Manning is the Man
Here we are with one week left in the regular season and there doesn't appear to be any clear cut leading candidate for the league's Most Valuable Player award. There certainly are a lot of names in consideration for the trophy, but there just doesn't seem to be a dominant figure.
Drew Brees leads the NFL with 4,683 yards passing, but his New Orleans Saints will not be playing in the playoffs. Kurt Warner's numbers are also very impressive, but he has struggled as of late, and he was just benched in the Cardinals 47-7 loss to the New England Patriots. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings leads the NFL in rushing yards with over 1,600, and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, while Carolina's DeAngelo Williams leads the NFL with 20 TDs.
And don't forget the defenders. DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys has been the most impressive defensive player to date, registering a league-leading 20 sacks.
In my opinion, though, the NFL's MVP is Peyton Manning. True, he is not leading the NFL in any major statistical category, but his stats are excellent. He has thrown for over 3,900 yards, which is 4th best in the NFL, while throwing 26 touchdown passes versus only 12 interceptions.
I think what sticks out most to me about Manning, though, is that he has led the Indianapolis Colts to eight consecutive victories, and because of that the Colts have locked up a spot in the post season. Manning did not get off to a great start this year, playing the first half of the season with an offence that was very banged up with injuries, particularly on the offensive line (and his own knees), but he had a great finish.
If you asked me who the best player in the National Football League was, regardless of statistics or position, I would tell you it's Peyton Manning. And that's maybe the biggest reason why he would be my pick for league MVP.
Just before the game clock would expire in a 31-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, some Tennessee Titans players began celebrating on their own sidelines, but not necessarily in the standard manner. Running back LenDale White and linebacker Keith Bullock were waving Pittsburgh's famous "Terrible Towels" in front of the cameras, taunting and ridiculing the Steelers on national television. White even began stomping on the towel and dragging it with his feet.
As I was watching, I couldn't help but think, "Oh boy, this may come back to haunt the Titans." The last thing you want to do as players is provide another team with bulletin board material.
With both the Titans and Steelers having clinched their respective divisions, there is a possibility that these teams could face each other in the playoffs. In my opinion, it's a very good possibility. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very proud team, with lots of senior leadership in their locker room. If these teams were to match up in the post season, head coach Mike Tomlin will use what happened Sunday as major motivation to get his team ready to play and exact revenge on the Titans.
Whether or not the "Terrible Towel" incident comes back to haunt Titans remains to be seen, but if in fact Tennessee was to lose at home to the Steelers in January, there is no doubt in my mind that all fingers would point towards that fateful Sunday when some Titans players disrespected the "Terrible Towels."
The Joke Comes Up Aces
In a losing effort against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Visanthe Shiancoe led the Minnesota Vikings in receiving with seven receptions for 136 yards and two TDs. In fact, his yardage total was tops in the entire league for the week. That's right, Visanthe Shiancoe led the NFL in receiving yards this week!
That might be a surprise to many, but I played with Visanthe in New York for two seasons and remember thinking that he was going to be an effective tight end in the NFL one day. As it turned out, that day was Sunday!
The Giants drafted Shiancoe out of Morgan State a year after selecting Jeremy Shockey, so he primarily served as a compliment to Shockey when we went on the field in a two tight end formation. Shiancoe was a very good athlete and could run, but was also a very effective blocker. As quarterbacks, we always had lots of confidence in "Shank" on the field; in fact I threw him two touchdown passes during the final three games of the 2004 regular season.
After the 2006 regular season, Visanthe was awarded a big time contract in Minnesota to be their starting tight end, but it wasn't until this past Sunday that Shank was really able to shine.
I'll never forget some of the stories about Visanthe while with the Giants. He was without question the funniest player in the locker room, always telling jokes and always seeming to be in a good mood. I've never seen a player get yelled at more by his coach, while completely behaving and acting as though nothing just happened. During practice, tight ends coach Mike Pope would absolutely ream Shank out if he missed an assignment or dropped a pass or ran the wrong route, but Shank had the ability to allow the verbal abuse to run through one ear and out the other.
Shank has always been able to show lots of resiliency along with a competitive fire, and because of it, he has had a very successful season this year with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Myth of the Cold Weather QB
I was watching Matt Cassel out-duel Kurt Warner this past weekend, and something didn't seem right. In snowy conditions, it was the California kid, Cassel, looking much more comfortable throwing the ball versus an Iowa-born Kurt Warner, who struggled for the whole the game before getting benched. That begs the question, does growing up in a cold climate guarantee that you will always be a good cold weather as a quarterback?
I think it certainly helps, but there are other factors that go into it as well. I think we are all creatures of habit, and as a quarterback it depends on what climate you are used to throwing the football in lately. While Matt Cassel grew up in California and played his college ball at USC, he is now living and playing in Boston, and most likely practicing outside everyday, throwing the football in cold weather constantly. Warner, on the other hand, has spent the majority of his professional career playing in a dome in St. Louis, or playing and practicing in the beautiful weather in Phoenix, so I don't think he is used to throwing in bad weather anymore, even though he grew up in Iowa.
Growing up in Ottawa and playing many games outside in the cold, I was used to throwing in sub zero temperatures. When I began playing at the University of Florida in college, though, I wasn't practicing or playing in those types of conditions anymore. Thankfully, when I returned to colder temperatures in New York, I hadn't forgotten how to deal with the cold when playing. The biggest factor, though ,was constantly practicing and playing in the cold on a week-to-week basis. That made it come more naturally.
The majority of NFL teams have indoor facilities, but the cold weather teams often choose to practice outside because it allows them to maintain their competitive advantage. One of the biggest pieces of that advantage is the ability to throw and catch cold footballs in tough environmental conditions.
So I don't think it necessarily depends on where you grew up as a QB when it comes to determining how well you play in cold weather, and Matt Cassel is a good example of that.