1) Rex Ryan talks - a lot, but is there a method to his madness? In one of the many, many remakes of Batman, the Dark Knight is asked why he wears a big yellow bat on his chest. The answer is simple: It's a target. You see he doesn't have body armor in the cowl, and he wants to be shot where he is protected. Rex draws all the attention away from his team: shaky QB, big name (big ego) guns for hire, all of them. Comments bounce off of Ryan like water off galoshes. He's impervious, so he takes the shots for everyone.
That brings me to a certain QB that sported a Bieber hairdo last year, and now is running around with a nice little Steven Seagal ponytail. It's not news, but it sure gets attention. It makes me wonder if Tommy is taking one for the team. After all, he's got Gisele to help kiss away the hurts. If the Pats under perform, is it because Brady spent so much time at Carnival? In a team sport, probably not, but Tom seems content to be the target.
2) Looking at our rivals in the south, has there ever been a more lame duck coach than Tony Sparano? For those that didn't follow the news, Dolphins owner and general manager flew out to California to interview the hottest new coaching prospect of the year former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh. While the Phins' front office was wining and dining the former Bears' quarterback, Mr. Sparano was left to twist in the wind. He still had a job, but his future was not at all certain.
Eventually, Jim Harbaugh decided to take a position with the 49ers, and the Dolphins brass had to go back and mend some bridges with their defacto head coach. With the sword of Damocles hanging over Sparano's head, will players feel inclined to listen to head coach? Will free agents be attracted to such a team? To Sparano's credit, he has dealt with the situation admirably. Perhaps he's just waiting for the opportune moment to "explore other horizons". The Dolphins hierarchy deserves no less.
3) Completing our look around the division, the Bills have been (perhaps not so quietly) getting better. There weren't many games they played where they weren't in the game until the end. Larry Fitzgerald noted that if the Bills were in the NFC West, they would win the division. While I think that Ralph Wilson is too miserly for his own good, I think the Bills are building toward contention. We're very near the point where this division will be called the AFC bEast.
4) As we push toward the new Friday drop dead date on the CBA, the point of contention is still that the owners are crying broke without providing any proof that they are. The union knows that there is no football without teams to play on, and all that those teams entail: stadiums, front office staff, and coaches. Between a choice of more money short term or continued earnings, the NFLPA would certainly opt for a continued existence. They are asking, though, for proof.
Since the owners don't trust each other (and for good reason), they are slow to disclose their financials. It does look, however, like the NFL is easing up on that stance. The question now becomes, will they disclose enough by Friday to either settle the CBA, or gain another extension. The union is digging in it's collective heels knowing that an anti-trust suit would likely open the books in court of law. The owners certainly don't want that to happen.
5) Robert Kraft is taking a break from negotiations to go to Israel with Governor Deval Patrick. He had hoped labor negotiations would have been completed when he originally planned the trip. A stumbling block was reached on Tuesday at the labor negotiations and I wonder if Kraft's presence might have helped. Art Rooney, son of Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, is taking a seat at the negotiation table in his stead. Here's hoping something can still be worked out before this Friday: the Groundhog's Day of the NFL. If the union doesn't see the financials, there's going to be at least six more weeks without a season.