Sunday, December 30, 2007

Patriots, Best Team Ever? Hold That Champagne

According to veteran NFL football analyst, Chris Collingsworth, the 2007 New England Patriots are the best team ever. Collingsworth should know because he's been around long enough to compare the Pats to the other contenders laying claim to the title: Namely, the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1985 Chicago Bears, also the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. Considering rule changes, free agency, also salary levels, its very difficult to compare teams from different eras, but statistically, rough estimates can be made regarding the Patriots and their contemporaries . First of all, numbers don't lie; despite a team's apparent domination, one must consider the competition those totals were compiled against. Let's briefly look at the talented 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers. That club ended the season 14-2. In the playoffs, they beat the Denver Broncos 33-10, the Houston Oilers/Titans 34-5, but they struggled winning the Super Bowl against Dallas 35-31. In fact, the Cowboys could have won the game; but tight end, Jackie Smith, dropped a go ahead pass in the end zone. During the regular season, the Steelers only scored 356 points, however back in the day, defenses were allowed to employ the bump and run and other cumbersome tactics which have been banned in today's NFL. The sluggish Steelers offense, meanwhile, was not nearly as good as the wide open aerial game employed by the Patriots. Considering defense and special teams, however, the Steelers were clearly superior to New England. Pittsburgh, moreover, placed nine players from those clubs into the Hall of Fame, more importantly they accounted for four Super Bowl titles. Despite having superior personnel, however, the Patriots superb coaching staff would probably allow them to prevail in a mythical match up with Pittsburgh. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers were 15-1 and rolled through the playoffs by beating their oft nemeses New York Giants 21-10, the Chicago Bears, 23-0, and the Miami Dolphins 38-16. On competition alone, you can argue the 49ers beat one of the consensus best teams of all time, the Bears, and one of pro football's greatest quarterbacks, Dan Marino. The 49ers, moreover, revolutionized the game by incorporating Coach, Bill Walsh's, west coast offense. Instead of handing the ball off to his running backs, Walsh instructed quarterback, Joe Montana, to throw the ball in the flats to running backs, Roger Craig, Wendel Tyler, also Bill Ring. These five and six yard incremental gains allowed the Niners to work the ball down the field on long time consuming drives resulting in a then record 435 points. San Francisco's defense, furthermore, was stingy surrendering a meager 227 points. Surprisingly, this was considered to be Bill Walsh's best team, but it lacked Hall of Fame play maker, Jerry Rice. The running game was spiked by Wendel Tyler who gained 1,262 yards rushing. Even with a great quarterback like Tom Brady and receivers, Randy Moss along with Wes Welker, the Pats would not be expected to beat the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. The last great team the Pats would face are the 1985 Chicago Bears. They were 15-1 defeating the Giants 21-0, the Rams 24-0 en route to a 46-10 trouncing of the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Bears scored 456 during the season while surrendering 198. The running game was led by bruising, Walter Payton, nicknamed, Sweetness, for his deft moves. What made the Bears special was their defense led by Hall of Fame middle linebacker, Mike Singletary. This bunch also had Hall of Fame players, Richard Dent also Dan Hampton. They blitzed their corners and linebackers frequently in a scheme invented by defensive coach, Buddy Ryan. Anyone who saw those Bears would say the Patriots would be in a terrific mismatch against the Monster of the Midway. In compiling 16 wins the Pats struggled against lesser opponents like the Ravens, Eagles, and the New York Giants. The Patriots deserve their place in the pantheon of great NFL teams, but Collingsworth misspeaks when he labels them the greatest team ever. At best, they are the third best team behind the 1984 49ERS and the 1985 Bears.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sean Taylor in Black and White

Unfortunately, It came as no surprise when the photos of four African American males were unveiled as the perpetrators of the abhorrent murder of Redskins' safety, Sean Taylor. For more than thirty years, an ugly persistent trend of murder and mayhem has plagued America's inner cities. This voracious predation by ruthless young black males is taking a beleaguering toll on the survivors of these victims. The latest unsuspecting target was Taylor. He was slain when four youths entered his home intending to rob him; but Sean surprised them and shots were fired striking Taylor in the delicate femoral artery. Shortly thereafter, he bled to death. Young black males comprise less than six percent of the population; however they make up forty percent of those in lockup. Consequently, a culture of incessant killing pervades the mean streets of many major urban areas where drugs, prostitution, also murder run rampant. But what causes such blatant disrespect for the value of black human life? According to the Department of Justice, African Americans are most likely to be killed by someone of their own race. Whites, on the other hand, are more likely to commit rape along with other sexual crimes. The disparity results from blacks' historic role as mules for the drug trade. It's no secrete: blacks sell the drugs to whites; yet the justice system targets the sellers, not the users. It isn't fair, but two wrongs don't make it right. Nonetheless during the predawn hours on Monday, it all came full circle for Sean Taylor as the last globule of blood drained from his body. Meanwhile, one of the assailants, 17-year old Eric Rivera, went on his myspace page, and posed in a bed engulfed by crisp hundred dollar bills. Dade County police believe Rivera was the shooter. His attorney said that it hadn't yet dawn on Rivera what he had done, nor the consequences of another youth whose salad days are wasted. Fortunately despite the carnage, dedicated mentors are redirecting some black youth into educational programs which are finally steering some of these young men into college, rather than prison; it will be generations, nevertheless, before black males realize Barak Obama is a true role model, not Fifty Cents.

Today in the National Football League, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to win in New Orleans to gain street cred in the NFC; otherwise, the Bucs could find themselves facing a must win situation next Sunday in Houston against the Texans. Tampa has a great secondary capable of matching up with New Orleans' receivers, but the Bucs must pressure New Orleans quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, into mistakes. Tampa Bay has not consistently rushed the passer all year, therefore New Orleans should cover the three points; but if your gut instincts say the Buccaneers will win today, you may be right. Either way you look at it, today's game is a toss up. Very few teams are capable of taking down the Saints in the Super Dome, however if Tampa wins, they could become a team destine for a deep playoff run. In other games, Indy should prevail against Jacksonville, and the Bears should defeat the injury riddled New York Giants.

On Sunday, the National Football League will pay tribute to Sean Taylor's memory by emblazoning his number, 21, on every player's helmet.