Archive for January, 2010

Up For Grabs: How Warner’s Retirement Opens The Door For The 49ers

It’s over. Just give San Francisco the 2010 NFC West Division title now and be done with it.

OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole. Nothing is ever set in stone. You just have to like the 49ers’ chances, though, in a division where the most consistent and dynamic offense just lost it’s biggest weapon.

Future HOF QB Warner bows out - what does that mean for the Cards?

Future HOF QB Warner bows out - what does that mean for the Cards?

With the announcement today that Arizona Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner is leaving the game, the 49ers find themselves with an opportunity to not only compete—something they were already doing this past season—but wrest the Division title from the Cardinals for the first time in two years.

It won’t be easy. The Cardinals still have one of the best group of wide receivers in the game today. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston—and if he stays—Anquan Boldin are all top notch players. If Boldin leaves, Early Doucet has proven he can step in as a number three, while Breaston steps up into the number two role.

Problem is, they won’t have Kurt Warner throwing to them.

Say what you will about judging too early, but Matt Leinart has yet to show that he will step seamlessly into Warner’s shoes. While he looked improved when given spot duty during the playoffs, Leinart lacks consistency and has struggled more than he has excelled.

It’s safe to say that for an offense predicated on massive pass yardage, this could prove to be a huge step backwards. 

While Chris Wells and Tim Hightower have formed a pretty good running back tandem, they will now face stiffer run defenses until Leinart can prove he’s the real deal. The offensive line, which has been shaky and streaky, will be tested with blitzes and various pressure schemes to press Leinart into bad decisions.

The Cardinals won’t implode, not by any means. What they may have to do is seriously alter their offensive game plan to suit the remaining talent, which can take time. Fitzgerald and company may be able to make Leinart look better quicker, but ultimately defenses will test the young quarterback.

From what we’ve seen so far, he has a long way to go still.

While the 49ers struggled throughout the season, they made some great strides forward. Another year with the same coaching staff, with the same vision, should allow them to continue to build towards something very good.

There are certainly areas of need. The secondary needs help, the offensive line has pretty significant problems and they could use more defensive line and linebacker depth to help create pressure on opposing offenses (such as the Cardinals).

However, if 49ers quarterback Alex Smith can play a little more consistently and continue to make strides forward, if the team can improve that offensive line via Free Agency and April’s NFL Draft, if Frank Gore can stay healthy while Glen Coffee takes a step forward in his secodn year—well the 49ers have an opportunity to strike and wrest the Division away from Arizona.

It’s a lot of ‘if’s’ but the 49ers were in the hunt for much of the season this year despite some really shaky moments. With a second off-season together, as well as additions they can make this Spring, they will continue to take a step forward.

The running game—anchored by Gore and assisted by Coffee—will still be a key feature and as the offensive line improves, they will only be more effective.

While there are still questions about Smith as a viable starter long-term, the weapons he has in tight end Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree (and to a lesser extent, Josh Morgan) are potent. Smith needs to protect the ball better, but his arm strength coupled with his receivers could allow him to pull defenses away from the offensive line and give the run game more room.

There is work to be done, but the 49ers offense is on the upswing.

Looking at the rest of the Divison doesn’t really create worries. Aside from anfc-west[1] Cardinals team which will still be a tough foe—even without Warner—there are two teams in far worse shape than San Francisco.

The St. Louis Rams are in complete rebulding mode and barring a miracle, will not be a factor for several years. Both sides of the ball—from quarterback to secondary to offensive and defensive linemen—are a shattered mess in need of a complete tear-down and rebuild.

The Seattle Seahawks have more tools to work with but are still in a transitional period. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has problems staying healthy and is no longer the top-shelf quarterback he once was. There is little to speak about in the run game, the wide receivers—even 2009’s Big Signing TJ Houshmandzedah—are decidedly average even when Hasselbeck isn’t struggling or hurt. The defense is slipping. And they have a new coach—former USC Head Coach Pete Carroll—who has to come in and revamp much of the team.

Neither of these teams are serious contenders for the NFC West Title.

It will come down to the Cardinals and the 49ers. Neither team is perfect, but while the 49ers are adding pieces, the Cardinals are losing one—a big one. You don’t lose a potential Hall of Fame quarterback and just move on. (Well, you rarely do. Usually you need Steve Young.)

It’s a long off-season and both teams will make many roster moves between now and opening day. Many things will change, perhaps radically.

Regardless of those moves, the balance of power in the NFC West has shifted. It may be slight. It may even still be weighed in the Cardinals’ favor.

It moved, though and that slight shift could be all the 49ers need to win the Division Title since 2002.

 

Find more 49ers articles by Andrew at BleacherReport.com.

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The Thundering Blurb SHow – 1/27

Wherein I discuss Tim Tebow – way too much.
Also, we recap Jets/Colts and Saints/Vikings, touch on Lord Favre, moving the Pro Bowl and the NFL Draft, and talk about how awesome a show Friday Night Lights is.

HERE IS THE LINK – CLICK IT (you know you want to).

As for Tebow—as I say on the show, this will be an ongoing discussion.

The last segment was supposed to be more Senior Bowl than Senior Tebow but that failed. And why not? Tebow is a huge subject, so I spent some time on that.

There seem to be two camps—I call them the Acolytes and the Haters. 98% of the people in either groups seem to be able to grasp logic nor hear contrary opinions. It’s amusing, it’s cute but it’s about to get old.

I take that back. There’s a third group—one I think most of us are in. The people who see the potential in Tebow but also see the severe hill he has to climb to play successfully in this league.

As we move into the details I can say that by and large, most of what he did—fumbles, footwork and innaccuracies—were what I expected.

What I really want to hear is how he took to the coaching and what the coaches thought of his ability to adapt. It’s critical he convince teams he can achieve what needs to happen if they are to risk a pick on him.

I’m not hearing that much on the subject yet though it does seem he is making progress.  He has the game this weekend, the NFL Combine in a few weeks and then his Pro Day.

He needs to interview well at all of them as well as show a willingness to adjust—and that’s on top of improving at least a little between each event.

Either way I think detractors and proponents of Timmy Football need to take a chill pill. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Since we beat the subject of Tebow into the ground for almost half the show, I toss out a few places to get your full Senior Bowl coverage.

As always Draftguys.com was on the scene. It was Cecil Lamey’s fourth or fifth year going, though this time it was without new father Sigmund Bloom. Matt Waldman filled in very well though and you can catch all their takes over at the site.

Shawn Zobel of Draftheadquarters.com was in Mobile as well. Like Cecil and Matt, Shawn has plenty to say about all the prospecs so make sure you head on over to the site.

Shawn is definitely in the hopper for a few appearences during the next few months, and I can be reasonably confident in saying Waldman, Lammey and the other Draftguys will drop by at some point.

And not just because I will shortly be dropping content on the Draftguys site.

So check out the goodness on the link and heck while you’re at it head over to ITunes and subscribe to the feed.

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NFL LATE HITS – CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

What a weekend.

You have to hand it to the Saints and Colts. When it came down to it, both found a way to win.

The Jets hung in there with the Colts for almost a half but as Manning said, the Colts were trying to figure out how to crack the Jets’ defense.

They did that right before the half and then proceeded to beat the tar out of the Jets in the second half.

Sadly, it comes on one of the better games for rookie Mark Sanchez. One hopes that when he watches tape on the game he spends some time watching Manning as well.

If you’re going to watch your team get smoked by the league MVP, take notes.
 
Oh, and Braylon Edwards? You had a big touchdown. Great. Stop mouthing off to the media about how underused you were.
 
Know that every single person watching that throw assumed you were going to drop it—again—and you will know why you weren’t used in critical situations. You have PANS for HANDS.
 
Should the Jets have used him more? Maybe. They went into a shell for a lot of the second half until the middle of the fourth quarter where the playcalling just reeked of panic and desperation.
 
But if you’re wondering why you weren’t entrusted with more passes, more important plays—go check out that Charger game last week when you dropped a big touchdown becuase Sanchez hit you in the chest with it. Or the big drop from the game against the Bengals. Or any game this season.
 
Sit down and shut up and be thankful if the team offers you anything this off-season.

In the end (Edwards stupidity aside) as a Jets fan, this was all more than I expected. Would I have liked a win? Sure. Am I satisfied? I’d be lying if I said yes, 100%.

But it was a great season.

Meanwhile I continue to be impressed by Manning. Beyond him, you look at that team and have to think that as long as Manning is playing, they will always contend.

Collie. Garcon. Clark. Wayne.

They exposed the complete lack of play-makers beyond Darrelle Revis in the Jets secondary. Collie/Garcon flat out embarrassed Dwight Lowery, made him look silly. Rhodes continues to find himself out of position on big plays. Lito Sheppard was a Pro Bowler once, but not this year.

Manning and his guys tore them up.

The Saints better find an answer.

They didn’t have one for Favre, final interception aside.

Also, when a team coughs the ball up five times, you need to take more advantage than the Saints did when the Vikings tried to give the game away.

By Vikings I could just be talking about Adrian Peterson. His three touchdown performance notwithstanding, Peterson’s multiple fumbles were painful.

Yeah, he didn’t lose the majority of them but that was a brutal performance.

I watched Shonn Greene (rookie Jets running back) go from fumble machine to ball—security technician over the course of one season so I know that sort of thing can change.

I don’t know exactly what he did, but someone should find out and let Peterson in on it.

Did it look to you like neither team wanted to go to Miami?

Defensively neither team did all that much. Jared Allen was a non-factor, something I didn’t expect. For large stretches it seemed as if the defenses would just dissappear.

I mean, don’t get me wrong—high scoring games can be fun. A little defense would have been good though.

I’d like to say that this didn’t turn on any one thing—but let’s be honest, there were some terrible penalties called (or in some cases not) and that impacted the game.

I could spend an entire column on the officiating of these playoffs. You guys know how I feel at this point. Mark Sanchez gets hit in the back on a clear late hit. No call. Someone breathes on Favre and flags fly. Pass Interference penalties are terribly inconsistent.

Last night it took half an hour to burn five minutes of overtime—and they still struggled to make the right calls.

In the end though, the Saints made the plays they needed and Favre ended the Vikings’ season with an inexplicable pass play when they were closing on a game winning field goal.

So, you know—business as usual.

Saints/Colts will be talked about a lot the next two weeks (you know, while we’re killing time and pretending the Pro Bowl isn’t a joke) so we’ll back off of that.

For now, congrats to both teams and my condolences to the Jets and Vikings.

It’s a long off-season.
 
 
Drama in three…..two…..one….. GO!

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San Francisco 49ers’ Offseason Analysis: Quarterbacks

Those of you who listen to the show and read the site know I also write about the San Francisco 49ers  for BleacherReport.com – please find below my latest piece of work for them.
 
While the season continues for the Jets, Colts, Vikings, and Saints, for teams like the San Francisco 49ers the offseason has begun. The long process to prepare for the 2010 NFL Draft is already underway and one of the most critical phases is the evaluation of the current roster.
Who to cut, who to keep, which positions require depth, which positions require wholesale change—these are all things that must be closely considered over the course of the next few months.
We shall mirror those efforts in our own way here.
This is the first in a series of articles discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the 2010 49ers. Some editions will cover a position as a whole, some will discuss particular individuals.
All will serve to give us an idea of what the 49ers will be facing in the coming Draft.
In this edition, we look at the quarterback position.
 
Overview
Quarterback has been a tricky position since Steve Young took his leave of the franchise in 1999. The fact that a quarterback is not only competing with the ghost of Young, but also Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, has always been cause of a little bit of extra pressure. Still, in 2005 the team felt they had found their replacement in a young University of Utah  quarterback named Alex Smith.
Things haven’t quite worked out that way. Smith has battled injuries and numerous coaching staff changes throughout his career, appearing to lose his starting job once and for all to back-up Shaun Hill at the close of the 2008.
However, as has been the case often in the last decade, things did not work out as planned.
While Hill was effective in moving the chains, he struggled to put points on the board and while he protected the ball well he lacked the arm strength to stretch the field and utilize some of the passing attack weapons the 49ers had.
During a Week Seven game against the Houston Texans, where the 49ers failed to score in the first half, Hill was benched in favor of Smith. Smith went on to lead the team to within three points of the Texans and while San Francisco lost 24-21, Smith secured the starting job back.
Smith kept the role throughout the end of the 2009 season.
Player Analysis
Alex Smith
Smith’s strength is often also ultimately his downfall. He can throw the ball a long way, but that’s where he is at his most inaccurate. However, at this point he looks to be the starter in 2010.
And why not? While Shaun Hill took better care of the ball, the offense was stagnant in many ways under him. Smith’s arm allows the 49ers to stretch the field which in turn pulls defenses off the line and allows marquee (and current Pro Bowl) running back Frank Gore to find more room, or at least hit the line before first contact more frequently.
If you look at Smith, he’s got beating on the small teams (Lions, Rams) down but struggles against more opportunistic defenses (such as the Cardinals and Eagles). He needs to continue to choose his spots more carefully—as he did against the Packers in Week 11 (a trio of touchdowns to one interception), but failed to do against the Titans (a pair of touchdowns but three interceptions).
In the end, the gamble with Smith is worth it. His arm strength allows him to utilize players such as Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan in ways Hill cannot and Davis is not ready to.
If he can stay healthy, the 49ers have a quarterback who can do enough to keep them in the hunt throughout the season.
 
Shaun Hill
When Hill took over during the 2008 season, it was thought to be permanent. Perhaps it would have been too, if things had fallen the way we expected and the team had merely been a power run team. However new Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye (the sixth different offensive coordinator six years) decided to open things up a little more.
It’s not that Hill played badly. In fact, he protected the ball and showed consistency in the five-and-a-half games he started. The problem became his inability to spark the offense and score from the red zone. It’s fine to move the chains—but you need to finish.
Hill couldn’t do that and during Week Seven’s game against the Houston Texans, the team turned to Smith for a spark and he provided it.
Shaun Hill is accurate on short and medium routes but lacks the arm strength to stretch the field the way the 49ers would like to. He’s a good caretaker with the potential for more—just not really in the current scheme.
 
Nate Davis
Davis has been an obsession for many (including this writer) since the team drafted him in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. 
If you’re not a San Francisco fan but find the name strangely familiar, it’s probably because of the discussion of the former Ball State quarterback’s learning disability. He definitely has had issues processing playbooks before, but was successful in college despite that.
It’s one of the reasons the 49ers have brought him around very slowly.
It’s difficult to say for sure what Davis is capable of in the NFL as he barely took any first team snaps in practice and had no snaps during games.
Looking at his college career, Davis was very productive and set school records as well as winning Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. He threw for good yardage and touchdown totals with very few interception.
Davis is a bit shorter than NFL Scouts liked, but has a quick delivery, good arm strength with the ability to go deep while not losing any accuracy.
In pre-Draft profiles, Davis was actually compared (favorably) to Alex Smith.
Davis is a project, albeit one that many have high hopes for. It is unlikely he will be ‘ready for Prime Time’ next year though hopefully he will get the opportunity to practice more frequently with someone other than the practice squad.
It would behoove the team to find out how much of an investment to make in the young quarterback if just to help determine what their choices are long term.
 
Diagnosis
With Alex Smith you get a fair amount of both good and bad. However, I believe he gives the 49ers enough room to avoid having to pull a quarterback with one of their two first round picks in the 2010 draft.
Much can happen between now and April, but unless a can’t-miss prospect falls in their lap, the team should focus on both lines, secondary help and a dynamic kick returner.
Whether Smith has emerged again as the future starter of this franchise remains to be seen, but he will give the team enough time to continue to build without risking a high pick on a streaky position while remaining competitive.
It might be a wise move—if he can hack it—to see if Davis is ready to be a backup as well, since Hill doesn’t fit the offense. If not, Hill should be sufficient to hold the fort down for a short time if Smith gets hurt.  
Of course, given Smith’s injury history, this is a concern and that’s why I believe giving Davis a shot at the backup job could prove a more prudent step (again if the staff feels he is ready) since he mirrors Smith’s abilities a little more. If Davis excels, even as a mere back-up, the offense would have a better chance of keeping any rhythm or momentum they had built up prior to any injury.
Again, this is not to say the team is locked up at the position long term, but spending a high pick on a quarterback is not a terrible necessity. Of course, the team should see what Free Agency has to offer (answer appears to be not much) but it is not as high an area of need as other positions are at this point and even money for that might better be served elsewhere.

The 49ers may still be rebuilding parts of their team, they are still in a position to not only be competitive, but perhaps wrest the NFC West from the Arizona Cardinals. With the possibility of Kurt Warner retiring, the team has the opportunity to take a step forward while they are still developing their core team.

While the quarterbacks on their roster are clearly not the next Joe Montana or Steve Young, they can help continue to build the future while also winning now.

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NFL LATE HITS – Playoff Week 2

Just when we were all yawning at another blowout slate of NFL Playoff games, Sunday Night’s matchup again rides in and saves the day.

The fact that it involved two of my favorite teams didn’t hurt the chances I would be entertained. Further, the fact that the Jets won in the end certainly enhanced the evening.

Ryan's not here. He's at the buffet with JaMarcus.

Ryan's not here. He's at the buffet with JaMarcus.

The Jets are like a somewhat obnoxious player on a run at the craps tables in Vegas. Loud, drunk on free booze and getting all the breaks.

Whether it’s Darrelle Revis’ impossible interception (which had my Chargers backing son yelling at the refs—so proud) or the sack and strip of Rivers late in the game, everything is coming up Gang Green.

Rex Ryan has this team believing—his antics may be old outside that locker-room, but inside? Those guys will lay down on train tracks for him.

Can you say the same for the Chargers’ Norv Turner?

Maybe the more intriguing question for this weekend will be, can you say the same for the Colts and Jim Caldwell?

I’m probably reading more into it then there really is, but we know the team was angry when they handed a win to the Jets. You wonder if that hurts a coach in the locker-room.

On the other hand, it could very well feed this team just as easily.

It’s fitting that the monster that the Colts created is going to be there in their own house, feet up on the table when they show up to play for the AFC title.

There is a ton at play in that game—of course the Colts aim to prove the Jets would have fallen victim to them had everyone played in Week 16.

The Jets will do what they have done both games prior in these playoffs—control the clock, run the ball. Sanchez must limit his mistakes as he has for the last month.

The Colts don’t have a great rush defense. The Jets should be able to move the ball on them and keep Manning off the field.

We know Manning needs little to no time to score though. And sure, Revis can shut Wayne down again but as we saw yesterday with Gates and Floyd, that doesn’t stop a passing offense.

The Jets need to pressure Manning like they pressure Rivers and have a few balls drop their way.

Like that streaking player at the Vegas tables, so far they all have.

Everything's coming up Sanchez! Will it next week too?

Everything's coming up Sanchez! Will it next week too?

Some will say their luck must come to an end. Everyone will say there is no way they can beat the Colts. Just as they said there was no way they could be the Chargers or the Bengals.

Me? I like their chances Sunday and wouldn’t bet against them.

I also wouldn’t be anymore shocked by a loss than I am when I see the formerly hot craps shooter leaning against a wall, busted and trying not to get sick.

Of course, the NFC Championship is a complete snore by comparison.

Favre? Back in the playoffs as a Viking, not a Packer? The Saints, in the Championship game with a Done full of excited Cajuns?

Yeah who wants to tune into THAT?

The Colts/Jets game could completely fall apart in the opening quarter if the Jets defense stumbles but Vikings/Saints looks like next week’s Gunfight at the OK Corral*.

Brees has so many weapons, including Reggie Bush who had the game of his life this weekend. Offensively you know they can move the ball, even against a red-hot defense like Minnesota has right now.

Meanwhile, His Royal Favreness just keeps making Sidney Rice into the

Win a Super Bowl Brett - just no more 'Pants on the Floor' please

Win a Super Bowl Brett - just no more 'Pants on the Floor' please

player I hoped he would be. Rice, finally injury free, could take a huge step back if Favre retires after this season.

But for now, just amazing. The play—could have been the second or third touchdown—where Rice threw a block, fell down, got up, ran his route and caught a touchdown should be shown to every athlete from any sport as an example of playing for the whole play.

Just amazing. And they didn’t even need Adrian Peterson to do it, though he played pretty well.

This will come down to two things.

First, whether the Saints defense—which slapped the Arizona Cardinals around pretty good—can stifle Favre’s magic.

Second, who wins the trench warfare along the Saints offensive line and the Vikings defensive line. For the love of God, someone put a body (or four) on Jared Allen, OK?

The Saints have to give Brees to find his receivers as they run their routes and the Vikings looked very good at getting to the quarterback against Dallas yesterday.

One thing is for sure—this will be another great weekend of football and regardless of the outcome I have high hopes for a great Super Bowl Sunday as well. 

*There was no gunfight this week – there were three St Valentines Day Massacres and a Bar Brawl, but no shootout. Dallas and Arizona really didn’t even look like they were in their opponent’s class during their games.

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The Thundering Blurb Show – 1/13

Click here to listen to the Thundering Blurb Show for 1/13.

As has been the habit the last couple of weeks, there’s so much more than the playoffs to talk about. Don’t worry, we talk plenty of playoffs in the last half of the show.

It’s just hard to stop talking about everything else. 

Like Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson.

We kick off the show with that conversation. Listen, when I’m not wearing my analyst hat, I wear a green hat. I love the Jets and Darrelle Revis is an amazing cornerback.

But I really cannot fault the selection of Woodson. As I wrote in an article both for the Blurb and Bleacher Report, both players are worthy and a lot of people arguing (on both sides) are ignoring the abilities of the other player.

As always I think we make more noise about it than the players do—hell Revis even voted for Woodson in the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year vote.

After that, we’re on to Pete Carroll/Lane Kiffin/USC/Seattle/Tennessee.

Listen, Jemele Hill said it very well here on ESPN.com - don’t hate the player, hate the game.

And this is the game—coaches will leave when they want, how they want. Right or wrong, that’s the truth.

I don’t like the way Carroll appears to be fleeing USC right before sanctions hit. I don’t like that USC staff didn’t return phone calls to recruits during the tumultuous weekend when everyone was sure he was already gone.

I don’t like the way Kiffin is leaving Tennessee pretending he ‘gave it his all’. I also dislike the fact that players are trapped when coaches are not.

But it’s the way it is. And until the NCAA changes something any player needs to remember that.

By the way—does USC really want a guy who was AT USC when Bush was allegedly getting paid, was recruiting Joe McKnight (fresh off his own issues) and comes to LA trailing six infractions?

At least six we know about.

Speaking of things needing to change – the Rooney Rule is a joke. It’s got a noble aim, but when Seattle can skirt the rules and get patted on the back for it by the Fritz Pollard Alliance who manages the Rule.

“Our position is, if Pete Carroll comes there as the head coach, he will only be in charge of the 53-man football roster,” Wooten said. “That’s the extent of his authority. Because of their commitment to swear that to us, we have agreed to let them interview Leslie Frazier.

“They can hire Pete Carroll if they want. But he cannot be anything more than a head coach. He does not have control of the draft. He does not have control of the trades. He does not have the last word on anything other than the 53 men he puts out on that field each and every week.”

Really guys? Come on.

Fact is, the Seahawks skirted the rule. Like Kiffin though, I really don’t blame them. If you can get away with something, you do if it will help you win.

That’s the way things are. Until something changes.

Also, I think Carroll is GM in about three years tops assuming he’s still there. Which makes this a bigger joke.

For what it’s worth, I still say this all ends badly for the whole bunch. I don’t feel great about Carroll’s chances in Seattle, I think Kiffin will win but the Trojans may end up in even more trouble and we can already see recruits for the Volunteers fleeing so we know where that’s going.

We wrap things up with playoff talk for all for games and—as is often the case—we run a bit over the 60 minute mark.

Enjoy!

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NFL Defensive Player Of the Year: Revis vs Woodson

Woodson ran away with the voting like he ran away with INTs this year

Woodson ran away with the voting like he ran away with INTs this year

You can’t be all that surprised that Green Bay Packer vet Charles Woodson won the DPOY award today. Nor should anyone be surprised that supporters of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis feel he was shortchanged.

Fact is—as far as I am concerned at least— either player was worthy of the honor.

As I have been watching the back and forth on message boards, twitter and various other places, there have been some real fallacies being bandied about by both sides.

Here are a few and my takes on them.

How can you give the DPOY to a guy whose defensive squad gave up 45 points?

Frankly the fact that the Packers got torched is irrelevant. Does Revis take the lion’s share of the blame when the Jets got lit up by the Patriots in Week 11?

No, and it’s silly to consider it. Granted, it wasn’t 45 points but the point is that no player—even the DPOY—can make up for an entire defensive scheme that fails. There’s is only so much one man can do.

Now if you want to argue that Woodson failed to shut down receiver Larry Fitzgerald (6-82-2), that argument holds some water. I’d counter that Fitz benefited from some of the terrible officiating on the touchdowns, as did Ochocinco against Revis, though to little effect.

But you can’t pin the whole defensive collapse on Woodson, especially when he still manages to make plays like a huge ball strip.

The defensive squad sucked and Woodson struggled. But one game does not wipe away a great season, just as it wouldn’t/shouldn’t for Revis.

Revis doesn’t have impact in all phases of the defensive game.Also composed as doesn’t tackle well, can’t support the run and has no sacks.

The last one is true, but that’s because the Jets don’t blitz with Revis. You can argue that they aren’t because he’s not effective at it but the only people who really know the truth are the Jets coaching staff.

However, Revis has played well in various roles in the past. This year, the Jets had a very specific role in mind for him. They knew that he could be left isolated on any single wide receiver and eliminate that player from the game.

He was also often on a vertical threat which means he is less likely to be involved in run defense or gather tackle stats on short passes. He just wasn’t in a position to accumulate those in bunches.

So don’t mistake how he was used by the Jets with what he is capable of.

That being said, when it comes to pure stats Charles Woodson has it all over Revis. That can’t be argued. However, you can argue that this is because of how the Jets used him more than his inherent ability.

Also, frankly I would bet opposing Offensive Coordinators and Quarterbacks were less afraid of Woodson than Revis. Which means they tried him more, and he had the opportunity to pad the INT stats.

The voting is too early.

This is an off-shoot of the ‘Packers gave up 45 points’ thread and I’m not totally sure I agree with it.

On the one hand, one great game or bad game shouldn’t impact the voting that much. If Woodson or Revis or Sharper had a top notch season, a bad game in the playoffs shouldn’t negate that.

Also, say Revis or Woodson had a great season. They’re sure things as DPOY—or at least as sure as these things are usually. And then a player—anyone really—gets ultra-hot in the playoffs.

Don’t care who it is, name anyone. Assume he didn’t stand out in the regular season that much though—plenty of players fill the bill on all the playoff teams.

Anyway, Playoff Stud (as I will call him) gets hot and is a beast in the playoffs, doing amazing things that make your eyes pop.

Does that mean Playoff Stud deserves to be named DPOY? Remember, it’s Player of the Year, not Playoffs, not Week, not hour.

Sure, maybe this is a bit of hyperbole and a little off the subject, but why muddy the waters? If we want to celebrate a great playoff series by a player (offense or defense) have a Defensive/Offensive Player of the Playoffs award.

I don’t know we need to muddy waters by adding more games into the mix. If you can’t decide by Week 17…

Finally there’s this:

Charles Woodson feasted on a few terrible teams.

I can’t argue that anyone who gets to play Detroit twice a year isn’t coming out ahead. The Inceptasaurous Cutler-led Bears isn’t a bad game for a  corner to be in either.

There are two things wrong with this argument though.

First, you play who is in front of you. It’s kind of a tired response but it’s also a true one. Woodson doesn’t schedule the games, he just shows up.

And he didn’t exactly light Chicago up in Week 1 (two tackles) or the Lions in Week 6 (three tackles).

He did go off in the other games in those match ups as well as against a then-awful Cleveland team and the sad-sack rams. On the other hand, he also had big games against the Bengals and the Cowboys.

Dovetailing off of this, Revis saw his fair share of cream puffs. Carolina in Week 12 with Delhomme imploding yet again. Oakland in Week 7 with the new Ryan Leaf aka JaMarcus Russell at the helm. The Bills twice. Tampa Bay.

So let’s not start pointing fingers here. Everyone had their favorable matchups. They played who they played. I’m not about to knock anyone for that.

You can make a case that Woodson rarely saw a top wideout aside from Calvin Johnson, but we’re getting into territory again that involves defensive schemes.

I didn’t play that card against Revis, I won’t against Woodson. They don’t always put him on the Ochocincos or Sidney Rice’s of the world. Maybe it’s because he can’t always keep up. But it’s also because of scheme in my opinion.

I won’t ding either of them for that.

These awards are always ripe for controversy and debate. I’m actually more shocked this has gotten the debate going in a far more fervent fashion than Cadillac Williams being ignored for the Comeback Player of the Year for NFL Poster Boy Tom Brady.

And consider this, especially Jets fans—for Revis it’s only just begun. Think about what he could be down the road once he has the opportunity to add to some already impressive skills.

I have a feeling Revis will get some more chances down the road. That may be little comfort right now—until of Rex Ryan turns this into a motivational tool for the team to wreck the Chargers.

Here Revis looks alot like he supporters feel today

Here Revis looks alot like he supporters feel today

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NFL Late Hits – Playoffs Week 1

An amazing weekend of football—well ok, a decent weekend of football with an amazing finish to the last game.

This week’s edition of the Gunfight at the OK Corral is brought to you by the Cardinals and Packers—two teams who might be watching a lot of tape on their own defenses in the coming months although Arizona should probably do that sooner since they have a game this weekend.

Hard to imagine that a team scored 45 and LOST, but that’s what happened as QB Aaron Rodgers lost the ball and the Cardinals ran it back for a game winning touchdown.

Which team is the Earps and Doc Holliday and which is the Clantons and McLaury is up to you.

However, it would have been awesome if Rodgers had winked at the Cards Defense and said ‘You’re a daisy if you do!’

You can argue the penalty (or rather non-penalty) at the end all you want—it won’t change the outcome. Also, holding the ball a bit too long to try and make something happen shouldn’t diminish a great job by Rodgers bringing his team back.

Thanks goodness for it too, because the rest of this weekend was pretty anemic, excitement-wise.

I mean, as a Jets fan that game excited me but it really broke down close to what I thought might happen. Ditto the Cowboys/Eagles game and to an extent the Ravens/Pats game—although you always half-expect a crazy comeback by Brady and company.

So seeing a shootout—even if it represents a complete failure on the defensive side of the ball by both teams—involving a fantastic comeback, was a relief.

Back to the call/non-call to end the game. I know there are many penalties which the referees miss every game. However, this weekend seemed chock full of horrid officiating.

You might flag me for bitching about a team you know I like, but those two Darelle Revis pass interference penalties were completely ridiculous, as were the non-calls for offensive pass-interference by Ochocinco.

There were terrible calls throughout all four games though and even if the NFL has explained the non-facemask on Rodgers, it doesn’t take away from some bad calls and non-calls across the board.

Nor the ignored helmet-to-helmet shot two plays earlier, but I digress.

The fact is, we shouldn’t be talking about this every week, yet I feel like we do. The officiating has been shaky entirely too often during the past season. I don’t know what needs to change exactly, but something needs changing.

The other large piece of news which wouldn’t go away this weekend was the new that USC Coach Pete Carroll was wasn’t was wasn’t might might not leave the school to coach the Seattle Seahawks.

Now, I like USC and have liked what Carroll has done with the program by and large. But almost everything about this has been mishandled and reeks of floundering desperation.

First, this looks a lot like Carroll heading out just before NCAA sanctions hit.

The NCAA has been looking closer and closer at USC in general and that was before the OJ Mayo/Tim Floyd basketball fiasco embarrassed them by pointing out how flat out stupid the one and done rule is for college basketball.

For USC football though, this has been brewing since Reggie Bush left, trailing questions as to whether he took some illegal payola while at the school.

You want to see a Coach stick with his team—the guys he recruited—and try to overcome this, not to mention the four loss season they just finished up.

Instead, Carroll leaves, leaving more mayhem than Godzilla in his wake.

The program is in utter chaos. Some of that is USC’s own fault. Here’s a tip folks and it’s free: when your coach is rumored to be leaving and your recently signed recruits start calling.

CALL. THEM. BACK.

For some reason, recruits couldn’t get a call back from coaches at USC. Now, I get the staff might have had precious few answers, but even to call and say ‘I have precious few answers, it’s in flux’ would have been something.

At the very least, call the recruits and tell them that despite the change you look forward to working with them, that whatever coach comes will continue on the traditions USC has built on, yada yada yada….

Give them something, even if it’s all just nothing. But not calling them back?

You might as well call them anyway, insult their parents and tell them to ’suck it’. In the cases of top recruits, you did that anyway by not responding.

I hope it works out for Carroll, I really do. However, I just have this feeling that this is going to end badly for all involved. Will Carroll’s rah-rah exuberance play with million dollar athletes? Will it be as easy recruiting vets as it was high school kids?

Hard to say, but my gut says no. Could be wrong, wouldn’t mind if I was. Just suspect I may not be.

I’ll probably return to this in the next few days for more on this including my feelings on the skirting of the Rooney Rule by Seattle and the challenges Carroll will face.

But for now, I’m going back to watch more Packers—Cardinals highlights and bask in the gunfire

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The Thundering Blurb Show – 1/6

Thursday mornings are always the toughest morning of my week. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had half a brain and went to bed immediately after the Blurb Show, but I never do.

Instead I hang around Jared and Ray’s chatroom and occasionally call and stay up even longer—as I did last night when I unwisely stayed on the phone until midnight.

In the interests of not letting that go to waste, feel free to check last night’s What’s Your Fantasy show. I show up about the 15 minute mark and stay until the end of the first hour or so. We cover some Football Jesus—sorry Tim Tebow— discuss why USC couldn’t win more National Championships with players like Maualuga, Matthews, Cushing and Sanchez on the team and talk about our biggest surprises and disappointments in Fantasy.

Meanwhile on the Blurb show itself, I talked about JaMarcus Russell’s Vegas trip and how he’s likely the biggest quarterback bust ever at this point—whether that will make Ryan Leaf happy or angry is debateable.

I also talk a little about Black Monday, the classy way the Skins ditched Jim Zorn (and how he was never the guy they wanted anyway) as well as the wholesale slaughters in Chicago and Buffalo and what they could mean.

Before the break I cover the rumored moves of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills to Los Angeles. I don’t think it likely and it isn’t because LA ‘lost’ the Rams and Raiders, which had a lot more to do in my opinion with ownership greed than lackadaisical fan support.

After the break and a lineup question, I go on to break down the upcoming playoff games in the order they play.

So it’s NYJ @ CIN, PHI @ DAL for Saturday and BAL @ NE and GB @ ARI on Sunday.

Thanks to everyone for listening all season long. Drop me a line any time at thunderingblurb@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter.

NFL Late Hits Week 17

Apologies for the tardiness of this entry – yesterday was a sea of catch-up work, pinched back nerves and getting back on schedule.

Of course, the talk on any message board I go to seems to still be circling the ‘Bengals/Colts must go to hell for giving the Jets a free pass’.

It’s understandable. While I submit there is an excellent chance the Jets could have (and this weekend will) beat a Bengals team they match up with pretty well, I have a hard time assuming the same about the Colts game.

The same Colts team gunning for individual achievements (Manning’s game streak, Wayne and Clark hitting 100 catches) despite ignoring the Holy Grail of team records—the undefeated season.

You say tomato, they say tomahto.

Of course all this is great—it gives analysts, radio hosts and message board denizens a talking point which could keep them going for a long time.

Meanwhile we’re just left with the *yawn* playoffs to occupy us until Indianapolis shuts us up with a Super Bowl or vindicates many of us by losing early once again after instituting their usual ’sit the starters policy’.

Several stories are there to talk about besides the angry mobs of Colts fans, though.

Coaching Vacancies

It was actually sort of quiet until the Bills fired everyone on the staff, followed today by the Bears ejecting all their offensive coaches.

Of course, the story on Black Monday which stuck with me the most was the incredibly classy way the Washington Redskins got rid of Jim Zorn.

I realize they ‘didn’t want to wait any longer to start building a winner’ but 4am? And then making him clean out his office immediately?

Listen, can you expect anything else from a franchise suing a portion of it’s fan base? Yes, from a legal and business standpoint, I know they can sue anyone who signed a contract. And yes, they settled with the Grandmother they were suing. And people will use the economy to wriggle out of plans they just don’t want anymore.

I’m not saying they just let fans walk away willy nilly—but in this economy, you need to have some sympathy. They took way too long to show much.

So no, it isn’t a shock that Zorn was fired early and then escorted out before the sun rose.

Still, the firing itself is no shock, as Zorn was dead man walking when he had play-calling duties yanked. The fact that Mike Shannahan was waiting with pen poised over contract  sped it up a bit I’m sure.

I guess you could argue the same for either Bears OC Ron Turner or the entire staff for the Bills.

The Bills imploded all season long—repeatedly too which is impressive. Given that we began the season talking about changing offensive coordinators, was there really all that much optimism?

There actually was, as many analysts I read were talking the Bills up as #3 or (if they were smoking crack) #2 in the AFC East.

I didn’t share it, so that the Bills have blown the staff up and are looking to potentially blow the team up as well is no stunning revelation to me.

The culling of the Bears offensive staff isn’t that big a shocker either given how bad that squad played. From letting the offensive line remain mediocre to not finding a way to surround Cutler with talent, the Bears offense has be de-fanged all year long.

At some point, someone had to answer for it and Turner was that guy. He’s been there for five years and really,  was any one of those really exceptional?

At some point the buck stops there—however keep in mind that after the axe falls on the OC, the Head Coach is usually next up.

Another underwhelming season in 2010 and Lovie Smith may find himself blown out in the Windy City.

It’s barely two days from the end of the regular season and we anxiously await many hirings and several more potential firings (has Cleveland’s Eric Mangini dodged his bullet?).

While I expect it to be calmer this year after 11 changes last season, you never know with the NFL.

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