Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Idiot kicker got liquored up and ran his mouth off again...

Probably what Peyton Manning is thinking right now.

In case you haven't heard by now, Mike Vanderjagt, the Colts' kicker who has a history of unfiltered comments, called the Patriots,
"ripe for the picking" and said that they, "weren't as good as last year" in an interview with WISH-TV. With the exception of Rodney Harrison, most of the Patriots seem to be blowing this off.

This comment can be taken one of two ways. Conventional wisdom suggests that it's not good to give your opponent bulletin board material before a big game. The Colts, after all, need look no further than last week's Wild Card game with the Denver Broncos for an example. John Lynch delivered a bulletin-board statement with a helmet to helmet hit the week before and the Colts responded by torching the Denver secondary in the playoff game.

But this is one time where conventional wisdom may take a back seat, and here's the reason: Vanderjagt is dead on about the Patriots' depleted defense. They are so thin at secondary that their nickelback is a wide receiver. Add to that Richard Seymour's questionable status and the Patriots defense may very well be ripe for the picking. I know people will point to Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel and say that "they will come up with something." Problem is, a scheme is only as good as the talent that's playing in it.

Vanderjagt's statement reminded me of the most famous piece of bulletin board material in football history, Joe Namath's guarantee before Super Bowl III. Namath was largely ridiculed for his comments about the then-Baltimore Colts, but even before the Jets' 16-7 victory, there were signs that he may have had a point.

First, the AFL had been snapping up the nation's premier collge talent and had been more proactive than the NFL about getting quality African-American players. So the average AFL team actually had more talent than the average NFL team. The problem is in the first two Super Bowls, the AFL challenger ran into the only NFL team that had the talent to compete with them, Lombardi's Packers, which skewed the public perception of the two leagues.

Also, Jets' coach Weeb Ewbank was previously the Colts' head coach and knew the weaknesses of their players and schemes. He also knew he had better players. And he could use knowledge of both to defeat the Colts, and he sold his game plan so well that Namath was able to make his famous guarantee and get away with it.

Now granted Vanderjagt is a kicker(who comes in a few plays at most) and Namath was a quarterback(who was very involved in the offense), but I think we could see a similar situation come Sunday. It will definitely be close

Tomorrow: NCAA's Proposed Academic Reform.

More commentary:
Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star (for a conventional wisdom-based view)
Boston Globe's Patriots Notebook (for how the Patriots are taking Vanderjagt's comments)

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