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Mark Sanchez may be fragile but his mental state isn’t the only one that matters

As you can see, took a modest approach to the Tebow-to-Jets story

A couple seasons ago we had a drinking game. If the Dolphins were playing (and you have the misfortunate of having to watch) take a drink every single time you hear the term “wildcat.” That season, if you played that game, you AND Ronnie Brown would be drunk by the end of the 2nd quarter. We tried to do it last season and were sober all game. The wildcat went the way of some other trends in the NFL. And I, for one, was glad to see it go.

Fast forward to this offseason (we need another word cause the NFL truly does not have one of those), the Jets have acquired former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano to run their offense and now Tim Tebow to…to…well, isn’t that the question? What exactly do the Jets want Tebow to do? Of course it’s possible that the Jets acquire Tebow as a true backup. A guy that only gets 2nd team reps and only plays if the starter cannot. But this smells like something more. Actually, it’s not a smell…it’s more like a stench.

Last year, to “motivate” Sanchez Rex Ryan started giving over-the-hill-no-chance-in-hell-he’d-ever-play-wasn’t-that-good-when-he-did-play back up QB Mark Brunell some of Sanchez’s reps. When the media and bloggers (including myself!) pointed out how effing ridiculous it is to try to motivate a starter by giving reps to someone who hasn’t a chance in hell of taking that person’s job the Jets pretended as though the change in reps was just par for the course and nothing to worry about.

Except people did worry. They worried that Sanchez wasn’t mentally tough enough to deal with all the pressure of being an NFL QB in a major media market. Fast forward to the end of the season and the Jets had a complete meltdown with the first of the strong rumblings coming after safety Eric Smith took a bad angle and couldn’t tackle Tebow costing the Jets an opportunity to win the game. When the season was officially over anonymous receivers named Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress couldn’t wait to criticize Sanchez. Next thing you know there were fingers being pointed everywhere and the Jets drama was dominating the news cycle with 8th string QBs giving us the 411.

You’d think a team that had gone through all of that would take the low key approach to fixing the mess in their franchise. But not the Jets. They first pursue Peyton Manning and after being brutally rebuffed make an odd gesture to Mark Sanchez by extending his contract unnecessarily — and without much extra money added to it. So basically they began yet another exercise in just plain being insulting. They barely waited a week before they jumped into the Tebow fray announcing the deal was done before reading Tebow’s contract and finding out they’d have to add another 5 million to the price. Yet another embarrassment. But not to be discouraged they ended up going through with the deal anyway.

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Will Peyton Manning Break An Old Man’s Heart This Week?

According to reports Peyton Manning will make a decision about what team he’s signing with Monday or Tuesday. The teams still in the running include the 49ers, the Broncos, and 89 year old Bud Adams’ oft-maligned Tennessee Titans.

Out of the teams left in the running, the first two make the strongest case for why Peyton should sign with them. The 49ers are a SuperBowl caliber team with a great QB at the helm. They also boast an awesome location and a passionate coach. The Broncos won quite a few games and went to the playoffs led by Tim Tebow-imagine what they could accomplish with Manning under center. Not only would Manning make their team stronger he would give them a way to get rid of Tebow without any blowback cause who can argue against getting the elusive elite QB who is virtually beloved by all. Even Tebow fanatics know he’s no PeyPey.

If Peyton cares about winning more than he cares about 5 years and 90 million dollars, he’ll choose the 49ers or Broncos and be done with it. But Adams is willing to give Peyton anything his heart desires including, as I’ve heard, a strong role in the organization after retirement. This is the part where most reporters and bloggers probably purport to know what Peyton cares most about. But knowing such a thing at this stage seems impossible.

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When nothing else seems that important (my thoughts on Trayvon Martin)

Last week I didn’t blog much. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I had plenty thoughts on why I think Dwight Howard’s a coward, and why I empathize with Bud Adams’ quest for Peyton Manning, and I can’t wait to get something up about how the Dolphins Matt Moore isn’t chopped liver!

But as much as I love sports, hearing about the cold blooded murder of Trayvon Martin made every single thing in the world seem less important to me. If you’re not up to date on the case, Trayvon was from Miami and had just turned 17. He traveled to Sanford, FL to stay with his dad and his dad’s fiancee. He went to the store to get some skittles and a can of tea. On his way back, he was stalked and murdered by George Zimmerman who claimed Trayvon looked suspicious,  followed him against the advisement of 911 operators, and subsequently shot him dead about 70 yards from the doorstep of the house at which he was staying.

The police did not detain Zimmerman preferring to believe his statement that he shot the child in self defense and to poo poo witness reports to the contrary. Now we wait for the State’s attorney’s office and the US attorney’s office to hopefully lend some justice to the death of a little boy who should still be alive and studying to be a pilot.

The mere thought that a person could be followed at night by a 200lb+ male with a gun and be murdered by that person and no one so much as collects the killer’s clothing or spends more than 10 minutes finding out the details has kept me up nights and made me cry more in the past couple weeks than I have in the past few years. It’s hard to write about anything, even to celebrate the new deals of guys who have worked their asses off to get them, when life feels so much less valuable than it did before I found out this child was killed on the street.

[Read: What everyone should know about the Trayvon Martin shooting]

[Read: The Trayvon Martin killing, explained]

Blogging on sports will resume tomorrow.



Why NO TEAM should commit to Peyton Manning until he completes a workout


Safety is important, but the real concern for Peyton Manning is how well he can do this.

From the Indy Star:

Fans hear the words “neck fusion” and wonder why Peyton Manning is even considering playing again, fearful he’ll risk a career-ending injury — or worse — the next time he takes a hit.

But safety isn’t Manning’s issue, several spine specialists said. Arm strength is.

Manning’s surgically repaired neck will be able to take a hit just fine once the fusion is healed, with the bone actually stronger than others in his neck. Nerves are delicate, however, and only time will tell if they’ll recover enough for the 35-year-old four-time NFL MVP to be the quarterback he once was.

“His risk really is very low,” said Dr. Robert S. Bray Jr., who has worked with NHL star Sidney Crosby and whose DISC Sports & Spine Center provides medical services for the U.S. Olympic team.

“If I was a team, I’d ask, ‘Did (the fusion) heal? Do you have a CAT scan that showed it healed? Is the rest of neck in pretty good shape?”‘ Bray asked. “If those two answers are yes, then it gets down to, ‘OK, get out on the field and show me you can perform,’ because it will only get better from here with time.”

I think this sums up the issue nicely and also reiterates the risk teams are taking when they pursue Manning. The fused bones are not the problem, it’s whether or not the nerves will heal enough for Manning’s strength to return (and in a timely manner). And that’s something that no can predict. The safety part of this is definitely important but now I’m thinking we spent so much time wondering if he’d be paralyzed on the field we forgot to wonder about pure ability.

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The NY Jets’ Expensive Apology to Sanchez and the mixed message it sends

When most of us heard about the NY Jets extending Sanchez's contract, this is the face we made.

As most of the football world was trying to decide if the Washington Redskins gave up too much to the St. Louis Rams to move up to the 2nd pick and grab Robert Griffin III, the Jets surprised everyone by extending their QB Mark Sanchez’s contract by 3 years and 40.5 million dollars. This came, of course, after the Jets expressed an interest in Peyton Manning who was officially released by the Colts last week. I think the general consensus is that this is a move to smooth things over with Sanchez so that he doesn’t feel so jilted knowing that the Jets have pursued a replacement.

I don’t understand this move. Yes, I understand the intention behind it. And I’d love it if someone would apologize to me with 20 million dollars in guaranteed money. But I think it’s one of a slew of mixed messages the NY Jets have ushered into the atmosphere. Last season, Mark Sanchez definitely wasn’t the only problem. As I’m typing this, the Jets are are shopping OL Wayne Hunter in hopes that someone, ANYONE, will take the backup-cum-whiffing-starter off their hands. And certainly Sanchez’s receivers deserved some blame as did a defense that was so scattered they were easily overcome by the Broncos late in the season.

But this extension is sort of like telling the whole team “it’s not Sanchez, it’s YOU” and that’s obviously not the case. Sanchez has shown he’s about as fragile as they come. Any lick of a pass rush seems to put his nerves on edge. The psychological moves the Jets keep trying in an effort to motivate Sanchez (like giving Mark Brunell extra reps)  are becoming the stuff of legend. At some point the game on the field has to take precedence over these mental ones. If Sanchez had one year left on his contract it might make sense to throw him a little more security. But he had two years left and I don’t think it would have been too much to ask to have him complete next season without an extension given how he’s played so far. If he couldn’t do that without crumbling into a pile then he’s probably not the guy you want anyway.

Now you have a situation where Sachez’s APY is right below Roethlisberger’s and slightly above Aaron Rodgers’. Regardless of whether there is an “out” (like when the Skins tried to fool the world with the McNabb extension),  if contracts are an indication of how a team feels about its QB the Jets just told the world he’s our guy and there’s no questions about it. Except, there are questions. Which makes this extension a puzzling move to everyone on the outside.


**Update: Andrew Brandt says the real increase of this contract is 2.5 million dollars. And that although 20.5 million is now guaranteed there’s a strong possibility that he would have gotten 17.75 million anyway. So…does this still work as an ego-smoothing gesture toward Sanchez???? Is there a point to this that I’m missing?


Report: Peyton Manning actually had 4 procedures on his neck not 3 as previously thought

aww suki suki now!!

Just saw this in Sports Illustrated:

While it cannot be determined exactly when the unreported procedure on Manning’s neck took place, it was at some point after his May 23 surgery in Chicago to correct a bulging disk, and before his Sept. 9 one-level cervical neck fusion surgery in Marina Del Rey, Calif. The same doctor who operated on Manning’s bulging disk in May did a follow-up procedure last summer in Chicago, as a result of the original surgery. Both of those operations came while the NFL and its players were still engaged in their protracted labor fight, with clubs having very limited medical contact with injured players. At the time of Manning’s September neck operation, that surgery was reported to be his third neck procedure in 19 months. In reality, it was his fourth.

*insert judgment here*

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The Super Bowl Where Jerry Reese Looked Like a Genius and Everyone Else Looked Like An Idiot

Hakeem Nicks, one of the Giants dynamic receivers.

When the season first began I was (and many other bloggers and members of the media)  put off by the Giants off season moves-if you can’t call them moves. I think Reese’s conservatism had everyone off kilter but as it happens sometimes his choices proved successful. Now neither he or Tom Coughlin  have to worry about being in the proverbial “hot seat” for at least the next few years.

Still, winning in the NFL always involves a bit of luck. Last night on twitter Mark Cuban said something to the effect of good teams get to the playoffs but the hot teams win. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. The Giants ended this season with a brutal schedule, but they got hot (and healthy) at the right time.

The Patriots, on the other hand, had a fairly light schedule all season and were never really exposed for their inability (refusal?) to run or cover the pass. Or, even, to rush the passer consistently. I definitely didn’t go into the Super Bowl (or leave it!)  thinking the best or most dynamic teams competed for the trophy. In fact, everything about the Super Bowl was a let down for me except the very brief and controversial (I guess?) appearance of M.I.A. during halftime and Belichick’s decision to let Ahmad Bradshaw score a TD to keep time on the clock.

But here’s the kicker: If the NFL comes down to what team is better on a particular day, you have to say the Giants met that mark time and time again this season. And that’s the kind of thing you have to reward. The cliches: rising to the challenge and capitalizing on mistakes.

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the debate about who’s the greatest team/QB/QB/coach and whatnot. I’ve complained over and over again about the lack of nuanced thinking in sports. I’m also perpetually annoyed by the rush to compare or assign labels. Before Super Bowl, people were talking about whether winning would mean that Brady and Belichick are the best QB/Coach combo ever. REALLY? Then, of course, we have to compare Eli and Peyton. Then, of course,  you have to compare Eli and Brady.

For those who really wanted to ratchet up the “stakes” they made this Super Bowl an arbitrary litmus test for Brady’s legacy as though he doesn’t already have 3. As though starting in 5 Super Bowls is something to scoff at win or lose. As though he’s retiring this year. And by the way, the same people who set that litmus test will next tell us that Super Bowls aren’t the only measure of a great player cause Dan Marino doesn’t have one.

Oh by the way…that “Patriots Dynasty” was over a long time ago. Talk about catching a late bus.

Anyway, I’ve written this before, but I’ll say it again: it doesn’t hurt to appreciate what different players are bringing to the table without seeking comparisons. I don’t know what it is about entertainment that causes people to immediately seek a frame of reference. I guess I understand the impulse but not when it interferes with judging people on their own merits.

Speaking of judging folks on their own merits, Manningham and  Nicks were very impressive last night. The web will be buzzing about Manningham’s sideline reception for a while. What’s funny is that early in the game Manningham’s tendency to fade out cost the Giants some yards, but on Manning’s backside throw to Manningham I think it paid off to know the man’s tendencies especially with Cruz and Nicks covered on corner routes.

Now for the stuff you must read:

Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated grades NBC’s Super Bowl telecast. Overall, he thought they did a good job. I didn’t see any of the pregame so I can’t comment on that. But I do think that the broadcast of the game itself was very well done. Some hiccups with Al Michaels but still Michaels and Collinsworth are one of my favorite duos. I know many people don’t agree. Before the game we chatted on twitter a little bit about whether there is a need for such a long pregame anyway. Well, I’m of two minds on this. No, there isn’t a need. However, had two teams I was interested in been playing I probably would have watched it for the video profiles. One thing is for sure: I’m over the two week build up to the game. But we ain’t talking about that right now. [Super Bowl Media Grades. Sports Illustrated.]

If you’re over the story lines you can get to the nitty gritty of the game by reading Chris Brown’s breakdown of the two biggest plays of the game. The first play was the Welker drop that still has everyone (including Brady’s wife and Welker himself) having fits. I’m still seeing lots of debate about whether or not the drop belonged to Brady or Welker, this post might help with that conversation.  [Draw it up: Super Bowl Edition. Grantland.]







Rodney Harrison makes emotional plea for Peyton Manning to put health first

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Yesterday Peyton Manning was cleared to return to football. I still don’t understand what, exactly, that means [Update: Jim Irsay has said that the team is releasing a statement today as Manning as NOT been cleared by the team to play]. I also don’t know why he’d even consider playing after three neck surgeries involving bones being fused and scary things of that nature. Apparently Rodney Harrison doesn’t either. Harrison, along with other NBCers were on a panel for the debut of Bob Costas’s new show “Costas Tonight” and Harrison took a moment to address player safety and injuries. Harrison was clearly emotional and having some trouble expressing his himself coherently-maybe he didn’t want to go too far in criticizing the sport. But he started a sentence by saying if he’d known NOW what he knew back then when he was trying to establish his reputation as a hitter he… but then he didn’t complete the thought.

During his speaking turn, Harrison also mentioned his own chronic discomfort, headaches, and short term memory loss saying that his wife is constantly checking on him. He finished by addressing Manning’s situation. He didn’t come right out and say that Manning shouldn’t return but he did say that Manning should walk away before he ends up in a wheel chair. It’s worth watching if only because you don’t see Harrison’s sensitive side very often. I’m sure many of us remember hating Harrison as a player and thinking of him as dirty years ago when he was knocking folks down for the Patriots.

Odd moment with Cris Collinsworth, though. I didn’t see the show live so I don’t know if this was the result of choppy editing or not. But after Harrison is done talking, Collinswoth goes on a somewhat defensive tangent about how his sons play football and how it turns boys into men. It seemed off color since Harrison just explained how football also turns boys into men with chronic pain. I also thought it was tone deaf for a former wide receiver to make that point given that it’s a “safer” position. This is not to say that WRs don’t banged up too…when Chris Henry died his autopsy showed early signs of serious brain damage. But I have to acknowledge that being a hard hitting safety is a little different from playing wide receiver. Again, it could have been the editing. If you saw it live, let me know.



On Jim Irsay On Peyton Manning On The Colts – Also Pagano Inspires My New Irrational Hatred of the Colts

I really thought that one day Chuck Pagano and Ed Reed's grey patch would be Eagles coaches. I hate the Colts now!

So I blogged earlier this week about Peyton Manning and his comments on the Colts. His comments were rather innocuous for someone who is contractually obligated to an organization that is firing folks left and right (and giving every signal that he’s next on the chopping block). Apparently Colts owner Jim Irsay didn’t like Manning’s comments and felt he should have kept any conversations about the team in-house. He also referred to Manning as a politician which, given the current political climate, is like accusing Manning of being a big old liar with no principles and no couth.

That’s beyond a low blow.

The first thing I thought when I heard Irsay’s comments was…I wonder if Jim Irsay thinks he can turn ANYONE ANYWHERE against Peyton Manning? If so…AHAHHAHAH HAHAHAHHA.

The second thing I thought is why would Irsay try to turn public opinion away from Manning when public opinion is already on the Colts’ side? People already understand that Manning got away with a a little bit of high way robbery being payed millions upon millions of dollars this year just to make Manningface on the sidelines. People also understand that though Manning is in a class of his own, he’s 36, has a wobbly neck and organizations have the right to move on. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re dealing with someone with the level of class and talent Manning has, but the public has been rational on this.

Further, a lot of athletes in Manning’s position would have been out there telling folks what the team needed to do during the season—especially someone who helped make the Colts as valuable as they are and especially in a time when the players played like crap. But Manning didn’t do that. In fact, not only did he not bash the Colts, he didn’t even seek the spotlight. Beyond an occasional interview on his medical progress, Manning has been largely silent and hasn’t drawn any unneeded attention to the Colts’ disastrous season.

I don’t know why Irsay was offended by Manning’s comments especially when he had a point of saying on twitter that he had no regrets about paying Manning to do nothing this year. If you’re over it, stay over it.

In an effort not to put together two fairly uninteresting posts on the Colts in a row, I’m combining this one with my thoughts on Pagano.

I’ve always wondered how people grow to irrationally hate a team, and now I know.



Peyton Manning On Colts: Everyone Is Being Evaluated And I’m No Different

Everyone, including me, is guessing about Manning's future and Colts owner Jim Irsay's intentions.

Monday night,  Peyton Manning sat down for a pretty candid interview with the Indy Star. In the interview he said quite a few things of note, including the fact that he doesn’t really have a relationship with the Colts new GM and that any decisions about his future and any communication with him about his future would come from owner Jim Irsay. But Irsay and Manning haven’t talked beyond Irsay offering to help Manning in his efforts to find rooms and other amenities for his family during Super Bowl.

Manning also discussed the different atmosphere in the Colts facilities. An atmosphere where folks are walking on “eggshells” and don’t know what will happen next. To catch up any who is late: The Colts are in the midst of cleaning house and starting over. And such is the atmosphere at places where lots of changes are being made and no one has real feel for the man in charge. The only thing that is clear at this point is that for all intents and purposes Manning is no different from any other player and he acknowledges this directly:


“I mean, it’s 20 degrees, it’s snowing, the building is absolutely empty except when you see coaches cleaning out their offices,” he said. “I guess it’s the reality of the football world, just not something I’ve had to deal with very often. But I’m in there every day, so I have to sit there and see it. Everybody’s being evaluated and I’m no different. It’s not the best environment.

“I just want to pay tribute to all those guys. It’s unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here, and this is so … sudden. Their keys didn’t work the next day. There’s no other way to do it? I don’t know. That’s hard to see, all these people leaving.

“And I may be behind them. Who knows?”

The question was posed: Given all the changes, the fact the Colts appear to be in a rebuilding mode, does Manning even want to come back to Indianapolis?

“I don’t want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it’s well documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career,” Manning said. “It’s been a privilege to play here. I love the fans, the city, the transformation of the fans, how our place has become the toughest stadium to play in, the fact our fans wear more jerseys to games than anybody else. It’s been fun to be a part of that.

It feels like saying Manning is done in Indy isn’t a bold prediction. Guessing where he ends up IS bold… unless you’re Rob Lowe or somebody. For Manning’s part he says he hasn’t decided to retire just yet. So get ready for at least another month and a half of writers writing ” should X team pursue Manning” or “X team IS interested in Manning.” By the time it’s said and done Manning’s Decision may be more painful for the public than Lebron’s.


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