Franchise Profile: Cleveland Browns

We’re not too far off from the Sept. 6 kickoff of a brand new football season. As such, The Jaunt will be taking this opportunity to present team-by-team capsules which delve into rich (and not so rich) history, team culture (perceived and fo’ real) and the future as viewed by The Jaunt editors and other contributors who have about the same expertise as any other media members pretending to know what will unfold during the upcoming season.

We begin the 2007 preview with your: Cleveland Browns

Stadium: Cleveland Browns Stadium – Built on the hallowed grounds of Old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland Browns stadium sits on 31 acres of land on the shores of Lake Erie and has a capacity of at least 73,200 barking fans. This crown gem of the city of Cleveland made it’s debut in 1999, with the distinct bright orange seats giving it character. Adding to the structure’s character is the open-ended Northeast end zone, similar to the legendary old stadium famous for so many stories in Browns-lore. The playing surface is traditional natural grass, what else would it be in Cleveland? Grass forever. The costs to build the stadium was $283 million dollars.

As a Browns season ticket holder, my favorite part of the stadium is the atmosphere it really does create on gameday. When you’re down and inside the stadium early, and you’re in around 10:00 or 10:30 am, and it’s a cloudy Cleveland sunday, it is the one thing that gives you a classic feel that connects you with the old Browns teams of yesteryear. The team might not be quality, the old Browns might have left with Art Modell to Baltimore, but this stadium is a true beauty. It’s got some gloss but the old time feel is there. Also in the North End Zone are the Dawg Pound seats. I’ve sat there once, and it’s a whole different animal than the Nosebleeds in which my season tickets are located. There you have a nice mix of old fans, drunkards, women without children and husbands, and hell raisers. People might try and tell you that the die hards and crazies of ‘the pound’ left with the old team, they’re lying. On any given sunday in which there is a Browns home game, go to the pound wearing a Steelers jersey. If you don’t get ‘dog water’ (a mix of everclear and something orange) spit and sprayed at you, at the very least you’ll be told to go fuck yourself.

Style: Classic. The Browns have pleased their fans at least with their uniforms throughout the past with the simplicity that is the Seal Brown and Orange. When the team left, the NFL made a ruling that would keep the uniforms, records and colors in Cleveland for the new team when Cleveland should be awarded it. Some people want to call the Browns the ‘stains’ because of the main color’s likeness to poop brown. It’s seal brown. It’s classic. It’s what legends like Jimmy Brown wore and those before and after him. That burnt orange helmet glistens in the winter sun like none other. The reason for the choosing of this brown color? Paul Brown, the father of the franchise wanted a color to be on his players that would hide the football. It really is that simple. The only change in recent years the Browns have made to the uniforms is that of wearing black shoes instead of white. This gives both a modern appeal and allows the Browns the classic Unitas look of the old time ballplayers.

Sex Appeal: Not much to speak of in C-Town. The team is one of the only NFL squads that does not have cheerleaders (not sure whether I like this or not). I’m not really ever at an NFL game to gaze at clothed women flashing fake smiles and such. Then again, with some of the shit that the Browns have pulled on the gridiron and tried to pass as ‘football’, it might have been nice to take my mind off the suck that was occurring. As far as a mascot goes, in recent years a large dog-like, well a dog, could be seen galivanting around the track inside the stadium and generally acting like a jerk-off when the opposition is ready to attempt a field goal. Note that this never stopped former Brown and current Raven Matt Stover from nailing what seems like a lifetime of game winning field goals against us. That jerk (the dog) should just knock it off. He’s not helping things. Other than the lame dog you will see on gamedays who is there largely for corporate entertainment (blech), the team has recently gone back to showing some of the traditional ‘Brownie’ the elf on some stadium equipment and merchandise. He’s small, quaint, and largely helpess. The paralells to the team are strikingly similar.

Fan Base: This is the one area in which the organization never falls short. According to a recent study done by Biz Journal, the Browns have the #1 most loyal fans in all of football. They continue to sell out ballgame after ballgame, while having just a .321 winning percentage since their return in 1999. In case you’re wondering, they’re 36-76 in that span. The play at home has been even worse for the Browns. In the playoff season of 2002, they won 6 games on the road and only 3 at home. As I remarked earlier, anyone who says these fans aren’t still rabid doesn’t know northern Ohio football. They ran a fine QB in Tim Couch right out of town, booing his concussed brain on a nationally-televised ballgame on ESPN sunday night football against the Ravens in 2002. The years of losing has made the patience wear thin. Browns fans as a whole; are extremely bitter and trite. They’re like the skinheads of NFL fandom. They don’t like you; and they don’t want you to like them. Every once in a while, you’ll meet one who is nice and will treat you like family before a game at a tailgate (if you’re wearing the Browns colors). By games end (almost assuredly a loss), that same fan will have changed face to heel, and will be combining the words fuck and motherfuck with other made up words. You must feel sorry for them, they’ve been Elway’ed into submission, they’ve fumbled away trips to the Superbowl, they’ve seen their team plucked from their hands. The 1st round picks have all flopped year after year. In short, they’ve been royally fucked over by the football gods and there is no end in sight. That said, this group continues to reward the organization with loyalty and ultimately dollars spent.

Notable Super (Famous) Fans: Drew Carey (doesn’t know dick about football), Hank Aaron, John “Big Dawg” Thompson, and myself TheNaturalMevs.

Traditions, Oddities & Facts: The Browns are one of only six NFL teams (along with the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans) never to have played in the Super Bowl. Of those six teams, only the Browns (excluding the “suspended” years), Lions and Cardinals have been in existence since before the first Super Bowl was played in January 1967. Cleveland is the only current NFL city whose franchise has neither played in nor hosted a Super Bowl. The fact that Cleveland Browns Stadium is open-air, combined with Cleveland’s typically cold winters, makes it highly unlikely that the city will host a Super Bowl. If the current incarnation of the Browns were to be considered a new franchise, then Cleveland would be the only NFL city to have given birth to 3 existing NFL franchises – the Cleveland-Los Angeles-St. Louis Rams, the Cleveland Browns – Baltimore Ravens, and the existing Cleveland Browns. The Family Guy character Cleveland Brown is an obvious reference to the team.
2007 Outlook: Vegas has long known the blueprint of Cleveland franchises. There is a lot of big buildings built in that city because of people who were wrong about gut feelings, much of those feelings pertaining to sports. That said, I’m going to say the Browns will be OVER 6 wins for 2007. I see a year very similar to 2001, when the Browns had a team fueled by emotion and went 7-9. They won some games that year that they shouldn’t have, and lost some that they shouldn’t have. The pythagorean evened out and had them right where they should have been. This season, I see them getting off to a nice start, maybe 4-2, and fading down the stretch. They’re about a year away from being a playoff contender. They’ll contend for a moment or two, but then the contending will fade, and they’ll be a middle 1st round selection looking to move up and get a running back. The Browns will go 7-9 this season.
I’ll say that Derek Anderson wins the competition out of training camp, due to Brady Quinn not being in on time with the contract holdout. Frye will be #2 on the depth chart but if the team struggles, look for Quinn to get the nod as the starter and leapfrog Frye, replacing Anderson around midseason. In a perfect world, Quinn signs now and wins the competition outright. I want to see what this kid can do from day 1. He’s every bit the QB that Ben Roethlisberger was as a rookie, and we all know how that turned out.

San Francisco 49ers Season Preview

Leading up until the regular season, there will be team capsules brought to you of every team in the NFL. These capsules will serve as a primer for the NFL regular season opening up. Today we examine one of the league’s more storied franchises, the San Francisco 49ers.

Will the 2007 season behold good karma for the organization?

The franchise was dealt a huge blow when the father of the west coast offense, Bill Walsh passed away just days into training camp. Fans of the team have even started a petition in Walsh’s honor to wear the 1981 uniforms in which he won his first of 3 NFL Championships with the organization. After this initial large blow, the immediate future looks very bright for this once proud franchise after 4 straight losing seasons in which they went 20-44.

The team looked very strong at points last year and nearly snuck into the final Wildcard spot which was eventually claimed by an 8-8 Giants team. They swept the division champion Seattle Seahawks and generally outplayed them in both meetings, getting big performances from their key players.

The 49ers enter the 2007 season as possibly the #1 candidate for the league’s cinderella team, or at least the team who was out of the playoffs last season which is most likely to be there in January 2008. There is going to be some karma, but that is only half the story. This team has talent, youth, and energy, which trickles down from Head Coach Mike Nolan down to the players in action on the playing field. While I’m sure the organization will decide to do something to honor legendary Coach Walsh, the biggest tribute they could pay him is to win their division outright, en route to another playoff appearance. That is exactly what I expect them to do.

Has QB Alex Smith ‘arrived’?

In his rookie season of 2005 after being the #1 overall pick, Smith left much to be desired. He completed just over 50% of his passes, and threw 1 TD and 11 interceptions. In 9 games he averaged only 97 yards passing and looked lost much of the time. This led many in the organization and outside (fans) to question whether or not the 49ers had selected the next #1 overall bust.

Last year, Smith made some impressive strides that reminded me of another big time QB that I will get to in a minute. He nearly led the team to the playoffs and his TD/INT ratio equaled eachother at 16 each. He still had some lackluster performances but showed flashes that made the front office and head coach Mike Nolan realize they may have got what was advertised with this kid. The best part about Smith is that he was 21 when he played his first NFL snap, making him just 23 now. He’s got a lifetime ahead of him in the NFL. The 49ers would be wise to build around him and to continue to call plays that tailor to his strengths, roll-outs, improvising, and making plays outside the pocket, complemented by a strong running game.

I remember another QB who had a similar sophomore season in his first real season of being ‘the guy’. Carson Palmer led the 2004 Bengals to an 8-8 record while throwing for similar yardage amounts and 18 TD with 18 interceptions. In the two seasons since, we all know what Palmer has been able to do. I’m not suggesting that Smith will develop into an offensive juggernaut like that of Palmer, but the similarities do exist. I will say that I believe the 49ers have a very good player in Alex Smith that will continue to lead by performance from the QB position.

Mike Nolan seems to be working out at head coach
Absolutely. The man has an impressive resume although many only remember his accomplishments in Baltimore, where he was both Wide Receivers coach and Defensive Coordinator. Nolan has also had extended periods of work with the Giants, Broncos, and Redskins. This coming after extended work stays at the University levels of Rice, Stanford, Oregon and LSU.

The guy is a football guru and his knowledge of the offensive game is underminded because he is such a great defensive coach. I am high on both his ability to build a team and his ability to get the most of those group of players. I like his drafts so far, as he has assembled the likes of Alex Smith, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore to name a few. These are very good players that could contribute right away and needed lesser development. Patrick Willis will also probably become a bright spot on the San Francisco defense. With all the problems the 49ers have had in the front office in recent years, Nolan may be the answer. This team has found a head coach, and one that I am envious of (if you’ll remember he was in consideration for the Cleveland job before Crennel was named).

I look for Nolan to have a long (and long in today’s NFL is 4 to 6 years) run of success with this organization and make several playoff runs. He and O-coordinator Jim Hostler seem to have devised a scheme that will score points, while assistant head coach Mike Singletary combines with Nolan and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky for three of the better young defensive philosophys in football. Look for a top 10 and possibly top 5 defense out of this team in 2007.

Will 2007 Frank Gore be as good as 2006’s version?
Gore might only be 5’9″, but he runs a lot bigger than that. Last year he set the NFL on fire, running for 1,695 yards. The 49ers then made the wise decision to lock him up through 2011 with an extension. He ecclipsed Garrison Hearst’s team record for rushing yardage and proved he’s 100% healthy. If you’re a fantasy player, go after this guy early. He’s going to be good for a long time and although he scored 9 times last year, look for him to grow with the offensive unit and find the end zone up to double the amount of times this season.

The look has always been there for Gore. When he was at University of Miami before he got hurt I saw him play a few games and said to myself ‘this guy is as good of a runner I’ve ever seen at this school.’ This includes the likes of Portis, Edgerrin James, and Willis Macgahee. Gore is a grinder with speed. He is patient enough to let his blocks develop and set up for the homerun.

I absolutely look for Gore to be what he was in 2006, and if he stays healthy he could replace star backs like Shaun Alexander and LaDanian Tomlinson when their tread wears off the tires. At age 24, he’s got enough years ahead of him so that he and Maurice Jones-Drew can be the running backs to carry the torch in this league in a few years. This team wants to make a run right now, so Gore is going to be the biggest weapon in getting this team to the playoffs. Health is always a concern, but if he stays healthy–he’s going to put up MVP numbers.

Where will the 49ers finish out?
They’re going to finish atop the NFC West. Ahead of the Seahawks (who I predict will be this organizations new whipping boy), and just ahead of Arizona. The 49ers are primed for a playoff run and one has a hard time picking out a weakness. They should be fun to watch develop, and true football fans can’t say they’re not ready for this franchise’s return to greatness. I’m just glad they aren’t in my team’s division. I’ll say 11-5 on the dot. Not a game less or a game more. They’ll probably win a home playoff game, but beyond that it is hard to tell. The key pieces are in place and 49er fans are going to have a team they can once again hold their heads high about.

Note: That part I mentioned about ‘Frank Gore staying healthy’? It looks like for the time being I might have cursed that. Frank Gore broke his hand.

Washington Redskins Season Preview

Is Jason Campbell the real deal?
This was a guy I really wanted the Cleveland Browns to draft back in 2005 in the first round somehow. I thought maybe they’d trade back up into the late 1st round and try and snag him or target him in the early 2nd with their pick if Campbell fell that far. We all know how it worked out, the Browns took Braylon Edwards and in the 3rd they tried to make a hometown hero out of Charlie Frye. The Redskins got Campbell at the end of the 1st round and I’ve been waiting for him to explode on the scene out of Auburn ever since.

Campbell got his long awaited debut last season replacing the imcumbent Mark Brunell. He looked good at times, showing the propensity to stand in the pocket and make a throw in the face of a rush, and he doesn’t mind taking a hit to do so. He has a really nice arm and accurate touch on both the deep and intermediate throws. Unfortunately, we don’t get to really see what he can do throwing the ball 40 times a game because the Redskins offense is one that calls for the Quarterback to make a big throw when needed and rely on running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts for most of the big chunks of yardage.

I would consider Santana Moss near being a big time wideout. After that, he’s got Brandon Lloyd (who flopped in San Francisco), Antwan Randel-El (who is a gadget/special teams guy and deep threat), and James Thrash (who’s played for the Eagles and Skins 10 times each). Chris Cooley at tight end is probably the next best option for Campbell to throw to. In my opinion, the lack of a receiving corps is the only thing holding Campbell back from being a big time star. The question remains, how much will Head Coach Joe Gibbs let Campbell throw this season? Does he want to allow his fate on his job rely on basically a 2nd year quarterback?

Campbell will also be overshadowed by bigger names within his NFC East division: Donovan Mcnabb, Eli Manning, and even Tony Romo (because he plays in Dallas). This is another reason this kid isn’t going to get much hype. Campbell is 25, and in 7 career games he’s thrown 10 TD and 6 interceptions for a 76.5 passer rating. The future is now for Campbell, and he’s got to step up big for the ‘Skins. If they’re going to be a playoff team, they’ll need more than just Betts and Portis to do it.

Who is the better option at running back: Clinton Portis or Ladell Betts?
What is amazing about Clinton Portis is although he has seemingly been in the NFL forever (6 years), he is only 25 years old. If Portis can stay healthy and return to form for the next several years, it’s not crazy to think about him becoming one of the all-time leading rushers in league history. He’s in an offense right now that is ideal for him to gain a lot of yards and touches.

Last season due to injury, the 27 year-old Betts gained valuable experience and showed that he is a big time back in the NFL when called upon, running for nearly 1,200 yards. The Redskins now have a luxury for the time being at the position, with two capable and high end caliber players. The question is which is better as the starter?

The unwritten rule in the league states that one cannot lose his position to injury. Although it doesn’t always hold water, for the time being Washington will give Portis the chance as the starter, spelling him with Betts for around 10-15 carries per game to keep Portis fresh and healthy. Obviously Washington thought highly enough of Betts not to dangle him in any type of offseason trade talks, so if Portis isn’t 100%, Betts could take the starters role back. After this season, look for one of the two with lesser value to be moved. I’ll say that I think Portis is going to have another big time year and remain the go to guy in Joe Gibbs’ offense.

Can Joe Gibbs succeed in today’s NFL?
In a more classic era, Joe Gibbs won 3 Superbowls for this franchise, which is probably the reason he’s bought himself some more time and patience from the front office brass and owner Daniel Snyder. The fact of the matter is, since Gibbs’ most recent return to the league, he is just 21-27 overall with a 1-1 record in 1 postseason appearance. Gibbs has had the misfortune of playing in a division that is very strong an competitive year after year. It’s dog eat dog in that division, which is one of the NFL’s best. The NFL is not an easy business currently, nor has it ever been. The parity in the league has been much more evident since his return than it was in his days coaching in the 80’s and early 90’s.

As a fan of football, I’d like to see Gibbs do well and make another deep postseason run before he rides off into the sunset to own some racing cars in Carolina. However, I don’t know if his current situation and personnel is the right situation for him to do that. The Redskins are most likely a year away and another player or two. While they might appear as cinderella at points this season I don’t think they’ll be strong enough to overtake more than one of the other teams in their division that are pressured to win big right now. Like many in this business, the future is clouded for Gibbs.

The Redskins crystal ball says what?
I’d like to see the Redskins be competitive and successful more then the Eagles or Cowboys, but that doesn’t make it come to fruition. They have some very nice players on both sides of the ball and could definitely be a candidate to surprise. They’re not going to be picked to win the NFC East by many pundits to start the season, including this one. I’ll say they go 8-8 and tie for 3rd in the division with the Giants, either with a fast start or a hot finish. They will not maintain all the way through. The continued development of Campbell will be fun to watch but his lack of weapons at receiver will be evident and prove to be a failing point for this team. The defense should be right in the middle of the pack, nothing elite. Unless some surprises happen over the full 16 game season, expect the Redskins to once again be watching football in January.

Cincinnati Bengals Season Preview

Can Carson Palmer take the next step?
No, the next step is not doing a hot dog commercial for John Morrell’s famous meats. The ‘next step’ for Palmer could be considered only one of two things. One would be to win the NFL regular season MVP award. The next would be to win a playoff game.

Palmer appeared well on his way in 2005 to leading the Bengals to a Superbowl run, that is until Kimo Von Oelhoffen shattered his knee and the Steelers won the Championship that the Bengals could have had. Last year, Palmer returned from injury to do his part and start every game for the Bengals, his 28 TD and 13 interceptions proved he was no fluke, but a big time NFL QB. The next step will be to put up TD #’s in the 30’s and a rating over 100, all while leading the Bengals to the playoffs. The league is ready to crown a Bengals player MVP, I think, and it will be up to Palmer to make sure that this happens. If he can get this bunch that is talented but troubled to be playing football in January, you might be looking at an MVP in the making.

Palmer is a ton of fun to watch, but with that said, he must stay healthy. If he is healthy you can count on one of the two ‘next steps’ being taken, take it to the bank. In Carson the Bengal fans trust, and they should. If you have watched him play much, he just leaves you with the sense that he isn’t going to let you down.

Does Marvin Lewis now have control of this team?
One would hope after the amount of arrests that piled up and basically ended up keeping the Bengals out of the playoffs from a distraction standpoint; that the worst is over right? I mean, you just knew that the placeholder in Denver was going to botch that extra point that owuld tie the game at 24-all on Christmas eve didn’t you? You knew Pittsburgh would find a way to come into the Jungle on the final week of the season and beat the Bengals in Cowher’s finale to keep the Bengals at home in January. Things like that happen to undisciplined teams.

Lewis better have control of this squad, or it’s going to probably be curtains for him. Sure he ‘turned the franchise around’ and it became Marvin’s team, but how many seasons and how much time does several 8-8 campaigns and a playoff loss get you? I have a feeling the patience is wearing thin with the front office brass, and if Lewis doesn’t step up soon and take the roster by the horns, he’s on his way out of the ‘Natti. Lewis needs to take this team to the playoffs and win a game, and also show some more tough love in terms of disciplining his players if when they screw up.

What is the missing link for this team?

With Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Rudi Johnson & company, this team has the best offense in football on paper. Although they lost OL Eric Steinbach to the Browns, they still have Willie Anderson and a very beefy O-line with a lot of continuity. There is no reason for this team not to score a ton of points, probably as many as any team in the NFL.

The question marks in Marvin Lewis’ tenure have been on the defensive side of the ball, which is surprising considering this was what he was billed for coming from the Baltimore Ravens. This Bengals squad has found themselves trying to outscore many opponents the past few seasons in order to win ballgames. If a game is on the line and the defense must hold up, Bengals fans aren’t feeling too great about their chances.

If this team is going to take the next step in this league, it will be up to Defensive Coordinator Chuch Bresnihan and his squad to step up and become a top 10 defense in the league, or the Bengals will fall short of expectations again.

What will 2007 hold for the Bengals?

The Bengals are going to win the AFC North, they’re going to really wup the competition the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and yes even Cleveland. Look for a 5-1 record in the AFC North or a clean sweep altogether. I can see a 12-4 record for this team and a first round bye. I don’t expect them to get to the Superbowl just yet, but they’re going to take the next step. I feel that QB Carson Palmer will get recognition in winning his first MVP award or NFL Offensive Player of the year. Chad Johnson will have a huge year and probably post some of the finest numbers of his career. If Chris Henry can return, he also has huge playmaking ability-which is the reason he’ll even get another shot-because of his pure talent. The defense will have to be better if Cincinnati is going to be taken seriously as one of the big boys of the NFL.

Bill Walsh, 1931-2007

Bill Walsh, the man credited for building the 49ers dynasty and the West Coast Offense has died from complications of leukemia. He was 75 years young.

For those EA Sports NCAA Football lovers, Walsh also was the first face of that game, with Bill Walsh College Football 94′ and 95′. In my opinion, Walsh was the greatest NFL head coach of all time. He was ahead of his time, and because of that I only have brief memories of him and first hand accounts of watching his teams play. Also due to the fact that he was a major coaching legend, there is no need to worry because footage and features of Walsh will air eternally on channels like ESPN classic.

The man who made Joe Montana and Steve Young the Quarterbacks that they were left behind a wife and son. His most recent work was in 2004, helping Stanford University out with their scholarship programs.

There aren’t enough words that I as a football fan can say that justify Bill Walsh’s life, some are worthy of so much more then just a blog entry in memoriam. That said, I will do my best. Bill Walsh was a class act who signified class in the highest of ways, and he forever changed the way NFL Football will be played. He left a mark on the game that will span on possibly forever. In another short illustration of this is Bill Walsh’s coaching tree. Click for a larger view:

Tennesee Titans Season Preview

Can Vince Young break the Madden Curse?
Obviously in years past, every athlete that has been on the cover spot of the Madden football game has fallen victim to some type of misfortune. Some have been worse then others, but each year one cannot argue that this ‘jinx’ exists in some fashion thus far in the brief history of the game. The only individual that has not fallen victim to some type of jinx is John Madden himself, I mean it’s not like he had the duty of sharing the football booth with Dennis Miller.

Young won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season, throwing 12 TD’s and 13 interceptions. He also ran for 552 yards and 7 TD. With Vick out due to puppy slaying, Young becomes the premiere running quarterback of the league. This could also be a substantial cause of some type of injury.

While I don’t expect the Titans as a team to be an overly strong unit, one can argue that they were not that great of a team last season and they still managed to nearly sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 season record. The two main cogs to that team were Young and Coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher can make chicken soup out of chicken shit, and he’ll need to do it again with this bunch. The other player who was in a great role for that team was running back Travis Henry, who has departed for greener pastures in Denver.

If anyone can break the Madden Curse, it’s going to be Vince Young. He is Micheal Jordan in cleats. He is the most electrifying player in the NFL and in his sophomore season I expect him to show even more flashes of greatness.

Why didn’t the team add any weapons in the offseason?
I am not sure. The only thing I can figure is the team knows something that we don’t know about WR’s Brandon Jones, and David Givens. The team also recently took a flyer on 34 year old wideout Eric Moulds. I’ve always thought that starting RB Chris Brown would be a star in the NFL, now he’ll get his chance as the feature back in this offense. If Young can find a way to get the most out of this group, and make the production rise, than we’ll know he is truly one of the great ones already. Jeff Fisher maximizes his talents on the roster every year and gets the absolute most of every player he has. This is why he is such a great coach. Still, I think that the lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball is going to come back to hurt this team in the immediate future. The organization would have been better suited to draft a WR on the offensive side of the ball with their mid-1st round pick in the draft. In the long-term future, the secondary might have been the way to go due to the absence of Pac Man Jones.

How much will the absence of Pac Man Jones hurt this team?
It’s going to be noticed because not only was Pac Man one of the best playmakers on this team outside of Vince Young, but one of the best defensive playmakers in all of football. When he got his hands on the ball, he had the ability to take it to the house nearly every time he touched the ball, which is why he was returning punts. Who knows whether we will ever see Pac Man in the NFL again, let alone the Titans, but if we do, this team could be loaded for years to come. The team added CB Nick Harper from the Superbowl champion Indianapolis Colts to help take away some of the sting of missing Jones, and also has Andre Woolfolk down the depth chart. Micheal Griffin is going to be a player down the road in this league, with the Titans knowing Pac Man wouldn’t be playing this season at all, they selected Griffin with the 19th overall selection. If Pac Man can get his life together and stop making Pac Man Sno-cones at the strip clubs (pissing into crushed ice in the crack of a stripper’s ass), this team has potentially the most dangerous secondary in football. For 2007, it’s going to be a loss that is noticed.

Crystal ball time; how do they finish?
The Titans have question marks scattered everywhere expect possibly QB, DT, Secondary, and Head Coach. While that is fewer than many teams in the NFL, it’s not fewer than many teams int he AFC South. The Colts are loaded, we know that, and the Jaguars should be primed for a deep playoff run. While anything can happen in this league–giving the Titans a chance–look for them to struggle early to find playmakers to score on the offensive side of the ball. Vince Young is only one player. He’ll bring some magic but probably not enough to get this team into the Wild Card playoffs. As fun as it would be to see him playing in January, this likely isn’t the year. The team missed a huge opportunity to make a statement in the offseason through bringing in some big time players via free agency and the draft. I see this team finishing 3rd in the division, we’ll say 8-8 again. One thing that benefits them is the fact that they play the Jaguars and Colts very tough historically.

The best storylines will be the continued development of Vince Young, along with seeing who steps up and becomes a big time player. I’ll say Brandon Jones, who has great chemistry with Young, and Chris Brown; who should be a big time running back in the making.

My take on the Vick-puppy-slaying situation

Let me start this off by saying this: the people at PETA really turn me off. There’s a pretty good chance if you’re an individual that has anything to do with PETA; I don’t want anything to do with you. You’re awkward, a lefty, someone who likes to argue and is generally over the top when they don’t need to be at all. You’re nothing like me and the people I generally get along with. When this whole saga began and the coverage started to leak that Mike Vick had some involvement with slaying Pit Bulls and that the people at PETA weren’t happy, I just wanted to vomit all together.

Count me as one of the individuals that isn’t surprised. Here you’ve got a big time pro athlete, one that thinks they get a free pass in life. Trust me, I’ve heard in the past what a jagoff Mike Vick really is in person. He’s got a brain in that head of his that’s as useless as tits on a boar. He’s worried about one thing, all the time. Well actually two things; Mike Vick and getting stoned. Athletes without a good head on their shoulders typically spend money on several things in the present day: drugs, women, or gambling. While I’m sure Vick does the first (especially mary jane), the vice that has him in this mess is the third one, gambling.

At first I was a little bit upset by the harsh reality that I might never see Vick play football again. Afterall, I remember him as the ‘deal’ in pro football. Message boards everywhere declared that to win in the NFL, you’d now need a mobile QB to do it. Pocket passers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Trent Green might take you far–but not to the top. I remember Vick slashing long runs on the Vikings, the Saints, the whole league. I remember his deep ball that would leave the screen. I remember him before he was generally such a large fuck up.

Then the other night, I flip on FOX News very late at night to see footage of some men similar to Vick’s heritage watching the pitbull battles, scurrying to get out of the way as these animals killed eachother ferociously. There was something about it that made my stomach turn. I don’t know if it is the fact that my fraternity had a pitbull for the years that I lived there, Marley; I hope you’re well where ever you’re at. I don’t know if it is because overall, dogs are my favorite animal. I’m far from a dog lover, but they are a lot better than a cat right? Something about that video really struck me and got to me. It made me no longer care if Michael Vick was a free man. It made me wish that he does some serious time in prison, where he can get pounded in the crapper by large men that make Warren Sapp look like an ant-hill. I didn’t want to see Vick’s exploits on the gridiron any longer.

If I had to predict how this situation would shake down; I would say the following. I think Vick is done in Atlanta. The Falcons have had enough of his carnival act, even if he is 36-26-1 as a starter. They’re just tired of the bullshit that the face of the franchise brings. I do think he’ll find away to pull an Orenthal Simpson like escape from the law’s punishment and walk away a free man. He’ll catch on with another NFL team, but the star factor is over for Vick. He’ll never again be looked at as ‘the superstar of the NFL’. He had his day in the sun, and he gave it up for some petty; and cruel fun. I still think the American legal system will give him a free pass to tip toe his way right out of this mess, which is sad.