Not the greatest weekend for start-to-finish drama, but the Denver-Pittsburgh overtime thriller made up for those earlier 21-, 17- and 22-point playoff games.
Peter actually brings up a really good point later in this column. For all the running out of town that Josh McDaniels experienced, he and Brian Xanders did a pretty good job of drafting players while they were in town. Thomas, Tebow, Beadles, Walton, and Bruton were all drafted by Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders.
Let me get some of the news of the weekend to you first, then get on to the dramatic non-game story of the weekend: the fight to beat tongue and throat cancer by veteran referee Tony Corrente, who worked Detroit-New Orleans Saturday night.
You may have noticed Corrente with no hair or eyebrows when the camera zoomed in on him calling penalties in the Superdome. Chemotherapy and radiation have changed his appearance. Things are going to get worse for him before they get better, and the 60-year-old Corrente was realistic enough when he walked off the field Saturday night to know he had no idea when or if he'd officiate another game.I can't mock this. You've vexed me for the last time Peter King! I can't mock a cancer patient. I will say that Tim Tebow would tell Corrente this is all part of God's plan to force him through painful radiation, the painful aftereffects of radiation, and the potential loss of his livelihood. So that makes Corrente feel better to hear that.
"Lord,'' said Corrente, a religious man,
You don't have to be that respectful, call him "Tim" instead. That is his name, after all.
Thomas, the 22nd player picked in the 2010 draft, and Tebow, the 25th, were scouted, identified as cornerstone players and picked by former Denver coach Josh McDaniels ... who, as you may recall, was fired less than eight months after that draft, one of the most reviled fired coaches in recent NFL history.
I was not very high on Thomas when he came out of Georgia Tech. So I appear to have been wrong about him. Let me add this one tiny little caveat though...I criticized Thomas' ability to adapt to NFL coverage and the routes an NFL receiver has to run because Thomas only ran like two routes on the route tree coming out of Georgia Tech. I thought a first round receiver should be better prepared than that for the NFL in terms of knowledge of running routes. Little did I know he would end up in a Broncos offense that doesn't exactly have a complicated passing scheme. So I was wrong, but Thomas is also in a great system for his talents.
Thomas thought for a minute. "I remember on draft day when my phone rang. It was coach McDaniels. He said, 'We're gonna take you with this pick. Congratulations. Get out here, and let's ball.' I was so excited. It was the happiest day of my life. Then, when I found out we picked Tebow, I said, 'All right. We've got a winning quarterback.' ''
"Oh, thank God/Broncos QB. I was concerned I would end up in an offensive system that was somewhat complex. Now that I have Broncos QB as my quarterback I will feel comfortable with running the two routes I currently know while in the NFL."
Some people don't think he has the natural traits of a great quarterback. Here's what I think: Do Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods swing the club the same way, hit irons the same way? No. But they both win tournaments. There's different ways to throw, different mechanics, and you can still get the job done.''
While I acknowledge Broncos QB's success, this is a bad analogy by Josh McDaniels. Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods both can have different mechanics when swinging a club, but what if Jim Furyk can't read a green very well and his club selection is somewhat suspect? Then it is a problem. As much success as Broncos QB has had this year, he hasn't been overloaded with information when passing the ball, which is very necessary for his future success. Or maybe it isn't necessary for his future success, I didn't expect Broncos QB to throw as well as he did on Sunday.
Still hate Josh McDaniels, Denver?
Yes, they probably do.
The system, in essence, requires each team to get at least one possession in overtime, unless the first team possessing the ball scores a touchdown. This prevents the cheapie overtime loss, with one team running the kickoff back to the 30, then gaining 30 yards or so and kicking a field goal to win.
I guess I fail to see how a return for 30 yards, then another gain of 30 yards, followed by a successful field goal is any more of a "cheapie" than a completed pass to a receiver running a slant followed by an 80 yard run by the receiver for a touchdown. I don't know if a slant with a missed tackle and a great run is any less "cheap" than a return, followed by the offense gaining 30 yards and a successful field goal. My larger point is I favor an overtime system that allows both teams to get the football at least once and if the new OT rule is to prevent a "cheapie" overtime win by a team I would argue there either (a) isn't such a thing or (b) a short catch followed by a long run could still be considered a "cheapie" compared to other ways of scoring a touchdown.
Now if a team wins the toss and takes it the length of the field for a touchdown, it's earned a victory ... or so goes the theory.
I think Peter and I are on the same page here. Usually this would scare me, but we live in a world where Broncos QB throws for 300 yards in a playoff game against a quality defense. So down is up and up is down and I don't care if Peter King and I agree on something football-related for the time being.
(I believe strongly each teams needs to be guaranteed a possession in overtime; otherwise, the coin flip simply takes on too much importance. In the history of OT prior to 2010, the team receiving the kick to start overtime won the game on the first possession 41 percent of the time.)
And I agree. I think each team should have a possession in overtime, regardless of how or how many points the team that gets the ball first were able to get. I'm still not sure the Steelers would have won the game on Sunday even if they had gotten a chance to get an offensive possession.
I asked him if he was shocked to see zero coverage -- no deep safety help, anywhere.
"No,'' said Thomas. "They'd been doing it all day.''Which shocked me. I am no defensive coordinator, but it amazed me to see the Steelers allowing Broncos QB to throw into single coverage to his receivers. I know the Steelers wanted to stop the run, but deep passes are a huge part of what Denver wants to do off play-action and the Steelers put their corners in single coverage often and didn't force Broncos QB to throw into traffic. Maybe there wasn't a better way, but the amount of zero coverage the Steelers ran shocked me...especially in overtime when Broncos QB had repeatedly shown he was capable of getting the ball to his receivers when he doesn't have to worry about a safety back there picking the ball off.
After spending five hours at the Rams' practice facility in suburban Earth City, Mo., Sunday, the former Titans coach returned to Nashville to consider his options. By Tuesday, I expect he'll have figured out whether St. Louis or Miami is the best place for him; and his agent, Marvin Demoff, will begin negotiating with one team, or both if it's every close. Expect a resolution by Thursday.
I always love it when coaches "retire" or leave a team before they have gotten fired. It feels like many of these coaches end up wanting to coach somewhere else. Teams are always after these coaches because they did the unthinkable and didn't leave their last team because they got fired. Jeff Fisher has a lifetime record of 142-120 and a career playoff record of 5-6. He coached for 16 years and made two AFC Championship Games and made the playoffs six times. He's not a bad coach, but is this the kind of coach a team should pay $8 million per year and also hand over personnel decisions to? I just don't think so. He's available though and since Cowher isn't coming back anytime soon, the fact Fisher has had more .500 or below .500 seasons than above .500 seasons doesn't seem to scare teams off that much. He's a good coach, I'm just not sure I would hand him the keys to the kingdom.
In Miami, the pros are he'd have a playoff-ready defense, some good offensive pieces and an owner willing to spend whatever it takes to win; the cons are he wouldn't have a franchise quarterback, and he'd be battling Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for (just guessing) at least the next three years.
And of course if you as an owner are paying a head coach $8 million per year, you want him to want to avoid a division with other quality teams in that division.
Pros in St. Louis: Sam Bradford's still likely an excellent quarterback prospect, the team is flush with cap room in the next two years, there's no franchise quarterbacks on the other three teams, and the Rams could leverage the second pick in this draft into two to four high picks.
Is Bradford still an excellent quarterback prospect? Quite possibly, but next year is a big year for him. He seemed to regress a bit, when he wasn't injured, this past year. Also, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have shown they can win games in the NFC West without a franchise quarterback, so it isn't like they are going to be pushovers for the next 2-3 years.
I said Saturday the Bucs want an authority figure to clean up Raheem Morris' mess, and they like former Packer and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman ...
Yes, more coach recycling.
It's New Orleans at San Francisco (combined record: 27-6) Saturday afternoon, then Denver at New England Saturday night. Houston is at Baltimore early on Sunday, the Giants and Packers at Lambeau late. The best game might be Saints-Niners, with the rested 49ers likely to have hamstrung linebacker Patrick Willis back to full strength to help chase the hottest passer in the land, Drew Brees.
If there is a team that has the formula (in my opinion) to beat the Saints then that team is the 49ers. They have a great running game and an excellent defense. I'm excited for this game.
At one point Sunday in Denver, 35-year-old wideout Hines Ward was nailed to the bench in what might have been his last game as a Steeler; defensive linemen Brett Keisel (33) and Casey Hampton (34) were out with injuries;
You have been smite!
James Harrison (33) and James Farrior (37) were trying to give the Steelers some sort of pass-rush, and Ben Roethlisberger, who turns 30 in March, was hobbling around on his bad ankle like he was 45. Ugly way to end a season.
It's funny how the media can turn the Steelers team from a veteran team that has enough experience and talent to stop another team on defense into an old team that lacks the speed to defend a good team. It's such a thin line between these two positions, isn't it?
To give up 447 yards to the Broncos, who couldn't buy a first down the last couple of weeks, had to stun Pittsburgh into the realization the Steelers need some youth on defense and some bodies on the offensive line, a unit that is just awful.
I don't want to pat myself on the back, but when I have discussed the Steelers on this blog for the past few years I have tried to mention how Roethlisberger makes the offensive line look a lot better than it is. Roethlisberger runs all over the field making plays for a reason and it isn't because he just likes running outside the pocket or being chased by 300 pound men. The Steelers offensive line has needed to be improved for about two years now.
I have always found it funny how when one thing changes in sports, people's perception of that team changes. For example, once Peyton Manning gets injured the Colts team no longer has reliable undrafted free agents and a just-good-enough defense. Now the defense is seen as terrible and lacking ability at skill positions. When Manning was healthy, the Colts were good at finding players who could find their role on the team and the defense is good enough to win games. Once Roethlisberger can't run all over the place, the Steelers offensive line is now considered to be below average, though this was probably true beforehand, it is just that Roethlisberger's talent masked this issue.
Then Peter talks about Tony Corrente's story. Tony must really, really hate going to the doctor. Either that or he is super tough.
Corrente, a trim, veteran referee, felt fine and was in excellent physical condition entering the season. In the second half of the game at Baltimore, he stepped in the middle of some pushing and shoving between two Steelers and two Ravens, and he found himself shoved hard out of the scrum. He landed on his back and hit his head, and he felt it the rest of the game.
Afterward, with pain in his head, back and buttocks, Corrente had a choice in the referee's room -- Tylenol or Motrin. And he remembered a former member of his crew saying Motrin was better for pain, so he took 800 milligrams of Motrin and flew home to California.At home, he noticed he was coughing up blood,
Time to go to the doctor.
and still was the next day. More Motrin.
Now it is time to go to the doctor.
The next week, after doing the Kansas City-Detroit game, Corrente was still taking Motrin, and noticed when he woke up Monday after the game there was blood on his pillow where his mouth had been.
Now he really needs to go to the doctor...and he did.
The camera spied a mass at the base of his tongue, where the tongue led into the throat, extending down the throat slightly. The mass was about the size of a full male thumb.
"What is that?'' Corrente asked the doctor.
"Sir, that is cancer,'' said the doctor, whose specialty was apparently not bedside manner.Thanks for breaking it to him so gently.
During a TV timeout, Corrente was told Colts coach Jim Caldwell wanted to see him.
"He took both my hands, right there on the field,'' Corrente said. "And he said, 'I just wish you all the best. Our whole organization is praying for you.' ''Then Jim Caldwell went back to staring out at the football field without blinking or making any other kind of movement for the next two hours.
Or threatened, depending on your view of Peter's All-Pro choices.
Running back: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville. When your foes know you're the only even remote offensive threat on the team, and you win the rushing title by 242 yards, that's impressive. (I'm supposed to name two backs, which I never do. The AP wants two, and I've explained for years if you have two backs and two receivers, how fair is that?
It is probably more fair than having a fullback on the All-Pro team when most of the teams in the NFL don't seem to use a fullback in the offense anymore. Of course, this All-Pro team doesn't really matter, other than for writers to use this information 15 years from now as to why a player should/should not be in the Hall of Fame.
Actually, other than a complete homer opinion that Ryan Kalil should have been selected over Scott Wells at center I can't argue too much with Peter's All-Pro picks. Maybe I missed something.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay. See last week's column for reason.
Off. player: Drew Brees, New Orleans. Not a copout. The best stat season ever by a quarterback deserves this.
I understand why these two choices would have different players, but logically if Aaron Rodgers plays quarterback and is the most valuable player in the NFL, wouldn't he also be the best offensive player of the year as well? I don't know, maybe. It just makes sense to me if Rodgers was the most valuable player, he would also be the best offensive player as well, especially when compared to another player who plays his same position. Perhaps not.
Executive: Mike Brown, Cincinnati. Good draft netted long-term weaponry. Good trade raked Raiders over coals for Carson Palmer.
Mike Brown should get this award for getting two high draft picks for a quarterback the Bengals no longer wanted or needed AND the quarterback no longer wanted to be in Cincinnati. They had little leverage and still got a first and second round draft pick. Forget Brown's draft his past year, I base this award just on the Palmer trade.
7. Denver (9-8). I don't know how you watch that game -- that event -- in Denver Sunday evening and think the Tebow Broncos aren't the best, coolest, most fun story in the NFL in years.
Perhaps you can watch Denver and not believe it is the coolest, most fun story in the NFL in years if you hate the media coverage of Broncos QB's "miracles." Perhaps if you also hate how Broncos QB played well and won the game, yet the win is chalked up to "magic" or some other supernatural reason that doesn't have to do with the fact Broncos QB played well. I find the Broncos QB story to be the most annoying, least fun NFL story of the year and very little of it is a reflection of Broncos QB himself.
8. Pittsburgh (12-5). Too beat up to compete for anything right now. But that was a heck of a comeback while it lasted. I've got to think that safety Ryan Clark, who didn't play because of his sickle-cell trait, wouldn't have sold out as much as Ryan Mundy to play the run on the first play of overtime.
Perhaps Broncos QB would say it was God's plan that Ryan Clark lose some of his internal organs to a disease in order for His true plan of the Broncos winning a playoff game to occur.
9. Atlanta (10-7). The day started badly when vital cornerback Brent Grimes was declared inactive 90 minutes before the playoff game in Jersey. And it got worse.
Was Grimes planning on playing offense? If so, it wouldn't have mattered if he did play.
Denver QB Tim Tebow. He wrecks games. Sometimes for the Broncos, but mostly for the opposition. His 316-yard, two-touchdown passing performance against the Steelers (Tebow passer rating: 125.6; Matthew Stafford rating in New Orleans: 97.0) will be Colorado legend forever. That was the most exhilarating touchdown drive by the Broncos since The Drive.
The drive consisted of one play and started the 20 yard line. Let's not even start comparing it to The Drive in any way.
Coughlin never gets the credit he deserves for being on top of game management. Who knows if the Falcons would have converted 3rd-and-10; all I know is they were a yard short of converting 3rd-and-15, and moments later the Giants iced the game.
I feel like Coughlin is a master at saving his job. Maybe he's a great coach and I've just missed it, but it seems like every time the Giants are possibly getting rid of Coughlin, he manages to keep his job by winning important games.
Goats of the Week
Atlanta coach Mike Smith. Went for it on 4th-and-1, bypassing a 41-yard field goal in a scoreless game in the second quarter; Matt Ryan got stuffed. Went for it on 4th-and-1, bypassing a 38-yard field goal in a 10-2 game in the third quarter; Matt Ryan got stuffed ... and this one came with an empty backfield, with 245-pound back Michael Turner on the sidelines.Gregg Easterbrook is going to destroy these 4th down play calls...and possibly rightfully so. How about Matt Ryan is currently 0-3 for his career in the playoffs? Matty Iccccccccccccccccccce plays like ice when it counts, right?
"I'd take it and run and probably pull both hamstrings."
-- Denver coach John Fox, asked after the playoff win over Pittsburgh if he'd have taken a division title and a first-round playoff win if told that would be his fate before this season.It's probably not a good sign when the head coach for a team seems surprised by his team's success during the season.
Thanks to Mike Florio for sending me scurrying to the 2010 draft, and the incredible tributaries from a single late-round trade. It just shows how smart Pittsburgh director of football operations Kevin Colbert is.
What? From earlier in this column:
To give up 447 yards to the Broncos, who couldn't buy a first down the last couple of weeks, had to stun Pittsburgh into the realization the Steelers need some youth on defense and some bodies on the offensive line, a unit that is just awful.
So Colbert hasn't put youth on the defense nor has he improved the offensive line, but we are supposed to believe he is really smart? I'm not denying Colbert is good at his job, but after Peter says the defense and offensive line need young bodies is this really the week to talk about how smart Colbert is?
Colbert turned a late fifth-round pick into one Super Bowl starter and one long-term explosive receiver and returner. That's a valuable personnel man.
That is impressive. It very much is. Perhaps Colbert can turn the 2009, 2010, 2011 draft picks into quality, younger players on the Steelers defense and improved offensive line depth. Since apparently these are their needs. Maybe Colbert thought he was meeting these needs by drafting Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds, and Ziggy Hood for the defense and Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, and Kraig Urbik on the offensive line.
1. I think this is what I liked about Wild-Card Weekend:
h. Great internal protection by the Saints line, giving Brees plenty of time to be great. Center Brian de la Puente holds his ground better than Olin Kreutz did early in the season.
This accolade could go for the entire season. Brees can cook dinner or watch a movie in the pocket the Saints offensive line forms around him. As great as Brees is, he isn't that great if he doesn't get superior protection.
l. John Fox putting Tebow on notice. I like Fox making this a bottom-line business, and who knows? Maybe that's why Tebow responded so well.
(Being bitter) I'm glad Fox decided to make it a bottom-line business now after using the "he gives us the best chance to win" reasoning for starting a quarterback in the past at his other coaching stop and overall being unhappy to adapt to different personnel at times.
b. I hate ... no, detest ... that stupid NFL rule (the worst on the books, the one I'd erase if I could change one thing about the rule book) that makes a 52-yard defensive pass-interference penalty a monstrous game-changer rather than a 15-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage. Yes, Quin interfered with Green, but 52 yards? When Green might not have caught the ball anyway? I beseech you, Competition Committee -- change that this offseason.
I am becoming disturbed at how much I am agreeing with Peter King today. This isn't good for business.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Wild-Card Weekend:
h. Roethlisberger's decisions, including playing when he shouldn't have in December.
Again, there is a thin line between a player toughing it out and trying to help his team win games when injured and a player who is hurting his team in the playoffs by playing hurt in the regular season. Roethlisberger would be seen as tough if the Steelers had won Sunday, but because the Steelers lost Peter thinks he shouldn't have played during the regular season in order to be healthy for the playoffs.
k. The Steeler pass rush. I know the injuries hurt the line, but that front seven failed to pressure Tebow into mistakes, which had happened the previous three weeks.
So Peter criticizes the Steelers defensive line while acknowledging injuries took 2 of the 3 starters out of the game. Maybe Kevin Colbert should have turned a 5th round draft pick into a front seven player Peter would have felt comfortable could pressure Broncos QB or found a way for God not to smite his defensive players.
4. I think if there's one college coach who could emerge as a candidate somewhere, this year or in the next couple, judging by the love he's getting from pro people, it's Greg Schiano of Rutgers. I've said this for the last couple of years, but if you ask Bill Belichick which young college coach he thinks could be a very good pro coach, it's the 45-year-old Schiano.
Well if Belichick says it, then it must be true.
On a more serious/sarcastic note, why would a team take a chance and hire Schiano when they can pay more money for a guy like Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer, or Jeff Fisher? It's no fun to think outside the box!
Just for fun, I checked out the odds you could get by a sportsbook in Vegas, Bovada.ly Sportsbook, Rodgers is 1-10, Brees 5-1, and any other player 30-1. Said Bovada.ly's manager, Kevin Bradley: "The ironic thing is, if Mark Ingram scores on the last play of the game in the season opener and the Saints beat the Packers in overtime, the odds would be almost even."
I'm getting a headache hearing this. So if the Packers defense had given up a touchdown to the Saints running back in the season opener, this would have meant Drew Brees was more valuable to the Saints than Aaron Rodgers was to the Packers? Where the hell is the logic in this thinking? So a play that neither Rodgers or Brees were involved in would have affected the oddsmakers (and thereby most likely the MVP voting since the odds are based on what the voters would likely do) opinion of which player was more valuable? How does this make sense? This is just idiocy.
He has a point there.
Because he has a point doesn't mean his point is logical.
9. I think Mike Sherman would be a perfect fit -- today, for what the Bucs are and need right now.
As a Panthers fan, I'm not sure I would be upset by this coaching hire.
g. I'm excited about everyone telling me what a lamebrain I am for the next month. It's Hall of Fame Month!
"I want the honor of being able to vote for members of the Hall of Fame, but don't want any of the criticism that comes with this honor! Is this too much to ask to be immune from criticism?"
And coming Tuesday: My observations about the list of finalists for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
I hope I am not in the minority, but I find it so hard to judge which players should and should not be in the Hall of Fame. Floyd Little makes it in the Hall of Fame with 6323 rushing yards for his career. In other words, he has fewer career rushing yards as compared to Wendell Tyler and is just ahead of Larry Johnson. This makes no sense to me why he's in the Hall of Fame, so that's why I'm not the best at debating Hall of Fame credentials. Of course, it won't stop me from debating.
h. Coffeenerdness: Don't know how you fix this, Seattle. But the latte quality, overall, in New York Starbucks stores is significantly worse than in Boston or Montclair, where the stores are rarely as crowded as the packed ones in New York. Just a word to the wise.
The entire city of Seattle will get right on correcting this major issue.
k. Goodbye, Jorge Posada. Always admired you, even when you helped wreck so many lives on The Night Grady Little Ruined The ALCS in 2003.
Peter isn't being over-dramatic about it of course. Jorge Posada wrecked so many lives that night. Lives were literally and figuratively ended on that night. Thousands died or lived in poverty after Posada and Grady Little helped wreck so many lives that night. This statement comes from the same guy (Peter King) who wrote so eloquently about a person (Tony Corrente) who had cancer. You know, something that actually would ruin a person's life. I guess Peter's perspective on life comes and goes whenever it is convenient.