Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Three and out

Three quick digressions while wishing Brian Billick a happy new year . . .

1. This season puts to rest any latte-brained notion by the likes of Peter King that Randy Moss is anything but a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Even with his past transgressions considered - yes, we know it's not very nice to consider turning a meter maid into a speed bump, as tempting as it may be - Moss's rightful place among the game's legends is officially unassailable, even by the cynics who determine who will be enshrined in Canton. Hell, as unappealing as I found Moss until he brought his ungodly talent and odd charisma to my favorite team (funny how that works), I thought his Hall of Fame case was made long ago, for this reason: He has made the careers of more barely competent people than any player in the history of the league. He's the reason Billick was able to dupe people into believing he was an offensive mastermind, when in truth he couldn't pick a quarterback out of a lineup of Mannings. He's the reason unreliable Randall Cunningham enjoyed an improbable late-career renaissance. He's the reason sniveling Jeff George briefly looked like a quarterback a team could win with. He's the reason we thought Daunte Culpepper was a versatile and talented passer rather than just a clueless chucker. Now, not even Moss could make Aaron Brooks and Art Shell look competent, but I don't have to tell you that he his role in Tom Brady's record-shattering season - and the potentially unprecedented success of this 16-0 football team - cannot be exaggerated. Moss might be complicated and moody and many other things, but there's no deny his track record: he's one of the single most valuable players in the recent history of the league. Just ask those who owe their careers to his talent.

2. Okay, got a ridiculous hypothetical for you. Say the NFL disbanded all of its teams and started fresh, throwing all of its players, coaches, general managers, cheerleaders, and so on into one massive dispersal draft. (Hey, I told you it was ridiculous.) My question: Who do you think the first pick from the league's entire pool of talent would be? Peyton Manning? Tom Brady? Adrian Peterson? Kyle Orton? Or would it not be a player, but a certain coach? To put it another way: Is Bill Belichick the single most valuable person in the National Football League? I have to say, the more I consider this, the more convinced I become that choosing him to run your franchise would be a much wiser selection than taking any one superstar player in the league, the two franchise quarterbacks included.

3. Finally, an overdue tip of the ol' leather helmet to our favorite football curmudgeon, Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z. When he's not telling us how football was better in his day, swigging Metamucil by the gallon, or yelling at those %*&$& kids to get off his lawn, he remains an astute football analyst. We made a mental note at midseason season when he insisted that the Patriots' Logan Mankins, largely anonymous outside of Foxborough at the time, was playing better than any guard in the league, Minnesota's Steve Hutchinson included. Now that Mankins is getting his due as an elite lineman, with his first Pro Bowl bid, we figure we should give credit where credit is due. Dr. Z saw it before anyone else. (And for the record, I still don't believe Mel Kiper knew who Mankins was on draft day '05. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he does now.)

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Programming note: Be sure to check in Wednesday, when we'll have a silly little photographic quiz posted that will test your acumen as a Pats fan. Heck, I'll even give you a hint - at least one correct answer will be "Horace Ivory." Because honestly, what good is a Pats quiz without a cat named Horace? No good, that's what.

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