If you love football, you donít really even need to know the date to know that itís football season Ė you just sense it. A couple weeks ago, the first Saturday of the college football season, I walked outside and I could absolutely smell it. I didnít need to know anything else; I could just smell that it was football season.|
Of course, you could also tell by turning on ESPN at pretty much any point of any day. ESPN had NFL-related programming on Monday from 4:00 in the afternoon all the way through the finish of the Oakland-San Diego game past 1:00 am. Iíve said it before, but it bears repeating: this country would absolutely grind to a halt if the NFL had a work stoppage. We dealt relatively well with baseballís strike and the NBA lockout, and the only real problem anyone had with the NHL strike was that it cut down on Barry Melroseís TV appearances. But if the NFL has a strike, weíre headed for chaos. Sure, the NFL has had labor stoppages in the past, but back in those days, there werenít 15 different magazines solely focused on Fantasy Football (yep, I counted at Borders).
Well, now weíre through with Week 1 of the NFL season, and that means Iím here to give you my impressions of the season so far. Sure, youíve got Sean Salisbury and John Clayton to break things down on the television. Youíve got all the stats and score you could ever need on espn.com. And if youíre one of the thirteen people with an ESPN Mobile Phone, you can find out how many time Shaun Alexander has farted today. But this column will give you what you really need to know about the NFL, in an aesthetically pleasing bullet format. I promise.
- Letís get one thing straight right off the bat Ė no one who has ever played in the NFL is a bigger dork that Ron Jaworski. No one. Itís almost inconceivable at this point that he actually did play. Iím having visions of Jaws in the huddle, late in the game on a crucial fourth and one: ďGuys, Iíve studied every one of the 213 fourth down plays Green Bay has run in the past five years, and based on their 68% tendency to run a cover 2, I am thoroughly convinced that a back-side slant route is the right call in this situation.Ē
In last nightís Oakland-San Diego game, Jaws was explaining why Aaron Brooks took a sack in the second quarter. He said that the route took too much time: ďThatís a route that takes 3, maybe 3.1 seconds to run.Ē Really? It looked more like he ran it in 3.2, Jaws, but youíre the expert here. The clock in Aaron Brooksí head must not have had tenths of a second on it.
- The Carolina Panthers game, obviously, was a major disappointment. The defense, which was supposed to be near the top in the NFL, was obliterated and really should have given up more than 20 points (and who cares if Dan Morgan was out a concussion? At this point, I donít think anyone is counting on him to play 16 games). The offense looked helpless and Jake Delhomme didnít look remotely like the kind of quarterback that starts for a Super Bowl champion.
However, Iím not really too concerned. Atlanta is obviously a good team, and for some reason, the Panthers have always struggled against them the past five years. Steve Smith will be back soon and Keyshawn Johnson and his 5.1-second 40-yard dash wonít have to be the number one target anymore. Nothing against Keyshawn, but heís simply a possession receiver at this point, and if Drew Carter is our deep threatÖ well, just remember that Steve Smith will be back. But the main reason Iím confident is a just a subtle vibe, just a little something that tells me that this loss wonít really matter at all by seasonís end.
So fear not, Panthers fans Ė Anders Larson has a good vibe.
- After the Panthersí game had gotten out of hand, I flipped to CBS and found the Jets and Titans tied at 17. Pennington tossed the go-ahead touchdown shortly after I switched channels, but the Titans had a little over a minute to try to respond. Needing a touchdown to tie, the Titans moved the ball inside the Jetsí 20, at which point CBS inexplicably cut to the studio. Greg Gumbel explained that ďdue to NFL rulesĒ they could not show the game past 4:15, presumably because it was an out-of-market game for us in the Carolinas. First of all, this seemed absurd, because even if Kerry Collins is at the helm, the Titans theoretically still had a chance to tie.
But what made this situation more ridiculous was how it played out in the next few minutes. In the studio, the guys would talk briefly about the rest of the league, but immediately after each play, Gumbel would announce what had happened and they would show a replay. This happened for four straight plays, and on the final play of the game, Gumbel just stared at the television set in the studio and announced the game himself, followed within five seconds by a replay of the entire play. Just a weird situation all-around.
But of course, when it comes to NFL coverage, nothing is more ridiculous than CBS ďanalystĒ Shannon Sharpe. Out of all the bonehead ex-Pro Bowlers who get announcing jobs simply for their on-field accomplishments, Sharpe is by far the most incompetent. Anyway, after the Jets-Titans game concluded, Gumbel and the gang did highlights of all the early games. Sharpe got the Patriots-Bills game, and within 10 seconds, he had already unleashed this beauty: ďBrady fumbles, and itís recovered by London Fletcher, dot com, heís logged on.Ē You're right, Shan, he did look pretty logged on to me. Seconds later, he dropped the ultra-corny ďlast time I saw someone lay out like that, it was SupermanĒ to describe a Kevin Faulk catch.
Look, obviously we want guys with first-hand knowledge of the game to provide analysis. One John Clayton is enough for everyone. But things are getting out of hand Ė I actually saw Nate Newton on ďThe Best Damn Sports Show PeriodĒ the other night. Yeah, the same Nate Newton who got busted with enough weed to supply all of Bonnaroo in his car a few years back (that might actually be true Ė he has been arrested twice with a total of 388 pounds of marijuana). Wouldnít we all be better off with some industry-wide minimum standards for intelligence and felony drug charges? Is that too much to ask?
- In my opinion, the whole Manning vs. Manning thing is really no contest at all. Most football fans would agree that Peyton far ahead of Eli at this point, but Iím taking it a step further: this will not change. Eli is not in the same league as Peyton in terms of talent or maturity. Their stats actually ended up being fairly even Sunday night, but remember that Plexico Burress got Eli an extra 80 yards with two Sportscenter Top 10 catches, one of which was on a dead duck that was about five yards short of hitting Burress in stride.
Peyton has a rifle arm and rarely fails to put the ball on the money. Even his interceptions are typically just the result of an occasional dumb decision. Eli doesnít have the arm strength of Peyton, and he definitely doesnít have the accuracy. He never did, but there are two reasons why he still got drafted number 1 overall and whined his way into a draft-day trade: 1) his last name is Manning, and 2) that was the weakest draft in the past 10 years or so.
Can you imagine Peyton making the horrendous underthrow that Eli made on his fourth-quarter interception? I didnít think so. Eli will probably end up being a decent NFL quarterback, and itís too bad that everyone expects more out of him. Just look at his facial expressions when heís out there Ė itís sort of a cross between terror and holding a dump for too long. No matter how you describe it, it doesnít exactly inspire confidence. And on top of that, he looks like heís 15. No way would I serve this guy beer. Can you say that about any other elite NFL quarterback? Exactly.
- The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Oakland receiver Jerry Porter was pumping his fist when his own quarterback, Aaron Brooks, was sacked in the game against San Diego. As if that wasnít embarrassing enough for Raider nation, Porter followed by responding to the accusation thusly: ďThe report in the San Francisco Chronicle is not true. I wasnít even paying attention to the game.Ē
You know what? I donít even need to comment on that, I would say the joke was pretty much written for me.
- Iíve been saying it for the past two years, but Iím fairly confident we can all agree on it now: Brett Favre is done. D-u-n, done. For the past two years, weíve heard the same preseason stories on how Favreís arm is as strong as itís ever been, how heís in great shape and is more motivated than ever. Itís just not true, folks. His arm absolutely is not as strong as it used to be, and thatís a major reason the guy is throwing so many picks. He thinks heís the old Favre who could fit the ball in anywhere. The problem is, when you play like that and you have a strong, accurate arm, they call you a gunslinger. Otherwise, they just say youíre stupid.
Now, I have to say that the organization probably owes it to him to let him go out when and how he wants to. But they donít owe him the starting job anymore. If that means trading or releasing him, fine. The NFL is a business, a big one, and the team has to do what is right for the team. Sure, his supporting cast isnít great, but if you want to rebuild, you need to go ahead and break in your quarterback of the future. The team may still suck with Aaron Rodgers, but at least it would be moving forward.
- Finally, letís get you up to date on my fantasy team, which Iím sure youíre all anxious to hear about. I capitalized on the good fortune of picking first in my league, taking LaDainian Tomlinson number one overall. That move paid immediate dividends as Tomlinson racked up 26 points Monday night to lead my boys to a comeback win over a deflated Alex Punger squad. He also saved me the embarrassment of losing to someone who resides in Korea.
The boys take on a Thomas Vasilos team next week, which has added significance because a case of Bud heavy is being wagered on the season between the two of us. Vasilos took a loss in Week 1 and had the leagueís lowest point total, but Yahoo! has him favored somehow this week. Vegas, wisely, has set the early line at Larson -8.5.
Anyway, thatís it for this week. You can all cut your ESPN Mobile Phones back on now. Rumor has it Larry Johnson just chipped a fingernail.