Thanks for the strategic advice on how to attack Tampa’s defense. I appreciate you returning my phone calls throughout the week.
It’s just Week 4 and I’m already in midseason NFL Truths form. Buckle up and open your minds for the Truth:
10. From the we’re-not-supposed-to-mention-this file: It was fascinating watching Peyton Manning and his BYU offense destroy the Denver Broncos.
The unwritten rule in sports writing/journalism is we’re only supposed to mention racial progress when it involves dark-skin minorities. Obviously, I don’t care about rules.
With receiver Pierre Garcon sidelined with an injury, the Colts started and played nine white guys on offense pretty much all day. NFL rosters are nearly 70 percent comprised of African-Americans. What the Colts did was significant.
For a day, the best offense in football was 82 percent white. Austin Collie, Garcon’s replacement, put a clown suit on the Denver secondary with precise route running and nifty moves after the catch. Some practice-squad kid, Blair White, performed a Collie impersonation when Collie was tired.
Peyton Manning is the Larry Bird of this era. I mean that as high, high praise. I’m not accusing Manning or the Colts of any kind of racism. Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell (and Tony Dungy) have surrounded Manning with players who mirror his approach to the game. Race is not the determining factor.
A willingness to prepare and shared values, I believe, are the determining factors.
I’m not going to get back into it today, but I’ve been writing for three years that baby-mama culture (no father in a child’s life) is going to cost African-Americans jobs in professional team sports. This summer, Ron English, the black head coach at Eastern Michigan, came under fire for admitting he’d prefer to recruit players who have fathers in their lives.
If Michael Vick had a stable/traditional upbringing, he might be on pace to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the league.
9. If the Steelers beat the Ravens this Sunday and remain undefeated, don’t fall for the silly hype that Ben Roethlisberger is overrated.
Given his off-field trouble, it’s fashionable to bash Big Ben. I’ve participated in the bashing. From what little we know, Roethlisberger is as shady off the field as any player in the league. But there is also a lot more proof that he is one of the best players on it, too.
I can already hear Roethlisberger’s critics arguing the Colts could never win three or four games without Peyton Manning. So? That might have more to do with the way the Colts are coached and constructed than Manning being superior to Roethlisberger.
That’s right. When their careers are over, I think there’s going to be a debate about which quarterback was better, Roethlisberger or Manning. Peyton is going to have the statistics on his side. Big Ben is going to have three or four Super Bowl rings.
Toughness in the pocket is the most important asset a QB can have. Since Tom Brady injured his knee, no quarterback rivals Ben’s combination of fearlessness in the face of pressure and the ability to deliver the football accurately under duress.
You can have all the gaudy stats. I’d rather have a quarterback who isn’t rattled by Dwight Freeney, James Harrison, Jared Allen and all the other QB killers.
8. I don’t understand why some people are not rooting for Underdog.
Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a good column this week addressing how white and black people view Vick’s comeback differently. Black folks love Vick. White folks are still extremely bothered by his involvement in dogfighting.
Count me in the "love Vick" camp. And it has nothing to do with our shared race. It’s about fairness. The dude did his time in the joint. We have to give him a second chance. The people who think Vick didn’t do enough time in prison don’t know a damn thing about prison.
I’d rather enthusiastically cheer Vick as he tries to do the right thing and rip him when/if he fails than root for his failure. He could be quite an inspiration to a lot of kids. Vick could be more effective as a role model than as a cautionary tale.
7. Why is icing the kicker with a late timeout a controversy in need of a rule change?
The media have determined that fans are distraught because no one can see the coach call the timeout. This is a joke. Maybe a losing gambler is upset. But there’s nothing wrong or unfair about the way things play out with a last-second field goal.
Hell, I’m more pissed about all the penalties flagged during kickoff and punt returns. Nothing is worse than watching a beautiful kick return ruined by a cheap holding penalty. I say let the offensive players hold on kickoff returns.
Here’s a radical rule change I’d love to see: If a defensive team scores on an interception or fumble return, its offense gets the ball, too. If you get the ball after a safety, why not get possession after a pick-6?
Here’s another rule change: In the final two minutes of the game, the offensive team with the lead must advance the football at least one yard or the clock stops until the snap of the next play. No more kneeling to run out the clock. Make the offense earn it by moving the football. If the score is tied, the rule applies to both offenses.
6. I need to acknowledge that my hometown Kansas City Chiefs are better than I anticipated. However, they still have major problems that can’t be covered by general manager Scott Pioli manipulating the local and national media.
Quarterback Matt Cassel is horrible. Rookie safety Eric Berry is off to a terrible start. Second-year defensive lineman Tyson Jackson’s absence has been a blessing to the defense.
If you’re scoring at home: Pioli’s handpicked QB and his two first-round picks are looking like busts.
The young nucleus of players left behind by Herm Edwards -- Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Albert, Brandon Carr -- are finally paying big dividends. The addition of experienced coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis has helped head coach Todd Haley mature.
To Pioli’s credit, rookies Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki and free-agent pickups Ryan Lilja and Shaun “The Genital Giant” Smith have been terrific.
The Chiefs might have the easiest schedule in the history of the league. They’re the Boise State of professional football. The Chiefs can’t win important games with Cassel at quarterback.
5. Yes, the Peter Principle and the good-old-boys network apply to black coaches, too. Evidence? Jimmy Raye being made offensive coordinator of the 49ers.
With Singletary as coach, Raye had the complexion for the connection. Raye certainly didn’t have the proper resume. Raye, 64 and a solid position coach, is proof that if you stand around a pile long enough someone will give you credit for the tackle.
I give Singletary credit for dumping Raye. San Francisco players sound downright giddy that Raye and his mammoth playbook are gone.
Mike Johnson, the 49ers’ new OC, is a good hire. Singletary has 13 games to evaluate Johnson, and Johnson has 13 games to figure out how to call plays. Now Singletary (and his stopwatch) needs to leave Johnson completely alone. Singletary’s decision to call timeouts and run plays in the final seconds of San Fran’s blowout loss to the Chiefs was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. It also contributed to a 49ers receiver getting injured.
4. Pete Carroll clearly made the right choice drafting Texas safety Earl Thomas ahead of USC safety Taylor Mays.
Remember all the whining Mays did about Carroll after the draft? Mays thought he was going to be a first-round pick and blamed Carroll for his stock falling. Carroll selected Thomas in the middle of the first round. Mays went in the second round to the 49ers.
Thomas had two interceptions Sunday in Seattle’s upset victory over the Chargers. He’s started all three games. Mays is coming off the bench in San Francisco.
3. I don’t blame Mike McCarthy for choosing to play defense rather than allowing the Bears to score a late touchdown.
The mentality of a football coach and a football player is to never give the opposition anything. It’s difficult to break that mentality. Plus, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher play on the Chicago defense. Going 70 or 80 yards on Peppers and Urlacher when they know you have to throw the ball wouldn’t have been an easy task.
I’d take my chances on a fumbled offensive snap or bungled/blocked field goal.
If the game had been an offensive shootout against a team with a bad defense, then maybe I let the Bears score and play offense.
2. Does it really matter whether Philly fans boo Donovan McNabb? Is it going to impact the score of the game? Will McNabb curl up in a fetal position and give back the money Philly paid him?
If Eagles fans boo, it will last 30 seconds to a minute. McNabb was booed by Eagles fans when he was drafted and he was booed when he was leading the Eagles to the playoffs. I think he’ll survive.
This is a total non-story.
1. It would be a shame if Howie Long’s commentary about an 18-game NFL schedule doesn’t win some sort of Emmy.
Long’s “Fired Up” commentary on FOX’s pregame show was as good as anything I’ve ever seen or heard on sports television. Plus, it created waves around the NFL. I believe Howie’s words are what sparked Bill Polian to disgustedly admit an 18-game schedule is a done deal.
Long’s suggestions on what the players should get -- more money, two bye weeks, etc. -- in return for playing 18 games were on target and delivered eloquently. If Howie ever wants to leave the broadcast studio, he could run the NFL players union.