I was talking to Commissioner Goodell last week, and we both expressed how much we missed the NFL Truths. Roger and I would love to see you speak the truth about the NFL and NBA.
A special edition of NFL/NBA Truths:
10. In this video-game era of professional football — let’s call it "The Madden Era" — there’s only one true way to evaluate quarterback play: touchdowns to interceptions.
Passing yards are somewhat irrelevant. So is passing efficiency. The same can be said of ESPN’s newfangled Total QBR. Completion percentage is a good tool for evaluation. But touchdowns vs. interceptions is the best way to measure QB play.
And that’s why Aaron Rodgers is the no-brainer selection for MVP. Drew Brees had a tremendous season. He deserves high praise for surpassing Dan Marino’s single-season record for passing yards. The Saints are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I love Drew Brees.
But Rodgers earned the MVP award. There should not be cowinners. The debate is settled by Rodgers’ amazing 45-6 TD-INT ratio. Brees is at 41-13. Game over.
The league has all but outlawed hitting the quarterback. You can’t touch a receiver beyond 5 yards. The refs are quick to throw a pass-intereference flag. The only way to stop a Madden Era passing offense is with an interception. Tom Brady established the TD-INT gold standard in 2007 when he posted 50-8.
Rodgers isn’t likely to play much Sunday. But let’s say he tosses two TD passes against the Lions and finishes the year 47-6. That’s equal to Brady’s 50-8, in my mind.
9. There was nothing remotely unsportsmanlike about the Saints throwing the ball at the end of their game with the Falcons.
Football fans in Louisiana paid top dollar to be in the Superdome when Brees broke Marino’s record. You have to give your customers what they paid for. Also, by getting the record Monday night, Sean Payton now has more flexibility with how he chooses to use Drew Brees in New Orleans’ final game of the season.
Atlanta had several opportunities to pick up first downs and drain the clock in the fourth quarter. The Falcons couldn’t do it, so they faced Brees and NO’s passing attack. No whining.
8. If you’re looking for a big-city, alleged NBA title-contender to fret about, it’s the Chicago Bulls who have problems, not the Lakers.
There’s no reason to judge the Lakers until Andrew Bynum is in the lineup playing regularly. The Lakers’ 1-2 start is quite understandable considering they’re missing one of the three best centers in the league and they gave away the league’s top sixth man, Lamar Odom. I’m not saying the Lakers, as currently constructed, can compete with the Thunder or even the Clippers. I’m saying there’s no reason to rush to judgment.
Now, the Bulls, I don’t like what I’ve seen from them at all. Carlos Boozer still looks out of place. Rip Hamilton looks old. Derrick Rose is carrying too big a load. The Bulls need to figure out a way to get Kevin Love. He would make the Bulls a serious title contender. Pair Love with Joakim Noah and you have an upgraded modern-day Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn with Derrick Rose playing the role of Isiah Thomas.
I’d give up Boozer, Luol Deng, Omar Asik and a first-round pick for Kevin Love (and maybe Michael Beasley). I’m sure the salaries don’t match and the trade is an impossibility, but the Bulls need Kevin Love to compete with the Heat. Without a roster adjustment, I see the Bulls taking a step back this season.
7. As of right now, the lone threat to the Heat in the East is my Indiana Pacers.
I’m not drunk. I’m not being a shameless homer. The Pacers could be the second-best team in the East. Larry Bird has the only roster that can go athlete for athlete with the Heat. Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, George Hill and Lance Stephenson are not afraid of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Roy Hibbert is a matchup problem for the Heat. Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster will go push for shove with Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.
I’m not a fan of Darren Collison at the point. The Pacers are the only team I can see pushing Miami to six or seven games in the East.
6. Michael Vick deserves credit for the mature way he’s handled Philadelphia’s difficult season.
The test of Vick’s maturity was going to come when the Eagles failed to meet expectations. He has managed to stay focused and productive. He’s remained a positive influence in the locker room. The Eagles are finishing the season strongly. Vick has probably saved Andy Reid’s job. Philly will enter next season as a favorite to win it all.
5. Why aren’t people up in arms about Joey Crawford handing the Knicks a Christmas Day victory over the Celtics?
Boston lost by two points and Crawford’s out-of-control ego ignited two technical fouls on the Celtics. Crawford has already been disciplined by the league for his personal problem with Tim Duncan. Why is Crawford allowed to work as an NBA ref? Why?
Why is Crawford a star? Why do we know his name above all other NBA refs? Refs have egos no different from the players. Crawford thinks he’s a big part of the NBA game. He’s not.
No one pays a dime to see Joey Crawford. He hurts the credibility of the league.
4. There’s a report that Jon Gruden is headed back to the NFL to coach the Rams. If true, ESPN should offer Rex Ryan $8 million a year to replace Gruden. I’m serious.
Rex Ryan is a broadcasting natural. He’s better equipped to analyze and comment on NFL games than he is to coach them. That’s not a knock on Ryan’s ability to coach. It’s a comment on how good he would be in the broadcast booth. He’s the perfect mix of John Madden, Howard Cosell and Charles Barkley.
Ryan would be must-see TV.
As a head coach, Ryan is going up in flames. He’ll probably get fired next year. His trash-talking shtick is blowing up in his face. Players around the league want to shut him up. He’s a walking, talking distraction for his team and instant bulletin-board material for the opposition.
He might as well start his broadcasting career now. It’s his calling.
3. The NFL should designate Charlie Batch as the league-wide backup quarterback. He’s the only consistent, competent backup QB in league history.
Every team that suffers an injury to its starting QB should get one week of Batch. Seriously. Batch shouldn’t have to sit waiting for Big Ben to get hurt. Let Batch play every week for a different team. You could give the Steelers first dibs on Batch when Big Ben goes down. Or maybe there should be a weekly Charlie Batch lottery for teams with QB injuries.
What we know is that Batch should never be a team’s starting quarterback. He’s Manny Mota, the legendary Dodgers pinch-hitter. Batch is perfectly suited to manage an offense for a week or two while the starter is down. One day Batch will probably be a great head coach or NFL general manager.
2. I have the Heat winning 60 of 66 regular-season games this season.
The Heat are the perfect blend of athleticism and basketball intellect. I favor the Thunder in the NBA Finals. But I believe the Heat are going to be a force of nature in the regular season. James and Wade are motivated and focused. Shane Battier was the perfect offseason acquisition. Udonis Haslem is going to have a big season off the bench. Rookie Norris Cole looks like an awesome acquisition.
Obviously there are questions about how James will handle postseason pressure. The bigger question will be how Erik Spoelstra handles strategic duels. Lost in all the James bashing last season was the fact Spoelstra got outcoached by Rick Carlisle in the Finals. Doc Rivers reminded me of this fact Tuesday when he threw out a second-half zone that appeared to put Spoelstra in a coma. The Celtics cut a 20-point deficit to three points and Spoelstra never adjusted.
Good news for Spoelstra is Phil Jackson is retired, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich are working with antiques, Carlisle lost half of his team and Tom Thibodeau doesn’t have the right pieces.
Scotty Brooks vs. Erik Spoelstra is a reenactment of Rich Kotite vs. Art Shell.
1. It blew my mind Wednesday night watching the Heat run consecutive clear-outs for Dwyane Wade in the closing moments of their one-point win over the Bobcats on a night when LeBron James was absolutely sensational and Wade struggled with a foot injury and poor play.
Wade sank the game-winning basket (after a bad turnover on the previous possession). Does this now mean the Heat are officially and irreversibly Wade’s team? If James isn’t the man in the clutch on a night when he is playing lights out and Wade is struggling, in what situation is James the "closer."
Now, I don’t really believe in the "closer" theory. I’ll take a winner over a "closer" every time, and James is a winner. We’ve seen him close, too. But the way that game finished Wednesday night is a clear indication of the pecking order in Miami. It’s Wade’s team.