The Yucks

51LimT-ibiL

This is a fun little book about one of the ineptest teams in professional football history, the 1976 and 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  As an expansion team the Buccaneers were really put behind the eight ball because their ability to gather talent was limited to has beens or never weres from other teams.  And it showed.  They are the first team to go 0-16 in an NFL regular season.

This book is full of entertaining stories and anecdotes about that team, its entertaining coach John McKay, and the many memorable ways the Yucks found to lose games, from the perspective a fan.  Often very funny, but also with some insights on truly great players who were stuck on a bad team, it is an entertaining read for NFL fans.

The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 7

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35-7

First let me talk about the Buccaneers because there really is not a lot I have to say about them.  I have seen them twice this year and they are simply not a good team.  They are clearly in a rebuilding phase and it will probably take a few years for them to either get a competitive team together or sink into a perennial bottom feeder.  In this game Tampa Bay was simply overmatched by a better team.  I will say this about Tampa Bay, they played hard to the end, unlike the Titans last week, which is a good sign for this team.

It’s really hard to evaluate where the Patriots are after losing a close game to Denver and then blowing out two bad teams in back to back weeks.  The Tennessee Titans just quit and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just not that good.  But the bottom line is the Patriots are good team, but not an elite team like the Saints, Colts, Vikings, Denver, and the Steelers.  At the same time they did what they had to do to win against teams they should beat and didn’t play down to the level of the competition.

There were a lot of positives to take away from this game for Patriots fans, but some red flags as well.  First, the offense played really well at times but in parts of the game they were really sloppy.  Brady threw two interceptions, one in the end zone taking points off the board.  And the left side of the offensive line with Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer struggled at times with bad penalties.  Vollmer actually played pretty well in place of the injured Matt Light at left tackle. In the third quarter he appeared to be injured and was called for holding a few times after that.  Mankins had no excuse and just seemed to lose focus during parts of the second half.  On the bright side rookie wide receiver Sam Aiken stepped up to the plate with a nice touchdown and Wes Welker was, well, Wes Welker, salting the game away in the second half with a series of catches that put the game away.

On defense, Brandon Meriweather had two interceptions, including a pick six at to put the first points on the board to open the game.  But the Buccaneers, who are no offensive juggernaut, moved the ball very well at times, which is worrisome considering the prolific offenses New England will be facing after the upcoming bye week.  I have also noticed that Vince Wilfork is not nearly the dominate force in the new 4-3 alignment as he was in the 3-4.  It seems having to take on blockers from the side makes him a bit easier to move around and he simply isn’t the dominator he has been in the past.  Don’t get me wrong, he is no slouch and is still a top flight defensive tackle, he just simply appears to be more effective in a 3-4.  Solid tackling is also an issue for this team.

To quote another fanatic Patriots fan like myself, who summed up the game exactly the way I did:

Another feel good win.  These bad teams make our defense look so good.  I have to keep on reminding myself that our defense is defending against horrible offenses.  I suspect that in reality, we are pretty good, but we’re not elite.  We’re in that group right below the elite teams.  If we make the playoffs, which I’m assuming we will somehow, we won’t be favored against Colt type teams, but we’ll be dangerous and if we peak at the right time and with a little luck, anything could happen.

And one last comment, while Brandon Meriweather had a great game with two interceptions and a touchdown, my MVP is going to Wes Welker, whose catches in the second half put the game away.  He finished with 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.

MVP:  Wes Welker, WR
Cincinnati Bengals over Chicago Bears, 45-10

The Bengals offensive line absolutely dominated the Bears defensive line.  That, along with determined running by Cedric Benson, who netted 189 yards rushing, lead to a blow out win for the Bengals.  The Bears, meanwhile, were awful on offensive and the whining Jay Cutler who thinks he’s the next coming of John Elway chunked up three interceptions, leading the Bears to a 3-3 record, mainly on the back of their defense.  Kyle Orton anyone?

The Bengals look like a very solid team this year and I have no idea where this new and improved Cedric Benson has come from.  In years past he has been an injury prone, contact adverse, bust of a top ten draft pick.  He certainly wasn’t avoiding any contact in this game.  While he had more than help from his dominate offensive line, he ran like a beast and over the Bears.  The entire Bengals team, on both sides of the ball, played a physical, stellar game.  The Bengals laid and egg against Houston last week, but they appear to be a team to be reckoned with this year.  What a surprise.

Finally, while I know Carson Palmer played an outstanding game, the entire offense did, I am giving my MVP to Benson for his tough, determined running which was really what opened everything up for the Bengals.

MVP:  Cedric Benson, RB


Arizona Cardinals over New York Giants, 24-17

I have to admit I am very surprised that the Cardinals came out of the Meadowlands with a win in this game.  Last year they played so bad on the road and they have been very inconsistent this year in general.  The defense made Eli Manning and the Giants receivers look bad, which isn’t always that hard to do.  Eli is not the model of consistency at the quarterback position.  Eli threw three interceptions and while I thought he played a poor game, his receivers were not helping him out much, getting pushed around by the Arizona cornerbacks and running poor routes.

Arizona’s defense really stepped up to the plate by stopping the running game and putting it on Eli Manning’s shoulders.  Eli was not up to the challenge.  As a female friend and fellow Patriots fan said of Eli:  “He’s not his brother and never will be.  If they ever played in the Super Bowl against each other, God forbid, Peyton will rip his heart out and show that he is, and always will be, the little brother.”

Ouch, tough words, but they ring true.  It was the defense and a lucky play that won the playoff games and Super Bowl XLII.  And now suddenly the running game even looks suspect.

On the other side of the coin, Kurt Warner managed to play pretty well despite that Wayne Gandy, his left tackle, couldn’t block my 88 year old grandmother.  Warner has had ball security issues in the past and he was under a ton of pressure from the Giants defense the entire game.  The Cardinals did establish a bit of a running game with Beanie Wells, but it was Warner that made the offense run, despite that he had to be a bit concerned about Gandy not protecting him well on the left side of the line.

At the end of the day, the Giants are the Giants.  Some weeks they look great and others not so much.  The Cardinals are the same way but more of a mystery to me.  I don’t see them making the same kind of run they did last year, but they certainly are a dangerous offensive team when they get going and their defensive has improved. It will be interesting to see what they do the rest of the season.

This was a game ultimately won on the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals.  It’s hard to pick an MVP but I’m going with free safety Antrel Rolle who played a solid game and sealed the win with an intercepton.

MVP:  Antrel Rolle, FS
Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 27-17

The Redskins have not only proven themselves to be an awful team, they have become the laughingstock of the NFL.  Yes, they have won two games against winless teams, but only barely.  But other than the Tennessee Titans, they look to me to be the most anemic team in the league.  At least the Lions, Rams, and Buccaneers try hard.

Jim Zorn should resign given that Redskins management has stripped him of his duties, humiliated him publically by their actions, and have effectively neutered him as a head coach and a leader of the team.  Dan Snyder is the worst owner in the NFL since Victor Kiam.

I am now convinced that Jason Campbell is not an NFL caliber quarterback that can lead a team to a championship.  He has always been very spotting in his decision making and mechanics, but if anything he seems to have regressed.  Even when he had time to throw the ball he was jittery in the pocket, had poor mechanics, and made poor decisions.  The Redskins tried to replace him in the off season.  I suspect they will try even hard at the end of this season.

The Eagles won this game more because of the ineptitude of the Redskins and on two big time offensive touchdowns by the speedy, dynamic DeSean Jackson.  But the Eagles appear to be a rather mediocre team themselves.  I think Donovan McNabb has left his best days behind him.  He had some good throws and has a big arm, but he is very inconsistent and even more inaccurate with his throws than he has been in the past.  How many times is going to throw the ball into the dirt to an open receiver this year?

And what is the fascination with Michael Vick in the “Wildcat”?  This is another joke.  It has yet to be effective.

The Eagles defense did play well but it’s hard to say whether that was because of the Redskins offensive line, which truly is offensive to football fans, or talent.  I think the Eagles defense actually is for real and with enough big plays from the offensive should keep them in the hunt in the NFC East.  But I don’t consider the Eagles a great team, but a mediocre one beating a bad one.

Dallas, Philadelphia, and the New York Giants will be battling it out the rest of the season for the NFC East crown. Dallas looks ascendant at the moment after last week’s game, but they too have been very inconsistent and vulnerable.  The Giants have been considered by most the odds on favorite but even when they were undefeated I wasn’t seeing it.  It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.

MVP:  DeSean Jackson, WR


OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Leon Washington: Leon Washington suffering a serious injury, breaking his fibula so bad the bone was sticking out, makes me feel really bad.  Despite that he plays for the team I dislike the most, the New York Jets, he is a dynamic player on special teams, as a change of pace back alongside Thomas Jones, and he seems to be make excellent plays at the most critical moments.  He has killed the Patriots in the past with his return yards and converting third downs to first downs on touch or difficult plays.  I admire Leon Washington and regret his injury and hope he is able to come back.

Poor Offensive Tackle Play: And can’t recall seeing more poor performances by offensive tackles than I have seen this year.  I’d like to call out some players for really poor play.

Wayne Gandy of the Cardinals has been awful every time I have seen him.

Stephon Heyer of the Washington Redskins, now playing left tackle, has also been a liability to the team.  He is a good run blocker but not a good pass blocker.  Ironically, he played better against the Eagles this week but Campbell did his offensive line no favors by stepping into coverage or playing poorly when he had plenty of time to throw.

Orlando Pace was just atrocious against the Bengals and has been in the few games I’ve seen the Bears play this year.  It is shame because he was, at one time, one of the best tackles in the league.  His injuries and age have clearly caught up with him.

Flozell Adams of the Dallas Cowboys is the most irritating tackle.  He is not longer a great blocker and gets call for holds and false starts frequently.  Of course his tripping of Justin Tuck is just an example of how he survives.

New Orleans Saints:  This team is for real!  I have them ranked as the number one team in the league right now.  Can they go undefeated?  I frankly don’t think they can but the moxie they showed in coming back against Miami is impressive and scary for the rest of the league.


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati

Defensive Player: Antrel Rolle, FS, Arizona Cardinals

Offensive Lineman: Evan Mathis, G, Cincinnati Bengals

Special Teams: Percy Harvin, WR/KR, Minnesota Vikings

Rookie of the Week: Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

 

Tony Dungy: Quiet Strength

22-1Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker

Review by C. Douglas Baker

Tony Dungy is a rather unique and inspiring person. Tony Dungy has been in the National Football League as a coach for many years. As a head coach, he lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the brink of a championship before being let go. He finally got over the hump by winning Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears behind Peyton Manning and the feisty play of strong safety Bob Sanders.

This memoir is about how Coach Dungy applies his Christian faith to not only his coaching in professional football, but to his life off the field as well. His approach to coaching football is certainly unique. He is no Bill Parcells, who often demeans his players, sometimes in public, to motivate them. He is also not the stereotypical coach who screams, yells, and cusses at his players when they make mistakes or in an attempt to fire them up or get the best out them. His style, by all accounts, is a quiet, understated approach that has certainly worked well for him.

Dungy rebuilt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a lousy team to a championship-caliber team, but could never quite get the wins in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. He was, most would say, unfairly fired by the Buccaneers as they seemed to feel he was not going to get them past the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. One year after he was let go by Tampa Bay, the team won Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders with Jon Gruden as head coach.

After being hired as head coach by the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy quietly built up the defensive side of the ball. The defensive unit had often let the team down and was clearly a weak link. While the Colts defense never became quite as good as his Buccaneers teams, it was just good enough to get a Super Bowl win.

Beyond talking about applying his faith to his role as head coach, Dungy talks about the importance of his family and his community and how he has striven to give all he can to each. And through this memoir, the reader learns a lot about Dungy’s career in the NFL and his teams, so there is plenty of football talk in the book to please fans of the game. He also talks about how his faith helped him cope with the inexplicable suicide of his teenage son.

Overall, this is an excellent book if you are a fan of football or you just want to hear the story of a devoutly religious man and how he applies his faith to everyday life.

Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life

2008 NFL Football Season: Week 5

New England Patriots over San Francisco 49’ers, 30-21

GO RANDY GO!!! Thank goodness our poor performance against Miami appears to be just a bad day at the office. While New England’s defense still needs to be stouter, and Matt Cassel is still making some mistakes, we hit the deep ball to Randy Moss and had a solid running game to chew up the clock. Hats off to Kevin Faulk for his two touchdowns. As I said last year in the playoffs, when you need a first down or key play, he’s always money.

GAMES I WATCHED

Tennessee Titans over Baltimore Ravens, 13-10

This is the second game in a row the Ravens lost when they should have won. They basically outplayed the Titans for the most part and got robbed on a terrible roughing the passer call on Terrell Suggs near the end of the game that gave Tennessee the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. That awful call and a missed field goal by Matt Stover at the end of the first half basically were the difference in the game. Joe Flacco did make a few rookie mistakes and tossed up a couple of interceptions, but I really, really like what I see from this rookie quarterback. He has a tremendous arm and doesn’t seem to let bad plays get him in a funk, which often just leads to more bad plays. And I like how the Ravens give him an opportunity to throw the ball and don’t just use him to “manage” the game. Of course with their banged up running backs they don’t have much of a choice. I see Flacco has having the potential to be an elite quarterback in this league. The Ravens offensive line also did a good job of not letting the stellar defensive line of the Titans dominate the game. In fact, the Titans defensive ends were mostly a non-factor. Ray Lewis is playing like he did a few years ago. He seems to have found a fountain of youth somewhere. The Ravens defense is tremendous. While this team may be 2-2, I think they will improve over the year. Their biggest weakness is their banged up running backs, no true number one receiver, a banged up Todd Heap, and a rookie quarterback. Their defense will have to make up for their offensive weakness the rest of the year.

I have not seen as much of Tennessee this year, and while they have a good defense their offense seems unimaginative, blah, yuck, despite their solid running game and Kerry Collins mostly playing well. I don’t think the Titans are as good as their record, but like Bill Parcell’s used to say, you are what your record says you are, so I guess I should give the Titans their due.

MVP: Keith Bulluck, LB, Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos over Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 16-13

Tampa Bay is another one of those teams with a great defense and a lousy offense, or at least one that can’t score any points. Denver’s offense seems to have run into a road block in this game, but suddenly they seemed to have a defense. I think the real story is Tampa Bay has a solid defense that slowed down a solid offense, and a weak defense stopped a weak offense. Elvis Dumervile, DE, Denver, played in the Buccaneers backfield most of the game. His statistics don’t tell the whole story of how he dominated the game.

MVP: Elvis Dumervile, DE, Denver Broncos

Pittsburgh Steelers over Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-21

I was impressed with the grittiness of both of these teams. Ben Roethlisberger, sore shoulder and all, hung in through big hits to move the ball and score just enough to win the game. Hines Ward constantly kept coming up with big catches at the most crucial moments. But the real story of the game, again, was Pittsburgh’s defense. Take away a Rashean Mathis interception return for a touchdown off of Big Ben and this game isn’t that close. James Harrison is one of the best outside linebackers in the league, and LaMarr Woodley is not too far behind him. Add in the disruptive Troy Polamalu and you have yourself a stout defense.

The Jaguars played a solid game but simply could not get the running or passing game going and rarely made a third down conversion. Both of these teams are solid defensively but the Jaguars receivers are a joke. If they had one halfway decent receiver they may be able to take some pressure off the running game.

MVP: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Minnesota Vikings over New Orleans Saints, 30-27

This is one of the craziest games I have ever seen. You had a blocked field goal ran back for a touchdown by the Vikings, a half back option pass for a touchdown, two punt returns for touchdowns by Reggie Bush (one of which included not one but two hellacious blocks), fumbles and interceptions, a gazillion penalties, huge highlight reel hits by the defenses, a missed game winning field goal, a quarterback getting nearly knockout and coming back and throwing a huge bomb to his speedy but inconsistent receiver, and a defensive pass interference call that set up a game winning field goal. What more could you ask for?

For the Saints they could have asked for a win. They outplayed the Vikings but lost a heartbreaker, despite two touchdowns on special teams. The Saints did get a bad no call on a clear face mask on Reggie Bush on a play he also lost a fumble, but the real reason the Saints lost were themselves, They had turnovers, penalties galore, a blocked field goal ran back for a touchdown and a missed field goal.

Antoine Winfield of the Vikings turned in one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen by a cornerback. Not only is he a tremendous pass defender, he’s a great tackler with a nose for the ball and always seems to be in the right place and the right time. His sack and stealing the ball from Drew Brees was one of many game breaking plays.

And what about Reggie Bush? Not one but two punt returns for touchdowns, and he almost broke off a third. When Bush is in space he’s scary fast and shifty. A quote from my wife: “Don’t you wish Reggie Bush played for New England? He’s got potential, that one. He’s a joy to watch. And he’s dating Kim Kardashian.” What relevance that last bit of news as to football I’m not sure.

And what about Gus Frerotte? Here’s a 15 year journeyman quarterback starting the year as a backup keeping his head in the game despite offensive ineptness, receivers dropping balls and running bad routes, and no running game. Then he gets blasted and nearly knocked out but comes back to lead the Vikings to a touchdown late in the game.

Other than the Saints constantly getting penalties (and the Vikings had their fair share too) the most frustrating part of the game was watching receivers drop balls. Bernard Berrian of the Vikings is very fast but seems to run wrong or poor routes and drops a ton of balls. Then he’ll come back and make unbelievable catches. If this guy were more consistent he’d potentially be one of the top five receivers in the league and the Vikings a better team. Then you have the Saints receivers dropping balls, including one that should have been caught but was tipped for a Vikings interception.

All this certainly made for an entertaining game.

MVP: Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings

Observations Week 5

Week 5 was a wild, wild week with a few crazy games. Here are numerous observations after Week 5.

Defenses. I am finally seeing some great defensive performances this year. Too bad most of the teams with great defenses also have weak offenses. The Baltimore Ravens, with the seemingly ageless Ray Lewis, the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and usually the Minnesota Vikings all have very solid defenses. I’ve been extremely impress with Ray Lewis this year. He seems to have found a fountain of youth and is all over the field making plays every week. Also impressive have been Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings, James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers. I haven’t seen the Tennessee Titans except once this year but I’ll have to add Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans to this list as well.

Buffalo Bills. I never thought the Bills were as good as their 4-0 record, which is unfair because a win is a win, and their loss to Arizona could partially be attributed to Trent Edwards being hurt. Nevertheless, I think they are one of the more exciting and interesting teams in the NFL, if somewhat slightly above average. Being a Patriots fan I hope the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins lose the rest of their games this season, and tie with each other, but I do hope Trent Edwards recovers quickly from his concussion. I like what I see in this young quarterback and think he has the potential to be one of the few upper tier (read, better than mediocre) quarterbacks in the league. With an offensive core of Trent Edward, Marshawn Lynch, and Lee Evans they have some offensive firepower and an improving defense.

Miami Dolphins. After two impressive wins in a row the Dolphins have proven that they can’t be chalked up as an automatic win anymore! No more feeling sorry for the Fins from this Patriots fan!

Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers had an impressive win thanks to their defense Sunday night. They are lucky to be 4-1 given they were outplayed by the Ravens last week and won and Ben Roethlisberger is taking a beating every game. If Big Ben keeps getting hit like this all year they’ll be lucky to have him still standing in the late stretch of the season and he’ll likely be less effective. They have to find a way to keep him from taking such a beating every week.

Tennessee Titans. They might be 5-0 but I am not that impressed. They may have a great defense and good running backs but they look blah to me on the field. They should have lost to the Ravens. This team will likely make the playoffs, and with the AFC weak this year who knows what will happen there, but I don’t see the Titans as a championship caliber team.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts must be the luckiest team this year, while the Baltimore Ravens are the unluckiest. They should be 0-4 instead of 2-2 with gift wins against the Vikings and Texans. Sage Rosenfels was able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory last week basically handing the Colts the game. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the AFC because I suspect before long the offense will start clicking and piling up the points while the defense improves.

AFC West. Denver is not as good as they look because of their weak defense, and San Diego not as bad. Kansas City and Oakland are as bad as they look.

New York Giants. Brandon Jacobs is a beast and the defensive line stellar. This team has picked up right where they left off last year.

Terrell Owens, is a jerk.

Washington Redskins. It’s amazing to see the turnaround in this team since the first game of the season. They are playing as well as I have seen them play in years on both sides of the ball. Jason Campbell seems to have really taken to Jim Zorn’s offense and Clinton Portis is looking like the stud running back he was a few years ago.

Philadelphia Eagles. With all the injuries and a losing record in the toughest division in the NFL this team may be in big trouble. After the Dallas game I thought they were back to their winning ways. What a difference a few weeks (and injuries make).

NFC North. This could turn out to be a competitive division. Chicago’s defense is stellar and Kyle Orton is playing very well. Green Bay I expect to rebound from their recent losses. Minnesota likely will end up with a losing or 8-8 record but they have the potential to do better if they can score some points. Detroit, well, let’s not pick on them.

Carolina Panthers. Are they really as good as people say they are? I have a hard time believing it.

NFC West. The Cardinals should win this division if they keep playing like they did last week and get some road wins. They are solid on both sides of the ball. Kurt Warner just needs to avoid the turnovers.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants

Defensive Player: Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Lineman: Adam Terry, T, Baltimore Ravens

Special Teams: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans Saints

Rookie of the Week:  Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys