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Friday, January 28, 2011

Jeff Fisher out in Tennessee

An already tumultuous off-season for the Titans has just got even more chaotic with the parting of the longest tenured coach in the NFL in Jeff Fisher. Fisher, along with defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, defensive line coach Jim Washburn, running backs coach Craig Johnson and starting quarterback Vince Young have all been sent packing or left on their own accord. The writing was on the wall for the most part for Young or Fisher coming into this off-season but I don’t believe anyone here in Tennessee thought that both would be gone.



Jeff Fisher has been patrolling the sidelines in Tennessee every since I can remember following football, much less the Titans. He has been with the team since 1994, taking over for Jack Pardee and is the only coach we’ve ever had since the team moved to Nashville. He was has been a mainstay in the community and the face of the franchise. The local media have been set ablaze with the news of his departure. All over town you hear people talking about it as if they lost someone in their family and to a certain extent I can understand that sentiment. After 16 years and leading the Titans to multiple playoffs appearances and a lone Super Bowl it feels like we all in Nashville know Fisher personally. The local reaction has also seen some in town happy to see him leave due to his conservative nature in play calling and the strain of having the same coach for the past 16 years.





However, a dark cloud has hung over this team for awhile now. Fisher, who has always been known as a players coach, started to lose some of his control of his team. I personally believe that it dated back to the Pacman Jones days when he was running rampant here in the Music City. Jones reckless abandon was never able to be reigned in by Fisher, although I don’t believe anyone would be able to control Pacman at the height of his ordeal. The Pacman situation coupled with the shedding of Fisher’s trusted veteran leadership caused problems in the locker room. Fisher couldn’t depend on the players “policing themselves” as they did in the past when the likes of Wycheck, McNair, Marcus Robertson and Blaine Bishop were there. The Peyton Manning jersey wearing flap wasn’t a good look either.



As the season’s mounted up, the product on the field began to deteriorate as well over the last two seasons. Every since the Titans sparkling 13-3 season in 2008, they have below .500 football with a 14-18 record to show for it. It seemed like this season everything came to a head as the Vince Young incident blew up in Fisher face and owner Bud Adams basically siding with Young on the incident. From that point in my opinion is where Fisher lost his team for good. When a player goes on a tirade of that magnitude and shouts profanities at the head coach in plain view as Young did, it has an effect on everyone. Players begin to doubt who is in control of the team. They also begin to take sides rather it be good or bad.



There was also a little known coaching signing flap that seemed to anger owner Bud Adams as well. Fisher went on to sign his remaining assistants to contracts without the direct consent of Adams. That means that Adams is on the hook for Fisher and the rest of his assistant’s salaries even though they more than likely won’t be back with the team next year. It’s been reported that Adams saw this as a betrayal and was the last straw for the tandem relationship.



It’s sad an era marked by amazing consistency (Fisher was 142-120 including 6 playoff appearances and 1 AFC championship) ended on a whimper of a season. Al Davis said that a coach should only spend 10 years in one position (Never though I would be quoting the skeleton that is Al Davis) because the message stale after awhile. There are only so many ra-ra speeches and motivational tools a coach can use to rile up his players and I’m pretty sure Fisher has used them all here. Fisher only had one year remaining on his contract and it seems that instead of being a lame-duck coach, all sides agreed that the best thing moving forward would be to separate before it got any worse. GM Mike Reinfeldt now has the task of finding someone to replace Fisher. It’s not the easiest thing to do just ask the front office of Denver as they find themselves in disarray.



On the other hand, don’t think for a second that this means that Vince Young is being invited back into the fold. As reported by ESPN’s and former Tennesean writer Paul Kuharsky: If Young had won his head-to-head battle with Fisher, it would have been hard enough for Fisher’s replacement to come into a situation in which the quarterback had amassed more power than the coach.



If Fisher’s replacement came in now and had a quarterback the team had announced wouldn’t be back, it would be even more difficult.



The Titans are starting from zero at coach and at quarterback.



The labor impasse makes it the worst possible time to be looking for either, let alone both.



Young cannot be traded before a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, as the 2010 trade deadline was on Oct. 19.



So that should put an end to those rumors.



All things considered Titans fans, don’t forget what this man has given us his all over the last 16 years. He brought us a competitive team that always fought hard on the field. He brought us our four division titles with one Super Bowl appearance and respect around the nation for our formidable team. He will surely be a hot commodity in the NFL coaching circle and his name should pop up with any vacant job that becomes available (I know there are a few teams kicking themselves wishing they could have waited this out). Early word has him landing a coordinator spot as early as next season although that would definitely be weird to see in that capacity after leading a team for so long. Many people are happy that he is gone but don’t like they say you don’t what your missing until it’s gone. Thanks Jeff Fisher for everything you gave to the city of Nashville. Your hard work and dedication will always be appreciated here and are a better community for have you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Super Bowl Like No Other

The stage is finally set for an epic Super Bowl, featuring two tradition dripping franchises seeking to add to their already stacked trophy case. These are two flagship franchises entrenched in the NFL’s history. You could argue that no two cities in the league live through their football teams more than Pittsburgh and Green Bay. The first thing I think about when I hear either or these cities names is football. The history of these teams reads like a timeline of the NFL itself. So before we get into the media hype machine that is the Super Bowl, lets take a quick look at both of these storied franchises and what make them so great in the first place.



Green Bay, AKA Titletown, USA produced the first two Super Bowl champions. The legendary Vince Lomardi built a juggernaut in the 1960’s with his quarterback Bart Starr, the ‘Golden Boy” Paul Hornung at running back and one of my all-time favorite football names Ray Nitschke on defense. If you counted NFL championships as they were referred to before the league merged with the AFL, Green Bay would have accounted for three more championships in the 60’s. They are the first and only professional American sports team to be publicly owned. The Super Bowl trophy for god sakes is named the Lombardi trophy after the iconic coach.



Pittsburgh didn’t pick up any hardware until the 1970’s as they dominated that decade with a menacing defense known as the “Steel Curtain” that featured some of the hardest hitting players the league has ever seen. The names speak for themselves in Mean Joe Green, Mel Blount, and Jack Ham. The offense wasn’t too shabby as well featuring multiple hall of famers in Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swan, and John Stallworth. The Steelers had a legendary coach of their own in Chuck Noll and he would lead them to three titles in the 70’s and the 1980 title as well. The Steelers developed there hard nose image by pounding teams into submission in that era and that tradition still proudly lives on today.



Neither team would win another Super Bowl until the late 90’s as Brett Favre led the Pack back to the title in 1997. The Steelers began a new reign of terror as they won titles in 2006, 2008 and look to add another in this year’s Super Bowl.



Another similarity of these two franchises is the two founding fathers of their teams, Curly Lambeau and Art Rooney. You are not a real football fan if you do not know these names. Lambeau built the Packers from the ground up and even coached the team. The Packers stadium bears his namesake. Art Rooney Sr. and the Rooney family have owned the Steelers since 1946 and probably the most famous owners in the entire league. The Rooney rule was established by the NFL just because of Dan Rooney insistence on interviewing minority coaches. The stability of both franchises is amazing as both have been in business since the 1930’s.



All things considered, this should stack up as the most mythical Super Bowl by tradition standards. The two teams have combined to win 9 of the 45 Super Bowls ever. That’s 1 of 5 Super Bowls. They have some of the most memorable moments in football, from the Immaculate Reception to the Lambeau leap. They have a loyal following rather it’s the cheeseheads as they are affectionately known or Steeler nation waving their terrible towels. There hasn’t been a Super Bowl steeped in so much NFL tradition as this one will be.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vince Young said what on ESPN?

So VY sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Marceullus Wiley attempting to set the record straight about his demise with the Tennessee Titans. From the words coming out of Young’s mouth, you would think this guy was one of the greatest QBs of all time. Here are some of the ludicrous excerpts of the conversation:




Young said he felt he and Fisher had a great relationship but didn't get along with different personalities



As for Adams choosing Fisher over Young, the quarterback said he didn't have the slightest idea why.

"Definitely I am a starting quarterback, an elite quarterback in the NFL. I want to go ahead and start. But like it always is, the coaches have the last word

"It goes back to communication. Our chemistry should've been a little bit better ... That's why the season kind of finished like it was," Young said.

That loud noise you heard was the entire state of Tennessee’s jaws dropping at one time. What the hell is he talking about? I don’t even know to begin on start on this one. Elite QB? He had a great relationship with Jeff Fisher? Obviously he is doing some damage control here as he prepares to go to his next team, but come on Vince, your not pulling the wool over anyone with those comments. When was the last time an NFL team allowed an “elite QB” to walk? Could you imagine Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers or any other real “elite” QBs going through the things Young did in Tennessee? Thanks didn’t think so. If VY thinks that he and Fisher had a great relationship then he is just down right delusional. Hell, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren shake their heads at the Fisher and Young relationship.

And lastly, this communication thing he speaks of. This is coming from a guy who texted, not called Jeff Fisher two days after their sideline confrontation. You would think he would have had the common decency to give his boss a call after he cursed him out and stormed out the locker room. Communication you say? How about having the entire city of Nashville on lookout for him after he reportedly left his house with a gun and in a suicidal state after not telling anyone where he was going. This guy I tell you has issues. He will get another shot somewhere in the NFL because of the nature of recycled QBs. Will he ever get the elevator to the top in his head is another question. I supported Young every since his Texas days but those memories are out of sight and out mind these days. The interview was like a smack to my intelligence. I get the sense that Young still thinks the NFL is that easy. He never made mention of changing his work ethic or his ways through out the interview. He never showed any sense of humility after being basically let go by the team and owner that had the faith to draft him 3rd despite all of the knocks he had coming out of college.

Hope you land in a good place with a solid foundation VY because you will need it.

Local College Basketball Beat

UT Men: The Tennessee Vols men’s basketball team escaped with a win against the Georgia Bulldogs. Escaped is the best way to put it as the Vols needed a last-second shot from big man Brian Williams to seal the victory. Tennessee was down by as many as 17 before turning the game around. The Vols were led by Junior Scotty Hopson and Freshman Tobias Harris who both had 15 points. Tennessee’s roller-coaster season continues as they now are 12-6 and 2-2 in SEC play. The Vols started the season off hot at 6-0 after winning the pre-season NIT and beating Big East heavyweights Pittsburgh and Villanova but they are just 6-6 over their last 12 games. The embattled Bruce Pearl will be back on the sidelines for their next game against the eight ranked Uconn Huskies. The Vols have been successful in beating Big East teams this year but they will need Pearl and any other help as they try to stop PG Kemba Walker, as he has been on a tear this entire season. Speaking of Pearl, he is four games in to his SEC mandated suspension of eight games. Stephen Pearl was the subject of Georgia fans as they chanted “Where’s Your Daddy?” but the Vols got the last laugh with the victory. The Vols travel to Uconn this Saturday. The return of Pearl and the spectacular play of Walker should make for an entertaining game. Make sure you tune in.




Vandy’s Men: After dropping their first two SEC road games, Vandy defeated Ole Miss 84-74 at Memorial Gym. The Commodores were led by super soph John Jenkins’s 20 points and big man Festus Ezeli’s 16. Lance Gouldbourne had a career high 15 rebounds.After a hotly contested first half, Vandy opened the second half on a 12-3 run and seemed on the verge of pulling away. The Rebels would not go away though as they staged a 14-3 run also that put them ahead 66-65. Dundrecous Nelson of Ole Miss fueled the run by scoring eight straight points, hitting two-straight from 3-point land and making a pair of free throws. Vandy would not be denied this victory as Jenkins sank another one of his silky smooth 3-pointers on the Commodores next possession and they would never trail from that point. The ‘Dores are now 13-4 and 2-2 in SEC play. They face Southern Methodist this Saturday. Go Commodores



Tennessee Lady Vols and Vanderbilt Lady Commodores: The two elite women teams in Tennessee faced off with UT taking the victory 68-56. The fifth ranked Lady Vols (17-2) were just too much for Vandy (12-6) as they jumped out to a 21-5 on the strength of a 18-0 run. The Lady Vols held Vandy to a season low 18.9 percent shooting in the first half of the game. Vandy would go down by as many as 22 points before they were able find there groove and begin to mount a small comeback. The Commodores would cut to lead to 64-56 thanks to a Jasmine Lister 3-pointer but that would be as close as they would get as UT closed the game out scoring the last four points. Meighan Simmons continued her hot play and led the Vols with 17 points. Angie Bjorklund and Glory Johnson both chipped in with 14 points a piece. The lost continued Vandy’s woes at Thompson-Boling arena as they dropped to 0-26 in games played at the venue.



Both Teams will be in action this Thursday as the Lady Vols travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Vandy women come back to Nashville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sportaholic AFC-NFC Championship Game Burning Questions

If you didn’t enjoy what you witnessed in the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend, then you just don’t like football. Baltimore and Pittsburgh staged a battle of attrition as both teams hit each other with such ferocity in that rivalry. The players aptly named their third meeting of this season as Armageddon and that looked like how both teams approached it. New England and the New York Jets did most of their hitting below the belt in the media. The Jets just couldn’t contain themselves against their arch rival and actually backed up their brash talk with a defensive masterpiece that befuddled soon to be MVP Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers confirmed what I had thought all along about the Falcons with their crushing defeat. The monsters of the midway from Chicago easily handled Seattle as Jay Cutler showed he can execute under playoff pressure.




The winning teams now move on to the conference championships and both have a classic feel to them.



The Jets and Steelers battled each other just a few weeks ago with New York able to pull out the victory 22-15. That was the first victory ever in Pittsburgh for the Jets. The teams have met only 19 times. Even though they don’t have the quantity that Bears and Packers have, they do have in quality. The three burning questions for this game:



1. Can Sanchez do it again? Mark Sanchez was just sensational against the Pats going 16/24 for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. He thoroughly out played Tom Brady and was the key factor on offense that allowed the Jets to be effective. His performance set up the Jets running game and plays action fakes that were so effective. He seems to be able to raise his play in the playoffs and for the Jets sake hopefully he can do it again.

2. Can the Steelers line hold up against Rex Ryan’s defense: The Jets forced 5 sacks against the Pats basically playing 3 man fronts. They were able to confuse Brady with the look and were able to bump the receivers to throw their routes off. Big Ben of course is a different animal then Brady but when you look at the stats from the Ravens game, you will notice that he was sacked multiple times including the one he fumbled that was taken in for a TD by the aware Cory Redding. The one thing the Steelers have that the Pats didn’t is a speedster in Mike Wallace. Wallace can be the deep threat that could break the coverage of the Jets, so he will be vital in this game Rothlisberger may be the hardest QB to bring down in the league but the Jets will certainly get after him.

3. Will either team suffer a letdown performance, after two emotional and physical games against their arch rivals: It goes without saying how much both of these teams hate the ones they just beat to get here. Both of those games were emotionally charged and physically dominating. The Steelers were down to their last offensive linemen against the Ravens and the Jets seemed way too emotional after their victory over New England. Its funny to think that these two both could have a letdown game based on their come from behind victories over their rivals. Which team can channel their emotions and pick themselves up will have the advantage in this game.



As for the Packers and Bears, these teams have been going at each other for quite some time, since 1921 as a matter of fact and have the longest standing rivalry in the NFL. This is the first time they have met in the playoffs since 1941. They split this year’s games and now face each other with a chance to represent the NFC in the pro bowl. The familiarity between these two teams breeds hatred. Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith spares no punches in his dislike for the Packers. He purposely played his starters in the week 17 even though they had a playoff spot locked up.



1. Aaron Rodgers can you keep this up? Rodgers has been on tear since entering the playoff. He could have gone to jail the way he absolutely assaulted the Falcons secondary for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns. He can burn the defense with his legs as well as he has showed great mobility his entire career. He was actually second in the league in QB rushing yards under Michael Vick. The playoffs have been his coming out party but the Bears defense will want to change that.

2. Will the real Jay Cutler stand up? Cutler played like grizzled vet in his first playoff game against Seattle. He came out firing for the Bears and hit TE Greg Olsen a TD on his third play. He would finish 15/28 for 274 yards 2 touchdowns and no INTs. He also rushed for two more scores becoming the first QB since the great Otto Graham to have at least two throwing and two rushing touchdown in their first playoff game. Not Aaron Rodgers numbers or anything but still good enough. Cutler is always the one rub I have against Chicago because you never know which Cutler will show up. As a matter of fact, the two of his worse games of the season against this very Green Bay Packers team. Cutler’s actions will dictate how Chicago fares in this game.

3. Which defense will impose their will on the offense: There will definitely be no shortage of great defensive players on the field with the likes of Brian Urlacher, Charles Woodson, Lance Briggs, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Both defenses played lights out football in their victories over the past weekend. It poses the question of which one will be superior in the NFC championship game. Both will have to be on their A-game as both quarterbacks come into the game hot and looking to make plays for their teams.



This should be a great weekend of football featuring the final four in the NFL. Who pegged these four teams as the final standing this year? That is the great thing about the NFL, you never know who will rise to the occasion. It will be Jets-Steelers and Bears-Packers for a chance to represent their conference in the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

College Football Weekend Finale Spectacular: National Championship Edition

What an anti-climatic finish to a wild college football season. For all of those prognosticators who predicted a high-flying and high scoring game, sorry but you were wrong. The Auburn Tigers fulfilled there destiny last night by taking down the Oregon Ducks for their second national championship in school history. Cam Newton received all the accolades and hype coming into the game, but it was the running of Michael Dyer and the play of defensive standout Nick Fairley that pushed the Tigers to the win. It’s fitting that the game ended in such a bizarre way for Auburn, as their entire season has been filled with controversy. The Ducks could never get their high-powered up-tempo offense in gear, as Fairley and the defensive line of Auburn dominated up front and controlled the line of scrimmage. The game turned into a defensive battle, one that clearly favored the rugged Tigers coming out of the SEC.

The first quarter was a blur to say the least as both teams saw their share of turnovers. QB Darron Thomas threw two interceptions and Cam Newton threw one himself as both teams looked to find their offense. The most intersting thing to me in the first quarter were the socks of Oregon. I couldn't figure out if they were highlighters or socks. Both teams wouldn't get rolling offensively until the second quarter.



Oregon came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game but could only manage 19 against a big physical Auburn defense. The Ducks also boasted a bullying running attack that averaged over 300 yards but only managed 81 yards on the ground. In my opinion that one lone stat sealed the Ducks fate as their offense has to gain yards on the ground to be productive. Auburn stuffed the Ducks repeatedly and when Tigers tackle Mike Blanc dropped RB Lamichael James in the end-zone for a safety, it would give Auburn a lead they would never get back. James, the nation’s leading rusher was held to just 49 yards on 13 carries.



After the safety, Cam Newton was able to the Tigers down the field for a touchdown that put them up 16-11. Auburn would tack on a field goal before the Ducks threatened again. Oregon drove the ball down to the three and would have that many shots at the end-zone. The Auburn defense again would show what they were made of as they yet again suffocated Oregon. On 4th and 1 Tigers linebacker Josh Byrnes stifled Ducks RB Kenjon Burner for no gain and no score leaving the game 19-11.



From that point the game developed into a lull stage as both offenses moved the ball but did not score until the last minutes of the fourth. Oregon’s sputtering offense finally got some life as they got a converted a 4th and 5 from QB Darron Thomas to WR D.J. Davis on a crossing pattern. The referee was CLEARLY in the way of the Auburn defender and Davis managed to gain 29 yards and took it to the Auburn 11. Oregon would go on to punch in the touchdown three plays later and after the beautiful set-up on the 2pt conversion as Thomas found WR Jeff Maehl, and they tied the game 19-19.



The stage was set for the Heisman trophy winner to put on his cape as he walked onto the field. He was clearly in pain as the grimace on face told us that but he wouldn’t have to do much to seal the victory for the Tigers. He found Emory Blake for 15 yards on the first play and on the second play is where the controversy begins. Michael Dyer (22 carries 143 yards) took the hand-off from Newton, and he ran for a decent gain before being taken down by Oregon’s Eddie Pleasant. Notice as I said he was “taken down” and not tackled by the Oregon defender. Multiple coaches and teammates yelled at Dyer to continue running and he did just that going for 37 yards down to the Oregon 23, and putting Auburn into to field goal range. Sorry Oregon fans but the officiating crew got that one right. From every angle that you could see, Dyer’s knee didn’t touch the ground and although his hand was on the ground it was palm.



The non-tackle as it will be forever known in college football history set up Auburn on the 10 yard line and after a few antics and botched Cam Newton QB sneak, the Tigers kicked the game-winning field goal and gave War Eagle what it had been craving for the last 54 years, a national championship.





Other News and Notes:



SEC Domination: No denying that this win will start another round SEC chants for its fans and another round of discouraging comments from everyone else around the country. This makes for the 5th consecutive year that the conference has produced the national champion and it shows no signs of letting up. The SEC’s fierce in-conference battles are what make them so tough to beat in the post season. Just look at Auburn’s schedule and compare it to anyone else in the nation. Another impressive fact is that the last two national champs reside in Alabama. Bama may hate the Tigers in every semblance of the word but they have to take a bit of pride in that stat. The SEC will inevitably load again next year and send another representative to the championship game and continue to dominate the college scene.



Luck’s Decision: What is the deal with these Pac-10 quarterbacks? A year after we seen Jake Locker of Washington stock plummet and USC’s Matt Leinart do the same a few years earlier, Luck has made his choice to stay as well. Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford is admirable to say the least. The number 1 rated prospect was slated to make least between 30-50 million dollars. In most people opinion, if you tell them they are due for a payday of that nature, they wouldn’t think twice about returning to school. Luck’s admirable act sets the Cardinal up nicely next year, even with the departure of Jim Harbaugh. Luck has to be a bit wary of after stock like tumble of Locker. He does go into the season as the Heisman front-runner and his team should be ranked in the top 5 so that isn’t the worse thing to come back to while finishing your degree.



Miles to Michigan? : If this indeed does come true, I for one will be a sad man. Miles is one of the most animated and enjoyable coaches on the sidelines during the game. He will chomp on grass and chest bump with his players just to name couple of his antics. His game rants are the stuff of legends. It doesn’t get much better than "We would have plenty of yards we would have needed and that game would not have been a game that was so closely decided or it certainly would have put more pressure on our opponents." I mean, how could you not love a guy who can state the obvious in a not so obvious way.



Every game that his team’s play in, you can expect some type of mad hatter moment. Rather if it’s a fourth and goal flip to the holder play against South Carolina or the infamous play-clock meltdown against Tennessee, this guy always has a flair for the dramatics. Michigan is a place of the highest expectations. Miles already has high expectations at LSU but not the caliber of Michigan.



He is a Michigan man as he played and coached there so that’s a fit. Miles would be much more exciting as well than the exiting Rich Rodriguez who always seemed to be walking a thin line in the first place. Miles makes perfect sense the more I think about it but I just hate to see him leave us here SEC country if he does. As much as it pains me to say this, Michigan you need get your man. He in all signs is the anti-Rodriguez and is a great recruiter and just a winner. No you guys won’t get Jim Harbaugh but Les Miles would do just fine.


I enjoyed a great year covering the college football scene and look forward to next year. Until then my good folks enjoy the off-season. Congrats Auburn on you title, you deserved it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings: Playoff Edition and Playoff Predictions

Playoff time in the NFL is such a bittersweet moment for me. On one hand you have the best of the best lining up and going at it and on the other hand it the beginning of the end of the season. Non-playoff teams can be so interesting, just look at the train wrecks in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland, and Carolina just to name a few. I don’t understand how a coach can survive a dismal 4-12 season when his team clearly stopped playing for him (Cincinnati). The two coaches who have surprisingly good years by squeezing every ounce of talent they have out their roster and still get canned (Cleveland and Oakland), and a coach in John Fox who should have been shown the door this time last year. These teams didn’t make the playoffs for a reason rather it be a bad product on the field (Arizona and Denver), front office ineptitude (San Francisco, Buffalo, and San Diego), too lofty expectations (Dallas and Minnesota), not enough talent (Detroit, and Washington), team meltdowns (Houston, Miami and Tennessee) or too young and some form bad luck this year (Tampa Bay and Oakland)




The playoffs are sacred to us die-heart NFL fans, casual fans need not apply. The intensity is turned up and all bets are off. Throw the records out the window as anything can happen. The only thing you have to do is get in and let the rest handle itself. A lot of people will gripe about Seattle’s losing record but if it was their team they would defend them to the end. What if the Seahawks made a magical run (highly unlikely but possible) to the Super Bowl? That is the beauty of the NFL playoffs. Unlike the MLB, NBA or NHL playoffs it just one game instead of a series in the league. The team that plays the best that day wins the game. Its makes every game edge of your seat exciting. There is no room for error. Each pick or fumble can end your team’s season. That is what makes the NFL playoffs so unique.



Now its time to rank the playoff teams from top to bottom:



1. New England Patriots: The prohibitive favorites and deservedly so. When you have beaten half of the teams in the playoffs, you belong at the top. The offensive transformation has been the key to their success. Not to mention Tom Terrific playing the best football of his career. Major concern: Defense. The defense has been solid but it still worries me a bit. When the stage is the biggest will they be able to stand the pressure of being the favorites?

2. Pittsburgh Steelers – Big Ben and the steel city crew have it all working for the Steelers. They can be dominating on defense which has always been the key. As long as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison come ready to play they can beat anyone. Major Concern: Offensive Line. The offensive line on passing plays comes to mind for Pittsburgh. New England made the blueprint for beating them. Fluster Ben and don’t let him out of the pocket and make short accurate throws that won’t allow the pass rush to get settled in.

3. Atlanta Falcons – The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Georgia Dome, where Matt Ryan’s sparkling record of 20-2 comes into play. This team isn’t the sexiest but they find a way to get it done. Major Concern: Run Defense. Even though the Falcons finished 10th in the league in rushing, they have a penchant for giving up the big run as they have given up 10 runs of 20 or more yards this season. You have to shore that up in the playoffs as teams look to rely on their running attacks.

4. Chicago Bears – This seems a bit high for Chicago but they deserve it upon looking at the stats. The Bears have just bum rushed offenses this year as the they are 9th in total defense, 2nd in run defense and 4th in points allowed at 286 for the entire season. Julius Peppers has solidified this unit by giving them a lethal edge rusher to pair with LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Their defense is as mean as it gets in the NFL. Major Concern: Jay Cutler and Offensive line. It has to be said that Cutler is enjoying a resurgent year after his debacle last season. Cutler has “rebounded” to throw 23 touchdowns to 16 interceptions this year. His 86.3 QB rating is actually the 3rd highest rating of his career. The rub with me on Cutler is his decision making. He will make a silky smooth throw on one play and a bonehead throw into triple coverage the next. He has always been that way and you never want that in your QB in the playoffs. And that offensive line is god-awful. They gave up a league leading 52 sacks this year. It is truly amazing that they were able to still make the playoffs with kind of line play.

5. New Orleans Saints – The Saints had a tough year but seemed to finally have put it together going into the playoffs. Their vaunted offense had a down year compared to last year’s standards but still finished ranked 6th overall in total offense. This team is battle tested from last year’s Super Bowl run and will definitely have something to say on the NFC side of the draw. Major Concern: Turnovers. Drew Brees did such a marvelous job last year limiting his turnovers but not so much this year. His interceptions doubled from last year at 11 to 22 this year while his touchdown passes stayed basically the same from 34 last year to 33 this year. Brees has to take care of the rock in the playoffs for the Saints to have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.

6. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens like always are flying under the radar and loving every bit of it. They have recently found their spark on offense by utilizing Ray Rice to the best of his abilities. I have been clamoring for them to use Rice more this year because that guy is a big play waiting to happen. Rice’s numbers were down across the board from his career year last year as the Ravens have focused more on getting the ball to their receivers but Rice should get ample opportunities in the playoffs. It is amazing as well to note that Ed Reed led the league in interceptions at 8 even though he only played half the season this year. He is an all-time great at the safety position. Major Concern: Pass Rush. I remember when it was a given that the Ravens D was going to get after your quarterback. Not so much nowdays as they tied for 27th in the league with Buffalo. Haloti Ngata (6) and Terrell Suggs (11) are the only Ravens to have over 3 total sacks. That has to be addressed as teams will look to just throw on Baltimore. Just not to Ed Reed’s side.

7. New York Jets – Sexy Rexy and the gang green bunch are a lot of smoke and mirrors these days. Their last two meaningful games they have given up 66 points and 771 yards of total offense against the Bears and Steelers. Those are not the numbers that we have been accustomed to under Ryan’s reign. When you combine that with a offense that couldn’t scare a pee wee football team then you have problems going into the postseason. Major Concern: Mark Sanchez. Another thing I have been saying to all my Jets fans this year is watch the growth of Mark Sanchez as he is the key to you guys team. Sanchez numbers have improved from last year as expected and if you think back to last year this is when he got hot and led the Jets to the AFC Championship game. They will absolutely have to have that type of performance out of him if they expect to get back there or even further.

8. Green Bay Packers – The cheese heads are the dark horses in the NFC and a team no one will want to face. The fact that they have been basically been in playoff mode since week 16 stokes that notion. Teams that usually have to fight all the way to then end just to make it in the playoffs are good bets to make runs. This team has talent on both sides of the ball in Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson. Can this team finally live up to the lofty projections they were predicted for the last couple of years? Major Concern: Injuries. The Pack lost starters Atari Bigby at safety, running back Ryan Grant, and tight end Jermichael Finley for the entire season. All of these players were major contributors to their team. Aaron Rodgers has just gotten over his concussion symptoms as well, so they have to protect him at all cost. When you add S Nick Barnett and DE Cullen Jenkins to the list as out for their game against Philly that makes it that much worse for Green Bay.

9. Indianapolis Colts – The Sheriff does it again as he led his team to playoffs for the 9th consecutive time, albeit not the way they we are accustomed to. Manning struggles this year have been chronicled so I won’t go into detail about that but he showed a true grit and determination this year not to let his team fail. The Colts are dangerous because you know every time you face them, Manning can get hot and take you down. The change in the way they are going in this year could benefit them. As a matter of fact the only time Manning won the Super Bowl, his team was a wild card back in 2006. Watch out AFC. Major Concern: Injuries. If the Packers are considered walking wounded into the playoffs, then the Colts should be the walking dead. This team has just been decimated by injuries this year. The Colts injury report lists 25 players and 15 on that list are on the IR. You could field a decent team with the likes of Dallas Clarke, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie, Melvin Bullitt, Anthony Gonzalez, and the IR specialist Bob Sanders. If the Colts can overcome all of their injuries, it would be one of the greatest NFL stories in history.

10. Philadelphia Eagles – The most exciting team in the league resides in Philly. Excitement doesn’t always lead to championships though just ask Cleveland Cavalier fans of the past few seasons. The improbable season just keeps going for Philly and they were able to rest Michael Vick and De’sean Jackson an extra week after clinching the 3rd seed in the NFC. Vick and Jackson are as deadly of a combo as it comes in the NFL. When you add the underrated Lesean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin you have a team that can put up points in a hurry. I think they could field a track team if they wanted to. Major Concern: Pass Protection. The Vikings exposed the Eagles weak offensive line play in the Sunday night turned Tuesday nigh game. The Eagles continually let corner Antoine Winfield in the backfield on a simple Cornerback blitz. Vick has been hit a number of times this year and it will only get worse in the playoffs as teams emulate what the Vikes did to them. If they want to have any shot at advancing, they have to protect Vick starting this weekend against Clay Matthews and the Packers

11. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs or New England west as some call them are the surprise team in the league this year as they finally took down San Diego’s reign on the AFC West. Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have changed the culture in that locker room and should be commended. The additions of Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis gave them a schematic advantage in most of their games as both of these guys have won Super Bowls in New England. Matt Cassel also has played a big part in their resurgence as he has put up MVP numbers in the second half of the season. Jamal Charles is a threat every time he touches the ball. Major Concern: Big Stage Jitters. This is the Chiefs first time in playoffs since 2006. Most of those guys on that team are gone. How will the new look Chiefs fare on the big stage?

12. Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll found a way to sneak his team into the postseason. The Seahawks are the historic first team with a losing record to make it in. Don’t blame Seattle for being in the worst conference in football, hell somebody had to win the division. Surprisingly as well is that Seattle ranks 19th in passing offense ahead of other playoff teams such as Baltimore, New York Jets, Chicago, and Kansas City. As for their chances that another thing. Charlie Whitehurst seems to be good at evading the rush and making things happen with his legs. I also like the fact that he didn’t have a turnover in his lone start. Other than that this should be a one and done showing for Seattle’s best. Major Concern: Talent. The Seahawks have virtually no run game as they ranked 31st in the league averaging a paltry 89 yards a game. They ranked 27th in the league in total defense and yet with all their deficiencies found a make it in but it won’t be for long.



My Humble Playoff Predictions:



Wild Card Round:



AFC

NY Jets over Indianapolis

Baltimore over Kansas City

NFC

New Orleans over Seattle


Philadelphia over Green Bay



Divisional Round:

AFC

New England over NY Jets 

Baltimore over Pittsburgh



NFC
 
Philadelphia over Chicago

New Orleans over Atlanta



Conference Championship:

AFC

New England over Baltimore

NFC

Philadelphia over New Orleans


Super Bowl

New England over Philadelphia.

Vince Young done in Tennessee

So Bud Adams has made his decision and it is that Vince Young is out in Tennessee. Everyone knew that either Young or Coach Jeff Fisher were not going to be back next year after their fiasco this season. Not the most stunning news but it is mildly surprising. Young was hand picked by the Titans owner to take over the franchise after the Steve McNair era. Adams had been hot on Young’s trail every since he rose to stardom as a high school star at Houston’s Madison high school. Adams being a Houston native was able to see the potential in Young as he demolished several Texas high school records. Every since Adams and Young met they seemed to have a bond between each other. After Young sensational college career, where he set multiple University of Texas records and led them to a national championship in his final year, Young was selected with the 3rd pick by Tennessee in the 2006 draft.



Young would have his ups and downs from the beginning of his tenure with Tennessee. He would have a breakout rookie season that saw him go 8-5 after being inserted as the starter by the request of owner Bud Adams. Young showed a flair for the dramatics and won over Titan fans with his three fourth quarter comebacks including one against arch rival Indianapolis. He would set an NFL record by rushing for 552 yards and was named Offensive rookie of the year.



Everyone expected a big jump from Young in 2007 after his great rookie campaign. Young would put up decent numbers finishing the season with 2,459 yards with 9 touchdowns but he also seemed to regress as he threw 17 interceptions. He would still go on to lead Tennessee to the playoffs for his first time and was named to pro bowl again after a Phillip Rivers injury.



2008 was the season where things begin shaky for Young. In the first game of the season, Young was under performing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The fans let him know about it as they showered him and the Titans with boos, something Young was not use to. Young’s rough day included only throwing for 110 yards and being intercepted twice. Young was slow to head back into the game. Once Young did reluctantly get back into the game he sprained his knee two plays later and was on crutches after the game. This would be the first incident between Young and Jeff Fisher. Fisher was noticeably angry that Young did not wasn’t to go back into the game. Fisher would name Kerry Collins as the starter for the rest of year due to Young’s unenthusiastic response. Young would also be subject to a suicidal incident that led to an all out search for his whereabouts in Nashville. He was reported as dismayed when he left his home according to his mother and he was also noted as having a gun. Fisher and Young’s mother notified the police who found Young. Young stated that he was fine and the situation was way overblown. Collins would lead the team to a 13-3 record and a first round bye in the playoffs. The season would end in the divisional round with a lost to Baltimore however.



The 2009 campaign saw Young relegated to the sidelines at the beginning of the season. The Titans however begin the season a dismal 0-6 and thus prompting owner Bud Adams to once again request Young’s services. Even as Adams urged Fisher to make the change and Fisher obliged he stated that “I'm still in Kerry Collins' corner because I don't believe that our record is a reflection of the quarterback play," Fisher said. "It's a reflection of the team play. I'm still in his corner, but we've decided to go ahead and make this change." Young would prove Fisher wrong as he would go on to lead the Titans to eight victories in ten tries. He led a stunning comeback against the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals that saw him at his best. He capped a 99-yard drive at the end of the game with a game winning pass to Kenny Britt. It was the first game I remember thinking this guy is on to something as he was poised and threw the deep ball better than I could ever remember seeing from him. Young again would make the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Phillip Rivers yet again.





Coming into this season, it was supposed to be the coming of age for Young as he finally had taken the starting QB job back from Kerry Collins and had a full off season to solidify his standing with the team. He had put to bed the rumors of his childish acts and selfish mentality. Young showed in the preseason a new more dedicated work ethic and it proved to be working at the beginning of the season. Young looked comfortable in the pocket and his throwing as well as he ever has as a pro.

The Titans reflected from Young’s new found confidence and would start hot going 5-2. Young was enjoying his best statistical year as he had a QB rating of 103.1 at that junction of the season trailing only Michael Vick for the highest rating.

Everything changed for Young, Fisher and the Titans when the Washington Redskins came to town in week 9. The Titans were not playing the most inspired football and the fans again let them know about it. Young seemed to take exception. He began to wave his hands up and down to antagonize the crowd in Nashville, something you never do. Young was enjoying a decent game until he was injured making a throw. Young would try to tough it out and re-enter the game but trainers and Coach Jeff Fisher would not let him. Young self-destructed after the teams decision. His list of incidents after include: throwing his helmet and shoulder pads into the stands, walking past reporters and brushing off a teammate who tired to talk to him before he left the stadium and mumbling words at Jeff Fisher during his post-game speech. Young would also storm out of the locker room before Fisher was finished delivering his rant and Fisher reportedly stated that he was quitting on his team. Young responded back by saying that he wasn’t quitting on them but he was quitting on Fisher.



This was later stated by Fisher “I am very disappointed. I think his teammates are disappointed,” Fisher said. “You know, there is going to be frustration in losses. There is going to be times when you have to dig deep and fight and turn to one another. I don’t think you run, and so I am disappointed



In my opinion that was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Nashville. Not only was Young immature and childish in response to good decision by fisher and the training staff not to put him back in the game but he also sullied his reputation with the fans. There were already rumors about his mental fortitude after his previous meltdowns. Some said that in the locker room teammates preferred Kerry Collins to start as well. Coach Jeff Fisher seemed to never be in Young’s corner from the very beginning. He tried to suffice with Young on many occasion to soothe owner Bud Adams’s prized possession. But in the end neither man could stand each other’s presence. Young seemed to always think Fisher was against him and was never able to gain his coaches confidence. Both are to blame for the relationship not working. Fisher went out of his way to say that even if Young was not injured, he would not be his starting quarterback anymore, which I can understand due to his antics. What I will never understand between Fisher and Young is their lack of communication. Young didn’t even speak to Fisher about the incident until a few days later and resorted to sending him a text message to apologize. Fisher stated that a man would have spoken to him face to face to offer an apology which I agree to but again did he have to make that statement publicly?



In the end this was a relationship doomed to fail. Young was sort of a diva and thought he would have his own rules as he did everywhere else he played. Fisher is an old school guy who treats everyone the same until they earn the respect of him and the team. Bud Adams fostered Young and also splintered the relationship of Young and Fisher. It’s a shame that it couldn’t work out. It is surprising that Adams choose Young over Fisher as Young was suppose to be Adams protégé.As for Young, I’m sure he will land on his feet. There is always a team looking for a QB. The Young and Fisher saga has sadly played its last note in Music City.

So what do you guys think Vince Young's legacy will be remembered as in Tennessee?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Tennessee Titans Year In Review

The Titans ended their disappointing roller-coaster season with a loss to their bitter rival the Indianapolis Colts, on a last second field goal. The win vaulted the Colts into the playoffs as the division winner of the AFC South and sent the lowly Titans home for the season. The Titans had a reversal of fortunes this year as they started hot out of the gates at 5-2 and leading the division. That is a stark contrast from last season’s 0-6 debacle. They also landed hall of fame talented but mercurial wide receiver Randy Moss off waivers from Minnesota. Even after losing to San Diego before their bye week, all signs pointed upward as the Titans. Vince Young was playing his best football ever in a Titans uniform as his stellar 103.1 QB rating trailed only Michael Vick in that department. Kenny Britt’s breakout performance against the Eagles (7 catches 225 yards and 3 touchdowns) had everyone gushing and projecting him on a path of stardom. Chris Johnson wasn’t on pace for his self projected 2,500 prediction but still was 5th in the league with 721 yards. The defense was boasting a league leading 25 sacks and was overachieving as a unit.




Be that as it may, No one could have predicted the way the wheels would fall off in the second half of the season. The Titans started what would turn into a six-game losing streak by losing to San Diego. The game that changed the team dynamic though would have to be the loss to Washington. Vince Young’s meltdown overshadowed the game as he would loss his cool with Head Coach Jeff Fisher and the fans at LP field. Fisher would not give in to Young’s request to go back into the game after seeing him make throws on the sidelines. Young responded was seen waving his arms at the crowd, throwing his helmet and shoulder pads in the crowd after the game and mumbling words at Fisher post game speech just to name a few things. Young would later apologize for his actions but the damage was already done. He was also put on injured reserve due a tore ligament in his thumb. In my game review I recognized that this incident could only lead the team in one or two directions. It could have galvanize the team and bring them together like never before or Young’s insubordination could cause a rift with teammates taking sides. It’s not hard to see which of the two that happened.



The team never seemed to recover from the Young-Fisher fiasco and things went from bad to worse. The newly acquired Randy Moss could never seem to find a rhythm with his new team. There is no way a player of his caliber should have only 6 catches for 80 yards no touchdowns and not even TARGARTED in some of those games. I’m just not sipping that Kool-Aid Jeff Fisher was making as he stated that Kenny Britt and Moss played the same position. It has to be a way to get both of those guys on the field. After rushing for over a hundred yards in the first two games after the bye week, Chris Johnson’s numbers declined and he had his worst game ever as a pro rushing for just 5 yards against a relatively soft Houston Texans squad. That game also featured the Finnegan-Johnson fight that ended up with both players being ejected. The incident was yet another sign of the team unraveling right before your eyes.



Despite racking up losses, the Titans still had an outside chance at winning the division. The Thursday night showdown with Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning and the Colts would be Tennessee last realistic chance to make a stand for the season. The Titans came out and showed some of life but were not able to come out with the win. The lost put them at 5-8 and with no real chance of making the playoffs. The Titans would finish out the season going 1-2 over their next three games, including the nail-biting loss to the Colts. If there was ever a season for the Titans to win the division, this was it. The Colts struggled and the Jags did their inevitable last season swoon but the Titans were no where to be found in the race.





To put this season in perspective is a complicated thing to do. It will be a season defined by turmoil and unrealized expectations. This was suppose to be the year it all came together for Vince Young but it quickly turned into a nightmare for him. Jeff Fisher future is up in the air and owner Bud Adams has to make some tough decisions moving forward. Talent wise, this should have been at least a playoff contending team at worst. The Titans never seemed to be able to move forward after the Young-Fisher confrontation. In a year of defining moments, that will definitely characterize Tennessee’s 2010 year. The Titans walk away from this season with more questions than answers, which is never a good thing. For the longest tenured coach in the league this had to be Jeff Fisher toughest year. He bore the look of a man defeated at the end of the season and maybe he will make the decision for Adams and just walk away. Vince Young’s tomfoolery has to be accounted for in some way as well. Bud Adams never chose sides in the incident and many believe that those actions created a wound to Fisher’s locker room authority that can never be healed.



Change is in the air for Tennessee and it’s quite obvious that some is needed. How much change will happen is another question. The Titans franchise has been one of the most stable in the league. Will Bud Adams roll the dice and shake up the redundancy and mediocrity that surrounded his team this year? How will the team respond if Vince Young or Jeff Fisher are let go? If Fisher is not retained, who takes his place? Do they go after a future QB in the upcoming draft? Speaking of quarterbacks, how much longer does Kerry Collins have left in the arm? Would Randy Moss even consider staying with the team, after being made a decoy for most of tenure? How healthy will offensive coordinator Mike Heimendinger be after his cancer diagnosis?



This much is for certain, the Titans in some form or fashion will enter next year with some changes in place. Those changes will take place right in front our eyes over the next few months. Hopefully those changes will make for better results next year. This should be considered a lost year for the Titans.