Monday, January 2, 2012

Ron Cook has nothing left to say

Ron Cook thinks that the dump-off to Hines Ward for a three-yard loss in the Steelers' meaningless win yesterday solidifies Ward's status as an elite receiver.


Steelers MVP Antonio Brown grasped the significance of teammate Hines Ward's 1,000th career catch Sunday almost as easily as Ward latched onto quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's shovel pass.


That's hilarious, given Ward's two horrific drops in this game, including the first blatant attempt at getting him his five catches. Ward's first target couldn't have been dropped in any uglier a fashion.

"Hopefully, it gets him to the Hall of Fame," Brown said. "He's a big-timer. He deserves it."
Hines Ward should be in the Hall of Fame, and that was true before the Steelers forced the ball his way seven times so he could get his five catches. Ward finishes the regular season with 46 catches for 381 yards.

Hines made good on each of his four targets against an abysmal Rams defense last week, and the Steelers should have done more to get him the ball so they wouldn't have had to worry about doing it against Cleveland. Just to give you an idea of what Ward currently means to the Steelers' offense, let's take a look at his 2011 game log with catches, targets (in parentheses), and notes.

@ Cle - 5 (7) Twenty-four yards.
vs StL - 4 (4) Thirty-two yards
@ SF - 0 (0) Hines was on the field for nine plays. I had to look up whether or not he was even active for this game, or if he was injured and I just forgot about it.
vs Cle - 1 (1) Six MEGA-yards.
vs Cin - 5 (6) Thirty huge yards!
@ KC - 4 (4) Twenty-one yards! Work that average!
@ Cin - 1 (1) Ten yards. That's 9.144 metres if you live in a civilized country.
vs Bal - 0 (1)
vs NE - 0 (0) Did not play, Steelers won 25-17. To date, this is Ward's 2011 "Despite Me" moment.
@ Ari - 3 (4) Twenty-one yards.
vs Jac - 3 (4) Fifty-seven yards.
vs Ten - 7 (8) Fifty-four yards, his only two touchdowns of the season.
@ Hou - 1 (4) Nineteen huge yards.
@ Ind - 3 (4) Seventeen big ones!
vs Sea - 4 (6) Thirty-three!
@ Bal - 5 (9) Sixty-seven yards. Season high.

Total all that up and you've got 46 catches for 381 ostensibly meaningless yards. Hines Ward has meant nothing to this team. If he had retired before this season, shy of 1,000 catches and 12,000 yards, he'd still belong in the Hall of Fame. I don't see what about this season or these numbers makes him more eligible or attractive to voters. NB: Looking at these numbers, you have to give some credit to Bruce Arians for phasing Ward out of the offense at a respectable rate. That is not, though, enough to warrant Arians keeping his job. I just feel the need to justify my impending use of the "Fire Bruce Arians" tag.

Ward's milestone catch in a 13-9 win against the Cleveland Browns merely was the topper to his astonishing career. It came in rather ignominious fashion, on a first-down play from the Steelers 41 early in the fourth quarter. Ward came in motion from Roethlisberger's right and grabbed the shovel pass in full stride only to find he had no place to run. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson threw him down for a 3-yard loss.

Here's how I would re-write this paragraph: Ward's milestone catch came in a 13-9 win against the Cleveland Browns. Befitting both the game and Ward's 2011 season, it came in rather ignominious fashion: Ward came in motion from Roethlisberger's right and caught a shovel pass behind the line of scrimmage before being tackled by linebacker D'Qwell Jackson for a three-yard loss. In the great tradition of Brett Favre hitting the dirt for Michael Strahan to give Strahan the single-season sack record in 2001, the Steelers ran this play out of the "Milestone package."

At first, it didn't seem quite right. Ward's 1,000th should have gone for a touchdown, right? At the very least, it should have gone for a first down.

They had to get it to him so that they could get his old ass of the field.

But a 3-yard loss?

Yes, so they could tell him to shut up and get off the field.

It seemed so cheap.

That's because it was cheap. There are no big plays in the Milestone package. That is the very essence of the Milestone package.

But that thought passed quickly.

And was replaced with, "Good, now get him the fuck off the field."

"It was the [best] minus catch I've ever had," Ward said, grinning.

Great. What a story. He's a champion. Wonderful. Move on.

Clearly, the man wasn't in the mood to apologize. Good for him. He had no reason to apologize, not after becoming just the eighth player in NFL history to get 1,000 catches. Against the Cincinnati Bengals Dec. 4, he became the 19th wide receiver to get to 12,000 receiving yards.
Nobody asked him to apologize. I know the Washington Post said that prebuttals were going to be "In" for 2012, but if Ron Cook is using them already, does that mean they're out? Anyway, nobody's asking Ward to apologize; we're just asking him to retire.

Ward's numbers are phenomenal, but there is so much more to his career. He has played in three Super Bowls and will start down the path toward what he hopes is a fourth when the Steelers begin the playoff grind Sunday in Denver against the Broncos. He has been on the winning side in two Super Bowls and was the MVP of Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. He has been named to four Pro Bowl teams. He's one of the toughest players in NFL history, certainly one of the most ferocious blocking wide receivers.
All of that is true, and it's why he would have been a Hall-of-Famer without 46 more catches and 381 meaningless yards. Who would argue against that? Keith Rivers? Who?

It has been some career.


A Hall of Fame career.


"Amazing," Ward said.


Ron Cook is off to a big lead over Gene Collier in the 2012 Who-Can-Write-More-One-Sentence-Paragraphs Cup. We may actually keep standings on it this year.


"I was nervous going into the game," Ward said.
Insert four more column inches of meaningless Ron Cook blather and cliched nonsense that fell out of Ward's mouth during the post-game interview.



The guess here is Ward won't be back. We'll see him again in these playoffs, sure. But the next time we'll see him in a starring role will be at Canton, Ohio.


You know.


At his Hall of Fame induction.


No, thanks for clarifying that, Ron. Crafty way of getting those last two one-liners in. He had 13 in this column. Thirteen.


Amazing? 


Yep.


Hall-of-Fame-worthy?


Certainly.


Gene Collier-level?


Possibly.


Obnoxiously designed to detract from Cook having absolutely nothing of substance to say or write about?


You bet it is.


See? See what I'm doing here?


Sure do.


Great post?


Awesome post.

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