SWEET GOODBYE, BEST FRIEND
Why does it always seem like the worst things in life happen in the middle of the night?
I am pretty gosh darned low right now, and writing is the only things that I can think of to do in order to perhaps help me sleep. You see, I have had a tragedy in my house late last night/early this morning.
My best friend passed away.
My dog, Chico, came to me on a Monday in March of 2001. I remember it was a Monday, because I was dating a girl who worked at Lollipop Farm at the time, and I went to visit her at work on a Friday. She gave me a tour of the facilities, including a "hehind the scenes" part that took me into the doggy infirmary.
It was there that I met Chico. I thought of him all weekend long. He had a little doggy lampshade on his head when she brought him out for me, telling me that he had just had surgery. It was on his penis. His hot dog didn't fit into the bun at all, and they did some cutting to try to make it fit better. I jokingly told Dorothy that I could relate to a Chihuahua with a big penis, and big laughs were had by all. Chico climbed right up into my lap and was all excited to meet me. He was even moreso when someone brought a box of mice into the room. Chico was enthralled by the mice, but still imparted to me that he wanted me to take him home. It was love at first sight. How could I refuse?
I still remember the drive home vividly. Chico was so excited and exuberant, he was all over the interior of my car. Chico was exuberant about everything, as I was soon to find out. He had a zest for life that was above reproach. He loved chasing balls, running after people on bikes when on a walk, and goodies or treats.
There were countless walks, and apartments on Lake Avenue and Gorsline street to adjust to in addition to my house. Nothing ever seemed to bother him, except when hiding toys. He had the funniest thing. When Chico would have a toy in his mouth, sometimes he would want to hide it somewhere in the house or apartment. He would walk around looking for a place, softly whining the whole time. Finally, he would find a cushion or blanket that he deemed perfect, put the toy down, and try to bury it under the blanket or cushion and crying and whining the whole time while doing so. It was bizarre, but oh so adorable.
The whole time, Chico endeared himself to my father and mother, and then my wife. Of course, he was always "my little boy". You grow close to a dog that you have to put KY Jelly or Vaseline on his wiener a couple times a week for most of the time you have him.
When my wife (then girlfriend) moved from Denver to live with me in the months after my father's death in the summer of 2007, Chico suddenly got four brothers and sisters that my wife brought with her. He handled it with aplomb. In fact, I think he loved spending the latter part of his life as part of a "pack".
Sadly, age started creeping up on Chico in the last year or two. Lollipop told me that they THOUGHT he was a year or so old when I got him. I am pretty sure now that they fudged that, and he was at least 2 or 3, maybe more. Little dogs like Chico usually make it into their mid to late teens, and it he was one when I got him, that would put him at 13 now. I'm not buying it.
Anyways, our vet told us a year and a half ago that Chico was in early stage renal failure. His kidneys were failing. They put him on a special diet to feed him and told us to give him IV fluids at least once a week. My wife and I did that faithfully. We gave him an extra half year at least I'm convinced.
When we went to Denver in Late July, we noticed Chico was starting to cough a little bit. We didn't think much of it. After all, the dog is old, we thought. Had to just be age, or allergies or the nights getting colder, we thought. After two or three weeks following our return, Chico's cough kept getting worse, so we took him to the vet. They put him on antibiotics and told us to up his IV fluids to 3 or 4 times a week. It didn't work. Cough didn't go away.
We took him back to get looked at again by a vet, and an X-ray. They gave us another round of antibiotics and a cough suppresent for dogs. Nothing seemed to work. His cough just wouldn't go away. Finally, last night, Chico started breating soft and fast. It was a Sunday night. It was 3 in the morning. Chico wouldn't eat for the first time in his life. I knew it was bad. I called my wife, who was in Denver to tell her things were not good. She told me to pick Chico up and hold him.
He died in my arms while I was talking to my wife.
As I speak, Chico's body is lying comfortably sleeping in his doggy bed on our dining room table. I can't sleep at all. Probably won't. Gotta find a neighbor or friend to drive me to the doggy cremation place now.
I've been wiping away tears the whole time I have been writing this. Can't help it. Those memories of that little fella will be with me for the rest of my life, joined with the memories of my other three dogs.
As sad as I am right now, I still feel so sorry for those people who don't have any dogs or cats in their lives and refuse to get any. Those people don't have to deal with barking, meowing, pooping or peeing on the rug, keeping you awake at night by whining, fussing or snoring. or bothering the neighbors. They also won't receive the unconditional love and acceptance that a dog or cat will provide for more than a decade. Not to mention the countless hours of entertainment and amusement they will give you.
As sad as I am right now, I wouldn't trade anything for the dozen years I spent with my best friend. He was with me for my happiness after a number of first dates. He was there to console me after a number of breakups. He was there to welcome my wife, moving from Colorado. He was there to greet me when I got home from my wedding reception.
Now, I'm sure he will be waiting for me on the other side. Rest in peace my dear little friend. I'll see you again on the other side of the rainbow bridge.
GIVE IRSAY A BREAK
As usual, I am amused by the national sports media reacting to a story. The story is about what Indianaplis Colts owner Jim Irsay had to say about his team during Peyton Manning's tenure there. The story got even bigger play because this is the week that Peyton returns to the Hoosier Dome (or whatever corporate name the place has now) for the first time since Irsay and the Colts parted ways with him.
Here is what Irsay had to say originally:
"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these (championship rings," Irsay told USA Today. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this (referring to his Super Bowl ring)."
Now, because of those statements, it seems many in the media are hanging Irsay in effigy, as if he has said something to dis one of the football gods, one of which right now is Peyton Manning.
It is ridiculous to me how big a deal this has become, and the national sports media twists it more than a french braid. I guess that is what you will get whenever you have four full time sports networks trying to fill time, and milking the same story for all it's worth. It's still amusing to hear the chatter.
"With Jim Irsay saying all those terrible things about Payton Manning, taking all the shots he took, and ripping him his abilities and competitive drive in the playoffs like he did, what effect do you think it will have on this weekend's game Tom?"
"Well Andrew, I have to think it will add to Manning's fire. I think he's going to come out firing against the Colts, looking to send a message and I wouldn't be surprised to see Peyton pointing up to the owner's box after every touchdown throw."
It's been one exchange like that after another on ESPN, the NFL Network, Fox Sports 1 and so on. One of them interviewed Broncos head coach John Fox, who blasted Irsay and joined in the fray. That made for a NEW news story on all the sports networks. Jim Irsay also responded to the controversy himself, trying to clarify his point, which he believed was being taken out of context. Problem is, in clarifying what he was saying, Irsay basically said the exact same thing he had said before, which set tongues wagging all over again.
So, now we know how Irsay really feels, and that he isn't going to backtrack. Now let me analyze what Irsay said, and see if it really should bother anyone.
Irsay basically is saying that his Colts, under the guidance of Peyton Mannig put up amazing offensive numbers and the team had a high winning percentage. That being said, because they won only one Super Bowl, it was disappointing to Irsay.
What's wrong with that?
Irsay was not saying anything bad about Peyton Manning personally. Irsay didn't say anything about Manning being a terrible quarterback or choking in the playoffs or in big games. He didn't say that Peyton has a big head that barely fits in his helmet, or that he looks like a goofball in those Papa John's commercials.
What Irsay simply said was that, for whatever reasons, his Colts underachieved in the playoffs. He said that for a variety of reasons, including poor defense, injuries and cold weather, his Colts teams lost games and didn't go as far as he expected them to, which was disappointing to him. He realized the error of how he put that team together, and was trying to do things differently this time with Andrew Luck.
I see no problem whatsoever with Jim Irsay's comments. In fact, I agree with them. Manning's Colts were too good a team for too long of a time to only have won one Super Bowl. I'd be disappointed too, and trying a different approach with a new group of players. That is not to say that it was all Peyton's fault.
That being said, I think Peyton still has something to prove this year with his juggernaut Broncos team. Irsay's comments also subtlely put more pressure on Manning. He better win this year's Super Bowl, or many people will begin to re-question the context of Irsay's comments. They'd have a right to.
NFL's BLACKBALLING OF TEBOW IS BORDERING ON RIDICULOUS
Look around at the current state of NFL quarterbacks. Please, go ahead. I dare you. Look at the depth charts in the NFL. OK, so you don't want to take the time to do that. I can understand. Your life is busy. OK, here is a link for you to the rotoworld website:
OK, so what I want you to look at is...."how many of these teams could benefit from having Tim Tebow on it?"
Now I know that many of you so-called "football experts" will say, "I would rather have a blind three headed monkey quarterback my football team than Tim Tebow. He is so awful, it's indescribable."
That's your prerogative and your opinion to feel that way, but you are being unrealistic. You are also full of shit.
Let me remind you, and give you a history lesson of sorts. Tim Tebow took over a 1-4 Denver Broncos football team in 2011, and led them to an 8-8 record and a playoff berth. Then, he led his team to an upset of a ten point favored Pittsburgh Steelers team in the first round of the playoffs.
Has Thaddeus Lewis or Jeff Tuel done this? Hell no! What about Matt Simms or Brady Quinn? Hardly. Or Matt Moore or Pat Devlin? Moore has had a couple decent NFL games, but hasn't done what Tebow did. And that's just the AFC East.
In the AFC North, Tebow has a better NFL resume than Tyrod Taylor, Josh Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones. In the AFC South, with Jake Locker injured, Ryan Fitzpatrick's backup is someone named Rusty Smith. With Blaine Gabbart injured, Chad Henne's backup is Ricky Stanzi. Ever heard of either of them? Me neither, yet their NFL GM's feel they are more "ready for action" than Tim Tebow. Amazing!
What about the AFC West? Well, Terrelle Pryor is the Oakland starting quarterback. His career record as a starting QB is 2-4 (Tebow's is 9-7). He is also a "running quarterback, like Tebow, yet the same experts who rip Tebow endlessly, say Pryor has a "high ceiling". His backup is Matt McGloin, who at least one person thinks is better than Tebow--the Raiders GM. The Chargers have Charlie Whitehurst as their backup QB. He doesn't have the resume of success that Tebow does, and Brad Sorenstam is their third QB. Ever hear of him before? Me neither, but Sorenstam has an NFL roster spot, while Tim Tebow is out of the league. Sound ridiculous enough yet? Let's check the NFC.
In Big D, the guy Tebow took over for...who couldn't win in Denver, before Tebow turned the Broncos fortunes around in 2011, Kyle Orton--well, he is Tony Romo's top backup in Dallas. He's still in the league. Tebow is not. In the Big Apple, Curtis Painter, who was utterly inept filling in for Peyton Manning in Indy two and three years ago, is Eli Manning's top backup. Rookie Ryan Nassib is the third stringer and has an NFL roster spot. Tebow doesn't.
In the NFC North, Josh McKown and Seneca Wallace have had more NFL chances than Ralph Nader has had Presidential runs, and have shown zero success stories. Their teams feel strong enough about them to have them be backup quarterbacks over Tim Tebow. In the twin cities, first round draft bust Christian Ponder has an NFL record of well under .500 as a starter, and they are ready to give up on him. Would they turn to Tebow? No, they would rather give a shot to two QB's with losing records as a starter, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel.
In the NFC South, Domenique Davis has no track record whatsoever, yet the Falcons would rather have him than Tim Tebow as Matt Ryan's backup. In Carolina, Derek Anderson has had two shots at being an NFL starting QB in Cleveland and Arizona, but was run out of town each time for ineffectiveness. Still, the Panthers would rather have him than Tim Tebow, even in a 'read/option offense. In the Big Easy, Luke McCown has been a clipboard holder in more cities than an aviation secretary. Finally, in Tampa, Mike Glennon's new backup is the main starting QB for the NFL's only 0-16 team in history, Dan Orlavsky. They can call themselves NFL quarterbacks. Tim Tebow is out of the league.
Last, but not least in my little exercise, the St. Louis Rams backup quarterback for Sam Bradford is perhaps the WORST NFL quarterback I have ever seen in my lifetime....Kellen Clemens. Clemens showed promise at one time, mainly as a rookie, but ever since then has looked worse than any quarterback I have ever seen try to play the position. Bernie Kosar may be a (much rumored) drunk, but he knows the quarterback position and said as much this pre-season.
The bottom line is that the NFL has obviously blackballed the "most polarizing quarterback in the history of the NFL". It's obvious to me, and after reading this, it should be obvious to you too.
The amazing thing is that so many of these teams recently could use Tebow, and still never looked his way. The Bills are running a read/option offense, based on a strong running game and a mobile quarterback. Despite this fact, they never called Tebow in for an interview or workout, and instead moved a guy on the practice squad with ONE NFL start up to start last week.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have not won a game all year. They play in the worst market in the NFL for drawing fans. Their young, "franchise" quarterback (Blaine Gabbart) has not shown any promise and keeps getting hurt. Their main current starter at the QB position, Chad Henne, has been less than stellar. Their backup is a guy NO ONE has ever heard of. They have fans flying banners from planes over the stadium during home games to sign Tim Tebow, who is from the area. They have nearly a hundred thousand fans who have signed a petition that if they sign Tebow, they would be willing to buy season tickets. All that, and they still refuse to even bring Tebow in for an interview. What more does anyone need to know that there is a "blackballing" in effect???
If that is the case, and I'm pretty sure I have demonstated that it is here, the question is "WHY???"
Tim Tebow stands for nothing but goodness. He is ultra-competitive, but in no way mean. He believes that a higher power helps him on the field. He believes in teamwork, working together and that hard work can overcome many odds. He has shown that he will do whatever it takes to win, whether it is throwing nearly 40 times in a comeback win, like he did against the Texans late in 2010, or running the ball 20 times and throwing it less than 10, like he did in a win for the Broncos in 2011. He is "old school". He doesn't care about stats. He only cares about winning.
The problem is, obviously none of that matters anymore in today's NFL. Today's NFL is all about 40 times, read and recognition drills, mechanics and arm strength. GM's and player personnel directors are blinded by all the tapes, the stats, the physical numbers and so on, that they forget to care about the competitive nature, will, pride, leadership and intangibles of a guy like Tim Tebow. Meanwhile, players like Michael Vick, who killed dogs, and Ben Roethlisbeger, who faced allegations of rape, get second chances at stardom. What is that saying about the NFL? I'll tell you. Badness is rewarded, while goodness becomes a pariah.
What should happen right now? I'll give you one option. One idea that will end this talk forever. The Jacksonville Jaguars should call Tim Tebow's agent tomorrow, if not sooner. They should get him to sign a contract for one year (this year) for the NFL minimum. He and the coaching staff should give Tebow two weeks to learn the offense, then Gus Bradley should tell the kid, "OK, it's your team...do what you do".
The Jaguars have not won a game without Tebow. If he starts at QB from week 8 until the end of the year and wins anywhere close to half his games, that should be proof enough. Imagine that, if Jacksonville went 0-8, then handed the reins to Tebow and he finishes at least 4-4 for a 4-12 season. What could the "experts" say then? Oh I'm sure they would find something, like they did before.
My money would be on Tebow. So would my faith.
HAIL TO THE "REDSKINS"
There has been a lot of talk and consternation lately about the Washington Redskins changing their name.
Apparently, many people are offended by the name "Redskins". They say it is an affront to all Native Americans. They say it is a put down to this race of proud people. They say it has no place in American sports culture--to have a name so offensive, that it makes fun of the color of a race of people's skin.
The problem is, it is not American Indians who are saying all of this.
Yeah, as usual, it is a group of leftist, democrat leaning, tree-hugging people, who have so much time on their hands that they feel the need to be the arbitors of everything that everyone should be offended by.
A recent poll that I was reading online pointed out that 90% of natives, IE: American Indians, are not bothered or offended by the nickname "Redskins", when it comes to the NFL team in the nation's capitol. I would say that's about right. So, if one in ten people in an entire race are offended by a football team's name, is that enough to have that team be forced to change it? I say "No friggin way"!
The way I see it, people need to get a grip nowadays. Someone is going to be offended by nearly everything we do today in society. I may offend someone tomorrow by the way I pull a paper towel out of the holder in a public restroom and wipe my hands and toss the paper in a wastebasket. Someone may think to themselves, "why, that heathen just dried his hands RIGHT OVER THE SINK! He then finished the job by WIPING HIS HANDS ON HIS PANTS!!! I think he was raised by wolves!!!" The point is, people need to get used to being offended.
I am German. 100% born and bred. Both parents and grandparents are German. I am about as "purebred" as an American can get. If someone called me a "kraut", "heinie" or a "squarehead", it would probably make me laugh. I wouldn't be in the slightest bit offended. Still, there are probably about ten percent of Germans who would be. Are we to have to kowtow to the small minority who are offended in each of these instances? No, especially when there is such a rich tradition already in place here.
The Washington Redskins have been the Redskins since the inception of the team in the 1920's. The term "redskin" has as much positive connotations as negative in this case. Redskins are warriors/ Battle-hardened, pround Native Americans. You want to be offended by something? Be offended by what the white men did to the Indians. It's too late to "pay them back" for the atrocities of our ancestors by righteously getting rid of the name "Redskins".
It's just so typical of the political correctness that has run amok in this country. If anyone knows about this, it's me.
I made a comment about how the proliferation of Asian golfers was hurting the LPGA tour. I made fun of how the LPGA leaderboards sound like the sound you hear when you bang pots and pans together. THAT was in poor taste and I realize that could have offended a number of people, but my initial point had merit in a non racially biased way. I was simply saying that it is bad business for an AMERICAN based tour to have too many good golfers from a specific group that is not American. I was fired because of it. Now whenever I tell my story about what happened to anyone I meet, the most common refrain is "What? You have got to be kidding! What you said is true!" However, because a very small portion of people were offended, I was crucified and fired.
There are so many things that we all know or believe about our society, but nobody can say anything about them. If anyone does, then God forbid, that person becomes an immediate pariah. Why? Just because they stated a truth that we all know but no one can talk about. We have turned into a nation of censorship. So much for free speech; it doesn't exist anymore.
That brings us back to the Washington Redskins.
Should they be forced to change their football team's name? No way! If they have to though, I have a perfect idea for a replacement name. How about the Washington Hypocrites.
For a bunch of politicians who say how Obamacare is the best thing since sliced bread, but don't have to actually enroll in it like the rest of us, it would be PERFECT!
I am going out on a limb. It is early in the major league baseball playoffs, but I think it will be the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Oakland Athletics meeting up in this year's World Series.
Why do I say this? For a couple of reasons.
First of all, it would be a matchup of to "teams of destiny". It has been a storybook season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have not been in the postseason since 1992, when a young Barry Bonds led the Bucs. After two decades of being a farm system to other better teams in the league, the Pirates finally went for broke this year. They were actually buyers instead of sellers for a change at the trade deadline, bringing in a much needed power bat in the middle of their order in former AL MVP Justin Morneau. Actually, it was a post deadline deal, but why quibble. The point is that there seems to be something special about this years Pirates team.
Oakland meanwhile, got a taste of the postseason last year, but still possesses a young team that is beginning to believe in itself, which is a dangerous thing for their opponents. The A's hadn't won a fall classic since the days of the Bash Brothers in the late 80's. I'm sure they feel they are as overdue as the Pirates.
Secondly, it would be appropriate that the two teams in the league that best exemplify "Moneyball" would meet up in the World Series.
You remember that movie right? Moneyball was released a couple of years ago, starring Brad Pitt as A's GM Billy Beane, and touted a new style of building a team. It is a style based on sabermetrics, percentages and ratios.
The gist of "moneyball" is that you want to build a team of players with high on base percentages and OPS, which is on base percentage plus slugging. Something called WAR is important too, but don't ask me to explain how it works because I have no idea. It stand for "wins above replacement", but I honestly don't know what it means. As for pitching, you want players who have good control but can strike guys out as well. These guys have to have something called a low WHIP, which is a ratio of "walks plus hits divided by innings pitched". The most important thing in moneyball though, is you want to get most of these players on really low salaries.
The Pirates and A's do this better than any other team in the league, which is why it would be great for fans of the game if these two teams met up for the trophy. It would show all the other teams out there that you don't need a ton of $100 million dollar contracts to win championships.
According to ESPN, the A's are fourth from the bottom of the majors in team payroll, with just over $60 million. The Pirates are right above them with just over $80 million. To give you a better idea of how great the disparity is, the A's and Pirates COMBINED team salaries would be less than SIX other teams! The Yankees lead the list of course with just over $230 million. Then it's the Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers and Angels, all of whom have a higher salary than the A's and Bucs combined.
Both of these teams also embody moneyball with their stars. For the A's, AJ Griffin has a 1.12 WHIP. Bartolo Colon, a 1.17. Jerrod Parker has a 1.23. Same low ratios for most of the key middle men and closer Grant Balfour, The team WHIP is 1.22. Meanwhile, the team on base percentage is .327.
As for the Pirates, it's very much the same thing. AJ Burnett has a 1.21 WHIP. Francisco Liriano, a 1.21. The team WHIP is 1.22. The team on base percentage is .313, but that has to take into consideration that pitchers hit all year long, or it would be very close to Oakland, if not higher.
I'm not going to bore you with a mountain of stats to back my opinion up, but I just have a feeling here. I could
be wrong. The Dodgers look pretty unstoppable, and the Tigers have some serious bangers, not to mention Justin Verlander and probable Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer. The A's and Pirates will be decided underdogs against both, but as the old adage goes, "pitching wins championships", and the A's and Pirates may have the best staffs, top to bottom, in baseball right now.
There is another adage that says "it's not always the best team that wins, it's the team that's playing the best right now".
That could be the Pirates and A's. I'll be rooting for them at least.
COULD BROWNS BE GETTING "FITZY'D"?
The Cleveland Browns have to be bringing back memories of the Buffalo Bills, circa 2009, right about now.
Journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer has taken over for Brendan Weeden as the starting QB, and led the Brownies to two straight wins. Suddenly, Browns fans are thinking they have found their savior.
Sound familiar bills fans?
It should. Let's turn the clock back four years, to 2009. The Buffalo Bills were languishing at 1-4, and coming off a lackluster 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in one of the ugliest regular season games in recent NFL memory.
Against the New York Jets in week six, early in the first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for an injured Trent Edwards and led Buffalo to a 16-13 overtime win. The following week, Fitzpatrick led the Bills to a 20-9 win over Carolina.
Just like Brian Hoyer has done this year with the Browns.
It's amazing how little can get a city to fall in love with a quarterback. Two straight wins.
It's often more a case of the previous quarterback being so ineffective, that it makes the new guy look so much better.
In Buffalo, Trent Edwards was the opposite of a gunslinger. His fear of making mistakes, and his lack of arm strength, practically earned him the name Trent "dump-off" Edwards. He was the king of the three yard check-down. Fitzpatrick came in and made a few things happen with his arm. He actually completed a few passes downfield, and because of this, Bills fans thought he was the second coming of Jim Kelly.
When you look back now, it's kind of funny how snowed we were. Fitzpatrick only led the Bills to three other wins that season after the Carolina game. The following year, the Bills started 0-6 under Fitzy, finishing 4-12. He passed for 3000 yards, but on an average-at-best 57% completion percentage. He tossed 23 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Somehow, this was enough to allow him to keep his starting job for the next two seasons. It also earned Fitzpatrick a multi-year contract that paid him over $8 million a year. The following year, in 2011, his yardage total and completion percentage went up, but he led the league in interceptions thrown. The final two seasons in Buffalo, Fitzpatrick compiled an 11-18 record as a starting quarterback.
I'm not saying that the same exact thing will happen with Hoyer in Cleveland. Well, on second thought, I guess I am. That is my point here. Although we all, as sports fans, want to believe in guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer, it usually is a false hope. We love the story. The story of a guy who had never really been given his shot, finally getting it, making the most of it, and entering into stardom. In today's NFL, it rarely if ever happens.
Once, maybe twice in a generation you might get the occasional Rich Gannon. Brian Hoyer is bucking the odds.
It didn't work for Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills. I doubt it will work long term for the Cleveland Browns and Hoyer either. There is a reason why career backups are just that.
For Browns fans, I hope they don't get Fitzy'd and let the same thing happen to them.
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if possibly the best quarterback to ever play the game was playing at his ultimate prime with the best surrounding cast he has ever had in his career? Well, we are seeing that right now with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
It is quite a story really. Manning had eight surgeries on his neck, was out of the game for more than a year, and many wondered if he would ever play again. Manning used his time away from the game to study, and make his football mind even sharper, and now we are seeing the dividends. Last year, Manning got phyically stronger as well, and now, at age 37, is better than he ever was.
Look at the cast of talent around him too. DeMaryious Thomas is a 6 foot 5 beast of a receiver with speed. Wes Welker came over via free agency from the Patriots, and he just may be the best slot receiver to ever lace 'em up. Eric Decker is a thousand yard receiver who can do it all. He can catch the deep ball, is physical enough to withstand the bump and run, and big enough to make the tough, over the middle catches. Julius Thomas is a young, former basketball player (think a young Antonio Gates), who is only going to get better at tight end. Finally, Manning has three running backs who all can catch the ball in Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball.
What Manning is doing so far this season is laughable--in a good way. He is averaging 387.5 yards per game. He is completing 75% of his passes. He has thrown 16 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. His QB rating is an otherworldly 138. Watching Bronco games and seeing Manning lead that offense, the words "surgical precision" come to mind.
So, is this the best offense I have ever seen? In order to say, I have to analyze all the other offenses I have seen in my lifetime, which is 1970 til now.
I'll start with the New Orleans Saints from 2009. Drew Brees completed 70% of his passes for over 4300 yards. He had a plethora of targets to throw to like Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. He had good pass catching backs like Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. The main difference was that the Saints could beat themselves with mistakes, as Brees threw 11 interceptions along with those 34 TD passes. Manning is on pace to blow away both of those marks.
How about the "Greatest show on turf"--the St. Louis Rams of 1999. Kurt Warner completed 65% of his passes throwing to perhaps the best wide receiver duo ever: Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Add in Marshall Faulk, who had over a thousand times rushing AND receiving, and this offense was certainly dynamic. Warner had 41 TD passes and 13 interceptions for a QB rating of 109.2. Very good, but still no where near what Manning is putting up now.
Then there is the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. Randall Cunningham throwing to Cris Carter, a young Randy Moss and Jake Reed. Robert Smith in the backfield. Those Vikings put up a whopping 556 points in a 15-1 season. Cunningham's numbers were no where near Manning though. He threw for 3794 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Obviously very good, but not as unstoppable as this years Broncos.
1984 Miami Dolphins. They had Dan Marino in his best year. They had Clayton and Duper. The Dolphins put up over 500 points. Marino completed 64% of his passes for a record 5084 yards, with 48 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Those Dolphins did it all in an era when rushing the ball still dominated, and Miami had no running game. Opponents knew Miami would be throwing the ball and still couldn't stop them. Taking all that into consideration, it is impressive, but still not up to the level of Manning this year.
How about the 1983 Washington Redskins? They put up an amazing 547 points. Joe Theisman had his best year, throwing for over 3700 yards to guys like Art Monk and Charlie Brown. The Skins had balance though
with John Riggins running the ball, which made the passing game that much more dangerous. They were an impressive offense, but it just wasn't as dynamic as this years Broncos.
1981 San Diego Chargers. "Air Coryell" was certainly fun to watch, and they may have had the best complement of players on offense that could possibly rival this years Broncos. Chuck Muncie and James Brooks in the backfield. Wes Chandler, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow were quite the trio and Dan Fouts was in his hall of fame prime. Fouts numbers were not as impressive though. He completed only 59% of his passes for a then record 4802 yards, 33 TD and 17 interceptions. What makes it different is Fouts had a 13.3 yards per completion average--higher than most other QB's on this list. Those Chargers were great, but the offense beat itself more often than this years Broncos.
After taking a look back, I can now say more confidently that we are really watching something very special this year in the Mile High. I think Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos have the makings of the best offense we have ever seen in NFL history. Now the only question is....can they keep it up?
GIVING EM THE FINGER
One of the grossest things I have heard in sports happened this past week. It is right up there with the Lawrence Taylor hit that broke Joe Theisman's leg, the Jason Kendall stepping on first base wrong, ankle bone popping thru his skin and flopping about, and the Kevin Ware leaping to block a shot and landing awkwardly, breaking a leg that popped out as well. What really makes this a mad gross out is the circumstances and the discovery of it.
Last weekend, the Arizone Cardinals were playing the Saints. Safety Rashad Johnson was playing on special teams, and attempted to make a tackle on a kick return. At that point, the tip of his middle finger snapped off inside his glove. At least that is the best guess, looking back at the game film. Johnson says he honestly doesn't know when it happened. That's bizarre.
What we do know is that at some point during the game, Johnson peeled off his playing glove and, oops, realized that the tip of his middle finger was in the glove, separated from the rest of his finger, along with, presumably, a decent amount of blood. AWWWW>>>>EEEUUUUGHHHH!!!
The finger apparently was too mangled to reattach, so Johnson went into the locker room and the training staff reportedly just gave him a little "finger tourniquet" and saved the rest of his finger. There is no truth to the rumor that they gave the severed finger back to Johnson, who then threw it at the Saints the next time he was on the field, which would have given new meaning to the term, "giving the opponent the finger".
Either way, Johnson is becoming a huge hit on twitter, where he tweeted pictures of the finger, which now looks about the same length as his index and third fingers. He obviously also has the utmost respect from his peers on the gridiron. He is a football player!
I can't even imagine doing something where I get the tip of my finger ripped off, and not ever realize when it happened. Then, going in the locker room and getting it treated like a normal person putting on a band aid.
Rashad Johnson has my respect for sure--what a stud!
NFL GEARING TOWARD PUTTING A TEAM IN LONDON?
Another regular season NFL game is being played in London again this weekend when the Vikings take on the Steelers. With yet another real game being played "across the pawnd", as ye ol' Brits say, more talk has been bouncing around that the NFL is hoping to eventually put an NFL team in London. Everyone is wondering, "What will this do for the NFL? What will it do to the game we all love, if a team actually is put in London?" There seems to be a lot of concern and knashing of teeth.
Personally, I don't see what the big problem is.
Sure, the National Football League is a purely American game. So was basketball though, and now it is as much of an international game as any other sport. Same could be said about baseball. Hockey is a Canadian sport, but now every country plays it as much and as well as the Canucks. Why should American football not have the same opportunity?
I will take it one further. Not only is the NFL hoping to eventually put a team in London, but I would be willing to bet that it is also hoping to eventually put a team in Frankfort, Germany, Barcelona, Spain and two or three other European cities that have already been exposed to American football throught the World league a few years ago. I say, "what's wrong with that?" Nothing.
The NFL, more than any other professional sport, has the Midas touch. They really know what they are doing, and most of their decisions end up being right. Putting teams in Europe will only help.
The globalization of the NFL is a good thing people. Worldwide marketing opportunities equals more money in the NFL coffers and a better product on the field. Plus, imagine the excitement of having one NFL division being composed of only teams from Europe. Like the rest of the NFL, each team plays each other twice each regular season, once at home and once on the road. Talk about rivalries!
The only downside I can see is that players would not be thrilled about being drafed by a Euro team, but after a while, I don't think it will matter. I think it's a win-win for everyone.
Bon chance, NFL!
Me, in the Jim Craig USA Hockey jersey, with some of my favorite callers to my radio show at an Amer