What a terrible time to start writing a sports blog, right? The NFL season just ended and we won't be getting any meaningful basketball for another month (sorry hockey fans I haven't jumped on that train yet). Well I do think this will be a great opportunity to reflect on the past season that was. Here are 10 points that I learned from this past season. (get used to this numbering format by the way)
- My beloved New York Giants will continue to be inconsistent and will over achieve on week and under achieve in the next. I'll admit I am a young sports fan so my reach doesn't go far past the late 90s but if there is one thing I've gathered from the Giants in my 10 years of being an obsessed follower is that whenever they aren't expected to do anything of significance they almost always prove everyone wrong (i.e. Super Bowl XLII, also known as 'THE GREATEST DAY OF MY FREAKING LIFE') yet, somehow when everyone sings there praises and they finally get some respect from the national media they seem to crumble to the ground and do nothing (i.e. the 2008-2009 season when it actually felt like Plaxico Burress shot me in the leg that terrible night). This season was a clear example of this when after they were pretty much dead after a terrible 1-2 start after week 3 they rebounded with extremely impressive wins against Bears, Texan, Lions, Cowboys, and Seahawks (2 playoff teams, 2 underachieving teams but with talen to match up against anyone, and 1 up in coming team in the Lions). After a 6-2 start I was riding high feeling like the Giants were clearly the best team in the NFC until dropping back to back games against the division rival Cowboys and Eagles. Luckily they rebounded, winning three straight, and looked like they were poised for a playoff run when the Philadelphia Eagles cam to town on December 19th (for reasons of personal health I will not be discussing the events of this game seeing as it is too difficult to relive..) Well after that they had a no show against the Super Bowl bound Green Bay Packers and were finally out of the playoffs, putting me into an postseason of misery and 'what if?'. What a year.
- The New York Jets, as annoying and loud a team they are, are a legittimate contender in the AFC and have a very exciting and talented young QB in Mark Sanchez. As much as Rex Ryan can tick me off in his press conferences prematurely anointing his players and team as the best at what they do, he seems to have a real hold on this team and the players seem to play for him. They really seem to be putting there best foot forward heading into the future (<-----get what I did there, huh? huh? huh? I know it's getting old but as Wes Welker proved, it's just too funny). But seriously, with the core of the Sanchez, David Harris, Nick Mangold, and Reevis Island the Jets are heading in the right direction.
- No matter where he goes Donavan McNabb will be the least respected player at his position in the league. This is a guy with a career passer rating of 85.7 who took and the Eagles to multiple NFC championship games, and even a super bowl and who has over 100 more touchdowns than interceptions in his career and he cannot get any love! Now I'll be the first to admit that at this point in his career McNabb is not a franchise quarterback, but when I saw that the Redskins brought him in last offseason I thought it was brilliant. Have a veteran QB like McNabb come in and give the franchise a face for the season or two in which they will probably not have that much on the field success. Then you draft or acquire a young QB (think Cam Newton) and let him sit and watch McNabb for maybe a season or so. You get probably around two productive seasons out of the veteran and have him mentor your future franchise QB and then have him stick around as that sort of player/coach type player. But for some reason the Redskins completely disrespected McNabb and put him through probably the most embarrassing season of his already pretty rough career. Hopefully this McNabb situation resolves itself before the border line hall of famer's career is put in even more turmoil.
- Carson Palmer is just simply put not good anymore.
- The greatest coach/quarterback combo in the league is still and will continue to be Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. I must admit after getting rid of Randy Moss midseason I was concerned at how they would be able to completely transform their offense on a week to week basis but my concerns were proven fruitless. The evil genius himself, Belichick, and his all timer Tom Brady combined for one of the most impressive offensive seasons of both of their careers using short white receivers and rookie tight ends as their weapons. Tip of the cap to you Bill and better luck next year.
- The NFL simply was not ready for the evil genius part 2. After a very disappointing 3-9 start to the season the Denver Broncos fired Josh McDaniels. Now I'll admit that an 11-17 start in your first two seasons as a head coach is not the best way to go about keeping your job, and it doesn't sound as if he is the most personable of people but in terms of just pure personel and game planning skills you need to give this guy his props. At first glance getting rid of you teams two best players in Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall seems like the work of a crazy man but after they left the Broncos passing attack didn't miss a beat. But look at the stats of those players and the ones who replaced them, first take Jay Cutler who was replaced with the fairly ordinary Kyle Orton. In the two years after Orton replaced Cuter, Orton had more than 7,500 yards 41 TDs and 21 Ints. Compare that to Cutler's less than 7,00 yards 50 TDs and 42 Ints. Orton, who never gets any love, had 600 more yards and half the interceptions! The Broncos quarterback didn't miss a beat. Now let's compare the receivers, in the year after Marshall left Denver, the "star" Brandon Marshall had admittedly an impressive year with 86 receptions 1,014 yards and 3 TDs but compare that to relative no name Brandon Lloyd's (who until now was only known for making one jaw dropping catch a year for the 49ers back in the day) year of 77 receptions 1,448 yards and a whopping 11 TDs. So you can be the judge and pick which QB, WR combo you would rather. I'm not saying McDaniels was doing a great job in Denver but he clearly was talented and should have been given time. Luckily McDaniels landed a job as offensive coordinator with the Rams and talented young QB Sam Bradford.
- The league has more parody than ever. Never was this more obvious than when the 7-9 Seahawks knocked the defending Super Bowl champion Saints out of the playoffs in the first round of the playoffs. Teams like the Lions, Raiders, Rams, and Jaguars came out of practically nowhere to give supposedly 'elite' teams. Can you honestly remember a more topsy turby season than the one we just had? I cannot. From one week to the next we had a new 'best team' because the previous one had been knocked off in an upset nobody saw coming. It is a great time to be a football fan.
- The Steelers will be good, no matter what Big Ben does in the offseason.
- I know I'm a young fan but I cannot imagine their being a period where the league was much stronger at QB than it is right now. With young talents like Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco the league should be set for the next 10 years. Sitting back and evaluating that guys like Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and Tony Romo at the back end of the top 10 QBs in the sport you know the league is in good shape. Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are continuing to put up great years and don't appear to be slowing down. Then you've got Big Ben who came extremely close to joining the likes of Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and the afore mentioned Tom Brady as the only QBs in NFL history with 3 super bowl rings. That leads us to the the quarterback who won this year's Super Bowl Aaron Rodgers. Has there ever been a more impressive start to the career of a passer? Now I'll be the first to admit it gets a little annoying to hear every ESPN 'expert' jump on the bandwagon of the league's new hot thing but let me tell you, Aaron Rodgers is the real deal. I've heard him compared to a more accurate John Elway and a mobile Dan Morino all in the same week! Admittedly that might be jumping the gun a bit but in terms of the skill set this guy clearly has it all. And the poise he showed not only in dealing with the Brett Favre situation but leading his 6th seeded team to a Super Bowl title. So in this one case I give all those ESPN 'experts' out there full permission to be all over Rodgers like he's the new girl in town, because clearly this chick is here for the long haul.
- The Packers are for real. I'm sure I've already made it painfully obvious how good I think Aaron Rodgers is (and part of that is because he has guided my fantasy football team for the past 2 seasons) but it's safe to say that as long as Green Bay has him throwing to stud wide out Greg Jennings their offense is in good hands. Add to that young studs like Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and the very underrated Tramon Williams on defense and you've got a solid nucleus for years to come. Not to mention chiseled veterans Donald 'best-smile-in-sports' Driver (I mean seriously I wouldn't be surprised if ever time he flashed those pearly whites a baby was born) and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. Possible the most impressive part of this team is the fact that they just proved that they can win a Super Bowl without anything resembling a running game. Now people can talk all they want about the emergence of James Starks but he only worked as the elusion of a running game. This Mike McCarthy led passing game covers up for any holes in that running game. All the cheese heads out there should sleep well knowing that the Pack are here and they mean business.
This was one heck of a season and now all the true football fans out there will wait patiently for draft season. Till then I advise all of you to go out, buy a nerf football and just go nuts.
That's all I have for this post, feel free to comment and give me a grade on how I did. Hopefully I should be able to get some more of these up in the near future. Till then keep studying sports!
The Sports Undergrad