Weekend notes: a vote for Warner
Kurt Warner announced his retirement from the NFL yesterday, and I have a hard time believing that Hall of Fame voters will find a reason to keep him out of Canton. From my perspective, Warner’s career was so different in that he didn’t come into the league with any fan fare and no matter where he played — even when he was on top in St. Louis — it seemed that he was always trying to be replaced. Does he have good numbers? Of course, and he has a Super Bowl ring and two MVP trophies to go along with it. But, beyond that, he has a career that players like myself looked to as an example of how persistence and dedication to his craft eventually paid off.
I played with Kurt as a rookie in St. Louis back in 2000, and I will always remember how impressed I was with his professionalism and the way he treated everyone in the locker room: rookies, veterans, equipment managers, etc. It was all done with first class and he never took a practice or a meeting for granted. A true pro and someone I will miss watching on Sundays — because it is hard not to cheer for a guy that represents everything that is good about the NFL. Warner is a winner, he is first class and he deserves to be in Canton.
The talk of Mike Martz heading to Chicago has become more than just rumor as the Bears interviewed the former Rams head coach for their vacant — and newsworthy — offensive coordinator position that no one seems to want. I can only speak of Martz as a head coach when he was with the Rams, but I do believe he is brilliant when it comes to offensive play calling. But, even though I am a fan of Martz and what I think he can do with Bears QB Jay Cutler, the weapons on the outside in Chicago are anything but what he worked with in St. Louis. The scheme is perfect, but the tools to fit that scheme in Chicago are not. An interesting decision coming up for Lovie Smith and Bears GM Jerry Angelo, but one I would make. Cutler can’t get worse than 26 INTs, right?
We will get into more Super Bowl talk on Monday, but I am curious to see what type of game plan Saints head coach Sean Payton presents in the first quarter next Sunday night in Miami. Does he try to establish the ground game with Pierre Thomas and a sprinkle of Reggie Bush, or does he try and exposes the Colts corners in the vertical passing game? I do believe that the Saints are the one team that can keep pace with Manning and the Colts when it comes to putting points on the scoreboard, but do you really want a shootout with Indy? The Colts don’t need to run the ball to win because they treat the 3-step passing game as part of their running package, but the Saints still need to produce first downs and eat some of the clock with Thomas.
The Chargers' Shawne Merriman wants a new deal with the Chargers, but with the OLB essentially a restricted free agent due to the possibility of an uncapped year, I don’t think this will be any different than what we saw with the Jets and Braylon Edwards. Expect San Diego to give Merriman the High Tender — which would require a team to give away a first and third-round pick to get the linebacker out of a Chargers uniform. Also, it gives San Diego another year to evaluate what they want to do with Merriman in the long term. In 2009, Merriman posted 36 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble. Not the kind of stats to bring to the negotiating table when you are looking for a new deal. Production equals money in the NFL, and Merriman's production shouldn’t equate to anything but a one-year tender.
I wrote about Ravens QB Troy Smith the other day and the possibility of a club — such as the Bills — making a play for the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State. The trade value I heard for Smith would likely equate to somewhere in middle- round value, and yesterday the QB said that he would like to play for his hometown Browns. A possibility? The NFP’s Michael Lombardi wrote yesterday that new Browns team president Mike Holmgren does not want to enter training camp with the QB position undecided, but once Cleveland opens their spring practices, it should be interesting to see if Holmgren likes what he sees from Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Regardless, Smith is becoming a hot name already and we will find out more when free agency opens up in March if he is hot enough for a club to come and get him out of Baltimore — where he isn’t going to get a chance to play behind starter Joe Flacco.
The NFL brass usually leaves Mobile by mid-week of the Senior Bowl, especially when practices are scaled down, the pads come off and both teams get ready for today’s game. They will watch the tape from the game, but the practices are more important from a scouting perspective as coaches, GMs, etc. can get up close with the players, see them in one-on-one situations and essentially see more of them in terms of repetitions against the best seniors in the country. The game film will count for something — as coaches will see these prospects in live situations — but the week of practice is bigger for these rookie hopefuls in the first step of the draft process.
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