Mailbag time and I don't get it.
Michael Vick as MVP, I mean. How has this gained momentum? He's having a terrific season, no question about it. And he was unbelievable in that comeback against the Giants on Sunday. In any other year he'd be a fine choice as MVP.
Just not this year.
I was shocked to hear Adam Schefter say on Wednesday that Vick was still his MVP choice (a note to Adam -- you can have all the books in the world behind you when you speak on camera but it can't save you from looking like a dope when you say dopey things).
And he's not alone -- the Vick for MVP train is getting some serious steam. Can you help me understand how this has happened?
Tom Brady has a higher passer rating than Michael Vick.
Tom Brady has thrown 10 more touchdown passes than Michael Vick.
Tom Brady has one less interception (in 120 more attempts) than Michael Vick.
Completion percentage? Brady.
Yards passing? Brady.
The Patriots are 12-2. The Eagles are 10-4.
Common opponents? The Patriots are 4-0, the Eagles 2-2.
Brady has missed zero games. Vick missed three. And the Eagles won two of those games, averaging 26 points. Kevin Kolb had two games with a passer rating over 100 in those games -- including a 133.6 rating in a win over the Falcons, the top team in the NFC (Kolb threw for 326 yards and three TDs in the win). You think the Eagles would be any worse than 8-6 if Kolb was the QB all season? A two-game difference, right? Well, do you think the Patriots would be 10-4 -- with all the changes on offense and a defense loaded with first and second-year guys -- with Kevin Kolb as QB?
Come on. This isn't even close. It's a case of a good quarterback having a truly great season against a truly great quarterback having a historical season.
More Brady talk in the mailbag this week, plus we'll take a look and see if this defense can win a Super Bowl, figure out where Rex Ryan ranks among foot-fetish directors, admit that I'm in an 0-for-36 slump at the mailbag plate, plead with ESPN to end the UConn/UCLA debate and break down one guy's chance to get into Cooperstown.
So to the 'bag we go …
How do you know that the Connolly run was a lucky break we wouldn't have won without? What if he went down and we scored anyway? I am not in any way making light of the return, in fact I loved it and I hope he isn't injured too bad. Another half-full writer. If we won the Super Bowl this way, you would still find something to complain about.
(Excuse me, I meant half-empty writer.)
John Wesley Harding
A: Usually I let the insults slide, but since this is the holiday season, I feel the need to disclose that I actually have hate in my heart for just a couple of the regulars, led by Mr. Harding. Probably I shouldn't -- I mean, I'm the one going home tonight to a nice house and the promise of Christmas while John Wesley Harding's day will include three hours of sniffing EBAY-purchased game-used jocks of Tedy Bruschi, a trip to the library to pretend to look for jobs online while actually looking at Facebook pictures of the one girl that actually went to a high school dance with you (P.S. -- it was pity), a table for one meatball sandwich dinner at D'Angelo's and a big night of NCIS and NESN Daily before putting on the Danny Woodhead pajamas and calling it a day, only to be repeated tomorrow and the next 3,000 days of his existence. But hey, getting to spend Christmas with other people is overrated, right? You're the winner, John Wesley Harding. Keep up the snarky emails and comments, that'll definitely impress the people who never loved you because you couldn't make the JV basketball team at Natick High.
And I didn't write that the Pats were going to lose if Connolly didn't break off that return. Maybe they would've scored if he was tackled after a three-yard gain. Who the hell knows? But what is true is this: They were down 17-7 at the time and looked awfully flat. They were getting their teeth kicked in by the Packers at that point of the game and the Connolly return gave them a little life. Sorry if that offends people who refer to the Pats as "we" but it's the truth. They stunk for most of the game Sunday night. It happens. So what? They won the game. There will always be stinkers mixed in. Doesn't make them any less likely to win the Super Bowl.
What arrogance. The other team is never good, it's always the Patriots sucking. The writers in this town have their heads so far up their collective arses they make the average nursing home patient seen cogent.
A: There's actually some truth buried in there, Spenser. First of all we know that plenty of folks in the media never bash the Patriots, no matter what happens. It can verge on revolting, frankly. But yeah, sometimes you have to take a step back and recognize that the other team played well. That -- to an extent -- absolutely happened Sunday night. I was very impressed with the Packers defense and Matt Flynn. But it's also OK to call out that the Patriots weren't sharp. But I know what he's talking about -- sometimes the sky isn't falling if the Patriots beat a good team by just four points. But you wouldn't believe it if you listened to 'EEI on Monday (callers and some hosts included).
Lots of Brandon Meriweather bashing. I think most of us would be singing a different tune had Banta Cain not been flagged for that illegal hands to the face penalty.
Did he make a bonehead play on the Jones TD? Sure. But he also had a game-icing pick taken away by a D-Line mistake.
A: Come on. I'm not giving Meriweather a lot of credit for that pick. OK, he made the catch but it wasn't exactly Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. The thing was right in his hands. I don't think most people would feel any more confident about Meriweather's ability to play safety for this team if that catch had counted. The guy has been a train wreck this season. Every time he does something like he did when he flattened Devin McCourty on Sunday you wonder if that's going to be the deal-breaker with Bill Belichick. It hasn't happened yet and I guess that says something about Meriweather. There has to be a reason Belichick hasn't cut bait. But I wonder if this is an issue that will be addressed in the offseason (there is a history of getting rid of a young safety to bring in a veteran guy -- Milloy/Harrison).
The end of your article made no sense.
"But you and I know that if the Patriots sacked Flynn nine times and won 24-0 there would be an endless parade of "the defense keeps getting better and better" phone calls to 'EEI. A plea for consistency, folks."
The defense had been getting better of late, going something like nine quarters in a row with only one TD allowed, and the hypothetical you described would have been even better than they had been playing. Of course people would be happy with the performance. If people were to "be consistent" then they would be calling in anyway saying the same thing, despite the lackluster performance last night.
Because the defense had a bad game, people are not saying great things about it. I don't see what your issue with that is. It's a hell of a lot more logical than your "article."
A: I guess I didn't articulate my point very strongly (as we all pause for shock). If you wanted to write Sunday off as "one of those games," that's OK. But what I was trying to say (write) was that if you are going to do that then it's not really fair to find the things that went well on Sunday and use them to pump up your case for the Patriots as Super Bowl favorites. That's what I meant by consistency.
(That paragraph made basically no sense, either. God, I am a lousy writer. Even worse: I'm a lousy writer in a slump. My mailbag passer rating this week will be about 42.8.)
"Before we get into this let's at least be fair: Every time the Patriots defense has really needed to make a play this season they've stepped up."
Good article. However, I would add that every time the defense has screwed up, the offense has stepped up. But unless the defense stiffens (pass rush, tackling, secondary coverage), you cannot expect the offense to outscore the opposition every time.
A: Clearly this is a team that is defined by the offense (particularly the quarterback) but the defense has had some big moments this year: the three OT stops against the Ravens, the goal-line stop of Adrian Peterson, the James Sanders pick of Peyton Manning (to me the single biggest play of the year to date for this team) and the stop in the fourth quarter on Sunday. This is a flawed defense, to be sure, but they create turnovers and have made more must-have stops than the last two years combined. And I think we all agree that they'll only get better over the next couple of years.
Let's take a moment. Anyone who has watched the Pats closely this season has seen the same young, fast, not-particularly-physical defense progress under Belichick's tutelage. But within this progression, there is one clear weakness that this inexperienced defense has displayed: If they remain on the field too long, they tire and are largely ineffective, and will go through long stretches where they can't stop anyone. When the New England offense is effective and remains on the field for extended drives, the fast, athletic young defense is mobile and dangerous. When forced to play for 40 minutes, they look porous.
And yet, little blame is placed on Brady, who was largely incapable of completing passes during Sunday night's game (the 15 completions he recorded were the fewest of his season). Instead, we blame the young, inexperienced defense, who's average age is the lowest in the league at 25.2.
This defense is still really, really good and really dangerous. Looking forward to the playoffs, it's fairly simple: If you want to beat the Patriots, you need to get an early lead and force Tom Brady to go three-and-out until you're up more than one score. At that point, you can attack a desperate, inexperienced defense who you've forced onto the field for too many minutes, until they're tired and sloppy. At that point, you can take over the game.
But be wary of the Patriots. Let them take an early lead? Let it stay close for too long? If you like to take risks, just allow the Patriots to take a three-point lead in any playoff game; I dare any team to try this strategy, and see how many games they win.
Either way, like all playoff teams, our fate will be decided by our defensive toughness. And I, for one, feel comfortable will this team's chances and with this defense's will.
A: Agreed, agreed and agreed. Well written, Tim. Salient, down the middle and free of pretension. Enjoyed reading it. Now can we get to the Rex Ryan foot-fetish stuff?
First of all, football coaches and foot-fetish videos go way back to the days of Knute Rockne. So let's not act like Rex is the first. Who can forget a heavy-breathing Rod Rust secretly filming Jason Staurovsky lacing up his shoes in 1990?
I have to admit, though, that I'm impressed with Rex the director in the series (and I did watch all six on Deadspin). Other than the first video -- where I think Rex was playing a cop who ironically had a foot fetish -- he mostly stays out of the way and lets Michelle (allegedly) do her thing. Couldn't be easy for Rex -- this was a guy who was tackling cameramen during "Hard Knocks." So points for remarkable restraint. The plot could use polish, but that's just picking nits. I'll just say this: He's a better foot-fetish director than Quentin Tarantino would be football coach.
Come on, man. Are you really happy with yourself? I listened to you with Mike Adams last night [Tuesday] making fun of the UConn women's team. Do you feel good about yourself, taking shots at 18-year-old girls? What a loser. And yes, I'm a proud UConn alum and that streak is just as important as UCLA's streak was.
A: Backstory: I was on "Planet Mikey" on Tuesday and had a little fun with the whole UConn streak. Short version is that I don't think anyone really cares about it but we all have to pretend we care because this is 2010 and no one is allowed to say that they don't watch women's basketball. Mikey (who is a friend of Geno Auriemma) disagreed and then suggested that this UConn team could beat a bad D-1 men's team. Now you and I and Geno Auriemma know that a 3-25 D-1 men's team is going to beat UConn by 50 points, easy. So I said just that and suddenly I'm a monster and all the rest.
Now what UConn has done the last couple of years is incredible. I don't care if a great team plays the worst team in America 89 times in a row, it's almost impossible to win all of 'em. So full credit to them. Does it mean more than what UCLA did? I have no idea. Maybe it does to you, maybe it doesn't. All I know is that it isn't the same.
And no one cares about women's college basketball, no matter how hard ESPN tries to tell us that we do. The UConn game on Wednesday did a 1.0 national rating. The Beef O'Brady's Bowl game between Louisville and Southern Mississippi did a 2.0. Can we just stop with this? Marathon Oil 112, UConn 52.
You and Buck talking Hall of Fame on Friday was great radio. You could tell that both of you guys really care about it. Too bad you don't have a vote. I was going to call in and ask you two about Dale Murphy, who was my favorite player growing up (thanks to TBS). I know he's never going to get into Cooperstown, but if you did have a chance to vote would Murphy be one of your picks?
A: I liked Murphy a lot as well -- in the early 80s TBS made us all care about Murphy, Nikita Koloff and really crappy Walter Brennan movies -- but would you elect a player with these stats into the Hall of Fame?
1,086 games, 181 homers, 592 RBI, .250 batting average, .324 OPB and .461 slugging.
That’s Murphy’s career totals on the road. He benefitted hugely from playing 81 games a season at Fulton County Stadium for most of his career. Take his 1982 MVP season:
Home: 81 games, 24 homers, 59 RBI, .310 average, .392 OBP, .596 slugging
Away: 81 games, 12 homers, 50 RBI, .252 average, .365 OBP, .419 slugging
How about his monster 1987 season?
Home: 81 games, 25 homers, 61 RBI, .346 average, .493 OBP, .673 slugging
Away: 78 games, 19 homers, 44 RBI, .249 average, .338 OBP, .495 slugging
I can’t put a player with such huge splits into the HOF. For half his career -- nearly 1,110 games -- he was just another guy. But I don't think that's the reason Murphy isn't in the Hall of Fame. I'd bet at least half the voters aren't even aware that his splits are so severe. Nope, the reason Murphy has never been a serious candidate (never more than 23.2 percent) is that he doesn't have any of the magic numbers that the voters cling to: No 500 homers (or even 400), not even close to 3,000 hits, a career .265 hitter. And he never won a postseason series. So for most guys it's a fast look at the numbers and a pass. But from 1982-87 he was pretty close to a great player. He just didn't do it long enough to rack up the numbers you need to get in.
And with that I'm done for the week. Have a safe and happy celebration of Larry Csonka's 64th birthday on Saturday.