Tuesday, January 14
Title games deserve their own nights
By John Madden
With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, I'm going to San Diego this weekend to get ready for the game on ABC. Before I head down on the bus, though, I wanted to share some final thoughts with you, as we approach conference championship game weekend.
Championship weekend: Some of the playoff games have been played at night, just like last season. These are our playoffs and I've always been a proponent of giving each game its own slot and not sandwiching them together. Heck, we used to play one of our conference championship games in the morning. That is, in California it would be 10 o'clock in the morning or so when the first game would get started. Nobody else did that, but us.
There has to be a little separation so that each game can have a beginning (which would be some kind of pregame show to set up the game), a middle (the actual game) and an end, where you have winners and losers. And to do that, you have to spread it out throughout the day.
Now, you can't do it this season, because there is just one week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl (although that's the last time that's going to happen), but I've always said we should have the championship games on different days. That is, each championship have its own day or its own night.
You play one of 'em late Sunday with a pregame, game and a postgame. And then play the other one on Monday night. And that would have to be when there are two weeks between the championship and the Super Bowl. You could do it then.
Rich Gannon: I've been lucky enough to see him on Monday Night Football twice this season, and I saw him in person on Sunday against the New York Jets. He has had a really special season. Heck, he was named the MVP of the league and you could see why after watching him in the second half against the Jets.
He's been around the league for a long time, and he just understands everything right now. And the more you understand as a quarterback, the more things slow down for you, and everything right now for Rich Gannon is in slow motion. He gets back there in the pocket and he sees everything, makes great decisions and gets the ball to the right guys. He has very good guys to get the ball to, and he has a big, ol' offensive line protecting him. Sometimes that line doesn't get enough credit for the way they're playing. They've done an outstanding job this season.
Quality and not quantity: It seems like there are a lot of teams that have very good -- and even great -- running backs in the NFL right now, and a few of those teams are still alive in the playoffs.
One of the things with that is you only need one of 'em. That is, you only need one quality running back. The way football is going today, no one wants to play a two-back offense. All defenses are kind of set up to be their best against two backs. That is, a halfback and a fullback in the backfield.
But teams are just playing that one back, so that's all you need. It seems like it's easier to get one guy than in the old days when you used to play a lot more of a two-back offense. There was a time when the fullback might carry the ball and he'd gain 60 yards in a game. And the tailback would carry the ball and he might gain 80 yards. And so those two guys would gain 140 yards between 'em in a game. Now, the one guy is taking the runs of the old fullback.
When I coached the Raiders, I had Marv Hubbard and Mark van Eeghen at fullback, and Clarence Davis was the halfback. Miami, in those days, had Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick. You just don't see that anymore.
Veterans Stadium will host its final football game this weekend. I've done a lot of games there over the years. The Vet is a tough place to play, and Philadelphia will try to close it out with a win on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
It wasn't really a good stadium and the field there was a tough one. It was never in good shape and it always felt like there was an accident waiting to happen on it.
Then, you would go into the locker room and the bowels of the place, and there were rats, and there were cats chasing rats and stuff. This isn't one of those venerable stadiums where you are going to say, "Jeez, we're losing Lambeau Field or Soldier Field or Wrigley Field or Fenway Park." Veterans Stadium is one that's seen its day.
The Eagles have great fans there and those great fans will be with them at the new stadium, too. Those fans are about as passionate about their football as anyone, and they've always helped to make their stadium a tough place to play in. But those fans and that team probably all deserve a better venue, and they will get it starting next season.