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Does an Eagles Loss Mean McNabb is a Choker?

There is a lot of chatter that Donovan McNabb–who went 28 of 47 for 375 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception but threw a few poor passes on a critical drive late in the fourth quarter—is a choker.

They point to his record of 1-4 in NFC Championship games. Many also point to the fact that McNabb not only threw interceptions but, literally, threw up in the Superbowl against the Patriots.

McNabb a Choker?

McNabb a Choker?

What’s being forgotten is that, to put it very simply, getting to the Superbowl is hard. Very hard. Go ask Barry Sanders, Dan Fouts, or Chris Carter. Winning it is even more difficult. Go ask Dan Marino or Jim Kelly.

It’s funny—we as fans and the media have the ability to cut down players and coaches if they don’t win it all. What’s forgotten is how difficult it is to consistently get to the playoffs and championship games. Afterall, at the end of every season, only one team is happy.

Does McNabb deserve some blame for last weekend’s loss? Sure. Anytime a team loses in spectacular fashion, scrutiny ensues—and it’s often understandable. It may be very possible that McNabb is a quarterback that folds under pressure—I won’t deny that. Some people have ice water in their veins—some don’t. But don’t forget that McNabb was key to the Eagles being able to reach five Championship games.

Let’s too not forget about McNabb’s supporting cast. McNabb is one of the only quarterbacks in recent memory to almost never, sans Terrell Owens, have a legitimate number one receiver. And when Owens came on board, the Eagles went to the Superbowl. Surprise, surprise?

The Eagles also need a big back for short yardage. The idea that Andy Reid believes that Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter can carry the load on 3rd or 4th and 1 is absurd. The Eagles need what the Panthers or Giants have—a reliable 250 pound workhouse to help shore up their short yardage game.

So don’t put it all on McNabb’s back. It’s true that the quarterback gets the most scrutiny. But let’s remember that football is the ultimate team game. And, though McNabb’s last drive wasn’t stellar, the ball still hit Kevin Curtis in the hands of that pivotal fourth down play.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Dennis Green Now Deserves Respect

Green Deserves Some Respect

Green Deserves Some Respect

As the Arizona Cardinals prepare to host a playoff game, one man seems to be forgotten–Dennis Green.

Green was hired in January of 2004 and fired in January of 2007.  But during his tenure in Arizona, Green helped to build the team that is now one step away from the Superbowl.

Green came on board in January of 2004.   In early 2005, the Cardinals signed Kurt Warner to a one year deal, before signing a three year extension on February 14th, 2006.  And though prior to this season Warner had had an up and down career in Arizona, the Cardinals brass always knew that they had a competent quarterback on their bench.  And it certainly shows now.

In Green’s first season in Arizona, though he knew he had an incredible receiver in Anquan Boldin, Green’s first selection was used on WR Larry Fitzgerald.  Green had a personal relationship with Fitzgerald, as he was a ball boy in Minnesota when Green coached the Vikings.

In the second round and third rounds, the Cardinals picked up Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett.

The 2005 draft saw the Cardinals pick up Antrelle Rolle, who is now paying dividends.  And in 2006, the Cardinals signed Colts running back Edgerrin James in free agency.  Though James has not been effective prior to this late season run, it goes to show that James still has gas in the tank and was indeed a good pickup by the Cardinals.

This isn’t to say that current head coach Ken Wisenhunt hasn’t done a good job–he has.  He has helped to reform a losing culture in Arizona.  And certainly, quarterback Matt Leinart hasn’t worked out just yet, but there’s no doubt that Dennis Green needs some appreciation for what’s happening in Arizona.  He helped stock that team with talent–we certainly know he has an eye for talent from his days in Minnesota.  Though he’ll always be famous for his rant after the Sunday Night loss to the Chicago Bears in 2006, Green deserves to get some due respect for the Cardinals’ ability to turn around their 2008 season.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cardinals and NFL Parity are Alive and Well

With Arizona’s big win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night, one thing was clear as day to me.  Parity is alive and well in the NFL–and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Cardinals Equal NFL Parity

Cardinals Equal NFL Parity

First, let’s start with the good.  The Cardinals are a team that hadn’t hosted a home playoff game since, quite literally, Harry Truman was President–in 1947.  Arizona was mired in the muck of a suffocating losing culture.  The Cards–who were everyone’s “surprise/breakout team” for the past five years–continously found ways to disappoint and live far below expectations.

The idea that the Cardinals can turn that negativity into inspiration and take the entire league by storm is an immense accomplishment.  When the Cardinals didn’t take Terrell Suggs, people laughed.  When Matt Leinart seemingly struggled in Arizona, people moaned.  And when Edgerrin James appeared to be starting his retirement early, fans were filled with apathy.  But now, the Cardinals–who have never sniffed a Superbowl title–are now just one game away from playing in one.  That is the power of the NFL, and that’s why we love this game.  An underdog can become top dog with hard work and preparation.

But there’s a downside.  A big one.  While it’s great to see a team like Arizona go from rags to riches–what does that say about the rest of the league?  Afterall, the Cardinals only won nine games this season.  Contrast that to the Titans–who won thirteen–and were bounced out of the playoffs after just one game.

Let’s also not forget how the Cardinals finished the year.  They lost four of their last six games–their two wins coming against the Rams and the Seahawks; their losses all coming against playoff teams (except the Patriots, who should’ve went to the playoffs with an 11-5 record).

So how does a nine win team go into Carolina–a team that was undefeated at home–and make the Panthers look like an expansion team?  Well, certainly film study helped a lot.  It was clear that the defensive backs of Arizona were reading Jake Delhomme and properly jumping the routes of the receivers.  Arizona, over the past few games, has also developed a running attack which has served them well in the absence of Anquan Boldin.

And while the famous words of “any given Sunday” are always relevant–this wasn’t supposed to happen.  While no team “deserves” anything, based upon the way the Cardinals played in the regular season, do they “deserve” to be in the NFC Championship game?  This is the same team that benefited tremendously from a weak NFC West division.

Unlike the 2001 New England Patriots who were a genuine Cinderella story–starting quarterback Drew Bledose goes down, Tom Brady steps in, and the team doesn’t miss a beat–the Cardinals weren’t a strong team throughout the season.  In 2001, the New England Patriots took a team with zero star quality and simply out played and outcoached their competition each week.  And while they were disrespected every week and never given a chance all the way to the Superbowl, you never got the sense that the Patriots didn’t earn their right to be there.  One has to wonder this with the Cardinals.  Aside from two wonderful playoff games, have they earned their way into the NFC Championship game?

And therein lies the issue with parity.  It’s wonderful because it allows competition in every division and at every position.  It’s not so wonderful, though, because the difference between the great teams and the okay teams is quite negligible, and, unlike in decades past, a team of perrenial losers can beat a team destined for the Superbowl.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFL Predictions, Part 1

1.  If Baltimore beats the Titans, I think they’re a lock for the Superbowl.

Ed Reed

Ed Reed

I don’t want to make too much of this–afterall, as great as Flacco has played this season, he is still a rookie and prone to “rookie mistakes”–but the Ravens are the scariest team in the NFL.  We could be witnessing a team that channels the 2007 Giants–a squad that gets hot at the right time and rides a strong defensive wave (coupled with a good showing by their young quarterback) all the way to the Superbowl.

It’s not as if the Ravens haven’t been to the Superbowl before on the back on their defense.  But this year, their offense is actually showing up.  And that’s very scary.

2.  The Steelers will Dominate the San Diego Chargers on Sunday

I don’t forsee this being a game similar in vein to when these two teams met earlier in the year.  I think Sproles will inject some speed and creativity into the offense, getting lots of YAC on screen passes in particular.  But I expect that Pittsburgh defense to be in full force.  I think they will shut down the running attack and blitz Rivers until he throws up the white flag of surrender.  As good as Phiilip Rivers has been this season, I expect to see Polamalu to get a turnover and return it for a touchdown.

3.  Tony Dungy Will Retire

By early next week, we should hear whether Dungy will retire or come back to the Colts in 2009.  I think he’s completely done.  Dungy has stated before that football isn’t his only passion, and one would think that such a serene man would like to spend more time with his family.  With Jim Caldwell already lined up to replace him, Dungy will step aside and finally let someone else run the show in Indianapolis.  Soon after the season ends, Favre will follow Dungy into the sunset, as well.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Black Monday Approaches…

The Monday following week 17 in the NFL.  They call it black Monday, as well intentioned head coaches across the league get axed.  And with the head goes the body, as coordinators are subsequently terminated, too.

It’s a dark day for sure, but a necessary evil.  The firing of a coach, and the hiring of a new one, can bring hope to a team and city that is desperately fighting to stay competitive.  Let’s see who’s 2009 just might begin in the unemployment line:

1.  Marvin Lewis:  The head coach of the Bengals was hired a few years ago, and it seemed like a perfect fit.  Having coached for the dominant Ravens as a defensive coordinator, he seemed to be a slam dunk to help ressurect this putrid franchise.  His high moment was leading the Bengals to an 11-5 record, but since then he has been an enabler.  He encouraged Chad Johnson’s absurd antics, then got upset about them years later.  He consistently gave guys like Chris Henry second chances, and helped build a criminal reputation for Cincinnati.

Verdict:  Lewis should be fired.

2.  Herman Edwards

Edwards Thinks About His Future

Edwards Thinks About His Future

Edwards did a solid job while he was in New York.  He came to Kansas City and inherited a good team from Dick Vermeil.  But injuries to key players like Priest Holmes and Trent Green, along with retirements of guys such as Willie Roaf, have hurt this team’s development.  The regression of Larry Johnson has been hard to watch, and Herm certainly isn’t going to win many games with a combo of Croyle and Thigpen.  Afterall, you “play to win the game.”

Verdict:  A new GM coming in spells doom for Edwards.  Fired.

3.  Romeo Crennel:  Romeo was brought in to add some respect to this franchise.  Coming off three Superbowl wins as a coordinator in New England, Romeo certainly had the hardware to earn respect from coaches and players alike.  But in four seasons with Cleveland, he has only had one winning season.  And though he arrived to a team that was devoid of any talent at all, his team this season has signifcantly underacheived.  And with reports that defensive lineman Shaun Smith cold-cocked Brady Quinn last week, one has to wonder if Crennel has lost the team.  His lack of discipline towards Edwards’ drops, too, is cause for concern.

Verdict:  Dead man walking.

4.  Rod Marinelli:  What more can you say?  Awful team.  Devoid of talent.  And a coach seemingly living in denial.  He seems like a good enough guy, but this franchise is atrocious.

Verdict:  Doesn’t completely deserve to be fired, as he was doomed to fail from the start.  This entire franchise, though, needs to be blown up.  From the owner down to the valet.

5.  Tom Cable & Jim Haslett:  These interim coaches will, of course, get a raw deal.  Inheriting poor teams after their bosses were fired mid-season, Cable and Haslett don’t have a whole lot to work with.

Verdict:  Definitely fired.  Especially Cable.  It’s Al Davis, remember?

6.  Wade Phillips:  This is completely dependent on Sunday.  If they win and get in, all could be forgiven.  But you know Jerry Jones wants to win–and win now.  He’s dying to win another Superbowl, and the Cowboys have disapponted for years.  Phillips is a nice enough guy, but he’s soft.  That’s his reputation.  He’s not tough enough to handle TO’s diva-esque drama.  And the team overall has too much talent to seem so mediocre.  Someone has to be the fall guy.

Surprise Verdict:  Fired.

Who do you expect to be fired come Monday morning?

December 27, 2008 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment