Time's up for the Jets


Time's up for the Jets

By Michael Felger

A few thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday.

Drive to Nowhere Part II (courtesy Bob Neumeier)

Do you think Rex Ryan and the Jets actually realized that the Patriots endless, fruitless fourth-quarter drive last week was a bad thing? Hard to tell, since they nearly did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.

First came an eight-minute drive that started in the third quarter and ended midway through the fourth when LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line. Next came a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The second drive netted a touchdown, but the pace of the Jets offense was still maddeningly slow. They huddled. They ran. They bled the play clock. It was curious, especially after the Pats did the same thing the week before to the chagrin of everyone in New England.

That won't be the only second guess the Jets coaches will be facing today. Another will be the usage of Tomlinson. Why were they slamming him into the line in short-yardage situations late when they had Shonn Greene? And how could the Jets come out so flat in the first half with the Super Bowl on the line?

And not that it mattered, but it was interesting to see Ryan celebrate the Roethlisberger safety in the fourth quarter when it meant absolutely nothing. The Jets still needed two touchdowns.

The real hero in Green Bay, in my opinion, is general manager Ted Thompson -- and the role he played in building the roster since he was hired in 2005 is only secondary to his greatest accomplishment.

He's the one who finally said "no'' to Brett Favre.

It seems like a simple decision now, especially given Aaron Rodgers' development and how it's ended for Favre. But it was no small feat at the time. Slaying a sacred cow never is. Favre was a God in Wisconsin. He had just taken the Packers to the 2007 NFC championship game. He was considered as untouchable as anyone in sports, a guy who was allowed to hold his franchise hostage and routinely put himself above his teammates because it was HIS team.

That's how they had operated in Green Bay for years, anyway. And Thompson was the one who finally said, "enough.''

Thank God.

That said, I consider the Packers a dumb football team. Talented, yes. Well-schemed, absolutely. But dumb. Here are some examples from Sunday:

It's hard to overstate how bad Rodgers' interception into the arms of Brian Urlacher in the third quarter was. The Packers were leading 14-0 at the time, facing a third-and-goal from the Bears' 6-yard line. Rodgers was pressured, and a simple throw-away would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal and what would have been a virtually insurmountable 17-0 lead. Instead, Rodgers tried to force it over the middle and paid the price. Dumb.

At that point of the game, with Jay Cutler about to go out (by the way, did anyone see when he got hurt?) and the Bears relegated to Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all the Packers had to do was not turn the ball over and kick it away from Devin Hester.

So what did they do? They got careless with the ball (Tramon Williams fumbled a punt late in the third quarter, which the Packers luckily recovered) and they continued to kick the ball to Hester, who got his hands on a kickoff and three punts, one of which was nullified by penalty, in the second half. Hester never hurt the Packers on any of his returns, and punter Tim Masthay nailed some beauties in this game, but the fact that Hester ever got his hands on a single ball was just dumb.

Do we even need to mention BJ Raji's Leon Lett impersonation? Or the fact that running back James Starkes inexplicably ran out of bounds with under four minutes remaining and the Bears needing to call timeouts to stop the clock? Or corner Sam Shields running with his last-second interception and nearly fumbling it away? Or the Packers inability to stop a no-name, third-year, third-string undrafted quarterback?

We won't bother. Take our word for it. The Packers do dumb things. Consistently. If they lose to Pittsburgh in two weeks it won't be because they lack talent. Or good schemes. It will because, on an individual level, they're sloppy.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Drew Bledsoe’s being asked to reminisce a lot this fall. And not exactly about fuzzy, feel-good topics that warm the heart.

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Instead, it’s reminiscing about 2001, the year his heart got lacerated and he was replaced for good by Tom Brady, who went on to win a Super Bowl. Or about 2006 when -- as Cowboys quarterback -- he got yanked in favor or Tony Romo and never got back in.

This being the 15th anniversary of SB36 has caused Bledsoe’s phone to ring. And the Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett dance early this season has brought to the fore discussion of the Brady succession plan, especially now that it appears both players aren’t going to be disasters. How is this situation similar to the one in 2001? Meanwhile, the emergence of Dak Prescott in Dallas puts the oft-injured Romo in more immediate peril of losing his job.

In the past few days, Bledsoe’s opened up to both Albert Breer of MMQB and Michael Silver of NFL Media about the emotions of getting bumped and -- with Breer especially --– the depth he goes into discussing the situation and his emotions then and now are kind of moving.

If you think you’ve heard it all before -- and I believed I had -- you probably haven’t.  The seriousness of Bledsoe’s 2001 injury was not exaggerated, as he explains in an anecdote. He acknowledges feeling entitled to a degree and admits to being bitter about the way he’s recalled.

“One thing I do bristle at a little bit is, I feel like there’s too much of me and Wally Pipp (the Yankees first baseman famously replaced by Lou Gehrig who never got his job back and birthed the verb “Pipped” for anyone who missed a day and got replaced),” Bledsoe told Breer. “I was the single-season passing leader for three organizations when I left. Unfortunately, Tommy’s been so damn good that people sometimes forget I had a pretty nice career.”

Speaking with Silver regarding Romo-Prescott, Bledsoe plumbed his experience with Brady and Bill Belichick in 2001.

"When you're young in the league -- when you're young in life -- you think you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," said Bledsoe. "You think nobody can ever replace you, and that you're gonna be the guy forever. Eventually, you learn the lesson that it's a replacement business. Sometimes that hits you right between the eyes, which is what happened to me with [Tom] Brady, and again with Tony.

"It happens to all of us. I don't know if it's the time for Tony, but it's something that every quarterback has to confront."

In less than a week, Brady -- the best quarterback in NFL history in the minds of many -- will be back from his suspension. He will have seen in a month’s time that the NFL train rolls along without him and that, while he could never be cloned, he can be capably replaced.

Brady, because of the way he ascended to the job and the friends he’s seen get taken behind the barn in New England, has always been open about understanding he could be replaced. But now he’s got concrete evidence.

Said Bledsoe: "In our heart of hearts, we all want to feel indispensible. We all want to believe, 'There's no way the team can succeed without me.' Then you see the team going on, and winning with a young guy playing the position, and playing it well, and you do some soul searching . . . and you start to think, 'Maybe the team's gonna make that decision to move on.'

"You always want the team to do well, but it's hard. It can be [awkward]. Tommy and I are still good friends, and I text with Romo once in awhile . . . but it's hard to love 'em if they've got your job and you want it back."

Please read both.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

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The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.