Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're in a Rebuilding Phase-No-Wait-Never Mind.

Shylock here. To quote great Jew Jerry Seinfeld, "What's the deal" with last year's awful NFL teams doing complete 180's this year (Lions excepted, of course). Miami and Atlanta, who last year went a combined 5-27, this year are heading for the playoffs with a combined record of 20-10. I'm sorry, I have to say that again. These teams TOGETHER had 5 WINS last year, and this year, they each have TEN. It's unheard of!

How do you explain this kind of turn around? It almost defies logic. After last season, "experts" were saying that Miami would, at best, win six to seven games this year, while Atlanta would probably do about the same while rookie quarterback Matt Ryan adjusted to the pro game. Well, all that was completely wrong. The Dolphins are even poised to bump out Brett Favre's enemic New York Jets this weekend. So what's the big difference?

I'd like to pose the argument that it is almost 100% because of improved quarterback play. Let's start with Miami. Last year, they had a total of three signal callers on the field throughout their 16 games-Trent Green (what a disaster that was, shocker), Cleo Lemon, and eventually BYU rookie John Beck. The inconsistent quarterback play, coupled with the fact that none of those guys are really any good, has to be the main reason Miami couldn't get it done last year. Teams need one guy to look to at quarterback, emphasis on ONE guy. Because the quarterback is more than just an offensive player, he's the team leader; he's the player that is in charge of taking control of his team, commanding the offense, and moving the ball. Miami had three guys. And not one of them was much of a leader. Oops.

Atlanta's situation is more complicated. Their leader turns out to be a thug, and their team is thrown into turmoil, despite the overhwelming ledaership skills of one Byron Leftwich. Between him and Chris Redmon, moving the ball was just not happening. So what do you do? You draft Matt Ryan, who learns the offense in what, two months, and suddenly you have a winning team.

He's a beast. Don't deny it.

Now you can't discount the work of Michael Turner, and the fact that Ronnie Brown hasn't been injured this year and has rushed very well. But Pennington and Ryan are the clear leaders on these teams. Just last game against the Chiefs, Pennington threw for 235 yards with 3 touchdowns. Ryan had that amazing pass to Roddy White that kept his Falcons alive to deflate the bears.

It also makes you think-just how much time does a quarterback need to learn the offense? I've been patient with Redskins' quarterback Jason Campbell for the past two years, because I do think he shows flashes of greatness, and in time, could be a real threat. But seeing what Ryan has done in Atlanta, and looking at the careers of guys like Peyton or Brady, who come right in and make a difference, you start to wonder if maybe the right guy in the right system really can win right away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Defense of Terrell Owens

We're back!

I'm not a Terrell Owens fan. Never have been. As a Redskins fan, I couldn't stand him as an Ealge and I sure as hell can't stand him as a Cowboy. I thought the way he went after McNabb, who is a fantastic player and athelete, was disgusting, and I laughed my head off when he openly wept on national tv after losing to the Giants last year. But for once, I find myself in a strange position. I am standing up for Terrell Owens.

Recently, ESPN's Ed Werder reported that Owens has recently been unhappy with the way the offense is being run, and that he feels Tony Romo is targeting Jason Witten over other recievers, most notably, yours truly. ESPN ate this story up, as they do with anything involving the Cowboys, and then proceded to blow it way out of proportion. And for once, I think Owens has been wrongfully accused of tearing the team apart.

Let's look at the facts. Romo targets Witten all the time. He currently leads the team in receptions with 69 (NFL.com), just above Owen's 58 (NFL.com). When Romo is in those tricky 3rd/4th and short situations, Witten is the guy he goes to. Romo and Witten are also very close, you may recall they vacationed last year with Jessica Simpson right before blowing the playoffs. I don't know what kind of idiot spends a bye week before a crucial playoff game on vacation, but that's another story.

The point is, Romo looks to Witten first-the numbers back it up. And on a team with talented recievers like Owens and now Roy Williams (no, Patrick Crayton, you blow), you have to find a way to get the ball to these guys in those situations.

That's my quarterback! And you stole my rubber duckie!

Now apparently, there was a closed door meeting between Owens, Williams, and Crayton (who invited 'ole lead hands??), in which they discussed ways to improve the offense through them with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. How DARE they.

How is this a problem? Instead of doing what he usually does, blab to the media and complain publicly, Owens gathered other members of the team who shared his opinion, and had a private meeting to try and HELP THE TEAM win. Think about it. The boys, at the time, were 8-5, and on the cusp of missing the playoffs. They were going into a game against the Giants, who were shredding the division. It's must win game, and TO wants to be a part of it. So rather than watch his quarterback throw dump offs to his best buddy tight end all game, he said something. Not to a TV camera, not to Stephen A. Smith, but to his offensive coordinator, with his teammates backing him up. For once, Owens made a move to help his team, not himself. And it seems like it paid off on Sunday night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Long Vacation, Blue Nation

I was just scrolling through a couple of my friends' blogs and realized that we are linked on at least three, all with the following caption: (Last posted 3 months ago). Thus I am struck to revive this sleeping giant in the same way Rich Rod will revive Michigan (more to follow). Shylock, to his credit, has reminded me many times that we had to get an update in, but, to his detriment, is constantly asking for ten bucks - so I ignored him.

A few quick hitters from the past three months that might be worth mentioning:

2) We got together in DC, for this.
3) Jimmy was in a movie, and was great.

Now to the main topic, and I promise this is my last post on Michigan until my next post on Michigan: THIS YEAR SUCKED.

You may remember from August a tiny little promise this intrepid reporter made on this very posting medium:

"The University of Michigan Football Team will win 10 games this year."

A self-aggrandizing proclamation of elitist reasoning follows with the ultimate climax in challenging all apologists and "self-proclaimed realists." Needless to say, that humble pie tasted awful, and I ate it all year. It still hurts, in places. This was the worst season in Michigan Football history in terms of losses, and I bet the combined emotional pain of us die-hards. The coaching staff didn't always have the best players on the field on defense (we were running a 3-3-5 until mid-season), and the offense was an unmitigated disaster. Why Justin Feagin was scarcely used is beyond me, and Threet and Sheridan are going to look great carrying clipboards next year. Everyone deserves blame, including Lloyd Carr for putting all his eggs in one basket (Ryan Mallet).

But let not your heart be troubled! After all, it can't get any worse! We have a solid recruiting class coming in with guys like Justin Turner, Anthony LoLata and Craig Roh coming in. Not to mention our two stellar QB recruits: Tate Forcier and well-named Shavodrick Beaver. RichRod is a fantastic coach, has faced adversity at every level and knows how to win. Besides, with the plethora of idiocy that seems to have infected the coaching hirings this off-season (Lane Kiffin to Tennessee? wtf?), who would you rather have?

Michigan will be back. In the mean time, you can watch the basketball team continue to beat top 5 teams. Or you could just stare at beauty too glorious for words: