Monday, December 29, 2008

NFL Regular Season Closing Thoughts

It was only fitting that the final regular season game of the 2008 season carried with it a "win or go home" finish. It was also fitting that a team which won it's last 4 games (the 8-8 San Diego Chargers won the division from a team who had the reverse finish, 3 straight losses, when just one win would have clinched the division for them. This season was one which featured three major late season collapses (Jets, Bucs and Broncos) and some great late season surges (Eagles, Chargers, Colts and Falcons). We had the first 0-16 team in NFL History (the Lions) and team that went 11-5 (Pats) that missed the postseason so the 8-8 Chargers could get in- and win a division nonetheless.

The Jets will fire Mangini early today as ESPN has been reporting and rightfully so. Normally a team that goes from 4-12 to 9-7 would be considered a success, but not this season. Just 4 weeks ago the Jets were thinking Super Bowl after defeating the Titans and Patriots, but now are left sitting at home wondering who is to blame for their great demise. First and foremost the coaching staff has to take the brunt of the fall. A team that went out and beat the Titans and Pats all of a sudden played a "not to lose" type strategy that lost them 3 of the seasons final four games, and only a miracle play kept them from being 8-8. They refused to run the ball down the Broncos throat, a team that can't even think about stopping the run. They came out flat against San Fran and Seattle, two teams that finished a combined 11-21 (although to be fair the '9ers showed a lot of heart and promise down the stretch under Mike Singletary). The next one to blame has to be Brett Favre, someone who was probably the leading candidate for MVP consideration just 5 weeks ago. Someone who made some of the worst decisions you will ever see on a football field by a pro football Quarterback (let alone someone who will be enshrined in Canton), as evidenced by his 2 TD 9 INT final 4 game finish. I don't care what the MRI shows to his arm, unless they do one on his brain and pinpoint exactly what he was thinking with some of those throws.
The Bucs had a similar collapse, although they did have a much tougher schedule losing to NFC top seed Carolina, 11-5 Atlanta, San Diego and a Raider team that showed signs of life late. Not in the same category as what the Broncos or Jets did, but still a collapse nonetheless. 9-3 teams should not finish 9-7, I don't care who you are playing.
The Broncos are led by two of the most overrated people at their respected positions. Mike Shanahan who has done nothing, NOTHING as a head coach without John Elway and Terrel Davis and Jay Cutler, who has an arm like a young Favre and brain like the older version. Seriously, take away the Elway years and what has Shanahan done? He hasn't built a running game since Portis left (he actually believed all the nonsense that people wrote about him and how it's the system and not the players. Well, it's about the players. System helps only if you have the horses). He hasn't ever built a decent defense, especially against the run.
Cutler is all flash and no substance. He has probably the best "toolset" of any NFL QB, and watching him play shows you why NFL scouts were so high on this guy. He has a great arm. great mobility. Sees the whole field, but when push comes to shove and things tighten up, he always makes the wrong decision (the red zone Interception at the beginning of the second quarter was the turning point of the game yesterday). I wouldn't give up on him (his skillset is way too high) but he needs to show better judgement or every bronco season will end in similar fashion.
Perhaps nothing gave The People's Champ more pleasure than watching the Dallas Cowboys get utterly destroyed by the Eagles yesterday, closing out any chance they had of making the playoffs. Tony Romo, for all his Sept-Nov brilliance has proven to be a complete and utter failure in December and January (5-10 in December and Jan for his career). With all the talent they have, Wade Phillips must go (unless you like relish in the Cowboys failures and therefore hope Jerry Jones grants him that 8 year extension). It's time to get rid of the ultimate locker room cancer in Terrel Owens. Team needs to be remade.
On the positive side, the Eagles stepped up big time yesterday (and down the stretch) and brought it to another reeling franchise (the Cowboys), claiming their playoff birth. The Eagles finished the season winning 4 of their last 5 games to get into the playoffs with McNabb playing some of the best ball of his career. The Eagles also have an aggressive attacking defense that can give fits to any team, and if Andy Reid weren't still the head coach, I would say they could upset the Giants in the NFC. Won't happen. Still a great job all around.
Not enough can be said about the job Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells and Chad Pennington did with the Dolphins, transforming the 1-15 doormats to 11-5 AFC East Champs. What a great job all around. Chad has to be given serious MVP consideration in the job he did. Sparano is on the short list of Coach of the Year candidates. Just a tremendous job.
Matt Cassel and Bill Belichek deserve kudos as well, let's just not go overboard. All they did was take a team that went 16-0 and go 11-5 with a much easier schedule. Yes, a good job without the Great Brady, but lets not go overboard here. They still had the same squad that went 16-0 last year and were unbeatable until the Giants upset them in the SB. When you read some of the nonsense being spewed about them, you think they were the ones that took over a 1-15 squad. Bottom line, if Brady were healthy, with that schedule, the Pats would have been a lot closer to 16-0 than to 11-5.
And what about the Falcons? All they did was beat Carolina, Tampa, San Diego and Minnesota down the stretch to get into the playoffs after a 4-12 2007 season. Less than a year removed from the Michael Vick fiasco, Matty "Ice" Ryan had as good a rookie QB season as there has been since the great Marino debut, 25 years ago. He will garner MVP consideration and Mike Smith deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors.
We will get into the playoff thoughts later in the week, but here are my season ending awards:

AFC MVP- Chad Pennington. The QB is always the one who takes most of the blame (see Favre, Romo, etc) he must also get the credit where the credit is due and no one meant more to his team than Chad to the Dolphins. Honorable mentions: James Harrison, Peyton Manning and Albert Haynesworth.
Coach of the Year- Tony Sparano. Honorable Mention: John Harbaugh and Tony Dungy. Let's not discount the job Dungy did, holding the Colts together through all the injuries and getting them back on track to where some say they are the team to beat in the AFC.
Rookie of the Year- Chris Johnson. He's the most dynamic back in the game not named Adrian Peterson. Honorable mention: Joe Flacco (if there was no Matt Ryan we would have heard a lot more about this guy) Eddie Royal and Steve Slaton.
Most disappointing player: Crazy as this may have seemed in Week 11, Brett Favre. Derek Anderson also gets consideration.

NFC MVP- This was a much tougher choice than the AFC. You have Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning from the Giants, both indispensable pieces to one of the leagues best all around offenses, you have Kurt Warner. You can make a great case for Matt Ryan and Brian Westbrook, but for my money, the 2008 NFC MVP is All Day Adrian Peterson. You take that guy away from the Viking offense, and HE IS the Vikings offense, they go 6-10 at best instead of the 10-6 division Champs they are.
Coach of the Year- Mike Smith. Honorable mention: John Fox.
Rookie of the Year- Matt Ryan. Honorable mention: Matt Forte and Dejean Jackson.
Most Disappointing player: Marc Bulger.


Anonymous said...

"I can understand peoples fascination with the Bills and Jets after 1 week, but how do you consider that Miami Dolphin team an average game?
I don't see that. "

Now do you see it?
How I knew it in week #1 is no surprise if you take into account my consistent foresight.

I remember the laughter when I took Philip Rivers & Kurt Warner.

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