Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The grass isn't always greener on the
other side of that fence.
Antoine Winfield was rated as the best cornerback in football last season by
the trendy analytics-based website ProFootballFocus.com.
Today he's unemployed because the Seattle Seahawks think they have five better
options at the position.
That may led you to think either Pete Carroll or the folks at
ProFootballFocus.com are crazy but neither should be racing to the
psychiatrist's couch or reaching for the antipsychotics just yet.
Winfield was very good in Minnesota last season, certainly the best run-
support corner in the game and a guy who still had the short-area quickness
and smarts to handle slot duties effectively. Outside the numbers, however,
the 36-year-old three-time Pro-Bowl selection no longer had the pure speed and
never had the lengthiness to handle the Calvin Johnsons and Brandon Marshalls
of the world.
Perhaps, opposing teams weren't able to exploit Winfield's deficiencies as a
player enough and that led to a convoluted score which exaggerated his
effectiveness as a player.
After all, no one knew Winfield better than the Vikings and general manger
Rick Spielman, who released him in the offseason after needing to make salary
cap room to re-sign ascending right tackle Phil Loadholt to a big money deal.
The thought was, it's better to give up on a player a year too early than a
year too late.
That's not to say Leslie Frazier didn't want Winfield. The Minnesota coach did
everything he could to convince Winfield to take a pay cut and stay where he
was wanted, needed and perhaps most prudent of all, understood.
Pride took over and Winfield shipped his still more than serviceable act out
to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of joining a serious Super Bowl contender.
On paper it looked like a fit worthy of Curt Hennig -- perfect.
Winfield handling the slot duties while the young, lengthy and athletic
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner did the heavy lifting outside? Heck,
Carroll should have started making his reservations for North Jersey in
Here's the thing, though, Winfield didn't have a decade of goodwill in the
bank with the Seahawks and there wasn't going to be any special treatment.
In Eden Prairie, Frazier trusted that Winfield was going to be ready on
Gameday and gave him most practices off to rest his aging legs, a tactic which
worked beautifully in 2012. Perhaps Carroll just saw a player with no Seahawks
pedigree who wasn't going to be able to be there during the week.
When news broke Saturday that Winfield was out in Seattle, the first thought
in many people's minds was that the veteran would be on the first flight back
to Minny. His presumptive replacement with the Vikings, Josh Robinson, keeps
Frazier up at nights and depth has always been an issue at corner in Minnesota
since the days of Bobby Bryant and Nate Wright.
Winfield, though, didn't give the Vikings, or anyone else for that matter, a
chance and decided to call it a career.
Pride strikes again.
TEBOWING OUT OF NEW ENGLAND
Football is a tough way to make a living.
It's an ultra-competitive atmosphere in which you can have a job one minute
and be unemployed in the next. That's the sword of Damocles that hangs over
every single player, not just high-profile ones like Tim Tebow.
When you understand what Tebow's ceiling is as a player -- a change-of-pace
backup who can help you spring a surprise on the opposition every now again --
the real issues with him can be focused on. And they begin and end with his
A backup quarterback can't be the focal point of a team and organizations with
impotent head coaches or shaky quarterback situations just can't afford to
have him around (see New York Jets and Mark Sanchez). The questions quickly
start to mount and Tebow's very presence becomes a far bigger liability than
his scattershot arm.
New England, of course, is the polar opposite of that type of environment,
possessing perhaps the most powerful and respected coach of this generation,
Bill Belichick, as well as a Hall of Fame quarterback who ranks among the top
five of all-time in Tom Brady.
No one in their right mind was going to pretend Tebow should be getting
repetitions in favor of Brady and the convoy of satellite trucks that were set
to accompany Tebow to Foxborough were already there, caught up in the far more
salacious and high-profile Aaron Hernandez nonsense.
Tebow finally got to fit in without being a distraction and was reunited with
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the guy who traded into the
first round of the draft in 2010 to take him.
Meanwhile, Belichick has flourished in the past by creating the NFL's version
of a utilityman who helped him in multiple spots depending on what he needed
in a particular week. Troy Brown did it for years and these days you'll see
Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater occasionally flip sides for the Patriots.
Because Brady has a death grip on the starting quarterback job with the Pats
and Ryan Mallett is thought of as a solid backup, it wasn't a stretch to
imagine Tebow playing some H-back or tight end for the Pats but none of that
Character and versatility melding with a comfortable situation and an
inventive coach didn't work.
And that could mean the end of the line for Tebow.
TRENDING TOWARD TWO
With the release of Tebow, the Patriots kept just two quarterbacks on their
initial 53-man roster for the fourth time in the past five years. Thirteen
different teams followed suit in 2013 while 15 kept the standard three signal
callers, and three clubs clearly in need of those aforementioned
antipsychotics kept four.
The philosophy here is or at least should be simple -- if you are down to your
third quarterback, your season is off the rails anyway so keep a more
versatile option which will improve your depth a key position or enhance your
You can also always keep a young QB with at least some upside as a player on
the practice squad.
BAY AREA BLUES
Raiders are supposed to pillage others right?
One of those teams keeping four quarterbacks for now is of course Oakland
where "Just win, baby" has quietly morphed into "Hey, maybe we can win a
couple if the Moon is lined up with Jupiter correctly."
You can add two punters to the four throwers, none of whom can produce at this
level by the way, to what is almost certainly the worst roster in the entire
It's almost like the aging, unsuccessful version of Al Davis is still haunting
this organization and the only way to perform the exorcism is to make a series
of sound, rational decisions -- something which seems decidedly un-Raider like
YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE GAME
You can hold all of your firefighting jokes until the end of class but
Canada's favorite hook and ladder man Danny Watkins was released by the
Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday.
The amateur firefighter, who was the 23rd overall pick out of Baylor in 2011,
played just four years of competitive football -- the last two as an offensive
tackle in Waco -- before the Eagles drafted him at age 26.
He started 12 games as a rookie at right guard, but that number was cut in
half before he was benched last season. Watkins was so bad in Philly during
2012 the Eagles plucked journeyman Jake Scott off the street and he was able
to offer a better alternative than Watkins after about two days of practice.
Watkins becomes the first Eagles first-rounder to be released after just two
seasons with the club since Jon Harris in 1999.
Rarely do you find so many who fall in line with their thoughts on a prospect
but to a man, sources close to the Birds say Watkins simply didn't like
football and wasn't going to put in the necessary work.
This is a game you have to love to succeed at.
The Sports Network