Web Exclusive – The Word of Troy

Last Week’s Record: 8-5

Season Record: 66-51

What were they thinking? That’s the question I found myself asking on numerous occasions during this past week’s action. I understand that during last week’s edition I said that this week’s column would be dedicated to the midseason evaluation of each team. However, as it has been for the last several years, my math was just a tad off… The midseason evaluation will come in next week’s column. This week, I present to you the inaugural presentation of Troy Ruby’s Airhead Awards:

  • 9th Place (tie): The New Orleans Saints and he Seattle Seahawks: Yes, I know, the Saints won their game Sunday night in impressive fashion over the Pittsburgh Steelers team. However, both New Orleans and Seattle have been what I call "Jekyll and Hyde" acts this season. It’s been difficult for me to pick their games because I don’t know which team is going to show up. One week, The Saints are steamrolling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who now are tied for the lead in the NFC South) 31-6 and the next week, Brees throws four interceptions and loses 30-17 against the Cleveland Browns? The same goes for Seattle, playing one week like a Pete Carroll team and then watching as the Oakland Raiders combine for 545 yards and a 33-3 drubbing the next week. Come on guys, pick one performance level and stick with it.
  • 8th Place: FOX affiliates who felt it necessary to continue regional coverage of the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers game: Granted, it was billed as, and had the potential to be, a blockbuster game, but after three quarters of 3-0 you’re telling me you didn’t feel compelled to switch coverage to another game. I’m interested to see how many people changed the channel to the Bills-Chiefs game after halftime. For those who were stuck with this 9-0 debacle, Fox owes you an apology.
  • 7th Place: The NFL schedule-makers: The 49ers and Broncos put on an entertaining game at Wembley Stadium in London, but with both teams at 2-6 now, it had hardly any bearing on the grand scheme of the playoffs. Last year was the Patriots-Buccaneers massacre and the year before that was the almost unwatchable "Mud Bowl" between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants. Do you think we can give London a decent game between two contenders next season? How do we expect to get them interested in American football otherwise?
  • 6th Place: Those who underestimated what the Oakland Raiders are capable of: Sadly, this includes me. At 4-4, the Raiders are now in a very healthy position to vie for the AFC West crown. To those who undersold The Black Hole this year, shame on you. For my part in this, I apologize.
  • 5th Place: The Dallas Cowboys: Everyone’s darling to win the Super Bowl this year is now 1-6. Stop twiddling your fingers over the button Jerry Jones. It’s time to say bye-bye to Wade Phillips. He’s been head coach in Dallas for four seasons too long… move on. Next chapter.
  • 4th Place: The Buffalo Bills: An 0-7 record. I don’t have a punch line for that. It must be so demoralizing to know you’re virtually eliminated from playoff contention before you’re halfway through the regular season. They’ve been competitive in most of their defeats as five of the Bills’ seven losses have come by margins of 10 points or less. Only the Packers, Jets and Jaguars claimed double-digit victories over the hapless Bills. Their loss in the last five seconds of overtime was an effective illustration of just how frustrating the season has been.
  • The Bronze Medal: Randy Moss:
  • What you should have done: Something you (and others, such as Terrell Owens) haven’t been able to do for your entire career… keep your mouth shut.
  • What you did instead: You kept your mouth shut. Allow me to explain. As with most styles of behavior, there’s a time and place for everything. Players need to know when to run their mouth and when to shut up. Unfortunately for Moss, he chose to do both at the exact wrong time. By informing the press that you had no plans to answer any further questions for the remainder of the season, you pretty much hung a banner around your neck that said, "Release me please!" What did you expect? As a star of your caliber in the NFL, you’re going to be expected to answer questions at least once a week, if not more. Answer the media’s questions first, and then when you feel the urge to run your mouth do you clam up. In the end, coach Childress decided, as the Patriots and Raiders did before him, that you weren’t worth the hassle. He probably could have notified the owner about the decision first, but that’s a story for another day. As they say in the WWE, best of luck in your future endeavors.
  • Taking the Silver: Brett Favre.
  • What you should have done: Sit this one out. Come on, Brett. You hold every other major record in the book. I understand the significance of 291 games of perfect attendance. It’s a testament to how durable you were, but you’re 41 years old now. You’re not the same 20-year-old that was surprisingly resistant to injury and infirmity. Swallow your pride and, for your own health and well-being, let the streak stop.
  • What you did instead: You played the game. Seriously… you played the game with two fractures in your ankle and severe bruising in your heel. You took a helmet under the chinstrap that required ten stitches in your chin. Quite frankly, you’re lucky you didn’t end up with a broken jaw. You’ve maintained the running record of 292 games and counting, but so what? If things continue to go poorly for the Vikings, the image of a grizzled, graying old man being carried off the field by a tram may be the defining image of the Vikings season. When people look back on your career and remember how it ended, that’ll be the lasting image that sticks with them. You hung on for too long. Now, in place of the contempt I had for you when you insisted on this retirement soap opera you’ve put us through for the last five years, there is only pity. An honorable mention should go to Childress. While I’m probably in the minority who say that Childress isn’t the problem here, he should have used his better judgment and benched Favre to protect him from himself. Players play based on coach’s decision, not at their own discretion.
  • This Week’s Champion and Airhead of the Week, Mike Shanahan:
  • What you should have done: Let your starting quarterback finish the game. There’s a legitimate shot for you to win the game against the Detroit Lions. You’re only behind by six and there’s an opportunity for Donovan McNabb to drive down the field and run the two-minute drill.
  • What you did instead: You bring in backup quarterback Rex Grossman, a man whose name has become synonymous with opponents winning games, to run the drill in McNabb’s place. Your excuse? Rex Grossman runs the two-minute drill more effectively than McNabb. McNabb doesn’t have the cardiovascular endurance to run a two-minute drill. Sure enough, Grossman fumbles on the very next play and NFL Draft sensation Ndamukong Suh scoops up an easy six points. The game finishes 37-25 and you lose by two scores with Grossman instead of one (possibly even winning the game) while the quarterback you jumped through innumerable hoops to trade for in the first place sat on the sideline. Now you’re working out JaMarcus Russell and J.P. Losman too? How much confidence do you want your quarterback to lose? Instead of relying on a quarterback who led his former franchise to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl and taken himself to five Pro Bowls, you place all of your faith into three quarterbacks who couldn’t lead a team to a regular season victory if the opponents threw the game intentionally. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see McNabb land somewhere else next season, if not this season. As for your feeble excuses, I’m not buying it.

Another light week as six teams have the week off and I only have 13 games to pick from. I’ve said more than enough, on to the picks:

Upset Pick: Detroit Lions (2-5) over New York Jets (5-2); 23-19

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) over Miami Dolphins (4-3); 31-21

New England Patriots (6-1) over Cleveland Browns (2-5); 26-17

Houston Texans (4-3) over San Diego Chargers (3-5); 28-24

Chicago Bears (4-3) over Buffalo Bills (0-7); 26-20 (OT)

Minnesota Vikings (2-5) over Arizona Cardinals (3-4); 17-9

Atlanta Falcons (5-2) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2); 24-22

New Orleans Saints (5-3) over Carolina Panthers (1-6); 27-3

New York Giants (5-2) over Seattle Seahawks (4-3); 41-19

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) over Indianapolis Colts (5-2); 35-31

Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) over Oakland Raiders (4-4); 43-37 (OT)

Green Bay Packers (5-3) over Dallas Cowboys (1-6); 30-0

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) over Cincinnati Bengals (2-5); 20-16

My midseason evaluation is next week, until next time readers!