Blood on the Gridiron: In Brady and Belichick We Trust
As long as Bill Belichick is the Head Coach and Tom Brady is the Quarterback, the New England Patriots are my favorite to win the AFC East. I understand that football is a team sport and many other factors play into the success or failure of a single team but in football, more than any other sport, it’s all about a good coach/game plan and the play/execution of one player (the QB).
Head coaches/managers in basketball and baseball have seemingly been relegated to team counselors. Their primary responsibilities, it seems, have become more about team counseling and managing personalities then strategy and in-game adjustments. I realize I am generalizing to make a point but I firmly believe that in the NFL the Head Coach and the QB have more of an impact week to week, game to game then in any other sport.
Simply put, the New England Patriots have the best Head Coach/ QB tandem in the NFL and you would be hard pressed to find a better coach or quarterback in the NFL than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Are their question marks at defensive back? Depth issues on offense and defense? You bet. All are true. But this isn’t baseball, folks. You can’t spend like a drunken sailor, stock your team with All Stars and sit back and wait until the World Series – we’ll just have to wait and see how the 2010 New York Jets fair this year, using their NY Yankee-esque approach to team-building.
I understand that the 2010 Patriots are not going to win 14 or maybe even 12 regular season games but I just don’t see how fans, in general, and a majority of NFL talking heads and analysts look at the 2010 New England Patriots and see a team only capable of winning 8-9 games and finishing in second or third in their division.
I enjoy Fantasy Football as much as the next guy but when looking ahead to the 2010 NFL season it seems, in my estimation, that too many have put too much emphasis on team make-up, on-field personnel and past statistical performance (and we all know, “stats are for losers”).
Take the aforementioned NY Jets for instance. They loaded up during the off-season with Pro Bowl caliber players on offense and defense. They recently came to terms with hold-out and “the best cornerback in the NFL,” Darrelle Revis and with their entertaining turn on HBO’s Hard Knocks, they have become darlings of the national media. As a result, and even before resolving the Revis’ contract situation, many people have the Jets as a lock to win 10+ games and finish on top of the AFC East.
Of course, let’s put aside for the moment that Rex Ryan is, quite frankly, a buffoon and Mark Sanchez, their second-year QB is young and inexperienced. Many outstanding, Hall of Fame quarterbacks only needed one year to acclimate to the speed and intensity of the NFL. Dan Marino, John Elway (to name two) each won 12+games in only their second years as starting NFL QBs. Tom Brady won a Super Bowl (and Super Bowl MVP trophy) in his second year in the league (first as a starter) and Peyton Manning won 13 games in his second year as a starter. The common denominator among all four? They all had great (or in the case of Dungy, very good) head coaches at the helm.
When all is said and done, Mark Sanchez may turn out to be a brilliant NFL QB. But those are mighty big shoes to fill and I just don’t think Sanchez, under Rex Ryan, is capable of matching those second year performances from the aforementioned current and future Hall of Famers. Of course, I could be wrong…
Week One NFL Pick Six
*Note: My weekly NFL picks are strictly for “s***s and giggles,” folks. I don’t bet actual money on actual games and neither should you. Actually, what do I care what you do? Have a great weekend and enjoy the games! The below odds come from the ever-reliable CBSSports.com http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/odds
Cincinnati Bengals @ New England (- 4 ½)
The line opened with Pats as 6 point favorites and it looks like the early money is on the Bengals. I can’t see how the Ochocinco/Owens experiment ends in anything but complete and utter disaster. Speaking of disasters… I wonder if the owners came up with the Bengal uniforms or if they actually paid someone to design that. What was the direction, “we’re going for the pile of crap smeared all over a pumpkin look, what do ya think?” Pick: Patriots.
Detroit Lions (+6 ½) @ Chicago Bears
Despite an abysmal 2-14 finish in 2009, things could soon be looking up for the Lions. At the very least, I think the Jim Schwartz/Matt Stafford era in Detroit is worth watching. For the first time in years we haven’t had to endure an off-season filled with stories about the Bears QB questions. This should be a fun game to watch. I don’ t think the Lions will upset but I like them to cover. Pick: Lions.
Atlanta Falcons (+2 ½) @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The line opened as a “pick ‘em” and moved to the Falcons as 2 ½ point favorites on the road. The first four games of the Steelers 2010 campaign are going to be very interesting to watch, to say the least, but I like Matt Ryan and think the Falcons are headed in the right direction. Pick: Falcons.
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins (+3 ½)
I’m sticking with my head coach/QB theory on this one. McNabb’s knee or ankle, or some part of his lower leg may be gimpy but I like the Shanahan and McNabb combo over Wade Phillips and Tony Romo all day and twice on Sunday. Pick: Redskins
Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ New York Jets
There seems to be some bad blood brewing between the Jets and Ravens. Rex Ryan used to be the Defensive Coordinator for the once-vaunted Ravens D and it seems Ray Lewis is none to happy with some seemingly innocuous comments Ryan made on HBO’s Hard Knocks. I may pick the Jets to lose every week just for fun. As a side note, if the NFL Players Union is hopes to win fan sympathy and the PR war against NFL Owners in the upcoming labor negotiations they need to put a muzzle on Ray Lewis. How many NFL players can you think of that inspire less fan sympathy than Ray Lewis? Pick: Ravens.
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (+4 ½)
Like it or not, my Head Coach/QB theory strikes again! Phillip Rivers may be the most overrated QB in the NFL. Norv Turner and his .479 career win percentage would have to be rated before he could be overrated. Turner-coached teams have made the playoffs just four times in his 12 years as a head coach and three of those appearances have been the last three with the Chargers. For the record, Norv Turner had four seasons of above .500 football and made the playoffs once before the Chargers made him their top guy. They’ve made the playoffs all three years under his stewardship (with less than stellar results) but the Rivers/Turner combo just seems like a hot mess. Pick: Chiefs.