Published September 01, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – The grass isn't always greener on the other side of that fence.
Antoine Winfield was rated as the best cornerback in football last season by the trendy analytics-based website ProFootballFocus.com.
Today he's unemployed because the Seattle Seahawks think they have five better options at the position.
That may led you to think either Pete Carroll or the folks at ProFootballFocus.com are crazy but neither should be racing to the psychiatrist's couch or reaching for the antipsychotics just yet.
Winfield was very good in Minnesota last season, certainly the best run- support corner in the game and a guy who still had the short-area quickness and smarts to handle slot duties effectively. Outside the numbers, however, the 36-year-old three-time Pro-Bowl selection no longer had the pure speed and never had the lengthiness to handle the Calvin Johnsons and Brandon Marshalls of the world.
Perhaps, opposing teams weren't able to exploit Winfield's deficiencies as a player enough and that led to a convoluted score which exaggerated his effectiveness as a player.
After all, no one knew Winfield better than the Vikings and general manger Rick Spielman, who released him in the offseason after needing to make salary cap room to re-sign ascending right tackle Phil Loadholt to a big money deal.
The thought was, it's better to give up on a player a year too early than a year too late.
That's not to say Leslie Frazier didn't want Winfield. The Minnesota coach did everything he could to convince Winfield to take a pay cut and stay where he was wanted, needed and perhaps most prudent of all, understood.
Pride took over and Winfield shipped his still more than serviceable act out to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of joining a serious Super Bowl contender.
On paper it looked like a fit worthy of Curt Hennig -- perfect.
Winfield handling the slot duties while the young, lengthy and athletic Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner did the heavy lifting outside? Heck, Carroll should have started making his reservations for North Jersey in February.
Here's the thing, though, Winfield didn't have a decade of goodwill in the bank with the Seahawks and there wasn't going to be any special treatment.
In Eden Prairie, Frazier trusted that Winfield was going to be ready on Gameday and gave him most practices off to rest his aging legs, a tactic which worked beautifully in 2012. Perhaps Carroll just saw a player with no Seahawks pedigree who wasn't going to be able to be there during the week.
When news broke Saturday that Winfield was out in Seattle, the first thought in many people's minds was that the veteran would be on the first flight back to Minny. His presumptive replacement with the Vikings, Josh Robinson, keeps Frazier up at nights and depth has always been an issue at corner in Minnesota since the days of Bobby Bryant and Nate Wright.
Winfield, though, didn't give the Vikings, or anyone else for that matter, a chance and decided to call it a career.
Pride strikes again.
TEBOWING OUT OF NEW ENGLAND
Football is a tough way to make a living.
It's an ultra-competitive atmosphere in which you can have a job one minute and be unemployed in the next. That's the sword of Damocles that hangs over every single player, not just high-profile ones like Tim Tebow.
When you understand what Tebow's ceiling is as a player -- a change-of-pace backup who can help you spring a surprise on the opposition every now again -- the real issues with him can be focused on. And they begin and end with his popularity.
A backup quarterback can't be the focal point of a team and organizations with impotent head coaches or shaky quarterback situations just can't afford to have him around (see New York Jets and Mark Sanchez). The questions quickly start to mount and Tebow's very presence becomes a far bigger liability than his scattershot arm.
New England, of course, is the polar opposite of that type of environment, possessing perhaps the most powerful and respected coach of this generation, Bill Belichick, as well as a Hall of Fame quarterback who ranks among the top five of all-time in Tom Brady.
No one in their right mind was going to pretend Tebow should be getting repetitions in favor of Brady and the convoy of satellite trucks that were set to accompany Tebow to Foxborough were already there, caught up in the far more salacious and high-profile Aaron Hernandez nonsense.
Tebow finally got to fit in without being a distraction and was reunited with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the guy who traded into the first round of the draft in 2010 to take him.
Meanwhile, Belichick has flourished in the past by creating the NFL's version of a utilityman who helped him in multiple spots depending on what he needed in a particular week. Troy Brown did it for years and these days you'll see Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater occasionally flip sides for the Patriots.
Because Brady has a death grip on the starting quarterback job with the Pats and Ryan Mallett is thought of as a solid backup, it wasn't a stretch to imagine Tebow playing some H-back or tight end for the Pats but none of that ever materialized.
Character and versatility melding with a comfortable situation and an inventive coach didn't work.
And that could mean the end of the line for Tebow.
TRENDING TOWARD TWO
With the release of Tebow, the Patriots kept just two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster for the fourth time in the past five years. Thirteen different teams followed suit in 2013 while 15 kept the standard three signal callers, and three clubs clearly in need of those aforementioned antipsychotics kept four.
The philosophy here is or at least should be simple -- if you are down to your third quarterback, your season is off the rails anyway so keep a more versatile option which will improve your depth a key position or enhance your special teams.
You can also always keep a young QB with at least some upside as a player on the practice squad.
BAY AREA BLUES
Raiders are supposed to pillage others right?
One of those teams keeping four quarterbacks for now is of course Oakland where "Just win, baby" has quietly morphed into "Hey, maybe we can win a couple if the Moon is lined up with Jupiter correctly."
You can add two punters to the four throwers, none of whom can produce at this level by the way, to what is almost certainly the worst roster in the entire NFL.
It's almost like the aging, unsuccessful version of Al Davis is still haunting this organization and the only way to perform the exorcism is to make a series of sound, rational decisions -- something which seems decidedly un-Raider like these days.
YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE GAME
You can hold all of your firefighting jokes until the end of class but Canada's favorite hook and ladder man Danny Watkins was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday.
The amateur firefighter, who was the 23rd overall pick out of Baylor in 2011, played just four years of competitive football -- the last two as an offensive tackle in Waco -- before the Eagles drafted him at age 26.
He started 12 games as a rookie at right guard, but that number was cut in half before he was benched last season. Watkins was so bad in Philly during 2012 the Eagles plucked journeyman Jake Scott off the street and he was able to offer a better alternative than Watkins after about two days of practice.
Watkins becomes the first Eagles first-rounder to be released after just two seasons with the club since Jon Harris in 1999.
Rarely do you find so many who fall in line with their thoughts on a prospect but to a man, sources close to the Birds say Watkins simply didn't like football and wasn't going to put in the necessary work.
This is a game you have to love to succeed at.