Peter King on Dale and Holley
|11.06.09 at 3:11 pm ET|
Peter King of SI.com and NBC joined Dale and Holley Friday afternoon to talk about both the NFL and the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Dolphins. (To listen to the audio click here).
(Transcript courtesy Dan Rowinski)
Which organization is the biggest mess right now, Cleveland or Oakland?
Oakland is a perennial mess but Cleveland is catching them right now. I talked to Randy Lerner yesterday, at some length, the owner of the Browns and it is fairly startling what is going on with that team right now.
Here is a way to do the math. I mean, imagine this, you’ve got a coach who you fire, Romeo Crennel, who you owe three-years and $3 million dollars to. You’ve got a general manager who you fire, Phil Savage, who you still owe four-years and about $12-million dollars. You’ve got an offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski who months earlier you just re-upped for $2 million dollars a year, extend him for three years. So, now, he is an assistant out in San Diego but you still owe him, minimum like $4.5 million over the next few years because an assistant might make $400 [thousand], he’s not going to make much more than that. So, the guys that he just fired, and there are some less money too on some other coaches, we are not even talking about George Kokinis now, but the guys you fired the last time you owe $25 million dollars to. And then, George Kokinis leaves, five-years about $1 million a year, you are going to fight him somewhere, in front of a court or an arbitrator to see if you have to pay him off, he’s gone after eight games. I get the feeling right now, just talking to people around Cleveland that the reason that Randy Lerner is bringing in somebody, he wants to bring in a new guy to sort of be the titular head of the organization right now and lord over the football side, that guy is going to decide whether Eric Mangini stays or goes. Say Mangini goes, that is another three-years and $9 million. You go to work for Cleveland, you might not be there long but you might win the lottery.
What is Randy Lerner trying to hide. He talked to you but he would not talk to Tony Grossi [of the Cleveland Plains Dealer]?
Look, I was on the phone with him for quite a while and I asked him a lot of questions, most of the questions were answered “I just can’t get into that.” You know, why did you fire Kokinis? What happened? Why did this become intolerable? You fire a guy after eight weeks, that is just unbelievable, but he just wouldn’t take the bait on anything. I certainly did not get any more, if anything, on the record that Tony Grossi got. I just think they say now publically hurts their case whenever they do try to make this case against Kokinis to not have to play him. The bottom line in the whole thing, whoever pays who, whatever happens, to me it all relates back to a decision that Randy Lerner made right after the season last year. When Eric Mangini gets fired and the two guys that he interviewed to try and get his team back on course are Scott Pioli and Eric Mangini. Now, at the time he wasn’t convinced that Pioli was all-in with the Browns. I wasn’t convinced about it either so he then hired Eric Mangini. And, the bottom line of this whole thing is, at least as far as I’m concerned, if I am Randy Lerner I am moving heaven and earth to get Pioli to come in and clean up the whole mess, but he didn’t do that. At the end of the day he decided on Mangini and I think that is the root of all his problems. To me, you don’t need a head coach nearly as much as you need an architect and a football person to run everything in your organization. They don’t have that.
What do you expect from the Patriots and Dolphins?
Well, I think the one advantage the Patriots have is that Bill Belichick has spent as many man-hours working on studying the wildcat and how his defense can respond to it this year as compared to last year. To me, that is going to be the whole difference. I think the difference in this game now knows, and they are not going to get four touchdowns put on them, I would be surprised if they got two put on them because of the wildcat. The one other factor in this game is that if you get behind and you have a young quarterback like Matt Cassell and you need to score quickly and everything. I just think that game, one of the reasons that it got out of control relatively quickly, is I don’t think the Patriots were all-in with Matt Cassell yet. They didn’t feel comfortable enough that when they got behind and they got behind early by a good amount. They did not feel comfortable to play the way they play with Brady. So, instead of it being a shoot-out, instead of it ending up 38-35, either side, it ended up being whatever, 38-13 or whatever the score was because I don’t think the Patriots were equipped to play toe-to-to with the Dolphins last year.
How about Joey Porter’s comments?
If you are a player, I am not sure that you go to journalism school to learn the whole story about a lot of things. It is easy for Joey Porter to say that everything the Patriots ever did was tainted and they make up rules for Tom Brady. He’s in the Lee Harvey Oswald, Cuba, CIA, Frank Sinatra school of conspiracy theorist on, you know, who shot Kennedy. I have been around a lot of locker rooms and that is just the way locker rooms are. As soon as Spy Gate happened, everything the Patriots ever did was suspect. Not a lot of players are going to say it but a lot of players will believe that. Just because that is what they think they’ll say, well, the Patriots were too good for too long, they had to know what was coming. It is just the way perceptions are formed, not just in football, but in life. That is the easy way to think about it. Rather than think that for a long time Belichick has been as smart or smarter than everybody else, it is easy to think that, yup, the reason they have been any good is because they cheat and yup, the reason the NFL made this rule was because Tom Brady got hurt. That is the easy way to do it. It is not the logical way but it is the easy way and I sure that a lot of players, and Joey Porter verbalized it, but I am sure a lot of players feel that way. You ask the Baltimore Ravens, you ask Terrell Suggs about the Tom Brady rule and what do you think he is going to think. He is going to think the league put this rule into play for Tom Brady.
Are the New York Giants in trouble?
I think there are two things going on there. They are in real trouble. The two things that you look at are that they have not been able to get any consistent defensive pressure on the quarterback, you know, nobody talks about missing Jay Alford, who was kind of a rising start defensive tackle for them. Nobody talks about them missing Chris Canty who was brought in to be, in essence, a poor man’s Kevin Williams, you know, the Vikings really good defensive tackle. Nobody talks about that but they should talk about it because those are two guys who they miss who they have not really been able to replace well and the fact that Osi Umenyiora has been slow coming back as an impact guy from knee surgery. Their secondary has been pedestrian without Aaron Ross and Kenny Phillips at corner and safety, respectively. I will just say this, because of his foot, we don’t know exactly why, but Eli Manning is playing like Danny Kanell. There has to be some reason for it but for the last three weeks, he stinks. He didn’t stink, he looked more like his brother the first five weeks of this year. Do I think they are in trouble? I think the answer is yes.
And, let me tell you this. The San Diego Chargers are going to come to the Meadow Lands. It is a big game for a lot of reasons but it is a big game for Phillip Rivers for various reasons. Number 1) He knows that a lot of this team is on his shoulders because defensively they are a pedestrian unit right now. So he knows that this team is on his shoulders and he is going to play the guy who, regardless of what he says that anybody says, he got traded for. The guys in his class have won Super Bowls, Rothlisberger and Manning and I think you are going to see a totally bombs-away game by Phillip Rivers after watching the Giants secondary play. And, now that Chris Chambers is gone, you look at this team and Norv Turner told me this in the summer, they basically have an NBA franchise at wide receiver. They are going to start two 6’5” 235 pound guys Sunday, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd and I think it presents huge matchup problems for the Giants.
The Colts are undefeated but facing injuries to Sanders and Jackson. Are the hits piling up a little to high here for Indianapolis?
There are two other ones, Tyjuan Hagler who was a real trusted guy who knew their scheme so well, he is out for the year with a torn bicep. And, very under the radar thing is that Anthony Gonzalez is struggling coming back from his knee injury from Week 1. He had a little clean up procedure this week, he might be out another couple of weeks too. I think the Colts now are starting to take enough hits, particularly, can you imagine facing the Patriots if they have to, without Sanders and Marlon Jackson? I mean, to me, that is a very troublesome thing for their defense. I think we are getting to the point now where we have probably seen the best of Bob Sanders. It is sad but he has such a chronically bad knee now that I wonder how many games he’s going to be able to play every year from here on out in his career. He still hits like a ton of bricks but he is not able to stay on the field. I would be most worried about Sanders but also extremely worried about losing Jackson because of his cover ability.
I watched the game last week at NBC with Tony Dungy and that offensive line really got, I am not going to say man-handled, that is too strong a word, but the Patriots are going to look at that. There is a guy, really under the radar, named Abreu Franklin out in San Francisco who really had his way with the offensive line last week. I think that would be particularly worrisome because I think that provides a little bit of a blue print on how to play the Colts. Attack them up the middle, to me, if I am Vince Wolfork I am really looking at that game very closely.
Are the Colts the best team in the AFC?
I mean, I would be hesitant to say that right now. The record says they are the best so you got to give it to them, but I guess I am a victim of watching from the last thing I saw and I watch that San Francisco game and they did not play well that day. Any time you have Manning, who is as healthy as a horse, playing at the absolute top of his game . . . I will just tell you this, you watch Austin Collie for the next three, four, five years and this guy is going to be a big star. The way he has adjusted to this offense coming out of college as a fourth round pick is extremely impressive. Manning loves the guy. So, they are going to be able to get into some shoot-outs but I worry about their running game and I worry about their back end and I worry about their secondary. I would say right now these next two weeks will really go a long way in determining that. One team in the AFC that could be the most dangerous when it is all over is Baltimore. I love the Ravens, I have watched a lot of them over the last month or so, even when they were losing, but the last quarter against Minnesota it was such a valiant effort scoring 21 points and coming back. I thought they were going to win the game but they missed a field goal at the end. They were very, very impressive against Denver last week. So, who knows? The AFC, to me, is a lot more wide open then the NFC is.
How much of a problem is Roy Williams going to be in Dallas?
That is a good question. I think he is not an incendiary device like Terrell Owens was. But, I do think that his disappointment is palpable and he wonders why is it that Tony Romo is going all snuggly with Miles Austin now and he is kind of on the outside. I was in Dallas recently and I know why Tony Romo is throwing to Miles Austin. Miles Austin is good, he’s open. That is the one thing, from talking to Romo, he is out of the business now of saying I got to get the ball to 11, I’ve got to get the ball to 81, I got to get the ball to this guy. All he is doing is going through his reads and whoever is open he is throwing it to. Now, quarterbacks aren’t stupid, I would be surprised that if the next time the Cowboys have a game where they are up by double digits in the second half, I bet that Jason Garrett would call about five pass plays that are designed for Roy Williams to be the first option. Quarterbacks do that all the time. Peyton Manning is famous over the years for if one game, if Reggie Wayne were to get 15 balls and Marvin Harrison didn’t, the next game he was going to get Marvin the ball early and often. That is just smart by the quarterback. I think that Tony Romo got so fed up by trying to placate Terrell Owens over the last couple of years that he said “that almost killed me as a quarterback, I am not doing it anymore.”
Which of the big dog former coach/general managers are getting restless right now [Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, etc. . . .]
I spent some time with Shanahan this week and he makes no bones about it. If somebody offers him a job in January, he is taking it. He absolutely going to get back in. Now, he is not going to go to a place where he thinks he can’t win but he will be back in football. The other guy who will be back in football is Jon Gruden, if somebody will hire him.
I think he is good, to very good [on TV]. I think he has done a good job on Monday Nights. He does some things very well. He explains some technical stuff very well and I’ve enjoyed that. I don’t know why but every time I think of Gruden I think of him coaching the Washington Redskins next year. Because, I just think that he is a strong personality who can get along with a strong personality. I think it is almost magnetic, I think [Daniel] Snyder and Gruden are almost drawn to each other.
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