September 10, 2012
In recent years, the day after the first Sunday of the NFL season has become known as “Overreaction Monday.” It’s an apt description for a ritual performed by a football-starved sports media, chomping at the bit to heap praise on whoever performed brilliantly in Week 1, and tear down anyone who failed, in particular those players or teams with high expectations.
The NFL lends itself to overreaction. With only one game a week (give or take), there’s nothing to do but talk about what happened, and most importantly, predict what will be. Here in the Too Much Information Age, the overreaction lasts all week. There is TV time to fill, 24-hour sports radio segments to plan, and of course, blog posts to be written. So, in that spirit, here are some topics that will be covered this week:
Peyton Manning is back
There was a classic sports media moment during Sunday night’s game between the Steelers and Broncos. In the second half, Peyton Manning had found his rhythm in the no-huddle offense, a trademark he brought with him to the Broncos. He carved up Pittsburgh’s defense with 253 yards, 2 TDs, and a 129.2 passer rating. NBC’s color analyst Chris Collinsworth was in the starting blocks, ready to recite an ode to Peyton, as NBC showed the velocity (49 MPH) of a Manning pass from 2 years ago, when he was still with the Colts.
Collinsworth had the words “He hasn’t lost a bit” cued up in his mouth, ready to explode into the microphone, when NBC showed a pass from Sunday night’s game traveling nearly 2 MPH slower. Collinsworth quickly swallowed his words, and wisely pointed out that his passes weren’t as fast, but the Broncos will take it.
Manning truly had a great game, and performed about as ideally as anyone could have hoped following the fourth procedure on his neck. He even took a few hits, despite the fact that Denver’s offensive line was protecting him “like a museum piece,” as Al Michaels put it, and came out unscathed. But his long-term health is something to continue to observe over a long season. To use a comparison from another sport, pitcher Johan Santana had a terrific first half, which included a no-hitter. But he couldn’t get anybody out in the second half before being shut down for the season.
No one can say that Peyton Manning is back for good after one great week, but a lot of people will.
RGIII is a future hall-of-famer
Robert Griffin III was terrific for the Washington Redskins on Sunday. This year’s number two draft pick passed for 320 yards, 2 TDs, and no picks. He also ran 10 times for 42 yards. Washington beat the embattled New Orleans Saints 40-32.
Griffin is already on the front page of ESPN.com’s NFL page, and no doubt will be on the tongues of ESPN analysts on TV all week. In their signature over-enunciated ESPN style, they’ll hype the merits of “RGIII” better than his agent ever could. Not just because Griffin had a great game, but because they like to say “RGIII” almost as much as they like to say “Megatron.”
Yes, it’s time to build this young man up just so they can tear him down at a later date. Hopefully it doesn’t happen that way, but that has been the sports media’s tendency over the last 20 years or so.
Who’s a bigger bust: Ryan Leaf or Andrew Luck?
Andrew Luck had a less auspicious debut on Sunday. The number one overall draft pick threw for 309 yards and a TD, but was intercepted 3 times, including once for a touchdown, as his Colts lost to the Chicago Bears by 20 points.
At some point this week, there might be a segment called “Biggest Busts” on your favorite highlight show. Perhaps it will be sponsored by Victoria’s Secret. During this segment the words “Ryan” and “Leaf” will be mentioned in the same sentence as Luck. Two over-enunciating analysts will surely sit around a circular table in the studio debating this point – one will say Luck is a bigger bust, and the other will call him crazy.
Off camera, neither will truly believe their own hyperbole.
Jets vs. Bills, Sanchez vs. Tebow
For at least one week, Mark Sanchez quieted his critics, throwing for 266 yards, 3 TDs, and only 1 pick. Yes, the Jets beat the Buffalo Bills, 48-28, but the most important score to the sports media is Mark Sanchez 1, Tim Tebow 0.
Tebow ran a few conservative wildcat plays that didn’t amount to much. But when your blowing out the other team, there’s really no reason to get crazy. But the narrative will remain: Mark Sanchez’s job is safe…for now.
Bonus Overreaction: The New York media has already started the “Jets are better than the Giants” talk. At the end of the season, that may be the case. Can they tell after one game? No.
Michael Vick isn’t a pocket passer
The Eagles told Michael Vick to stay in the pocket this year to avoid injury. Vick’s outstanding ability to pull the ball down and run is his trademark. But the Eagles recognize that he has a strong arm, and they need to keep him on the field in order to win. So, to prevent the kind of pounding Vick took last year, they’ve asked him to stay put and throw the ball, like a traditional quarterback.
On Sunday, Vick threw 4 interceptions. Already, an analyst (who shall remain unnamed) has suggested that the Eagles will now tell Vick to go back to being a running QB. After one week.
It makes sense for the Eagles to protect their investment, and make sure their number one QB stays on the field as much as possible. It’s unlikely they’ll tell Vick to forget about that whole pocket-passer thing after one game. Besides, they won the game 17-16 over the Browns despite Vick’s 4 INTs.
It’s a long season
It’s easy to realize that the NBA, MLB, and NHL have long seasons. They play many more games than the NFL – baseball plays about 10 times more games, in fact. But the NFL season is as long as all the other sports. How many times has a team had a tremendous first half only to tank in the second half? Even the defending Super Bowl champion Giants had ebbs and flows last year. They started the season 6-2, then lost 4 in a row. Then, they beat the Cowboys, to seemingly right their ship, but they lost to the struggling Redskins the very next week. Everybody panicked. Then they won another 2 games in a row to eke into the playoffs.
So, there’s no need to overreact in the NFL. Instead of having countless sponsored segments full of hypothetical scenarios, perhaps certain networks could spend their time on other subjects – the baseball pennant races are still underway, you know.