Saturday, December 27, 2008

NFL - Final Weekend

I really need to teach him to do this with a Cowboys hat.
I admit to following the NFL mostly from afar this season. Part of the reason was work commitments and part of it, I think, is that last season ended on such a high note for me that I didn’t think it could get any better.

I probably should explain myself here. Most of the teams I root for mostly suck. They lose a lot and worse, even when they’re good, they end up disappointing me. This is the life of a fan of the Mets, Knicks, New York (football) Giants and Boston Red Sox (an allegiance built up during my summers on Cape Cod back in the days before cable. It was the Red Sox or nothing. Of course it didn’t hurt that I grew up hating the Yankees). Frankly, I don’t know what it’s like to root for a team that wins every year and believe it or not, I don’t want to know. Seriously, imagine you’re a Yankees fan and you’re disappointed if your team doesn’t make the World Series every year. What kind of life is that? It sucks because no matter how much money a team spends or how many superstars they lure into their clubhouse, it’s still really, really hard to get to the World Series. I mean how many years does the best team win it all? Like almost never, unless you think Philadelphia was the best team in baseball last year. Hey, I’m a Philly hating Mets fan and all kudos for their championship but pulease, they were given a gift-wrapped present when the Brewers won the Wild Card and the Dodgers beat the cursed Cubs. Anybody think the Phils beat the Red Sox in the World Series? They sure don't dominate like they did against the surprising (and fun to watch) Tampa Rays.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The Giants had a terrific season – compiling a 12-3 record going into what is a meaningless final game tomorrow in Minnesota (meaningless for them -- the Vikings need a win to take the NFC North title). They quite easily could have gone 14-1 to this point if their best receiver hadn’t first gotten hurt and then hit red on the crazy motherfucker meter. Speaking of, you’d think NFL players would be better behaved – unlike the MLB and NBA, contracts are NOT guaranteed, which means if you’re cut, you’d don’t get paid. There are signing bonuses, but even those aren’t necessarily safe. I don’t know if it’s the nature of the game or what, but I’ve never seen so many knuckleheads throwing money away like it grows on trees.

Back to the games: it’s been an intriguing season for sure and I’m humbled at how many predictions I made were completely off. I thought Cleveland and Buffalo were going to be breakout clubs and I expected more out of St. Louis. I was right about the Cowboys being overrated. I’ve been smack-talking my Dallas-fan friends after every under-whelming loss. I give ‘em credit beating my boys two weeks ago but they couldn’t close the deal in Pittsburgh and got stomped by Baltimore last week – two teams the Giants beat up on. Only pure luck has Dallas even in the playoff race at this point and they still have to beat Philadelphia in Philly to get in. I predict they won’t for no other reason than the ‘Boys simply have not been able to get it done in big games.

I think the problem with Dallas is Tony Romo, the most overrated player in the NFL.

I don’t know what his stats are but I’m wholly unimpressed with his game. He makes a lot of mental errors, is terrible at game management and makes too many risky throws. He had his coming out party in 2006, subbing in for aging Drew Bledsoe at halftime in a game against the Giants and promptly threw and interception on his first pass. He would go onto throw three in the game. It was a harbinger of things to come but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fell in love with Romo and in the middle of last season, signed him to a huge contract. You can count the number of his big victories on one hand since, including last year when they faced the Giants in the playoffs as the number one seed in Dallas.

The thing is that when he was looking like a world-beater in ’07, he had Terry Glenn on one side, Terrell Owens on the other, an adequate two-headed monster at tailback and Jason Witten, a fine pass-catching tight end. Add in a better-than-average offense line and you could put almost anyone at QB and be successful. Well, anybody but Bledsoe who made snails seem like competition for Usain Bolt. That his success was an illusion was made clear in Romo’s most famous fuck up (you can see below in living youtube color shot by a guy who was at the game -- the crowd reaction is awesome), but Jones isn’t the kind of man who owns up to his own mistakes.

Still, Romo isn’t the only thing keeping the Cowboys down. I never thought Wade Phillips was a good coach, he might be the most as overrated as his quarterback and his two outside receivers are crybabies. And spread some of the blame to the owner, who chased Bill Parcells off the sidelines with all his meddling. Tuna's doing pretty good this year (see: Miami Dolphins).

I guess Dallas could make a Giants-like run through the playoffs, but I'm not seeing it. And anyway they have to beat the Eagles to even get a shot at winning their first playoff game since 1998. I think the Eagles take care of business in their house and send the Cowboys home.

The other interesting game for me pits the New York Jets against the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East title. There are so many storylines for this game, it’s unreal. Beginning with the fact that Miami’s starting quarterback was let go by the Jets in the preseason after New York scored what was considered a major coup in getting Brett Favre from the Packers. I didn’t have the Jets making the playoffs even with Favre – though my predictions supposed a stronger Buffalo team and a healthy Tom Brady. Nobody predicted Miami would go from a one-win season to a 10-5 record in week 17 with a chance to earn a trip to the playoffs. Watching the Jets play must be maddening for their fans – they’re inconsistency is ridiculous. I blame it all on their coach who I used to think along with everyone else was a young genius-in-training. Now it seems obvious he’s a control freak who has made so many poor game-management decisions, you have to question how he convinced the Jets to hire him in the first place. Sorry Jets fans, but the New York “Bretts” are over; Miami is the better team (they should have won the first meeting) and it’s time for number 4 to retire and stay retired.

Update (12/28): Well, ain't SOL on a football predicting roll? The Eagles didn't just beat the Cowboys, they crushed an uninspired, dispirited team 44-6. And Brett Favre sure went down with a whimper, as the Jets completed their fall from contention with a loss to Miami at home. It's been an interesting NFL season for sure -- and anybody who thinks they know what the playoffs will bring is crazy.

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