Peter King Spouts Off About the National Football League

Monday Morning Quarterback: A Fully Caffinated Guide to Everything You Need to Know About the NFL by Peter King
Sports Illustrated: October 2009

I have always considered Peter King to be a bit of a blowhard and this book mostly confirms my opinion.  Monday Morning Quarterback is a compendium of King’s writings and articles about the National Football League in the print and online versions of Sports Illustrated.  As a result it is a bit of a hodgepodge, jumping back and forth between topics, with mostly short topical comments on many aspects of professional football.

I did find the book rather entertaining though.  I particularly liked where he makes lists, my favorite being his ranking of the greatest 100 football players of all time, and his list of the smartest coaches of all time.  Lists are always fun because there is plenty of room for disagreement and prompts you think what your own list would look like.  Who do you think King considers the greatest receiver of all time?  It’s not Jerry Rice.

Given that King is all over the map in this book I’ll suffice it to say he does have some rather nice pieces in here.  My favorites are where he talks about a particular person in the context of their character or an event.  For example, the opening article on Ernie Accorsi, former General Manager of the New York Giants, and the story behind the Eli Manning for Philip Rivers trade during the 2004 draft is intriguing.  His insights into Tony Dungy and Brett Favre are also insightful.

This book also includes asides about King and his love of his kids’ sports, which are really totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but worthwhile reading nonetheless.

And despite that I find King a blowhard, he is self deprecating at time, like when he admits his prognostications that were utterly wrong.

The aspect of the book that is the most bothersome is his articles about Brett Favre.  King admits he became good friends with Brett Favre when he stayed with Favre and his wife while writing a story on him.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that.  But, he is so close to Favre that he even brokered a phone call between Favre and an agent when Favre was contemplating coming out of retirement and was looking to sign with another team.  I know in sports journalism the line is often crossed between being an unbiased reporter and a participant in the events.  And while I will take King at his word when he says he has some insight into what Favre is thinking, his opinions about the drama king are not worth quite as much.  He is no longer an objective observer on that topic.

That said, overall this was a worthwhile read and mostly entertaining.

Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL

2009 NFL Season: AFC & NFC Championship Games

Indianapolis Colts over New York Jets, 30-17

You have to hand it to the New York Jets for their nice run in the playoffs. They embarrassed the Cincinnati Bengals (well, the Bengals embarrassed themselves) and I gave them no chance against the hot San Diego Chargers but they pulled off an impressive win. Despite the final score, I thought the Jets played a fine game against the Colts.

The Jets got the big passing plays they needed for scores in the first half to go ahead and stay in the game. And their defense did a great job of taking away Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. The problem was Peyton Manning finally figured out how to move the ball effectively against the Jets defense, and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie stepped up to the plate with big plays. Once the Colts got a quick score to end the first half, they became too much to handle for the Jets in the second half. The Jets never did make great adjustments and eschewed the blitz to play coverage. But Garcon, especially, came up big for the Colts when it counted.

And once the Jets got behind, their offense just isn’t built right now to come back from a deficit. The Colts with the lead could play to stop the pass and the Jets passing game just simply isn’t dynamic enough to compensate.

So in the end this game turned out about how I expected it to, with Colts finding ways to score against a solid defense, and a Jets offense just not able to keep up.

MVP: Pierre Garcon, WR

New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings, 31-28 OT

This was a very entertaining game and completely lived up to its billing. The Vikings basically outplayed the Saints but turnovers matter in all NFL games and the Vikings fumbled their way out of a Super Bowl birth. It was a closely contest with the offenses moving up and down the field, but the Vikings had an edge on offense that they negated with turnovers and negative plays.

Near the end of regulation, as Minnesota was driving into field goal range, I kept thinking I would be writing what an unbelievably courageous performance by Brett Favre in a win. He was battered as badly as I have ever seen any quarterback battered in a game, but he kept getting out there and fighting back. Instead Favre, as he has done so many times in the past in the playoffs, he threw and idiotic interception instead of stumbling forward for a few yards to give his kicker a chance to win the game. Of course the Vikings had already blundred on that series with too many men in the huddle for a five yard penalty, an egregious mental error at that part of the game. But it was still Favre cementing his legacy, for me at least, as a choke artist in the playoffs, that was the saddest part of the game. Maybe the kicker misses the long field goal, but Favre took his out of any chance to win it in regulation with his terribly ill advised pass late over the middle.

The game then goes to overtime, the Saints get a great kick return by Pierre Thomas for great field position, and win the game on a 40-yard field goal.

Don’t get me wrong though. It was an unbelievably courageous performance by Favre. And it certainly was not Favre’s fault they lost the game. Stupid penalties and fumbles, especially by Adrian Peterson, helped doom them. But why does Favre insist on making the dumbest of throws in the most crucial of situations?

That is what I will remember in this game, as much as anything else.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Jonathan Vilma, LB, New Orleans Saints
Offensive Lineman: Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints

Brett Favre Blunders Again

Brett Favre’s Legacy: Choke Artist

Wow, how many times is Brett Favre going to throw the most idiotic of interceptions in playoffs games? Two years ago he threw a really dumb interception that let the New York Giants waltz into the Super Bowl. Several years ago he threw one of the dumbest interceptions I’ve seen in the history of the playoffs to give the Philadelphia Eagles a pass to the Super Bowl.

On the last play the Vikings had in regulation, had he just stumbled forward for a few yards on a wide open field and given his kicker a chance to make the field goal the Vikings might have won. But instead, Favre didn’t give his team a chance and committed the cardinal sin of throwing the ball across the field in good winning position.

Yes, his teammates fumbled and stumbled too on offense. What is with Adrian Peterson not being able to hang on to the ball? But Favre, in the most critical of situations, when even no gain would have been better than an interception, turned the ball over.

How sad.

Doug Baker’s 2009 NFL Midseason Awards

Now it’s time for me to present the midseason awards. I am sure every player has been anxiously waiting to see if they end up on my list and where.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

I know there will be a lot of grousing and second guessing from my distinguished fellow football fans on this one. I’ve already heard carping about my picking Manning over Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints, as Offensive Player of the Year on my Midseason All Pro Team. But really, you could flip a coin between the two for this award. They are both having great seasons.

My main reason for choosing Manning is I think he has had a slightly better season and has lead a slightly less talented team than the Saints to a 6-0 record. Brees has chunked up some interceptions and almost lost against the Dolphins. While Manning struggled a bit against the 49’ers last week, his game against Miami scoring 27 points with less than 15 minutes of possession left me a little mesmerized.

Drew Brees and Chris Johnson were in the running.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Right now Jared Allen is the best defensive player in the league and is absolutely a beast. He’s almost unblockable one-on-one and sometimes even when he is double or tripled teamed. He has a motor that never stops and he never quits on a play. He has owned Green Bay this year as much as Brett Favre has.

Other players in the running included Darren Sharper, FS, New Orleans Saints who leads the league in interceptions on a much improved Saints offense.

Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Denver Broncos leads the AFC in sacks with 10 and has been a key reason, along with SS Brian Dawkins, for Denver’s turnaround on defense.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

While he walks, talks, acts, and plays like a rookie at times, Sanchez has had a decent rookie season at quarterback, the most difficult and important position in professional football.

I will also call out Percy Harvin, KR/WR, Minnesota Vikings for making an impact on his team, especially in the return game and Michael Oher, RT, Baltimore Ravens, who has had an excellent rookie season on the line of scrimmage. (Note there is a made for TV movie about Michael Oher’s story coming out soon).

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

Byrd has been a turnover machine the past few weeks and has made a clear impact for the Bills on the defensive side of the ball. It makes me feel like the Patriots picked the wrong Oregon defensive back in Patrick Chung.

The only other player considered for this illustrious midseason honor was Brian Cushing, the USC linebacker now playing for the Houston Texans who leads all rookies in tackles.

Favre

Brett Favre Throws Pass Against Green Bay

LEAGUE MVP: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

I have to admit I have been rather sick of the Brett Favre retirement saga but what to say? He is the main difference personnel wise on the talented Vikings team and has completely turned this team into an elite squad. The difference he has made can be seen not only in their 7-1 record but the players’ attitudes on and off the field. Only time will tell if he can keep it up. And this is clear evidence of how important the quarterback position is in today’s NFL.

HEAD COACH: Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos

I was one of those piling on the abuse of both Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler in the seemingly chaotic offseason the Denver Broncos had. So far McDaniels has had the last laugh, completely turning around the Broncos into, at this stage, one of the elite teams in the league. And he’s done it with Kyle Orton as quarterback instead of Jay Cutler. Meanwhile the Bears are struggling with Cutler at the helm. Go figure!

COMEBACK PLAYER: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

After suffering a season ending ACL injury last year, Brady has come back and played well this year. While he might not look like the Brady of old quite yet, he certainly is progressing in that direction as the season unfolds.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Denver Broncos

The Broncos were basically a mediocre to even poor team by the end of last season and their defense was one of the worst in the league. This year they have started out 6-1 and have an efficient offense that can score and one of the best defenses in the league. After the chaotic offseason where the team seemed in disarray I thought the Broncos would be lucky to have an 8-8 record this year. I guess I have been proven wrong and I am certainly surprised.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Tennessee Titans

How does a team go from Super Bowl contender to one of the worst teams in the league so quickly? I know the Titans have suffered injuries and lost players but that still does not explain the complete collapse of the team. Worse yet, the players look like they quit in some games. And what is really shocking is this is a Jeff Fisher coached team, one of the most respected coaches in the league. If the Titans think Vince Young is going to lead them out of this slump they are in for a huge disappointment.

GOAT: Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers

Jake Delhomme picked up right where he left off last year, where he threw five interceptions in an atrocious performance in the playoffs. He has already thrown 13 interceptions in the first seven games of the season and is playing so poorly that I do not understand why the Panthers are so reluctant to start Matt Moore. Jake Delhomme has obviously seen his better days so if Matt Moore is not the future of the franchise, the Panthers better start finding somebody who is.

PUNK: Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Larry Johnson has a history of abusing women which makes him a super punk. This year he is once again showing what a punk he is by trashing his coach and using gay slurs in public, leading to a suspension. He has wanted out of Kansas City for a few years now so maybe this is just a ploy to accomplish that. But who would want a washed up, bad attitude running back who is a me first player who doesn’t care about his team or his teammates? Maybe the Raiders.

Others in the running are Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys, who is pulling a TO and punking his QB Tony Romo. When will Dallas ever find a top flight receiver who is not a me first player who cares more about winning games than piling up statistics?

Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins, also was considered for calling out his offensive line and causing trouble in the locker room with fullback Mike Sellers. This is the second or maybe even third season in a row Portis has publically criticized his teammates and offensive line. While part of his complaints are true, maybe he also needs to look in the mirror.

Jerry Porter is a loudmouth punk. I can’t stand him. Shut up already.

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 4


OBSERVATIONS

Roughing the Passer Calls: Officials are calling roughing the passer calls closer than ever. The Ravens got tagged for one that was rather questionable against the Patriots, and later the Patriots got tagged for one that was an even worse call on what should have been a sack by the Patriots. Over the first few games I’ve seen very, very touchy calls on roughing the passer. I can only say that at least they are being consistent about it, but I don’t like it.

DeMarcus Ware: What has happened to Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware? He is easily being handled by single tackles and is getting no pass rush.

Brett Favre: Favre really knows how to step it up on the biggest stage. Once again we witnessed an otherworldly performance by Favre against his old Green Bay Packer teammates. I just wonder if he can keep it up all year long. With the best running back in the league, a good offensive line, and a stout defense, this team could be scary in the postseason. While I am a bit tired of the off season Favre drama, he sure is fun to watch when he gets revved up.

Aaron Rodgers: And on the other side, Rodgers is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He was not protected very well against the Vikings but still played well and put points on the board. If the Packers can get their offensive line woes straightened out Rodgers will be phenomenal. If they don’t he won’t even be upright at the end of the season.

LaDanian Tomlinson: I was not one who subscribed to the idea that LaDanian was on his last legs. But is he?

Washington Redskins: The Redskins eked out another close victory over a bad team. It will be interesting to see how many games they lose when they play their NFC East opponents. The offense is anemic and uninspired.


GAMES I WATCHED

Sammy Morris Celebrates a 1st Down

Sammy Morris Celebrates a 1st Down

New England Patriots over Baltimore Ravens, 27-21

First let me get this off my chest. I am sick and tired of hearing the Ravens and their fans whine about the officials every time they lose a game. This time they were whining about the roughing the passer call when Suggs brushed Brady’s knee, which eventually lead to a touchdown. While I agree the call was close and probably not a good one, later in the game the Patriots sacked Flacco and got called for roughing the passer, which was an even more ridiculously bad call than the one on the Ravens. So at least the officials were calling it consistently. The Ravens did not lose because of the officials they lost because they were outplayed.

This was a very hard fought game and had a playoff like atmosphere with two upper tier teams battling it out. The Patriots offense looks like it is starting to come together after looking mostly pedestrian the first three games of the season. While they didn’t look like the Saints or Colts, at least Brady had a bit more rhythm and we ran the ball successfully. The one thing I still have a very hard time understanding is why the Patriots are not running more screens and draws to slow down the pass rush. Other teams are using these staple plays to great effect, including the Ravens against us. The Patriots lived by the screen pass in their three Super Bowl runs. It would be nice to see it utilized more in 2009.

Also promising is the way the young defense is coming together and playing reasonably well. While nobody will mistake them for the Ravens or Vikings defenses, at least they are making plays and not getting completely outmatched. The big worry with the defense is the inability to get a decent pass rush going, although even here they were slightly improved against the Ravens.

Two interesting personnel notes. First, Laurence Maroney was booed by the fans. His dancing and prancing behind the line of scrimmage is getting annoying. Maroney thrives in open space but you can’t put Maroney in the game just on screens and halfback passes because you would end up tipping off defenses. But on short yardage situations he is the last person you want to see handling the ball in the backfield. I can’t imagine he will be a Patriot next year if he doesn’t improve, and I have seen nothing that would indicate he will. More surprising is that Joey Galloway was inactive for the game and was not injured. He has not done much this year and it makes you wonder if he will be cut this year. That would be shame because he does seem to have some legs left and could be a valuable player down the stretch. Maybe this will be a wake up call for him.

This was a nice win for the Patriots. The Ravens are one of the best, most well rounded teams in the league and will certainly be around once the postseason rolls around. They are team that I could easily see making it to the Super Bowl this year.

Finally, while his stat line does not stand out, Sammy Morris made some key plays down the stretch. And it’s those little important plays that are often the difference between winning and losing.

MVP: Sammy Morris, RB


Denver Broncos over Dallas Cowboys, 17-10

What a difference a year makes. The Bronco’s defense last year was abysmal and this year looks like one of the best in the league. The combination of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and the addition of a leader like free safety Brian Dawkins has really turned the defense around. Dawkins was fired and played extremely well against the floundering Cowboys. And while Kyle Orton may not be the best quarterback in the league, he’s doing just enough, along with Brandon Marshall, to get the job done. While I have nothing against Kyle Orton, had Cutler still been in the fold this offense would be even better. Denver’s 4-0 start and a win over a quality, if somewhat struggling Cowboys team, puts a stamp of legitimacy on their surprising 4-0 start.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, and Tony Romo in particular, appear to be in free fall. They have played terrible this season. Romo is inconsistent and a makes poor decisions and Flozell Adams can only block people with dirty tactics. I think it’s about time for a one game suspension for Mr. Adams. And DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense can’t seem to get pressure on the quarterback. Maybe Terrible Terrell really wasn’t the entire problem in Dallas.

And what happened to Bronco’s wide receiver Eddie Royal?! After a promising rookie season he has completely disappeared from the offense. Unfortunately he is on my fantasy football team and has done nothing for me.

For player of the game I have to go with Brandon Marshall for his 91 yards receiving and outstanding touchdown. Brian Dawkins is a close second.

MVP: Brandon Marshall, WR


Pittsburgh Steelers over San Diego Chargers, 38-28

The Chargers are another team that came into the 2009 season looking like it had a real shot at a championship. Instead the team is floundering around on both sides of the ball.

For the Chargers injuries to their defensive line has simply decimated the unit. Teams are running all over them and simply dominating their defensive unit. And while their offense is good enough, it’s not so prolific as to make up for their lack of defense, especially with the time of possession is so heavily skewed in the opponents favor. Rashard Mendenhall rushed the ball hard, picking up 165 yards and two touchdowns, but I want to see him do that against a stouter defense. The Steelers offensive line thumped the Chargers, whose defense simply couldn’t get off the field. The Chargers had a nice comeback, but really didn’t come that close to winning the game.

Adding to the Chargers misery, LaDanian Tomlinson is ailing and ineffective and receiver Chris Chambers clearly has seen his best days. I am surprised he is even still in the starting lineup.

The Steelers have seemed to right their ship, at least for one game. Their defense has remained stout and when Troy Polamalu comes back they will be even better. The Steelers are still an elite team in the league.

MVP: Rashard Mendenhall, RB


Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers, 30-23

There was a lot of hype surrounding this game with Brett Favre facing his old team for the first time. The game certainly lived up to its hype. It was a playoff like game with a lot of hard hitting and great plays by both teams on both sides of the ball. As fantastic as Favre played, it was really the Vikings defense that won the game. They forced some turnovers and Jared Allen’s 4.5 sacks and safety was the key difference in the game. But he did take advantage of the Packers’ playing their second string, and then third string left tackle because of an injury to Chad Clifton.

But let’s start with Brett Favre. As bored and annoyed as I am with the drama king’s offseason will he retire, won’t he retire routine, he is fun to watch play football. He had just an amazing game. Amazing. And he had to be with the Packers’ defense mostly shutting down Adrian Peterson. Sometimes Farve is painful to watch, like when he throws multiple and sometimes dumb interceptions in the postseason. At other times he is simply awe inspiring. In this game he was awe inspiring.

And the Vikings defense really took advantage of the banged up Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. Jared Allen and the rest of the defense had eight sacks against Aaron Rodgers, including one for a safety. The Packers really need to straighten out their offensive line if they hope to have a decent season and a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Another standout for the Vikings was Antoine Winfield. This undersized cornerback can really blast running backs and receivers. It’s refreshing to see cornerbacks that can, and will, hit like Winfield.

Aaron Rodgers had an absolutely amazing game himself, maybe even better than Brett Favre given that Brett had plenty of time in the pocket an Aaron had defenders in his face all day long. Other than a few miscues he handled the pressure and played very, very well. I was most impressed with his ability to keep his team moving in face of the fierce pass rush by the Vikings. And despite getting behind, the Packers never quit on either side of the ball and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. If the Packers give Rodgers more time to throw the ball, their offense will really start to click.

And while Green Bay’s defense was victimized by Favre, given the lack of a pass rush I didn’t think they were absolutely terrible. They need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback to protect their defensive backs better. So far the defensive guru Dom Capers schemes aren’t working that well for the Packers. Aaron Kampman, their best pass rusher last year, dropping back into coverage just doesn’t make sense to me.

Overall this was an amazing game, and as much as it was Brett Favre’s night, it was the Vikings night too. Nobody needs to question why they so desperately courted Favre in the offseason. With the best running back in the league, a solid offensive line, speedy receivers, and a top five defense, they were close but not close enough, to being a Super Bowl contender last year. With Brett Favre, they may be the best team in the league. Let’s face it, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were not the answer at quarterback. Brett Favre may well be.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Lineman: Willie Colon, RT, Pittsburgh Steelers

Special Teams: Johnny Knox, KR/WR, Chicago Bears

Rookie of the Week: Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland