I was watching PTI at the gym this afternoon and in the first four stories Wilbon and Kornheiser called something the greatest of all time. First up were the Patriots, who Tony said would go 19-0 and were the best football team of all time. Then came Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner of all time. Finally, after a brief respite during a college football discussion that flirted with calling South Florida the greatest something or other of all time, up came the Colorado Rockies who are on the greatest hot streak of all time.
Cris Collinsworth did the same thing during halftime of last night's Sunday Night football game when he referred to New England as the best team he's ever seen. There's been scuttlebutt here and there that Tom Brady is having the greatest season of any quarterback ever, during last year's NCAA Tournament we heard that Greg Oden was the best Freshman to ever play college basketball. Unless it was Kevin Durant.
What's all the fuss about the greatest of all time? I think it has more to do with us than with anything these teams or players do in their chosen fields. We're obsessed with thinking that we are witnessing the absolute height of human achievement rather than just admitting that every era has its standouts, that its impossible to truly compare sports performances from one era against another except in the mind's eye. Sure, statisticians can create formulas that put things on an equal playing field but can anyone say with any degree of real certainty what would happen if Clemens took on Babe Ruth or if Tim Duncan's Spurs played the Knicks of Reed and Frazier?
I'd love to see both matchups but until someone harnesses 1.21 gigawatts it's going to remain a fantasy. These mythical titles seem to exist just to start the next debate - If the Patriots are the greatest team of all time and the Colts beat them does that make the Colts the greatest team of all time? - and in that next debate no one is going to be more inclined to temper their remarks.
I'm not saying any and all of these people are being mislabeled, except for the San Diego State kicker thing which is just hyperbole out of control. I'm just saying that our need to feel like we live in interesting and amazing times trumps any and all perspective about the length and variety of history.
They called World War I the "war to end all wars" and as you'll note by the ongoing muck of Iraq that was more than a little premature. The generation that won World War II, the "greatest generation," went on to get us into Vietnam, presided over Jim Crow and helped create divides in this country that are still being fought over. And those are things that actually matter. Wouldn't it be both easier and more accurate to say that huge things and magnificent individuals exist in every era and just celebrate them that way instead of resorting to hyperbole that only serves to make us feel better about ourselves?
Pretty big game for the Jets this weekend. The Eagles, not exactly setting the world on fire themselves, are coming to town and Chad Pennington's fighting for his job and, perhaps, his future with the Jets. I discussed this weekend's matchup and a lot more with Brian Bassett of the always excellent The Jets Blog for his weekly podcast which you can listen to right here and I previewed the game over at the FanHouse.
Quick and dirty, things don't look good for the Jets. The Eagles have Brian Westbrook and Gang Green can't stop the run while the Eagles have a pretty decent defense and the Jets have, well, very little to offer offensively. At least they'll look sharp in their throwback unis. Yep, that's what the Jets will be wearing this weekend. Scoff if you will but the Eagles put up 56 points in their old-school duds so maybe there's something to turning back the clock.
Every football season brings a handful of teams that win their first two games and dreams of postseason crop up in places that were just hoping for a .500 record before the season started. According to the Houston Chronicle, since 2002 41 teams have started 2-0 but only 24 of those teams have gone on to make the playoffs. That's 58.5% which means that two wins to start a season doesn't guarantee anything more than not finishing 1-15. Take the 2002 season, for example. Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego all won their first two games but only Oakland, the eventual Super Bowl loser, ended up playing more than 16 games. With that in mind I thought I'd take a look at this year's hot starters and see which of them were likely to keep up the good play in coming weeks.
New England Patriots - I'd say they are very likely to keep up the good play and will end up shy one first-round draft pick next April. The New York Post might be putting an asterisk next to their record but it has about as much of a place as it does next to Omar Vizquel's career home runs. The wins count, the team is loaded and a run at the '72 Dolphins probably isn't out of the question. However unlikely an undefeated season might be the Patriots will make it at least 25 playoff teams since 2002.
New England 38, San Diego 14 - Whoever said that cheaters never prosper never met Bill Belichick. Coming off a week that saw him fined $500,000 and his team stripped of a draft choice, Belichick first received a contract extension and then a hero's welcome by the hometown crowd at the outset of last night's game with the Chargers. His team responded to all of the chaos by laying another beating on an AFC rival and further establishing themselves as the team to beat in the conference. Taking the talent of the Patriots and adding in the fury of a woman scorned is a dangerous combination indeed for the NFL. Dangerous for the Chargers is a second poor outing for Philip Rivers and the sneaking suspicion that they may have missed their last, best chance at making it to the Super Bowl against these same Patriots in the playoffs last season.
Houston 34, Carolina 21 - What a difference a quarterback makes. Matt Schaub spent more time slinging passes to Andre Johnson than staring at the clouds and the Texans are 2-0. They've got a good little defense, too. They forced three turnovers and sacked Jake Delhomme three times to help overcome a 14-0 first quarter deficit. The Panthers need to work on holding onto the ball and the defense could use an upgrade but Delhomme and Steve Smith need no remedial work. They hooked up for all three Panther touchdowns.
Cleveland 51, Cincinnati 45 - Message to Chad Johnson: Don't tempt the powers of karma by leaping into the opposing team's stands after you score a touchdown. Message to Cincinnati defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan: You need to do a better job. Message to Derek Anderson: Job very well done. Message to Jamal Lewis: Welcome back!
Jacksonville 13, Atlanta 7 - David Garrard threw for 272 yards and a touchdown and the Jags sacked Joey Harrington seven times. They also committed 11 penalties and needed two missed field goals to escape with a win against a terrible Falcons team, which is what we in the business call bad omens of future success.
Indianapolis 22, Tennessee 20 - The Titans blueprint for this season is pretty clear. Run the ball behind a talented offensive line all day long and let Vince Young take care of anything else. It worked in Week One and nearly did the trick against the Colts on Sunday but the Indy defense stiffened late and held off the last-ditch rally.
San Francisco 17, St. Louis 16 - Remember when Dante Hall was one of the most explosive weapons in the NFL? You'll have to because now he's a guy who fumbles punts in the fourth quarter and sets up the game-winning field goal for the opposition. Frank Gore bailed out another crap performance from Alex Smith with 81 yards and two touchdowns but the Niners need to find a passing game if they want to keep winning games.
Green Bay 35, Giants 13 - Those of us in New York were thrilled to find the Giants on Fox for the early game on Sunday afternoon. Check that, we were dismayed, depressed and searching for any other way to spend the day especially once the fourth quarter began. The Pack blew open a 14-13 game with three fourth-quarter touchdowns against a team that quit playing. That sound you hear is Tom Coughlin's resume getting updated.
Pittsburgh 26, Buffalo 3 - The Steelers did what they were supposed to do to a team playing with a skeleton defense and a heavy heart after Kevin Everett's injury. If they keep this up against teams that aren't from Buffalo and Cleveland we'll start getting excited.
Tampa Bay 31, New Orleans 14 - Was Joe Horn really the reason why the Saints had the most explosive offense in the NFL last season? He was the only significant departure from the roster but seems to have taken all of the firepower to Atlanta with him. It should be noted that the Falcons don't have any firepower so perhaps it's some kind of chemical reaction that needs both Horn and the Saints together but whatever the case the pressure is mounting on Bourbon Street.
Arizona 23, Seattle 20 - Arizona blew another huge lead and was staring at another Neil Rackers field goal from the hash to try and pull out a win. In the Chicago game that effectively ended Dennis Green's tenure, Rackers missed and the Bears won. Yesterday, however, Rackers was true from 42 yards out and the Cardinals pulled out a big divisional victory.
Dallas 37, Miami 20 - The Cowboys offense continued unabated and the defense showed a little more steel than they did against the Giants. Unless the old Wade Phillips rears its ugly head the 'Boys are going to be one of the toughest teams to beat in all of football.
Detroit 20, Minnesota 17 - The Vikings defense is no joke. Tarvaris Jackson is a huge joke, though, and that's the difference between being 2-0 and 1-1. On the Lions side as long as Jon Kitna is in the game they have a chance to win but when he's out, as he was for most of Sunday's contest, J.T. O'Sullivan isn't able to keep the offense humming.
Baltimore 20, Jets 13 - So glad that the Jets found the money to keep Justin McCareins on the team but weren't able to scrape together a couple of nickels for Pete Kendall.
Denver 23, Oakland 20 - The Raiders need to play 60 minutes of football, stop worrying about when the other guy calls a timeout and figure out if Josh McCown is hurt or just a bad quarterback, in that order.
Chicago 20, Kansas City 10 - What a difference a year doesn't make - Bears defense and special teams win a game because Rex Grossman isn't able to get out of his own way.
If you're wondering where today's recap of the Jets 20-13 loss in Baltimore is, I invite you to head over to the FanHouse where I've just completed my first weekend as a writer. I'm covering the Jets as well as the Ravens, Broncos and Bears and am excited to be part of such a talented group of writers on one of the best sports blogs on these here internets. It does mean that there will be less coverage of Gang Green on these pages but you can be sure that no stone will be left unturned when it comes to bringing all the news and views that are fit to print on the pages of my new employer. Hope to see you there and as a taste of what you can find here are yesterday's recaps.
One way or the other we're going to find out what kind of football team the Jets are this weekend. Last week's game was a mess on both sides of the field but the combination of superior talent and espionage make it hard to know how much that has to do with the Patriots and how much it has to do with Gang Green. Is the pass rush really as feeble as it looked last weekend? Are the defensive backs as impotent? Can the offensive line really be that much worse for the loss of Pete Kendall? My initial feelings on these questions are two optimistic no's and an emphatic yes. That yes may have cost them Chad Pennington for this weekend's action and could get whoever ends up starting at quarterback killed against the Ravens.
That defense almost won Monday's opener all by itself for Baltimore but even their greatness couldn't overcome six turnovers and an awful pass-interference call on Todd Heap that cost the Ravens most of their scoring chances. Steve McNair may not be able to play on Sunday after sustaining his regular buffet of injuries although it's hard to judge how much of an edge that might give Mangini's minions. Kyle Boller resembled Kyle Boller but the Ravens, who are also missing Jonathan Ogden, aren't likely to open up the offense any more than necessary. Still, without Ogden and without much offensive flow the Jets should be able to challenge the Ravens offense if last week's miscues were caused by the Patriots. The Bengals got a lot of pressure last weekend and held Willis McGahee in check for the most part, if the Jets can't do the same it's going to be a long, long season.
The uncertainty at quarterback is going to hurt the Jets either way. If Pennington starts he will be at less than 100% and if it's Clemens, and I expect it will be, then you're basically throwing a three-year old in the deep end to see if he can swim. Maybe he can but more likely he drowns under the onslaught of Rex Ryan's aggressive game plan. It would be nice if Thomas Jones came up with a big game to take some pressure off whoever was throwing the ball but the Ravens line is both strong and fast, a combination that should be fatal to the leaky unit the Jets employ up front. I don't like the Jets chances to turn things around this week and even with a ten point spread I can't see betting against BALTIMORE.
The NFL handed down its punishment to the Patriots yesterday and it falls far short of harsh. The team will lose a first-round pick this season if they make a playoffs or their second and third-rounders if they miss the postseason and will pay a $250,000 fine. Bill Belichick will personally have to pay a $500,000 fine. The penalty seems severe since no team has ever been stripped of the first-round pick that the Pats will potentially lose but it isn't. Let's be honest about how good the Patriots are this season, something Roger Goodell wasn't willing to do, and posit that they make the Super Bowl. They would then lose either the 31st or 32nd pick in the draft, pay their minimal fine and move on without really suffering any setback after getting caught cheating. That still leaves the Pats with the 49ers first-round pick and unless Alex Smith turns into Joe Montana that's sure to be a better selection than the one they earn by themselves and the penalties do nothing to hurt the Patriots this season. They could have suspended Belichick for what Goodell called "a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field."
What's more important to a professional sports league than that? Wade Wilson, a Cowboys coach, got a five game suspension for buying performance enhancing drugs - and the drugs weren't to enhance his coaching performance - because PEDs fly in the face of fair play and honest competition. Yet Belichick does something that tampers with the outcome of a game and gets away scott free. It doesn't make sense that Goodell would say that he considered suspending the coach but decided against it because the penalty handed down was far more significant and long-lasting than a suspension.
Doesn't that depend on the suspension, Roger? I'm not advocating what Carson Palmer of the Bengals suggested, a suspension equal to that of Chris Henry, because Belichick isn't a criminal miscreant but wouldn't the same suspension that Wilson received create some problems for New England? And why the focus on something long-lasting. The Patriots got caught cheating this season and should get penalized for it this season.
As the football world waits for the NFL's decision about punishment for New England's extracurricular videotaping on Sunday the Jets are doing their best to concentrate on the game ahead. In a way all of the attention being paid to Videogate is helping them escape media scrutiny of the way they actually played in the 38-14 loss. Most notably they are avoiding questions about the price they weren't willing to pay to protect Chad Pennington. Eric Mangini's meetings with the press have focused on the Patriots and, to a lesser extent, Pennington's injury but he hasn't faced much grilling about the decision to trade Pete Kendall instead of giving him a $1,000,000 raise.
The team's general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, did address the decision and stood by it.
“I understand we have to be accountable for our decisions,” Tannenbaum said last night by telephone. “We don’t shirk them.” He added: “We’re comfortable with the value we received when we traded Pete. I said that at the time, and nothing has changed.”
Whatever the NFL decides about the Patriots there isn't going to be any direct benefit to the Jets. They aren't going to forfeit the second game between the teams to the Jets nor are they going to move it to the Meadowlands which means that the team needs to redouble their efforts to fix the onfield problems. Adrian Clarke was terrible on Sunday, the rookie Jacob Bender probably isn't ready to do a much better job and if Pennington is able to play this Sunday he will be doing so at risk of suffering a much more devastating injury than last week's rolled ankle. The Newark Star-Ledger reports that he won't be in the pocket but that just means that Kellen Clemens, the future at quarterback, will be under assault because the Jets didn't do what was necessary to keep their offensive line at full strength.
It's time to move on from the ancillary story of Sunday's loss and move on to the main one. The Jets need to be much better than they were last week to avoid an 0-2 start that would be disastrous to their playoff hopes.