It has been an interesting week filled with strange goodbyes, starting with a little manscaping. Apparently nothing says "I'm sorry" quite like shaving off your mangy, separatist-cult-member beard -- just ask Braylon Edwards.
Things that needed to go away
Braylon's weirdo beard
From the moment I laid eyes upon it on "Hard Knocks," I knew this beard was a tell. I haven't seen a player at a skill position sport such a squirrelly, unkempt doozy since Neil O'Donnell went all Unabomber on the road to Super Bowl XXX.
Something was off here. This is a kid who made it known soon after Cleveland drafted him that he wanted to pursue a second career as a fashion model -- the first of many moments that had lunch-bucket Browns fans wondering if this guy was going to work out. He didn't, and somewhere on the road to his second season as a Jet, he got scruffy. It's a long way from hugging your pillow and dreaming of walking a runway in a Lady GaGa meat dress to sprouting a beard worthy of Isaac Hayes in "Truck Turner."
If you haven't had the pleasure of screening this '70s exploitation classic, the trailer is easily eyeballed online. It features the always delightful struggles of a singer trying to act, Nichelle Nichols, a.k.a. Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura, as a pimp with a foxy stable and a bizarre rap, as well as a classic voice-over from my old pal, the late, great Adolphe Caesar. A misfire that's hard to stop staring at -- sorta like Braylon's beard, which seemed to be symbolic of a lackluster player and miscreant. Lucky to only be benched for the first quarter against Miami, I knew Edwards was ready to turn things around and contribute when I saw him sporting that stylish, trimmed Van Dyke on the sidelines. Then he went out and played on a level you always sensed he was capable of when he actually cares.
Too bad it takes a DUI charge to bring out his very best.
It just goes to show you; crazy only gets you so far, then you have to buckle down -- a theme that played out in numerous NFL situations this week.
Jimmy Raye and Trent Edwards
Mike Singletary said he needed to watch the game film of an ugly loss in which his defense surrendered over 400 yards... then pulled the plug on his venerable offensive coordinator one week after standing up for him.
In San Francisco's case, I get it. They were actually supposed to be good this year -- primed to steal the NFC West away from Arizona sans Kurt Warner. Then they look absolutely terrible in two losses against teams they were expected to handle with ease. Panic time. Heads must roll, someone has to take the blame, and now we shall see if this has the same galvanizing effect that the alchemy of Singletary dropping trow and mooning his team did.
I say Raye had to be fired, if only because it saves my Buffalo Bills from being the only team desperate enough to blow up the offense after two games. Last year, the Bills canned their O.C., Turk Schonert, a mere week before the season started. Like the Niners, they elevated the QB coach to the position, and it was a complete mess from day one. Cut to the present, and it looks like it might be a good day to be everyone else in the NFC West.
Meanwhile, the Bills are overreacting yet again. Yes, we got a vastly improved performance in Week 3 from Ryan Fitzpatrick, but flat-out releasing Trent Edwards is classic Bills whiplash: You're the man... look we know the fans hate you, but you're the man... you aren't getting it done, and now the fans hate you so much they nicknamed you "Captain Checkdown," we're gonna bench you… Next season? Guess what -- You're the man again! ... Except you can't run the game plan, the fans hate you more than ever, you are benched after two games, and suddenly there's a stack of empty cardboard boxes in front of your locker.
Hey what could we do? The fans hated you.
Weird. In the NFL, players get demoted all the time, coexist with their team, and live through it. It feels like suddenly Edwards had to be jettisoned because he was a walking reminder of how badly the organization has fouled up the personnel pipeline.
Well you can run, but you cannot hide. While Edwards was busy putting his condo on the market, the whole world was watching Monday night as Aaron Rodgers lasered missile after missile, albeit in a loss. Yes, the same QB who slid to Green Bay at the 24th selection in the first round of the 2005 draft. Of course, Rodgers could have slid to the Bills four slots earlier, but they traded the pick to Dallas in 2004 for the right to jump back into the first round and snag J.P. Losman.
Things I wish would go away
The idea that you need a superstar QB
Have you noticed what the Steelers are doing? They are winning with no-names at the helm. They are blowing up the entire franchise quarterback premise, and making other coaching staffs look very, very bad in the process. The panic of an 0-4 hole by the time Big Ben came back now looks ridiculous, as does Roethlisberger's relative value to the team.
They are 3-0 with two backups, and make no mistake about it; the same would be true if Byron Leftwitch had started any of those games. Evidently there are coaches that can figure out a way to win with Charlie Batch, a very capable QB, but a rusty one. This is a kick in the Chiclets to every team that scapegoats a lacking quarterback.
Is Pittsburgh better with Roethlisberger? Yes. Do they need him to win? Not anymore. Dude better stay out of trouble.
Studio show demonstration segments
You know, when the host and some former players all strip off their suit coats, flash some clip-on power packs, and slow-walk us through techniques and schemes on a tiny little football field set? For starters, they don't hold a candle to 30 seconds of good film breakdown on Playbook, or the footage-free education listeners get listening to "Moving The Chains" on Sirius NFL radio. What makes them simply bad TV is the fact that everyone involved looks painfully self-conscious. Rule number one in performance: the audience focuses on what the performer is focused on and that includes awkwardness.
I was watching one of these segments last Sunday and immediately flipped over to another network, only to land on another demo. Beyond what this tells you about how liberal sports producers are in ripping off other people's ideas, you now have to question if they have any idea what they are doing.
I know you have hours and hours to fill before kickoff, but does anyone in their right mind think we are entertained watching former pros in slacks slow-stepping a pass rout while being slow-covered by an oft-fired coach as a broadcasting major from Syracuse lobs them a wobbly spiral?
This is a complete nightmare, and no, I didn't draft Kevin Kolb on any of my fantasy teams. Speaking for myself, here is a resurrection that is hard to stomach. I know he did his time, but that doesn't do much to help me forget the things he did. Now he is blowing up, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt he's looking at a huuuuuuuge contract extension. Happy ending? Oof.
Meanwhile, all over the country fantasy football owners are snatching him up as an immediate fix for an anemic QB situation. That is the really perverse part of it -- you can pick him up for personal gain and no one is going to stage a Peta protest outside your den.
Conflict is a bitch. Bottom line: Given the infamous zeitgeist of Philly fans, does Donovan McNabb get booed this Sunday while the dog killer gets all the love? I know I'll be watching.
Things I'd like to see
» Florida fans acting like they care about NFL football. Miami is doing just fine, thank you, but Jacksonville is immune to sellouts, and seeing the 2-0 Bucs blacked out against the Steelers has me scratching my enormous ginger gourd. Could they possibly draw any worse in Mexico City?
» NFL officials finally becoming a part of the 21st century and augmenting their stadium microphones with every 4 a.m. ultra lounge hookup's best friend -- the Auto Tune. "First down" will never sound so sexy...
»Vincent Jackson in Bolts blue, primarily because I drafted him on a few of my fantasy teams in the hopes he'd land somewhere fresh by Week 5. Now that Marcus McNeill signed his one-year tender, and every Jackson trade offer was refused, you get the feeling A.J. Smith realized his team never starts out winning many games. Maybe he just slow-rolled this situation so Jackson would be available at a bargain price for the annual Norv Turner wake-up and smell the AFC West coffee run.