Monday, January 02, 2012

NFL Roundup + Victor Cruz, Interviewed

Classes start on Wednesday, tomorrow are the Iowa caucuses, so I'll keep this post light.  The NFL season finished today, and the team I root for, the Saint Louis Rams, lost to the San Francisco 49ers 34-27 and finished last in their division and worst in the National Football Conference, tying the Indianapolis Colts with a 2-14 record for most abysmal in the NFL.  Known a decade ago as "The Greatest Show on Turf" for their high-octane offense, the Rams have turned into a hapless crew since 2006 and managed only 197 points in 2011 while upholding their longstanding reputation as lacking any defense whatsoever, allowing opponents to score 407 points against them. While this wasn't the most points allowed this season, it was the worst points for-points against differential in either league, and a sign of how awful the Rams play, how awful their coaching is, and how awful the management has been in drafting and signing talented players. 

Sam Bradford, Rams QB

This morning the Rams' owner Stan Kroenke, to the relief of Rams fans everywhere and the surprise of no one, fired the coach, Steve Spagnuolo, a supposed defensive specialist, and General Manager Billy Devaney, who had been in place respectively since 2009 and 2008. Spagnuolo's record in successive seasons was 1-15 (2009); 7-9 (2010); and this year's 2-14 (2011), despite having a talented young quarter, Sam Bradford, and an outstanding runningback in Steven Jackson. Over the three-year span, Spagnuolo and Devaney went 10-38, while under Devaney's watch the team went 12-52.  Leading candidates for the job include former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, but without a complete and thorough assessment of why the Rams continually lag in certain areas, such as a strong offensive line, a credible defense, and special teams play, not even the best coach available is going to be able to do anything with this gang except take the field and collect a paycheck. Clean house, and pronto.

Making the playoffs this year were several perennials, and some newcomers. In the NFC, the top team was the Green Bay Packers, who finished 15-1, and led the Central Division. Other playoff NFC playoff teams include the East Division champion New York Giants (9-7); the North Division's runner-up team, the Detroit Lions (10-6); the South Division's champions, the New Orleans Saints (13-3) and runner-ups Atlanta Falcons (10-6), and the always-shaky West Division's champions 49ers, who went 13-3 this season.  In the AFC, the top team overall was, yet again, the East Division powerhouse New England Patriots (13-3). Yawn. Other playoff teams include the North Division's Baltimore Ravens (12-4), who finished with a record identical to--but on differentials slipped past--division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4). Also making the playoffs in the North Division were the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7).  A surprising playoff team was this year's South Division winner, the Houston Texans, who finished 10-6, ahead of the Titans, Jaguars and Colts, any one of which is usually a playoff candidate. The final AFC playoff team is the 8-8 Denver Broncos, who are probably best known these days not for their play but for a single player, the ultradevout quarterback Tim Tebow, who managed to complete only 8 passes over the last two games, but will face Pittsburgh next because the Oakland Raiders lost to the San Diego Chargers.

The playoff picture thus looks like this:

(1) Patriots
(2) Ravens
(6) Bengals at (3) Texans
(5) Steelers at (4) Broncos

(1) Packers
(2) 49ers
(6) Lions at (3) Saints
(5) Falcons at (4) Giants

Saturday: Bengals at Texans (4:30 ET); Lions at Saints (8 ET)
Sunday: Falcons at Giants (1 ET); Steelers at Broncos (4:30)

Jan. 22: AFC championship (3 ET)
NFC championship (6:30 ET)

Feb. 5: Super Bowl XLVI at Indianapolis (6:30 ET)

My predictions: either the Packers or the Saints vs. New England, which means I hope the Packers or Saints win. Should it not be New England the Pittsburgh Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, I'll go with them.


Here is one of this season's standout players, Victor Cruz, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, speaking with Marly Rivera of ESPNNewYork, in Spanish--and Spanglish, about his team, the New York Giants, and his career.  He was not a Giants fan growing up, nor was he a supporter of the Jets either.  His team: Dallas! His favorite player growing up? Michael Irving! Say it ain't so, Victor.  Rivera asks Cruz some very personal questions, including whether he'll name his soon-to-be-born child "Vincent," after the coach and the Super Bowl's Vince Lombardi trophy. Hello? He has another name in mind--you won't guess it, but a hint: it's one of the main streets running through Hudson County, and an iconic American president. Embedding has been disabled, so click on this link to see the video, and the incredible Mr. Cruz.

1 comment:

  1. Victor Cruz is great! And Happy New Year, John. Nothing but the best for you and C. in the New Year!