Alex Smith

NFL starters sent to slaughter

There was something off about NFL Sunday this, err, Sunday. It started with the 49ers/Rams game, which featured the most pathetic offensive first half since the forward pass was made legal. Then NFL starters who should have been resting for the playoffs started dropping like WNBA players on slippery floors.

Something smells rotten, and it’s coming from Roger Goodell’s office. All I know is this morning I heard a little tidbit about how Judge Kennesaw Mountain Goodell was thinking of adding “incentives” for playoff teams to keep their starters in the lineup during meaningless games at the end of the regular season (which Goodell wants to expand to 18 games, an idea that looks especially loony today).

Incentives like extra draft picks, which would apparently be awarded to teams who kept their starters in longer than they normally would.

I guess.

Not sure how these extra draft picks would be divvied up, and I don’t think Goodell knows, either. So that’s why it sure seemed like he gave several teams a message today: play your starters enough to pacify the home fans, or your teams will pay.

Why else would Bill Belichick keep his starters in after Wes Welker’s knee exploded in the first quarter at Foxboro? Or take Tom Brady out of the game, then put him back in, and later bench him again?

Why was Larry Fitzgerald catching a meaningless TD pass from some dude named Brian St. Claire with 3 minutes to go, to give the Packers something new to prepare for when they play each other again next week?

There was a talk radio shitstorm in Indiana after the Colts yanked their starters in the third quarter last week and lost their perfect season, and the NFL is worried for one reason: in an economy where most people are spending their entertainment dollars on home entertainment systems and Netflix, attending NFL games hardly makes fiscal sense for most Americans. Attending NFL games and paying $200+ for tickets/parking/food/souvenirs/bail-money appeals to fewer and fewer football addicts these days, especially when their favorite players watch the game in those ugly “Ascent” beanies.

A few years ago, a few fans crying “robbery” would hardly affect the NFL. Sweep those comments under the rug, and onto the playoffs. But incredibly, in a league with the most elitist blackout policy in the country, the NFL is now sensitive to the paying customer.

And what did it get us? Anquan Boldin had an ice pack attached to his knee before Fitz had his hollow TD. The Patriots were unofficially dismissed as a Super Bowl candidate by all but the most deliriously drunk Boston supporter. Chad Ochocinco just got crushed by Jets safety Kerry Rhodes while attempting to publicly humiliate Darrelle Revis in what seems like an elaborate publicity stunt to make this game extra spicy.

I’m not much on conspiracy theories … actually, that’s a lie. That’s just what everyone says, that they aren’t much on conspiracy theories. I love ’em. JFK, 9-11, the moon landing, the Knicks getting Patrick Ewing, I can’t get enough. And a lot of weird stuff went on today. I just want that on the record.

Some more football stuff, but first a little something about Gill-bear Arenas:

– At least now I know why the incredibly talented Javaris Crittenton has never amounted to anything. If you’re talking about point guard skills, Crittenton absolutely owns Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. Still, the Lakers were more than willing to get rid of Crittenton even though Chris Wallace probably would have accepted Kurt Rambis in his place, and I didn’t know why. Now I know why the Lakers had no use for this guy — he’s going to be forever remembered as the dude who got into a “Whose gun is bigger” pissing contest with Gilbert Arenas.

– I know I’m hardly breaking new ground here, but if you’ve missed it you absolutely have to go check out Gilbert’s Twitter Page, starting with the morning of Dec. 31. Then imagine a world where the majority of people actually started speaking like this.

– At least now we know what it takes for Warriors fans to come to peace with losing their former prized 2nd round pick, which up until a year and a half ago was looked at as a Top-3 Warrior Blunder of All-Time, behind (1) Every Single Interaction With Chris Webber and (2) Every Single Interaction With Anthony Randolph.

– Another weird thing about today’s NFL action: watching Jim Zorn coach. Just once I’d like to see one of these lame duck coaches doing something crazy, like calling a quintuple-reverse on a punt return or urinating on the field.

– Hopefully the 49ers will pay less attention to the second half of today’s game when the Rams defense went into full tank-mode than to the first half, which sent myself and probably thousands of other people to their laptops to fiddle with their fantasy basketball teams.

– Prediction: Since it looks like at least half of the teams are going to with QB-by-committee next year, and Michael Crabtree played quarterback in high school, you’re going to see quite a few trick plays and/or Wildcat formations that involve Crabby tossing the ball around a little bit.

– That is, after Crabtree practices catching balls that are above his head, which wasn’t exactly a strength during his abbreviated rookie season. Not that he wasn’t the best overall wide receiver for the 49ers this season (discounting Vernon Davis, who shockingly ditched the Jerry Rice-with-the Raiders dreadlocks for today’s game), but next season Crabtree either needs to avoid contact better (like Rice did throughout his career) or just deal with getting hit every now and then. Alex Smith is shaky enough without his supposed possession receiver getting a case of the dropsies.

– My buddy Sean was over at the spread today, and he was very pleased. Not with the Niners’ win, or because he got to watch the RedZone channel for the first time (although that was indirectly involved). When the Raiders/Ravens game came on, Sean asked the room if we’d all seen JaMarcus Russell play, since he watched two quarters once and it was horrendous. Then Russell came into the game and threw an awful interception, threw an incredible 20-yard completion to Louis Murphy that went about 80 mph, and three plays later had the ball stripped by Antwan Barnes, who was on the ground at the time.

– Even better: when CBS gave us the closeup shot of Russell with a 94-carat canary yellow diamond earring dangling underneath the bottom of his Raiders beanie. Man, he was laid back. He looked like Tim Lincecum after a trip to Portland, only with superhuman bling.

– And the best thing about watching the blacked out Raiders game on RedZone: Willis McGahee’s stiff-arm on Hiram Eugene. Now we know whose job Taylor Mays will be taking next season.

– Anybody who hasn’t seen the unbelievable, preposterous, downright tour de force of an interview given by the Texas Tech chancellor on ESPN right after he fired Mike Leach for not doing what he was told endangering a student athlete, you’re missing the interview of the year. Not joking. I haven’t been this transfixed since I saw a stinking-drunk Lenny Dykstra tell Roy Firestone that Chipper Jones was made in a test tube about 15 years ago.

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