Block & Tackle is John Teti’s column about pro football.
It’s time once again for the Second Non-Annual Block & Tackle Midseason Awards, which recognize achievement in the field of making football more fun or dumb or both. The honors will be awarded throughout the column, with the first and most prestigious award going to the Indianapolis Colts.
In the First Non-Annual Block & Tackle Midseason Awards, the distinction of “most entertaining team” went to the New York Jets in recognition of their longstanding commitment to gridiron comedy. Two years later, the Jets aren’t quite the laugh riot that they used to be—there’s more of a “low-rent Showtime Game Of Thrones rip-off” vibe happening in the Meadowlands, with petty drama galore. Last week, for instance, the Jets benched Ryan Fitzpatrick, their bearded mediocre quarterback. They instead started Geno Smith, their unbearded mediocre quarterback. Then the clean-shaven guy hurt his knee, so the hairy guy had to come back—and the Jets won anyway! But afterward, Fitzpatrick was angry at Jets management…
[W]hen the owner stops believing in you, and the GM stops believing in you, and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself. That’s kind of something I’ve dealt with before and something I’m dealing with now.
…the head coach was annoyed with Fitzpatrick…
If “pissed off” is going to stop the turnovers, then I’m happy, I’m more than happy to have him pissed off the whole time.
On second thought, the Jets are still pretty funny.
Nonetheless, the SNAB&TMA for pure entertainment still goes to the Indianapolis Colts. All else being equal on a Sunday afternoon, I will pay special attention to a Colts game, especially once it reaches the second half.
As I’ve previously noted, Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano has a brilliant, showbiz-minded approach to leadership: He spends the whole week instructing his players to lose. He hires a skywriter to paint the word “LOSE” in the sky above the Colts’ practice facility. He painstakingly removes all the letters from T.Y. Hilton’s Alpha-Bits except “L,” “O,” “S,” and “E.” (Sometimes Pagano misses some of the “N” pieces, and Hilton thinks he is supposed to “LONSE.” Chuck’s still working out kinks in the system.)
The result of Pagano’s unorthodox approach is that the brainwashed Colts routinely take the field with the intent to lose, until the hypnotic spell wears off at some point in the second half, when they attempt to win. And once they wake up, they sure are feisty! All their winning instincts burst to the fore, and you get plays, like the one above from Sunday’s come-from-behind victory against Tennessee, where all the Colts are flinging themselves around the field in belated pursuit of victory. Indy has spirit. I like to watch spirit.
This year’s Colts are to the NFL what the Rat Race pricing game is to The Price Is Right. Rat Race is a game that’s played for a new car—Price seldom offers used cars—and features a bunch of fuzzy mechanical rats that race along a curvy track. Contestants try to pick the rat that will finish first to win the car. No matter what, though, the home viewers get to have some fun watching a bunch of fake rats zinging around a giant “S.” There’s fun to be had, win or lose, and so it is with the Indianapolis Colts. (The Chargers and Raiders are Rat Race teams, too.)
Price offers other illuminating football parallels. The 2016 Browns, for instance, have done nothing but lose, yet they still often manage to put on a show—thanks in large part to wide receiver (and quarterback, and safety) Terrelle Pryor—before they succumb to their characteristic fourth-quarter swoon. The Browns’ Price spirit animal is Temptation. You rarely see anybody win Temptation, but the built-in drama of the “play it safe or go for it?” dynamic makes it a thrill to watch contestants try. And when Temptation does produce a win, it feels like a miracle—just as it will if the Browns manage to get off the schneid this season.
Not all losers have that Temptation mojo. With a 1-6 record, the 2016 Chicago Bears win only slightly more than the Browns, but they lack Cleveland’s spark. Their Price counterpart is That’s Too Much!, Price’s dullest car game: Contestants watch Drew Carey reveal a list of escalating prices and pipe up when they think they see a price that’s “too much” for the car. That’s Too Much! is usually lost, and even when it does manage to produce a win, it’s still a drag to watch. Nobody is excited to see either That’s Too Much! or the Chicago Bears appear on their television screen.
The newly minted Los Angeles Rams are Hot Seat. Having recently debuted for Price’s 2016-17 season, Hot Seat is new, it’s flashy, and it’s “hot”—just as the Rams are so hot that their fans were collapsing from heat exhaustion during L.A.’s home opener. But if you look past the glitz and the fresh-out-of-the-box shine, you can see that Hot Seat is merely a decent game: It’s somewhat cumbersome for Drew to explain, which slows down the action, which in turn saps some drama from the big-money decision making. Likewise, without the Hollywood glamour, the Rams are merely a decent team (if we’re being generous). You get more flash than substance on both counts.
And the 2016 Buffalo Bills are the “Yodely Guy” from Cliffhangers. They seem to be climbing the NFL mountain just fine, but onlookers—fans and foes alike—are bracing themselves for a clattering, calamitous fall from grace.
The 1-5 Carolina Panthers return to action this Sunday after a bye week, and Carolinians certainly hope that last year’s NFC champs used the downtime to shake off a brutal Super Bowl hangover. The Panthers still hope to salvage their season. That’s unlikely, however, as the leaders of Carolina’s division—the Atlanta Falcons—are only gaining steam. And have you ever had steamed falcons? They’re delicious.
Even if football is a lost cause, however, there is still hope that Carolina—specifically, quarterback Cam Newton—can improve on the fashion front. Now, Newton’s clothing, in itself, isn’t the problem. Block & Tackle cataloged a whole season’s worth of Newton’s dandy duds, and his postgame sartorial choices have only grown more flamboyant since then, as seen in the above screenshot of a press conference from earlier this season. (Not pictured: The March Hare.) At the same time, Newton has become more dour as his team’s losses pile up, to the point that the reigning league MVP was downright snippy with reporters after Carolina’s Week 6 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
As he sulked and stewed his way through his obligatory media appearance, Newton tersely muttered, “Next question” more than once, but if you ask me, it didn’t seem like he wanted to hear the next question at all! He was just being polite, rudely. And that would be fine—I think all of us get a little grumpy when we lose to the New Orleans Saints—except that Newton didn’t dress the part of the grouch. Put simply, you don’t get to be Mr. Sadsy J. Frowns when you have the remains of a fancy bird strewn across your upper body. Fashion is about projecting an image, and if you’re going to push the boundaries of clothing convention (an effort I endorse) it’s essential that you own it with your whole being.
Instead, Newton’s visual message lately has been mixed. His clothes say, “Welcome to my riverboat casino, Cam Newtopia!” but his eyes say, “I do not own a riverboat casino named after myself, and this makes me rather cross.” Look, Cam, either you’re a peacock or an Eeyore, but you can’t be both. I mean, have you ever seen a peacock-Eeyore hybrid? They’re delicious.
The Block & Tackle “never wrong” prediction: Carolina 19, Arizona 17.
You probably thought there was no room left in this world for doink innovation, but on Sunday, Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins brought a new flair to Block & Tackle’s favorite sporting mishap by executing an ultra-rare doink off the top of the goalpost. (Strangely, this also occurred in the college ranks just a week earlier.) That’s the type of thing that even world-class NFL kickers couldn’t pull off if they tried, but nevertheless, I’d like to see them try. Regrettably, there is no officially sanctioned kickers’ trick shot competition, although once upon a time, a certain fast food franchise dared to dream.
The time was fall 1993. McDonald’s marketing executives were still buzzing from the success of their commercial “The Showdown.” This Super Bowl spot depicted NBA superstars Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing a fantastical game of H-O-R-S-E, punctuating every beat with the catchphrase “nothing but net” as they called—and made—their increasingly ridiculous shots. (The ad presaged the recent rise of the “haters gonna say it’s fake” meme.) But “The Showdown” wasn’t enough for McDonald’s. The hamburger restaurant wanted a football-themed sequel to its masterpiece.
So the Big Mac folks booked Pete Stoyanovich and Chip Lohmiller—yes, THAT Pete Stoyanovich and Chip Lohmiller—to hold a fictional kicking contest. “Another Showdown,” it was called, and the catchphrase this time was “split the uprights.” Alas, no amount of screaming country-rock guitar could confer Jordan-level coolness on the doofy enterprise of novelty place-kicking, and the ad was quickly forgotten. Perhaps if the kickers had competed to hit the top of the upright, “Another Showdown” would have been different. Still terrible, but different.
The pig wants to eat the pigskin.
Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe wants to eat the pig.
And Kansas City head coach Andy Reid also wants to eat the pigskin.
Be ready for the tempo!
Well they weren’t there,
on that play,
And once you go back to
What did Tom Brady say?
about their offense?
He called it
a library, he goes
We got about a 10-year library
If you want to be part of this offense, that phrase
always is a dumb football player
That’s not gonna hold true in New England
Hold true anywhere
Block & Tackle reader Susan C. writes via email:
Is there any way you could create an internal link to (or collection of) the “Phil Simms is a poet” text and videos in Block & Tackle?
They are awesome, and I’d love to forward them to some poetry geek friends, but they aren’t into football, and the poetry segments are always buried at the end.
This is a good idea, and I told Susan I’d do it last week. But it turns out that some of the videos for the earliest Phil Simms poems reside on an old video server, and as a result, I have to dig up the clips and re-upload them so they’ll display properly in a new article. (I definitely still have the clips, though—I archive everything.) Look for the Phil Simms omnibus in a special edition of Block & Tackle soon.
And thanks for writing in, Susan! I love to hear from readers, particularly when they are nice to me. If you’re a friendly Block & Tackle reader, you can say hello by opening your email client and typing my first initial, my last name, and the at symbol, followed by theonion.com. If you’re a PR agent who wants to send me your press release, please instead use my exclusive VIP email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This season, NFL Network debuted a new entry in their GameDay franchise: the late-night wrap-up show NFL GameDay Prime, which comes on at midnight Eastern. The program is built around pre-taped chats that Deion “Primetime” Sanders—the NFL Network analyst and Dallas Cowboys great—has conducted throughout the day with star players. Sanders acts as the players’ interviewer, mentor, and best pal all at once. In essence, the show is a televisual shrine to Sanders’ hilariously and unapologetically massive ego. I never miss it.
Sanders does many of his interviews over FaceTime, Skype, or the like, and because he knows how to make the players feel comfortable, the exchanges offer flashes of insight. I’m just as fascinated, though, by the postmodern media mess that emerges from the cockamamie concept of putting video chats on TV. Occasionally, NFL Network will even have a camera crew with the player being interviewed, so we end up with pictures like the above shot of Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green talking to Sanders on his phone. Why don’t they just have Green talk into the actual camera? Because it is more important for us to see him looking at the holy image of Deion.
I also watch Prime for LaDainian Tomlinson, the former star running back who acts as the gentle-voiced counterweight to Sanders’ swagger. Tomlinson is a perfectly pleasant talking head, but I like him just as much for his feet—he has great taste in sneakers. I end every long football Sunday by waiting for the closing segment of Prime, so I can see if Tomlinson is rocking some sweet high tops again this week. We all have our rituals.
Here are Block & Tackle’s “never wrong” final score predictions for the rest of the Week 8 slate. The predictions must not be doubted. They are truth. They are the only truth. If a game differs from the prediction listed here, it is simply being untruthful—shamefully so.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans (last night, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network): Tennessee 23, Jacksonville 20. The 2-3 Jaguars vs. the 2-4 Titans—this was the quintessential Thursday Night Football matchup.
Washington vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Fox): Cincinnati 31, Washington 17. Bengals punter Kevin Huber will not be challenging LaDainian Tomlinson for the title of “hottest shoes in the NFL world” anytime soon.
Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Oakland 28, Tampa Bay 27. It’s Raiders silver vs. Buccaneers pewter in the Stuff They Make Candlesticks Out Of Bowl!
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Indianapolis 40, Kansas City 20.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): New England 2, Buffalo 0. I can’t remember if Block & Tackle has used this particular “Safety Dance” video before, but it’s pretty good. If this is an encore presentation, so be it.
New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Cleveland 21, New York 17. Cleveland is suddenly a city of winners: The Cavaliers won the NBA Finals, the Indians are in the World Series, and the Browns will soon be the champions of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox): Seattle 25, New Orleans 22. Sometimes the Seattle Seahawks mascot likes to lie down and think about pears.
Detroit Lions vs. Houston Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox): Detroit 14, Houston 12. The Houston Texans are 27-18 all-time against teams named after cats and 6-17 against teams named after birds.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS): Denver 27, San Diego 14.
Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox): Atlanta 40, Green Bay 31. Light beer and head trauma—two great tastes that taste great together.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC): Dallas 24, Philadelphia 21. The NFL finally has a fantastic matchup that might help boost the slack viewership the league has suffered this year, and it happens to be scheduled against a potentially historic World Series game. Poor NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can’t catch a break! But at least if he’s fired, he’ll have more time for his favorite hobby, ignoring spousal abuse.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN): Minnesota 22, Chicago 13.
Block & Tackle prediction record for 2016 season: 107-0
Untruthful games last week: 5
Overall truth-untruth ratio in 2016: 63-44