The Week 6 Mailbag
In the wake of the first (and probably only) tie game this season, I thought it would be appropriate to reinforce my opinion on overtime and ties. It’s an opinion that so many of you love so much.
I am being facetious there.
First, about ties: I don’t like when a game ends in a tie, but I would like even less two teams playing beyond five quarters to decide a winner. I believe 75 minutes is long enough for people to play a football game. I think in this time of concerns about player safety, it would be wrong to ask players to play 90, 100, 110 snaps in a regular season game.
I have often said both teams deserve a chance to possess the ball at least once in an overtime period. The reason is simple. I believe the coin flip before overtime is too significant an event. I realize the logical sentiment about the coin flip is that if you lose it then just play good defense and you’ll get the ball back with a chance to win. While I agree with that, how often at the start of overtime does the team winning the coin flip not take the ball? Coaches realize the value of having the ball right out of the box in overtime. And I just think the coin flip winner gets too much of an advantage, even if they have to score a touchdown in order for the game to end.
So that’s how I feel and I’m sure I’ll hear from many of you who feel differently, which is all good. I’ve never said my opinion is right; I’ve just said it’s my opinion.
Now onto your emails…
J.J. WATT IN YELLOW COAT. When you talk about Hall of Fame voting, you often mention longevity as a serious consideration and a reason why stars like Terrell Davis have never made it in. In light of this, and given J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the league and so far ahead of anyone else at his position, how many more seasons at his current level will he need for you to think of him as a near-certain Hall of Famer?
Another good question. I think a player needs to be great for 8-10 years in today’s football before he should get strong consideration for the Hall. There are exceptions to that of course, and in past eras when players didn’t play for as long as current players do, I think shorter careers could certainly be Hall of Fame-worthy. One of the things that makes discussing the Hall so difficult is because there are exceptions to every rule. Kurt Warner might be one of those exceptions. He wasn’t great for my requisite 8-10 years, but he was so good and such an explosive player for his time that he might have done enough to make it. We shall see.
FINE DISCREPANCY. The league is still trying to deal with the crisis of player safety, and yet this happens:
- Julius Thomas delivers an illegal and possibly career-threatening block in the course of play and is fined a bit more than $8,000.
- Colin Kaepernick wears a pair of headphones from a company that's not an official league sponsor and is fined $10,000.
Is anyone in the league office paying attention to this? How will this disparity sound to a jury the next time (and there will be a next time) the NFL is trying to defend its track record on player safety?
—Vince, St. Louis
That’s a good question. I felt the fine on Thomas was light. The NFL has the same sort of fine system in place for many violations of rules involving league sponsors, such as the one that cost Kaepernick. I remember a few years ago when Brian Urlacher was heavily fined for continuing to wear a hat with a sports drink company’s logo on it. So this isn’t the first time. I think the Thomas block should have been cause for a bigger fine. No question about it.
DUE CREDIT FOR CAM. I think you misinterpreted the Bengals-Panthers game. I watched every second, and the story isn't a lousy Bengals defense. The story is the return of Cam Newton. There's no defense in the NFL stopping Cam Newton when he's running like that and throwing darts like Aaron Rodgers. This was the first game Cam has been Cam in, what, a year or so? It's a reminder of how unreasonable it is to try to contain a scrambler like that who can also pull up and exploit the man-to-man coverage that QB-spy-defenses depend on. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick don't hold a candle to a healthy Cam.
I definitely agree that Cam Newton was extremely good Sunday and deserves credit for being a real difference-maker in the game. But I look at plays like the misdirection touchdown to Greg Olsen in the fourth quarter as part of the reason why I am so down on the Cincinnati defense. How are you not covering one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets? Cincinnati giving up 80 points in eight quarters might not be a big story to someone who has just watched Cam Newton play great, and I understand that, but in the first four weeks of this season, the Bengals looked like they might be the best team in football. In the past two weeks, their defense has convinced me otherwise.
BEAR 'BACKERS IN SPOTLIGHT. Re: things you liked about Week 6, you should have acknowledged the Bears’ linebackers. All three starters and top backup (Lance Briggs, Shea McClellin, D.J. Williams, Jonathan Bostic) were out with injuries, meaning 2013 late-round pick Khaseem Greene (signed-off-the-street three weeks ago), the unheralded Darryl Sharpton and undrafted free agent rookie Christian Jones were the starters. The Bears held the high-powered Falcons offense to 13 points in Atlanta. Some of these guys may not even retain roster spots once the starters are healthy, but they stepped up when needed the most.
You and many other Bear e-mailers are correct. They deserve some kudos in the column, which I did not give. It’s like I say many weeks when people point out teams that I have not written about: I wish I could be more than one person when I write this column, but I can’t. It has nothing to do with me liking or not liking a team; it has more to do with trying to take three or four events that happened on Sunday and writing about them intelligently or shining a light on some aspect of the game than you may not have realized. I try to be as conscientious as I can, but sometimes I just miss the Khaseem Greenes of the world.
SNOOP DOGG AND THE STEELERS. Is it just wishful thinking that the Steelers will fire Todd Haley soon and do something quick to try and salvage this season? The Rooneys are patient, but the Haley experiment has gone on far too long and it has been abysmal. What Big Ben did best under Bruce Arians was to move the ball downfield—not these short, dinky passes. He regularly got clobbered for it because it often involved holding the ball too long, and so they brought in Haley to reduce the sacks. But Ben is still getting clobbered. This means the cost hasn’t really changed, but now the ball doesn’t move and so we’ve lost all the benefits. I’m with Snoop Dogg on this one.
—Rick, Latrobe, Pa.
The Steelers are not the kind of people who look back with regret. I’ve known the Rooneys and know Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert fairly well. But there is no question in my mind after watching Bruce Arians perform his offensive magic in Indianapolis and Arizona for the last two and a half years that he never should have been let go by the Steelers. He and Roethlisberger were a good team. As far as Haley goes, it’s just not Pittsburgh’s style to whack a guy in midseason. If they make a change—and I don’t expect them to make a change at the head coaching position—it almost certainly will come after the season. The way Pittsburgh has played in recent weeks, I would say anything is possible come January, because the Rooneys believe that Roethlisberger’s career is finite and they don’t want to waste any possible contending years if they’re not comfortable with how he’s being coached.
PLAYERS AND MONEY. “I think you cannot overpay football players. That’s what I thought after seeing the Victor Cruz injury.” Really Peter? Just because a guy gets a serious injury you can’t overpay him? How about the factory worker or coal miner who suffers a serious injury while making $20-$30 per hour. What about the military person injured with little help or pension. Yet you cry for the $7-million-a-year guy with access to the best medical care, benefits and rehab facilities?
I’m not crying for anybody. I’m simply stating my opinion. Would you prefer that the players get the majority of the money from the people who watch the games on the TV and in the stands? Or would you prefer that the owners get the majority of the money? There’s plenty of money for everybody in the NFL, obviously, but that’s not really the point here. The point is the players who lay their bodies on the line and who are very well compensated for it deserve every bit of that compensation when you see the kind of torturous injury that occurred to Cruz on Sunday night.