Friday, October 29, 2004

One Good Shot Syndrome

Three eventful weeks have gone by since the last West Coast Offensive column. During that time, the Packers lost the next game, dropping to 1-4.This had many of us convinced that yet another (maybe the last) Brett Favre season would be squandered. It also sent many casual Packer fans off to find other hobbies for the rest of the football season.

Occasional golfers are probably familiar with the "one good shot" syndrome.They don't play often enough to keep their game in tune. So when they do play, things can go pretty badly. The front nine is miserable. The back nine is not much better. Then, on maybe the 17th tee, the occasional golfer hits one just right. Straight down the fairway. A beautiful shot. And that one good shot is enough to convince the golfer not to give up on the game.

These last two weeks have been like that for Packer fans. Oh, sure, I am going to watch all the games anyway. My NFL Sunday Ticket package is paid up for the whole season. But, let's face it. Sundays would be a lot less fun now if the Packers were at 1-6, instead of 3-4. They have climbed just close enough to being back in the race that each game seems to matter again.For a while, anyway.

And that brings us to this week's game at the Washington Redskins. A game that brings together Packer football and the Presidential election. For it turns out that there are many factors that historically have been good predictors of the Presidential election. The candidate whose Halloween mask sells best usually wins (Bush, in this case). The candidate who wins in various national school polls usually wins (Bush again). And there is a very interesting indicator relating to the Redskins' last home game before the election. This has been reported in a number of venues, but here is how it was described by Gregg Easterbrook,'s Tuesday Morning Quarterback:

"As many readers, including Dan Danka of Pittsburgh, have pointed out,forget the polls and focus groups, the Washington Redskins reliably predict elections. For each presidential contest going back to 1940 -- the first presidential year the Redskins performed in Washington -- if in their final home game before the voting the Skins win, then the party in power keeps the White House; if the Skins lose, the party out of power takes the White House. This Sunday, Green Bay plays at Washington in the Redskins' final home appearance before the election. So if the Packers win, John Kerry will be the next president, while if the Redskins win, George W. Bush will be re-elected. How fitting the Packers should draw this assignment -- they're from a swing state, Wisconsin! TMQ has learned, on an exclusive basis, that the Democratic National Committee has been funneling donations to the Green Bay salary cap, while the Pentagon has secretly equipped Redskins quarterbacks with GPS-guided footballs. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive."

So, what is a Packer fan to do? Here is my advice. To John Kerry fans, you have no problem. Go out and root for the Packers on Sunday, and then root for Mr. Lambert Field on Tuesday. To fans of George Bush, you know as well as I do that this is one of those weird coincidences. It is, in short, junk science. So root for the Packers on Sunday and do not worry about the outcome of the election.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Battle of the 1-3s

When league officials and ABC people sat down to rough out the Monday Night Football TV Schedule, Tennessee at Green Bay probably looked pretty good for the week 5 game. A couple of playoff teams from last year, both likely playoff contenders this year as well, both with tough, hard-nosed, popular quarterbacks at the helm.

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agley." Turns out that tomorrow night's game is between a couple of losers ("success-challenged"for the PC crowd) led by wounded warriors. Obviously Packer fans, Titans fans and those of us who watch every Monday Night game no matter what will tune in, but others could be excused for thinking that this game might be a good time to do a little year-end tax planning, catching up on homework or whatever else may be on their "to-do" lists.

So, where do the Packers stand at the one-quarter mark of the season? Is it true, as a family member who will remain nameless said this week, that the"Packers suck"? I am not ready to go that far (yet). The Packers certainly don't look like they will be in the running for home field advantage or fora bye week in the playoffs this year. On the other hand, going into this week's games, they were not far behind the division-leading Lions and Vikings, both at 2-1. Still, as this is being written at half-time of the early games on Sunday, the Vikings are beating the Texans (not a big surprise) and the Lions are beating the Falcons (much more of a surprise).This suggests that at least one of them is likely to be at 3-1 after today's games, which in turn suggests that it is high time for the Packers to win another game.

The Packers are, I think, better than they have been playing. Fumbles and injuries have had an impact on a couple of their games. Mike Flanagan and Doug Pederson are not coming back from their injuries this year, and Mike McKenzie, assuming he comes back, will be wearing a different uniform. It appears that Brett Favre will be ready to play this week, and it would be nice if Grady Jackson comes back soon. And while Ahman Green has struggled with the label as a fumbler throughout his career, maybe, looking at the bright side, he has gotten his fumbling out of his system for the year.

One of the teams on Monday night is going to end up with a 1-4 record. That is not a good place to be. Already, at 1-3 and living in the San Francisco area, I have been reduced to the slogan "your team stinks worse than my team." It is up to the Packers to rise to the occasion if they have any intent to try to turn this season around.

Friday, October 1, 2004

More Bad News

Oops, as Chris Berman might say, "that's why they play the games." After fumbling the game away against the Bears, they found themselves in a shoot-out against the Colts, somewhat reminiscent of the game Joe Theisman calls the "shoot-out at Lambeau Field," the famous 1983 Monday night game against the Redskins, featuring overpowering offenses and non-existent defenses by both teams. That game wasn't decided until Mark Moseley missed a field goal at the end of the game, preserving the Packers' 48-47 game. The Colts' victory on Sunday was not assured until Javon Walker's disastrous fumble in the fourth quarter. What a shame. Walker had a monster game. The Packers had pulled to within 7 points, at 38-31, had the ball back and had just crossed midfield in an effort to tie up the game when Walker was stripped of the ball. The Colts scored again, to go ahead 45-31, and the game was effectively over.

So, the Packers find themselves at 1-2 after three games. Ironically, that is exactly the record I would have predicted at the end of the pre-season, but it is demoralizing to get there after such a great opening day game. And, today comes word of more bad news. The Packers' starting center, Mike Flanagan, will undergo season-ending knee surgery. So much for the experience and continuity of the Packers' offensive line. This is a very unfortunate development, leaving Grey Ruegamer as the Packers' starting center. Ruegamer was acquired last year as an unrestricted free agent.

Anyway, here come the New York Football Giants to town, for the first game between the two teams since the 2001 season. It is truly remarkable to contemplate how much the world has changed since the last meeting. You may recall that the Packers were scheduled to play the Giants, in New Jersey, on September 16, 2001. The attack on the U.S. by Islamic terrorists ended up canceling all of the games for that weekend, and those games were rescheduled for the very end of the season, in January, 2002. When the Packers finally came to the New York area for the game, New York native Marco Rivera led a group of players and coaches to the World Trade Center site to pay their respects. The game itself is memorable mostly for being the game in which Michael Strahan "sacked" Brett Favre as the clock was winding down, giving Favre's friend Strahan the all-time record for sacks in a single season. The Packers won the game, 34-25. Let's hope that by the fourth quarter of this week's game, the Packers will again be far enough ahead to be able to afford to give away free sacks to the Giants.