Ye gods, it was a bad matchup. So bad TMQ has been receiving reader haiku in advance, including:
Boys and Skins owners
Combined wins: zero.
Monday Night Football,
Cowboys take on the Redskins.
When does Ally start?
Perhaps we had rather not know what it says about network hype-meisters that despite last year's flameout followed by the salary cap crash at Washington, and despite last year's flameout followed by Troy Aikman's retirement at Dallas, these quasi-teams were slated for the league's showcase game. TMQ hit the hay when it was 7-3 in the fourth, confident the game could continue until the sighting of the Ramadan moon (expected in about a lunar month, since today is the 28th of Rajab in the year 1422) and the score would not change appreciably.
Washington already has its TMQ nom de gridiron, the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons. From now until proved otherwise the Dallas club, known around Texas as the Boys, will be known to this column as the Girls.
By which we certainly do not mean to insult girls! Did you catch any Women's United Soccer Association games? These athletes played hard and seemed to care. Maybe they could drop by Dallas and Washington practices to explain such concepts.
Yet awful as the Girls and Persons are, there be method to the madness. While their teams honk, Owner/Putz Dan Snyder of the Persons and Owner/Aspiring Vacuum Cleaner Salesman Jerry Jones of the Girls (Jones always reminds me of Dave Oreck) are raking it in. Both teams have significant problems with the league's salary cap, an artificial computation unrelated to actual spending. But when it comes to actual spending, Dallas ranks dead last in the NFL at $44 million, followed by Washington second-to-last at $51 million. (League average payroll is $63 million.) Since TV revenues and gate shares in the NFL are guaranteed—the same for everyone, win or lose—and the Dallas and Washington stadiums sell out every season anyway, Snyder and Jones have realized that if they pare players and field horrible teams, returns will be higher than if they spend to win.
Financial analysts expect the Girls and Persons to be the NFL's most profitable franchises in 2001, mainly because both cut well-paid accomplished players and replaced them with the experimental gentlemen you saw last night. Thus Jones and Snyder will be rewarded financially for turning their clubs into losers. And if this seems an example of wealthy owners raising the middle finger to fans, wherever did you get that idea?
Mismanagement rules at both teams. Snyder ditched the productive Brad Johnson in order to start the worse-than-useless Jeff George; the Persons are 1-8 since that canny decision. Snyder fired defensive coach Ray Rhodes, whose unit finished fourth overall last season; currently the Persons D is ranked 29th. New Persons commissar Marty Schottenheimer hired his brother and his son as assistants; bet they're real honest with the boss.
Schottenheimer insists players double-bunk on road trips, even if willing to pay for private rooms themselves. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson snores so loudly that when Bruce Smith was assigned to bunk with him before an MNF clash against Green Bay, Smith ended up trying to sleep in the hotel hall; the Persons were pounded by the Packers, 37-0, as Smith played poorly. (That tidbit originated with the phenomenally productive Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com, whom TMQ lauded earlier this year as "the hardest workin' man in sports business.") Schottenheimer denied Smith permission to attend the Hall of Fame induction of former coach Marv Levy, because of jealousy of Marv's Bills besting Marty's Chiefs in the 1993 AFC championship game. The snub against Levy was both very, very small on Schottenheimer's part and got him off on such a bad footing with Smith, Washington's best player, that by early October, Bruce was denouncing Schottenheimer on-camera to ESPN's Andrea Kramer. Now rumors are that Schottenheimer will place Smith on IR just to screw him, forcing him to sit out the rest of the season and delaying his pursuit of Reggie White's sack record. If this happens, Persons fans would be the primary screw-ees, while Owner/Putz Snyder would pay Smith almost $4 million for doing nothing.
Mismanagement also rules the Girls, who just signed Ryan Leaf, the electrified handshake buzzer of quarterbacks—everyone who comes into contact with him jumps back going, yaaaaaaaaaa! Leaf single-handedly destroyed three years of San Diego Chargers history, and he is among the lowest-rated passers of all-time. Already this year Leaf has received an inexplicable $3 million signing bonus from Tampa Bay, who kept him on the roster only a couple of months before jumping back going, yaaaaaaaaa! Now Leaf is Dallas' problem and surely will do his best to get the Girls one of the top 2002 draft picks.
Then there is Deion's Ghost, hanging over both these sorry teams. The Girls and the Persons are both carrying multimillion-dollar salary cap penalties for Deion this season, and he isn't playing for either of them.
In other NFL news, Bay of Green beat the defending champ Ravens in part by abandoning the traditional West Coast Offense™ in favor of the anything-goes, Rolling Blackout Offense variation described in last week's column. On many plays the Packers showed an empty backfield and a five-wide, the tactic producing several long gains. If the fabulous Ravens defense has a chink, it is the five-wide—last season the Jets ran up big yards against Baltimore using that set, too. Why the rest of the league has not noticed, TMQ can only wonder.
Best Plays of the Week. Best No. 1: Leading the Ravens by three, the Packers had the ball on the Baltimore eight with eight seconds left in the half and times-out expended. Rather than take the figgie, Green Bay risked all; Brett Favre drilled a touchdown pass for a 17-7 halftime lead. Sports theory says you can't just dance with the champ, you gotta knock him down, and the Packers honored this tradition.
Best No. 2: Another best to Green Bay for not being afraid to run against the Ravens. Leading 17-10 in the third quarter with third and long at the Baltimore 28, the Packers ran a draw, Ahman Green carrying to the nine. Touchdown on the series, and the Pack began to pull away.
Best With One Tick Remaining: Trailing the Panthers by five, New Orleans reached the Carolina goal line with a second remaining. The Saints lined up in an "overstack," the TE and two WRs right. Carolina was thinking pass, since New Orleans called passes on all 14 downs to that point of its do-or-die drive. The play was pitch left toward the weak side; great blocks and Ricky Williams scored as the clock hit dual zeros.
Worst Play of the Week: After coming back from a 25-point deficit to trail by five, Detroit, times-out expended, completed a pass deep into Vikings territory with 11 seconds remaining. Receiver Germane Crowell was at the sideline and could have stepped out, stopping the clock. Instead Crowell did a ridiculous look-ma-I'm-dancing number and allowed himself to be tackled on the field. The clock ticked to dual zeros as his teammates rushed to the line to spike the ball.
Best-to-Worst Series: Twice on big downs in the first half against the Jets, Miami called weak-side screens; the results were a touchdown and a conversion of third and long. Coaches usually favor strong-side screens on the theory that the more blockers in front of the runner, the better. But since most OLs never get a block on screens anyway (subject of an upcoming item), the less-called weak-side screen gives the runner more room to operate.
But Miami milked the play to excess. With a 14-0 lead and second and goal at the end of the half, the Marine Mammals called the weak-side screen on consecutive downs. Burned twice already, the Jets knew what was coming and stuffed both plays. Miami had to settle for a figgie, and the Jets staged a second-half rally. If the score had risen to 21-0, New York's will might have been broken.
Stats of the Week: Kordell Stewart recorded his first touchdown pass of the season at 3:18 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 14.
Stat No. 2: The Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons recorded their second overall touchdown of the season at 11:39 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 15. In two MNF appearances this year, the Persons have been outscored 46-7.
Stat No. 3: Trent Dilfer is now 20-4 as a starter since the beginning of the 1999 season. In that span he has been released twice (by Tampa and Baltimore) and beaten out by a journeyman who has never won a game (Matt Hasselbeck).
Stat No. 4: Miami outgained the Jets 250 yards to 27 in the first half, and then lost.
Stat No. 5: The Chiefs and Bills, who, coming into the season, possessed the second- and fourth-best home records over the past decade, are a combined 0-6 at home.
Stat No. 6: In four games, Peyton Manning has thrown four interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Stat No. 7: Stretching back to last season, the Steelers are on a 12-5 run, and the Packers are on a 8-1 run.
Stat No. 8: The San Diego Chargers, who once beat the Patriots for the old AFL title, with Sunday's loss have not defeated this team in 31 years.
Look Mr. Spock, Life-FormReadingsin the West Wing: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Colin Powell took his current trip to South Asia to "probe the minds" of the Indians and Pakistanis. What, Powell will use the Vulcan mind-meld? If Powell is actually a Vulcan, this would explain why he didn't run for president—the Constitution specifies that the chief executive must be born in the United States. Powell's official biography page mentions nothing about extraterrestrial origin, but TMQ suggests you examine the ears in the official portrait closely.
The Football Gods Chortled: Last season the Horsies won by two at Buffalo when refs awarded the team a deuce conversion that replays showed was no good. But the football gods exacted a price for this gift. Later last season the Horses lost a squeaker at Chicago largely because refs denied them a deuce conversion that replays showed was good. Sunday, the Colts lost in part because refs first awarded them a deuce and then overturned themselves. (With the two, Indianapolis would have needed only a figgie, not a touchdown, on its final drive.) All three conflicted deuce tries were runs by Edgerrin James up the middle.
Unlike Jones, Oreck Is a Respectable Businessman: Speaking of Dave Oreck, check out his incredible Hypo-Allergenic Air Cleaner for a mere $199. Employing "the same technology that U.S. nuclear submarines use," the device will "trap 95 percent of pollutants." The other 5 percent get away—and this is happening on nuclear submarines? Still, the Hypo-Allergenic Air Cleaner seems just the ticket if you're looking to get nuclear technology into your home.
Great Moments in Management: Last year the Lions played the league's toughest schedule, finished 9-7, and barely missed the postseason when they were nailed by an improbable 54-yard field goal on the final play of the final game. In the offseason novice team president Matt Millen, who has no management experience at any level, decided to clean house, firing the coach and changing offensive systems. Result? The Lions are 0-4 and their season is already over, as only one 0-4 club has ever made the playoffs.
You Should Be 0-4, Too: Everyone sympathizes with Jax coach Tom Coughlin, whose son survived the collapse of the World Trade Center. This does not alter the fact that the insult-spewing Coughlin is the league's worst sport. After his charges dropped consecutive games to Cleveland and Seattle, Coughlin derided the victors and declared, "We should be 4-0." The football gods take a dim view of boasting after victory; boasting after defeat is a new low in rodomontade.
For Those Who Came in Late: As a kid, TMQ's favorite edition of any Batman, Green Lantern, Phantom, or Flash comic was the "origin of" number that gave exciting crucial details on how the story came to be. Crucial to the origin of TMQ are certain obsessions that new readers may puzzle over, among them bad science fiction and celebrity mega-babes. Tuesday Morning Quarterback feels these are natural fits with pro football, since the first has no reality and the second is preposterous superficiality. If at times TMQ takes attitudes toward mega-babes that may be characterized as one-dimensional, all I can say is, nobody's interested in the players for their minds either.
Another TMQ fixation is the quixotic quest of the New York Times to predict an exact NFL final score. The column finds it endlessly amusing that this accuracy-obsessed hyper-responsible news organization during NFL season weekly devotes an entire page to predictions that are never right. (See below.)
A third TMQ fixation is the Obscure College Score of the Week. The little Division 2 and 3 schools in Kansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania—TMQ finds it reassuring that in these places every Saturday in the fall, plastic-clad gentlemen slam into each other as bands play and guys try to get cheerleaders' phone numbers and car alarms go off in the parking lot. This is part of the Great Chain of Being (Football Link) and will continue long after we have shuffled off this coil. But I wax contemplative.
TMQ is further fixated by football haiku and by its immutable Laws of Football, such as Why Coaches Should Be Cold and Fake Kick = Victory. The haiku and the immutable laws are explicated by the incredibly cleverly titled new book Tuesday Morning Quarterback, now in stores, or which you can buy here. See how incredibly cleverly I worked in this week's plug?
Finally TMQ has devoted considerable column-inches to documenting the shocking truth about the alien origins of Kurt Warner—who just can't possibly have come out of nowhere and be that good!—and the sinister plans of his homeworld, Mithrall, to invade Earth. TMQ publishes captured memos to Warner from Gorzon the Inexplicable, mastermind of the Galactic Hegemony (Devastating Star Clusters Since 50 Million B.C.®). As of the end of last season, Gorzon had seized power as First Illuminate of Mithrall and Vizier Totipotent of the Galactic Hegemony. Gorzon's starcruiser attack fleet was hiding on the far side of Mars, awaiting orders and causing Mars probes "mysteriously" to fail. (Watch to see if NASA's Odyssey probe "mysteriously" fails when it arrives at the red planet next week.) Bio-agent Warner was continuing his sinister assignment to ingratiate himself into hominid culture via the NFL. Further communications were expected.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! San Francisco led Atlanta by one with slightly over two minutes remaining, Falcons at the Niners 47. It's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line, this tactic almost never seen for the reason that it almost never works. Atlanta QB Chris Chandler tosses a 47-yard TD to the legendary Brian Finneran, deuce conversion, and suddenly the Niners are behind and facing extinction.
Gorzon's Latest Memo:
From: Gorzon the Inexplicable, 83rd Deputy Assistant Illuminate of Mithrall and Temporary Acting Associate Vizier of the Galactic Hegemony
To: Bio-agent KurWar7733, "Kurt Warner"
Subject: Budget Cuts
Bio-agent Warner, it is good to see your statistics have returned to the planned level. Soon you will be Earth's leading sports hero and fulfill your assignment of distracting hominid society from our sinister preparations.
I see from the stats you are making good use of the temporal fractalizer you brought on the starcruiser from our homeworld. TMQ reader Jim Tynen has realized that you employ the fractalizer to throw the ball forward through time to where your receivers will be, while subtly accelerating the temporal flux of Rams players so they run faster than is natural for Homo sapiens. Neat trick! A surprising number of NFL quarterbacks appear to utilize temporal fractalizer technology with the controls set in reverse to transport the ball backward in time, to where their receivers once had been.
After Sunday's Giants game you are 20-1 as a starter in domes. NASA continues its emergency search for Mithrall but fails to realize your dome record is a clue that our homeworld lies within a Dyson sphere. (Don't get that reference? Ask a sci-fi addict.) Meanwhile our operatives have created a stellar object designed to throw NASA off, a "belching" star in the constellation Cepheus. Naturally, Earth authorities suspect the involvement of beer at the intergalactic level. See the National Science Foundation image of the belching star at http://www.nrao.edu/pr/cephasphere.html.
Bio-agent Warner, I wish I could say the rest of our sinister scheme was doing as well as your undefeated Rams. The election of Dubtron the Incomprehensible has led to my demotion. Nobody talks about the fact that, across the galactic rim, I got 57 trillion more popular votes than him. No, all they talk about is the accursed Ecliptic College where he bested me by a cilia based on planet-by-planet returns. That confusing n-dimensional ballot on Palm Prime was so hard to grok, I myself voted for the Klingon by mistake!
And don't get me started about the decision of the Supreme Tentacles to halt the 34,729th recount. A bunch of uncountable old pods should not be allowed to frustrate the will of the life-forms! Plus the Supreme Tentacles are composed of seven seasonally varying hermaphrodites and just two parthenogenetic celibates, and everybody knows there is nothing more politically conservative than a seasonally varying hermaphrodite. I never got a fair hearing.
Now our problem is the budget cuts imposed by Dubtron. Space adventurism is suddenly underfunded, in order to provide tax cuts for the top 1 percent in cryo-suspension. Short of supplies, our attack fleet captain has been forced to scavenge liquid ammonia from the Jovian atmosphere by the gigagorn. (Mass reallocation on Jupiter may cause local fluctuations in the space-time continuum, so please don't be alarmed if your coffee occasionally flies upward out of its cup.) Plus Dubtron has appointed a special prosecutor to harass me. Today he asked for my video rental records! Who could imagine such a thing happening in a civilized society?
Just keep at your mission, bio-agent KurWar7733, and await future instructions. And if you have contact with bio-agent AnnKor6622, "Anna Kournikova," pass this message along. Though how you could stand to be in the presence of her repulsive human manifestation is beyond me. The other day I discovered in the files the nude sex video we took of Anna and our bio-double of Kate Hudson during their orientation session on unconventional Earth mating rituals. These top-heavy organisms look so nauseating—especially naked and engaged in primitive acts—that I just have to get rid of the video. Thanks goodness at least it's same-sex rituals, not that kinky mixed-gender stuff so many humans like. Anyway, before I pitch this video, do you suppose anyone on Earth would want it?
Hidden Indictor: Often the week's top-yardage passers play for losing teams, running up stats after the game is out of reach. This week, however, four of the five top passers played for winners. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. Unfortunately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has no idea what it means.
Running Items Department
ObscureCollegeScore of the Week: Thomas More 63, Franklin 13. TMC, a Catholic-affiliated school nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Covington, Ky., emphasizes a grounding in the spiritual values espoused by St. Thomas More, though last weekend's campus movie night rolled Scream 2 and Scream 3, two films about how it's zany, hilarious fun to grab women and stab them to death.
Bonus Obscure Score: Luther 12, Simpson of Iowa 6 in double OT. Luther, a Lutheran-affiliated school "founded in 1861 by Norwegian immigrants," is located in pastoral Decorah, Iowa, "recognized for its annual Nordic Fest celebration." Last year's Nordic Fest schedule included "Food demonstrations and tasting, including favorites such as lefse, rommegrot, varme polse." Food demonstrations? TMQ would have wanted to see the tall Nordic blonde demonstration.
Sadly, Thomas More does not play Luther. The rivalry could have been called the 30 Years War, and postgame interviews conducted in a torture chamber.
Most Amazing MNF Moment: Hey, the intro last night was actually ... funny. Even Dennis Miller's opening comment was funny and, thankfully, brief. Last night's cleverness was welcome, but it also showed the downside of the MNF structure put in place by the thankfully departed Don Ohlmeyer—set up to make fun of bad games, not to appreciate good ones.
ObscureCollegeGame of the Year Update: Indiana of Pennsylvania pounded Shippensburg 37-7 to remain undefeated, but California of Pennsylvania suffered its first loss, to Clarion 29-22, as buildup continued for the awesome California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania showdown on Nov. 3. Perhaps Cal of Pa., whose team is the Vulcans, erred by attempting to mind-meld with Clarion rather than kick its butt.
New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again the Paper of Record goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-72 for this season and 0-332 since TMQ began tracking.
Last season reader Denis Doughty performed an incredibly scientifically advanced analysis showing the two most common generic NFL scores were Home Team 27, Visiting Team 24; and Home Team 16, Visiting Team 13. Doughty advised the New York Times endlessly to predict these outcomes, regardless of who's playing whom. Had the Times taken Doughty's advice its zero-for streak would be dust, as there has already been a final of Home Team 16 (San Francisco), Visiting Team 13 (Atlanta).
Comes now reader Brian Golden with incredibly scientifically advanced research finding that the most common scores this season have been 24 for the home and 10 for the visitors. Thus he suggests the Times endlessly predict Home Team 24, Visiting Team 10 regardless of who's playing. TMQ will track this generic forecast and see what it yields. Golden says he is willing to wager his life's savings that the score will be realized during the 2001 season, though he cautions that his life's savings consists mainly of souvenir golf pencils.
Reader Animadversion: Reader "MarkD" protested last week's item asserting that erratic quasi-QB Cade McNown, whose career is spiraling McDown, had his priorities in order by spending more time in the Love Grotto at the Playboy Mansion than studying the Bears playbook. Becoming an NFL star QB, MarkD points out, surely would have maximized his opportunities to unhook the bras of various mega-babes. MarkD, your logic is impeccable.
Regarding the item on the Spanish-challenged National Automobile Dealers Association choosing a name whose acronym is NADA, reader Steve Corn points out this is the same industry that tried to sell the Chevy Nova in Mexico. In Spanish, Nova means "won't go."
UB-TMQ: This week's UB-TMQ winner is embedded in the Gorzon item above. Will you be next week's winner? Highly unlikely, but you might as well try. Using "The Fray" and slugging your entry UB-TMQ, compose a brief item (100 words max) that might have appeared in this column. The most clever will be chosen on a completely arbitrary basis; your name and hometown will appear in the column, and a uniformed representative of the U.S. government will deliver to your door one of the stylish new TMQ caps. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the extremely unlikely event your submission is chosen.
TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned exclusively that Cleveland coach Butch Davis keeps his notes in illegible handwriting. Remember, this is a TMQ exclusive.