Nearly every NFL season has its soap operas, usually revolving around diva wide receivers (Terrible Terrell Owens, Chad Ochostinko, Keyshawn Johnson, and Randy Moss have provided good fodder for years). But frankly, I cannot remember a season with so many teams falling apart and in disarray.
The real center of the soap opera of the 2010 season has been two teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre and the Washington Redskins with Albert Haynesworth and now the benching of Donovan McNabb in the last two minutes of a winnable game.
Let’s start with the Vikings. It’s been fun watching them implode this year.
The Minnesota Favres, Brad Childress, and Randy Moss.
Brad Childress does not run the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre does. I used to have a lot of respect for Favre but now I simply find him despicable. It has become clear over the last several years that Favre wants the universe to revolve around him and craves attention. The Green Bay Packers finally got fed up with his will he retire, won’t he retire annual soap opera and jettisoned him. Luckily for the Packers they did it before he could destroy the team. He has now succeeded in doing just that to the Minnesota Vikings. I am so sick of Favre I can hardly stand to see the purple uniform anymore. Hopefully they will continue to lose so I don’t have to see them in the playoffs.
First, Favre had his annual rite of lounging around in Mississippi leaking word that he might retire, he might not retire, don’t you want me back Vikings? “I’m injured and had ankle surgery so I might not come back. Did you hear me? I might not come back?! But I’m throwing the ball and working out. Pssst, I might retire. But I’m working out! Hey, look at me…I might retire, but the arm feels good.” I have come to believe the entire story of several Vikings players flying to Mississippi to get Favre and bring him back to Minnesota was entirely scripted. He missed all of training camp and has played mostly horrible this season.
Then rumors surfaced of him sending voice mails trying to lure a then New York Jets sideline reporter to his hotel room when he played for the Jets, and then supposedly sending lewd pictures. He admits to the voicemails but not the pictures. Give me a break. If he did one he almost certainly did the other. And guess who knows if those pictures really are of Brett Favre? His poor wife, a breast cancer survivor who has become a public figure herself. I feel sorry for her. Maybe the injuries and certainly a lack of domestic bliss has Favre distracted and that is why he isn’t playing well. Or that he missed all of training camp. Or that he is, and always has been, overrated.
Reportedly he doesn’t get along with or respect coach Brad Childress, and maybe for good reason. How can Favre respect a coach when he is the one that is really in control of the organization, not Childress? And stemming from that, why should the rest of players respect him? It’s becoming pretty clear they don’t.
And then we have the Randy Moss saga. The Vikings, desperate for wide receivers with the injury to Sydney Rice and the health of Percy Harvin, make a trade with the New England Patriots for the mercurial Randy Moss. And then cut him four weeks later after a tirade in the locker room aimed at some poor mom and pop outfit feeding the team and his rant about how much he misses the Patriots and taking a subtle jab at the coaching staff for not listening to before getting beaten by the Patriots this week. So the Vikings are out a third round draft pick for four weeks of Randy Moss with little to show for it.
Brad Childress, aka Chili, must be feeling the heat after the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf showed up to practice to talk to the players about their coach. Another nail in the proverbial coffin as far as any respect the players are likely to have for Childress. He may last this season, but he has got to be gone next. And if the Vikings are smart, so will Brett Favre, even if they have to lock him out of the facilities.
And then, unfortunately for a team that was on the cusp last year, they will likely be almost in a rebuilding phase next year.
If Childress were smart he’d bench Favre and put in Tarvaris Jackson to see, once and for all, if he can be a starting quarterback in this league. I suspect not, but they need to be looking to the future
Fat Albert, Donovan McNabb, and the Shanahans
No, this is not a new age rock band. This is the mess that is the Washington Redskins. Granted, the Redskins are much better this year with essentially the same personnel, except at quarterback, as they had last year. Mike Shanahan has clearly improved this team’s play. But what a whacky way to start his new coaching gig. It’s not a very auspicious start.
I find it hilarious that Dan Snyder gave Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract with nearly half guaranteed. Last year he played okay but not a $100 million worth. And then he shows up to camp out of shape, doesn’t want to play nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, and can only get on the field in third down situations. I bet a lot of players would love to be making Haynesworth kind of money for taking a handful of snaps in the game. That is what Danny Boy gets. He loves the high priced, flashing signings instead of going after players of substance both mentally and physically. Haynesworth has no heart but he has a bank account full of Danny Boy’s money.
And now we get an even juicier story. The Redskins sign one of the better quarterbacks of his generation to lead the team into the future. And let’s face it, he has been very streaky this year and most of the Redskins’ wins have been because of their defense. McNabb played horribly against the Chicago Bears but the Redskins won thanks to four interceptions, with one being a touchdown, by DeAngelo Hall. But with about two minutes to go against the Detroit Lions this week, in a winnable game, they bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. Rex Grossman! Of course Rex promptly fumbles the ball and gives up a touchdown to seal the game for the Lions.
Now wait a minute. You bench Donovan McNabb with two minutes to go for Rex Grossman? Shanahan first said it was because McNabb didn’t know the two minute drill as well as Grossman. So what has McNabb been doing since training camp during the two minute drill offense? Then he said it was because he was out of shape. Okay, maybe he is but what does that say when your starting quarterback is not in shape to run the two minute offense halfway through the season? Then he said it was because of injuries. While McNabb is dinged up, he said this is not the case.
Clearly Shanahan made an emphatic statement that he does not trust nor think McNabb is the quarterback of the future. His actions speak loudly. This will clearly be a strain on the Redskins’ psyche the rest of the season. Even with McNabb playing poorly with his overthrows and under throws and missing open receivers, Shanahan undermined a team leader. If McNabb is not your guy just say so and move on. It should be an interesting rest of the season for the Redskins.
The Dallas Jerry Joneses
The Dallas Cowboys are 1-6. Before he got injured Romo was inconsistent and the play calling suspect. Now with Romo out and Jon Kitna in the defense seems to have quit on the season as well. All the talk before the season started from the Cowboys and pundits was that this team would be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Then the losses mounted up. Wade Philips took what appeared to be a swipe at offensive coordinator Jason Garret and heir apparent to the head coaching job after the loss to the Redskins. And Jerry Jones weekly, but it seems like almost daily, has to reiterate that Wade Philips is the coach for at least the rest of the season. It’s been fun watching the Cowboys lose this year. I hope it continues.
GAMES I WATCHED
New England Patriots over Minnesota Vikings, 28-18
The New England Patriots shut out Randy Moss and after a shaky first half offensively and defensively, outplayed the Vikings in the second half to secure the win. One of the biggest keys to the game was the Patriots’ outstanding goal line stand, stopping Adrian Peterson on fourth and 1 with a few seconds left in the first half to keep the Vikings from building their lead.
New England finally got its running game going in the second half with BenJarvis Green-Ellis pounding the ball for 112 yards and Danny Woodhead making some nifty runs to keep the chains moving. The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when Brady scrambled around and then found a wide open Brandon Tate for a 65 yard touchdown pass and a 14-10 lead. That was followed by a Devin McCourty interception of Brett Favre (which actually bounced out of Percy Harvin’s hands) that New England promptly turned into another touchdown and never looked back.
The New England Patriots may have the best record in the league but their offense really has struggled at times without Randy Moss, who opened up the short passing game, and their defense has been mostly not up to par. In this game both units played very well in the second half, which was heartening to see for Patriots fans.
Danny Woodhead has been a huge addition to the team. If you simply look at his stats they appear unimpressive but Woodhead is a playmaker. He made some very nifty moves and fought for yardage to secure key first downs in the game and is as valuable a player as anyone on the squad save Tom Brady. And New England finally getting a running game going in the second half greatly helped keep the Viking defense a little off balance. On defense, Jerrod Mayo is a rock. He was mostly responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson on the goal line stand to end of the half, and frankly had stopped Adrian Peterson on the Vikings first score of the game but the referees gave the Vikings a touchdown.
Brett Favre actually played quite well in this game despite his ankle injury and before being knocked out of the game on a hit late in the game. But this team is in disarray and will likely continue to spiral downhill.
Meanwhile the Patriots are winning games on special teams, turnovers, and simply playing smarter than their opponents.
MVP: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB
Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 37-25
This was a fascinating game to watch. Both teams’ defensive lines dominated their opponents and both teams had outstanding special teams play, especially in kick returns. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams just decimated the interior line of the Redskins leaving the running game and passing game in disarray. But the same can be said for the Redskins front three, plus London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo.
The difference? In the second half Matthew Stafford handled the pressure better than Donovan McNabb did, hitting Calvin Johnson for three touchdown passes. Johnson was taking a beating in the process but manned up and grabbed some tough catches. And Stefan Logan’s kick returns consistently set the Lions up on good field position. While he didn’t outduel the Redskins’ Brandon Banks returner who took one to the house for a score, his runbacks were a real difference maker for the Lions.
For the Redskins, like last year’s loss to Detroit, this could be a negative turning point in the season as Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb with about two minutes to go in a winnable game. This unfathomable decision led to backup quarterback Rex Grossman taking a snap and getting mauled by the Lions’ defense and giving up a fumble for a touchdown. Redskins Park will be interesting for the next two weeks after this call (see above).
Ndamukong Suh is the real deal at defensive tackle and when healthy, Detroit rookie running back Jahvid Best has proven to be a dynamic runner. The Lions have a good, young core of players to build around for the future.
I know it will be odd not to give Calvin Johnson and his three touchdowns or Ndamukong Suh for his sterling play the MVP award for the game. Both of them deserve it. But the most telling difference in the game, outside of McNabb’s poor play even when he wasn’t under pressure, were the kick returns.
MVP: Stefan Logan, KR
New Orleans Saints over Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is the toughest, roughest, meanest, nastiest unit in the NFL. They are scary. And they played a great game against the Saints. The only problem is the Saints defense played a great game too and a turnover by the Steelers’ Heath Miller late in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome. With the score 13-10 New Orleans, and the Steelers moving the ball well, Miller fumbles near midfield. The Saints score what turns out to be the decisive touchdown. Then Big Ben throws another interception on the ensuing drive. Game over.
This very well might be the hardest hitting game I have seen all year long by both defenses.
MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB
Indianapolis Colts over Houston Texans, 30-17
Many pundits crowned the Houston Texans Super Bowl champs and said the Colts were through after the Texans upset the Colts in their first tilt in the season opener. Peyton Manning simply did what Peyton Manning does best, pick apart the Texans like they were schoolboys against real men. Even with injuries to several starters and his security blanket Dallas Clark, Manning just made the Texans look silly on defense. It was a little embarrassing to watch actually.
And of course once behind, Dwight Freeney could tee off. He got a couple of sacks and some good pressure on Matt Schaub. At the start of the season after seeing him for a few games I thought Texans’ Duane Brown might be the best left tackle I’d seen. After being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy he looks rusty and got schooled by Freeney. Maybe he needs to get back on whatever it was he got suspended for.
MVP: Peyton Manning, QB
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (238 total yards)
Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions
Offensive Lineman: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Stefan Logan, KR/WR, Detroit Lions
Rookie of the Week: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions