AFC East: Bob Kalsu
Neil in Jackson, Miss., weighed in on the recent post about the Miami Dolphins' chances to go from a losing team to the playoffs in 2012. I wrote the Dolphins wouldn't be able to compete with the New York Jets or New England Patriots and other formidable wild-card candidates "until they get high-quality and consistent performances from their quarterback."
Neil's response was common among Dolfans lately: Rip Mark Sanchez.
"I'll readily concede he stepped up in the playoffs," Neil wrote, "but nothing in his career so far has demonstrated consistency. Quality QB play is more important than ever, but the Jets continue to prove you can be a threat to win titles without it."
That's true, but the Jets also have continued to prove they're far better at competing on a weekly basis (back-to-back AFC Championship Games) than the Dolphins (7-9 twice in a row) over the past two years.
The Jets can get away with Sanchez at quarterback because he has been better than Henne and because they're more complete on both sides of the ball. Sanchez is only 24 years old, appears to be improving and has a knack for clutch finishes regardless of how erratic he was over the first three quarters. He might not play consistently, but he consistently wins.
For the Dolphins to catch up, they need better quarterbacking. The other positions didn't change drastically when Chad Pennington gave way to Chad Henne in 2008. They added one of the NFL's most prolific receivers last year and arguably got worse.
In response to a Memorial Day post about Buffalo Bills guard Bob Kalsu, the only pro football player to die in Vietnam, Joseph wanted to make sure we knew the New York Army National Guard established Forward Operating Base Kalsu in Iskandariya, Iraq, in 2003.
"It is located about 20 minutes, by Black Hawk helicopter, from Baghdad International Airport," Joseph wrote. "As a Black Hawk crew chief, we go there several times a week. When I was stuck in Kalsu for several days due to bad weather, I saw the plaque outside of the HQ that describes both Bob Kalsu and why they named the FOB after him."
I wasn't aware of that. Pretty cool tribute to an American hero. Thanks for pointing that out, Joseph, but thank you even more for your service to our country.
Paul in Lexington, Mass., shared his thoughts to a question posed by a recent AFC East chat: Should the Patriots be automatic favorites in 2011? I've actually predicted -- in pencil because we haven't had free agency yet -- the Jets will win the division.
"Past is prologue," Paul contended. "Absent Bill Belichick, Tom Brady or Vince Wilfork getting hit by a bus, the Patriots should win the division by multiple games. They are by far the deepest team in the division."
Apparently drawing parallels to their background as overlooked Kent State quarterbacks, Paul also predicts Julian Edelman will have a Josh Cribbs-type year on punt returns and that unsigned Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins will be back.
I disagree with Paul's grandiose plans for Edelman, but I can't argue the Patriots are a great club.
Again, it's all in faint pencil at this point anyway.
Kalsu, a Buffalo Bills offensive lineman, was the only pro football player killed in Vietnam. His story is one of thousands, but he's a universal symbol of the price men and women have paid for the United States.
The Bills drafted Kalsu, an All-American tackle at Oklahoma, in the eighth round of the 1968 draft. He started most of his rookie season at right guard and was named the club's top rookie before starting his ROTC obligation.
Kalsu's death was a Sports Illustrated cover story in July 2001. William Nack told the tale of Firebase Ripcord in remarkable detail.
Lieut. Kalsu was killed by mortar fire while trying to defend Ripcord, an isolated mountaintop, on July 21, 1970.
That was Jan Kalsu's due date for their second child. Robert Todd Kalsu was born two days later. That afternoon, a lieutenant arrived at the hospital to inform Jan Kalsu her husband was dead. She had the birth certificate changed before she left the hospital to James Robert Kalsu Jr.
I know Buffalo Bills fans are about sick of the subject, but here's one last thought -- for now -- about their team's decision to sell off a significant regular-season game in December against a division rival.
Alone with my thoughts on the dark drive back to Buffalo from Toronto, where the Miami Dolphins beat the Bills 16-3 in the Rogers Centre, I mulled the soothing pregame assurance from event organizers the crowd would be fully behind the Bills.
"This will be a Bills crowd," said Adrian Montgomery, general manager for Rogers Communications and the chief organizer of the Bills in Toronto series. "I suspect there will be a number of Miami Dolphins fans. I can't estimate how many, but the Bills will have 12 men on the field."
We now know that wasn't the case. The dome was a mausoleum when the Bills made a first down or came up with a big defensive stop. The Dolphins were cheered throughout the game.
Meanwhile, back in cold, empty Ralph Wilson Stadium was a reminder of what the Bills forfeited when they sold off eight games to Rogers Communications for $78 million.
There, on the Bills' Wall of Fame, is The 12th Man. He's honored with the same prominence as Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith and Billy Shaw and Jack Kemp and Bob Kalsu and the other greats.
In essence, the Bills asked The 12th Man to sit out Sunday's game.
I can't imagine Marv Levy (also on the Wall of Fame) approaching Kelly before a December game against the Dolphins and saying, "You know, Jim, we think you should sit this one out. We're going a different direction today."