Tarvaris, it’s time to check your ego at the door

Ego is one of the biggest shortcomings of mankind. It’s hard to put our ego aside, especially when you are standing in the spotlight, like Brett Favre is. But the same holds true for an unproven quarterback such as Tarvaris Jackson.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Lord Favre will make his triumphant return as a Viking. It’s worth noting that the Vikings pursued Favre, who was perfectly content driving his tractor on his farm.

I think it would be a huge mistake for Jackson to seek a trade, as has been rumored, if Favre joins the Vikings. Favre is a short-term solution, whether it be one or two seasons. Like the late Steve McNair, Jackson was raw coming out of Alabama State and is still a work in progress. McNair succeeded because he had an opportunity to sit and watch until he was ready to play. Jackson is making progress, but his development isn’t on par with the Super Bowl readiness of this team.

So Jackson reportedly will ask for a trade, but where would he go? Let’s be realistic. No one will trade for Jackson with the intent that he will be a viable 2009 starter.  Consequently, he would be a backup and starting at the bottom of the totem pole as most teams have their No. 1 and, in most cases, No. 2 quarterbacks positioned for the season.

Ego is a powerful thing, but reality has to set in at some point. I don’t see a market for Jackson based on his limited body of work. I just hope someone gets to him and brings him back to his senses.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Belichick’s fascination with ‘Wildcat’ could help Vick

Bill Belichick’s pride took a big hit last season when the Dolphins shredded the vaunted Patriots defense with the “Wildcat” offense. So, Belichick, the consummate student, has spent extensive time communicating with University of Florida coach Urban Meyer about the spread offense. Belichick also has worked with former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, who’s also enthralled with the scheme that Meyer’s Gators run so well.

On the surface, it appears Belichick is just making sure he isn’t caught off guard because it appears the “Wildcat” is here to stay for at least the next few seasons. However, my sources tell me that Belichick is looking at the system to help protect Tom Brady. Putting “Tom Terrific” in the shotgun would reduce the wear and tear on the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s surgically repaired left knee.

The $64,000 question is, will Belichick go all the way? In other words, will he add an athletic quarterback who can execute the “Wildcat” version of the spread offense?

With Michael Vick’s impending return to the NFL, New England would be an interesting re-launching point for his career. Vick will not be ready to step in and start for any team after being idle for two years. However, he would be tremendously dangerous in limited duty. He has the athletic ability to run the ball and the arm to overthrow WR Randy Moss.

And before you create some kind of team chemistry story, Vick was never a problem in the Falcons’ locker room. He just made an incredibly stupid mistake off the field — a mistake that has cost him millions of dollars in salary and endorsements. The $128,000 question is, would Patriots owner Robert Kraft go along with adding Vick, given the consumer-based products his companies sell to the masses?

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Players, media have trust issues with McDaniels

Jay Cutler isn’t the only player who has developed trust issues with first-year Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. A few other players have privately expressed concern, and the media has joined the chorus in feeling that McDaniels has a problem with honesty.

Cutler, who’s now a Chicago Bear, said his rationale for wanting a trade out of Denver was because McDaniels refused to be honest with him about his role in pursuing Matt Cassel. According to Cutler, McDaniels continued to deny his role even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence that he had tried to trade for Cassel, his pupil in New England.

But this trust issue goes beyond players and extends to the Denver media. In June, Broncos WR Brandon Marshall met with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to discuss his future. In that meeting, according to Marshall, Bowlen said he wouldn’t stand in the way of the receiver being traded to another team.

Later that afternoon, reporters questioned McDaniels about whether he had met with Marshall. According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, McDaniels said, “We met after Pat’s meeting with Brandon, and we are going to continue our dialogue with Brandon and his representatives.”

Within subsequent days, KDVR-TV in Denver received a tip that McDaniels wasn’t being forthright and challenged him on his statement. Presented with the report, McDaniels admitted that he DID NOT meet with Marshall.

Some would say this is no big deal, but trust is the cornerstone of this society. We need to be able to trust our government. Trust is essential to marriage and relationships. We need to be able to trust our children. We need to be able to trust our friends.

As a former NFL player, I can tell you that trust is the foundation between the player and the coach. When players trust their coach, they play at another level. Unfortunately, truthfulness seems to be a character trait that Bill Belichick didn’t pass down to young McDaniels.

Williamses should serve their drug suspensions

For the greater good, it’s time for Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to end their bid to avoid four-game suspensions from the NFL.

For the record, I feel the Vikings’ defensive tackles were wronged because there was miscommunication between the NFL’s drug czar and the player hotline. According to the affidavit filed by the players, they went through the proper procedure of bringing the StarCaps supplement to the trainers. The trainers in turn called the hotline to gauge the status of the supplement. According to court documents, the NFL drug czar knew the contents of the StarCaps supplement had banned substances in it but didn’t completely notify the hotline.

As in many aspects of the legal system, the Williamses’ attorneys have found a loophole in Minnesota law that threatens the fabric of the NFL’s drug-testing program. This is where I draw the line. It is imperative that the NFL — and all sports for that matter — have a viable drug-testing program.

I’ll say it again. I believe the Williamses have been wronged in this case, but for the greater good, I hope they drop their appeal.

Stop the madness: Romo has only one flaw

I’ve had enough of the Tony Romo amateur hour when it comes to explaining why his performance drops off in December and January. If you believe the reports, these flawed assumptions, are coming not only from the media, but also from within the Cowboys organization.

I thought it best to shoot down a few of the bogus arguments.

  • Romo is not in shape: According to a report, offensive coordiantor Jason Garrett called Romo into his office to explain that the organization felt conditioning was the reason for his late-season swoons. This assumption is flawed. It doesn’t explain situations like the Ravens game last season or the playoff game against Giants in 2008. Romo’s performance was poor from the outset of the game. Conditioning can only be a factor as the games wear on.
  • Romo is not focused: Tony is a bright QB who knows the offense. Just because he is a good athlete and a skilled golfer doesn’t mean he is not focused (notice I drew a distinction between being an athlete and playing golf, because golf is a skill, not a sport). There is nothing tangible that suggests Romo is not focused at the end of the season. It’s just sports talk radio psychobabble.
  • Jessica is the problem: Well, Romo may have two flaws. Just kidding. Jessica Simpson, whether she’s in the picture or not, is no more a distraction than a player dealing with a wife and kids. She may be a combination of both, but at best, the pressures to live with her aren’t much different.

Bottom line, Romo is a legit QB in this league. But before we go any further, there is a distinction worth noting. Those who say Romo can’t win the big game are wrong. Beating the Giants, Eagles and Packers (2007) is testament to refute that argument.

Here’s the simple truth: Presently, Romo is a choke artist. When the stakes get the highest, he crumbles under the pressure. This is the pressure that Troy Aikman, Joe Montana and Roger Staubach thrived under. I know this doesn’t sound flattering, but it’s not a death sentence, either.

Students of the game recognize this is not a new phenomenon because we have seen it before. Peyton Manning was arguably on this list early in his career, but he came out just fine. I believe greatness is in Romo but he has to shake off the yips when it counts.

— Jamie Dukes

The 3-4 defense isn’t as easy as it looks

The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” is true, especially in sports.

In the NBA, after coach Phil Jackson won his sixth league title with the Bulls, everyone wanted to try to run his triangle offense. But that experiment didn’t last long because players had to be able to execute it.

In the NFL, the bar has been set with the recent success of the Cowboys, Patriots, Ravens, Chargers and Steelers’ 3-4 defenses, and now it has become vogue to run the scheme. As many as 15 teams are either making the switch or infusing elements of the 3-4 defense.

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but can transitioning teams walk the walk? Here are five key ingredients that will make or break the transition to the 3-4:

1. Football IQ: The 3-4 requires players to have a reasonable football IQ, and it can’t be mastered overnight, even if the defensive coordinator knows the scheme like the back of his hand. The Tampa 2 was the last trendy defense to take the NFL by storm, but for all its wonderment, the byproduct was turning players into robots.

2. Elephant: This is the NFL’s equivalent of a hybrid. He is part defensive end, part linebacker, and is athletic enough to have limited coverage skills and physical enough to dominate an offensive tackle. DeMarcus Ware, Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, Shawne Merriman and LaMarr Woodley are examples.

3. Sidekick: This is another outside linebacker (like Greg Ellis, Mike Vrabel, Shaun Phillips and James Harrison) who has coverage skills but also can dominate a running back and occasionally beat an offensive tackle.

4. Power pig: A 3-4 defense must have a nose guard who commands a double team on run plays. He has to be the master between the guards.

5. The 5 Techniques: You need two defensive ends who can control the line of scrimmage. They need to be able to beat one-on-one matchups on pass plays but must be dominant in stopping the run.

Does your team have what it takes to make the transition? What pieces is your team missing?

Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @jamiedukes.

— Jamie Dukes

Ties that bind Michael Jackson to the NFL

Millions around the world are mourning the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. And no matter what you think of Jackson in his later years, there can be no questioning the social impact he had on America. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, America was at a pivotal crossroad as racial divisions were not only pervasive in the South, but across this great country.

It is a natural phenomena for us to fear what we don’t understand. In this case we’re talking about a divide between African-Americans and Caucasians. The only way any society can get over these concerns is to develop familiarity. Because of the immense talents of Jackson, America and the world got an opportunity to familiarize themselves with a culture they did not understand.

From his appearances on American Bandstand with Dick Clark to the Thriller video which broke the racial logjam at MTV, America became comfortable with black faces. In like manner, the NFL has some patriarchs who have been laid to rest that also played a pivotal role in the diversity of this great nation.

In concert with those events at that time, the NFL was going through a racial metamorphosis under the guidance of Pete Rozelle and Gene Upshaw. These brilliant men forged their version of a contract with America to show that it did not matter whether a person was black, white, purple or green, we are all just Americans.

What say you?

— Jamie Dukes

Life lessons about marriage and pro sports

It’s not often that we go into our private closet to discuss issues and conversations one might have with our closest friends. But the tragic death of Steve McNair has brought to mind to a conversation I had with my 20-year-plus friend, Deion Sanders. We are both married, and one day, we were discussing the incredibly high divorce rate among celebrities and athletes. (FYI, the catalyst for the conversation was Michael Jordan coughing up $150 million in his divorce settlement.)

I told Deion that I had an epiphany on this issue and upon reflection since that conversation, I realized it not only pertains to celebs and athletes — it pertains to all men. Now I realize each relationship has its unique dynamics, but I do believe there is some merit in the argument. I also recognize I’ll be stripped of my Man Card after posting this blog.

Anyway, it is my belief a marriage will be successful if the “man” in the relationship dies. I understand this is a poor choice of words given the tragic circumstances surrounding Steve’s death, but I am talking about the “inner man”. It’s my opinion the desires and wishes of the man have to become secondary to the family needs.

When you marry, hanging with the fellas should be way down on the list. A weaning process has to take place whereby you begin gravitating away from spending time with your buddies and focusing on building a better relationship at home. If we are honest with ourselves, in most cases, you really don’t know your wife when you first get married. Yes, you have things in common. You like spending time with each other. But it takes years to know someone.

Fortune and fame make it particularly tough because fortune and fame bring great temptation. One of Deion’s great lines is “Fortune or fame make you more of what you are.” Translated, the bar of morality gets lowered because with fortune and fame comes power and influence. I know this is a little deep but think about the folks you see in the news.

This is why so many marriages end up in divorce. Getting back to my premise, the “man” on the inside has to die. That man has to be kept in check. It has to stay grounded in reality. That man has to be aware of corrupting influences, which includes frenemies. At some point, that man has to realize hanging out with his buddies at a strip joint is not conducive to a positive situation at home.

Let me state that it’s not my goal to preach, but given recent events, I thought you might enjoy being a fly on the wall of a conversation I had with a friend.

What say you?

— Jamie Dukes

McNair was more than a gladiator

Former Titans QB Steve McNair was one of the best quarterbacks to come from a line of small schools. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)

Former Titans QB Steve McNair was one of the best quarterbacks to come from a small college. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)

The NFL has lost a true gladiator with the tragic shooting death of Steve McNair. As I reflect on McNair’s career, I think of the inspiration he represents to players across the league, but particularly, players from small schools.

McNair took the mantle from Doug Williams, who was a legendary Grambling University quarterback. McNair was the next generation of SWAC quarterbacks to enter the NFL from Alcorn State University. McNair added mobility to go with that Howitzer on his shoulder.

Despite being the third overall pick in the draft, he was not ready mentally to handle the rigors of the NFL. Titans coach Jeff Fisher did a wonderful job of creating an environment for McNair not to feel pressured to have to contribute immediately. As McNair began to emerge as a top-flight QB, no one would have imagined that it would be his toughness that would be his mantra.

The under-reported aspect of his impact was his role as a mentor. Before Vince Young stepped on the main stage, it was McNair who took VY under his wing to fill the void of a father. It’s a truly sad day.

Jamie Dukes

NFL players are people, too!

Unfortunately, viewers of NFL Network and readers of NFL.com don’t have the opportunity to sit in on our Total Access production meetings. The production meeting is where we go over the conversations for that day’s show. In many cases, we never get to fully flush out a topic because of time constraints on the show. Today was such a case.

We were discussing the NFL Rookie Symposium. We kicked the conversation around for 20 minutes, and there was a reoccurring theme that kept coming up. The theme was the idea that there is an expectation among the populous that NFL players are supposed to be perfect because they were given the right to play football. THAT NOTION IS LUDICROUS!

Professional athletes, or entertainers for that matter, are people. It is not only unreasonable, but also unfair, to think that twenty-something kids who become millionaires, effectively overnight, will be any different than the guy next door. Deion Sanders has a great adage that says, “Fortune or fame make you more of what you are.”

That’s genius.

I’ve heard this bogus argument dating back to my days on sports-talk radio and even this week on Twitter. The notion that suggests “if I were given that chance, I would do …” It’s easy to say what you would or would not do when you’re not in a particular situation. There is a passage in the Bible where Jesus asks, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Have you ever got behind the wheel after having too many drinks? Have you ever had a one-night stand? Have you hung out late with your buddies to the dismay of your wife?

Everyone should be held to the same standards. Players are just plain old people who happen to have extraordinary talent, like many others do in other endeavors. To think they are somehow not going to be subject to the same human temptations as you is foolish. Talent doesn’t make you immune to being human.

We also have to keep some perspective about this issue. There are approximately 1,600 players in the league. At best, we are talking about 25 players per year that get into significant trouble. That is a far cry from the national average.

What say you (hypocrites need not respond)?

— Jamie Dukes

Let your haters be your motivators

Nothing can propel us to success like haters. Haters is an African-American colloquialism for jealous or doubting people coined by a former Atlanta radio personality. I used this motivation going back to the good ol’ days at FSU, where despite being named to All-American teams every year, I went undrafted. Haters fueled my 10-year career.

Even post-football, I have utilized haters to fuel my work in the media. Here’s a little trade secret the TV execs don’t like to share: Getting an opportunity to be on the national stage generally requires winning Super Bowls. The guys who win championships get the first crack at the top jobs. Some would say that’s not fair, but it doesn’t bother me a bit because no matter what you do in life, the cream will rise to the top.

Here’s a list of folks that should be motivated by my haterade this season:

  • Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons. (My personal desire for the Birds to succeed notwithstanding.) I don’t think the players fully understand how they are now the hunted.
The Falcons will look to QB Matt Ryan to help guide them to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. ( Jeff Gross /Getty Images)

The Falcons will look to QB Matt Ryan to help guide them to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. ( Jeff Gross /Getty Images)

  • Cleveland Browns: The Lerner family has given the keys to the Bentley to the Mangenius. The only move I agree with thus far is making peace with Shaun Rogers. Virtually every other decision, including getting rid of K-2 (Kellen Winslow), I question.
  • Denver Broncos: I have stated that I have no idea what they are doing in Denver, and they can use me and MOST other analysts as motivation.
  • Dallas Cowboys: According to Jerry Jones, getting rid of the T.O. flu will cure the ills:

    >> Tony Romo‘s choking in December and January.
    >> Roy Williams‘ inconsistency and laziness.
    >> Jason Garrett‘s predictability.
    >> Stephen Jones‘ confidence and industry credibility (FYI, it’s been reported by several credible sources I trust that it was Stephen’s idea to get rid of Owens).

  • Kansas City Chiefs: I’m not sold on the idea that Matt Cassel is a franchise QB. Ironically, the Chiefs are not sold either because they have not signed him to a long-term contract. I also question the genius of Scott Pioli as a GM. I think he can evaluate talent, but to select Tyson Jackson eight slots before he should have been drafted is problematic. Let me connect the dots: Cassel is on a $14.65 million audition. Jackson will cost another $16 million-plus in guaranteed money over what he would have received if Pioli would have traded back or passed, for that matter.

What team or player is your haterade fueling and why?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Vick, Plax, Pacman and you have frenemies

We keep asking the question: “Why do athletes make mistakes when they have so much going for them?”

What you fail to remember is that athletes — or entertainers, for that matter — are people. They didn’t land here from Mars with superhuman talent. They are just plain old us.

The answer to the behavioral issues is very simple: Frenemies. Some of you closet Sex In The City fans also have heard this phrase, but you’re too macho to fess up.

The truth of the matter is we all have frenemies constantly working against us. Frenemies: Friends who are the enemy!

I’ve reduced frenemies to three categories, and if you take an honest, close look at the failures in your life, I guarantee you that at least one, if not all three of the frenemies, were at play.

Frenemy No. 1: Family. Whether intentional or unintentional, family can be a contributing factor in our failures. In some cases, they can enable dysfunctional behavior by not providing the tough love that is needed.

Tough love is an honest, love-based assessment, generally with no preconditions. Tough love, in many cases, can only be rendered by a family member because they have a vested interest in our success.

On the other hand, family members can serve as vampires, only seeking to suck the life right out of us. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent when someone comes into fortune or fame.

Frenemy No. 2: Friends or co-workers. The best way to characterize them is as fair-weather friends. As long as things are going right and the frenemy is getting what he or she wants, it’s all good.

Here’s the tricky part of Frenemy No. 2 — they will be there in times of need to provide counsel, but they will never provide advice that’s contrary to their interest. And that leads to …

Frenemy No. 3: This is the friend who is the enemy on the inside of each of us. This is the most dangerous of the three. This is the voice within us that wants what it wants and doesn’t care about the consequences.

The reason Frenemy No. 3 is so dangerous is because it’s the same voice that has encouraged us all when others didn’t believe in us. It’s a familiar voice.

On a side note, I would add that some of you have seven or eight voices floating around and you need Dr. Phil.

Michael Vick (left), Adam Jones (center) and Plaxico Burress have made news for the wrong reasons. (Associated Press)

Michael Vick (left), Adam Jones (center) and Plaxico Burress have made news for the wrong reasons. (Associated Press)

So today, my friends, I just want to warn you — and, more importantly, you need to warn your kids — to beware of the frenemies.

Now before you dismiss this, let’s take a quick look at well-documented cases of frenemies at work:

  • Former Falcons QB Michael Vick, who has lost millions in salary and endorsements over a dogfighting ring. Let’s check his frenemies: Family, friends and his own poor judgment. Frenemy No. 3 was the cat on the inside who told Vick that dogfighting wasn’t a big deal and that if he got caught, he would receive probation like 99.99 percent of others who were involved in something similar.
  • Pacman “I can’t stay out of trouble” Jones.
  • And then there’s Plaxico “I shot myself in the leg” Burress.

And this concept applies to everyone from entertainers such as Britney Spears to politicians such as Mark Sanford.

Now as a survivor myself, I want to be clear. I’m not here attempting to judge anyone. Many of the aforementioned aren’t bad people, they’re just vexed with frenemies.

— Jamie Dukes

Tweeting Vick

I’m glad you enjoy the players-only sessions we have on NFL Network. I enjoy being a part of them. Warren, Deion, Marshall and “Mooch” offer great insight, and I’m just there (LOL). This week’s installment asked this question: “If you had to start a franchise, who would you choose?” Deion chose Mike Tomlin, Warren chose Mario Williams, Marshall chose Shawne Merriman and I chose Michael Vick.

That selection set the Tweet Nation ablaze. There were so many tweets that I couldn’t respond to everyone. Unfortunately, some of the conversations during the show got edited due to time constraints. So I feel it necessary to give you the entire argument.

On a side note, notice that none of the panel mentioned Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, who we all hold in high esteem. That should tell you something in and of itself.

To my detriment, I am a thinker. There are many who don’t like what I say because they get held up with the emotional attachment to their team or some sense of right and wrong.

I just call it like it is.

In getting back to the question of who I would choose to start a team, my first inclination is this: Who can I select that can be the most impactful? I have to eliminate Manning from that discussion because, rightfully so, the Colts have surrounded him with eight first-round draft choices at the skill positions (Faulk, Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark). We saw holes in Peyton’s game when players went down a few seasons ago. Did I mention that Tony Dungy guy, who covered up holes with great schemes?

Brady did not have premiere talent at wide receiver prior to Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but he is in a program with arguably the greatest coach in the modern era of the NFL. Spygate or no Spygate, you tell me a team that has lost Pro Bowl players to free agency or injury, offensive coordinators (plural), defensive coordinators (plural), a pro personnel director (Thomas Dimitroff) and a GM (Scott Pioli) over the last several years, as well as Brady last season, and still won 11 games.

Once again, I call it like it is. Bill Belichick is a genius, Spygate or no Spygate.

But back to the question. I didn’t like the question, first of all, because it was a typical, middle-of-May, CHEESY sports talk-radio question, when there’s nothing else going on. That said, I chose the guy who has proven to have the biggest impact despite being surrounded with the least amount of talent.

My choice has nothing to do with dog fighting. (AND FOR THE 1,000TH TIME, THE KID WAS WRONG AND HE HAS SERVED HIS TIME, EVEN THOUGH THE THUGS WHO WERE DOING THE REAL NASTY STUFF TO THE DOGS WALKED. THAT’S A BLOG FOR ANOTHER DAY!) I don’t care if you personally dislike the guy. In fact, you are well within your right to do so.

Here’s my argument for the impact Vick has on an entire team:

1. You can almost guarantee the offense will lead the league in rushing.
2. Vick will be among the leaders in combined TDs, whether it’s passing or rushing.
3. The team will be among the leaders in third-down and fourth-down conversions.
4. He will impact the D because the offense will be among the leaders in time of possession.
5. He’ll help the D because they will be rested.

Needless to say, this decision was also based on the assumption that Vick could regain his old form. In wrapping this up, there is no doubt in my mind that Brady and Manning are the best football players in the NFL. But a measure of their success has to be attributed to the great players, coaches and personnel decisions that add to their brilliance. Vick is my selection because of his unique physical talents that have residual effects on both sides of the ball.

BTW, if I’m going to start a franchise, it would be nice to make sure there are fans in the stands. It’s a statistical fact that — much like another pariah, Barry Bonds — fans packed the stadium to see the human highlight film that was Michael Vick.

What say you?

Jamie Dukes

Post your comments below, and catch me on Twitter: @jamiedukes

A pass to Cutler

I recently spent some time in Chi-town and made the media rounds to several sports-talk radio stations. What I learned is that there seems to be some confusion about the maturity of Jay Cutler. Some fans are concerned or even outraged by the off-field behavior of the Bears’ new starting quarterback because he has been known to frequent a bar or two or five …

Only days into the honeymoon, Bears GM Jerry Angelo was fielding questions about the nocturnal activities of his new QB from the real Harvard of the South, Vanderbilt. Adding fuel to the fire, coaching legend Tony Dungy questioned Cutler’s decision-making as well. Add it all up, and you have a full-scale panic before the first bungled snap in training camp.

I have been extremely critical of Vince Young, not for his momentary sideline meltdown last season but for his decision to go back to Texas to be the big man on campus as opposed to moving in with his offensive coordinator for the summer until he learned the system like the back of his hand. Ditto that thought for Matt Leinart, who has “Going Back To Cali Syndrome.” Ditto that thought for JaMarcus Russell, who soon will be opening a Bentley dealership if he keeps adding cars.

Cutler gets a pass from me. Why? Because unlike those other talented QBs, Cutler knew the offensive system in Denver, and I have little doubt that Ron Turner‘s offense is not going to be as challenging as Mike Shanahan’s celebrated aerial attack. I think it’s unrealistic to think that a twenty-something millionaire is going to live in a convent.

In fact, it’s unfair to have that expectation of these talented kids. However, I do draw the line in the sand when it comes to learning your craft, and many of these kids don’t understand the dedication it takes to succeed at the QB position. As far as I’m concerned, have all the fun you want, but learn your stuff.

— Jamie Dukes

Five sexiest stories of 2009

Cowboys QB Tony Romo has yet to win a playoff game in his career. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)

Cowboys QB Tony Romo has yet to win a playoff game in his career. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)

5. The Broncos and Browns: To date, none of the assistants that left Bill Belichick for a head coaching job has had success out from under his wings. To be fair, Round 1 was an incomplete for Mangenius in New York, but both he and Josh McDaniels are making some questionable personnel decisions, that in many minds, could derail their seasons. In my mind, the legend of Belichick will grow based on the failure of Eric Mangini and McDaniels.

4. Favre Watch 2009: If Brett returns to play for the Vikings, the NFC North will be the most watched division in the NFL. Favre’s return to Lambeau and Bus Cook’s boys (Favre and Bears QB Jay Cutler) squaring off at Soldier Field just add to the attraction of Adrian Peterson, who is already must see T.V. Bringing Favre into the mix will be a delicious treat.

3. Bickering Bills: T.O. steps onto center stage. Everyone believes that he’s going to tear up the team, because Trent Edwards is arguably the least experienced QB Owens has worked with in his career. Edwards is in a horrible position, because there are serious questions on the offensive line. Last I checked, a QB’s best friend is not a running game, it’s an offensive line (people always get that wrong).

2. The Return of ‘Tom Terrific’: Tom Brady makes his triumphant return to the NFL. If I were to believe my friend Rich Eisen, it’s going to be like old times again for the Patriots. I’m not so sure it will go so smoothly, even though I do believe they will be the team to beat. How long will it take Brady to be confident stepping into throws? Will his knee hold up?

1. Romo’s Last Stand: The Cowboys are moving into a billion dollar stadium and Boss Hog, Jerry Jones, has gone all-in. T.O.’s gone, so he can take the pressure off Tony Romo. T.O.’s gone, so he can take the pressure off Roy Williams. T.O.’s gone, so he can take the pressure off Jason Garrett. T.O.’s gone and that’s why there’s unrest in Iran … everything is T.O.’s fault (sorry I got distracted). If Romo pulls another choke job in December and January, you can count on Jones to start looking for a new QB.

Jamie Dukes

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