Some scattered NFL thoughts while while wonder if “Steve Tasker” is Buster Olney’s alter ego during football season …
It’s certainly understandable if the last couple of weeks have given Patriots fans a case of Anquan Boldin envy.
The Ravens’ fearless, dependable receiver came through time and again in the Super Bowl, with six catches for 104 yards and the game’s first touchdown. Two weeks ago, of course, he scored a pair of second half touchdowns as the Ravens ended the Patriots season in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots could use someone exactly like him, and he’s sure to be on the radar again in New England should he somehow end up a salary-cap casualty this offseason.
I say “again,” because it’s worth remembering that the Patriots were in on him three years ago, when his dissatisfaction with this contract led the Cardinals to deal him to the Ravens along with a fifth-round pick for third- and fourth-rounders in the 2010 draft.
For whatever reason, the Patriots didn’t outbid the Ravens for Boldin — perhaps it’s because they didn’t have a fourth-round pick, having dealt it to Oakland for Derrick Burgess, or perhaps they didn’t want to meet Boldin’s contract demands, which led to him immediately signing a four-year, $28-million deal with the Ravens, with $10 million guaranteed.
Instead, the day Boldin went to Baltimore (and Julius Peppers, another player they were reportedly pursuing, agreed to a contract worth potentially $91.5 million with the Bears), the Patriots took care of some in-house business, re-signing Vince Wilfork, Stephen Neal, and Tully Banta-Cain.
If they had a do-over on that day, you have to figure they’d pay the price for Boldin. I hope they get a chance to do so this offseason.
* * *
I know there was a time when I thought Phil Simms was an incisive analyst, but damned if I can remember it today.
It would not surprise me in the least if he’s still sitting in the broadcast booth at the Superdome, debating with himself as to whether there should have been a flag on the final pass to Michael Crabtree while constantly contradicting himself and never coming to a real conclusion.
When did he become so reluctant to actually have an opinion? Was it before or after the snowball to the face? And how does Jim Nantz, who seemed annoyed at times at Simms’s waffling, resist the temptation to say, “C’mon, friend, give me some analysis here.”
Even before the blackout threw the entire production out of whack and exposed CBS’s lack of preparation for such a circumstance, I found myself wishing for Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, and the NBC “Sunday Night Football” crew.
* * *
I’m not sure this makes sense, but that’s never stopped me before, so here it is: I’d be giddy if Ed Reed ends up with the Patriots, but I also don’t think they should pursue him, presuming he gets paid based on his stature and past accomplishment rather than what he will be the next couple of years.
He still has tremendous instincts and intelligence, but he’ll be 35 next year, seems to limp off the field at least once every game, and plays free safety when the Patriots’ true need is a bruising strong safety.
Taking sentiment out of it, the timing just isn’t right, and we’ll just have go on lamenting what might have been had Bill Belichick chosen him instead of Daniel Graham in the first round of the 2002 draft.
* * *
John Harbaugh has always struck me as incredibly gracious in victory or defeat, but deep down he has to be as insanely competitive as his comically intense brother, doesn’t he? I suspect he’s just learned to hide it better and that both were equally guilty of flipping over the “Chutes and Ladders” board when they’d lose as kids.
* * *
Can Randy Moss win a jump ball anymore? I thought Colin Kaepernick should have taken at least one shot with him in the end zone, and Vernon Davis seems underutilized in the red zone as well. Part of his evolution will included breaking that odd fixation on Michael Crabtree, who is a good receiver, but not one worth habitually depending upon.
* * *
And I’ll never get why the Niners didn’t run Frank Gore right up the middle at least once on their final possession. Haloti Ngata was injured, and Ray Lewis was about as useful as a blood-stained suit. The Niners didn’t play to their strengths on that fateful goal-line stand, nor did they play to the Ravens’ weaknesses.
* * *
The more I see of Niners safety Dashon Goldson, the more I’m reminded of Patriots-era Lawyer Milloy. The pile moves backward when he comes rocketing on the TV screen to finish off a hit, but as a pass defender, well, he’s a heck of a run-stopper.
* * *
Joe Flacco is a tremendous quarterback, and while the 11-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio this postseason confirms it, it’s been the case for awhile. I’m convinced his slack-faced lack of charisma has actually delayed most fans from recognizing how good he really is, with one of the best arms in the league, the mobility to escape the pocket and throw strikes on the run, and the good sense to look Boldin’s way when a first down absolutely must be secured.
* * *
As for today’s Completely Random Football Card:
He’s no Boldin, but he’s probably the closest thing the Patriots have had, with touchdowns in seven consecutive playoff games from 2003-05. Givens and David Patten are two of the most underrated players of the Patriots’ championship era.