Mike Shanahan’s First Order of Business: Get Rid of Clinton Portis

Clinton Portis is one of the least likable players in the league.  He is a “me first” player who has constantly called out his teammates instead of looking in the mirror himself.  Just a short list from my feeble memory:

  • He criticized Joe Gibbs for playing him too long in a preseason game when he hurt his shoulder.
  • He criticized his offensive line and then got into a war of words with Redskin great Brian Mitchell.
  • He tried to get fullback Mike Sellers benched and then had a confrontation with him in the locker room.
  • He got into an exchange with Jim Zorn when he decided to take himself out of a game last year – without bothering to tell anyone.

And now, a player who reports are is not respected by his teammates because he never practices, has called out Jason Campbell for not being a leader? 

And you are, Mr. Portis?  These actions demonstrate team leadership?

Mike Shanahan’s first order of business should be to rid the team of cancers like Portis who not only shows no team leadership, but is a divisive force on the team.  He sets a poor example for young players, and he’s getting old and washed up and doesn’t seem to really want to play anymore anyway.

Throw on your clownish outfits and head out of town, you clown.

Vinnie Cerrato Out and Bruce Allen In: Has Dan Snyder Learned Anything?

With the announcement that the comically incompetent Vinnie Cerrato is finally out of the picture as the Washington Redskins de facto general manager, the Redskins are now going in a new direction. Or are they?

Bruce Allen has been formally named the General Manager. Dan Snyder has finally hired a football guy to run the football team. And certainly in the near term there will be a lot of changes taking place within the organization, with the first order of business hiring a new head coach.

But the real question is, will Dan Snyder quit his meddling ways and let the football people run the football team while he handles the business side of the operation, which he is brilliant at? I for one will be very interested to see what happens in the long run. I have not heard one good thing about what it’s like to work for Dan Snyder and the Redskins. In fact, all I hear is what an awful meddler he is. My prediction is that Danny boy will find a way to ruin the team again, somehow. He just can’t resist the urge.

Look at what he is has done so far. He gave Marty Schottenheimer one year after Schottenheimer turned the team around with a bare cupboard as far as players were concerned. He fell in love with Steve Spurrier who turned out to be an atrocious pro football coach, trying to turn retread, failed pro quarterbacks from the University of Florida, Danny Wuerfful and Shane Matthews, into pass happy starting quarterbacks. Ditto with the lousy receivers he brought.

He then tried to resurrect Joe Gibbs, who sadly did not seem to have real control of the team or the organization, which turned into a brief flash of promise but ultimately failure.

And worse, after Gibbs retires Snyder and Cerrato hire offensive and defensive coordinators and THEN try to hire a head coach. What self respecting, top notch head coaching candidate is going to come in when he can’t hire his own team of coaches who fit his philosophy? None. So they end up stuck with an obviously over his head Jim Zorn.

I would say that Snyder has lost two years in rebuilding the Redskins into a perennial contender with the Zorn experiment. But in fact he’s lost a decade, through poor hiring, and constantly trying to buy a team by overpaying big name veterans like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jason Taylor, and Albert Haynesworth to big contracts. All these players did not live up to their contracts, but of course Haynesworth is an unknown. He’s been hurt much of the year.

In this decade the Redskins have had five head coaches. How can any team gain continuity with five head coaches in a ten year span?

What will happen in the long term is anyone’s guess. If Snyder lets Bruce Allen do his job, the Redskins will probably turn itself into a playoff contender within the next three to five years, or even sooner if Allen is shrewd enough. Allen himself has somewhat of a mixed record, being mostly on the business side in Oakland, and being fired in Tampa Bay after he helped build the team into a contender that fell on its face last year.

But continuity is necessary for the Redskins to be successful. I, for one, doubt Snyder will be patient enough to let it happen.

2009 NFL Season: Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Special

INTRODUCTION

After the New York Giants went 5-0 many pundits had them ranked as the best team in the NFL in their power rankings. I said then that they were at best a mediocre team. I may not always be right, but I was right about that.

The traditional football games on Thanksgiving Day featured two matchups that really were not that compelling to the average football fan. The still lowly Detroit Lions hosted the solid but struggling Green Bay Packers, while the Dallas Cowboys hosted the usually pathetic Oakland Raiders. Most thought the games would be blowouts and they certainly lived up to the tripe. Green Bay had no trouble rolling over Detroit, and Oakland proved to be no match for Dallas.

Many have wondered if the Detroit Lions should no longer be hosting a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving given their long standing lack of quality teams. A Thanksgiving Day matchup should be a marquee game between two quality teams, right?

I disagree though. The Detroit Lions have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day game since 1934. That’s 75 years of tradition for the Lions, sometimes a good team, lately not, hosting a game on this holiday. The National Football League is built on tradition and after 75 years I don’t see a reason to break that tradition now. Despite not being a great team now, presumably the Lions will be relevant again. And for me, watching any professional football game is enjoyable. And I always know I’ll see the Lions host somebody on this day and I look forward to it every year.

GAMES I WATCHED

Green Bay Packers over Detroit Lions, 34-12

As expected this game was not even close. After Green Bay fumbled the opening kickoff leading to a quick Detroit touchdown, the game was basically over. Detroit’s offense never did much else, while Matthew Stafford threw four picks.

Green Bay played an all around solid game, with Donald Driver catching seven passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. This included a 68 yard grab in the first quarter to set up Green Bay’s first touchdown. Cornerback Charles Woodson had his second sterling game with two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown in garbage time.

I’m not sure why the Lions started rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford who played with a separated left shoulder. I think he has the potential to be the franchise quarterback for the Lions and it just doesn’t seem worth risking further damage to his shoulder at this point in the season.

This game turned out pretty much as expected. It was a good game for Green Bay to get back to winning and try to jumpstart an attempt to make the playoffs as Wild Card team. They have a long way to go for that.

MVP: Donald Driver, WR


Dallas Cowboys over Oakland Raiders, 24-7

The NFC East used to be considered the toughest conference in the NFL. Not anymore. Right now the storied franchise of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles are middle of the road teams, at best. The Washington Redskins are abysmal and shouldn’t even be in the conversation.

The race for the NFC East is going down the stretch and Dallas needs to keep winning with the Giants and Eagles right in the mix. Pundits have even taken to calling Tony Romo not just an average quarterback, but a bad one. And he deserves it given the way he has played this year.

In this game Dallas had no trouble putting the Raiders away. Romo had a very good outing and wide receiver Miles Austin was again fantastic. He had seven catches for 145 yards and touchdown to lead the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders started fourth year quarterback Bruce Gradkowski over the bust of a number one overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Gradkowski, frankly, is never going to be a particularly good NFL quarterback, but he is gutsy and had didn’t play that badly against the Cowboys. The Raiders were just simply overmatched talent wise on the field.

Dallas, like Green Bay, really needed an easy win and to get their offense rolling after a very pedestrian performance against the Redskins last week, a game they should have lost but didn’t.

MVP: Miles Austin, WR


Denver Broncos over New York Giants, 26-6

This was the marquee matchup of the day which most thought we be a closely contested ball game. Both teams have been struggling a great deal the past month, with the Broncos losing four straight games and the Giants losing the last five out of six. Too bad it was on the NFL Network. Many football fans, as a result, didn’t have access to the game. Well, it was an interesting game but not much was missed.

I actually thought the Giants would win this game but they never bothered to show up. They were pathetic.

The Giants, on their second offensive snap of the game, had to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. They followed this up with a minus two yard run by Brandon Jacobs. That basically set the tone for the game as the Giants offense seemed to have stayed in New York.

I watched Brandon Jacobs very closely in this game because he has been struggling of late. What I noticed was disturbing. Even when he got into a good hole he didn’t have the same burst of speed and power to make a good gain like he has in the past. I don’t know if it’s because he has been injured a bit or some other ailment, but he definitely is not the same runner he has been in the past. There were holes that he got to that a Chris Johnson or an Adrian Peterson, or last years Brandon Jacobs for that matter, would have turned into a long gain. Something is missing or gone awry there.

Meanwhile a lot has been said of the struggles of the Giants offensive line. They played reasonably well at all times, more so on running plays. The announcers kept saying they were getting beat physically but they most looked confused by the Broncos tricky defensive alignments than physically dominated.

But the Broncos defense played extremely well. Elvis Dumervil had two sacks and a forced fumble, safety Brian Dawkins was a menace all over the field, and the Denver secondary, led by Champ Bailey, blanketed the Giants’ receivers. In fact the quarterback pressures could often be attributed to superior defensive back play more so than the defensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. But it was a very well played game by the Denver defense all around.

The Giants defense didn’t play terribly but again, they weren’t beaten physically as much as the Broncos just outplayed them. Case in point, if you watched Giants’ defense end Osi Umenyiora against the Bronco’s left tackle, Ryan Clady, he often got good penetration and sometimes pressure on Kyle Orton. But he was completely shut out of the game.

Meanwhile Denver’s rookie running back Knowshon Moreno played very well with a shifty, slithery style of running that netted yards when most backs would have been shut down. I have seen Denver play several times this year and I have not seen these moves by Moreno before. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t watching him at his best or that he has been injured, but now I see why people are so excited about this guy. He has a unique running style that avoids big contact and can make the most out of small openings. And of course wide receiver Brandon Marshall was making some sick one handed catches.

But frankly, at the end of the day I am not sure whether Denver looked so good because the Giants were just plain awful, or if they have come out of their funk. They certainly looked much better than they have the past few times I’ve seen them. I do know one thing, however, the Giants appear to be on the way down an out. See ya!

The MVP could really go to Dumervil, Dawkins, or Bailey. I am going with Champ Bailey because I thought it was the Denver pass coverage that was the key to their success on defense.

MVP: Champ Bailey, CB

Tiki Barber on Tiki Barber (and the New York Giants)

tikibookTiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond by Tiki Barber with Gil Reavill

Review by C. Douglas Baker

I’ve always had a lot of admiration for Tiki Barber. Most of those reading this review probably already know who Tiki Barber is, but he played for the New York Giants as a tailback from 1997 to 2006, ending his career with over 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving.

Only two other running backs have accomplished that feat (Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen). He retired at the end of the 2006 season, at the age of 31 at the top of his game.

I’m not a New York Giants fan, but as football fan you have to appreciate the way he played on the field. He wasn’t the biggest back, but he was an electric one and the last five years of his career he was one of the top backs in the league. He is also clearly a very bright and articulate fellow, retiring to go into a broadcasting career that isn’t just some ex-jock talking sports.

In this book Tiki takes the opportunity to talk about his life experiences. He grew up in a single parent household in Roanoke, Virginia with his twin brother Ronde Barber, who is an outstanding cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Growing up with a hard working mother raising two sons, and having an alter ego in an identical twin, clearly shaped his outlook on life and kept him grounded. He also talks very briefly about his career at the University of Virginia, a school he and his brother chose more for its location and academics than they did (obviously) for its football prowess.

The bulk of the book, however, is about Tiki’s career with the New York Giants. There really isn’t a lot of nitty-gritty X’s and O’s discussion in the book, or interesting anecdotes about crazy player antics, strategies, or the inside story of the New York Giants.

This book is more about his perseverance going from what many considered to be an undersized back on special teams and third downs, to an every down back and one of the best to ever play the game.

The last part of the book focuses more on the last few years of his career with really a new regime, a new disciplinarian head coach in Tom Coughlin, a new quarterback in Eli Manning, along with new offensive players, Plaxico Burress (WR) and Jeremy Shockey (TE).

Anyone who has closely followed football knows of what appears to be a little bit of turmoil and dissention on the Giants team. A team with prominent players complaining about the head coach and his disciplinarian ways.  Of course, there is the media, or at least some in the media, were somewhat harsh on Tiki announcing his retirement during his last season, saying it was selfish and a distraction for the team.

Tiki himself was part of the problem, saying after one playoff game, the team was “out coached” and making other allusions to his dislike of the way the team was handled under Coughlin. Tiki rationalizes this a bit in the book.

Certainly players can say what they want, but regardless of what Tiki says, that players aren’t paying attention to this and it’s not a distraction, I don’t find that very believable. Anytime you have prominent players undermining the head coach he loses respect and it will get into the mindset of the team. 

Maybe Tiki is right. He says he retired, at least in part, because Coughlin made him lose his desire to play and he wanted to pursue other things in his life. But all that swirling attention around the coach certainly couldn’t have helped the team mentally.

Overall I found this book interesting, but nothing particularly inspiring or insightful. It is Tiki’s story and that, in and of itself, is interesting enough for me.

For those looking for a tell all, inside story of the Giants or pro football, this is not the book for you. For those looking for X’s and O’s and strategy, this is not the book for you either. For those looking for a snapshot into the thoughts and life of a great NFL player, this is your ticket.

Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond

Washington Redskins Sign Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall to Big Deals

t2_albert_si

I am not at all a fan of Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins.  I have always found it funny how when he first bought the team, he also tried to buy a team.  It never quite worked out. 

Now Danny boy has shelled out a $100 million contract to the best defense tackle in football in Albert Haynesworth, and another $54 million to cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Was this a smart move?  I’m not sure.  Without a doubt these signings make the Redskins a very formidable defensive team next year.  The question will be, now that Haynesworth is fat and happy, in more ways than one, will he continue to put up the kind of effort that made him one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL last year?  This guy has a lot of emotional baggage so I am not so sure.  If he does, he will make Jason Taylor relevant again.  Taylor looked to be on his last leg, literally, last year.  Even before he was injured he was not creating the kind of pressure on the quarterback that the Redskins were hoping for.  By taking up multiple blockers on the line of scrimmage, Haynesworth could have a big impact on not just Taylor’s performance but the entire defense.

I have always liked DeAngelo Hall, even though he too is a bit of a head case.  During his years in Atlanta I considered him one of the top cornerbacks in the league, even though he didn’t always get the recognition he deserved.  In Oakland he was often criticized for being undisciplined and out of position.  As a nickel and dime defense back for the Redskins last year I thought he was a real difference maker.  Hall has the potential to be a very solid starter for the Redskins next year.  And he has always had a nose for the ball and turnovers.  With Haynesworth on the line helping get pressure on the quarterback will just make Hall and the rest of the defensive backs even better.

If Haynesworth plays like he did last year, the Redskins should have one of the best defenses in the league next year.

But what about the offense?  With that kind of money doled out to the defensive side of the ball that does not leave a lot of room for signing impact offensive players. And offense is where the Redskins need the most help.

First it’s clear that Jason Campbell is the man at quarterback.  But I am starting to believe that Campbell is just not going to progress a lot further than he is now.  He is, at best, an average quarterback.  Yes, I know the offensive line did not play well and his receivers let him down.  But that gets to my next point.

If Campbell is going to succeed at quarterback he needs two things, better protection at the line of scrimmage and better receivers.  As much as I love Santana Moss, the last two years he’s only showed flashes of being the big play receiver he once was and has constantly battled hamstring injuries.  I am starting to wonder if his better days are behind him.  I have never considered Antwan Randle-el more than a number three receiver.  And the Redskins draft picks at receiver and tight end last year, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis were all but useless last year.  Thomas has potential but seems lazy and doesn’t get it.  Kelly I think will be a bust.  And Davis could be a solid contributor, but again, all these guys seem to be real slackers.

Then you have the aging Chris Samuels who is not nearly as good as he was a few years ago and should retire soon.  Jon Jansen is always hurt and I suspect will be cut.  Stephon Heyer, the young left tackle out of Maryland, was benched and the struggled in the last half of the season.  The offensive line needs some help.

And finally, while Clinton Portis is an excellent running back and the best offensive player on the team he always ends up dinged up and less effective at the end of the year.  The Redskins need to find a back that can reduce the workload for Portis to keep him fresh throughout the season.

So what do I expect from the Redskins next year?  An excellent defense that keeps them in games and a streaky offense that just might let them get into the playoffs.  But I don’t expect big things from the team as a whole because I just don’t see the offense being good enough or consistent enough to carry them much beyond one playoff game.

But if the Redskins’ history under Snyder continues, Haynesworth will tank it while enjoying his new found riches and the Redskins will be sitting at home in the postseason, as usual.