I picked a San Diego – Carolina Super Bowl matchup in August. Well, possibly one out of two isn’t so bad after all, is it? But for San Diego to prevail next Sunday in Foxborough, it’s going to take good fortune and good health. The fortune part is basically out of the Chargers’ control, but the health factor is what all eyes will be on this week. LaDainian Tomlinson, knee issues. Philip Rivers, ditto. Antonio Gates, dislocated big toe. If all three of these guys can’t go Sunday, then New England carves them up. If they are able to play, and play effectively, then I could see them taking the Pats down to the wire. One thing that I like about San Diego is their secondary. Granted, Peyton Manning did throw for 402 yards and three TDs yesterday, but the Chargers DBs made some big plays. Antonio Cromartie was jobbed out of a return touchdown by one of the most bogus holding calls you’ll ever see. And how about the interception by Eric Weddle? With an offensive lineman holding him (why no flag there? And why no flag for ineligible receiver downfield?) Weddle one-handed a Manning pass to kill a Colts drive inside the Chargers’ five yard line. Basically caught it in the crook of his elbow. I’m telling you, I can envision a scenario in which the Chargers rough up New England’s receivers and pressure Tom Brady enough to make the upset a reality. But maybe that’s more my heart talking than my head. These are the 17-0 Patriots, after all.
After Saturday afternoon’s loss at Virginia Tech, the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team is now 10-7, 0-2 in the ACC. I firmly believe that Gary Williams needs to play Adrian Bowie at point guard and start rotating Greveis Vasquez and Cliff Tucker at shooting guard. Vasquez’ shoot-first mentality and general ball-hogging are the undoing of this team offensively. If you’re a Terps fan and you were watching the game, was there any doubt that Vasquez was taking the final shot? Not in my mind. This team is too predictable, too young and too inconsistent to even think about making the NCAA Tournament. They could very well miss the NIT too. Not that anyone cares about that.
I imagine things are going to be considerably busier around Owings Mills this week now that Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys have been eliminated. The early buzz has been that Steve Bisciotti favors Garrett. Jerry Jones has stated that Wade Phillips will remain as the Cowboys’ Head Coach. What I’m wondering is if the Ravens’ search committee has interest in any assistant coaches on the four remaining playoff teams. If so, then the process could draw out for another week. Either way, I’m betting the team will announce the new Head Coach sometime in the next two weeks, no later than the Sunday before the Super Bowl. I still favor Garrett, or if not him, Jim Schwartz. And speaking of Schwartz, are the Ravens even interested? If not, why? Could it be that they’re afraid of the potential long-term ugliness should a hometown boy fail?
I brought his up Saturday afternoon during Thyrl’s show, and I’m going to say it again here: Where does this bashing of Ray Lewis being responsible for Brian Billick’s firing have any basis in fact? I know of one instance this year where #52 made his feelings known. “You can’t make oranges be peaches.” That was on his radio show, and not made to reporters. Was Ray wrong? Sure. But to take that statement and extrapolate it into some supposed vendetta that Ray had for Billick is nothing more than pure speculation. I’m continually amazed at the number of people who bash Ray Lewis on-air and in these blog comments as a “cancer” in the locker room. How do you know this to be a fact? Is it because, like it or not, for better or worse, Ray has been the face of the franchise for a decade? If #52 is so unhappy, then how does he continue to play at such a high level? If you think I’m mistaken about Ray’s level of play, may I direct you to this season’s Cincy and Cleveland home games as examples of his current ability.
We seem to go through this same process every year that the Ravens disappoint us. It’s odd that nobody cracks on Ray publicly about his “leadership” or “cancerous behavior” when the team is 10-6 or 13-3. But every season that the team backslides, it’s the same old chorus about how RayRay is a locker room cancer, how he only cares about himself, how he hates Billick, etc. Where are the factual statements to back up these charges? How come nobody ever says, “Hey, Ray’s got a right to be frustrated with the team’s offensive performance”? Why is it that the majority of Ravens’ fans have so easily glossed over the fact that Ray Lewis is the greatest player in Baltimore Ravens history? And where and when will the evidence arise that he led some sort of campaign to have Billick fired? Didn’t Billick call the plays on offense? Weren’t the past six years of offensive futility enough to justify his firing? Do you really believe that after three disappointing seasons in the last four, Billick hadn’t sealed his own fate?
I’m simply exhausted by this speculation and argument. How do we know that it wasn’t some backup defensive back like Corey Ivy who played clubhouse lawyer? Maybe it was the entire team. We don’t know, we’ll never know, and we need to accept the choice that the owner has made. It’s his $600 million. It’s also his first major move as owner. Give it a chance, and let’s see how much of a “cancer” Ray Lewis is in 2008, win or lose.
To frame it in a simple way, ask yourself this: Would you rather see Brian Billick go or Ray Lewis? Who do you think gives the Ravens a better chance to win?
To me, it’s a no-brainer. So until we get the locker room “facts”, let’s get behind #52 instead of on his back.
After witnessing the end of yesterday’s Giants-Cowboys game, I guess those Diet Pepsi ads featuring Jerry Jones aren’t such a stretch after all. Am I the only one who expected JJ to grab the headset from Wade Phillips and call the plays on Dallas’ final drive? If Jason Garrett has any sense, he’ll run away from that meddling owner as fast as Steve Bisciotti can say “Five years, $20 Million”.