DATE CREATED: 12/18/08
Tom Curran, NBCSports.comGood moves
Patriots don't cut Cassel
By the end of preseason, it was apparent Tom Brady's backup Matt Cassel couldn't get the job done. Getting extended play in the preseason, Cassel was jumpy, couldn't throw a touchdown pass in any of his appearances and went 19-for-34 with a pick and four sacks. After four seasons, he hadn't just stagnated, he appeared to be backsliding from the level of play he established his first two seasons. If Brady ever went down ... Well, Brady did go down. And the faith the Patriots placed in Cassel by sticking with him has been rewarded. New England's 9-5, Cassel's thrown 18 TDs and 11 picks and he's gotten better week after week.
Niners turn to Singletary
When Mike Nolan's forgettable tenure in San Francisco ended, the Niners turned the team over to former Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary. He punctuated his first halftime speech by exposing his posterior. He made his first second half as head coach memorable by sending tight end Vernon Davis to the showers. He ranted in his postgame press conference in a weird mix of apology and blame-laying. From that ignominious start, Singletary's turned it around. The Niners are still weak -- 2-4 with Singletary in charge -- but San Fran's got an identity, and Singletary has infused them with it.
Cardinals bench Leinart
Ken Whisenhunt positioned himself squarely in the corner of Matt Leinart all offseason and remained there until Leinart went 4-for-12 with three picks in the Cardinals' third preseason game against Oakland. Whisenhunt then decided he'd seen enough of the former No. 10 overall pick. Whisenhunt named Kurt Warner his starter, relegating Leinart to watching. And Leinart has watched the Cardinals win their first division title since before the 25-year-old Leinart came into this world. And Warner is an MVP candidate.
Dolphins hang with Chad, go Wildcatting
When the Jets courted and won the heart (or at least secured the services) of Brett Favre, steady Chad Pennington was out in Gotham. But he wasn't out of work for long. The Dolphins, with the man that drafted Pennington -- Bill Parcells -- pulling the executive office strings, brought Pennington to Miami and gave the offense over to his steady hand. Coming off a one-win 2007, the Dolphins needed more than just a smart quarterback. They needed to shake things up offensively. Enter the Wildcat offense. The single-wing attack, drawn up by quarterbacks coach David Lee and smartly implemented by veteran offensive coordinator Dan Henning, caused serious buzz, resulted in wins and helped put the Dolphins back on the map. And -- stunningly -- in the race for the playoffs.
Titans franchise Haynesworth, stick with Collins
Actually, franchising Albert Haynesworth -- an All Pro defensive tackle -- was an easy call. Making sure Haynesworth didn't feel either disrespected, tied down or otherwise taken advantage of was the key thing. Apparently, the Titans did that pretty well. Haynesworth followed up his breakthrough 2007 with a very, very solid 2008 for the nasty Titans. Meanwhile, when former wunderkind Vince Young melted down and got injured in the Titans' first game, Tennessee turned to grizzled veteran Kerry Collins. And the Titans stuck with him as Tennessee won week in and week out and Young got healthy enough to play again. Collins isn't as electrifying as Young, but he's a lot more predictable. And in this NFL, with a defense like Tennessee's, predictable is beautiful.
Falcons draft Ryan, sign Turner
When turning a bad team into a decent one, it's often smart to start on defense. And with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, the Falcons had a chance to get LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, a potential game-changer. But in their first draft, head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff pulled the lever on Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan's gone on to play like an eight-year veteran, leading Atlanta to the brink of the playoffs. But to complement a young quarterback like Ryan, Atlanta needed a ground attack. They imported one by knocking the socks off free agent running back Michael Turner in the early days of the signing period. Turner's going to the Pro Bowl.
Jets get Favre
Brett Favre -- certified country boy -- in New York City? With a less than adoring media base waiting to pounce if he faceplanted in his first season post-Packers? The Jets could have played it safe and just stuck with Chad Pennington and hoped the other offseason moves they made on both sides of the ball paid off. But they rolled the dice on Favre, got a deal done to bring him to Gang Green, and Favre has paid off. He still has a few headscratching games, but he's made the Jets offense more potent than it's been in years. It's no coincidence that both Favre and running back Thomas Jones are going to the Pro Bowl. They've been very good for each other. And for the Jets who are once again sniffing around a playoff berth.Bad moves
One more year for Holmgren
It seemed like a good idea at the time. A terrific run in the Pacific Northwest for Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren to be capped by a 2008 season in which Seattle made one more run at an NFC title. Then he'd walk away from that job, take a year off and weigh his options. His team, however, decided to take this year off. Injuries to every important skill position caused the Seahawks to burn on the launch pad. In 16 previous seasons as a head coach, Holmgren had just three losing seasons and only one of double-digit losses. This year, it took Seattle just 13 games to exceed his worst previous year.
Browns awesome free agent period falls flat
Re-signed quarterback Derek Anderson got himself benched. Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth was a non-factor. Trade import Shaun Rogers made an impact and is going to the Pro Bowl, but the other DT they dealt for, Corey Williams, has managed a half-sack this season after racking up seven each in 2006 and 2007. Even though every move they made makes perfect sense, all the congratulations Cleveland got in the early days of free agency went up in smoke.
It really didn't take very long at all, did it? Signed by the Cowboys on April 23, suspended after a dustup with his Cowboys-sponsored babysitter Oct. 8, Adam Jones didn't even make it through four weeks of the NFL's regular season before he got himself back in trouble. Reinstated Nov. 19, Jones saw his first action against Pittsburgh on Dec. 7. He muffed a punt and got his neck jammed. For all the distraction Adam Jones has caused owner Jerry Jones (no relation), the player has made 26 tackles.
Del Rio submarines season
After a 21-19 loss to the Bengals, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio chided linebacker Mike Peterson for flexing his muscles after making a shoestring tackle. When Peterson tried to defend himself, saying he was trying to bring energy to the team, Del Rio went over the edge. Peterson ultimately got banished for two days and lost his starting position. The bigger losses, however, came on the field. Jacksonville went from 3-5 after the Bengals' loss to a low point of 4-9 a little more than a month later. Del Rio's refusal to sign off on his players' self-congratulation and general lack of urgency plays well with me. But it could ultimately cost him his job. Oh yeah, the free agent signings of wide receivers Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson? Not so hot either.
The Chargers got out of bed
Week 1, they lose at the buzzer to Carolina. Week 2, a Ed Hochuli blown call leads directly to a loss to San Diego. Soon after, the traveling fun started. On Sunday, Sept. 28, the Chargers played at Oakland. The next week, they were cross-country at Miami. When they returned home, they played a Sunday night game against the Patriots, then went cross country again and played at Buffalo. Then they went cross-Atlantic and played New Orleans. Then they returned home. Beginning with the Miami game, San Diego lost three out of four. People wonder if Norv Turner's job is in jeopardy. Give the guy a fair shot with a normal season, not this absolute messs.
Plaxico goes to da club
Nursing a hamstring injury that was going to keep him out of action for the weekend, wide receiver Plaxico Burress went to the Latin Quarter night club with teammate Antonio Pierce on Nov. 28. Soon, he also had a quad injury. And a big problem. Fumbling with his Glock before heading into the evening's mixer, Plax put a bullet through his leg. And while that's happened to all of us, because Burress has a high-profile job it became a big deal. The Giants won convincingly two days after Burress smoked himself. But since, they've lost two straight, and the links between his act and New York's decline are being drawn.
Raiders' drunken sailor spending
Six years and $39 million with $16 mil guaranteed for former Giants safety Gibril Wilson. Seven years and $50 million with $18 mil guaranteed for dented-up defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. Six years and $55 million with $16 mil guaranteed for oft-injured and irascible wideout Javon Walker. Seven years and $70 million for corner DeAngelo Hall. Three years and $14 million for offensive tackle Kwame Harris. Can't take it with ya, right Al?
By Tom Curran
© 2008 NBC Sports.com
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