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The Most Improbable Championship: the 2001 New England Patriots

Published: January 8, 2010

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This is part two of a decade retrospective. Part one is here.

Looking back, it’s hard to appreciate just how absurd the 2001 Super Bowl championship Patriots season was.

This was a team that had gone nowhere in 2000 and looked to be going nowhere once again. The Pats had made moves, to be sure, but they were all veterans on the downside of their careers (Bryan Cox, Otis Smith, Roman Phifer), players who hadn’t done anything yet (Mike Vrabel, David Patten), and castoffs (Antowain Smith, Jermaine Wiggins).

In fact, they opened the season by losing to the woeful (as in “just coming off a solid decade of losing seasons” woeful) Cincinnati Bengals. (Though the Bengals did go on to post an 8-8 record that year behind Jon Kitna. Go figure.)

Then came the events of Sept. 11, and everything was thrown into chaos. The nation, looking for something to distract itself from an ever-darkening world outlook, turned to sports.

The NFL cancelled its games that weekend, moving the Patriots’ contest with the (then 1-0, but eventually 1-15) Carolina Panthers to the end of the season. Instead, the Pats would face off against their hated rival, the New York Jets.

In that sloppy game, Bledsoe took a hard hit from linebacker Mo Lewis, and the franchise’s fortunes changed forever. In stepped a young, unknown sixth-rounder from Michigan: Tom Brady. The Pats, though, still lost the game.

(To continue my Bledsoe love from the last installment: Bledsoe was ridiculuously injuredhe had a sheared blood vessel and was bleeding internally. He came back in on the next series. He took an insane amount of punishment to give his team the best chance to win. Again, underrated.)

Brady was an odd choice to start the next game, against a ferocious Indianapolis team. After all, the Patriots had Damon Huard, a veteran who had backed up Dan Marino (and had filled in admirably during Marino’s occasional absences). Yet Belichick had confidence in the young player and had the chutzpah to bet his career on that feeling.

The Pats crushed the Colts, 44-13, in a day where the defense reigned supreme. Cox set the tone early, nailing Colts receiver Jerome Pathon over the middle. Otis Smith and Ty Law each got a pick-six, and the Pats had put up 20 points before the Colts even got on the board.

Someone once said (I think it was Charlie Weis) that the 2001 Patriots had suffered in the first few games because Bledsoe had become the franchise guythat is, when things got rough, everyone would stand around and wait for him to make a play.

Thing is, you can’t play football that way. Plays develop when everyone on the field is trying to make things happen. So Bledsoe wouldn’t be able to change things, and the team would lose.

That theory is true, and I think this game shows it. Brady actually did very little to win this gamehe was 13-of-23 for 168 yards and no TDsbut everyone else stepped up their game, and they crushed a superior team.)

The Pats also dropped their next game to the Dolphins, with Brady going a lackluster 12-of-24 for 86 yards (though opposing QB Jay Fiedler only threw for 87 yards in a game that set offensive football back 75 years).

The next game, though, is where the legend of Brady truly began. New England was facing off against a resurgent Chargers team (3-1 after a 1-15 season) and Doug Flutie. The Pats were down by 10 in the fourth, but Brady let the team on field-goal and touchdown drives (the latter coming with 36 seconds left in the game), tying the game up. In a recurring theme, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game winner in overtime.

(This game sent the Chargers into a tailspin. They finished 5-11 and dumped Flutie for then-rookie Drew Brees. Essentially, this game ended Flutie’s career. Sorry, Doug.)

(Also, this was the only game in which then-star-receiver Terry Glenn played, because he got into a tiff with Belichick. That’s rightwith Bledsoe injured and Glenn deactivated, the Pats played 13 of their 16 games without either of their offensive stars.)

The Pats were 5-4 heading into a game with the reigning Super Bowl-champion St. Louis Rams.

They made it a tight game, even leading at one point, but Smith fumbled on the goal line, and they ended up losing by seven. Still, the game showed that the Patriots could face off against the top teams in the league.

The Pats would not lose again that season.

Their first-round matchup was against the hated Raiders, and became one of the few games in NFL history to receive a nickname: The Tuck Rule game. It was played in a driving snowstorm, and much of the game was unremarkable.

The Pats were down by 10 when Brady dropped back, pumped his arm and was hit by corner Charles Woodson. The ball came loose, and it was ruled a fumble on the field, with the Raiders recovering.

Upon further review, referee Walt Coleman determined that Brady’s arm was still moving forward and, though he obviously had no intention of passing, the loose ball was still a forward pass.

The rest of the game seemed inevitable. The Patriots tied it up, and Vinatieri hit the hardest kick of all time to win the game in overtime.

Raiders fans, of course, claim the call was unfair. Even if this call was completely wrong (it wasn’t), you could claim it was karma from 1976, in which an infamous “phantom roughing the passer” call was made against the Patriots in a playoff game against these same Raiders. The call gave the Raiders the game, and they ended up as eventual Super Bowl champions.

It all balances out.

The AFC Championship game against the Steelers was when it became apparent that this team was living in some alternate-universe sports movie.

Brady was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, leaving – who else – Drew Bledsoe to lead this team to victory. Bledsoe completed his first pass in months, then took a hard hit as he was running out of bounds (in a play eerily similar to the one that ended his tenure as Patriots starting quarterback). He responded by nailing a pass to David Patten in the corner of the end zone.

(What few people remember, though, was that Bledsoe’s performance for the rest of the game was somewhat… lackluster. He went 10 for 21 and 102 yards, and the team’s only other offensive points that day came from a Vinatieri field goal in the fourth quarter.)

(By the way, check out Troy Brown’s punt return touchdowns that year. The dude would just run straight ahead, parting defenses like the Red Sea. I haven’t seen anyone do that since.)

The only team standing between the Pats and glory was the Rams.

This team looked laughably overmatched, like the team that lost to the Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Hell, the game was even being played in the same buildingthe Louisiana Superdome.

From the start, though, things seemed to break the Patriots’ way. Even the introductions seemed charmed, with the Pats choosing to be introduced as a team, instead of player-by-player.

Watching the team video from 2001, you can see Ricky Proehl, just before introductions, saying, “Tonight, the dynasty is born.” That must’ve really pissed the Pats off, because not only did they beat him in this Super Bowl, but they came back and defeated his Panthers team in 2003.

The lesson? Never say anything camera-worthy before a big game.)

The Patriots jumped to a 14-3 lead, behind an overpowering defense (which led to a 47-yard Law interception return for a TD).

The first game against the Rams had helped, after all. In David Halberstam’s book “The Education of a Coach,” he recounts how Belichick solved the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense.

According to Halberstam, Belichick realized the Rams attack was centered around running back Marshall Faulk. In the first game, Belchick had though Kurt Warner was the key figure, and attacked him without effect. Through film study, Belichick saw that Faulk set the team’s rhythm, and told his players to constantly hit Faulk, no matter where he was on the field.

Many said Rams coach Mike Martz was foolish for not using Faulk enough. Belichick’s defense, though, kept Martz from using Faulk in the way he wished to use the back. Martz was unwilling to change to a more successful, but less comfortable, way of doing things.

The Rams rallied quickly, scoring a quick 14 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

The Patriots got the ball with 1:21 left in the game. John Madden said Belichick should play for overtime. Belichick disagreed.

(Tom Brady said offensive coordinator Charlie Weis gave him the tactical plan for the drive – try a few safe throws, and see where things go. He then went to Bledsoe, who told him to “just sling it.” Who says that? If you needed further proof that this season was life imitating some insane sports movie, there it is.)

Brady threw a couple of passes to running back J.R. Redmond, then found Troy Brown with a 23-yard strike.

Spiked ball. Vinatieri kick. Patriots win, 20-17.

(Catch part three on Monday)

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NFL Playoff Preview: Rematches and The Significance They Bear

Published: January 8, 2010

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So this is how the NFL does a doubleheader.  

This weekend, three games will feature matchups between teams that played each other just a week before.

So it begs the question: Just how is the game planning affected?

A lot of times, it depends on the context and scenario’s from the previous week, the regular season finale.  

Each situation is different.  Some teams had everything locked up, some had everything to play for, and some had fates that fell somewhere in between.

That said, here’s a look at each game and the dynamics surrounding them.


Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets

Going into last week’s game, the Bengals essentially had everything wrapped up, postseason-wise.  

The Jets, on the other hand, were fighting for their playoff lives.

So, were the Bengals playing a vanilla scheme, as to not tip their hand for a future playoff meeting?  Or are they in trouble?  

Coach Marvin Lewis has been relatively coy this week, not divulging any information of note, as well he shouldn’t.  But chances are, a better Cincinnati team will take the field this Sunday.  Plus, they’ll now be in their own stadium.

Conventional wisdom says that it’s the Jets who have the most scheming to do, given that it was they, having everything to play for, who showed the Bengals everything they had.  

Granted, Chad Ochochinco and Co. stumbled a bit towards the end of the season.  But on the whole, Cincinnati remains fundamentally sound.  

Throw in the fact that they should be playing emotional, inspired football in the wake of Chris Henry’s death, and this team should be dangerous.   

Pick: Cincinnati


Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week, with the NFC East title on the line, the Eagles got shellacked by the hungry and resurgent Cowboys.  

While that might initially cue the red flags and warning signs in Philly, there’s actually no need to panic as much as some might think.  

See, the pressure’s on Dallas.  Having to beat a team twice in a year is hard; beating them three times is even more difficult.  Plus, it is they, not the Eagles, who have everything to lose.  

After years of December futility, the Cowboys finally put together a decent winning streak last month.  Can they keep it up?  

Also, their embattled coach, Wade Phillips, must win this game to keep his job, recent success be damned.  At least that’s what most are saying, anyway.  Who really knows what goes on in the mind of the mercurial Jerry Jones.  

So, all of that said, look for Philadelphia to be looser, more hungry and loaded with tricks up their sleeves.  Rest assured the players have been reading the press reports all week that have them getting blown out by the Cowboys.  

Pick: Philadelphia


Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers

Other than players’ personal statistics, the Cardinals really didn’t have too much to play for last week.  And it almost bit them in the butt, with Anquan Boldin getting injured.

The Packers, on the other hand, are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, peaking at just the right time.  

Then again, Arizona is sporting a better record and winning percentage in the final three games than they did last year, when they went to the Super Bowl.  

Look for the Cardinals to have a few more wrinkles in their scheme than the Packers. Green Bay defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, will no doubt be coming up with a plan to disrupt the timing-dependent Kurt Warner.  

And no doubt Arizona coach Ken Wishenhunt knows this.  With another chance given to them after a heart-breaking loss in the title game last year, they will be on a mission to better their playoff showing.  

This won’t be your same old, inconsistent Cardinals.  The question, however, is whether or not Green Bay can weather the storm.  

At any rate, this game promises to have an intriguing result no matter who wins.  

Why?  The winner will face the Vikings the next week in the divisional round.  Either way you slice it, there’re storylines aplenty; both squads have an interesting history this year with the Minnesota Brett Favres.   

Pick: Cardinals  


Perhaps the most interesting thing about this weekend is the fact that no matter their respective division, all teams have the proverbial “knowing each other well” factor going on.  

As we all know, that makes for much better football.  In fact, this could be one of the more interesting and noteworthy wild card weekends in recent memory.  

An honorable mention on this list is the New England vs. Baltimore game.  They, too played each other back in Week Four.  

So, sit back and savor the storylines.

Relish the higher level of intensity.  

Just don’t let anyone tell you this weekend is short on excitement.   

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What Pete Carroll to Seattle Could Mean For The Seahawks Draft

Published: January 8, 2010

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Rumors continue to swirl this evening about Pete Carroll being courted for the now vacant head coaching job in Seattle.  While nothing is definite (yet), let’s take a moment and speculate on just what that could mean for the Seahawks in the upcoming draft.

The Seahawks are coming off a forgettable 5-11 campaign, one that saw the eventual termination of Jim Mora Jr.  While the roster needs for the Seahawks may seem plenty, really filling the void at just a few spots would go a long way.

The most staggering stat that you see when running down the rankings of 2009 is that Seattle was 30th in pass defense, 22nd in interceptions.  If you ever wanted to hire a guy to help with that, Carroll’s your man.  He’s held defensive coordinator positions and defensive backs coaching gigs at various collegiate and NFL stops in his career.  He’s got an impressive pedigree of defensive players from USC in the NFL now (Troy Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, etc), so picking the right players to fit a team should be no problem.

Seattle has two first round selections in the 2010 draft, the sixth spot and 14th spot.  If Carroll is gunning for a defensive back with either spot, he can probably count out Tennessee’s Eric Berry, who is a virtual lock to be a top five pick. 

That leaves Carroll’s own All-American project, safety Taylor Mays.   Mays was built up to be the west coast Eric Berry, but his senior season was not overly impressive.  He ended with only one interception, and his size (6-3, 236) leaves many wondering if he may eventually project as a linebacker.  Though he does bring tremendous speed to the table.

So then what about Florida’s shut down CB Joe Haden?  He’s only  a junior, but has declared for the draft and is ranked by many to be the top corner in the draft. 

Carroll would have his choice between Mays and Haden, but Haden may be the safer pick for a true DB. 

The other need for Seattle is on offensive line, with a group that was in the bottom third of the league in sacks allowed.  Many think Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung will be a top 5 pick, just out of the Seahawks’ reach.  Should he fall to the sixth spot, there’s no reason Seattle shouldn’t snatch him up.  By far the best tackle in this year’s class.

Should Okung be gone, there are numerous other tackles to choose from.  The best though is Anthony Davis from Rutgers.  At 6-6 325 he’s a massive size perfect for run blocking in the NFL, something the Seahawks must improve upon (they finished 25th in run yards per game).  Other potential OL picks would be Bruce Campbell from Maryland, Bryan Bulaga from Iowa, or USC’s own Charles Brown.

Filling the defensive back and offensive line with first round talent would be a great start for Carroll.  But we know the Trojans are more than grinders and smash mouth defenders.  He’s got a vast array of offensive weapons, and perhaps he’d be looking for that in the first round.

Many have suggested the Seahawks should target a quarterback.  With a QB class that’s pretty deep, there’s no need to get on in the first round.  You’ll have Bradford and McCoy and Clausen go off in the first round likely, but there will be talent behind them with guys like Jevan Snead from Ole Miss and Dan LeFevour from Central Michigan.  Carroll can afford to be patient with a QB, since Hasselback still has some good years left.

But perhaps a speedy tailback that’s versatile in the passing game would help?  Look no further than Clemson’s CJ Spiller, a dynamic playmaker from the running back position and as a wideout.  Spiller excels best, however, in the return game.  Seattle had 109 receptions from the running back position in 2009, proving the guys in the backfield do more than just run with the ball. 

Seattle does have a decent pair of backs in Julius Jones and Justin Forsett, so it would be hard to see exactly where Spiller would fit in right away beyond special teams.  Do you use a first round pick on a special teams guy?  It may not hurt to help Seattle’s aging receiving corps and get a wideout.  There’s plenty in this draft, and either Illinois’ Arrelious Benn or Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard should be lingering in the second round for Carroll to pounce on.

Look for an interesting draft from Seattle regardless of who their coach is.  With so many potential roster spots to fill and two first-round picks, big decisions await the new head man at Qwest Field.

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The Philadelphia Eagles Look To Keep A Promise Alive On Wild-Card Weekend

Published: January 8, 2010

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Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys stomped the Eagles just seven days ago to capture the NFC East crown. They not only beat the Eagles down for this accolade, they shut down Philadelphia’s high powered offense completely with a 24-0 shutout victory. They are extremely confident they can repeat the feat in the first playoff game ever in their new stadium.

Game Of The Week

What To Watch From The Eagles

The Eagles have had a hard time running the ball consistently all year, especially between the tackles. Fullback Leonard Weaver has been a pleasant surprise, and is headed to the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia is hoping aging and oft-injured running back Brian Westbrook will provide a much needed spark on the ground. All of the Eagle backs catch the ball well.

Donovan McNabb long ago cemented himself as one of the great quarterbacks in Eagles history, yet he still is lacking a championship that will make his career legendary. He has been his usual efficient self this season, and came out recently with a rare quote saying the Eagles would win Saturday. Not known as a brash talker, Eagles fans had to be both surprised and pumped up to hear their team’s leader make such a proclamation.

DeSean Jackson is the team’s Pro Bowl wide receiver and most electric player. He leads the team with 12 touchdowns, nine came off receptions. Eight of those touchdowns came off plays of 50 yards or longer, tying an NFL record with Devin Hester and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. He is bookmarked by exciting rookie Jeremy Maclin.

Pro Bowl tight end Brent Celek could be a big part of the final tally. He led the team with 76 catches this year, and scored eight times. He poses a serious problem for the Cowboys average strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and Dallas might have to ask free safety Ken Hamlin to take that assignment instead.

Trent Cole is the Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive end, and probably their best player. He leads the team with 12.5 quarterback sacks, and is third on the team in tackles. He needs to play big, because Philadelphia has an assortment of mediocre linebackers playing behind him.

Asante Samuel may be the team’s Pro Bowl cornerback, but Sheldon Brown helps make the duo one of the best tandems in the league. Samuel has a league leading nine interceptions, while Brown has six. Veteran safeties Quintin Mikell and Sean Jones have provided steady play at safety all season.


What To Watch From The Cowboys

The Cowboys can run the ball down opposing teams’ throats all day. Running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice both average well over five yards per carry, and starter Marion Barber piled up 932 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. With over 2,100 yards and 14 scores on the ground as a team, they present big problems to the Eagles’ front seven.

Quarterback Tony Romo had one of the best seasons in his young career this year. He tossed just nine interceptions versus 26 touchdowns, and gained 4,483 yards in the air to a receiving corp not many thought much of heading into the 2009 season. His critics point to his not yet winning in the playoffs, so this game is a big moment for him. Another loss could have fans almost forgetting all he has done so far.

The Cowboys defense has come together at the most critical time, and has played excellent football lately. They are looking to carry this momentum into the playoffs, and perhaps lead the team to a title. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is their star and perennial Pro Bowler. He has 11 sacks and forced five fumbles. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is also headed to the Pro Bowl, and he tallied an impressive six sacks from his position. He will pose an immense problem for backup center Nick Cole, who is starting for the injured Jamaal Jackson.

Dallas has been a mess in their kicking game this year. Nick Folk had a meltdown, and was replaced by Shaun Suisham. Suisham was cut by the lowly Washington Redskins himself this year because of poor performance. The Eagles have Pro Bowl kicker David Akers, and that could be the difference the Eagles need to pull out a win.

Head coach Wade Phillips was purportedly on the edge of job security this season. Even with a division title in hand, he might not be out of the woods yet. Owner Jerry Jones expects titles, and Phillips may still need a deep run in the playoffs to ensure his return next year.


Quarterback : Slight Edge Eagles

Running Back : Definite Edge Cowboys

: Slight Edge Eagles

Offensive Line : Slight Edge Cowboys

Defensive Line
: Slight Edge Cowboys

: Definite Edge Cowboys

Secondary : Slight Edge Eagles

Special Teams : Definite Edge Eagles

Coaching : Edge Eagles

I picked the Eagles as my NFC Super Bowl team before the season, so no reason to back out now. The memory of late Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will loom large, and it will be evident the team misses him. I expect McNabb to pull the team through in the end to honor him, much like the team has done most of the season.

Eagles 34    Cowboys 31

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Pete Carroll Is Seattle’s Jack Parkman

Published: January 8, 2010

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You know I used to hate Parkman when he was with the A’s. It’s amazing how a new uniform can change your attitude about a guy….He’s still a dick.”Harry Doyle, Major League II

Upon hearing the news that the Seahawks have selected USC’s Pete Carroll to be their next head coach, I couldn’t help but reminisce about a particular scene from the movie Major League II .

In the first few minutes of the film, a couple of hardcore Cleveland Indians fans are hanging out when a buddy of theirs comes running on screen and delivers a dose of good news:

Fan #1: Guys! Guys! We signed Jack Parkman!

Fan #2: Parkman? We signed Parkman! Alright!

Fan #3: Hey, you can add 42 homers to our lineup! At least!

Fan #2: Guys, this is the year we go all the way!

(Chanting in unison): All the way! All the way!

For those who haven’t seen the movie, the euphoria surrounding Parkman’s arrival is short-lived.

Though he’s a superstar player who has had success in his previous stops, Parkman never quite pans out with the hometown Indians, and the team cuts bait with their high-priced investment a short time later.

Interestingly enough, Parkman is painted as a villain prior to his arrival, a hero upon arriving, and a villain once again after departing.

The reason I bring this comparison up has everything to do with the circumstances surrounding Carroll’s hiring, which happens to mirror the Indians’ signing of the fictional Parkman to an absolute tee.

Carroll, like Parkman, is seen as a villain. People hate him because he’s been ridiculously successful at USC, while enduring the constant nature of scandal throughout his tenure. There’s no denying his pedigree, but the controversy surrounding his methods have often been viewed as a blemish on his record (see Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight for examples).

At USC, Carroll has been the enemy of Seattle sports fans for nearly a decade. Whether you support the University of Washington, Washington State University, or another Northwest institution, chances are you haven’t thought much of the Trojans’ figurehead in recent years.

In one day, however, Carroll goes from being the bad guy to the hero.

The answer to all the Seahawks’ problems (or so we’re led to believe), Carroll is set to receive a five-year contract worth somewhere around $35 million. He will become the team’s head coach, as well as the president, wielding a great deal of power within the organization.

How are we really supposed to feel about all this?

Undoubtedly, some of us will react the way the fans in the movie do.

So what if the guy was the enemy a day ago? He has a track record, and he’s one of us now. Nothing else matters. We should embrace that. But for certain there will be those of us who can’t quite stomach this hiring, for any number of reasons.

Carroll hasn’t coached in the NFL for 11 years, we’re paying him too much ($7 million a year is too much, let’s face it), and there are more proven coaches (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden) still without jobs.

On top of that, the velocity of the transition from Jim Mora to Carroll can not go unnoticed. In a matter of minutes, the team went from having a head coach (Mora), to firing their head coach, to having a new coach already in their sights (Carroll). All of which leads us to believe that the team had Carroll pegged as the successor from the moment the season ended, knowing all the while that Mora would be out.

The whole thing screams “publicity stunt,” and one can only wonder whether this is the right move for this franchise at this moment.

In reality, we’ll have to wait and see what direction the organization goes in now. Will they flounder or flourish? Will Carroll ultimately become a hero or villain?

The answers to these questions and more will play out in the coming weeks, months, and years. For now, we’ll just have to embrace Pete Carroll for what he is: the newest head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

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Pete Carroll Should Go To Seattle: 10 Reasons Why

Published: January 8, 2010

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No NFL opportunity could be a more perfect match for Pete Carroll than the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll has always maintained that he would never leave USC unless a premium opportunity arose in the NFL. Few thought that opportunity would come with the Seattle Seahawks, but c’est la vie.

The following is a list of 10 reasons why Carroll is making a smart move

1.     The Seahawks have a billionaire owner named Paul Allen who not only is willing to spend his money but also will not interfere.

2.     The Seahawks are willing to give Carroll complete authority and autonomy. Not only will Carroll be head coach, but also he will be the Bill Parcells/Mike Holmgren type leader of the front office.

3.     The Seahawks roster is blatantly in major need of an overhaul, especially on offense. This would allow Carroll to heartlessly remake the roster from the ground up without public or internal opposition.

4.     The Seahawks have two relatively high first round picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Invaluable for a rebuilding team with no young franchise quarterback.

5.     USC is under serious NCAA investigation for issues regarding running backs Joe McKnight and Reggie Bush, which may result in USC surrendering BCS money, Bowl wins and or future scholarships. Who wants to stick around for that nightmare?

6.     If Carroll never left USC, he would forever be known as an NFL coach who couldn’t hack it in the pros and fled to the NCAA.

7.     The Seahawks play in one of if not the weakest division in the NFL, making it easier to rebuild the team into an instant winner. 

8.     The money, the dollar amount of Carroll’s new contract with the Seahawks ought to be so mind blowing the numbers will appear in 3-D.

9.     Carroll has said repeatedly that he prefers the west coast and living on the water. Seattle is exactly that.

10. If Carroll wins a Super Bowl, he will become only the third coach in history and the first since Barry Switzer to have won both a National Championship and Super Bowl. If you thought he was a legend at USC before his legendary status would jump ten fold.  

Of course, none of this will matter if he goes to the Seahawks and lays a gigantic egg. If Carrol bombs in Seattle his reputation and ability to go back to the NCAA and recruit will be seriously damaged. No one said a move of this magnitude would come without risks. Given Carroll’s energetic and infectiously positive nature I wouldn’t bet against him. 







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Oakland Raiders, Fix Your Run Defense!

Published: January 8, 2010

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I’m going to give you a solution to a problem that has been agonizing to fans for the past several seasons. Follow my steps and you’ll be on the quick road to a successful run defense in 2010 Oakland Raiders.

The first thing that you need to do is get Richard Seymour back. Not hard. I think he wants a nice fat chunk of change, so give it to him. He is your best defensive lineman at this point and has said he wants to help turn it around. If he doesn’t like your offer, then franchise him.

The next move should be to re-sign Kirk Morrison. He will eventually be our new strong side linebacker.

That leads me to item number three. Sign the free agent defensive tackle Vince Wilfork from the New England Patriots. I have a few things few things to add to this suggestion.

First of all, Bill Bellacheat thinks that he creates players in his system, and therefore finds it hard to make the owner pay them when there time comes to be paid, because he can just make a new one in their absence. Unless, of course, you are Tom “The Golden Boy” Brady, then your poop is golden.

Odds are, Vince will want a big contract similar to the one received by Albert Haynesworth, courtesy of the Washington Redskins last year. History with free agents and the Patriots suggest they will not accommodate his desires.

Al Davis should give it to him. I’m not saying it has to be as big as Haynesworth’s, you could cut some years off the deal, but it should be lucrative enough to garner his interest over other teams. Reuniting him with Richard Seymour could be a great motivational factor for Wilfork.

He is a young guy who has been a force in the 3-4 alongside former teammate Richard Seymour. I would just love to see what the two players can do in the 4-3 when they have less people to block them and will force opponents to keep additional blockers in to help the offensive line.

Another good reason is because I’m sick of the Patriots, all Raiders’ fans should be. What better way to get back at them for Randy Moss and the “Tuck Rule” then to take their two best defensive linemen over the past 20 years and plug them into our system. We have part one, now it is time for part two.

The last step to turning this from a potentially good defensive unit, to a potentially great, and good on a bad day unit, is to draft Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain.

McClain is a smart player who is already into film study. He has a great work ethic and is very instinctive on the football field. He is the leader of a Crimson Tide defense that shut down the high powered Florida offense in the SEC Championship game.

McClain is 6’4″ and weighs 258 pounds. He is a really big linebacker, which you would tend to think would make him very durable. His speed is rumored to be in the high 4.4 range to the mid 4.6 forty yard dash range. That gives him the triple threat; height, weight, speed combination that Al Davis desires.

Crimson Tide head coach, Nick Saban, said having McClain on the field is like having a defensive coordinator as a player. Kirk Herbstreit said that he plays as fast as somebody who is 220 pounds, and said that McClain can take a call from the sidelines and adjust his defensive comrades to a different role on a play within seconds.

Now, there are a couple problems with this scenario. For one, McClain has not yet declared himself for the NFL Draft. Problem No. 2 is that when, and if he does, he might be one of those players who flies up the draft board. Right now he is ranked seventh on the Scout’s Inc.’s “Top 32” list. The Raiders draft pick is No. 8.

These few moves would complete the defense. Add a nickel corner in free agency or the draft, and the rest of your offseason signings can be devoted to offensive linemen if you’d like. But we need to fix the run defense, for one, the passing defense finished seventh in the league, and for two, defense wins championships.

There you go Raider Nation. Now all we have to do is convince Al Davis! 



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Oakland Raiders: Was Rich Gannon’s Offer To Help Sincere?

Published: January 8, 2010

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There is no sugar-coating it. Ever since Rich Gannon retired the Raiders have been bad.

And since then Gannon has been a harsh critic. Publicly stating his displeasure for the way the Raiders organization is being run and for how the team is being coached.

Lately Gannon has been making a lot of noise regarding the Raiders on his sports talk show on Sirius Radio or as a CBS sports analyst.

First Gannon allegedly went back and broke down every one of JaMarcus Russells’ pass attempts. He wrote a detailed report concluding and suggesting that Russell could be great with his help.

Then on Sirius Radio Gannon told us that he has been reaching out to Russell offering to tutor the young QB.

But the young QB didn’t even bother to respond or awknowledge the former MVP’s offer (how rude).

But the Raiders already have a great QB coach in Paul Hacket, the same coach who Gannon praised so highly for being a master of fundamentals, and credited for his own development.

So to quote John Herrara:

“What does Rich Gannon think he has to offer that Paul Hackett can’t contribute, when he himself said Paul Hackett is the best quarterbacks coach that he ever had?”

And then most recently on Sirius Radio Gannon said this:

“I did something yesterday that I can’t believe even I did. I picked up the phone and I reached out to Al Davis.”

“So I called Mr. Davis, I have not spoken with him yet, but I’m happy to help out in any way I can. I’d love to help JaMarcus Russell if he wants help. I’d love to help Tom Cable and that organization. It’s important. Listen, seven straight seasons where they’ve lost 11 or more games? Something’s not right.”

Then Gannon went on to play the victum and act as if he was baffled and shocked when the Raiders denied him.

Really Rich? After years of playing for the Raiders and working with and covering the franchise and all your insider information, you should know better.

Gannon went on to say he isn’t interested in coaching but has helped Aaron Rodgers as well as QBs in Minnesota and Tampa Bay by request.

So is Gannon sincere in his offers to help the Raiders, JaMarcus Russell and Davis, or does he have an ulterior motive?

With Gannons’ shaky history with the Raiders, there is a lot to suggest he isn’t so sincere.

Sure Gannon was a great QB with the Raiders, but to be blunt, no one liked him. He never saw eye to eye with Gruden or Davis, his teammates despised him and the local media hated him.

Tim Brown had this to say about Gannon:

“Even hearing a guy like Gannon say something negative about the organization is really wrong. Gannon knows that he came there with that `I hate the Raiders’ type mentality. He came in there with that, and showed that to all the players. Gannon wasn’t a very well-like player his whole time with the Raiders. In fact he was downright hated, and if not for my intervention, a lot of times, there would have been times he would have been sure-enough jumped on, almost. So for a guy like Rich to say something just isn’t fair to the organization, I don’t believe.”

Then there’s the fact that the Raiders have tried to ban Gannon from the Raiders facility the last two years. Clearly they just don’t want him around.

Regarding some of Gannons’ comments earlier this year Herrara had this to say:

“He seems to be a guy who can’t get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself,” Herrera said on Sept. 26. “I guess it’s our fault he threw five interceptions.”

That one had to burn Gannon a little. But I can’t say he didn’t have that coming. While in Oakland Gannon was always quick to throw his teammates and coaches under the bus after every loss.

After all of that why would Gannon even think that Davis wants his help? Why would the Raiders even let Gannon touch their $61 million QB. Tom Cable thinks he’s done a good job, so why would he want any help?

And if Gannon really reached out to Russell and received no response, why make it public? Same goes for his call to Davis.

Is it possible Gannon is doing all of this to boost the ratings of his show on Sirious radio, or to increase his exposure as a CBS analyst, and that he never had any real interest in helping the Raiders.

Or could the unthinkable have happened? Is it possible that Gannon has forgiven the Raiders, put aside his feud with Davis, and is sincere in his offers to help the Silver and Black?

If Gannon is sincere then he is also very hard headed. If not he is just trying to stir the bees’ nest that is the Oakland Raiders.

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Tom Heckert Likely to Be Named Cleveland Brown’s GM

Published: January 8, 2010

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Mike Holmgren is expected to announce current Eagles GM Tom Heckert as the Cleveland Browns’ new GM.

According to multiple sources, Heckert interviewed for the job earlier this week.

Holmgren is, yet again, moving pieces of the personnel puzzle around the board. After announcing his decision to retain Mangini as head coach, Holmgren has now turned his sights to locating a No. 2 for himself.

Heckert has done well in Philadelphia, but, recent additions to the Eagle’s already high number of executives has encouraged the team to cut a few front office folks.

Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, made an offer to the Atlanta Falcons back in 2008 for Heckert, and there was even talk of a similar trade to Cleveland at the beginning of the ’09 season, but the deal never gelled.

If Heckert is named to the Brown’s staff, an announcement that is expected on Monday, then expect Holmgren to turn his attention to Will Lewis, Seattle’s director of pro personnel.

Lewis joined the Seahawks in 1999 after serving three years in the Green Bay Packer’s scouting department, a position that brought Holmgren and Lewis together. 


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Boltbits: Why the San Diego Chargers Can Win the Super Bowl

Published: January 8, 2010

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With San Diego’s newfound success, many people are polarizing in their opinions of the Chargers.

The first wave of new support is giving way to those looking to rebut the team’s chances.  How one feels will not ultimately decide the team’s fate—the team will take care of that all by themselves.

Yet looking through articles/reports that begin to try to attack the Chargers’ potential for success, a notion strikes through them all—the team’s chances are being criticized for the simple reason that those chances are so very prevalent. 

The team right now appears poised for a solid playoff run, not only because of the Chargers’ own merit, but also because of some declining merit around them.

San Diego is facing a playoff picture where no team is truly frightening. 

Last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are not even in the playoffs.  Perennial threat New England has seen a decline in its defensive prowess to go along with the loss of leading wideout Wes Welker.  Early monster Cincinnati looks far more human now.

In past years, San Diego had gone in with similarly high expectations.  Before, however, they were one among three or four of the better teams just in the AFC.  They continually played well but were felled by teams that would eventually represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

The separation between top and bottom is much closer than before. 

That advantage means there will not be a downright frightening team to face in the postseason.  The difference in opposition is one great swing in San Diego’s favor.

Another unheralded advantage would be momentum. 

San Diego’s history of solid Decembers has laid the foundation for criticism over the Chargers’ advantage as “the hot team” going into the playoffs.  What is not mentioned within that debate is the matter of scale.

Last year, San Diego was a 4-8 team that scrapped its way through four wins to squeak out a playoff berth thanks largely to the Denver Broncos’ first of two collapses.  They had to fight because they had no other choice; it was win or go home each week.

This year, the team spent most of December with a comfortable edge in its division. 

A brief flurry by Denver (with back-to-back wins against the Chiefs and Giants) quickly slipped back into the Broncos second-half skid.  San Diego was no longer winning by way of pressure; they were winning simply by outplaying opponents despite the opposing team often having more to play for.

That scale is also magnified by one number—11. That is the number of consecutive wins this team is taking into the playoffs. 

A four-game winning streak is a solid call for momentum (just look at the laudations given Dallas with its three wins to close the year), but it is something that happens fairly often in football.

Eleven consecutive games means much more. 

Instead of a cause for optimism, it makes a statement.  Added to that would be wins against a Dallas team fighting for its division, a Cincinnati team that still had hope for a second seed, a resurgent Titans team looking to claw into the playoffs, and an always dangerous Philadelphia Eagles team.

The Chargers have already proven the capacity to overcome injury, as witnessed by just about every member of the defensive front seven missing time to injury (starters and key backups) as well as playing hurt. 

They have fielded a round-robin along the offensive line because of injury, but they will field the healthiest group they have had all year with center Nick Hardwick returning and veteran John Runyan now up to speed. 

In the backfield, they may be a better team with starting fullback Jacob Hester listed as doubtful (though with the extra week, that could easily change) and Mike Tolbert starting in his place.

The Chargers’ running game has been a weak point; however, that has yet to effectively stall the team’s progress. 

Arizona proved in last year’s playoff run that a team with a last-place running game can lean on a great passing game to drive through its entire conference.  The Chargers’ running attack is no longer a major threat, but it is much more respected than the 2008 Cardinals’ rushing game.

Behind San Diego as the 32nd-ranked running team sits Indianapolis, considered the Chargers’ primary threat in the AFC.  Also in the bottom 10 are the Eagles and Cardinals, two highly respected offensive teams.

The team has also faced unfounded criticism over Norv Turner.  He is not a fiery leader, and he likely never will be.  He is a generally calm, measured man who approaches the game more intellectually than passionately.

Yet Turner has turned in significant wins in the playoffs for the Chargers already. 

In 2007, the Chargers defeated the Titans in the Wild Card round, only to stun Indianapolis by taking the divisional round game despite injuries to Ladainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates. 

In 2008, those same Chargers once again faced a favored Colts team in the playoffs and came away with the win.

With a host of weapons on offense that is at its most dangerous with the improvement along the offensive line, and a defense that looks to be its healthiest since week one, San Diego is in a great position.

It would be foolhardy to outright call the team for the Super Bowl. 

The playoffs are long, and anything can happen. 

Yet all the reasons detractors give for San Diego’s negligent chances are not going to arouse concern.  This is a team not only peaking at the proper time, but it is also doing so in a year where several others are suffering late setbacks.

This year, San Diego looks forward to a great position to make a run at the Super Bowl. 

They have internal and external advantages and will be a dangerous team to face.


To take a look at how San Diego’s first step toward the Super Bowl could play out :

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