Archive for the NFC West Category

Vikings Win as Brett Favre Throws Game-Winning TD Pass


Trailing 24-20 in the fourth quarter to the San Francisco 49ers, Brett Favre showed everyone why the Vikings were willing to bend over backwards to bring him in as their QB for 2009.

Here’s why:

Video: Brett Favre Throws Game-Winning Touchdown Pass to Greg Lewis



Favre, under intense pressure, found Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, giving the Vikings a 27-24 lead with two seconds left. Lost in the hubbub over Favre throwing the TD will be the incredible effort by Lewis to make the grab. He did a fantastic job on the play.

The Vikings would hang on and move to 3-0. The frisky 49ers fell to 2-1, but also showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.

Favre finished the game 24-46 for 301 yards. He threw two TDs and one INT, his first pick of the season.

Next week, Favre and the Vikings face his old team, the Green Bay Packers, on Monday night.

Brace yourself. You won’t hear about anything else next week.     

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Best Of The Best | College Football’s 10 Greatest Freshmen

There was a time, not that long ago actually, when college football was dominated by men who looked like Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and never, ever needed a fake I.D. to get into a bar. It was the redshirt era—a time when fifth-year seniors ruled the gridiron and freshmen spent the majority of their game time waving towels over their heads on the sidelines.

But with the onslaught of early entries into the NFL Draft and the rise of the super-underclassman in recent years (see Tebow, Peterson, Crabtree, et al … ), more freshmen are arriving on campuses each fall looking to make an impact from Day One. So with the college football season nearly upon us, we thought we’d take a look back today on the game’s greatest freshmen. And yes, a few of them even managed to make their mark during the Hacksaw Duggan era:

No. 1—Emmitt Smith, Florida, RB, 1987. True impact freshmen were still a rarity during the 1970s and ’80s, but the one position that seemed to produce more than any other was running back. And the running back who made the biggest splash of them all was Emmitt Smith. A decorated prep running back out of Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia, the undersized Smith still had his share of doubters when he was signed by the University of Florida. But in his first full game as the Gators’ featured back, Smith broke the school’s 40-year-old single-game rushing record, galloping for 224 yards and a pair of TDs in a victory over Alabama. Smith finished his rookie campaign with 1,341 yards and earned Freshman of the Year honors from both the Southeastern Conference and the Associated Press. Smith bolted Gainesville after his junior year with 58 school rushing records, and went on to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

No. 2—Marshall Faulk, San Diego State, RB, 1991. Another frosh running back with a supersized high school resume and an undersized frame would make an enormous impact on the game just a few seasons later. In his second college start, Marshall Faulk shattered a pair of NCAA rushing records by rushing for 386 yards and seven touchdowns in a rout of Pacific. Faulk went on to compile one of the gaudiest freshman lines in NCAA history – 1,429 rushing yards and 23 TDs. Three years later, he exited as the second overall pick in the NFL Draft and went on to become one of the league’s most prolific backs and a fantasy player’s wet dream (he’s still the only RB in NFL history to compile 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards over his career).

No. 3—Jamelle Holieway, Oklahoma, QB, 1985. If you’re a college football fan who grew up in the Atari and Frankie Goes to Hollywood era, chances are you remember this lightning-fast quarterback well. If you’re a fan from the Xbox and Jay-Z era … well, maybe not so much. Which is a shame, because you missed seeing one of the most scintillating QBs in the game’s history. With feet as quick as a hiccup and the ability to cut on a dime, Holieway was a natural to run Barry Switzer’s option offense when he took over for an injured Troy Aikman four games into the 1985 season. He went on to lead the Sooners to an 11-1 season, capping it with a victory over Penn State in the Orange Bowl and a national championship. Holieway remains the only true freshman QB to lead his team to a national title. Unfortunately, Holieway’s remarkable freshman year would be the apex of his career, as off-field issues and knee injuries derailed his success.

No. 4—Bernie Kosar, Miami, QB, 1983. While Holieway may be the only true freshman to lead his team to a national crown, one strong-armed QB managed to pull off the feat as a redshirt frosh two years earlier. And it’s easy to overlook the accomplishment, as Bernie Kosar played like a fifth-year senior from the moment he stepped on campus in Coral Gables. Kosar completed 61.5 percent of his passes (remember kids, this was before the bubble screen era) for 2,328 yards and 15 TDs, leading the Hurricanes to an 11–1 regular-season mark and a spot in the Orange Bowl against top-ranked Nebraska. Kosar passed for 300 yards and two TDs, helping the Hurricanes halt the Huskers’ 22-game winning streak and collect the school’s first national title.

No. 5—Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, WR, 2007. The San Francisco 49ers, who selected Tech’s superstar receiver with the 10th pick in this spring’s NFL Draft, can only hope that Crabtree will have the same impact in the Bay Area this fall that he had on the Texas plains in the fall of 2007. A standout QB for perennial high school power Dallas Carter, Crabtree redshirted his first year in Lubbock while acclimating himself to the wideout position. He proved to be a quick study. In the fall of ‘07, Crabtree put together one of the most prolific campaigns in the history of the position, piling up 1,861 receiving yards and 21 TD catches under coach Mike Leach’s high-flying system. Crabtree garnered a slew of awards, including the Biletnikoff Trophy (given to the nation’s top receiver) and a unanimous All-America selection.

No. 6—Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma, 2004. Peterson is better known these days as an All-Pro back for the Minnesota Vikings. But in 2004, “A.D.” he was the B.M.O.C. for OU. Peterson exploded out of the gate for the Sooners during his freshman season, running for 1,925 yards en route to earning first-team AP All-America honors. The workhorse back (he led the nation in carries as a freshman with 339) finished second to USC quarterback Matt Leinart in voting for the Heisman Trophy—the highest finish ever for a freshman.

No. 7—Tim Brown, Notre Dame, WR, 1984. No player on this list had as rocky a start to his college career as this future Heisman Trophy winner did. The Dallas native arrived in South Bend as a ballyhooed recruit under Gerry Faust, and even earned a spot as the team’s starting kickoff returner for the season-opener against Purdue. On the opening kickoff, Brown fumbled, Purdue recovered, and the Irish went on to lose. Brown persevered, however, and went on to set the school’s freshman record for receptions. He went on to a stellar career that culminated with winning the 1987 Heisman. Brown was also a nine-time Pro Bowler in the NFL.

No. 8—Maurice Clarett, RB, Ohio State, 2002. Like Holieway, Maurice Clarett’s star burned brightest his freshman year. The talented but troubled running back was a one-year wonder for the Buckeyes, rushing for 1,237 yards and 18 TDs to help lead Ohio State to a national title. Amid a bevy of academic and off-field problems, however, Clarett was dismissed from the school a year later. He later challenged (unsuccessfully) the NFL’s rule that a player must have been out of high school for three years to be eligible for the entry draft, and was waived by the Denver Broncos a year later without ever playing a regular-season down.

No. 9—Herschel Walker, Georgia, RB, 1980. Perhaps the most physically gifted player on the list, Herschel Walker became a national sensation for the Bulldogs almost from the get-go. With a stunning combination of size, speed and quickness, Walker helped Georgia to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame that gave the Bulldogs the national title. He finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting after rushing for 1,616 total yards and 15 TDs. Walker would win the award two years later.

No. 10 – Jared Lorenzen, QB, Kentucky, 2000. It seems only fitting that a quarterback nicknamed the “Hefty Lefty” would make a big splash right from the start, and that’s exactly what Jared Lorenzen did for the Wildcats. The 275-pounder shattered six NCAA single-season marks for freshmen, including total yards, passing yards, pass attempts and completions. His greatest performance came between the hedges in Athens, Ga., as the beefy southpaw gorged himself for 528 passing yards (still an SEC record) and a pair of TDs in a 34-30 victory over Georgia.



Tarvaris Jackson or Seneca Wallace?: NFL, Teams Take Your Pick

In all of his back-up wisdom, Minnesota Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson decided to ask for a trade request. That will probably be the biggest mistake of his NFL career.

He has the chance to learn behind Brett Favre, one of the best to throw on the pads, and grow that way, but he decided he wanted it for himself and he saw he wasn’t going to start with Favre coming in.

Right now Jackson is probably a No. 2 QB, or even a third, depending on the team you put him on. There are many problems that Jackson has in asking for a trade:

1) He’s a horrible QB, and probably should try running back.

2) He’s the No. 2 QB in Minnesota.

Who in their right mind would trade for a No. 2 QB in Minnesota, and would be a No. 3 or No. 4 QB on any other team?

Now, Jackson really hasn’t put it out on the field, but the idea came to me: There is also another undersized QB that is currently a No. 2 QB, and his name is Seneca Wallace.

I thought I would compare the two and see which player people and teams would choose.

Tarvaris Jackson or Seneca Wallace? Let’s take a look at both.


Seneca Wallace

Wallace, more than a backup last season, led the Seattle Seahawks to three out of their four wins last season. They almost could have had 5-6 wins if not for the Patriots game and a few others.

Now, since 2007, Wallace has seen a lot of regular season playing time due to Matt “thinning” Hasselbeck.

Wallace played 10 games in each of the last two years, eight games 2006, and seven in 2005.

Last season was by far Wallace’s best season. He threw for 1.532 yards, 11 TD, and only three INT. Wallace was only sacked 14 times, which gives him 34 for his career.

That’s a pretty good season, especially when the QB is 5’11” and can’t even see over the offensive lineman.


Tarvaris Jackson

Jackson was in a much different situation than Wallace. Jackson was the starting QB, and then was replaced by Gus Frerotte. Then for the last four games Jackson was the starter and did pretty well.

Now, Jackson is really known more for his legs than his arm, and he’s proved that in recent seasons.

Last season Jackson threw for 1,056 yards, nine TD, and two INT in eight games—not as well as Wallace, but not too bad nonetheless.

The main difference between Wallace and Jackson is that Jackson is 6″2″ and 225 pounds, while Wallace is 5’11” and 205 pounds.


So now the decision has to be made. Who would you rather trade for if Seneca Wallace joined Tarvaris Jackson on the trade block?

Wallace or Jackson?

My choice would be Wallace, simply because he can throw and run. Plus, he has a better football IQ than Jackson does, and looks at all the possibilities instead of locking onto one player.

So who would you pick?


Diner Morning News: First-Year Coaches

National Football Post

Quote: “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul….We’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”-Apollo mission press conference, quoted in Of a Fire on the Moon by Norman Mailer (1970) and First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen (2005). The first moon landing was 40 years ago.

Remember the old saying, “What’s the best thing about the first-year player? The answer is becoming a second-year player.” Well, the same applies to young head coaches in the NFL.

I can’t think of any job in the world that, no matter how well-prepared you think you are or how old you are, the first year isn’t a big learning experience.

There are ten NFL cities with new head coaches this season: St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Denver, New York Jets, San Francisco, Kansas City, Indy, Cleveland, and Seattle.

Two of them, Jim Mora in Seattle and Eric Mangini in Cleveland, have been in the head-coaching chair before, so they’ve already been through the first-year experience.

This week, most NFL people have ended their vacations—even Brad Childress of the Vikings is back from fishing and is commenting on the Brett Favre situation. (Welcome back, Brad. The summer heat is about to get worse.)

The NFL is gearing up for training camps, so this week, I thought I’d examine the seven coaches who enter their first years as head coaches.

Today: We will start with Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers.



Mike is a Hall-of-Fame player who retired after the 1992 season and became a successful author and motivational speaker before joining the NFL coaching ranks in 2003.

He was the linebackers coach in Baltimore for two seasons, then moved to San Francisco with Mike Nolan to be his assistant head coach. Singletary was promoted to interim head coach last season with nine games remaining and finished 5-4.


Les Steckel Effect

(For those too young to remember, Les Steckel was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings for one season, 1984. He replaced Vikings legend Bud Grant and won three games but was fired immediately after the season. He attempted to install a Marine-like approach with his team but failed to win over any players.)

Since Mike had nine games in 2008 to sort through some of the problems, he was able to learn what buttons he could push with players and what buttons to avoid.

Yesterday in the Sunday Post, I used a great quote from Frank Leahy, the former Notre Dame head coach, who said the following:

“Superstars don’t know how or why they do things right so easily. They are spoiled by how easy it is and impatient with those to whom it does not come easy, so they seldom make great coaches. The men who become coaches understand that most players must sweat and sacrifice for success and that the success of the team depends on the plodders as much as on the rare superstar.”

Mike had a superstar career, but his drive and his work habits were that of a plodder. Singletary made himself a great player through his preparation, his work habits, and his determination—the same qualities that are needed to make a successful head coach.

The challenge that awaits Singletary in his first full season will be to allow players to develop their own way of doing things. Just because they don’t approach the game in the same style and manner he did doesn’t mean they’re not as serious. The paths to hard work and preparation can have different approaches, so Singletary must allow this to happen.


They Didn’t Tell Me This Would Happen

Something, anything—maybe some weird thing— is going to happen this year to Singletary, as it will to most other NFL coaches. It’s not in the head coach’s manual—if there was such a manual for coaches to read.

Each situation that Singletary faces, large or small, will force him to make a decision that will have an effect on the team, positively or negatively. So, for the first time in his career, he must think in a three-dimensional way.

Telling both quarterbacks, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, that he wants to decide on a starter by the third preseason game sends a clear message to the team that every practice will be factored into the evaluation. This places greater importance on practice snaps, thus, creating better practices for the team. This shows the team that Singletary is not afraid to make a decision or place demands on the players, publicly and privately.

He must be the head coach for the whole team, not just the quarterbacks. And when he does make a decision, he must be like any teacher who hands out a syllabus before a class, explaining the grading process.


What Am I Going To Do on Game Day?

Head coaches must be involved on game days because they can inject their personalities into their teams by what they do on Sunday.

If they don’t call plays, their behavior on the sideline will set the tone for the team. For example, if the head coach screams at the officials, you will find an entire sideline screaming at officials. The team will follow the leader’s actions, good or bad.

Since Singletary does not call plays on either side of the ball, he must understand both sides of the ball in terms of game planning. He must know the personnel on each side of the ball, its strengths and weaknesses, without having to glance down at the depth chart. (This is a pet peeve of mine.

When I watched pregame warm ups, I would always look to see if the opposing GM or personnel director had a flip card for the game in his hands. If he did, I knew he hadn’t watched much tape on our team; if he had, there would be no need for him to carry a depth chart. The numbers on the backs of players’ jerseys would have been all he needed.)

Singletary must help each phase of the game, telling each coordinator his plans two or three moves before they occur. He must sense the key movements to make to either put the game away or win it. He’s like the director of a movie; he must have a keen sense of timing.


I Know When To Punt…I Think

Game management is the downfall of most first-year NFL coaches. It is not as easy as knowing when to punt or kick a field goal. It starts on Tuesday night before the game when you lay out your keys to victory.

Since Singletary does not call plays, he must be excellent in this area. If he makes mistakes here, he’ll lose the confidence of the team.

For first-year head coaches or for any coach, you must have someone in your office going over game situations each week, studying other NFL games to determine whether what the team did in each instance was the right move. The results of the actions are not as important as what the actions were.

Being a head coach for nine games last year will benefit Singletary in this area, but he must keep working on this phase of the game every day, allotting at least an hour of study time to prepare for the season.


I Wish We Had Done

Before the season is over, Singletary is going to wish he spent more time on game situations with his team. From OTAs to mini-camps, there’s never enough time to prepare the team for all game situations.

The other area that Singletary must examine closely is the fundamentals of his team. He must be able to know when his team needs more contact and when it needs a break. He’s like a horse trainer preparing for the big race; he must understand when to push harder and when to pull back.

For Singletary, this is going to be an area where he must not do as he would do but rather what the team needs.


I’m Going To Remember This One

In the U.S. Army, they have a Center for Army Lessons Learned, which is responsible for studying all wars, past and present, to determine how to improve techniques or planning or strategy and preparation.

This is a concept that Singletary needs to introduce to his staff so that each game is a learning experience. Win or lose, he must study all his actions in each game, making sure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice in any phase of the game.

Spending all day Monday on this area is more important than starting to prepare for the next opponent.


Things Will Be Different Next Year

There is much to do in order to be a successful NFL head coach, and Singletary, in spite of all his playing experience, is going to find that the last nine games last year and these games this year are going to be a continuing education.

Singletary must plan his work week with tremendous attention to detail. He must also have one or two people, either in or outside the building, to call for advice and counsel. He doesn’t need a committee; he needs someone who has his best interests at heart who knows the game and the problems he faces. Tony Sparano has Bill Parcells for advice; whom will Singletary rely on?

Can he be successful? Much will depend on his ability to manage the game as it relates to his team’s strengths. Much will depend on his growth from last year to this year as a coach, as a leader, and as a football man.

Much will depend on his ability to deal with change.  And much will depend on his ability to keep the confidence of his players through his decisions and actions.

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The Complete 2009 NFC Running Back Predictions

The NFC produced a ton of talent at the running back position in 2008.

The top four rushers in the NFL came from the NFC: Adrian Peterson (Vikings), Michael Turner (Falcons), Deangelo Williams (Panthers), and Clinton Portis (Redskins).

The running game is what ultimately sets up the passing game. It is said that if a running game can be successful in a game, a passing game will develop.

We have cleared the quarterback position as well as the AFC predictions.

Here are the 2009 NFC running back predictions!