Happy Tuesday, friends. After being up late, and watching a hard-fought game go awry, I bet you're pretty bleary-eyed, and grumpy, but let's try to make this a good day. I don't want to think that the Broncos have fallen into losing habits here, and I really don't think that's the case.
Of course, those who speak, but don't know what they're talking about, will start screaming about how the Broncos have been exposed, and they're a fraud, and every other damn thing. A few persistent issues have emerged, but they can be corrected. If anything, losing back-to-back games against good teams can teach you a great deal about your own team.
Let's reflect on this, as I know the coaching staff is, and the players are. Next week, the Broncos face the Redskins, which presents a great opportunity to get back on the winning track. After that, San Diego comes to town. The Broncos still control the AFC West, make no mistake about that.
On the other side of the jump, we'll break it all down. Ready..... BEGIN!!!!
1. It's now midseason, and the Broncos are 6-2, and in first place by a game, and having beaten San Diego on the road. Think back to August, and if I told you that's where the Broncos would be, you'd be happy to take that deal, right? It's a little less great to win the first 6 and lose the last 2, but whatever.
I mentioned some issues, and I want to talk about them briefly. I think all are fixable in the second half of the season.
a. Ben Hamilton is getting to be pretty useless, and I think it's time to see what Seth Olsen has. Hamilton has gone from being above-average before his concussion-driven missed season, to average last season, to decidedly below-average this season. Every time the Ravens and Steelers needed to get pressure on Kyle Orton, they did it over Hamilton. Every other team in the NFL has seen that, and will try to replicate that strategy.
From former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, during the game:
I don't know what Olsen can do yet, but he's definitely bigger and stouter than Hamilton. I have to think he can anchor better than what we've seen from #50. I am pretty sure Russ Hochstein isn't the answer, but I'd like to see what Olsen looks like.
b. The Broncos need better execution overall on offense. The scheme is fine, and the players are fine, they just need to make the plays that they have a chance to make. They have had some bad penalties, some poorly-timed drops, some slip-and-falls in the running game putting them off schedule, and lately, some bad throws. Plays like Brandon Stokley coming just short of a first down, and Hamilton getting called for a (really questionable) holding penalty on a converted 4th-and-5 are what has been hurting the Broncos offense. The coaches need to send the message that if the players who are playing don't execute, they'll find somebody who will.
c. Signing Mitch Berger was a big mistake. I think it's worth working out some other punters, but really, I liked Brett Kern. If somebody better than Berger is available, I think he should be brought in. Getting a good punter needs to be a high priority in the offseason, too.
d. Interestingly, short-yardage offense has improved during the two losses, as the Broncos have shown a willingness to throw some in those situations. It is still a concern going forward, though. Olsen may help here, if he is given a shot.
e. No-huddle offenses have been problematic for the Broncos the last two weeks. They limit their ability to disguise coverages and rush packages, and they also make it hard to substitute as much as the Broncos want to. Not every team is effective in the no-huddle, but just about every team the Broncos might see in the playoffs is. They need to figure out who their best base defensive group is against the no-huddle.
I think my underlying thought right now is that the Broncos probably aren't quite ready for the Super Bowl, but they hung with a team tonight who is a real championship contender. They beat New England a couple weeks ago, who is a real championship contender. They beat Dallas and Cincinnati, who at the least are good teams. The Broncos have a ways to go, but as first halves of the season go, you have to feel pretty good about theirs. It's not time to start anything over, or blow anything up. It's time to make a few adjustments, execute better, and keep working toward winning games.
2. Information from My Eyes, Steelers at Broncos.
a. Did I mention that I think Mitch Berger sucks? Nothing has particularly changed for me on that score. John Bena coined a new term last night, Brett Kern-backers. I liked Kern, but I don't think I am a Brett Kern-backer. I am a guy who wants a consistent good performance from the Broncos punter, whoever it is.
Philosophically, not a single player or coach on this team means more to me than the team itself. I don't care who is doing it, I just want it done. As much as I love John Elway, the team always came before him to me, too. Part of his greatness, though, was that he'd never make you separate him from the team.
b. It didn't get mentioned a lot, but Tyler Polumbus struggled at RT, especially in the second half of the game. LaMarr Woodley got a lot of pressure and forced a few key throwaways. He'll be okay against most teams, but this was a tough situation for him. Ryan Harris's absence was most definitely felt.
c. I liked the work of both Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal in this game. They consistently did a good job getting open and catching the ball. Marshall had the one drop, but it was a good effort for him overall.
d. I thought D.J. Williams had his worst game of the year, by far. He was taking bad angles all night, and didn't look like he had a prayer of getting off a lot of blocks. I'm admittedly not generally his biggest fan, but he's had the best year of his career in 2009. Monday night, not so much.
e. Wesley Woodyard played a lot more snaps than he's used to, and I thought he wore down in the second half of the game. The Steelers played a tremendous amount of 3 WR sets, which kept Andra Davis on the sideline, and Woodyard in the game.
f. Kyle Orton was actually not too bad for most of the game. He had 2 bad throws, and about 3 bad decisions (one of them was picked off). He was pretty sharp the rest of the night. He needs to cut out the bad decisions, but I was generally a lot happier with his performance tonight than I was against the Ravens. (I don't care about statistics, of course.) Nobody is saying they're thrilled with his ultimate performance, of course, but there's more nuance to the situation, than just looking at the stat sheet.
g. Rashard Mendenhall was the primary reason the Steelers won the game. He got going in the second half, and it forced the Broncos to be more aggressive in the box. I used to think very little of Mendenhall, but he has improved a lot. He runs with vastly better patience and body lean than he did even just a month ago.
h. The Steelers also have themselves a find with Mike Wallace. He's very dangerous for a 3rd WR. They don't do a lot of traditional slot-type stuff, and in nickel offense, if anything, Hines Ward is their slot guy. (I think making definitive distinctions between #1, #2, and #3 WRs is silly.) Wallace has great speed, and he showed good route-running skills Monday night.
i. I liked what I saw of Ty Law in his limited action. Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins both mostly struggled in the game, neither making a great impact. Champ ought to be embarassed by letting Ward jump over him in garbage time. He knows better than that. He also got beat in man-to-man coverage several times by Santonio Holmes. Andre' Goodman was good in this game, though, even beyond his interception.
j. The Broncos use of the "mush rush" was very good in the first half, and very bad for most of the second. Robert Ayers played a key role in containing Ben Roethlisberger when he as assigned that duty, and that's what he was doing when Kenny Peterson knocked the ball free.
k. The Broncos got hosed on the Gaffney challenge, and also on the Haggan fumble recovery. Don Carey has joined my list of bad referees. I like how a return team becomes an intercepting team. I can't believe that he's related to Mike Carey, who is excellent. And he's the older brother? Wow.
3. Information From My Eyes, Other Games:
a. I watched a lot of the Green Bay-Tampa Bay game Sunday, for a few reasons. I haven't seen much of the Bucs this year, and I wanted to look at Josh Freeman, who I liked a lot coming out of college. He looked like a rookie at times, but he showed a lot of positives too. I thought he looked poised and confident, and I am not that surprised. I remember when he beat Texas as a freshman, and commanded the game. (My buddy lost a grand on the game, and he called me frantically looking for NFL advice for the next day, to "get back even." It was a debacle. I don't give gambling advice anymore, because of that weekend.)
Anyway, Freeman looked like a star that day in 2006, and he looked like he may be one someday in the NFL on Sunday. I think Tampa did the right thing, giving him some time to learn from the sideline, but it has to be Freeman Time the rest of the season.
b. I loved Raheem Morris's line after getting his first victory as a head coach.
Statistics are for losers, and today, we're winners.
And then, there's Chicago Bears lover/reporter/enabler/apologist Brad Biggs of National Football Post, after his beloveds got blown out again.
That's positive news? The Bears got smoked, again, Brad. Their best player, who is supposed to always play well, performed close to expectations. It's only positive news if he is on your fantasy team, which is why I don't really like fantasy football. (Well, that and the dorktastic "experts' you have to tolerate on TV.)
Cutler played alright, but he didn't do anything to elevate the play of anybody else, as usual, and the interception he threw in the 4th quarter did kill the Bears' chances of coming back.
It's amazing how the Bears team has assumed the personality of the 2008 Broncos. There's a good chance they'll get blown away on defense, and Cutler is almost definitely going to need to carry the offense. In my business, we contract with companies to take over non-core operations. We call it a lift-and-shift. You terminate your employees who work in a call center, and we'll instantly hire them. They'll work for us, and you'll pay us a fee that is less than what you pay for this operation. Meanwhile, we'll optimize, and reduce the headcount, and correspondingly, the costs.
Everybody considered Cutler's acqusition to be a lift-and-shift. The Bears got a franchise QB. Imagine what he'll do on a team that plays good defense and runs the ball. Football is such a multi-variate system, it's really amazing.
c. I would really hate to be a Bears fan. They have no high draft picks this year, and suddenly a lot of roster holes to fill. They need 3 or 4 new starters on their offensive line, to begin with. Orlando Pace is done, Josh Beekman and Roberto Garza were never starting-caliber players in the NFL, and Olin Kreutz is getting close to done. I don't care for Chris Williams, either. He's looked passable at RT, but if he was worthy of his draft slot, he would have bumped Pace, because it's clear as day that he isn't good enough. You wouldn't use a #1 on an RTO (Right Tackle Only), unless it was Jeff Otah.
They could also use some WRs, some secondary players, and a pass rusher. We're not asking for much, right?
Chicago has a cash-poor ownership group, and the cold weather and their ugly uniforms don't tend to help draw free agents. (Yes, both things matter. It's part of the problem in Cleveland too.) I just don't know how you can bring in enough players there to improve for next season.
d. On Monday I read a lot of epitaphs about the Chicago defense, which didn't get into a lot of the "why" they're so bad. As I was explaining to a friend a few days ago, a defense has to have all 11 players working well together, in order for it to be sound and effective. Because defense is fundamentally a reactive mission, there are many inter-dependencies among the three levels, and communication, like-mindedness through practice, and discipline make all the difference. That sounds simple, and it really is.
First of all, you'd better either be good against the run with 7 in the box, or have a big-time safety who can move 12 yards from a cover-2 shell to the line of scrimmage really quickly. The Bears can't stop the run with 7, so you know they'll have 8 in the box. Then, there's the passing game. When a team can't rush the passer with 4 players, they need to blitz with numbers. When they blitz with numbers, it makes it hard to play soundly in zone coverage, so you mostly have to start playing man coverage. When you play a lot of man coverage, you'd better hope you have the athletes to cover the other team's athletes - and chances are, their #3 and #4 options are better than yours. That's a simple fact of it being harder to find players with coverage skills than it is to find guys who can run a route and catch a ball, when he knows where he is supposed to go.
So you can't stop the run, you can't get pressure with 4, you can't play zone, and you can't play man. All that's left is to guess at what the offense is going to do, and play for that. The obvious problem there is what happens when you guess wrong. You get exposed, and give up huge plays. That sounds a lot like the 2008 Broncos' defense, right?
To apply this to the Bears, they used to get pressure with their front 4, but Tommie Harris is having a bad season. He was a healthy scratch for the Cincinnati game, reportedly because of some attitude issues, and they got lambasted. Then, he got ejected over some extreme foolishness 1 minute into Sunday's game. The Bears again got crushed. Harris is among the best 3-technique DTs in the NFL, when his body and attitude are right.
With no Harris, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye have struggled to get any pressure, so the Bears have blitzed, ineffectively. They have all these tall, slow CBs who can't do anything except play zone coverage, and they got shredded in man-to-man on Sunday, as they did against Cincinnati. If you decide to be a cover-2 team, you'd better play a lot of cover-2, because your personnel can't hold up playing man.
If Harris can manage to get his body and mind right, and have a dominant second half, he could personally bring a soundness back to the Bears that could send them on a 6-2ish run in the second half to finish 10-6. The more likely outcome is that he continues to sulk, the Bears continue to get gashed, and they finish 7-9 at best. And the Broncos have a nice draft pick. Thanks, guys :)
e. Funny story. My brother Chris (who did join MHR as Chris911, incidentally) and I were talking on the phone the other night, like we do sometimes.
Chris: You know, Jay Cutler has a losing record in games where he throws for over 300 yards.
Ted: You know, Jay Cutler has a losing record as a starting QB in the NFL.
Yessir. I love that draft pick more and more every day.
f. Remember the spring of 2008 when many wanted Denver to become Vanderbilt West? It hasn't worked out so well for Chicago. Earl Bennett's ceiling is to be an average starter, if he puts it all together. He can't get off bump coverage right now, whatsoever. He also runs bad routes and drops the ball a lot. In other words, everything he was supposed to do well, he doesn't. Yes, I know he had 7 catches for 93 yards Sunday, but the vast majority of it was in garbage time, against soft zone coverage. (And, yes, wise guys, I know, most of the game was garbage time.)
Chris Williams, I already discussed. He has definitely been a disappointment. This year, the Bears took D.J. Moore, a CB, who is somehow not good enough to beat out any of the pu pu platter of guys who take turns opposite Charles Tillman. He has been a gameday inactive all season, and is not even a special teams contributor.
I watched the Florida-Vanderbilt game Saturday night, and was reflecting on this. Vanderbilt has no hope in the SEC. They can't recruit talent that is nearly good enough to compete, and most of their guys have tended to underachieve in the NFL. They are on my list with Texas and Ohio State of schools whose players I am naturally suspicious of, although it's all for different reasons.
I wonder if Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Stanford, Duke, Rice,and Baylor ever thought about forming a football-only, high-SATs conference. Actually, this year, Vandy would be in the bottom half of that league, too.
g. Staying with the college theme for a minute, the best all-around QB I have seen this season at any school is Cincinnati's sophomore backup, Zach Collaros. He has completed 76% of his passes for 1,229 yards, with 10 TDs and 1 interception in the 3+ games he has appeared in. He has also rushed 43 times for 281 yards, and 4 TDs, while only being sacked 10 times.
Cincinnati's original starter, senior Tony Pike, is expected to start this week, although head coach Brian Kelly did cop to it being a tough decision. Pike is likely to be drafted on Day 1 next spring. Collaros is going to contend for the Heisman Trophy next season, and he'll be a high pick too, when he decides to leave school. He's the total package, with an above-average arm, very good poise, and outstanding accuracy and athleticism. The only knock on him is that he's 6 feet tall, but he has some definite Drew Brees-like qualities as a thrower. This is a 75-yard TD run against a South Florida team with lots of athletes. The guy is real.
h. A guy I really like on an otherwise not-great unit is Atlanta Guard Harvey Dahl. He has been getting very good pad level, and driving guys, in helping Michael Turner have his best two games of the season. I beat up Sam Baker for his pass protection last week, but he did well in the running game Sunday, too. The Redskins are normally solid against the run, but Atlanta gashed them repeatedly.
i. Michael Lombardi stole my thunder, which is an occasional hazard of writing for Tuesday mornings. (The) Other smart analyst
s see(s) the same things and beat(s) you to talking about them sometimes. Ray Lewis definitely looks like he's doing it more on guile and want-to than skill anymore. I respect his effort greatly, and sometimes he makes a huge play, like against the Chargers, but he's clearly hit his downside. Big up Lombardi, for consistently seeing what the reporters don't see. (By the way, it's weird and unnatural to see Lombardi stand with a mic and interview players and coaches for NFL Network. Stop the madness, and be an analyst, Mike. You're better than some locker jockey.)
j. I was pretty critical of Dallas' Mike Jenkins earlier in the season, and he deserved it. Lately, though, he's been playing fantastic football. He did a great job Sunday night, and was the largest part of the Dallas secondary's outstanding effort not to give up the big plays that Philly wins with every week.
k. The Eagles are reputed to be a West Coast team, but they are not that, and never have been since Mr. Game Management, Andy Reid, came to town. Donovan McNabb isn't a West Coast QB, who does really well with timing throws. The Eagles are a vertical, downfield team, and they finally have guys in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek, who can get down the field and make the plays they want to make.
l. By the way, everybody knows I like Tim Tebow, but McNabb is the guy who Tebow most reminds me of. They played in similar-ish option-heavy offenses in college, and they have very similar profiles as throwers coming into the NFL. Tebow's stats are down this year, mostly due to bad pass protection, but he's throwing the ball better than ever when he gets some time.
m. The Chargers might be back. I haven't seen their LBs look as good as they did on Sunday in two years. Some of that may be due to the Giants offensive line, though, which is good in the running game, and below-average in the passing game. All this stuff about them having the best line is hogwash. (I've actually seen Michael Lombardi say that this season.) They have a natural LG, David Diehl, playing LT, and he gets owned by good pass rushers.
n. Brandon Jacobs looks really slow to the hole this season. He was never quick, but he's a different player. I have to wonder if he is hurt. Of course, I am prejudiced against tall RBs, because, definitionally, it's easier to hit them, than it is the compact guys. It's fair to say Jacobs has never been a favorite of mine.
o. I'd like to say that ST&NO favorite Alex Smith has established himself as a clear-cut solution at QB for the 49ers, but the fact is, they've lost all three games which he has played in. Two of the three interceptions he threw on Sunday were off the hands of his own players, so I don't really put those on him, personally. On the positive side, that play he made for a TD pass at the end of the first half was an All-Pro caliber play, that not many QBs could make. He kept himself alive with his feet, and made a perfect throw on the run.
This is what I know about Smith. His biggest problem is that he struggles with the mechanics of drops from under center which are more than 3 steps. It's not natural to him, and his footwork is slow, like he is thinking about it. That got him sacked on A-gap blitzes two or three times Sunday.
Smith is much more comfortable from the shotgun, and I think I would go to a medium-gun alignment with him, that is often called the Pistol. It's run a bit at some colleges, notably Nevada, and the Chiefs used it with Tyler Thigpen last season. The QB lines up 3 yards behind the center, with the RB 3 yards behind the QB. It provides better directional evenness to your running game than lining up in a full shotgun with the RB to one side or the other of the QB.
Smith can do all the things you need your QB to do; it's just a matter of putting him in position to be successful. I'll be interested to watch this game on Thursday night, against Chicago, because he could have a huge game.
p. I did like what I saw of Vince Young, again. He has played like he's fine with being part of a conservative game plan, which is what he needs. The option stuff he was running with Chris Johnson was effective, and he did hit Justin Gage deep on a couple throws. One, in particular, used all of Gage's vertical. He was actually a starter on Missouri's basketball team in his college days.
q. The Titans are suddenly playing some defense again too, especially Michael Griffin at safety. I also was impressed with William Hayes, who has taken over at LDE for Jevon Kearse, who may have finally had it, at this point. The Titans are a threat to make noise as a spoiler in the second half of the season. The return of Cortland Finnegan has helped them a lot, too. He's not the greatest cover guy, but he's a hitter, and he is always close to the ball. He compares favorably to Asante Samuel in that way.
r. The Panthers just make me shake my head sometimes. They are almost completely back to their 12-4 level from last year lately, except for their QB play. They really erred by not getting one, but John Fox and Jake Delhomme are almost married. Delhomme is going to cost Fox his job, for his sentimentality.
Remember when the Chargers whacked Marty Schottenheimer coming off the 14-2 record? It was the right move. So would cutting ties with Delhomme have been, after last season. Of course, the Chargers blew the second part by hiring Norv Turner. The Panthers will get their chance to do something in the offseason, but they have no first-round pick. If San Francisco decides Alex Smith isn't their guy, he'd be perfect for a team like Carolina, who runs the ball and attacks downfield off of play action. Marc Bulger might be a possible fit too, as the Rams will almost certainly be drafting a QB this year. The Panthers will likely need to get a retread, though.
s. The Saints deserved to get beat on Sunday, but they managed to win anyway. That's something championship teams do, is win without their best stuff.
t. The Texans are really close to being a serious playoff contender, but a Chris Brown goal-line fumble and a Kris Brown missed field goal have basically cost them two games. People haven't noticed, but Matt Schaub is putting up Pro Bowl numbers in Houston. Old friend Gary Kubiak needs to get his team to execute better in key situations.
u. I said I wasn't going to pick the addict Jaguars again, but I did on Sunday, because the Chiefs are horrible. The addicts then proceeded to almost give the game away. Shocker! ST&NO favorite Reggie Nelson had a very good game for the Jags, and so did Brandon Marshall's best friend from college, Mike Sims-Walker.
v. Matt Cassel was the bright spot for the Chiefs, again, and he continues to do pretty well with very little help. I guarantee that the Chiefs don't regret trading for him, especially at the price they paid.
4. In honor of Veterans' Day, I wanted to blaze a different path by doing something apolitical and propaganda-free. It's Tangential Story Time, in ST&NO. Yay!!!
Most regular readers are at least generally aware that I spent 4 years in the United States Navy. I don't think I have ever mentioned that going to sea is basically my family business, though. My dad was in the Navy for 14 years, and then has worked as an executive for companies which supply the Navy for the last 20+ years. His brother recently retired as a long-time civilian mariner for the Navy, and his other brother was a Marine, who rode a Navy ship or two. My youngest brother is currently employed as a Naval civilian mariner, presently working for a ship stationed in Gaeta, Italy. There's lots of salt in my family.
So, I woke up early on Sucker-Free Saturday, and a headline popped into my RSS reader that grabbed my attention.
Navy ship built with WTC steel to go into service
I clicked the link to read the article, and saw something very interesting in the first sentence.
NEW YORK — The Navy is commissioning its newest battleship with a bow forged from steel that once held up the World Trade Center.
The Navy decommissioned its last four remaining Iowa-class Battleships in the early 1990s, and I didn't think that they had any plans to bring them back, despite some misgivings from parts of the Marine Corps that current Naval Gunfire Support programs wouldn't be sufficient for a Normandy-like shore landing.
A Battleship is a specific type of ship, like in the children's game of the same name. The Iowa class had wooden decks, and three turrets with three independent 50-caliber 16-inch guns each, for a total of 9 guns. The shells were 16 inches in diameter, and weighed 2,700 pounds each. (Modern Cruisers and Destroyers have one or two (mostly two) 5-inch, 54-caliber guns each, by comparison. Those shells are 5 inches in diameter, and weigh 70 pounds.) Each Iowa-class turret took a crew of 94 men to operate, and I actually served with a guy who was working in Turret #3 on the Iowa in 1989, when Turret #2 exploded and killed 47 men.
Battleships played a large part in the Pacific theater in World War II, and somewhat minor parts in Korea, Vietnam, and the first Persian Gulf War. The primary missions of Battleships were shore bombardment, and ship-to-ship combat. The advent of precision-guided munitions (like Harpoon missiles, for ship-to-ship combat), and the reality that 5-inch, 54-caliber guns are considered by the Navy to be sufficient for Naval Gunfire Support, largely made battleships unnecessary, and the last Battleships were decommissioned not long after World War II, with a few held in reserve status. Iowa, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Missouri were each re-commissioned several times over the coming decades, with the Missouri being the last active battleship, being decommissioned for the last time in 1992. (The picture below is of the Iowa, shooting her guns to starboard.)
So, there's this new ship, called the USS New York, and the AP says it's a battleship. At first, I was skeptical, because I know that the Battleship mission is obsolete. Thinking about it, though, it is named after a state, like US battleships have historically been. I also know that the Bush Adminstration Pentagon had some meat-heads in high places of their procurement organization, who favored weapons systems with some badass factor to them, whether they were strictly necessary or not. But I would have heard about new Battleships, right? Hmmmm.
I called the guy who would know, my father Ed, who has appeared in ST&NO before, and I got my answer.
Ted: Hey, what do you know about this new ship, New York, that was partially built from World Trade Center steel?
Ed: Well, it's being commissioned this morning.
Ted: What kind of ship is it?
Ed: It's a piece-of-(bleep) LPD-17 class. A Gator Freighter. (Note: Gator Freighter is the
somewhatvery derisive name for Amphibious Navy ships which primarily carry Marines. Surface combatant guys, like me, don't think too much of Amphibs, or the people who ride them.)
Ted: Oh, OK. This AP reporter called it a battleship, and it's named after a state, which lends that some coincidental level of plausibility. I was skeptical, so I thought I'd ask somebody who knows.
Ed: <Scoffs> The media doesn't know what the hell they're talking about.
The media doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. Hmmm... Where have I heard that before?
5. What's New In Cleveland Update:
We have a great local brewery here called Great Lakes Brewing Company, that puts out this great stuff they call Christmas Ale every year, at this time. It tastes like cinnamon, but it's 7.5% alcohol by volume, so if you're like me, and you drink them like they're just expensive Bud Lights, they can really creep on you quickly.
So, I was at
a the Cleveland State University bar called Becky's last Thursday, for my fraternity's monthly alumni happy hour. I was pleased to discover that they had Christmas Ale on tap, which I would later find out was running me $18 per pitcher, times 3 pitchers. Whatever. I am drinking some fine seasonal beer, and one of the guys says, "Hey, that's Mike Trivisonno right there, like 5 feet away."
Trivisonno is the local Radio Idiot, who I have disparaged on here before a few times, as being part of the Browns problems. I am not sure what he was doing at Becky's, of all places, but he was hanging out with some uglo-Americans, who may or may not have been related to him. He's holding court, and talking about the Browns, and how the city is cursed, and blah blah blah. (I hate it when people say "blah blah blah" in a conversation, but for some strange reason I just felt the strong need to type it there, like my ex-wife possessed my body momentarily, or something. Deal with it.)
It seems the work of the Radio Idiot is never finished. He bloviates even off the clock. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh does too.... That was a little deeper than a Shallow Thought. Focus.
OK, here's the deal. There's no such thing as curses. There's only confusing hope for a plan (hat tip to Michael Lombardi). That's what they do here, in all sports - even the Cavs, to some extent. (Let's face it: the Shaq acqusition is all about hope.)
Randy Lerner, by all accounts, is an OK guy, and he wants to win. He doesn't know anything about football, and I don't think he particularly wants to, either. He's actually a soccer guy, and he owns Aston Villa. He needs somebody to establish and run a program for him. It can't be a Head Coach, because he's too hands-off for that kind of arrangement. (That works fine with appropriately engaged owners like Robert Kraft, Bud Adams, and Pat Bowlen.)
He needs a Bill Parcells-type situation, which is why he is reportedly pursuing Mike Holmgren. I think Holmgren is going to end up saying he'd rather coach than head a front office, but it's a good idea to try. Whoever ends up being the head honcho is going to fire Eric Mangini, and start over from scratch, again. This is increasingly clear. The trick is going to be hiring the right honcho, for the first time since they came back into the NFL in 1999.
Ron Wolf and Ernie Accorsi aren't going to want the job, but if I were Lerner, I'd put on a full-court press to get one of them to help me find the right honcho. A guy I would make a run at is Jimmy Johnson, but only as a team president, not a coach. You hire him, tell him he only has to work 30 hours a week, some of it from Florida, and let him hire a focused GM, (maybe Chris Polian, or Marty Hurney if he is let go at Carolina?) and let them decide what to do with the coaching staff. Then, the chain of command is clear: Owner, to President, to GM, to Head Coach.
As a side note, I expect Mangini to struggle to find future work in coaching. His credibility in the NFL is shot at this point, and what college is going to hire a guy like that? Can you see him talking a kid into coming to play at State U? Absolutely not.
6. So, I know you've been wondering what a guy like me does on a Friday night. My gameplan changes every week, like any good team's (except the Colts); and this past Friday, my friend Ashley was looking for somebody to go with her to a happy hour event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It sounded like fun, so I emailed her, and we went.
I'd like to tell you that I am a really cultured, artsy guy, but the truth is that I'm not. I'm kind of a rugged football, business, and politics guy. Somewhat embarassingly, it was the first time I had gone to the Museum in 7 1/2 years of living in Cleveland. Ashley is really smart, though, and I figured correctly that I would learn some stuff from her.
There was a Paul Gauguin exhibit, which was included in the price of admission. I looked up Gauguin on the interwebz, and learned that he was a contemporary of Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh's brother Theo was actually Gauguin's agent, and he got them to work together in 1888. They spent 9 weeks together at Van Gogh's famous Yellow House in Arles, and they quarreled constantly, because they saw the right way to paint very differently. (At the CMA, there were several examples, side-by-side, where both men painted the same thing, and they looked extremely different.) Both men had bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies. When Gauguin fled the tense situation after Van Gogh threatened him with a razor blade, Van Gogh freaked out, and went to a brothel, where he famously cut part of his ear off. They never saw each other again.
When I saw the news that the Chiefs cut Larry Johnson on Monday, the thought of his relationship with Todd Haley made me think of Gauguin and Van Gogh. Haley is a talented coach, and Johnson is a talented player. Both men have reputations for being difficult, though, and many (including me) were skeptical about the pairing when Haley was hired. Johnson's actions, around callng out Haley on Twitter and using gay slurs, were stupid. Really, it's not too different from cutting your ear off, on the foolishness scale.
Haley couldn't have Johnson play for him again, just as Gauguin couldn't return to Arles to work with Van Gogh. If you're betting on futures, take Haley's (like it would have been wise to take Gauguin.) Johnson is 30 and well-worn, old for a RB; Haley is 42, which is young for a Head Coach. Van Gogh died two years after the ear incident, while Gauguin had 13 more years, and a lot of productivity after that. Go with the guy who knew it was time to cut the cord, rather than the one who cut off his ear to spite his face.
7. Retired for John Elway.
8. The worst thing about November is the jewelry commercials during football games. (Well, I guess I should be glad not to see Chevy commercials with any Mellencamp songs.) I have found the answer, friends, if you're into man-cavery like me.
If you have Sunday Ticket with SuperFan, the setup works like this. Watch games on a muted TV (or two, if you can manage it, like I do). Watch the Red Zone channel on a laptop, with SuperConnect, and listen to the sound on the laptop, preferably over some decent speakers. Red Zone has no commercials, so when they come on TV, you can just ignore the visual stimulus, and listen to the sounds of what's going on on the laptop screen. I spent the whole day Sunday with this, so I got to see a lot of football, without hearing incessantly about how you're no kind of man if you don't go to Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry, and that every kiss begins with Kay. Damn, it's great to be single. (This is Ourrrrrrr Country!!!!!)
Have a good week, and let's get ready for a Broncos victory in Washington on Sunday. No hysterics are necessary, let's just take some comfort in the fairly safe assumption that our coaching staff is driving the players to learn from and improve on their mistakes. See you next Tuesday!