Pregame Flyover: Real men of genius
Welcome back to the Pregame Flyover, your full-service NFL pit stop, where we preview the week's games and ruminate about the issues of the moment, including, "Did Randy Moss realize the timing of his trade could mean he'll be the only NFL star not to have a bye week this season?"
As always, we'll be previewing this week's games -- telling you which games are probably worth watching, which games are of questionable worth, which games are of doubtful worth, and which games are taking place in Arizona -- but first
Where are all the coaching geniuses?
Bill Belichick is often called a football genius by the mainstream media, thanks in no small part to winning three Super Bowls while dressed in a burlap bag -- the kind of eccentric sublimity associated with virtuosos like Einstein, Mozart and Oscar Wilde. But with the trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings, Belichick has set the stage to outdo himself. If the 3-1 Patriots can win a fourth Super Bowl this season -- after dumping perhaps the greatest downfield threat in NFL history -- then Belichick should respectfully be known as "a ridiculous football super-genius." Or, for those who still get their knickers in a twist about SpyGate, "a ridiculous football super-cheater."
Either way, he'll have risen to an ethereal plane where only angels and spy satellites roam.
Whether you love, hate or merely respect Belichick, you have to acknowledge what a rare breed he is. Here, after all, is a head football coach in the National Football League who is still called a genius and rarely with a hint of sarcasm. Sure, we've had plenty of so-called geniuses in the past, including Sid Gillman, Don Coryell, Bill Walsh, Brian Billick and Eric Mangini. But those men are either deceased, out of coaching or living in Cleveland -- so none of them can currently be called geniuses.
For now, Belichick stands alone. Let's look at some of the other head coaches in the league and weigh their cases for ascending to the level of genius.
Wade Phillips of the Cowboys
Evidence of his genius: With only one playoff win in three seasons in Dallas, Phillips has tempered expectations to such a degree that owner Jerry Jones recently said Phillips is in no danger of losing his job. Considering Phillips is the coach of America's Team (and they're currently 1-2 and in last place in the NFC East), that's some pretty brilliant maneuvering.
Evidence against his genius: The decision to call a screen pass to Tashard Choice as the first half was winding down in Week 1 against Washington, a play that resulted in a fumble and a defensive touchdown courtesy of DeAngelo Hall. As anyone at Football Outsiders will tell you, if you can make DeAngelo Hall look good, you ain't a genius.
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: The same as offensive tackle Alex Barron making the Pro Bowl.
Lovie Smith of the Bears
Evidence of his genius: He hired an offensive coordinator (Mike Martz) who's often been called a genius. Recognizing genius in others is often a sign of superior intelligence.
Evidence against his genius: His roster includes five players from Vanderbilt, a school that's won one bowl game since 1955.
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: The same as Vanderbilt winning the SEC East this century.
Josh McDaniels of the Broncos
Evidence of his genius: He's the second-youngest head coach in the National Football League, and everyone knows that geniuses are recognized early, e.g., Lane Kiffin and Raheem Morris.
Evidence against his genius: Took a chance and waited till the No. 25 pick to draft future Hall of Famer Tim Tebow, when a smarter man would have traded up to No. 1.
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: Pretty good, actually. He's obviously more intelligent than the people who made the 24 picks ahead of Tebow in the 2010 draft.
Pete Carroll of the Seahawks
Evidence of his genius: When the NCAA zeroed in on USC, where was Carroll? That's right -- elsewhere.
Evidence against his genius: On the inside jacket of his book "Win Forever," it says, "Years ago, I was asked, 'Pete, which is better, winning or competing?' And my response was instantaneous -- competing, because it lasts longer." As my colleague Mike Philbrick pointed out in the Page 2 Podcast, the book should therefore probably be called "Compete Forever" and not "Win Forever."
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: The same as Reggie Bush appearing at another Heisman Trophy Award ceremony.
Jeff Fisher of the Titans
Evidence of his genius: He has never won a Super Bowl, yet he's the longest-tenured coach in the league.
Evidence against his genius: The owner of the Titans, Bud Adams, is the type to give the finger to opposing fans, so Fisher has probably been able to keep his job for so long simply by utilizing basic Dale Carnegie tactics and addressing the 87-year-old Adams by his first name every time he sees him.
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: The same as Vince Young being hit by a car when he was a little kid and then going on to win the Rose Bowl and land on the cover of Madden. So it could happen, but they're long. But still better than the odds of Eric Mangini being the coach of the Browns in 2011.
Tony Sparano of the Dolphins
Evidence of his genius: He wears sunglasses at night. True, that's due to an eye ailment. But it also looks downright eccentric, and eccentricity is a mark of genius.
Evidence against his genius: Chief proponent of the Wildcat offense.
Odds of ever being labeled a genius: The same as Pat White playing in a Super Bowl.
Randy Moss is going to overwork himself
I was absolutely stunned that Moss, who was disgruntled about playing for the Patriots without a contract extension beyond this season, would create an atmosphere that would cause New England to trade him to the Vikings after Week 4. Was Moss unaware that Minnesota just came off its bye week? For a guy who's renowned for not liking to work too hard, he may have set himself up to be the only NFL star who won't get a bye this season. Maybe he can work it out with the Vikings so that he gets to take the same week off as the Patriots, i.e., this week when Minnesota plays the Jets on Monday night. Or maybe he'll just take a week off later in the season and not tell anyone. Either way, he needs to make sure he doesn't work more than anyone else in the NFL. He should probably contact his union rep.
Eagles fans are largely responsible for last week's loss to the Redskins
If the Eagles ever needed something quick and easy from their notoriously demanding fans it was a loud chorus of boos when former Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb was introduced before last week's game versus the Redskins. Instead Eagles fans tapped some deep, secret, surrounded-by-concrete peach pit of tender feelings and largely cheered when the public address announcer introduced the quarterback who led them to five NFC championship games and no Super Bowl wins. Epic fan fail. McNabb would have been crushed by the boos; he even might have dry-heaved on the field. Instead, he led the Redskins to a 17-12 victory. I tell ya, if it weren't for the proven brilliance of Michael Vick (who's obviously the answer at quarterback and so deserving of fans' unfettered love), you'd almost question if the Eagles and their fans know if they're on foot or on horseback.
Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out
Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we put out a viewing report on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.
"Probable" Games of the Week(75 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Kansas City at Indianapolis; Green Bay at Washington; Denver at Baltimore; Tennessee at Dallas; Minnesota at New York Jets.
SPOTLIGHT PROBABLE: Minnesota at New York Jets.
If Brett Favre and Randy Moss are evidence of anything, it's: The sanity and effectiveness of being self-serving in a league in which most contracts are not guaranteed.
Some Packers fans will be watching this game and rooting for: Moss to go deep, because they drafted him in fantasy leagues when he played for the Patriots and not for that title-starved team from Minneapolis.
Some Patriots fans will be watching this game and rooting for: Someone to explain how trading Moss for a third-round pick in next year's draft helps the team win this year.
Every AFC fan will be watching this game and rooting for: The Vikings to shut up the Jets and their enthusiastic fans.
"Questionable" Games of the Week (50 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Jacksonville at Buffalo; Philadelphia at San Francisco; New York Giants at Houston.
SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONABLE: Jacksonville at Buffalo.
Hopefully Bills fans won't make the same mistake as Eagles fans: And cheer for former Bills hero Trent Edwards, who's now the backup quarterback for Jacksonville.
If Buffalo wants to get its first win of the season, it should probably: Do the complete opposite of everything it did while Edwards was quarterback.
If Jacksonville wants to win its second game in a row, it should probably: Ignore Edwards when he shouts, "Oh, I know this play, I know what's gonna happen here!"
What to ask of Bills fans who are attending the game: That they wear their Marshawn Lynch jerseys. Look, Lynch has gone on to a better place (Seattle), so don't be bitter; be happy for him.
What to ask of Jacksonville fans who are attending the game: An explanation for why they can travel all the way to upstate New York to see their team, while other Jags fans can't even roll out of bed and go to the home games in Florida.
"Doubtful" Games of the Week (25 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Chicago at Carolina; Tampa Bay at Cincinnati; Atlanta at Cleveland; St. Louis at Detroit; San Diego at Oakland.
SPOTLIGHT DOUBTFUL:: Atlanta at Cleveland.
A number to buoy the spirits of Browns fans: Twelve. Cleveland's three losses are by a combined 12 points.
A number to crush the spirits of Browns fans: Two. Jake Delhomme is expected to make his second start of the season.
With the Browns' win over the Bengals last week, Cleveland can now claim to be: The second-best football team in the Buckeye State (after Ohio State, of course).
If the Browns beat the Falcons, it'll probably be because: Josh Cribbs (passer rating of 104.2) throws more passes than Delhomme.
If the Falcons beat the Browns, it'll probably be because: They won the coin flip in overtime and elected to receive the ball.
"Out" Game of the Week (100 percent chance this game will be watched by someone, but hopefully not by you:) New Orleans at Arizona.
SPOTLIGHT OUT::New Orleans at Arizona.
It's a rematch: Of last year's playoff game, when the Saints beat Kurt Warner so badly he put on his dancing shoes and retired.
The Cardinals are in first place in their division, but the Saints are not? That's right.
OK, but what's that minus-60 next to the Cardinals' name in the standings? That's just their net points on the season; nothing to see there.
Some background on Arizona quarterback Max Hall: Hall, a rookie from BYU, is making his first NFL start. Last year, following a close win against rival Utah, Hall told the media, "I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything."
What we can expect from Hall? If Arizona wins, he'll probably say, "I don't like the Saints. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate Drew Brees' birthmark, I hate their fans, I hate Mardi Gras, I hate everything."