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Reggie Bush, Saints Inspired by ‘Bring the Wood’ Baseball Bat

The Reggie Bush that showed up for the Saints on Saturday in their playoff game against the Cardinals was unlike any other Reggie Bush we had ever seen. This Reggie Bush ran north-to-south, into tacklers, and over tacklers in a physical style. This Reggie Bush sought contact and played with the aggressive, inspired style we’re used to seeing from guys like Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew. Combining the new attitude with Reggie’s speed and shiftiness yielded a dynamite MVP-type performance from Bush. So what was the cause of the new play? Some inspiration provided by coach Sean Payton in the form of an inscribed Saints baseball bat that Bush carried with him onto the field:

[The bat] was a present from head coach Sean Payton. Every player got one during a team meeting on Friday. Payton had these words emblazoned on the barrel of each bat:

“Saints vs. Cardinals. Jan. 16, 2009.”
“Bring The Wood!”

Bush said after the game that the message on the bat fired him up: “Just like the bat said, ‘Bring the wood!’ I brought the bat out because it represented to me who we are and who we were going to be today.” While it’s somewhat sad to think that Reggie needed a pep talk and inspirational bat to finally play with a physical style after nearly four years in the league, I’m glad that Bush finally figured things out. Now the challenge will be to keep that attitude up for an entire season. If he can, then he’ll be closer to living up to his hype entering the draft in ’06.

By the way, anyone else think Sean Payton got the idea from John Harbaugh? Just a thought …

The Hit that Ended Kurt Warner’s Career

Calling this play the “hit that ended Kurt Warner’s career” might be premature but it likely is the hit that ended Arizona’s season. As mentioned two weeks ago when Ole Miss played in the Cotton Bowl and Jevan Snead got crushed after a turnover, defensive players love interceptions because it gives them a chance to hit the opposing quarterback. Take the second quarter of the playoff game between the Cardinals and Saints when Kurt Warner was picked off by Will Smith. On the return, Kurt Warner was crushed by Bobby McCray. Check out the video:

Warner left the game with a chest injury and Matt Leinart took over from there. Warner reappeared after halftime but once the game got out of hand Leinart came back in. With all the talk last weekend that Kurt was considering retirement after the season, you have to wonder what he will do. It’s hard to envision him going out after a butt-whooping like that but taking hits like that might make him think twice.

Tom Coughlin Better Watch His Back

Bill Cowher is one of the All-Star head coaches that was unemployed this season, joining a list of several jobless Super Bowl champs. That group includes Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy, and Mike Shanahan. Of that crowd, only Shanahan has a new gig while the others have either passed on job offers or job interviews, or both. Since Cowher will not be coaching next season, it will be three years off for The Chin, which is probably a longer break than anyone expected. Why is that the case? The Bus says The Chin is waiting on the Giants gig:

Jerome Bettis said the reason Cowher hasn’t returned to coach is because he’s “holding out” for the Giants job to open up. In fact, he told Chris “Mad Dog” Russo today on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio that Cowher would have gotten the Giants’ job in 2008 if Tom Coughlin hadn’t taken the Giants on that magical, Super Bowl XLII run.

“That’s the team that he really coveted,” Bettis said. “This is where he always wanted to be. The Mara family, he’s been very close to them. … He’s known them very well and was on the inside track — before the Giants won the Super Bowl — for that job. And I think he’s holding out for that opportunity if it presents itself.”

Bettis has previously said that Cowher will make sure his new team has a franchise quarterback with whom he can work because Cowher endured the inconsistencies of a franchise without steady quarterback play (Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox). By holding out for the Giants job, Cowher also seems to be following the Gruden plan which is only return to coaching if your team includes a Manning brother. It sucks to think that Tom Coughlin will no longer be good enough for the job only two years after winning the Super Bowl but another season like this and he should be fired.

(also see The Last Angry Fan)

Darrelle Revis Was Robbed by Charles Woodson for Defensive Player of the Year

Forgive me if I begin sounding somewhat like Rex Ryan for saying that Darrelle Revis deserved Defensive Player of the Year over Charles Woodson. I’m not saying that Woodson didn’t have a fantastic season but I am saying that Revis was more dominant. To me, Revis missed out on the award because his stats weren’t as pretty as Woodson’s. Woodson had nine interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, two sacks, and 74 tackles. Those are good numbers. Revis had six interceptions, one returned for a score, no sacks, and 54 tackles. Good numbers but not eye-popping the way nine picks are. Revis was by far more dominant than Woodson, he just didn’t make the types of plays Woodson did, probably because he was so good teams were afraid of him. In fact, the stats opponents didn’t accumulate against him tell the story better than his own stats do. Check out the stats for opposing receivers against Darrelle Revis:

The stats after week 12 don’t reflect specifically what Revis did against that player man-to-man but what the opposing team’s top receiver did against the Jets. Chances are most of those numbers were against Revis though. It’s plain to see that Revis was nothing short of dominant even against the League’s best players. He impacts opposing team’s gameplans by essentially erasing their top receiving threats. Did Charles Woodson do that? I think we saw in the playoffs that he was no match for Larry Fitzgerald. Yes he did have a strip — another pretty play — but I doubt Revis would have been lit up in the same way. No Revis’ stats weren’t as appealing as Woodson’s were, but he was the more dominant defensive player. Revis deserved Defensive Player of the Year.

(half the stats from the chart courtesy of Revis Island)

Ray Lewis Is a Family Man

ray-lewis-dad

Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd to see an intimidating, beastly presence like Ray Lewis who goes about 6’1″ 250, wear a t-shirt after the game that says “Best Dad?” You can’t completely see the shirt with that picture but I believe it has hand prints below the best dad script across the chest, likely coming from Ray’s kids. Let me get this straight: you run around a field for 60 minutes knocking helmets and kicking the crap out of your opponents but at the end of the day you want to remind everyone you’re just a sweet family man? I just found that shirt so paradoxical I had to post it.

As for the ballgame, it was a convincing win by Baltimore over the Patriots and it came easily considering they got up 24-0 in the first quarter. I can’t see the Ravens beating the Colts without more of a threat from their passing game but their win may have been much more significant than that. It’s hard to see such a shellacking and not question whether this playoff loss officially closes the door on the Patriots dynasty from the 2000 decade. New England’s defense was spotty as it was against the Colts and Saints, a far cry from their staunch defenses the past 10 or so years. The front office may have overestimated themselves when they dealt Richard Seymour to Oakland and their pass defense was shaky against good offenses.

On the offensive side of the ball, losing Wes Welker to a knee injury is a major hit and they lack receiving threats outside of Moss, Wes, and Edelman. In the type of offense they run, they need at least three high quality receivers. Sam Aiken, Isaiah Stanback, and Ben Watson aren’t enough — they need more depth. Lastly, and quite alarmingly, Tom Brady looked very average down the stretch. For now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt figuring all his injuries caught up to him. The problem is I didn’t see Brady throw one tight spiral all game indicating to me his broken finger hindered his game and resulted in wobbly passes. The long off season should do him a lot of good.

Mark Sanchez Gets the Last Word with Pete Carroll

Back in January, USC coach Pete Carroll had one of his worst moments as the coach of the Trojans, one that preceded several more of Carroll’s lowlights at USC. Carroll staunchly disagreed with quarterback Mark Sanchez’s decision to go the NFL and later backtracked after getting skewered for his lack of support. Now it’s almost a full year later and Mark Sanchez is the quarterback of a playoff team in the NFL, one that won it’s Wild Card game. Don’t think his chest wasn’t puffed out after getting the win over the Bengals — he used his place at the podium as an opportunity to get payback with Carroll:

Sanchez may think he got the last word because he won a playoff game but I’m adamant he’s still the weak link on that team. The Jets have the best defense and the best line in the league but they’re a good quarterback away from being a legit Super Bowl contender. Sanchez’s propensity for turning the ball over kills the Jets and that limits their offensive gameplan.

As far as the question regarding college coaches going pro (even if Sanchez was just joking), there will be a lot of talk about the failure most college coaches suffer when they go to the NFL. My answer to that is simple: where was Carroll before he went to USC? He was in the NFL as a head coach making him more of an NFL guy who went to college than the other way around. Seattle certainly is a project, but at least he picked the right division. If Kurt Warner retires, that puppy will be wide open and then Carroll may be laughing right there with Sanchez.

video via Black Sports Online

Tony Romo: ‘Thanks Ed, Good Hair Piece’

Tony Romo was back to being his old, playful self on Saturday night. With his Cowboys cruising against the Eagles, he was spotted giving Ed Hochuli a pinch on the butt and imitating a referee’s first down sign. He also got in a great shot at ESPN reporter Ed Werder in his sign off at the post-game press conference. The Cowboys website has the video and the parting shot is at the 14:10 mark. Romo signs off with this classic line: “Thanks Ed, good hair piece.”

I can only assume that Romo was talking about Ed Werder with that comment. After all, he fits both criteria having the name “Ed” and hair that looks fake. Considering Werder covers the Cowboys and Romo’s appeared in Werder’s reports with soundbites, I have to assume they at least have a working relationship. Romo really appeared to be joking but it’s hard not to view it as a shot. Maybe it has something to do with Ed’s yellow journalism pieces dating back to last year, or it could even be due to Werder’s controversial report prior to the game. Who knows, all I know is that the joke was funny, though inappropriate.