New Franchise of the Week: The next NFL expansion team has announced it will be known as the Houston Texans, rejecting TMQ's preferred choices: the Texans Release 2.0 (the Kansas City Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans), the Houston Gridlock (kudzu has been observed growing on the tires of immobilized SUVs during rush hour in this supposed free-market paradise), and the Houston Problems (as in, "Houston, we have a …"). The Houston Problems had great potential as a marketing-campaign line: "There's just no end of Problems!" And as a sportscaster line: "Those Problems sure have problems." Now we'll never know.
The Texans have not yet displayed their sure-to-be-high-schoolish uniforms but have unveiled a lovely cow-inspired logo and announced the team colors will be "battle red, liberty white and deep steel blue." (Check out their lovely cow-inspired logo at www.houstontexans.com; TMQ's favorite aspect of this site is that it offers a "team history" section, though the Texans will not exist until 2002.) Liberty white? The sample looked an awful lot like Copy Machine White to TMQ. And battle red? Get with the times, Texans: Road Rage Red.
Besides, the NFL is supposed to be manly sport for manly men: The last thing it needs is cute J. Crew color names. J. Crew copywriters would make the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) into the Cleveland Warm Butterscotch. New England, which lately has been changing uniforms on an annual basis, could switch to Mayan Multicultural Mocha. Tampa could call its dominant color Pewter Out. San Francisco could be decked in Cap-Maxed Gold. Jax could call its color Squeamish Teal. The Raiders color could be Orthodox Sabbath Black. The Vikes? The Color Purple Purple. And that ordinary white on every team's road jerseys? This is America: Make it Death to the King White.
Football Gods Intervene: Intervention No. 1. When Ryan Leaf threw a TD early against Denver, he made firing-a-six-shooter gestures toward Broncos players. At that moment, the gentlemen in question had three touchdown passes and eight interceptions on the year while his team was 0-10. The football gods are not amused by boasting and preening on the part of terrible players from cellar-dwelling teams. Leaf's punishment was that his Bolts were allowed to take a 34-17 second-half lead, then forced to watch the lead evaporate during a Denver comeback victory. The football gods may grind the clock, but they grind exceeding small.
Intervention No. 2. Final Saturday: Yale 34, Harvard 24. Be they right, be they wrong, the football gods have spoken.
Great Moments in Management: Buffalo let Bruce Smith go because he was "too old"; Smith, who had three sacks and a safety last night, may end up as Defensive Player of the Year. The Persons' victory over the Rams was a sterling example of how defense trumps offense. The Rams went in averaging 39 scored, and the Persons averaging 16 allowed. Defense prevailed, as 20 were allowed, a slight increase for the Persons but a big drop for St. Louis.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Failed blitzes of the weekend: Detroit faces third and eight, odds favor the defense; the Giants send seven, 32-yard TD pass to the Lions' Johnny Morton. San Diego backed up deep in its territory, the Broncos send six, 83-yard TD pass to Jeff Graham. The Saints blitzed six, including a DB, when the Raiders faced third and long; 25-yard completion on a shovel pass on which the blitzers merrily rushed past the RB with the ball.
Guaranteed Winners! In an improbable e-mail, reader Donna DeFrank of Mantua, N.J., writes, "Thanks to your article 'Punt, Pass, and Predict,' I have won the football pool at work twice—the first week picking EVERY GAME correctly!" How come my own advice never works for me? TMQ hasn't ever won the office football pool. Donna also sweetly reminds that in the August article in question, TMQ predicted a generic final score of 13-10. She asks, has it happened this season? Why, how kind of you to inquire: It was Chicago 13, Tampa Bay 10 this weekend and Detroit 13, Falcons 10 last weekend. But though TMQ chides others for failed final-score forecasts, no credit is deserved here. This piddling excuse for a prediction succeeded solely by blind chance.
Here lies one of the essential differences between Tuesday Morning Quarterback and other football columnists. While they feign insider information and confidently make predictions in hopes that no one will ever go back and check, TMQ absolutely guarantees he has no idea what he's talking about. One of the goals of this column is to show that amateur football writers can be just as wrong as professionals. And the goal is being achieved! The professional football columnists do nothing all day long except live in the NFL alternative reality. TMQ, on the other hand, is wrong strictly in his spare time. TMQ has a real job—actually several real jobs; I'm on the mortgage-payment incentive plan—and dictates this column to Cindy Crawford while shaving. (Himself, not her.)
And We're Sorry That on the Pro Bowl Ballot, If You Punch Next to "Levon Kirkland," the Vote Goes to Sam Cowart: For the third time this season, the league formally apologized for blowing a call in a Pittsburgh game. Most recently, in the Steelers' loss to the Eagles, Philadelphia recovered a late onside kick that allowed it to boot the field goal that caused the overtime it won; turns out the Eagles committed an uncalled penalty during the onside. Against Cleveland, refs mishandled the final seconds of the clock, depriving Pittsburgh of its chance to launch a tying field goal. And after the Steelers' three-point loss to Tennessee, the league admitted Pittsburgh should have prevailed on a challenge to an official's ruling. Because the call was not overturned, Pittsburgh lost a timeout that would have been valuable during a last-second drive for a field goal to tie. Harmonic weirdness: Two of the three blown calls involved the same player, Hines Ward.
TMQ sympathizes with the Old Economy team (surely the Pittsburgh Silicon would be a better name today), which now has at least one L as a result of zebra follies—the Eagles contest would have been over had the onside penalty been called. But there's contributory negligence, as lawyers would say. Consider the circumstances of the Tennessee call. Late in the third, Pittsburgh trailing the Flaming Thumbtacks by seven, Ward caught a long pass and appeared to score. Officials ruled him down at the Tennessee 1. Steelers coach Bill Cowher challenged the call and lost a timeout when the spot was upheld; later the league acknowledged Ward had broken the plane. But the Steelers scored on the next play anyway. Cowher challenged a ruling that resulted in first and goal, Steelers. You're supposed to challenge calls that help the other team, not calls that give you first and goal.