AFC North: Ron Jaworski
When ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski watched the second half of the Super Bowl, he saw a San Francisco 49ers offense attack an "old and slow" Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But, by upgrading the team's biggest weakness this offseason, Jaworski still believes the Baltimore Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC.
"Look at the offseason and the acquisitions they made," Jaworski said. "They get a Michael Huff, they get a Matt Elam, they get a Chris Canty and they get Elvis Dumervil. They've made changes to upgrade that defense. That alone still shows me they're the best team in the AFC."
That led to this response from Skip Bayless: "Ron Jaworski, you know how much I love you. But lord have mercy do I disagree with you on this one."
Click on the video right here to hear the rest of this debate
“I believe Weeden to be a rock-solid NFL starter in Norv Turner’s offense," Jaworski said. "It will feature a heavy emphasis on play-action and intermediate and downfield throws -- that’s Weeden’s strength."
This is the right spot for Weeden. He comes in ahead of Christian Ponder (No. 27), Mark Sanchez (No. 28), Chad Henne (No. 29), Kevin Kolb (No. 30), Jake Locker (No. 31) and Matt Flynn (No. 32).
Many forget that Weeden threw for 3,385 yards last season, which was more than rookies Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson. He did, however, rank near the bottom of the league in completion rate (57.4 percent) and near the top in interceptions (17).
Weeden will have a better chance to succeed because his strong arm should be better utilized in a vertical passing attack compared to Pat Shurmur's West Coast offense.
"I evaluated all of Weeden’s throws in his rookie season, and I came away impressed," Jaworski said. “For a rookie, Weeden showed uncommon poise and calm in the pocket. His mechanics were consistently solid. He showed the necessary ability to sit on his back foot and drive the ball with velocity. Did he struggle at times with clarity, seeing the field? Absolutely. Did he make some poor reads and bad throws in critical red zone situations? No doubt. But that’s what you expect from a rookie quarterback."
The Browns brought in Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer this offseason, but Weeden remained the favorite to be the Browns' starting quarterback when mandatory minicamp ended last month. The question is whether Weeden will be the Browns' starting quarterback in 2014 and beyond.
“Overall, I was impressed with Weeden’s rookie season," Jaworski said. "He will be the Browns' starting quarterback in 2013. There’s no question in my mind that his throwing skill-set and Turner’s quarterback-friendly system will mesh effectively.”
"[C]learly I think Joe Flacco is a top-10 quarterback," Jaworski said in a conference call with reporters. "For some reason, just doesn't seem to get the recognition that I believe he richly deserved."
Flacco is a top-10 quarterback -- perhaps even a top-five one -- when playing at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. His 85.1 QBR at home leads all qualifying quarterbacks.
The problem is how Flacco struggles on the road. His 25.0 QBR is the third-worst in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Asked about the disparity, Jaworski acknowledged he didn't have a great explanation for it.
"Here's what I like about what they do, and maybe this is maybe the difference between being great at home and not so great on the road," he said. "They're a deep-ball passing team. They want to throw it down the field. In fact, I got done doing a breakdown which shows passes of 20 yards or more, and he's 25 of 61, 767 yards and seven touchdowns. Now the completion percentage is only 41 percent. But remember you're throwing the ball more than 20 yards down the field, and it's produced seven touchdowns. Because they're such hit-or-miss plays, maybe they've tried more of these on the road than they have at home. That's about the only thing that would pop into my mind right now."'
Jaworski also addressed another quarterback in the AFC North, the Browns' Brandon Weeden.
“With a young quarterback, it’s all about becoming more consistent, and I’m seeing as the season progresses, he has gotten better,” Jaworski said. “So I think Weeden does have a future in Cleveland.”
Jaworski's opinion of Weeden has changed since the preseason when he thought the Browns were rushing Weeden.
"I did not think he was ready to become a starting quarterback in the NFL," Jaworski said. "Now he has gotten better every week. He still needs to improve, but I think he will improve.”
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
|AP Photo/Tony Dejak|
|Bernie Kosar hopes to bring a championship to Cleveland.|
But 20 and 21 years after "The Fumble" and "The Drive," respectively, Kosar is back in the conference championship game once again -- this time as president of the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.
Cleveland will face the Philadelphia Soul Saturday, July 12, for a chance to play in the Arena Bowl.
Many football people believe conference title games can be just as difficult -- and sometimes more difficult -- to win than championship games. Kosar agreed with that assessment based on personal experience.
"Most people think that if you don't win it all, it's not a success," Kosar said Wednesday via conference call. "But basically you're playing the cream of the crop, the best-type teams [in conference championships]. It's not an accident that I believe us and Philadelphia are still playing. And when you're playing at the highest level, somebody has to lose."
Kosar aims to not come up on the short end in the conference championship again this weekend.
The matchup pits two championship-deprived cities. Philadelphia hasn't won a pro sports title since the 76ers were NBA champions in 1983. Cleveland hasn't won a pro championship since the Browns did it in 1964, before the merger.
Although Elway owns an arena team, he is not standing in Kosar's way this weekend. But former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski is.
Jaworski is president of the Soul and, like Kosar, also is trying to bring another title to the city he once played in.
"We really have two cities that are starving for a championship," Jaworski said. "I can speak for Philly, and I know the Cleveland organization feels the same way. We're very proud to represent our cities."