PFT Ten-Pack-week 5
This month's Game of the Century has come and gone, and all we've really learned from it is that:
(1) the Eagles are still good; (2) Drew Bledsoe is still slow; and (3) T.O. is still an asshole.
But what else did we glean from the week that was in the NFL?
Scroll on for ten takes.
We've Finally Figured Out Why The Lions Suck.
It's an issue we've pondered for years.
Why are the Lions so damn bad?
Sure, they've had their moments -- due in large part to the selection of Barry Sanders with the third pick in the 1989 draft.
(But for the decision of the Packers to tap Michigan State left tackle Tony Mandarich one spot earlier, we've got a feeling that Mandarich's man-boobs would have been flopping around in a Motown locker room for a season or two.)
But, all things considered, the team has been downright dreadful for most of William Clay Ford's tenure as owner.
Though Ford rarely gets the same kind of intense criticism that owners elsewhere experience, possibly due to the fact that the Ford Motor Company buys ads in every media platform known to man, it's obvious to us that the same mindset that brought us the Edsel has been bungling the management of the sports team that the family owns.
Our own personal "Eureka!" moment came on Sunday, when we saw once more the "Bold Moves" commercial featuring the woman who tells the lady manning the drive-thru window at the dry cleaners that she'd like to pay for a couple of the shirts to be picked up by the guy in the Mustang behind her -- and then proceeds to cough up her business card for delivery to the dude.
A bold move?
How about reckless.
And potentially adulterous, since the heroine in the commercial didn't have a chance to determine whether Mickey Mustang has a ring on the third finger of his left hand.
It reminds us of the background check that the Lions conducted before hiring defensive line coach Joe Cullen (more on him later), or before hiring coach Marty Morningsomething (we're sick of having to look up his name for the proper spelling), or before hiring Matt Millen.
As legend has it, William Clay Ford Sr. became smitten with Millen because he had a habit while working for FOX of blowing into pregame meetings and telling teams what they should do to get better.
Some organizations didn't react too well, telling Millen to cram his opinions in his crap can.
But Ford liked what he heard, and Ford gave him a bunch of money to become the captain of a listless vessel, even though Millen had no front office experience and no objective credentials for the job.
Since then, the Lions stubbornly have stuck with Millen, likely in order to avoid having to admit to their error.
So maybe the epilogue to the "Bold Moves" commercial isn't that the girl's body is later found in a field.
Maybe she ends up marrying the guy even though she can't really stand him, all for the sake of justifying the "Bold Move" that launched the relationship.
When It Comes To Criminals, The Networks Are In Cahoots With The League.
A week or so ago, a league source told us that the best way to get the NFL to take seriously the burgeoning problem of guys breaking the law on an unprecedented basis would be to attack the problem through the networks, since they are the source of much of the league's big money.
The problem, however, is that the networks are scared to death of the NFL.
The league's message to ESPN was, basically, this:
"If you don't kill the show, we won't let you give us a gross windfall of cash for the right to televise our games."
So how could the networks ever take a stand?
If, for example, NBC tries to put pressure on the league to get a grip on its rap sheet situation, then the Sunday night package ends up somewhere else, likely for more money.
Ditto for ESPN, FOX, etc.
And, if all else fails, the NFL will keep more games on its in-house network.
Unfortunately, we think the networks are even taking it one step farther, serving as part of the P.R. machine in an effort to poo-poo the problem.
Why else would Al Michaels and John Madden fail to mention the recent arrest of Chargers safety Terrence Kiel on charges that he sent codeine-rich cough syrup to Texas, presumably so that it can be mixed with Sprite to form "purple drank"?
(We missed part of the Sunday night game between San Diego and Pittsburgh, but a couple of our readers have confirmed that the topic was not addressed.)
A week before that, Michaels and Madden said nothing about allegations against Bears corner Ricky Manning Jr. that he used anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs before and/or during the alleged assault of a man, to which Manning pleaded no contest.
And on Sunday afternoon, Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan of FOX pointed out on multiple occasions the fact that Lions coach Rod Marinelli has been more intimately involved in coaching up the team's defensive linemen -- without once mentioning that the move might have something to do with the aftermath of defensive line coach Joe Cullen's arrests for DUI and, more disturbingly, DWN.
The thinking, we assume, is that only truly hardcore fans know all of the details about all of the arrests, and they're too hooked on the sport to abandon it over something like a bunch of guys breaking the law.
In contrast, the games are watched by plenty of casual fans.
Thus, if the networks were to delve into the chapter-and-verse of some of the embarrassing off-field activities of NFL types during actual broadcasts, more casual fans might eventually be alienated by the drum beat of bums.
Regardless, ignoring the problem is never going to solve it.
In our view, the league needs to apply to the rash of criminal offenses the same sense of urgency that prompted the league to put in place rules that now result in a guy like Ricky Williams being banished for a full year simply because he likes to smoke marijuana.
Think about that one.
A year for Ricky Williams.
Five games for Albert Haynesworth.
Maybe two at most for Ricky Manning.
Something is definitely wrong with this picture.
Free DUI Advice For Rich Guys.
Speaking of legal problems, several readers have expressed complete and total confusion as to the failure of well-paid individuals to recognize the importance of using a little of that signing bonus money on, say, a cab ride home after a long night of Black Label or, as the case may be, purple drank.
And one reader has made our life in this regard a little easier, cobbling together a multiple-choice question that should be administered to all incoming rookies along with the Wonderlic exam.
Here it is, with a few minor edits.
"If you're so sh-t-faced that your breath might ignite if exposed to an open flame, you should:
ride home in the limo that you scheduled for earlier in the day, since you were smart enough to realize that you might get stone-ass drunk and would thus be unable to drive;
when you ask the bartender to call the escort service, also ask him to call a cab;
make sure you have a designated driver, other than Odell Thurman;
(D) assume that, since you're an NFL super-stud, you are therefore invincible and immortal; get behind the wheel; put the pedal to the metal; and forget about whether the traffic lights are red, green, or yellow.
After all, you are a star among stars, and nothing bad can or will ever happen to you."
For anyone who picks option (D), they should be permanently barred from ever playing pro football.
Not necessarily in that order.
FOX Somehow Avoids FCC Entanglements.
Kudos to Michael McCarthy of USA Today for noting on Monday that the networks are flirting with disaster by taking pregame and postgame shows to the masses.
Eventually, someone on the FCC-regulated FOX is going to flash a sign or incite a chant containing verboten content, and FOX will be looking down the barrel of a hefty fine.
(Since ESPN is a cable-only operation, the FCC rules do not apply; thus, there's no legal risk for airing background chants like "F--k you T.O.!" or signs suggesting that Lee Corso has an affinity for the male reproductive organ.)
On Sunday, the only chants that made the FOX airwaves were "Dallas sucks!"
We also saw one guy with a sign bearing a T.O.-related message, who then flipped it over to reveal a "DALLAS SUCKS" message when in range of a camera.
Though we're glad that the "real" media is taking note, we just don't get the sense that the networks care about this kind of stuff, and that they won't pretend to care until there's an incident on par with the Janet Jackson boob drop.
If/when it happens, we'll hear that the network foofs had no idea something like this could ever happen and it won't ever happen again and they're sorry it ever happened and blah . . . blah . . . blah.
The Vikings Offense Really, Really Blows.
Though generating more than 325 yards per game, the Minnesota Vikings' offense has undergone a dramatic transformation in the first year of the Brad Childress regime.
The points just aren't there.
The Vikings, who not long ago set the single-season scoring record, are averaging a paltry 17.8 points.
Subtracting two defensive touchdowns from Sunday and a fake field goal that generated a touchdown in Week Two, the Vikings offense is putting up only 13.6 points per game.
That's less than two touchdowns, on average, for a football team that used to play pinball.
How bad is it?
The natives are getting extremely restless.
Boo birds were cascading from the seats at the Metrodome on Sunday as the Vikings trailed 17-3 through three quarters.
But for a defensive uprising in the final frame, which sparked the team to more points in one quarter -- 23 -- than it has scored in any single game all season, the Vikings would have fallen to 2-3 and, even worse, lost at home to the Lions for the first time since 1997.
The oddest aspect of the Vikes' struggles on offense is that they have scored on the first possession of every single game.
It's either a bizarre coincidence, or it tells us that the team is doing an excellent job of planning for each opponent prior to kickoff, but a bad job of adjusting.
Then there's quarterback Brad Johnson, who is sputtering along with a passer rating of less than 80.
Remember all that talk that Johnson deserves a hefty raise?
There hasn't been much of it since Week Three, and it coincided with the sudden inability of Johnson to get the ball down the field.
It's a tough pill for Vikings fans, spoiled by stretched fields and 30-point games, to swallow.
The goal of the team in every game is, in essence, to shorten it.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the job is to either hold a hard-fought lead or fight hard to steal a win.
In our view, it leaves way too much to chance -- and it sets the stage for an 8-8 record.
Which, of course, wouldn't be much different than the outcome of every season since 2001.
That's Why They Don't Always Have To Play The Games.
A reader pointed out an intriguing stat to us:
Every favorite won in Week Five.
Every single one of them.
And most of them covered the spread.
What does it mean?
We don't really know.
At best, it shows that reality, for once, was generally consistent with perception.
Because it's perception only that drives the betting lines, set by Vegas and others with the overriding goal of coaxing equal betting on both teams in each game.
And that's the one thing that drives us crazy whenever a coach or a team gripe about the point spread.
The line isn't determined in an effort to show love or disrespect to any team.
It's a business proposition with one goal -- evening out the betting.
Some Constructive Criticism For FOX.
The folks at FOX are doing fine without our input, but that won't stop us from giving it.
We've got three specific suggestions this week.
First, someone needs to tell Pam Oliver that, while she's standing (usually in jeans) among the suit-wearing sock puppets during the pregame show, she needs to refrain from hanging her thumbs from the tops of her pockets.
If, alternatively, she really wants to be a cowgirl, there are plenty of ranches available in Montana.
Second, we can't believe that FOX took the time to prepare a special promo trumpeting Jillian Barberie's return to the pregame thing next weekend, when the show heads back to L.A. during Joe Buck's baseball hiatus.
We understand that the goal is to appeal to a certain "demographic" who'll tune in for her "weather reports."
But, guys, we saw her on the promo and, well, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be.
Third, and finally, we're still very grateful that the FOX folk dumped the robot farts before the snap when the down and distance popped up and then disappeared from the information bar at the top of the screen.
But we've noticed that when the information bar is "generated" on the screen after each commercial break, a series of sounds are made that prompt us to check to see whether the VCR has just kicked out a tape.
And we haven't had a VCR for five years.
That's all for now, Mr. Murdoch.
Our invoice is in the mail.
Revisionist History on T.O.
Though pretty much everything that can be said has been said about T.O.'s return trip to Philly, we caught something in Michael Silver's item from the October 2 Sports Illustrated that makes us even more convinced that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones secretly is having second thoughts regarding his decision to bring Owens to Big D.
In the story, Jones tells Silver of a February meeting in which Owens and agent Drew Rosenhaus met with Jones, his son Stephen, and coach Bill Parcells.
Jones explains that, during the meeting, he decided to make a run at Owens once the Eagles (who at the time were hoping to trade him) cut him loose.
Owens said during an ESPN interview with Michael Irvin in June that he first talked to Parcells in early May.
Which version is right?
Unless Owens is even dumber than his words and actions might suggest, he'd surely remember meeting with and talking to Parcells in February.
And one league source with whom we spoke regarding the matter assures us that Owens' version is the accurate one.
So what is Jones trying to do?
He wants to create the subtle impression that Parcells was involved and on board with the decision, when it's common knowledge in league circles that he wasn't.
Steelers Are Done.
We've been accused of being Steelers fans.
We've also been accused of hating the Steelers.
But let's just be clear on this -- the champs are done.
They've got nothing to be ashamed of.
They put together an historic late-season run in 2005, including three playoff wins on the road.
Then, they defeated an objectively superior team to win the Super Bowl.
But the fact is that, before embarking on what fairly can be called the most stirring December-to-February stretch in league history, the Steelers weren't a great team.
And now that the shine of the Lombardi has faded, the fact is that they're still not a great team.
Though many teams lose more than they gain during the offseason, the Steelers were hurt considerably by the departure of running back Jerome Bettis, whose brain-busting blasts into the middle of the line helped to burn up the clock once the Steelers found themselves in the lead of any game.
We also think that the Steelers would have benefited from the offseason acquisition of a veteran free agent who has not yet earned a Super Bowl ring, and who thus would help the team in the quest to avoid complacency.
Likewise, every team wants to knock off the champs.
In a parity-driven NFL where the talent is more equal than it used to be, the fact that a team is "up" for a given game can make a big difference.
Then there's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Though some think he's not as good as he used to be, we're not so sure that he was ever very good.
Instead, he benefited from a stifling defense and a solid running game, which allowed him to average only 22 passing attempts per game.
This year, he's all the way up to 34 throws per game.
The extra throws are resulting in a precipitous rise in mistakes.
Last season, he threw nine interceptions in 12 games.
This year, he has seven in only three.
Oh, and no touchdown passes.
Finally, some folks around the league think that Coach Chin is in full-blown retirement mode, and that in his mind he's already hanging out at the new family home in North Carolina.
The sum of these various parts?
The Steelers are in a deep hole with a thin-and-shrinking margin for error.
Their only chance of getting back to the top of the mountain might be to author an even more improbable run than in 2005.
Free Advice To Anyone Trying To Sell HDTVs.
We're not the brightest guys around -- we just work half as hard as everyone else.
But it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to realize that there's something a tad goofy about efforts by certain television companies to persuade folks to buy HDTVs by touting the quality of the images projected through said HDTVs by displaying images from said HDTVs through either a non-HDTV or an HDTV of presumably lesser quality.
Really, if you've already got an HDTV through which the HDTV ads look great, why buy a new HDTV?
Why can't someone just get a sports figure or an actor (or James Denton), have the person stand against a black background, and say the following:
Samsung has asked me to show you how great its new HDTV product looks, but it's hard for me to do it when you either don't have an HDTV, or when your HDTV isn't nearly as good as the new Samsung HDTV product.
So go to your nearest Circuit City/Best Buy/Wal-Mart/Sprint Store (okay, they don't sell HDTVs there but we had to squeeze in a mention) and check one out.
Once you see it, you'll want to buy it."
So, please, spare us the commercial with the little girl and the elephant.
Or the cheerleader with the jiggling belly fat.
Or anything else that tries to show us through our current television how good a new HDTV might look.