Report cards go out next week for Metro students, so it seems an appropriate time to offer a few assessments of several football franchises around here. Let’s call them PCEs—Progress Compared to Expectations.
Titans’ PCE: C-
Thanks for coming by, Mr. Fisher. As you know, your guys started the year in the remedial class. We know they’re the youngest team in the league. Frankly, we weren’t expecting a whole lot from them this fall. But, hell, we were hoping for a little more than this.
We know: there’ve been injuries. We know that starting two rookie cornerbacks comes with a price. We didn’t expect anyone to fill Derrick Mason’s shoes right away (though the crop of rookie receivers shows great promise). We’re high on the tight ends, too. Kicker Rod Bironas may prove a real find.
Still, we expected more from an offense with Steve McNair, Chris Brown and Drew Bennett. Didn’t you? Seven points through three-and-a-half quarters? Against Cleveland?
The defense, so-so as it’s been, actually has played better than we projected. But we’re still dubious of the brain trust’s usually sound judgment when it comes to Pacman Jones. Even Fred Miller didn’t commit this many penalties. If you let him keep returning kicks, you’ll need to get Mr. Adams to stock up on defibrillators for fans. By the way, have you heard that, after Adam’s halfhearted hit on the Raiders’ end zone-bound Jerry Porter, some of us redubbed him “Ms. Pacman”?
If it were just a question of talent, we’d feel less uncomfortable. Ms. Pacman has real potential. It’s his mouth and his attitude—his Terrell Owen-ness—that worry us. In fact, your team’s overall grade in deportment has been declining. Y’all need to get a handle on that.
Worst of all, it looks like this team is settling, perhaps too comfortably, into a losing routine. And, though it pains us to say it, McNair no longer looks like the QB who could bring his team back by sheer force of will. He looks like a lonesome, aging star who’s ready for a change of scenery or retirement. Can Billy Volek take you back to the top? We’re not sure (and not sure if you’re sure, either). On the other hand, if the team stays on present course, you might be able to draft Vince Young.
Tennessee Vols’ PCE: D
Coach Fulmer, we need to have a frank chat. Frankly, while sacking Randy Sanders may have been the only play you could call at this point, it didn’t gain you much ground. Yes, your offense has been surprisingly anemic, given the weapons in your arsenal. Yes, you showed signs of life at Notre Dame. Yes, letting Erik Ainge play will help. Yes, if you still had hosses like Will Bartholomew and Jason Witten, who could hold onto the football, you’d be 5-3 instead of 3-5. And, yes, as we all now recognize, the Media Geniuses badly overrated your guys.
But it looks to us like your biggest problem is that you’ve lost control. The barroom brawls and dorm scuffles are just an outward sign, and they didn’t bother most of us until you started losing. Now it bothers us.
Your defense has been fine. Maybe the D your team really needs is Discipline.
Vanderbilt Commodores’ PCE: B
Considering what most of us expected, Mr. Johnson, your boys have been among the most surprising overachievers since George W. Bush became president. We had you pegged for 3-8, and that was being optimistic.
We still expect a losing season. But you haven’t played a game all year that you couldn’t have won. We can’t remember saying that about a Vandy team in a while. You deserved to beat Florida. (By the way, you should see the report card for Bobby Gaston and his zebras; somebody’s gonna get a beating from dad this week.)
After your 4-0 start, we thought Jay Cutler and Moses Osemwegie were your saviors. We’re rethinking: maybe they’ll be your, well, Moseses—the guys who bring you to the promised land but don’t get to enter it themselves. You have a lot of talent for the future. You might actually move up next year.
How It Looks From the La-Z-Boy
Jaguars 27, Titans 17
Tennessee 34, Memphis 14
Vanderbilt 30, Kentucky 21
Florida 24, South Carolina 17
Georgia 23, Auburn 20
LSU 17, Alabama 14
Arkansas 24, Ole Miss 19
by Teddy Bart, Daniel Cooper, Bruce Dobie, Adam Dread, Pat Embry, Randy Fox, Liz Garrigan, Tim Ghianni, Michael Gray, Randy Horick, Demetria Kalodimos, E. Heather Lose, Galyn Martin, Michael McCall, Lyda Phillips, Jim Ridley, Michelle Taylor Wilson, E. Thomas Wood and Nicki Pendleton Wood