NFL 2014 Week 8: Let’s Air This Thing Out Again and Again
If there’s one topic that has been ignored so far during the current National Football League season it has been under center. Quarterbacks historically stand out as the stars of the sport. Many of the game’s best-loved players were quarterbacks. In the midst of the League’s unprecedented PR meltdown in 2014, they were largely forgotten. Oh, sure, everyone talked about Peyton Manning breaking the career record for touchdown passes last week but that seemed almost a formality. Did anyone really think that record wasn’t going to belong to Manning eventually anyway? Has anyone noticed 12 other QBs in addition to Manning are on target to pass for 4,000 yards this season?
No, NFL quarterbacks have been noteworthy primarily for their lack of doing anything noteworthy. That makes the re-emergence of star quarterbacks the most important event of the past week. One of the best examples came in Pittsburgh. The Steelers chose to break out their prison uniforms (instead of the usual home black jerseys and gold pants, their shirts have horizontal black stripes) but overcame this fashion don’t by virtue of Ben Roethlesberger’s big day. The Pittsburgh quarterback (who in the past has been accused of mistreating several women because he’s in the NFL) completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in an entertaining 51-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Indy QB Andrew Luck was no slouch, passing for 400 yards of his own. Other quarterbacks who made defenses look like they took the day off were Manning’s old frenemy Tom Brady of New England, who put up five TD passes; and Drew Brees of New Orleans, who threw for “only” 311 yards in a 44-23 win over the Green Bay Packers (Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers put up 418 yards in the loss).
The week’s most exciting game also saw both quarterbacks pass for big yardage. Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (411 yards) and Arizona’s Carson Palmer (329) lit up the scoreboard in the Cardinals’ 24-20 win in Phoenix. Palmer, a Heisman Trophy winner while at USC, has found new life in a career deemed all but over since being traded to the desert last year. His greatest moment with his new team yet came with 1:21 to play. Trailing by three points, ball on the Arizona 25-yard line and needing five yards for a first down, Palmer cranked up his throwing arm and found rookie wide receiver John Brown 40 yards downfield. The speedy Brown ran the rest of the way for an electrifying 75-yard touchdown. The Eagles marched the other direction, reaching the Arizona 16 with time for one last play. Foles threw it to receiver Jordan Matthews in the end zone. The pass was caught but Matthews’ desperate attempt to get his feet down before falling out of bounds was for naught. A game this exciting almost demands a playoff rematch. Let’s hope it happens.
There has been one notable exception to the Great Pass Attack of this season. The Dallas Cowboys have gotten off to their best start in years largely on the legs of running back DeMarco Murray. The season rushing title all but conceded to him, Murray is now shooting for the all-time season mark of 2105 yards, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. In Dallas’ Monday night matchup with Washington, he added 141 yards to his total. Unfortunately, that was not enough: Washington won 20-17 in overtime. Murray contributed a critical fumble.
For a change, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo did not absorb all the blame for the setback. By any measure a League success story, Romo made the roster after a career at tiny non-football power Eastern Illinois. After carrying a clipboard for a time, he won the starting job over more heralded QBs. A real-life Rocky story appropriate for the franchise known as America’s Team. Too bad he was on some terrible Cowboys’ teams; his mistakes caused him to take on a great deal of blame for the problems in Big D. The Cowboys six-game winning streak ended the derision and finally won him a bit of the respect of his peers and fans. So much so that many Cowboys fans were worried when Romo suffered a back injury during the game. Having had back surgery after last season, there was every reason to be worried if he would be able to get back in the game.
At this juncture Dallas owner Jerry Jones inserted himself into the story. Jones introduced himself to the NFL with a bang upon buying the team in 1989: he fired legendary coach Tom Landry without telling him. Landry learned of his dismissal just before the press conference to announce Jimmy Johnson’s hiring as his successor. This proved to be a great combination almost immediately. Fomer teammates at Arkansas, Jones and Johnson built a team that won two Super Bowls within five seasons. At this point, Jones fired Johnson in a similar fashion to his dismissal of Landry, the only time in League history the coach of the defending Super Bowl winner was shown the door.
A succession of coaches followed, mostly anonymous and largely ineffectual. All seemed fearful of crossing Jones. So, when Tony Romo was on the sideline with his back injury, maybe it should not have been surprising to see Jerry Jones stalk onto the sideline and approach Coach Jason Garrett. A rare NFL player who attended an Ivy League school (he was a Cowboys backup quarterback after playing at Princeton), Garrett presumably can make decisions for himself. Jerry Jones must not agree; he told his coach Romo was going back in the game. Medical examinations are unnecessary when Jones gets involved. A mostly charming Texas oilman version of the late New York Yankees owner/dictator George Steinbrenner, Jerry Jones knows best. Just ask him. For a quarter century of thinking for himself whether he should or not, Jones is the runaway winner of the highest honor this site can bestow: he is the WOW (Weasel of the Week). At least I got to make that call without Jones telling me to do it.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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