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Manning’s slow decision-making starting to affect other players, teams

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith walks off the field in the second quarter against the New York Giants during the NFL NFC Championship game in San Francisco, California, January 22, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Alex Smith will be in Miami on Sunday to meet with the Dolphins and perhaps the only reason he’s paying a visit to South Florida is because of Peyton Manning’s drawn out decision-making.

That’s not meant to be a slap at Manning. Whereas Brett Favre often dragged his feet so that he could stroke his massive ego, Peyton is just thorough. But he’s so thorough that it’s starting to have an affect on other teams and players, such as Smith.

A couple of days ago it seemed like a lock that Smith would return to ‘Frisco. But then the Niners emerged as a “sleeper candidate” to land Manning and now Smith is across the country in Miami. Everyone involved in this situation is essentially doing what he has to do. Manning doesn’t want to make a rash decision on where he wants to play next, so he’s taking his time. The 49ers clearly see Manning as an upgrade over Smith, or else they would have just brought back Smith by now. Thus, Smith is now in Miami, which also needs a quarterback because Matt Flynn has yet to take the Dolphins up on their contract offer.

Hopefully in the upcoming days everything will be sorted out and if Manning lands in Tennessee or Denver, it’s likely that Smith will head back to San Francisco and Miami will still have a shot to land Flynn. But there’s also a chance that someone gets screwed here.

Let’s say Smith does sign with the Dolphins and Manning agrees to terms with Tennessee. Then who starts for the Niners next season? Colin Kaepernick? And if Smith winds up back in San Francisco, Manning signs with either Tennessee or Denver, and Flynn signs with Seattle, then who will start for Miami next season? Matt Moore? Plus, if Manning winds up with Tennessee or Denver, what happens to Matt Hasselbeck or Tim Tebow?

Even though Manning has every right to take his time and not let outside factors determine how quickly he signs, somebody is likely to wind up playing some bad cards in 2012.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Five Questions for Week 14 in the NFL

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (L) talks with quarterback Tony Romo in the second half of their NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Arlington, Texas November 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Every Tuesday I’ll take a look at the five biggest questions surrounding NFL teams for that week. In Week 14 I tackle the decimated Bears and their quarterback situation, the race in the NFC East and of course, the Tim Tebow-led Broncos.g

1. Which team will step up in the NFC East?
Last week I wrote that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cowboys choke with a golden opportunity to take a two-game lead over the Giants in the NFC East. They were on their way to Arizona to play a very beatable Cardinals team while New York hosted the undefeated Packers, so naturally the Cowboys lost (when Jason Garrett essentially froze his own kicker) and didn’t create more separation between them and the Giants. That’s okay though, because the Sunday Night Football tilt this week becomes an even bigger affair because if the Giants win, then things will be tied again in the division. It’s tough to know what to make of either team. The Cowboys are healthier and have a slew of explosive weapons on offense to exploit a banged up New York defense. But Dallas always seems to kill itself with dumb mistakes and penalties. For all intents and purposes, they should beat the Giants at home this weekend and build a two-game cushion with just three games left to play. But it’s always a crapshoot when it comes to the ‘Boys.

2. What will the Bears do at quarterback?
Following Caleb Hanie’s brutal performance against the Chiefs on Sunday and the injury that will sideline Matt Forte for the next 2-3 weeks (if not the rest of the regular season), the Bears are now entertaining the idea of signing a free agent quarterback. Donovan McNabb is available and Brett Favre seems ready to whore himself out again, but will Chicago actually pull the trigger? The terminology in Mike Martz’s system is supposedly hard to grasp in a short amount of time so it would appear as though Hanie is still the Bears’ best option under center. But Chicago can’t keep rolling him out there every Sunday only to watch him produce a field goal worth of offense. It would, at the very least, make sense to sign McNabb and see how much he can learn in a week. Maybe he can produce just enough points to win while the defense and Devin Hester does the rest. Nobody is saying McNabb is a shoe-in to save Chicago’s season but if the playoffs started today the Bears would own the fifth seed in the NFC. GM Jerry Angelo owes it to his team to at least see if he can catch lightning in a bottle.

3. Will the Broncos take control of their own destiny?
As noted in question No. 2, the Bears are in serious trouble. Not only is Jay Cutler out for the rest of the year, but Matt Forte won’t play this Sunday and might miss the remainder of the season as well. Caleb Hanie couldn’t generate more than a field goal last week against Kansas City, which has an underrated defense but zero offense. Denver has an even better defensive unit and an offense that has made clutch plays with the game on the line for the past four weeks. Thus, the Broncos should win this week at home against Chicago. But there are many people that are still waiting for the wheels to fall off the Tim Tebow joy ride. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Detroit traveled to Denver and absolutely harassed Tebow into huge mistakes in a blowout victory. The Bears still own a relenting defensive unit that’s capable of putting its beleaguered offense in good field position, or scoring themselves with opportunistic plays. Thus, it’s important for Denver to continue to take things one game at a time. With Oakland in Green Bay this Sunday taking on the undefeated Packers, the Broncos have a massive opportunity to control their own destiny from here on out with a victory over the Bears.

4. Which Wild Card hopefuls will start to emerge from the pack?
Outside of the Steelers who seemingly have the fifth seed in the AFC sewn up, there are a lot of flaws when you look at the Wild Card contenders in each conference. In the AFC, the Bengals were just trounced by the Steelers and still have to play the Ravens one more time. Although the Titans have won two in a row, they nearly lost to the hapless Bucs two weeks ago and host powerhouse New Orleans this Sunday. Miami proved last week that Oakland has a couple of underlying issues, namely its run defense and lack of explosives offensively. The Jets have experience making late-season runs but it’s hard to trust Mark Sanchez not to muck things up over these next four weeks. In the NFC, the Bears’ issues are well documented and the Lions look like a team ready to implode thanks to a lack of composure and injuries. The Falcons have more than enough talent on both sides of the ball to secure a postseason berth but their offense has been stuck in mud all season and if the Giants can’t beat the Cowboys this Sunday, then it’s hard envisioning them playing past Week 17. Will somebody please step up?

5. Can the Chargers get back into the AFC West race?
The focus in the AFC West has largely been on the Broncos and Raiders, which makes sense given how their odds of winning the division are the best among the four teams. But while everyone continues to analyze, dissect, and agonize how Tim Tebow continues to win despite usually only playing one quarter of good football, I have a sinking suspicion that the Chargers aren’t finished quite yet. Maybe that’s because we’ve seen Norv Turner’s teams underachieve before, only to swoop in during the final weeks and pull a postseason berth right out from under someone. Granted, it came against a decimated Jacksonville secondary but Turner’s offense was firing on all cylinders Monday night. For the first time in over a month Philip Rivers played with confidence and was making throws that he used to make on a weekly basis in 2010. Winning breads confidence and when a team plays with confidence it becomes dangerous. Given how the Chargers still have to play Baltimore, Detroit, and Oakland to finish out the season, it’s probably too little too late for Rivers and Co. But if their defense overachieves and the offense finally starts playing with some consistency, you never know how things will play out down the stretch.

Favre’s back! (Not really.)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (4) hoists receiver Greg Jennings after Favre threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to set an NFL record for career touchdown passes at 421 during the first quarter of their National Football League game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, in this file photo taken September 30, 2007. For the first time in 19 seasons Favre failed to report for work on December 13, 2010, ending one of the most remarkable ironman streaks in all of sport. Picture taken September 30, 2007. REUTERS/Bob Cerny/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brett Favre is returning to football. Sort of. He has agreed to provide color commentary for the Southern Miss/Rice game on October 1st.

“I’m excited to be back at Southern Miss with the Golden Eagles,” Favre said in a press release. “I’m not committing to a new career in broadcasting, but just wanted to support Southern Miss and check out the view from the press box. It should be fun and I hope the fans enjoy it.”

Favre, who started at quarterback for Southern Miss from 1987-1990, set several passing records at the school despite being recruited as a defensive back out of high school.

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. If anything, this would indicate that Favre isn’t planning a comeback for at least a few weeks.

I think we can all rest easy and assume that Favre is done playing football. It would be interesting to hear him call a game, however. I wonder if they’ll get Jenn Sterger as the sideline reporter…

Colt McCoy could be poised for big things in WCO

When he was an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 60s and early 70s, Bill Walsh knew he had to find the right quarterback to fit his system.

Back then, the “right quarterback” had the same attributes as the “right quarterback” does today: Tall, strong-armed, intelligent, etc. But Walsh knew that in order for his offense to work, he needed a signal caller who was accurate first and foremost, and who possessed the ability to make quick decisions in order to get the ball out of his hands in a timely manner.

In Sam Wyche, the Bengals had what some deemed a prototypical quarterback already on the roster. But Walsh clearly didn’t think Wyche was the exact fit to run what is now called the West Coast Offense, so the Bengals acquired former sixth round pick Virgil Carter from the Bears.

Unlike Wyche, Carter wasn’t your prototypical quarterback in that he only stood 6’1” and 192 pounds and didn’t posses a strong arm. But he was smart and accurate, which is exactly what Walsh envisioned for his offense. Carter went on to lead the NFL in completion percentage in 1971 and was third in overall passing. He was the first player to successfully implement Walsh’s system.

Fast-forward to present day where Browns’ team president Mike Holmgren hopes he has found a quarterback to implement his system. Like Carter, the biggest knock on Colt McCoy is arm strength (or lack thereof). He lasted into the third round of the 2010 draft because teams were worried about whether or not he could make all the throws required of a pro quarterback. But Holmgren snatched him with the 85th pick because he too runs a version of Walsh’s West Coast system and sees a signal caller born to run his offense.

In theory, the West Coast predicates itself on using short, horizontal passes to stretch a defense sideline-to-sideline, as opposed to more traditional offenses that want to stretch a defense out vertically. In essence, the WCO uses those short passes to help open up longer running plays and create opportunities for deeper passes to be completed at a higher percentage.

But in order for the offense to work, it needs a quarterback that can read a defense quickly, get the ball out of his hands in a timely manner and most importantly, be accurate with his throws. If his passes are off the mark or delivered too fast or too slowly, the receiver’s timing is off as well and the entire play breaks down. Thus, there’s no need to have a quarterback with Aaron Rodgers’ arm strength running the show. (Although it certainly doesn’t hurt, as the Mike Holmgren-led Packers can attest to with Brett Favre.)

In the Browns’ first preseason game, you can see why fans are starting to get excited about McCoy’s potential. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown while running Pat Shurmur’s offense to near perfection. He looked comfortable, poised and spread the ball around with little to no hesitation. If he can carry that performance into the regular season, there’s no reason the Browns can’t at least be competitive.

Now, nobody is suggesting that the Browns are playoff bound or that McCoy is heading to the Pro Bowl anytime soon. One preseason game does not a player or team make. But for a franchise that has desperately searched for direction for nearly a decade, this is a positive start for Cleveland. And it’s not like McCoy didn’t posses these same attributes in college: His completion percentage never dipped below 65.1 in any of his four seasons at Texas, and he finished his junior season with a comp percentage of 76.7 and his senior season with a mark of 70.6. He also posses the intangibles that every team wants to see out of their quarterback, including strong leadership skills and the willingness to work on his craft (which was on display this summer when he sought out Favre’s help in Mississippi).

In McCoy, the Browns seemingly have the perfect fit at quarterback for Holmgren and Shurmur’s offense. They seemingly have found their Virgil Carter.

Brad Childress: Randy Moss “vomited” on Vikings’ locker room

Minnesota Viking wide receiver Randy Moss smiles during team warm-ups before their NFL football game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, October 11, 2010. Moss was playing in his first game with the Vikings after being traded by the New England Patriots earlier in the week. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brad Childress has admitted in the past that acquiring Randy Moss from the Patriots last year was a mistake. But he took the Moss situation a step further this week when he criticized the receiver for “vomiting on” his locker room.

“We had good guys, by and large, [but Moss] walked in the locker room and vomited on it.”

Regular readers know that I’m not a huge Moss fan. I think he was blessed with elite talent and if he had Jerry Rice’s work ethic, he could have been the best receiver to play the game. Instead, Moss picked his spots to be great. He was motivated when he first came into the league because so many teams passed on him in the 1998 draft, so he worked his ass off in Minnesota. Then he was traded to Oakland and completely shut it down. When he was sent to New England in 2007, he was hungry again to prove his worth and wound up being an MVP candidate for the Patriots. When he wanted a new contract at the start of last season and didn’t receive one from the Pats, he shut it down again and became a distraction in Minnesota and Tennessee.

But despite my feelings about Moss, I find it interesting that in the same breath Childress didn’t mention how big of a distraction Brett Favre’s situation was last year. Now, don’t make this a race thing – it’s not about race. My point is that there were tons of things that went wrong in Minnesota last year, most of which happened before Moss even arrived. So why didn’t Childress speak out about that while he was busy pointing the finger at Moss?

It’s not hard to believe that Randy Moss was a distraction and now that he’s not associated with the organization any more, Childress has the right to speak his mind. But if he’s looking to point the finger, he might as well point it at more than just Moss. Favre was a distraction from Day 1; first, nobody knew whether or not he was going to return to Minnesota because he did his annual song and dance routine for months, then he became a distraction again when the Jenn Sterger story broke. Funny how Childress says he has no regrets getting on his knees and begging Favre to come back, yet Moss “vomited” on his good-guy locker room.

Please. Childress was the root of the issue in Minnesota. The players didn’t respect him, he never had a handle on how to manage the different personalities in the locker room and he allowed guys like Favre to do whatever he wanted. The head coach sets the tone for the rest of the team and very few players in that Vikings locker room were ready to march to the beat of Brad Childress.

The Vikings may not make the playoffs this year under Leslie Frazier but I can almost guarantee you that it won’t be because the players don’t respect the head coach. And for that, the franchise is in much better shape now than it was at this point last year.

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