Down the road? That's a pretty short road. More like a driveway.
"I'm leaving an incredible opportunity on the table, and that opportunity is not coming back.''--Favre, July 28.
Yes it is.
You would think I think this Brett Favre-to-Minnesota story is great, but I don't. I think it's wrong. I think it's a circus. And I think Minnesota coach Brad Childress is making a mistake.
If I were Childress, I'd have waited until Sage Rosenfels struggled -- if he struggled -- and then made the call to Favre. By doing it now, Childress loses Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson; how can they ever trust anything he says now? I'm sure both are furious, and Rosenfels, particularly, is crushed. And the way Favre talked to me three weeks ago, there's a chance he won't last the season and Childress will have to turn to one of his angry quarterbacks.
What Favre told me late last month he wasn't coming back because he felt totally beat after some hard summer workouts, how could he think he'd have enough stamina to make it through a season? He simply didn't think he'd be able to handle the physical rigors of the season. "I just didn't think my body would hold up the way it had in the past,'' he said.
The perfect scenario would have been for the Vikings to see if Rosenfels or Jackson played well enough through a piece-of-cake early schedule (at Cleveland, at Detroit, San Francisco), and if the position was an Achilles heel, then reach out to Favre to see if he was interested. By doing it now, Childress tells his team he doesn't trust Rosenfels or Jackson. That could come back to haunt him if Favre's body breaks down.
Childress has looked like a desperate man throughout this melodrama. He made it known internally that Favre had to do at least some work in the offseason program or the veteran mini-camp to be considered. Favre never showed. Then he had to come by the start of camp. Favre didn't come, opting for his third false retirement in 17 months. Now the Vikings let him come back after the team has gone through training camp. Favre's the wishy-washiest player in memory -- and the Vikings are his enablers. It's ridiculous.
Brian Dawkins looks funny in orange. But there he is, on the practice field at the Denver Broncos training facility, wearing an orange shirt. On Monday morning, protecting a well-wrapped right hand that had a plate surgically inserted to protect a broken bone, not practicing full-out, Dawkins still looked like he always looked with the Eagles in practice or in games -- like he wanted to knock someone into next week.
Part of Dawkins will always be in Philadelphia -- most of Dawkins, in fact -- and so it seemed logical to ask him what he thought of the Eagles signing Michael Vick, and what he thought of Donovan McNabb's role in it.
"Signing him surprised me,'' said Dawkins in between Monday's two Bronco practices here at their training facility. "But Donovan being behind it ... no. No surprise at all.''
I told him what I'd reported in Monday Morning Quarterback -- that McNabb, shortly after Roger Goodell reinstated Vick to the NFL July 27, text-messaged coach Andy Reid with two words: "Sign him.''
"I remember many times when Donovan would be talking to Michael on the phone, either in the locker room or out somewhere,'' said Dawkins. "I'd talk to him too. You could tell how Donovan took his relationship with Michael very seriously. He's always been the kind of guy to reach out to young quarterbacks, particularly young African-American quarterbacks, because he felt if he could help them early in their career, he wanted to do that. He'd tell Michael, and some of the other guys, 'Come to Arizona and train with me.' He just felt it was part of his job as a guy who'd been there before.''
Too bad Vick never did. Too bad Vick spent his offseason time training too little for football and training dogs too much to fight.
I asked Dawkins what I had asked former teammate Ike Reese and coach Andy Reid over the weekend: How will McNabb react if he slumps and Vick rises, and the crowd is chanting for Vick?
"Interesting,'' said Dawkins. "I'll just say that if there's anyone who's been through the fire as a quarterback, it's Donovan. The crowd in Philadelphia has chanted for A.J. Feeley, for Koy Detmer for Kevin Kolb. Donovan stood strong. This is no different. But I honestly think having someone pressing him will be good for Donovan, if it happens. At the end of the day, let's be honest: Eventually Michael will want Donovan's job.''
And this is what I think, and what I believe Andy Reid thinks: If the Eagles tell 21 starting players that they could be replaced if they don't play well, and if the 22nd (McNabb) is immune to that, how fair is it to the team?
Plus, Dawkins is right about the competitive aspect. If Kolb is pushing McNabb, McNabb knows Kolb is not good enough to beat him out. But if Vick is pushing him, McNabb knows he could lose that one. What Reid thinks, I'm sure, is that his team is better off having Vick in for five or six offensive snaps a game, and his team is better off having McNabb think: If I'm lousy for three games in a row, Andy's pulling me for my little buddy Vick, and I might not get my job back.
"That's right," said Dawkins. "Signing Michael means Donovan will make sure his game stays tight.''
And that, I think, is a side benefit to all of this that too few of us realize now, with the season three-plus weeks away.
Now onto your e-mail:
• JUST THE OPPOSITE. From Ian of Overland Park, Kan.: "I haven't really been hearing anything positive out of Chiefs camp about the players' reaction to Todd Haley. From what you've seen or heard, is Haley's Parcells-ish style turning off some players? More importantly, is it hard for NFL vets to take the demands of a coach like Haley, who has never played high-level football?''
When I was in River Falls, I asked five veteran players about Haley, and whether the team had bought into what he was selling. Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters said he'd have to wait to make a judgment on whether Haley was doing the right things. Larry Johnson was OK with Haley's aggressive, physical practices. Bobby Engram has bought in. Matt Cassel has bought in. Bernard Pollard has bought in.
Ian, this is my belief: When a team stinks, as the Chiefs do, and a coach with a pretty good track record comes in, the only way you can judge the coach is if you get in the boat with him, row hard, and see where the sea takes you. Like him or not, the Chiefs have a smart coach who is an equal-opportunity abuser. I heard it in the two practices I watched. Haley got after Cassel and Pollard, and a free-agent wide receiver four months removed from a college campus. For players to judge him correctly, Haley has to have a chance to do things his way.
• DO NOT BURY ORTON YET. From Gabe Millan of Denver: "Do you think Orton's internal clock has to readjust to actually having a decent offensive line? On his three interceptions, he rushed his passes when he was in no danger of getting sacked. I guess I'm just looking for some kind of silver lining around our dismal QB situation."
Excellent observation! I asked Orton on Monday about his first interception, the one by 49ers cornerback Nate Clements, when Clements was side-by-side with Denver tight end Daniel Graham in the end zone while Peyton Hillis ran free nearby when his cover man slipped. Orton said he'd already decided to throw to Graham, and what he should have done is throw the ball out of the end zone. I don't buy that. I know I'm doing a classic second-guess, but I believe Orton has to be able to make that split-second read to Hillis, especially with Graham closely guarded.
But, Gabe, you make a great point that goes hand-in-hand with mine. Orton had tremendous protection in San Francisco, and I believe he needs to learn to trust the best set of tackles in the game (Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris) and take time to make the right read back there. If he encounters a play when he doesn't have an open man, he simply has to throw it away. Because on the next snap, it's likely he'll find one open.
• DON'T LOOK BEYOND THIS YEAR. YET. From Andrew of Philadelphia: "Is it too hard to believe that the Eagles are grooming Vick to be the next Donovan McNabb? McNabb has been in the league now for 10-plus years, he's been hurt multiple years and his career is waning. Andy Reid took a young agile yet inaccurate passer in McNabb and turned him into one of the best in the league. Vick can sit behind Donovan for two years (or less because of the injury prone McNabb), learn the offense and come in once McNabb has had his day in the NFL? Is that too far-fetched?''
Not at all. But I think it's a waste of time in this case to think much beyond this year. Reid made this decision ONLY when McNabb was an enthusiastic supporter of it; had McNabb not been on board, Reid wouldn't have done it. If McNabb has a great year, it doesn't matter how promising Vick looks; Reid will enter 2010 with McNabb as his quarterback. If McNabb struggles, as he did last year, then Vick may come into play as the challenger for his job in 2010. Reid fully expects next year that Vick, should he pass all the mental and physical tests in his path this year, will want to start somewhere next year. If that happens, then the Eagles hold his rights and could make a trade for him. All in all, we need to just let the season play out.
• POOR, POOR DEER. From Gary of Denver: "I've never encountered a deer on the roads in Denver. Where were you when you killed this deer?''
In Wyoming, just north of Cheyenne. I'd gone to Casper, a four-hour drive from Denver, on my busman's holiday day of this journey (I had to finish my Monday column, but I was not seeing a team Sunday) to see a Frontier League baseball game, hosted by the Casper Ghosts. Just my luck: Canceled due to poor field conditions. So I got in the rental car, drove to the Casper Starbucks to finish the column, then got on the road to Denver.
I can't get the image of that animal out of my mind. In the pitch-black Wyoming night, at the last possible second, this huge deer sprinted into the driver's side of my Kia. I didn't see the sprinting deer until his eyes locked with mine, a millisecond from collision. The little Kia swerved to the gravel on the right berm, but I got control of the car and it drove fine the rest of the way. Talk about your basic harrowing experience. But now all's well, except for the poor, poor deer.
• HMMMMM. From Jay S. of Trenton: "Suppose the Broncos go 3-13 and end up with the NFL's worst record. Their first-round draft pick would belong to Seattle. Assuming that happens, has there been a bigger draft fleecing in the history of the NFL than Alphonso Smith for the first overall pick?''
Interesting. But remember: Few teams (maybe no teams) want the first overall pick. No one wants the second or third pick either. True, if the Broncos finish 3-13, they'll probably want one of the stud quarterbacks coming out this year. And they'll wish they had that pick back. But I am reminded about what that wise old football philosopher Randy Cross told me about Alphonso Smith after he studied him on tape last spring: "This guy might be the best cornerback in the draft, and he's definitely worth a first-round pick.'' Let's give the kid a chance, and see what the season brings.
• ALLEN IS MAKING ME THINK. From Allen of Dallas: "You mention how smart the football fans are. Generally speaking, do you feel that the football fans are smarter today than 10, 15 or 20 years ago? If so, what do you think contributed to that change (evolution of Madden game, Web, Sirius NFL Radio)?''
Wow. What a question. I absolutely think fans are smarter. I think it's because of two things -- draft mania and fantasy football. (Insert guffaws here.) Fifteen years ago, I don't think fantasy football was played by many, and if it was, it wasn't played by the estimated 37 million who play it today. So many fans study the game year-round, first because they've grown to love the draft and study it harder than we in the media do, and then to get an edge in their fantasy league.
Now for a few e-mails on my Westin debacle of the weekend. I'll respond after you have had your collective say.
• WESTIN OPINION I. From Dave of Columbus: "Peter, I am a frequent business traveler and can obviously relate to your Westin meltdown. My advice is to stick with them regardless of the fiasco last week. Ask enough frequent travelers and you will hear a horror story of every airline and every hotel chain out there. If you change to another hotel its only a matter of time before something will happen there too.''
• WESTIN OPINION II. From Reuben Frank, Eagles beat writer: "Boycott Westin.''
• WESTIN OPINION III. From Andrew Sheffield of Kaysville, Utah: "Boycott the Westin. I've had a few bad stays at them. Also, boycott any hotel that doesn't offer free internet. That's ridiculous in this day and age (it's not like it costs them anything since they are already paying for it whether you do or not). Keep on complaining and maybe someone like you (with some celebrity) can make some changes.''
• WESTIN OPINION IV. From Gordon Edwards of Boyceville, Wis. "I was an airline pilot for 30-plus years and have seen it all. Your 'travel notes' help remind me why I so dearly love my little piece of serenity out here in rural Wisconsin and why I never ... ever ... have the inclination to go anywhere.''
• WESTIN OPINION V. From Fielding Fowler of Detroit: "Boycott the Westin! I stay in hotels 40 weeks a year, and run into similar stuff all the time. Be Goodell-like and give the Westin six months of no Peter King!''
• WESTIN OPINION VI. From Jim of Kenosha, Wis.: "In a column where you talked about second chances (Leonard Little and Michael Vick) it strikes me as odd that you would so quickly move to boycott Westin. Don't you think they deserve a second chance?
• WESTIN OPINION VII. From Dave S. of Overland Park, Kan.: "Boycott the Westin. They will read the column, ply you with free stuff and want you to rewrite your opinion. But you are better than that. Hold out. Ask Michael Crabtree for any pointers.''
As of 7 a.m. today, I had more than 200 responses to my Westin situation in Tweets (mostly), phone calls and texts, plus another 1,000 or so in my SI e-mail. The general manager of the San Diego Westin has written a letter of apology on behalf of the hotel, and an old friend from high school now running the Westin Copley Place in Boston has done the same. I am grateful for the input, and I am not angry at any one person for the situation. I am simply angry at the situation.
This is the source of my anger: Let's say you have a 500-room hotel. Let's say it's a busy weekend, and you have sold out all 500 rooms with guaranteed reservations. Is the goal of the hotel to sell every one of its rooms every night? Yes -- or at least that's what the goal should be. I'm told by several emailers/Tweeters who work in the hotel industry that this isn't the goal of hotels. The goal, rather, is to sell more than 500 rooms by figuring an average of how many no-shows among those 500 reservations there will be. Let's say the hotel averages 20 no-shows per night for this time of year. Then the hotel will sell, for example, 515 rooms, and hope that it has at least 15 no-shows. So the hotel will earn, for example, about $3,000 more per night if it's a fairly upscale hotel by overbooking.
I'd say the overbooking has happened to me about five times in my travels. My problem, and the problem of many travelers who are similarly frustrated, is that when I'm on the road, I try to do a lot of things in a short period. That means I get to the hotels, often, late at night. And so this thing is likely to happen again.
Dave from Columbus makes a good point -- it's the Westin now, and it could be another hotel chain the next time. So I'm on the fence whether to indict the Westin for the ills of an industry. But I am leaning toward boycotting for a year, because how else can we make our dissatisfaction known other than withholding business?
I'm not in this for free rooms or free anything and will accept nothing to "make it right.'' I want to see the policy changed. What possibly is the meaning of a guaranteed reservation if you get to a hotel at 11:15 at night and there's not a room for you?
I'll decide this week and let you know what my plans are in Monday's column.