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Thursday, December 26, 2002
Updated: December 27, 12:05 PM ET
Bah, Humbug! I need some Tuna

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

"When in doubt, go opposite."
-- R-Dub's NFL Proverb No. 9

If you are in a betting mood this weekend, be very cool about it. Don't bet the house. Unless you don't have a house. In that case, go ahead. On the last weekend, when in doubt, go opposite. If you are thinking of a favorite, a team that really needs this "must" game in order to get into the playoffs ... go opposite that team.

Priest Holmes
Without Priest Holmes, don't take the Chiefs against the Raiders this weekend.

Bet the team that has nothing to do but get on somebody's nerves, or ruin somebody's else's party. Why? Because they are relaxed, confident in their place. They've already won or lost what seems most precious to them right now, a shot at the playoffs. The team that "needs" it, they're tense, they're coiled tighter than rattlers, and if they strike and hit, it's their world, but if they strike and miss, all their energy has been dissipated and they are vulnerable. If things don't go well early, they struggle, they bitch at each other over common misplays, they find a way to let it slip away.

Philadelphia (by 1) @ NY Giants
Kansas City @ Oakland (by 7)
Carolina @ New Orleans (by 7)
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis (by 7)

I would not bet those games with your money. I know you'd like to take the Jints and Aints and Chiefs to cover; they "need" the games. Don't. If you must bet the games, bet on which is the better team.

***** ***** *****

Week 15's Hidden Genius column and straw poll brought in voluminous electronic chads, and a handful of funny stuff.

The funny stuff is always better, by the way.

The ballot box was stuffed for Mike Sherman, who is elected by popular vote to Hidden Genius status, although some went further and nominated Packer O-line maven Larry Beightol. A real fine patchwork quiltmaker, that guy. Jeff Fisher also got a lot of votes, and Jeff is really superb in terms of inspiring the full physicality of his troops, to get them to play to their optimum physical capes. The KingFisher won't necessarily game-plan you to death, but the Tites never take a Sunday off from hitting you, and to win eight of nine and come from 1-4 to 10-5 without a single Pro Bowler maybe makes Jeff this year's Ultimate Hidden Genius.

As you could tell from the last week's games, the team that gets the most guys racked, to the point of calling timeout, and for a substitution, or a stretcher, or a cart, is the team that's in trouble.

It's a hitting man's game, and anybody who thinks it mediocre, well, the mediocrity never closed so well. Ask Terry Glenn, or Qadry Ismail, or Shannon Sharpe, or Bob Christian, who are just the guys I saw get clocked. This, my friends, is one tough hustle.

Jeff Fisher
The KingFisher always has his Titans hitting hard.

Fisher recognizes that and communicates same to his team, and they hear him and go out and execute. He does not play cowards.

Loyal R-Dub reader Edwin Hill liked the KingFisher, and knows the players either extend the coach, or they don't. (Note to Parcells: if Simms occasionally got on your nerves, is there enough Pepcid AC in the world for Chad Hutch?) In Fisher's case, they do.

"If McNair's yin, Bulluck's yang," Edwin Hill opined.

Some UTB readers, like Rob Calvert of Cincinnati, are into the real spirit of the Hidden Genius thing, and the R-Dub UTB columns. It's called satire, people. "You cannot overlook Mike Brown (owner-operator of the Cincinnati No Bling-Blings). The man has brilliantly shown that you can make millions of dollars without caring that you have single-handedly run a franchise into the ground and embarrassed an entire city. Spectacular."

That's a four-star review, Rob, by going opposite. Satire is really hard to execute, like man coverage, but when it hits, it's a bomb the likes of which even Kerry Collins never launched.

Collins is scary good sometimes, isn't he? Which doesn't mean he can always play. Get in his kitchen, and he's another guy. Most of us are. That's what makes an Elway, a McNair so special. But last week Collins didn't think of how much it hurts, and where it was coming from, he just launched, and let the Colts know they had to draft at safety, linebacker, corner. Collins also threw like a worldbeater back in Week 1 against the El Ninos. Fassel is honorable mention Hidden Genius ... if he can get it out of Collins against the Iggles.

Speaking of getting it out of people, here are the Week 16 NFL Uncensored Thought Balloons. You may not think you like them now, but believe me, you'll miss them when they're gone:

Jerry Jones
"Tuna? Anyone got some Tuna?"

Jerry Jones, owner, Dallas Cowboys -- "I could try to hire Parcells. But then some wiseacre over at the Dallas Morning News would call me 'Tuna Helper,' and I couldn't stand that a'tall. I could have Norv in a heartbeat. Which makes me not want him, even though he's prob'ly the best thing for me. Funny how that works. Parcells would make the biggest splash. Can't believe I wasted three years on Campo. I thought I could run it and he'd be a nice puppet with a perm. It must come back full circle to me. Jimmy? Jimmy's history. Jimmy always did know where the camera was. The bastard. Barry? Plowed ground. Parcells did not turn down the Cowboys job. I didn't offer it. I just batted my eyes verrrry slowly. Who is that man over there? How did you get in my bedroom in that straw stingy-brim hat ... why that's ... naw, it couldn't be. Got rid of him years ago. Cried when he died. What's he doing in my bedroom? What do you mean, you're the Ghost of Landry Past? What do mean, come? Bah! Humbug! Okay, put down the chains, I'll go ... hey that's me, as a skinny wanna-be at Arkansaw. That's Frank Broyles! That's Alworth! Jimmy! Barry! Now you're the Ghost of Landry Future? Is that me?! Ohmigod! Selling the team to ... who is that ... that Face, that child dangling over the balcony. I sold to Michael Jackson ...? What? That's not Michael Jackson? That's ... me? Hello, Tuna? Anything you want, big Tune."

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots -- "Jason Taylor makes me swallow hard. Let's get the chip package in there, guys. Let's go max-protect. My sister called me. I don't remember what she said. Mom and dad called. I think they mentioned Jason Taylor."

Chad Pennington, QB, New York Jets -- "Me against Brett Favre. My Gawd. Coles, Moss, Martin, Becht and all them, and Richie Anderson; hey, it's always Christmas if them guys stay healthy."

Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins -- "Mother's going to punish you now, Pats. Note to hindquarters -- ramming speed. Now, if somebody up front will be so kind as to give me 36 inches of daylight, it'll be stone crabs and Vice City for everybody."

Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson gets a lift from best pal Randy Moss after his field goal against Miami.

Cris Carter, WR, Miami Dolphins -- "He can't hit that! I know Gary can't make that kick! Let me tell the boys and look good! Guys, it doesn't really matter that I dropped that ball on the goal line! I'll get another chance. I hope not to prove retired future Hall-of-Famers should stay retired.... There. Told 'em. Here's Gary, the little &%@! Cost me my Bowl. I know what he's about it ... what? He made it? From 53? Stunned? I'm catatonic. Don't believe he made it ... you can make that to keep me out of the playoffs, but if I need to go to the Bowl, then you miss. I'm gonna be sore on top of that. On to ... New England? I want my HBO job back ..."

Gary Anderson, K, Minnesota Vikings -- "What do you have left to lose, Gary? Maybe that's why you feel no pressure. That's why your hands aren't shaking. You already missed the kick of your life, Gar. This one is just personal. When you made them all but missed the last in '98 to go to the Super Bowl, so they say, they shunned you, and then you turned 40, and then your wife left you, and then the team cut you loose. You still opened your eyes the next day, didn't you, Gar? You're still here. Apparently, fate has something more in mind for you. So what is this? This is nothing. Unh! Yep. In there ... hope she saw it. And now to go see my kids with my head up, and then maybe take in a matinee of 'About Schmidt.'"

Rich Gannon, QB, Oakland Raiders -- "Charlie Garner has the best feet. No really, he does ... wonder where he gets his pedicures?"

Mike Shanahan, coach, Denver Broncos -- "The Raiders offensive line is the Age of the Mammoths. Callahan said he thinks we have the most talent of any team in the division. What's what supposed to mean? I'm beginning to question Brian's heart ... and gonies."

Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns -- "Off! Get off! Off the stage I say, you godforsaken Ravens' fans! Now we get to go home to our fans. What a minute. What am I thinking? Our fans hate me! Dwayne Rudd and his freaking helmet they're lukewarm and all understanding about. Me they hate, and I'm out there giving up the booty every week. What if they start comparing me to Vick?"

Brian Billick, coach, Baltimore Ravens -- "What I can say? Lots, as usual, and I will, given half a chance. My voice has a snake-charmer's effect, at least on me. Gotta get the guys up one more time. Actually, we don't gotta, it'll be up to the guys, basically. Frankly, I don't see how they'll stage a decent, compelling round of playoffs without the Baltimore Ravens and their brilliant head coach ... .my name? Billick. Brian Billick. Shaken. Not stirred."

Mike Martz
Mike Martz is one confident guy, even though his Rams have sputtered to a 6-9 record.

Mike Martz, coach, St. Louis Rams -- "Well, 6-9 is actually not all that bad a deal, considering we went through three quarterbacks. I'm confident. Don't I look confident? Got looking confident down pat. I'm a calm guy, calm in the eye of the storm, who knows how to script plays. Walsh? I bury Walsh. I'm confident in me. Now, about the St. Louis Gelded Rams, I'm not so confident at all, but nobody will ever know, as long as I keep my dosage regular, and I can keep Brenda Warner out of my kitchen ... she should shut up."

Mike Holmgren, coach, Seattle Seahawks -- "Maybe if I just stay quiet ... then again, maybe not ... I can get another job ... easy ... sure I can ... can't I? ... of course I can ..."

David Carr, QB, Houston Texans -- "So now I am the Official Sack Poster Boy of the NFL. They were actually laughing at me. Bruce Smith is old enough to be my father. Even he got me ..."

Steve Spurrier, coach, Washington Redskins -- "Hail. No, not to the Redskins. Hail, as in what the hail is going on around here? Don't leave me, Marvin. OK, then, leave, if you're going to. Who's our personnel guy? Who? Weyll, need to meet him, I guess, mebbe. "

Rodney Harrison, DB, San Diego Chargers -- "Stop crying, Rodney. What are you talking about? It's okay to cry. Especially when you bit too hard on Gonzalez and turned Boerigter into Jerry Rice. We faded in December. We suck. I suck. Who do I hit now."

Marc Boerigter, WR, K.C. Chiefs -- "Yippikaiyay, &#$&!s"

Eddie George, RB, Tennessee Titans -- "No Ray-Ray? You sure? Why then ... it's on! Grr! Wait, are you sure? Ok ... grrrrr!"

Wolf Larsen, captain/coach, Jacksonville Jaguars -- "Who said many of the players don't like me? Who cares if they don't like me? I want them to dislike me, and fear me, and know that I am the vengeance of the Lord on their tails. It's my ship. Mine, I say!"

Jeremy Shockey
"That 26 for the Colts, he was delicious, scrumptious."

Warren Sapp, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- "Here we go round the mulberry bush ... get off me, Bus! ... damn ... Shaun King and Rob Johnson just made my list of people I need to abandon at the first opportunity. Hey, listen, I don't care about it being cold. It's them Eagles that worry me!"

Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "We can play. Hope nobody notices. Tommy's a good guy. But I keep telling Kordell to be ready. Tommy's a good guy who needs to wear bubble wrap."

Jeremy Shockey, TE, New York Giants -- "That 26 for the Colts, he was delicious, scrumptious. And although I might be blond, I ain't stupid. Brian Dawkins might not taste so good."

Tony Dungy, coach, Indianapolis Colts -- "We're a year early here, but what the hey, we might as well make the playoffs anyway. Aw shucks, gee willikers, Beav. It's just the first round. We can do it."

Drew Bledsoe, QB, Buffalo Bills -- "I need a vacation. And so does the head coach. His can be permanent. I won't mind."

Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers -- "(singing in boffo Judy Garland, Liza Minelli style) Some-wherrrre ... under the radar ..."

Kyle Turley, OL, New Orleans Saints --"We suck so bad. We suck chunks. We have sucked our way right out of the playoffs. Never thought I'd do this -- To my beloved Eagles, SWAK, love, Kyle."

Ickey Woods, retired, Cincinnati Bengals -- "That guy looked like me, didn't he? What am I doing now? Oh, eating, basically ..."

Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears -- "We have to play again?!"

Rodney Peete, QB, Carolina Panthers -- "Would I stay on as QB coach? Well, unless I can get some walk-ons ... see, UPN is looking to develop something for Holly. If I can tag along, maybe exec produce, do a little Normie Nixony action ... that's preferable."

Marty Mornhinweg, coach, Detroit Lions -- "Would I stay on as QB coach? In a heartbeat. I hitch myself to Joey Harrington. He saved my life, and now I belong to him They'll have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming, that's all I know ..."

Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons -- "Steve Young never told the real secret to success at playing QB in the NFL. Play with Jerry Rice in his prime ... that won't save you from concussions. Bobby Christian's looking right at me, but it's like he can't see me. Go on and retire, Bob. Thanks for the lesson. Gotta work on my slide ..."

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles -- "Eeeeesy money."

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."