Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Heading into Week 2
Every week, the Ten-Point Stance takes a look inside the NFL. This week, the insider news, notes and quotes cover another cheap shot from Ndamukong Suh, skepticism about Chip Kelly's system, the greatest generation of quarterbacks and more.
1. The more things change ...
Ndamukong Suh is a punk. He was a punk yesterday. He will be a punk tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.
Look up "dirty" in the dictionary and there's a picture of Suh, kicking a guy in the groin, while punching another guy in the throat, while denying everything.
The Detroit Lions won't win anything as long as Suh is a team leader. Sloppiness, mistakes and uncontrolled aggression are contagious. The Lions have had massive talent but have failed to win because of mental errors, and those errors start with Suh.
He is a dirty football player. I've been saying that forever, but I really thought he would change this season. I thought he would grow. He was named a team captain, he spoke about maturity, and he even recently called a players-only meeting to ask his teammates to cut out the cheap penalties.
Imagine that: the dirtiest player in football telling others not to be dirty. That's like a Kardashian lecturing someone about partying too much.
Still, I believed his sincerity. I thought he would change, and I believed the notion that Suh would focus more on technique and less on leg stomping. Boy, was I wrong.
On Sunday against Minnesota, he dirtily, disgustingly and illegally chopped a guy, and as a result, he cost the Lions a score. He also could have cost a fellow player his livelihood. The "C" on Suh's chest stands for "clown."
No one should ever be suckered by Suh's act again. He is what he is: a punk and a coward.
Suh does something else with his idiocy: He undermines any arguments the players have that the league is enacting too many rules and making the game too soft. There's a discussion to be had on that subject, but Suh is demonstrating that maybe commissioner Roger Goodell is right and players sometimes need protection from themselves.
This isn't the 1950s. No clubbing guys over the head or shots at knees without consequences. You can't do this. It's the 21st century. The violence in football is civilized.
It's time for Suh to enter the modern world and stop acting like a punk.
Norv Turner was such a bad head coach in San Diego that, in the past, he usually caught the blame when his quarterback, Philip Rivers, would throw a horrid pick. Now Turner is gone, and Rivers, this time against Houston, choked again. Cough. Cough. Gag.
Turner can't be blamed anymore, and neither can ownership. In the midst of the 24 unanswered points given up by San Diego to the Texans, Rivers threw a pick-six special to Brian Cushing. It was like Cushing was the intended receiver.
Excuses over. Blaming Turner over. It's all on Rivers.
3. Clowney's stock
Don't want to make too big a deal about Jadeveon Clowney going all Ralph Ellison in his first two games, but I can tell you there are some absolutely stunned NFL scouts.
Some say they've rarely seen a drop-off of such magnitude from one season to the next and the inevitable questions about Clowney's effort—or lack thereof—have started in full force. He has one sack through two games.
The big concern scouts have is that Clowney isn't using the same aggression he did last year to get off double-teams. One scout used the term "treading," as in, treading water, meaning he thinks Clowney is playing not to get hurt—so his draft stock doesn't suffer—instead of playing hard.
4. Free Freeman
It was recently revealed that Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman lost his captaincy by a vote of his teammates. I can't state enough just how unusual it is for a starting quarterback in the NFL to lose his captaincy.
This isn't to say it has never happened, but it's rare. Like Halley's Comet rare. Like Eli Manning choking in a Super Bowl rare.
Players are loath to take away a teammate's captaincy. If that player was named, say, Aaron Hernandez, then yes. If the player was in constant trouble or suddenly was absolutely terrible, then maybe. Otherwise, they don't do it. Because they wouldn't want someone to do it to them.
Put it this way: Mark Sanchez butt-fumbles. He throws pick-sixes with the regularity of an autumn spring. He's terrible, and he's still been a captain.
The Bucs say Freeman is a leader and the captaincy thing doesn't matter. I'm sure Freeman didn't go home and cry, but it does mean something. If it's prestigious being named a captain, it's humiliating having that taken away.
What's happening with Freeman is one of the more unusual things in the sport at this moment. I've tried to find what exactly is going on, but there's a cone of silence erected around the situation. Only a handful of people will talk about it privately, and they don't say much. Theories abound, but there's little proof of them so I won't bother mentioning most.
I can say there's a feeling in that locker room that Freeman hasn't always been mature. I can't find examples of this, but that's the word.
Has Freeman been great? No. Has he been a perfect quarterback? No. Am I writing this because we have the same last name? No. But I can find nothing that justifies why Freeman lost his captaincy. He hasn't been a jackass to teammates. He's not rolling blunts. He's not robbing banks.
Last year, Freeman threw for over 4,000 yards and had 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while completing 54.8 percent of his throws. That's not awful. Against the Jets, he wasn't great, but that entire team is absolutely awful. Freeman is the least of Tampa Bay's problems.
No, this isn't the greatest conspiracy in sports. It's not Spygate. It is, however, weird. And curious. And really weird.
5. Bench Ponder
The following two statistics from ESPN.com show, perfectly, why Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder must be benched.
The first is that, in the opening week of the season, the Vikings faced the highest percentage of eight-man fronts, at 36 percent. Ponder threw two picks and had a miserable quarterback rating against it. The huge percentage of eight-man fronts makes sense, as Adrian Peterson is part-tank, part-sprinter and part-Borg drone. He's the big threat on that offense, so you go after him.
This is the interesting part: The rest of the passers in the NFL had five touchdowns and no interceptions against eight-man fronts.
This means other quarterbacks are taking advantage of the single coverage, while Ponder is not.
The Vikings don't have Dan Marino behind Ponder, but their backups can't do much worse. My guess is the Vikings' coaching staff is starting to feel the same way. If Ponder doesn't play better this week, it may be his last as a starter.
Spend some time exploring this infographic from UX Blog's John Nelson. It shows the correlation between traffic fatalities and home and away games in NFL cities, and it's just staggering. I'm both fascinated by it and repelled by it. Haven't been able to take my eyes off of it since first seeing it. The fact that no one has an answer for what makes a city like Dallas so unique is the scariest part. This is something the NFL should examine pretty closely.
7. Mouth almighty
So, coming off the Jets' unimpressive win over the Bucs, we now have third-year New York defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson guaranteeing a win over the Patriots on Thursday night, via CBS New York.
This is just dumb. When will people learn that you don't walk up to a bag of angry cats and start shaking? Something wrong with that? Just let the sleeping cats or dogs or Patriots be. If you've barely won anything, and you're going against a team that's won a lot, what's the matter with having quiet confidence and shutting your yap?
8. NFL thinks Eagles offense will burn itself out
No one thinks what Chip Kelly is doing in Philadelphia will last.
I spoke to two NFL assistant coaches and several scouts who blasted the media for slobbering all over "Chipadelphia" without pointing out that he's going to get his players injured. That's the biggest criticism you hear: that the faster pace increases the amount of contact, and that increasing the number of times a player gets hit increases the chances of getting hurt almost exponentially.
There is, of course, some truth to this, especially since we all know that Mike Vick gets hurt all the time.
The theory is sound, but here is a counterpoint: What if the Eagles players don't get hurt? What if they stay relatively healthy?
It's very possible, and if that does happen, it would give Chipadelphia a massive advantage over most defenses in football. The Eagles abused a solid Washington defense, and the team didn't come out with any large number of injuries. Sure, it's a long season, but let's not act like we can predict the future and see all of these Eagles injuries.
The Eagles may just be right about their offense.
9. The greatest generation?
What this generation of quarterbacks is doing remains impressive. It is also historic. It may also be the best a generation of throwers has ever done.
The achievements of this quarterbacking group—not just the young guys, but also veterans like Tom Brady—are beginning to pile a mile high.
Andrew Luck became the first quarterback since the 1970 AFC-NFL merger to have eight game-winning drives in his first 17 starts, according to Randall Liu, director of NFC football communications. Also per Liu, Geno Smith was the first quarterback since the merger to be drafted in the second round or later and then pass for 250 yards and win on kickoff weekend.
Brady won his season opener in improving to 11-1 in Week 1 for the best mark in the Super Bowl era. Brees, meanwhile, has an NFL-record nine straight 300-yard passing games, a mark he's approaching again following his Week 1 performance (now at six straight).
This is the greatest quarterback era of all time—at least, that's what you hear. All the time now. Our own NFL lead writer Michael Schottey just wrote on the subject. Opening week in the NFL again showed why that statement isn't an unfair one. Manning was Jesus. Brees was Jesus. Luck was Jesus.
"To begin with, of course the jury is still out on the young guys currently playing," said longtime league executive Ernie Accorsi, who built the Giants into a Super Bowl winner and made the blockbuster trade to get Eli Manning.
"But, if you take Brady, the two Mannings, Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Freeman, Rivers, Schaub, Romo, Flacco, Vick, Rodgers to the young guys, RGIII, Newton, Manuel, Luck, the guys in San Francisco, Detroit, St. Louis, this group could be the all-time cast if the young players progress," Accorsi said. "The talent level is enormous, and the young players get the opportunity to express themselves more than ever because of the multi-receiver sets and spread offenses."
It is that last fact, and a few others, that shows why, as good as this generation is, it's not the best. It can't be the best.
The rule changes slant the advantage so far toward today's players—QB can barely be touched, receivers the same, large cushions, more use of zone defenses—that it's unfair to compare to past generations.
Plus, Accorsi makes maybe the best point of all: The other eras were incredible.
"1950s—four Hall of Famers out of 12 teams: Unitas, Tittle, Van Brocklin, Layne," Accorsi said. "Actually six Hall of Famers, although Jurgensen and Starr weren't full-time starters.
"1960s—seven of 14 Hall of Famers: Unitas, Tittle, Tarkenton, Layne, Van Brocklin, Jurgensen, Starr; then even more amazing, four of the eight AFL QBs Hall of Famers: Namath, Dawson, Griese, Blanda. Plus, these non-Hall of Famers started in that decade: Gabriel, Brodie, Meredith, Kemp, Hadl, Lamonica.
"1970s—10 out of 26 Hall of Famers: Griese, Bradshaw, Namath, Unitas, Dawson, Staubach, Jurgensen, Tarkenton, Fouts; plus these top QBs—Archie Manning, Gabriel, Bert Jones, Stabler, Brodie.
"As of today, the current crop has two slam-dunk Hall of Famers—Peyton and Brady, with Eli and Roethlisberger, in my opinion, pretty good bets. The world is full of golden opportunity for all the younger guys. Certainly the talent is there. Health and opportunity will have a big influence on their future. They're going to be exciting to watch."
10. Blackout Blues
The Chargers' season opener was in danger of being blacked out.
Think about that. How in the hell is an opener almost not put on the tee vee? It's official: We can no longer make fun of Jacksonville for its attendance problems.
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