Sports bring people together. I’ve written, said, and thought this often. Taking interest in the performance of athletic teams automatically gives you potential connections to millions of people all over the world. During my recent honeymoon, this was reaffirmed yet again.
Green Bay Packers fans won’t see it this way, but we can look back at The Inaccurate Reception as the play that forced Roger Goodell and the NFL to come to an agreement with the locked-out referees, who will return to the field tonight. There are three photos that sum up the madness that was the final play of the Packers-Seahawks game in Seattle.
The first shows Tate with, at best, one hand on the football (that white thing next to Wilson’s stats is my attempt at an asterisk):
I could feel the middle-aged woman’s eyes, studying me like I was an animal at the zoo. She shouldn’t have been surprised by what she saw, but she was. I heard her not-so-quietly ask her friend for an explanation. Finally she asked me.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Why are you wearing a cheesehead?”
It was an interesting phrasing of the question. It turns out she meant it in the most literal way possible—she had no idea Green Bay Packers fans wore such a thing or that she was at a Packers bar. Had I never come across a cheesehead, I don’t think I’d know to call it a cheesehead. I’d probably ask, “Why are you wearing a hunk of foam cheese on your head?” but that’s just me.
I had a feeling Aaron Rodgers would not be playing on Sunday when, on Saturday night, a cab driver told me he had given Rodgers a ride home from the bar the night before. In possession of a ticket for Green Bay’s regular season finale for months, I had been hoping to witness perfection, but the Packers’ Week 15 loss ended that possibility.
At the very least, I figured I’d get to see Rodgers, the frontrunner for the league MVP, flash his patented discount double-check once or twice, even if it wasn’t en route to a 16-0 season. But with the No. 1 seed in hand, Rodgers rested, and a potentially historic game turned into a meaningless one.
As I found out, there’s no such thing as a meaningless game at Lambeau Field.
Continue reading Pilgrimage to Lambeau Field
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.
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.