Well, a week after Peter acknowledges QB Broncos is doing it again, it is no longer happening. Will Peter do an entire retrospective on the highlights of Tim Tebow's season like those assclowns at ESPN did, as if QB Broncos had passed away or retired? Will Peter simply talk about the game like a normal human being who isn't obsessed with all things QB Broncos? Will Peter finally notify Joe Flacco as to why he doesn't get any respect? Namely, he barely outdueled a rookie 5th round draft pick at home in a playoff game? Maybe Peter will explain why Jeff Fisher is worth the steep price the Rams have paid for him to be their head coach.
Here are two questions for you to start your Championship Week: What would have happened if Ernie Accorsi hadn't had such a backbone on April 24, 2004?
I'm not a doctor, but I'm guessing Accorsi would have either had severe physical handicaps or not be alive right now if he had no backbone. Perhaps I'm being too literal.
And what would have happened if A.J. Smith had played hardball with Accorsi as the clock wound down on the fourth overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, with just seven minutes to go and the Giants on the clock?
Ben Roethlisberger a Giant.
Osi Umenyiora (not Shawne Merriman) a Charger.
Eli Manning a Charger.While we are playing useless "what if" games it is impossible not to comment that Eli Manning probably would not have been a Charger regardless of whether he became a Giant or not. Eli and his father did not want him playing in San Diego. So if Eli was drafted by the Chargers, he would have been traded to another NFL team if he wasn't traded to the Giants. So Manning probably wouldn't have been a Charger because the Chargers coveted Rivers and Manning had no want to end up in San Diego.
Also, I'm pretty sure Peter has done this "what if" story about the 2004 NFL Draft in MMQB before, so he's just repeating himself right now. I know Peter did pretty much this same story at the time of the 2004 NFL Draft, but I swear we've heard a version of this story as well since then.
"He brought up Umenyiora again,'' Accorsi told me last night, "and I said no. We were not giving him up. There was no way.''
Peter is telling this story a bit wrong up to this point. Accorsi not only had backbone, but way more importantly he had leverage. I would submit the leverage, not Accorsi's backbone contributed more to the hard line on not trading Umenyiora. Accorsi had another trade set up which would have netted him Ben Roethlisberger, another quarterback the Giants liked in the 2004 NFL Draft. Plus, Manning had stated he didn't want to play for the Chargers. So along with some backbone, Accorsi had leverage.
So now the trade teetered. If Smith had insisted on Umenyiora and killed the deal, Accorsi had an ace up his sleeve: He could trade down three spots and pick up a second-round pick from Cleveland ... and still draft the Giants' No. 2 quarterback on the board, Ben Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio. The Giants liked Manning much more, but Accorsi wouldn't budge on Umenyiora.
So while Accorsi was very smart for not budging on Umenyiora, the fact he liked Roethlisberger enough to trade back and get a second round pick for his troubles helped Accorsi hold a hard line on not trading Umenyiora. Leverage is great.
"No Osi,'' he said. "That's still a deal-breaker. But we'll throw in a six next year.''
Pause on the line from San Diego.
Tick, tick, tick ...
"Make it a four,'' Smith said.
"I'll give you a five,'' Accorsi said.
Done.I always wondered how good of a General Manager A.J. Smith really was. Given some of the players the Chargers have let go and some of the picks they have made, I wasn't sure if Smith was really a good GM or not. I think I gain some insight here. Instead of trading for a promising pass rusher, Smith took a 5th round pick instead. Again, Smith accepted a 5th round pick in lieu of receiving a pass rusher he liked. Either he had no leverage or Smith was holding up the Manning-Rivers trade for a pass rusher he saw as equivalent (or close) to a 5th round value. I'm guessing Smith just had to get the deal done, but in the end this trade was being held up because of a player Smith would substitute out of the trade to get a 5th round pick instead.
Accorsi liked defensive linemen, and he stocked this team with Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka before he left the team after the 2006 season. In came Reese, and he's taken it up a notch: Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard in free agency, undrafted Dave Tollefson in free agency, and Linval Joseph and Jason Pierre-Paul in the draft. Can't have enough defensive linemen. That, plus their cool quarterback and his receiving weapons, is why the Giants are one win away from their second Super Bowl in four years.
I would actually say the reason the Giants are one win away from another Super Bowl is because of their quarterback and receiving weapons. The Giants defense wasn't exactly stellar for part of this year and the Giants may not have even made the playoffs if it weren't for Manning and his receiving weapons. It is nice the defense showed up at an opportune time though.
Five most noteworthy events of the playoff weekend, with Ravens-Patriots and Giants-49ers on deck:
1. How lousy Green Bay was -- or how bad the Giants made the Packers look.
Aaron Rodgers cut off a question before it was finished last night, about whether the long layoff -- he hadn't played in 20 days -- had anything with the stunning 37-20 loss to the Giants. "No,'' he said firmly. Sure looked it. The amazing thing about this game is that, without a couple of shaky calls by ref Bill Leavy, this could have been 44-13, or some similarly stunning score.
I have to say I am becoming more and more convinced it isn't a good idea to rest your starters the last week or two of the season. I think playing out the games is the best move. There obviously isn't one certain rule that always works, nor is the 20 day rest why the Packers lost, but I would just make sure my team stayed in rhythm and not rest my starters. Especially if my team has a first round bye. It is just a long time to go between playing games.
2. The Packers and Saints will be bitter about this weekend for a long, long time. Combined, the Packers and Saints were a plus-21 in turnover margin this year. This weekend, they were a combined minus-7. The Packers and Saints were 29-4 entering the divisional round because they were two efficient offensive machines all season. Efficient offensive machines don't turn the ball over nine times in eight quarters.
I thought Jason Whitlock had an interesting article on Drew Brees and the Saints on January 10. At the time, I didn't think the entire NFL knew this secret, but the Niners game did make me think perhaps Whitlock was correct.
5. Houston with Matt Schaub could very well have won in Baltimore. T.J. Yates threw three interceptions and was overmatched on the big playoff stage. Maybe Schaub would have had some jitters, but not like Yates. The Ravens scored three points in the last 46 minutes, and amassed 227 yards all day. That's not going to cut it Sunday in Foxboro.
Joe Flacco whined for part of the week about the lack of respect he gets. That game certainly isn't going to help him. He didn't turn the ball over, but he also didn't do much else for the Ravens. He wants to be taken seriously, but the Texans turned the ball over repeatedly and still they had a chance to beat the Ravens in the end, but failed. Flacco took a step back this year, at least statistically, and 227 yards of offense isn't going to shut his critics up anytime soon.
Simply put, Fisher wanted to avoid another situation like he had in Tennessee, where owner Bud Adams, if he chose, could tell him what to do on personnel. Adams told him in 2006 to take Vince Young in the first round. Fisher didn't want to do that, but it was Adams' call.
I think I would not give Jeff Fisher power over personnel. Ever. I am not normally a fan of coaches having power over personnel, except in specific cases and Fisher isn't one of those cases. So Fisher is bitter that Adams told the Titans to take Vince Young? Fisher does realize Young won a bunch of games for the Titans, right? It isn't like Young was a complete failure on the field. If "I didn't want Vince Young" is the main criteria for why Jeff Fisher should have the ability to get some control over personnel then I'm not sure I like his odds as a player evaluator.
All he wanted was the ability to -- in the event he was categorically opposed to a decision being made by the general manager -- have a mechanism in place for a third party, like an owner, to decide which way the team would go. St. Louis was fine with that. Miami wanted to leave ultimate personnel authority with the GM, Jeff Ireland.
I still don't like this set up. Maybe I am too traditional, but a coach coaches a team and the General Manager chooses the players. Yes, both parties need to be on the same page, but that doesn't mean one party should be able to overrule the other concerning their job responsibilities. Can the Rams GM overrule Fisher on a certain game plan? Of course not, nor should he be able to. Fisher needs to find a General Manager he can work with and worry about coaching the team and let the GM do his job without interference from a third party in the case of a disagreement between Fisher and the General Manager.
Seems like a little thing for Miami to surrender with owner Stephen Ross wanting Fisher badly, but consider this: The last six Super Bowl winners leave the final draft and personnel say up to the general manager. Maybe Miami should have given in, but that would have violated Ireland's contract and changed the structure Ross wanted in place. ... and flown in the face of the way most (but not all) winning teams operate.
This would be Peter King laying the boom down. NFL teams love to copy history. This is historically what works. Yet, the Rams don't seem to care to copy this structure. The Rams General Manager isn't even hired yet, so I would imagine Fisher would have some say in that hiring as well. There are exceptions of coaches who deserve personnel power in some fashion, but I don't believe Jeff Fisher is an exception.
Phenomenal finish. One of the best ends of a game of all time, with an embattled quarterback and formerly banished-from-the-sidelines tight end making the throw and catch of their lives, and the Saints fighting back, and so many big plays happening so fast you couldn't keep track of them. But the play I'll never forget is that weird Alex Smith bootleg called by offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
If the sportswriting world talked about what they should talk about, everyone would have been talking about Alex Smith's transformation this year. I didn't believe he be as good as he was on Saturday, but while the world was focused on QB Broncos on Saturday, Smith played very well. Smith drove the 49ers down the field twice to score touchdowns and beat the Saints. That bootlog was just a great play call. I'm happy for Smith because while everyone was talking about QB Broncos and how effective the Saints offense is, Alex Smith was great when he needed to be great.
"I assumed I was in front of Alex, but it's not like you can look around to find out exactly where he is,'' Staley said. "But when I was on the ground, I heard the roar of the crowd and I figured something good happened. It's pretty funny this play happens now, right when all the Tim Tebow stuff is happening. When we'd watch Tebow in college, we'd say, 'Alex was Tebow before Tebow.' You know, Alex was coached by Urban Meyer, and then Tebow was, and they did a lot of the same things.''
Let's not get carried away. Though they had the same coach, I don't remember QB Broncos and Smith being very comparable college quarterbacks.
1. No one uses two tight ends like the Patriots. Gronkowski blocks and catches, and the uber-athletic Hernandez has the moves of a wide receiver. Two tight ends, 261 total yards, four touchdowns. In one game.
Look for Gregg Easterbrook to pretend like the Patriots invented using tight ends as wide receivers. They didn't invent, but they have seemed to perfect it.
Bill Belichick's a mad scientist. He knew his defense had to change when it was getting strafed so badly in midseason, and he changed it, drastically. Who knows if it works another eight quarters. But 10 seasons after he used a bunch of middle-class free agents to help New England win its first Super Bowl, Belichick is scotch-taping another run together with Tom Brady playing at his peak, and a bunch of complimentary pieces on the chess board. Should be fun to watch.
I would make a crack here about the Broncos offense and how simple it is, but I actually felt bad for QB Broncos as he was getting killed Saturday night. Peter King goes on and on about the Patriots complimentary pieces in the secondary, but it was the front seven that won that game for the Patriots on Saturday night. They got in the backfield and forced a ton plays that lost yardage. That front seven has some fairly highly drafted players on it, so while I understand Belichick has messed with the secondary a lot, the front seven won the game in my mind and the Pats have some good players within that front seven.
Denver should backstop Tebow with a second- or third-round prospect and either Brady Quinn or an option type of quarterback like Tebow, in the event of an in-game injury; that way the Broncos won't have to revolutionize their offense in the middle of a game.
I feel bad for whatever quarterback gets drafted to backup QB Broncos. That person won't have a shot to win the starting quarterback job. The fans love QB Broncos and the coaching staff knows he can win them games, so I doubt QB Broncos will get real competition in training camp. Maybe he has earned the starting job outright anyway.
Finally, this: Denver cannot enter the 2012 season with the same predictable play-calling, with that inside handoff or Tebow sprinting into an option. It limits the offense way too much.
Unfortunately this is Fox's offense. Third-and-long draws. Predictable play calling. I remember reading a report on Pro Football Weekly two years ago where a scout said the Panthers offense was the most predictable offense in the NFL...because it was. I watched the offense every week and could predict what play would be next. This is the offense Fox likes and is the offense QB Broncos runs the best. I'm not saying a full offseason won't help QB Broncos, but I have a hard time believing after making the playoffs with this type of offense, the Broncos offense is going to suddenly be innovative and unpredictable most of the time. I hope this changes, but I don't expect it to.
The reality of Tebow's 2011 season is he had some great moments and eight wins. But he also plateaued. He simply has to be more accurate to have a chance to be a long-term NFL quarterback. Check out the first five quarterback starts of the season, with Kyle Orton playing, and the last five starts, all by Tebow.
You won't find Woody Paige quoting these stats all that soon. As much as he banged on Orton for his failings as a quarterback, he would never quote any statistic that could make his vested interest in QB Broncos look silly. Unfortunately, this is the reality though.
This is a critical offseason for Tebow. There's no question he'll put in the work. The only question is this: Is he physically capable of training his arm and his head to be a significantly more accurate passer? If so, he'll have a long career. But accuracy doesn't often increase significantly in NFL quarterbacks. It can get better, but most often the improvements come in small doses.
Who knows? I never thought the Broncos could make the playoffs with QB Broncos as the starter.
Green Bay couldn't hang on for the entire season, and I'm at a loss to separate New England, the Giants and San Francisco. Call it what it is: the honest-to-goodness Copout Fine Fifteen:
Peter ranks three of the current playoff teams as #1 in his power rankings. Booooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!! Have some guts.
1. (tie) New York Giants (11-7). Memories of 2007 are so valid they're scary. Eli Manning hitting every receiver even slightly open, and a pass rush that won't quit. Big, big trouble for anyone right now.
I'm still refusing to acknowledge parallels between 2007 and 2011. Just out of sheer stubbornness at this point.
4. Baltimore (13-4). Very good test for the Patriots Sunday in Foxboro. My only concern is whether Flacco has much of a chance to win a scoring contest with Brady.
Joe Flacco barely won a non-scoring contest against T.J. Yikes. I can only imagine how Tom Brady will fare against Flacco.
6. New Orleans (14-4). Second straight season that ended with a defensive meltdown at an NFC West champion -- a 41-36 loss at Seattle last year with Drew Brees throwing it 60 times, a 36-32 debacle Saturday in San Francisco with Brees throwing it 63 times. Balance, people.
Whoa. Weren't we hearing over the past couple of weeks how the Saints now have "running balance" and the Saints think they can run the ball on grass and this is a different team with four great rushers? When the Saints start struggling, they completely forget the running game and the defense doesn't look so great when it isn't protecting a big lead. I know we keep getting told the Saints aren't a different team on the road, but Brees is 0-3 as a Saint in playoff road games. At some point, this has to start meaning something.
15. (tie) Miami (6-10). Don't mourn over not getting Jeff Fisher signed. Lots of good Plan B's out there.
There are cheaper Plan B's that don't want complete personnel control too. 9 of the 12 head coaches in the playoffs this year were not coaches before their current head coaching gig. I have to think this should mean something to NFL teams that first-time coaches can have success with a team and a higher paid coach may not always be the best option.
New England QB Tom Brady. The best passing day in Patriots postseason history (368 yards) and six touchdown passes, tying the NFL playoff record set by Steve Young in the 49ers-Chargers Super Bowl 17 years ago. And a 48-yard, inside-the-20 punt. "I have no idea what the records are,'' Brady said dismissively after the game. And I think he means it. It's one of the reasons Bill Belichick likes him so much.
Well, that and the fact Brady has won Belichick three Super Bowls and made the Patriots the best team over the last decade. But mostly, I am sure Belichick loves Brady's humble nature.
"I'm sure if we win, I'll have nothing to do with why we won.''
-- Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, four days before Sunday's playoff game against Houston, sounding like he was lamenting not getting enough credit, because he doesn't put up glamorous numbers.It sounds to me like Flacco wants more credit. He was efficient yesterday, but Flacco went against a good defense and looked just alright. Perhaps he should worry less about convincing everyone he deserves credit for the Ravens wins and actually showing us on the field he deserves credit.
You can make numbers say what you want them to say, and Flacco had a good passer rating for this game (97.1) after a 14-of-27 day with two touchdowns and no interceptions. But if you watched the game, you know Flacco missed his share of open receivers and didn't have a very good day.
Flacco took care of the football and was efficient. That won him the game because his defense was excellent. Even on the first touchdown pass he threw the ball behind his tight end, who had to reach behind him to catch the ball. Flacco is a good quarterback, but I get the feeling he wants more credit and worries he doesn't get enough credit when he should be looking at ways he can improve.
Then Peter goes through how screwed up the Raiders are. They have traded 7 of their 14 draft picks in the next two drafts.
"Ravens, Niners & Giants: the 3 teams that run & defend the best, all still alive. PATS will their hands full with any of them."
-- @DonnieWahlberg, actor and lover of all teams Boston, with a double-Tweet.
I wonder how Gregg Easterbrook will spin this one? All year he has talked about how teams that throw the ball are winning games and the NFL is being revolutionized by passing teams (though Wahlberg should probably watch a Giants game and he would know they are really more of a passing team) and teams that can run the ball aren't faring as well. I'm sure Gregg will have some sort of spin to put around his previous columns so he isn't seen as wrong.
j. Anquan Boldin's ability to catch the ball in traffic. I mean, who's better?
Do you want a list of players? Boldin is up there, but I'm not sure he's the best.
i. T.J. Yates. Look, he's a kid, and he was in an impossible spot. But he made two truly dumb throws (and was intercepted on a third), right into the hands of Ravens.
I am the last person who gives a crap about T.J. Yikes, but lay off him. He made some really bad throws, but he was a rookie 5th round pick starting his 5th/6th game on the road against a Top 5 defense. Rookie 5th round pick quarterbacks make bad throws. That's what they do. I can easily acknowledge the throws were bad, but I didn't expect much more from him. After all, he should be on the bench in a playoff game, not starting one.
l. Bill Leavy. I must be the only guy in America who didn't think his non-reversal on the Greg Jennings fumble or non-fumble was horrible.
I wouldn't just say it was horrible, it was one of the worst replay calls of the year. The ball was clearly out of his hands when his body had not touched the ground. I'm not sure how it could have been more clear on the replay.
4. I think the strangest call of the weekend came before the game started in Foxboro. Why on earth, Denver, would you defer when winning the coin toss? You'd choose to hand the ball to Tom Brady on the first series of the game? I don't care how little faith you have in your own quarterback to take it 80 yards. Isn't the pressure on your defense colossal, on the road, against Brady, to make a stop right away? Didn't like that call at all.
It was terrible, but John Fox probably wanted his defense on the field first. Does anyone else think this said something about how Fox feels about QB Broncos or am I reading too much into this decision?
d. Red Sox alive? Making any moves to combat the Yankees' 13-man starting rotation? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
Go buy a team immediately Red Sox! Find the nearest available free agent and overpay for him in order to keep up with the Yankees. After all, the purpose isn't to win games, but to outspend and make sure you are keeping up with the Yankees on paper. That's the real goal apparently. I think the Red Sox are just fine with Lester, Bucholz, Beckett and Bard for the time being. They have plenty of time to sign an affordable free agent pitcher or make a move. I don't know if the Yankees signing an older Japanese pitcher moving from the National to the American League and the trade for a 23 year old pitcher is reason to freak out. The Yankees got better, but it doesn't mean the Red Sox got worse. It is also two and a half months until the season begins. Simmer down now.
g. Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Meryl Streep of male actors. He can do it all.
This is the most Peter King-ish of the Peter King comments in this MMQB. In fact, this would be a comment used in a parody of Peter King's MMQB.
h. Missed the Golden Globes. What'd I miss?
Nothing. Self important people giving themselves awards. Oh, and Angelina Jolie appears to be slowly withering away into nothing. So it wasn't all bad.
i. Coffeenerdness: So I was in Boston over the weekend, and I walked into one of my three former Starbucks there, and the gal behind the counter, who I recognized, pointed to me and said: "Triple grande hazelnut latte.'' Wow. Impressive. You've got me. Maybe that's not entirely a good thing.
If you were a regular at this Starbucks, it is the staff's job to know this stuff. I go get my haircut and they remember how I want my hair cut (don't touch my fade on top, leave the mullet alone, but trim the sideburns) and I go once a month maximum. Customer service jobs require good memory of your customers. So it doesn't necessarily say much of anything she remembers what kind of coffee you like, other than you went there a lot and she has a good memory.
k. Have a fun Championship Week. Home teams are 7-1 so far, but I don't see an easy road for either San Francisco or New England next weekend.
Don't worry Giants fans, I'll pick against the Giants again so they can make me look stupid by winning the NFC Championship.