It’s always a challenge to reduce a crazy Sunday to a series of 10 takes.
But this job still beats working for a living, so it’s a challenge we embrace.
And so we give you this week’s largely Chilly-free Monday 10-pack.
1. Randy Moss, Titans begin their honeymoon.
Though the Titans didn’t play in Week Nine, their newest player continues to dominate the 24-hour NFL news cycle.
Receiver Randy Moss arrived Sunday in Tennessee, joining a team with a suddenly better standing in the AFC South, given losses on Sunday by the Colts (5-3) and Texans (4-4). Whether the marriage is a successful one remains to be seen.
And it will depend on several key questions.
First, how will the Titans use him? Will he be a glorified decoy, like he was in New England and Minnesota? Or will the Titans keep him involved and motivated and focused by feeding him like a Thanksgiving turkey?
Second, who will keep Moss accountable? On other teams, veteran leadership would play an important roll in reeling in Randy when Randy is being Randy. The Titans don’t have much of that this year, a season after defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, linebacker Keith Bulluck, and center Kevin Mawae have departed. Backup quarterback Kerry Collins has the gray hair and experience with Moss in Oakland (which possibly accounted for some of the gray hair). But does Moss respect Collins enough to listen to him?
Third, does Moss realize that this is his last chance to get the kind of contract he thinks he deserves? He wants $10 million per year. He’ll have to settle for far less, if he’s lucky. If he can’t set the stage for a long-term arrangement, he’ll descend into the T.O. phase of his career, signing a string of one-year contracts with whoever is desperate enough to do a deal with the devil in any given year.
It’s high-risk stuff for the Titans, who still play the Texans and Colts twice each. If it works, the franchise that left Houston in the 1990s could be heading back to Texas in February. If it doesn’t, Jeff Fisher could be feeling the same way Brad Childress is feeling right about now.
2. If Holmgren coaches in 2011, it may not be the Browns.
When Browns president Mike Holmgren made the media rounds last week, conducting a press conference and appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, it sure seemed as if the Big Show is getting ready to return to the sidelines.
Given the recent success of Eric Mangini in Cleveland, Holmgren may have to go elsewhere if he wants to coach again.
If that’s what he wants to do — and if Browns owner Randy Lerner will release Holmgren from the balance of his contract — there could be plenty of options. In Dallas, Holmgren could be the kind of non-puppet who would be able to help set the table with owner/G.M. Jerry Jones. In San Francisco, he’d be going home, helping to restore glory to a franchise that hasn’t done all that much since he left 18 years ago. And don’t rule out the Vikings making a strong run at yet another Packers legend.
Even if the Browns don’t continue their recent success, Mangini doesn’t think that Holmgren’s feelings regarding coaching will affect Mangini’s status in Cleveland.
“I get it,” Mangini told PFT on Sunday evening, “because I don’t
know what I’d do if I wasn’t coaching. What he’s doing now isn’t as
exciting as it is coaching on Sunday. . . . Nothing’s changed between
us. He’s been great. That’s what I go by. What he’s done, how he’s
In the end, then, the relationship between Mangini and Holmgren may not truly be tested until they’re squaring off on opposite sidelines. Like they did in Week 16 of the 2008 season, when Holmgren’s Seahawks helped grease the skids for Mangini’s exit in New York by beating the Jets, 9-6.
3. End of the road for Wade.
All of those folks in the media who have claimed all year that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would never fire coach Wade Phillips because Jones never has fired a head coach in 21 years of owning the team either already have forgotten or will soon be forgetting that they ever uttered those words.
With Jones refusing to talk about Wade’s status after Sunday night’s 45-7 loss to the Packers, it’s looking like the time has come for Phillips to go.
While it’s true that a midseason coaching change rarely helps turn a season around, the Cowboys no longer have a season to turn around. The Cowboys now face bigger issues. Sooner or later, Jones must confront the possibility of the fan base revolting if Phillips doesn’t pay for this 1-7 debacle with his job.
Besides, with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett getting paid like a head coach, why not give him a chance to demonstrate whether he can be a viable candidate for the gig in 2011?
Then again, Garrett already is operating as a co-head coach of sorts, making it harder to justify giving Garrett a chance to salvage a ship that already has run aground.
Either way, something needs to happen. And it needs to happen soon. And Jones finally seems to be figuring it out. And all those folks who dismissed talk of Wade getting fired during the season — and calling out those of us who said it could happen — will now be conveniently forgetting their own words.
4. “Second act” exception apparently has been scuttled.
The good news, if there is any, regarding Sunday’s nullification of Arian Foster’s first-half touchdown reception in the Chargers-Texans game is that the made-up “second act” exception apparently has been scuttled.
If it hadn’t been, the ruling would have been that Foster performed a “second act” by lunging across the goal line after catching the pass from Matt Schaub.
Instead of relying on the made-up “second act” exception, the officials applied the rule as written. Foster failed to keep control of the ball through the process of going to the ground, which made the pass incomplete.
Of course, the implicit acknowledgment that the “second act” exception doesn’t exist won’t do much for the Colts, who were burned by it in Super Bowl XLIV, when Lance Moore pushed the ball across the goal line while going to the ground after making the catch. Though he lost possession when he struck the ground, the play was ruled a valid two-point conversion, based on the “second act” of breaking the plane of the end zone.
It also does nothing for the average fan, who watches a play like Foster’s catch and assumes that it’s a touchdown.
Indeed, when everyone but the officials consider a play to be a valid catch, it means that the NFL needs to address the rule, once and for all.
5. Inconsistent application of celebration rule contiues.
In Week Five, the Cowboys were burned in a loss to the Titans by a bright-line application of the celebration rule, which prohibits players from going to the ground when reveling in their accomplishments.
The only exception? Prayer.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson never has been flagged for going to the ground after scoring, even though it doesn’t appear that he’s praying. On Sunday, for example, he caught a touchdown pass, dropped to his knees, and blew a double-handed kiss to the crowd.
No prayer. But also no flag.
It gets better. Or, from the perspective of a Cowboys fan, worse. After scoring his first of two touchdowns against the Browns on Sunday, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez jumped toward teammate Logan Mankins, who thrust Hernandez into the air, causing him to land on the ground.
It was no less intentional than Marc Colombo’s chest-bump-and-fall-down with Jason Witten, which drew a flag. For Hernandez? No flag.
Though the two games involved two different officiating crews, it shouldn’t matter. V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson has said it’s a bright-line rule, with no room for discretion.
Apparently, there is room for discretion. And if the rule isn’t tightened up and enforced evenly and consistently, the league needs to get rid of it entirely.
6. Defenseless receivers get rocked, again.
The league would like to be able to say that the post-Week Six focus on illegal hits against defenseless receivers has solved the problem. But it wouldn’t be true.
Week Nine’s Sunday games featured two more crushing blows against pass-catchers. Colts receiver Austin Collie suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit delivered while he was catching a pass. Cowboys receiver Roy Williams absorbed a far more blatant helmet hit from Packers safety Nick Collins.
Still, both hits violated the rules, despite the protests of a pair of Collie’s Colts teammates.
“No, it didn’t look like intent,” safety Aaron Francisco said after the game, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. “When a player gets hit by
two guys, not really simultaneously but one after another, it’s kind of
hard as a defensive back to keep your head out of the way. That guy is
getting hit towards you, you don’t know where his head is going to be or
But intent doesn’t matter. If a defenseless receiver is hit with a helmet or in the helmet, the rule has been violated.
As to Collins, his hit on Williams looked a lot more willful and malicious. Collins is certain to draw a huge fine, and he could be the first player suspended under the league’s new procedures for enforcing the rules.
7. Non-kickers get their kicks.
A day after the Week Nine PFT Mailbag included a question from a reader who’d like to see the NFL outlaw kicking specialists and force “regular” players to kick the ball, not one but two “regular” players got a chance to do the irregular.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh attempted an extra point for the Lions (he missed it) and receiver Wes Welker tried one for the Patriots (he made it).
While it’s refreshing to see this kind of thing (except for the fact that the Lions could have used that point in order to avoid overtime), why didn’t the Lions and the Patriots go for two in those situations? With the conversion rate for two-point tries slightly north of 50 percent and the success rate for extra-point tries by non-kickers somewhere slightly south of 99.9 percent, it makes more sense to go for two.
It also makes sense to have on the roster a punter who can get the job done with a greater chance of success than a defensive tackle. Unless the more desirable secondary skill for a punter is the willingness to take off with the ball on a fourth-and-18 play.
8. Overtime rules still need to be changed.
On Sunday, three games went to overtime. In two of them (Cardinals-Vikings and Chiefs-Raiders), the team that won the toss and received the opening kickoff lost. In the third, the Jets took the kick and drove down the field without the Lions getting the ball.
The fact that 66.7 percent of the Week Nine overtime games didn’t end in an unfair fashion doesn’t make the other 33.3 percent of the Week Nine overtime outcomes fair and equitable.
Put simply, the Lions should have had a chance to match or beat the field goal scored by the Jets.
The league has tweaked the sudden-victory rule as it applies to the postseason. Though many expected the same rule to be applied in the regular season, it wasn’t. And thus teams periodically will not get a fair shake when games go to overtime.
9. Rivers for MVP.
The San Diego Chargers are making yet another big run after starting slowly, with back-to-back wins over the previously 5-2 Titans and previously 4-3 Texans. And one guy gets the bulk of the credit.
Quarterback Philip Rivers remains on pace after nine games to set the single-season passing yardage record. And he’s making it happen with a Peyton Manning-style patchwork of receivers and tight ends.
At 4-5 and with the Raiders at 5-4 and the Chiefs at 5-3, the Chargers can still win the division. If they do — and if Rivers breaks Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record — Rivers should get plenty of votes for league MVP.
10. Matt Stafford can’t stay healthy.
When the Rams picked quarterback Sam Bradford with the first selection in the 2010 draft, the biggest question mark related to his durability. After all, Bradford’s shoulder had been blown apart last year on a hit from a 230-pound linebacker.
Surprisingly, Bradford has held up in his rookie season. His 2009 counterpart, however, has struggled to stay healthy in two NFL campaigns.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first pick in the 2009 draft, can’t avoid injury. He missed six games last year and five (and counting) in 2010 due to injury. When he has played, he has played well. But it’s hard to consistently play well when the player isn’t consistently playing.
On Sunday, he re-injured a right shoulder that he originally injured in Week One.
Thus, before Stafford ever can become a franchise quarterback, he needs to find a way to stay on the field. Until he does, he’ll never be a franchise quarterback.