The Theory of Chaos

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oh yes, Hank, I'm ready. You don't even need to ask.

Let “Hosanna” ring from the hills, let Beasts be Slain and Feasts be prepared from their Rich Flesh! The NFL is back!

Our Great National Advertising Vehicle has a long off-season so the players can recover from their various injuries. And every year it seems fans lust all the more desperately for the season to return so they can start getting injured all over again. And who can blame them? Baseball injuries are all of the hard-to-see-torn-muscle variety, or the two-outfielders-just-bonked-heads-and-isn’t-that-funny! stripe. Football is where, if you’re very lucky, you can see legs bending forward at the knee, a painful feat previously only achievable by
alien infiltrators or devil goat-men.

But football isn’t just about amateur surgeons across America learning the difference between the MCL and the ACL and why “turf toe” isn’t as cutesy and innocuous as it sounds. It’s also about Sport – one of the most fiendishly complicated and brutal Sports ever invented by non-Mayans. I think it’s distinctly American to celebrate a hideously-violent activity that’s bound up in an ever-shifting, impenetrable Mason-like ritual of rules that no one ever seems to understand all of.

Certainly Nick Saban, the coach of the Miami Dolphins, didn’t seem aware that it’s not the referee’s responsibility to actually, you know,
look for the challenge flag on a play that the entire stadium knows is bogus. Somewhere in a subheading of a subchapter of The Great Book of Rules, inked in blood during this year’s annual Rules Committee meeting – where leprechauns dance and virgin fauns are crushed with stones – not only did they take away the pager he could have used to buzz the ref, it was set down that he must run onto the field if necessary before the next play is snapped and point out his thrown flag to the refs, or else forever lose his ability to point out what everyone in the world except the refs already knew – Heath Miller was out of bounds on the two-yard line.

Now many a coach’s physique lies somewhere between The Michelin Man and Akeem, the African Dream, so we get to look forward to a long-season of Easter Egg-shaped Titans of Sport huffing their way onto the field to assure their challenge has been noted.

I think this is a secret plan to create more injuries.

Former Tag Team partner of The Big Boss Man, Akeem would have looked right at home wearing a coach’s headset

Last Thursday’s game was an excellent way to open the season. Both teams played a balanced game, showed off some trickery, and brought some drama onto the field packed into their playbook. It should scare everyone in the league how dominant Pittsburgh could be without their starting quarterback, but that’s what good teams do – survive the loss of a superstar. And Miami looked fine with quarterback Duante Culpepper at the helm. What an excellent wrinkle to the offense to allow him to audible stand-up-and-dump sideline throws when he sees his receivers with a healthy cushion. For a quarterback with his kind of field-general confidence, providing that option empowers them, it keeps the defense guessing, and it challenges corners to man up on their targets, which risks them getting juked for a deep gain. With Culpepper’s accuracy, that out shot is as steady as a running play.

It’s an amazing new season, where the Rams can win by kicking six field goals and quarterback controversies don’t even take two quarters of play to develop anymore. Here’s some other observations from around the league in the wake of Week 1:

Why Brett Favre should retire now

It is not fair to your team to spend months pondering whether or not you feel up for another year, when you know everything from the salary cap to the playbook to the personnel changes depends on your decision. If there’s that much to ponder, you don’t have the fire anymore – you can’t think your way into it.

It’s not that I think he’s too out-of-shape – he’s still got one of the strongest arms in the game and that devil-may-care improvisational “X”-factor. But I think his passion is gone, he’s trying to tape himself up with stubbornness and frustration and he’s making bad choices as a result. When you go from claiming that you’re on the “most talented” team you’ve ever been on, then do a 180 after your first loss and say maybe we just ain’t very good, that’s huge disrespect to teammates who are genuinely trying.

On the last play of their game, a hair-raising 26-0 curb sandwich delivered by the well-rounded Chicago Bears, Ahman Green was heaving, stretching, literally dragging tacklers an extra five yards down the field. Not because it would help them win – that was impossible. But because trying matters. To see that kind of heart matched up against Favre’s dismissive, lackadaisical shrugging makes me ill. The man was one of the greatest of all time – he’ll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame exactly five years after he retires and deservedly so. But let’s start that timer now, shall we? Green Bay deserves better.

What you can learn about offense from running a bed and breakfast

It turns out – absolutely nothing. Quelle surprise. New Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, who has spent the last 12 years in the Idaho vacation industry, a parallel career track if I’ve ever heard of one, called a dreadfully moribund game against the Chargers in his return to the league. Take a letter, Jimmy: “Dear Tom, when you move from preseason to the regular season, you’re supposed to switch to the playbook with more than five different plays in it.”

I might add something as well about how you shouldn’t be sending a jittery quarterback on seven step drops against the best defensive front in the AFC when you’ve got two rookies and a fat scarecrow manning your O-line, but I don’t want to overwhelm someone whose biggest problem six months ago was keeping the B&B stocked with morning sausage.

The Raiders looked dreadful against the Chargers, like they were moving at half speed. All the promising fundamentals, the lateral movement, the finishing of tackles I glimpsed in their 4-1 preseason, they all got chucked to the turf faster than ol’ “Haystacks” Gallery when Shaune Merriman blew by him for sack number 54. It’s going to take more than Art Shell’s Clipboard of Fire for this team to even be competitive against the newly McNair-energized Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.

Heisenberg’s Two-Team NFL Uncertainty Principle

Long-time readers know I follow two teams with a passion, the Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s dawned on me in recent years that as a result, it can never come to pass that both teams will be good in any given year. The Raiders’ Gruden-Gannon glory years corresponded with the darkest ebb of Cincinnati Bungledom, and their turnaround coincided exactly with Oakland’s present nosedive.

I am convinced these events are somehow related and I’m determined to make the best of it. Cincinnati looked good against K.C. – damned good. Their defense has more starch now to go with their lethal turnover potential, and Carson Palmer is as sharp as he was last year. His maturation has given the Blue Chip City hope not just for a good year, but a good decade. Even with Chad Johnson blanketed and his sneaky #2 receiver T.J. Who’s-Your-Mama on the sidelines, Carson steered the offense to the end zone. With Pittsburgh and Baltimore both showing playoff potential, the AFC North is the division to watch this year and maybe next year, too.

Why the Patriots will not win the Super Bowl this year

Awhile back I wrote that when the Patriots stop winning Super Bowls, you’ll see a lot of the veterans cashing in on free agency. Team spirit only lasts as long as the rings keep appearing, then it’s time to go for the green. With a still fresh MVP award on his resume, Deion Branch did a pretty unsurprising thing by trying to get a big contract and leaving town in order to get it. Why the deal was so sloppy is a mystery, and uncharacteristic of the Patriots organization.

So the big question is obviously – who’s going to be catching passes for New England this year? They were already thin at the position, and the running game is re-building itself. And then I read an article which described how bullish and optimistic they were this year about revolving the passing offense around…Benjamin Watson.

Now, Watson is a solid young tight end who can catch. He’ll be an asset. But even with Tom Brady slinging the ball, if they think that having a tight end as the number one receiver is going to win games for them, they should call up the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs teams of the last five years and ask them, in the immortal words of Dr. Phil: how’s that been working out for ya?

Heck, even I know using a TE as your feature receiver is retarded!

Donovan McNabb is back and spiting the haters once again. Michael Vick is still terrifyingly unreliable. Reggie Bush ran 61 yards from scrimmage and they’re ready to put him in the Hall of Fame. Oh, Football, the fun you’ll be providing me this year.


Post a Comment

<< Home