Week Six Monday 10-pack

An exciting NFL season got even more exciting on Sunday, with a bunch of very good games, including two overtime contests, a do-or-die game in Minnesota, the return of Big Ben, and the sudden proliferation of hits to helmets.

As usual, we distill it into 10 takes.

You can read them all now, or you can read them all later.  Or some now and the rest later.  Or one only now and none of the rest.  Or any combination you choose.

But if you don’t read all of it, you really won’t be truly up to speed on what happened on Sunday.

1.  League needs to beef up rules regarding helmet-to-helmet hits.

The NFL has a problem.  In a span of perhaps 15 minutes on Sunday afternoon, with a string of players taking blows to the head, the problem became as clear as it’s ever been.

At a time when the league has adopted an unprecedented and aggressive stance regarding the handling of concussions, the NFL needs to go the next step and take action aimed at preventing them.  And the NFL can start by aggressively enforcing the rules regarding helmet-to-helmet hits.

Rodney Harrison of NBC’s Football Night in America has first-hand experience regarding the deterrent effect of a suspension.  As Harrison explained throughout the evening on the air and in online videos, he budgeted money each year to pay the fines that go along with developing the reputation of being a big hitter.  It’s a simple analysis.  Big hitters make big money.  So defensive backs who want to make big money need to regard the fines as a cost of doing business — and a price to pay on the path to getting paid

Being involuntarily removed from the team sends a far more potent message.  And Harrison explained that, for him, it worked.

If the league is serious about getting rid of these hits — and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, whose team lost receiver DeSean Jackson for likely several weeks, has openly called for the league to indeed get rid of these hits — suspensions become a critical tool for getting the message across to the players. 

But there’s another tool that the league hasn’t utilized.  Three years ago, the NFL instructed officials to begin ejecting players for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits.  Since then, not a single player — not one — has been ejected for a flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit.

In 2009, Panthers cornerback Dante Wesley delivered a forearm to the head of Bucs running back Clifton Smith on a punt return.  The officials ejected Wesley on the spot.  So why wasn’t Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather abruptly ejected after launching his helmet into the helmet of Ravens tight end Todd Heap?

But ejections and suspensions aren’t enough.  The league should police coaching staffs to ensure that they’re not teaching techniques that would lead to unnecessary hits to the head.  Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, in defending a blow to the head that resulted in a $15,000 fine for rookie safety T.J. Ward, seemed to admit that Ward’s conduct was a product of coaching.   “You teach to hit them properly, the young man didn’t lead with
his head, he’s hitting him the way we teach him and then there’s a big
hullabaloo about this penalty but [heck] those guys need to shut up,” Ryan said. 
“This is our team, they don’t coach our team.  We do.”

The league also needs to consider banning all helmet-to-helmet hits involving receivers and ball carriers, defenseless or otherwise.  Browns receiver Josh Cribbs was knocked out of Sunday’s game after taking a helmet to the ear hole.  Under the current rules, the hit was legal.  Ditto for the hit absorbed by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.  But if the goal is to reduce and prevent concussions, the league needs to explore this issue more carefully.

We realize there’s a point at which helmet-to-helmet hits are unavoidable.  As Mark Schlereth of ESPN pointed out via Twitter after I (a/k/a “this dude” a/k/a “T-bone”) made the case for getting rid of all helmet-to-helmet hits during the Sunday night postgame show with Bob Costas, offensive and defensive linemen routinely bang hats.  Also, football at full speed will involve contact between helmets without intent. 

We’ll defer to the league when it comes to coming up with a way to distinguish the cases when helmet involvement is incidental, and when a helmet is being used as a weapon to strike another helmet.  Either way, Sunday’s action proved that, whatever the league is doing to address this problem, the league isn’t doing enough.


2.  Favre doesn’t need to worry about getting suspended before Sunday.

Plenty of people are confused about the posture of the Brett Favre investigation.  The fact that he’s meeting with NFL V.P. of security Milt Ahlerich on Tuesday doesn’t mean that discipline will be meted out during or upon that meeting. 

Ahlerich is merely gathering facts; the decision on discipline will be made by someone else, presumably Commissioner Roger Goodell.  And since suspensions imposed during the season are finalized by Tuesday of a given week, this means that Favre won’t be suspended this week.

For next Sunday, that’s good news for the Vikings, because it means that Favre will be available for the prime-time showdown in Lambeau Field between Minnesota and Green Bay.

The fact that other steps may be involved in the investigation and that Favre has appeal rights means that the process will continue to linger for several more weeks, perhaps even longer.  

3.  Jerry Jones should hire a G.M.

Many NFL fans assume that Jerry Jones is a meddling owner.  In reality, he’s the General Manager of the team.

Of course, he got that title because he bought the team and appointed himself to the job.  At the time, he had zero credentials for the job.  Since then, he has developed 21 years of experience.

But that doesn’t mean he’s a good General Manager.  Or that he should continue to be the G.M.

Jones won three Super Bowls with teams influenced heavily by the efforts of former coach Jimmy Johnson.  After Johnson left and the roster he built dissipated, the team struggled until Bill Parcells turned things around.  But Jones apparently prefers not to have to deal with a strong-willed head coach who aspires to run the show.  As a result, Jones is content to stick with Wade Phillips, if it means that Wade Phillips will let Jones run the team the way he sees fit.

But with 15 years and counting since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance (and a 13-year gap between playoff wins that ended last year), Jones should seriously consider turning the personnel function over to someone who worked his way up through the ranks performing the various thankless jobs and honing his skills to a high level.  Jones can still be a meddling owner if he wants; the team would be better off over the long run if it had a true G.M.

4.  Trade deadline should be moved.

Every year at this time, we’re amazed by the fact that the trade deadline comes so quickly.  And, invariably, we argue that the trade deadline should be moved deeper into the year.

And, inevitably, no one listens.

Though the league likely wants to avoid baseball-style fire sales that could kill attendance and ratings for a downtrodden team over the rest of the season, the team will continue to be downtrodden with or without a fire sale.  Why not give a bad team a chance to get better down the road by selling a key player in exchange for draft picks or other value? 

Currently, a deadline falling one day after the completion of Week Six prevents many teams from leveraging a rare good player into some help for the future.  Most teams are still alive, and it would be ludicrous to throw in the towel now.

As it now stands, it’s likely that a trade or two will pop up between now and Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.  Chris Mortensen of ESPN suggested on Sunday that the Cowboys could move running back Marion Barber, who rushed for 31 yards in 10 carries against the Vikings.  (If traded to the Packers, he’d face the Vikings in two straight weeks.)  The Redskins could still try to trade defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was deactivated Sunday night even though he believed he was ready to play.

If the deadline came four or five weeks from now, there would be more possible moves.  Unless this crazy season of parity continues to keep a bunch of the teams packed together.

5.  Cowboys get burned by celebration rule, again.

Last week, the Cowboys absorbed a 15-yard penalty when tackle Marc Colombo tumbled to the ground after bumping chests with tight Jason Witten after a game-tying touchdown late in an eventual loss to the Titans.  The eventual loss was fueled by the return that came after the 15 yards were applied to the ensuing kickoff.

NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson defended the decision by explaining that it’s a bright-line prohibition.  “The rule is pretty clear and explicit,” Johnson told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen. “Going to the
ground as part of a celebration, it’s pretty black and white — it’s
clear, we don’t allow a player to go to the ground as part of a

So, of course, the officials allowed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to go to the ground after scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.  No flag was thrown.

It’s possible that Peterson’s gesture was intended to be a prayer, which as we pointed out in the Week Five mailbag may or may not be OK.  Given Johnson’s explanation regarding the situation from the Titans-Cowboys game, it sounds like it’s not OK, especially since Johnson said that the officials “can’t judge intent.”

If that’s the case, Peterson should have been flagged.  Cowboys fans therefore have a legitimate beef.

6.  Niners take their name literally.

The fact that the San Francisco 49ers finally won a game this year should be good for the ongoing employment of coach Mike Singletary.

Undermining his status?  In the second quarter, the Niners lined up for a field goal.  With only nine men on the field.

Once the problem was spotted, a time was out called.  Then, Singletary opted not to try a 51-yard field goal.  So the 49ers punted from the Oakland 34, and the ball went into the end zone for a net gain of 14 yards. 

7.  Vikings suddenly are back in the thick of things.

In addition to avoiding a plunge to 1-4, the Vikings’ victory over the Cowboys thrust Minnesota into the thick of things in the NFC North.

With the Bears losing at home to the Seahawks and the Packers losing at home to the Dolphins, the Vikings have now tied the Packers in the loss column — and the Vikings are only one game behind the Bears in the loss column.  (The Lions lost, too.)  With two games to play against each team, the Vikings firmly control their destiny.

Their first crack comes next week against the Packers on Sunday Night Football.

8.  Does anyone want to win the AFC West?

As the Chargers continue their annual early-season struggles, there’s good news. 

They’re not alone.

Every other team in the AFC West lost on Sunday, dropping the Chiefs to 3-2 and the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos to 2-4.

And yet one of these teams will go to the playoffs — and also will host a playoff game.

Meanwhile, the Colts and the Texans each won in Week Six, moving them to 4-2.  Barring a tie on Monday night, either the Jaguars or the Titans will join the other two AFC South teams in a three-way tie with a better record than any team in the AFC West.

9.  Eagles need to stick with Kolb.

It’s fitting, we suppose, that Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb has performed well in Mike Vick’s absence, delivering two wins and two triple-digit passer ratings (103.3 against the 49ers and 133.6 against the Falcons).  Kolb’s numbers as good as if not better than the numbers generated in Vick’s two starts after Kolb’s Week One concussion, and this would all be a bigger deal if Kolb were a fallen star who had been imprisoned and then spent a year in football purgatory while searching for skills that by all appearances weren’t coming back, until they suddenly did.

It was Kolb’s job and he lost it to a hot quarterback while injured.  Vick got injured, and Kolb got hot.  So now Kolb should get his job back.

The fact that coach Andy Reid has said that Donovan McNabb would be the 2010 starter and he wasn’t and then said that Kolb would be the starter and he isn’t only reinforces the possibility that the guy who’s now supposed to be the starter may not be.

10.  Bucs aren’t ready to contend.

Despite a gaudy (for them) 3-1 record entering Sunday’s game against the Saints, the Buccaneers aren’t legitimate contenders.

The 25-point loss to the Saints confirmed what the team’s 25-point loss three weeks ago to the Steelers plainly established.  Though capable of beating teams that aren’t very good, the Bucs aren’t ready to compete with the NFL’s elite.

Tampa’s team is much better than it was a year ago, but there’s a long way to go before this team will return to a consistently elite level.

32 responses to “Week Six Monday 10-pack

  1. I think you should do half of these Sunday night and the other half in the morning. A few at the end here were kind of short and lacked the usual insightful (and inciteful) wit. No offense.

  2. You’ll never admit it Florio, but the NFC West is no longer officially the joke of the NFL.
    ( I’ll now designate the AFC West for that postion!)
    3-0 this week, EAST COASTER’s… how ’bout dem Bears against the suddenly good Seahawks.
    We beat you up and on your turf!
    Did you see Okung push the entire Bear line into the endzone on Forsett’s TD?
    Get ready, the NFC West is making a comeback!

  3. Tampa & Kansas City both showed that they are in a developing mode. But at least the future looks bright for those teams unlike say the Bills & Panthers.

  4. What, nothing about Ben’s return?
    You tried to destroy him with your NBC-sponsored attention whoring yellow journalism and now his *successful* return doesn’t even merit a mention.
    You’re such a freakin weasel.

  5. The only way to avoid “helmet to helmet” contact would be to outlaw hitting a player above the chest … because if you hit a guy in the shoulder area, more often than not the helmets come into contact.

  6. Go back to a leather helmet.
    You put that heavy weapon on player’s heads and they use it as such. Players would not use their head as a weapon if their own head would hurt. My guess is that the game would be more fun to watch because players would have to learn how to tackle the right way, too.

  7. The Vikings are beginning to roll. Excellent play from the Defense and special teams. If the Offense continues to improve, they might not lose another game this year.

  8. So, Cleveland DC Rob Ryan coaches his defense to aggressively hit the guy with the ball. How ironic then when James Harrison blows up a couple Browns and the Cleveland fan base is up in arms. Just last week some Browns poster on this website came up with some drivel about “Mr. Ward meet Mr. Ward” then Sunday you get a taste of your own medicine and you cry foul. Oh the irony!!

  9. Concussions are part of the game. What don’t you people understand about that? You’ll never get rid of them, so stop ruining the game. Players are being compensated for the down sides of football – they make a tremendous amount of money.
    You progressives and your insatiable quest for utopia is mind-boggling. Here’s a little tip: No matter how hard you try, there is always a winner and a loser. It’s called real life.

  10. @ The Doctor
    The Vikings are beginning to roll? What game did you watch? Favre sucks and the Cowboys statistically beat down the Vikings. If it wasn’t for poor bonehead plays, Dallas wins that game and probably easily. I understand your optimism but it just isn’t true.
    The helmet to helmet thing is nonsense. It is part of the game. Unless a player is spearing someone than incidental helmet to helmet contact cannot be fined, ejected or any other type of punishment. Just because Rodney Harrison says something doesn’t make it true.

  11. Pestilence1972 is correct.
    No pads, no face mask, just a leather helmet. It really makes a lot of sense. It makes so much sense, the NFL won’t do it. Less violence means less exciting. Players getting jacked up is a main reason we watch.

  12. The biggest game of the week – Pat vs Bal gets no love but write abt a meeting w the brass and Favre? C’mon man.

  13. # Fantasia says: October 18, 2010 5:49 AM
    I love wathing the Cryboys crash and burn. What a joke! Ha!
    I was torn between wanting the Cowgurlz to lose another game, putting them ever closer to watching two other teams play the SB in their new home, and wanting to see BrettFavre throw yet another soul-crushing, game-losing INT.
    The Cowgurlz are still their own worst enemy, which makes them so much fun to watch. When will JJ fire himself as GM and let someone with a clue run the team?

  14. “Since then, not a single player — not one — has been ejected for a flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit.”
    How does an official determine or prove intent?
    Good luck with that.

  15. Singletary is terrible. If you’re going to punt anyway, let the play clock expire instead of using a time out. Being pushed back 5 yards is beneficial to a punter at the other team’s 34 yard line. Singletary is more worried about perception than making the correct coaching call.

  16. Lost in the hubbub over Kolb’s performance is the fact that he was basically an accessory to attempted murder on the DeSean Jackson injury. Call me crazy, but when your best offensive weapon is lost for possibly a month because you hung him out to dry, it was not a good game, regardless of the box score.

  17. I think the Refs are looking to flag Dallas and are not applying the same ‘judgment’ to Dallas as they do to other teams without the penalty rep. The Peterson non-call is just one example.
    When Jenkins got flagged for PI is another. I watched the Redskins-Colts game and in the 4th Qtr Buchanan interfered far worse with Dallas Clark twice on critical plays and there was no call. In one play he literally put his right arm around Clark’s waist and pulled him up short in his route before the ball was anywhere near him. In the other he almost pulled Clark’s jersey off right in front of the ref. Neither resulted in a penalty, yet Jenkins gets a flag because his hand touched Harvin’s back.
    Dallas has no one to blame but themselves, the refs ‘expect’ there to be a penalty with their play so they tend to look for it and, as a result, call them tighter than other teams now.

  18. I don’t like the idea of moving the trade deadline back. The team that goes into the playoffs should be roughly the same team that started the season not one augmented with a couple of rentals. What if SD’s problems continue and they trade Jackson to a playoff bound team that might need a WR to put them over the top? (e.g., NE, Pitt?) It would taint the playoffs just as late season firesales taint MLB. Week 6 is late enough – only a few teams don’t have some sort of hope; Buff., Clev., Car., Det. That number will at least double in 4 weeks and owners will be less fearful of a fan revolt if they give up on the season.

  19. Bill in DC;
    You’re 100% correct. The NFL has become the joke of the world in officiating. I almost would love to see them go back to the old “straight forward” rules and no replay. Problem has become two-fold. The rules, like the catch rule for example, has become so convoluted with so much grey area, that the refs can call whatever they want and still make a case that it was the right call. There are many of these rules in the NFL now. Another major problem is the fact, and it’s becoming more and more clear this is a fact, that when you’re not a great team, you simply don’t get the calls. People always say it but only a fan of a team like the Lions can tell you how true this really is.
    Yesterday might have been the worst day of officiating I’ve ever watched in my life, across the entire league. Johnson not called for pass interference in the KC game directly cost them the game. Detroit had multiple calls in the endzone against the Giants that directly put the game out of reach, all of them very suspect and all of them giving fresh sets of downs. The Vikings got every call their way in their game vs the Cowboys (although the refs might just be making up for 2 decades of the Cowboys getting all the calls in the first 2 months of this season…LOL). The Jets (and, yes, he did interfere but only did because he was clearly off balance from being pulled back by Holmes first) won a game on a refs call. Luckily for Miami, they managed to hold on after getting screwed out of a first down in the 4th quarter.
    Also, 2 times yesterday, I saw the refs blow the “Calvin Johnson rule” in a game. It seems to happen almost every single week so change the stupid rule already.
    Anyways, it is becoming apparent that certain teams will always get the calls. They are the Golden teams of the NFL and it’s financially good for the league if they win. I’m becoming more and more certain of this. This doesn’t mean that the flags are always phantom flags. Many times they are actual penalties. Problem is, they only seem to get called against the teams the league seems to not really care about if they win or lose. And it happens every week.
    Now, I know my team is getting better but not there yet. Just as many others do. But to play teams like the Giants is difficult enough. You can’t beat the refs too. There were plays in many games yesterday where it was obvious the refs took control and simply determined the game. That’s sad and becoming far too normal in the NFL.
    Oh well, that’s it for my rant today

  20. As long as the Bucs beat the teams they’re supposed to beat they’ll be just fine. They’re overachieving and thats better than at any point from last season. Shoot I might actually go to the next home game against the Rams cause thats a game that they can win. Race to 10 baby! GO BUCS ALL DAY!

  21. My God the way Floria is talking pretty soon they won’t need helmets or pads. Maybe they could just play flag football… Riddle me this if the head is at the top of the body, and you lean over to grab someone and wrap your arms around them, how is it possible to lead with anything other than your head? Unless of course your head isn’t on your shoulders… Maybe it’s up something else if you think this is a major problem..

  22. #9
    I could’ve told you Kolb should’ve continued to start if healthy back after the Week 2 game. This isn’t a shock to anyone that would do well, and to the people who assumed that he should’ve been benched because he wasn’t playing like Peyton Manning in his first 6 quarters, well that’s your own fault.
    That said, Kolb has a lot to learn. He got DeSean Jackson killed out there. But ultimately he’s not going to learn sitting on the bench. Vick is gone at the end of the year, get Kolb the experience now.

  23. Florio, when talking about the hits yesterday, why mention only Meriweather? His hit looked less intentional than either of Harrison’s hits from yesterday. A lot of the most violent-appearing hits look worse because they are at such high speed, when the defenders are not actually trying to hit helmet-to-helmet, but do accidentally. To me, both Harrison’s hits looked like he was fully intending to hit helmet-to-helmet. By far he should be the example of suspension-worthy acts.

  24. Helmet to helmet hits…The only way to prevent concussions is to eliminate tackling and play flag football instead. I doubt anyone would be would be interested in watching flag football.

  25. 9ers fieldgoal to punt sequence was the worst I’ve ever seen…… at any level. I’ve been to hundreds of youth football games and high school games, and never seen anything that ridiculous. Jed York should have wandered onto the field and fired Singletary and his entire staff on the spot.

  26. all the Bucs need is Bill Cowher and they will be elite, quick. otherwise it won’t happen with radio at the helm

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