The Oklahoma City Thunder have been ready to get this season under...
The NFL Is Here (Part Two)
PHILADELPHIA — When The Colts and Saints met Thursday night on NBC, football fans everywhere finally quenched their undying thirst for NFL regular season game action. Though the NFL is now a year round league with Training Camp, Pre-season Games, OTA’s, the NFL Draft, Summits, Rookie Symposium, Owner Meetings, and so many other activities that this page it too small to list — nothing gets fans going to the point of delirium except NFL game day. Bigger than any holiday, NFL game day is a once a week fan fest (this week there are three NFL game days, but who cares). To celebrate the NFL returning, I have compiled a list of news and notes surrounding the start of the NFL regular season. COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT Every year certain coaches and their teams know that the head man better get off to a good start and win or it will be curtains. With Super Bowl Champion coach Bill Cowher lurking in the weeds, coaches in tenuous situations better watch their back.
PHILADELPHIA — When The Colts and Saints met Thursday night on NBC, football fans everywhere finally quenched their undying thirst for NFL regular season game action. Though the NFL is now a year round league with Training Camp, Pre-season Games, OTA’s, the NFL Draft, Summits, Rookie Symposium, Owner Meetings, and so many other activities that this page it too small to list — nothing gets fans going to the point of delirium except NFL game day. Bigger than any holiday, NFL game day is a once a week fan fest (this week there are three NFL game days, but who cares).
To celebrate the NFL returning, I have compiled a list of news and notes surrounding the start of the NFL regular season.
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
Every year certain coaches and their teams know that the head man better get off to a good start and win or it will be curtains. With Super Bowl Champion coach Bill Cowher lurking in the weeds, coaches in tenuous situations better watch their back.
Romeo Crennel: The Browns 3rd year head coach came from a winning background in New England, but he has yet to add any of the Patriots magic to the hapless Browns. His record stands at 10-22 and GM Phil Savage and Owner Randy Lerner have given a win or leave ultimatum. In Crennel’s defense he has had to battle injuries and ineffective play at the quarterback position.
John Fox: Despite being the playoffs often, expectations might be the undoing of the Carolina Panthers head coach. After Super Bowl aspirations in 2006 (finished 8-8), Fox needs to get his aging team back to the playoffs.
Tom Coughlin: The Giants have several question marks on their roster (Quarterback, Age on Defense, Running Back, etc), a new GM (Jerry Reese) and a change in their ownership group that will affect the status of the beleaguered head coach. Coughlin must also silence a combustible lockerrom that is dealing with the loss and sniping of running back turned journalist Tiki Barber.
Jeff Fisher: Fisher is coming off an improbable 8-8 record in 2006 and is entering the final year of his contract. Most expect Fisher to sign a new deal, but you never know if he has had his fill of the Titans after 13 seasons and possible plum opening at the end of the season.
Joe Gibbs: Since returning in 2004, the Washington Redskins head coach has had three disappointing seasons with only one wildcard playoff win.
Several records can continue or will be broken in the 2007 season by the following players:
Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre:
– Needs seven more touchdown passes to break Dan Marino’s record for the most career touchdown passes in league history (420).
– Needs five interceptions to break George Blanda’s record for most interceptions (277)
– Needs to win two games to break Marino’s record of most wins
– Needs 3,882 yards to break the most passing yards in a career.
– With every game Favre starts, he will extend his consecutive games streak that stands at 237 entering the 2007 season.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning
– Needs 25 passing touchdowns to join John Elway, Fran Tarkenton, Favre, and Marino with at least 300 career touchdown passes in league history.
Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Tony Gonzalez
– Needs two touchdowns to pass Shannon Sharpe for most touchdowns in a career by a tight end (62). Gonzalez is currently at 61 touchdowns.
Oakland Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin
– The former offensive coordinator at USC, will make history as the youngest head coach in NFL history (31 when named in March, now 32). Kiffin’s father is Monte Kiffin, who is the long time defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers.
The NFL is a copycat league, so every team will be studying ways to mimic the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and other successful teams.
Two headed monsters in the backfield: Every team is now looking for at least two strong running backs on their roster to keep defensive coordinators guessing. Some teams may go with a “big” back and small speed back like the Eagles (Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter/Tony Hunt), but one thing is evident you need two guys because you can fill more vital characteristics (inside power runs, match-ups, mismatches, hands, blitz pickup, etc). By splitting carries running backs are more healthy and fresh. In 2006, the Colts (Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes) proved two backs are better than one 380 plus carry back, combining for.
The Cover 2 Defense is Growing: With the success of Tony Dungy his coaching tentacles are everywhere. His disciples (Mike Tomlin, Monty Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, and Herman Edwards) are preaching the cerebral “never get too high or low” concepts of Dungy including his vaunted Cover 2 or Tampa 2 defense. The defense is an effective style, because it forces teams to read zone coverage while watching for designed blitzes from anywhere.
Spreading the field on offense: The NFL game is now all about match-ups on offense. Offensive coaches now know that if they can get a player like Reggie Bush (RB with speed and hands) in a foot race with a safety or linebacker they will almost find a big play every time. They are willing to put four wide receiver sets on the field causing a defense to use all of their DB’s in coverage leaving the running back one on one. This trend can work, but it can also fail if your running back can not pick a blitz or your quarterback doesn’t get the ball out in rhythm.
Versatility from linebackers: The NFL defenses are now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area. 4-3 teams often incorporate 3-4 coverage and pass rushing, because the 3-4 has come back in vogue in the NFL due to pressure. 3-4 defenses rely on interchangeable players, who can rush the passer and cover (Patriots LB unit), so defensive coordinators want guys that can play all three positions (SAM, MIKE, WILL). The key is an athletic player with the ability to stay on the field for all 3 downs (Think new Patriots LB Adalius Thomas).
Athletic Safeties Wanted: With teams trying to limit big plays (30 yards or more), safeties have also become main cogs in defenses. This has caused teams to search for the next “Brian Dawkins” in their “back two”. An athletic player like Washington Redskins 2007 first round pick Laron Landry is in vogue, because he can cover, tackle, and be interchangeable enough to play both Strong and Free Safety. Deception is also a big factor with interchangeable safeties as shown by the Colts and Raiders. Both teams employ a system where a safety can lineup at ether spot when the huddle breaks, causing “match-up” problems for offensive coordinators who try to isolate slower safeties in space.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher: The “Jaw” will be joining host James Brown, Boomer Esaison, Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino on CBS’s The NFL Today.
Fox NFL Sunday back in studio: The NFL on Fox will be back in studio in Los Angeles with Curt Menefee as full-time host. The sole exception will be for the Giants-Dolphins game on October 28th in London, as they will be on location.
ESPN Shakes things up: Bill Parcells returns to the network after four years as Dallas Cowboys head coach. Also former Cowboys, Emmitt Smith and Keyshawn Johnson will be part of their NFL team.
Monday Night Football goes to the Sharks: Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron “Jaws” Jaworski will join Monday Night holdovers Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser in the booth.
Football Night in America Grabs a “Tiki” torch: Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber joins NBC Sunday football along with MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann. Another minor change is Faith Hill singing the “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night” theme instead of Pink.
New Coaches a plenty: There were seven new head coaches Bobby Petrino (Atlanta), Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona), Cam Cameron (Miami), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Wade Phillips (Dallas), Lane Kiffin (Oakland), and San Diego Norv Turner.
Joe Theismann: Out after 17 years in the booth after ESPN let him go.
Michael Irvin: Irvin got in the Hall of Fame (Best Speech), but he was dropped by ESPN as an analyst.
Sterling Sharpe: NBC dropped Sharpe as analyst in favor of Tiki Barber.
Coaches that fell off the merry go round: Bill Parcells (Former Cowboys coach retired), Dennis Green (Former Cardinals coach was fired after not making the playoffs), Nick Saban (The former Dolphins coach decided it was easier to coach in college and he took a job at Alabama), Art Shell (The former Raiders coach was fired after a 2-14 record in his second go round with the Raiders), Jim Mora (Former Falcons coach was fired after not making the playoffs the past two seasons and after some remarks about the University of Washington job), Marty Schottenheimer (Despite the NFL’s best record of 14-2, he could win in the playoffs or get along with GM AJ Smith), and the aforementioned Bill Cowher who left the Steelers to attend some his daughter’s basketball games.
Unruly Behavior: For better or worse the NFL will be cracking down on players and coaches that run amuck. This is the best game going the NFL does not want anyone to kill the golden goose. We have already seen a superstar (Vick) and a coach (Wade Wilson) suspended for violations.
Must See Games
There are 256-regular season games, but here are some of my favorites.
San Diego at New England (Sunday, Sept. 16) — I think LT has this one circled on his calendar.
Tennessee at New Orleans (Monday, Sept. 24) — Reggie Bush versus Vince Young in a rematch of the 2005 Heisman race and BCS National Championship game.
Pittsburgh at Arizona (Sunday, Sept. 30) –Whisenhunt and Grimm take on their old team.
N.Y. Giants vs. Miami in London (Sunday, Oct. 28) — First regular season game outside of North America. This game will be played at a sold out Wembley Stadium in London, England and will be televised on FOX. Sorry Dolphins fans you will lose a home game.
New England at Indianapolis (Sunday, Nov. 4) — The Patriots will want to show the AFC championship game was a fluke after losing a 21-3 lead.
Miami at Pittsburgh (Monday, Nov. 26) — Joey Porter returns to the Steel City to face his old team.
Indianapolis at Baltimore (Sunday, Dec. 9) — A rematch of last year’s divisional playoff, where the Colts came back to Baltimore and handled the Ravens easily.
Philadelphia at Dallas (Sunday, Dec. 16) — This game will probably be for the division title and these two franchises don’t like each other. Did I mention the T.O factor.