Well, then. Last week's column asked, Will Everything Be Sloppy This Weekend? And the NFL answered. Answered with vigor.
Was everything sloppy? "YES." God yes. It was sloppy, uneven, and downright boring at times. You know what the best part about Week 1 was? It can only happen once.
And yeah, most of my disgust stems from Cowboys-related bitterness. So before I ramble on anymore about a weekend that was colored by a terrible loss to my favorite team's biggest rival, let's get this out of the way and then move on to the other questions...
1. What's Wrong With The Dallas Cowboys?
I discussed Monday's game here. It was awful, it was embarrassing, it was hard to watch, etc. They lost for two reasons: bad coaching and Marc Colombo's injury. The injury won't be fixed for another few weeks, but since the Cowboys figure to be in the spotlight for most of the season—whether they deserve it or not—let's make one more point about the coaching situation.
I was talking to a former NFL player the other night and we got to talking about Dallas, and what's wrong with their current situation. "I'll tell you whose fault it is," he said. "Jerry Jones."
"He created this when he paid Jason Garrett head coach money. Because that was the guy that Jerry wanted all along. Jason Garrett's making $3 million. And yeah, Wade got a raise so that he made just a little bit more. But how is he supposed to call it his team when the owner obviously supports the other guy?"
"Jerry says to Wade, 'Oh you just go coach the defense.' But nah, that's not how it works."
A good point. Wade Phillips has been a lame duck since he arrived in Dallas, which I think is exactly what Jerry Jones wanted after Bill Parcells. But that's not all... The guy with all the power in Dallas, Jason Garrett, has his own fundamental issues, and it was borne out when he chased off Terrell Owens in favor of Roy Williams.
As my new NFL friend explained it, "I played with Jason, and he's a good guy. But once a guy snaps on him, Jason will be done with it. He'll go out of his way to avoid a player. Won't talk to 'em, won't make eye contact... Guys in this league have a hard time respecting that."
"So he's scared," I said.
"You said it I didn't," he said quickly. "But Norv was that way too..."
So what's wrong with the Dallas Cowboys? Well, let's see... The most powerful coach in the locker room isn't the head coach, and the "most powerful coach" probably doesn't have the respect of the players. That, and Marc Colombo's injured. But Jason Garrett went to Princeton, goddamnit! He can figure this out!
2. How Does Vince Young's Helmet Stay On His Head Like That?
"MMMM... 100% FRESH SQUEEZED SWAGGER. ORGANIC, SON!"
Yeah, I have no idea what to make of Vince Young, and by extension, the Tennessee Titans. Along with Green Bay and New England, they were one of the only NFL teams that looked truly dominant in Week 1. But then, look at that picture again.
Can we really trust Vince Young to quarterback a Super Bowl team? And while the Pats and Packers beat playoff-caliber teams in convincing fashion, VY and the Titans were playing the Raiders, the most dysfunctional franchise of the past decade. (And yeah, maybe not a playoff team in 2010... Oops.)
It's something to keep an eye on, anyway. The Titans are 5-point favorites at home against Pittsburgh this weekend, and if nothing else, it should provide some insight into their long-term potential. Chris Johnson can't do it alone against the Steelers defense, and Vince Young... Well, we know he can do it sometimes, but it's an open question as to whether he can handle success as a starting quarterback.
He's been great at leading comebacks and he looked promising as he salvaged the Titans season last year. But as "The Guy" in the NFL, his track record isn't that impressive. And let's not forget, he got caught on surveillance cameras beating the crap out of someone at a Houston strip club just three months ago. The new "mature" Vince Young might not be that different from the Vince Young that went AWOL a few years ago.
If he can keep it together, though, and the Titans emerge as a darkhorse Super Bowl contender, wouldn't it be one of the better storylines of 2010? Plus, more Chris Johnson is never, ever a bad thing.
(Mike Tunison dealt with this in depth today. For a closer look at VY, check it out.)
3. What's The Biggest Story After Week 1?
Why, the Ines Sainz scandal, of course. But other than that... There were four reported concussions after one week of regular season play. God. Much to the NFL's chragrin, this will not be something that just disappears. Kevin Kolb, Matt Moore, Stewart Bradley, and Kevin Boss all suffered concussions.
Meanwhile, the media (including me) spent the week worrying about a Mexican reporter who wasn't offended by behavior that probably wasn't sexual harassment. For its part, the NFL doesn't see a problem with the Week 1 head injuries, and cites the uptick in numbers to a more evolved attitude toward concussions, where symptoms are being reported more accurately.
And the NFL may have a point, but Matt Bowen's editorial this week is hard to ignore:
We chalk it up as part of the game: Players get hurt. We see it all the time with knees, ankles and shoulders. But you can diagnose those injuries. The swelling, the visible damage tells you something is wrong. And you can fight through those for three hours on a Sunday with pills or injections.
Not with concussions. Can't see them. Because of that, they are hard to pinpoint. And the last thing players are going to do is voluntarily take themselves out of a game on Sunday. There is too much on the line: money, reputation, a starting job and a locker come the next season. The NFL is a cutthroat league, and players are recycled from year to year — but eventually thrown out along with the trash.
If you think Matt Bowen's talking in the abstract there, watch Kevin Kolb the next few weeks, and whether he tries to come back in time to save his job from the suddenly rejuvenated Michael Vick.
It's not fun to talk about or write about because there's really no clear solution—the NFL is the most violent league on the planet, and concussions are part of that. But especially in a week where four starters went down with concussions and we all spent our time arguing about Ines Sainz, it's probably best to read Bowen's testimony. Just for some perspective on what's really wrong with the NFL culture.
Recognizing the problem is the first step, and so far, I'm not sure the NFL's even gotten that far.
"The headaches come in the morning. Tylenol, half a pot of coffee, and then hope they subside by lunch. ... The price of admission, really, when you play on Sundays." — Matt Bowen
"One weekend doesn't make a trend. It's certainly a number that caught everyone's eye. We must keep a close eye on this and we will." — NFL Doctor Hunt Bajer
4. But Hey, How 'Bout Michael Vick???
Oh, God. Didn't he look awesome?
Face it: the NFL is a much cooler place when Michael Vick is playing like Michael Vick. And say what you want about Vick or the Eagles, but Philly was a thousand times better with him in the game, and should be highly entertaining in Detroit this weekend. It's probably too early to write the "HE'S BACK!" columns just yet, but a few months ago, people were writing the "HE'S GETTING CUT!" columns.
For now, let's just see where this goes, and enjoy having Vick highlights back in our life.
5. Why Doesn't Brad Nessler Announce More NFL Games?
Here's your coverage maps for Week 2. NFL fans are completely justified in hating the Dallas Cowboys for being overhyped every year, but as a soulless Dallas fan, it sure is convenient to have them on National Television every weekend.
Also, while we're here, let's list the play-by-play announcers for this weekend's games. Greg Gumbel, Kevin Harlan, Spero Dedes, Bill Macatee, Don Criqui, Jim Nantz, Ian Eagle, Gus Johnson, Joe Buck, Kenny Albert, Dick Stockton, Thom Brennaman, Sam Rosen, Ron Pitts. Now, of that group...
Harlan, Johnson, and (I guess) Joe Buck are all pretty solid. Spero Dedes deserves mention, too, but only because he sounds like a character from The Usual Suspects. But other than those guys, you know who's better than just about everyone in that group?
BRAD NESSLER. I haven't talked to a single person who didn't love having him on board for Monday Night's second game, and I know he's more of a college guy, but... Why can't ESPN find a way to work him in? Or CBS, who could hire him to work college football and basketball, and use him for the NFL playoffs. Bottom line: He was great Monday Night, and a welcome change from our stodgy status quo.
We need more Brad Nessler in our lives, and God knows, we always need less Jim Nantz.
6. Kanye West Tweet Of The Week
Speaking of that Chiefs game...
To one of the NFL's most loyal fanbases, and a franchise that's been mired in quiet mediocrity for what seems like forever. The Kansas City Chiefs. At least for one week, divinity has arrived to the heartland, and optimism abounds in KC.
And it's warranted. Monday night's game was sloppy as hell and doesn't really prove anything, but the pieces are in place for the Chiefs to get on a roll here. Consider: Matt Cassel finished with some UGLY stats (10-22, 68 yds, 1 TD), meaning that they can win even while getting a D+ from their passing game. Plus, Eric Berry struggled, and it's only a matter of time before he becomes an ass-kicker and starts making plays for the defense.
On the other side, with Jamal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe, and a handful of other young playmakers, the Chiefs have a number of guys that can single-handedly change games. The sort of talent that mitigates weaknesses in other areas.
When I tabbed Oakland as a sleeper back in August, I wrote that "for them to leapfrog the, San Diego will have to regress at the same time Oakland jumps forward. That's possible, right? The Chargers have collapsed in the postseason for what feels like a decade straight. Eventually, that sort of thing catches up with you."
Well, replace Oakland with Kansas City, and the formula's the same.
San Diego looks like crap, and Kansas City's next five games are at Cleveland, home versus San Francisco, on the road for Indianapolis and Houston, and then home versus Jacksonville and Buffalo. If they can come through that stretch 4-2, they'll be looking pretty good, and will be in prime position to ride that momentum all the way through the year. It won't be easy, but it could definitely happen if things fall just right. And suddenly, things are looking up...
7. How About A Round Of Applause For Pete Carroll?
Sure, they'll never capture the hearts and minds of fans the way the World Champion Seattle Storm have, but for the handful of fans that were able to pull themselves away from the WNBA Finals last weekend, the Seattle Seahawks actually looked pretty solid.
Not spectacular, but solid, and in the NFC West, that might be more than enough to earn a playoff spot. The 'Hawks got plenty of help from San Francisco, of course, who managed to fall flat on their face after getting tabbed by America as THE sleeper team to watch this season. But that shouldn't diminish the larger accomplishment here.
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks weren't a disaster, and at least for a week, the punchlines that we all had ready for the Carroll Era will have to wait. His defense made Alex Smith look helpless, and the Seahawks made America look stupid for convincing ourselves that Alex Smith could ever be anything but helpless as the 49ers starter.
The Seahawks are 3.5 point underdogs in Denver this weekend, but remember... Someone has to win the NFC West, and in the divisional equivalent to mid-90s Yugoslavia, it'd only be fitting for coaching's Bill Clinton to pull off a miracle. Does that mean the Seahawks are going to continue this run by beating Josh McDips--t and the Broncos this weekend? Yes, yes it does.
8. What's The Most Sexually Satisfied City In America?
And regardless of the miscommunication with Men's Health, the celebration in Indy has begun:
It used to be known as "Naptown." Indianapolis has become a busy town.
And by busy, I don't mean busy. I mean "busy."
Men's Health Magazine just put out its "Sex in the Cities" edition and lo an behold: Indianapolis came out on top when it comes to the country's most sexually satisfied cities.
...New York, Miami and L.A weren't on the list. The only big city that even registered was Chicago, and it came in at number 10. So at least in this study, it's the quality, not the size of the metropolis that matters.
Post-coital Naptown came out on top, just like always. Ahhh... So many opportunities for punnery! Because yes, Indianapolis is busy, people. Or "busy," even. See what we're getting at?
Indianapolis has a lot of it, apparently, and it's far more enjoyable than whatever goes on among those attractive heathens in New York and Los Angeles, which seems counterintuitive. But that's the whole point. See how happy Indianapolis is?
As I learned in 10th grade Algebra, satisfaction is far more attainable if you can just lower your standards a little. Embrace mediocrity. Like, what's an extra 50 pounds here and there? Throw a Colts jersey on and you can hardly notice it.
(And no, this has nothing to do with football. But it'll be a phenomenal non-sequitur if you're looking to escape a conversation about the Mannings during Sunday Night's game. You're welcome.)
9. Does San Diego Deserve An NFL Team?
The easy answer here is no way. Not with Los Angeles
45 minutes down the road two hours*, and the season opener getting blacked out. I mean, even Jacksonville avoided a blackout for their home opener.
It's a down economy, there's a lot to do in San Diego, blah blah blah. There's no way you can spin this without the city coming off looking pathetic. There aren't
50,000 football fans 71,000 football fans* willing to pay to watch a Super Bowl contender? It's one thing for the Jaguars, Lions, and Raiders to struggle. But the Chargers are good.
So it's sort of an open-and-shut case. San Diego needs to get it together.
That said... If you were looking for the "toughest contender to root for" it'd have to be San Diego, right? Dean Spanos, their owner, apparently has dreams of Los Angeles. Their GM refuses to pay key players on offense, and more important, just seems like an out-and-out prick. They mortgaged their 2010 Draft on Ryan Mathews, who had just 75 yards on Monday night. And their two most prominent players are Shawne Merriman and Philip Rivers.
The same Philip Rivers who had a full-on tantrum on Thursday. What a putz.
So I understand why San Diego might be lukewarm on this bunch. But even so... Imagine living in a city that's too apathetic to supports its football team. Having grown up in D.C., with one of the three best fanbases in football (next to KC and Green Bay), it's hard to imagine. But think of how depressing that'd be. To turn on the TV on a Sunday and watch... What? Replays of some motocross rally on Fox? Re-runs of Becker on CBS? It'd be the worst thing ever.
And San Diego fans deserve it. They have a good team; go to the games. Come on. Maybe they don't deserve to lose their team outright, but they definitely deserve a weekend of Becker and Motocross. Season opener blacked out? In the words of the immortal Bunk Moreland, "This is some shameful shit, Jimmy."
* Corrections thanks to the angry Chargers e-mailers who are very adamant that Los Angeles is, in fact, two hours away, and that the Chargers could totally sell 50,000 tickets, they just couldn't sell 64,000. Sorry about the inaccuracies there. Was working on a deadline and am also just stupid.
10. If You Could Only Watch One Game This Week... What's The Pick?
Like this is even up for debate. The Patriots(-3) at Jets is the one game on the schedule that will definitely have long term implications in the AFC. Miami looked solid in their debut last week, but at the end of the day, the AFC East comes down to these two.
And the buildup has been fantastic. First off, we have the Jets embroiled in the whole sexual harassment controversy, which is funny because hearing NFL announcers tiptoe around that issue never stops being entertaining. "As you may have heard, the Jets are currently in the midst of an investigation with the league after some questionable interaction with a member of the press. ... (long pause) ... How will they replace Kris Jenkins on the defensive line?"
Then there's Tom Brady calling out fans for leaving games early, saying:
"The road environment is very different than our friendly home crowd, who when I looked up, half the stadium was gone when we were up 21 points early fourth quarter, which I wasn't so happy about. I don't think the Jets fans leave early. They're going to be loud the whole game."
Nevermind that the Jets are another team who's struggled with blackouts, and the Patriots fans regularly trek out to FOXBOROUGH for games, a 45-minute drive from Boston, and a bonafide contender for most depressing township in America. Then there's Randy Moss, who sounds a lot like Kenny Powers, and has managed to elegantly tiptoe at the boundary between making legitimate complaints and coming off like a complete dick. And then there's his war of words with Darrelle Revis.
After Revis called Moss a "slouch" in an interview last January, Randy said earlier this week, "Words don't really hurt me. I guess he's entitled to say what he wants to say ... We're coming to the Meadowlands on Sunday, man, so you got 60 minutes of this 'slouch.' I don't really get into the trash talking, but if what he called me was a 'slouch,' then I guess the 'slouch' will be there to see you on Sunday."
To which Revis responded, "I'm sure it was on his mind in the offseason. When I played him the first game last year, I called him a slouch for a reason, because that game, he played like a slouch. That's the simple point."
A huge divisional game with loads of trash talk and about five different big time storylines, not to mention a kickass defense versus a suddenly rejuvenated Patriots offense? Yeah, we can get behind that.
As for what to expect, you have to remember that the Jets are at their best when everyone writes them off. Rex Ryan knows exactly how to exploit that mindset. And to give you an idea of how people see this game, the line here has moved two points since the middle of this week--with the Patriots going from 1 point favorites to 3. Because as good as the Patriots looked in Week 1, that's how bad Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense looked.
But we're probably reading too much into both games. The Bengals defense isn't exactly known for shutting people down, and the Ravens defense has pretty much the perfect personnel to stop the Jets. Baltimore's built to stop the run and knock the hell out of people; they're weakness, the secondary, is something that New York couldn't exploit.
This Sunday, though, the running game should fare better, and Sanchez will have less pressure to beat people over the top. On the other side, Tom Brady and the Patriots will have their hands full with Rex Ryan's defense. They may not be stopped altogether, but there's no way in hell New England scores 38 points two weeks in a row. Tom Brady didn't get sacked once against Cincinnati. In New York this weekend, it'll be a whole different story.
Right? Maybe? I hope?
The truth is, the Patriots look awesome right now. The offense looks great, and regardless of the holes they have on defense, Bill Belichick is the type of coach that always manages to make it work when it matters. But it's still too early to concede the AFC East to Bill Belichick and his cold, dead stranglehold on joy and spontaneity. Not with Rex Ryan looming.
The Jets looked average on Monday night, but I'm not giving up on Rex just yet. The Jets dropped the ball and puttered their way through a disaster in the opener. But again, Week 1 was a sloppy mess for just about everyone, and on Sunday, the Jets have a chance to completely erase the memories of Monday Night. If the Pats take it, New York spends the next few months playing for second place. If the Jets can pull out a win, they take control of the division, and suddenly, they're everyone's sexy Super Bowl pick again.
It's only Week 2, but this is sort of a do-or-die situation. and most everyone thinks the Jets are ready to roll over and die. But it's not over yet. And until it is, I'm riding with Rex. Jets 24, Patriots 20.