Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Random Playoff Thoughts

Playoff time for the Packers has me thinking about various things in the days leading up to the game.

Whisenhunt Controversy

The first is the controversy/"nontroversy" over Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt's comments earlier in the week. The Arizona Republic had an article on Tuesday in which it was suggested that Whisenhunt was upset with the Packers for running up the score in both last week's game, and in the preseason game between the two teams. (The Packers starters led by a combined 71-10 in the two games before going to the sidelines.) "They had their plan," Whisenhunt said. "I guess they felt good about what they were doing." While Whisenhunt's whining might have been more implied than express, naturally Mike McCarthy was asked about it. He wisely refused to take the bait:
"I am worried about my own football team. His feelings toward my team or my feelings toward his team, it's a non-topic with me. I told you, I stood in here Monday and Wednesday last week and told you what our goal was. We went out there to keep our momentum going. He took a different approach."
In the meantime, Whisenhunt felt compelled to backtrack the next day, saying yes, he was peeved, not with the Packers, but with the approach of his own team, and with the way they handled it. Sure, Ken, anything you say.

Week 17 "Exhibition" Games

This little brouhaha over Whisenhunt's comments made me reflect on the broader topic of teams tanking games that "don't matter" at the end of the season. This is not a new phenomenon. Since I live in the San Francisco area (and am not a 49er fan in any way, shape or form) I still remember vividly the 1988 season finale, when the 49ers tanked their game against the Rams, which had the effect of keeping the New York Football Giants out of the playoffs. Phil Simms angrily, and quite correctly, accused the 49ers of "laying down like dogs." But if it has been going on for some time, I can't recall a year when so many teams tanked so many games. In week 16, the Colts tanked the game against the Jets. In week 17, the Cardinals tanked the game against the Packers, the Colts tanked their game against the Bills, the Saints tanked their game against the Panthers, the Bengals tanked the game against the Jets, and others (like the Patriots) could be argued to have done so. Note that the Jets made the playoffs exclusively because of gift victories in weeks 16 and 17.

Season ticket holders already resent being forced to buy full-price tickets to preseason games. Now, if there is a good chance that week 16 and week 17 games may also be phony games, this just increases the irritation factor. But as bad as that is, how demoralizing it must have been for fans of the Steelers and other teams that were hoping for that final wild card slot, to watch the Jets just waltz their way into it courtesy of lay-down game plans by the Colts and Bengals. It is not easy to devise a perfect solution to this problem, but if this season is any indicator, then the problem is getting out of hand. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has an interesting idea on this score. In the meantime, in the absence of a solution, I will simply be hoping for cosmic payback for all of the teams that refuse to play real games in their final game or two of the season. Nothing would make me happier than to see them all go "one and done" in the playoffs.

Charles Woodson

Finally, for a feel-good note leading up to the game, take a look at this Yahoo article on Charles Woodson. He is certainly having a sensational season, and he deserves all the accolades he is getting. Even though I live in Raider country, I watch as little of the Raiders as I can get away with, thanks to the NFL Sunday Ticket. So I can't say that I knew (or remember) most of the grumblings about Woodson when he was with the Raiders. But I am sure glad that he is with the Packers now, and that he is as happy with being in Green Bay as the fans are to have him there.

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