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Patrick Hruby

The Barack Obama of the NFL Is ...

The Atlantic sports roundtable's NFL 2012 midseason awards

The Atlantic online
After a long, expensive, occasionally ridiculous campaign, our national moment of truth has finally arrived. Of course, I'm referring to the midpoint of the NFL season. In this week's Atlantic sports roundtable, we assess the state of the league, and also speculate about what's to come.

Patrick Hruby: ... The Barack Obama Don't-Call-it-a-Comeback Award: Too old. New team. Bad neck. Zipless passes and a wobbly deep ball. Peyton Manning was supposed to be done, right? Yesterday's phenomenon. Saddled by a halting recovery. No match for the conservative, throwback force that took the country by storm in his seeming absence. So much for that. Now starring for the Denver Broncos—deliciously, the former squad of He Who Shall Not Be Named, lest Rex Ryan get a crazy idea and start playing him—Manning looks like his old self, on pace for career highs in yards and completion percentage and career second-bests in touchdowns and passer rating. Moreover, the Broncos are 5-3, trending in the right direction (four wins in their last five games) and play in the AFC West, a division with the worst combined record (13-9) in the league, a division so bad that both Norv Turner and Scott Pioli continue to be gainfully employed ...

Hampton Stevens: ... Let's start with the "Hey, Didn't You Used to be Karl Rove?" Erstwhile Genius Award. Presented annually to the former mastermind who has seen his reputation take the biggest fall, our choice this year, with apologies to everyone in Jacksonville, is the aforementioned Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli.

During the Bush/Cheney era, Rove was as a ruthless kingmaker and brilliant media manipulator. A scant four years later, Rove is media tool, last seen on FOX News, whimpering about Ohio.

Pioli was also the secret power behind the throne while winning Super Bowls galore with Bill Belichick. Or was he? In the four years since he took office at Arrowhead, Pioli has hired two disastrous head coaches and presided over an unrelenting string of player-personnel flops.

Of course, in Boston Pioli had the Kraft family as owners. In KC, he has Clark Hunt. By all accounts a gracious man, the son of team founder Lamar nevertheless seems bent on milking every possible cent from the cash-cow franchise he inherited from dad. Forget the pathetic, under-the-salary cap team Hunt puts on the field. Even the damn field itself looks awful—patchy and thin. The great George Toma must rolling in his exquisitely manicured grave ...

Jake Simpson: ... Finally, we have the Mitch McConnell Failed Bloviating Award, which to my delight goes to the Philadelphia Eagles. You'll recall that McConnell said in 2009 that his biggest legislative priority was "making Barack Obama a one-term president." Whoops. Back in August 2011, the Eagles boasted about their "Dream Team" after a busy offseason that brought elite defensive players Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie to the team. Since then, the Eagles are a combined 11-13 over two seasons, Michael Vick has cooled off from his sensational 2010 season, and Andy Reid is still Andy Reid. The Eagles are now a team in disarray, scapegoating defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and falling flat in a must-win Monday night game against the Saints. Dream Team? More like the 2004 U.S. men's basketball team ...

Read the full article at The Atlantic online