Peter King was astonished last week that Week 17 was as exciting as it was. He seemed shocked there were good NFL games during the last week of the regular season. This week much of the drama and excitement surrounding the Wild Card playoffs was off the field, with the excitement surrounding this upcoming weekend's Divisional matchups and the debate over whether Robert Griffin should have been playing this weekend or not. The games were just okay, with the Redskins and Seahawks game probably being the best one of the weekend. Peter thought this week's games were "ugly," but this doesn't prevent him from having thoughts about the games of course. Peter also makes (finally) officially makes his picks for postseason awards and Peter follows up on some preseason fluff stories that he got completely wrong.
Before we examine the final Ray Day in Baltimore and the Shanahan-RGIII
race to blame in Washington (and elsewhere) and what in the world got
into Chip Kelly, this observation about Wild-Card Weekend: That was some
If Peter King is right about one thing in this column, this is it. It was some bad football. The Cincinnati-Houston game was close-ish, but not well played. The Minnesota-Green Bay game was over pretty soon after it started. The Indianapolis-Baltimore game was probably the second-best game of the weekend and the Seattle-Washington game was overshadowed by an injury. It has to get better this upcoming weekend, right?
It got me to thinking about the expanded playoff format (from 12 to
either 14 or 16 teams) in the back of the league's mind, which is where I
hope it stays.
So what would a 16-team playoff system have looked like this year?
New York (8) at Atlanta (1): Rematch of 34-0 Atlanta rout three weeks earlier. Oh boy!
And nothing changes in the NFL either! Everything always stays the same! The Giants never could have made a rematch with the Falcons into a close game. Have the Giants ever beaten a team in the playoffs they lost to in the regular season? The answer is "no."
Chicago (7) at San Francisco (2): Bears didn't deserve it after going 3-5 to finish.
Does this mean Carolina deserved the playoffs for going 5-3 to finish? Absolutely not. Does this mean the Texans didn't deserve to be in the playoffs for going 1-3 to finish? Again, absolutely not. Don't be stupid, Peter. There is no "deserve" when it comes to the playoffs. The teams that make it, make it, the teams that don't, don't. The Bears only lost to playoff teams this season. That's fairly impressive. Does that change your mind?
Minnesota (6) at Green Bay (3): Vikes deserved a shot the way they played down the stretch.
But the Bears went 1-1 against the Vikings down the stretch. What does this mean they "deserve" in terms of making the playoffs?
Pittsburgh (7) at New England (2): Steelers 8-8. Good TV ratings, bad for the game.
I'm not in favor of expanding the playoffs, but this matchup is bad for the game why? Steelers v. Patriots sounds exciting enough to me.
Either way, a 16 team playoff can go the way of the 18 game schedule for all I care. NFL fans don't "deserve" to put up with 16 teams in the playoffs.
So now we come to Washington's first playoff game with Griffin at the
controls, Sunday at home against Seattle. He was already playing with a
sprain of the lateral collateral ligament, and, after getting banged
around a couple of times early in the game, it became apparent he wasn't
healthy. In fact, on a jog out of bounds shy of a first down, it was
clear he was severely limited and unable to run at anything close to a
sprint. Coach Mike Shanahan asked Griffin then, and again at halftime,
about his knee, and both times Griffin insisted he was okay.
I'm gonna stop you there. Two problems with Mike Shanahan saying he asked Robert Griffin if he was okay to play:
1. It was reported Sunday morning that Mike Shanahan claims Dr. James Andrews cleared Griffin to enter the game when Griffin originally injured his knee, but Dr. Andrews disputes this claim. I'm not saying Mike Shanahan is a liar, but somebody wasn't telling the complete the truth.
2. Anyone who watched Robert Griffin run could see he was not okay. It didn't take a brain scientist to see Griffin was in pain and not his usual self. Shanahan shouldn't pass the blame by saying Griffin claimed he was all right. Of course Griffin will say that. He wants to play. Shanahan is the adult and the coach. It's his decision to take Griffin out of the game and not leave it up to Griffin to make this decision.
If I blame anyone else for Griffin's injury in Sunday's game then I would blame Kyle Shanahan as well. Shanahan had no business calling read-option plays when Griffin can't run the ball. It hurt the team because Griffin wasn't effective and it hurt Griffin because he was clearly injured. As the offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan needs to build a game-plan around his team's strengths and weaknesses and Griffin's read-option ability was a weakness that Shanahan didn't sufficiently plan around.
"It's a tough decision,'' said Shanahan, "and you've got to go with your
gut. I'm not saying my gut was right. I'll probably second-guess
I get Shanahan was in a tough spot. I criticized (to my wife) Christian Ponder for not playing Saturday night, but that may have been a good decision by Leslie Frazier to prevent further injury to Ponder. Shanahan wants to win the playoff game so he put Griffin out there and just hoped to God he didn't get injured. My criticism of Shanahan (both of them, father and son) isn't necessarily starting Griffin in the game. My criticism comes from not pulling Griffin at halftime and giving Cousins a chance to know he will be in the game and mentally prepare, while also criticizing Kyle Shanahan for daring to run the read-option with Griffin. It was obvious at halftime Griffin wasn't right, so I think a change should have been made then.
Griffin was so obviously not himself, and so tentative moving around,
and the Redskins and their medical staff should have seen this. Griffin
clearly has a they'll-have-to-drag-me-off-the-field mentality and needs
to be protected from himself. Shanahan should know this. I believe he
should have pulled Griffin out of the game before the half, for good.
It's no fun to agree, but I agree with Peter on this. The coach's job is to coach and manage the team. Just as in the case of a concussion, he can't rely on the player to say he is healthy enough to go back in the game.
I do not -- do not -- blame Shanahan entirely here. Even if there's a
frosty relationship between noted team orthopedist James Andrews and
Shanahan, Andrews is on the staff, at least in part, because he's the
foremost expert on knees in the country. He should have the power to
speak up when he sees something obviously wrong with the franchise
Right, but does Shanahan let Andrews speak up when something is obviously wrong with the franchise quarterback? If not, that's on Shanahan.
And Griffin is not blameless here either. He's an adult. If he swears
over and over he's fine, the coach has to listen to that and take that
into account. "I wasn't lying,'' said Griffin. "I was able to go out and
I find it hard to blame Griffin. Players want to play and he wants to be out there for his team. He remembers the backlash when Jay Cutler had the audacity to sit out a playoff game with an injury. It's the responsibility of the coach to manage his players and their injuries.
It's best to put safeguards in place before something like this
threatens the short-term future of the starting quarterback in the heat
of a playoff game.
Also, if your quarterback has a knee injury then don't call read-option plays. If the team can't win without read-option plays, well that's why you have backups.
Lewis has been emotional before during games, but friends say they've
never seen him with tears streaming down his face. He cried while
hugging family members before the game, and he was nearly as emotional
afterward, doing a Ripken-like lap of the stadium to greet the fans who
I'm so tired of hearing about Ray Lewis I can't even write about him at this point. He was a great player, but the coverage of his last game in Baltimore was a bit over the top. I swear, I can do his pregame dance in my sleep now. It's like every other word out of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms' mouth was about Lewis. It got so bad I started watching "The Trouble with the Curve," which is a movie you don't even want me to get started about. That movie did one thing right, which was cast the three leads (Eastwood, Adams, Timberlake) and then surrounded them with a shit script that ignored reality and focused on the Disney-ing up of the movie in order to get a perfect ending. There was no fact-checker for this movie. Okay, I got a bit started, but trust me in saying I could go on and on.
There's no call to be angry at the Oregon coach for still being the Oregon coach today, as Adam Schefter and the Oregonian reported he would be.
And as for those who believe Kelly has blown his last shot to coach in
the NFL, that's ridiculous. Sure, he's going to have to convince an
owner and GM, someday, he finally wants the gig and is all-in. But he's
49, he's the most intelligent offensive innovator in the college game,
and smart people like Tony Dungy (who has a son in the Oregon program)
swear by him.
I think it is hilarious the idea this was Chip Kelly's last chance at the NFL. If he keeps winning at Oregon then he will have multiple chances at being a head coach in the NFL. Just ask John Calipari, who not only wasn't a success in the NBA, but also has repeatedly turned down NBA teams who want to hire him since then. Or ask Rick Pitino who has been in the NBA twice and could probably get another NBA job right now if he wanted it. Or ask Coach K, who has turned down the Lakers in 2004, Celtics in 1990, and probably five other teams who wanted to hire him over the last two decades. The professional head coaching jobs are always there for great college coaches.
I barely know Marrone, but I like the move.
"I know nothing about this man, but here's my unfiltered and possibly inaccurate opinion on whether he is a good NFL head coach or not and you need to take my opinion seriously based on the fact I am an NFL expert."
Bill Parcells trusts him; Sean Payton valued him.
Sean Payton also valued Gregg Williams and Bill Parcells trusted Quincy Carter as his starting quarterback. So there's that too.
So what's Andy Reid thinking about his staff in Philadelphia? I'm
hearing he's leaning toward bypassing Marty Mornhinweg as offensive
coordinator and naming his Eagles quarterback coach, Doug Pederson, as
coordinator. Had he not been kept as Carolina head coach, Ron Rivera
would have been in play with Monte Kiffin for defensive coordinator
I don't know, Reid could still make Rivera an offer to be his defensive coordinator. You know, just to see what he says. I'd hate to lose him as a head coach, but I feel like Andy Reid needs a defensive coordinator pretty bad. Make an offer to Rivera.
Don't get excited, Chiefs or Jags fans. The earliest Manziel could be
eligible for the NFL Draft is April 2014. Even though he's only 20, and
just 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he had a Cotton Bowl Friday night that
veteran conscience-of-the-NFL Gil Brandt told me was "the best game I've
ever seen a player play in college football." Considering that the
79-year-old Brandt has been scouting college players for 52 years,
that's quite a statement.
Conscience-of-the-NFL? Tony Dungy is very upset by this statement. Don't make Tony Dungy mentor and give fatherly advice to a large group of NFL players to show he is the true conscience-of-the-NFL.
Brandt said: "The game is changing a little bit in the NFL, and
quarterbacks are running a lot now. He is not a great passer, but he is a
more-than-accurate passer. I think he will translate to the pro game
well. The only thing that worries me about him is he's a slightly built,
I shouldn't say that, but not that well-built a guy for the NFL.
don't know if he can run the option without getting hurt. In saying
that, did we think Wilson and Griffin would be like they are? No.''
Yes, but in this very MMQB Peter King mentioned that a concern about Robert Griffin was that he would be prone to injuries due to his playing style and build. Peter said,
I remember last spring watching tape on Griffin and Andrew Luck and,
just from the tape, thinking the rocket-armed and mobile Griffin was
better -- but I thought I'd rather have Luck as a quarterback to build
around. Simple reason: the injury factor. I worried about the 218-pound
Griffin, as exposed as he made himself, getting hurt.
At this point, and I realize this isn't a fair comparison, Manziel is smaller than Griffin. So if injuries were a concern with Griffin, then how about injury concerns for a quarterback twenty pounds lighter and one inch shorter?
And Pioli was too private for his own good in what has become an
increasingly public job. When Haley last year implied that Pioli
wiretapped his phones, an outrageous and baseless allegation, Pioli let a
team statement stand for his response instead of coming out swinging.
But the vitriol chasing him out the door was over the top. He's a good
man who didn't win enough. The personal attacks I just don't get.
I know Pioli well, and many of you will say, "He's just sticking up for
Pioli because he likes him." Well, I have known Pioli for a long time,
and yes, I do like him.
"I know many of you say that I am biased in my view on Pioli. Well yes, I am biased. Now listen to my opinion, as well as consider it very important and not at all affected by my personal feelings for Pioli, even though my opinion is affected by my personal feelings for Scott Pioli."
I like a lot of people I cover.
Gee, we can't tell. It's hard to tell when Peter likes someone and doesn't like someone. Usually when Peter is fawning over a player or a coach, we have to take a step back and think, "I can't tell if Peter likes this person or has an unhealthy obsession with this person," just like when Peter doesn't like a player he subjects that player to nitpicky and inconsistent scrutiny.
Final point for those who believe Pioli left the cupboard bare: Think
there's a reason the hottest ex-head coach on the market, Andy Reid,
didn't consider any other jobs after he was offered the Kansas City
Possibly because Kansas City offered the most money? Also, the fact Pioli didn't leave the cupboard bare doesn't speak to his incompetence as a General Manager. Good general managers hire good head coaches to coach the talent on the roster, which is something Pioli failed to do. So the fact Pioli did one part of his job decently doesn't serve as a defense for him not performing the other parts of his job well.
Then Peter reveals his All-Pro team, which will always have players snubbed due to the small amount of spots available on the team. I would probably consider Tom Brady instead of Peyton Manning, but I also seem to have paid attention to how well Brady has played this year, which is something Peter doesn't seem to have done. You will rarely find me complaining Tom Brady doesn't get enough credit, but this is a rare case where it is true.
Then Peter starts discussing his postseason awards, which I feel like he has been discussing for over a month now. I'm just glad he finally makes his picks so we can all move on with our lives.
Comeback player (tie): Peyton Manning, QB, Denver; Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
Son of a bitch. Pick one player. Ties are for assholes. If you can't pick one player then you don't deserve a vote. Which player is the better comeback player? Manning or Peterson? Also, the correct answer is Manning.
Offensive rookie: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
But what about Andrew Luck? He had to do it all on his own, , threw for a lot of yards, was super-clutchy, blah, blah, blah (shoots self in head).
Defensive rookie: Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle
Considering Wagner isn't even the best rookie linebacker, probably not a good choice. Basically Wagner got this award because the Seahawks made the playoffs and he did have a good year...just not as good as Luke Kuechly in my opinion. I highlighted it briefly last week, but Kuechly was better than Wagner in most categories.
Coach (tie): Bruce Arians, Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis.
As a coach, Chuck Pagano was 2-3 this year, plus ties are stupid. Again, pick one person for each category. Bruce Arians is the correct answer here. Chuck Pagano's story is very inspiring and to not choose him as Coach of the Year takes nothing away from what he has accomplished in his fight against leukemia.
1. Denver (13-3). Somewhere, a football Zeus (and I don't mean the late Orlando Brown) figured, Wouldn't
it be great to have Ray Lewis, in what might be the last game of his
life, be Peyton Manning's first foe in his Denver playoff career, and,
if Manning wins that one, Tom Brady the second foe?
Somewhere another football God is saying, "Isn't that a bit too hyper-specific scenario?"
5. Seattle (12-5). Russell Wilson's from Richmond. Big
city to the north: Washington. Big city to the south (southwest,
actually): Atlanta. Wilson won at Washington in a knockdown, drag-out
affair Sunday. Wilson plays at Atlanta Sunday.
Wow, this is also a "really reaching for it" note for Peter to pass along. Here is another super interesting Peter King-like factoid. Russell Wilson played for N.C. State, which is a team in the ACC. A team from the North in the ACC: Boston College. A team from the South in the ACC? Georgia Tech. Matt Ryan went to Boston College and now he plays in Georgia.
10. Indianapolis (11-6). Too many bodies swarming
around Andrew Luck all day in Baltimore. GM Ryan Grigson will get to
work shoring up the offensive line this offseason.
What? But Gregg Easterbrook said last week the Colts had a good offensive line because they had been using high draft picks on the offensive line for a few years now. Are you telling me that Peter's new twin, Gregg Easterbrook, is full of shit and doesn't know what he is talking about?
15. St. Louis (7-8-1). Blake Williams, son of Gregg and
the 2012 Rams defensive playcaller, didn't have his one-year contract
renewed as linebackers coach and de facto defensive playcaller. It
wasn't a firing, but it might as well have been. Blake Williams wasn't
well-liked by the staff. Peers thought he was a bit of a know-it-all.
One of Peter's preseason hyped-up coaches falls victim to reality. Peter did a whole portion of MMQB earlier in Training Camp this year. Mike Florio even linked the MMQB like any good corporate-synergy loving person would have done. lake Williams emerged as "the real deal" because Peter heard him barking out the defensive play calls. Really, if you look at that picture of Blake Williams on PFT, you can see how he wouldn't be well-liked. I punched my computer screen upon seeing his face. He just has one of those "I feel like I should try to punch you" faces.
Peter even hyped up Blake Williams with some fawning quotes:
I remember Gregg Williams bragging to me a couple of years ago about
what a great coach Blake would become, because he loved the game so much
and was curious about all facets of the job, and about all different
What if Blake Williams turns out to be the wunderkind that an Ivy League
special teamer and smart kid might be, and what if the Rams play well
on defense this year with Blake Williams handling either a pivotal role
or the play-calling role?
I guess none of this wunderkind stuff matters if the players hate you.
"I love y'all to death! I love y'all to death!"
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, wired for sound by NFL Films, hugging
his teammates after his last game in Baltimore, a 24-9 win over the
Some less classy person would read this "love y'all to death" comment by Ray Lewis and insert it into a joke about Lewis having something to do with a double murder down in Atlanta over a decade ago. That person would not be me. I am too classy for that.
"No, I wouldn't listen. I'm done with football."
-- Bill Parcells, asked by ESPN-1050's Michael Kay on his New York talk show whether he'd have any interest in the Jets' GM job.
And we can believe this considering Bill Parcells has lied about his interest in nearly every NFL job offered to him immediately prior to taking that NFL job.
After a trip to Falcons training camp in August, I wrote this for the SI NFL preview:
a Falcons training camp practice this summer, new Atlanta offensive
coordinator Dirk Koetter pondered a statistic that, in part, made the
Falcons want to breathe some new life into their offensive philosophy.
Last season, Koetter was told, deep-threat wide receiver Julio Jones was
38th in the NFL in average depth of passing target --meaning
that 37 receivers in the NFL were targeted further past the line of
scrimmage than Jones. And though Jones did make the most out of his
chances, averaging 17.8 yards per reception, the Falcons wanted Matt
Ryan airing out a couple of deep shots a game to him. Koetter took in
the information, said the offense seemed pretty explosive to him, and
went back to work.
That afternoon, the offense and
defense had a spirited 15-minute 11-on-11 competition at the end of
practice. The first throw, from Ryan to Jones, was a deep out along the
left sideline; gain of about 35. A few minutes later, Jones took a
corner one-on-one deep to the post, and Ryan led him with a perfect
When practice was over, Koetter left the
practice field and said with a grin: "I don't think Julio's going to be
38th in that stat this year.''
He wasn't. He was 39th.
This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time believing what I read when it comes to quotes from coaches and players in Training Camp. Everything is positive and promises of changes are made. You just never know until the season begins, so a lot of it is all talk to me. Did the fact Jones was 39th in the NFL in average depth of passing target hurt the Falcons? No, not at all. So basically Koetter pointed out a part of the Falcons offense he wanted to improve that he thought was a problem and it didn't get improved, yet it didn't seem to negatively affect the Falcons...so maybe this wasn't really a problem?
1. I think this is what I liked about Wild-Card Weekend:
c. Great hands, Owen Daniels.
Still not as great as J.J. Watt's hands of course.
r. Bernard Pierce,
the forgotten third-round pick from Temple, with a 100-yard rushing game (103, actually) in his first playoff appearance.
Oh ok, thanks for reminding me who he is. I had completely forgotten who he was because I am a stupid NFL fan who requires geniuses like Peter King to remind me about players like Bernard Pierce.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Wild-Card Weekend
d. Joe Webb. I mean, tough spot. And he ran it pretty well a few times.
But those two idiotic hot-potato throwaways when pressured ... crazy.
Webb was terrible, but he didn't know until the day of the game he was going to be starting. It's not like the Vikings have a great receiving group as it is and Ponder had been taking most of the snaps during the season...so let's acknowledge he sucked, but also acknowledge a road playoff game is a tough situation to be thrown into for a backup quarterback.
h. Don't drop picks in plus territory, Vontae Davis.
Okay Peter, he'll try not to. Thanks for the advice.
8. I think Jeff Darlington of NFL Network had a great piece of color in his story
from Sunday's playoff games. He had Ray Lewis, with his iPad in the
postgame locker room, trying to get digital coaches video from Denver's
Week 17 game downloaded on the tablet. Great example of what a reporter
does when he does his job: He takes the reader/viewer where he/she
Exactly. That's why Peter took us up Brett Favre's ass for all those years. We can't get there as readers, so it was Peter's job to be up Brett Favre's ass over the past decade and a half in order to show us what we as fans and readers could not see for ourselves. He did it all for us.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
b. Does Eddie Money think the Geico commercial is going to, like,
rejuvenate his career? Not helping yourself, Eduardo. Eddie's playing
Quapaw, Okla., on Friday night, and two tickets to paradise will cost
you $40. Total.
No, Eddie Money thinks he is going to get paid for the Geico commercial, which he did. Welcome to America Peter, where celebrities will do almost anything to get paid a buck.
e. You go, P.J. Carlesimo.
The whole "you go..." phrase was old over a decade ago and even then the phrase should never have been uttered by white men of any age.
i. Coffeenerdness: I don't imagine this will ever happen, but if I ruled
the world, I'd gather all Manhattan baristas and teach them how to pull
espresso shots -- so that they wouldn't be so inconsistent, bitter some
days, watery the others.
I don't imagine this will ever happen, but if the baristas ruled the world they would shove a hot poker up Peter King's ass for trying to tell them how to do their damn job. Stick to not really reporting on football and dreaming about J.J. Watt. If you don't like the consistency of espresso shots at one coffee shop, go to a coffee shop where you do like the consistency of espresso shots. You could also just make your own espresso since you are such a big expert on exactly how to do it. Or you could just not be a whiny coffee drinker and get the fuck over it. Your call, but trust me, sitting down with baristas and thinking you know how to tell them to do their job is a douchebag thing to do.
The Adieu Haiku
Ray Lewis, postgame:
Dancing, hugging, loving. Hoarse.
Ripken stadium lap.
End these haikus now before you turn completely into Gregg Easterbrook.