Assistant Sports Editor
A look at the good, the bad and the down right ugly of the 2011-2012 NFL season thus far.
The Good – The way the 2011 NFL season has gone thus far, it is hard to write this section and not start with the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Green Bay Packers, and more specifically Aaron Rodgers, have been the class of the NFL. Undefeated and with only three tough games left (two vs. Detroit, one away at the Giants), do not be surprised if we are talking about the ’72 Dolphins or ’08 Patriots (18-0, there was no Super Bowl that year…).
The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most storied franchises in the history of the league, but had been a laughing stock since Steve Young retired in 1999. A revolving door of quarterbacks and coaches have followed, but it is looking like they have found their Walsh/Montana again with new coach Jim Harbaugh and former top pick Alex Smith. At 7-1, the 49ers are poised to return to the playoffs.
Cam Newton was the No. 1 pick in this past draft for a reason. That reason eluded most informed observers (including this one) as we watched the Panthers select him with a franchise-defining pick. While the Panthers have not been winning (2-7), they are at least fun to watch and Newton has revitalized Steve Smith’s career. Saving a faceless franchise and reviving an all-pro’s career? Not bad for nine weeks work.
The Bad – The “Suck for Luck” campaign has taken tanking to an all new level. Franchises in need of revitalization (much like the Panthers last year) seem to be taking a page out of South Park’s book and trying to lose on purpose. The Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts have been exceedingly bad, finding new ways to lose every week.
I am not a fan of tanking. I think the NFL should adopt the NBA’s lottery system so that we don’t have teams going 2-14 or 3-13 just to get the top pick. Unfortunately, this is the system in place and it is looking like the Colts have the inside track. If they draft Luck, look for two more Peyton Manning seasons before he takes over as offensive coordinator and Luck develops into a mutant-blend of Manning and Rodgers. I’m scared, but my mouth is watering.
The Ugly – The NFC West Division, per usual, deserves a spot in this section. Other than the 49ers, the other three teams are a combined 5-19. The worst division in football finds new ways to get worse every season. Two teams (Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals) started quarterback experiments that have worked almost as well as the Randy Moss-going-back-to-Minnesota thing.
This has been a bad year for personnel departments. The Kevin Kolb (Arizona) and Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle) experiments have failed horribly, as have Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco in New England. Here is a message to all NFL general managers: there is a reason they were free agents at 33 or why they were not starters for their last team. That is all.
The rest of the season promises to be interesting. Hopefully, we can reduce the size of the “bad” section by the end of the season.
Jimmy Kelley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org