For Favre, revenge best served cold

One day after sending a one-word text saying “NO” he wouldn’t return to play football, Brett Favre does a 180 and decides to meet with the Minnesota Vikings about becoming their starting quarterback.

It’s time we stop taking Favre at his word. It has become clear that beneath that easygoing, aw-shucks country veneer, lays a shrewd businessman whose cunning is as keen as his laser-lock passes.

Like so many fourth-quarter comebacks, Favre has once again defied the odds by securing his free agency and coming one step closer to getting his ultimate wish: REVENGE!

No longer wanting to play for a team and a town that loved him dearly, Favre clearly calculated and carved his way out of Green Bay. He no longer wanted to play for a general manager, Ted Thompson, who wouldn’t acquiesce to his many demands, ranging from coaching hires to player acquisitions. And now, a year after toying with the New York Jets and costing Eric Mangini his job, Favre has shown he will let nothing stop him from getting his biggest win yet.

Favre is motivated by his enmity for the Packers and their corporate leadership. Driven to have the last word, Favre is willing to play for the Packers’ hated rival and wear the enemy’s colors.

I believe the aging warrior still has some magic left in that weathered old body. But as summer turns to fall, and fall gives way to a bitter winter cold, Favre’s hatred will cool the same, and so will his passes. It ended badly in 2007 with two INTs versus the New York Giants in the NFC title game. It ended even worse a year later with three INTs in the Jets’ 2008 season finale versus the Miami Dolphins.

He once played for the love of the game, and we loved him for the way he played, which was magical. He now plays for something more sinister and unnatural, which leaves us scratching our heads and asking, “Brett, what are you doing?”

— Solomon Wilcots

Leach mostly on mark with criticism of draft process

Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach during the 2008 season against Texas A&M. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has some problems with how NFL teams scout college players for the draft. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

The Lions, Buccaneers and Jets should beware. Those teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round last weekend but could fall victim to just following the crowd, according to Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.

After his former quarterback, Graham Harrell, had to find an NFL home through rookie free agency, Leach said he believes “the quarterback position is horribly drafted.” He cited the high number of first-round misses at quarterback as evidence of NFL teams’ ineptitude in effectively evaluating the game’s most important position.

“There seems to be a mentality with NFL teams where they follow the herd and it seems to be OK to shuffle to the edge, then head off the cliff,” Leach said.

“The media also influences who teams will pick because the coverage seems to give certain players momentum days before the draft, so the teams tend to follow the coverage, and there is no independent thought,” Leach added. “I’m sure most teams will not tell you that because they’d like to believe they came to that decision on their own.”

Leach seems to understand that over-analysis of players has led to paralysis, misses and out-right busts.

I agree with Leach in that some teams tend to upgrade a quarterback based on his workouts, in which he’s not facing a pass rush or reading coverage. Some teams also move players up or down the draft board for non-football reasons and ultimately disregard his on-the-field body of work.

During the months of over-analysis, good players become bad, and bad players become potential Day 1 starters. Then most teams feel the need to justify writing a big check to a player by forcing him into the starting lineup, thus beginning a domino effect of errors. What teams need to realize is that if a player doesn’t fit, they can’t force it.

I believe teams know which players to draft, but they struggle in finding the right round in which to take them. Therefore, teams reach for players, and some of those players fail.

If Leach is looking for a team that uses independent evaluation without following the herd, he needs to look no further than the New England Patriots, who have one of his former players, WR Wes Welker.

— Solomon Wilcots

Pressure on Stafford will be intense

(Todd Bennett / Associated Press)

Georgia QB Matthew Stafford will be the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Lions. (Todd Bennett / Associated Press)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — You really have to applaud the Detroit Lions for going after the player that they really wanted in Matthew Stafford.

The Lions were thinking that all the players at the top of this year’s draft board were pretty even, and figured that they were better off getting the player they really coveted. Aaron Curry was also an option, and the Lions would have been able to sign him for significantly less money.

The Lions’ situation this year was similar to that faced the Baltimore Ravens in their inaugural draft in 1996 following the team’s move from Cleveland. New Lions coach Jim Schwartz was a member of the coaching staff of that team as a defensive assistant. General manager Ozzie Newsome possessed two first-round picks, and also had Eric Zeier as his starting quarterback. With that position sitting there as a glaring need, the Ravens opted to chose offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden with their first pick, and then snag linebacker Ray Lewis with the second first-round pick. It was one of the greatest draft classes of all time. This year, the Lions possess two first-round picks (Detroit also holds pick No. 20). The Lions could have selected a top offensive tackle with their first pick, and then grab one of the draft’s talented defensive players with the second selection.

At this point, nobody in the Detroit Lions organization has confirmed the deal, as nobody wants to steal the thunder of Commissioner Roger Goodell‘s announcement from Radio City Music Hall at 4 p.m. ET.

In Detroit, however, fan reaction to this selection may not be kind. Stafford wasn’t the overwhelming favorite among the team’s fans. It could be reminiscent of when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Donovan McNabb over Ricky Williams in the 1999 NFL Draft. The pressure is going to be on general manager Martin Mayhew and Schwartz to get immediate production out of Stafford.

If you’re a struggling offense, fans are going to want to see the new car; they don’t want the Rolls Royce sitting in the garage.

The Lions will be featured in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game in front of a national-television audience against the division rival Green Bay Packers. Fans will be tuning in to see Stafford in action. The pressure will be on to get the No. 1 pick on the field.

— Solomon Wilcots

Liberty’s Jennings would be good fit for Saints

At 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, Rashard Jennings is an explosive running back who can run, catch and block.

According to Jennings, NFL scouts have questioned his accomplishments playing against lesser competition at Liberty. He explains his decision to play there was a selfless one. After his freshman year at Pitt, where he played ahead of NFL draft prospect LeSean McCoy, Jennings’ father became a leg amputee as a result of his battle with diabetes.

After watching his mother travel 12 hours to and from Pittsburgh to watch him play, Jennings decided to transfer to Liberty, which is 10 minuntes from his home.

“If you do the right things, then no one will be able to stop you,” says Jennings.

With the departure of their all-time leading rusher, Deuce McAllister, the New Orleans Saints are looking for a powerful inside runner who can take the load off of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. However, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis believes he can get a productive running back as late as the third round of the upcoming draft. When Jennings was asked which teams he has visited for private workouts, he named them all; Broncos, Jets, Colts, Seahawks, Bengals, Browns, Eagles and, yes, the Saints.

His big explosive running style combined with his ability to catch and block in the passing game makes Jennings a valued weapon for Sean Payton‘s creative offensive scheme. Jennings’ selfless decision-making has brought him close to sainthood in his hometown, but he could earn a full halo this upcoming season in New Orleans.

— Solomon Wilcots

Madden stands as one-man Mount Rushmore

John Madden has laid a blueprint of broadcasting excellence for all who leave the game to become an analyst on the landscape of mass media.
His simple explanations of complicated Xs and Os introduced the game to millions across several generations. When asked at the scouting combine who he would want to call his games in the NFL, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said he wanted to TiVO the game where he would sack the quarterback, then go home to watch and hear Madden and Al Michaels call his name. Sirius NFL Radio host Adam Schein called Madden, “The greatest game announcer in the history of sports broadcasting.”

He said so much while using so few words. Madden’s telestrator is now commonplace in every NFL broadcast booth. From this vantage point, Madden stands as a one-man Mount Rushmore for all  aspiring game analysts.

— Solomon Wilcots

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