Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:55 pm

Sanchez should be worried

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rex Ryan thinks he put too much pressure on last year's Jets by saying too much, but now he's put heat on his quarterback, Mark Sanchez, now by not saying enough.

I'm talking about what Rex said ... or did not say ... at Thursday's NFL scouting combine. When he was asked about the possibility of the Jets landing Peyton Manning if and when he becomes a free agent, he didn't pledge allegiance to his current quarterback.

All he said he was that the Jets "will look at all possibiliities."

Ryan said  that wasn't unusual; that the club does that with all positions. But that's not the point. When he had a chance to support his embattled quarterback, he did not. Instead, he said that the club "will look at everything."

If I'm Mark Sanchez, I'm not sure what to make of it. All I know is that when Brett Favre became available in 2008, the Jets couldn't wait to get the guy, even though then-coach Eric Mangini was opposed to the idea and even though they had a playoff quarterback in Chad Pennington.

But they made the move, anyway, basically because owner Woody Johnson loves to make headlines, and the Favre deal put the Jets on the back pages of the Daily News and Post for days. A Peyton Manning deal would, too, provided, of course, he's released, he's healthy and he's agreeable to joining the Jets.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: Provided the Jets want to supplant Sanchez, who led them to two conference championship games in his first two seasons. I'm not saying it happens, but when Ryan had an opportunity to back his quarterback with a strong statement he did not.

"I think Mark Sanchez is an outstanding quarterback, " he said, "and he's our quarterback, and he has a great future. I'm not coming off any of those. But will we look at every scenario? Of course. Will we look at every kicker out there? As painful as that it is, absolutely. But that's what we do."

But it's not what you do if you make a commitment to the quarterback you have.

"So do you expect Mark to be your quarterback this season?" Ryan was asked.

"I definitely think," Ryan said before stopping. "He's our quarterback now, and he's got a great future. Last I checked, Mark's under contract, and he's our quarterback."

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 14, 2012 7:22 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 5:23 am

Read Irsay's comments carefully

Jim Irsay's comments to the Indianapolis Star that he would "love" to have Peyton Manning are intriguing, but they're not exactly earth-shaking --  and that's because of what he had to say afterward. And what he said afterward is where we need to pay attention.

"I would love to have him back here if he can get healthy." he told the Star, "and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the doing the healing process with the regeneration of the nerve."

Well, now that's always been the crux of the problem, hasn't it?

I mean the question has never been about anything but Manning's health. I mean, when I was at Super Bowl XLVI, a source close to Irsay told me the Colts' owner would have no problem paying Manning "if he believed he was healthy and could play again."

But, the source said, neither Irsay nor anyone else close to the situation could be certain of anything involving Manning's future, which complicated the situation. His point was: The Colts probably wouldn't know more about Manning's future by March 8 than they do now, and March 8 is when Manning is due to collect a $28 million bonus that activates the final four years of his $90 million contract.

So why would they pay it? They wouldn't ... not unless Manning were willing to come to an accomodation that protects the Colts against an unnecessary and potentially reckless risk.

And that's basically what Irsay said on Tuesday -- with the owner telling us that his unerring support of Manning hasn't waned and that he would welcome him back even if ... OK, when ... the Colts draft Andrew Luck.

But no smart businessman would pay an employee $28 million if he didn't think he could work which, basically, is what Irsay is saying.

He's also telling us that he's willing to work something out with Manning, and that's not exactly news, either. Anyone who knows Irsay knows how much he values and appreciates what Manning has done for his team and the city of Indianapolis. Irsay does not want to let him go.

So he's thrown the ball into Manning's court, notifying him that he wants him to stay if they can work out an agreement. If Manning insists on the $28 million payout, then he won't be playing for Indianapolis next season, simple as that.

If nothing else, it was a smart move by Irsay to go on record as wanting to keep Manning. The expectation has been that the Colts would let him walk because they wouldn't pay the bonus, and while Irsay's comments don't diminish the possibility of that happening what he is saying is that he wants to keep the guy if a compromise can be worked out.

It takes two to reach a compromise, though, which means the next move is Manning's.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 8, 2012 3:56 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 4:09 pm

Time to call a truce on Brady, Gisele

First there was the Tom Brady backlash. Now there's the Mrs. Tom Brady backlash, and time to call a truce, people. Neither deserves the hammering they're taking.

First of all, Brady did not lose Super Bowl XLVI. I know, he wasn't Tom Terrific. But last time I checked the Patriots' defense failed to stop the Giants from scoring a touchdown in the last minute of a Super Bowl ... for the second straight time, no less.

And for that Brady is responsible? Please.

One more thing: If Wes Welker holds on to that pass with four minutes left, we're asking if Brady and coach Bill Belichick are the game's greatest at their jobs. Instead, Welker misses, and he, Brady and Belichick are bums.

Hmmmm, someone please explain. OK, let me try: Sometimes, plays just aren't completed. Simple as that. One team wins. One team loses. And the Giants deserved to win.

Welker didn't drop that ball, and Brady didn't blow it. The Patriots simply didn't make the plays that could've won the game, and why stop at Welker? The Giants fumbled twice, and New England didn't recover. They fumbled a third time, and a Patriots' recovery was overruled because New England had 12 men on the field.

So that's Brady's fault? Look, the Welker pass wasn't his best, but it was catchable. Only it would have taken a marvelous catch -- or the kind we're used to seeing by Welker. Because he didn't make it, angry fans want to torch someone ... be it Welker, Brady or both, and, sorry, people, but it happens.

Then there's Brady's wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen. She was overheard defending her husband after Giants' fans heckled her, making such genius comments like "Eli owns your husband" -- and I emphasize the word overheard. She didn't fire back at loudmouths. She made the remark to Vince Wilfork's wife while the two waited on an elevator, and somebody not only videotaped the conversation but listened in.

Geez, isn't that called eavesdropping?

Now, let's go one step farther:She defended her husband. So where's the harm in that? I  mean, what is she supposed to do -- apologize for a comment someone heard because he eavesdropped on the conversation? Give me a break.

Now, let's get something straight: She is not a victim here. She knows what happens when stars and media get together, and she never, ever, ever should've calledout Brady's pass receivers. That's not what players, coaches or their wives are supposed to do, and I imagine Brady reminded her of that by now.

But someone please tell me how much Gisele Bundchen knows about the game of football. Moreover, tell me why we should care what she says on the subject. Me? I'm more concerned if Welker thought he should have caught that pass, and he said he said he should.

Sure, if I'm Tom Brady, I'd have preferred she say nothing. But she didn't. So, then, I'd expect her to back her husband ... which is exactly what she did.

As the Giants' Osi Umenyiora said,  "At the end of the day that is their relationship, and she has the right to say whatever she wants to."

Precisely. So let's move on to another topic. This isn't worth the time it's getting.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:52 pm

Time to give Accorsi a nod

I'll tell who deserves more credit than he's gotten for what just happened to the New York Giants: Ernie Accorsi.

He was the general manager who engineered the 2004 draft-day trade that sent Eli Manning from San Diego to New York, a deal that was criticized after the Chargers went 14-2 in 2006 behind Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman, two of the principals in that deal.

Another was kicker Nate Kaeding, and, like Rivers and Merriman, he was named to the AFC's Pro Bowl team.

But nearly eight years after the trade, look what's happened: The Giants have two Super Bowl victories, Manning has been named Super Bowl MVP twice and the Chargers have squat. They have one championship game appearance, and that was 2007, the same year that Eli and the Giants conquered New England in Super Bowl XLII.

Other than that, they're 3-4 in the playoffs on Rivers' watch, and I'm not blaming Rivers. The guy is a marvelous quarterback who, if life were fair, will make it to a Super Bowl some day.

In fact, a writer I trust told me he thought Rivers might have led New York to two Super Bowls, too, had he been there. Only he wasn't. So you go by what you know, and what I know is that Accorsi made the Giants what they are today.

Because he gave them their most important player -- Eli Manning -- and he hired Tom Coughlin, the coach who just delivered the team's second Super Bowl victory.

Accorsi left after the 2006 season, so he never gains the acclaim he deserves for making a tough call. Jerry Reese has been on the job since, and usually he's recognized -- as he should be -- for what happened with his team.

But he's not there without Manning, and he's not there without Coughlin. And none of them are there without Accorsi. Without him, the Giants aren't celebrating their second straight Super Bowl defeat of New England. Without him, they're not celebrating, period.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:29 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 6:39 pm

Deserving Parcells' HOF candidacy takes a hit

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Parcells belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he may not get there -- especially if Tom Coughlin wins Super Bowl XLVI.

Think about it. With a victory, Coughlin will have won as many Super Bowls with the Giants as Parcells (2). Plus, he has the added attraction of leading the expansion Jaguars into two conference championship games.

That will enhance Coughlin's chances, but it could work to undercut Parcells, who did not make the cut from 10 to five Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection.

Parcells' record includes three Super Bowl appearances, two Lombardi Trophies and playoff appearances with four different teams. That should count for something, but, apparently, it doesn't count enough for Parcells' inclusion. Not yet, anyway, and it sure looked as if this year might be his best shot to get in.

I understand the knocks on the guy -- including his overall won-loss record (172-130-1) -- but look how he fared against Hall of Fame coaches Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs in the playoffs. He was 4-1. When it mattered most, his teams responded.

Yes, he sold himself as a free agent to clubs. Yes, he let his New England team fly home from a Super Bowl while he flew to cut another head-coaching deal. Yes, he could be difficult to deal with. But the guy was successful in four different places -- taking struggling franchises to the playoffs.

Plus, there is this: Look at the team's that are here for Super Bowl XLVI. One is coached by Bill Belichick. The other is coached by Coughlin. Both are products of the Parcells coaching tree, having served on the same staff in New York under the former Giants head coach.

A Hall of Fame writer I respect once told me that when you consider people for Hall of Fame consideration you must ask if you can write the history of the game without them. I look at those Giants teams of the 1980s and the Patriots and Jets of the 1990s. Heck, I even look at Dallas and how he put the Cowboys back on the map in the past decade.

So can you write the history of the NFL over the past three decades without Parcells? I think you have your answer.

Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:19 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:44 pm

Thursday night expansion needs one caveat

Commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement that the NFL will expand from eight to 13 Thursday-night games this season is great for TV and fans, but it's not so great for NFL players and teams ... unless, of course, the league does what is reasonable and necessary.

And that's to make Thursday-night games available only to teams coming off byes.

Having teams play two games in five days is not only cruel and unusual punishment; it's wrong. Yet the NFL this season had the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers play three times in 11 days. Now it's going to 13 in weeks 2-15.

Fans like Thursday-night games because they can't get enough of the NFL. The NFL Network likes it because it's good for ratings. But players and coaches? Ask them how much they enjoy playing twice in five days. It's tough on coaches' game plans, and it's tougher on players' bodies.

That's why scheduling a Thursday-night game for teams coming off byes makes sense.

In fact, it makes so much sense that the Pac-12 already embraces it. The league has four Thursday-night games scheduled for the 2012 season, with the first three involving teams coming off byes. In the fourth, one club (Oregon) is coming off a bye, while the other (Arizona State) played the Thursday before (Oct. 11).

But it had a bye before that. Plus, it's the home team when it plays Oregon.

Oh, one other thing: College clubs play on Saturdays, not Sundays, so there's an additional day of rest involved. Nevertheless, they still think it's a good idea.

And it is. Think about it: You have 10 days before your next game, then nine more before the following contest. It makes so much sense that one former league employee told me the NFL once had a mock schedule drawn up showing how all teams could play Thursday night games coming off of byes.

"The players would go for it," he said, "and the league would go for it."

But the league should go for it, too. I mean, if it is as concerned about the safety and general welfare of its players as it says it is, then it should push an idea that should make players less vulnerable to injury.

I don't know what the incidence of injuries is when a club plays two games in five days, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's easier on someone's body to play twice in 19 days than it is two in five.

So do it.

Category: NFL
Posted on: January 26, 2012 4:26 pm

Super Bowl, Take II; 246 are going

It was shortly after last year's Super Bowl seating snafu that the NFL stepped forward to offer disgruntled and displaced ticket holders a chance to go to another league championship game ... only this time with the NFL picking up the tab.

Now we know what happened. There are 246 who accepted their offer to attend Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the league said.

While that seems like a significant number, keep in mind that there were over 3,200 people the NFL cited as potential applicants to future Super Bowls. One group included 2,800 persons from Super Bowl XLV who were in temporary seating and were either delayed in gaining pre-game access to their seats or who were relocated.

They had the option of receiving the face-value of their tickets or tickets to a future Super Bowl.

Another 475 persons. the league said, who were unable to be seated had the options of taking three times the face value of their tickets ($2400 each) plus a ticket to Super Bowl XLVI; one game ticket to any future Super Bowl, plus airfare and four nights at a hotel; a check for $5,000 or a check for more than $5,000, with documented expenses required.

A class-action suit filed in California alleged that there were another 800-1,000 persons who had views of the field partially obstructed, but, under the NFL's offer, they are not eligible for reimbursement.

Of the two groups the NFL did identify, there was no indication which included the majority of the 246 respondents, with a league spokesman saying only that it was "a mix of both."


Category: NFL
Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:45 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 3:45 pm

Schiano a surprise ... and a risk

Next Christmas, I'm giving the Tampa Bay Bucs a compass, a sextant, a GPS ... something, anything, to steer them in the right direction.

I didn't know how badly they needed one until Thursday when they hired Greg Schiano from Rutgers to replace Raheem Morris.

Now, Schiano may turn out to be the next Jim Harbaugh ... and he may not. All I know is that guys who went through the interviewing process told me the Bucs were insistent that they wouldn't go for an unproven coach again and wanted someone with experience; someone who was older, wiser and smarter to run them this time.

So they hire a guy who's never been an NFL head coach.

I know, that happens. But it wasn't supposed to happen in Tampa Bay. The Bucs wanted a strict disciplinarian in the wake of the Morris regime, one reason they ran guys like Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Sherman through there.

But then they pulled an abrupt about-face and offered the job to Oregon's Chip Kelly. And when he didn't accept they went running to Schiano. Huh? That's fine if it's a gamble you're willing to take. But the Bucs tried that three years ago, and we know how that turned out.

I thought this time the idea was to play it safe and go for someone proven.

I don't know if Schiano can coach at this level, and, frankly, I'm not sure the Bucs do, either. They like him because he had a history of success at Rutgers. But raising the Scarlet Knights is different than raising the Bucs ... especially in the always tough NFC South ... so consider this a risk, and a big one.

It's also steering the Bucs in a direction they told applicants they wouldn't go ... and for good reason: They were burned there once.

You're playing with fire again, people. 

Category: NFL
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