Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Football Wrap: Playoffs, Bowls and Perspective

Let’s start with a bowl wrap first shall we?

Rose Bowl – Oregon finally gets over the hump and wins a BCS bowl game under Chip Kelly. The Black Mamba De’Anthony Thomas showed out at home with that insane 91-yard TD run and a cruise control 68-yard run (he slowed up like it was a track meet). Big ups to Darron Thomas and LaMichael James atoning for last year.

And count me as a fan of Oregon’s Chrome Dome uniforms. It makes college football cool when a team not just gets cool unis but also wins with them.

Washington State in the 98 Rose Bowl had 2 seconds to run one last play and it didn’t work. Makes me wonder why Wisconsin didn’t just do a quick play instead of spike it. A great season for Russell Wilson and Montee “Let’s Make a Deal” Ball otherwise.

OutBack Bowl – Michigan State has been in 2 of the most thrilling games this season. Great comeback and Capt. Kirk Cousins deserves to go down in MSU lore for that.

Fiesta Bowl – Andrew Luck and Justin Blackmon had excellent auditions for the NFL but a kicker didn’t deserve to decide this game. Blackmon amazed the mess out of me with his size, elusiveness, Luck ran a brilliant 2-minute offense that he should have finished had the coach let him .

Luck reminded me of John Elway’s last game. Elway led a brilliant last minute drive to give Stanford the lead. But unfortunately Cal’s special teams ran The Play. As for Blackmon, who declared for the draft in his postgame interview, he's going to make an impact as soon as he gets called on the NFL stage. What a marvel

As for OK State, I wish they would’ve had a shot against LSU. But there’s no shame in them having a spectacular season. They have a case to be ranked No. 2 depending on what happens next Monday.

Alamo Bowl – We watched the Present and the Future. Robert Griffin the Great and his tailbacks ran ragged over Washington in maybe his final game as he helped Baylor have their best football season in ages. But Keith Price of Washington had a magical day. 7 total TD’s for the former Bellflower St. John Bosco product. 

That might have been one of the most exciting bowl games I've seen. You literally had to stay tuned otherwise you'd miss the next score because no lead was safe. By the way, this is your Pac-12 QB watch next year:

Matt Barkley (USC), Darron Thomas (Oregon), Keith Price, Matt Scott (former All-State dual-threat QB here in CA now at Arizona under Rich Rodriguez). That's a deadly 4 pack, not to mention Jordan Wynn at Utah.

I have to agree with ESPN’s Gene Wojo who tweeted his frustration about college kickers being frequently put into the role to win games. Having a money kicker is extremely important and with all the specialization going into HS kickers these days, there’s no excuse for college coaches not to offer scholarships.

There’s also no excuse why in this era of spread offenses, coaches don’t take more chances to score in the end zone instead of play for the field goal.  Especially if your quarterback is elite or on a roll.

While kickers have an easy job, coaches have a job to make it easy for them instead of arrogantly forcing them to atone for mistakes. To quote Gene Hackman in The Replacements, winners want the ball and before you give the kicker a chance, give your regular offense a chance to finish what they started if they have time.

NFL Tidbits.

Matt Flynn huh? Outdueling the Lions off the bench with the greatest day in Packers QB history huh? Shout out to the Lions possibly hurting Aaron Rodgers' MVP chances, their playoff mojo and the rep that the SEC typically produces crappy QB's.

Tampa Bay ends the year losing 10 straight.  Raheem Morris went from great coach to out of a job. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (c) Gang Starr

Scariest injury news? Ryan Clark of Pittsburgh sitting out next week’s playoff game due to a sickle cell condition. Props to Mike Tomlin doing the right thing.

Another year, both my Cowboys and Chargers are out of the playoffs and nobody to blame but themselves. The Chargers shot themselves in the foot too early and too late and the Cowboys did the same. And there’s no sign of things potentially changing in 2012 now that Norv Turner will be back as Chargers head coach and Jerry Jones is still the GM.

Pardon me while I go barf in the corner. You are what your record shows and being 8-8 says the Chargers are average despite having above average parts. The Cowboys are slightly above average but can’t be a guarantee to win big games (they have before but aren’t consistent).

Congrats to Cam Newton having the greatest NFL rookie season I’ve seen since Edgerrin James. Has anybody had a better 2-year run short of winning an professional championship? JUCO Nat’l Title, NCAA Nat’l Title, Dominated as a rookie QB in record fashion.

Killin em with a smile the way I remember another rookie doing throughout his "Magic"al career 
I don’t know which offense is scarier – Green Bay, New England or New Orleans. Since I said let’s discuss the playoffs.

Denver v. Pittsburgh. Tim Tebow backs into the playoffs and will promptly be thrown out by the wolves of Steel Town. I can’t wait!! Virgo Gumbo Pick: Pittsburgh

Detroit vs. New Orleans – As great as NO is, do NOT be surprised if Detroit opens up a shocking can because Detroit’s offense can go off in an instant. Calvin Johnson remains a difficult matchup and the Saints are still smarting from Seattle running on them. Yet if Matt Flynn destroyed Detroit, what will Brees do? VG Pick: Saints

Cincinnati vs. Houston – The surprises of the season. The patchwork Texans battling injury to reach the playoffs while Andy Dalton attempts to do his Joe Flacco/Mark Sanchez impersonation. Carson Palmer, meanwhile, has to enjoy this karma at home. VG Pick: Houston

Atlanta vs. New York – You never know which Giants team will show up. The team that beat Dallas and New England and stared Green Bay in the face or the team that sputtered down the stretch. Atlanta on the road is far more overrated despite Matt Ryan and that offense. VG Pick: Giants

Drew Brees and Tom Brady both shattered Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 yards (while Maurice Jones Drew quietly won the NFL rushing title and Rob Gronkowski destroyed several TE records.). It’s impressive once you keep it in context. Marino and Elway slung that rock in an era dominated by running backs and smaller wideouts. Brees and Brady have dominated a more pass-happy era and have excelled at their craft.

Consider this though. 10 QB’s passed for over 4,000 yards. In 1996, only 3 QB’s passed for over 4,000 yards. 10 years ago (2001 season, 02 playoffs), only 2 QB’s did it – including Kurt Warner with an insane 4,830 yards. Times have changed so you can appreciate the now while acknowledging how much more special it was in the past.

If I had to vote for MVP, give it to Aaron Rodgers. The quietest 15-1 season I’ve ever seen and remarkably efficient. His defining moment is either his 6 TD game (4 passing, 2 rushing) or his 1-minute drill against the NY Giants to win the game. 

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