Category Archives: NFL

Super Bowl XLV: Steelers vs Packers

Super Bowl XLV pits two extremely good quarterbacks against each other, as most Super Bowls do. Both Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers have finished in the top five in quarterback rating the last two seasons. They were also both first round draft picks.

Again, this is not surprising. Assuming both start this year’s game, it will mean that 48/90 quarterbacks to start the Super Bowl were first round draft picks, according to DraftHistory.com.

Neither was the first QB chosen in his respective draft, however. In the 2004 NFL Draft, Roethlisberger was taken 11th, behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. The following year, Rodgers was selected 24th, behind Alex Smith, whom the 49ers chose with the first overall pick.

It’s hard to say the Giants or Chargers regret their decisions. Manning has underperformed at times but leeway is given when you’ve won a Super Bowl, as Manning did in 2008. Rivers has been in the top three in QB rating the last three years. Of course the eight other teams that passed on Big Ben would likely consider a do-over.

Big Ben has already won two Super Bowls. Nice choice, Pittsburgh. (Credit: SteelCityHobbies)

There is no debate between Rodgers and the lone QB chosen before him. Smith has been a complete bust and Rodgers is turning into one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. Most of the other 23 teams that passed on Rodgers would take him if given the chance.

Quarterback is the most important position in sports, and given that it typically takes a few years for one to develop, the drafting of a QB is critical. You’ve heard this before: Choose the right one and you potentially set up your team for years of success. Choose wrong, and it’s a major setback.

The problem that teams often make is they commit to drafting a quarterback even when there are no really good options. Let’s review the most recent drafts and the quarterbacks selected in the first round:

2010: The Rams chose Sam Bradford with the first pick. The only other QB chosen in the first round was Tim Tebow at 24.

2009: The three first-round picks—Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman—are looking good.

2008: Again, the two first rounders are looking good: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.

2007: The first overall pick, JaMarcus Russell, was an enormous bust for the Raiders, but none of the other quarterbacks in the class have done much either. Brady Quinn was the only other in the first round.

2006: Jay Cutler, at 11, has performed better than Vince Young (3) or Matt Leinart (10), but even he didn’t play in his first playoff game until this year, and it was not for the team that drafted him.

2005: The Smith/Rodgers draft. Jason Campbell was also taken in the first round, one slot after Rodgers.

Perhaps Rodgers is giving thanks that he wasn’t drafted by San Fran? (Credit: Chad Davis)

2004: The Manning/Rivers/Roethlisberger draft. There was a considerable drop-off after this trio, with J.P. Losman being the other first round choice.

2003: Carson Palmer was the first pick and is the best of the bunch. Byron Leftwich (7), Kyle Boller (19), and Rex Grossman (22), also went in the first round.

2002: David Carr, the first pick, was a bust, but which quarterback did you want the Texans to draft—Joey Harrington? Patrick Ramsey? Those were the other first round choices. David Garrard, the best QB of this class, was taken in the fourth round.

Again, other than 2005 and to a certain extent 2006, the team to take the first quarterback did not choose the wrong one. Their mistake was choosing a quarterback in the first place. The Raiders went with Russell in 2007 over wide receiver Calvin Johnson (who went second) and running back Adrian Peterson (seventh). Two six-time Pro Bowl defensive ends were drafted after quarterbacks in 2002: Julius Peppers went right after Carr and Dwight Freeney was chosen 11th.

The 2011 draft is another one that simply may not have an elite quarterback. Even if it’s a position of need, a team is better off taking the best player available at another position and waiting until the next year to target a quarterback. The time invested in developing a young QB who never amounts to anything is backbreaking.

New York Jets Suspend Sal Alosi for Tripping Player

The New York Jets can’t seem to get out of their own way—throwing interceptions, missing kicks, and dropping passes at the most inopportune times. During their most recent flop, they proved they can’t get out of other people’s way either.

I was watching the New York Jets/Miami Dolphins game on Sunday afternoon when Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee and made contact with Miami Dolphins special teams player Nolan Carroll as Carroll raced down the sideline, a couple of yards out of bounds, in pursuit of the Jets’ punt returner. At first, I didn’t believe it was intentional, as the announcer was suggesting.

When the postgame quotes became available and it became clear it was in fact intentional, I was appalled. How could you not be? This is a coach, on the sideline, interfering in a very dangerous way with a participating player. Carroll was sent flying to the turf and appeared to be injured, but he was able to return to the game. It could have been a lot worse.

Should that part—the fact that it didn’t cause a serious injury—or Alosi’s sincere apology have factored into his punishment? It was announced on Monday afternoon that Alosi would be suspended for the remainder of the season without pay and fined $25,000. This was the punishment the Jets chose after consulting with the NFL; the league will not discipline him further.

After discovering it was not an accident, my initial reaction was: This guy has to be fired. Had the Jets chosen that course of action, I would have supported it 100 percent. But after further consideration I do think this penalty is adequately severe.

Alosi’s apology may have saved him his job. Nobody can judge someone else’s emotions with absolute certainty, but it sure seemed like Alosi regretted his actions, and he appeared to be a man willing to lose his job over this. “It’s an honor and a privilege to work and coach every day in the National Football League,” Alosi said at a press conference on Monday. Later, he added: “Whatever the disciplinary actions are, I am willing to accept them and move forward from there.”

Asked twice why he did it, he first responded with “I wasn’t thinking,” and later said, “You’re asking me to give you a logical explanation for an illogical act. I can’t explain it.” I chalk it up to temporary insanity, the kind that ended the career of Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes when he punched an opposing player in the throat after he had intercepted a pass near the Buckeyes’ sideline. Hayes’ actions were far worse in many ways, and he offered no apology after the game (or any time before his death in 1987).

Alosi did apologize and did show remorse, but perhaps none of that should have mattered too much. None of it changes what he did—it was inexcusable and despicable, even if it was an act of momentary madness rather than a malicious one. Alosi could have very easily been fired and he knew that. Instead he gets to return to his job when the season ends, which could come earlier than expected if the Jets keep playing this poorly. It sure seems like he is extremely grateful for that opportunity, which is to be expected but sadly isn’t always the case in similar situations.

The 33-year-old Alosi is in his fourth season as the Jets’ head strength and conditioning coach. He got his start in the NFL as an intern with the team in 2002 and earned a full-time position the following year. He played linebacker at Hofstra and led the team in tackles his senior season. This was one tackle he won’t forget.

UPDATE, 12/15/10: I cut this out of my original post and of course now it’s extremely relevant. This is from the first draft of my article:

After watching the replay a few more times, I found it curious that not only did Alosi stand his ground before eventually leaning forward, but the rest of the guys standing alongside him didn’t move a muscle. Was this a display of toughness? Did they decide ahead of time they’d stand together and whoever the player came closest to would stick out his leg?

Although my toughness is questionable, especially for professional football standards, I know I’d have a hard time not flinching in that situation and, if nothing else, wouldn’t want to put my knee in front of a world-class athlete running at full speed.

The reason this is relevant is because Alosi has now been suspended indefinitely after the Jets learned, through their continued investigation, that he instructed others to form a wall on the sideline. The rest of the coaching staff is claiming they knew nothing about this, and that Alosi acted alone.

This story is starting to remind me of my favorite television series, 24, in which it was often discovered that a bad guy initially believed to be working alone was in fact ordered by a government official, who in turn was ordered by the President of the United States! For film fans, Alosi appears to be the equivalent of the two soldiers in A Few Good Men, with special teams coach Mike Westhoff or even head coach Rex Ryan playing the role of Jack Nicholson’s character.

If that is what happened—and it’s not hard to argue that Alosi had little reason to take this upon himself—the Jets likely won’t be able to handle the truth. Isn’t that how it always seems to work, though? Find a fall guy who is low enough on the totem pole for outsiders to dismiss it as the senseless action of one foolish individual as opposed to proof that the organization has serious issues.

In the case of the Jets, the evidence is piling up in that case, too.

Green Bay Packers Charles Woodson Named Defensive Player of the Year; Darrelle Revis Snubbed?

Charles Woodson, defensive back for the Green Bay Packers, has been named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, and deservedly so…sort of.

Woodson deserved the award — his interceptions (9) and touchdowns (3) were tied for the league lead — but perhaps Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets cornerback, deserved it more. (By the way, I am a Jets fan and an alum of the same school at which Woodson won the Heisman trophy, so I’ve got reason to like both guys.)

Revis became well known this season for his ability to shut down the league’s best receivers. If you’ve watched a Jets game the past few weeks, you’ve seen the graphic: the one that shows how Revis has held the likes of Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, and Chad Ochocinco to minuscule numbers. If you’re looking for a better shut-down corner than Revis, you’ve got a greater chance finding the Kiffin family vacationing in Knoxville.

Although I haven’t seen the Packers nearly as much, I know that Woodson is more of a “do it all” corner. His versatility is evidenced by the interceptions (including the aforementioned three that he took to the house) and the four forced fumbles. He recorded 20 more tackles than Revis and notched two sacks as well. Woodson is still a great athlete and a true playmaker, even if he doesn’t quite compare to Revis when it comes to locking up a wideout.

I’ve read some profiles on both Woodson and Revis recently and, not surprisingly, they have a lot in common. They both seem to understand the value of film study, impressing their respective coaches with their attention to detail. Knowing your opponents’ tendencies is critical to a defensive back’s success, and these two stars understand that.

So, was Revis robbed? Even though I was pulling for him, I can’t honestly say he was. He would have received my vote — in addition to Revis’ personal accomplishments, the Jets had the best defense in the league, allowing the fewest yards, points, and passing yards — but to say Woodson wasn’t a worthy candidate is ridiculous. I was surprised by Woodson’s margin of victory — he received twice as many votes as Revis. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, I just feel like this could have gone either way and the voting doesn’t seem to reflect that.

Woodson’s win, in a way, makes Colt McCoy’s failure to win this year’s Heisman Trophy even more surprising. These awards, unfortunately, can sometimes become “lifetime achievement” trophies. Sophomore Mark Ingram beat out McCoy, who had just as impressive a season as Ingram and was the senior with the remarkable career. While voters ignored McCoy’s complete body of work (as they should), perhaps Woodson got extra votes because of his long, successful NFL career. While Woodson just finished his 13th season, Revis is only in his third.

The consolation prize for Revis? His season is still going.