ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis previewed today’s NFL action with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some excerpts from today’s show:
On Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler: what is the key to his success thus far?
Ditka: “I really believe it’s very simple. His success is due to Marc Trestman and the philosophy he’s brought to this ball club. Get the ball out on time. Don’t turn the football over… He’s anticipating where the receivers are going to be, and he gets the ball to ‘em.”
Carter: “He (Trestman) is a relationship builder. I believe that Cutler – and I tell athletes this all the time – when you’re really, really talented, you have to submit your talent to someone to craft that talent so you can get great at it. And now Cutler – he’s been through a lot of different coaches – you can see that his studying of the game, him submitting his talent and trusting Marc Trestman with his career – you’re starting to see the benefit of it.”
On Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning: is this the best you’ve seen him play?
Jackson: “By the numbers yes… everything that he’s doing, he’s doing as well as he’s ever done. But I want to put him in a conversation not so much as is this the best Peyton Manning we’ve ever seen, but of the three or four guys that I would consider best ever, why is this guy not best ever? ‘Cause to me, I’ve never seen a guy dissect a defense the way he does at the quarterback position before the ball’s even snapped that you’re already defeated.”
Johnson: “I think that to answer that question, you’re gonna get there at some point. His career is not over yet. But you have to start with 9-11. That’s his playoff wins… When you look at Joe Montana or you look at Tom Brady, you look at multiple Super Bowl championships. If it’s different, somebody up here tell me. But it’s always been how many championships have you won.”
Ditka: “I’ve been around the league for 50 years… this guy is the best football player that I’ve ever seen on the field at that position. Why? Because he studies the game, he moves people ‘round. He puts his players in the best position he can to succeed.”
Lewis: “I think Peyton is great. I think he probably will be one of the greatest to ever play this game. But when you talk about what Keyshawn is talking about with the multiple championships – that’s the way you’re always judged in this business and it will never change. Individual stats only are for the individual. But when you talk about a team game, TJ, you’re talking about when you get to that big dance, what do you do at that big dance?”
On the New York Giants: how can they turn it around?
Jackson: “I don’t think that they can. I think that’s the honest answer.”
Johnson: “If you’re the New York Giants and you don’t have a running game with Eli Manning at quarterback, it’s going to be a disaster because they rely heavily on the play-action pass.”
On Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid: what is his impact?
Carter: “These veteran players were excited to see his program come to Kansas City… He had instant street credibility in that locker room. They didn’t have stability in the locker room. He brought it there so they were excited to see it and they thought instantly that they could be a Super Bowl contender with Andy Reid coming there.”
Ditka: “I think it’s important for a coach not only to have talent, but recognize the talent he has and I think he did a great job of that on the offensive and the defensive side of the ball. And I talk with Alex Smith to start with. Come on guys, this guy is playing great football, does not turn the football over, plays right into what Andy loves, you know, make the other team earn it. And they’re making the other team earn it.”
Berman: “He convinced them all that Kansas City can win now.”
On Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson and playing through pain…
Carter: “It’s about the psyche of being a professional football player. And I’m going to tell you, I’m astonished of the things that I did when I was playing. And, to tell you the truth, we all crazy. Not a little bit crazy. A lot crazy to be able to do this week in and week out. And we got hundreds and hundreds of stories. This is what NFL players will do, guys.”
Lewis: “One thing that Ronnie Lott said, you know, that we have to understand – a lot of people outside of our game, they live in fear. We don’t. When we step on that battle field, that’s all we got.”
On the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Josh Freeman…
Johnson: “It’s the blame game. Everybody’s going to point the finger at each other. When I look at the situation, I go back to the head coach. The bottom line is wins… Yes, the quarterback has some issues, but at the same time, the team has more issues than that.”
Carter: “At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own career… he is completin’ less than 50 percent of his passes. In this day and age, we are not lettin’ no one play who does not complete more than that, even in high school. So, Josh, you have not been responsible. You have had plenty of opportunities to grow your football game. They went out and got you two wide receivers. Not one. You got two: Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Alright. You got a running game. So you got no excuses beside I’m not playin’ good.”
Lewis: “Don’t ever get to the point at any point in your career and say I can’t change. You can always change. You can always get better… Is he the total problem of the team? Absolutely not, because they’re losing as a team. But Coach had to make a real decision. But when you talk about not changin’ – Josh, you have to change.”
On the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense: are there health concerns?
Lewis: “The biggest concern is where do you go at the end of the season? You know, can you keep up this pace at the end of the season? These guys are not machines. That’s what we have to understand. They’re human beings, so they going to get tired. The biggest difference, Boom, in Peyton’s offense and Philly’s offense is Peyton only hurries up to identify what the defense looks like. Philly hurries up to run a lot of plays.”