A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Outmanned, But Never Outgunned (Conclusion)
The National Football League prepares for the coming season with an interesting set of subplots: the tragic, sudden death of Hall of Fame lineman and Players’ Union head Gene Upshaw; the continued disrespect and devaluation of the many players living in poverty who helped the league become the top spectator sport in America; and the interceding by commissioner Roger Goodell in steering Brett Favre into a starting spot so he can have a chance to break the all-time record for consecutive starts.
For the Field Generals coming into the new season, the challenges in running the show are further magnified as the exploits of the Manning brothers, Tom Brady and Favre are hyped in-house to mythic status.
And before the haters start in with some racial nonsense, let’s not get it twisted. The accomplishments of all the aforementioned quarterbacks are recognized.
Few passers prepare like Peyton Manning; Favre is always enjoyable to watch play ball and Brady has been doing it doing it doing it well for years.
So why does the League feel the need to continually piss on the Black quarterbacks?
If you were privy to the constant nattering of the talking heads and beat writers last year, you would have thought Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was the worst quarterback to ever put on a uniform.
But the reality is, Jackson, in the 12 games he has started in, has a winning percentage of 67% (8-4). And in spite of that fact, Goodell seemed to do everything behind the scenes to nudge Favre to Minnesota.
Credit head coach Brad Childress and the Viking front office for realizing the talent they have in Jackson, who can only get better.
Meanwhile, the super-hyped Matt Leinart can’t get out of his own way in Arizona, where he lost his starting spot to Kurt Warner. I give Warner big props because he recognized Leinart wasn’t as good as he was hyped to be; and basically outplayed the kid so badly, management couldn’t ignore which passer was more effective.
Warner beat Leinart’s ass on the field, where all competition should be settled; not in some stupid board room where bean counters are getting hard ons as they calculate personal seating license limits.
But the Leinarts of the world will be given passes until they eventually get it. If you think I’m talking a buncha smack, think back to Vinny Testaverde.
While no one ever questioned Testaverde’s arm strength, he was clueless at the pro level until his eighth season. No Black QBs I know are ever gonna have that kind of luxury in grasping a learning curve for that position in a similar time frame.
The situation is similar in Baltimore with Troy Smith, whose illness kept him from securing the starting spot over rookie Joe Flacco. Flacco, who was on the depth chart with another former Ravens’ first round pick, Kyle Boller, looks better in his first steps as field general as Boller ever did; and this is someone who had five years to grasp the system. Boller’s injury was a saving grace for him in that he gets to mark time on his eventual pension.
While Smith did show some flashes near the end of last season, he needed to seize the opportunity that was placed in front of him. Already catching flak for being “too short,” Smith may not get another chance.
In spite of the Ravens’ renowned defense, they have to be placed in the “pretenders” category; unless Flacco can ride the learning curve and prove to be the real deal.
Meanwhile, in California’s East Bay, the Oakland Raiders look to break out of the Black Hole with JaMarcus Russell leading the offense. Russell, the first selection in the 2007 Draft, has a year’s worth of game under his belt and must now show the Silver and Black faithful he can get the job done.
Even without the selection of Arkansas Razorback Darren McFadden, the Raiders had a decent ground game; now it moves up to potentially formidable — just the kind of additional weapon needed to implement a diversified and steady offensive attack.
Unfortunately, for Vince Young and his Tennessee Titans, he will have to play Super Brotha Man because his front office refused to get him someone who could catch the ball.
While former Titan Justin McCareins returns from flopping and dropping passes in New York, the Titans never got Young any real receiving help. Unless they have one hell of a hole card, Titans can’t bluff away their deficiency at receiver; and Young had better not come out on that field without his cape.
In Seattle, Seneca Wallace is being co-opted into a “Slash” monolith as the Seahawks go into coach Mike Holmgren’s last season. Bumped by another passer who wasn’t better than him (Charlie Frye), Wallace, who has won games and moved the offense, gets kicked to the curb as he runs pass patterns.
That scenario has a familiar ring in New York City. Brad Smith, who may even have a better arm than Favre, won’t ever get to show it while in the Big Apple.
While Favre has sold a lot of No. 4 Jets jerseys, he hasn’t sold me on getting to the playoffs. Not because he can’t play; because head man Eric Mangini tries to be too clever – and gets into gadget plays when a punch in the gut is more appropriate.
To Smith’s credit, if he is upset about it, it’s not outwardly showing. I would not be surprised if Smith has a similar career path to Kerry Joseph, who played out of position for four years in the NFL before going up to Canada and winning a Grey Cup championship for the Saskatchewan Roughriders — as a quarterback.
It pains me to put my Philadelphia Eagles in this category, but the Draft didn’t bring the help quarterback Donovan McNabb needed to get over the hump. McNabb, who says he feels better than ever and is ready to jam, has to man up knowing his front office has pimped him out during his career, culminating in his discourse – and correctly so — about Black quarterbacks having to do more.
Like their style cousins in Seattle, Eagles get caught up in passing too often and not utilizing their 325 (average) pound tackle to tackle offensive line to punish opponents with power ball.
The NFC East has reclaimed its Beast status; and this bullshit deployment of that offense won’t win games in November & December.
The death of safety Sean Taylor was a crippling blow for Washington; but the maturation of Jason Campbell continued in a positive vein. Unlike other teams in the division, Washington got Campbell tall targets at receiver (Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis) to augment the talented Smurf tandem of Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El.
Add the running back combo of Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis, toss in Campbell’s safety blanket, tight end Chris Cooley, and Washington emerges as a legitimate playoff threat.
In Pittsburgh, head coach Mike Tomlin is poised to strike in his revision of Steeler football. Rashard Mendenhall and Willle Parker will do damage running the ball, but the relief pitcher role ably performed by the now injured Charlie Batch for starter Ben Roethlisberger, goes to Byron Leftwich, back in the loop after losing his job to David Garrard in Jacksonville.
Speaking of Jacksonville, David Garrard and his Jaguars are loaded, with proven entities on the ground and solid defense. Any consistent production from the receivers will be gravy for this team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their trip to the Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa will be by bus.
Which brings us back where we started — to Minnesota and the Vikings, who are only a field general away from Tampa; and Tarvaris Jackson may well be the man.
Tailback Adrian Peterson, the Williams Brothas on defense stuffing the run, Jared Allen igniting the pass rush, and heady, steady play from Jackson may temporarily temper the efforts to stem the tide of whitening the premier position.
Could we have a Soul Bowl in Tampa? We’ll have about five months to find out.
NOTE: On Thursday, 31-year-old free-agent quarterback Daunte Culpepper, a nine-year veteran whose 110.9 passer rating in 2004 ranks fifth on the all-time single season list, announced his retirement from the National Football League.