Monday, January 23, 2012

Championship Sunday Thoughts

"What'd you think about those games yesterday?"


- 17 conversations I've had at the liquor store this morning.

The people are talking. And my lack of enthusiasm in response is not reflective of the quality of games we were treated to yesterday (Fake Bill Self says they were great), but rather a lack of interest in generic conversations. It's not that I don't like most people, it's just that most of them don't have anything interesting to say. What does this have to do with the games you ask? Well, I'll let Kuni, the host of Wheel of Fish, handle that one....

1. Harbaugh Bashing Time

Maybe the worst sibling heartbreak sports has seen since Dan & Dave at the 1992 Olympics (Oh, they weren't siblings? Life partners? No, that that either, huh? Crappp). People really wanted to see the Harbaugh Bowl. The HarBowl. The Hairy Bowel. Not gonna happen. And I'm gonna tell you why it was their fault.

Jebediah (John) - How can the kicker be SPRINTING to his spot with 12 seconds left on the play clock in such an obvious kicking situation? And HOW can you not use your timeout, which carries virtually no value whatsoever after the kick? Seriously, has there been an explanation? My theory is that if Harbaugh calls the timeout, he opens himself up to the criticism (much like Jason Garrett faced earlier this year). By not calling the timeout, the blame falls on the kicker (as it has today). Cheering hard against the Patriots yesterday, I was SCREAMING for the Ravens to take the timeout once I saw Billy Goat Cunwhiff was late to the party. (NFL Kicker Jay Feely offers up his opposing take here.)

Jabari (Jim) - I smell some Todd Haley syndrome here. While designing a lot of cute passing routes in effort to elevate his "I developed Alex Smith, I'm a genius" status, Jimmy forgot his own team's identity, much like he did in last week's game. The 49ers averaged 5.4 yards per rush yesterday, and yet in the 4th quarter/overtime of a tight game, he opted to throw the ball on 10 of 12 plays. Lets take a closer look...

  • 8 minutes left, down 3: Run for two first downs before throwing three straight times, forced to kick a field goal to tie the game.
  • 4 minutes left, tied: Incomplete, obvious run, sack.
  • 1:47 left, tied: Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete (with all 3 timeouts mind you).
  • Overtime, tied: Incomplete, obvious run, completion short of first down.

Bold prediction: Jim Harbaugh won't last. Nick Wright called him the best coach in the NFL. Bill Reiter called it the greatest single-season rookie head coaching performance in NFL history. I'm calling it a one year wonder. I'm calling him overrated. And I'm calling the 49ers miss the playoffs next year.

2. The Brothers Manning

I'm not gonna bore you with the debate that you'll hear way too much over the next two weeks about which QB is better (although it's clearly Elijah). I just have a few interesting observations about the two, detailing just how different they really are.

~Peyton Manning's greatness ends once he's hit in the mouth. Eli Manning's greatness begins once he's hit in the mouth.

~Peyton Manning's greatness ends once the playoffs start. Eli Manning's greatness begins once the playoffs start.

(Bonus for anyone who watched wrestling - This was the email I sent to Sports Guy today that WILL land in his Super Bowl mailbag: Haven't you ever wondered what a cross between Wrestlemania and the Super Bowl would be like? I think we have our chance this year, if one stipulation is enforced - Special Guest Referee: Peyton Manning. Who better to decide the game between his arch nemesis and his little brother in HIS HOUSE?! I'm sure Peyton would even treat us to 2 weeks of promises that he would have no problem staying impartial, remaining fair to both contestants. The in-game scenarios for this are endless, especially when you factor in Vince Goodell (doing the grapefruit strut), Rob Gronkowski (already a Pro Wrestler), and perhaps my favorite possibility, Cooper Manning. Here's my take - Peyton turns on Eli at the most crucial time, much to the delight of Commissioner Goodell, who's master plan of pairing Brady and Manning together has finally unfolded on America's biggest stage. But then, Cooper Manning ("That's Cooper Manning's music!") is seen up in the press box where he ultimately overturns the ruling on the field. Goodell is beside himself, wondering how the third Manning could have possibly gotten into such a powerful position. When suddenly, the lights shut off, the Jumbotron flashes on, and AL DAVIS is seen delivering a message that not only is he still alive, but he is the mastermind behind it all. Can you top that?)

3. New England Patriots ~ Miami Heat

Last year at this time, I had come half circle on my hatred of the Miami Heat. Now I'm having internal discussions about whether I feel the same way about the New England Patriots. Why? Because they have a flair for dramatics. If I were to sit down and list my top 10 NFL playoff games of all time, the Patriots would probably be involved in half of them. And I must admit, I love rooting against them now. And rooting against a team can be just as fun as rooting for a team. It's like the Kobe and Shaq led Lakers. My favorite team was whoever they were playing. Once the Lakers lost, my favorite team was no longer in the playoffs either. The Patriots are nowhere near that level (or rather, the NFL is nowhere near that level), but the point remains - Not enough attention is given to the teams that you love to hate.

Top 5 Patriots' playoff games:

1. 2008 Super Bowl: Giants 17, Patriots 14 - The best NFL game of all time
2. 2007 AFC Championship: Colts 38, Patriots 34 - Didn't think Peyton could do it, he did it
3. 2002 Super Bowl: Patriots 20, Rams 17 - Biggest upset in NFL history
4. 2004 Super Bowl: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 - Most underrated SB of all time
5. 2012 AFC Championship: Patriots 23, Ravens 20 - From Ravens win, to overtime, to loss all in 11 seconds

4. The Chiefs next offensive coordinator

KC has remained very quiet in the search for their next offensive coordinator, leading many to speculate they'd eventually hire somebody from a remaining playoff team. Well, I think that man is Cam Cameron. The word on the street is that Cam Cam won't be back with Baltimore. This is the man that developed Drew Brees in San Diego, went 1-15 as a head coach in Miami, and encouraged Joe Flacco to grow a handlebar mustache. And I predict, he will be the next offensive coordinator of our Kansas City Chiefs.

His Dirkness

Monday, January 16, 2012

There Isn't Just One Way to Win in the NFL

If you're like me, you've spent your past four months' days off waking up around 2, flipping on Nick Wright and scouring Twitter and Arrowhead Pride for the latest Chiefs news, opinions on how the Chiefs could turn (sh)it around, and updates on Brodie Croyle's marriage (no way that lasts right?). Well, you might find yourself as perturbed as I am listening to the exhaustive rhetoric that the only way to win in the NFL is to field an elite QB. I do not believe this to be true. Here's why...

There are all kinds of ways to win in the NFL. Why? Because, by definition, you only have to be one point better than your opponent on that given day. Bad quarterbacks win, good quarterbacks lose, bad defenses trounce, good defenses get trounced, yada yada yada. There's no proven formula for success here.

That's the lesson of this Divisional Round weekend.

~The San Francisco 49ers advanced to Championship Weekend behind a Guinness defense, an unblockable force in Justin Smith, a freak of a tight end, some questionable playcalling, and an amazing display of heart from their QB (who nobody, including me, thought could get it done when it mattered).

~The New England Patriots advanced to Championship Weekend by jumping to an early 14 point lead on a team who, according to most people, is quarterbacked by a 4'9 Jewish carpenter, over-celebrating every defensive play made against that hairy man in sandals (given, it was the first time many of these defenders had actually made a play), and by whipping their Gronks out and slinging them around. And their QB is alright.

~The Baltimore Ravens advanced to Championship Weekend by slowing down the league's best RB in the second half (Ray Lewis and Arian Foster's postgame, futbol-style trading of jerseys was the coolest thing that happened this weekend), growing lucky handlebar mustaches (how else do you explain playing TJ Yates in an NFL playoff game?), and taking advantage of two huge breaks (muffed punt and Yates' conundrum numero uno) that they're also gonna need come next week.

~The New York Giants advanced to Championship Weekend behind a QB who hangs in the pocket as well as anyone, playmaking wide receivers, a defensive secondary that dominated the game long before their feared pass rush did (their defense is built similarly to the Chiefs), outlasting the referees, and taking advantage of a 15-1 (seriously, how did the Packers go 15-1?) team that peaked much too early in the season. (Side note - Brother Eli's success this postseason could provide even more drive/inspiration for Brother Peyton come next year, yet another reason I hope the Chiefs make a play for him.)

The song remains the same - How do you win in the NFL?

The most simplistic answer, and the one that makes my ears bleed, is to employ a great quarterback. However, this might be the most difficult of all strategies to successfully pull off. Elite quarterbacks are an endangered species. By most accounts, there are precisely five ON THE ENTIRE PLANET.

I know some people would like the process to be as simple as losing a bunch of games, getting a top draft pick, and then BAM...Eli Manning (yeah, I said it). It's not though. Even if it were, ask Dan Marino if that's the only necessary ingredient for a gourmet Bowl of Sup.

So some teams get there with great QB play, some teams get their by not making mistakes, some teams get their with an intimidating defense, some teams advance purely because of circumstances or a favorable matchup.

So what's the key then? How do you build a winner if you can't just turn over a rock and find a great QB? And how does that apply to our Chiefs? Well...

  • Build around what you DO have (great defense, potential defensive mastermind, dynamic WR's, and hopefully a great RB in God Jam Charles).
  • Take what you can get when you can get it (yes, Kyle Orton is eons better than Matt Cassel, a fact I feel so strongly about that I stood on top of a mountain and screamed it at the top of my lungs - IN DENVER, no less). 
  • Keep your known valuable quantities (Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr are 2 of the 5 most important Chiefs on the roster right now - don't let money be an issue).
  • Keep improving the team (beef up that defensive line, build some depth along the offensive line, snag a new tight end, add another RB to the mix).
  • Take a chance on one of them danged endangered species (you never know when one might turn up, so keep your eyes open and have a contract ready. That means finding new homes for the domesticated pets - and bring your playbook with you, Tyler/Matt.)

We're not as far off as you fear, folks. The Kansas City Chiefs have a good team. We've seen it in bits and pieces. They can win, and I think they can win next year. There are no dominant teams in the NFL right now like we saw in New England and Indianapolis five years ago (and if there is, then we just manhandled them last month). So keep your heads up Chiefs Nation, ignore this phone tapping story that will be forgotten by the first big snowstorm, and enjoy the final three games of The Beautiful Game (that is, the NFL sans pass interference - notice how it wasn't called this weekend? Mmmm, poetry).

His Dirkness