Czarnecki: Pats pile on, McNabb sour?

FOXSports.com's John Czarnecki talks about the Patriots running up the score against Dallas and other hot topics involving the Eagles, Raiders, Buccaneers and Ravens.

I don't know Bill Belichick, but I respect him a lot despite all this Spygate garbage. A lot of teams steal signs and videotape their opponents when it makes sense. Belichick will tell you that his security team caught a Jets employee filming them last season in Gillette Stadium and he didn't go running to the commissioner's office. The word is that when the NFL picked up the Patriots' so-called Spygate files, the Patriots also supplied them with information about other NFL teams and what they might have been involved in.

That being said — and knowing how competitive Belichick is — I still question why Tom Brady and his starting offensive line were still on the Texas Stadium turf in the final minutes against the worn-out Cowboys? The Patriots had the game under control and although it had to be a great feeling for third-string running back Kyle Eckel to score a touchdown, was it really necessary? The game was already out of reach.

But it sure looked like Belichick was piling it on poor Wade Phillips and the Cowboys. Maybe Belichick didn't like hearing that Phillips thought his three Super Bowl wins were tarnished by Spygate. Maybe he didn't like reading about what a great defensive coach Phillips thinks he is. I don't believe the Cowboys would beat the Patriots in a rematch this season, but there's no reason to give them any extra motivation, either.

McNabb misery

There continues to be talk of this general unhappiness in the Eagles' locker room and in the coaching offices with quarterback Donovan McNabb. You hear about all this sniping and how McNabb sounds like he wishes this was his final season in Philadelphia.

The relationship is all a mess there, but it didn't matter on the field Sunday when the Eagles beat the Jets. McNabb had protection while the Eagles had their MVP running back Brian Westbrook rush for 120 yards on 20 carries. McNabb passed for another 278 while a defense, minus its MVP, safety Brian Dawkins, sacked Chad Pennington three times and held him without a touchdown despite several trips deep into Philadelphia territory.

The Eagles are a unique team because coach Andy Reid is an above-average leader. How can McNabb not follow and listen to Reid, the man who picked him as his starting quarterback when the hometown fans said their young coach was nuts? It's a strained relationship, but the Eagles still have a playoff shot as long as McNabb continues to play hard and within the system. And as long as he has Westbrook by his side.


Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Go to JaMarcus already

Oakland's Lane Kiffin is a rookie head coach. His team is 2-3 and he doesn't want to sacrifice the season quite yet, because the Chargers have flaws even if they are starting to look like the favorite in the AFC West. But I have seen enough of Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. We all understand now why Kiffin stuck with Josh McCown, even when the poor kid could barely walk. McCown would compete and could get out of trouble.

But Kiffin must know that his defense is better off than his offense right now, and the best thing about his offense is the running game. These are the perfect ingredients to make a switch to No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell. OK, maybe you don't want to start him next Sunday against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, but I think Kiffin should put the kid in for a series or two, start getting his feet wet and begin to make him earn his $44 million over the first four years.

Yes, don't rush the kid, but the Raiders don't really have many great options. If Vinny Testaverde can start after practicing for two days and missing all of training camp, Russell can surely play a little. Heck, he's 20 years younger than Vinny and is definitely stronger and more athletic.

Bucs bringin' it

Bucs coach Jon Gruden looks like a genius today with how well Jeff Garcia is playing at quarterback. The Bucs are 4-2 and have a legitimate shot at winning the NFC South, and they owe a lot of that to Gruden, Garcia, old-timer Joey Galloway and a ball-hungry defense.

Garcia again showed how nimble and aware he is in the pocket by not being sacked once by a very good Tennessee front seven that knew the only way Tampa Bay was going to win was by throwing the football. Hey, Earnest Graham managed only 29 yards on 13 carries.

The Bucs may be the second-best team in the NFC right now with how Seattle is embarrassing itself and with the Packers still missing a running game. Don't you think if the Packers were playing in Florida next week, the Bucs would be favored? Right now, Gruden is having the last laugh on the local media, which has been calling for his scalp since the start of training camp.

But the thing about Gruden is that I'm sure that's the way he likes it. He would rather win with someone like Garcia than with a quarterback like Tom Brady. With Garcia, it's about him and how smart he is running an offense. With Brady, well, everyone knows that the quarterback could win a lot of games with a lot of coaches calling his plays.

Billick has the brains

Brian Billick is a very good head coach. His offense was simply efficient on Sunday against the Rams, but you also must consider that he put quarterback Kyle Boller behind basically a new and unproven offensive line. Billick played the percentages, basically what he's been doing since arriving in Baltimore. He allowed his defense to mess with Gus Frerotte and give his offense good field position.

The Ravens were an interesting Super Bowl pick by a few in early August, but Billick doesn't have a quarterback that can compete right now with Brady and Peyton Manning. If Samari Rolle can play himself back into the starting lineup after a heart ailment, the Ravens have a playoff-caliber defense. But that's all they have. Their best offensive weapon is kicker Matt Stover, who converted five field goals against the Rams. Billick needs a new quarterback, but he'll probably wait until next year, hoping one falls into his lap.

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for FOX NFL Sunday since its 1994 inception. You can read all of his columns at FOXSports.com.

 


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