A few thoughts on the terminal ugliness in Denver, Roger Goodell being plagued by the stalling injustice of Plaxico Burress (with a judge echoing me in deriding the legal process), and the Brett Favre HBO interview before I get to your mail:
• The Brandon Marshall story is starting to smell like the Jay Cutler fiasco, with one exception: The Broncos are clamming up. During the Cutler thing, Josh McDaniels was an open book, talking to me four or five times at length about everything -- how he had nothing against Cutler, how he didn't offend him (in his view), about how he wanted Cutler to be his quarterback. But Monday night, I texted McDaniels, who is a big texter. Nothing. Texted his assistant and got back that the coach is laying low and had nothing to say for now. Texted Marshall, who's also a texter. Nothing. So this one's going to be contested below ground, it appears.
My feeling is the Broncos will play a harder brand of hardball with Marshall, in part because he's the second star trying to shoot his way out of town in four months. Owner Pat Bowlen might regret how precipitously the organization acted in rushing a franchise quarterback out of town if this stalemate with Marshall lasts into training camp.
Yes, Marshall wants to be traded. Now the interesting story is whether Denver will acquiesce and, if so, what sort of precedent that will set. Cutler seemed to write a how-to book on The Right Way To Force a Trade. If the Broncos deal Marshall, the next time a star feeling underpaid (Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris, Eddie Royal, i.e.) wants out, the Broncos will have shown they're weak and ineffective with unhappy players. That's why I feel strongly they won't let Marshall out, and they'll let him sit as long as he wants, even if that means he won't be in camp by September.
• Goodell has been thrown a curveball by the New York justice system. All along, obviously, he was waiting for Plaxico Burress to be sentenced for possession of an unlicensed handgun in New York City, and the discharge of said handgun. It was going to be open-and-shut, with some prison time and some probation, from all indications. But then New York dropped the ball and allowed the defense team to push the case back to 2010 -- at least 14 or 15 months after the offense occurred. That's a ridiculous, system-abusing trial decision that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the powers who oversee the criminal justice system in the state should be railing against.
I'm friendly with a judge in the New York area, and, prompted by my outrage of the continuance of the case in Monday's column, this judge, who asked that I not use his name, wrote me an e-mail sharing my wonderment over how this case was going to go more than a year without being heard. He said he was "disgusted with the way the defense dictated the timing of this case,'' and said Burress' possible employment should have nothing to do with when the case is heard.
"If I based all my trial dates on a defendant's work schedule, we'd never have any trials,'' the judge wrote. "Why should Plaxico be different than any other working defendant? In fact, there are working defendants who can barely pay their bills. His case is not one requiring extensive discovery or pretrial motions. It's a straightforward gun-possession case. The case should be over, verdict and all, by Nov. 1.''
But the delay has put Goodell in a tough spot. He's on record as preferring to allow a first-time offender to have his case adjudicated before the league imposes discipline, but I asked league people about that Monday, and there was no assurance forthcoming that Goodell would wait for the case to be tried. That's why I think that whoever signs Burress will be looking at a four-, six- or eight-game suspension, and a certain NFL Players Association appeal on Burress' behalf. It may be that the team taking him on will have to pay dearly for Burress -- in salary, in public ridicule for aligning with a gun offender, and in distraction for having him around the team.
• Brett Favre's interview with Joe Buck hit all the notes we thought it would. He's going to play if healthy -- and if the Vikings will deal with all the distractions, which I'm sure they will. I credit Buck for asking him everything, except perhaps the question about whether he was coming back to stick it to the Packers. Buck got it on the record that Favre's playing if his right arm and shoulder are willing. Should be the end of the story for a couple of weeks, at least ...
And by the way, I'm an Artie Lange fan. He's funny on the Howard Stern show, and very human. But he must have taken mad pills before Monday night's segment. His segment was out of place, dumb, uncomfortable and altogether needless. It's one thing to make people squirm, which in some comedy is great. To lash out at Favre's inability to stay retired is fair game. To lash out at Buck -- I guess that's what Lange was doing -- was apropos of nothing.
Now onto your e-mail:
• YOU'RE WELCOME. From Brad of Medina, Ohio: "Thanks for abating my fears that Derek Anderson will be the Browns' quarterback this year. What's the 'competition' for then -- just to try to create some trade value for him?''
Put yourself in Eric Mangini's shoes. You have two quarterbacks. One threw for almost 4,000 yards two years ago and was a disaster last year. One has never proven anything in the league but is a prospect. Why, if you've never coached either, would you rush to judgment?
It's different in Denver, where Josh McDaniels traded for Kyle Orton after studying four or five quarterbacks (like Jason Campbell) and determining the best quarterback he had a chance to get was Orton. Orton over Chris Simms was a gimme. Brady Quinn over Anderson is quite probable, but why not make them fight it out and let the best man win?
• FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME ... AND BECAUSE YOU CAN ONLY MOW YOUR GRASS SO MANY TIMES. From Steve of New Berlin, Wis.: "In all honesty, do you think Favre's coming back for spite or for the love of the game? I'm a 40-year-old former Favre fanatic and shareholder of the Packers. I taught my son to look at Favre for what is good about sports. Now I'm ready to take all of his stuff and pitch it. Most Packer fans I've talked to believe it's out of spite. He's shown us his true colors and in my opinion doesn't care about Packer fans. His upcoming signing with the Vikings proves that.''
I think Favre is doing this more because he wants to play football than because he wants to stick it to the Packers. Not that he doesn't feel some of that emotion, for sure. But I believe it's more that he wants to play for a coach (Darrell Bevell) who was one of his all-time favorites, and in a system he knows by heart and on a team that has a legitimate chance to contend for a Super Bowl if the quarterback plays well.
I understand your emotions, and I will not attempt to diminish them. I remember talking to Favre at length last year when he was strongly considering coming out of retirement. I told him how one of the things he needed to realize was if he came back, particularly for a team like Minnesota, he was going to alienate lots of his loyal Packer followers forever. You're the perfect example of what I was talking about.
• EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW BY NOW: MACK BROWN LEADS THE NATION IN CODDLING. From Steve Sheffey of Dugway, Utah: "I read about Vince Young and I am wondering how he was 'handled' by those in his inner circle in high school and college? I get the feeling he was WAY too coddled by a large group of people in his life. Did they not prepare him for the possibility of failure? Judging by Vince's comments and actions ... obviously not!''
Look, I wasn't in Austin. I don't know what happens between athletes and the football staff and the university. So this is more of a gut feeling than anything else. Do not take it as gospel. Vince Young was probably made to feel like Superman at UT, and you're absolutely right -- it doesn't appear that anyone taught him how to deal with adversity. It's a weakness in a lot of prima donna athletes, but the best coaches in college (and the pros) are good at making sure their charges move on from where they are with some mental calluses.
Case in point: Tom Brady at Michigan. Early in his career there, he was buried on the depth chart and told Lloyd Carr he was thinking of transferring. Carr didn't say, "Oh, Tom, you're the best and don't worry -- you're eventually going to win the starting job.'' He said, in essence, that Brady was free to transfer, but if he did, he was just going to start over at ground zero somewhere else and have to prove himself all over again. So why not stay and battle the players here, because you know you're capable of beating them out if you play your best?
• QUESTION OF THE YEAR. From Matthew Edwards of Spring, Texas: "Does Rex Grossman really scare Dan Orlovsky? As a Texans fan, Grossman scares me. BOTH of them scare me. Wasn't there anyone better to replace Sage Rosenfels?''
I was shocked the Texans paid legit money -- a $2.4-million bonus -- for Orlovsky, a guy there wasn't much competition for out there. And if there was one other team willing to pay an unproven player who hadn't shown much upside, that's the kind of commitment you don't make, in my mind. All I can say is Gary Kubiak valued Orlovsky highly, and it's going to be up to him and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to develop him now.
• THE JETS AND BEARS SEEM THE MOST LOGICAL PLACES. From DennisGreenland of Arlington, Texas: "In your opinion, where does Plaxico Burress play in '09 [assuming he plays]? As much as the Bears need a front-line WR, I'd be real uncomfortable having such a mental midget play for them, even for one year.''
One thing about Burress: He's a smart football player, and though he has angered Bill Cowher and Tom Coughlin over time, he's a gamer who's loved by teammates. I wouldn't be too worried about the disruption factor there. The Jets (location) and Chicago (opportunity) are the two best spots for Burress, and if I were Bears GM Jerry Angelo, I'd probably want to bring him in, even if it were for only eight games. He could be that kind of temporary difference-maker.
• NO. From Brian Faulkner of Clifton Heights, Pa.: "Great column as usual. My question is, do you think it is possible the Patriots might either trade Tom Brady or not re-sign him? I know it is too early to tell if Brady will perform at the same level after his knee surgery, but that possibility may be there. Also, it can be argued that Bill Belichick's system can make anyone a star QB in the NFL. So far he's 2-for-2 with Brady and Matt Cassel. Why wouldn't the Patriots let Brady and his high payroll go and promote some unknown QB? With the system in place they would still be successful. Your thoughts?''
Not a chance, Brian. Belichick views Brady as a selfless offensive coordinator on the field, and barring some ridiculous scenario I cannot envision, Brady's going to be a Patriot for the rest of his prime. It's one thing to think, "Well, we did it with Brady and Cassel. We can do it with Kevin O'Connell or Matt Gutierrez.'' What happens if O'Connell's the bust who doesn't fit the Pat image and play well? Then the Patriots have flushed a season or two down the toilet. And remember one thing: With the prospect of a capless 2010, the Patriots, who are one of the highest-revenue teams in the league, won't be worried about what they have to pay to keep Brady.