Tuesday, August 20, 2013

7 comments MMQB Review: Chuck Pagano Searches for Motivation Edition

Peter King told us a little bit about those foreign kickers who are looking to come to America and take American place-kicking jobs in last week's MMQB. It seems Peter was excited to see the Lions allow foreign workers come to Detroit (Detroit! What's more American than a city that builds American cars?), which is obviously un-American and should at the minimum put Peter on the "No-fly" list for the next 12 months. That's if I had my way. Peter also defended Jeff Fisher's honor from Bernie Kosar's insults towards Rams players and alerted us to the fact Brett Favre does indeed believe he screwed up by throwing the overtime interception that helped the Saints make it to the Super Bowl in 2009. This week Peter talks about "Chuckstrong," the magic feeling that allowed the Colts to win games last year and even caused the Packers to miss a field goal attempt, has thoughts from every training camp he attended, uses his Stat of the Week to remind us the Rams are going to have a young and potent offense since Peter hasn't done this enough already, and Peter breaks the news that Jon Gruden may end up coaching in the NFL again sometime maybe possibly next season. It's going to be hard for Gruden to choose which team to coach, since it seems from his time on television with ESPN that he likes every player on every team in the NFL. I guess he'll just decide which team to coach by seeing who gives him the most money. It's the only fair way to decide.

Much to do this morning, winding up the 20-camp, two-game, 11,969-mile tour of NFL training camps, and covering another costly injury (Dustin Keller’s knee in Miami),

I feel like every preseason sportswriters marvel at how many injuries occur and then once the season starts they forget about it completely, then the cycle begins again the next summer when sportswriters marvel at how many preseason injuries there are. Football is a violent sport and just like important players get injured during the regular season, important players can get injured during the preseason.

but we start with the inspirational story and unlikeliest playoff team from 2012, and what the Colts are going to do for an encore.

The Colts were a consistent playoff team for a decade before the 2011 season. Then they lose Peyton Manning and are coached by a head coach who is completely over his head (Jim Caldwell) in the situation he was suddenly placed in. They still had talent on the team, so when they got a competent head coach and a competent quarterback was it really that unlikely they could have made the playoffs? In retrospect, I have should have seen the Colts playoff appearance coming. Hindsight serves me well in this instance. I explain the Colts 2012 playoff appearance by explaining the 2011 Colts had talent on their roster, but didn't have a good quarterback or a good head coach, while Peter explains the playoff appearance by stating the Colts were so inspired by Chuck Pagano they played football better.

Pagano lords over it all. Sitting in a golf cart on the practice fields at Anderson University one day last week, he couldn’t stop smiling about it. A year ago, Pagano felt worn down, run down, just plain lousy, in training camp. He thought he was just working too hard. But his energy was down, even after a good night’s sleep. He was diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the blood, in late September. You know the rest.

Peter grasped onto this as a somewhat lazy narrative and then tried to use it as an explanation for why the Colts made the playoffs?

I ask about what he can use to drive his team this year, seeing as though there will never be the kind of goosebumpy motivation of 2012 available to him—or maybe any NFL coach—this year, or in the future.

Perhaps the drive to win football games or the drive to perform well on the field? Why does the head coach have to get cancer for a team to feel driven? More importantly, what a stupid question.

“That’s a great question that I get asked all the time, and it’s tough to answer,” Pagano said.

That's not a great question and I can't believe it is asked all the time. There are really morons who ask Chuck Pagano how he is going to motivate his team now that he doesn't have leukemia? Maybe the Colts can get lucky and find a nine-year old boy who has cancer and use that to motivate the team. That's if the Colts get lucky and find a nine-year boy who has cancer, which doesn't happen often enough. Keep those fingers crossed!

“There’s always something, something that happens during the season—a devastating loss, an unfortunate tragedy, whatever it may be. To me, we play this game and make the sacrifices that we make for the love of the game,

Somebody needs to make sure a devastating loss or tragedy happens in or around Indianapolis so Chuck Pagano can motivate his team. Maybe there will be a school shooting or one of the Colts players/coaches will lose a spouse in a horrific accident. Something needs to happen, anything. Either way, there needs to be motivation provided or else Chuck Pagano can't motivate this team.

Said Luck: “I can’t imagine anyone on our team—anyone in the NFL—needing some kind of extra motivation to go out and win. We don’t need it. We’ve all got it. We want to go further than we did last year.”

Thank you, Mr. Neckbeard. You speak of truth.

Motivation’s a tricky thing. We in the media probably overrate it.

You don't overrate it. You grasp desperately on to it as a reason for why a team is winning in order to create a narrative you can write your columns around.

But I find it hard to believe there wasn’t something a little extra around this team last year when, 10 times a day, Pagano would text or phone from his hospital room or recovery bedroom at home to urge players on, with the littlest things.

Peter finds it hard to believe because there isn't "a little extra" around the Colts team because it fits the narrative he is pushing. Peter believes what he wants to believe basically.

Like the time Pagano phoned Grigson one night at dinner to remind him to make sure he got a ball painted for castoff cornerback Darius Butler earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Or the time Pagano, at the first game he attended while still sick, got up on a swivel chair in the GM’s box to rap on the window between that booth and the assistant coaches and scream at them to look up at the replay because they might want to challenge a play.

So Peter's point is that AFTER Darius Butler got AFC Defensive Player of the Week the Colts had special magic around the team that helped them win more games? Is that what he is saying? I don't get it. Butler had already won the award prior to Pagano reminded Grigson to get the ball painted. Maybe I'm trying to explain the unexplainable. My point is that Peter is looking to explain why the Colts played well by using a narrative rather than looking at the Colts schedule and how well the team played to explain why they made the playoffs last year.

“In the hospital, I met people who weren’t going home. For example, a kid named Cory Lane, who was one of those coin toss kids at one of our games. Cory had written me a note while I was in the hospital and sent me photos and things like that. Well, he lost his battle last spring. He turned 16 years old and he lost his battle.

YES! A dead child! That's the perfect motivational story to get behind to help the Colts play better than they ever though they could have played. Just when Pagano thinks things aren't looking good, a child goes and dies, helping him to provide a narrative that motivates the Colts team. What a blessing.

On this day, Pagano, one of the fortunate ones, took the field and moved from group to group—showing some technique to a couple of rookie linebackers at one point, talking to the visiting parents of Reggie Wayne for a while

Peter means the borderline Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne, right? One of the holdovers from the Colts teams that made the playoffs for a decade straight, had one bad year due to injuries and then only made the playoffs because they were so inspired by their coach's cancer battle?

Memories from the road.

Getting to spend time with Jeff Fisher. That's the only memory that Peter needs.

Dallas (Oxnard, Calif.). I got there on July 19th, in the afternoon. The team arrived around 6 p.m. But Tony Romo, who didn’t need to travel with the team because he was already in California, was there at 10 a.m., throwing on an empty field to a few Cowboys staffers who arrived early.

The good news is that Romo was only intercepted twice while throwing to the Cowboy staffers on an empty field. The bad news is that Romo is still to blame for everything that has ever been wrong with the Cowboys.

Denver (Englewood, Colo.). Felt like I was watching the old Raiders at the Broncos’ first practice of the year. Wes Welker (32), Stewart Bradley (29), Quentin Jammer (34), Shaun Phillips (32), Dan Koppen (33) and the youngster, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (27), all here to help Peyton Manning (37) drive Denver to a Super Bowl.

Of course Manning is surrounded by Demaryius Thomas (25), Ryan Clady (26), Zane Beadles (26), Louis Vazquez (26), Orlando Franklin (25), Eric Decker (26), Ronnie Hillman (21), Derek Wolfe (23), Rahim Moore (23), Von Miller (24), Robert Ayers (27), and Wesley Woodyard (27) as well.

It turns out the Broncos around Peyton Manning really aren't that old, but again, it's no fun to ruin Peter's narrative that he wants to force down our throats.

New England (Foxboro, Mass.). Shane Vereen looks like the kind of multi-threat weapon the Patriots could use out of the backfield to take some of Aaron Hernandez’s touches. Soft hands, can break a tackle, makes linebackers miss.

Like really soft hands. Shane Vereen, when he touches your hand, it's like shaking the hand of a bunny if bunnies had hands and could make linebackers miss.

Baltimore (Owings Mills, Md.). No Ray Lewis. No Ed Reed.

Really? Because no one has mentioned whether the Ravens have Ed Reed or Ray Lewis around anymore. DOES ANYONE KNOW IF ANQUAN BOLDIN GOT TRADED?

Daryl Smith would have been a $7 million-a-year player in Jacksonville right now if he hadn’t gotten hurt, and Lardarius Webb was on his way to being a top-five NFL corner before shredding his knee last year. You watch. Those are just two of the guys who will upgrade this defense.

Don't talk to me, Peter. You are the one who insists the Ravens should have spent $6 million in cap space to make sure that Anquan Boldin stayed on the roster and don't seem to understand how the Ravens managed to sign Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith and a couple others with the money they saved by trading Boldin.

St. Louis (Earth City, Mo.).

I'll give you a hint. Everything in St. Louis is really fucking sunny and Peter will be surprised if Tavon Austin doesn't pass Jerry Rice's all-time receptions record this year, while Sam Bradford and Jared Cook combine to help Bradford break 7,000 yards passing with Cook catching 129 passes for 2,400 yards.

Very good practice for the Rams on offense. A year ago, the defense won most of the summer sessions. Not anymore.

This is the very first time we have heard the Rams might have a good offense this year. I can't believe it took Peter this long to mention it.

and there’s no question the pressure will be on Sam Bradford to form an instant bond with new weapons Jared Cook and Tavon Austin.

I think Bradford can do it. He's never had a ton of weapons around him in the offense and Austin is perhaps the greatest receiver to come out of the draft in the last decade and with a genius coach like Jeff Fisher in an easy division like the NFC West I can't imagine how another 8-8 year isn't possible for Fisher.

Cincinnati (Cincinnati). Everyone from Marvin Lewis to the TSA guy in security at Greater Cincinnati Airport (no kidding; he brought it up with me) knows Andy Dalton’s got to play better for the Bengals to play deep into January. The Bengals are working on Dalton getting the deep ball out quicker, and with more trajectory. In the practice I saw, Dalton lofts one into the arms of A.J. Green far downfield. They need about 25 more of those when the games start counting.

I always enjoy how there is seemingly pressure around Andy Dalton to play better while Sam Bradford has sort of been off the hook for his performance at times. I realize Bradford hasn't had the guys around him that Dalton has. Bradford doesn't have A.J. Green, but there's all this pressure on Dalton to play well and I feel like there isn't quite as much pressure on Sam Bradford. Maybe it is because Bradford doesn't play for a team that has made the playoffs the last two years. Either way, Dalton has been better in the NFL than Bradford has been. I'm interested to see what Bradford can do with Tavon Austin because overall I consider Bradford to be a semi-disappointment and don't see why he doesn't merit more criticism for not living up to expectations of being the #1 overall pick. The Rams (and Jeff Fisher) essentially traded Robert Griffin because they were happy with Bradford. Bradford has to earn and I'm not sure he has yet.

My point isn't to bash Bradford, I promise. My point is that even if the Rams have improved the skill position players around Sam Bradford I'm still not 100% convinced he can help these skill position players thrive.

“I’d like to semi-disappear. The game’s been incredible to me. But disappearing’s good too. Disappearing to me is not being on TV, not being on the radio. I’d like to coach somewhere at a high school, trying to help the next generation, trying to help the next kid overcome the odds and be the best he can be.”

Aaron Rodgers, to me, Thursday.

Basically Aaron Rodgers wants to be the anti-Favre after he retires. Not such a bad thing to want to be. This is as opposed to being like Favre and Rodgers talking about retiring seemingly after every season once he turns 30 and getting off on the drama surrounding his possible return to the NFL.

The Yankees are, at least peripherally, involved in a pennant race. Alex Rodriguez is the third baseman on the Yankees. His appeal of the 211-game suspension is not going to be decided until the offseason. Which leads me to believe that of all the selfish acts of Rodriguez’s career, he is in the middle of the biggest one of all: doing his best to look out for his own image while at the same time being the biggest distraction in the recent history of baseball.

MMQB would not be complete without a half-assed thought from Peter about baseball. No one likes A-Rod and he is a cheating asshole, but I don't see how he is being selfish by trying to help the Yankees win despite the personal differences he has with Yankees management. Would it be less selfish for A-Rod just to sit out the entire season while he is appealing the suspension, as opposed to playing and making the Yankees team better by upgrading their third-base position? I don't think so. I think at this point the least selfish thing A-Rod could do is play with his teammates and try to help them make the playoffs. Of course I don't blindly hate everything A-Rod does and look for any reason to call him selfish. I find it funny that Peter calls A-Rod selfish when he is trying to help his team win games despite his differences with the Yankees organization. The alternative is even more selfish.

As MLB executive VP Rob Manfred told the newspaper: “I have yet to see Alex Rodriguez or any of his representatives say that Alex Rodriguez didn’t use PEDs. They’ve adopted a strategy to make a circus atmosphere of irrelevant allegations. I don’t know why anyone who represents Alex Rodriguez has any credibility or standing to complain about anyone’s conduct, let alone ours.”

Sure, A-Rod is the asshole for seeking his right given by the Collective Bargaining Agreement to appeal the suspension. So A-Rod is guilty for attempting to play with his teammates in order to help them make the playoffs and is selfish for taking advantage of his right to appeal the 211 game suspension. Got it.

Maybe it’s me. I find this amazing:

The Rams have 46 offensive players under contract at training camp this summer in Earth City, Mo. Sam Bradford, 25, drafted in the first round in 2010, is the longest-tenured St. Louis offensive player.

We’re still three weeks away from the season, but here’s the way the neophyte Rams could line up in 2013 at the offensive skill positions:

No, it's not just you Peter, but I do have to say simply because the Rams are very young doesn't mean they are young and talented. I get it though. You feel a lot of pressure to make the Rams look as good as possible. Marvin Demoff can be a real jerk sometimes. Sometimes it does seem like you go out of your way to make the Rams look really, really good. In fact, you have talked about the Rams A LOT this offseason and I'm not sure you have said anything negative about them. 

For example, the running game is a complete mystery. Can Daryl Richardson be a starting running back in a division where the Rams play the Seahawks and 49ers four times? If Richardson can't run the ball, doesn't that put too much pressure on the Rams passing game? Why hasn't Peter mentioned the Rams weakness at running back at any point this offseason when discussing the Rams potent offense? Who is going to play receiver on the outside with Tavon Austin on the inside? Brian Quick, Chris Givens? Austin Pettis? Are those receivers who will prevent teams from keying on Tavon Austin? Can Sam Bradford stay completely healthy behind an offensive line that stays healthy? Not to mention, it is only preseason, but all of this offensive talent the Rams have hasn't exactly translated into points so far.

So what I find amazing is that Peter King constantly tells us how talented the Rams are going to be on offense and essentially marvels over them in every MMQB, yet for some reason he hasn't touched on any of the Rams issues, such as the running back position without Steven Jackson and whether the offensive line can stay healthy. So it's hard for me to believe anything other than the Marvin Demoff connection has some sort of impact on Peter's coverage of the Rams. Peter has gotta be positive or he won't get another visit to an NFL team's draft room on draft day. 

“Must admit, Seahawks looking like more of a threat to New England in AFC than Denver is right now.”

—@RealSkipBayless, the ESPN commentator.

Seattle moved to the NFC in 2002.

We should probably just be thankful that Skip Bayless could name three cities with NFL teams. I would not be surprised if Skip sent out a Tweet that said, 

"No way Tim Brady is healthy for the game against the Wyoming Antlers next week. Won't be back until faces Orlando on the 13th." 

Ten Things I Think I Think

b. It’s totally unfair, because it’s not a quarterback versus quarterback game, and because Seattle scored a touchdown on special teams and on defense in the first half Saturday night.

"It's not totally fair to make the comparison I am about to make, but I'm going to make the comparison anyway and hope you all ignore the fact I just dismissed my comparison as pointless. It may not mean something, but I want you to pretend that it does." 

c. Passer rating by Seahawk quarterbacks Saturday: Tarvaris Jackson 141.4, Russell Wilson 141.3.


i. Can’t make the team throwing like that, Tim Tebow.

Peter always has to mention Tim Tebow. Tebow can't make the team as a quarterback throwing like he has thrown his entire career. Nothing has changed.

m. The Colts did so many things right Sunday night. The Reggie Wayne one-handed catch, the spot-on Andrew Luck touchdown throw, the consistent pressure on Eli Manning. Good night for Indy.

Perhaps they've found the proper motivation through tragedy to play well this year. 

3. I think this will be Jon Gruden’s last year in the ESPN booth—assuming there is significant interest in him as an NFL head coach. And there will be.

Well, Gruden certainly hasn't said anything to offend anyone and narrow his options during his time in the ESPN "Monday Night Football" booth. Every player on every NFL team is a great guy that Gruden would want on his football team. 

Then Peter moves to point #4, which is still a discussion about Jon Gruden. I'm not sure why this shouldn't be included in point #3, but I guess Peter has to stretch out the things he thinks this week. 

4. I think there are only so many games a coach who still is a coach can do in the booth, and only so many times driving to an office to watch tape without a team to boss around, before Gruden says No mas, and takes the reins somewhere next year. Dallas, Carolina, Detroit, Tennessee, Jets. Who knows?

More importantly in my opinion, who cares? I can bet one thing. It won't be Carolina, so mark that team off your list. Jerry Richardson isn't paying $8 million or more for a head coach. He devotedly wants to follow the way of successful teams like the Steelers and that isn't how the Steelers would hire a head coach by hiring a head coach at $8 million or more per year. 

6. I think the longer Arian Foster (calf, back) misses time—and he hasn’t practiced in training camp, or since spring OTAs, and he’s stuck on the Physically Unable to Perform list—the more I’d worry about his ability to play 16 games this season. And you know how valuable he is to the Texans.

This is the kind of information you can only find in MMQB. The longer Arian Foster can't play because he is injured, the more concerned the Texans should be with his ability to be healthy for the entire year. I bet Peter will tell us next week that the more Mark Sanchez throws interceptions in the preseason the more concerned Rex Ryan will be with his quarterback situation. 

9. I think if Champ Bailey misses the first couple of weeks of the season with his foot injury—and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie remains out with his high ankle sprain—the position Denver thought would be such a strength could have Tony Carter and Chris Harris (the normal slot corner) starting against Joe Flacco in the opener. That’s not good.

It's good for the Broncos because the Ravens don't have Anquan Boldin anymore and Dennis Pitta is injured. So the Ravens don't have any weapons for Flacco to throw the ball to. Isn't that what Peter keeps telling us to worry about when it comes to the Ravens? 

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

b. Funniest thing about the A-Rod beaning by Ryan Dempster, after Dempster threw behind Rodriguez once and inside the next two pitches, was Red Sox manager John Farrell saying the pitch got away from Dempster, and he had to establish the inside of the plate, and blah blah blah. Good one, John. Most amazing thing about it was the corners of your mouth didn’t curl up even slightly when you said it.

A-Rod is an asshole anyway for daring to help the Yankees win games, so he deserves to be hit in the head with a baseball. A-Rod probably deserves to be hit in the head with a baseball and then die. This tragedy could help Chuck Pagano motivate his Colts team.

f. Miguel Cabrera could have a significantly better season than his Triple Crown year and not win the Triple Crown this year. What an amazing player.

It's almost like a player winning the Triple Crown is relative and dependent on the statistics other players in that league are accumulating. 

h. The MMQB has its one-month anniversary on Thursday. I hope we get more sleep in the second month.

Non-football related? Really?

The Adieu Haiku

No Champ, DRC?
No Pitta or Anquan B?
One scarred opener.

Let it go, Peter. Anquan Boldin doesn't play for the Ravens anymore. We may as well not watch the Baltimore-Denver game now since it will be so boring. In fact, let's just cancel the NFL season because Peter doesn't think one game during Week 1 will be exciting enough.


Snarf said...

Let it go, Peter. Anquan Boldin doesn't play for the Ravens anymore. We may as well not watch the Baltimore-Denver game now since it will be so boring. In fact, let's just cancel the NFL season because Peter doesn't think one game during Week 1 will be exciting enough.

You're probably right that it'll be boring. Now the Rams, those will be 16 exciting weeks of football!

Slag-King said...

Felt like I was watching the old Raiders at the Broncos’ first practice of the year.

What does this mean? None of the players played for the Raiders. I do not get this simile.

I think Peter was thinking of the Rams but got confused while being twirled around to a Tavon Austin pinata while trying to swat it.

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes - Better to be thought an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt - or something to that effect . . . Regardless, King and his readers continually live up to this axiom. Here's a question for you BG - How the heck are you going to have a life when TMQ is back and King has this farce of a website rolling? I would say I hope you're single but that's no good . . . I guess it's a boon that Simmons doesn't know what the fuck he is (loved your description last post) or you'd be endlessly posting. Damn those Precocious Young Men!!

Anonymous said...

"The Colts did so many things right Sunday night. The Reggie Wayne one-handed catch"

I'd just like to point out that on this catch, Andrew Luck threw the ball right to Aaron Ross, who is not a Colt. I'd like to see Peter say the Colts did so many things right if that had been an interception, like it should have been. Great catch by Wayne, no question, but let's not pretend it wasn't incredibly lucky and a bad throw by Luck.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, riveting! Just ignore any of the holes in the Rams offensive lineup.

Slag, I think he was referring to the Gruden-era Raiders that had Rice, Gannon, Tim Brown and other older players. That's my best guess.

Anon, I'm not worried about having a life, I'm worried about having time to write now that TMQ is back and Simmons is sure to start pumping out his Friday mailbags/picks column. Time is of the essence...that and keeping my sanity.

Looks like Luck made a "lucky" throw. I know you didn't mean to write that. It's all about the catch though. Ignore the wayward throw and don't mention it.

JD said...

I want to talk about Jon Gruden for a second. This guy is an outstanding color guy and a great head coach; I mean the thing I like about this guy is that this guy doesn't do anything he can't do. This guy can run a telestrator a little, think about some crazy anecdote on the fly, make the tough calls after forty slo-mo replays ... I'm telling ya, this guy can do a little bit of everything. This guy reminds me a little of a guy we had on Fox Sports by the name of John Madden. You don't think of this guy as an elite broadcaster in the National Football League, but trust me, this guy is an elite broadcaster in the National Football League. Maybe the ratings and internet commentary don't reflect it, but this guy gets the job done. Jon Gruden -- I like this guy.

Just kidding. Jon Gruden sucks as a broadcaster.

Thanks to Bill Simmons for the template back when he was funny and irrelevant. As opposed to now when he's unfunny and friends with Jimmy Kimmel.

Bengoodfella said...

JD, I thought you were being serious at first. I started to think of responses to what you were writing.

Gruden can be smart, but I would like him to be slightly more critical when discussing NFL teams. It's pretty obvious he doesn't want to alienate anyone when he speaks.