Archive for January, 2008

Packers “Perhaps More Complete Than the Patriots”

January 20, 2008

I don’t know if I agree with this assessment, but it’s hard to disagree with Cold Hard Football Facts, isn’t it?

The end-of-year numbers spoke volumes: the Packers ended up the most solid all-around team in the NFL, perhaps even more complete than the Patriots. Green Bay did not lead any of our nine Quality Stats. But they finished ranked between No. 3 and No. 7 and every single one of them. These highly consistent rankings told us that the Packers were a rock-solid team with no fundamental flaws.

Green Bay ended the season ranked an average of 4.56 (among 32 teams) in our nine Quality Stats — that’s just a micro-fraction behind the almighty Patriots, who topped four of nine Quality Stats and ended the season with an average rank of 4.44.

The Quality Stats indicators told us before the playoffs started that New England and Green Bay were the best teams in their respective conferences. They tell us this week, naturally, that both teams should hold serve at home.

They also tell us that, if both teams do win Sunday, Super Bowl XLII will be one hell of a game pitting the two teams that were clearly the statistical class of the league in 2007.


Favre — A Grizzled, Boyish Cliche

January 19, 2008

I like all of the Brett Favre media love, but even I find humor in the lack of originality in the lionization of the greatest player in the history of the NFL. This New York Times feature captures some of that, Mad Libs-style.

A Key Matchup

January 19, 2008

Daryn Colledge versus Justin Tuck. Bob McGinn explores it here. Brett Favre has said (and most every quarterback agrees) that the pressure that really gets to him is pressure that comes up the middle.

Tuck, who on Thursday agreed to a five-year contract extension which reportedly includes $16 million in bonuses, is fast enough to rush from end, and does spell Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. But unlike most ends, he has just enough size (6 feet 5 inches, 274 pounds) to rush from tackle in nickel situations.

Other than a snap or two against San Diego’s Shawne Merriman in Week 3, the 305-pound Colledge said he hadn’t been matched up against anyone as athletic or as small as Tuck.

“I’ve just got to be wary of his reach and his ability to go outside and inside,” Colledge said. “He’s got long arms, so he gets leverage very quickly. You can’t take what he gives you. You’ve got to make him come to you.

“You’re not going to stop him. Obviously, he’s had success against everybody. But you hope to slow him down a little bit. Do a lot of three-step (drop). Get rid of the ball quick. I think if you can be technically sound, you’ve got a chance.”

A third-round draft choice in 2005 from Notre Dame, Tuck had a break-out third season this year with 10 sacks. In 18 games, Tuck had 48 quarterback hurries and hits, behind Strahan (62) and Umenyiora (48) and just ahead of nose tackle Fred Robbins (40).

Last week, Seattle’s pre-eminent threat, end Patrick Kerney, drew double teams when McCarthy put Favre deep in the pocket. This week, McCarthy will probably allow Chad Clifton to block Umenyiora one-on-one, make sure center Scott Wells helps Colledge with Tuck and sometimes have a running back or a tight end help Mark Tauscher against Strahan.

“Umenyiora is by far their best rusher, but Tuck has Umenyiora-like moments,” an offensive line coach for a recent Giants’ opponent said.

“Strahan is No. 3, but that’s a hard No. 3. There really isn’t a distinct difference. Umenyiora and Tuck are in a different class altogether, relative to their athleticism.”

One scout said Umenyiora and Strahan both were better rushers than Kerney on the basis of athletic ability. As for Robbins, the scout said he was making more plays “on his own” than Green Bay’s Corey Williams.

On Sunday, a Dallas offensive line featuring three Pro Bowl players was overrun by New York. The week before, the Giants had just one sack, but 10 knockdowns of Tampa Bay’s Jeff Garcia.

Tuck is also one of Ryan Grant’s best friends, from both Notre Dame and the Giants. Maybe Grant can mess with him before the game.

Who Is Ryan Grant?

January 19, 2008

That’s the name of an NFL Network special on the Packers’ running back.  It’s was good show (except for the stupid questions from the blonde woman who interviewed Grant’s family).  Kara Henderson (not the blonde) did an extended interview with Grant about last week’s game and asked him what seemed like a logical question.  When you scored the touchdown to tie the score at 14, did you feel a weight lifted off your shoulders?  Grant allowed that it was a bit of a relief, and then added:

“You don’t win 14-14.”

Later, Grant told a story about playing behind Favre and, as his QB checked to another play at the line of scrimmage, losing focus on the play and just thinking about playing behind a legend.

Sometimes I really take a step back and realize what I’m doing.  I’m playing with a guy who is, if not the best ever, one of the top two best ever quarterbacks in the history of the game.  Like sometimes, I almost want to just grab him. ”  With that, Grant reaches out and swipes at the air.  “Alright Brett, I just touched you,” he says, laughing.

One of the Best Sentences…Ever

January 19, 2008

This comes from an email from reader Ray Midge. This first sentence is a classic and the whole email is worth reading.

I’m a born and bred New Yorker (Yonkers) who has been a Packer fan beacuse of the guileless purchase of two random belt buckles about 30 years ago by my Irish immigrant mother who looked at nothing but the sale price. My brother is a Bengals fan. So as both a die-hard Packer fan and a New Yorker, all the charges against the NY media are accurate. That said, if it matters at all it is probably ultimately beneficial to the Pack. NY is buying the “hot team” bit without much regard for the mismatch of the actual players. When I have pointed out the likely impotency of the jints pass rush against the deep wr corps, extra protection and quick throws that the pack thrive on, I get mostly quizzical silence. The pack’s d-line is underappreciated by most, and completely unknown to the NY media. Corey Williams and Cullen Jenkins will be a revelation. They appreciate the sentimental value of the Favre angle, but seem completely oblivious to the fact that the best arm and guts the game as ever seen has also developed wisdom and patience. 37-17 GB. And I’ll save my Monday copy of the NYPost forever.

Why Nobody Hates the Packers

January 19, 2008

This article, from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, pretty much nails it. Thanks to Ace for sending it.

It’s easy to hate the New York Yankees if you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, and vice versa. The same goes for the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, Michigan and Ohio State and those originators of the shotgun formation, the Hatfields and McCoys.

But who hates the Green Bay Packers?

Steeped in tradition and often viewed through a prism of sepia-tone nostalgia, the Packers have succeeded against all odds in a tiny and remote market, in a 50-year-old (albeit renovated) stadium with aluminum bench seats, in an era of unfettered free agency and corporate greed.

OK, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you’re not feeling all warm and fuzzy about Brett Favre and Al Harris right about now. “We want the ball and we’re going to score!” might be old news, but the sting lingers.

Really, though, do you hate the Packers?

Not if you know anything about the history of the National Football League. Not if you’ve seen those grainy images of the 1967 “Ice Bowl” and Bart Starr’s fateful quarterback sneak on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Not if you admire the principles on which Vince Lombardi built a dynasty.

Not if you pull for the underdog.

In Wisconsin, there is no other option. You are born into Packerdom here. Your great-grandfather cheered for Curly Lambeau and Don Hutson, your grandpa for Paul Hornung and Willie Wood, your dad for James Lofton and Lynn Dickey. Every kid on your block owns a No. 4 jersey.

What makes the Packers special? Start with the fact that there are 112,015 owners, the vast majority of whom hold one share of stock. Formed in the NFL’s primordial mist in 1919, the Packers became a non-profit entity four years later and remain the only publicly owned team among the major professional sports.

The most recent stock sale, in 1998, netted 106,000 new “owners” who paid $200 per share (and sent $24 million straight to the team’s bottom line) for certificates that are basically worthless. The stock never pays dividends or appreciates in value. But the emotional investment is priceless. When general manager Ted Thompson signs a free agent, the fans can thump their chests and say, “I helped bring that guy to Green Bay.” And it’s true.

Of course, Bob Harlan, who has run the Packers for 19 years, first as president and CEO and more recently as chairman of the board, has a stake in the team. He, too, owns exactly one share of stock…

Did we mention that Harlan answers his own telephone? There is no administrative assistant to run interference, no automated maze to negotiate. You’ve got a beef with the injured cornerback or the price of tickets, you go straight to the top dog.

The fact that the Packers can even exist in a city of 100,000 is a minor miracle, due in equal parts to fan loyalty throughout the state and revenue sharing in the NFL. Los Angeles can’t support a team but this little frozen outpost can? It’s one of the mysteries of the universe.

It helps that not much ever happens in Green Bay, other than what occurs at 1265 Lombardi Ave. Lambeau Field — notice, no naming rights — is the city’s corporate and social epicenter, its source of civic pride, its very heart and soul.

The nearest NCAA Division I football team is 2 1/2 hours away at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Milwaukee is 115 miles to the south, so the Packers are the only game in town.

Their reach extends north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, south into Chicago Bears turf and west clear to the Dakotas (the team had a 40-year head start on the Minnesota Vikings). And that doesn’t count the fans who have relocated or the ones Harlan likens to the “Notre Dame subway alumni.”

“People call me and say, ‘I’m a lifelong Packers fan and someday I’d love to see Lambeau Field,’ ” Harlan said. “They’ve never even been here.”

On game days, the far-flung Cheeseheads converge on Green Bay and fill the Lambeau parking lot hours before kickoff. First-time visitors are blown away by the passion, creativity and dedication of the tailgaters. There’s nothing quite like the smell of 10,000 bratwursts sizzling on 1,000 grills and the sight of footballs spiraling through 10-degree air.

The Packers-Seahawks game will mark the 268th consecutive sellout at Lambeau, including playoffs. That’s every single game since 1960. The waiting list for season tickets is at 76,800. With an average of 70 fans per year giving up their seats, the guy at the end of the list will have to wait 1,000 years, give or take a few decades, for his name to come up.

Season-ticket holders live in all 50 states and several foreign countries, including Japan. Domo arrigato.

The obsession with the team is such that the 10 p.m. TV newscasts in Milwaukee and Green Bay are dominated by Packers developments. The long snapper has an ingrown toenail? That leads the sports report. The price of beer is going up at Lambeau? That’s the top story.

Brett Favre retires? We don’t even want to think about that one.

The Packers have won 12 championships, more than any other NFL franchise, and three Super Bowl titles. The team has sent 21 players to the Hall of Fame. Green Bay city streets are named after former players and coaches, including Mike Holmgren.

But it’s not about all that.

It’s about a unique relationship between a professional sports franchise and its fans.

It’s about people feeling they’re a part of something special, something unique, something good.

The Packers don’t need throwback jerseys to evoke their glorious past.

In all the ways that count, it’s still 1965 here. And always will be.

McCarthy’s new contract

January 18, 2008

According the the GB Press Gazette, Mike McCarthy will officially be signing a new contract Monday worth $4 million per year over the next 5 years – the same length of time TT has been extended. He deserves this. I love the fact that McCarthy is his own agent and when he signed the initial contract for 3 years, he intentionally signed for only 3 years because he wanted to prove to the organization that he’s a good coach before any long-term discussion happens. One of the interesting things Doughtery points out though is that the average NFL coach salary is $3.4 million – so McCarthy’s new contract is only $600,000 more than average.

For a fleeting moment, I did consider giving this post the title “McCarthy resigns” – playing on the common misspelling of re-sign – in an attempt to cause panic.

Expert Picks — Jinx Anyone?

January 18, 2008

First the Packers appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Then I commit to fly home for the game. And now, in the jinx of all jinxes, ESPN’s expert panel (a misnomer, given that it includes Sean Salisbury) has unanimously picked the Packers to win on Sunday. (Mark Schlereth has not yet registered a pick). So did the experts at HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and the two guys at Yahoo!

I would be more concerned about the jinx factor if they hadn’t also unanimously picked the Patriots.

Woodson and McCarthy finally getting along?

January 18, 2008

Interesting – who knew Charles caused some headaches early on for McCarthy. Fairly candid admission by MCCarthy in this article by sportsline’s Pete Prisco. Apparently Woodson said the same thing earlier in the week. It would be fascinating to find out what specific things they argued about and if Woodson relented all the time or if McCarthy ever bought into Woodson’s ideas. I have heard Charles is a fairly interesting fellow – thoughtful and a bit different. You can kind of see this in his interviews. Earlier this year, I read somewhere that he doesn’t mind going to the movie theater alone to watch a movie.

Save My Life, Buy Me a Beer

January 18, 2008

Those of us going to the game this weekend face a serious dilemma: To drink beer or not to drink beer. (Two Shakespeare references in one day!)

On the one hand, it’s going to be so cold that the last thing many of will want to do is suck down a few beers. It might make more sense to have some coffee or some hot chocolate or even some hot cider. On the other, it is the NFC Championship game and it’s at Lambeau Field…how can you not have a beer?

For those of you on the fence, this should prove decisive: A new study finds that beer prevents cancer.

“It’s very healthy. I think the ingredients in the beer are very good,” says Dr Werner Back, a brewing technology expert at the Technical University of Munich.

Xanthohumol contains more powerful antioxidants than vitamin E and some studies indicate it helps reduce oxidation of bad cholesterol, the newswire reported.

“Xanthohumol has been shown to be a very active substance against cancer,” says Dr Markus Herrmann, also of Munich. “It comes in small sticky beads, which you find within the hops.”

So if you see me wandering around Lambeau on Sunday wearing a bumper sticker or a t-shirt, save my life, buy me a beer.