Trying to Get Something Out of Nothing
Busy week, and the postman threw his virtual back out carrying this stack of mail to firstname.lastname@example.org this morning. Thanks for the feedback, and your football thoughts. Here goes.
EVER HEAR OF THE PHRASE, 'IT'S A TRADE THAT HURTS BOTH TEAMS?' "Peter, love the new site. Any thoughts on the Jon Baldwin-AJ Jenkins trade on Monday? After the disappointing runs they've had so far, do you think either of them end up making it through final training camp cuts?"
—Jon, Bellingham, Mass.
If I had to guess, the Niners will give Baldwin a crash course and try to get him ready to make the final 53 ... but that will entail eagerness and skill on special teams. Gut feeling is Harbaugh will keep him on the 53, have him inactive for a couple of weeks, then try to get him ready to play a role for the last 12 or 13 games. Only a gut feeling, though. Re Jenkins, seems like a practice squad stash to me. He seemed so woefully unprepared to contribute in San Francisco. He needs time to build up his confidence, wherever it's gone.
MANUEL WILL BE FINE, AND, BY THE WAY, YOU'RE NOT CURSED. "As a Buffalo Bills fan, my first reaction to learning about E.J. Manuel's 'procedure' was, 'Further proof that God hates Buffalo's sports teams.' (As if four Super Bowl losses, the Sabres' 1999 Stanley Cup loss, and the Buffalo Braves leaving town in 1978 weren't enough proof.) Do you think this "minor procedure" is going to set back both EJ's and the Bills' 2013 season? Or, as a Bills fan, is worry and regret just ingrained into my thinking?"
—Dan, Sauquoit, N.Y.
Both, Dan. Manuel was on a fast track to the starting job, which I still think he'll earn—but he may not be there opening day, and if he is, he won't be at peak performance because of the time he'll now miss. But I learned a lot at Bills camp this summer, and I came away thinking the team's in good hands with two smart offensive coaches (Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett) and Manuel. You'll be fine.
UNDERSTOOD. "You are aware of the fact that Russell Wilson needed the help of the replacement refs to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last year? Please don't throw it out here as just a regular win in a regular game. And don't use it in a way to put down Aaron Rodgers and lift up Russell Wilson. It's a disrespect to a great QB who took the refs' mistake in a classy manner."
Oh, stop. It's not disrespectful to anyone. It's a fact. In the great record book that history records, the Seahawks beat the Packers that night. I am not making a value judgment on the win, which I believe, as you do, is tainted. The fact is, it's a Seattle victory, like it or not. And it goes down as a Wilson win over Rodgers, like it or not.
YOU GO, VRENTAS. "First off, I love the new site, especially the "Archive" function. Secondly, this past week Ms. Vrentas wrote an excellent piece on Don Shula, and as a 21-year-old I loved learning more about a man whom I had previously only known as the winningest NFL coach and coach of the undefeated Dolphins team. That said, I would like to make a suggestion to see a weekly or biweekly article on the history of the NFL and the people who made it into what it is today, or maybe MMQB could play Oprah and start a NFL book of the month club. I feel that I am not the only young (or "inexperienced") fan out there who would like to obtain a greater appreciation for the history of the sport! Keep up the great work!!! PS. I would really love to one day see an article on the legendary Tom Landry."
—Conner, Allen, Texas
Thanks, Conner. We are going to do some history stories, and I'll pass along your good wishes to Jenny.
QUESTION OF THE YEAR. "Why does any knowledgeable writer place any emphasis on preseason games?"
Love the question and the sentiment. You're right. There's one place I do think it matters, and I'll give you an example. David Diehl is fighting to keep his right tackle job after the Giants picked a rookie, Justin Pugh, in the first round. Against the Colts, Diehl gave up a 13-yard sack, beaten badly by the kind of speed outside linebacker, Erik Walden, he's had trouble holding out of the backfield. He gave up one more significant pressure. Now, he has to know this game's important to him, and he has to know the team drafted a guy to take his place. So he's surely playing with the thought in his mind, "I've got to be close to perfect to hang on here." And he had a major gaffe. That's where I think the games have some value—in anecdotal situations like that.
A WASHINGTON FAN WHO QUESTIONS RG3. "Am I wrong to be upset with Robert Griffin III? By publicly challenging coach Mike Shanahan’s plan, it’s created a blitz of controversy and it hasn’t gone away. Imagine if Shanahan doesn’t start him Week 1. What happens then? Griffin needs to shut his mouth, fall in line, and go to work like everyone else. And now we have his father spouting off at the mouth, and he was a military man who knows about rank and file. Am I crazy to now regret the Redskins didn’t get Andrew Luck instead of RG3? I’m sick of the negative attention this brings to us while we are trying to achieve the next level of success."
I think there's something to what you're saying. And as far as the dad getting involved ... I don't think parents should be involved in high school sports, never mind big-time pro sports. So if I'm the dad, I'm leaving the playing and commenting to my son. I think it's a bigger story outside the building than inside, from what I'm being told.
THANKS! AND A QUESTION ON THE DOLPHINS' MO. "Great site! You all are doing a fantastic job. It's cool having a site you can check out a few times a day to read new material. I read a report (last week) that Dion Jordan of the Miami Dolphins isn't in competition for a starting job. I don't understand. Why would Jeff Ireland trade his first and early second round pick in order to move up nine spots to draft Dion Jordan at the third overall pick, and he not be a starter? Especially when Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, and other talented linemen (that they need) were available?"
In 2011, Aldon Smith was drafted high by the Niners, didn't start a single game, and finished with 14 sacks. This year, Barkevious Mingo was drafted high by the Browns, who are grooming him to be a nickel pass rusher, not an every-down player. Remember: Miami didn't draft Dion Jordan to stop the run. He was drafted to terrorize the quarterback. Give him a shot. It makes sense to me.
ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION FROM MIKE. "Sports media loves to use the phrase 'off-field distraction' and present it as a significant impact to on-field performance, but unless teams are spending time that would normally be used for game preparation on these distractions, I don’t buy it. Are players and coaches really in the huddle/ film rooms thinking about off-field stuff rather than what needs to happen in the moment?"
—Mike, Destrahan, La.
Good point. I've always thought we overrate things. Amazing how "off-field distractions" disappear when Tom Brady's your quarterback, for instance.
HAVARD RUGLAND, YOU MEAN? OF NORWAY? "After having watched the Bengals-Titans game Saturday, might Tennessee be a landing spot for Kickalicious if David Akers gets the nod over him?"
Well, I wouldn't be surprised is Rugland ends up on someone's practice squad. I think the Titans would likely pick up a kicker with experience first, over Rugland. But I'd put him on my taxi squad and coach him up. No reason he can't be a good NFL booter.
LUCK WILL BE HIMSELF. "Been hearing all over the place that Luck will be 'constrained' this year with Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator. I didn't see that versus the Giants. Did you get that impression while you were there?"
—Matt, New Orleans.
The day I was in Indy—last Wednesday—Hamilton stood in front of the local press and said, "We will be a power running team." Oh, really? Hamilton said it because his team, and everyone in the league, needs to believe they're going to run the ball and run the ball with power—even if they don't show that style of play many weeks during the season. As a coach, he wants his opponents and his players to believe the Colts can run at will. But I would be very surprised with a rickety Ahmad Bradshaw and an average Vick Ballard if the Colts don't pass it 56 to 60 percent of the time.