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The Eagles, Pats, Jets and Vince Young saga. What did Rob Doster learn this weekend?
Franchise in Free-Fall
Yesterday set the Tennessee Titans back five years. Quarterback and coach burned whatever bridge was left between them and spit on the ashes. Vince Young’s postgame meltdown after a shocking, disheartening 19–16 loss to a crippled Redskins team, followed in short order by a very public bashing from his head coach, was the culmination of a QB-coach relationship that soured before it even began — the day that the franchise drafted Young at the insistence of owner Bud Adams, over the apparent objections of coach Jeff Fisher. Ever since, Fisher has made his distaste for his mercurial quarterback so apparent that Stevie Wonder could see it — putting him on a shorter leash than any other starter in the league, clearly preferring Kerry Collins despite Young’s penchant for winning games. Young has earned some of his coach’s distrust with his displays of immaturity, to be sure — but shouldn’t the veteran coach be the bigger man than the young quarterback? Shouldn’t the coaching staff adapt to what it has at the quarterback position instead of shoehorning a player into a system and a set of restraints that were destined to choke off his strengths? Now, it looks like the Titans are starting over at the most important position on the team and are prepared to waste Chris Johnson’s best years, not to mention squandering the presence of explosive wideouts Randy Moss and Kenny Britt, while Rusty Smith either grows into the position or proves he can’t and forces the Titans to look elsewhere. A sad day indeed for the guys in Columbia blue.
Eagles Win Battle for NFC Supremacy
In his first six starts, Michael Vick carried the Philadelphia Eagles with his arm and his legs. Last night, he shared center stage with a defense that had his back. Vick completed a Manning sweep, following up a Week Nine win over Peyton’s Colts with a key NFC East win over Eli’s Giants. On a night when Vick failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, the Eagles defense took up the slack, forcing five turnovers, including a critical Manning fumble with 2:51 left and the Eagles up 24–17, leading to a clinching field goal. “We knew this game wasn’t going to be like the last game,” Vick said, referring to the offensive clinic the Eagles put on in a 59–28 win over the Redskins. “We knew we would have to deal with adversity. It’s all about fighting and hanging in there when you have to.” I’ll resist the urge to make a bad joke about Vick’s use of the word “fighting” and simply tip my hat to the Eagles, the NFC’s best team.
The littlest guy on the field outshone some of the game’s biggest stars in New England’s 31–28 win over Indianapolis. Danny Woodhead, a 5-foot-8 running back from football factory Chadron State, endeared himself to undersized men everywhere, scoring on a beautiful, winding 36-yard run and then making the tackle on the subsequent kickoff. “I do everything to make the play, whether I’m a runner, a receiver or on a kickoff,” said Woodhead. “Maybe (I carry) a little chip, but I’m not too worried what everybody thinks about my size, weight or height. My worry is about doing my job, whatever that might be.” Yesterday, that job was providing the emotional spark with his impressive display of versatility. Woodhead’s a football player, and that’s one of the highest compliments I can pay.
I’ve been hard on Mark Sanchez at times, but it’s hard to deny that the guy has brought a winning quality to the Jets. Yesterday, the Gang Green snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat thanks to their rapidly maturing field general. The Jets blew a 16-point lead and trailed the Texans 27–23 with less than a minute to go when Sanchez executed what could be a season-defining drive — two completions to LaDainian Tomlinson, one to Braylon Edwards and a touchdown toss to Santonio Holmes for a 30–27 win. “We’re cutting it awfully close,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think anybody has any finger nails left if they’re a Jets fan.” Don’t worry, Mark — they’ll gladly trade fingernails for a ring.
The Brett Favre era in the NFL is limping to a dispiriting close, as the scandal-ridden QB is now playing out the string for a bad team and a lame-duck coach. Yesterday marked a low point, as the Packers, the team that Favre took to glory, pummeled the Vikings 31–3. “This has got me at a loss for words,” Favre said. “Disappointing would be an understatement.” I’ll provide a word, Brett — sad. The Vikings are 3–7 and out of playoff contention, and Favre, who completed 17-of-38 passes for 208 yards and an interception, was powerless to stop the turnovers, penalties and sideline finger-pointing that have driven this season into the ground. Regrets? Brett has a few, no doubt.
-by Rob Doster