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Tag: tom brady

Colin Kaepernick: The Tom Brady Story, Remixed

Troy Aikman made it very clear during Sunday’s 49ers/Saints game that he didn’t think it was fair that Alex Smith lost his job as a starting quarterback. “He didn’t do anything to lose it,” he said. This is wrong. What Alex Smith did to lose his job is be worse than Colin Kaepernick at playing quarterback. It is simple in its simplicity. It is sports at its core. If you are not good enough, you will be replaced.

The rise of advanced analytics has shown us how well sports play out this equation. Even before Bill James, sports did a good job of sorting who was best, because the bulk of results. The only thing that really stood in its way was a bunch of -isms, and only in baseball did it really stick beyond those. But in all sports, if you can play, you can play, and that’s what they make good movies about. The old quarterback is always good enough to stick around, and the young one is just good enough to sneak past him, if only for a second act. The reason this formula works is that the story can always go one of two ways. In this story, it’s obvious that Kaepernick is the better player, and Jim Harbaugh is stretching this out as long as he can to iron out Smith’s anger. It’s a master class in jerk that we would have seen eleven years ago had Drew Bledsoe not gotten injured in week two.

It seems like a fait accompli that Brady would have started for the Patriots eventually, and I’m pretty sure he would have started in the regular season whether or not Drew Bledsoe got hurt early on. Drew was something of a lock to get hurt eventually, given that he couldn’t move around whatsoever, but the fact he got hurt when he did made it a simple decision for Bill Belichick, who loved Brady anyway. Bledsoe was probably considered the least likely Boston athlete to go anywhere at the time this happened, which is the strange part, now. Bledsoe was the quarterback we had bet on, and Brady was the casual $1 bet we tossed off and won the house with. That’s not how it looked at Patriots camp, where the consensus was that Brady was better. That’s what’s been happening in San Francisco all season. He is, Brady was, and Tim Tebow isn’t, someone who just wins games. This does mean that they’re supermen, but put good enough quarterbacks on good teams and good things happen. The reason people were angry at the Tebow furor was that Tebow clearly wasn’t these guys, and the script was being flipped: The team had been moribund before he played, but he had led them to victory, they said.

It is difficult to forget:

“Unleash.” Tim Tebow wouldn’t chase a squirrel eating his steak, but he would run a football through Asante Samuel, and God bless him for it. Drew Bledsoe was a walking tree, but he was our walking tree. Alex Smith can move fine, but he’s no Colin Kaepernick. Tom Brady had the best footwork in the league before the injury, after which he has relied on his famous duck move. The key here for all of these replacements is motion. The people who moved better got the jobs. One of these is Tom Brady, one of these at the start of his ascent, and the other is Tim Tebow, who was just lucky. None of them are Alex Smith. For all the imbalance in the player/league relationship on the league side, the team owes the player nothing beyond what’s in the contract. Smith and Bledsoe had the same draft position, wear the same number and went to college in a similar part of the country. Smith’s a little faster, noodlier arm, a tortured history instead of a tony one. They both lost out, and it’s permanent. The Colin Kaepernick story—the Tom Brady story with a bi-racial, tattooed rocket with legs—is the 2001 story remixed, in just about every way. Belichick is from New England, Harbaugh is from San Francisco. Belichick is a dick, Harbaugh is a west coast dick; you do or do not know the type, because I may have just made it up. The defenses range from great, in the Patriots’ case, to merely amazing in the 49ers’ case. The Niners have their Frank Gore; the Patriots had Tedy Bruschi. But those are small matters. The star of the show is Kaerpernick, and when the show is over, we’ll feel like he was the show all along. He’s inspiring, and his story is inspiring and taking place in real time.

The stories of the losers? Those don’t come until later. The stories of those who no longer have it, the good ones, the moment the know it—we call those stories moving. The Alex Smith story does not move me. The Drew Bledsoe story didn’t even move me, and he was my favorite player ever by 100 nautical miles. The guy who can win should play next. It is truly, as they say, all in the game.

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Brady vs. Manning

Not a lot of time today, so I’ll go down a well-traveled road: Brady vs. Manning.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Peyton Manning will finish his career with superior passing stats. He’s played in a pass-first offense his entire career, and he plays in a dome. I’m not making excuses for Brady here; I am, as always, just saying. Brady will probably finish with better winning stats, depending on how you define it. The three Super Bowls, the 16-0 season, the highest all-time winning percentage—they’re all his.

These guys entered the league around the same time and have matching career arcs, so they’re natural to compare more than, say, either one of them and Ben Roethlisberger (who came later), Donovan McNabb (who didn’t reach as high), Drew Brees (late bloomer) and the newer crop of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan (two of whom didn’t actually postdate Ben, but whose success did). Part of that contrast, for a while, were their styles: Manning ran the Blue Angels-like airshow, while Brady ran the crafty, surgical Patriots offense. Before Randy Moss arrived, the Patriots weren’t known as a team to blow out their opponents. They didn’t always win big, but they always won.

Then 2007 hit, and Brady was doing his Manning impression. He wiped Manning’s 49 touchdown record from the books in a game ya boy was at (and at which he was egged for wearing a Welker jersey), and led the Pats to within 90 seconds of the Super Bowl title. Then he got hurt eight minutes into the following season, left to watch his backup lead the Patriots’ spread offense to a respectable 11-5 record, two wins better than near Super Bowl Champions Arizona Cardinals.

Brady returned this year against the Buffalo Bills hoping to spread-offense them into submission, and the Pats won only because they got bailed out by a (typical?) Bills error (see number four here). Then they lost to the Jets, who blitzed dropback Brady into submission, and the Pats went back to the drawing board. The new Pats gameplan would look a lot like the one that won them three Super Bowls: more running, more play-action, a greater mandate to eat time away and set up big plays rather than go for them on every down. It’s something of a Classic Brady offense, even if it’s more Classic Belichick scheming: use what you’ve got. The Patriots are short on wide receivers, so this is the best plan for them.

At 6-2, the plan seems to be working. Now we’ll see how the contrast in styles with Manning’s Colts works this year. No longer do Brady and Manning look like the same quarterback, as they did in 2007. Brady’s back to being The Guy That Wins and Manning’s brought his aerial attack to another level. The contrast in styles is back, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s Pats/Colts, and it’s as big as ever.

NFL Week 1.5 Report

football-game-couch-nfl

WHAT I’VE LEARNED BY WATCHING

Games consumed: Steelers/Titans, Jets/Texans, Pats/Bills, Giants/Redskins (partial), Bears/Packers (partial)

1. HOUSTON STINKS There was more talk this year that the Texans would be a suprise team, but they looked listless in week one against the Jets. They couldn’t do a thing against the Jets, which has been attributed largely to the Jets’ defense. I wouldn’t be so quick to put all the credit there. It takes hard work for a team to look as bad as Houston did against the Jets — it wasn’t like they were missing opportunities, they just weren’t making any. And this was in week one, where they had months to prepare. If the coaching staff can’t find a way to get a single good drive going with what is supposed to be a talented offense at the outset of the season, here’s betting they can’t scheme up much for the rest of the year. You can forget about them. Texans: written off

2. MARK SANCHEZ IS GOING TO BE GOOD My lack of love for the Texans doesn’t cast any shadow on Mark Sanchez’ performance as Jets’ QB. As has been noted elsewhere, Sanchez’ footwork already puts him far ahead of most NFL quarterbacks in that department and at near-peak Brady levels (the best I’ve ever seen, and the one skill category in which Brady is, I think, unquestionably dominant). He didn’t get a chance to read defenses yet, or deal with pocket pressure, but it appears he’s got all the tools to succeed. Sanchez’ development marks something of a barometer for the NFL-readiness of USC QBs after the Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart experiments. It’s my contention that he’s NFL-ready, but others don’t think so, as baby-buddy-of-blog “Cleveland Frowns” disagrees, and we duked it out in the comments. Will the experiment look as good in week two against a banged-up—but still Belichick-schemed—unit? Highly, highly doubtful. But we’re looking long-term and buying.

3. EITHER THE PATRIOTS LINE STINKS, BUFFALO’S D-LINE IS GREAT, OR BOTH Tom Brady got the least amount of time to throw the ball against Buffalo since, well, the last full game he played (the one were Osi Umenyiora lined up in his ass). The Bills got an amazing amount of push and shut down the Pats’ running game completely. Does this mean we’re going to see a full-fledged Brady-slinging game against the Jets? Maybe not. But maybe. We’re working toward that point, and when the offense went ballistic at the end of the game, the Bills had no answer. Ben Watson’s winning catch was bananas, by the way.

4. THE QBS? FINE Trent Edwards looked pretty damn good in the fast offense; we’ll see how much of it was Pats-D related when the Bills (blech) take on the Bucs (BLECH) this week (kill me). Brady’s a little tentative, and might never hit 2007 form again, but if he’s at 80 percent of that it’s plenty good enough. Actual exchange after the fumble with fashion-language-understanding and unhelmeted-Brady-loving girlfriend.

Her: Is that good?

Me: Yes, they’re going to get a touchdown now and win.

Her: How do you know that?

Me: It’s why Tom Brady is married to Gisele.

Verdict: Brady is a good man

5. THE GIANTS AND THE REDSKINS BLAH One of the dedicated readers of this blog is a Giants season ticket holder. I applaud his enthusiasm. Maybe I’ll share it some day. It’s unlikely. The Giants sure seem to rough teams up, but without Plaxico, it seems like they have that oh so little weakness of Eli’s habit of not quite throwing it to the right place. Osi is scary, good, though: I said after Super Bowl XLII that it might look like less of an upset once Osi and Strahan were both in the HOF, the same way the Rams/Pats Super Bowl result looks completely in retrospect. Not enough attention is paid, btw, to the similarities to those two seasons, down to the earlier, fingernail-close meeting in the season, the 14-point spread, and the miracle last drive. Verdict: I don’t want to talk about this any more, but before I go, the Redskins could compete if they had an offense. Still better than the Texans.

6. I THOUGHT THESE TEAMS WERE GOOD Watching Bears/Packers was like getting hit in the face by errant footballs. I thought these teams were supposed to be good, and maybe they are, just well-matched. But that game was shit. And I could give a crap about the “rivalry,” just like everyone in Chicago. Trust me, they don’t give a lick about beating the Packers more than any other team. They just want to win the Super Bowl. That’s no crime. But to force some East Coast-style rivalry on it just isn’t going to work. Verdict: we’ll know more after this week

7. OOPS I ALMOST FORGOT Steelers/Titans and Chargers/Raiders. That happened. I had four Simpler Times lagers. There was a lot of hitting. I was bored, but I know these teams are good. They’re annoying too.

Teams as-yet unconsumed: Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Lions, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams.

Teams written off: Texans (Week 1)

Picks for this week: Each week, I submit to you my picks in the Cheddar Bay Invitational Picking tournament on Cleveland Frowns. Must pick six games vs. the spread, at least one of which is an NCAA game, and have a 100 word essay accompanying a pick. Here’s this week’s entry.

I had a tough time last week. I went 0-6. But look at it this way: the only way to go is up!

Toledo +20.5
Pats -3.5
Seahawks +1.5
Broncos -3
Giants +3
Colts -3

Essay: I’m not confident the Patriots are going to cover against the Jets. But this one seems a bit easy, no? The Pats are 1-9 in their last 10 games ATS, came off a miracle win (and not even near cover) against the Bills at home, and the Jets convincingly thumped the Texans, a popular pick to improve this year. As a result, the Pats/Jets line is dropping downward, but should it? I think it’s more likely that the pundits were wrong about the Texans, and the Jets exploited a bad team, than the opposite, given the results. And I think talk about the Pats’ defense’s demise, while certainly noteworthy, may not be as relevant in this game. Mark Sanchez is going to see things on Sunday he’s never seen in his life, and I think it’s more likely than not that the Pats will pull out a typical AFC East slog victory over Gang Green, but by at least six points.

That’s it for now. See you in the 2.5.