Who would’ve thought in August that the Giants would be playing this weekend while the Jets would be home?
Plus, are the Browns making a quarterback change? Is Matt Flynn the answer? Who is the ideal general manager candidate in the entire league? And why did the Bengals turn around so fast?
We answer it all in our weekly Sizzle and Fizzle …
It’s rather amazing. Victor Cruz was undrafted. He was injured all of last season. Nobody mentioned his name when the Giants let Steve Smith go. Now, it is more than fair to say the Giants wouldn’t be playing the Falcons on FOX this weekend without him.
Cruz’s hands and his ability to provide the “YAC” (yards after the catch) have been game-changing for Eli Manning and the Giants. He burned the Jets in Week 16 with a devastating 99-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Cruz skipped all over the hapless Cowboys last week to put the Giants in the playoffs. Perhaps his defining “I’m here to stay” moment was when Cruz, making $450,000 this season, out-grappled the Eagles big ticket pick-up Nnamdi Asomugha early in the season for a touchdown. It proved to be a harbinger of things to come, with the plucky Giants being much more successful than the “Dream Team.”
Cruz joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz on Tuesday and said he thinks the Giants can make a run to the Super Bowl, explaining, “We are hitting our stride at the right time. The key is we are healthy now on both sides of the ball.”
Cruz has managed to stay incredibly humble and focused while gaining a ton of attention. On Monday night, he was dancing his now-trademark salsa sitting courtside at a Knicks game. On Tuesday, the New Jersey native made the day of Seton Hall basketball coach Kevin Willard and his players when Cruz came into their locker room before a huge game against UConn, a game in which Seton Hall would go on to upset the Huskies.
Match-up wise this weekend, I don’t think the Falcons have an answer for his big-play ability. You know Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride loves to throw the ball. The Eli-to-Cruz combination and the Giants pass rush will lead New York to a win over Atlanta.
Or perhaps I should’ve put Matt Flynn’s agent here instead, because Flynn earned himself some serious cash last Sunday with his record-setting performance against the Lions. Matt Flynn isn’t going to get paid off of one game against the Lions. He isn’t going to get paid off of what he did last year against New England, even though these great games certainly aid the cause. Flynn is ready to lead and win and will be a successful starter in the league next season. Flynn joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz on Tuesday and told us he feels ready to lead a team because of what he has learned through the years under Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, specifically citing Rodgers’ incredible “leadership, personality, knowledge of the game and game-plan, and footwork.”
We talk to Mike McCarthy every week on our show. It was pretty neat hearing the stoic McCarthy gush about Flynn’s performance, saying “The rest of the country got to see what we see in practice every day.” McCarthy and Rodgers have told us through the years that Flynn is a bright player who is a major addition to the quarterback room and McCarthy’s offseason quarterback school.
Flynn is a free agent at the end of the year. While the Packers could franchise Flynn (and hope he doesn’t sign the tender) to get compensation, Rodgers and McCarthy have groomed Flynn for this opportunity to go elsewhere. I think he would be an ideal upgrade in places like Cleveland, Washington or Seattle.
The Ravens director of player personnel is rightly a hot item with so many general manager vacancies in the league. With his sensational work in the draft and his incredible reputation for evaluating talent, DeCosta has been linked to Chicago and St. Louis. Remember, Ozzie Newsome trusts him and gives him a lot of responsibility with the Ravens. It might take a lot for DeCosta to leave. I think it is worth it. But my gut says the great DeCosta never leaves his ideal situation in Baltimore.
In talking to Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on the SiriusXM Blitz, he made it very clear that Christian Ponder is his quarterback of the present and future and said simply that the Vikings will not draft a quarterback with their first-round draft pick. For the record, I still believe in Ponder and he will get better. It would help if the Vikings could get better around him.
On Wednesday, when Greg McElroy did a radio interview in Alabama, he rightly and appropriately bashed the character and commitment in the Jets locker room this season. The minute I saw the quotes and heard the audio, one thing instantly popped into my mind.
How is it possible that the third-string rookie quarterback who spent the season on injured reserve shows more leadership than Mark Sanchez?
It’s en vogue to blame Brian Schottenheimer for his play selection and fit with the Jets. I’ve been ahead of the curve on that for years, and detailed why he needed to go here on FOXSports.com two weeks ago. Santonio Holmes’ act of quitting on his teammates was repulsive. The defense didn’t make plays in big spots. But when you look at the locker room and on-field shortcomings of a team that had legit Super Bowl aspirations according to the head coach, it starts with Sanchez.
The day before McElroy did his interview in Alabama, Sanchez spoke to The Michael Kay Show in his weekly radio spot. Kay asked all of the tough and appropriate questions. You could’ve slept through Sanchez’s vanilla responses. You would’ve thought the Jets had a fine year where they achieved. It would’ve been nice to hear Sanchez talk about how inferior play and a bad mix of characters would not be tolerated.
What we saw every Sunday on the field this year was Sanchez regress in front of our very eyes. The decision making was terrible. The interceptions (specifically against Denver, New England, Baltimore and Oakland) were at crucial moments and changed momentum. His play was horrendous in the final three weeks of the season against the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins. The accuracy wasn’t there. You thought Sanchez was going to take a step forward in Year 3. Instead, the Jets now have to think long and hard about whether or not he can lead them to a Super Bowl.
"This is going to be a real interesting offseason for Mark Sanchez, because he is going to have to be — eventually, he is going to have to be the guy that kind of turns this locker room around," said WR Derrick Mason, who was demoted and eventually traded away from the Jets in October.
"Obviously you want to make your quarterback the leader, but if it’s not in him, you can’t force it," Mason said. "Not to say it’s not in Mark Sanchez, but if it’s not in him at this time in his career, then you can’t force it."
What perhaps you didn’t see was the lack of leadership. The Jets let a lot of leaders walk away over the last two seasons. We are talking about guys like Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, Tony Richardson, Damien Woody, Shaun Ellis and Kris Jenkins. Letting some of these guys go were excellent football decisions. Heck, four of the players on this list are retired. But these cats would’ve never let Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress or Derrick Mason get away with sheer nonsense. You needed guys like Woody, Ellis and Cotchery. The Jets thought Sanchez was ready, coming off of back-to-back AFC title games, to grab a teammate by the throat if need be. According to sources, Sanchez did not show that accountability in the meeting room or practice field. It goes noted that you had members of the offensive line getting in Holmes’ face on Sunday. Ask yourself what Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers would’ve done if they saw an insubordinate teammate loafing in a big spot. Where was Sanchez when Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore went at it earlier this year after Holmes called out the offensive line?
"If he can’t do it vocally, guys respect it even more if you do it by example, and this year he wasn’t able to because he was so up and down, and guys wouldn’t listen to him," Mason said.
Santonio Holmes was called a “cancer” by teammates in the aftermath of Sunday’s debacle. The Jets have 8 million reasons why they are bringing him back. And you can’t just get rid of everyone. Can Sanchez handle Holmes like Brady handled Chad Ochocinco, Randy Moss or Corey Dillon? Will he give him the same treatment Brees gave Jeremy Shockey?
GQ magazine won’t be calling Mark Sanchez to pose this summer. 8-8 quarterbacks don’t get requests. It might be a good time for Sanchez to work on leadership during the offseason program and have his knowledge become truly supreme on the Jets offense. His Jets career is hanging in the balance.
Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens
In talking to Bengals running back Cedric Benson on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday about the Bengals incredible turnaround from the fourth-worst team in football to a playoff squad in one year, Benson offered up a strong take. Benson said, “The difference this year is that there’s no one man above the others like with TO and Chad.” That says it all.
Mike Holmgren says the Browns won’t anoint McCoy as the starter next year. Even though the Browns season was derailed by Peyton Hillis’ selfish act and the Browns have no play-makers at receiver, that’s the correct move. The jury is out on McCoy. Look for the Browns to be in the quarterback business this offseason in a big way, whether it is the draft or free agency. Matt Flynn in the West Coast system he is familiar with makes a lot of sense.