Harbaugh inspires; Caldwell disappoints
It’s time for a change in Indy.
Jason Garrett ruined the Cowboys’ potential upset special.
And I loved every second of the "handshake" in Detroit.
Plus, we hand out our weekly guys and goats, Schein 9 style:
1. The monologue
Jim Harbaugh versus Jim Schwartz. I love it. I can’t get enough. The fracas between the coaches was built on pure emotion. It was built on pure jubilation for a comeback win. It was built on pure frustration of a first loss after winning nine straight in the regular season. Harbaugh vs. Schwartz showed a little glimpse of why these coaches are a combined 10-2 and locked in a battle for coach of the year. It showed why their players love playing for them. The energy from the coaches is contagious. The fans of the Lions and Niners know that being the laughingstock of the league is a thing of the past.
Great job by the league not penalizing these coaches. No fines. No suspensions. Why? Nothing really happened.
Think about it. The Niners proved they were one of the best teams in the NFC by marching into Detroit and handing the big, bad Lions their first loss of the season. It was a wild game, an emotional game, a back-and-forth, "leave it all on the field" contest. The Niners’ offensive line smashed heads with the fabled Lions defensive line and won the battle in the trenches running the ball, with Frank Gore pounding the Lions and the San Fran offensive line showing grit. Chronically maligned Alex Smith threw the go-ahead touchdown in pulsating fashion with 1:51 to go. The vaunted Lions offense got the ball back. The Niners made the needed stop. The Niners won the game.
The expressive Harbaugh got amped up. He ran on the field. Harbaugh lifted his shirt in semi-Brandi Chastain fashion. Harbaugh leaped in the air and chest pumped a player. He landed from the pump, continued the sprint and realized he got to the point where he needed to shake Schwartz’s hand. Harbaugh gave him a hard and hearty shake, a slap on the back and started to run off. Schwartz didn’t like it. Schwartz doesn’t take what he perceives to be garbage, so he chased down Harbaugh and got in his face.
And the criticism began. They shouted it was classless. The haters opined that the league should fine the coaches. Come on!
Want more incentive more emotion? The Niners have now won three times in the Eastern Time Zone this year. They couldn’t spell win if you spotted them a “W” and “I” out east under Mike Singletary. The culture has changed under Harbaugh. It’s a big deal.
This isn’t an act, folks. This is how Harbaugh played and how he coached on the collegiate level. And have you noticed how the players play for him. Team leader Patrick Willis told us on the SiriusXM Blitz, "We are 100 percent behind our coach." Harbaugh is cocky, arrogant and the perfect coach at the right time in San Fran. Ask Pete Carroll or Jim Kelly or the fine folks in the Michigan admissions office. Harbaugh can rub you the wrong way, and he doesn’t care.
And as we’ve documented several times, Schwartz has changed the standards forever in Detroit. He was livid that his club lost at home, in the conference. The Lions are 5-1, but that’s the right approach. Schwartz thought Harbaugh was too emotional.
But Schwartz might want to watch some of his own video after the Dallas win. He wasn’t the epitome of class talking to Dez Bryant. Or when he was ripping Harbaugh on Sunday for not knowing he couldn’t challenge a play. But Schwartz thought it was his place to protect his house. I won’t rip him for that.
Classless? No way. It was great for everyone. The Niners are legit. So are the Lions. And it is because of their new-breed, fiery coaches. It makes the league a better place.
Harbaugh and Schwartz will never be the best of friends and will always rub each other the wrong way because of how similar they are.
2. Amateur hour
I’ll just go ahead and write it: Jim Caldwell should be the ex-coach of the Colts when the season is over.
I take no pleasure in writing that. Caldwell is one of the most decent people you will ever meet. And it isn’t his fault the organization was ill-prepared for 2011 and Peyton Manning’s health. But Caldwell is a bad head coach.
What are his skills? Why should he stay on in Indy? If you disagree with my take, enlighten me on his strengths. His in-game management has always been suspect, starting with his disastrous and goofy clock management at the end of the playoff loss to the Jets last year that had Manning shaking his head from the sidelines.
He is supposed to be an offensive coach and a quarterback guru. Have we seen that? His winless team has appeared flat and uninterested. Sure, the team was built around one iconic star player. But this commentary dates back to all three years now on Caldwell. He took Tony Dungy’s team to the Super Bowl. Caldwell removed his starters in Week 16 of that year to get his team ready for the playoffs and eschew perfection.
Bill Belichick won double-digit games when he lost Tom Brady for the year in Week 1. Caldwell’s 2011 Colts are a legit candidate to lose every single game. That’s coaching.
Caldwell made sense, despite his awful showing as a college head coach, because when you employ Manning, continuity is key. Dungy wanted Caldwell to replace him. The great Bill Polian wanted someone to nod. It all seemed logical, three years ago. It was the right appointment.
The Colts now need to look into the crystal ball. Is Caldwell the right man to usher in a new quarterback, maybe even Andrew Luck? Is he the right person to tell Manning that his time is up? Is he the right person to inspire and pick a system for the post-Peyton Colts?
The 2012 Colts need a fresh voice. Change is inevitable by 2013. Be proactive, improve the head coach and do it at the end of the year. It will be the best thing to happen to the franchise.
3. Backseat coaching
If Wade Phillips would have been watching Jason Garrett’s play selection and game-management at the end of the loss to the Patriots, he would have laughed so hard he would have fallen to the ground.
The Dallas Cowboys took the lead on the big, bad New England Patriots in Foxboro when Dan Bailey drilled a field goal to make it 16-13 with 5:13 left in the game. Rob Ryan’s defense, dominant and frustrating the Patriots all day, then responded by getting the Pats off the field instantly with a statement three-and-out.
Dallas got the ball back with 3:36 to play, and Garrett choked. He played the game not to lose. I know Tony Romo is your quarterback and he’s had some epic struggles in the fourth quarter. But you have to throw the ball at least once, if not twice. You have to try to move the chains, keep Brady off the field as long as possible. You must consider who you are playing against.
New England called a couple of timeouts after runs and got the ball back with 2:31 to play. Brady worked his magic and the Patriots stole one. It is totally unacceptable for Garrett not to try and win the game.
And, please, spare yourself the embarrassment of comparing this game to the third quarter of the Dallas loss to Detroit, where everyone (myself included) killed Garrett for throwing the ball with a big lead. It’s an apples and oranges comparison.
4. Amateur hour
It is easy and accurate to say that Sam Bradford has regressed under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the second-year quarterback learns a new system.
And I’ve blamed McDaniels for everything in Denver.
But watch the games. This is on Bradford. He is totally inaccurate. Did you see him grossly under throw Danario Alexander on a fade when he had the perfect matchup in the red zone? He had his tall receiver against Sam Shields. It was one play, but it hits home how inaccurate Bradford has been this year, sporting a gross completion percentage of 53 percent.
It has been a major step back for Bradford and the winless Rams. Now, the Rams have traded for Brandon Lloyd to improve the receiver corps. But Bradford has a high ankle sprain. It’s going from bad to worse in St. Louis.
5. Color me impressed
The Eagles entered Week 6 showing no ability to stop the run. Andy Reid refused to have the offense go through LeSean McCoy. Finally, it clicked for the "Dream Team" in Washington as the Eagles saved their season.
McCoy got 28 carries and 126 hard-earned yards. The Redskins’ three-headed monster at running back was held in check. Thus, Rex Grossman was forced to pass and the "human turnover machine" delivered — for the Eagles — by throwing three picks and getting yanked out of the game.
The Eagles finally showed toughness, and not a moment too soon. They are very much alive for the NFC East.
6. I’m a genius / moron
The ebb and flow of the Ravens’ win against the Texans went exactly like I thought. Right now, the Ravens have the best defense in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ excellent effort and play in the final four minutes gave Tom Coughlin’s club a needed win against the Bills. I thought for sure Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the score 24-24 and 4-1/2 minutes to go, would march down the field and lead the Bills to a win. Instead, Fitzpatrick threw an errant pass, Corey Webster picked it off, Ahmad Bradshaw churned out big runs getting the Giants down the field and New York kicked the go-ahead field goal.
And it’s not hyperbole to say it saved the season for the first-place Giants with their brutal November schedule on the horizon.
7. My guys
Aaron Rodgers: That’s six straight games for Rodgers to start the season with a quarterback rating of 110 or higher, in case you are scoring at home. That’s an NFL record for the best quarterback in the NFL.
Devin Hester: Hester continues to carve out a Hall of Fame career, returning another kickoff for a score to demoralize the Vikings. Why teams kick to him, I will never know.
Darrelle Revis: On a night when the Jets’ offense started with four three-and-outs against the lowly Dolphins, Revis’ pick-six changed the entire game.
Rashard Mendenhall: Mike Tomlin told us on Tuesday that he wanted to make sure Ike Redman and Jonathan Dwyer still get touches even with Mendenhall healthy. Well, Mendenhall ran like a back playing for his job, with 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Turner: Finally, the Falcons put the offense through Turner once again and it paid off. Turner rumbled for 139 yards and two touchdowns in a needed, gigantic, and impressive win for the Falcons over the Panthers.
8. My goats
Rex Grossman: I’d make the change to John Beck. It’s easy. You can’t throw four picks against the Eagles and bury your team.
Bernard Berrian: It’s easy to blame McNabb. And we will. But Berrian’s first-quarter drop on third down was horrible. He’s been a total bust since he signed with the Vikes.
Donovan McNabb: He is one of my all-time favorites dating back to Syracuse, but McNabb looks old and sadly past his prime. It is time for the Christian Ponder era to begin.
New Orleans Saints: The run/pass ratio is totally unacceptable and needs to change to help Drew Brees, who shouldn’t be throwing it 45 times (three interceptions).
Peyton Hillis: His contract situation and refusal to play with a sinus infection have officially derailed the Browns. Hillis has infuriated Pat Shurmur so much that the coach refuses to feature him, and that truly hurts Cleveland.
9. Three nuggets of wisdom
• It just doesn’t get better than watching Brady go to work with three minutes to go, trailing. It’s a thing of beauty. With all apologies to Joe Montana, I think Brady is the best in history in those spots.
• The Bengals lost cornerback Jonathan Joseph in the offseason, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer wasn’t happy. Now, six weeks in, the Bengals have a legit top-five defense in the NFL by any measure. That’s coaching. That’s Zimmer. He should be at the top of any coaching search this offseason.
• Dolphins coach Tony Sparano doesn’t try to move the ball and get points at the end of the first half with time on the clock and a timeout in his pocket? Wow. Look close enough and you will see a postage stamp on his forehead.