Only fools rush in
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio has officially joined the ranks of Pats premier propogandist Bill Belichick and the Disappearing ex-Dolphin coach, Nick Saban, and virtually every other NFL headmaster as someone that no observer in their right mind should believe when he's discussing the future of his team in a public forum. Here's why: After months of insisting that oft-injured QB Byron Leftwich was a cornerstone of the Jaguars franchise, Del Rio unceremoniously handed the Jags' starting job to veteran backup David Garrard.
"I think Byron is poised to have a big year," Del Rio said in June. As recently as two weeks before sacking his own QB, the former NFL linebacker went on the record saying, "Byron, being in his fifth year in the league, comes in with more experience, more know-how, and with that, he'll get added responsibilities." Like the resonsibility of packing up his locker and handing his playbook to the turk.
No fantasy owner should have had Leftwich on his roster as anything higher than an emergency QB this year anyway; but this is a prime example of how fantasy followers need to be careful about being duped by the information that they are bombarded with each week. Anyone who thinks a coach would leak priveleged information is out of their mind. The sound bytes you hear on SportsCenter are entertaining (a little less so now that Bill Parcells has re-joined the ranks of TV talking heads); but except for a few rare instances, they're nothing more than another channel in the din of football blather we're bombarded with every autumn week.
But we should take no issue with agitprop campaigns disguised as enlightening press conferences (which are televised for your consumption on the NFL Network). But we must also realize that statements made to the media by coaches about upcoming methods should be given no more than the credence one would afford to a story printed in a Soviet-era Pravda.
It's absolutely not a fair comparison with all of the current conflicts ongoing around the world; but these men are, to a much lesser extent than their military counterparts, "generals" leading their "troops" into battle each week. Who would support a general who revealed his battle plans to the enemy, right? Isn't that the definition of treason? To these coaches, winning means surviving, and they'll do whatever they can to gain an advantage. (gasp!) Even fib to the media. They stretch the truth for one reason: Self-preservation. If they win, they keep their jobs, pay their bills, feed and clothe their children, live the good life of 20-hour days at the office practicing and watching film. If they lose, those things go away.
You can't blame them for doing everything in their power to give their teams an edge. So if Belichick is less than forthcoming on the Pats injury report, or Saban keeps his struggling team playing hard for him by hiding the fact that he's interested in another job, they're not doing it to torpedo your fantasy week. They're trying to save their own hides.
Week 1 features two must-watch potential Super Bowl matchups. The first is the Colts-Saints on Thursday night. Be sure to watch how Saints coach Sean Payton utilizes his new wideouts and how much Colts rookie Anthony Gonzalez is involved in the offense. All of them could be good early-season pickups, a la Marques Colston last season. Dallas Clark will find the end zone. As will Reggie Bush.
The other big game will be a defensive struggle between the Bears and Chargers. Tomlinson, Gates and Rivers going mano-a-mano against Urlacher & Co. The big question of the day: Can Rex Grossman and Cedric Benson move the ball against Shawne Merriman and his, band of , well, merry men?
• Totally Random Trivia Question of the Week: The last Charger starting QB to defeat the Bears? Ed Luther, subbing for an injured Dan Fouts on Dec. 3, 1984, went 12 of 29 in San Diego's 20-7 home victory.
• Expect a shootout in Green Bay between the Pack and Eagles. Brett Favre is within one victory of the NFL record for wins and will be amped for what should be his final home opener. On the Philly side of the ball, Donovan McNabb re-establishes himself as the unquestioned leader of the Eagles -- just up the road from his Chicagoland childhood home.
• Looking for a total sleeper this week? Patrick Crayton of the Cowboys should be open often against the Giants, as New York's secondary shapes up to be one the league's biggest works in progress (and that's being nice). Tony Romo should go for 300 yards in the Sunday night contest.
• The last time the Panthers met the Rams, Marc Bulger was sacked seven times in Charlotte. This rematch is under the dome in St. Louis and Orlando Pace is back protecting Bulger's backside. Watch for flying footballs.