Football

This is Awesome

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In general, I think bad stuff associated with the NFL gets a lot of press, whereas genuinely good things get lost in the shuffle.

Courtesy of ProFootballTalk, here is a great story involving the Saints and a molecular biologist from Tulane.

More stuff like this please.

Its All a Matter of Emphasis

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The first article I read about Michael Sam, a defensive end from Missouri, becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL was this one.

There’s a long excerpt from another article, which I just wanted to highlight a particular section of:

….The potential distraction of his presence — both in the media and the locker room — could prevent him from being selected. “That will break a tie against that player,” the former general manager said. “Every time. Unless he’s Superman. Why? Not that they’re against gay people. It’s more that some players are going to look at you upside down. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media is going to show up, from Good Housekeeping to the Today show. A general manager is going to ask, ‘Why are we going to do that to ourselves?’

While this unfolds, remember that this story is entirely driven by the media and their perception of macho locker room antics. Since the media isn’t anywhere near a locker room when it’s, well, a locker room (as opposed to their controlled access where players are on their guard), they have no idea what it’s like to be behind those doors and therefore really don’t have any kind of feel for how players act now or will react then.

I’m willing to wager that a majority of players could care less. He’ll be a rookie. If he can play, that’s what they (the players) will respect.

Fearless Super Bowl Prediction

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In a nutshell, Seattle’s defense is too good for Manning and Seattle’s offense is just good enough. Don’t be surprised if Marshawn Lynch has a big day. Bonus call for some big special teams plays.

Seattle hoists the Lombardi Trophy, 24-14.

UPDATE:

Well, that was unexpected. Really thought the Denver offense would be a tougher match for Seattle’s defense. That said, Seattle’s secondary is the kind that has traditionally given Manning trouble.

As for my other predictions, Lynch was a non-factor and didn’t need to be. I called a big special teams play though.

So, we’ll call it 1-and-a-half out of 3. Good enough. I’m not counting the score- no one ever gets those right.

Richard Sherman in His Own Words

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Richard Sherman:

Whatever beginnings you come from just understand that your circumstances don’t dictate your future. Your circumstances don’t control your limits. You’re limitless, you’re a limitless person, you’re limitless by your faith, your abilities, your trust in yourself, your hard work, you can do as much as you want to do. If you go to school and get good grades and work as hard as you can, if you don’t have the materials, the school books, the things like that, people can help you with that. There will always be people out there that want to help kids like that, and I’m trying to help as many as I can. But to not go out there and work as hard as you can and give yourself the best possible chance to be successful you’re doing yourself a disservice. That’s really what I want the kids to know.

There’s a lot more to Richard Sherman than his end-of-game, adrenaline fueled rant.

Go Seahawks!

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Bummer about the Pats. I thought for sure Manning would give them some gifts like he typically does in big games. He played great all day though. Tough to beat him when he’s playing like that. The Patriots just didn’t have the horses.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, certainly appear to have the horses. This is another one of those great defense versus great offense matchups. Another chance to answer the age old question of what happens when an unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

Sounds Like Bitter Griping to Me

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Saw this item this morning ahead of the Saints and Seahawks and was intrigued.  After reading it, I’m disappointed.

The claim is the Seahawks secondary commits interference or holding penalties on every play and dare the officials to call the penalties.  The big “secret” is they know the zebras won’t make the calls because officials don’t want to be seen determining outcomes of games.

So what’s the evidence?  A bunch of egg-spurt testimony, a couple of bitter OC’s and a dubiously used statistic.

The stat is the Seahawks had 20 pass interference and holding penalties called on them this season, most in the NFL.  I call this dubious since it could simply be that they play aggressive and got called a bunch.  It does not follow that they are breaking rules on every play.

As for the egg-spurts and OC’s, do I really have to mention they’re obvious bias?  Offensive people think the defense commits penalties every play.  Kinda like defensive lineman accuse offensive lineman of holding on every play.

The only way something like this can be made credible is by breaking down every defensive play for the Seahawks, and then every defensive play for every other team.  If the Seahawks have statistically higher occurrences of fouls, then there’s something to the claim.

Short that, it’s just sour grapes in a pass happy league from parties used to getting there way.

That Was Appropriate

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If it weren’t so believable, it would be unbelievable.

The Cowboys, without Tony Romo, just threw and interception to basically end their season. It’s just amazing how this team manages to to cough it up so regularly in game-determining situations. Another 8-8 year and no playoffs.

Manziel for Heisman

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I’m late to the party here, but I got to witness Johnny Manziel play for the first time yesterday and I’ve got to say, I’m a fan now. Sure he had 3 interceptions to go with his 5 touchdowns and all those passing yards. More than anything though, he was just fun to watch.

My personal favorite was a second half play where he dropped back to pass, made a pass rusher miss and started running to his left. A second rusher came up to contain Manziel, who head faked back to the right, then spun completely around and continued running right. The poor pass rusher fell flat on his face trying to keep up. Manziel then continued towards the sideline and threw a 20-yard completion down the field.

That wasn’t the only fun play he made either. Overall, I got the impression that Manziel plays with a reckless abandon that is rare anymore. If he keeps going like this for the season, it’s hard to imagine there’s anyone else clearly better than he is for the Heisman trophy.

I’m Turning in My Cowboys Fan Card

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Dear Jerry Jones-

I can’t be a Cowboys fan anymore.

I do not make this decision lightly. Oh hell, yes I do.

Look, I’ve been a fan of the Cowboys for many a year now. Way back to when Dwight Clark and Joe Montana teamed up to kill Cowboys fans with The Catch. I was a fan when they were 1-15 and the one win came against a bad Redskins team. I was a fan after the Aikman-Irvin-Smith dynasty finally crumbled into oblivion. I was a fan when Barry Switzer was coach, Wade Phillips was coach, Chan Gailey and a couple other forgettable coaches. I was a fan this season.

Right up until today.

Today is exactly the type of stuff this version of the Cowboys is known for. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched this team lose games in the final quarter. Or, fashion a great comeback and only to squander it on a final drive. For all the promise this team seems to have, they just never live up to it. They’ve been to the playoffs a hand full of times (none recently) and won 1 game. They’ve lost the others and looked terrible doing so.

The worst thing is, on paper, this team seems like it should be good. They have some great talent at many of the key positions, certainly on offense. But defensively as well, there is some solid personnel with guys like Ware, Lee.

Yet time and again, this team finds a way to lose games. I won’t say they should win against teams like Detroit. The point is they could have won today. They were in position to win today. Rather than finish, they inexplicably found a way to lose. I don’t even care that Calvin Johnson torched the secondary for 300+ yards receiving. I disagree that Dez Bryant’s comments served as motivation- the media blew that way out of proportion. The point is, today’s game was winnable and they ‘Boys lost.

If this were the first time, I could swallow this bitter pill. Just as I’ve swallowed many bitter pills in the past. But this isn’t the first time. It isn’t even the second time. I can’t count how many times this has happened. Which makes it almost certain that it won’t be the last either. Personally, I think its time to blow this team up and start again. Find a new offensive team of the future. Perhaps then I’ll return to being a fan.

But for now, I just can’t. It’s too painful.

This is NOT Bullying

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A Texas high school football teams wins 91-0, and then the coach is accused of bullying. Reading the article and being rational about it, it’s hard to see this as having merit.

To begin, the coach pulled his starters after the 1st quarter. Then, the article isn’t specific about timing, he eventually worked all his 3rd stringers in to finish the game. The game was played with a continuously running clock after the half. I’m not going to fault him for letting his 3rd stringers play the game rather than having them take a knee on every offensive possession. (Frankly, as a competitor I think that would have been insulting- there’s nothing more humiliating in sports than knowing you’re being toyed with.) It’s obvious that this coach did everything he could to keep things from getting completely out of hand. Given all that, I think it’s more accurate to say those two teams don’t belong on the same field together.

Bullying is an individual form of terrorism. It’s all about an individual, or a group, exerting power over another individual for the enjoyment of it. Bullying is about cruelty for it’s own sake. Sticking two totally mismatched teams on the field of play and watching the logical conclusion doesn’t come close to that mental dynamic.

I don’t know what the complaining parent is hoping to achieve. His son’s team just got beat by far superior competition. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be upset about getting beat like that, but there’s no shame in admitting to you got beat by a superior opponent.

A Thought About the Redskins Name

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I’ll start by stating I hate the Redskins. I hope they lose every game they play. With the possible exception of their games against the Giants. If the Giants have a better record, that’s the one time I’ll root for Redskins since they can at least do some good in that instance by marring another hated team’s record. Such is life as a Cowboys fan.

Look, I need something to look forward to. With the current state of the Cowboys, looking through the scores and seeing a Redskins loss can at least make me feel a bit better as a football fan.

That said, I’ve been really put off by the renewed attempts this year by folks, such as Mike Florio, to get the Redskins to change their name. In general, I view it as bullying. The Florio’s of the world believe they have the better of the argument mostly because everyone they deem as important agrees with the basic premise: the name is a racial slur against Native Americans.

This morning, I came across the first article I’ve read that attempts to defend the name. The point made by the author is that there is no offense intended in the use of the name. Quite the opposite in fact- the team name has been a source of pride for a storied sports franchise. From what I’ve seen, this is generally acknowledged by the Bob Costas’ of the world, but they don’t find it convincing.

The argument always circles back to the most recent usage of the “redskin” outside of the NFL world- as a pejorative against Native Americans.

I’ve stayed out of the argument because I haven’t had anything useful to say or offer that I thought was unique. After reading the Reason article, I finally had an inspiration.

According to Wikipedia, the term “redskin” did not begin life as a pejorative. I won’t rehash the etymology here, other than to note that it eventually became perceived as a slur. It then occurred to me: if the word could change from a non-slur to a slur, why can’t it change back?

While the pro-name-changers have a fair point arguing the dubious past of “redskins” as a slur, they fail to account for what the word could become. I’d refer back to the Reason article’s exposition on how the word “yid” was appropriated by a soccer team’s fans. “Yid” is a slur for Jewish people, yet these fans embraced the term as an unofficial term for their team. Doing so robs the term of it’s sting and power, I think.

Anyone who has faced down bullies will also note that the quickest way to defuse a verbal assault is to not allow it to affect you. When the mob starts calling names meant to offend and hurt, the best defense is to turn it around and make a joke of it. Not allowing the words to offend robs them of their power.

I’m not sure what power the term “redskin” as a slur has left in it at this point since it’s not in common usage anymore. So why not use the moment to change the usage of the term? If the English language isn’t dead, then surely this is possible- though the method isn’t exactly obvious to me. Perhaps a sustained campaign by the Redskins organization to honor Native American culture.

Still, the point is that the word “redskin” only has power if it’s allowed to. To ban it would go a long way to augment it’s power. By forcing the name change, it would join the ranks of other “forbidden” words. This is currently a conscious choice the Costas-Florio’s of the world are trying to force upon the rest of the world- to cement the word Redskin as a slur for the future.

It needn’t be so.

Perhaps, in the end, the way to change its perception is simply for every time someone is told “You shouldn’t use that word because it’s a slur” the response should be “I don’t use it as a slur, and you think of it that way because you choose to.” If intent is what got it started down the road towards becoming a slur, then surely intent can be used to change course.

The Boy Experiences Why We Watch

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We had a Kickoff party today for our returning Cub Scouts. Nothing formal, just a simple get together for the kids and the parents. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

The boy started asking about football this morning. He wanted to know if there were any games on today. After confirming there were a “few” games on today, he wanted to know if he’d be able to watch them. That was a little less straight forward. With a bunch of guests coming here today, I told him he’d probably be able to watch at some point, but I wanted him to play outside today.

Things ended up working out well from my perspective as he didn’t end up watching until the end of the Pats game. He and a few of his Scout mates wanted to check out some games. So he did a bit of surfing and found the Pats game. By that point I’d gone back outside to mingle some more.

The boy quickly appeared by my side and he had distressing news “The Patriots are losing 21-20 and there isn’t a lot of time left.” He was giving me a look like “Fix it Dad!” There was clearly some emotional investment in this game, even though he’d only been watching a few moments.

Being a veteran of such situations, I asked him who had the ball. He didn’t know, so he scampered back into the house to find out. I expect by the end of the year, he’ll come out with a complete rundown of the situation: exact time on the clock, possession, down and distance, key injuries, the works. He’ll just need a little coaching in that respect.

The boy didn’t come out and I got distracted talking with some people outside. I then became cognizant of screaming and shouting coming from in the house. Initially, I thought the boys were arguing, then I thought perhaps they’d started some sort of game. Then, they came bursting out of the house screaming “THE PATS WON!”

What followed was a rundown of what happened in about 30 seconds. From the excitement in their voices, one might have thought the Pats had just won the Super Bowl, as opposed to the first game of the season.

Nothing like a last minute come-from-behind win.

I Want Cake Now!

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If you’ve seen something funnier than this today, I envy you:

This Guy Sounds Like an Expert

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I was cruising through some sports articles in my RSS app on the Nook when the following headline grabbed my attention: John Gruden says he would trade a first-round pick to get Kirk Cousins. It led me to a Yahoo Sports opinion piece by Anwar Richardson.

In the article, Mr. Richardson isn’t impressed with Gruden’s judgement. He notes that Gruden only ever developed veteran quarterbacks in the league like Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson, but claims he (Gruden) never had the patience to develop young quarterbacks like Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski. Finally, he finishes with the following:

Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, played well when Robert Griffin III missed a game last season due to a knee injury. The backup completed 26-of-37 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns during a 38-21 victory against Cleveland. If an NFL team offered a first-round pick for Cousins, it would mean they believed he was better than every quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft class, which could include Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. That just does not seem likely, considering NFL teams had a chance to just take Cousins last year and passed until Washington took him with pick No. 102.

Anyone with any kind of memory for great-college-quarterbacks-that-flopped-in-the-NFL should immediately recognize that his guy doesn’t have any capacity for reasoning. His a short list of celebrated college quarterbacks that never made it: Tim Tebow, Ryan Leaf, Gino Torretta, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Vinny Testaverde, Kerry Collins and Danny Wuerffel. So the notion that a current backup with one really good pro-game under his belt doesn’t have a better resume than a bunch of college stars is pretty thin gruel.

Also, he claims that Gruden didn’t have the patience to develop young talent. That’s possible. It’s also possible that Gruden quickly realized those guys would never make it. Considering that the 2 guys Mr. Richardson names aren’t even recognizable names makes me think the latter, as opposed to Mr. Richardson’s thesis.

None of this is to say that Kirk Cousins is worth a 1st round draft pick to get. (I’d never considered the notion until now- I actually think it’s justifiable.) It’s mainly to point out that Mr. Richardson’s reasoning is completely lacking.

In Related News Patriot Football Fans Taken Off Suicide Watch

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Just thought I’d note this.

Whatever hopes New England has for a successful season are pretty much in stride with Tom Brady and how he performs. I saw a tweet earlier today that he’d been injured during practice and my first thought was “All of New England is holding their breath now.” Looks like they can breath again.

Tebow Speculation

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So Tim Tebow is now a Patriot. I’ve never really understood all the hoopla around Tebow and his supposed “religiousness.” I mean, if you ask a guy about it why should he be ashamed of his faith? I don’t recall him telling anyone else what to believe. There have been plenty of other players genuflecting after touchdowns, pointing their fingers to the sky and generally giving thanks to God for their performance on any given day.

But for whatever reason, when Tebow does it everyone loses their minds. Like I said, I don’t get it. He’s a below average quarterback (even in college!) with an above average work ethic and way-above-average heart. For whatever reason, people believe he can get the job done and he’s even done so on a couple of occasions.

So what’s he doing on the Patriots now? Well, first, Josh McDaniels almost certainly convinced the Pats to make the move. Almost certainly not to play quarterback though. I’d guess as another slot-receiver potential or even a gadget play enabler. I know the Pats already picked up Amendola as a Welker replacement, but I don’t think you can just replace a guy like Welker. But perhaps you can blunt his loss with a couple of guys with different skill sets that almost add up to the same thing.

Aside from that, I think he’s a gadget play kind of guy. Bring him in and run some kind of goofy Wildcat thing where he pitches to Brady, who then throws back downfield to Tebow. Or maybe he runs some kind of option offense in certain situations.

Of course, all of this is dependent on Tebow actually making the squad, which a lot of the speculation has forgotten about. So maybe we should just give him a chance to make it to the season.

Compare and Contrast

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Mike Florio, yesterday about the 40 yard dash:

With all due respect to Bill Polian, running 40 yards in a straight line in underwear doesn’t really tell anyone much about what a football player can do under ordinary football circumstances.

Mike Florio today:

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson took a good first step in proving he can do something else.

Robinson just ran an unofficial 4.34-second 40 on his first attempt at the NFL Scouting Combine.

So which is it? A useful or unuseful metric?

Joe Flacco: The Bad and the Amusing

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According to this from PFT, Joe Flacco basically advocated cheating to supposedly ensure their Super Bowl victory.  He was telling his teammates on the sidelines they should just tackle the ball carrier on the free kick that ended the game.  He figured the refs couldn’t just award a touchdown, so it was better than letting the 49’ers score.

He’s actually wrong about that last point.  The refs can award a score under the circumstances Flacco was advocating, so his efforts would have been doubly defeating:  he would have been revealed as a world class sore loser and he still would have lost the game.

I know it’s a quaint notion in today’s NFL and will barely register on the outrage meter.  Flacco is, after all, the SB MVP and will get a huge pay day after his accomplishments.  Be that as it may, this kind of thing should cost Flacco in some respect.  He shouldn’t be advocating cheating in the event of the miraculous happening.  It’s cheap and illegitimate.  I think his nose should be rubbed raw in it. Personally, I’ll be routing against him until the day he retires. (I know, huge penalty there…)

But it’s not all bad in the article.  There’s a nugget at the end revealing the humorous side of the NFL.  Here’s the line from the linked post:

Though the response isn’t audible, a teammate apparently said something along the lines of, “Lead the way, Bert.” (That’s my half-joking guess at what was said, not a quote.)

Look at a picture of Flacco and then a picture of Bert from Bert & Ernie fame.  Really, can there be any doubt his teammates call him “Bert”?  Hilarious.

Things to Think About

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A couple of interesting links for a Sunday morning, both football related but with political overtones.

First up, we have this item about future stadium concepts. The basic idea is to create a stadium with a massive bar, and by massive I mean massive- standing room for 20,000.

Given the current state of the economy, it’s not unreasonable for the NFL to think about ways to give fans their monies worth. Even this year, localized TV blackouts have been something of an issue for several teams, including the Cincinatti Bengals and the San Diego Chargers. The teams avoided the blackouts by purchasing the remaining tickets. Considering that the purpose of blackouts is to essentially “punish” fans for not purchasing tickets so they can’t watch from the comfort of their home, I’d say that’s a pretty extraordinary circumstance.

I’m not a fan of the current trend whereby NFL owners build new stadiums with giant public loans. Essentially, the NFL takes people’s current money in ticket prices, then their future earnings through taxes. They then have the gall to over charge for food and drink once a fan is in the stadium, plus they ban anyone from bringing in their own food. In all likelihood, they’re probably trying to figure out a way to monetize tailgating- probably by limiting the practice to a certain fee based area.

In summary, football is expensive for fans. These proposed changes to stadiums are an attempt to give fans value for their money. It’ll be interesting to see if it works.

Next up, we have political meddling. I don’t have much more to offer here other than a general observation that it’s getting hard to go anywhere and avoid politics, or more specifically government interest. It’s possible my view is skewed by my reading habits, but it still seems right. Just about any topic comes back to politics it seems: education, cars, jobs, parenting, heating, relationships, health, and now sports. If I missed it, I’m willing to bet politics is still involved.

Pats-Falcons Super Bowl Prediction

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UPDATE:
Couldn’t have been more wrong if I intended it. Maybe then I’d have been right! Well, as they say “Go Big, or Go Home.” I chose Big. Wait ’til I make my Super Bowl pick…

I used to be more interested in the football prognostication game. But nowadays, my football consumption has dropped rather precipitously and with it has gone my interest in predicting games. I actually attribute this to the amount of football I consumed from my early teens into my mid-20’s or so. There just came a point where there was always something else to do come game day and a subconscious realization that, with the exception of the standout play or two, I’d seen about ever scenario that could play out on the football field. So anymore, when presented with a matchup, I can instantly imagine scenarios in which either team can win. It makes predicting seem more than a bit pointless.

So, all throat clearing completed now, I’m predicting that the Patriots and Falcons will advance to the Super Bowl this year.

I don’t think I need to justify much with the Patriots game- that’s a straight up pick-em as far as I’m concerned. Suffice it to say, Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. He’s more than a Trent Dilfer style manage-the-game dude, but he isn’t Tom Brady, Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger. Heck, he isn’t even a Peyton Manning. So Brady, along with a Pat’s D that reminds me of their earlier Super Bowl teams that on the strength of their defense, give the Patriots all the advantage they need.

As for the Falcons pick, I’m really basing it on one thing- Kaepernick having a bad game. Actually, I think it will be more like the Falcons D manages to force him into a bad game.

You see, I had an epiphany related to the QB position this year. To start, look at Cam Newton, who tore up the league last year. This year, not so much. Why? Defensive coordinators figured out his tendencies, figured out his comfort zone, and forced him to play outside of it. This is what defensive coordinators do. This year, we had a bunch of QB’s, mainly rookies, that the league had never seen before. Obviously, they’re a talented bunch and defensive coordinators simply hadn’t figured out how to game plan for them sufficiently.

I think the reason pocket passers thrive in the NFL is because they are the hardest to plan against because they are most effective at taking advantage of what a defense gives them. With QB’s that run, not so much. They need the ability to run to put a defense on it’s heels. But time has shown that a running QB can be neutralized and the coverage breakdowns that result from his running don’t materialize.

So, to summarize, I think the key to all the success of these young QB’s this year has been their shared newness to the league and for defensive scheming in general.

Last week, the Falcons came pretty close to figuring out Wilson. This week, I think they’ll get the job done on Kaepernick, who has benefited largely from being an unknown commodity. Thus, the Falcons move on and the 49ers come up bridesmaids once again.

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