Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Schein Nine. Every week of the 2012 season, I'll have nine thoughts about what's going on in the NFL, ranging from the latest hot-button topics to issues that slip through the cracks.
This week, I'll break down the ridiculous notion that the Philadelphia Eagles might fire Andy Reid. I'll also tackle a big question for the New York Giants, a big waste of time in Jacksonville and the big quarterback decision in Indianapolis that almost kept Andrew Luck from making his Colts debut this weekend.
1) Respect for Reid
So I recently took my family to Ocean City, N.J., where I saw a grown man on the beach wearing a shirt with the words "Andy Reid's last stand" printed on it, along with the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles schedule. This sighting came on the heels of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie saying last Thursday that another 8-8 season won't cut it in Philly and promising that a decision about the coach's future with the team would be "very clear" by the end of the year.
Can someone stop the insanity? My head is about to explode.
I am well aware that Reid has never won the big one. I am also very aware that Reid puts the Philadelphia Eagles in the position, every single year, to truly contend for the Super Bowl. That, to me, is what matters when evaluating a coach. His players have not tuned him out.
I believe Reid can deliver a title in Philly. That's what Lurie has to think about. Look at how the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin has repeatedly rewarded the intelligent patience of John Mara. In my mind, there is no debating Reid's status as a top-five coach. He's 126-81-1 (yes, Donovan, there are ties). Do you remember how terrible the Eagles were under Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes? Do you remember how Reid turned the Eagles into one of the model franchises in the NFL?
I know there's a shelf life for coaches. But the Eagles should be careful about making the best coach in franchise history a scapegoat. The Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan and replaced him with Josh McDaniels, a predictable flop. Are the Boston Red Sox better with Bobby Valentine managing them than they were with Terry Francona?
Reid isn't without blame when it comes to last season. He made offensive line coach Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator, an epic failure. Reid has final say on personnel, and there are still major questions on this roster. Problem spots include safety, linebacker (even after the DeMeco Ryans deal), quarterback (they lack a veteran to back up the injury-plagued Michael Vick), and, in the wake of the Jason Peters injury, left tackle. But if the Eagles don't live up to expectations, I'd look to change defensive coordinators or even consider making a shift in the front office before doing something irrational.
Sure, I've quibbled with Reid's play selection on occasion, too. But his players play hard for him and love playing for him, and he's a major reason so many free agents flock to Philly.
I picked the Eagles to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs in 2012. In Lurie's world, that's not acceptable. However, I think jettisoning Reid would be just as unacceptable, a move that would set the program back years.
2) Official mess
There's no way to get around it. Talks between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association are at a standstill, and the situation heading into Week 1 is a mess. In the preseason, replacement officials missed calls, messed up basic rules and misidentified teams.
Some of them, frankly, have no idea what is going on.
"You see some calls that are obvious that are going the wrong way. There's a lot of uncertainty out there," Giants safety Antrel Rolle told us on my SiriusXM NFL Radio show. And that's scary. Week 1 of the NFL season is a like a holiday, and this issue could mar it. Blown calls will dominate the discussion next Monday. That's a problem.
3) Giant issues?
I have the Giants going 10-6, winning the NFC East, and being true contenders for the Super Bowl again. But I do have some concerns. There are questions about the defensive back seven, ranging from Michael Boley's health to the play at middle linebacker to depth at cornerback. Left tackle Will Beatty can't stay healthy. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has been nicked. And receiver Hakeem Nicks didn't practice on Sunday or Monday.
4) Giant strengths
The Giants should still, of course, beat the Dallas Cowboys relatively easily on Wednesday night. While Tony Romo matches up well with the aforementioned back seven, the Giants' pass rush should dominate the Cowboys' offensive line. Which coach and quarterback do you trust more in the big game? Give me Coughlin and Eli Manning, 31-21. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers next on the schedule, the Giants will start 3-0.
5) Worst. Holdout. Ever.
So Maurice Jones Drew reports to the Jacksonville Jaguars the week before the season starts without a stitch of new money. Now the reigning NFL rushing champ, who isn't yet in football shape, will face an increased risk of injury while debuting as a third-down back. His bank account hasn't changed, but he has hurt his image and his team's ability to win. Congrats, MJD, on the most worthless holdout ever.
6) Success is in the Cards
I chuckle every time I read how doomed the Arizona Cardinals are, even with John Skelton winning an anemic quarterback battle against Kevin Kolb. Remember, the Cardinals did go 8-8 with this combination last year. Running back Ryan Williams and receiver Michael Floyd give Arizona more weapons. The defense is better and will be dominant. I expect Arizona to go 8-8 again.
7) Perfect Burfict
Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told us on SiriusXM Blitz last week that Vontaze Burfict, who was troubled at the collegiate level, has been "perfect" as a guy and "excellent" as a player. Zimmer is one of the best coordinators in the game. Watch him turn Burfict into a gem and make the Bengals a top-five defense this year.
8) Titan-ic upset?
The Tennessee Titans will start Jake Locker this week against the New England Patriots, and I think he's ready. I picked New England to go 14-2 this year, but I think Locker and the Titans will hang with them on Sunday. Titans head coach Mike Munchak told us on the SiriusXM Blitz that the ground attack is key for his team. "We need to be much more consistent in our run game," he said. "We need to get the tough yards when we need them." I think Chris Johnson will lead the league in rushing this year and gain much more than 100 yards against the Pats. I still like the Patriots, but with Johnson running wild and Locker making some plays downfield, it will be close.
9) Andy Dalton, Peyton Manning and the Colts?
Among all of the chatter of first- and second-year quarterbacks starting this week, it is very interesting to think about just how close the Indianapolis Colts were to drafting Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton last year.
Before the 2011 NFL Draft, I was told it was a possibility. Speaking with myself and Rich Gannon in December 2011, former Colts executive Bill Polian said that the decision came down to the wire, with the Colts ultimately picking tackle Anthony Castonzo to protect Peyton Manning, which, of course, he never got a chance to do.
Colts owner Jim Irsay has been adamant that Polian and his son, Chris Polian, did not break the lockout rules by communicating with Manning during the labor standstill. They never saw him throw. They truly didn't know how injured the quarterback was. If there had been labor peace, Manning would have seen Colts doctors and worked with the team in Indianapolis. Polian would have seen the severity of Manning's situation and likely would've drafted Dalton. The Colts likely would've won more games, Andrew Luck would be elsewhere and Manning and the Polians would all likely still be in Indianapolis.
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