“You can take that to the bank, Jack.” – My Dad, countless times.
There are few guarantees in life. The most annoying people in the world will remind you that two of them are death and taxes. Screw you. I despise the notion of both and prefer life guarantees to be far more positive like: ‘Rock and roll will never die,’ ‘only God saves more than Bernie Parent,’ ‘I’ll always love my mamma’ and ‘it never rains in Sea Isle City.’
Many moons ago during his sophomore season at Purdue, I called Drew Brees the next great quarterback. “I Darrentee it,” I said to Voodoobrown, even going so far as calling him the next Joe Montana. He’s not quite Joe, but he did turn out to be a Hall of Fame, Superbowl winning, record setting quarterback. At the time, I was impressed with his command of a completely one trick offense. If you remember, the Boilermakers averaged no more than 5 rushing plays per game that year. Their offense was all Drew and in the late 90s, the Big 10 was a pretty damned good conference. It was way back then that the Darrentees were born.
While I recognize there are few guarantees in professional football, I know a thing or two about a thing or two about this game we all love, for I am the seer of seers. Here are your 2014 NFL Darrentees and these, as my Dad used to say, ‘you can take to the bank, Jack.’
The San Francisco 49ers will not reach their third NFC Championship game. Firstly, NaVorro Bowman’s ACL and MCL (had his leg seemingly snapped in half in last year’s NFC title game in Seattle) recovery looks shaky at best and fellow stud linebacker Aldon Smith may not start the season until October due to suspension. Those are enormous blows to a big time defense. On the offensive side of the ball, aging Frank Gore is the only healthy running back which will put a lot of pressure on quarterback Colin Kaepernick who already tends to make a lot of bad decisions. I see a down year for the Niners.
The Carolina Panthers will not make the post-season. Let’s start with the division. The Saints vastly improved on defense by adding Jarius Byrd and Champ Bailey, who still has a couple years left in him. The addition of Byrd allows Kenny Vaccaro to move to his natural SS position and the rookie WR Brandin Cooks looks to be in mid-season form and appears to be their replacement for Darren Sproles. (More on Cooks later.) Tampa Bay collected themselves a top notch coaching staff and drafted a strong talent in Mike Evans. Carolina may still have a very good defense in 2014 but the offense will struggle to score. Cam Newton is a bottom five passer and anyone that knows me knows I believe mobility is the most overrated aspect of the quarterback position. Newton will struggle even more than his career .500 record shows in 2014 because he, simply, has no weapons around him.
This is the Mike Missanelli special! Connor Shaw will start more games for the Cleveland Browns in 2014 than Johnny Manziel. Manziel doesn’t have the maturity or the size to handle the position at the professional level. Manziel is clearly struggling with Kyle Shanahan’s word heavy terminology and like most small, running quarterbacks, is challenged at seeing the second level of defense. Brian Hoyer will start the year but the hard working, clutch Shaw will impress coaches enough to get an opportunity to play.
This saddens me to say but the Philadelphia Eagles are no more than a 9 win team this year. Their first place schedule includes games against the NFC West and 4 of the league’s top 5 defenses. They are shaky and thin at both wide receiver and offensive line. And, by the way, they did very little to improve a defense that couldn’t cover, shake blocks or, gasp, tackle this off-season. Coach Kelly does a lot of great things but his lack of pre-season physicality plus a near ignorance of the defensive side of the ball spells trouble for my Iggles. Random thought: Does Nolan Carroll have a jersey number? Has anyone seen him? Bueller?
Brandin Cooks will win rookie of the year. This is a player a lot of insiders said the Eagles were tracking. I wasn’t excited about that news as I felt they needed to go full board on defense in this year’s draft and it would’ve aggravated me that they just cut a very similar player in Desean Jackson. Well, take Cooks’ lightning speed and quickness and drop him in the middle of the New Orleans Saints’ track meet and you are going to see some fireworks. My runner up for rookie of the year will Blake Bortles, who I believe will be the starting QB for most, if not all, of the year for Jacksonville. He is NFL ready.
This will be Tom Coughlin’s final season as head coach of the New York Giants. The GMen added a few good guys but injuries, a band-aided offensive line and a new offensive scheme for quarterback Eli Manning will make things tough to win even the horrendous NFC East. It might just be time for a complete overhaul in North Jersey. That said, Coughlin has far exceeded expectations in NY and if I were a Giants, I would be proud to have had him.
The Denver Broncos will win the Superbowl. Now, THAT’S a dream team, Vince Young. Denver’s defense was decent last year so how did they react to losing the Superbowl? They went out and signed DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib. They also get one of the league’s best pass rushers, Von Miller, back. Here’s something that may have been overlooked in Denver…they drafted Cody Lattimer, the big, quick wideout from Indiana and Emmanuel Sanders is an upgrade over Eric Decker. Just what Peyton Manning needs…more weapons. Peyton, realistically, has maybe 2 more years playing at an elite level and the Broncos are all in on those two years.
Percy Harvin will miss considerable time this season due to injury. I know. Going WAAAY out on a limb with this one. The man’s genetics resemble those of a crystal wine glass. He should be draped in bubblewrap even while he sleeps. Shame, too. Tremendous talent.
The first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft will belong to the Cleveland Browns. They lost TJ Ward (to Denver), Josh Gordon (to idiocy) and were already terrible before that. The team looks like scrambled eggs, has a rookie coach, plays in a tough division and doesn’t have a single weapon on offense that any opposing defense must track.
Dick Stockton and Donovan McNabb will be a train wreck of a broadcasting crew. This is hot button topic for me because I see guys like Stockton hanging on for dear life while there a slew of younger, quality broadcasters available. Does his name really carry weight in that industry anymore? Now, you place the great passive, aggressive one in the booth with him. I just hope Donovan chooses to be critical. There’s nothing worse than listening to Jon Gruden or John Lynch sing the praises of every single player, terrified to hurt someone’s feelings. I’d also like to see the Albert, Moose and Goose FOX crew placed on a life raft and cast out to sea forever. Don’t come back. You are all terrible. Go live on an island and let Moose eat Albert and Goose after he eats all the vegetation and animals. Good Lord, that is the worst crew in the history of televised sports.
That’s it. 10 Darrentees for the coming 2014 NFL season. I’m sure you’ll all keep track and let me know how I did once the year ends.
My NFL Notes & Musings column begins here every week following week one and through the NFL season.
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