Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 2:
a. The NFL Matchup Show on ESPN, which had this bit of prescience from Ron Jaworski Sunday on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III: “His mechanics are flawed right now because of the injury.” Which is what Jon Gruden said during the Monday Night Football telecast in Week 1. Griffin doesn’t fully plant his right leg—with the knee that had surgery. And that prevents him from getting full velocity on his throws.
b. John Elway taking time from his Denver duties to drive 70 minutes north of the Meadowlands to see Stanford-Army Saturday afternoon in West Point. He’s a good alum.
c. Good Sunday column, as usual, by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston, recalling his first-guessing at the Patriots letting Danny Woodhead go to San Diego in free-agency for two years and $3.5 million. In the annals of recent free-agency decisions made, this was one of the big swings and misses for New England.
d. Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings, with a blanket job on Greg Jennings of the Vikes.
e. Devin Hester, playing like Devin Hester.
f. Rookie safety Earl Wolff of the Eagles, breaking up what would have been a touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates with a great end-zone strip of Gates.
g. Mike Wallace won’t be moaning about much this morning. Nine catches, 115 yards, and the Dolphs are 2-0.
h. Look at the two-point conversion run by Arian Foster, enabling Houston to force overtime against Tennessee. That’s why Foster is so good. He was stopped, and made a second and third effort to reach the ball out over the goal line. Superb play by Foster.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 2:
a. The receivers’ hands in Foxboro Thursday night.
b. Geno Smith’s fourth-quarter efficiency.
c. Dallas center Travis Frederick, with a whiff block on Kansas City’s Dontari Poe. Poe destroyed Tony Romo for a sack.
d. Washington cornerback David Amerson, for his casual coverage on James Jones—and then for getting away with a hold on Jones, and then … well, lets just say this about the rookie: Of the nine early games Sunday, he had the worst day of any cornerback. Easy.
e. While we’re on the trail of Washington goats, Josh Morgan deflecting an easy catch from Robert Griffin III into an interception didn’t exactly help the cause Sunday in Green Bay.
f. Corner route in Buffalo. Two seconds left. Game on the line. Stevie Johnson runs into the end zone and … no one covers him. One of the two Carolina defensive backs who both turned away from Johnson to cover the inside guy, Josh Norman or D.J. Moore, should wear the goat horns this morning in Charlotte. Huge, huge mistake.
g. Why, oh why, is a nose tackle like Ian Williams, who had his ankle broken from a blindside, in-line block he never saw coming, not a defenseless player?
h. Do the right thing, Competition Committee: Make it illegal for an offensive player to block below the waist when a defensive player can’t see it coming.
i. This from my buddy Elliott Kalb in the Sunday Night studio: Bill Parcells’ 1990 Super Bowl champs had 14 turnovers all season. The 2013 Giants have 10 after two weeks.
3. I think Jacksonville’s the worst team in the league, and it’s not close. It’s taken only eight quarters to prove it definitively.
4. I think the complaints about the NFL’s new small-bag policy have been coming in, including one from The MMQB staff writer Robert Klemko’s grandmother, Barbara. Thought I’d give her an airing here, to represent a load of fans unhappy with the new bag rule.
Dear Mr. Goodell.
As a matter of introduction I must tell you first that I am not a football fan; I am an Oakland Raiders fan. I attended the very first game in 1960 with my son and daughter, when the team was made up of junior college players and local high school standouts. I’ve been to at least one game every year since, and though I live in Maryland today, I fly to Oakland to attend half of the home games each year.
I was at the Raiders’ first game in 1962. After church, I brought my son, 10, and my daughter, 6, to the games with our lunches in picnic baskets. If rain or cold weather was expected, we packed our umbrellas and jackets—the essentials. Over the next few years, as the landscape of our society shifted and produced security concerns, and NFL teams sought revenue by limiting the items allowed in the stadium and selling substitutes in the building, I rolled with the punches.
This no-large-bag policy, however, is a haymaker. I suppose it is the reaction to the bombing in Boston, and the feeling is that we need to give fans a sense of security. But how much safer are we? Let’s be honest: There’s one hundred ways to bring a gun or a knife into an NFL stadium, and no clear bag is going to stop that. If two boys can sneak into the Super Bowl and make a YouTube video documenting it, I’m pretty sure someone can sneak a weapon in. Any security measure short of stadium metal detectors is contribution to a false sense of safety that is dangerous in itself.
Yet the NFL insists on small, clear bags. That way security can see all of the contents at a glance (and so can everyone else). I’m a 79-year-old woman, and I carry a variety of items I don’t need the world knowing about. For instance, if I don’t need the collapsible walking cane I brought just in case, do I really want the senior gentleman sitting next to me to know I have a walking cane? NO! Plus the size of the bag simply doesn’t allow for everything necessary for the fan experience. I wear my sunglasses and I need the case to place them in when the sun goes down. I love taking pictures, but the camera will not fit in the clutch. My seats are in the shade, so even though it starts off hot, as evening approaches, I need a jacket. I sit in a section that leaks in my lap if it rains, so I need some rain protection. When it is cool or it is a night game (we don’t have any this year), I need a blanket.
Under the new rules, I will have to wear a jacket I may not need, throw a blanket over my shoulder, carry my walking cane, camera and eye glass case in my clear plastic bag and put my identity, credit cards, health insurance, cell phone and money in my clutch purse if they will fit. That’s ridiculous! I love going to Raiders games and sharing them with my friends and family. I’ll be attending as long as the team is in Oakland and I can still walk (and maybe for a few more years after that). No stadium security policy is going to hold me back. But Mr. Goodell, I need to bring along a bag that is large enough to hold my things and not see-through. I promise I will not hurt anyone!!!
5. I think Washington safety Brandon Meriweather can get his checkbook out this morning. He’s going to be the first player fined under the new crown-of-the-helmet rule, and it could be a doozy. (Amazing no player was flagged for this in the season’s first 82 games, including preseason ones.) Meriweather lowered his head and slammed into Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy, clipping him with the crown of the helmet into Lacy’s helmet and then into Lacy’s chest. Lacy was left woozy, and departed with a concussion. The rule: No player outside the in-line tackle box can lower his head and deliver a blow with the crown of the helmet. This most often would be called on an offensive player, usually a running back, using the crown of his helmet as a battering ram against a defender to push him backward and gain more yards. But it can be called on any player who leads with the crown of the helmet, and Meriweather’s violation looked textbook to me.
6. I think the good will of the Panthers’ 5-1 finish in 2012 has vanished. Cam Newton is 13-21 as a starting quarterback, and the Panthers played it safe at the end of regulation in Buffalo, helping the Bills rally at the end. It’s not going to be a friendly crowd in Charlotte Sunday when the Giants come to town.
7. I think, in the wake of one of the most bizarre endings to a football game ever (Wisconsin-Arizona State, at 2 a.m. ET Sunday), I want to perform a public service for the Wisconsin coaching staff. Read this story from The MMQB in August. It centers on Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians coaching the minutiae to his young players. Never assume your players know all the rules, or will execute them properly. And remember Arians’ words: “There are no little things. The little things are all big things.” The little things cost the Badgers a game when their quarterback, Joe Stave, placed a ball down on the field, thinking he was downing it in good position to kick a game-winning field goal. But it happened so fast—even though Stave had time to kneel and put the ball down properly—that the officials and Sun Devil players weren’t sure what happened, and some ASU players flopped on the ball as the clock continued to run, and expire. Stave needed to make it clear he was kneeling down and giving himself up, and it happened so fast no one could tell what he was doing. You can blame the officials, who were indecisive, but Stave has to execute the play with enough time on the clock and set Wisconsin up for the field goal.
8. I think the NFL is operating under this false pretense: a hit out of bounds necessitates a $7,000 fine. There is no conceivable way that the Lavonte David hit on Geno Smith just barely out of bounds in Week 1—the hit that was flagged on the field for unnecessary roughness and ended up costing the Bucs the game—should be a fineable hit. Hits drawing fines should be violent and/or flagrant hits on players, not hits that were marginal penalties in the first place.
9. I think—no, I know—that Josh Freeman was not one of the top two vote-getters to be named a Bucs offensive captain. When the Bucs elected their captains, the vote came right after Freeman’s oversleeping and missing the team photo, and he probably wouldn’t have won it anyway because of the team-wide respect for winners Davin Joseph and Vincent Jackson. But stories circulated that coach Greg Schiano cooked the vote to make sure Freeman—allegedly not one of Schiano’s favorites—wouldn’t be one of the two captains. A trusted source says that absolutely didn’t happen. So put that story to bed. Not that it matters much; Freeman’s not going to be the Tampa Bay quarterback much longer if he continues to lose (the Bucs are 1-7 in his last eight starts, and in their last eight games) and complete 54 percent of his throws (his completion percentage since the start of the 2012 season). People, I believe, are getting this wrong, about Schiano having it in for Freeman. He doesn’t. Schiano’s a performance guy. When you lose seven of eight and oversleep for the team photo after a so-so offseason, Schiano’s not going to be a fan. Has nothing to do with a personality conflict. It’s a performance conflict.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. What an immense tragedy in Colorado. So sad for all the people whose lives have been unalterably affected by the flooding there.
b. Saw something I’d never seen before, at any level of football: a timeout called at halftime. Well, almost. Army came out for the start of the third quarter, took the field, and the quarterback called a timeout.
c. Touching display at Rutgers Saturday, with the retirement of Eric LeGrand’s No. 52. LeGrand says he is convinced that with faith and research, he will walk again after being paralyzed on the field in a game against Army in 2010. “Help me get back on my feet again,’’ he said in a plea to the crowd. “Believe! It’s in me and it’s in you guys too.”
d. Big week for John Legend. First he announces himself as a Bengals fan in The MMQB. Then he gets married. Congrats, John and Chrissy Teigen. And you got a nice trip to Lake Como out of it, too. That’s where they were married Saturday.
e. Can some doctor out there tell me why the University of Minnesota should keep Jerry Kill coaching football after his fourth seizure in three years on a Gopher game day? I don’t want to be insensitive. I’d really like to know if it makes sense to keep him on as coach.
f. Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara has faced 37 batters in the past month. He has retired all 37. Three of the 37 have hit the ball into the outfield. Sixteen have struck out.
g. Has a reliever in major-league history had a better month? Probably. I just don’t know who it would be, or when. To retire 37 in a row, with 34 not getting the ball out of the infield, is quite a feat.
h. C.C. Sabathia, 4.90 ERA. C.C. Sabathia, owed $96 million over the next four seasons.
i. Congrats, Todd Helton, on a great career, and good luck in retirement. Love it when a guy plays his entire career with a team he loves, and Helton loves the Rockies.
j. Helton hasn’t been great for five or six years, but he had a better career than you thought. Better career on-base percentage than Albert Pujols (.415 to .410), more hits than Mickey Mantle (2,505 to 2,415), more homers than Yogi Berra (367 to 358), more doubles than Tony Gwynn (585 to 543), better on-base-plus-slugging-percentage than Alex Rodriquez (.954 to .944), and a better lifetime batting average than Derek Jeter (.317 to .312).
k. Beernerdness: I’ve become a big fan of Brewmaster Jack beers, from Holyoke, Mass. Just tried another of their ales, Aquila Pale Ale. Lighter than most ales, with a malty flavor. Very easy to drink, and tasty.
l. Coffeenerdness: One thing I don’t understand about baristas. I bring a re-useable grande cup into Starbucks and order a macchiato. Most often, the baristas take a short cup, line it up under the espresso filters, and push the button. The espresso flows into the cup, and the barista pours the espresso on top of the milk in the cup. Then the barista tosses the cup away. There are two other ways to do this—either by pouring the shots directly into the glass shot cups, or by having the shots flow directly into the cup filled two-thirds with milk. Instead, there’s a wasted paper cup. Time to issue a memo to baristas, Seattle.
m. Jeff Garlin wrote a 10 Things I Think for The MMQB, and you’ll read it this week. Attention Curb fans: there’s some stuff in their about the future of the show.
n. Not that we’re drooling for Larry David to get back on the set for Curb Your Enthusiasm or anything.
o. I guess I have made a big mistake (my first). Never watched Breaking Bad. You know that feeling when everyone says you’ve got to watch a show, and you’re so far behind, and you throw your hands up in the air and say, “I’ll never catch up?” That’s me and Breaking Bad.
p. Re SI’s Oklahoma State story. I like Jeff Pearlman’s take.
q. One point about scandals when they’re reported: Do you think when the heat hits, most people who act as sources, either on or off the record, are going to say, “Yup, I told this reporter there was bad stuff going on?’’ No. Most are going to say, “I was taken out of context,’’ or “I was misquoted.” We see this in controversial stories all the time.
Who I Like Tonight
Cincinnati 20, Pittsburgh 16. It’s not a pleasant Monday night facing Geno Atkins for anyone, but a week ago, Fernando Velasco was on the street looking for work, having been cut by the Titans, and now Velasco replaces Kelvin Beachum as the Steeler center. In Cincinnati, where, presumably, the crowd will make it difficult for the Steelers to make their usual line calls, complicating matters for a center in his first game. Now, the center doesn’t have primary responsibility on Atkins, obviously. But even if Velasco has to block or combo-block Atkins only 40 or 50 percent of the game, the new kid on the block will still have a strong nose man, Domata Peko, to contend with on the other plays. The line is a major Steelers concern, particularly with a poor running game. Last season, when the Bengals went to Pittsburgh and won in December, Ben Roethlisberger had his only multiple-interception game of the season (two) and his lowest passer rating (58.6) of the year. And now he’s without his center, the pivot of his offensive line, his comfort zone among the linemen. Edge to the Bengals there, and maybe a big edge.
Andy Benoit analyzes the Steelers-Bengals MNF matchup here.
The Adieu Haiku
Manziel strafes Saban.
Again. I see in Cleveland
Furrowed brows by Browns.