Posted on: September 8, 2011 6:24 pm

Say goodnight to Colts

I'm with Pete on this one. Stick a fork in the Indianapolis Colts.

There's a reason Peyton Manning won four MVP awards, and it's not because this is a star-studded team because it's not. It's because it's led by a star quarterback who, yes, is so valuable that he's won more MVP trophies than anyone in league history.

So Manning bows out, and we're to expect Kerry Collins -- a guy who had retired -- to take them to the top? Please. There's a better chance the Kansas City Royals win the World Series.

OK, so Collins took Tennessee to a division championship in 2008. He was successful because he was the caretaker of an offense that featured a dynamic running back (Chris Johnson) and one of the league's best, toughest and meanest defenses. Plus, the Titans seldom committed turnovers, while the defense forced plenty.

But he also succeeded because he played behind one of the league's best offensive lines. He was sacked eight times all season. By contrast, opposing quarterbacks were sacked 44 times by Tennessee.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Manning isn't sacked all that much, either. Well, that's because he knows when to get rid of the ball and will throw it away before getting hit. Collins is not wired that way. He will take the sacks Manning won't, and look out for turnovers. He made few in 2008 when the Titans were 13-3, but he didn't make many big plays, either.

Chris Johnson and then-teammate LenDale White did, combining for over 2,000 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. The Titans ranked seventh in rushing that season. The Colts ranked 29th a year ago ... but were the league's best passing offense. Take the quarterback away, and what do you have?

A lost season, that's what.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:10 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 1:15 pm

Just what you don't need: Career advice from T.O.

Yeah, that was some sound advice from Terrell Owens. I mean when it comes to career choices, he's just the guy I want to consult.

And then I'd do exactly the opposite.

Owens could've been a hero in Philadelphia following Super Bowl XXXIX and might've found a home, except he followed some bad advice -- his own. He sulked and steamed and eventually boiled over when he was looking for a new contract in 2005 -- becoming so much of a distraction that coach Andy Reid did what he should have done.

He got rid of him.

First, he suspended him. Then, he sat him down for the season. Finally, he just dumped him.

Reid's message was clear: Nobody is bigger than the team. He proved it when linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, then the Eagles' leading tackler, fumed over big money in 2002, and he proved it again with Owens. if DeSean Jackson follows T.O.'s advice and sits down on the job, there is no doubt in my mind that Philadelphia will swing into action again ... and Jackson won't like it.

I mean, the record is pretty clear. If you're on board with the Eagles, doing what you're told and behaving like the professional you're supposed to be, they treat you fairly. They did with Vick. And they might have with Owens, if he hadn't pushed the envelope -- and I'm being kind there.

But, like Trotter, he couldn't wait on the Eagles, so he threw a tantrum. Essentially, he's telling Jackson to do the same thing.

My advice to Jackson: Look what it did for Owens. The guy can catch passes. He can also sabotage a career. Be careful you're not next in line.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:13 pm

No brainer extending Payton

If you're talking about paying Drew Brees the big bucks, then you should be talking about paying the guy who helped get him there ... and the New Orleans Saints have.

By extending Sean Payton's contract through 2015, the Saints did the smart, prudent and only thing -- they rewarded him for what he's done for New Orleans. And what he's done is turn a once sad franchise into a league powerhouse, with the Saints going to two conference championship games, one Super Bowl and three playoffs since his arrival.

They also won the only Super Bowl in the club's history.

More than that, Payton turned the Saints into one of the league's most prolific scoring machines by turning Brees into one of its top quarterbacks. Brees was on his way before landing in New Orleans, but a serious should injury cast doubt on the guy's future. Payton worked with him, turned the keys over to him, then went to the top with him.

The Saints were successful before, but not like this. They would beat you with defense and Morten Andersen. Now they beat you with Brees and a zillion offensive weapons. New Orleans is a legitimate playoff team again because of Drew Brees and because of Sean Payton, and both should be rewarded.

One just was.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 5, 2011 11:25 am

Tressel decision should have come from NFL

The Colts' decision to stay Jim Tressel's hiring until the seventh game is wise, but it doesn't address the fairness and breadth of Terrelle Pryor's suspension.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Pryor for the first five games, which was OK by the former Ohio State quarterback until his coach was hired by Indianapolis. Then he decided to appeal the decision.

Good. He should. I mean, what's good for one should be good for the other, and Tressel was as guilty as Pryor of wrongdoing at Ohio State and should be similarly punished.

Only he wasn't.

So there was an outcry from the public, and the Colts responded by announcing Monday that Tressel wouldn't start working until the seventh game of the season -- in effect, a six-game suspension for him. Only it wasn't. It wasn't a suspension at all. It was a decision, the Colts said, made by Tressel, with the support of Colts' owner Jim Irsay.

The Colts said they informed the NFL and "expect' that it will be supportive. Well, I'm not. Because it's not the Colts or Tressel who should have initiated this. it's the NFL. The Colts should have done nothing, and let this thing play out.

Because fair is fair, and if Pryor is punished, Tressel should be punished, too. Only I want that announcement coming from Goodell, not Indianapolis vice chairman Bill Polian, and here's why: As it stands now, the suspension appears to pertain to players only for their actions in college, and not coaches.

Yeah, OK, so Tressel sits. But he sits because he says he wants to sit and the Colts say they have no problem with it. Great. So now Tressel has a conscience? Please.

It's hard to believe the NFL didn't have something to do with this decision, but I want it doing more. I don't want Tressel or the Colts telling me he's decided to sit down. I want Goodell telling me he'll make him sit down so we're clear on exactly what rules pertains to whom and when.

I'm still confused. I bet Pryor is, too.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 4, 2011 5:43 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 5:52 pm

Gurode makes Ravens stronger at vulnerable spot

The Baltimore Ravens just got deeper with the addition of Andre Gurode.

I know, he didn't play all that well last season. He didn't play all that well this summer, either. Yeah, so he's a five-time Pro Bowler, but the Cowboys didn't think enough of him to keep him around -- which should tell you something. They want to get younger and more athletic up front, and Gurode didn't make the cut.

So the Cowboys let him loose, and Baltimore acted quickly to sign him.

Smart. If there's one area of concern with the Ravens it's their offensive line, which they continued to juggle into the preseason. Matt Birk is the Ravens' starting center, but he's been out since Aug. 3 when he underwent knee surgery. He insists he'll return for the season opener, but if he's not the club just added a safety net.

With Birk out, the Ravens were starting Bryan Mattison, son of the team's former defensive coordinator, and from all accounts he did a decent job in preseason. But he's a converted defensive lineman who last season played offensive guard after he was promoted from the practice squad.

So he's a bit of a question mark, and if Birk wasn't ready to go he was next in line. Gurode is not a question mark, and now he's next in line. Signing him gives Baltimore strength and depth at a key position. He's experienced, he's decorated and he's ready to step in if Birk isn't ready.

Smart move, Baltimore.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 3, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2011 4:16 pm

Surprise, surprise! Meriweather is gone

Of all the cuts so far, the release of Brandon Meriweather is the most surprising. I know he didn't play well last season. I know he struggled in coverage during training camp. I also know he's had off-the-field issues.

But he was a starter on a club that led the league in interceptions and just let James Sanders go.

The Patriots ranked 30th last season in pass defense, and part of that stemmed from an insufficient pass rush. But part of that must have had to do with a secondary where Meriweather was supposed to excel. Only he didn't.

I don't care that he was named to two Pro Bowls. He wasn't the player the Patriots imagined when they made him a first-round draft choice.

Moreover, he had off-the-field issues and was entering the last year of his contract.

There had been a feeling that the release of Sanders might have caught his attention; made him shape up this summer and work at improving on communication. Didn't happen. So he's cut, and look at what New England has done in the past week -- cut two of its key defensive backs from a year ago.

New England isn't afraid to make the difficult decision, and it just proved it. Again.

So what happens now? Well, Patrick Chung returns at one starting safety spot, and second-year pro Sergio Brown is the leading candidate to replace Meriweather. Josh Barrett and James Ihedigbo are others who could factor in.

Bottom line: Change is good. The Patriots must believe.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 2, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 6:00 pm

League "looking into" Tressel report

The Colts reportedly hired Jim Tressel as a game-day consultant, and, yeah, I have a problem with it. So should the NFL. Because if you're going to suspend Terrelle Pryor you better be willing to suspend Jim Tressel, too.

That's the problem with the league's action against Pryor. If you're going to take actions against players who break rules you better be prepared to take actions against coaches who broke rules, and Tressel is at the top of that list. He not only knew what was going on when Ohio State became involved in a memorabilia-sale scandal; he lied about it and tried to cover it up, forcing the school to pressure him into resigning.

So he gets a pass, and Pryor does not? Tell me the logic there.

"We just became aware of the report," a league spokesman said, "and will look into it to determine the facts."

I hope so. I know Tressel is not a full-time employee, and I understand that he's working on a game-day basis. But the guy broke NCAA laws and was forced to leave in disgrace. What part of that are we missing?

Look, the NFL just set a precedent with the Pryor decision. What I want to know is why that precedent doesn't extend to coaches who break rules. If there were justice in the NFL Jim Tressel -- as well as other coaches -- would be subject to the same guidelines that keep Pryor from playing the first five games.

Someone please tell me why it's OK for a coach to cheat and not OK for a player. Someone ... anyone?

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 2, 2011 10:33 am

Starting might not be best for Newton, Panthers

So Cam Newton starts for the Carolina Panthers. That's no surprise. It could, however, be a mistake.

Newton is not ready to step into the pro game, and that was apparent in the Panthers' dress rehearsal a week ago vs. Cincinnati. He looked lost at quarterback, making poor decisions and bad throws. Essentially, he looked like what he is -- a rookie trying to figure out the most difficult job in football.

Only he had six weeks to solve the puzzle. Normally, he would have mini-camps, OTAs and quarterback camps to pick up the pro game, but all that got flushed during the lockout. So Newton reported in late July and will start in early September, and good luck. He looks no more ready to play the position than Jimmy Clausen did a year ago.

But the Panthers have little choice. They can't sell their fans on Clausen or Derek Anderson, so give them Newton -- ready or not -- and that might not be good for him or the franchise. Reason: In a lot of respects it reminds me of the Ryan Leaf situation in San Diego years ago, one that Carolina GM Marty Hurney knows all too well.

Hurney worked with the Chargers, was mentored by then-GM Bobby Beathard and left just before the Bolts drafted Leaf. He knows, however, the impact Leaf had on the franchise and on Beathard. He took both down with him.

What is intriguing there is that when San Diego drafted Leaf the Chargers were told by people who knew Leaf not to start him immediately; that he had a sense of entitlement that would only be fed by the move. If he was going to succeed, coaches were told, he would have to work for the job.

Coaches nodded, said they understood, then started Leaf. He won his first two games. Then he self-immolated and within five years was out of football.

That could happen to Newton. The best thing for him is not to start. He, too, has a sense of entitlement, and I can't help but believe he and the Panthers would be best served by having Newton sit and watch. But that won't put people in the seats. So the Panthers start Newton, cross their fingers and hope he's not Ryan Leaf.

Is Cam Newton more talented than backups Derek Anderson and Clausen? Sure, he is. But Donovan McNabb was more talented than backup Doug Pederson in 1999, when Philadelphia made McNabb its first-round draft pick. Nevertheless, McNabb sat for half a season because he wasn't ready and because ... well, because it was the best thing for his future and the future of the Eagles.

Within a year, McNabb had the Eagles in the playoffs. Within two he had them in the conference championship game.

Cam Newton has a ton of ability. But so did Ryan Leaf. And there is so much more than ability that goes into making quarterbacks. I can't help but think that Leaf might have had a chance if the Chargers were more patient. I can't help but think that Newton's chances of making it would be enhanced if the Panthers were more patient, too.

Category: NFL
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