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Super Bowl LIV Marks a Changing of the QB Guard

ROBBINS NEST

Credit Twitter

By Lenn Robbins.

Any 49ers fan who thought the Vince Lombardi Trophy was headed back to San Francisco with eight minutes and 33 seconds left in Super Bowl LIV and their team leading by 10 should have heeded the words of Eric Bieniemy.

The Chiefs offensive coordinator was recently asked why Patrick Mahomes is a better quarterback this year than last, when he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

“He’s learning how to win when things aren’t perfect,” Bieniemy said.

Mahomes was uncharacteristically imperfect or the first 51 minutes and 27 seconds Sunday night. He had thrown more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one). He had fumbled twice.

Credit Twitter

 It looked as if a great defense was going to get the better of a great quarterback.

And then Mahomes did what the greatest do. He led the Chiefs to 21 straight points and a 31-20 victory. Mahomes was named the game’s MVP, joining Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to win league and Super Bowl MVP honors in their first three seasons.

“I don’t know what it is,’’ Chiefs defensive end Terrell Suggs told ESPN, “but he has it.

Yes, he does. Three playoff games. Three come-from-behind victories.

Mark these words: On Sunday, February 2, 2020 in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, we saw a changing of the guard. Mahomes has surpassed Tom Brady, Drew Brees, et al as the best quarterback in the game, even when he doesn’t play his best.

Mahomes was 26-of-42 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and the two picks for a RQG of 78.1, his second worst rating of the season. Only a quarterback with the confidence of a Marino, Montana, Elway, Favre and Brady finds a way to win.

“I trust in these guys and they trust in me,’’ Mahomes told reporters.

Trust this: Mahomes, 24, isn’t close to reaching the pinnacle of his craft. Heck, he still can’t rent a car without paying a surcharge for being under 25. But by the time he retires, he’ll own every QB record there is, including most Super Bowl titles and Super Bowl MVPs.

Greg Lewis, the Chiefs receiver’s coach, played with Brady and Favre. As an assistant with the Saints, he worked with Brees. There might not be a better evaluator of Mahomes and his place in the game.

“Brady is a guy that’s a study-a-holic, as detailed as I’ve ever seen,’’ Lewis told Sports Illustrated. “Brees is like a gym rat. Favre is that wild-card type of dude. Pat is all of that in one.”

All that in one?

He has none of that for three-plus quarters. With 7:13 left from the Chiefs 35 and the 49ers having taking control of the line of scrimmage, Mahomes faced a third and 15.

“We were in a bad situation,’’ said Mahomes.

Working out of the hurry up and under heavy pressure, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for 44 yards. That was the moment when everyone in scarlet red and metallic gold felt the fear that Mahomes instills in a defenses, franchises, fan bases.

Brady and Brees used to do it all the time.

Now? Russell Wilson did it for the first half of the season. Lamar Jackson was the regular season MVP. Deshaun Watson does it on occasion.

And Patrick Lavon Mahomes II has it done it with the AFC Championship and Super Bowl on the line. He was 10-of-13 for 136 yards and two touchdowns in that final 8:33.

This is the changing of the guard at the most important position in football.

‘Everything was about, keep firing, keep firing,’’ said Kansas City coach Andy Reid.

And why not? When you have a once-in-a-generation talent like Mahomes, you hand him the keys to the Chiefs Kingdom and let him fire away – for as long as he wishes.

“It’s incredible what (Brady) puts in to get ready for each game every week, mentally and physically, and I think Pat Mahomes is the same way,” former Patriots linebacker and NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest told the Boston Herald.

 “He wants to be perfect. I think he has that ‘it’ about him, that fire, that competitive juice where he gets super intense about the game. And when you have guys like that, it makes everyone around you better. And Pat has that.”

Just ask the 49ers.

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How' Bout Them Cowboys! Can Dallas Return as the Team to Hate?

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

America’s Team has a new coach.

He is not a wunderkind such as Kliff Kingsbury, who got fired from his college job (Texas Tech) and barely had time to update his resume before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals. Nor is one of the NFL’s perceived young studs – 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In a stunning departure from how and who NFL franchises are hiring, the Cowboys marched to their own tune. Whether it turns out to be a celebration parade or a funeral march is impossible to predict.

What is almost certain is this: If Mike McCarthy doesn’t succeed, America’s Team might become as abstract as a central American country, say Uruguay or Paraguay. And owner Jerry Jones might not get another crack at hiring a head coach.

Of paramount importance to Giants fans, and the rest of the NFL, is the former. The Cowboys, by most talent evaluator’s assessment, have the most impressive roster in the NFC East. Many of their stars are in the prime of their careers and could form an immovable object for the rest of the division.

Considering that Jones hasn’t been a trigger-happy owner when it comes to firing coaches suggests that McCarthy, who reportedly will get a five-year deal, will be given time to succeed or fail. If he fails, the Cowboys might go another decade without getting to an NFC Championship game.

At first glance the hiring of McCarthy seems curious at best. After compiling a 125-77-2 record with a 10-8 mark in the postseason including one Super Bowl victory, two NFC title game appearances, McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season when the Packers were 2-7-1.

Of course, the bigger issue was the reported estrangement between McCarthy and all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quickest way for a coach to get hired, or fired, in today’s NFL, is his relationship with the quarterback.

It seems as if Adam Gates got that part right. We’ll see.

By not getting hired in 2019, McCarthy, accurately or not, got a rep as being too old school, which is a nice way of saying out-of-touch or over-the-hill, euphemisms for ageism. Now comes word that McCarthy, suddenly a youthful 56, is a renaissance coach, one into analytics and has been hosting a meeting of the McCarthy Group, a convent of ex-coaches that are re-evaluating their craft.

Now word comes that Bill Belichick, at a 2015 owners meeting, reportedly said McCarthy is one of the best coaches he ever went up against. Now comes word that Brett Favre says McCarthy is very bright, very understandable and can relate to players the way Daboll does.

Of course, there are many that believe all those criticisms of McCarthy are legitimate and he’s little more than a more successful Jason Garrett. There are legions of Cowboys haters, led by the irrepressible Stephen A. Smith, who are thrilled that Dallas made a hire that has absolutely no sex appeal but might have success appeal.

Look, this could be exactly what the NFL needs. The Patriots dynasty, if not over, is gasping. The NFL needs a team to hate, Who better than, “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!’”

Darnold is Looking and Sounding Like a Franchise QB

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold had good pass protection all day. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Dear Outrageous, Obnoxious, Outlandish Raiders fans.

Thank for you coming to MetLife Stadium Sunday and attempting to turn it into the Black Hole East. You were maddeningly, mind-bogglingly, maniacally antagonistic.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. MetLife Stadium became the black hole for Raider fans today. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

When the Jets took their home field, they felt like the visitors.

Those wearing the Black and Silver booed, hooted and hollered their heads off. And the guys in Green and White heard it. They heard it, went back into the home locker room and got heated.

“I’m not going to lie to you, when we came on to the field, we felt disrespected,” safety Jamal Adams said. “We got booed in our own home stadium by the Oakland fans. We came back into this locker room and it was a hell of a talk.”

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Raiders backup QB Mike Glennon gets pressure from Jamal Adams. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

Adams should know. He gave the talk and it contained a lot of words not suitable for white collar criminals.

Even the calm, cool, California kid, quarterback Sam Darnold, was jacked. He bullied his way for a four-yard touchdown run that gave the Jets a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. The Jets didn’t look back as they posted their most impressive win of the season, a 34-3 demolishing of the Raiders.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold finds the endzone on a QB keeper in the second quarter. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

“I had someone in my way at the goal line,” Darnold said, “and I just did what I could to get into the end zone.”

This win, the Jets third straight, felt different than the previous two. The Jets beat the hapless Giants and pathetic Redskins in moving to 3-7. The Raiders, however came in with a 6-4 record, breathing down the necks of the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.

They left licking their bruised egos on what surely will be a long flight back to the West Coast.

“We got our butts kicked,” said veteran quarterback Derek Carr, who was benched. “There’s no other way around that. They got after us from start to finish. Hopefully, it’s an eye opener.”

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Jamal Adams and Brandon Copeland crunch Raiders QB Derek Carr. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The new York Extra)

The quarterback that opened a lot of eyes was Darnold. It was a little more than a month ago that Darnold was haunted by the New England Patriots in a 33-0 loss. His rating that day was 1.5.

The Raiders saw a very different player. Darnold completed 20-of-29 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns passing, one rushing and no interceptions. His rating was 127.8, or 126.3 better than it was against New England.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold scrambles for a gain. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

This is new territory for Darnold and the Jets (4-7). This is Gang Green’s first three-game win streak in more than two years. Darnold, who missed time early with mononucleosis, is looking more and more like the franchise quarterback the Jets thought they were drafting last season with the No.3 pick.

Darnold also is sounding like a franchise quarterback. He’s tossed out the playoff word lately. Darnold is smart enough to know that almost certainly won’t happen this season. But isn’t it uplifting to hear a Jets QB talking about postseason?

“It’s in the back of my head,” Darnold said, “but I think where we’re at right now, we just gotta keep taking it one week at a time, and if we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Jets Are No Closer to Knowing If Darnold Is The Man

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

10/21/19 Patriots vs Jets at Metlife stadium East Rutherford nj #14 Sam Darnold returns to the bench after a 3 and out in the 4th quarter Neil Miller/ The New York Extra

It has been almost exactly one month since Sam Darnold saw ghosts. One month since the New England Pats, known cheaters, seemingly had 12 men on the field on defense for every play in a 33-0 bashing of the Jets.

Every time Darnold thought he had an open window, it was slammed shut. Every time he thought he had a receiver break free, he was covered. Darnold completed just 11-of-32 passes for 86 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions.

East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, October 21, 2019. Jets QB Sam Darnold and J.C. Jackson of the Patriots chase the ball in the endzone after it was snapped over Darnold’s head. The play was called a safety. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

When the mic-up Darnold was overheard saying he was seeing ghosts, Jets Nation went apoplectic. Their second-year quarterback, the third player picked in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a bust, his psyche snapped, they fretted.

Over the last two games, however, Darnold has completed 38-of-60 passes for 523 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. Not a spirit in sight in wins over the Giants, 34-27, and Redskins, 34-17.

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Jets #14 Sam Darnold throws in the 1st half today Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Yet the Jets are not much closer to knowing if Darnold will be their franchise quarterback than they were after the Patriots’ game. The Redskins have the 21st worst defense in the NFL. The Giants are even worse. They’re 31st.

“Towards the end of the game, I was talking more about the interception to the coaches and the other players, so maybe that,” Darnold told reporters about his dialogue Sunday. “But I think for us as an offense, as a whole, it’s just another steppingstone in the right direction, so that’s how we’re going to look at it.”

The one thing we’ve learned, and this might turn out to be paramount, is that Darnold didn’t crack, his psyche wasn’t snapped, his confidence hadn’t been confiscated by the Pats.

East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, October 21, 2019. Terrence Brooks (25) celebrates his third quarter interception in the endzone with his Patriots defensive teammates. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

In fairness to Darnold, the Patriots defense is great. It made Carson Wentz look pedestrian Sunday night in a 17-10 New England win. Maybe every quarterback, save Lamar Jacks on, sees ghosts when playing the Pats.

Maybe, just maybe, Darnold is on his way to being a franchise QB.

“He knows what he likes; he knows what he doesn’t like,” Jets coach Adam Gase said of Darnold. “He’s not afraid to say it.”

Good to know. The question is, can Darnold, who’s not exactly surrounded by the talent Troy Aikman had with the Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, win a game against a top-tier NFL defense?

Darnold did complete passes to seven different receivers, which suggests he’s seeing more of the field. But we won’t for another month if Darnold has exorcised his demons and is closer to being a franchise QB than he is today.

The Jets play at Baltimore on Dec. 12. The Ravens made Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson look like a scarecrow on Sunday. If Darnold can play as he has these last two weeks, well, that will speak well of his progress.

If not, well, Jets fans are accustomed to seeing all kinds of bizarre occurrences from butt fumbles to Bill Belichick becoming coach for a day. Seeing ghosts is nothing new.

Could An All-Star Team of Jets and Giants Make the Playoffs?

By Lenn Robbins

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Jets #48 JOrdan Jenkins celebrtaes after a sack of NY Giants #8 Daniel jones today Neil Miller /The New York Extra 2019

 The worst place to go for an NFL game is MetLife Stadium.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 10, 2019. Darius Slayton makes a catch in front of Jamal Adams. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New york Extra 2019

  The two teams that call this steel and concrete monstrosity home have a combined record of 4-15. Amazingly, they played a somewhat entertaining game Sunday with the Jets beating the Giants 34-27.

  The Jets share the bottom of the AFC East with a 2-7 mark. The 2-8 Giants have a one-half game lead over the truly pathetic Washington Redskins for last place in the NFC East.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 10, 2019. Jamison Crowder of the Jets takes Janoris Jenkins along for the ride in the first half. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra 2019

  Apparently, the Jets offense is quite competent, as long as its playing against the Giants defense. Gang Green averaged 223.5 yards (dead last in football) and 11 points (tied for last) going into the game. They racked up 294 yards and 34 points against the Giants.

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Giants #86 Darius Slaton makes a reception in todays game Neil Miller/The New York Extra 2019

And the Giants offense is competent when playing against the Jets defense. Big Blue averaged 326.8 yards and 19.6 points going into the game. They racked up 287 yards and 27 points against the Jets.

Yep, it was that bad.

 The sobering questioning is this: If you were to draft a team of Jets and Giants, would it be good enough to make the playoffs. Remember, the NFL rewards mediocrity, so we’re not counting on 10-6, 8-8 gets you in, 7-9 might.

So, we put together our All-NY NFL team. Perhaps you should sit.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 10, 2019. Jets QB Sam Darnold splits Giants defenders to score a first quarter touchdown. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra 2019
11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Jest #14 Sam Darnold throws in the 1st half today Neil Miller/The New York Extra

QB: Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones – They each get a half. Cop out, I know: Still evaluating. Might be the case for the next five years. Ouch.

RB – Saquon Barkley, Giants – despite yesterday’s performance, second best all-around back in football (Christian McCaffrey).

RB – Le’Veon Bell, Jets – despite this season, once one of the best all-around backs in football.

TE – Evan Engram – Legit. Would start on most teams.

OT – Kelvin Beachum, Jets – consummate pro.

OG – Brian Winters, Jets – had the temerity to get in Darnold’s face after last week’s botched snap count.

C – Jon Halapio, Giants – did not have to be lured out of retirement, like Jets center.

OG – Will Hernandez, Giants – emerged as a nasty, borderline dirty player last week. We like it.

OT – Mike Remmers, Giants – see Beachum.

WR – Sterling Shepherd, Giants – Should not play again this season, if ever. No joke.

WR – Jamison Crowder, Jets – Solid slot receiver.

PK – Aldrick Rosas – He started the season on the roster, unlike the Jets, who didn’t have an NFL-caliber kicker on its roster.

DEFENSE

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. New York Jets #33 Jamal Jenkins leaps into the arms of Jets defenders after a turnover in today game Neil Miller /The New york Extra

DT – Kyle Phillips, Jets – Each team gets one player with potential

DL – Quinnen Williams, Jets – Slow start, coming on.

DT – Dalvin Tomlinson, Giants – Each team gets one player with potential.

DL – Dexter Lawrence, Giants – Looking like a terrific pick at No. 17.

OLB – Markus Golden, Giants – A delightful surprise. Serious.

ILB – Alec Ogletree, Giants – A little on reputation.

ILB – CJ Mosley, Jets – Amazing one-game season.

OLB – Jordan Jenkins, Jets – Out of options here.

CB – Janoris Jenkins, Giants – Depends of which Jackrabbit shows up.

CB – Darryl Roberts, Jets/DeAndre Baker, Giants – Each gets one half to avoid third-degree burns.

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Jets #33 Jamal Adams sprints into the end zone for a touchdown after stripping the ball from NY Giants Daniel Jones in the 3rd quarter Neil Miller/The New York Extra 2019

SS – Jamal Adams, Jets – He’s the best, just ask him.

FS – Marcus Maye, Jets – He’s very good, but not as good as Adams.  Just ask Adams.

P – Uh, who cares?

Coach – To Be Determined, Jets, Adam Gase/Giants, Pat Shurmur – If they’re both back for 2021 season, season ticket holders deserve refunds. Wait, did I say 2021?  Meant 2020. Sorry for the panic attack.

Does this team make the playoffs? Feel free to write.