Category Archives: Football

Every NFL Broadcast Needs a Young Guy on the Staff to Keep the Old Announcers from Repeating Nonsense

We watched a thrilling Bears/Giants game Sunday.  It was easily one of the more enjoyable Giants games I have ever watched, even though the Giants are going nowhere this season.  That said, FOX’s analyst Charles Davis made me realize that NFL broadcasts need to employ an additional person.  They need to employ a football fan under the age of 40 whose sole job is to notify the production team when an analyst makes a point that everyone under 40 knows is wrong.  This plan will keep the announcer from belaboring that point.  I am not trying to single out Charles Davis here.  Plenty of veteran announcers (see “Aikman, Troy”) fall into this same category.

You are probably wondering, “What did Charles Davis say today to make you want to write this post?”  It was actually two things.  Let us start with the main one…

If you watched the game, you know that the momentum-changing play was Saquon Barkley’s 3rd-and-23 run at the end of the first half.  Instead though, Charles Davis focused over and over and over again on the fact that the Bears called timeout before this run.  When the Bears called timeout, there were 16 seconds on the clock with the Giants facing 3rd and 23 from their own 30.  The Bears’ only mistake was that they let time (I am not sure exactly how many seconds) tick off the clock between the previous play and this timeout.  Anyone under 40 watching this game knows that the Bears should have called timeout immediately after second down (a sack of Eli).  This way, assuming the Bears create a stop on 3rd down, the Bears can call another timeout and have a chance to block a punt or throw up a Hail Mary.  Somehow, neither play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt nor Davis noted at any time before the timeout that the Bears should want to call a timeout.  Everyone knows that 3rd-and-23 is supposed to be an automatic 3rd-down stop.  Thus, the Bears did the automatic thing by calling timeout.  It is a basic thing. There is nothing noteworthy at all about it, yet Davis harped on this point over and over and over again for the rest of the game.  Saquon made an amazing run.  That was the story, not the timeout.  Had FOX gone with my suggestion, someone could have told Davis after his first comment about the timeout, “everyone knows the timeout made sense.  Focus on the Saquon run.”

Image result for charles davis and kevin burkhardt
Image via Charles Davis

The second Davis faux-pas deals with the classic “down by 10 with 2 minutes to go” saga.  Roughly 10 years ago, older announcers could not yet deal with the concept that it sometimes makes sense to kick a field goal, then do an onside kick, and then go for a touchdown.  Now, older announcers have caught on to the concept, but they overuse it.  The Bears used a big play to arrive at 1st and Goal with 1:28 to play.  From that point on, Davis said repeatedly, “The Bears don’t need to go for a touchdown here.  They are going to have to get a field goal at some point anyway.”

Of course, he is not wrong that a field goal there keeps the Bears’ hope for a win alive.  However, anyone under 40 watching that game knows that the primary storyline at that point is: If you have made it to first and goal, you really really really really want to get the touchdown there.  After all, to get an onside kick is tough enough.  To then march downfield for a touchdown is even tougher.  Thus, you do not want to sacrifice a goal-to-go scenario by settling for a field goal.  The main goal there is to score a touchdown, so that, in the event of a successful onside kick, the Bears need only a field goal to tie.  Plus, they could then win the game on a touchdown.

Granted, we know that the Bears did ultimately kick a field goal on 4th down.  Once 4th down arrived, Davis was justified in saying it was OK for the Bears to settle for a field goal.  Yes, the Bears did score a touchdown after the onside kick, but, if they had scored a TD on that first of the two drives, perhaps they would have won the game with another regulation TD.  The moral of the story is that anyone under 40 was thinking that Davis was off-base with the “The Bears can kick a FG here, since they need a FG at some point anyway” storyline.  Let us get someone on the production team to tell Davis to stop repeating that comment unless it is fourth down.

At this point, you might be wondering if today was the first day that this thought entered my head.  Definitely not.  Over the years, here are the most common cases where broadcast teams could use a young mind in the production staff:

  • 4th Downs: Plain and simple. If you are over 45, you are Troy Aikman, or you are both; you think that teams should never ever go for it on 4th down unless it’s 4th and goal from the 1 with 1 second remaining and your team down by 7.  (And even then, Aikman might advise a field goal.)  Needless to say, young people recognize that, in the modern era of crazy amounts of offense, going for it on 4th down is often the right move.  In fact, the second-quickest way to out yourself as an old person is by saying, “You always wanna take the points”.  Of course, the quickest way to out yourself is to say either “The Twitter” or “The Facebook”. Additionally, young minds realize that, if you go for it on 4th down inside the other team’s 20 and do not convert, you still force the other offense to travel further than if you kick a field goal.  When a team misses a conversion deep into opposing territory, no 40+-year-old announcer has ever noted that the team benefited thereafter from forcing a three-and-out and receiving good field position after the punt.
Image result for troy aikman in booth
Image via Fox Sports
  • Space-time continuum: This one overlaps with #1. If a team passes up a 1st-quarter field goal, goes for the first down, and does not convert; you cannot say with 2 minutes left in the game, “The Giants are down by 2, but, if they had only kicked that field goal in the first quarter, they would be winning now.”  Back to the Future came out in 1985, yet older announcers know nothing about the space-time continuum.  If you change what happens early in a game, everything that happens thereafter changes too.  The under-40 production guy would know this.

 

  • Committing to the running game: Older announcers are always bewildered when teams with strong running games deviate from the run when down by 21 in the second half. “I don’t know why the Cardinals are abandoning the run here.  They told us in production meetings that they wanted to control the running game.”  Wanna know who does know?  Young people.  Teams do not run the ball when down 21 in the second half.

 

  • “You’re on the road/at home/going nowhere this season, you might as well go for it here.” – Again, I have never heard someone under 40 base a punt/FG/go-for-it decision on whether a team is home or away. I swear these comments are the small talk of old announcers.  We are annoyed when people walk tell us, “Monday again?  Oh, the weekend goes by too fast.”  Mindless talk, just like this “home/road” garbage.  Herm Edwards was right that every coach “plays to win the game”.  Your record does not dictate whether or not to go for it on 4th  Neither does home/away.  Your talent and the game situation do.  Speaking of which…

Image result for herm edwards you play to win the game gif

  • Going for two: For older announcers, going for two is like new technology, new rappers, and difficult-to-pronounce names combined. It is an absolute trainwreck.  It has always been a disaster, but, now that strong offensive teams have realized that, with extra points being less sure things (since being moved back), it can make sense to go for two all the time.  This makes things especially tough for older announcers.  “Why wouldn’t you just take the sure point here???” is something they say in their sleep at this point.  Additionally, when a team is down 15 late in a game and scores a TD, you know that an old announcer’s head is ready to explode if the team goes for 2 after the first TD.  “Why are they going for two here????  They don’t need to go for it yet.  If they miss it here, the game is over.”  As a counterpoint, young people present math.  You might as well go for two first, so that, if you miss it, you know you have to find a way to score twice more.  Lastly, in terms of 2-point conversions.  If you are down 7 and score a touchdown at the end of regulation, your decision is simple.  If you are the favorite, you kick the extra point and take your chances in OT.  If you are the underdog, you go for two.  It’s the basic “NCAA Basketball Tournament” premise.  There is no way UMBC would have beaten UVA in a Best-of-7 last year, but UMBC was able to win a Best-of-1.  If you are the underdog, your chances improve as you decrease the sample size.  Thus, you would rather beat the favorite over one play than over multiple overtime possessions.

 

Guess who understands this?  Young football fans.  Thus, NFL broadcasts, the time has come to put young guys in the production staff to make sure your announcers do not keep harping on silly points.

Condoleezza Rice Being a Head Football Coach Makes as Much Sense as Having a Reality Star for President

A pretty surprising rumor spread around the NFL today:

Former Secretary of State under the George W. Bush Administration could be the next Browns head coach? When you’re as bad as Cleveland has been for the past decade, you really have to explore ALL options. Crazier things have certainly happened. I mean Magic Johnson has a Grammy and Kobe has an Oscar. Apply for the job you want, not the one you’re qualified for.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no truth to the rumors. The Browns have denied it, and Rice turned down the job almost immediately.

This would certainly be an unprecedented moment in NFL and US history. It might rival Trump becoming President, which whether you are a Democrat or Republican have to acknowledge is a wild concept. It’s like if JJ Watt became the next Crocodile Hunter (RIP Steve Irwin). It would just be a head-scratcher. Although, Watt versus the crocs of Australia would be must-watch television. That’s a free idea, Animal Planet. Run with it.

I know this wasn’t something the team actually tried to do, but to be honest I believed for a second it was happening. They have officially entered the “Fuck it” zone and any rumor I hear about them is credible. If you told me the front office hired my Operations Management professor as a special advisor to try to streamline the offensive efficiency, I’d buy it. If I heard Denzel Washington got a phone call about the being next head coach, I’d head to Google to see if he took the job.

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The Browns overall just need to stop trying to be a successful franchise. The NFL is a lot more fun with them as the “bad team”. When the Seahawks clock in for a qualified stinker, at least I can fall back on the fact that Hue Jackson was 3-36-1. Somebody needs to set the low-bar, and life is better/funnier when it’s the Browns. It’s like, I know I’m a really bad cook, but when I hear that some people my age don’t know how to boil water, it makes me think maybe I should submit for some open chef jobs. The Browns being historically atrocious keeps things in the status quo. Please, never change.

 

 

 

To the Remaining Eli Supporters, I Ask, “What Would It Take…?”

Hello, all.  It has been nearly two full months since I last wrote a post, and I know there has been a huge void in your lives.  TMZ has been all over me, trying to find scandalous reasons why I have not been posting.  No, nobody punted my dog Rex off a bridge.  The truth is much less exciting than that.  My wife and I moved into a house at the end of August, and it turns out that moving into a house while starting the school year (as a teacher) means that I have not had too much spare time.

Now that we have put that item to bed, I figured what better way to return to this blog than with my favorite topic: “Eli Manning”?  If you recall, I wrote two Eli posts last year – one in which I suggested that his time was running out and one in which I discussed what I considered to be the negative overreaction to his benching.  Of course, I was tempted to write a third about how I thought it was unfair that the Giants ultimately threw Ben McAdoo under the bus for the matter (although I generally did not like McAdoo’s coaching for other reasons).  I ultimately decided not to write the third post, as I would have come across as crazy writing three “Eli” posts during one season.  However, if I write a post this season, I would be sitting at 1.5 “Eli” posts per season over last year and this year.  That does not make me crazy, right?

Allow me to proceed…As we sit here today, the Giants sport a 1-7 record.  Given that I strongly wanted the Giants to draft a quarterback this past April; if you had told April-me that the Giants would pass on drafting a QB and would be 1-7 halfway through the 2018 NFL season, April-me would have assumed that November-me would be livid.  Fortunately, that is not the case.  Granted, it stinks being 1-7, but at least I was able to practice this situation last year.  (Not to mention, the 2012-2014 seasons gave me pretty good practice as well, even if those seasons were not quite “1-7 start”-level bad”)

No, the surprise to April-me would be that I am not mad that the Giants did not draft a quarterback.  Saquon Barkley is clearly one of the best running backs in the game, and none of the quarterbacks drafted are setting the world on fire.  Do not get me wrong – It is likely that at least one of the quarterbacks will develop into a great quarterback, but that has not happened yet.  If Sam Darnold were playing like rookie-year Andrew Luck, I would be beside myself on a daily basis….but he is not doing that.

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Image via USA Today

Therefore, the Giants now have the chance to set things right. They can either draft a quarterback with their high 2019 draft pick, or they can use the pick to build their core (hopefully using the pick on an offensive lineman) while picking up a veteran quarterback for next season.  I thought that the Giants should have signed Teddy Bridgewater last offseason.  He would have been a low-risk, high-reward player who would have pushed Eli.  However, the Giants astoundingly decided that, because they had benched Eli in December, it made sense to provide him with the least competition of any of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks.  (Alex Tanney, Kyle Lauletta, and the since-released Davis Webb comprised Eli’s “competition”.)  Well, the Giants can right that wrong this coming offseason, whether with Bridgewater or someone else of that level.

The nice thing for me to see is that, after a second-straight deplorable season (OK, half-season in this case), many more fans are coming around on the idea that it is time from Eli.  That is comforting.  At the same time though, there are still fans out there who think Eli is not a problem.  The majority of these fans blame everything on the Giants’ offensive line, and that leads me to the main idea of this post.  To these fans, I ask, “What would it take for you to think that Eli is done?”

Honestly, what would it take?  Sure, the Giants’ offensive line is bad, but Eli supporters make it seem like Eli’s offensive line is a million times worse than any other offensive line in the league.  Eli’s supporters say that, because Eli is an immobile quarterback, it is imperative that the Giants drastically improve their line.  Well, the line this year is slightly better than it was last year.  Nate Solder has disappointed, and Will Hernandez is a work in progress, but the line is a little better than last year than when Ereck Flowers was prominently involved.  How much improvement does the offensive line need, in order for Eli to become even a mediocre quarterback, at this point?

When Eli’s supporters argue about him being an immobile quarterback, they have the argument backwards.  Every quarterback in the league other than Tom Brady is more mobile than Eli.  Therefore, it is Eli’s lack of mobility that is the big problem to address.  While the venerable Rob Sartori would know more about the Seahawks’ O-Line than I do, I am pretty sure that the group is nothing amazing.  At the same time, Russell Wilson’s mobility makes it such that the line is less of a detriment than it would be with Eli behind it.  Russell Wilson is generally considered a mobile quarterback.  However, even quarterbacks who we do not think of as mobile – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Philip Rivers, Big Ben (in his advanced age), to name a few – still show a bit more mobility than Eli does.  At a minimum, those QBs can take the necessary step or two after the snap to dance out of pressure.  That is all a quarterback needs to be able to do to keep the offensive line from being a complete liability.

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Image via NY Post

Unfortunately, Eli cannot do that.  For every legitimate case of Eli being sacked immediately after the snap (thus of no fault of his own), there is also a case of Eli either stepping into a circle of defenders (and being sacked) or holding the ball for too long while he gets sacked deep behind the line of scrimmage.  Eli’s defenders say that these last two scenarios are not his fault because Eli is so shell-shocked at this point.  Well, whether it is his fault or not, the fact that remains that Eli is one of the two least-mobile quarterbacks (with Tom Brady) in the league, and he is the most shell-shocked.  Therefore, if you were to take the backup quarterback on any non-Giants team in the league and have him start on the Giants, one would likely see a more mobile and less shell-shocked QB.  Thus, one would likely see a more productive Giants QB.

It seems a heck of a lot easier to replace the Giants’ quarterback than it is to replace the entire infrastructure around Eli.  Saying that the line is the problem and that Eli is not is akin to saying that the problem with having a flip phone is that there are not computers with Internet capability 10 feet apart across the whole planet.  “If only there were computers everywhere, my lack of a smart phone would not be a problem anymore!”  That is the logic I hear from Eli’s supporters.  In a league in which every quarterback drafted nowadays has at least a modicum of mobility, maybe it is a bad idea that the Giants hold on to such an immobile quarterback.

Additionally, I hear people say that, when Eli has time to throw a good ball, he can still throw as well as anyone.  Stop it.  Even in Eli’s prime, he was never the most accurate passer.  Yes, he threw the most clutch/accurate pass in NFL history when he threw the bomb to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI, but most of his career has seen plenty of wounded ducks and plenty of passes behind big receivers like Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks that the receivers were able to reel in.

I also hear people talk about Eli’s great game against Philly last December, his strong game in Houston in September, and his great finish in Carolina this October.  Some use these games as proof that he can still be great, but I see this as the ultimate case of confirmation bias.  Any quarterback this side of Nathan Peterman can have a few great games in the modern NFL; the league is set up for QBs to dominate.  Therefore, a quarterback is judged on how few bad games he has, more so than on how many good games he has.  Josh McCown had probably 5 or 6 very good games last year, and he has been on the bench this whole season.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has a few very good games seemingly every year but can never hold a starting job.  Those two career backups are held down because we have seen too many bad games out of them, yet Eli’s supporters refuse to hold the same standard to Eli.

Thus I ask again to our Eli supporters, “What would it take for you to say it’s over?”  Do you need to see three-consecutive seasons of three or fewer wins?  Do you need to see Eli be sacked 100 times in a season?  Do the Giants need to trade for Andrew Luck?  Do you need to see the Giants put nine players on the offensive line to block, so that Eli finally has enough time?  What would it take?

Lastly, for copyright purposes, I should come clean that I first heard this “What would it take?” premise when used by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.  He is a Republican who was using this question to criticize Republicans who refused to condemn then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump for anything.  Thus, since I am citing a Republican who is criticizing other Republicans, hopefully those two components cancel each other out…and you – Republican or Democrat – are ok with me using the line.

Giants Fans Ruined Their Chances of Moving On From Eli Manning

The Giants have started this year worse than anticipated, and their dreadful past two seasons were highly unexpected. I remember at the beginning of the 2017 campaign, they were placed at #2 overall in Bleacher Report’s NFL Power Rankings. Later that same year, they had the #2 overall pick in the draft.

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Most of it can be blamed on Ben McAdoo, who was a dumpster fire of a football coach. I could probably have thrown my mom out there on the sidelines and she could’ve won 4 or 5 games. And she still asks me every year when the Seahawks are going to be in the Super Bowl. They’re not Mom, let it go and let’s move on.

The other percentage of failure can be blamed on injuries, the offensive line, defensive inefficiencies, and of course, Eli Manning.

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Image via Radio.com

I have really never seen anybody personify the quote “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a villain” more than Eli Manning. I mean, this guy was a king. He was the face of the NY Giants. Manning beat the greatest quarterback of all-time TWICE in the Superbowl in miraculous, comeback fashion. He had an MVP caliber season in 2015 and was/is on his way to being a Hall of Famer.

But in Week 13 of 2017, McAdoo benched the Giants’ legend, and it caused an uproar throughout the league…especially in New York. Fans were absolutely outraged and horrified that anybody could blame Manning for the Giants atrocity of a season.

One year later though, it looks like McAdoo was just ahead of the curve.

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Sorry for all The Dark Knight references

He had the guts to bench a guy that was underperforming and didn’t work for his offense, much like Shumur did with Erik Flowers earlier this year. Problem was, nobody gives two shits about Flowers. But people care about Eli Manning, and McAdoo’s choice got him fired (and so did being a really bad football coach, don’t forget that). Giants fans defended Eli, got him his job back, and preached that he was capable of leading them to the Promised Land one more time with the right pieces. The front office listened to them.

Now here they are one year later, sitting at 1-7 with Saquon Barkley in the backfield instead of having Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, or Josh Rosen under center. Giants fans are screaming at the organization and at Eli for screwing their season up, but I think they have to put some of the blame on themselves. I find it wild that Giants fans were in agony at the fact that Eli was benched last year, and those same fans are calling for him to be benched this year. Yes, there are some different situations now, but what has really changed about Eli?

You have to imagine that the front office is confused. When the season was ending last year, the fanbase was saying “How could you do that to Eli? He still has talent, this isn’t his fault. He’s our guy”. Then they’re like “Okay, sure, let’s take Barkley then”. Then the Giant fans are like “Wooaahhh, wait, Eli’s not good anymore. We need a quarterback for the future”.

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It’s like when a girl says she’s fine. She’s not fine, and she wants a franchise quarterback. Don’t listen to her.

To all those people who wanted the quarterback of the future, I say that you had your chance to move on. But when that Week 13 benching came, everyone was stuck in the past and didn’t want to accept the fact that maybe their hero had overstayed his welcome.

It is time for a new quarterback in New York. Manning isn’t the right guy anymore, but I’d be extremely shocked if you saw somebody else under center this year. The Giants are losing a lot right now, but one thing they can’t afford to lose is their loyal fans who still want to see Eli ride off into the sunset like so many other New York legends have done.

 

You Have Probably Read a Million NFL Previews, so Here Is Another!

It is a glorious time of year, as the NFL season is upon us.  For me, the NFL is the only sports league in which I can watch and enjoy a regular-season game between any pairing of teams.  It was like that when I was a kid, as I knew that, with a 16-game regular season, every game was of monumental importance.  As much as I love MLB and the NHL, a May Athletics/Tigers game or a November Flames/Blues game has never exactly glued me to the TV.  Of course, as time and my life have progressed, my love for the NFL has increased with fantasy football and the many pools in which I take part.

Anyway, with the NFL season’s arrival, I am providing a preview.  I am not going to preview all 32 teams’ strengths and weaknesses.  I am merely going to make a few predictions about which I feel strongly.  Let us begin.

  • The Vikings’ Kirk Cousins signing will prove to be a mistake. Last year, Case Keenum stepped in for an injured Sam Bradford and led the Vikings to a 12-2 regular-season record a miraculous playoff win over the Saints.  Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins has been 26-30-1 as a starter and lost his only playoff game.  Of course, it is easy to argue that Keenum was pretty much awful before last year and pulled a shamrock-encrusted rabbit’s foot out of his butt to win last year’s playoff game, but that does not refute my point.  I would say that Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins would give the Vikings an equal chance for success this season, so it would have been more logical to re-sign Keenum for much less money than the amount for which Cousins signed.
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Image via ClutchPoints
  • The Giants will finish 9-7 and earn a Wild Card berth. Obviously, I hope that the Giants win the Super Bowl.  I hope that Eli Manning dominates from September through February en route to a third Super Bowl championship and makes me eat a giant plate of crow.  Realistically though, I see the Eagles winning the division at 10-6.  Even though the Giants have won two Super Bowls after playing on Wild Card Weekend, I am not ready to make that prediction when (to paraphrase Rick Pitino) Justin Tuck isn’t walking through that door.  Michael Strahan isn’t walking through that door.  Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t walking through that door.  Osi Umenyiora isn’t walking through that door.  OK, I will stop before I end up putting Jay Alford on the list.  That said; with a revamped offensive line, a healthy Odell, and a debuting Saquon; this offense should put up enough points to put the team in the playoffs.  If the offense does not dominate and people continue to say that Eli deserves to be the starter for as long as he wants, then I do not know what to tell those people.
  • The Jets will finish 7-9 in a season reminiscent of Geno Smith’s 2013 season. No, I am not making this comparison just to backhandedly remind people that I was actually rational in supporting the Giants’ move to start in Geno in Oakland.  I say this because Geno’s talent brought the Jets some exciting wins in 2013.  I was eliminated from my Survivor pool when Geno won Week 5 on MNF in Atlanta that year.  Devastating stuff for me, but wins like that and their win over the Pats (with some help from the officials) gave Jets fans major hope for the future at the time.  Of course, Geno proved to have discipline and dedication issues that kept him from taking that next step.  In 2018, I expect that Sam Darnold will similarly lead the Jets to a few exciting wins (as Geno did in 2013), but he remains a rookie taking over the reins of a 5-11 team.  7-9 would be a solid year for him, and Jets fans should feel good about that.  Unlike with Geno, I would expect that Darnold would build on this season in 2019 with a best-case scenario being Darnold mimicking Carson Wentz’s second season.  (Thus, the Jets should be ready to sign Nick Foles next season.)
  • For the same reasons; the Raiders and Islanders will be similar train wrecks this coming season and the coming seasons. Let us examine the traits:
  1. The game has passed by the team’s stubborn leader: Mike Francesa always says the biggest reason why NFL coaches do not succeed after long layoffs is that, after three years away from the game, it is difficult to assemble a coaching staff. After all, most of a coach’s former assistants have been gobbled up by the time the third year rolls around.  Moreover, the game changes radically over a few years.  Jon Gruden last coached in 2008.  Back then, it was still somewhat OK to try to decapitate opposing players on the field.  Now, there is a 3-inch-by-3-inch square in a quarterback’s midsection that opposing players are allowed to touch.  Anything else is a penalty.  Plus, I do not know that Gruden can be as harsh now as he was 10 years ago. Similarly, Lou Lamoriello is now the Islanders’ general manager, and I have a feeling that he will return to his usual Lou mantras: signing defensive defenseman, placing a large emphasis on veteran leadership, and avoiding star players with any egos.  All of those premises served Lamoriello well when he was (in my opinion) the best general manager in the NHL for 20+ seasons with the Devils.  However, his ways did not serve the Devils well at the end of his tenure in New Jersey, and I feel that Brendan Shanahan (Leafs’ general manager) was calling all the shots when Lou and Shanahan were in Toronto.  I do not feel good about Lamoriello being in full control of the Isles’ personnel.
  2. Both teams have lost their top players. The Isles were unable to re-sign John Tavares, who ironically moved to Toronto, Lamoriello’s former home.  Meanwhile, Khalil Mack has been traded from the Raiders to the Bears.  Both moves are obviously bad for the players’ former teams.  Plus, if Gruden had anything to do with pushing Mack away, some of his players might grow resentment toward Gruden.  That is a bad thing.
  3. Lastly, both teams are in geographic limbo. The Isles are spending part of the next few seasons at Nassau Coliseum and part of it in Brooklyn.  Having two different homes does not exactly seem like a recipe for success.  Similarly, the Raiders are finishing out their time in Oakland, as a future home in Vegas looms on the horizon.  Neither of these scenarios bode well for fan support or thus for the teams’ potential success.
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Image via The Mercury News
  • Anyway, let us wrap this up with my playoff predictions. Note that I made these before the season-opening games.

Playoff Seeds:

AFC:

1 New England

2 Jacksonville

3 Pittsburgh

4 Kansas City

5 Houston

6 Los Angeles Chargers

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Image via Roster Resource

NFC:

1 Atlanta

2 Green Bay

3 San Francisco

4 Philadelphia

5 Los Angeles Rams

6 New York Giants

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Image via Washington Post

Wild-Card Round:

Pittsburgh over Los Angeles, Houston over Kansas City, San Francisco over New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams over Philadelphia

Divisional Round:

New England over Houston, Jacksonville over Pittsburgh, Atlanta over Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay over San Francisco

Conference Championships:

Jacksonville over New England, Green Bay over Atlanta

Super Bowl:

Green Bay over Jacksonville

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Enjoy the season, everyone!

The Sophomore Slump: Why You Should Be Hesitant with Second-Year Running Backs

In athletics there are trends that coaches, players, and fans all make a note of. In baseball, it’s struggling after the Home Run Derby or a World Series Hangover. In football, there’s the Madden Curse. And in every sport, there’s the Sophomore Slump.

This trend is particularly notable in football, and to be even more specific, in running backs. If you look back, there have been a countless number of running backs who have gone from exciting rookies to disappointing busts in the matter of a few seasons. Some have picked their career back up the next season, and others you’ll be left saying “Oh shit I forgot about that guy”.

There are countless reasons why it happens, whether it be injury, suspension, or just lack of productivity. No matter the excuse, a striking consistency exists and you have to wonder…why?

Take a look at some of the guys. I made an extraordinarily average and plain chart that will document exactly what I mean, dating all the way back to 1972.

PLAYER, Rookie Season ROOKIE SEASON SOPHOMORE SEASON
Ezekiel Elliott, 2016 1,631 rush yards, 15 TD 983 rush yards, 7 TD
Todd Gurley III, 2015 1,106 rush yards, 10 TD 885 rush yards, 6 TD
Thomas Rawls, 2015 830 rush yards, 4 TD 349 rush yards, 3 TD
Zac Stacy, 2013 973 rush yards, 7 TD 293 rush yards, 1 TD
Trent Richardson, 2012 950 rush yards, 11 TD 563 rush yards, 3 TD
Doug Martin, 2012 1,454 rush yards, 11 TD 456 rush yards, 1 TD
Steve Slaton, 2008 1,282 rush yards, 9 TD 437 rush yards, 3 TD
Cadillac Williams, 2005 1,178 rush yards, 6 TD 798 rush yards, 1 TD
Kevin Jones, 2004 1,133 rush yards, 5 TD 664 rush yards, 5 TD
Rashaan Salaam, 1995 1,074 rush yards, 10 TD 496 rush yards, 3 TD
Don Woods, 1974 1,162 rush yards, 7 TD 317 rush yards, 2 TD
Franco Harris, 1972 1,055 rush yards, 10 TD 698 rush yards, 3 TD

I’m sure the more you dug, the more you’d find guys just like this. I had to exclude guys who burst onto the scene into their second season, but first as a starter, then declined the next year because that is “technically” not a sophomore slump. These were the more obvious and overt ones. Players like Gurley, Doug Martin, and Cadillac have had their moments after their slump, and we expect Elliott to do the same. But a lot of these players completely fell off.  Like where the hell is Steve Slaton? Probably doing maintenance at a Walmart somewhere in Houston. Trent Richardson? He’s the poor man’s Eddie Lacy and turned in a pretty sad NFL career.

Image result for trent richardson
Image via Yardbarker

My guess for why these things happen is people get complacent (in Zeke’s case, stupid or conspired against if you’re a Cowboys fan). They feel they’ve accomplished the world because they see they can dominate the NFL. Or, they get figured out…and all they had on teams was the element of surprise. Once teams are prepared for them, they are simply not good enough to adjust and be effective again.

This trend exactly is what makes me scared to draft, or be confident in if I’m a fan of these teams, players like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, and Leonard Fournette. All these guys achieved at par or above their rookie expectations. It’s hard to predict who is going to actually fall, but I’ll give it my best.

Kamara: Possibly the most surprising of the bunch, but I actually think he will continue to perform at a high-level. Usually, small and quick players don’t last but Kamara proved last year he can do it. When Ingram was the starter throughout the first few weeks, Kamara was still forcing playing time because of his big play ability. By the time the year ended, he was getting more snaps and getting better each and every week. Now that Ingram is gone for the first four weeks, it’s Kamara’s job to run with. The only problem, which could lead to a decline, is can he handle the heavy workload? That remains to be seen, but due to the fact he had an increased role towards the end of the year, I believe he can.

McCaffrey: He only ran for 435 yards last year, while totaling 651 through the air. I can’t imagine he puts up similar numbers receiving-wise with Greg Olsen back, Cam more comfortable with Devin Funchess, and rookie D.J. Moore coming in. But with that said, Jonathon Stewart is no longer there to hog carries, so McCaffrey’s run game should improve, as well as his TDs. I don’t see him declining from an overall perspective.

Image result for christian mccaffrey
Image via Panthers Wire

Hunt: With essentially a new mindset on offense, the Chiefs are going to be very different this year. Mahomes plans to throw the ball deep with heavy consistency, making Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and maybe even Sammy Watkins great options. But that leaves Kareem Hunt, somebody who excelled in the Alex Smith check-down game, with a somewhat smaller role. With the Chiefs barely ever running the ball last year and a healthy Spencer Ware on the sideline in 2018-2019, I can definitely see him taking a step back this year.

Fournette: Not much has changed in Jacksonville, so nothing should change for Fournette. He should be another success story this year, and I strongly believe he’ll have long-term success similar to Adrian Peterson thanks to his size and speed.

Again, this is just my analysis. I wish all these guys success, but ya never know. One of them is bound to be a different player this year, but it could be anyone of them. That’s why you play the games.

You Know Your Team is Screwed When Their Best Draft Pick is a Punter

Pls watch:

The Seahawks pretty much did everything I told them not to during the offseason, so if they wind up being horrible, I can at least say I was right.

But man, how sad is it that the best player out of this class could be the damn punter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for downing the ball inside the ten yard line, but when your team misses the playoffs the year before it’s not very encouraging to hear that field position is your biggest improvement.

For some reason, the Seahawks used a first-round pick on a backup running back in Rashaad Penny. Yes, he’s talented and certainly has potential, but when Michael Dickson and his knuckleball fucking punts are being raved about while Penny is coming back from finger surgery, I wouldn’t say we’re in a solid spot.

In all reality, this punter fella seems like a stud. He’s an Australian trick shot specialist-converted NFL punter that the Seahawks traded up to get, as stated in the video. He’s also making open field tackles on returners that are putting linebackers to shame, and if you Google “Michael Dickson” you’ll see that the Seattle media has a collective middle school crush on the guy. Could he be the very first punter to win Rookie of the Year? Maybe, I’d certainly love to see it.

I have also learned to never doubt Peter Clay Carroll and the Seahawks front office. They’re definitely a little obscure, but let’s not forget what the magnificent Shania Twain once said:

“I find that the very things that I get criticized for, which is usually being different and just doing my own thing and just being original, is the very thing that’s making me successful.”

Bottom line, In Pete I trust. But dude, a punter?