Afterword: Shanahan and RG3
Reading a lot about the reaction to Mike Shanahan and the Redskins coaching and medical staff’s decision to leave RG3 in the game despite the obvious risks of further injury (which in this case, happened).
Interesting to note that in this Shanahan profile by Stefan Fatsis, Shanahan himself suffered his own career-ending injury while playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois. From the article:
"Shanahan grew up in suburban Chicago in the 1960s, the son of an electrician and a housewife. He nearly died when he was speared by a linebacker while playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois, the only college that offered him a football scholarship. A priest was summoned to read last rites. Shanahan lost a kidney, recovered, petitioned unsuccessfully to rejoin the football team and began his coaching career upon graduation."
Which both baffles me as to why he wouldn’t take more precaution with his own quarterback and makes me wonder if his own experience desensitized him to injuries. Or, quite simply, he was a coach who thought leaving his quarterback in gave him the best shot at winning a playoff game?
Seahawks at Redskins: Fresh Faces
Best game on the board this week, right? I suppose by the time we get to this one on Sunday afternoon, we’ll know if they have to live up to the crazy expectations of the match-ups preceding them.
In a first round where both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are playing, who knew that the most important rookies might just turn out to be Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris.
And does Matt Flynn text Alex Smith, or is it the other way around. Either way, those exchanges must be a downer.
For Washington, they punched a ticket to the post-season with a victory over the Cowboys last week. Or to put it more aptly, Morris did the punching with over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Griffin hasn’t looked his usual dynamic self since coming back from injury, and it does take a bit away from their offense, but if his rookie mate in the back field can put up the same performance against a stout Seattle defense, it may not matter.
As for the Seahawks. They come into the playoffs with a lot of acclaim and buzz. That tends to happen when you start beating teams by scores of 58-0 (granted, it was Arizona), 50-17 (in Toronto against Buffalo, not exactly a frightening proposition) and 42-13 (at home against San Francisco, who were coming off a short week and a tough battle against New England; actually, never mind, this one was impressive, not going to sell them short).
I will say this: if you told me the Seahawks had a bye and would need to win two playoff games at home to make the Super Bowl, I’m not sure if I’d pick anyone else in the NFC. But on the road? Consider me still a skeptic.
This team’s been a wonderful story. Frankly, both teams have been. It’s always nice to see fresh faces in the tournament. One stays. One goes.
The more complete team, and the better defense should make the difference. I just hope this one lives up to the billing.
I just picked every favorite this week.
What does everybody else think?
I spent all week convincing a friend that the Cowboys were the right bet for tonight’s game against the Redskins, for no reason other than the fact that sports rarely provides the happy endings that we want.
Excuse the pessimism, but especially in a year where the negative side of things reared its ugly head in sports, I was expecting the final week of football of 2012 to deliver much of the same. It feels alright being wrong too.
In Indianapolis, the #Chuckstrong story of coach Pagano and the upstart Colts got one more chapter to their brilliant season, upending the previously top seeded Texans at home, and gave us the victory dance of the year. No matter if this team is confronted with a new reality when the playoffs start next week, the entire turnaround coupled with Pagano’s return has more than made up for the forgettable season in 2011. Oh, and by the way, Andrew Luck is your quarterback for the next decade and some. Not too bad at all.
In Minnesota, the Vikings and Packers went 12 rounds, before Adrian Peterson decided to finish things off at the end. He came just shy of breaking the all-time rushing yards record, but after the performance that he just put on, are we suppose to doubt that he will challenge for it again next season? We need more nicknames for All Day. I suggest New God Flow, because he’s the God of everything else.
And tonight, in Washington, the Skins capped off Robert Griffin III’s rookie season with a win over the Cowboys for the divisional title, and a home playoff game next week. A season that started with a road win in New Orleans, stalled with a 3-6 record, ultimately ended with a seven game winning streak, and hope that things are changing for the franchise. For now. For later.
So if you’re in Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York (both, but more so the Jets), Buffalo, or any other city where there doesn’t seem be much hope on the other end. Just remember today. No one could’ve foretold the stories above when the season started.
Sometimes sports is really the most fun when we get reminded of how little we know, then when it reaffirms what we think we know.
Next time, I might be a little less skeptical, and just let the stories play out to their happy endings.
The NFC East, or, Your Annual Sideshow
It’s becoming an annual tradition, if traditions can be painful, comical, entertaining all at once. The NFC East might not always provide the most asthetic brand of football, but for sheer drama it’s hard to find a division that’s provided quantity over quality for more than a decade.
Division winners in order since 2004: Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York.
Parity. Chaos. Always entertaining.
Last year, the Giants and Cowboys squared off in a season ending game for the division. It was suppose to be a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things, the mediocre cream rising to the top, and somehow, the Giants won it all.
That makes about as much sense as this season, where the Giants look likely to be out of the playoffs, even though they’re the owners of signature wins over San Francisco and Green Bay. In Philadelphia, the dream team curse continues and Mike Vick has gone from the subject of an entire ESPN magazine to the inventor of the fumblebrag.
And so, come Sunday, it’s the previously 3-6 Washington Redskins against the perpetually lingering Cowboys team in a winner take all.
The Cowboys — America’s Team by no one’s definition — always flash the potential of a 12-4 team, and yet there’s always a handful of inexplicable, close losses that prevent them from being anything but average (this year: Week 6 at Baltimore, Week 8 vs. Giants, last week vs. Saints). And somehow, Romo’s having another “maybe he can sustain this level of play” stretch and Dez Bryant might be the best wideout in the league, and so, here they are again with a shot at the post-season.
But consider this: Under Romo, the Cowboys have had as many playoff victories as Tim Tebow does. Mark Sanchez has four playoff wins to Romo’s one. Sure, it’s not always on the quarterback, but the franchise has underachieved and made questionable personnel decisions (Roy Williams trade, anyone). In another division, in another league, that means you relegate yourself to irrelevance. Here in the NFC East, you get your shot at redemption every Week 17.
For the Redskins, their coach said it was time to look ahead to next season a month and a half ago, and no one in the fanbase particularly disagreed. But no team has a brighter outlook than Washington, not when RG3 is the man leading the way.
And come Sunday, Griffin III looks to join fellow rookies Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson as playoff qualifiers. It would be a wonderful story, and for that very fact, no one will be surprised if the Cowboys prevent that happy ending from happening.
This is the NFC East, no need for rational arguments here.
- Dez Bryant
- Andrew Luck
- Calvin Johnson
- Cam Newton
- Robert Griffin III
- Mark Sanchez
- Darrelle Revis
- Julio Jones
- Victor Cruz
Winners and Losers - Week 1 Sunday edition
It’s good to be back. First full day of football means doing absolutely nothing but watch games on Sunday, which is a pretty tough commitment.
Surprises, comebacks, upsets, disappointments? Just the way football should be.
Onto the winners and losers of the first Sunday. Since all judgments are made off one game, I reserve the right to deny writing any of the below in a week.
Robert Griffin III/ Dan Snyder - The list of quarterbacks that have come through Washington in the past few decades have been so mediocre that it’s been immortalized on this t-shirt. For those with shorter memories, recent years included Rex Grossman, the wonderful experience of Donavan McNabb and the likes of Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell. This year’s draft revolved around Andrew Luck — whom most believed to be the sure thing, and Robert Griffin III — a dazzling talent whose potential intrigued many teams to move up for the right to pick him. The Redskins gave away a sizable package to be that team, and no one would’ve blamed their fans to expect some growing pains for Griffin III this season before he matured and that potential became realized. But there he was on Sunday, in the hostile dome environment of New Orleans, controlling the game like a ten year veteran, demonstrating his arm strength and using his legs as a weapon. I don’t know what Dan Snyder or Mike Shanahan did to deserve this, but the sky’s the limit now for Griffin III. The growing pains will come, but fans will have a performance like this week’s to remind them of better times to come. Sooner rather than later.
Orlando Franklin - I am terrified.
Quarterback enigmas part 1, Alex Smith - All Super Bowl chatter with the San Francisco 49ers this off-season started and ended with their quarterback Alex Smith. The defense is championship caliber, the offense was retooled with enough weapons to surround Smith, but was he really someone who could put it all together? All he did on Sunday was play an efficient game in Green Bay, and come out with a victory. Not just a game manager, but a productive quarterback who looked comfortable leading drives and making the right plays in the red zone. This was the most eye opening performance to me from Sunday. The 49ers looked complete, and ready to make a run.
Quarterback enigmas part 2, Mark Sanchez - I woke up this morning and pronounced that Sanchez was starring in his own edition of “Dead Man Walking” starting at 1 pm. You know, the one touchdown in four pre-season games, the shadow of Tim Tebow lurking everywhere — on the field, in the press, probably in his dreams. That’s a weird thought, let’s move on. Of course, this being a league where we know absolutely nothing except what just happened, Sanchez went out and put up 48 points on the Buffalo Bills, and giving Bart Scott enough ammunition to declare a “media mutiny" after the game. He meant boycott by the way.
Tampa Bay and believers of karma -In this era of statistics and more statistics, I hope there’s still room for stories that aren’t about just numbers. That special moments still be quantified in their own ways. In the off-season, the Buccaneers signed former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (coached in college by current Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano) whose career was ended by a spinal cord injury. It was a symbolic gesture by the organization that along with their draft and off-season acquisitions, bodes well for the coming season. By the way, if you haven’t read about LeGrand’s story, do yourself a favor and check out this Sports Illustrated feature from last year. The Bucs did just enough to win at home against Carolina. But for a team that most expect to win five or six games, I think there could be something more there.
Randall Cobb/ Julio Jones - I’m going to go on record and say that Jones will be the best receiver in football this year. I felt that way before his performance in Kansas City today (6 catches, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns), which just reaffirms my belief in him. As for Randall Cobb, I get the feeling that Aaron Rodgers is going to be targeting him a lot this year, if only because the Fox broadcasters kept reminding me of it. Plus he’s a must watch on returns all year.
Adrian Peterson - In December, Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL. On Sunday, he came back and went for 84 yards, two touchdowns and looked as electric as he was pre-injury. A lot of fantasy regrets are in order.
Peyton Manning - Competent quarterbacking in Denver? Must be refreshing. The league’s more fun with Manning back directing traffic and running no huddles. Plus I’m sure Brandon Stokley is happier this way. This might not end up in a second Super Bowl for Manning, but it’s nice to see he still has more then a few competent games left.
Negotiating leverage of referees - All referees make bad calls. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that once the real officials come back, we’re not going to have controversial calls. But there’s a difference between human error and incompetence, and that line is not very thin. Consider how the replacement refs gave Seattle a mysterious fourth timeout at the end of their game against Arizona. That’s the perfect example of that not very thin line. There are judgment calls, and then there are calls that can only be explained by inexperience and inability to referee a game at the professional level. Let’s hope the real refs come back soon, so we can have more legitimate gripes than phantom time outs.
Browns fans - Let’s see. Where do we start with this one. Former Browns owner Art Modell passed away this week. You know, the guy who took the team and moved them to Baltimore. There were plans for a Modell tribute before their home opener against the Eagles on Sunday, which would’ve probably turned into a horrible mess, so luckily Modell’s family asked the team to cancel such plans. Of course, this did not stop 28 year old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden from getting sacked by the American flag pre-game, and than going out there and putting up a quarterback rating that was ten times worst than Michael Vick, who only threw four interceptions himself. Still, the Browns had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, but Vick drove the Eagles the length of the field for a one point victory. On the bright side, If Weeden doesn’t pan out, Colt McCoy and Thaddeus Lewis are waiting their turn.
Carolina Panthers rushing attack -13 rush attempts, 10 yards. That includes Cam Newton.
Ike Taylor - Will see Demaryius Thomas in his dreams tonight. That’s my second reference to someone’s dreams. Let’s move on.
Saints and non-believers of karma - I thought that Friday’s arbitrator decision to reverse the Saints’ player suspensions would start the healing process in New Orleans, and remove all the bad vibes still hanging from Bounty Gate. You know, because I actually believe in these things. But there was Griffin III shredding their defense, and Drew Brees not looking in sync with this receiving corp. The offense is still one of the best in the league, and we could chalk it up to one poor performance. Check the schedule though, and consider the improvement of the NFC North, I don’t think the Saints can consider themselves favorites this season.
The Bills - Did all that optimism get crushed in literally one quarter in week one? I think we should just leave Buffalo alone and not anoint sleeper status on them. It’s less painful that way.
photo via Keith Allison
Bob Griffin, doing professional things in New Orleans. We’re barely into the second quarter and the Skins lead the Saints 17-7.
Bob’s stat line, 10 of 11 for 155 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. What a professional debut this is shaping up to be.
Hail to the Redskins.
And with the 2nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the Washington Redskins select ROBERT GRIFFIN III.
Another non-shocker, RG3 going to Washington. They are already throwing a parade for him. Washington sees what Cam Newton did for the Panthers last year and that is the exact reason why they gave up so much to get him. And like Cam, RG3 can beat you with his arm or his legs. For the sake of DC, let’s hope RG3 is everything he’s cracked up to be. The crowd has been chanting “RG3” since Roger Goodell said Andrew Luck’s name. They could use some quarterback play in the capital.
"The Indianapolis Colts have told Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck that they will take him with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, according to a league source.
The Washington Redskins will take Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick in the draft, according to league sources.”
- ESPN [Also, everyone else in the world.]