Sucks to be Who?
*As we round the Quarter pole of NFL '09, let's take a moment to tug on the reins with a KEITH JACKSON-inspired, "Whoa, Nelly!" and see
who's down. Down in the dumps, down in the division...down with what it's like to have your season suck so far. Kicking it off...*
Karma Incarnate, at least when Favre & Cutler are unavailable, better known as ERIC MANGINI, of the "I fined a guy $1700 because he failed to pay for a hotel bottle of water" Manginis. In addition to levying morale-busting charges for unpaid incidentals while "leading" his team to 0-4, Mangenius recently found himself the target of SI.com scribe JOE POSNANSKI, who sounds like a cross between a Bazooka Joe featured-extra and the ethnic end of an Archie comic. (Jughead's long, lost given name?)
Posnanski recently issued the hyperbolic hypothetical that Mangini is "the worst NFL head coach hire in 25 years." Moments later, Mangini slapped shut his "Kiss me - I was on The Sopranos!" stickered MacBook®, and went off, a la WILL ARNET on Arrested Development: "Oh COME on!" with an exasperated follow-up, "Have you not heard of ART SHELL?!" Weighing in next...
Hefty rookie offensive lineman ANDRE SMITH, whose pre-season holdout gave way to a long-term deal and, shortly thereafter, a foot injury that has him sidelined to this day. Andre's slow return from a broken foot is no surprise. One look at his Pro Day Youtube channel is enough to tell you that, outside of an instinctive, mad dash toward "all-you-can-eat BBQ" blinking in neon, "slow" is Smith's default mode. Moving on...
"BUFFALLOED" DEFENSIVE BACKS. Cornerback LEODIS MCKELVIN's string of bad luck unspooled early, when he fumbled a kickoff late in week one against New England. Might this have been vexing to backwoods ignorami with nothing more than an OJ throwback, a working knowledge of rudimentary curse words and a drunken tantrum to throw? Sure. But enough to get him up off his ass, mapquest the residence of a top player on the hometown team and exit his Pabst Blue-Ribbon-sponsored trailer to befoul the kid's lawn with obscenities? Sadly, sure again.
Not long after, news broke that $400,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from the home of Bills *safety * DONTE WHITNER. And this got us thinking. Isn't Buffalo supposed to be the Green Bay of the Northeast? Isn't this the fan-base peopled by apple-cheeked TIM RUSSERT types? Guess not. Then came the murky incident involving a condo parking lot, two strange men and Patriot corner JONATHAN WILHITE's version of what some New Englanders call a "Cumbies run." (Anyone else growing increasingly understanding of Plaxico walking around with a gun jammed down his sweats?) Adding injury to insult...
...two weeks after the lawn incident, McKelvin broke his leg vs. the Saints, landing himself on Injured Reserve. As for Whitner, within weeks of his bling getting dinged, the hand of Fate fingered him for thumb surgery. Like we said, Buffaloed defensive backs...DOWN. Up next...
JEFF FISHER. Going from consensus Super Bowl contender to the best of the lowly 0-4's has to be a tough pill to swallow, but if there's one HC who can turn around a winless team in 2009, Fisher's the guy for the job. Unfortunately for Bushy McPorn 'Stache, in the next two weeks Tennessee's D squares off against some guys named Peyton & Brady, and Titans secondary stud CORTLAND FINNEGAN has a nagging hamstring. So...best 0-6 team ever?
Up, Right Citizens Brigade
On the other hand, a quick run-down of folks with good reason to feel "up" at the Quarter mark...
Fantasy owners who had the
ADRIAN PETERSON pick; whichever defenses get to face the RAMS each week; JOHNNY KNOX 'cause he just keeps making plays and has a great football name; MIKE TANNENBAUM anytime he negotiates with Eric "Embedded Jet" Mangini; the suddenly skyrocketing PINK CLEATS industry; BRAYLON EDWARDS because his "Brandon Marshall routine" got him out of dodge (and BRANDON MARSHALL because *his * didn't); folks who knew FLACCO & RYAN were more than one-year wonders; DREW BREES and the city of NEW ORLEANS; whoever's in charge of PAT BOWLEN's blood pressure; the fingers-crossing, lucky SOB who convinced Bengals management that doing HBO's *Hard Knocks * wouldn't be a distraction; burgeoning JULIAN EDELMAN fan clubs; guys who missed out on the STEVE SMITH who plays in Carolina only to "settle" for the one who plays in New York, and finally - speaking of New York - our JET FAN BRETHREN, who are enjoying some long-awaited, well-earned success. REX RYAN is clearly all he's cracked up to be. Best of luck turning around that "Same Old Jets" refrain, at long last. We're sure nothing can possibly jeopardize it. In fact, we'd say you've got this thing in the bag. Congrats on the un-jinxable, Namath-like guaranteed victory!
W-E-E...I Can't Believe What I Just Heard!
RODNEY HARRISON's comments about TOM BRADY needing to "take off the skirt and put on some slacks" generated quite a bit of buzz Sunday night, as well as an onslaught of "dirty texts" to Harrison's in-box, courtesy of irate Patriots fans. (It also generated a painful hour or three of more-clueless-than-usual talk radio from WEEI's DENNIS & CALLAHAN the following day.)
To avoid any additional ugliness, we're taking a deep breath and counting to ten because, well, it seemed clear (1, 2, 3...) that Rodney was (4, 5, 6...) joking because (7, 8...) you see, he (9...) was (10)... FREAKIN' SMILING THE WHOLE TIME! *Are you people serious?! *(1, 2, 3...) The guy was practically laughing. Does Rodney think QBs are overly pampered? Of course he does. (And of course they are.) But wasn't he kind of just busting Brady's chops and kidding around? Yes! HE USED THE WORD "SLACKS" FOR GOD'S SAKE! It's got a "K" sound and everything!
It'd be one thing if the uproar was emanating from folks who don't follow the Patriots, people who aren't prone to getting all up in arms about any slight, perceived or otherwise. (Sound like any ex-#37 you know, New England?) The uproar, however, came from people who should know better. So, now that you've heard from all parties - Rodney in clarifying his barbs and Brady barbing back, as good as he got - perhaps you can take a breath, get up from the futon (and off hold with 'EEI) and act like big boys and girls. Otherwise, you may as well start renting the Meadowlands, framing your Wayne Chrebet away jersey and filling up message boards with full-throated canonizations of "The Sanchize" after four Swaggerlicious games. ("Jinx," we mean! "JINX!!!")
~ Ladies and gentlemen, your INEXPLICABLE, INEXCUSABLE PLAYCALL, 2009: Dallas's baffling attempt to go after all-world corner CHAMP BAILEY in the waning seconds of their loss to, and in, Denver. Had ROY WILLIAMS or JASON WITTEN been the target, we still would've hated the decision. But trying to force the ball into the immortal SAM "no one's ever" HURD "of me" and his not-so-grand season total of four catches is nothing short of mind-boggling.
If one playcall one month into the season could disqualify a hot coaching prospect like JASON "I went to Princeton and played well on Thanksgiving once" GARRETT, this'd be it. Sure, a healthy portion of WTF goes to TONY ROMO and whatever blonde, pop-starlet voodoo he's still working out, but, sorry, Mr. "Err" Apparent OC, ever since that game, four words keep racing through our mind and, presumably, the mind of Jerry Jones, as well: "Is Shanny on speed-dial?"
~ JOHN HARBAUGH is sending the league a letter of complaint about what he and some of his RAY LEWISES considered iffy roughing-the-passer calls in New England last week. No news yet on whether he asked similarly flagged (but exclusively fined) Patriot MIKE WRIGHT to go halfsies on postage or if the Ravens are hoping the league'll step in to reverse Flacco's ugly red-zone pick and rectify the "balls bouncing off MARK CLAYTON's chest" situation.
~ The final word (for now) on MICHAEL CRABTREE, who recently, finally, signed with the 49ers. Prior to caving to San Francisco's demand that their client play a kid's game for tens of millions of dollars, Crabtree's reps spoke with SportsBusiness Journal, claiming that the then hold-out was "not under the gun" to sign since he'd already made "over 750 grand in marketing dollars." That interview captured what it is that John Q. Sportsfan hates so much about cocky player agents. (Hint: It has something to do with phrases like "marketing dollars.")
On the other end of perspective is Crabtree's teammate PATRICK WILLIS, who, asked about the massive monies in his * future, had this to say during the off-season: "I don't let my mind go that far down the road. I love California...the fans...the weather...I would love to spend a long while here. But at the end of the day all I can do is take it one year at a time and see what happens." More of that *Bull Durham-style Willis, please, and less of that bull something else-style Crabtree.
A good-on-ya to the NFL - league, owners & players - for a terrific job Sunday, spreading Breast Cancer Awareness. STEVE REED of Carolinagrowl.com (nope, not kidding) reports that the pink cleats idea was the brainchild of a guy whose team didn't even play last week, Panthers running back DEANGELO WILLIAMS, who's lost three aunts to breast cancer and been blessed with a mother who survived it. So here's to DeAngelo, his mom and the ongoing race for the cure. And here's to the NFL - using your power for good never looked so out of place. Or so noble.
Oh. One more thing: "Ochopinko," we can't wait to see your fine-able, BRIGHT PINK CHIN-STRAP, etc... this weekend. Odds are, the NFL's apparel police will have you and your blatant, if well-intentioned, rule infraction in their sights. Stay vigilant. (And keep an eye on Mangini.)
John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)