B/R's NFL FC Showdown for Week 3: Just Kickin' It
NFL Week 3 saw Sebastian Janikowski and Garrett Hartley blow it, Tony Romo and Brett Favre get their teams off the schneid, and Braylon Edwards rebound from a DUI to play a big role in the New York Jets’ Sunday night win over the Miami Dolphins.
It also sees another heavyweight tussle in the Showdown!
Welcome to Week 3’s edition of the B/R NFL Showdown. I’m your party host, NFC Team Leader and Eagles FC Lou DiPietro, and this week, I’m joined by a fellow B/R Staffer: Writing Internship Managing Editor (and Detroit Lions FC) Michael Schottey!
This week, Schottey and I have a little fire, a little ice, and a whole lot of undefeated on our plates…so let’s get started!
Topic 1: Which Coast Has a Hotter Coaching Seat?
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Oct. 26, 2008 is a date that will live in infamy, at least in this column.
On the East Coast, Tom Coughlin was riding high, as his defending Super Bowl Champion Giants improved to 6-1 with a victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Three time zones away, the Seattle Seahawks made Mike Singletary’s head coaching debut a losing one, but “The Samurai” was tabbed as the 49ers’ savior, his benching Vernon Davis and "pants on the ground" moment at halftime notwithstanding.
23 months and a whole lot of failure later, both men may have one foot out the door.
The now 1-2 Giants followed up a stinker in Indy by forgetting to show up for the second half of their 29-10 loss to the Titans, a game that included: A chop-block penalty in the end zone turning a 43-yard gain into a safety, two missed field goals, 11 penalties (including three personal fouls on the tackles), and Chris Johnson shredding the D for 125 yards and a pair of scores.
On the other hand, the supposedly rejuvenated 49ers are now 0-3 after another embarrassing loss, this one a 31-10 shellacking against the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
Any momentum the Niners may have gained against New Orleans was lost as the offense couldn’t score, the defense looked lost, and the Chiefs were a total of eight yards away from having two 100-yard rushers…in the same game.
The Niners have scored 38 points (and only four touchdowns) in three games, and Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye is already gone.
Things aren’t “as bad” in New York, where the Giants can at least find the end zone when they need to, but Brandon Jacobs has become an afterthought and the run defense is allowing 133 yards per game—a total that’s only as low as it is because Carolina had to throw a lot in Week 1.
If things don’t get better on either coast, these two proud football men could be unemployed really soon…but whose seat is hotter?
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Singletary for sure. Coughlin still has the necessary bling on his finger to get some sort of pass and the Mara Family is as upstanding and loyal as they come.
That family is not one to let the "New York Media" make their decisions for them.
The Personnel Department needs to take a lion's share of the blame for problems in New York, because the once vaunted offensive line and linebacking corps are experiencing serious dereliction.
Meanwhile, Mike "Lookin' Like A Fool With His Pants On The Ground" Singletary is overseeing what can only be called a catastrophe, and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic isn't going to make a difference.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Agreed, it has to be Singletary here.
For one thing, the Giants’ losses are to Indianapolis and Tennessee, the top two teams in what may now be the toughest division in the NFL (a tag formerly reserved for the NFC East).
Meanwhile, the Chiefs, Saints and Seahawks may be a combined 7-2, but only New Orleans is close to an elite team.
Secondly, the Giants have at least shown some fight. They shellacked a listless Carolina team and played well in the first half against Tennessee, but made too many mistakes; that safety early in the second half killed their momentum.
San Fran, meanwhile, is lost. Jimmy Raye was fired, and rightly so; that offense couldn’t find the end zone with a GPS and a police escort, and a team with a Pro Bowl tight end and two wideouts who were Top 10 draft picks currently counts running back Frank Gore as their leading receiver—in catches and yards.
They have plenty of talent on offense and three former Pro Bowlers (including perhaps the best 3-4 ILB in the league) on defense…so the problem has to be the coaching.
Plainly put, Singletary wasn’t ready to be a head coach, and would have never even been considered if not for his reputation as a player.
He was hired because he’s a great leader and motivator—but he can’t do that right these days, and besides, leadership doesn’t formulate game plans or overcome communications problems with your coordinators anyway.
I even read somewhere that one 49er said the franchise is a mess and more disorganized than his high school team.
Add in his truculence with the media (including a rant that got a KPIX reporter removed from his beat for asking a legit question), and I think we’ve reached the point where
Sure, most people think Coughlin’s a dick, but he’s a dick with a reputation, a Super Bowl win, and 108 regular-season NFL victories.
Somewhere, Leslie Frazier weeps.
Topic 2: Who Wants To Make a Field Goal?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Week 3 was not kind to kickers.
In New Orleans, last year’s playoff hero, Garrett Hartley, horribly shanked a 29-yard field goal in overtime that would’ve made the Saints 3-0.
Seven minutes later, Atlanta’s Matt Bryant had a 46-yarder blocked…but the block was negated because New Orleans had called time out to “ice the kicker,” and he nailed the second try to give the Falcons a huge NFC South victory.
Hours later in Oakland, Sebastian Janikowski one-upped that scenario on his own.
The Billy Corgan doppelganger, who is the highest paid kicker in the NFL, missed a 58-yarder that would’ve given Oakland a 26-24 lead over Arizona.
Janikowski got a second chance to give the Raiders their second straight win, but with four seconds left, he hooked a 32-yarder wide left and Arizona escaped with the 24-23 win.
Oh, and of course, we had Mr. Tynes over there blowing two in New York.
So let’s ask: How important is a good kicking game, and is the phenomenon of icing the kicker worth the trouble?
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The football world just lost its last football player/kicker when George Blanda passed away.
As much as kickers want to be respected, it's a different fraternity and a different mentality. From a coaching standpoint, a coach needs to trust his kicker.
Sean Payton had that in Garrett Hartley--a trust that could withstand a little speed bump--but now both Hartley and Janikowski (a former first-rounder) are putting that trust through some gale force winds.
As for icing the kicker, it is one of those things that coaches do even though the proof overwhelmingly supports the fact it doesn't do a thing. The rest of the Mike Shanahan coaching career carries similar significance.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
I’ll sum up the first question in one sentence: outside of maybe NHL goalies, NFL kickers are the only guys who can blow 59 great minutes of greatness with one mistake.
How important is a good kicking game? Ask any team that ever employed Mike Vanderjagt or Adam Vinatieri.
I'm sorry to say that while Hartley was an integral part of the Saints’ Super Bowl run last year, he’s showing that he’s just not that good of a kicker.
I think Wesley Snipes said it best in “White Men Can’t Jump” when he said “even the sun shines on a dog’s ass some days, Billy Ho.”
You can’t make a living off of one huge moment; if you could, Aaron Boone would have a monument at Yankee Stadium.
And as for icing the kicker—yeah, it’s stupid. Sure, it works occasionally, like it did for Houston against Graham Gano in Week 2, but the phenomenon is akin to an NBA team being able to call a timeout as a guy is shooting a free throw. It’s just dumb.
Topic 3: Who Wants To Be The '72 Dolphins...or The '08 Lions?
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Last year, both Indianapolis and New Orleans started 13-0 en route to berths in Super Bowl XLIV.
Three weeks into the 2010 season, and three teams are left with a zero in the loss column: Chicago, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are five teams—Buffalo, Carolina, Cleveland, Detroit, and San Francisco—who can still channel the spirit of the 2008 Lions.
Of those two groups, which 3-0 team is most likely to leave Dallas with the Lombardi Trophy…and which 0-3 team is most likely to be on the clock?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Of the first group, the Steelers are the team that has proved me the most wrong and has been the most impressive. Big Ben or not, if Troy Polumalu is healthy, they can win the Super Bowl.
The Packers lost on a last second field goal to the Bears, but it isn't as if Cutler and company did anything to soothe worries about the stability of their success.
They made a miracle run of "luck" a few years ago, but Urlacher was a much younger man then. Right now, a Steelers/Packers Super Bowl looks like a very good possibility.
From the second group, it's hard to bet against a decade of failure in the Detroit Lions franchise, but the Lions have not been blown out of any games and the storyline there seems to be "trying to shake off the loser stink" rather than "don't have the talent."
San Francisco is a mess, but Carolina simply doesn't have NFL-level Talent at enough positions...the same can be said for Buffalo.
As of this moment, Carolina should consider itself on the clock with Buffalo, Detroit and San Francisco right behind them.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The 3-0 answer is easy: Pittsburgh. They’re undefeated with wins over two good teams in Atlanta and Tennessee, and they’ve done it without Ben Roethlisberger.
Their defense has allowed 33 points in three games, and both of the touchdowns they gave up came in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Rashard Mendenhall is running at will, and if Charlie Batch can find a way to outfox the Baltimore defense this week, the Steelers will take a stranglehold on the AFC North—and the conference in general.
As for the 0-3 teams, the one most likely to be on the clock is Carolina.
The schedule says we still have Cleveland vs. Buffalo, Cleveland vs. Carolina, and San Fran vs. Carolina yet to come this year. Yippee!
Seriously though, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit are all winless, but they’re not as bad as they seem.
Cleveland has had a lead in the fourth quarter of all three games, the Bills have played two close ones with AFC East rivals, and the Lions are two questionable play calls away from being 2-1.
That leaves San Francisco and Carolina…and since the Niners play in a weak division and call a giant wind tunnel home, chances are they’ll win four games by accident.
I’ll lay $20 that they have a QB controversy as soon as Matt Moore can remember his name, and that would actually matter if their receiving core wasn’t made up of Steve Smith and four guys you wouldn’t draft as special teamers in Madden NFL 11.
They have two great backs, but when you can’t throw the ball (seriously, a 0.0 rating at halftime for Clausen? Nice job, John Blutarski!), you usually can’t run it either. Doesn’t help that Jeff Otah is hurt, but the point stands.
The Panthers actually play the Niners, Browns and Rams still, but those might be the only three games they have a shot at winning.
On the bright side, they can draft Georgia WR AJ Green No. 1 overall!
BONUS TOPIC: Bye, Bye, Bye
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Week 4’s arrival means it’s bye week time, and the foursome of Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay all have an extra seven days to think about what they’ve done so far…which is go 7-5 and surprise everyone in all the wrong ways.
They’ll be watching as the other 28 NFL teams take the field next weekend, which begs this question: how useful is a Week 4 bye, exactly?
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The Week 4 bye is a help in theory. It makes a lot of sense to claim that 0-3 or 1-2 teams need that breathing time, while 3-0 teams can freshen up the game plan to stay on top.
In reality, it's garbage. Each NFL game is a car-crash-like collision. Getting a rest after three car crashes is nothing when you have 13 more to go.
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If you compare the NFL season to your average 9-to-5 work day, then having a Week 4 bye is like taking your lunch break at 10:30.
The NFL season may be the shortest in both duration and game count, but it’s clearly the most physically demanding.
Bye weeks provide a great chance to get your team healthy and get ready to tackle your schedule down the stretch…except when it comes in the first week of October.
Instead of pondering, let’s ask Brett Favre about this on Thanksgiving Day—you know, a few days after his Vikings play their seventh straight game against a Green Bay team coming off a bye.
Give me a Week 10 bye anytime.