When the doors opened to training camp in late July, everyone was filled with such promise. There was hope renewed. There were storylines in unexpected places. Everyone had their eyes set on a big season. Everyone had the Super Bowl in their sights.
But now that the final days of summer are mercifully ticking away and the countdown to the Sept. 5 opener is on, doesn’t it seem like everything has changed? Some hope is already gone. Some promise has been replaced by aggravation. Some stories have more than played themselves out.
The hope that remains can wait until another day. First, it’s time to survey the summer landscape for the biggest disappointments of the summer. Here are the players, issues and storylines that fizzled the most in the past few weeks – the five biggest busts of training camp, 2012:
It was the biggest story of summer, whether you liked it or not. ESPN camped a crew in Cortland, N.Y., to chronicle him and the New York newspapers assigned people just to cover one man – never mind that Tim Tebow was just a backup quarterback/gimmick. And it took maybe 24 hours for the tone around the coverage to turn angry. Right about the time Tebow’s shirtless run through the rain made back page news, fans began complaining that enough Tebow was more than enough.
Yet the coverage continued, and for what? The Jets didn’t unveil their “Tebow-cat” offense at all during the summer, making everyone wonder if it has any chance of working at all. Meanwhile, running the regular offense – he is, after all, the backup quarterback – Tebow was a miserable 9 for 22 for 96 yards in the first two preseason games. That’s a completion percentage of 40.9 percent. He also ran six times for 39 yards. Not bad, but hardly as dymanic as, say, Michael Vick.
TebowMania? There’s a cure for that. Watching him and reading about him every day is the best antidote there is.
The signing of one of the NFL’s greatest personalities was trumpeted in headlines and on HBO’s "Hard Knocks," where the one-man marketing machine and this NFL reality TV show seemed like a match made in heaven. It probably didn’t hurt ratings either when Johnson ended up getting cut from the Dolphins after allegedly assaulting his wife.
Put that heinous act aside, though, for a second. What exactly were we all thinking caring about this? Anyone who saw OchoJohnson with the Patriots last season knows he’s done. In 15 games he had 15 catches, and some scouts marveled that he even had that much. This preseason he added nothing to his total, and it’s highly unlikely any other teams will pick him up.
Don’t get me wrong. JohnCinco had an impressive and interesting 10-year career in Cincinnati and I have no problem with all the silly fun things he did in that time. But he’s 34 years old and it’s over. And we probably should have known.
The NFL keeps trying to put a positive spin on this mess, though clearly they aren’t watching the games when they do it. The amount of blown calls is being vastly underplayed because these are preseason games and nobody cares about the results.
But what happens in the regular season when, like they did in the Giants-Jaguars game, the refs give the team trailing one extra play? What about all those muggings/pass interference penalties they’re missing? What about the times they march off 15 yards on a penalty instead of half the distance to the goal?
Those are the types of minor things the replacement refs have missed this summer and according to players, coaches and scouts it’s happened in every game. It’s only going to get worse when it happens in a game that counts and it costs a team a game in the standings, costs gamblers a ton of money, and costs the paying fans a chance to see a game that is on the level and fair.
The biggest question of the offseason was “Where will Peyton Manning play?” but there was always a subtext to his decision. Anyone who missed out on Manning would undoubtedly take a stab at Flynn, the former backup to Aaron Rodgers who was the most interesting free agent quarterback on the market.
He ended up spurning the Miami Dolphins to sign a three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks. And now it looks like he’ll be cashing those checks on the bench.
After going a mediocre 17 of 26 for 102 yards and an interception in two preseason games, Flynn is on the verge of losing the starting job to impressive rookie Russell Wilson. The 5-10 rookie got the start in the third preseason game and played into the third quarter, dazzling everyone by completing 13 of 19 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seahawks were leading 44-7 when he left the game, enroute to a 44-14 win. Flynn is now nursing an elbow injury, and he probably can take his time coming back.
The Kick-a@# Cowboys
Jerry Jones kicked off training camp by vowing to a group of fans in Oxnard, Calif., that “Y'all should come to Cowboys Stadium and watch us beat the Giants' asses.” Since then, here’s what’s happened to “America’s Team” – injuries and controversies.
Aside from Jones’ rant, which did nothing but anger the defending Super Bowl champions, he’s also had to deal with the fall out from petulant receiver Dez Bryant’s alleged assault of his own mother. That led to the creation of the “Dez rules” which he apparently agreed to, including no alcohol, no strip clubs and a midnight curfew. Presumably if he breaks any of those he’ll be put in time out.
Meanwhile, the ‘Boys budding dynasty is crumbling before Jones’ eyes. Tight end Jason Witten may miss the opener with a lacerated spleen. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff could miss it too with a badly sprained ankle. And injuries have made the opening night status of Bryant (knee), receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and center Phil Costa (back) unknown, too.
That’s not exactly the way any team wants to kick off what it seems convinced will be a championship run.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO