James Balkam: Pick Six

Recent Hall of Fame inductee Deion Sanders made an art out of returning interceptions for scores. Understanding the context in which a pick-six happens is the only way it could be more enjoyable than it already is. Knowing Ed Reed can intercept a pass and take it to the house from anywhere on the field makes any Ravens game worth watching in and of itself. That’s what this column is going to be about – dropping some insight to make your NFL week all the more exciting. Now, for your inaugural pick six….

1) Cowboys’ new Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan is tired of living in his twin brother’s rotund shadow. In an interview last week he called their in-conference rival Philadelphia Eagles the “all-hype team.” That watered down insult might rank as maybe the 95th most controversial thing his brother has said over the years.

2)  Rex Ryan has been busy in his own right though. In a recent press conference he sounded like one of those bratty teenagers on “My Super Sweet 16” when talking about former Jets D-lineman Shaun Ellis, who decided the four million bucks the arch-rival Patriots threw at him sounded better than the 900K New York offered. On an unrelated note, what if the New York Football Giants tanked this year, fired Tom Coughlan, and brought in Rob Ryan as the new head coach? I think every member of the New York sports media would immediately break into a Glee-style song and dance number and start cartwheeling down the hallways. If Rob took over Big Blue it would mean the second ever brother versus brother coaching matchup  (after the Harbaughs), in the biggest sports city, and playing in the same stadium. That’s almost too awesome to imagine.

3)  Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, cast the only vote against the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement last week. The move, though only a symbolic gesture of displeasure with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to dole out player suspensions, ultimately means nothing; but it isn’t without precedent. Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to ever serve in congress, was the only person to vote against the US entering World War II. Rankin, a pacifist, made her ultimately meaningless yet symbolic vote as a show of her dedication to non-violence. The Steelers’ vote was to protest James Harrison being fined for hitting the crap out of other people, so I’m having a hard time deciding how Mrs. Rankin would come down on this one. I guarantee you this is the first time she’s been mentioned in an article about football.

4)  In 2006 Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green had a memorable postgame rant during which he yelled that the Chicago Bears “are who we thought they were!” Later that year Shannon Sharpe poked fun at Green and disgraced Miss USA Tara Conner by donning fake tears and repeating the coach’s infamous line to the howling laughter of his colleagues. Now fast forward to Sharpe’s Hall of Fame induction speech last weekend. While talking about his grandmother Sharpe rhetorically asks, “Am I the man you thought I’d be?” And then he repeats it, a line which except for the tense and the plural conjugation is exactly the same as the line he mockingly uttered. Then the telecast cuts to his brother Sterling crying. I don’t want to belittle what was a very moving speech; but isn’t it a little ironic that virtually the same words in two completely different contexts can make one of the Sharpe brothers cry? I don’t know what to make of this besides the fact that…

5) Hall of Fame speeches are too long.  Alright, I know these guys killed themselves on the field for years and deserve a chance to say their piece before their football career officially ends, but come on. Sharpe went on for 27 minutes, Marshall Faulk talked for 35 minutes, and even Chris Hanburger who joked about selling some of his time to the other inductees exceeded the six to eight minutes he said he would talk for. Think about this, The Gettysburg address was two minutes long, the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet lasts three minutes, and you could listen to the “I have a Dream” speech twice in the time that it took Marshall Faulk to speak. These new Hall of Famers need to learn a faster way to get to the point.

6) Finally, ESPN debuted its new Total Quarterback Rating statistic during a special last week. The show hosted by the crew of Monday Night Football came with a caveat from Ron Jaworski who said, “I believe there’s only one statistic that is important, and that’s winning.” Never mind that his argument undermines the purpose of the show he’s on; it is the worst argument consistently thrown out when comparing two players. The purpose of statistics is to understand how an individual player performs on a more complex level than just wins and losses.  By Jaws’ argument, if the most important stat for grading the performance of quarterbacks is win-loss record, then Vince Young (career record 30-17) is a better quarterback then Aaron Rodgers (27-20).  I don’t think that’s a popular argument.