The MMQB's 2014 Midseason Report is on its way this week. Plus, answering your questions about the J.J. Watt-Zach Mettenberger flap, the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning debate and whether Mike Smith's to blame for the Falcons' woes
This week on The MMQB we’re rolling out our Midseason Report, looking back on the first eight weeks of the 2014 season and forward to the second half of the season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Greg Bedard kicks things off today with his reflections on what we’ve learned during the season’s first two months, and there will be plenty more in the following days. Tomorrow you’ll read Greg Bishop on how the Seahawks’ offense has failed the Super Bowl champs and Jenny Vrentas on how the Ravens have held things together on the field in the wake of the Ray Race scandal. Andy Benoit will tell you who’s really responsible for the Cowboys’ turnaround, and also will make his Midseason All-Pro selections.
In the coming days, a prominent rookie will detail what he’s learned so far in his young NFL career, Joan Niesen will write about how the tag team of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware has pumped up Denver’s defense, Vrentas will hang with a player during his bye week, Bedard will reset the postseason brackets, and our columnists—Don Banks, Andrew Brandt and Richard Deitsch—will weigh in with their takeaways on 2014 so far. We’ll have our regular video features, including the Fantasy Check and Window into the Weekend, and the Friday Game Plan. And look for my own thoughts on the first half of the season on Wednesday and my look-ahead to the second half on Thursday. A lot is coming down the pike, so clear some time and check the site often. Hope you enjoy it.
Now for your email:
WATT VS. METTENBERGER. I personally think there is nothing wrong with Zach Mettenberger taking selfies. The kid has worked his whole life to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. So he took a moment to celebrate it—good for him. How is that different than J.J. Watt celebrating every sack/fumble recovery/great play that he makes? There is an old adage in sports: Act like you have been there before. Well, Zach Mettenberger has NOT been there before. If he sends a selfie before every start, then admonish him. Until then, perhaps we should just let him be excited about his opportunity.
—Phil, Jackson, Tenn.
I get the point, and I’ve heard something similar from quite a few people in the last 24 hours. I appreciate the fact that instead of some sanitized comment from one player against another, we heard Watt's real feelings and the real opinion of what one player thought about another. We spend so much time in the media trying to get athletes to say something real. Whether Watt was justified in his opinion isn’t the story, from my perspective. The story is one player being willing to take a shot at another player on the record. We don’t see that very often and I liked having a major player in the NFL tell us exactly what he thought instead of sanitizing what he said to mean something different than what he really felt.
DELAY OF JUSTICE. I seem to be a lone voice in the wilderness stunned that a team can have a penalty called on a missed field goal and be rewarded with a second chance, which they convert, and win the game on those points. Regardless of how bad Atlanta may have played the second half, they should not have lost that way. Thoughts?
—Tic, Campbell River, British Columbia
Like Mike Pereira of FOX said, it didn’t seem like a good use of the delay of game penalty. The delay penalty should be called only when the clock is clearly at zero, the official sees the zero and then sees that the snap has not been made. This play seemed way too close for that. Now, the delay of game is not an optional penalty. Once a team is flagged for delay of game, the play is automatically dead; whether he missed or made the field goal attempt has no meaning. But I do understand you being upset at Detroit getting another shot when it was a very marginal delay call in the first place.
COACHING, NOW AND FUTURE. Here’s a lobbed one for you: Is the Coach of the Year award Bruce Arians’ to lose at this point? Follow up: Which team do you see as a likely landing point for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when (not if) he is hired as a head coach?
I will announce midseason awards on The MMQB this week, but you can be sure that Arians has a very good shot to be the midseason Coach of the Year. Regarding Bowles, I could see him being a strong candidate with the Jets, Raiders and, quite frankly, any team that is going to have an opening. He has done a fabulous job mixing and matching pieces on a defense that has been besieged by injuries and continues to play great football.
THE MANNING-BRADY DEBATE. With Tom Brady once again reminding us of how great he can be and Brady-Manning XVI coming up, will we ever settle the debate over which QB is better? Brady supporters point to Manning's superior weapons on offense (Wayne, Harrison, Thomas, etc) while Manning supporters counter with Brady's superior coach/defense (look at the Brady-less Pats in 2008). If both QBs were 22 right now, which one would you choose to lead your team for the next 15 years?
That’s a tough question, because one at age 22 was worthy of being the first pick in the draft, and the other at age 22 was the 199th pick in the draft. So I think the proper question might be, knowing what you know now about each player and their productivity and their playoff achievements, which would I take? I probably would take Brady. While Manning has been tremendous in the regular season, and better than Brady in the regular season, both play well enough to take their teams to the playoffs consistently. And because Brady has been a better postseason player, that would weigh very heavily with me, and that’s why I’d likely take Brady if given the option.
BLAME MIKE SMITH? I have a bit of a gripe about the way Mike Smith managed his team on Sunday.
With about 1:20 remaining in the first half—and with two timeouts—he tells his offense to sit on the ball and run out the clock, instead of trying to at least get close enough for a field goal. In other words, he tells his offense: "I don't trust you guys not to go out and lose the ball in the next minute," while also telling his defense, "When those clowns lose the ball, you ain't gonna be able to stop the Lions from scoring."
Cue one demoralized team. From that point on, the Falcons looked fearful and disjointed, and went on to throw away the game. The many talented players on this roster deserve a lot better.
I do not blame Mike Smith for Atlanta being shut out in the second half. At some point, you have to put the onus on the players to make plays. If they are going to be so shattered because their coach didn’t go for it with 80 seconds to go before halftime, then I don’t want those guys on my team.
However, I couldn’t agree with you more about the first part of your argument. If you have a minute and 18 seconds to play and two timeouts, and you have had a very successful half moving the ball on the Lions, I think it is wrong to sit on it and start to play to the clock with 31 minutes to go in a three-score game. Used properly, the Falcons could have manipulated the clock into eight or nine plays and a very good shot at a field goal at least. Although Smith might say he wouldn’t do anything differently today, I think deep down he knows that he should have used that possession to try to move into field-goal range. In a one-point loss, those thoughts have to be agonizing.