The Commish Online                                                                                
Keyshawn Practices Damage Control on Fox
November 24, 2003
by Ward Lowe

I guess Keyshawn Johnson didn’t like spending Week 12 in a Fox TV studio, watching the rest of the NFL carry on without him. The Tampa Bay wide receiver, who last week was deactivated for the rest of the season by the Buccaneers, seemed to back down from his threats to retire in 2004 rather than play for Tampa coach Jon Gruden.

“I'm not a player off the field that's a problem. Nor am I a player on the field that's a problem,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I had a simple problem with a coach within those walls.”

That simple problem led Johnson to tell anyone who would listen how Tampa was not properly using his talent. Now he wants to play nice—probably because his agent spent the weekend explaining Keyshawn’s other simple problem: no team will want to pick up the final four years of his eight-year $56 million contract if Johnson doesn’t stop whining.

Patriots win sixth in a row
After their overtime win at Houston on Sunday, the New England Patriots (9-2) are off to the best start in franchise history and gunning for a return to the Super Bowl. But coach Bill Belichick almost blew Sunday’s game with some let’s-not-lose play calling.

After only 2:06 into overtime, the Patriots sat with a first down near the Houston 25-yard line. Belichick called a short run—bringing up second and long—followed by a quarterback sneak designed to get the ball into the middle of the field for Pats kicker Adam Vinatieri. Belichick’s plan unraveled, however, when the Texans blocked the 37-yarder for the first blocked field-goal in the franchise’s history.

Would it have killed New England to try and run for a first down, potentially score a touchdown, and—ahem—cover the spread? I know it’s sudden death and that every play presents another chance for a fumble or interception. But after a gutsy pass call for a touchdown on fourth and 1 at the Houston 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Belichick took the “safe” way for the field goal—and it almost came back to bite him.

Quote of Week 12
CBS commentator Randy Cross often turns unique phrases while trying to liven up his analysis, and during the closing seconds of the Patriots-Texans game, he blew me away with this gem: “Boy, have these screens been the best deodorant for the New England offense. When things were a little stinky and they needed a first down, they’ve been able to go to the screen.”

I mean, if you’re Cross’s play-by-play partner Kevin Harlan, what do you say after that?

Bears provide upset of the week
Denver was supposed to pull back into the AFC wild-card race this week. In Week 11, the Broncos welcomed back starting quarterback Jake Plummer and dispatched San Diego to improve their record to 6-4. Coach Mike Shanahan must have smiled when he saw that Chicago was traveling to Invesco Field at Mile High for Week 12. The Bears hadn’t won on the road in 12 games and were floundering at 3-7.

Who knew the Bears quarterbacking tandem of Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart would confound the Denver defense? Stop laughing—it really happened.

With starter Chandler lost to injury, Kordell Stewart sparked a Chicago comeback that included 10 fourth-quarter points. Stewart again showed why he belongs on an NFL team—as a backup. His brief tenure this season as Chicago’s starter was not pretty, as the Bears went 1-4 and Stewart tossed seven interceptions.

His numbers weren’t pretty (7-for-15 for 47 yards passing and 29 yards running), but his athleticism helped trigger a big victory for Chicago and may have doomed Denver’s. After charging out of the gate at 4-1, the Broncos sit at 6-5.

Last week's From The Armchair

Ward Lowe is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, who believes that 2004 will be The Year for his beloved Boston Red Sox. You can reach him at