It was fascinating listening to Tampa Bay’s former tight end Jimmie Giles discussing the emotional dynamic in an NFL locker room and how it plays a major part in the outcome of games.
In December, Giles will become only the second player to be inducted into the Buccaneers ring of honour and he is in London this week helping promote the International Series, the fifth game of which sees Tampa Bay take on the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s an emotional game,” said Giles, who will be remembered by long-standing Miami Dolphins fans as the player who once scored four touchdowns in the same game against them.
“If a player isn’t getting paid, perhaps a veteran who has served the organisation well, that stuff soon gets around a locker-room. Before you know it, some players are not giving their all and bad stuff happens,” he added. “I don’t envy you guys who try to predict the outcome of games, because this stuff happens a lot more than you’d think. You have to know the mindset of the team and what issues affect them.
“If a leader in that locker room doesn’t show that desire or heart, you can’t expect his teammates to follow.”
Let’s get this straight. Someone’s being called out in London?
Taken out of context, Giles’ comments could easily be taken as a thinly-veiled sleight on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, although it certainly wasn’t meant that way. Giles is way too classy to put a fellow professional down.
Still, the signal-caller is going to be the focus of attention in the build-up to the clash, for which the Bears are one-point favourites on the Betdaq line.
Controversy does tend to follow the former Vanderbilt alumni around. Many pundits conclude that he is at his worst when things are tough on the field and off it. Statistically, he isn’t great in either red zone production or in third-down-and-long situations.
It was said that he sulked his way out of Denver when he didn’t get the affirmation he wanted from head coach Josh McDaniels and was traded to Chicago. He wanted to leave rather than fight through his issues, they said.
He was again maligned when injured during the Bears NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers in January and didn’t play in the second half. Later tests revealed he had a sprained MCL in his knee, a pretty serious injury for a quarterback.
Perhaps more damning than not playing was the fact that he didn’t act like the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines. There was no passion in his body language. He sat on the bench, arms folded, looking disinterested. Some even questioned his “toughness”.
He may be accused of being a sore loser, but there’s no doubt he’s feeling sore.
For no quarterback has been sacked or hit as regularly over the past two seasons than Cutler. He’s suffered 106 sacks since 2009.
That’s perhaps got a lot to do with why Cutler was heard to swear at offensive coordinator Mike Martz in last Sunday’s 39-10 victory over Minnesota.
Football is a game where you have to have a lot of trust. As a quarterback if you cannot trust your offensive line to block simple assignments, your play is going to suffer.
It was a minor miracle that Chicago made the NFC championship game last season, as Cutler suffered a league-high 57 sacks. Things haven’t been much better this term.
Cutler is still trying to fight the good fight, but Martz is going to have to adjust his play-calling or not only will Cutler’s career be curtailed prematurely, his future health will be a major issue.
Such as it was, last year’s remedy was to run the ball more. It is clearly a good option, but they have to also put the offense in Cutler’s hands. He doesn’t have as much rein as some other NFL quarterbacks in the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
Cutler is a good quarterback and while his character has been questioned, no-one should question his toughness. Try walking a mile in his shoes – bet you don’t take more than five steps before you’re sacked.
Keep an eye on the weather for Sunday’s game. If the strong winds forecast materialise, Martz may have little choice but to rely on the ground game and whichever team runs the ball better will hold sway. It’s all about London play-calling.
Either way, there are better trading opportunities, starting with what many will feel would be an upset in Miami as the Dolphins look for their first win of the season against the Denver Broncos.
It is a homecoming of sorts for former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who gets his first start for the Broncos, who will have to cope without his biggest downfield threat, as the Broncos strangely traded receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Miami and Denver have one win between them and the Dolphins have just one victory at home since the start of the 2010 season.
Denver have been made to look more competitive than Miami this season, but it was always going to be a tough start for Tony Sparano’s team, facing New England, Sean Diego, Houston and New York Jets in the first five weeks. They have played three consecutive road games and they go on the road again for the next two weeks. It’s a tough slate by any stretch and they are not as bad as some people would have us suggest.
Despite Denver having a healthy defence for the first time this season, and despite the fact that Miami have Matt Moore at quarterback in place of injured Chad Henne, take the Dolphins to prevent Denver for earning their first ever victory in Miami.
Seattle’s indifferent road form means they receive more points than they probably should and that’s the case when they travel to Cleveland, a team whom they traditionally do well against.
The Seahawks are looking for rare back-to-back road victories, following their stunning upset of the New York Giants and they have a strong run defence which should make the Browns one-dimensional. Colt McCoy is struggling anyway, so the points are a bonus because the Seahawks may be able to win this outright.
Pittsburgh have been hard to get a handle on this season. One minute they are blowing out Tennessee and the next they are struggling to put away Jacksonville.
They travel top Arizona for the first time since beating them so dramatically in Super Bowl XLIII but thoughts of avenging that defeat may be a little premature. The Steelers are much the same team, but Arizona are an altogether weaker force than they were. This could get lop-sided.
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