>Tuesday Lunch: NFL Season in review

Posted: February 16, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

>      Hey guys, I’m Will and this is my first weekly column about the NFL. I have followed the NFL and the Broncos through the good times and bad (yes Brian Griese, I’m talking about you). Just to start us off, I decided to do a very quick, succinct recap of the 2009-10 offseason, regular season and postseason up until Super Bowl XLIV.

1.     The Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan after 14 years. The Broncos then hired first time head coach and former New England Patriot assistant, Josh McDaniels. Even though he comes from a prestigious head-coaching tree, the Belichick coaches have not had much success (note: see Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini (save his 10-6 year in NY) and Nick Saban in the Pros.)

2.     The Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth for 7 years, $100 million dollars. The only time he played a full season was his rookie season, the 2002-03 season. Haynesworth only recorded four sacks last year.

3.     The Denver Broncos traded Jay Cutler on April 2, 2009. Cutler had a very lackluster, mediocre season, throwing for 3666 yards, 27 touchdowns and led the league with 26 interceptions, six more interceptions than 2nd place Mark Sanchez. The previous year, Cutler was one of six quarterbacks to throw for 4000 yards or more.

4.     Matthew Stafford was selected first in the 2009 NFL Draft. However, Percy Harvin, selected 22nd by the Minnesota Vikings, won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Brian Cushing, selected 15th by the Houston Texans, won Defensive Rookie of the Year. The only impact Stafford made was his dramatic, comeback win against the Browns.

5.     That-one-quarterback-who-played-for-Green Bay for 17 years unretired AGAIN to play for Minnesota. Can he just go away? Please?

6.     The Broncos started red hot as they went 6-0, but ended the season 2-8 run and an overall record of 8-8. Another disappointing season for Denver fans. It’s just like being a Sacramento Kings fan (yep, my teams are habitual losers).

7.     The Tennessee Titans began ice cold as they went 0-6, but ended the season on an 8-2 run and an overall record 8-8 record. Titans’ fans expected another playoff run, but the resurgence of Vince Young and how Chris Johnson became just the sixth player in NFL history to gain 2000 rushing yards in a season, is a positive outlook for the future.

8.     The Houston Texans completed their first season above .500, finishing 9-7. Their future is very bright with a core of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Demeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.

9.     The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts became the fifth and sixth teams in NFL history to start at least 13-0. The Saints lost to the Dallas Cowboys in week 15, and the Colts lost to the Jets in week 16. The Colts, however, decided to rest their starters in the second half of that game.

10.     The league has gone in a new direction. This year, we witnessed ten quarterbacks throw for at least 4000 yards. Ten! If you told me in the beginning of the season that Matt Schaub would have thrown more yards and fewer picks than Peyton Manning, I would have bet you $50 on the spot. Of those ten, four threw for 4000 yards the previous year, including second year starter Aaron Rodgers. Him and Jay Cutler became the youngest players to throw for 4000 yards since Peyton Manning did it in his second season (23 years old). Rodgers in the discussion for top five QBs that I would want to start for my team for the next five years. Here’s my list, from one to five:

     1)     Drew Brees – Everyone’s drinking the Brees KoolAid, so why can’t I? He was ONE completion at the end of his final game of the 2008-09 season to pass Marino’s yardage mark. He just put on a showing at the Super Bowl, and he’s been healthy since signing with New Orleans, with his only missed start coming when Sean Payton rested him on the final game of last year.

     2)     Tom Brady – I thought I was going to put the runner up in the Super Bowl, but then I caught wind of this stat: Manning is 9-9 in playoff games. 50% win percentage! I can’t believe how AWFUL that is. So then, I asked myself: what is Brady’s? 14-4. 77%. Wow. That is as unbelievably as Manning’s is, but in a good way. Brady was a little shaky last season, but he was a year removed from playing seven minutes the entire year before. In comparison, Joe Montana was 16-7, or 76%. Brady has been better than his childhood idol in the playoffs except for rings and total wins (even if it is only marginally better).

     3)     Peyton Manning – Despite his playoff record, he is well on pace to beat Favre’s numbers by the time he retires. He can turn unknowns into quality targets (Collie, Garçon), and has two All Pro targets to throw to (Wayne and Clark). He’ll be discussed for a while, I bet.

     4)     Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben overtook Brady as the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but they won in spite of him their first time around. Their last title, they won because of him. Santonio Holmes made a great catch, but what about that throw by Roethlisberger? He has an extraordinary ability to makes plays out of the pocket, probably the best in the league in doing so. To this point in his career, he has 19 4th quarter/overtime comebacks for wins. In comparison, John Elway finished his 16-year career with 34 wins. He is 8-2 in the playoffs. Kurt Warner finished his career 8-3. To add to all of that, Ben is 27! Easy choice here.

     5)     Aaron Rodgers – Unlike my last pick, this was a hard choice. I was debating between Rodgers and Philip Rivers, and was leaning towards Rivers. Rivers almost beat New England in the 2007-08 playoffs with broken ribs, but did not perform well against the Jets this last offseason. Rivers has also had All-Pro players in his offense (LT, Vincent Jackson, Gates, Lorenzo Neal) while Rodgers has not had any, yet had better numbers last year than Rivers, and marginally worse the year before (Rodgers’ first year starting). Rodgers’ only playoff game ended on an fumble-touchdown return in overtime, but he was phenomenal from the first play to the last, exclusively. In addition, he was on the road in Phoenix. Rivers choked at home after a week’s rest. Rodgers was leading a comeback in the second half of the game, scoring as many points the Cardinals scored in the entire 2nd half in the 4th quarter alone (21). Rivers let his game slip away, and did not make a big play to win it, but it was not 100% his fault. More on this next.

11.     The San Diego Chargers had another disappointing showing in the postseason. Their “clutch” kicker, Nate Kaeding missed two gimme field goals (a 57 yarder is hard for anyone, except for maybe Janikowski or Jason Elam in his prime) when they really needed them, especially if both were made, the Chargers would have won 20-17 (assuming the game turned out the same, of course). Now LT is saying he will not be a Charger next year. They need a new feature back, because while Sproles is quick and fast, he is NOT an every down back. He’s too small, and cannot take the wear and tear for three downs at a time.

12.     Of course, how can we talk about last year without mentioning the monumental collapse of Minnesota in the postseason? They committed five turnovers, including a clutch interception thrown by their quarterback (see? I refuse to say his name in my column). The Saints can hardly say they won that game (even after their showing in Miami) as opposed to Minnesota choking.

13.     I don’t know about you, but the Super Bowl was pretty exciting and shocked me. I personally wanted the Saints to win, but it would have been stupid to pick against Peyton Manning and his high-octane offense. While Drew Brees may have had a better season statistically, he was not seen as an “elite” guy. His greatest year number wise came on an 8-8 season. This year, he completed just over 70% of his passes, an NFL record for a single season, and led his team to their first Super Bowl berth and victory. His 32/39, 288 yards 2 TD performance outplayed Manning after the first quarter. The Tracey Porter interception on Manning in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter sealed the game (obviously). How did Manning not see Porter lurking on Wayne? Why did Wayne seemingly slow down on his route, and not finish it? However, the onside kick was the most crucial play in the game. It’s hard to say in a game of this magnitude that the game could be hinged on one play, but think of the scenario that would have happened had Indianapolis recovered the kick. If Hank Baskett caught the ball at the 43 or so, Manning would have only needed ten to 15 yards to get in comfortable field goal range for Matt Stover. More likely than not, he would have ended up in the end zone for six, and the game would have been 17-6 as opposed to 13-10. A 14-point swing, similar to that of the James Harrison’s interception return in last year’s game. I just know that I was in disbelief in hearing the words that “the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl champions.” I guess I’ll have a whole year to get used to that idea.

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