Nobody is more bullish on the NFL potential of the spread offense than Jon Gruden. When the former Tampa Bay Bucs coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football analyst starts talking about the Wildcat, it's like listening to the late Billy Mays pitch the wonders of Mighty Putty and the Awesome Auger.
If he still were coaching the Bucs, you can bet he'd be running the Wildcat/spread a lot right now. Thinks it's a terrific weapon, especially if you have a guy like Michael Vick, who can both pass and run out of the formation.
But if he were in his buddy Andy Reid's shoes and coaching the Eagles right now, he says he wouldn't take the Wildcat out of the box.
Why? Because he thinks Reid is treading on dangerous ground mixing Vick and the Wildcat into an offense that already features one of the game's best quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb.
"If I had a less-established quarterback like I had a couple years back in Tampa when I was starting a rookie, Bruce Gradkowski, I wouldn't hesitate at all to run it," Gruden said. "I believe in it. I believe it can work at this level.
"But when you already have a multiple Pro Bowler like Donovan, I'd be wary of using it much, if at all. I'd be too concerned about the effect it might have on the flow of my offense. When you have a great quarterback like McNabb, I'm not sure I want to be taking the ball out of his hands."
It remains to be seen how well this meshing of the Wildcat/spread and the West Coast will work. They've used it 30 times in the first three games. They've run out of the formation 24 times for 121 yards, or 5.04 yards per carry, compared to 4.32 yards per carry out of their more traditional sets.
They've only thrown out of the formation six times so far, completing two for 22 yards. But Vick didn't play in the first two games and only threw twice (both incompletions) Sunday.
Vick was on the field for 11 of the Eagles' 63 offensive plays against the Chiefs, lining up at quarterback 10 times and at wide receiver once. Throw in the five other Wildcat plays the Eagles ran without Vick in the game and running back LeSean McCoy taking the direct snap and you're up to 16 plays, or 25.4 percent.
That's no big deal when Kevin Kolb is your starting quarterback. But it could be a very big deal when McNabb returns next week. Does Reid really want to have his star quarterback not touching the ball for a quarter of the snaps in a game? Would McNabb even stand for it?
Vick said after the game on Sunday that he thought 10-11 snaps "is ideal" as far as his involvement with the offense without interrupting the rhythm of the regular offense.
"I can't really be out there full time," he said. "In a 12-play drive, I can't be out there five or six plays. It takes away from the rhythm of the offense."
Tebow's NFL future
Nobody is rooting more for the Wildcat to be effective in the NFL this season than Tim Tebow. If it takes off, so will the University of Florida quarterback's draft stock.
"I talked to at least five NFL people the other day and Tebow's name came up," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "It's almost like the NFL is split right down the middle on him. There are some guys that say, 'Wow, he's so special. He has to be a first-round pick and you have to figure out a way to make him your quarterback.'
"But there are other people that say, 'No, I'm not changing my whole offense to accommodate one guy. What if he gets hurt? Then you need another guy just like him behind him. And if he's not a full-time quarterback, where do you draft him? What does he play? How does he fit in?' I have some guys saying he's a third- or fourth-round fullback."
Around the League
-- Many NFL personnel people think the 2010 draft class could be one of the most talent-rich ever. The reason: an expected mass exodus of underclassmen because of the possibility of a rookie wage scale in the league as early as 2011. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prevented that from happening this year by publicly assuring college players that there was zero chance of a rookie wage scale being implemented before the 2010 draft. But he's not going to make that guarantee again. The league's owners have made it clear that the next labor agreement must include a rookie wage scale. And while the union has argued against one in the past, the truth is most veteran players are very much in favor of deep-sixing the practice of handing obscene amounts of money to unproven rookies.
-- In preparation for Monday night's game between the Packers and the Vikings, ESPN's ultrathorough analyst, Ron Jaworski, reviewed the tape of every one of Brett Favre's 94 passes this season. If Favre's spring biceps surgery or his partially torn rotator cuff is having any effect on the future Hall of Famer's arm strength, he doesn't see it. "Studying him on tape, I think clearly the arm strength is no problem," Jaworski said. "Anybody who saw the throw last week [to Greg Lewis] to win the game, no question, that ball was a 50-yard frozen rope. A laser. It was a terrific throw. Their first couple of games, he really didn't throw the ball down the field much. A lot of short passes. But when he had to get the ball down the field last week, he was getting it down the field. The arm strength is there. The mechanics are there. All in all, for a guy his age, Brett Favre still has it going."
-- The sad state of the economy doesn't seem to be having nearly as negative an effect on NFL ticket sales as initially feared. Through the first 3 weeks of the season, there have been just three television blackouts. They are expecting one more this weekend (Tennessee at Jacksonville), but none in Week 5. Last year, the league had just nine of 256 games blacked out.
-- The Eagles can expect a call from DeSean Jackson's agent after the season regarding a new deal. To borrow Drew Rosenhaus' favorite phrase (no, he's not Jackson's agent . . . yet), Jackson is outperforming the contract he signed last year as a second-round rookie. The wide receiver signed a 4-year deal worth $3.47 million, including a $1.35 million signing bonus. His base salary this season: $385,000. He also received a $391,335 roster bonus. His 2010 base is $470,000, with another $391,335 roster bonus.
From the lip
-- "I remember when we traded for him. None of us could pronounce his name. [Steve] Mariucci, Andy Reid and myself. When we did figure out the pronunciation, we couldn't understand why he spelled his name like that." - ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who was an assistant coach in Green Bay when the Packers traded for Brett Favre
-- "I talked to Brett on the telephone that night and both of us thought he was coming to Tampa. I went to bed thinking we had Brett Favre. I was sure we had Brett Favre. When I woke up the next morning, Santa Claus didn't arrive. It was a sad day for me." - Gruden, on finding out last summer that Favre had been traded to the Jets rather than to Gruden's Bucs
-- We're in an age where everyone lives at every moment to dissect, analyze, pick apart observed relationships. I have a very good relationship with Roger. I believe he loves our game. I know he loves our game. And I know he loves the players of the National Football League. I know that he understands what my job is and that we share the common goals. We have a good relationship and I look forward to that relationship growing." - NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith, on his relationship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
-- "There's a team that had the best record in football a year ago that's 0-3 [Tennessee]. There's a team that won a division in the AFC East, Miami, that's 0-3 right now. There's a team [Pittsburgh] that won the world championship last year that's 1-2. There's another team out West [Arizona] that went to the Super Bowl, too, that's 1-2. So we're not the Lone Ranger. I don't want our team to think they are." - Panthers coach John Fox, on his team's 0-3 start after going 12-4 in '08
By the numbers
The Eagles have given up 10 runs of 10 yards or more in their first three games. In the first three games last year, they gave up just three.
-- Since the current 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990, 51 teams with losing records after the first 3 weeks have bounced back to qualify for the postseason. That includes three teams who opened 0-3 - the '92 Chargers, the '95 Lions and the '98 Bills.
-- If the Vikings beat the Packers Monday night, they would become the ninth team in the last 6 years to start a season 4-0 after going 1-3 or 0-4 the previous year. Seven of the other eight made the playoffs.
-- Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek are third and fourth in the NFC in receiving yards through three games. Jackson has 259 receiving yards and Celek has 245. Celek also is second in the conference in receptions with 22. The Giants' Steve Smith is first with 23.
-- The Colts are 36-12 in games decided by seven points or fewer since 2003.
-- The Panthers are 0-3 for only the third time in franchise history.
To the Raiders, who seem far more concerned with what people are saying and writing about their inept franchise than they are with making it better. Before last week's game against Denver, the Raiders tried to prevent CBS analyst Rich Gannon, who was working the game for the network, from attending Saturday's pre-broadcast production meetings at the team's facility because he had been critical of the team. "Rich Gannon is not welcome here," Raiders executive John Herrera said. "We told CBS we did not want him in our building." Yes, this is the same Rich Gannon who led the Raiders to the Super Bowl 7 years ago.
To myself for criticizing the Eagles last year for trading away their first-round pick to Carolina and passing on Arkansas running back Felix Jones. The Eagles, like a lot of teams, loved Jones' game-breaking ability, but didn't feel he was durable enough to ever handle a significant workload in the NFL. It appears they were right. Jones, who was selected by the Cowboys three picks after the Eagles could have had him, played in just six games as a rookie because of hamstring and toe injuries. He was slowed the first two games this season by a bruised quadricep, then partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee in last week's win over the Panthers.
To Chiefs coach Todd Haley for his odd playcalling in last week's 34-14 loss to the Eagles. I realize they were without their best wide receiver (Dwayne Bowe) and their offensive line isn't very good, but c'mon. The Chiefs ran the ball on 20 of their 28 second-half plays despite trailing by 20 points 6 minutes into the third quarter. At one point, they ran the ball on 10 of 11 plays. Said Haley: "We are trying to win the game, but at the same time we are trying to establish an identity around here. You can call it conservative if you want. I think it had purpose as far as myself and the team goes, and I'll leave it at that."
1. Giants (3-0)
2. Vikings (3-0)
3. Ravens (3-0)
4. Colts (3-0)
5. Saints (3-0)
6. Jets (3-0)
7. Chargers (2-1)
8. Eagles (2-1)
9. Patriots (2-1)
10. Falcons (2-1)
11. Packers (2-1)
12. 49ers (2-1)
13. Steelers (1-2)
14. Cowboys (2-1)
15. Titans (0-3)
16. Bears (2-1)
17. Bengals (2-1)
18. Broncos (3-0)
19. Seahawks (1-2)
20. Bills (1-2)
21. Cardinals (1-2)
22. Dolphins (0-3)
23. Jaguars (1-2)
24. Texans (1-2)
25. Panthers (0-3)
26. Lions (1-2)
27. Redskins (1-2)
28. Raiders (1-2)
29. Chiefs (0-3)
30. Browns (0-3)
31. Bucs (0-3)
32. Rams (0-3)