Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NFL Week 2 -- and Other Things

Huh?: Imagine if you will ... you're the manager of a Major League Baseball team. Your team is tied for the National League wild card and there are 12 games to go in the regular season. You've lost seven of your last 10 games, and some might think you're starting to choke. What do you do?

If you're the Milwaukee Brewers, you fire your manager. The Brewers did just that Monday, letting go of Ned Yost. They didn't wait until the end of the season to see if the team would pull out of it. No waiting to see if the Brewers could in fact right the ship and secure the wild card, no waiting for a possible chokejob.

Just gone. Twelve games to go and the Brewers have to get used to a new manager. And before you ask, no, Bud Selig isn't controlling the team anymore. But it does seem like something he'd do, doesn't it?

The Brewers are looking for their first playoff berth since 1982, but I think this firing could end up keeping them out of the postseason. What kind of message does Yost's firing send to the team?

"We'll let you go if we think you're about to fail!"

I don't know how the players felt about Yost, though Mike Cameron was generous when he called the firing a "surprise." I just don't see the point in firing a guy over something that might happen -- I realize the Brewers stumbled down the stretch last year and missed the playoffs, but if that was the basis for this, then I'm shocked.

GM Doug Melvin is usually a pretty loyal guy, and every indication is this wasn't his call. Ownership wanted this, from what I can tell, and the Brewers are apparently desperate to get in the playoffs and win now -- I just can't help but wonder if they'll even make it, now that the team has to get used to a new leader with less that two weeks to go in the regular season.

Offense!: Yes, that 67-yard strike from Jason Campbell to Santana Moss against the New Orleans Saints was a thing of beauty, but let's remember something: the Saints have a terrible defense, certainly not on the same level as the Super Bowl champion Giants.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad Campbell threw for 321 yards and Clinton Portis came close to a 100-yard rushing game (he had 96 yards and two TDs). But I need to see it more often and more consistently before I believe Jim Zorn's system is truly working. A nine-point comeback is encouraging, and if the Redskins can build on it for next week against a 2-0 Arizona team, that would be great.

But let's hold off on anointing Zorn the new genius of Washington. You don't go from goat to god in one week.

Defense?: Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Philadelphia and Dallas defenses there was a game Monday night, when the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-37. Not that I'm complaining; it was a thrilling, entertaining game, and even in the loss, I think the Eagles showed something.

Aside from defensive deficiencies. And before you bring up the three points they gave up in Week 1, it's worth remembering: that was against the St. Louis Rams.

Tony Romo finally had a good game against Philly, throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those were to Terrell Owens, who is now second on the all-time touchdown receptions list behind his hero, Jerry Rice (seriously? T.O.'s caught that many?). The only thing glaring was, again, the defense, which allowed Donovan McNabb to throw for 281 yards and rookie DeSean Jackson to catch for 110.

But Jackson: dude, wait until you cross the goal line before letting go of the ball in celebration. If Brian Westbrook doesn't score on the very next play, you'd probably have gone down in Leon Lett-like infamy.

The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC, and will more than likely run roughshod over the tough and talented NFC East ... but I wanna see Romo beat people after November before I make any Super Bowl predictions.

Fumble!: Before Sunday's San Diego-Denver game, who knew of this obscure rule: if a running back or wide receiver fumbles, the play goes on. If a quarterback fumbles the ball, the play is blown dead.

Before Jay Cutler fumbled the ball as he went back to pass in the fourth quarter, I didn't know the rule, either. Replays showed Cutler's arm was not moving forward before the ball came out, which meant the on-field ruling of incomplete pass was incorrect. It should've been San Diego's ball ... but referee Ed Hochuli called it a fumble after viewing the replay and said the play was dead once the ball hit the ground.

Denver kept the ball, scored the touchdown and got the game-winning two-point conversion. San Diego, a team many thought would contend for the Super Bowl, is now a heartbreaking 0-2.

Ignoring for a moment the idiotic fumble rule ... what's the point in having instant replay if you're still going to get a call wrong? Especially one as obvious as Cutler's fumble? Hochuli has a reputation as one of the best referees in the game, but he has to take a hit and be held accountable for this mistake.

Because of his mistake -- one he admits, it's worth noting -- the Chargers are 0-2, two full games behind the Broncos in the AFC West. If San Diego misses the playoffs this year, Hochuli deserves a fair bit of the blame.

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