Monthly Archives: June 2009

FR: Strangest Sights

We’re in the dead part of the offseason, between organized team activities and training camp, which leaves few newsy items to blog about. (I actually updated this post today with a long-snapper who got released. Seriously.) But that does leave us time to start reflecting on the coming season. Here are some of the changes that will lead to the strangest sights on NFL fields come fall. 10 is the sight that will look the strangest; 1 is the sight that’s the least surprising. As always, feel free to add your own ideas via comments.

 10 – QB Brett Favre as a Viking – OK, this isn’t final yet, but it will be weird to see Favre wearing purple. Even his one-year dalliance as a Jet won’t lessen the shock of this sight, because at least the Jets wore a shade of green close to Green Bay’s. That sight will be almost as weird as seeing Favre in his original Falcons garb.

10 (con’t) – WR Torry Holt as a Jaguar – Since the Favre sight might not happen (yeah, right), we decided to include a guaranteed strange sight on the 10 level. And to me, it’s Holt. Holt is an iconic player of the last decade, and him going from the Greatest Show on Turf colors to Jacksonville’s green and black – which still look a little closer to Arena League unis than legit NFL duds to me – is going to be strange. But that’s the kind of sticker shock you get when an icon moves on.

9 – S Brian Dawkins as a Bronco – Dawkins was the heart and soul of Philly’s defense during its great success of recent years, and now he’s changing into Broncos orange and blue. To me, this sight will be even stranger than John Lynch in a Broncos’ uniform. Dawkins was Mr. Eagle as much as anyone except for Donovan McNabb, and so to see him dressed differently on Sundays will be strange.

9 (con’t) OT Orlando Pace as a Bear – Holt wasn’t the only icon the Rams released this offseason. Pace, a future Hall of Famer, also moved on. Because the Bears uniforms are so classic, Pace will fit our eyes wearing those colors a little better than Holt in the Jax uni, but the sight will still be odd.

8 – TE Tony Gonzalez as a Falcon – We’ve seen countless pictures of Gonzalez as a Chief, and now he moves into Falcons colors. The fact that both teams wear red jerseys will make this transition a little less shocking, but the move from the Arrowhead to the Falcon is still a shock. Gonzalez has been the Chiefs’ top player over the last decade, but other players like the late Derrick Thomas seem to be more iconic in K.C.

8 (con’t) – S Roy Williams as a Bengal – Williams isn’t an iconic player, but he moves from an iconic team to a team with one of the most gimmicky uniforms. I personally like the Bengals’ stripes, but that’s a far cry from the simple lone blue star that Williams wore for so long. Those aesthetics are why this sight moves so far up this list.

7 – RB Fred Taylor as a Patriot – Taylor is probably the Jaguars’ greatest player ever, but because that team got more limited TV exposure than other squads, the image of him running in the Jax uniform isn’t burned into our retinas the way others like Holt or Dawkins are. That, combined with the fact that we’re used to seeing veterans pop up as Patriots late in their career, makes this sight not as strange. (Taylor is one of this year’s crop of Patriot veteran imports, along with Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs, among others.)

7 (con’t) – QB Jay Cutler as a Bear – Cutler wasn’t in Denver long enough for us to focus on his Broncos image, but the sight of a big-time quarterback wearing Bears colors is going to be strange in its own right. If Cutler succeeds in Soldier Field, we will remember him as a Bear, not as a Bronco.

6 – LB Keith Brooking as a Cowboy – Brooking has actually been Mr. Falcon over the last several years, but most of us have paid more attention to QBs Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. But Brooking, an Atlanta native, moves to Dallas this year, and it will be strange to see him roaming around the new Cowboys palace instead of the Georgia Dome.

6 (con’t) – WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh as a Seahawk – Houshmandzadeh hasn’t gotten the pub he deserves for his stellar play over recent years, and because of that we’re not used to seeing him. But the sight of his loooooong last name on a blue jersey will still take some getting used to.

5 – Colts without Tony Dungy and Broncos without Mike Shanahan – It will be strange to look on the sidelines and see a bench full of Colts but not long-time head coach Tony Dungy. And it will probably be even stranger to see the sidelines at whatever they’re calling Mile High Stadium nowadays and not see Mike Shanahan, who was in Denver even longer than Dungy was in Indy. Both of these are monumental NFL coaching changes in an offseason full of flux.

4 – WR Terrell Owens as a Bill – Owens has moved around enough that we don’t associate him with just one team. Is he a Cowboy? An Eagle? A 49er? You can’t say. But still, seeing the original diva receiva wearing Bills colors will be a shock for the first five or six highlights (or lowlights) he creates.

4 (con’t) – C Matt Birk as a Raven – Centers don’t usually get much love, but Birk was the centerpiece of the Minnesota’s stalwart offensive line for a long time. Now he moves on to Baltimore, and it will be strange to see the best Harvard product in the NFL wearing Ravens purple instead of Vikings purple.

3 – DT Albert Haynesworth as a Redskin – Haynesworth was the biggest (and most expensive) acquisition of the free-agent season, but we’ve seen him holding up the Redskins jersey so often already that the sight seems almost routine now. So while the impact of this change is significant, the shock has already lessened.

3 (con’t) – LB Bart Scott as a Jet – Scott was never the Ravens’ most prominent linebacker – Ray Lewis was, of course – but Scott was still a significant enough player that his new look in the Jets’ green and white will take some getting used to. At least his playing style will look the same, since he’s making the move to the Meadowlands alongside Rex Ryan.

2 – TE Kellen Winslow as a Buccaneer – Winslow moves teams, but he continues to wear a shade of orange (in my mind, Tampa pewter is close enough to orange) like he has at the U. of Miami and in Cleveland. So his new uniform look is close enough to his old look so as not to shock the system.

2 (con’t) – LBs Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas as Chiefs – Because Vrabel and Thomas have both played for more than one team, the fact that we remember them as a Patriot and a Dolphin, respectively, isn’t as strong as it could be. But seeing them side-by-side wearing red this fall still should cause some of us to rub our eyes.

1 – CB Ken Lucas as a Seahawk – This sight isn’t a shock, because Lucas returns to Seattle after several years in Carolina. But Lucas isn’t the strongest example of a returnee that will be not a strange but a familiar sight. That would be…

1 (con’t) – LB Jason Taylor as a Dolphin – Taylor returns to Miami after a one-year odyssey that took him from Dancing with the Stars to the Redskins. Taylor should retire as a Dolphin, and so it will be comforting to see him donning the aqua No. 55 once again in ’09.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL coaches, NFL Free Agency, NFL trades

Northcutt is Motown bound

The Jaguars ostensibly completed their overhaul of their receiving corps by exporting wideout Dennis Northcutt to Detroit in exchange for safety Gerald Alexander. Northcutt, one of Jacksonville’s two high-dollar receiver signings last offseason, had a decent year in ’08 (44 catches, 545 yards), but now he is gone, as are Matt Jones and Reggie Williams. Addition Torry Holt will have to carry the leadership role for the Jags’ wideouts, and youngsters like Mike Walker and ’09 draftees Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard. In Detroit, Northcutt could be a starter opposite Calvin Johnson if he beats out fellow vets like Ronald Curry, Bryant Johnson, and Keary Colbert and rookie Derrick Williams. Alexander started 16 games in ’07 and the first five in ’08 before getting hurt. But despite being a second-round pick, he was not going to beat out Louis Delmas for a starting role this year. He figures in as a backup/rotation player with upside in Jax.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL trades

FR: Best Nicknames

With the unfortunate demise of Smash ‘n Dash – aka LenDale White and Chris Johnson – as a nicknamed dynamic duo, we thought it would be fun to play football relativity with the league’s best nicknames. This is not an exhaustive list, so leave your favorite nicknames in the comments and we’ll integrate them into the list. 10 is the nickname that’s the most fun; 1 is a nickname that’s kind of dumb. Again, we’re rating just the nickname here, not the player or the coach.

Before we begin, a historical note. It seems like there are countless great nicknames for groups in the NFL in the past – Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters; the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome and, later, Greatest Show on Turf; Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain and Blitzburgh; Washington’s Hogs; and Atlanta’s 1970s Grits Blitz. We also have team-wide nicknames like Carolina’s Cardiac Cats, Atlanta’s Dirty Birds, the Bungles and the Aints. Unfortunately, there aren’t those kind of nicknames anymore. We will definitely take ideas for such nicknames here – who knows, maybe we can start one.

10 – Ochocinco (aka Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco) – This started as a nickname and now it’s a legal name. Yes, it’s bad Spanish, but it’s a heck of a lot catchier than ochenta y cinco, and we have to give Chad props for that. We also have to praise his commitment to the nickname. In the end, this has all the elements a good nickname needs – it’s fun, catchy, and memorable. That’s why it’s atop this list.

9 – Megatron (aka Lions WR Calvin Johnson) – I love this nickname. It’s current – Transformers is a hit movie (if a terrible one, according to Roger Ebert). Megatron is bigger, badder, stronger, and better than all the other transformers, and those same attributes describe Johnson as well. The only hangup I have with this nickname is that Megatron is a bad guy and Johnson isn’t. Oh well – guess we can’t have it all.

8 – none yet

7 – Lights Out (aka Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman) – One of the few defensive players on this list, Merriman gave himself this nickname. It’s in reference to his ability to knock players out – put their lights out, so to speak. This isn’t an all-time classic nickname, but it is one of the better ones out there right now. Give Shawne two points for creativity on the name – even though the Lights Out dance stinks.

6 – Matty Ice (aka Falcons QB Matt Ryan) – This nickname hasn’t completely stuck yet, but if it does, it would be a good thing. It’s catchy, and it describes Ryan’s calm under pressure. Let’s hope Ryan continues to play well so that we get another good nickname into the hopper.

5 – Fast Willie (aka Steelers RB Willie Parker) – This nickname isn’t complicated, but its simplicity is its virtue. Fast Willie is in fact fast, and it’s fun to say. Sometimes we gravitate toward nicknames that are more clever or more complex, but this is an old-school name that works.

4 – Earth, Wind, and Fire (aka Giants RBs Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward) – This nickname was a bit derivative, and it was dated as well. But it did a decent job of describing the running styles of each player. Unfortunately for the nickname game, Ward left for Tampa during the offseason, so Earth, Wind, and Fire is no more.

3 – T.O. (aka Bills WR Terrell Owens) – We won’t include all initials and abbreviations on this list, because those are generally too easy. But in Owens’ case, the initials qualify as a nickname because they tie back to an actual term in the game. It would be like someone whose initials spelled YAC (yards after the catch). Of course, YAC would be a much better nickname, but T.O. ain’t bad.

3 (con’t) – Big Ben (aka Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) – Big Ben is tall. Big Ben is alliterative. Big Ben is not a unique nickname. If Roethlisberger didn’t have two rings, this nickname wouldn’t be memorable. But it’s sticky and not stupid, so it stays off the bottom of this list.

2 – Mangenius (aka Browns head coach Eric Mangini) – This New York tabloid nickname became Mangini’s moniker during his time with the Jets. It’s catchy, but the problem is that it’s not so much true, given the fact that Mangini made the playoffs in just one of his three Big Apple seasons. Mangini will need better success at his second coaching stop to prevent this nickname from being used derisively.

1 – The Tower (aka Bears LB Pisa Tinoisamoa) – We can’t rate this nickname all that high, since we’re the only ones using it at the moment. But we shall include it, because we’re on a campaign to spread the word on The Tower.

4 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL coaches, NFL nicknames

For Peppers, nothing could be finer (at least in 0-Niner)

Panthers DE Julius Peppers made a lot of noise throughout the offseason about wanting to leave the team, and even though he was extended a franchise contract tender worth $16.68 million, he still wanted out. There were rumors (and more rumors) about where Peppers would end up, and Peppers maintained he wanted a change of scenery. But those rumors proved to be for naught, and Wednesday Peppers signed that tender, committing to report to training camp and play for the Carolina in 2009. For Peppers, it’s the only move he has left. In the end, he’ll get paid nearly $1 million per week (contracts are divided over 17 regular-season weeks to include the bye), and that money is now guaranteed.

Carolina banked its entire offseason on keeping Peppers. They had to redo QB Jake Delhomme’s deal and have only signed one minor veteran free agent because of the strain the Peppers tender put on its cap. But all that will be worth it for this veteran team if Peppers plays well in ’09 now that they are assured that he’ll play for them.

The Panthers still need to find a long-term solution if they are to keep Peppers in 2010 and beyond, but at least they now know they will have his services this year. The comments out of Peppers’ camp today are conciliatory, which may indicate that Peppers’ desire to leave is softening. If no long-term deal is reached, the Panthers would have to pay more than $20 million to franchise Peppers in 2010, and they also traded their ’10 first-round pick for DE Everette Brown, who is ostensibly Peppers’ replacement. So a move still may be in the offing. (No trade can be made unless Peppers is signed, after all.) But if this is a short-term solution, it’s the right one for both sides, and they can worry about 2010 when it comes. Today, Panthers fans can breathe a sigh of relief – as can Peppers’ accountants.

1 Comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency

BrownTown

The Kansas City Chiefs continued their defensive overhaul by adding another wily veteran in former Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown. Here are some thoughts; you can see how this move compares to others in June and July in an upcoming post.

Mike Brown was a former Pro Bowler who was a key cog in the very good Bears’ defenses of the middle of this decade. Consistent injury problems, though, have limited Brown’s ability to contribute over the past several years. That’s why the Bears were willing to let him walk via free agency even though he managed to start 15 games in ’08. While it would be unwise for any team to count on Brown, adding him in a spot where he can beat out holdover safeties if he’s healthy is worth a shot. At his best, Brown (who has 30 career interceptions) is more of a playmaker than either Bernard Pollard or Jarrad Page. Brown can also join Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas in bringing a veteran presence to a Chiefs’ defense that needs the massive overhaul it is getting. In that effort, this is a reasonable risk to take.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency

Glover’s day in more ways than one

On the day that Lucas Glover won golf’s U.S. Open, another Glover – longtime NFL DT La’Roi Glover – retired. Here are some thoughts on his career; you can see how his retirement compares to others this offseason in this post.

Glover was a 6-time Pro Bowler who developed into the perfect under-tackler in the 4-3 defense. He had a slashing style that allowed him to rush the passer and make big plays, while a bigger tackle played the gaps and provided the stoutness against the run. The crazy thing is that Glover spent his rookie year with the Raiders as a fifth-round pick but was then cut. He landed with the Saints, and there he developed into a Pro Bowl player in 2000 and ’01. He took a big-money deal in Dallas in 2002 and rewarded the Cowboys with four straight Pro Bowl seasons. He then finished his career in St. Louis. Glover’s career arc falls short of Hall of Fame status – John Randle was a similar and better player than Glover – but with 83.5 sacks, he was undoubtedly one of the preeminent pass-rushing defensive tackles of his day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency, Pro Football Hall of Fame

FR: New and moved NFL announcers for ’09

There’s been quite a bit of turnover on the NFL announcing scheme for the 2009 season. Among the changes:

*Fox is adding John Lynch (No. 6 team), Trent Green (No. 7 team), and Charles Davis (No. 3 team) as full-time game analysts, replacing Brian Baldinger, Tony Boselli, and J.C. Pearson
*NBC is adding Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison to Football Night in America, replacing Jerome Bettis and Cris Collinsworth
*Collinsworth moves to NBC’s Sunday Night Football booth to replace John Madden
*ESPN’s Monday Night Football replaced Tony Kornheiser with Jon Gruden
*NFL Network replaces Collinsworth for its late-season games with Matt Millen
*Info man Adam Schefter moves from NFL Network to ESPN
*Former Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi, ex-Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks, and former WR Drew Bennett join ESPN as studio analysts
*Former Rams head coach Mike Martz, Hall of Fame WR Michael Irvin, and info man Jason La Canfora join NFL Network

So how do these new voices (in new roles) compare to each other? Sounds like a relativity comparison to me. 10 is the guy whom we think will be best in his new role; 1 is for the guy who we anticipate struggling the most.

10 – Cris Collinsworth, NBC’s Sunday Night Football – We’ve already written about how Collinsworth is the best game analyst around. Now he’ll get to strut his stuff not on NFL Network’s limited platform but on the marquee stage of Sunday Night Football. He’s more than ready and more than able to become the league’s most authoritative announcing voice.

9 – Charles Davis, Fox – Davis was a no-name before Fox started using him as the color announcer for the BCS national championship game a few years ago, but he’s incredibly good. With Fox soon losing the BCS, it makes sense for them to move Davis onto their NFL roster. He’s going to be on the No. 3 team, which is a huge complement to his ability. The only strange thing is that Davis never made it in the NFL, and so he’ll be commenting on something outside of his experience. But he’s so polished that it won’t end up mattering in the end.

8 – Rodney Harrison, NBC’s Football Night in America – Harrison is a straight shooter who isn’t afraid to step on anyone’s toes (and actually might enjoy doing so). He’ll bring an edge to a show that was bland last year with the always-jovial Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber, who has TV teeth but the charisma of a carp. (OK, that’s mean. Sorry.) Harrison and Tony Dungy will be an interesting counterbalance as analysts.

7 – Adam Schefter, ESPN – A long time ago, Schefter was the Broncos’ correspondent for PFW, and I spoke to him weekly. (Random fact: He’s the reason I know what gefilte fish is. As Terrell Davis put it in a column Schefter wrote for PFW, it’s the hot dogs of fish. Just try to forget that.) Schefter definitely knows his stuff and has great sources. The only question is whether he’ll get lost in the shuffle among ESPN’s other info men Chris Mortensen, John Clayton, Ed Werder, and whoever else comes across the crawl.

6 – none

5 – Jon Gruden, ESPN’s Monday Night Football – My initial thoughts about Gruden’s hiring were positive, but the question of what Gruden’s style is going to be still lingers in my head. If he’s honest and direct, he’ll be great. But if he’s out to avoid making enemies so that he can land his next coaching job, he’ll end up being disappointing. For some reason, I’m getting a hunch that the latter may be true. I guess we’ll see.

4 – Tony Dungy, NBC’s Football Night in America – Dungy is respected, and he definitely knows his stuff. I only wonder if he has enough energy to jump off the TV screen. Maybe Dungy’s likability will translate, and if it does NBC will really have something with him and Harrison. But if Dungy comes across as bland, then it won’t really work.

4 (con’t) –  Trent Green, Fox – Green has shown a lot of promise as an announcer in his offseason studio appearances, but you never know how that will translate into game announcing. I’m a little afraid that Green will end up like Rich Gannon, who had similar promise right after retirement but hasn’t really been spectacular as an announcer. For now, we’ll give Green the benefit of the doubt and take a listen, but to excel he’ll have to translate his knowledge of the game and likability into the short bursts he’ll speak between plays. The fact that Green can ease in on Fox’s No. 7 team helps; if he’s good, he should be able to move up some. But Fox has new depth with Davis and Brian Billick emerging the last two years as supersolid No. 3 and No. 4 guys.

4 (con’t) – Michael Irvin, NFL Network postgame – Irvin was a bust as an ESPN analyst because his aggressive bluster was too often baseless or just silly. But he’s improved over the past few years on his radio show in Dallas, and he may be ready once again for a studio shot on NFL Network’s postgame coverage. Perhaps the discipline of having to defend himself to sports-radio callers will make Irvin defend his points better and turn his bluster into opinions that are still strong but more defendable. If so, he can be a big plus for the league-owned outlet.

3 – Matt Millen, NFL Network – Millen, who will also be a college football game analyst and studio analyst for ESPN, was once the best Xs and Os analyst on television. When I covered the Panthers, I would make sure to tape games Millen was doing so that I could hear his analysis of the team. He was that good. But the question is whether viewers will be able to forget his stinkbomb of a tenure as Detroit’s GM and take him seriously. That will definitely be a barrier in year one, but hopefully Millen’s broadcasting prowess will repair the perception he has at large.

3 (con’t) – Tedy Bruschi, ESPN studio shows – Bruschi, who played in four Super Bowls and won three as a linebacker in New England over 13 years, is staying in the region by landing at ESPN as a studio analyst for its various midweek shows. Bruschi will bring a current knowledge of the league and an inside knowledge of its most inscrutable team, the Patriots, which are both assets. But for Bruschi to thrive, he’s going to have show the personality of recent ESPN hire Marcellus Wiley or the no-holds-barred criticism of ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Steve Young. If he’s just another talking head, he won’t stand out on a massive roster of analysts, and that’s a recipe for a short tenure.

3 (con’t) – Derrick Brooks, ESPN – Brooks still wants to play, but until he finds a fit on the field he’s landed at ESPN. Brooks will start out on ESPN2’s First Take, filling a role that Jamal Anderson, Kordell Stewart, Lomas Brown, and Ray Buchanan have had in the past. Brooks is smart, and his recent playing experience will lead to good insights and stories, but he’ll have to turn his likability into humor and chatter if he’s going to succeed in the morning-showish First Take model. Brooks probably will work better in the NFL Live/SportsCenter type of shows eventually, but you get the sense that ESPN wanted to add him where it could when he was available.

2 – John Lynch, Fox – This ranking isn’t really a slam against Lynch – it’s more of an indication of how strong the other new announcers are, as well as the prominent roles they have. Lynch will be on Fox’s No. 6 team, so he has a chance to do some games and make a name for himself. I didn’t hear Lynch in his cameos last year, so for now I can only hope that he has some upside.

2 (con’t) – Jason La Canfora, NFL Network studio shows – La Canfora, a former Washington Post reporter, takes Adam Schefter’s old spot as the NFL Network’s insider. He has big shoes to fill, because Schefter is aggressive and connected, and there’s no way that La Canfora can jump into the role immediately at the same level as Schefter.

2 (con’t) – Drew Bennett, ESPN studio shows – Bennett, who had success as a wideout in Tennessee before flaming out as a high-dollar free agent in St. Louis, retired after a one-day stop in Baltimore in training camp this year. He doesn’t have the star power or the Q rating that ESPN’s other studio additions, Tedy Bruschi and Derrick Brooks, have, and so Bennett will have to do more to make an impact on the airwaves. It’s possible – just ask Tim Hasselbeck – but it’s an uphill climb in the most crowded analyst environment in the media.

1 – Mike Martz, NFL Network’s Total Access – Martz established a reputation as an offensive guru from his time with the Rams before less successful tenures as a coordinator in Detroit and San Francisco. He now leaves the coaching ranks and joins NFL Network’s studio show on Thursday and Friday nights. Martz certainly knows his stuff, but I question two things about him as a broadcaster. First, can he present his knowledge in a palatable form? And second, will his prickly personality make him seem like a know-it-all? Maybe he’ll be a revelation, but I just can’t see him as an identifiable breakout broadcaster.

3 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL announcers