As we near the end of the NFL’s 2011-12 regular season, why not take a look back at some bold predictions I had made (on two separate occasions here & here) that in retrospect made me look like a complete idiot. While we’re back there, we can even take a look at some predictions I made that make me look like a GENIUS!!!
I Was Way Wrong About:
I can’t go any further without mentioning him. Cam Newton. Cam, fucking Newton. The runaway lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year was far from a favorite of mine at draft time. I slammed Newton as a cocky, fame-inspired son of a preacher man. A preacher man I felt was ruining Cam’s career before it even started. Not sure exactly what I said, but it was something like this:
“It seemed to me like he [Newton’s father] was at the forefront, exploiting, if not at least utilizing, his son’s talents. I think this approach by parents lends to a certain, how you say, wackiness feature in their children (See: aforementioned Lohan, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Justin Bieber [this kid’s only a couple years away from crack and street BJs, I’m tellin you!]) Add in Cam’s comments about wanting to be some sort of cultural icon, and you get a guy whose first and second priorities are obviously NOT football and football.”
Far from high praise for what has so far been the most productive rookie QB in the NFL since Dan Marino in 1983. I’ll admit it, I was dead wrong about Newton, and I blame it on Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.
I’m not one to make excuses for being completely wrong, but I fell victim to the plague that hits every draft in all sports, year after year. The plague that over analyzes talent to a fault. The reason I thought Cam would be a bust is because of the baggage that came along with him. It was baggage that included a father asking schools for money and a player who was READY for Hollywood. That’s where I went wrong. This baggage wasn’t inhibiting Cam, it had already made him ready for the spotlight. His father was guilty of doing everything he could to make his family’s life better. A far cry from past family baggage cases like Todd Marinovich (overbearing father) and Jamarcus Russel (just a straight family of goons). The Newton family’s only fault was that they cared too much. They didn’t ignore their son, or push him too hard. They clearly knew the talent Cam had, and knew exactly what they could get as a result of that.
That brings me into the biggest aspect of Cam’s game that I overlooked: his talent. I harped on his decision-making and accuracy as the two biggest FAILS of his repertoire. I pointed out that not only was he in an offense at Auburn that simplifies his reads to 1 or 2, but that his biggest decision to be made on each play (run or pass) is usually based solely on the behavior of one defensive player. Throw that into the mix with the fact that the guy couldn’t hit the broad-side of a fucking barn at gun point and I figured it was a LOCK for him to fail. Again, I fell victim to the devils, McShay and Kiper who say that accuracy and decision-making are skills you cannot teach.
Wow, was I wrong. Cam has shown that his accuracy and decision-making inefficiencies are insignificant in the grand scheme of it all. I never took into account that the kid’s really only had a single year of high-level coaching (and I would barely call Gene Chizik’s staff @ Auburn high-level), and I clearly slept on the fact that the Panthers would tailor an offensive scheme perfectly for him. Rob Chudzinski took away Cam’s two biggest faults by making this an offense that goes all out. The majority of the passes go deep down-field, making accuracy a non-factor- just get it in the vicinity and let Steve Smith do the rest. There are few 10-15 yard patterns calling for Cam to thread the needle between LB’s and Safeties, and when all else fails it’s set up for Cam to run it, and at 6’5″, 250, Newton has already broken the QB rookie record for rushing TD’s.
All these factors were naively overlooked on my part, and I certainly apologize for sleeping not only on Cam Newton, but also the staff of rookie head coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers are in good hands as it’s clear that Cam has that “It” factor, or as it is going to be renamed shortly, that “Tebow” factor.
The next thing I was clearly wrong about was my alternative suggestion for the top overall pick, DaQuan Bowers. Let me first preface this by saying that when I made my initial suggestion, Bowers’ injury problems had not yet been brought to light. Nonetheless, I will still say that was fucking STUPID. Bowers has played in 13 games this season so the knee injury has clearly not been much of a factor. From what I’ve seen, Bowers has struggled with the speed, strength, and size of NFL O-linemen. A measly stat line of 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks doesn’t even put Bowers into the discussion for defensive rookie of the year on his OWN TEAM (that distinction belongs to 1st-rounder Adrian Clayborn [33 tackles, 6.5 sacks] and 3rd-rounder Mason Foster [63 tackles, 2 sacks].
Granted, he’s still an amazing talent that could just need some time to develop and I STILL think he can be a dominant pass-rushing force in this league, but that’s just not enough for a top-10 pick. Bowers is a case where McShay and Kiper were right about baggage: injury baggage (see: Sam Bradford), is a very real factor and it has proven to be influential when it comes to the draft. I’m not giving up on Bowers yet, but clearly I was wrong in my predictions.
On to my next boneheaded prediction: Zach Miller. I proclaimed Miller as one of my most influential FA’s available this off-season alongside Paul Posluszny and Jonathan Joseph (two players I will get to momentarily). Miller went to a Seahawks squad that also picked up Sidney Rice.
Now, I blame most of Miller’s sucking on the team he signed with and granted, I picked Miller as influential BEFORE he signed with Seattle, but that shouldn’t matter. When you’re billed as a top-tier FA, I feel like you need to be able to contribute no MATTER the system you go to.
My biggest praise of Miller was in his ability to help the running game. Yes, Marshawn Lynch has more yards this year than he’s had since 2008 (and is on pace for a career year), but Seattle’s rushing offense is a measly 26th overall. You can blame that on injuries (Tavris Jackson, Sidney Rice) and departures (starting C Anthony Spencer), but again, none of that should matter in the end. The Raiders clearly do not miss Zach Miller (especially after adding Kevin “THE” Boss), and the Seahawks clearly are no better WITH Miller. I took a swing at this one, and missed terribly.
And as far as this final proclamation of idiocy I merely have three words to say: THE…..PHILADELPHIA…..EAGLES.
I WAS WAY RIGHT ABOUT:
Believe it or not, I made some golden predictions before this season started that, paired with the awful ones above, make me look a tad better than Skip Bayless. Yes, there was the easy lock of the Patriots in the Super Bowl (in progress) but beyond that here’s what I’m proud of.
Jonathan Joseph. The Houston Texans’ off-season CB addition that has proven to be more valuable than Nnamdi to the Eagles. I said right here that Joseph would be the single most influential off-season signing and he has proven to be just that. On a Houston defense that lost its best player for the year (Mario Williams), Joseph was exactly what the doctor ordered in H-Town. With a shut-down corner in the mix, the Texans are the league’s #1 overall defense, and as a team they just KEEP winning sans the Matt’s in the backfield (Schaub/Leinart).
I’m not naive enough to say that Joseph is the ONLY reason this defense is so damn dominant (Wade Phillips has a lot to do with it as well), but adding a lock-down corner to the mix like Joseph is puts a lot more freedom on the table for play-calling. Rookie DE J.J. Watt has also proven to be an amazing off-season addition but what this really comes down to is that Phillips CAN unleash a pass rush any time he wants because he knows that Joseph will be able to cover the other team’s best receiver by himself. This effect, originally known as the Deion effect, has been made famous in New York with Darelle Revis.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball comes my next “Told you so…”, Paul Posluszny of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The ball-hawk of a MLB was extremely overlooked in the off-season by everyone but myself and apparently Jack Del Rio. In fact, this is what I said about the Poz:
“The Poz goes to a Jaguars team that desperately needs a tackle-machine like him in the middle and I see that Defense being a top-10 squad, maybe even top-5 if their young D-Line keeps developing.”
And wouldn’t you know, guess who’s sitting at #4 in total defense for the year? Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m not going to gloat about this, or analyze it, that’s just a NASTY defense that REALLY needs a QB to help them out. Honestly, had the Jags held on to David Garrard, we’re talking about a Wild Card winner at LEAST in Jacksonville this year.
Finally, I would like to touch on Nick Fairley. I blasted Fairley alongside his former teammate Cam Newton for being overrated and over valued coming into the NFL Draft. I’ve already covered how WRONG I was with Newton, but can’t I cover how RIGHT I was with Fairley? Yes, the man missed almost half of the season with injuries but that’s no excuse. He’s still seen the field in 7 games and in those games he’s posted 9 tackles and 1 sack. Ew. Fairley’s injury to me clearly originates from a lack of work ethic and laziness that has carried over from college. Yes, he was a monster on the field in his last year at Auburn, but where was the track record before that?!
The Lions have been hesitant to play Fairley and Ndamakong Suh together and it’s less of a contrast of styles and more of a contrast in demeanor. Suh is a god damn monster out there who goes balls to the wall from sun-up to sun-down. The last thing the Lions need is Suh to ruin the psyche of their newest, pudgiest defensive addition. This could very well be a DaQuan Bowers-type situation where Fairley needs some time to develop. But as a top 15, non-QB pick, you don’t want development, you want results. Nick Fairley, thank you for wrapping up my record of genius predictions.
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