January 6, 2003
Chad Pennington
"Touch" is in, "zip" is out
(until Jets prove otherwise)

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The joke starts: "A long-snapper, a holder and a wandering lineman walk into a bar ..." The punchline is the Giants, who allowed the 49ers to deliver the second-biggest playoff comeback ever and capped the wildest day of wild-card games in NFL history.

Count some of the ways:
Shockey doused some kid in the stands with water; Strahan taunted T.O. with an ill-advised "Scoreboard!"; Garcia did his best Vick; and the stratagem of the game - the Giants trying a game-winning field goal on third down with enough seconds left for another try if things went wrong.

Good thinking:
Things did go wrong. But instead of quickly throwing the ball out of bounds, holder/goat Matt Allen wobbled right and threw a game-ending duck to an o-lineman near the goal line. Whoops.

Wild, Cont'd
The new college national champs took a big withdrawal from the Ohio branch of the Football Karma Bank on Friday night, apparently leaving nothing for the pro team from Cleveland on Sunday. Was it worth it, Buckeye Staters? If nothing else, Browns fans learned who their '03 starting QB should be -- and fans everywhere learned why the downstate Bengals are hot to trot for Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the architect of Pittsburgh's 22-point fourth-quarter comeback.

More that we learned:
1) King Favre is dead, long live King Vick; 2) Herman Edwards is playoff clutch (the best kind of clutch), and Tony Dungy isn't; 3) The Steelers should stop kicking extra points altogether and just run cool trick plays for their QB-turned-WRs; 4) Young players having to "learn the hard playoff lesson" through losing before doing well is a myth.

Favre Watch
Losing at home in the playoffs is a tough way for Brett Favre to finish a season -- but to finish his career that way? Athlete-retirement scrutiny is almost entirely a media creation, but there's something to be said for not going out on such a down

1. The Comeback by the Bay: Wildest wild-card game ever?
2. Stalled the last few weeks, Vick hype machine revs again
3. "C-H-A-D ... Chad! Chad! Chad!"
1. Kvetching about the BCS (just let it go -- 'til next season)
2. Packers ... playoffs ... at home ... ooh, scary!
3. East Coast bias for an all-New York "Subway Super Bowl"
note, particularly when Favre just finished an MVP runner-up season. He'll talk to the media on Monday afternoon. What will he say? Various reports say retirement is unlikely, though sources tell ESPN's Chris Mortenson that Favre played with less fire than usual in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, Mort also says that the Packers have their eyes on a successor in newly draft-eligible Rex Grossman from Florida.

More premature speculation:
Falcons over Eagles; Bucs over 49ers; Jets over Raiders; Steelers over Titans. But that's probably just wild-card giddiness; check back on Friday for a sanity check.

Two-Way Clarett?
Sure, Ohio State super-frosh Maurice Clarett dislikes his school so much that he reportedly used his talented legs to whisk himself as fast as possible from the Fiesta Bowl postgame party. Yet, a story out of Cleveland says Clarett wants to go both ways next season, like WR/DB/team-player Chris Gamble. Clarett's interest in playing outside linebacker is admirable (he says he's too talented to only play one way), but his mouth is writing checks his body has proven to be

unable to cash. What next: Craig Krenzel, nose tackle?

OSU repeat?
Looking ahead to the Buckeyes' 2003 schedule for the biggest challenges to a repeat: 1) Home vs. N.C. State; 2) at Wisconsin; 3) at Michigan; 4) No Doss or Wilhelm.

More Ohio Rumors
Can the Bengals afford to wait another week (or more) for the Steelers' Mularkey, if that's their target? He says the Super Bowl is a more important goal than being a head coach. He interviewed prior to yesterday's game, by the way ... Mike Brown likes Tom Coughlin's experience, offensive-oriented mind and reputation as a disciplinarian, but word is that he's not as high on giving him "personnel guru" status also (see "Holmgren, Mike") ... Speaking of talent evaluators, Vikes owner Red McCombs denied he's looking for one; elsewhere, the Jags interviewed the Bills' Tom Modrak.

Matt Allen:
Teams kick on third down precisely FOR the "do-over" option. Allen's a goat, yes, but blame the coaching, too ...
Who would you rather start next week -- Vick or Pennington?
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