Monday, January 14, 2008
Saturday was the calm before the storm during this past week's divisional playoff games in which both the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers pulled off big time upsets on their way to the conference championship games.
Here now are a few Quick Hits on the weekend's action...
Eli Becomes a Man(ning)
The stats haven't been gaudy and the wins haven't been overly impressive, but what Peyton's little brother has been able to do so far in the 2007 playoffs has been nothing short of awesome.
I'll admit it, I'm not a huge Eli Manning fan. Forcing his way out of San Diego after he was drafted by the Chargers and his subsequent no-shows in just about every big game up until this point had me thinking that the youngest of the Manning boys was more a product of the name on the back of his jersey as opposed to his talent.
Four touchdowns and zero interceptions in two playoff games later and my stance on young Eli has begun to change. What's been most impressive has been his poise in hostile environments, something he and the Giants have been able to overcome all year.
Without Jeremy Shockey and with a less-than-great running game behind him, Manning has finally figured out that he doesn't have to be his brother and attempt to take over games with his arm. Instead he's turned the corner as a game manager and seems more willing to take what the defense is giving him.
You add that to the stellar defensive efforts the Giants have been putting up and you get a quarterback and a team that has knocked off two division champs and now have an opportunity to take out a third in the Green Bay Packers.
It's become the popular thing for analysts to compare Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to Packers legend Brett Favre, and in some cases the comparisons are valid.
Both have that "gun-slinger" mentality and both seem to have the shortest memories in professional sports. If they were baseball players they'd be perfect closers, all attitude and stuff with no fear.
The difference however is experience and savvy; Favre has it, while Romo still has a ways to go. Jessica Simpson notwithstanding, Romo did not have one of his best days on Sunday and his sporadic play helped doom the Cowboys.
As Terrell Owens and his tears pointed out, it's not fair to single out Romo for the Cowboys' loss, but that's the nature of the position, too much praise and too much blame.
Don't worry Cowboys fans, Romo is still the man for you and if you stand by him I promise he will pay off. Very few guys are Joe Montana or Tom Brady and have playoff success right out of the gate, and don't forget Favre lost three straight playoff games against the Cowboys before finally making and winning a Super Bowl in 1996.
Dungy's Last Stand?
Lost in the stunning loss to the San Diego Chargers was the fact that this might have been the final game as head coach for one of the classiest men in professional sports, Tony Dungy.
He isn't a "genius" kind of guy like Bill Walsh was and he isn't a rah-rah kind of guy like Bill Cowher, what Dungy is however is the kind of distinguished, stand-up guy who earned the respect of his players and in turn earned the respect of the sporting community.
While so many coaches (ahem... Bobby Petrino... ahem) preach a team-first attitude and a play for each other mentality, few embody those traits like Dungy. To a man his players would run through a wall for him and in this day and age of high-priced athletes shunning authority figures, that is a rare thing.
If Sunday was the last time we see Dungy on the sidelines it'll be a sad thing. But few deserve to choose their own path and do what makes them happy more than he does.