Week 10 Friday 10-pack

It’s Week 10.  It’s Friday.  It’s time for the 10-pack.

We could say more.

Or we could just get to the 10 takes for the upcoming weekend of action.

1.  Peppers gets another crack at McKinnie.

Last December, the Vikings had cruised to an 11-2 record.  They traveled to Charlotte for a Sunday night game that widely was expected to result in another easy win.

It didn’t, due in large part to the fact that Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers repeatedly confounded Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, which in turn left quarterback Brett Favre banged around for the first time all year.  It got so bad that coach Brad Childress considered benching Favre, and the aftermath became Round One of a back-and-forth between the two men that has continued — and escalated — into the present season.

That loss, combined with defeat the next week at Soldier Field, gave the Vikings one loss too many, forcing the Vikings to go on the road for the NFC title game.

Now, with the Vikings trying to dig out of a deep hole, Peppers gets another crack at McKinnie as a member of the Bears.  And to a certain extent that big contract paid to Peppers was influenced by his mastery of McKinnie.

So even though Peppers has managed only two sacks in eight games, he can earn a lot of his pay for the year by helping disrupt the Minnesota offense, and sending the Vikings to 3-6. 

2.  Schwartz’s honeymoon is officially over.

Given the years of ineptitude that preceded him, including the only 0-16 season in NFL history, Lions coach Jim Schwartz gets plenty of extra latitude before landing on the hot seat in Detroit.

His latitude ran out last Sunday.

On the brink of the franchise’s biggest win since the Barry Sanders era, the Lions found a way to squander a 10-point lead against the Jets.

The collapse include a misguided decision by backup quarterback Drew Stanton to throw the ball on third down with fewer than two minutes raining.  The incompletion stopped the clock and left the Jets with enough time to complete the comeback, forcing overtime with a field goal.

“That’s my fault,” Schwartz said after the game.  “I didn’t do a good enough job.  Looking back on that, [we shouldn’t] even give him the option to pass.   Drew didn’t want to take lost yardage on that play, and I did a poor job communicating that with him.  I told him, ‘If it’s not there, eat it and run it.’”

That’s probably the smoothest effort at under-bus-throwing you’ll ever see.  “I did I poor job of telling him not to throw it.  I only told him not to throw it.”  And the players in the locker room are smart enough to realize that Schwartz ultimately wasn’t smart enough to just say, “We never should have called a pass play.”

Then there’s the ridiculously misguided decision to trot out Ndamukong Suh to try an extra point after a touchdown that gave the Jets a 13-10 lead.  Peter King of SI.com recently made an interesting case during one of our Saturday night FNIA team dinners that the success rate for two-point conversions (roughly 53 percent) could eventually prompt a coach to consider going for two all the time.  Though most coaches wouldn’t have the nerve to commit to such an approach, going for two should be a lot more attractive when the backup kicker is a 307-pound lineman.

For a coach like Schwartz, a Moneyball-style stats geek, the notion that he couldn’t instantly go Raymond Babbitt on the cost-benefit permutations and realize he should just go for two makes us wonder whether Schwartz, like so many really smart guys, has no common sense.

3.  Braylon still hasn’t grown up.

Last year, Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards got into a fight with a 120-pound friend of LeBron James.  Promptly thereafter, the Browns dumped him, trading him to the Jets.

Edwards had run his mouth about Cleveland before leaving, and he continues to run his mouth about Cleveland after leaving.

“For the people that don’t like me, I share the same feeling,” Edwards said recently.  “I don’t like them as well.  I could give you a B.S. answer, but the short and skinny of it is that I’m going back there to handle business.”

He also has referred to having a “personal war” with Cleveland, always a smart thing to say when a one-man army will enter a stadium of 73,000.

Instead, how about shutting up, and maybe growing up?  The Browns made him the third pick in the 2005 draft, and the Browns paid him a lot of money.  The team and the city stuck with the pass-catcher despite a chronic inability to, you know, catch passes.  It was only after Edwards roughed up Steve Urkel that the Browns decided to move on.

So why can’t Braylon just thicken his skin?  Sure, it gives us more things to discuss on these pages, but at a certain point it would be more rewarding to see a guy learn from his mistakes, show appreciation for what he has, and demonstrate actual growth.

4.  Marshall reunion occurs on an important date.

Forty years ago on Sunday, the Marshall football team played a game at East Carolina.  On the way home to Huntington, West Virginia, the team plane crashed.  There were no survivors.

Among the deceased were Frank Loria, a former Virginia Tech All-American who was one of my wife’s many cousins, and who played football at the high school my son will attend.  An assistant coach at Marshall, Frank left two small daughters, with his only son on the way.  (Two of my wife’s other cousins were on the team didn’t make the trip due to injury.)

Former Marshall receiver Randy Moss dishonored the dead 14 years ago, when a member of the Thundering Herd football team.  “The plane crash was before my time,” Moss told Sports Illustrated in 1996. “I don’t try to go back in the past and say this football game is for the people in the plane crash. I’ve seen the burial ground. I went up there and looked at the names. It was a tragedy, but it really wasn’t nothing big.”

(And yet everyone who has every played with or coached this guy continues to make excuses for him.)

Given that Moss will be squaring off against a Dolphins team that features one of his former Marshall quarterbacks, Chad Pennington, on the fortieth anniversary of the disaster, we wanted to take a moment and remind PFT Planet of the fact that it really was something big for hundreds of family members and friends, and for thousands of West Virginians.

5.  McNabb, Vick, Kolb prove Reid’s value.

Lost in the chatter regarding the Shanahans-McNabb feud and the resurrection of Mike Vick’s career has been the impact of the Eagles coaching staff on McNabb, Vick, and Kevin Kolb.

Though Eagles coach Andy Reid has yet to deliver a Super Bowl win to Philadelphia, he consistently has gotten the most out of guys like McNabb and Vick and Kolb.  (Reid also managed to squeeze some quality performances out of guys like A.J. Feeley and Jeff Garcia.)

So with McNabb struggling in Washington, is it because Mike and Kyle Shanahan haven’t coached McNabb up as well as Reid could?  And why is it that Reid has gotten more out of Vick than anyone else ever was able to muster?

As the Eagles and Redskins prepare to get together again on Monday night, these are important points to keep in mind.

6.  Randy could have been better than Rice.

With Randy Moss poised to dominate the NFL news cycle over the next few days, here’s an attempt to put his 13-year career into perspective.

At 33 years of age, Moss has caught 153 touchdown passes.  He’s only 44 behind Jerry Rice, who played until he was 42.

But here’s the thing.  If Moss had committed himself to his craft the way that Rice did, Moss already would own that record — and he possibly would already own the receptions and receiving yardage marks, too.

Indeed, there’s a chance that Moss, not Rice, would have been the clear-cut choice for greatest player of all time.

The fact that Randy has done so well despite that “play when I wanna play” attitude highlights the supreme nature of the gifts bestowed by the Supreme Being.

If only the man who received those gifts had decided to get the most out of them that he possibly could, he never would have been traded away from the Vikings in 2005, and he’d currently have two or three large rings on his hands.

7.  NFC West bunching up.

The four teams of the NFC West play each other this weekend, with the Seahawks visiting the Cardinals and the 49ers hosting the Rams.  If, as both Rosenthal and I have predicted and/or guessed, the Cardinals and 49ers win, three teams will be tied at 4-5, with San Fran very much alive at 3-6.

Setting aside for now the fact that a team with an 8-8 record or worse could be hosting a playoff game, this division could go right down to the last week, with everyone having a chance to win it.

And if a team with an 8-8 record or worse wins the division, so what?  Two years ago, the Cardinals finished 9-7.  They were called the worst team to ever qualify for the postseason.

The Cardinals responded by nearly winning the Super Bowl.

So let’s forget the fact that this quartet of teams doesn’t compare favorably to some of the other teams in the NFC.  When the records reset to 0-0 in January, anything can happen.

8.  Reggie Bush happily plays the decoy role.

Sure, the Saints are on a bye this week.  And even if they were playing, it’s unlikely that tailback Reggie Bush would be ready to come back from a broken fibula.

When he returns, Bush will go back to being what he has been for most of his time in the NFL — a high-priced decoy.

His presence opens up the rest of the New Orleans offense, in large part because every defense has been programmed to account for Bush.  The approach has kept him from generating the kind of numbers that would make his value more obvious.  Even though he never was going to be Gale Sayers, Bush could be sporting much bigger numbers right now if the Saints lacked the weapons at other positions to take advantage of all the attention Bush attracts.

And here’s how this take becomes relevant to Week 10.  Look at how Randy Moss has behaved this year as a decoy in New England and Minnesota.  And look at how Bush has handled himself for nearly five years as a decoy.

Suddenly, we’ve got a new level of respect and admiration for Bush.

9.  Romo looms over Cowboys coaching search.

It’s fun to ponder the possible candidates for head coach of the Cowboys come 2011.  But there’s one name that needs to be at least whispered when considering each and every potential hire.

Tony Romo.

New coaches don’t always want to keep the quarterbacks they inherit.  This year, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan dumped Jason Campbell.  Bills coach Chan Gailey eventually bailed on Trent Edwards.  Last year, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels jettisoned Jay Cutler, Chiefs coach Todd Haley cut bait on Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle, Lions coach Jim Schwartz nudged Daunte Culpepper out of the top spot after drafting Matthew Stafford, and Bucs coach Raheem Morris drafted Josh Freeman.

It took a year, but Browns coach Eric Mangini unloaded Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo sent Marc Bulger packing.

Assuming that owner/G.M. Jerry Jones remains committed to Romo, a pressing topic in each and every interview will be whether and to what extent the candidate wants to keep Romo around.  The challenge for Jones will be to determine which, if any, are telling him the truth.

Surely, McDaniels didn’t open his interview for the Denver job by saying, “Well, the first thing I’d do is get rid of your franchise quarterback.”  Don’t count on that same kind of candor regarding Romo from any of the men who’ll eventually meet with Jones.

That reality actually could give Jason Garrett a better shot at keeping the job, assuming he can do something dramatic over the balance of the season, like turning that 1-7 record into 7-1 down the stretch.

10.  Troy earns his hair money.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, one of the best defensive players in the league and one of the finest safeties of all time, usually keeps quiet.

When he’s being paid to talk, he can become downright chatty.

Polamalu made the media rounds this week as part of his Head & Shoulders campaign, and in addition to pushing shampoo he pushed some ideas regarding the league’s current system for fining players and the power of the Commissioner.  Though his facts are a bit off, we admire the thoughtful manner in which he formed and articulated his ideas.

So why don’t we hear from him more often?  If he has ideas and suggestions, he should be sharing them for the good of the game — and not because he’s contractually obligated to appear on a certain number of radio and television shows as part of his money-for-next-to-nothing deal with Proctor & Gamble.

21 responses to “Week 10 Friday 10-pack

  1. Sorry Florio.

    There’s no possible way that Schwartz i on the hot seat and any Lions fan, such as myself, if honest knows he’s done a lot to turn around the worst team and franchise in history into a team that can compete with anybody every single week. This year was never about wins. It was about getting better. And the Lions are one of the most improved teams in the NFL. Next year should be much better when their schedule isn’t so bad. This year was never about that.

  2. “but at a certain point it would be more rewarding to see a guy learn from his mistakes, show appreciation for what he has, and demonstrate actual growth.”

    Braylon has been handed everything in his life. He doesn’t know how to grow up, and never will. He is one of those guys who believe that they are better than everyone else, and he demonstrates this on an almost daily basis.

  3. After picking a fight with that Urkel guy, its no surprise that Braylon wants a fight against Cleveland. Like the city and the team haven’t been beaten up enough over the past couple years. Go for it Braylon, hope you enjoy gettin’ your licks in, hope it provides some meaning in your life.

  4. I hope the Brownies D takes out Braylon with a clean shot to the chest. Nothing illegal but knocks him out so he can go back to being a mediocre one year wonder.

  5. As a UTEP fan, I would like to tell Randy Moss that the Marshall plane crash and subsequent loss of life was a VERY BIG DEAL. Thank you Jerry Jones, for your one lucid decision.

  6. “McNabb, Vick, Kolb prove Reid’s value.”

    Indeed? I suppose if Reid carried the title of “Quarterback’s Coach” that would be true — but since he doesn’t, and since he hasn’t won any championships, it’s not necessarily true.

    Reid is the head football coach, responsible for all of the players on the team. He has coordinators and coaching staff responsible for getting the most talent out of those players. While Reid is what people call an “offensive-minded coach” there is no proof whatsoever that he knows a blessed thing about the QB position.

    This isn’t to take a shot a Reid, but to point out that — as with most of your headlines — it’s MAYBE correct, in some way, but no one really knows for sure.

    Perhaps some credit is due to other people? Maybe? Possibly? Did anyone bother to find out?

  7. One thing mattered when Braylon was on the team – catching the ball, thus making the team better. One thing only, and one thing that #17 didn’t do very well at.

    Now that he’s gone, Cleveland, and Browns fans don’t care about him either way.

  8. 2 points:

    1. Peppers “only” has 2 sacks, but has been a CONSTANT disruptive force for opposing offenses, getting pressure, forcing holding penalties, forcing false starts, and allowing Izzy Idonije (on the opposite side) to have a career year.

    You make it sound like the man hasn’t earned his fat contract, and he has, he has.

    Let’s not be so simplistic that we evaluate a DE’s worth by one stat alone–I should expect better understanding and analysis of the game from this site, but I guess ultimately you’re just a glorified, sport-specific version of the Enquirer.

    2. Cutler was not “jettisoned” by McDaniels–Cutler fought his own way out of there, after the owner stabbed him in back and released his QB coach.

  9. I can’t believe I missed Moss’s Marshall comments. What a complete tool…when did the majority of guys playing the WR position become complete bleepholes? Braylon Edwards has one Pro Bowl season and acts like he’s one of the best in the game. Go watch Roddy White catch the ball BE and keep an eye out for TJ Ward on Sunday.

    Glad you mentioned the Tony Romo issue. He’s an ok player but I have never seen him as a franchise QB. What this season should have shown Jerry Jones is that his team is a disaster. That defense is in need of a major overhaul and perhaps dealing Romo and acquiring draft picks would improve it quicker. Right now the Cowboys are in position to draft Luck out of Stanford and you know if Gruden or Holmgren get the coaching gig they won’t be able to resist taking him.

  10. @pjcostello: Reid worked as a QB coach under Holmgren for a couple seasons in Green Bay, replacing Steve Mariucci (Reid was previously an offensive line coach).

    Holmgren developed Steve Young at BYU, also Robbie Bosco who won a national championship there and finished 3rd in Heisman voting. Holmgren went on to coach Montana and reunite with Young in SF. Holmgren also developed a guy named Favre while Reid was on Green Bay’s staff.

    So it is not a big leap to credit Reid with his QBs’ success, no matter who it has been. He’s worked with greatness.

  11. pjcostello,

    Stop embarrassing yourself by saying Andy Reid doesn’t have the title Quarterback’s Coach. If you started watching football before fantasy football got big you would know that Andy was a Superbowl winning Quarterbacks Coach for the Green Bay Packers which led to him getting the job with the Eagles.

  12. While we all come here to talk about a GAME, the Marshall story reminds us that LIFE is much more. We are left to wonder not the impact on the game but on the lives of those affected by the plane crash. How Frank Loria’s daughters, widow, and yet-to-be-born son’s lives would have been different. And the lives of the families of 74 other people including the crew and 24 fans. Sorry Randy, it really was something big.

  13. Moss’ comments on the subject speak to his fundamental deficiencies as a human being. Nothing more we can do than roll our eyes, show pity and keep moving.

  14. MY APOLOGIES – I thought Reid was only the TE coach /offensive line assistant (which he was, too) in Green Bay. I was wrong, and I’m man enough to post that here, and apologize for my error to the article’s author.

  15. Could we get one sportswriter in America who can analyze football without basing 100% of it on stats like some sort of pocket protected geek?

    Stats don’t tell you Rice had back to back hof qb’s, Garcia in his prime and Gannon in his. Stats don’t tell you he was on a good team. Stats don’t tell you much except he was very productive. Why? He was great and see above.

    Moss was great too. Can’t we leave it at that? Why does the number of TD’s in what time period tell us much of anything?

    Stats matter way more in Baseball, which are controlled more by individual effort, and are more comparable becuase of individula matchups (so and so hits .340 off this pitcher, this other guy hits .240 of him) Our nation’s sports media is way too caught up in this bs, and top 10 lists and other crap that is subjective.

    How is it that Trent Dilfer has a SB and Marino has none? Reconcile that in your cpa world of logic. I have no problem with it, because I can impute that it is a team sport 100%. Look at the opponents and the teammates. Situation.

  16. Vick is playing better than ever for Reid, because Vick is actually better than ever. Kolb or even McNabb, I’d buy it. Good examples with Feeley and Garcia, but Vick is just plain great. Now that he’s had time to workout and develop his decision making, he’s unstoppable… well… maybe except for when the Redskins knock him out of the game… then, he’s stoppable.

  17. “And here’s how this take becomes relevant to Week 10. Look at how Randy Moss has behaved this year as a decoy in New England and Minnesota. And look at how Bush has handled himself for nearly five years as a decoy.

    Suddenly, we’ve got a new level of respect and admiration for Bush.”


    You should. Bush hasn’t been the star player that was expected of him, but since arriving in New Orleans, he’s never complained, he plays for the team, he doesn’t make stupid comments to the press, he doesn’t cause trouble in the locker room, his teammates love him. He is a classy guy who doesn’t deserve the hate he gets.

  18. I am showing my age, but as a teenager growing up in eastern NC – I went to my first college football game which happened to be the ECU-Marshall contest. Had a good time, went on a date that night; got home as the 11PM news was telling the sad story. It gave me the creeps and still does to this day 40 years later. Randy- whether you think so or not- it WAS and still IS a big deal.

  19. Oh my word, rtmus53, your story is giving me waves of chills.

    What kind of person makes comments like Moss made? Don’t recall when I first heard the Marshall story, but it’s haunted me ever since. Any sports fan should be moved by the loss of an entire team in an instant. It must have been devastating. Haven’t seen the movie, but it amazes me that the community could ever recover and rebuild its program. And it makes me sad that someone so callous and self-absorbed has wound up being Marshall’s most famous player. The dead deserve a better representative.

  20. a movie like that can have a kind of cheap ‘make money off of tragedy’ quality. this one does not.

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