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COLUMN: 10 from Ben

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Sept. 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey during second half action against the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars went on to win, 22-17.  Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE
Sept. 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey during second half action against the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars went on to win, 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE

We tried everything.

When our first child was born, my wife and I agreed that we wouldn’t give him a pacifier. We were young and ridiculously dumb. We stuck to our guns for a while, but one night Andrew wouldn’t stop crying. We rocked him, we played music, we walked him up and down the hallway and drove him around the neighborhood. We even set him on top of the dryer, hoping he’d be soothed by the vibrations. Nothing worked, so finally we relented and gave him a pacifier.

He fell asleep faster than an old man in church.

Andrew quickly became very attached to his pacifier, and when we took it away from him — for good — he was more than a little cranky. Colts fans can sympathize, and that’s where we begin this week’s all-NFL 10 from Ben:

1. After the Colts’ Week 1 loss to the Bears, I turned on the radio expecting the typical postgame fret fest. What I got was a lesson in overreacting. If you thought the sky was falling after that 20-point loss in Chicago, the radio was where your support group held its meeting.

“Luck,” one fan actually said, “looked better in college than he did today.”

I wondered why Colts fans were so fussy after a completely predictable Week 1 outcome, but then it hit me: They miss their pacifier.

For more than a decade, Peyton Manning soothed an often-uneasy fanbase. When they worried about the holes in the defense or the run game that couldn’t score on Paris Hilton, Manning’s authoritative presence settled everybody down, made them think that things were going to be OK.

But now he’s gone. The binky is in Denver.

A certain bit of overreaction is expected, I guess. But please, remember that Luck is a rookie — a polished, NFL-ready rookie, but a rookie nonetheless. This team isn’t going to the playoffs, so relax and be patient. Let Luck make mistakes. Let him learn. Let him be a rookie.


2. Even as the blunders pile up and the befuddlement continues, the NFL hasn’t budged in its negotiations with the officials’ union. And it won’t, because the fans don’t care. We love to complain about the replacement refs, but the fact that we are proves that the NFL holds all the cards. We’re still watching, and bad calls and confusion and general incompetence won’t stop us. The league could employ rodeo clowns and we’d still fill the stadiums and turn on the TV. The NFL knows that, and it’s why the officials can’t win.


3. That said, there’s one way they can gain something from this lockout: a boycott by the players’ association. If the players refuse to go to work citing unsafe working conditions, it would force the NFL’s hand and a deal would get done.


4. The NFL delivered one of its signature Sundays this past weekend, as nine of the 14 games were decided by seven points or less. Three games went into overtime, four were decided by as-time-expired field goals and the Lions and Titans combined for 85 points. At any point during those overtimes or while the Lions’ last-second Hail Mary sailed toward the end zone, did anybody really care that the real officials weren’t on the field?


5. Even something so blatantly awful, so totally embarrassing as what happened at the end of Monday night’s game may not bring the sides any closer together. Emboldened by the Monday nightmare, the officials won’t be in any mood to make concessions. And when has the NFL ever acquiesced to public pressure?


6. An early red flag for the Colts is their inability to score after halftime. Through three games, they’ve been outscored 50-16 in the second half, a trend that continued Sunday when Jacksonville stole a five-point victory by winning the second half 19-3. This is a young team with a first-year head coach, so it’s not surprising that they’ve been outmaneuvered. But the second-half output is worth monitoring. It’s fair going forward to expect Chuck Pagano and his staff to improve their halftime adjustments.


7. Ordering the bum rushing of the victory formation for the second week in a row, Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano isn’t making any friends in the NFL. The lifers resent Schiano anyway because they view him as an outsider. While he did spend a few years on the Bears’ staff, he didn’t really climb the NFL ladder. He’s a flavor-of-the-week ex-college coach who was fast-tracked to the pros, and many longtime NFL coaches can’t stand him. And now Tom Coughlin and other coaches are wigging out because Schiano is ignoring the sanctity of the kneel-down. This is so silly, tough-guy coaches and players whining about a team playing to the final whistle. Shut up.


8. Let’s segue from shutting up to … Jay Cutler. The Bears’ quarterback co-hosts his own radio show, which is like Barack Obama going around balancing other countries’ budgets. Cutler’s sideline run-in with offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb got a lot of attention, but Cutler made it ten times worse with the way he handled it afterward. Cutler needs to zip it, keep a low profile and just play football, because when he does, he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league.


9. Last week FoxSports.com columnist Greg Couch wrote that Cutler is “just the next journeyman quarterback in a long row of them in Chicago Bears history.” Baloney. Without even thinking about it, I can name 11 teams that would trade their starter for Cutler in a heartbeat: Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, the New York Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa Bay. Cutler is a very good QB who has the misfortune of playing behind a one-note O-line. If he’d stop acting like a clown, people would be more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.


10. A quick thought on Steve Sabol, who died last week after an 18-month battle with brain cancer: If you’re a fan of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” or of BTN’s “The Journey,” if you enjoy the all-access pieces done by ESPN, if you like the mic’d up segments that have become a part of virtually every sports broadcast, you can thank Steve Sabol and his father, Ed. The men behind NFL Films changed the way we see not only the NFL, but every other major sport in this country. Ed was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. Steve belongs right beside him.


Ben Boldt is a columnist for The Daily Reporter and a former sports editor. E-mail him at bcboldt@gmail.com.

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