Hernandez’s Suicide, ESPN’s Bloodbath and the NFL’s Race Issue

20170426_232137Not Sorry for Your Loss (Not Happy Either)

Aaron Hernandez’s suicide was shocking and I found a lot of people’s reactions disturbing.

First, why did some people feel sorry for this guy?  Sure he had his demons, but he was given so many great opportunities because of football and what did he do?  He murdered another human being.  Had it been an addiction to drugs I could understand people being empathetic.  You know who I feel empathy for?  The slain Odin Lloyd’s family.  Hernandez’s loved ones who are forever affected by his actions.  If someone knew Hernandez personally I might give them a pass on feeling sorrow for the passing of a person they once had a positive relationship with.

Second, why are people thrilled about his death?  This isn’t like when Osama Bin Laden was killed and people were happy that they finally had closure when it came to September 11th.  Because Hernandez killed himself Lloyd’s family might never get true justice.  Are you happy now?

Bristol Massacre

ESPN just gutted a big fraction of on-air and writing talent.  Big names like Ed Werder, Jay Crawford, Jason Stark and Danny Kanell among others.

There are a lot of people that are taking pleasure in ESPN’s demise.   This includes former employees, people who work for competitors and fans that feel alienated by the network’s political views.  I will admit I have my criticisms of ESPN, but why root for their failure?  Why not instead wish for a better ESPN?  You know like the one you loved back in the day.  Despite its flaws the network still has value.  The 30 for 30 documentaries are something no other rival network is able to duplicate.  And speaking of rival networks what is wrong with competition?  The WWE was a lot better when they had WCW to battle ratings with.  Without the “Mothership”, as Dan Patrick calls it, who will be the new punching bag?  Deadspin?  Please.

ESPN opened so many new doors for sports media and they took the way we view athletics to new heights.  As more people decide to cut the cable chord, other sports networks will start to feels some of the pain that they are experiencing in Bristol.

Rough Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft hasn’t even started, but it is already making headlines and not for good reasons.  Two of the top prospects eligible to be selected have had some pretty big red flags pop up at the most inopportune time.

Jabrill Peppers of Michigan “failed” a drug test because his urine sample was diluted from drinking too much water.  I guess the only reason for him to hydrate himself like that would be to pass a drug test?  Why else would an athlete of Peppers’ caliber take in that many fluids?  Goodell logic at its finest.

Peppers isn’t the only one who may have his draft status altered due to a non-football issue.  Ohio State’s Gareon Conley faces much steeper allegations after being accused of rape from an alleged incident that took place in a Cleveland hotel earlier this month.  Conley has decided to change his original plans of attending the draft and it is even being predicted that he might not only miss out on being a first-round pick, but could end up not even being drafted at all.

If Conley is guilty shame on him and he doesn’t deserve a chance to play in the NFL, but for a moment and the sake of argument let’s try that old thing we used to believe in, you know innocent until proven guilty.  The NFL has a big problem.  They always assume the worst when it comes to young black men.  They know they have this problem.  It’s why Goodell went so hard after Tom Brady for something so petty as the PSI of a football.  But the league just can’t get out of their own way.  They totally mishandled Josh Brown’s domestic violence case and yet they left Ezekiel Elliot’s open so long it was like they were almost hoping they would find something.  And going back to the draft remember in 2015 when La’el Collins was being questioned by police for the murder of his ex-girlfriend even though he wasn’t a suspect?  That cost him a chance at being a first-round pick and he did nothing to warrant that.

I believe that if Colin Kaepernick isn’t picked up a week following the draft there will be a scenario where the league gets involved.  No matter how unpopular his protests were the last thing NFL needs is an unemployed black QB, who is easily better than all of the backups in this league (and a few starters), that never broke any rules on or off the field.

Romo’s Legacy will be just “Dandy”

1491964954690There once was a quarterback who played for the Dallas Cowboys.  He was a charismatic, fun-loving leader who often did not get the respect or credit he deserved.  This guy was tough, took a beating and played through injuries.  He took a losing franchise and made them relevant, yet when he performed on the biggest stage the final act was more symbolic of a Greek tragedy as opposed to happily ever after.  He hung it up while he still had something left in tank.  He took a job in broadcasting and finally earned the kudos he should of had during his playing days.  In retrospect the fans and organization appreciated the colorful playing career he had and he found his way into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.  While he didn’t earn a bust in Canton, he was honored with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award at the Enshrinee’s Dinner.

It sounds like the past, present and potential future for Tony Romo? Right? Take another guess.  That is a brief synopsis of  the late Don Meredith’s legacy in professional football on the field and in the booth.

Long before Romo and any other recognizable Cowboys quarterback, there was “Dandy” Don Meredith.  Meredith, who played his high school and collegiate ball (SMU) in the North Texas area, joined the hometown expansion Cowboys in 1960.  He never made it to the Super Bowl, but Meredith has to be given credit as the man who established playing quarterback in Dallas as a glamour position in professional sports.

Meredith did more for his legacy as one of the original broadcasters on Monday Night Football.  It made viewers recall what a very good quarterback he was and how his playing career was just inches from being legendary.

The epic of Dandy Don is one of my favorite football stories.  He was a character like no other.  So why aren’t there any movies or books about him?  Well there kind of is.  His former teammate and good friend Peter Gent wrote a novel titled North Dallas Forty in which fictional quarterback Seth Maxwell is based on Meredith.  The controversial and captivating read was later made into a movie.

Tony Romo’s ballad could be the inspiration for a paperback or a Hollywood script one day, however now that he heads to partner up with Jim Nantz he will have the opportunity to add to his legacy in a new fashion.  Many feel that Romo is receiving a shot at CBS that he doesn’t deserve considering he has no broadcast experience.  That may be true and it likely won’t be an easy transition, but I’m betting on Romo. The curiosity of Romo’s commentary will give the ratings a slight boost and younger fans will appreciate a familiar player that they grew up watching calling the action.  I predict he will surprise a lot of people with unique insight.  Meredith retired after the 1968 season before joining Monday Night Football in its debut in 1970.  That didn’t turn out too bad, did it?

But let’s go back to Tony Romo the player.  How should he be remembered?  Is he being shown too much love on his way out the door? What did he accomplish to receive this praise?  In sports there is room for a lot of different characters, novelties and myths.  Not everyone gets to be the knight who slayed the dragon and rode off on a white steed with a beautiful princess’s arms clutching his waist.  We might envy the ultimate hero, but we don’t always identify with him.

The role of Romo as the tragic hero is something that we are more able to relate to.  Many of us in life have had to work hard to conquer the odds and in doing so we were able to exceed expectations, but for whatever reason the big break never came and the grand milestone achievement eluded us.

Even though it didn’t have a fairy tale ending, it doesn’t take away the incredible plays Romo made on the field.  There are certain things he did at the quarterback position that only a sorcerer could duplicate.  He made football in Dallas fun again.  Whether you loved him or hated him you wanted to see him play because he seemed to add high drama to the game.  He teased you into thinking he might pull it off only to blow it in the final minutes or he fooled you that he would fold again while stealing another win.

Romo doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but he was just a couple plays away from greatness.  Take away a non-catch here, a bobbled snap there, a drive-killing penalty here or a fluke injury there and the narrative on Romo has changed significantly.

Unlike Meredith, Romo is receiving the accolades he deserves as he rides off into the sunset.  Just because he didn’t deliver hardware it doesn’t mean fans can’t appreciate the fact that he set team records, made some of the most memorable plays in franchise history and did it all while sacrificing his personal health.

What’s next for the undrafted kid out of Eastern Illinois?  Will he be as revered of a broadcaster as Dandy was?  Let’s not look that far ahead.  Joining Meredith in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor would make the most sense for the near future.

 

Fears of Cheers: The Tebow Effect

20170405_205755I have been arguing for the last few weeks that Colin Kaepernick remains a free agent mainly due to his on-field performance combined with the fact that his market has yet to be determined just like a few other names in free agency who are still without a home.  I continue to make the point that the protest isn’t the reason, but it is a reason.  It might not be the reason you think.

It has nothing to do with being afraid of the President’s Twitter handle or the fact the NFL is mostly a club of older, white conservative owners.  These are the same owners that had no interest in Rush Limbaugh joining their fraternity after it was mentioned he was considering making a bid for the Rams several years ago.  Roger Goodell made the statement that someone like Limbaugh and his “divisive comments” were not welcome.  Goodell works for the owners.  He was simply their mouthpiece on this one.  There is fear, but outside of certain markets it has little to do with political ideology.

Kaepernick is not a “distraction”, but his following is.  Is Kaepernick’s potential upside worth the media sideshow that will follow?  It all looks too familiar.  By now Tebowmania seems like it was decades ago (unless you’re a fan of minor league baseball), but for similar reasons it is why some NFL GMs and coaches cringe at the thought of signing Kaepernick.

Teams don’t want extra persuasion from the press and fans in regards to who will be their starting QB.  This is what happened with Tim Tebow.  He wasn’t good enough to start for the long haul.  John Elway had to pull off the unthinkable and land Peyton Manning in order to satisfy the media and the fans who would’ve buried the Broncos otherwise.

Tebow went to the Jets via the owner’s decision (ironically Woody Johnson who has been outspokenly critical of Kaepernick) and it was a headache gang green didn’t need.  Tebow regressed as a passer (never started a game), Mark Sanchez continued to struggle (had his infamous butt-fumble), head coach Rex Ryan was heavily scrutinized for mishandling the quarterback situation and the Jets finished a disappointing 6-10.  Ryan, who never met a headline he didn’t love, loathed Tebowmania and immediately cut ties with the faithful fan favorite following the 2012 season.  Tebow would never play another regular season game in the NFL.

Let’s say Kaepernick is signed by a team that isn’t settled at quarterback.  If he doesn’t start his proponents will argue it is related to his kneeling from last season.  There are a lot of people that won’t buy the narrative that “he hasn’t grasped the offense” or “the other quarterback on the roster gives us the best chance to win” even though those could be legitimate scenarios.

Tebow fans and Kaepernick fans/haters are alike in the sense that they are ignorant when it comes to the football logistics on why these guys don’t have jobs in the NFL.  The good news for Kaepernick is he is a much better quarterback than Tim Tebow and should land a gig this fall.

Kaepernick would be wise to accept a backup role for less money in 2017.  An ideal landing spot for him would be a team that has an established starting quarterback with a solid coaching staff that will help him resurrect his career.  This will benefit Kaepernick down the road and should quiet a lot of the noise that will follow him.

Here are the best destinations for Kaepernick:

Seattle Seahawks- Kaepernick is familiar with the Seahawks and they are familiar with him.  He would be an excellent backup for Russell Wilson and he would mesh well with Pete Carroll’s culture in Seattle.  There would be no outcry to bench Wilson, one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, in favor of Kaepernick who played for the rival Niners all those years.

Oakland Raiders- The Raiders were having a dream of a season until Derek Carr got hurt.  The Raiders already feature a talented supporting cast on offense and could use a better backup plan.  An organization historically known for sheltering castoffs and misfits seems like a match made in black hole heaven for Kaepernick.  If the fans in Oakland are upset about it who cares?  You’re moving to Vegas.

Carolina Panthers- Since Cam Newton takes a beating it would be wise for the Panthers to upgrade the second-string roster spot.  We saw what happened when Derek Anderson made an appearance last year.  Yikes!  Kaepernick would join an organization that has talent and stability.  It might not be popular with the fans in Charlotte.  Kaepernick knocked Newton and the Panthers out of the 2013 playoffs which probably upsets the Queen City citizens more than his kneeling.

Kansas City Chiefs- Hall of Famer and star of FS1’s Undisputed Shannon Sharpe believes the Chiefs are the best destination for Kaepernick.  Many feel that KC can only go so far with veteran Alex Smith and they might need to start looking at other options for seasons to come.  Andy Reid is a QB guru and who better to take on the Kaepernick reclamation project than the Kool-Aid Man himself?

Pittsburgh Steelers- Big Ben has taken his share of licks over the years and has hinted the end is near.  I’m not sure if the Steelers think Landry Jones is the future or even feel he is there best option at backup.  In Pittsburgh, Kaepernick would have a talented supporting cast around him if he had to play and if he did well who knows?  Maybe he could be the answer for life after Roethlisberger.  The only concern might be the circus-like atmosphere that the Pittsburgh locker room has been in recent years.  They might not need another non-football headline grabber.

New England Patriots- This is a long shot and it would depend on Jimmy Garoppolo being traded.  No one drowns out the echos like Bill Belichick and company.  If this were to happen Kaepernick would really have to prove himself worthy of making the roster.  Belichick likes to experiment and won’t hesitate to cut a proven veteran.  But if he were able to land a spot on the team what better place to turn his career around as Tom Brady’s understudy and working with an offensive mind like Josh McDaniels?  Given Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady’s support of Trump could you imagine the head explosions it would cause?

LaVar Ball Says, Kaepernick Waits, NBA Solution and Wife of the Year

20170322_001600.pngMy Three Sons

LaVar Ball is the new “cash me ousside” girl.  I am not ragging on Ball as a parent so don’t get it twisted that I am calling him a bad dad.  The father of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and two younger sons with a future beyond high school basketball, has become the latest poster child for sports memes on social media.  A man, who once averaged 2.2 points per game during his one season of college ball at Washington State, has been critical of NBA legends Michael Jordan, LeBron James and continues to have a war of words with Charles Barkley.  To sum it all up Ball is basically claiming that he and his sons can beat all these guys.  It doesn’t stop there.  He also went after their parenting skills.  The elder Ball has more in common with Danielle Bregoli than those basketball gods.  My news feed is full of hashtag “LaVar Ball says” just like it was with “how bout dat” a month ago.  The comparison to the troubled teen from Dr. Phil isn’t all negative.  Bregoli is cashing in on her unconventional path to fame.  Ball makes a lot of head turning statements, but is there a method to his madness?  Lonzo Ball is often considered to be the biggest star and top NBA prospect in college basketball. The longer UCLA stays in the tournament, the more headlines LaVar can grab, the larger the payout will be for a shoe contract.  15 minutes of fame is over in 5 minutes nowadays.  Anyone heard from the Jersey Shore kids lately?  Like Bregoli, Ball knows he has to strike while the iron is hot.

Checkout the LaVar Ball says Twitter page

Protesting to Play

Colin Kaepernick, once a promising young quarterback, has become a cautionary tale.  If you stink on the field you can’t afford non-football extras.  It is believed that Kaepernick, who remains a free agent, is still searching for a contract due to his kneeling during the national anthem last season. His protest plays a factor, but it is far from the main reason why he is currently unemployed.  Where is the guy who started in the Super Bowl and shredded the Packers in the playoffs?  Seems like a lifetime ago.  Since 2014, Kaepernick is 11-24 as a starter and has seen three of his head coaches canned in the process.  NFL front offices aren’t lining up to throw money at a potential coach-killer who was benched at the beginning of the year in favor of Blaine Gabbert and went 1-10 as a starter in 2016.  Sure the less accomplished Mike Glennon got a contract he probably doesn’t deserve because the Bears can sell his potential to their fan base while they figure out what they want to do long-term at QB (still looking for Sid Luckman’s replacement).  The whole social justice warrior thing is just baggage on top of Kaep’s poor play. It is no different than Tim Tebow, another man with good intentions, but draws too much attention to himself without the on-field production to compliment the media hype he’s receiving.  Kaepernick fans should be patient.  Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III and in a sense Tony Romo are all in search of a new home.  If Sam Bradford keeps getting inked to big deals there is hope for Colin yet.

Sitting Not So Pretty

Last month a buddy and I attended a game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia between the Sixers and the Heat.  To say the game lacked star power was an understatement.  All the big names such as Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons and Chris Bosh did not display their talents on the hardwood that evening.  Despite the noticeable absentees it ended up being an exciting atmosphere with great game action and minimal sloppy play.  That is a rarity combined with Phildelphia’s uniqueness as a sports town.  Last year we went to Madison Square Garden and Kristaps Porzingis didn’t play.  The MSG experience was memorable, the basketball being played not so much.  Those games didn’t feature teams that would or will be competing for an NBA championship and the guys that didn’t suit up were truly injured.  If we were going to see the Cavaliers, the Spurs or the Warriors and all of the star players were healthy and sitting I can tell you right now I would ask for my money back because this is a players league and fans pay top-dollar to see All-NBA talent. For the league it not only hurts future attendance, but it also puts the networks in a crunch who televise these games.  The solution is simple and it is called reduced minutes.  If the purpose of sitting superior talent is to save their mileage for the postseason then why not let them make a cameo in the game (that they would otherwise sit out) before they call it a night.  There could be the risks of an unwanted injury or they might have to play more than expected if their team gets in foul trouble, but it could go a long way to prevent damage to a product whose revenue is primarily driven by the world’s best players presence on the court.  Even if it is just for half a quarter the fans still get to say they saw LeBron James or Steph Curry make a bucket or two, more folks tune in at home and the only people left unhappy are the odds makers.

March Madam

The Kentucky Wildcats controversially defeated the Wichita State Shockers this past weekend in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s not the story.  Lynn Marshall, the wife of Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall, was seen wearing a basketball jersey in the stands while she appeared to be passionately cheering on her husband’s team.  Her passion may have gotten the best of her since it has been reported that arena security had to confront Mrs. Marshall about her behavior in the stands multiple times during the game and was eventually escorted from her seat (after the game was over) because she was allegedly shouting obscenities.  I’m sure this has caused headaches for Coach Marshall and the athletic director at the university and Lynn is receiving her share of heat which is probably justified.  To me her tantrum is a breath of fresh air.  I’d like to believe Mrs. Marshall’s tirade was out of love.  In a country where nearly half of marriages end in divorce it’s great to see the occasional spouse go bonkers in full support of what her husband does for a living.  My wife has used a few choice words about my former employer after I lost my job.  I’m probably more like Gregg and will say all the politically correct things about where I used to work, however I saw my wife’s venting as love for me more than I did for hate of my old company.  I do appreciate the fact that my Mrs. didn’t use any kind of social media or public platform to say what she felt she needed to say.  For Gregg’s sake I hope Lynn will contain her future enthusiasm as necessary.

Click here to catch some of Lynn Marshall’s antics

T.O. be or not T.O. be

The legacy of Terrell Owens will forever be stained because of his ability like no other to divide a locker room.  He also had  the ability like no other when it came to producing game breaking plays.

Many writers on the Hall of Fame selection committee have made an adamant case against the “player” simply known as T.O.  They will tell you three teams let him go in the prime of his career and that he dropped too many passes.  According to the T.O. detractors his childlike behavior and a drop here or there negate the fact that he is statistically a top 3 receiver in NFL history.  It probably doesn’t help that Owens himself has gone out of his way to say publicly that Hall of Fame voting was a “flawed process”.

I was on the fence about Owens until I asked myself what about Randy Moss?  You have to have Randy Moss (who is eligible next year) in Canton and therefore Mr. Owens should join him as well.  Moss had off the field issues that Owens didn’t, he took plays off, knocked balls down to avoid hits, was accused of quitting on his team and bounced around from franchise to franchise due to his behavior.  While Owens tantrums may have caused him to lose focus on the field occasionally, there was never any doubt that the original 81 gave it his all on every play.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a decision to make.  Do they want to make it about play on the field or do they want to factor in things didn’t happen between the lines?  The Baseball Hall of Fame has received criticism for keeping guys out like Pete Rose, the sport’s all-time hits leader because he bet on baseball as a player and manager.  And what about the great steroid era debate?  Talk about a real flawed process.

Pro Football Hall of Fame it is time to take a long look in the mirror to decide who you want to be.  Look at baseball and their “get off my lawn” boomer fan base.  Their commissioner looked the other way while guys were juicing and cranking them deep helping the Major Leagues recover from their strike in the mid nineties only to have a bunch of old white-haired bureaucrats on Capitol Hill do an investigation all so they could “protect” their precious records from their childhood with an asterisk.  And yet Rose, whose record you can’t attach an asterisk to, still can’t make his way into Cooperstown over three decades removed from his last at bat.  Pro Football Hall of Fame this could be your future if you are going to lower yourself to Owens’ level by not giving him his bust out of spite.

The NFL’s Hall had set the gold standard in a lot of people’s eyes when it came to how a Hall of Fame selection should operate.  Now it’s flirting with idea of changing the rules in the middle of the game.  You know who does that?  The WWE Hall of Fame.  Yes Pro Wrestling’s shrine to squared circle greatness that erased Hulk Hogan, basically the most iconic figure ever to lace up his boots and throw on a pair of those speedo-like trunks, from their Hall of Fame webpage because there was allegedly some audio out there of him making racist comments.  And this is where you Pro Football Hall of Fame need to remind yourself that you did not remove O.J. Simpson, even though he was convicted in civil court for butchering two human beings, because it had nothing to do with his playing career in the 1970s which got him his gold jacket in the first place.

So Pro Football Hall of Fame save face while you can and give that crybaby T.O. his bronze bust and gold jacket he deserves. Don’t be Cooperstown and please, please don’t be the WWE.  Vote Owens in sooner rather than later.  There will be more controversy not inducting him or voting him in posthumously than it would be to knock on his hotel door next year.  And if you want an example of an after death induction as a result of animosity look no further than pro wrestling legend Macho Man Randy Savage, one of the more beloved personalities in the industry, yet denied the right to receive his final accolades until after his existence had concluded.

Canton please do the right thing  so that you can continue to be a real Hall of Fame.  The fact that you drew comparison to fake one should be wake up call.

 

 

The Elephant in the Room

I recall a time at a much younger age when tensions seemed to rise every four years when Americans got the opportunity to perform that good old civic duty of heading to the polls and casting their ballot for the next Commander in Chief in hopes of the newly elected taking the Land of Opportunity to new heights.  Like I said there was tension, but it appeared to fade once the results were final. The quarrels between family and friends ended as life continued.

That was the 20th century.  In this millennium we get to hate one another 24 hours a day from New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve because the political circus is featured ’round the clock on cable news and social media. If you tune in regularly you will find those who hold or seek office become more polarizing by the hour.  And the more you give your two cents the more backlash you invite.  We used to have sports as an escape from everyday realities. Not anymore.  The sideshow in Washington has infiltrated that too.  In the words of George Costanza “worlds are colliding”.

Before it gets better it is going to get worse.  New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty have recently stated they will not attend the team’s White House visit which is a traditional invitation from the President to championship sports teams both at the professional and collegiate level.  Most people in the media saw this potential trend gaining life between Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem and the election of Donald Trump, however it doesn’t deserve the criticism or praise that it will receive compared to other protests and stands taken by athletes.  I don’t think Bennett and McCourty’s choice not go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should fall under either umbrella.

At the end of the day Bennett and McCourty do not feel comfortable going.  It could be for personal reasons or maybe they don’t feel like having to explain themselves to friends or relatives who have strong feelings and opinions about the direction our country is headed. In 2015 Tom Brady did not attend the Patriots visit with then President Barrack Obama.  Brady, a friend and supporter of President Trump, attended the previous three meetings with George W. Bush and even was seen at the 2004 GOP National Convention.  Obama just might not have been his cup of tea and he decided to pass.  Who cares?  I have more respect for people turning the other cheek and walking away rather than indulging themselves in controversy in order to receive attention or demonize someone else.

If you do not like what is on TV turn it off or change the channel.  If you don’t care for a particular protest stay clear of the crowd marching in the streets.  If you are upset about a scheduled campus speaker do not attend. Not enjoying what you see on social media?  Put down your iPhone and go do something else.  Perhaps you don’t want to visit the White House after winning a Super Bowl. Then by all means stay home. That’s okay too.

The 2015 NFL Season Will Go Something Like This

brady-goodell-flat2-webThe 2014 NFL season only saw two changes in division winners from the previous season.  Three of the four wildcard teams last year had missed the postseason in 2013.  For the last 15 years we have become accustomed to parody in the NFL, however it looks as if we are trending towards more consistency.  New England, Indianapolis, Denver, Seattle, and Green Bay have all made the playoffs and at least appeared in a conference championship game since 2012.  Can Baltimore or Pittsburgh jump back into that group this year?  Could Dallas, Philadelphia, or another make its way into the NFC Elite?

Let’s start with the divisions!

*indicates wildcard berth

AFC East

New England Patriots 11-5 The Patriots will face much improved defenses this year within their division.  The good news is the best QB not named Tom Brady in the AFC East is Ryan Tannehill.

Buffalo Bills 10-6* If the Bills had a top 10 quarterback they would be the Super Bowl favorites.  Rex re-energizes Orchard Park getting Buffalo back to the playoffs. 

Miami Dolphins 8-8 Defense looks great, but how does this offense stack up against the division foes’ defenses?  Not good.  

New York Jets 4-12 What happened to Geno Smith in training camp is a good indication of where the Jets are headed this year.  

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens 11-5 The key injuries to Pittsburgh give Baltimore the edge in the North.  You could argue they should still be the favorite even if the Steelers were healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals 10-6* Let’s face it we all know what the Bengals are.  The fact that this team has a second place schedule will allow Marvin Lewis to experience a first round exit yet again even with the Red Rifle having a few stinkers in the first 16.

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7  There is no doubt the Steelers will have their share of big plays this year, but suspensions and injuries could lead to a slow start which might be too much to overcome in a competitive AFC.

Cleveland Browns 3-13 The Browns are the Browns.  Watching this team blow the draft every year is more entertaining than the product on the field.  Just start Manziel already!

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts 12-4 Andrew Luck might prove to be the league’s best quarterback and he already plays in the league’s worst division.  Luck is all you need.

Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9 Someone has to emerge as somewhat mediocre out of the rubble that is the cellar of the AFC South.  Blake Bortles to Allen Robinson could be the next best pass-catch tandem in the NFL.  I’m not kidding.

Houston Texans 6-10 Houston has the best player in the league that is not a quarterback in JJ Watt and it doesn’t matter, because the Texans don’t have a quarterback and a running back for most of the year.  Don’t worry Ryan Mallett.  You will get a chance to start this year sooner rather than later.

Tennessee Titans 4-12 Questionable rookie quarterback on an already bad team.  If this squad wasn’t in the AFC South they’d be lucky to get half the wins I’m predicting they’ll get.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 This team isn’t good enough to contend with the AFC elite, but they are good enough to win the West.  I’m still baffled how a WR didn’t catch a TD pass last year?  In today’s pass happy NFL?!

San Diego Chargers 9-7 Philip Rivers never has the right weapons around him to take the Chargers deep into the playoffs.  This year will be the same story.

Denver Broncos 8-8 Peyton Manning can still play in this league.  He won’t be Denver’s downfall.  The organization gutting the coaching staff after four straight division titles will spell doom for the Broncos.  A new offensive philosophy at this stage in his career may make Manning rethink buckling his chinstrap after this season.

Oakland Raiders 6-10 The bad news:  the Raiders still have a long way to go.  The good news:  they will show signs of life this year and better yet improvement.

NFC East 

Dallas Cowboys 11-5 Even without DeMarco Murray the Cowboys still have the most talented roster man for man in the division.  A much improved defense should enable them to repeat in the East.

Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 It’s not Chip Kelly the coach, it’s Chip Kelly the GM that will do Philly in.  While it is important for coaches to have say in personnel decisions, outside of Bill Belichick when does the coach being judge, jury, and executioner with the team’s roster ever work?

New York Giants 7-9 We’re about to find out how good Odell Beckham Jr. really is.  Holes in the offensive line and all over the defense means that the G-Men will need to many more big plays from No. 13 if they are going to have a chance at getting back in the playoffs.

Washington Redskins 4-12 Daniel Snyder has been compared to guys like Jerry Jones and Al Davis.  At least those guys won championships before they screwed up their teams.  The dumpster fire continues in the Nation’s Capital.  

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 11-5 With Peterson back, Teddy Bridgewater, in his second year in Norv Turner’s offense, will look better than he really is.  He’ll get a few assists from his defense and the Vikes will steal the division.

Green Bay Packers 10-6* This team can still win without Jordy Nelson.  Aaron Rodgers has proved time and again he is good enough to carry this team on his back.  Unfortunately for him he doesn’t have the luxury of playing in the AFC South like Andrew Luck.  It will be a tougher road for Green Bay.

Detroit Lions 9-7 The key to the Lions success will be running the football.  Their losses on defense will likely be too much in the end.  Detroit has not made the playoffs in consecutive years since Wayne Fontes was the coach.

Chicago Bears 8-8 Don’t sleep on these guys.  John Fox’s style of pounding the rock and gritty defense is what Chicago Bear football is all about.

NFC South 

Atlanta Falcons 9-7 One of these teams has to win this division and it will probably be Atlanta by default.  Dan Quinn will likely make better in-game decisions than Mike Smith.  It is nearly impossible to make any worse.

New Orleans Saints 8-8 If Drew Brees has any gas left in the tank it should be the Saints division for the taking.  Unfortunately for Who Dat Nation the gauge seems to be going towards “E”.

Carolina Panthers 6-10 Kelvin Benjamin had the best rookie season of any receiver not named Odell Beckham Jr.  His absence will cost the Panthers a shot at repeating as South champs and maybe even Ron Rivera his job.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13 Winston has what it takes to be a good NFL quarterback except for an offensive line.  Let the growing pains begin in Tampa.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks 12-4 The Seahawks might be worse than they were last year which could still be good enough to win it all.

St. Louis Rams 10-6* Todd Gurley and Tre Mason could give the Rams a lethal ground attack.  If this happens it will open up things for Nick Foles giving St. Louis the QB it has lacked during the years of the Fisher era.

Arizona Cardinals 8-8 I’m betting that injuries and Father Time have caught up to Carson Palmer.  Even if Matt Barkley is better than Ryan Lindley it probably still won’t be enough for the Cards.

San Francisco 49ers 5-11 If San Francisco can make it to .500 Jim Tomsula needs to be Coach of the Year.

Playoffs

Wildcard Weekend

AFC

Buffalo Bills 21 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Baltimore Ravens 31 Cincinnati Bengals 10

NFC 

Green Bay Packers 27 Atlanta Falcons 13

Minnesota Vikings 23 St. Louis Rams 20

Divisional Round

AFC

New England Patriots 24 Baltimore Ravens 23

Indianapolis Colts 38 Buffalo Bills 16

NFC

Dallas Cowboys 30  Minnesota Vikings 22

Seattle Seahawks 26 Green Bay Packers 24

AFC Championship 

Indianapolis Colts 34 New England Patriots 24

NFC Championship

Seattle Seahawks 17 Dallas Cowboys 13

Super Bowl 50 

Indianapolis Colts 20 Seattle Seahawks 19

Awards:

MVP Andrew Luck- IND

Offensive Player of the Year Dez Bryant- DAL

Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald- STL

Offensive Rookie of the Year Ameer Abdullah- DET

Defensive Rookie of the Year Randy Gregory- DAL

Comeback Player of the Year Eric Berry- KC

Coach of the Year John Fox- CHI

Covering the Bases: OBJ, Rookie Linemen, EIU QBs, McCloughan’s Mouth, and the Playmaker’s Prediction

img25184933

Cover This

When you make video game-like catches it is only fitting that you appear on the cover of the NFL’s most coveted hand-eye coordination product played by the majority of those who still live in mom’s basement.

Odell Beckham Jr. beat out Rob Gronkowski to be the Madden 2016 cover boy.  The Offensive Rookie of the Year, who probably made the most impossible catch ever witnessed in a nationally televised football game, will aim to start this season healthy and with the return of Victor Cruz we could see No. 13 re-write the record books.

Oh yeah I guess we have to mention the Madden Curse.  Most of those guys that were “cursed” happened to be running backs that flamed out after so many carries which happens to plenty of guys that have never been on the box of the popular EA Sports game.  OBJ isn’t going anywhere unless it is further up the ladder of NFL stardom.

Divided Lines

What if tragedy had not taken place and La’el Collins was drafted in the first round?  Brandon Scherff was ranked as the highest lineman on most big boards, but would the Redskins have been more inclined to trade the pick knowing that they could still land either Scherff or Collins with a later selection?  And what about the Giants?  They likely land a better player in Collins as opposed to having to reach for Ereck Flowers.

Instead Collins joins the Dallas Cowboys, a team that already has the best offensive line in football.  Jerry Jones signed this man at a discount price which also adds insult to injury.  Either way you slice it the top three rookie prospects on the offensive line are playing in the NFC East. Of the three who will have the better career?  Collins probably has the best chance to be a Pro Bowl player, not because Scherff and Flowers are necessarily less talented, but more due to the fact of who he is playing alongside with.

Alumni Weekend

If Tom Brady’s four game suspension stands after the appeal process it will mark the first time in NFL history that two quarterbacks from Eastern Illinois University will square off against one another.  Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are separated by 11 years from their time at their alma matter, but you could make the case that they are already forever linked.  Romo’s success as an undrafted free agent put EIU on the map and gave Garoppolo additional exposure that automatically enhanced his draft status.

Outside of the Panther faithful in Charleston, IL there probably aren’t too many people eager see this match-up which was supposed to be Brady’s first and maybe only appearance at AT&T Stadium.  Saints head coach Sean Payton is the only other EIU quarterback to play in the NFL and that was with the Bears in 1987 as a replacement player during the strike.   Former Redskins, Broncos, and Raiders head coach Mike Shanahan also played under center for the Panthers, but his playing career was cut short due to injury.  Former Minnesota Vikings head coach and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive assistant Brad Childress is also a graduate of the school.

Great Scot!

Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is pumping some life back into the front office and he is doing so without making outlandish free agent signings attached to bad contracts that Washington was previously known for under Daniel Snyder’s regime.

Yes McCloughan has made some very solid off-season moves, but when I say he is pumping life back into the front office I’m referring to his passion and humor.  Snyder, vilified in the nation’s capital, has about as much personality as a dead fish.  Bruce Allen the former GM and current team president is hardly the man his father George Sr. was who talked more trash about the Dallas Cowboys than any modern day fan when he coached the Skins in the 1970s.

McCloughan attend a Washington Capitals playoff game praising their “out of control” fans.  He’s already comparing draft pick Matt Jones to Beastmode and he was recently quoted saying that outfielder Bryce Harper would make a better safety than cornerback given the fact that he’s white.  With the exception of Jerry Jones what other GMs do this?  I can’t wait to hear what this man says next!  Hopefully this is McCloughan’s normal behavior and not the bottle talking (he’s a recovering alcoholic) because with these type of statements he should be a media darling and a fan favorite if he can turn the tide in DC.

Unlike Mike

We are only halfway through May and already Philly fans are annoyed with Cowboy nation ranting and raving over their high profile rookie acquisitions.  While there is some uncertainty in the City of Brotherly Love as to where the Eagles might finish this year a familiar enemy thinks they will take back the division.

The Playmaker, Michael Irvin, the biggest homer when it comes to his former team, is rolling with Philadelphia to beat out his beloved Cowboys in the NFC East.  The man whose career ended at Veterans Stadium while Eagles fans cheered him being carted off in an ambulance cites the decision by Dallas not to bring back DeMarco Murray leaving him to sign with Philly as the main reason why Big D won’t retain their division crown.

Irvin was very critical of the organization he spent 12 seasons with for not forking over the dough to re-sign the NFL’s leading rusher.  He felt it sent a bad message throughout the locker room that someone went out and performed at the highest level only for the team to think that the performance wasn’t worthy of being rewarded.  Even with the Cowboys offensive line that features three Pro Bowlers, the Playmaker agrees with others that “you can’t just put anybody back there”.

The more I think about it it isn’t that surprising to see Irvin feel this way.  After all he didn’t have a winning season in Dallas until Emmitt Smith was the featured back.  The Cowboys of the 1990s also had a great offensive of line, but in 1993 the games Smith didn’t suit up for because of a holdout or injury they lost.  When he was on the field they won every contest including the Super Bowl confirming Irvin’s reluctance to embrace running back by committee.  If the Cowboys get off to a fast start or Philly stumbles out the gate no one will be shocked if Irvin changes his tune.

Shady Behavior: What Chip Kelly isn’t doing to take Eagles to a Championship Level

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (C) pats running back LeSean McCoy on the back late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on September 29, 2013.  Denver (4-0) beat Philadelphia (1-3) 52-20 to remain undefeated.     UPI/Gary C. Caskey

No one may be more ahead of the curve when it comes to play innovation and the physical science of athletes than Chip Kelly. Since he has arrived in the league the former University of Oregon coach has shaken things up to say the least much like he did in the world of college football.

Despite making head scratching moves this off-season there are many analysts, fellow coaches, players, and fans that believe in Kelly and his methods.

Of course not everyone shares those same sentiments particularly LeSean “Shady” McCoy, Kelly’s former All-Pro running back who he shipped to Buffalo in March. Last week McCoy made it a point to mention that Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”.

Does McCoy have a point? Is there something more to why Kelly got rid of him and guys like DeSean Jackson who were elite performers? Or is this just McCoy’s bitterness talking? Perhaps animosity as he sees Kelly replacing him as the new face of the franchise?

I will answer the latter first and say there is no doubt that McCoy is upset about leaving Philadelphia. He played his whole football career in the state of Pennsylvania and he was active in the local community.  That being said, I do not think his comments should be easily dismissed as just someone with a bone to pick. There is something very transparent going on in Philadelphia despite Kelly, a very private person to begin with, not wanting to talk about it.  Keep in mind this is the same guy that gave Riley Cooper an extension after his N-word video went viral.

Kelly wants his type of guys on this roster and that is one of the reasons he is purging Andy Reid’s players.  He also has gotten rid of some big contracts to free up cap room and yes he did bring in a lot of new black players.

So what is the issue?  Let’s go back to Kelly bringing in his type of guys.  There is nothing wrong with acquiring personnel that are great locker room guys, who maintain a high level of character on and off the field, that don’t command a lot of attention, and play good sound fundamental football.  Yes you don’t need a team full of players who are flashy, household name superstars that may or may not bring extra or unwanted attention away from the team’s facilities.  But you do need some of those guys.

The great thing about football is that it diffuses culture.  A black kid from the projects in Detroit can catch a pass from a white farm boy that originates from Iowa.  Two totally different walks of life who likely would have never crossed paths if it weren’t for football.  The same goes for fans.  In the stands the only colors you are judged by are the ones you wear to support your team.

The NFC East’s history is a perfect example of coaches who took a chance with players who displayed unorthodox styles or had a rough upbringing and turned it into a success story.  Take Bill Parcells, who had Lawrence Taylor, a trainwreck away from football, but he was able to use LT’s wreckless behavior to his advantage on the field, making him arguably the greatest defensive player to ever step on the gridiron. Currently we see Parcells’ protege, Bill Belichick using this same method of player psychology giving him the ability to bring in NFL stars with baggage and in most cases it has paid big dividends.  How about Jimmy Johnson?  When he was at the University of Miami he took a lot of underprivileged youths whose only chance of getting off the streets was football. Under his tutelage a number of these young men became quality players at the next level.  When Johnson got to that next level he continued to embrace these talented individuals enabling him to taste glory.  Even though Buddy Ryan never got the Eagles to a championship he did build some of the best defenses in NFL history and was one of only two coaches who was playing a black quarterback at the time.  This controversial, stocky white-haired man from Oklahoma was loved by most of his team, especially his black players, some of which who followed him to Arizona when he coached the Cardinals.  10 years after Buddy left Philly they hired another coach and to call him stocky would be an understatement.  Andy Reid, a west coast BYU alum and practicing Mormon, also drafted a black kid from Chicago named Donovan McNabb to be the leader of his franchise.  Although he never won the big one Reid had the Eagles in the conversation almost every year.  Like Ryan, he wasn’t afraid to take chances with personnel and his players adored him.

We can even go back to guys like Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs.  Devout Christian, mild-mannered white men who might not have had a close bond with the guys they coached, however if one of their players was having a problem they would be the first to get them some help.

Kelly has a particular issue accepting players who may still have connections to their troubled roots.  He strongly prefers a reserved, businesslike focus from his guys and has less tolerance for fame and flair.  Most of these players in question are black.  Does this mean Kelly is racist?  It would be unfair to put that label on Kelly considering this current society is still trying to define what racism is in today’s world.  Is it prejudice against skin color?  Culture and religion?  The dialect in which we speak?  The clothes we wear?  How we vote?  Our income and family situations? The way we carry ourselves?  No one really knows because nobody discusses it.  Sure we point and blame and scream and call people out, but we never talk about it in a civil manner.  People often criticize ESPN’s First Take, but at least they have the guts to bring up this controversial topic without slandering each other in the process.

As I alluded to earlier Kelly won’t address this.  By doing so he could squash this notion and make a positive statement that could resonate with his team, the rest of the league, and maybe even beyond that.  Why doesn’t he?

Football is a game of emotions.  It is a game of expression.  You can come up with all the formations in the world, but it can’t account for the intangibles that these athletes posses needed to take a team over the top.

I’m not saying Kelly can’t evolve on this matter, but he better do it quickly.  His radical moves have built very lofty expectations in Philadelphia. Last year his team had a 9-3 record only to finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs.  Is Kelly the type of coach a team can rally around in the face of adversity?  We have yet to see it.

Kelly will eventually come to the realization that he will have to take a risk on a player that doesn’t fit his current mold in order to win a Super Bowl.  The real question is when he finally does will it be too late?

Brady, Shady and a Big Bargin in Big D

tom-brady

Inflated Chances

Deflate Gate is alive and well.  The release of the Wells Report has revived this thought to have been dead story claiming Tom Brady likely had prior knowledge about the under-inflated footballs used in last year’s AFC title game.  There is now even talk of Brady being suspended.  If that were the case it could have a positive impact on NFC East teams pending the length of the suspension.

Personally I’m tired of the outcry on this issue.  Brady may or may not have known about the air pressure in some footballs, yet people are acting like the man set an orphanage on fire.  It’s ridiculous!  That being said this could potentially be big for Dallas if it is a four game suspension as they wouldn’t have to face Brady for their October match-up with the Patriots.  If it’s an eight game suspension Washington would avoid facing No. 12 as well.  As for the Giants and Eagles?  They need to hope for a Sean Payton type suspension.  They have the Pats Week 10 and Week 13 respectively.

Reduced Rookies

Last week the Cowboys made headlines by drafting talented, but troubled defensive end Randy Gregory.  They landed him at pick No. 60 which many experts dubbed easily the “biggest steal of the draft”.  Less than a week later Dallas may have made an even bigger one.

La’El Collins, arguably the best offensive lineman entering the draft, had to leave Chicago prior to the event due to the murder of his ex-girlfriend.  Collins was never believed to be a suspect, however given what transpired with Aaron Hernandez no team wanted to touch him and he went undrafted.

He was questioned by authorities and once it became clear Collins had nothing to do with the tragic incident he instantly became the most coveted rookie free agent.  His decision to take Jerry Jones’ offer means that the Cowboys basically got three first-rounders and out of the three the two most talented ones came at a huge discount.

A Chip on his Shoulder

LeSean “Shady” McCoy was the face of the franchise for the Philadelphia Eagles so it came as a shock to many when he was traded to Buffalo in March.  It’s no secret that there is no love loss between McCoy and Chip Kelly, however the comments made recently by McCoy regarding his former head coach raises a new issue.

McCoy claimed that Kelly wants “full control” which is no secret, but he also emphasized that Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”.  So does the man they call Shady have a legit argument or is it just a case of him having bitter ax to grind?

Yes Kelly did sign and draft other black players, but he also gave an extension to mediocre receiver Riley Cooper last season who a year earlier was recorded dropping an N-bomb.  Philly’s best receiver DeSean Jackson was let go the same off-season that Cooper signed his deal.

Kelly has yet to address McCoy’s comments.  Are they worth acknowledging?  Stay tuned as I’ll have more to say when it comes to Shady’s feelings towards Kelly.  Circle your calendars for December 13th when the Eagles host the Bills.