Necessary Roughness



Necessary Roughness - Dave Brockie

It was a weekend of big changes at the quarterback position all around the league, and Sunday’s games gave the first good indication of what the rest of the season might be like for the unfortunate teams that are still struggling for consistency at what is undoubtedly the most important position on the field. Picking the players, especially the QB, is one of the most important jobs coaches have, and the strength of their decisions decides all kinds of things… like who wins the Super Bowl, and who gets to keep their job. Injuries and crummy play have forced several coaches to change their plans, and the fate of the season hangs in the balance for a few teams. This weekend’s action gave us the clearest evidence yet as to how it’s all going to turn out, and while it’s too early to start talking about certain coaches (or their relatives) getting canned, you can bet the whispering has begun.

Just look at the horrific blow-out the New Orleans Saints laid on the Indianapolis Colts, 62-7. The Colts season ended before it even got started with top QB Peyton Manning’s neck injury, and the Saints, behind the notoriously bad-hair of QB Drew Brees, are playing at their highest level since winning the Super Bowl a couple of years back. Like those people in New Orleans need another excuse to party!

In Denver, head coach John Fox’s decision to bench struggling vet Kyle Orton for legendary lumberjack Tim Tebow paid off with a big win over the hapless Miami Dolphins, who added to the league’s longest active losing streak and subtracted from the likelihood of head coach Tony Sparano having a tan next year. After a rough start, the near-mythic Tebow led his team to overcome a 15 point deficit in the last five minutes of the game, sandwiching two TD drives around an onside kick to send the game into overtime, where the Bronc’s won on Matt Prater’s long 52-yard field goal.

The effectiveness of the Carolina Panthers QB strategy has been widely debated, but I don’t think many would argue with it at this point. Most great QB’s have a shaky first year in the league, and it takes a patient team, fan base, and local media to allow a QB to lose games in order to get the experience he needs. In today’s results-now world such an attitude is a rarity, and to see it in action and actually working is a joy, even when it takes the form of Carolina QB Cam Newton making my suddenly-porous Washington Redskin defense look like road cones on his way to a 33-20 victory. Newton at times looked every bit the dominant figure the Panthers expect him to become, and a surge from this team seems imminent. Meanwhile the woes continued for the Redskins, despite a not-awful start from John Beck, who replaced the benched Rex Grossman last week. Injuries have decimated the O-line, and owner Dan Snyder might want to start seriously considering what it might take to remove the curse that Native Americans supposedly put on the team for their blatantly racist name.

Another team that was playing well was the Oakland Raiders, at least until until Jason Campbell broke his collarbone (actually that sounds pretty stupid… I am pretty sure Jason Campbell didn’t break his collarbone but a 300-pound linebacker did). The Raiders made some quick deals and lured Carson Palmer out of exile, so between him and back-up Kyle Boller they seemed to be in decent shape to weather the six weeks Campbell was expected to miss — until the two of them combined to throw six interceptions as the Kansas City Chiefs blanked the Raiders 28-0.

One of the best games of the weekend was the New York Jets vs. the San Diego Chargers, and I was looking forward to giving the Chargers some good ink this week as they were handling their business in an effective manner and seemed ready to continue to do so against the sporadic Jets. That was until a combo of QB Philip Rivers interceptions, stupid penalties, and an unexpected three-touchdown performance from Plaxico Burress led to a 27-21 victory for Rex Ryan (who I expressed an unexplained hatred for a few columns back) and his New York Jets.

In other mouth-guard losing struggles of big sweaty guys, Atlanta downed Detroit in a Ford Field Contest that had the fans booing the Lions as they dropped their second in a row. Chicago pulled out a close one vs. Tampa Bay, Houston pounded Tennessee 41-7, the Cowboys stayed on course, 34-7 over the Rams, Green Bay rolled up the Vikings 33-27, and finally Cleveland beat Seattle 6-3 in a game that was probably unwatchable even for the fans.

Next week will be the halfway point of the season and I think some picks are in order! Til’ then, back to my real job… being Oderus!

– Dave Brockie

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