Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 17: Schadenfreude, Thy Name Is Pennington

Sorting the Sunday Pile looks back at the NFL weekend that was. It's also an unofficial Mittens blog.*

Chad Pennington Brett Favre

Instead, after an 8-3 start, the Jets stumbled into Week 17 at 9-6, needing to win the season finale against the Dolphins and hoping that either the Bills beat the Patriots or the Ravens lost to the Jaguars. As it turned out, New England outlasted Buffalo, Baltimore blew the doors off Jacksonville, and New York went through the motions against Miami.

Favre, who has been inconsistent all season, threw three interceptions yesterday, all typically Favre-ian. Although the Jets were only down three points heading into the fourth, it just seemed like Favre was too old, too slow, and too reckless to keep New York in the game. And that's exactly what happened when he threw an inexplicable pick midway through the fourth quarter that basically signaled the end the 2008 season. And if we're lucky, Favre's career.

Look, I think Favre's a swell guy, but enough already; he's 39, just put the finishing touches on his 18th year in the league, and is more Vinny Testaverde than John Elway at this stage in the proceedings. I know the front office had big hopes for '08 when they pulled the trigger on the trade, but it didn't work out. Sometimes that happens. Now the question becomes: are the Jets willing to move on without Favre, or will they cling to the hope that when he fake retires in nine months he'll be magically transported back to 2004. Good luck with that.

I'm not convinced Kellen Clemens is the answer, and while I think Pennington got a raw deal in New York, let's be honest: getting released was probably the best thing to happen to him. Which means that New York could be in the quarterback business in free agency or the draft. That's hard to believe since the team was 8-3 just six weeks ago and some people were citing Favre as a big reason for that.

The other issue is that head coach Eric Mangini could get canned in the coming weeks. Seems sorta drastic; he did take the team to the playoffs in '06, his first season in New York, and came up one game short yesterday. Of course, he has everything to do with the Jets going 1-3 against the AFC West this year -- including a stupefying overtime loss to the Raiders -- not to mention no-show performances against the 49ers and the Seahawks. So while you can make a case that his job's in trouble, I just wonder who the organization has in mind to replace him. Firing a guy is one thing, but having a successor lined up is an idea worth thinking through, too.

I don't know if this adds intrigue to the Jets offseason, but it's worth mentioning: during FOX's Sunday pregame show, Jay Glazer reported that Favre wasn't all that jazzed about playing for Mangini. Given that Favre might call it a career (or at least hold another farewell press conference), maybe it doesn't matter. Then again, maybe it does. Via Glazer:

"... [H]is shoulder is just one of the reasons most of those polled on the Jets believe this really is finally it for Favre. The other reason? Happiness, or lack thereof. According to several people close to Favre, the legendary quarterback has not enjoyed many aspects of playing for the tough Eric Mangini. According to the sources, there are several areas that have not sat well with Favre including team meetings, quizzes and getting called on the carpet for his decision-making on the field."

Translation: Favre doesn't like being responsible for mind-numbing turnovers. Ah, I see.

Should be a fun seven months in New York. Sheesh.

Cowboys Thought Season Was 16 Weeks

Okay, so the Cowboys aren't going to the playoffs, and in case there was any doubt that they deserved to be playing in January, yesterday's drive-by against the Eagles confirmed that they're the NFL's version of the Yankees: a lot of high-priced dudes who spent the season underachieving.

On the upside, there won't be an opportunity for a demoralizing first-round loss; no Tony Romo botched hold, or Mexican Vacationgate to blame for Dallas' postseason shortcomings. More good news: Wade Phillips is coming back! At least that's the story Jerry Jones is pushing this week. I'd imagine that could change in short order.

The larger point: where do the Cowboys go from here? They would've been better off staying in the locker room and hoping the Eagles' team bus got in an accident on the way to the Linc. Because once the game started, it was, as they say, on like Donkey Kong.

Philly scored 41 unanswered points, and Dallas had an interception, fumble, fumble, fumble, fumble stretch in the the second and third quarters that had everything to do with that. Luckily, Nick Folk added a fourth quarter field goal that cut the lead to ... well, 38. So, yeah, that's still an embarrassing end to a frustrating season.

As for the Eagles, Enrico nails it: "One thing is certain, the McNabb era in Philadelphia is not over." And, frankly, nobody would've believed that five weeks ago.

Prognosis Negative

"Nah, it's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous. You know, you rest guys ... you go in the playoffs, you win the game, you're a genius for resting players. You lose the game, you lost it because you rested players. It makes no sense to me. Players, they're professionals, they're taking care of themselves, and they'll be ready to play."

That was Jeff Fisher responding to the predictable "coach, you think you shoulda kept your starters in?" queries after the Titans were shutout by the Colts in a meaningless Week 17 game. And Fisher has every right to be exasperated because when the media wasn't dusting off the "Hey, look! The Titans rested their starters and it backfired -- they obviously aren't ready for the playoffs!" story line, they were questioning Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's decision to leave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in long enough take a crushing hit and leave the field on a stretcher.

It's a tired argument, requiring no original thought and reeking of laziness. And it's also a perfect example of why fans have such a distaste for the media. I have no problem with Fisher choosing to go with his second-teamers, or Tomlin, in the immortal words of the Herminator, playing to win the game. These two teams combined to win 25 times in 2008; I'll give their head coaches the benefit of the doubt, even if Bob Costas et al seem perplexed by the sheer insanity of it all during Football Night in America.

Pats, 11-5, Headed Home

Not many people had the Patriots winning 11 games after Bernard Pollard blowed up Tom Brady's knee 10 minutes into the season. But 17 weeks later, New England did just that, Bill Belichick has retained that well-earned genius label, and Matt Cassel is primed to make a lot of dough this spring. Oh, and their '08 season is over because they missed the playoffs. After defeating the Bills yesterday, they needed the Jets to beat the Dolphins. Didn't happen, which had to be the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal Sunday for Mangini.

There are sure to be plenty of people upset at New England's fate; it's easy to make the argument that a team winning 69 percent of their games deserves to keep playing, but I'm perfectly content with the current system: four division winners and two wild-card teams.

Plus, the Pats have bigger concerns: according to's Tom Curran, Brady's rehab is behind schedule, and there's even a chance he could miss the 2009 season. Fortunately, Brady's BFF, Peter King, refuted Curran's account on NBC's Sunday Night in America.

"I've talked to two people close to Brady and they dispute this story quite a bit. The things that they say is, look, Tom Brady is ahead of schedule. They expect him to have no problem opening the 2009 season on time. Now i was also told that they wouldn't be surprised -- these people close to Tom Brady -- that the Patriots might be placing a story ... that could end up getting them more ... more value for Matt Cassel in the offseason when he becomes a free agent. Now ... I think the only way we're going to know what happens in this is in the opening weekend of free agency. If the Patriots get a good offer for Cassel from somebody and they say 'no, we're not going to trade him,' then we'll know that they believe that Tom Brady ... is damaged goods."

And then Football Night host Bob Costas asked King a question he's waited his whole life to answer: "How concerned are you about Brady's condition?"

Sadly, King didn't pull a well-worn letter from his jacket pocket, clear his throat, and proceed to share inner-most thoughts on his true feelings about the man that changed his life forever. Instead, he offered this: "I'm not as concerned about Brady's condition as I thought I would be earlier today. Now I trust Tom Curran very much, I think he's an excellent reporter, but I think in this case, we just have to wait and see the opening weekend of free agency, what the Patriots do. And I believe the Patriots are going to let Matt Cassel walk."

One clarification: I have no idea what King's referring to when he says that if the Patriots refuse to trade Cassel during the first weekend of free agency it's a sign that Brady's "damaged goods." Unless New England either franchises Cassel or re-signs him to a new deal, won't he be a free agent?

That aside, I think King's overall point is a solid one: we'll know a lot more in March. And let me just say that I am shocked -- SHOCKED -- that the Pats might be trying to inflate Cassel's value by leaking misleading information. Sounds like a job for Arlen Specter.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's action...

... Hey, Philip Rivers, guess what? Jay Cutler's still going to the Pro Bowl. The thing is, there's a pretty good chance Favre doesn't make the trip to Hawaii (you know, to perpetuate the idea that he might actually retire this time), which means that Rivers will likely go in his place. More importantly, who gives a crap about the Pro Bowl? From my perspective, not going means it's one less opportunity to suffer a serious injury.

As for the Rivers-Cutler rivalry, well, Rivers is 5-1 against the Broncos and San Diego laid the beatdown on Denver last night. The Chargers have reeled off four in a row to pull out the AFC West division title (8-8, woo hoo!), and now they get the honor of hosting the Colts. Unfortunately, Rivers won't be able to talk smack to Indy fans and use that as motivation. Or something.

... We have ... MITTENS. And not only did he play 30 minutes of semi-competent football, he tossed a touchdown pass. Ironically, without actually wearing mittens.

... I know the Bears have to be disappointed with how their season ended, particularly in light of their exciting Monday night victory over the Packers a week ago, but here's a crazy thought: maybe the Texans are a good team. Too bad they didn't figure it out until halfway through the year.

... Okay, so is Bill Parcellsthat good at his job? I mean, the one-win '07 Dolphins just won the AFC East. Pretty sure nobody had that in their preseason predictions.

... The Browns finished the year on a 24-quarter touchdown-less streak. That's a nice summation of their season.

... To steal a phrase from Brinson: the Bucs FTF**.

Post-Game Debaclings

Quotes that Emmitt Smith might like...

"You look at what Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore did, there's no reason we can't do the same ... But if a new GM comes in and wants to start over, the last thing I want to hear is rebuild. I'm in my 13th year, and I still enjoy the game."
- Chiefs Tony Gonzalez, apparently lobbying for the general manager's job

"If it works out, it works out."
- Jets quarterback Brett Favre, giving one of the least inspiring pregame pep talks in the history of the spoken word.

"We rested last year, and it didn't get us anywhere ... It's our last dress rehearsal for two weeks. Sit all the guys out, now you've put us at three weeks (resting), and you get some rust."
- Steelers wideout Hines Ward explaining why sitting your starters isn't always a great idea

"There will not be a new head coach."
- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, giving hope to Eagles, Giants and Redskins fans

"I want to thank the Raiders and Texans ... They did a heck of a job."
- Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid, indirectly expressing his gratitude to Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith for saving his job

* Thanks, PK!
** FTF = for the fail

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 17: Schadenfreude, Thy Name Is Pennington originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 29 Dec 2008 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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