Special to Page 2
Whitlock,Thanks for taking my call before the fourth quarter. The adjustments you suggested were just what we needed. Eli says hi. Coughlin
Here are my 10 NFL Truths for Week 3: 10. Jim Mora's implementation of the college spread-option attack with quarterback Michael Vick is just the kind of creativity that will work in the short term but shorten Vick's career. There's a reason NFL running backs have a shelf life of three years. You can't survive the hits. If Vick continues to run 10 times a game, eventually some linebacker is going to catch him napping and put the mobile QB on the sideline for two or three games. The spread option can work in the NFL. With Vick and Warrick Dunn, the Falcons have the best ground game in football -- even better than West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton. But it can work only if an NFL team commits to the attack and employs three quarterbacks with the necessary athleticism to run it. A wise franchise would pay three athletic QBs between $1 million and $2 million a year to run the attack, save money on a "franchise quarterback" and use the savings on its offensive and defensive lines. Colleges produce plenty of QBs capable of mastering the spread option. The key would be not overpaying the quarterbacks because their careers will be short. Seriously, when Vick eventually gets smoked by Ray Lewis or some other headhunter, the Falcons are going to regret giving him a $100 million contract. 9. Bill Simmons' hilarious ramblings about Art Shell made me look up what I wrote about Shell when he was fired by the Raiders more than a decade ago. I wasn't kind. Shell was the NFL's first modern-day black head coach, so I figured I must have offered some opinion. Here are some of the highlights from a column that was published on Feb. 4, 1995:
Shell's firing had to do with yellow flags -- an NFL record 156 were thrown at Shell's Raiders this season -- not his black skin. The Raiders traditionally have been an undisciplined bunch, but this season their stupidity reached new heights. And that reflects directly on the head coach.8. Of the top five contenders -- Chargers, Falcons, Jaguars, Bears and Ravens -- the Jaguars have the best defense two weeks into the season. 1. Jaguars: Marcus Stroud and John Henderson make the Jags impossible to run on, and Jacksonville's secondary doesn't get the respect it deserves. 2. Ravens: Two big-time playmakers on all three levels -- line, linebackers and secondary. 3. Chargers: Tremendous front seven, but I'm not sold on the secondary. 4. Bears: If they played in the AFC, I'd give them more respect. Probably should be higher. 5. Falcons: John Abraham is a great addition, but Atlanta's D is protected by its offensive ground attack. 7. Besides the New Orleans Saints, which 2-0 squad is the league's biggest fraud? The New England Patriots, of course. One-possession victories over the Bills and the Jets do little to instill confidence. The Pats are headed to 2-2. They'll lose to a mediocre Denver squad this weekend and then they'll get spanked by Cincinnati and Bill Belichick will begin to miss all of the veterans he has let go. 6. Byron Leftwich's ability to make quicker decisions against the blitz is what made him a far better quarterback on Monday night than Ben Roethlisberger. Leftwich didn't throw a TD pass, but he had his finest day as a pro against Pittsburgh's zone blitz scheme. As I told you last week, I'm a huge Leftwich fan and feel he's underappreciated in J-ville. He's knocked because he's cursed with being an "unathletic" black QB. Leftwich improvises with his mind. He makes up for his slingshot delivery by throwing the ball to the right place before the defense has a chance to react. He's tough and more than willing to stand in the pocket and take his medicine. Roethlisberger, because of poor health, shied away from contact on Monday. Jacksonville's blitzes disrupted his delivery and rhythm. Roethlisberger was a step slow reading Jacksonville's defense. Monday's contest was an exciting NFL chess match. Bill Cowher and Jack Del Rio, mirror-image coaches, stared each other down and neither blinked. Leftwich and Roethlisberger, MAC legends, squared off and Leftwich outsmarted his peer. 5. Playing the obviously ill Roethlisberger wasn't the only mistake Cowher made Monday night. Troy Polamalu had no business being on the field, either. Polamalu has a bum arm and was completely ineffective. He couldn't come close to matching the physicality of Jacksonville's secondary. I guess Cowher figured Polamalu's jersey number and wild hair would intimidate the Jags. Didn't happen. You can't send a one-armed man into the kind of fistfight the Jags and Steelers staged. I love Roethlisberger, but ego and insecurity forced him onto the field. He didn't want Charlie Batch leading the Steelers to an important victory on "Monday Night Football." 4. Minnesota's Brad Childress is the early runaway leader for rookie coach of the year, easily outdistancing New Orleans' Sean Payton. Childress outsmarts Joe Gibbs and John Fox in his first two games! Wow. You couldn't get off to a better start than the one Childress is orchestrating in Minnesota. The Vikes have recorded two straight three-point victories. Childress sent the Carolina game into overtime with a fake field goal for touchdown. I'm surprised the Saints are 2-0, but beating up the Browns (Romeo Crennel) and the Packers (Mike McCarthy) just doesn't carry the weight of snookering a Hall of Famer and a coach with a Super Bowl appearance on his résumé. 3. Turning Rich Gannon into a league MVP and winning a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson are the reasons Jon Gruden is struggling in Tampa Bay this season. Gruden, I'm sure, thinks he can turn Star Jones Reynolds into a competent starter, and he might have better luck with Star than Chris Simms (6 interceptions and 0 TDs). Simms as franchise quarterback is just a bad idea. Gruden works best with veteran quarterbacks with limited skill who rely on Gruden's game plans and instincts. Simms is too young, has too much arm and too much of a pedigree to work well with Gruden. When the Redskins get tired of Mark Brunell, Gruden will be waiting lustily with a playbook in hand. 2. The pity party that is being thrown for Pac-10 replay official Gordon Reise won't be attended by any of the non-Pac-10 coaches who remember getting screwed by Reise when he worked as a game official. A current college head coach called me Tuesday morning just to share stories about his experiences with Reise. "I feel terrible for Bob Stoops, but he's not the first to be done in by Gordon Reise," the coach said. I'm proud to say I voted Oklahoma No. 14 and Oregon No. 17 in my last AP vote. I hope the rest of my colleagues do some homework this week and I find out which team really won that game last Saturday. 1. Losing Jevon Kearse is much worse for the psyche of the Eagles than blowing a 17-point lead to the Giants. Kearse was off to a spectacular start (3.5 sacks) and gave the Eagles a chance to field a dominant defense again. For the Eagles to make the playoffs now, McNabb will have to put together an MVP-type season.
Shell's firing can be attributed to his losing his composure midway through the season when his quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, second-guessed one of his decisions. Quarterbacks second-guess coaches. Good head coaches don't needlessly interject race into arguments with their quarterbacks.
Shell's firing can be traced to the Raiders' 9-7 record and their playoff absence in the laughably inept American Football Conference. Shell managed this feat despite having arguably the most talent in the AFC.
Shell's firing is a product of important players, such as All-Pro receiver Tim Brown, a black man, losing confidence in his game plans.
Shell's firing is a result of the Raiders' inconsistency on both offense and defense. The Raiders often surrendered games in the fourth quarter because their defense folded or their offense self-destructed.
Shell's firing can be linked to his end-of-the-first-half decision to throw one more pass instead of kicking a field goal against the Chiefs in the last game of the regular season. The pass was picked off, returned for a touchdown and was the key play in bouncing the Raiders from the playoffs.
Art Shell was fired because this season the Raiders took a giant step backward.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sound off to Page 2 here.