inch higher than somebody else? What does the combine really prove? I suspect the physical stuff is show 'n' tell … but the real test is the psychological interviews and all, and that's what really helps teams make decisions on players. It would be much more exciting if we could see those on TV."
West Palm Beach, Fla.
True. Psychological interviews of the coaches would be even more interesting.
"Oh Mike, you are one of the few real joys in my life. I love the articles! Thanks so much and keep them coming. By the way, if you grew a big bushy beard, I could hook you up with a cloak and a wizard staff and you'd look like a younger version of Gandalf. You've got the eyebrows of a wizard."
All this time, I feared I had the eyebrows of a Vulcan.
"I can always count on getting a chuckle out of your columns. Now that you've been to Indianapolis in the dead of winter, what's your reaction that the city is bidding on the 2012 Super Bowl? I know how you feel about Jacksonville, so how would you feel about Indianapolis in January – at least you wouldn't have to go outside."
Oddly enough, my initial take on an Indy Super Bowl is not overly negative. Unlike Jacksonville, it would be centralized and, I imagine, logistically smooth. The weather would suck, but as you mentioned, you can navigate a good portion of Indy's condensed downtown merchant area via indoor walkways. My fear is that Indy, like many other Super Bowl cities not named Miami, New Orleans or L.A., lacks the experience and number of establishments to handle the party crush. But I'd be willing to give it a shot, provided I was guaranteed a room in one of the major downtown hotels and the occasional table at St. Elmo's.
"It never ceases to amaze me, when I read some of the emails you get, how you manage to offend such a wide range of people. When you write an article about a team, you are guaranteed to draw the ire of that team's fans, as well as its detractors. Even after your 'Combine Meat Market' article, you were accused of being both a homosexual and a homophobe. I'd hate to see the email you get this week from the Jim Zorn/Jim Fassel/Gregg Williams groupies."
You should see the emails I've gotten from the Ralph Wilson groupies (and family members).
"Your job is a joke. You guys waste so much friging time on sports and analysis that is so unimportant, but you try to make it important. What a joke, lol, and it don't add up to jacksqwat in the end. Just a bunch of moronic zombies who read your drivel. Get a life."
New York City
Certainly, I will try. Though there is one thing that's slightly confusing: You wrote to me.
"I have to admit you have won me over (as a football writer only). Throughout the football season, you were literally my least favorite writer on Yahoo! Sports. I didn't agree with your negative-bias towards an up-and-coming Super Bowl contender in the San Diego Chargers, and I really wasn't fond of your views of many things to be quite honest. However, like the Chargers won you over, you have won me over, and I enjoy reading your articles. I also really enjoyed listening to your fantasy football advice and suggestions later on in the season. All I ask is that you do not ruin this by pointing out a grammatical error of mine in this passage. Ha!"
La Mesa, Calif.
Thanks for sticking it out. I'm sure Mr. Alantar from NYC won't be far behind, and I'll throw him a party when he joins the band.
"Sorry Michael. Because I will take an intolerance view of your politics this was the last column of your's I'll read. I hope some day something opens up you mind and lets in a new thought. It might be good for you. But I really have to say liberals never practice what they preach."
James A. Johnson
Way to generalize, right-winger, and good luck in your continuing efforts to master the English language.