LUCK IMMUNE TO CRITICISM? I understand that everyone believes Andrew Luck is the future of the NFL, but does that make him immune from criticism? Dalton throws three picks in his past two playoff games and every website is flooded with commentary. Luck throws seven picks in his past two playoff games and there isn’t an article about it, or even a negative comment in yours. I understand Luck might turn out to be the greatest of all-time, but what has he done to earn the kid gloves treatment? A bunch of fourth-quarter wins signify a quarterback who doesn’t give up, but they also signify a quarterback who didn’t play well in the first three quarters.
You bring up some good points. We probably tend to give highly drafted, multiple-tool players more of the benefit of the doubt than players who entered the draft with some deficiencies. In my opinion, Luck doesn’t get killed this postseason because of the adjustments he had to make with a group of lesser receivers. He was missing his top tight end, Dwayne Allen, for all of this year, and his top wide receiver, Reggie Wayne, for much of this year. Towards the end of the season, he was prospering with a group of receivers who, with the exception of T.Y. Hilton, were all new to the team this year. I’m not sure Andy Dalton, even with a solid set of weapons, would have put up 45 points on Kansas City in a playoff game.
ON CALMER COACHING. Are we sure Jim Harbaugh was flagged for complaining about the call on the Vernon Davis catch or the clock? I ask because he immediately ran onto the field pointing at the scoreboard and it would seem that the replay hadn’t been played yet. As for the clock, it ran for two to three seconds after the whistle blew, which would have limited San Fran’s options had the call not been reversed. My take is he was upset the clock continued to run after the play, something he would immediately need to bring to the attention of the refs.
You are right. I was wrong to criticize Harbaugh for being angry about an official’s call. However, if a coach asks his players to keep their composure in times of adversity, I think it’s a bad example for the coach to set to have a meltdown in a playoff game and run on the field. So I was wrong in why Harbaugh flipped out. But my criticism of him for flipping out still holds.
THE MANNING MOVEMENTS. Four 49ers fans were watching the Denver-San Diego game. On at least two of the encroachment penalties called against the Chargers, all four of us were in agreement that a false start should have been called on Peyton Manning. He bobbed his head vigorously and at the same time thrust his hands forward in a sharp manner. We looked it up in the rule book and it sure seems that he got away with at least two false starts. And don’t say that is Manning’s normal way to receive the ball, because it is not. When he is actually getting the snap, he does not bob his head and jerk his hands forward. I imagine both Mike McCoy and Bill Belichick will be asking the NFL to take a look at this.
I think you have a very good point. The Manning motions, I am sure, will be addressed by the Competition Committee this offseason. I would say it’s likely that whoever officiates that game this weekend will be reminded to watch for overt movement by Manning. Thanks for writing such an intelligent email.
LEAGUE HELP FOR STRUGGLING FRANCHISES. With the turmoil in Cleveland, the lack of interest by the Jacksonville fan base and Oakland’s never ending front-office issues, does the league office offer any guidance to these organizations, to help get them on the right track, as a business? Being that the owners hire the commissioner, would it be considered unethical for the NFL to offer a team of executives and experts to dig into the issues that keep these teams as perennial losers? I would think that the lack of fans in the stands, as the season winds down, would be incentive enough to build winners, to ensure a steady profit. However, it would seem that these teams losing year after year hurts the bottom line of the entire league, and therefore would want to offer solutions to struggling franchises.
The NFL does offer assistance of various kinds to struggling franchises. One example is the eight-person head hunting group that was set up this year to help teams in their coaching searches. But these organizations have to want the help. I don’t think Jimmy Haslam in Cleveland, after hiring Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi to run his football side, is eager to call the NFL and ask, “Who should we hire as coach?” Also, I’m not sure how much help the league office can be to a place like Jacksonville in selling tickets.
GATES-GATE. I love your column, but I thoroughly disagree with your criticism of Secretary Robert Gates. I am not exactly in favor of throwing your former boss under the bus, but Gates—like every cabinet member, as well as any elected official for that matter—owes his loyalty to the people of this nation, not any one individual, no matter which office they hold. While I think it is more than fair to question his motives (financial?) in writing the book, I think you should take one fact into consideration before you question his loyalty: Robert Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in our nation’s history to hold the post under two presidents from two different parties. That means he is probably as apolitical and non-partisan as Washington D.C. gets, and therefore his criticisms of the presidents he worked for should be taken into careful consideration. If you have not yet read his memoir then you should refrain from offering any opinion on the matter.
Good email, Reed. I picked yours out of scores of similar emails excoriating me for criticizing Gates. Here’s how I look at it: Suppose the Indianapolis Colts hired me tomorrow to work in the front office. Suppose I work with them through the draft, and I am exposed to all sorts of inside information about players and contracts and future strategy and the basic inner workings of the team. Let’s say I’d know everything from owner Jim Irsay’s real feelings about Andrew Luck, whatever they might be, to the players GM Ryan Grigson plans to make salary cap casualties in the coming season. And then let’s say I have a strong difference of opinion with Irsay, or Grigson, or coach Chuck Pagano, and we decide to part ways in October. I’d be an unemployed American citizen. And suppose a media company came to me and said, “We’d like you to write a long article about your experiences working for the Colts and what you found out about the inside working of the Colts.” If I agreed to do it, and I spilled the beans on things about the football team and personal opinions and the franchise’s strategic future, I would be within my rights—unless I signed a confidentiality agreement with the team—to write whatever I wanted to write. But would it be the right thing? Part of me thinks it would be a great story. But part of me thinks it would be the morally wrong thing to do.
It’s the same thing with Gates. I have no problem once President Obama leaves office for any employee in his administration to write anything he or she wants. And you’re right—I haven’t read the book. I have only read news reports. I have great admiration for Gates, from everything I have read or heard about him. I hope I am wrong about this, but the book strikes me as a kiss-and-tell book.