Welcome back to another installment of NFL Lucubration's. As some of us prepare for the playoffs, let us look back at the path paved this season.
MANGINA GETS GASHED
Eric Mangini gets canned from a job he never should have had in the first place. This was a guy with little on his resume, especially to be a head coach in the Big Apple.The gadget plays he ran were caught up to quickly, after a fast first season. The real stamp on his era will be his snitching to the media about the Patriots taping practices of other teams. He only did it because he got snubbed at the 50 yard line in front of the cameras. The funniest part about "Spy Gate" was the fact that many fans actually believed only the Patriots had perpetrated this type of stunt, rather than understanding these practices have been in several sports for decades. Things got so desperate that the Jets bought talent for more cash than deserved, and put a turnover machine at the helm of their rickety ship. Like the hyckocrite did on the frozen tundra, he separated the locker room and leaned on excuses. His typical 32 turnovers versus 23 TD's was to be expected. As well as his coming up small in crunch time yet again. This time, it cost Mangini a job. I think it should cost Brett his as well, because they could've not made the playoffs with Clemens too. The only difference would have been a young QB learning from his mistakes, as opposed to an old one constantly repeating his.
SEVERED HEADS, AND UNNECESSARY REPRIEVES
Besides Mangini, we saw Rod Marinelli get a mercy kill by the Lions. Big surprise huh? Not! Then we saw the Cleveland Browns part ways with Romeo Crennel. Another no brainer type of move. Expect a few more vacancies in Saint Louis, Oakland, and possibly Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and hopefully San Diego. Norv Turner may have hope he saved his job by eking into the playoffs through one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, but it would be a smart move to dump this loser as soon as the Bolts get bounced. Turner is an over rated offensive coordinator who is on his 3rd team as a head coach. Believe me, after watching him lose handily in Washington = I KNOW this guy is worthless. Maybe we will see an influx of college coaches at the helm next year, but I think Atlanta, Miami, and Baltimore prove you can win by recognizing the assistant coaches. They may not be the headline grabbing moves teams seek, but they sometimes end up being the most sound. Of course, they may be the most fiscally wise moves as well, considering the current state of our economy.
DON'T IGGY THE IGGLES
The Eagles showed everyone something the past month. We know the NFL stands for Not For Long to many, and this is true in Philly. It wasn't that long ago Andy Reid was reamed for benching Donovan McNabb. Well, it actually seems the move paid off big time. The Eagles made the playoffs while still rebuilding. I had them on the cusp in my preseason predictions, but wasn't sold on their front 7 on D. The best part is that they did this without putting it on Brian Westbrook's back. Westbrook is breaking down on his last legs, and is probably a 3rd down type at this stage of his career. McNabb just made a VERY good case for his induction into Canton someday by showing what a winner he is. He really lead the team by putting it all on his shoulders, which shuns the false idea of his leadership abilities. I don't know how far the Eagles will go, but I know I wouldn't want my favorite team facing them. Personally speaking, that won't be an issue until next season.
THE WILDCAT CRAP
OK, CAN WE PLEASE SHOOT ANYONE SAYING "Wildcat"? Seriously! Ever heard of the flying T? Another term was the flying wedge. Truth be told, this is NOT an inventive offense. Sammy Baugh, and most other teams, had been running this system from the 1930's to late in the 1940's. The way you stop the offense is simply technique. PLAYING YOUR POSITION CORRECTLY. Problem is, most defenders do not anymore. They over pursue, go for kill shots, and are almost timid due to all of the rules to compliment the modern day offense. I REALLY am surprised no expert has to yet point out the "Wildcat" is basically an old NFL offense, and that it took an idiot like me to point it out after waiting a whole season to be beaten to the punch because it would hold more credence.
SURPRISE TEAM ON 2008
You can pick the Miami Dolphins, because they went 1 - 15 last year. But I point to their weak schedule. You can pick the Baltimore Ravens, but I point to their excellent defense. There are a few others you can look at, but my pick is the Atlanta Falcons. Who really knew Michael Turner would hold up 16 games as a featured back? Who really knew Matt Ryan would take the old learning curve and put it out to pasture this year? Who really knew an assistant coach few heard of, Mike Smith, would rally the team to an 11 - 5 record and playoff appearance? He HAS to be the NFL Coach Of The Year! Who knew that offensive line would give up only 17 sacks, even after their 1st round draft pick, Sam Baker, was lost midway through the season? My main shock was how well the Falcons defense played. Especially with a nondescript defensive line full of vagabond journeymen. Other than John Abraham's 16.5 sacks (how in the heck is he not a Pro Bowler?), no other Falcon had more than 4. In fact, the team had just 34 total, and only 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. They rank in the 20's in the NFL for giving up total yards, rushing yards, and passing yards, but they rank 11th in points allowed. Who knows how long these type of successes will go on in Hotlanta, but the memory of the Mike Vick Era now seems longer ago than it actually was.
FARTS THAT FADED FAST
Some teams the NFL looked at as contenders ended up being pretenders, as it is with every season practically. The Jets, Cowboys, Browns, Bears, Packers, Jaguars, and Buccaneers were just a few teams that had playoff dreams. Even my Redskins got off to a fast start. The season was good enough that the 11 - 5 Patriots somehow have to go home, yet ridiculous enough to see teams like the Chargers and Cardinals are still playing. These are the types of quirks that make the NFL what it is. I hear crying for a seeding bracket based on record, but bury that idea along with the thoughts of turning the NFL overtime rule into the NCAA's namby pamby "fair shake". Life isn't supposed to be easy or fair, no matter how many rules the NFL implements to try to make the quarterback better than they actually are. My only thought to teams that under achieved = see you next year...God willing.
COULD THE COWBOYS BEAT THE BULLS IN LUNACY?
This, for you film buffs, is a reference to the movie "North Dallas Forty". Who knows if the parties were as fun for the Cowboys during the season, as they seemed to be foe the Bulls (a mirrored image of the 70's Cowboys), but they both had similar endings. The wide receiver who placed himself before the team, the tough QB who let nothing affect him personally to the point he almost seemed non-committal, and "the rest". The owners also appear similar as rich folks who view players as cattle almost. I had long said character issues would befall the Boys, and this certainly has come out to be true. The way they rolled over against the Eagles should have many fans not want to buy seats in the new stadium for next year. The lack of good line play has to be addressed in the off season, and a decision has to be made on Terrell Owens. He has no trade value, and very few teams want a cancer in their locker room. They will also need to consider replacing Jason Garrett at offensive coordinator, because he has seemingly no clue as how to assemble a game plan and stick to it. The talent is there as far as physically, but you need more than that to win it all.