10. Twice — and sometimes three times — a game, Drew Brees makes a 6-foot mistake, and that’s why the 49ers have a chance to upset the Saints this weekend.
NFL rules strictly forbid the media from discussing Brees’ shortcoming. I’m taking a huge risk revealing to the public the dirty little secret opposing coaches know about The Best Little QB on Bourbon Street.
Because of his stature, impaired downfield vision and need for ego-satiating stats, Brees lobs two or three horrendous passes a game. The key to beating the Saints is securing those gift-wrapped air balls and breaking the serve of New Orleans’ fast-break offense.
The Lions blew their chances, dropping two errant Brees throws. You can blame the sloppy officiating that prevented the Lions from returning a Brees fumble for a touchdown and a commanding 21-7 lead. I blame the Lions for blowing their other opportunities. And so did Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.
Coaches know the truth about Brees. He’s a great player. But the complications of shortness — both physical and mental — leave him vulnerable. In 155 NFL regular-season games, Brees has tossed 146 interceptions, compared with Tom Brady throwing 115 in 161 games.
Again, this is top-secret information outside of coaching circles because the television networks want you to believe you’re watching a once-in-a-lifetime performance. Drew Brees is Dan Marino and Bart Starr rolled into one tiny package!
Don’t get me wrong. I like Brees. He’s excellent. He’s fun to watch. And he appears to have more self-awareness than your average pro athlete. But, like the rest of us, he’s flawed. And I’m at liberty to discuss the flaws that Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers will try to exploit.
9. John Madden’s absence from the broadcasting booth is the reason most football fans have no clue that New Orleans guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are the heirs to the bubble-butt throne of Larry Allen and Nate Newton.
Allen and Newton formed a devastating tandem on Dallas’ 1995 Super Bowl team, a squad that overcame Barry Switzer’s coaching to win it all. Madden’s colorful commentary made Allen and Newton stars.
Broadcasters no longer talk about interior-line play so no one even knows who the best guards and centers are today. All we hear about is the left tackle. Nicks and Evans are the key to New Orleans’ offense. Again, because of Brees’ size, it’s important that the middle of the Saints pocket is firm. Nicks and Evans are immovable. They destroyed Ndamukong Suh.
8. NFL rules are a far bigger problem than the competency of NFL referees.
I have to remind myself of this fact every weekend as I tweet out vitriol toward the refs. They’ve been put in an impossible position by NFL rules makers. There are just way too many high-stakes judgment calls.
The NFL’s pass-interference policy should be completely revamped. Incidental contact on long passes should never result in 50-yard penalties. Helmet-to-helmet and other player-safety hits should be enforced from the replay booth. No way the refs should try to legislate those hits in real time. And if the league is interested in the safety of players, why not adopt the college rule that a runner is down whenever he hits the ground regardless of whether he has been touched by a defender?
Put a couple of full-time refs in a replay booth and let’s stop the crap of sending the referee to the sideline to make the call. Let technology improve the integrity of officiating.
7. The main reason Dwyane Wade (foot injury) needs to get back on the court is so no one notices the Heat are better without him.
That is not a dis of Wade. He’s a tremendous player, one of the three or four best in the league. But LeBron James is just a much better player without Wade, and Chris Bosh is a much better player with one fewer superstar on the court.
While in Cleveland, LeBron won 66 regular-season games and advanced to the NBA Finals without one teammate nearly as good as Bosh or Wade. LeBron is the most talented player in the league. He could be poised to have the best season of his career. He looks awesome.
The Heat are 3-0 without Wade. I’m not criticizing Wade. I’m just not going to ignore the fact he and James don’t complement each other on the court. And I know they almost won a championship together last year. I get that. They can coexist and win together. It just might be easier for James to do it in a Heat uniform without Wade.
6. My latest NBA trade proposal: Wade and Mario Chalmers for Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.
It’s always in the best interest of the NBA for the Celtics to be relevant. Boston needs an in-his-prime superstar to be a legit contender. The Big Three are too old. You put Wade with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and you have a nucleus that can scare people for this year and next year.
You add Rondo and Allen to James and Bosh and you have an all-time great team. I ran this trade past Bill Simmons last week, and he loved it.
5. Chiefs general manager Scott Egoli promoted Romeo Crennel to head coach to prove the genius of his general managership.
Crennel’s ascension isn’t about the love he enjoys in the locker room. Compared to Todd Haley, Chiefs players would love Rich Kotite. Nope. This hire was about Scott Pioli’s egoli.
Egoli believes he gave Haley all the tools necessary to contend for a Super Bowl title. If coached properly, in Egoli’s mind, Tyler Palko should have been Kansas City’s version of T.J. Yates.
Crennel was hired because he’s willing to pretend Matt Cassel is a franchise quarterback, Tyson Jackson is the next Richard Seymour and the Chiefs don’t miss Brian Waters.
I wish Romeo luck.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick TeBeau isn’t taking nearly enough heat for getting Tim Tebeau-ed.
LeBeau is a great coach who had a bad day. It happens. In the second quarter, Tebow did more than enough to provoke a strategy change from LeBeau. Tebow burned the Steelers with downfield throws. It was time to back up Pittsburgh’s safeties and make Tebow prove he could consistently beat combination coverages.
It was arrogant and foolish to walk up Pittsburgh’s safeties in zero coverage on the first play of overtime and dare Tebow to win the game. Pittsburgh corner Ike Taylor is taking too much of the blame for poor coverage and poor tackling. The scheme was just as responsible. That falls on TeBeau and head coach Mike Tomlin.
3. You don’t have to believe in a higher power to appreciate that Tebow’s faith is playing a role in his NFL success.
Faith — regardless of its foundation — breeds confidence and poise. Tebow has those qualities in abundance. His entire NFL future was riding on Sunday’s game. He got off to a terrible start in the first quarter. He didn’t break.
I’m spiritual. I believe in God/higher power. But I also believe in the power of faith. Heck, it could be the faith you have in another human being or the faith you have in knowledge or education. Tebow inspires faith. We haven’t seen anything like Tebow since Muhammad Ali.
Tebow floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.
I still have no idea whether he’ll stick as an NFL starting quarterback. But I’m going to enjoy watching him try.
2. Someone tell Atlanta coach Mike Smith a fourth-down punt is a good football play.
Smith wants to be the same kind of gambling coach as Sean Payton, but Smith’s gambles keep blowing up in his face. There’s nothing wrong with field-position football. It wins games, too.
1. I’ve never met Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. I can’t imagine the pain he must be going through having lost his son in a tragic accident. Coaches sacrifice so much time away from their families to provide them comfortable lives. Keep Joe Philbin, his family and the Packers in your prayers.