When the Jets were scouting quarterbacks before the 2009 draft, they zeroed in on Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman as the final two candidates.
The consensus among the Jets' scouts was that Freeman was the better prospect, thanks to more prototypical size and arm strength. Sanchez was considered a more elusive quarterback than Freeman.
In the end, Rex Ryan preferred Sanchez, and with the blessing of team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets moved up from 17th to the fifth overall pick to select him. The Bucs took Freeman at 16th overall.
While Sanchez struggles to retain his starting job with the Jets, having been benched for the first time in his career last Sunday, Freeman has flourished under first-year coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, the former quarterbacks coach for Eli Manning.
Sanchez and Freeman both were looking for bounce-back seasons in 2012, and Freeman is the one who has produced.
Granted, he has solid players around him, including rookie running back Doug Martin and veteran receiver Vincent Jackson. But Freeman is doing his part with 23 touchdown passes, just two fewer than his career high, and only eight interceptions. Last year, he had a career-high 22 interceptions.
Sanchez has dealt with turnover and injury issues on offense, coupled with his own mediocre play. He has only 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.
Think Ryan wouldn't want a do-over on that one, even if he'd never admit it?
The kick-off controversy
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed the possibility of eliminating kickoffs altogether in a cover story in this week's Time magazine, a move that he believes could further reduce injuries. Goodell said the idea initially was brought up by Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who came up with the idea while he was head coach at Rutgers.
Reacting to the paralyzing injury that former Rutgers linebacker Eric LeGrand suffered while covering a kickoff in 2010, Schiano came up with a novel idea that essentially would replace kickoffs with punts. After a touchdown or a field goal, the scoring team would retain possession, getting the football at its own 30 and facing a fourth-and-15 situation. The team either could go for it (which it likely would if trailing late in a game) or punt it away.
"I understand traditionalists don't agree, but there used to not be the forward pass, too, and the game would be pretty boring without it, so,'' Schiano told reporters Friday. "I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just saying you've got to be able to think outside and whatever is best for the players, because at the end of the day, these guys are the ones that are putting it on the line.
"This is just something that I dreamed up, and as I said to him, I'm not sure all the details are there," Schiano said. "But I think you could have a lot of exciting stuff."
It's certainly food for thought, although we much prefer that the traditional kickoff rules remain in effect. In fact, the NFL's research indicates that injuries have been reduced since the league moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line before the start of the 2011 season. Since then, only about half of kickoffs have been returned, down from roughly 75 percent.
Mike Shanahan does it again
With all the attention focused on Robert Griffin III, who has had a splendid season for the Redskins, coach Mike Shanahan has produced yet another rookie 1,000-yard rusher. And not one of the running backs was a first-round pick.
This year it's Alfred Morris, a sixth-rounder out of Florida Atlantic who has 1,106 yards.
The other four Shanahan rookies, all with Denver, to top 1,000 yards: Terrell Davis (1995), Olandis Gary (1999), Mike Anderson (2000) and Clinton Portis (2002).
The Bears face the Vikings in a critical NFC North matchup today, and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler owns a decisive edge coming into the game. In his last five games against Minnesota, Cutler is 5-0 with 13 touchdown passes, five interceptions and a 100.9 rating. The Bears are in bounce-back mode after a poor performance by the defense in overtime in last week's home loss to the Seahawks.
The Ravens hope a remarkable streak continues when they face the Redskins in Washington. Baltimore, which lost at home to Pittsburgh last Sunday, hasn't lost back-to-back games since the 2009 season.
When running back DeMarco Murray has at least 18 rushing attempts, the Cowboys are 8-0, including last week's win over the Eagles. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has 29 catches for 475 yards and six TDs in his last four games.