National Football League
Newton primed to taste first victory
National Football League

Newton primed to taste first victory

Published Sep. 23, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

The Lions are legit.

The Jaguars are not.

And meet the angriest coach in league history following a shutout.

It’s our weekly “Football Friday” Sizzle and Fizzle around the NFL.



Mike Tomlin

I’ve never interviewed a coach so angry after a shutout win. Tomlin was still sizzling hot about the Week 1 loss to Baltimore when he joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz on Tuesday. Tomlin said, “It (the Ravens loss) should be a rallying point all year. It’s a reminder of what happens when you are ill-prepared and not ready.”

Keep in mind this was 48 hours removed from blowing out Seattle. I love it.

Tomlin, ever the perfectionist, was also annoyed that his defense, yet again, didn’t force a turnover, despite sack/fumble opportunities.

Tomlin’s a bright man. He has his team’s attention. Wait until they have a turnover feast in Indy against the offensively challenged Colts. I’m calling Pittsburgh’s second straight shutout. This has 35-0 Steelers written all over it. And I’m calling that Tomlin will still be angry about the Baltimore loss.

Cam Newton

I couldn’t believe it when Newton said he wanted to be an “entertainer and an icon” before the combine. Well, that now feels like a lifetime ago. Newton is not only turning heads with back-to-back 400-yard passing games to start his NFL career, he is saying and doing all of the right things when it comes to the “5th quarter” of being an NFL quarterback. I love watching him postgame. He won’t gloat over his stats. Newton is upset after a loss. I love it.

Newton put up 400 passing yards on the defending Super Bowl champs. Packers coach Mike McCarthy told us on the SiriusXM Blitz, “I was very impressed watching the game live. I was very impressed watching him on tape vs. Arizona. He threw the ball very well. He makes plays with his feet and throwing downfield. He has a great arm and great vision.”

Matthew Stafford

He’s healthy. He’s available. Thus, you can officially call Stafford great.

This is not a fluke, folks. The Lions are a strong team, led by a true big-time quarterback.

Talking to Stafford last week on the radio, he oozes confidence. He was raving about management giving his team talented players who fit the system. Stafford has thrived this season, throwing for seven touchdowns in two games. He threw four last week against the Chiefs. In 15 career starts, Stafford has thrown for four touchdowns in a game three times. Think about what he is going to accomplish when he plays a full season. Stafford told us he has worked so hard on staying healthy.

And it is more than just his play – it is Stafford’s leadership. Lions running back Jahvid Best explained to us, “He’s our quarterback. When he steps in the huddle, everyone gets quiet and everyone gets calm. We follow him and he knows how to win.”

The Lions are legit players here. They have their stud quarterback.

Titans offensive line

I wrote in the preseason that I think the Titans are going to be better than you think. I picked them at 8-8. But I never thought they would beat Baltimore. Perhaps the most telling statistic from this impressive Tennessee win was the fact that the underrated Titans offensive line didn’t give up one single sack against the vaunted Ravens defense. No wonder Matt Hasselbeck was raving about his pass protection when we spoke this week.

Tackle Michael Roos and Co. have been underrated for years. Watch them dominate Denver this weekend as Chris Johnson goes off and the Titans improve to 2-1.


Matt Cassel

Let me tell you about a new book I’ve been reading on Sundays. It’s called, “How to ruin a Pro Bowl quarterback,” written and illustrated by Todd Haley.

OK, so Charlie Weis and Haley didn’t get along. Anyone who was in the building with these two personalities when they worked together with the Jets will tell you that their relationship being combustible was predictable. But with Weis calling the plays, Scott Pioli’s handpicked quarterback looked like a pro bowler. With Weis now in Florida, Cassel looks like he’s a backup at USC.

Haley should be calling the plays. It’s what helped him get the Chiefs gig in the first place. Haley was an excellent play caller, helping the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl.

Now Bill Muir, an excellent offensive line coach, has never called a play in his NFL career, sits in the box and calls the signals in to Jim Zorn, who relays them to Cassel. It’s amateur hour.

Haley is both flattered and very frustrated when I continuously bring this up to him, citing a “collaborative effort” that also included Maurice Carthon. Haley should be calling the plays just like Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton call plays, just like Jon Gruden called plays. Haley and Cassel should be working together, attached at the hip, with the play caller on the sideline. You want the play in quickly. You want your quarterback to make a change. Confusion is the word of the year in Kansas City.

Good luck, Mr. Gabbert. I don’t think Del Rio will be around next year for the first full season of the Blaine Gabbert era.

Jerry Reese

Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon is out for the year with a torn ACL, which isn't a total surprise since he missed last year with the same injury.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a player with Steve Smith's skill set?

The irony is thick. The Giants learn Hixon is done for 2011 the week they waltz into Philly to play Smith and the Eagles. The Giants should've never let him leave. Reese wasn’t aggressive. The Eagles were. The Giants could use tight end Kevin Boss. But he left the Giants, too.

Jerry Reese won a Super Bowl in 2007 with a great draft class. What has he done since? Look at free agents (from busts he brought in to rewarding Brandon Jacobs after 2008), the draft, and the salary cap, especially when starting free agency this year. Injuries have been an issue, but not an excuse. The Packers and Colts made the playoffs with injuries last year.

Lovie Smith

The Bears head coach keeps telling the news media that the Bears need to change up their run-pass ratio. Hey Lovie - you need to strangle Mike Martz, in the figurative fashion of course (I’m not suggesting a Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride sideline punch!) Lovie Smith needs be in the headset on game day reminding the Bears offensive coordinator that Matt Forte needs touches and they can’t afford to keep getting quarterback Jay Cutler, sacked 11 times in two games, killed.

The wins and losses go on your record, Lovie. Don’t talk about the plan for balance and mixture on offense. Do something about Mike Martz.


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