Tag Archives: NFL

If It Were Up To The BCS, Part IV

If it were up to the BCS, the New England Patriots, with the best record in the NFL, and the Atlanta Falcons, with the best record in the NFC, would be playing each other for football’s world championship in Super Bowl XLIV…

Both teams were eliminated in their conference semifinals by the New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers respectively, both teams the last seed in their respective conferences.


Why Niners Fans Need To Cheer The Rams

The San Francisco 49ers are suddenly looking like they may validate owner Jed York’s pledge that they would make the playoffs this year. If they beat the Rams (in St. Louis) and Cardinals (at home) in weeks 16 and 17 of the NFL season, they would finish the season with a 7-9 record and as winner of the NFC West, assuming other games go as they likely should. Contrary to the usual mindset though, such a finish would be a worst case scenario for the fans, although a boon to the owners. Here’s why…

Making the playoffs, as most prognosticators predicted pre-season, would likely ensure that Mike Singletary remains as head coach of the 49ers. While the 2010 season has been disappointing in almost every respect—offense, defense, and special teams—the Niners would be unlikely to fire their head coach after he got them to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. Why is this bad news for the fans? Because the 49ers are one of the worst coached teams in the league. They have been outscored by 56 points in the 3rd quarter of games this year, which shows that other teams have been making the adjustments at half time, while the 49ers have not. Their clock management has been horrible with the Niners having to burn many timeouts early in the halves. Several opponents have noted that they knew what plays the Niners were running because they did nothing to change their appearance. These are all signs of poorly-coached teams.

I was as big a Singletary supporter when the Niners promoted him to head coach as anyone. I liked his fiery attitude and his willingness to make players accountable. But Singletary has never been an Xs and Os man. For the Niners to succeed, they need strong coordinators, which they have never had under Singletary. Furthermore, Iron Mike, despite his defensive background, has dabbled too much in the offense, mandating the establishment of a running game at the expense of the pass. He should not be playing around with the offense when that is not his forte. Worse yet, the players seem to have tired of Singletary’s attitude and a number of simply quit on him this year. But for making the playoffs, this season has shown all the signs of ending Singletary’s tenure as head coach.

If the 49ers make the playoffs, the owners will be secretly pleased at not being forced to fire Singletary. Why? Because the 2011 labor issues are looking more likely than ever to result in a lockout or strike. If the 49ers had to can Coach Singletary, they would be paying him the rest of his contract (he’s in the 2nd year of a 4 year contract) while paying a new head coach to do nothing during a lockout or strike. 49er ownership would rather keep paying Singletary to do nothing during labor strife than to pay two head coaches during that time period. The result would be that if and when the 2011 season gets played, the Niners will stink up the joint again due to poor coaching and fans will not get the head coach they deserve until 2012.

There is one small blessing that may prevent all this. Strangely enough, it is a case of appendicitis. Currently Seattle and St. Louis are tied for first in the NFC West with 6-7 records. The Seahawks have games remaining vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay, and versus St. Louis. The Rams host Kansas City and San Francisco and then go to Seattle. For San Francisco to make the playoffs, they need to beat the Rams and Cardinals and have the Seahawks and Rams lose 2 of their remaining 3 games. The 49ers would win the tiebreakers if all 3 or 2 of the 3 finish tied at 7-9. Seattle seems very unlikely to beat Atlanta and Tampa Bay, so they should do their part to finish no better than 7-9. St. Louis, assuming the 49ers were to beat them, originally seemed unlikely to beat the AFC West leading Chiefs, but here’s where the appendicitis comes in.

Chiefs QB Matt Cassell, had surgery for appendicitis last week and missed last weekend’s game, a disheartening 31-0 thrashing at the hands of the Chargers. Without Cassell, the Chiefs are forced to turn to Brodie Croyle at QB, who has a lifetime 0-10 record as a starter. The usual recovery time for appendicitis is usually at least two weeks, so Cassell is doubtful for this weekend’s game against the Rams. If St. Louis beats Kansas City, as they are now favored to do, and beats the Seahawks in week 17, they can win the NFC West regardless of how they fare against the 49ers in week 16. Of course, if the Rams beat the 49ers in week 16, this is all academic anyway.

So 49er fans, root for the Rams against the Chiefs this weekend. The Niners cannot afford to make the playoffs this year thereby justifying retaining Mike Singletary as head coach.

– AM Woods

Surprise, Surprise! The Raiders Actually Drafted Well!

“Raider fans were disappointed again this year when their team failed to draft a new owner.”
                          — David Letterman

For about 15 years now Oakland Raider fans have been suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder when it comes to their team and owner Al Davis’ infuriating behavior at the NFL draft. Raider fans just sort of prepare for Crazy Al to pull a player out of his ass (see, Heyward-Bay, Darrius and Mitchell, Mike) with marginal football talent at best being wasted on a high-value draft pick, which leads them to simultaneous banging of their heads on the wall.

Well, not this year.

I don’t know if somebody finally forced the old man to take his meds hours before, but the Raiders draft picks, while not overwhelming, actually filled pressing needs and, well, made sense.

For the last five seasons the Raiders have been at or near the bottom of the league in run defense. With their first pick (#8 overall), most of us had our helmets and flak jackets on and were waiting for that typical Crazy Al moment when we expected him to take either offensive tackle Bruce Campbell — the workout warrior of this year’s combine but whose play at Maryland was underwhelming at best — or wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford, the fastest player in the draft this year (so enamored of speed is Al that he has taken the fastest player in the draft two of the last three years, regardless of ability). But Al was anything but crazy when inside linebacker Rolando McClain was selected. Now that was actually a little high to be drafting an ILB, but McClain is undoubtedly the best ILB in this year’s draft who covers a lot of ground, has great instincts, has a nose for the ball and is a ferocious pursuer and tackler, the type of elite linebacker the Raiders have lacked in the middle of their defense for years.

On the second day of the draft, with their second round pick (#44 overall) defensive tackle Lamarr Houston was selected to take up space, collapse the pocket, penetrate the line of scrimmage, and occupy blockers so that the Raiders’ new ILB, McClain, has the space for pursuit. In the week leading up to the draft Houston was rising up a lot of team’s draft board; so good is his size, strength, quickness and pursuit in pass rushing. So in just two picks, the Raiders greatly improved their run defense. Not exactly the sign of an owner dealing with senility.

Later that same day, with their third round pick (#69 overall), the Raiders selected an offensive tackle, Edwin Veldheer, from a tiny Division-III school. This would seem to be the pick where we would have thought that Crazy Al was beginning to lose it. But scratch the surface and you begin to see that, while a project, Veldheer was the best OT at the level he was playing, and against the elite talent at post-season All-Star games and at the combine, he stood out. He is going to need time to develop and get used to the speed of the NFL, but considering how awful the left tackle position has been for the Raiders for the last five seasons, it certainly was a pick made out of need — and at 6’8″ he has the length and reach to take on edge rushers and add more muscle. It isn’t hard to like this pick.

Day three is what made the draft for the Raiders. The two players most mentioned in connection with the Raiders during the draft process, Bruce Campbell and Jacoby Ford, were plucked by Anything-but-Crazy Al with two fourth-round picks. Both were the workout warriors at the scouting combine, but in Campbell’s case his workout didn’t match his productivity in college, which explains why he went into free fall after teams had a chance to look at tape of him. But in the fourth round, he is priced to go, so the OT with the most natural talent was available at pick #106 — and Campbell fills a glaring need on the offensive line. In Ford, Davis chose the fastest player for the third time in four years, but Ford was more than productive returning kicks at Clemson, and the Raiders definitely have a decided need for wideouts. Although small, Ford is fast, cat-quick, runs good routes and is explosive coming out of his cuts. Once again, two very good picks.

But the catch of the day was the trade that brought Redskins starting quarterback Jason Campbell to the East Bay — and for only a fourth round pick two years hence. Campbell wasn’t going to play in Washington since the ‘Skins traded for Donovan McNabb, so when he became available, the Raiders bided their time until the third day of the draft, when it became imperative for the ‘Skins to move — and that’s when they pounced. By bringing in a serviceable starting QB the Raiders correct the mistake they made three years earlier in drafting JaWalrus Russell and rid themselves of a major problem that could have affected them for five years — and they got Campbell for peanuts. This was the Al Davis most of us remember from the Sixties and Seventies. This was Al at his most conniving best.

The rest of the Raiders draft was not nearly as notable, but they at least used their late-round picks for need (defensive backfield and another inside linebacker), and nothing to leave you scratching your head.

The Raiders’ draft this year may not have wowed anybody, but it was clear-headed and made sense — something you haven’t been able to say about their recent drafts. It was so clear-headed that it made you wonder if, for the first time in over 45 years, there was somebody else drafting for the Raiders other than Al Davis. You would think so, but let’s be clear here; as long as Al Davis is running the show there is NEVER anybody making the personnel decisions other than Al Davis. There never has been and there never will be, no matter how old he gets or how senile we think he is…

…With that in mind, you can expect that Raider fans will be bracing themselves for the worst next year. Just because he had a moment of clarity this year doesn’t mean that we think Crazy Al is gone forever.

– daveydoug