The triumph and the glory

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 27, 2008



False prophets come and go, but the Cold, Hard Football Facts remain the eternal truth of pigskin "punditry" – as steady as the sun rising in the east, as unceasing and everlasting as the tides, and as sure a bet as Brett Favre falling apart at the end of each football season.
 
The 2008 NFL regular season was no exception, as we once again emerge more triumphant than Michael Phelps swimming against a pool of tackling dummies that "compete" for the title of greatest analyst on Planet Pigskin.
 
Here are just four examples of our lordship, with plenty more to follow before the playoffs get underway on Saturday.
 
The triumph of Chad Pennington
Back in the summer, we named Pennington one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history.
 
Our critics pointed and laughed at the Cold, Hard Football Facts. Today, they can only shed tears of misery, as they lament their own ignorance and struggle to escape from under the weight of our jack-boot of analytical superiority.
 
After all, here we are four months later, and Pennington has just engineered one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NFL history, leading the 1-15 Dolphins of 2007 to an 11-5 record in 2008 and their first division title since the dawn of the Dave Wannstedt-Jay Fiedler Era (2000).
 
The 2008 Dolphins join the 1999 Colts as the only teams in history to improve by 10 games from one season to next. And teams don't improve that dramatically without stellar play out of the quarterback position. The 1999 Colts did it with a second-year QB named Peyton Manning. The 2008 Dolphins did it with one of the great gifts ever to fall in the lap of a team in August: Chad Pennington.
 
NFL teams lose when they pass poorly and win when they pass well. The 2007 Dolphins were one of the worst passing teams in football. The 2008 Dolphins were one of the best passing teams in football. Credit for that improvement falls largely on the underrated shoulders of Pennington.
 
The crumbling "legend" of Brett Favre
Fellating Brett Favre has been a long-standing pastime of the "pundits."
 
Poking holes in the "legend" of Favre has been a consistent CHFF theme since we began lording over the Middle Earth of gridiron analysis back in 2004:
The "pundits" often laughed and mocked us, because we had the temerity to doubt conventional wisdom. But we not only doubted it, we beat it into a bloody pulp.
 
Yet as is so often the case, the "pundits" walk away here at the end of the 2008 season with their tails between their fat, chubby thighs, humbled once again by the omniscient power of the Cold, Hard Football Facts – a power they've yet to fully comprehend.
 
Favre, as he's done throughout his career, played his worst ball late in the season, turning an 8-3 division lead for the Jets in Week 12 into a 1-4 stretch run in which he looked so old that dust flew from his nostrils each time he sneezed.
 
Favre threw just 2 TDs and a whopping 9 INTs in the last five games of the season. (Pennington threw 7 picks all season.) Favre finished the year with a league-leading 22 INTs. Like we said the other day, a lot of folks in New York were re-gifting those No. 4 Jets jerseys they bought in a blind haste back in August.

Yet more disastrously for Favre's legacy, in the season finale, in a do-or-die effort at home against the Dolphins, he was thoroughly outclassed by Pennington in a 24-17 Miami victory.
 
Pennington returned to the Meadowlands for the first time since being dumped like a teenage girl who puts out on the first date. Yet he was as solid as a rock, completing 22 of 30 passes (73.3%) for 200 yards, 6.7 YPA, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and a 113.2 passer rating.
 
The two TDs were feathery perfect passes that he dropped into the hands of his receivers as if delivered out of an eye dropper.
 
Favre, meanwhile, was put in one of those must-win situations in which he's routinely failed to deliver more than any quarterback in recent memory, and held true to form. He completed 20 of 40 passes (50%) for 233 yards, 5.8 YPA, 1 TD, 3 INT and a 45.1 passer rating.
 
In the biggest game of the year it was, naturally, his lowest-rated game of the year.
 
The final INT, meanwhile, was a game-ending disaster, as Favre appeared bewildered and confused on New York's final chance to tie the game.
 
The Curse of Flutie Part I
The inability of the Bills to win since Wade Phillips benched Doug Flutie before the 1999 playoffs has been a consistent theme of the Cold, Hard Football Facts, who have regularly chronicled the Curse of Flutie, most recently a few weeks ago.
 
Interestingly, NFL Network commentator and Buffalo native Nick Bakay picked up on the Curse of Flutie earlier on Sunday, discussing the topic in his lament of another lost season for the Bills.
 
The Curse held true to form, as the Bills were shutout by New England, 13-0, in the season finale. It was a disastrous finish for Buffalo, which began the season 4-0 and 5-1, but went just 2-8 over the final 10 games.
 
The Curse of Flutie Part II
Since benching Flutie, the career of Phillips, the architect of the Curse, has featured more season-ending disasters than 1970s made-for-TV movie dramas.
 
The 2008 season was no exception.
 
The Cowboys began the year as prohibitive favorites to win the NFC title. They ended the year at 9-7 and on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and on the wrong end of a 44-6 beating in must-win game against the Eagles – who captured a playoff spot in the process.
 
It was the biggest beating the Cowboys have suffered in 20 years – since a 43-3 loss to the Vikings during the 3-13 season of 1988, the last year of the Tom Landry Era.
 
It seems that if the Jets, Bills and Phillips, not to mention the pigskin "pundits," had just kept their idle thoughts to themselves and had just listened to us, the 2008 season might have turned out quite a bit differently.  
 
Instead, we continue to revel in the glory and the triumph of our perfection ... or maybe that's overstating the case a bit.
 
But, hey, at least we didn't buy a Jets No. 4 jersey back in August.

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