An Excellent Inside Look at What It’s Like to Coach in the NFL

This is an excellent book about what it’s like to be a coach in the National Football League.  While the author was embedded with one team for the 2011 NFL season, the New York Jets, it still provides some great insights into the world of the NFL and its coaches.  While there may be some nuances and differences across teams, the major themes are likely very consistent across the league.

Even better, the book is extremely well written and entertaining as well.  It does a great job of not only providing thematic examples of what it’s like to be a coach in the NFL, but brining the personalities of the players and coaches to life as well.

The main theme of the book is just how hard coaches work and what gruesomely long hours all coaches put into their profession.  This is nearly a 24 hour a day job during the start of training camp through the end of the season, and there’s not much rest in-between either.  Being a coach in the NFL is a major commitment and a sacrifice for not only the coaches but their families as well.  They literally live football and often wind up sleeping in the facilities.  From player evaluation, game planning for the next opponent, installing the game plan during the week, dealing with player injuries and personalities, it is simply an all-consuming job.  You have to really love football to adopt this lifestyle.

Add to the long hours the pressure of winning is tremendous.  The NFL is a win now league and losing teams generally have quick turnover of head coaches and their assistants.  Winning is a tonic that brings joy, but short-lived, while losing it torturous.

Another significant theme of the book is the schism between the defensive and offensive sides of the balls, even between coaches.  So much goes into the offensive and defensive game plans and installing them with the players that the coaches of these squads do not interact that often.  Sometimes it can even get a little heated if one unit is performing significantly better than the other, which often happens with the Jets who have a great defense but at best a mediocre offense.  That tension certainly existed for the Jets to some degree, and I have heard it existing on other teams as well.  It is not entirely surprising that this schism exists on teams but it is intriguing.

A third theme, and I am sure this is where it probably varies more widely depending on the personality and approach of the head coach, is how much control or involved a head coach might exert on any specific aspect of game planning.  The head coach is supposed to be a big picture game planner and let his coordinators do most of the intricate work on the game plan for their units.  Rex, being a defensive coach, has his particularly defensive philosophy and might be more hands on there, but on the offensive side, while having a ground and pound approach, leaves more in the hands of the coordinator.  Of course there are some coaches who essentially are their own offensive coordinator and call the plays.  It is all a matter of what a head coach wants to take control of and what he is comfortable delegating.  For the Jets, the offense did not perform so well, eventually lead to the ouster of Brian Schottenheimer, the offensive coordinator.

Another theme is just tension on the team generally between players. Again, this is probably something that exists at different degrees on other teams.  For example, we know there was some tension between quarterback Mark Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes that eventually blew up into the public sphere, which is alluded to here.  And older players trying to adapt to new roles is also an underlying theme.

Another interesting aspect of this book was simply reading about the personalities of the players.  The intelligence and studious nature of Darrell Revis goes a long way in explaining why he is so great at his position, and the sometimes slovenly approach of an Antonio Cromartie explains why such a great athletic talent is sometimes so inconsistent.  Having a serious minded winner like Revis can have a positive influence on those less inclined to be such students of the game and why they often bring not only talent but leadership and a positive example to the team as well.  These types of players can be as valued by what they bring to the team off the field as by what they do on it.

Much is also made of how immature Mark Sanchez is and how frustrated the coaches were with his inconsistent play and turnovers.  Again, it seems like the immaturity factor has a lot to do with the sloppy, inconsistent play and underperforming on the field.

Yet another major theme is the pain of losing.  The rollercoaster ride of winning and losing and the difficultly of keeping coaches and players positive and not letting a string of losses knock the wheels completely off is an important function of the head coach and his staff.  The Jets did not make the playoffs after the 2011 season and being used to winning that is hard to take.  And it puts coaches’ jobs at jeopardy.  And as we have seen since this book was written, as of 2015 all the coaches and the GMs are gone because they never turned the team back around.

Finally the General Manger’s role is discussed.  Tannebaum is an interesting case.  Of course he is responsible for player personnel and contract negotiations but he also has to work well with his coaches and scouts and be a problem solver during the season.  All GMs are going to have their own philosophy’s and style and Tannebaum tried to fit in and help where help was needed during the season while dealing with player issues and personnel as they came up.

Overall I found this to be a well written and fascinating look at coaching in the NFL through the prism of the personalities and quirks of the New York Jets and recommend it to any serious NFL fan.

Collision Low Crossers: Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football

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Review of Bill Parcells: A Football Life

parcellsThis “autobiography” of Bill Parcells is certainly fascinating, as any biography of such a character should be. Character is a good word to describe Parcells, as he is a character. Arrogant, sarcastic, demanding, profane, psychologist, restless and successful are just a few of the adjectives that describe one of the best professional football coaches of the modern era.

I have always been fascinated by people who make sports their life calling, especially one as demanding as being the head coach or executive of a National Football League team. Parcells has been one of the best with a unique and not always likable style.

This biography does a great job of providing the background of Parcells’s growing up and how being a self-described Jersey guy has colored his personality. His dedication to football and being a football coach is evident in his hopping from job to job at small schools in the college ranks, constantly moving his family and working for little pay hoping for bigger and better opportunities. The demands of his job and the constant moving eventually cost him his marriage, which unfortunately is not that uncommon for coaches. Parcells’s life has certainly been defined by football.

Bill Parcels really made his stamp on football immortality as the head coach of the New York Giants whom he lead from a bad team to two time Super Bowl champion grounded in the philosophy of a strong defense and solid running game. His time with the Giants was not always without its stresses. Parcells was furious when he found out General Manager George Young was essentially looking to get rid of him after his first season, one which saw the team go 3-12. Between the lines it appears Parcells never really got over that.

After eight seasons with the New York Giants and two Super Bowl wins, Parcells stepped down as the head coach. While it is never made clear why he left the Giants, only saying “it was time” he did have a heart condition and it is also clear that Tim Mara selling his share of his team to Robert Tish, ushering in a new ownership group, likely had something to do with this move as well. More than once in the book Parcells exclaims that a change in ownership is a good reason for a coach to leave the organization.

After heart bypass surgery and few years away from coaching, Bill Parcells became the head coach of the New England Patriots.
I am a diehard New England Patriots fan and many of my fellow compatriots do not like Parcells because he left the Patriots in a lurch before Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season. This was a pretty terrible thing for Parcells to do because he had been secretly working out a deal to leave for the hated New York Jets, which made him, in some ways, a lame duck head coach going into the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl. It was not quite as bad as the suspension and then reinstatement for the playoffs of New England head coach Chuck Fairbanks in the 1978 season where the team lost to the Houston Oilers in the divisional round lead by a coach on his way out the door and no respect among the players. But it was not an entirely classy move either.

But Bill Parcells did make one key decision that turned around the Patriots franchise and lead us to the Super Bowl. Had he made a different decision, who knows what the future would have held for the franchise. In the 1993 draft there were two quarterbacks that were going to go number one and number two: Drew Bledsoe of Washington State and Rick Mirer of Notre Dame. Parcells chose Bledsoe who went on to become a solid starter and part of the resurgence of a moribund franchise. Rick Mirer, while winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Seattle Seahawks, quickly became a washed up bust. Parcells made the right move. And let’s not forget that Parcells took a terrible team and through the draft, free agent signings, and his leadership turned it into a playoff contender.

And then there is the ownership situation. Robert Kraft bought the New England Patriots in 1994 and Parcells was part of the previous regime. It appears that Parcells did not give Kraft the respect he deserved as owner, as mostly what Parcells wanted from ownership would appear to be to just stay out of his way. Kraft, on the other hand, was probably a bit too meddlesome in football operations, which is highlighted by the Patriots selecting Ohio State wider receiver Terry Glenn in the first round of the 1996 draft, against the wishes of Parcells. This is probably the beginning of the end of Parcells’s stay in New England.

Bill Parcells went on to turnaround the Jets organization and make them into a contender and fostering a heated rivalry with the New England Patriots who got several New York Jets’ draft choices because of the way Parcells left the Patriots. After leaving coaching and being an executive with the Jets, Parcells again stepped down.

But like The Terminator, he’d be back, surprisingly with one of the most meddlesome owners in the league, Jerry Jones. He then turned around another ailing franchise, although not with quite the dramatic impact he had in his previous stints. But he did put the Cowboys on the right track after a four year tenure there.

Parcells’s final act was as the head of football operations for the Miami Dolphins where he tried to piece back the organization through hiring the right coaches and the draft. He didn’t have quite the success with the Dolphin’s as he did at other stops but they were certainly in a better place when he left than when he came. The wheels came off shortly thereafter.

Next I want to turn to a few of the major themes of the book that interest me the most.

Does Bill Parcells deserve to be in the National Football League Hall of Fame?

There were several detractors to Parcells Hall of Fame candidacy. The reasons included his less than spectacular overall record of 172-130-1. His job hopping didn’t help his candidacy as some wanted to make sure if elected he didn’t go back into coaching and possibly harm is legacy. He didn’t stay with any one team long enough, except maybe the Giants, to truly establish a dominant legacy with any one team. The most ridiculous argument is that Bill Belichick was with him during his most successful years.

Bill Parcells without a doubt belongs in the Hall of Fame. You can’t even think about the history of the NFL from 1983 to today without Bill Parcells’s being a major part of the story. He won two Super Bowls. And he turned around the fates of four franchises.

He also left an extensive coaching tree include Belichick, Tom Coughlin, and Sean Payton, all Super Bowl winners and many others who have been coaches in the professional and college ranks.

Relationship with Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick was the contractual heir to the New York Jets head coaching job when Bill Parcells stepped down in 1999. But in one of the most bizarre resignation speeches ever, Belichick jilted Parcells and the Jets to take the head coaching job with, of all teams, the New England Patriots. This lead to falling out over what heretofore had seemed to be an extremely strong bond as Parcells brought Belichick along with him everywhere he went and they had great success together. Parcells take on it was “a deal is a deal.”

Here I think Parcells is being a bit disingenuous and inconsistent. First, the way he left New England was a bit classes and he two broke his contractual obligations which lead to a brokering of a deal giving New England several of the Jets draft choices. Second, Parcells himself said that a change in ownership is a good reason for a head coach to be concerned and leave a job and the Jets had just been sold to a new owner.
I suspect, although this has never been stated, that Belichick also wanted to be his own man and since Parcells was set to be head of football operations and still his boss, and he didn’t want Big Bill constantly looking over his shoulder at his coaching decisions and being meddlesome.
I think Parcells feelings were just hurt. It was good to see that they have mended their fences since then.

Bill Parcells and Robert Kraft

Another difficult relationship that has since seemed to be repaired is the bad relationship Kraft had with Parcells when he took over the ownership of the New England Patriots. Parcells’s famous line “if they want you to cook the dinner, they ought to let you buy some of the groceries” is a classic. Of course a coach wants a strong say over the draft and other roster acquisitions and Kraft not handing more of the personnel responsibilities over to Parcells was a mistake. Parcells, on the other hand, did not communicate well with Kraft and presumably left in him in the dark and even had intermediaries speaking on his behalf. This is not a healthy way to run a football team. Both made mistakes. This is another relationship I am happy to see, if not fully patched up, at least each acknowledging mistakes were made and both regretting how the parting of Parcells from the team came about.

Conclusion

The one quibble I have with this book is the prose is not always as clear as it could be and sometimes I had to read something twice because of it. It was also written in the third person, which was a bit odd, but I eventually got used to it. Parcells voice is loud and clear in the book, nevertheless.

Overall I would heartily recommend the book to any NFL fan as it tells the “Football Life” of one of the most interesting and important coaches in the history of the game.

Parcells: A Football Life

 

Know Thy Enemy: Rex Ryan Talks about Himself

Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game by Rex Ryan with Don Yaeger
Doubleday May 3, 2011
ISBN-10:0385534442
Hardcover:288 pages

Rex Ryan is an obnoxious, undisciplined, loud mouth jerk just like his father.  When I saw he “wrote” a book, I could help myself.  I had to read it.

I still believe Rex Ryan is an obnoxious, undisciplined, loud mouth jerk, and fully understand why the Baltimore Ravens did not hire him as a head a coach after he had been their defensive coordinator.  A coach who lets the inmates run the asylum (one of Bill Parcels favorite sayings), and who shows no self-discipline himself, will have an obnoxious undisciplined team that can’t win the big game.  I don’t think Ryan will ever win a Super Bowl.  His teams will always choke on their bravado.  And they can’t seem to keep their mouths shut when they should.

That aside, this autobiography of Rex Ryan was somewhat interesting.  Everybody knows he grew up in a coaching family.  His father Buddy Ryan, probably the progenitor of the bounty game that has caught up with the New Orleans Saints, is famous for his 46 defense and the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears where his defensive team may have been the best ever, and for being an obnoxious cretin.

Well, Rex Ryan is kind of lovable in his own way unlike his father.

Herein he tells his life story of wanting to be a coach and growing up being taught to be so by his father.  His relationship with his mother, an educator, was quite interesting.  Ryan reveals he is dyslectic and that hampered his academic career, but of course not his football one. His poor mother never realized this problem and blamed herself for his struggles as a youngster in the classroom.  This was probably the most revealing part of the book.

Ryan of course relays all his playing and coaching history and actually throws some begrudging respect to Bill Belichick, his coaching better, and Tom Brady.

Now if he’d grow up just a tad, he might actually be a decent coach himself.

This book was interesting enough and Ryan clearly loves football and being a head coach.  His tenure as the Jets head coach is front and center, as one would expect.  As a result you don’t see much new that you didn’t see on HBO’s Hard Knocks featuring the Jets, but it was interesting nonetheless.

But as seen in the 2011 NFL season the Jets are less than that the sum of their parts.  Yes, I know they went to the AFC Championship game twice riding on the emotions of an emotional coach.  But did they win?  Did they go over the top?  No.  The squabbling teammates and lack of discipline in 2011 is a reflection of the coach.  I don’t see much changing.

As a disclaimer I am a New England Patriots fan so take that for what it’s worth.  But I thought his father was a jerk, and Rex is just the happy go lucky dumb son of one.

Despite that, for football fans this is definitely worth the read.

Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game

New England Patriots’ Super Bowl Hopes Dashed: What Went Wrong Against the New York Jets?

The New England Patriots 28-21 loss to their hated rival New York Jets in the 2010 divisional playoff round is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow for Patriots fans. But the bottom line is the Patriots got outplayed and outcoached and the New York Jets deserve their victory.

That leaves one wondering, what went wrong? Well, a lot went wrong. Here is my take on the game with the keys to the Jets victory.

Defensive Game Plan

I would not call the Jets defensive game plan brilliant because it was copied from the San Diego Chargers, and ironically, the Cleveland Browns (who Rex Ryan’s brother Rob Ryan was the defensive coordinator of at the time). Once the Patriots jettisoned Randy Moss earlier this year they really lost their only deep threat on offense. Brandon Tate was the most likely candidate to fulfill this role but at this stage in his early career he just hasn’t come through. Thus, New England eventually thrived on a short passing game and the run.

Shortly after New England booted Moss to the curb the San Diego Chargers played a perfect defensive game against them. What did they do? They didn’t blitz Brady leaving openings in the short passing game that he has so thoroughly exploited against most teams after that. They simply threw a lot of defensive backs into the game and blanketed the smallish wide receiving crew. As a result Brady had nowhere to go with the ball and was harassed all day in the pocket, not because of a great pass rush, but because the coverage was so good. The only reason the Patriots won that game is gaffs and turnovers by the Chargers.

The Cleveland Browns did the same thing to the offense, while gashing the very young defense in the running game for a blowout victory.

The Jets replicated that, and with two of the best cornerbacks in the league. They covered the receivers and got what I consider coverage sacks on Tom Brady. And later in the game when the Patriots seemed to be making a comeback they ran the ball effectively, but ate up so much of the clock they left little time to complete the comeback.

In their second meeting the Jets blitzed, Brady exploited it, and the Patriots got a lead. Sorry, while all this praise is heaped on Sanchez after this game, but put the ball in his hands for a comeback bid and that is usually going to spell disaster. Tonight the Jets defense didn’t leave it in Sanchez’s hands.

And one final point, this game showed clearly what the lack of a Randy Moss meant to this offense and team. A receiver to stretch the field is sorely needed.

Coaching Decisions

Bill Belichick is clearly one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history. You don’t have a team, especially in the era of free agency and parity, which competes year in and year out for a Super Bowl title unless you have a great coach. But why is it in big games that Belichick seems to outsmart himself?

Everyone remembers the infamous forth and short call against the Indianapolis Colts two years ago. With a small lead and the ball backed up within the Colts 20 yard line, near the end of the game, Belichick decides to go for it on 4th and 1 instead of punting the ball and making Peyton Manning drive most of the field for a winning touchdown. The Patriots didn’t make it, and paid for it with a loss.

Less remembered will be Belichick’s decision to eschew a 51 yard field goal in Super Bowl 42 and instead went for it on 4th and long, resulting in great field position for the Giants. Given the indoor stadium and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it was a makeable field goal, even if he was a rookie.

So the Patriots are only down 7-3 in the second quarter near midfield and Belichick calls for a fake punt. Patrick Chung botches the snap and it’s the same as a turnover. The Jets have the ball on a short field and it’s suddenly 14-3. (I know Chung claims it was his call but I find that hard to believe).

Playing behind against the Jets defense is not where you want to be.

And what was with the challenge so early in the game on a first down play that was clearly a catch by Santonio Holmes?

Then with a 21-14 deficit with 1:32 seconds to go in the game, Belichick decides to go for an onside kick. Granted the Jets just torched the Patriots defense for a big play earlier to turn a 14-11 lead to a 21-11 lead prior to the long drive and field goal. But otherwise the New England defense had played pretty well in the in second half forcing a few three and outs.

Now I am not going to really fault Belichick for the onside kick call too much because head they kicked the ball and the Jets gotten a few first downs the game would have been over. But give the Jets the ball at midfield on a play that rarely works? Game over. I would have kicked the ball off and forced the Jets to make the first down.

Bad Plays

Despite the great play of the Jets the New England Patriots could have still won the game but the players simply made the worst mistakes and the worst times.

New England’s opening drive was a promising one, moving the ball well and looking to be on their way to a score. But Brady threw an interception which stopped the Patriots’ momentum in its tracks. While the Jets ultimately missed a field goal on their subsequent drive, this was a lost scoring opportunity.

Then on the next drive, Algae Crumpler crumpled and dropped a touchdown pass right in his hands on third down, so the Patriots had to settle for three instead of seven.

Then Patrick Chung, with the Patriots down 7-3, fumbled the ball on a fake punt attempt. Replays showed he very likely would have made the first down to keep the drive alive. Instead the Jets get the ball past midfield and convert it into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

In the second half when the Patriots cut the Jets’ lead to 14-11 after a nice scoring drive and two point conversion, the defense gives up a huge play to Jerchico Cotchery which eventually lead to the Jets extending the lead to 21-11. A sad and unforgivable let down by the defensive that had played well in the second half up to that point.

Then the onside kick attempts at the end of the game were simply pitiful. Shayne Graham did a nice job on the first kick but all the Patriots players were blocking but nobody was going after the ball. They should have had at least one player aggressively going after the ball but they were all standing around trying to block. And even worse, they let Antonio Cromartie get the ball and run into scoring position.

And the second onside kick was just as bad. A good kick by Graham, but nobody aggressively trying to get go after the ball, which the Jets recovered.

That was pretty sad for Patriots fans who were teased with a possible comeback.

And finally the kickoffs by Shayne Graham were just pitiful. Line drives to the 10 yard line with Antonio Cromartie consistently putting the Jets in good field position were not helpful.

How Depressed Should Patriots Fans Be?

Any time you lose a playoff game against a team you know you can beat it is depressing. And there is so much parity in the league this year the Patriots had a great chance to win another Super Bowl. So it is very depressing.

But if you had asked me in the middle of the season, with one of the youngest and seemingly weakest defenses in the league, with two rookie corners, no real pass rushing threat, and a team relying on a cast of small receivers with no deep threat, to me it is amazing the Patriots made it as far as they did. The defense is clearly in rebuilding mode, so going 14-2 is pretty good.

On paper, in my opinion, the Baltimore Ravens have the best team in the league and they blew it too after second half turnovers against Pittsburgh.

Atlanta, the number one seed in the NFC got smacked in the mouth by the Green Bay Packers.

Peyton Manning and the Colts suffered a lot of injuries on offense and lost to the Jets last week.

While the New Orleans Saints, last year’s Super Bowl champions, lost to a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team.

So the Patriots loss, especially considering the personnel they have on the field, is nothing to be ashamed about.

The Patriots were overrated going into the playoffs in my opinion. Their defense has been vulnerable all year and is one of the youngest in the league and other than Brady and a solid offensive line, they really have no big playmakers on offense. I’ve heard commentators say the Patriots have done it with smoke and mirrors. The smoke and mirrors have been Brady’s superlative play all year. Other than the interception early in the game he actually played quite well, his receivers simply could not get open.

So at the end of the day it will take me a long time to get over this loss, but based on the personnel we had on the field all year, we got further than I thought we would.

But it sill stings, because we could have, should have taken it all again.

2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs Review

The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts certainly didn’t look rusty after playing a few meaningless regular season games and having a bye week. In fact, they looked the opposite, healthier, fresher, and ready to roll.

Kickers played a huge role in this year’s playoff games. Nate Keading of the San Diego Chargers choked on two makeable field goals that probably cost the Chargers the game. Chris Kluwe had a fabulous day punting for the Vikings that had an impact on field position and the ability of the Cowboys to come back after getting down early. Last week Jay Feely of the New York Jets had to punt and placekick. His ability to punt effectively was impressive.


New Orleans Saints over Arizona Cardinals, 45-14

This game turned out about how I expected, although I thought the Cardinals would have more success on offense. The Cardinals defense played so badly last week that I expected another track meet in which the Saints would ultimately prevail. I did not think the Saints defense would play as badly as Green Bay’s last week, and they were at home, so I gave them a big edge. A few early turnovers and the Saints scoring a touchdown on nearly every possession in the first half sealed the deal early.

The Saints looked quite impressive on both sides of the ball throughout the game, and Reggie Bush even emerged as a significant scoring threat, as if the Saints didn’t already have enough weapons. His 46 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half buried the Cardinals early, and his 83 yard punt return in the third quarter knocked whatever spark the Cardinals had right out.

You have to hand it to Kurt Warner though. After getting blasted after an interception in the first half and leaving the game, he came out in the second half and played hard, in what increasingly looked like a futile effort given their defense was doing little to stop the Saints.

MVP: Reggie Bush, RB/KR

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 20-3

The biggest weakness of the Ravens this year is they lacked a true number one receiver and had a hard time getting big plays in the passing game. That was ultimately their downfall all year, and against the Colts in the playoffs. Add to that the multiple turnovers, and they had no chance.

You could see the frustration on quarterback Joe Flacco’s face in the second half with the inability to get anything going. Derrick Mason is a decent receiver but too old and not fast enough to be a breakaway wide receiver and Mark Clayton, who should be that guy, is a bust.

The Colts, and Peyton Manning had a very efficient offensive game, controlled the clock, and simply ground out an easy win over the Ravens. The Ravens defense played well in spots, but with the turnovers and time of possession, there was not a lot they could do to pull this one out.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB


Minnesota Vikings over Dallas Cowboys, 34-3

While the Minnesota offense played extremely well, especially Brett Favre and Sidney Rice, it was really the defense and special teams that set the tone early and clamped down on the Cowboys. Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense were harassed early, with Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards emerging with three sacks and forced fumble early in the game. And they continued to frustrate the Cowboys offense throughout, leaving the offense to have its way with the Cowboys defense.

And even though I am no fan of Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, once he was knocked out of the game, the Minnesota defensive line really dominated the action. Putting Jason Witten and sometimes a back to block Minnesota’s Jared Allen was foolhardy, and their back up tackle was not up to the task, either.

Obviously Favre played a great game with four touchdown passes (but one in garbage time), but it was the defense that really pulled this one out for the Vikings. I also have to include punter Chris Kluwe in that, who had some excellent punts which impacted field position.

It was a well rounded effort by the Vikings and gives them the kind of big win they need to keep momentum as they face New Orleans next week in the Superdome.

MVP: Ray Edwards, DE

New York Jets over San Diego Chargers, 17-14

I really thought the Jets had no chance against the Chargers this week. The Chargers won nine games in a row and were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. They looked completely flat offensively in this game, but hats off to the number one defense in the league for shutting them down most of the game.

Two big keys to game were the two interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers in the third quarter, one on a brilliant play by Darrelle Revis, and Nate Keading missing two makeable field goals, which probably cost the Chargers the win. The ten points off turnovers and missed field goals were huge for the Jets.

The biggest play of the game, and the one that ultimately sealed it for the Jets was Shonn Greene’s 53 yard run for a touchdown that put the Jets up 17-7 with a little over seven minutes left to play. Given the way the Jets defense was playing it proved to be too much for the Chargers to overcome, although they came close.

And what to make of Nate Keading’s two missed field goals? I would not call a 36 yarder and a 40 yarder chip shots, necessarily, but they are the kinds of kicks that must be made, especially in the playoffs. Hit one, and you might be looking at overtime and a chance to win. Hit both and you are likely looking at the Chargers moving on to the AFC Championship game. It will be a long, long offseason for poor Keading.

And finally, there as been much debate about Norv Turner going for an onside kick in near the end of the game with one time out and 2:14 left on the clock. Kick it away, and get a three and out with one time out and the two minute warning, you are probably looking at getting the ball at least your own 30 yard line (but probably better with the poor punting by the Jets’ Steve Weatherford) with about one minute and a half on the clock. Even though the Jets had played great defense all day, the explosive Chargers would have had a chance to get into field goal range to tie the game and give Keading an opportunity to redeem himself (or not). Or even score a touchdown for the win. A failed onside kick ends the game. I thought it was bad move by Norv Turner.

Are the Chargers simply snake bitten in the playoffs? It seems the years they have their best chance to get to the Super Bowl they play well but lose in the playoffs. They seem to play better in the playoffs when they are the underdog.

MVP: Shonn Greene, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota
Offensive Lineman: Kyle DeVan, G, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 2

OBSERVATIONS

Tom Brady: I don’t know why the press is beating up on Brady so badly after two games. He is coming off a very serious ACL injury and has not played in a year. Of course it is going to take some time to get back to where he was before. Anyone who thought Brady was going to waltz in and be the Brady of old from the first snap is seriously delusional. Peyton Manning had a knee surgery and only missed preseason last year and looked very out of sync at least for the first quarter of the season if not longer. Carson Palmer never played particularly well his first year back after ACL surgery.

The Running Game: For the most part the most successful offensive teams are the teams that are running the ball effectively and utilizing their running backs.

Mark Sanchez: Like Flacco and Ryan last year, Sanchez has started off the season looking like the real deal at quarterback. And what do all three have in common? Good teams around them, and solid defenses. It’s too early to evaluate Matt Stafford.

Jim Zorn: Is a terrible head coach. The Redskins look lost on offense.

Jake Long: I am sick of people saying how good a tackle Jake Long of the Dolphins is. I have not seen anything that overly impresses me about him yet. He’s good, but he’s not great. Maybe he will be. He gave us some sacks and struggled in his first game, and had a lot of help against Dwight Freeney of the Colts on Monday Night. And Freeney is not that good against the run anyway.


GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 16-9

The scariest part of the Jets win over the Patriots for Patriots fans is the realization that we should be 0-2. We have no real leaders left on defense and Tom Brady is struggling early in the season, as one would expect coming off a serious knee injury. With a hot Atlanta team coming to Foxborough, mounting injuries, and the tough Baltimore Ravens on the horizon, we could be looking at a 1-3 start if we don’t right the ship.

The Jets talked the talk during the week leading up to this game, and they certainly walked the walk. In fact their defense walked all over the Patriots. The most intensely frustrating part of this game was that the Patriots squandered excellent field position throughout the first half, either settling for field goals or not scoring at all when they had chances on the Jets end of the of the field.

Brady clearly is still working to regain his form after coming off a year long layoff and ACL surgery. His footwork, timing, and accuracy are all off the mark. It doesn’t help that Wes Welker was on the bench, but rookie Julian Edelman did decent job in his place, although he had a few rookie mistakes. Meanwhile Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut Randy Moss down all day long, and Brady had no time throw. It was a long, long, day for the offense.

Defensively the Patriots have gone from old to very young, and lack natural leaders on and off the field. Dan Dierdorf, who I usually think is an idiot, said it best. Needing a stop in the second half to get the offense back on the field, Dierdorf said (paraphrased) “no Harrison, Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, and now no Jerrod Mayo. There are no real leaders left on this team that you just expect to step up and make a play in situations like this.” And of course the Jets get a first down. The defense didn’t play terribly, but in the second half they made rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez look like a savvy veteran.

Despite all this you can also lay part of the blame for this loss on a horrendous offensive game plan. There is no way in a two close games Brady should be throwing the ball around 50 times a game. That is ridiculous. Even if he were fully healthy the pass happy game plan in these tight games is head scratcher. We have five serviceable running backs, use them! Most of the time we bothered to run the ball against the Jets we mostly had success, but we didn’t stick with it enough. The best way to slow down an aggressive pass rush is a successful running game, play action passes, and screens. I saw none of that on Sunday and I think that cost us the chance to win the game.

The Jets had a very good season last year and tanked toward the end of the season. This year they again look solid. Mark Sanchez so far looks like the real deal at quarterback and their defense looks very stout.

For the Patriots, I am not hitting the panic button yet. I do think that Brady and the offense will find their rhythm as the season progresses and the defense will continue to improve. But we better not fall into a big hole early in the season or we may be chasing the Jets all year for the AFC East title.

And for me the player of the game is Leon Washington. Although his stats don’t look impressive at face value, his kickoff returns consistently gave the Jets good field position and he made some key offensive plays to keep drives alive in the second half (his lost fumble excepted).

MVP: Leon Washington, RB/KR


Baltimore Ravens over San Diego Chargers, 31-26

The San Diego Chargers are another playoff caliber team that should be 0-2. The loss of Jamaal Williams on the defensive line, along with other injuries, really seems to have put the Chargers defense in a tailspin. Despite their solid play the last two weeks, the Ravens are not a high scoring team generally but they mostly had their way with the Chargers.

Like the Patriots, beyond Rivers two interceptions, their biggest problem was scoring in the red zone. You can’t get into the red zone and settle for four field goals and except to win the game. And once again little Darren Sproles was a one man show but it wasn’t enough.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have picked up right where they left off last year. On offense Flacco is playing well and they are utilizing their three running backs, McGahee, Rice, and McClain very effectively (hear that Bill Belichick?). And defense the old veteran Ray Lewis continues to be a disruptive force.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB


New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 33-31

It is funny hearing Eli Manning touted as the second coming by the pundits when Romo gave up three gift interceptions which doomed the Cowboys to losing their home opener in their new gaudy stadium. They say things are bigger in Texas and Romo seems to be the biggest choke artist of them all. Maybe he’ll take Peyton’s spot in that category. Romo has a great deal of potential but he made poor throws and mistakes in the passing game, and tends to do so on the biggest stages.

Don’t get me wrong, the Giants played well and so did Eli Manning. But he Cowboys helped them out quite a bit. The Giants, in fact, are clearly now the team to beat in the NFC East, if not the entire conference. They have an excellent if inconsistent quarterback, a solid running game, and maybe the best all around offensive line in the league. And now they have found two receivers who have stepped up to the plate and had a coming out party of their own in Steve Smith and Mario Manningham who had nearly 300 yards between them. And as usually, the Giants defense has sketchy defensive backs, but their defensive line is one of the best in the league.

MVP: Mario Manningham, WR


Indianapolis Colts over Miami Dolphins, 27-23

This is one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Miami holds the ball almost the entire game, running the ball right now the Colts throats, but still lose. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes but scored a touchdown on big plays on nearly every possession to win the game. Unbelievable!

On offense Miami did everything right, rushing for 239 yards, using the “Wildcat” formation effectively, and throwing when they needed to. But the defense gave up big plays, and fast, nearly every time the Colts touched the ball. The first play of the game was an 80 yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Dallas Clark and they didn’t slow down or get out of rhythm, they just kept doing it when they had the ball. Manning was just brilliant in this game. If you cut Manning open you would probably find wires because he is a machine.

Miami’s defense should be ashamed. As should Miami wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. who dropped a catchable ball at the end of the game that could of won it for Miami. I think Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust of a first round draft pick at this point. I have seen nothing in his career that has impressed me.

After the game Steve Young said Miami lost because they do not have a big play offense. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard him say. Had Miami scored on big plays that would have likely meant that the Colts just score more points and end up winning anyway. 99.999999 percent of the time a team rushes the ball as well as Miami did, scores touchdowns, and keeps the other team off the field for 45 minutes of the game, they will win. And the best way to beat the Colts is to control the ball, get some points, and keep Manning on the bench, just like Miami did. Few teams are going to win a scoring race with the Colts. It was Miami’s defense that lost this game.

Dallas Clark had 7 catches for 183 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage, but I have to go with Peyton as the MVP because he was just brilliant in this game.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49’ers (207 yards rushing)

Defensive Player: Antwan Odom, DE, Cincinnati (5 sacks)

Offensive Lineman: Jake Grove, C, Miami

Special Teams: Leon Washington, KR, New York Jets

Rookie of the Week: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

Review of Tales from the New York Jets Sidelines

2001238489-177x150-0-0Tales from the New York Jets Sideline by Mark Cannizzaro
Review by C. Douglas Baker

Tales from the Jets Sideline is a very disappointing book. It’s almost difficult to know where to start in detailing its many shortcomings. Jets fans and football fans in general will find very little here worth bothering with.

But first a little bit about what the book is about, which unfortunately isn’t much given the rich and varied history of this team. Cannizzaro essentially serves up a hodgepodge of short vignettes about the New York Jets players, coaches, and owner from 1993-2003. Most of the tidbits are nothing new, nothing particularly interesting, and seem to be items gleaned from the “Sports In Brief” section of the newspaper. He probably should have called the book, “Jets in Brief, Since 1993.”

The book is organized in chapters primarily around the Jets many coaches with the owner and a few prominent players thrown in for good measure. So we go through the laundry list of chapters: Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, Boomer Esiason (QB), Rich Kotite, Leon Hess (owner), Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin (RB), Bill Belichick, Al Groh, K and Q (Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet), Chad Pennington (QB), and Herman Edwards. Thus we get snippets and snapshots of these particular coaches, players, and their teams.

If there is a theme to the book it is that the Jets, since 1993, have been cursed with very lousy coaching, with the exception of Bill Parcells. Parcells resurrected the Jets, took them to the AFC Championship game after the 1997 season, then abandoned the team to drift in a mire of mediocrity for another few years. But it ends on a hopeful note with praise for current coach Herman Edwards and the bright future of quarterback Chad Pennington.

The most interesting part of the book was the impact the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had on this team and the fact Jets players were ready to boycott a game if the NFL had not decided to postpone the season by one week after the attacks. I could almost add the chapters on the contentious relationship between Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet and the surreal episode of Bill Beleihick resigning almost immediately after being named head coach but there was no inside information and nothing new in either of these stories.

The bottom line is this book just isn’t very good and tells us nothing even a somewhat casual fan doesn’t already know about the New York Jets. The New York Jets have a rich history and hardly any of it is detailed here. The book doesn’t even pick up the Jets story until 1993 but the team has been in existence since 1959. So there is no Joe Namath and his guarantee of the Jets’ improbable upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, the highlight of the team’s history. There’s no Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker, Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau and their Gang Green defense. In short, we miss out on hearing about most of the Jets greatest moments and greatest players.

While this book is short and quick a read, I can’t imagine even Jets fans find too much of interest here.

 Tales from the New York Jets Sideline