Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 17:
a. Ryan Tannehill, on his second-quarter touchdown throw to Mike Wallace, showed precisely what very good quarterbacks in the league have to show: accuracy and smarts under intense pressure, against a free rusher. He’s become a very impressive quarterback this year.
b. Good luck, Scott Green. You’ve been a good ref. The game will miss you. Sunday in Cincinnati was Green’s last regular-season game.
c. Great camera work by CBS in Cleveland-Pittsburgh, isolating on a dejected Josh Gordon, wide open in the end zone but not getting the ball. The camera lingered. Gordon looked like he’d just lost his dog. Great shot.
d. Cordarrelle Patterson is a really exciting football player. Best thing that happened to the Vikings this season.
e. Speaking of the best thing that happened to a bad team, have you seen Paul Worrilow play mike linebacker for Atlanta? Two plays in a row Sunday he crushed Cam Newton, continuing a season-long trend of always being around the ball. Not bad for an undrafted college free agent from Delaware.
f. What a catch in the end zone, Jerrel Jernigan. Giants have a valuable piece for 2014 in Jernigan.
g. Another play—an interception—by the terminally underrated Antoine Bethea.
h. Bilal Powell! With the assist! You’ve got to see the highlight of Powell blasting Geno Smith the final half-yard into the end zone when Smith was held up just shy. Gave the Jets a 14-7 halftime lead at Miami.
i. Jon Kitna giving his found-money game check of $53,000 for one week as a Dallas backup quarterback to the high school in Washington where he is a math teacher. Falls under the “what a guy” category.
j. The Tony Romo story is why Adam Schefter’s so good, people.
k. Anquan Boldin. Where would the Niners be without him and his 85 catches for 1,179 yards this year?
l. What a spin move and catch in the end zone by Brandon Marshall. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery might not be going to the playoffs, but they’re going to be big postseason players soon for Chicago.
m. The Jets keeping Rex Ryan. What option did they have, really? They had the worst collection of offensive skill players outside of Jacksonville (and maybe worse), and somehow they finished 8-8. Woody Johnson would have been ridiculed, and rightfully so, if he and John Idzik had cut ties with Ryan.
n. Good point from ESPNBoston’s Field Yates: Scott Pioli, my NBC partner this season, had a role in drafting seven Pro Bowlers—four for the Chiefs and three for New England.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 17:
a. Interesting Baltimore defensive plan on the Cincinnati first-quarter touchdown bomb to A.J. Green: not covering him.
b. Matt Cassel failing to make a Metrodome memory in the last game ever there, missing a wide open Jared Allen (yes, Jared Allen) in the end zone in what would have been a second-quarter touchdown.
c. Come on, Jay Gruden. Run it in from the 1, especially when you’re running it so well. Why risk a bad fade? And a pick to keep the Ravens alive?
d. Mike Shanahan’s record this season (3-13), and his record in his last seven seasons as a head coach (three in Denver, four in Washington): 48-65, with zero playoff wins.
e. Tony Romo, who will be 34 next season, has now had two significant back surgeries. If I were the Cowboys, and I like one of the quarterbacks in the 2014 draft in the third round, I’d take him.
f. Jeff Fisher has to get control of his team. Way too chippy.
3. I think the Kansas City Chiefs have some pretty good depth. Impressive showing by Chase Daniel in San Diego, and if Ryan Succop makes one of the most makeable kicks a kicker could have, the Chiefs would have flown home winners while playing a backup team against a team fighting to make the playoffs.
4. I think I would not like to be officiating boss Dean Blandino when he goes into his meeting with senior staff, including Roger Goodell, today at the league office in New York. Too many mistakes, easily spotted ones, keep happening in the league. How on earth can you be an umpire or side judge staring at the defensive line and see seven players on one side of the center—clearly in violation of a league rule that says six is the most players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the center before a field goal or PAT—and not throw a flag? The league owes the Steelers and the people of Pittsburgh a mea culpa. And I’m beginning to think the offending officials on such obvious plays like that should have to sit a game. It’s just too important a situation for the only consequences during the season to be an offending official not making the playoffs. Coaches bench players if they don’t perform. Blandino should be able to bench officials if they don’t perform.
5. I think, as I said on NBC Sports Network Friday night, that I can’t fathom the Bears paying Jay Cutler $20 million a year (the going rate for long-term good quarterbacks) on a multiyear deal, and I also can’t fathom them NOT tendering him as a franchise player. If the Bears tender him and another team signs him to an offer the Bears don’t match, they’d receive a first-round pick in return. So he’d either be a $16 million hit (the cost of the franchise tag) on Chicago’s salary cap in 2014, or he’d play elsewhere and the Bears would get a pick in return. But if the Bears don’t give him that $16 million qualifying offer, he could leave the team for anyone else, and the Bears would receive no compensation. It would make no sense for Chicago not to sign him to the one-year tender, even if GM Phil Emery decided the team was better off without his huge salary.
6. I think I agreed with NFL hearing officer Matt Birk, eliminating the Ahmad Brooks fine for clotheslining Drew Brees in the neck on a pass rush Nov. 17. I did think it was a penalty, because Brooks did hit Brees illegally. But the NFL has gone too far with fines of players. Players should be fined for egregious, over-the-top hits and cheap shots, not hits that are accidents, which Brooks’ clearly was.
7. I think—no, I know—that Greg Schiano has not been in contact with Penn State, and he is telling the truth when he says he has the only job he wants right now. The Penn State job would be a lot more desirable if it wasn’t facing two or three years more of mediocrity. That’s why you see Bill O’Brien exploring NFL jobs. He knows he’ll struggle to win there over the next couple of years, and by the time the program turns, he might not be the hot college name anymore. I’d be very surprised if Schiano isn’t back, by the way. But remember: A few years ago, Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen thought they were fine and got called into a Friday afternoon meeting by the Glazers and both got fired. That’s an ownership group that tells no one very much. But I have heard they like the direction of the team (the defense is very young, and improving) and think the quarterback decision (firing Josh Freeman and playing Mike Glennon) was the right one too.
Update, noon Monday: The Bucs fired Schiano and GM Mark Dominik.
8. I think the game Tony Romo played under the circumstances eight days ago should not be forgotten, and before the season gets too far in the rear-view mirror, understand that Romo executed that last scoring drive in a 24-23 victory over Washington with a herniated disk in his back. That disk require surgery on Friday and, of course, forced Dallas to play Sunday with Kyle Orton at quarterback. As coach Jason Garrett said: “He might have had his finest hour … We talk about mental toughness, being your best, regardless of circumstances. Somehow, some way, he helped us win that ballgame.”
9. I think if there has ever been an interim coach with less of a chance to get the permanent job than Wade Phillips in Houston, I’d like you to point him out to me. The name Jim Tomsula (San Francisco, one game, 2010) comes to mind. But the list is pretty short.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Best sight I saw all weekend: Notre Dame safety Austin Collinsworth, on what could be the last play of his college career (in Yankee Stadium, no less), intercepting a Rutgers pass to finish off a bowl victory for the Irish. The son of Cris, Austin’s a great kid who has had some rough patches in his college football career—he missed his junior season after undergoing two surgeries, one on his shoulder and another on his back—and it’s uncertain whether he will return for a fifth season under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. If Collinsworth is done, that’s quite a way to go out. The pick gave him the team interception lead for the season, with three.
b. Best story I read all week. It’s from LA Weekly. It’s about a woman, Christina McDowell, whose dad was embroiled in the get-rich-quick scheme that ruined lives and spawned the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. She’s on a campaign to tell people how many lives were ruined by the greed. McDowell, who had to change her name because her dad kept trying to use it to steal more money, writes the new movie “is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.”
c. So ESPN has gotten $260 million in subsidies from the state of Connecticut over the years for its state-of-the-art campus in Bristol, according to the New York Times? Dead serious here: Not only doesn’t that surprise me, but I’m a little surprised it isn’t more. Not justifying it or defending it in any way, honestly. But $260 million over a 12-year period from a state dying for employment and civic boosterism (ESPN employs 4,000 Nutmeggers, or those who have moved to the state to be Nutmeggers) actually seems like a good investment to me. The alternative, it seems to me, is some other close-to-New York boondock (and state) to come in and steal the most powerful sports media company in the world.
d. Good luck, Tyler Tettleton. You’ve made a lot of Ohio U. alums proud over the past three years.
e. Coffeenerdness: I went to a Dunkin’ Donuts with Tom Curran of CSN New England on Friday. His order: “Medium hot coconut, with milk, three Splenda, four ice cubes.” Wh-wh-what? I then grilled Curran on his choice. Re the coconut: “Gives the coffee a tropical feel.” Re the ice cubes: “Stops the coffee from being mind-bendingly hot so I don’t have to wait a half-hour to drink it.” Whatever you say, Tommy.
f. Beernerdness: I’ll be back with this next week.
The Adieu Haiku
London Fletcher, gone.
He loved the name I gave him.
“The Black Seau.” Thoughts?