The New York Giants have designated Brandon Jacobs as their 2009 franchise player. What does it all mean? Jacobs is guaranteed a 1-year salary of $6.6 million with the New York Giants. If another NFL teams signs Jacobs, the Giants can either match the offer, or get 2 1st-round draft picks in return. Jacobs has been the Giants leading rusher in each of the last 2 seasons. In 2008, Jacobs led the team with 1,089 yards rushing on 219 carries. He also scored a team high 15 touchdowns. In 2007, Jacobs rushed for 1009 yards on 202 carries with 4 touchdowns.
The Giants do have another 1,000-yard rusher to contend with – Derrick Ward. Ward rushed for 1025 yards on 182 carries. He also caught 41 passes for 384 yards receiving. He is also an unrestricted free agent.
The Giants can still negotiate with both players, perhaps signing each to a long-term deal. But at least they have something locked up on the running back end with Brandon Jacobs.
Is he or isn’t he? Will he or won’t he? Will we ever know, or will we just keep speculating until he doesn’t show up for Jets mini camp this summer?
Brett Favre informed the New York Jets that he will not return to the Jets or the NFL for the 2009 NFL season. He had 2 years left on a 3-year deal, and was set to make $13 million for the 2009 NFL season. The Jets have 3 quarterbacks on their current roster – Kellen Clemens, Erik Ainge and Brett Ratliff. The Jets could make a play for one the many free agent quarterbacks on the market – Rex Grossman, Byron Leftwich, Kerry Collins, Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms – or start from scratch by taking a quarterback with the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL draft in June.
In any event, Favre will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, and is a sure lock for the Hall of Fame. In 18 NFL seasons, Favre currently holds the record for most career touchdown passes (464); yards passing (65,127); pass completions (5,720); interceptions (310); victories during the regular season (169); and most consecutive starts (including playoffs) (291). He won the Super Bowl once with the Green Bay Packers and is a 3-time NFL MVP.
In one of the more exciting Super Bowl contests, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 to win an NFL record 6 Super Bowl Championships. Santonio Holmes was named the Super Bowl MVP after he caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with less than a minute to go in the game. Holmes had 9 catches for 131 yards, including the acrobatic, game-winning 6-yard touchdown catch that put the Steelers up for good.
Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner completed 31 of 43 passes for 377 yards, with 3 touchdown passes – good for a 112.3 passer rating. But his turnovers were the bigger story. With the Cardinals trailing 10-7 with 20 seconds left to go in the half, the Cardinals had the ball inside the Steelers 5-yard line. Instead of being ultra-cautious, Warner tried to force a pass into the end zone, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison intercepted the pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead. If Warner doesn’t make that poor pass, worst-case the Cardinals kick a field goal and the game is tied at halftime. Instead, the Cardinals dug themselves a deeper hole and trailed by 10 points. Warner’s final turnover, a fumble, came at midfield as the Cardinals were driving in the waning seconds of the game. The fumble ended all hopes of a comeback for the Cardinals.
Cardinals stud wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald lived up to all the hype in the 4th quarter. He caught 2 touchdown passes, the last of which was a 64-yard pass play which put the Cardinals ahead for the 1st time in the game – 23-20. It also erased the 20-7 4th quarter deficit that the Cardinals faced with under 8 minutes to go in the game. Overall Fitzgerald finished with 7 catches for 127 yards, while Anquan Boldin finished with 8 catches for 84 yards.
“We play to win the game.” Herm Edwards own words came back to bite him in the ass, as the Kansas City Chiefs fired Edwards for his lack of results after 3 years on the job in Kansas City. Edwards led the Chiefs to a dismal 15-33 record in 3 seasons at the helm – including the worst 2-year stretch in franchise history when the Chiefs won only a total of 6 games during the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons. Edwards had 1-year left on his 4-year, $12 million contract. In 5 years with the New York Jets, Edwards compiled a 39-41 record from 2001 through 2005, including a 2-3 record in the playoffs.
Kansas City President and GM Carl Peterson surprisingly resigned in the middle of December 2008. The Chiefs hired former New England Patriots executive Scott Pioli on January 13, 2009, and it took Pioli only 10 days to determine that he was going to let Edwards go. There are rumors swirling that Pioli is trying to lure former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan to Kansas City to take over the Chiefs top job. Shanahan was both GM and head coach in Denver the last few seasons, and most critics believe that Shanahan’s true strengths lie in his coaching ability. Whether Shanahan is willing to accept a job where he won’t have more control over personnel decisions remains to be seen.
In any event, everyone is still playing to win the games. Good luck, Herm!
You couldn’t ask for a better start to your NFL playoffs Sunday with the opening battle between 2 relentless teams. In the end – – the Arizona Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 on Sunday afternoon to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 in Tampa Bay, Florida. This is truly an historic game for the Arizona Cardinals organization. The Cardinals had never made it to the Super Bowl in franchise history and had not played in a conference championship game since 1948. Their 3 playoff victories this season already surpasses the total number of playoff victories recorded by the organization since playoffs began in 1933. The Cardinals are the first team to advance to a Super Bowl with only 9 wins in a regular season since the Rams did so back in 1979 (the Rams lost to the Steelers that year). With a total of 12 victories right now, it is the winning-est season for the Cardinals in franchise history.
It was an incredible game to watch as each team’s future Hall of Fame quarterback was at his best for “most” of the contest. First Arizona’s winning quarterback Kurt Warner – 21 of 28 for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns. Warner and the Cardinals exploded for 24 1st half points to take a commanding 24-6 halftime lead. Warner connected with stud wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on touchdown passes of 9 yards, 62 yards and 1 yard to set an NFC Championship Game record. The Cardinals looked like they knew exactly what the Eagles defense was going to do each and every play, and they took advantage of it. But then came the 2nd half. The Cardinals and Warner seemed to play a little bit stiff and the offense couldn’t generate anything consistent. That ineptitude allowed the Eagles to claw their way back into the game.
Second, Philadelphia’s losing quarterback Donovan McNabb – 28 of 47 for 375 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. The Eagles offense looked bewildered in the 1st half. The Eagles managed only 2 field goals in the 1st half and found themselves trailing the Cardinals 24-6 at halftime. But then came the 2nd half. McNabb and the eagles scored 19 unanswered points in the 3rd and 4th quarters and found themselves with a 25-24 lead with just under 11 minutes to play in the game. McNabb hit Brent Celek with 2 touchdown passes in the 3rd quarter, but after the 2nd one, the Eagles David Akers missed the PAT which kept the score at 24-19. Some analysts questioned whether Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid should have gone for the 2-point conversion at this point to cut the Cardinals lead to 3 points. But since the Eagles had not gone for a 2-point conversion once during the regular season (Reid and his staff is known for not “chasing that point all game long” if you don’t make the 2-point conversion), it was not surprising that Reid sent out Akers for the extra point attempt. After McNabb connected with DeSean Jackson on an acrobatic 62-yard touchdown pass in which Jackson had to tip the ball in the air a few times before he corralled it in for the score, the Eagles were forced to go for 2 points to try to push the lead from 1 point to 2 points. The McNabb pass to Brian Westbrook failed and were stuck at 25-24.
Up until this point, the Cardinals offense had practically nothing to show for itself in the 2nd half. The Cardinals gained only 9 yards in the 3rd quarter, and had its only drive in the 4th quarter stall once they got into Steelers territory. With 10:45 left, the Cardinals now found themselves trailing for the 1st time in the game, with their backs up against the wall. But they found a way to come through in the clutch. Warner orchestrated a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took almost 8 minutes off the clock. The Cardinals converted an all-important 4th and 1 at midfield, which kept the drive alive for the Cardinals. Just a few plays later, Warner connected with Tim Hightower on a 9-yard screen pass and run which gave the Cardinals a 5-point lead. Warner’s 2-point conversion pass to Ben Patrick upped the lead to 7 points and the rest was history. Warner has now probably earned himself a spot in the Hall of Fame. Warner has played in 3 NFC Championship Games, and he has won all 3. Warner was the NFL’s MVP twice in 1999 and 2001 and each year he led his team to the Super Bowl. And now he finds himself back in the big game 8 years later.
On the other side of the ball, McNabb, Reid and the Eagles must be sorely disappointed. Five NFC Championship Games in the last 8 years, and only one trip to the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any worse than that (except maybe for the 4 straight Super Bowl losses suffered by the Buffalo Bills from 1989 through 1991).
The Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl match-up is an interesting one. Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt was the Steelers Offensive Coordinator when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006. After Bill Cowher retired following the 2006-7 NFL season, the Rooney family and the Steelers elected to go outside the organization and hire Mike Tomlin as the Head Coach. Whisenhunt saw this as a snub by the Steelers, and he decided to leave to take the Arizona Cardinals Head Coach position. Fellow long-time Steelers assistant Russ Grimm also left the Steelers and is now Whisenhunt’s top assistant in Arizona. In taking the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance in just his 2nd year, Tomlin is doing something that Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher couldn’t do for the Steelers organization. Whisenhunt is also taking his team to the Super Bowl in only his 2nd year as Head Coach. Either way, we will have a bright, new head coach earn his 1st Super Bowl win, and that is good for football. May the best team win…
The NFL coaching carousel continued on Friday night in a shocking firing of one of the more tenured NFL head coaches. In a move that was even surprising to the coach, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Head Coach John Gruden, who had coached the Bucs for the last 7 years. Gruden led the Bucs to a Super Bowl win over his former team – the Oakland Raiders – in the Super Bowl in 2002 when he was only 39 years old. During the 2008 NFL season, however, Gruden’s Bucs started the season 9-3 but then collapsed by losing the last 4 games of the season to miss the playoffs.
The Bucs are expected to name Raheem Morris the new head coach.
It is a sad day for NFL football. On Monday afternoon, Tony Dungy announced his retirement as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The announcement brought an end to 31 devoted years to football at the highest level of play. Dungy won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers and became the 1st African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl Championship and hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the Indianapolis Colts just 2 years ago. Dungy is only 53-years old and had only been with the Colts for 7 successful seasons. A year ago, the Colts organization put a “succession plan” in place when it named Jim Caldwell as Dungy’s associate head coach. But no one ever really thought the Dungy run would end so soon. Caldwell will, in fact, take over the Colts reins for the 2009 NFL season.
Dungy felt the time was right for him to become a full-time Dad and a dedicated volunteer. Dungy felt “a real peace about” his decision, stating: “Don’t shed any tears for me. I got to live a dream most people don’t get to live.” Dungy leaves his legacy in so many different ways.
Dungy holds the NFL record for the highest average of regular-season victories of any head coach with 10.7. He also holds the record for most consecutive playoff seasons with 10 and most consecutive seasons with at least 12 wins with 6. Dungy helped open the door for several black coaches who accompanied him on his staffs in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. Current NFL head coaches Herm Edwards (Kansas City Chiefs), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Mike Timlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), as well as former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli (now an assistant with Lovie Smith in Chicago) all considered Dungy a mentor. Each man is also eternally grateful for Dungy for paving the way for black coaches to obtain and maintain head coaching positions in the NFL.
Dungy is also a man of faith and he focused on spreading goodwill to those less than fortunate than him with involvement in numerous NFL-related charity organizations. Two of his rival coaches summed it up best.
Herm Edwards – “His biggest legacy will be all the people around the country who he’s inspired to be better and to deal with some of life’s tragedies in a manner that gives people a lot of strength.” (Alluding to Dungy’s ability to deal with his eldest son’s tragic suicide just weeks before the Colts playoff run in 2005-6 which ultimately ended with the Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears who were coached by his friend Lovie Smith).
Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick – “People often say that teams reflect their head coach, and that can be said of Tony Dungy’s teams, which are consistent winners every single year. Tony has been such a fixture in this league that his absence will take some getting used to.”
ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha also wrote a great piece on Dungy’s NFL legacy. Dungy will surely be missed, both as a coach and a person. Here’s to you Tony. You led your life with devotion and dedication to your faith, your family and your sport – football. And you played it straight each and every day. Good luck on your next venture and we’re sure we’ll hear from you soon…
The Philadelphia Eagles had done it during the regular season – handing the Giants their only home loss at the Meadowlands during the 2008-9 NFL season. But could they do it on the big stage, in front of a national audience in the NFL divisional playoffs? Of course they could.
The Eagles defeated the Giants 23-11 with a dominating defensive performance and an offense that did just enough to send the Eagles to within 1 victory of the Super Bowl. First the defense – the Eagles held the Giants to just over 300 yards and only 16 first downs. While the Giants did have their chances, the Eagles held the Giants to just 3 field goals and only 3 points in the 2nd half. On 2 consecutive possessions in the 4th quarter, when the Giants needed just a yard or 2 to keep drives going on 4th down, the Eagles front line surge prevented the Giants from gaining any yards at all, solidifying the road victory. Eli Manning had an awful day – 15 of 29 passing, 169 yards, 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns. His 40.7 passer rating a clear indication that the Giants passing attack is much much different without a playmaker like Plaxico Burress lining up to stretch the field. Brandon Jacobs did manage 92 yards rushing on 19 carries and Derrick Ward added 12 rushes for 46 yards, but the Giants could never seem to do enough to advance to pay-dirt.
Although Donovan McNabb didn’t have a great statistical game, he did enough with the chances given to the Eagles offense. McNabb completed only 22 of 40 passes for 217 yards. He had 1 touchdown pass to Brent Celek which increased the Eagles lead to 9 points on the 1st play of the 4th quarter. He also rushed for a touchdown in the 1st quarter which gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 7-3. But he did throw 2 interceptions, which brought his passer rating down to 58.0. The Giants defense also kept Bryan Westbrook in check – 18 carries for 36 yards and 2 catches for 10 yards. Westbrook was the big difference in the Eagles win over the Giants in December, so the Giants did do a good job of containing him in the playoffs.
At the end of the day, though, it was the Eagles defense and an efficient McNabb that made all the difference on this cold January Sunday. McNabb has now led his team to 5 NFC Championship Games in the last 8 years. The other 3 seasons, McNabb was either hurt or dealing with the Terrell Owens saga which divided the team midway through the season. For a player who was benched by his coach at halftime of an embarrassing defeat in Baltimore on November 23rd and who has endured much criticism from the Philadelphia media and fans alike, McNabb continues to perform at a high level each and every year. He is this generation’s John Elway (at least until Elway won his 2 Super Bowls in his last 2 years with the Broncos). McNabb has led his Eagles to only 1 Super Bowl during those 5 NFC Championship Games and the Eagles ended up losing that Super Bowl back in 2004 to the New England Patriots.
Next up for the Eagles is the NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Phoenix. Can the Eagles win 3 road games in a row like the Giants did last year to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Only time will tell. But if Donovan McNabb has anything to say about it, I’d put my money on McNabb and the Eagles stifling defense. We’ll get to see McNabb on the NFL’s biggest stage for a 2nd time, and maybe this will be the year that McNabb and the Eagles get that elusive NFL Championship. Hey, the Phillies won the World Series in October 2008 – why can’t the Eagles win the Super Bowl in February 2009?
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the only home team to win in the NFL’s Divisional Playoffs this weekend, taking out the San Diego Chargers with a 35-24 victory. Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers connected with Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson on a 41-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game to give the Chargers an early 7-0 lead. That would be the last time the Chargers had reason to cheer during the long road playoff game. Just 5 minutes later, Steelers return-man Santonio Holmes to a Mike Scifres punt 67 yards to pay-dirt to tie the game at 7. And although the Chargers took a 10-7 lead on a Nate Kaeding 42-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter, the Steelers took a 14-10 lead into halftime when Steelers running back Willie Parker scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with just 40 seconds left in the 1st half. That set off a run of 21 straight points for the Steelers who turned a 10-7 deficit into a 28-10 4th quarter lead. Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller on an 8-yard touchdown pass midway through the 3rd quarter and then Steelers Running Back Gary Russell extended the lead to 18 points with a 1-yard touchdown plunge right at the start of the 4th quarter. The Chargers had no answer for Willie Parker. Parker rushed the ball 27 times for 146 yards and 2 scores – the last of which sealed the victory with just 4 minutes left in the game. Roethlisberger was an efficient 17 of 26 for 181 yards and 1 touchdown. He did not throw an interception – good for a 98.4 passer rating.
Statistically speaking, Philip Rivers had a solid game on the road in a hostile environment for the Chargers. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had 1 interception – good for a 105.4 passer rating. Only problem was, his team wasn’t on the field enough to keep the Chargers in the game – the Steelers won the time of possession battle 36:30 to 23:30 and the Chargers ran only 1 offensive play in the 3rd quarter.
Next up for the Steelers is a battle against the division-rival Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers defeated the Ravens twice during the 2008 regular season, but the Ravens played the Steelers well in both contests. Home field advantage should help the Steelers, and the Steelers defense hopes to pester rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who has played anything like a rookie quarterback during his 2008 inaugural campaign. It should be a fun, smash-mouth AFC Championship Game on Sunday in Pittsburgh – strap on your helmets tight, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…
Coming into this year’s playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals had won 2 playoff games in franchise history. After Saturday, the Cardinals had doubled their win total and find themselves hosting the NFC Championship Game on Sunday in Phoenix. How did it happen?
The Cardinals defense has stepped up as of late, and were able to shut down the Atlanta Falcons’ rushing attack in last week’s 30-24 wild card win. And the Cardinals defense showed up big once again on Saturday, forcing 5 Jake Delhomme interceptions and one Delhomme fumble. Although Delhomme has been known to have “off nights” (including a 3-interception game against Tampa Bay and a 4-interception game against the lowly Raiders during the 2008 regular season), none came close to how poorly he played in front of the hometown crowd on Saturday night.
After the Panthers scored on a 9-yard rushing touchdown by Jonathan Stewart on the game’s opening drive, the Cardinals rattled off 33 unanswered points to take control of the game. Kurt Warner threw 2 touchdown passes in the 1st half – 1 to Tim Hightower and 1 to Larry Fitzgerald, Neil Rackers kicked 2 field goals and Edgerrin James added a 4-yard rushing touchdown to give the Cardinals a 27-7 halftime lead. The Cardinals didn’t look back, adding 2 more Neil Rackers field goals in the 2nd half to increase the lead to 33-7. A late Delhomme touchdown pass to Steve Smith just wasn’t enough to will the Panthers back to victory.
Delhomme finished the day an atrocious 17 of 34 for 205 yards. He had 5 interceptions, 1 fumble and 1 touchdown pass, good for a 39.1 passer rating. Because of the turnovers, the Panthers could never get the running game going after the initial drive. DeAngelo Williams finished the game with 12 carries for 63 yards. Jonathan Stewart only had 2 other rushing attempts after he his 9-yard touchdown run. Steve Smith only touched the ball twice – once on a 35-yard pass play and once on the touchdown pass with just 50 seconds left in the game. All in all, Delhomme cost the Panthers the game.
The Cardinals offense was up to the task. The offensive line gave Kurt warner plenty of time to pass the ball – and as we all know, if Warner has time to throw, he will eat you alive. Warner completed 21 of 32 passes for 220 yards. He had 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, good for a 93.2 passer rating. Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals receiving corp with 8 catches for a whopping 166 yards, including 1 touchdown reception. The Cardinals aerial attack opened up the door for the running game. Edgerrin James rushed the ball 20 times for 57 yards and 1 touchdown, while Tim Hightower rushed for 76 yards on 17 carries.
The Arizona Cardinals will now host the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. In the only meeting between the 2 teams in 2008, the Eagles crushed the Cardinals 48-20 in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day. Although the teams are different now, the Eagles will likely be favored on the road come Sunday afternoon. Will the Eagles or Cardinals make it 3 in a row – stay tuned football fans…