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Peyton’s performance: fool's gold

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Dear Jason:

The best thing about the Ryder Cup is it finishes on an NFL Sunday. I just blew a 30-point, fourth-quarter lead and all you’ll write about is Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez.

Life is good,

Davis Love The Turd

Your NFL Truths for Week 4:

10: Al Michaels nonchalantly stated on “Sunday Night Football” that Tom Coughlin will someday be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Why?

Geography is the lone justification. If Coughlin had spent his entire NFL career outside of New York, rather than make small talk about his future in Canton, Ohio, Michaels might have forced Cris Collinsworth to discuss Coughlin’s horrendous late-game coaching Sunday night against the Eagles.

Why in the hell did Coughlin settle for a 54-yard field goal on third down with 15 seconds on the clock with arguably the best fourth-quarter QB in football? You can’t trust Eli Manning to avoid a sack, make a sideline throw or toss the ball incomplete in that situation? And with the Giants already in field-goal range, why did they throw the long sideline route to an inexperienced receiver? The subsequent offensive pass interference on that play — which was the absolute right call by the refs — cost the Giants field-goal position.

Coughlin’s coaching cost the Giants a valuable road win. Sunday’s game demonstrated exactly why Coughlin isn’t a Hall of Fame coach. He has never built and/or guided the best team in football. He’s coached two teams that have backed into the playoffs and gotten hot at the right time. Coughlin’s resume pales in comparison to Jimmy Johnson, Tom Flores, Mike Shanahan and George Seifert. Johnson, Flores, Seifert and Shanahan — all two-time Super Bowl winners — are not in the Hall of Fame. In fact there’s only one two-time-winning, two-time-appearing Super Bowl coach in Canton. Vince Lombardi.

Tom Coughlin is not Vince Lombardi.

I’d like to see Coughlin lead the NFL’s best regular-season team before we place him alongside the greatest of the greats. The regular season does still matter in football. This isn’t Major League Baseball or the NBA.

9: Since we’re on the subject of New York overhype, let me point out the problem with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets and why he’s a bad head coach.

Ryan’s bluster fosters delusion. The Jets have 7-9 talent. They have a below-average quarterback. They don’t have a home-run hitter in the backfield. They don’t have an elite pass rusher. As much as defensive coaches love third-and-long situations, their first love is second-and-long. It’s nearly impossible to get to third-and-long without creating second-and-long first. The key to avoiding second-and-long is a great running back and/or an efficient QB.

With Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene in the backfield, calling first-down plays is a real dilemma for New York’s offensive coordinator. (The Jets should use the Tebow wildcat on first down and let Sanchez play on second and third downs.)

Rex Ryan’s over-the-top personality makes this football reality easy to overlook. Ryan provides great copy for New York and national sports writers. No one with newspapers to sell wants to see Ryan fired. So we’ve bought the hype. His players bought it, too.

Ryan should consider a career in politics. He’s a master at selling false hope.

8: Drew Brees’ struggles in New Orleans without Sean Payton illustrates the difficulty and lunacy of what Peyton Manning was trying to accomplish in Indianapolis.

Great quarterbacks need significant help from the sidelines. Drew Brees is trying to duplicate what Manning pulled off under Jim Caldwell. Manning was the head coach and offensive coordinator for those Colts teams. He got away with it during the regular season. Brees is 0-4 and his performance is suffering. Brees is performing at the level Manning normally displays during the playoffs. Keep in mind, in Manning’s one Super Bowl-winning season, Tony Dungy’s defense carried the Colts.

A quarterback cannot outthink an elite defensive coordinator. Manning’s postseason resume is inferior to Tom Brady’s and Ben Roethlisberger’s because Manning has refused to surrender control of the offense to an elite coach.

7: Peyton Manning deserves praise for figuring out how to be an effective QB with diminished arm strength. His performance against the Raiders was quite impressive.

But it’s fool’s gold. John Fox, John Elway and Manning have only one goal this season — win the Super Bowl. They’re not building for next year. It’s Super Bowl or bust. Unless you have Ray Lewis in his absolute prime, you’re not going to win a Super Bowl with your offense playing inside a phone booth. Won’t happen.

Manning can not consistently stretch the field. Manning’s numbers looked spectacular on Sunday — 338 yards, three TDs and 30-of-38 passing. The overwhelming majority of those passes were short crossing routes.

A good "Tampa 2" defense will make Manning look ordinary.

6: Cam Newton was the best player in football on Sunday, but he lost the game for the Panthers with a costly fumble.

Man, was I impressed with Cam against the Falcons. He stood in the pocket and delivered the ball with tremendous poise. He ran at the appropriate times. He rallied the Panthers from a deficit on the road. He was the second coming of John Elway, the greatest player of all time.

And then Newton fumbled on a critical third-down run, forcing Carolina to punt with a little more than a minute to play. You can blame Carolina’s “prevent” defense or Ron Rivera’s decision to punt rather than run Cam on fourth-and-1. You can point to whatever convenient excuse you want. But Newton can’t fumble in that situation. QBs can’t make mistakes in the final two minutes.

5: There are seven teams Philly, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Chicago and San Diego with 3-1 records and only one is legit.

For my money, even with Alex Smith at quarterback, the 49ers are the best team in football. Of the other 3-1 teams, my hunch is half of them don’t make the playoffs. I’m most skeptical of the Eagles, Vikings and Bears. Although, because of their division, the Bengals are more likely to miss the playoffs.

The Eagles have been outscored 83-66 so far this season. Michael Vick is still taking a beating in Andy Reid’s pass-happy offense. Vick won’t finish the season. No one is going to be surprised when the Vikings quit returning kicks for scores and finish 6-10. Beating up on Tony Boo Boo and the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t make anyone a believer in Jay Cutler and the Bears.

Don’t fall for the 3-1 Okeydoke. The one-win Steelers and Panthers are better than all of these teams except San Fran and Baltimore.

 

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4: I’m convinced Marvin Lewis is a good football coach, maybe even a great football coach. Seriously.

For 10 years, Lewis has been asked to make chicken salad out of chicken crap while competing in the same division with two of the best-run franchises in all sports (Steelers and Ravens). While Lewis lives off the scraps fed to him by the Brown family, the Rooney family and Ozzie Newsome keep chugging along in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively.

Lewis deserves a chance to coach somewhere besides Cincinnati. I’d love to see what Lewis could accomplish working inside an organization with a real scouting department and an authentic commitment to win championships.

Despite their 3-1 start — victories over the Browns, Redskins and Jaguars — I see the Bengals as an 8-8 team. Lewis won’t get his first playoff victory this season. He’ll likely never win a playoff game in Cincy. He’ll be labeled a failure. It’s too bad.

3: Please remember the Houston Texans have played Miami, Jacksonville, Denver and Tennessee. There’s no reason to pretend Mercury Morris should lose any sleep.

Having said that, thanks to a weak schedule, the Texans could make a sustained run at regular-season perfection. They play at the Jets and then get Green Bay and Baltimore at home. To my eyes, the Texans are overvalued. They’re not in the same class as San Francisco and Atlanta. But Houston has a better schedule.

2: Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions are who Jim Harbaugh thought they were.

If you remember, last year’s handshake showdown between Schwartz and Harbaugh was really a battle between smarmy, smug coaches who were battling for attention for getting their teams off to fast starts. Harbaugh suspected the Lions were poorly coached frauds and proved it with a 25-19 victory. The Lions have strong personnel, but suspect coaching.

Well, this year the Lions are off to a 1-3 start rather than last year’s 5-0 opening. Ndamukong Suh is still wildly inconsistent. Defenses have slowed down Calvin Johnson. He has just one TD. Schwartz is going to get canned if things don’t turn around and the Lions finish with a losing record.

1: Having spent the summer in London at the Olympics, I wanted some information before making Super Bowl pick. Four weeks is plenty of information.

I like the same two teams I liked before the Olympics — Pittsburgh and San Francisco. I always like Ben Roethlisberger.

Tagged: Bears, Broncos, Lions, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Calvin Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton

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