If you enjoy (or lovingly tolerate) reading this feature every Monday, please don’t take it for granted. This week it almost didn’t happen at all. If the Packers would have lost to the Vikings on Saturday night my drinking probably would have spiraled out of control and I would have hitched a ride to the twin cities and attempted to toilet paper the Metrodome, ultimately resulting in some kind of disorderly conduct charge. Just picture me, lying on the floor of a cold jail cell, screaming out: “WHAT WILL THE READERS DO NOW!?!” That’s hypothetical dedication, folks.
Even though I knew Joe Webb was an awful quarterback, I was still nervous as hell simply because of the format of these playoffs. One game can ruin an entire season. Unlike in the NBA where a best of seven series will usually tell you who the best team is, the NFL doesn’t concern itself with such things in the playoffs. Parity has become the league’s friend as each postseason every fan base believes they can win the title, and yet somehow this hasn’t managed to damage the Lombardi trophy’s prestige. Using basketball for an analogy again, if the Milwaukee Bucks squeak into the playoffs this year it won’t matter if they are “hot at the right time” – they are going to get destroyed. Football isn’t always fair in this sense (see: the look on the face of any player whose team won 12 or more games in the regular season before getting stomped in the playoffs by a scrappy 9-7 team) but I guess the NFL will just have to settle for having the most compelling high five and vomit inducing television out there.
And speaking of these playoffs, here’s some of my overreactions about Wildcard weekend.
New Holiday: Second Guess Mike Shanahan Day
After Robert Griffin sustained an injury in the first half of the late game yesterday, it became obvious the way the narrative would go. If RG3 kept putting points on the board Shanahan was a genius for trusting his rookie signal caller to play through injury, and if his play dropped off he would be an idiot for not making the switch to Cousins right away. After the Redskins scored two touchdowns in the opening minutes of their contest with Seattle, they would only have a hair over 80 total yards (and zero points) the rest of the day. The internet has come down hard on Shanahan and while I hate to pile on…that’s what I’m about to do.
We have already seen that Kirk Cousins has the ability to win football games in the NFL, it isn’t like the ‘Skins had Ryan Lindley on the bench. Griffin’s ability to throw the deep ball was compromised, and his ability to break a huge run was all but eliminated. When you take away both of those tools from the ol’ toolbox, you know what you are left with? A below average NFL quarterback in a great deal of pain.
Shanahan doesn’t owe RG3 the right to finish the game; this is not a Disney movie. He owes his team who fought through training camp, preseason, and a grueling 16 game schedule the best chance to win. Also, there is something about Griffin’s press conferences lately that have bugged me a little. I appreciate the fact that he wants to play through pain, and he is a warrior, and all of those clichés…but he seemed almost too matter of fact about saying whatever he needed to stay on the field. He also said that staying on the field did not hurt his team in any way. How does the player that touches the ball every play hobbling around like a sixty year old that just got hit by a bus not hurt his team’s chances to win? How does being so injured that you are not able to run the offense that was specifically implemented for you not hurt your team’s chances to win? I admire him for wanting to stay out there, but there was something about the way he said it that just doesn’t sit right with me. He acted like it was his right.
At the end of the day, though, it does all fall back on Shanahan who doesn’t seem to know how to handle a quarterback situation when the chips are down. Donovan McNabb will tell you all about that.
…and he awkwardly danced off into the sunset
Let me preface this by saying that, despite how much I make fun of his pregame antics, Ray Lewis is one of my favorite players in NFL history.
But for goodness sake, Sunday was too much.
I can deal with the pregame speeches about “all we have is today” and “leaving it all on the line” and whatever other Ray Lewis mad libs you want to plug in there, and the pregame introduction being a little outlandish is something I actually enjoy, but the end of the game featured one of the more annoying sports moments I have seen in a while. After the Ravens secured their win against the Colts, Ray Lewis was the safety back in the victory formation. When they lined up for this play, I liked the idea. Why shouldn’t he be on the field for the last snap of his last home game? And then I saw why he was. With every camera in the city of Baltimore fixed on him, he preceded to do his weird dance while all his teammates gathered around him.
For the record, I love dancing in football. I wish there were more of it. But it still made me roll my eyes so hard I was afraid they might pop out of my ears. Was there really anything wrong with it? No. I am I raging over this? Not at all. It just reminds me why despite how much I have loved watching Ray Lewis on the field, all of his antics before or after the game have always seemed too choreographed, a little too “hey look at me I’m inspirational” for my tastes. Maybe this has been an unfair criticism, but I’m a blogger…that’s kind of what we do!
Just the same, leading his team in tackles after the injury he sustained is incredible.
-The Houston Texans came out just as flat as I imagined they would. I just never thought the Bengals could look twice as uninspired and lethargic. If the same thing happens next year it will be amazing how fast Cinci goes from being “up and coming” to a team that can’t win the big game.
-Before you label the Packers as “lucky” for not having to face Christian Ponder on Saturday night, consider that he had multiple games this season where he looked less impressive than Joe Webb did in the wildcard match-up…one of those actually coming against Green Bay in Lambeau where through the first three quarters he was 5 for 13 with two interceptions. Also, Ponder passed for less than a hundred yards on three different occasions this year. Yes I know, I’m an unbearable homer, but this wasn’t like Green Bay avoided playing Peyton Manning or something.
-Lovie Smith is expected to interview in San Diego today, and if he gets that job his experience with quarterbacks that have stupid baby faces will be unmatched in league history.
-Lost in all the fallout from the Shanahan/RG3 situation was the fact that Seattle won a road playoff game, something they haven’t done IN THIRTY FUCKING YEARS. Prepare to have your earholes flooded with, “No one wants to play them omg they are hot at the right time” for the next week. I expect the line in Vegas for their match-up with the Falcons to be a pick ‘em.
-Man, how funny is that NFL.com playoff fantasy challenge commercial? First and Ted! I hope they never change that commercial and put it on every single year three times during every single commercial break! Oh, and the crying Romolicious lady…WILL THE HILARITY EVER END!?! ALSO WHAT A GREAT SONG TO PLAY! THEY HAVE HAD A BAD DAY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
-Every time I watch the Colts play I ask myself, “how has this team won 11 games?” Their offensive line looks terrible, Andrew Luck has turned the ball over a ton, their best deep threat is a guy named TY Hilton, and the defense looks too old in some spots and too inexperienced in others. Bruce Arians is the coach of the year, and I’m not even willing to entertain another argument.
Speaking of coach of the year, we will try to have our awards out this week. In the meantime, enjoy the National Championship game tonight!