Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin never struck me as a man to cross. I think he was especially growly after his team lost to the lowly Washington Redskins last week. After a week of some Tomlin TLC, his team opened a can of whoopass on the Philadelphia Eagles last night.
As ESPN blogger Dan Graziano elegantly put it, "after sleepwalking through a loss to Washington a week ago, the defending AFC champions delivered a reminder to their cross-state rivals about which team from Pennsylvania has played in three of the last six Super Bowls."
So, the Redskins beat the team that beat the Eagles. Therefore, the Redskins can beat the Eagles. (YR!)
The Redskins did not face LB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu as the Eagles did. The Steeler defense seemed interested in the game's outcome, which they did not against the Redskins. Philadelphia quarterbacks Michael Vick and Vince Young threw four passes...to Steeler defenders, three were by Vick. The Steelers pushed them to QB passer ratings of 13.5 and 32.3 respectively.
On offense, Pittsburgh burned Philadelphia's upgraded secondary three times with touchdown passes of 20 yards or more.
Said coach Tomlin. "That's the desired response we were looking for."
We will spend the next three weeks learning whether the Redskins, especially the offensive line, are as good as it showed against the Steelers. But, we learned that the Eagles can be beat and we learned how to beat them: pressure.
I have my doubts that the 'Skins have the receivers to discombobulate the Eagles' secondary like the Steelers did. There is a suspicion that Washington's front seven, sans Fat Albert, can bring the pressure once they jell. Nobody now on Washington's roster is the equal to Ben Roelisberger.
Ugly preseason losses are blessings. They expose things team have to work on and people who have to go. The Eagles learned not to believe the hype. The dream team has feet of clay.
The Michael Vick Experience goes GQ
Michael Vick says not to believe the hype that Commissioner Roger Goodell steered him away from the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills to the Philadelphia Eagles. That insignificant tidbit is the most hyped sliver of a 4,000-word story in an upcoming issue of GQ Magazine. He made the decision to sign with the Iggles, says Vick, and he is glad to be in Philadelphia.
I'll bet you anything that Adam Jones wishes Goodell or anyone steered him to Philly instead of Cincy where even QB Carson Palmer refuses to play.
I read Will Leitch's feature story on Vick, now up on gq.com, and found any number of issues far more important than the commish improving the NFL product by (allegedly) steering a hot, if tainted, NFL personality to a supportive winning team. To speak to the issues, I have to bring up race. (You can tune out here if you wish, but this won't hurt a bit, I promise.)
I am a, um, "seasoned" black man with a decidedly bourgeois upbringing for which I make no apology. I am appalled at cultural touchstones that lead urban young people to glorify the gangsta' mentality that sees jail time as "props." I was once friendly with a women with foster kids who, at ages 12 and 8, discussed who they would meet in jail when they got there.
It's a problem and, like many people in my social circle, I feel like we are losing a generation every time I see a young man jailin'—wearing his pants below his butt cheeks as if in jail where they remove your belts and your trousers hang low. That's a fashion statement?
I just want to grab him by his collar and scream, "I think you are gay and you are advertising," not as a slur, but to shame him into pulling his pants up.
The p.r.-free version of Vick's story
That won't work with that segment. I know that. Michael Vick can reach those enthralled by thugs better than I can. They relate to him. They do not relate to me. I need Vick to tell his story. I need him to change lives. Even if he only mouths the words, lying in this case is better than saying nothing.
Leitch opens his story recounting a school visit where a student asked Vick THE critical question. "Are you mad about what happened to you?"
Leitch never gave Vick's answer, but says unequivocally, that Vick does not buy his own redemptive story that his p.r. team puts out about him. This is a far deeper point than anything about Roger Goodell. Unlike the Goodell angle, Vicks peeps have yet to refute Leitch's claim.
From the story: "I ask Vick if he feels that white people simply don't understand that aspect of black culture. 'I think that's accurate,' he says. 'I mean, I was just one of the ones who got exposed, and because of the position I was in, where I was in my life, it went mainstream. A lot of people got out of it after my situation, not because I went to prison but because it was sad for them to see me go through something that was so pointless, that could have been avoided.'"
Pointless? This is revisionist history, far different from what he said at his sentencing when Vick admitted poor judgment on his part. "I'm willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions."
"I'm totally responsible, and those things just didn't have to happen," said Vick in a post-plea statement to the media. "I feel like we all make mistakes. It's just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. And you know, those things, you know, just can't happen.
"Dog fighting is a terrible thing, and I do reject it."
Leitch, like most of the sports-writing media, is imprecise in his description of Vick's conviction. Vick plead guilty to bankrolling an interstate criminal enterprise, a federal charge. His guilty plea for dog fighting, a State charge, came much later and was based on evidence presented in his federal conviction.
Federal criminal enterprises draw harsher sentences than dog fighting. The judge found that Vick continued to lie about the depth of his participation even after his plea agreement and sentenced him more harshly for that.
Will Leitch is the founding editor of Deadspin. I'll leave it to him to deride Vick's notion that the Bengals or Bills were better shots for his return to the pros than the Eagles. Back then, Vick thought he would return as a starter. Now, Vick claims he can only achieve All-Pro status as an Eagle because they didn't try to change his game, unlike his last days with the Falcons. Mmm, WHAT?
Vick was a phenomenal athlete, but an undisciplined quarterback in Atlanta. He admitted as much in a televised interview with Jim Mora, his Falcons coach who was fired to for failing to get the most out of him. Atlanta turned to Bobby Petrino to install a college offense to exploit Vick's gifts, like that ever worked in the pros. The Red Gun and the Fun & Gun offense are long gone in the NFL. The Wildcat is a fading trend. The Falcons changed offenses to suit Vick and were getting nowhere.
Vick found success with the Eagles because, unlike Atlanta, he changed. He prepares. He studies game film. He changed his game to become the pocket passer that Donovan McNabb was before him. McNabb had little to do with the new Vick. It's just part of the narrative. Neither man ever speaks of it.
The Michael Vick of the GQ story has feet of clay. But I still need him.
Why I need Michael Vick
Perhaps a little of that "Ookie" Vick persona is creeping back into MV7. Perhaps the Steelers knocked some of it out of him last night. I need Vick, whoever he is, to say the right things to a generation of urban kids who need to hear it—from him. That message is whatever your background, the right thing to do is the only thing to do. Actions have consequences. Redemption comes with accountability. Accountability comes at a price that must be paid. It's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble. Cruelty is always wrong. Pull your pants up.