Tag Archives: NFL

A Scorching Hot Take on DeflateGate

When the news broke last week that the NFL was investigating whether the New England Patriots had somehow illegally deflated their footballs in their game against the Indianapolis Colts, the sports world reacted with shock and disgust. The outrage is understandable given that the deflating of footballs could be one of the most shameful things to happen in the history of sports, up there with the 1919 Black Sox. The scandal has long since spilled out of the sports world and has caused nationwide anxiety at the desecration of such a hallowed organization as the NFL.

The Internet, cable TV, and talk radio have all been spouting all manner of scorching hot takes on the issue. There have been calls for fines, loss of draft picks, potentially keeping both Brady and Belichick out of the Hall of Fame, and even kicking the Patriots out of the Super Bowl in favour of the Colts, who got demolished in the AFC Championship game due to the deflated balls. The one thing that all of the commentators seem to agree on is that whatever the potential punishment, it would never quite be enough to truly see justice served against the evil empire that is the New England Patriots. That is about to change, as I have a punishment that any fair minded Patriots hater will agree is both sufficiently severe and poetic.

The NFL has wanted a team in Los Angeles ever since the Rams moved to St. Louis in the 1990s. The perfect solution would be for the league to move the Patriots to Los Angeles. When I say move them, I mean just that; not a sale. Bob Craft would be forced to take Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the team to California where they would become the Los Angeles Patriots. The league would then immediately offer an expansion team to the New England area. This could happen almost right away as there are no shortage of east coast businessmen and aging rock stars who would jump at the chance to own an NFL team, and there would be an empty stadium in Foxborough all ready to use.

But that’s not all; the league would then make then have the LA Patriots play the expansion team in Foxborough on the opening game of the season. That would then put the Patriots fans, who have benefited for so many years from all of the Patriots misdeeds, in a position where they would experience what it is like to have the Patriots running up the score on you in the 4th quarter. This, coupled with resentment over all the stories that would no doubt emerge about how Brady and Giselle enjoy southern California so much more than the Northeast, could then cause New England fans to boo the Patriots. The boldest and most shocking crime in the history of sports deserves no less than an equally shocking and bold punishment.

The NFL Needs a Minor League to Solve its Quarterback Problem

The NFL has a problem with quarterbacks, and it isn’t concussions or other injuries, it is that there simply aren’t enough quality quarterbacks being developed compared to other position players. More than ever, the quarterback is by far the most important position in football, yet there are fewer young men playing the positon of quarterback on a weekly basis than any other position. Ryan Lindley and Cardale Jones, who have both been in the news recently, albeit for vastly different reasons, perfectly illustrate the problem with the development of quarterbacks.

Ryan Lindley is an NFL quarterback who had the opportunity to not only play for a division winning team, but also start a playoff game. In his career during the regular season, he has 2 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In his first year in the league, he had 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In his second year in the league, he didn’t throw a single pass. When I say he didn’t throw a single pass, I don’t just mean the NFL. He didn’t throw a single pass in any actual game that year. The following year, he was asked to start a playoff game.

After selecting Ryan Lindley with a late round pick, and realizing after a couple of starts in his first year that he wasn’t quite ready to lead an offense in the NFL, the logical thing would have been to send him down to the NFL’s minor league to give him the chance to develop for a few years to see if he could at least become a credible backup quarterback. Unfortunately, the NFL has doesn’t have a minor league. If you aren’t good enough to start in the NFL, you sit on the bench and pray that the starting quarterback suffers a terrible injury after the trading deadline. If the NFL had the kind of robust minor league system as Major League Baseball, Ryan Lindley might have just completed a promising season at the AA affiliate and could have been looking forward to a starting for the AAA team next year. Unfortunately for him, he is unlikely to ever throw another pass in the NFL again.

Some might point out that NCAA football is the de facto minor leagues, but the case of Cardale Jones shows how hollow that argument is. Cardale Jones is as big, as strong, and can throw the ball as far as any quarterback in the NFL. He lead Ohio State to a 59-0 blowout over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game, he lead his team to a come from behind victory over top ranked Alabama in the first every NCAA playoff, and then he helped his team beat Oregon in the National Championship game, outplaying the potential number one pick in the draft, Marcus Mariota. Clearly, Cardale Jones has the kind of raw talent that gives him a chance to be solid quarterback in the NFL. Yet in three years at Ohio State he has only played three games. As of the end of the past November, he had not played a single game in his college football career.

How is it that someone gifted with such immense talent could spend almost three years without playing in a single competitive game of football? As good as he appears to be, imagine how good he could be if he had been playing every week for the last three seasons. It also raises the question of how many other college backups are out there that have the talent but will never get the chance to show it. Were it not for injuries to both the first and second string quarterbacks, nobody outside of Ohio would ever have heard of Cardale Jones right now.

It is inconceivable to think that that at pitcher who could throw a 103 mile per hour fastball would spend his first three years out of high school sitting on a bench. He would be pitching and developing in the minors. Even if the guy were to play in the NCAA, there are at least 9 pitchers on every team so he would still be playing on a regular basis.

In the NFL, since there is no developmental league, and plenty of talented college quarterbacks either sit on the bench at big time schools or play in second rate divisions, teams are drafting quarterbacks from a needlessly small pool. Football is the most popular sport in the country, but teams frequently burn first round picks, and even first overall picks, on quarterbacks who are thoroughly unable to identify and/or accurately throw the ball to an open receiver. Teams who take a quarterback in the first round often set their teams back several years because they feel they have no choice but to start the guy for a few years. In baseball there are still plenty of first round busts, but you generally find that out when the guy is starting in the minors. If baseball were like football, Todd Van Poppel would have been Oakland’s number one starter for 4 years.

It is to the point where it isn’t just that there aren’t decent backups in the league; there aren’t even enough starting quarterbacks to go around. Every Sunday, starting quarterbacks who were taken in the first round repeatedly miss wide open receivers by about 10 feet. I recall watching Sam Bradford, a former number one overall pick, playing on either a Sunday or Monday night a few years ago and there were multiple occasions when he had a receiver wide open and just need to throw a straight line pass with no linebackers anywhere between him and his receivers, and he somehow managed to throw completely uncatchable balls. Both of those examples probably involved a throw of between 25 and 30 yards. As a comparison, short stops and third basemen in baseball routinely have to run to their left or right, catch a ball, grip it in a split second and make a full velocity 45 yard throw to first base. Think about how rare it is for a baseball player to miss the first baseman by 10 feet. It is so rare that it makes the highlights whenever someone throws the ball into a dugout or in the stands.

Even in the minor leagues, the baseball players all resemble major leaguers to the untrained eye. You don’t many more terrible throws or fielding errors than you do in the majors; you just don’t see as many fantastic plays. In the NFL, on any given Sunday there are a handful of quarterbacks that look like they’ve never played the game before. The reason this is happening is that so many quarterbacks simply have not spent enough time playing the game of football since they left high school. With football offenses becoming increasingly pass oriented, the NFL may need to seriously consider coming up with some type of minor league system to maintain the quality of its product.

Peyton Manning – The Greg Norman of the NFL

I have always been a fan of Peyton Manning. I admired both his talent and his class on and off the field. As a lifelong, unwilling fan of hard luck teams and athletes, I was also helplessly drawn to the choking, underachieving label that was pinned on him since the early years of his career.

For some context, my favourite hockey team as a child was the Quebec Nordiques, the team that set records for futility, had a first overall pick refuse to play for them, and then won a Stanley Cup the very first year they moved to a new city. My favourite baseball team was the Expos, who after many years of suffering were looking like the favourite to win the World Series and then the World Series was cancelled for the first time since the World War II. The first golfer I ever cheered for was Greg Norman.

In many ways, if Greg Norman was a football player, he would be Peyton Manning. Like Manning, Norman had one of the greatest careers ever in terms of week in and week out performance, but never had the same success in the majors, which is what defines the legacies of the greatest golfers. Also like Manning, he was not completely without success in the majors, winning 2 British Opens. Peyton Manning did win a Super Bowl (and took teams to two others), which separates him from some all-time greats like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton.

If Manning had never won a Super Bowl, the debate around him would be (perhaps unfairly) much simpler; he would simply not be in the discussion as one of the truly greatest quarterbacks of all time. But he did win a Super Bowl, he lead a spectacular 4th quarter comeback against the Patriots in Foxboro in the playoffs, he did take three teams to the Super Bowl.

What is so interesting about Manning is that he was just so close to perhaps being considered by some serious football commentators as the greatest of all time. If the Saints surprise onside kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl had failed. If Mike Vanderjagt had made that 46 yarder against Pittsburgh. If Roethlisberger didn’t make that ankle tackle. If a few more breaks had gone his way Manning could have easily had multiple rings and maybe three or four.

The reality though is that like Greg Norman, he often put himself in situations where he needed to catch a break. People who talk of Larry Mize’s miraculous chip in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff at the Masters fail to point out that if Norman had shot even par in the final round then Mize would never have had the chance to make that miraculous shot in the playoff. Despite the gutsy onside kick recovery by New Orleans, Manning still had the chance to lead a game winning drive but threw a pick six to end the game.

He may not be the greatest quarterback of all time but he may well have had the most interesting career. No other football player has ever had more records or more what-ifs than Peyton Manning.

I’m Sure That Deep Down Phil Simms Is Very Concerned About The Future of Afghanistan

One of the reasons the major networks pay so much money for NFL coverage is that, besides all the money they make selling advertising space, it also gives them a great platform to promote their own programming. Rather than take up valuable time during the commercial breaks, they can have the play by play guy plug shows during breaks in the action. Typically these are sitcoms and one-hour dramas, but CBS always promotes 60 Minutes, which can at times deal with very serious topics.

According to Jim Nantz, the show will be tackling a particularly serious issue tonight; the threat of the barbaric radical group ISIS expanding into Afghanistan after the American forces withdraw. The idea that after 14 years of American forces giving their lives to fight off the Taliban only to see an even more barbaric group take over after they pull out is obviously a chilling thought. Here is how the plug for the 60 Minutes program played out during the Bengals/Colts game today.

Jim Nantz: With American forces leaving Afghanistan, could ISIS move in there too? Hear from the General in charge tonight on 60 Minutes.

Phil Simms: How ‘bout this offensive line so far by the Indianapolis Colts?

Next time there is a particularly serious topic on 60 Minutes the producers might want to consider waiting until just before a commercial break before making the plug. Just a suggestion.

Strange How the NFL Has a Problem with Adderall and Fertility Drugs But Not Steroids

Perhaps the oddest thing in all of professional sports these days is the rampant use of Adderall in the NFL. It seems that every time a player gets suspended for using performance enhancing drugs we are told that the drug involved was Adderall. Every now and then it is fertility drugs, but for the most part positive tests seem to be the result of Adderall use. That players take a banned stimulant like Adderall isn’t particularly odd in and of itself, it is that they never seem to take steroids that seem so bizarre.

In Major League Baseball, where super human strength is less important, and quick reflexes are extremely important when trying to hit a small ball travelling at 95 miles an hour, you would think that stimulants like Adderall would be more prevalent than in football and steroids would be less so, but the opposite is in fact true. All kinds of baseball players have tested positive for steroids over the years, far more than NFL players, which is strange given the fact that strength is much more important in football and that the biggest football players outweigh the biggest baseball players by about 100 pounds.

Try to reconcile these facts. Using steroids and human growth hormones, which help humans become much bigger, stronger, and faster, would give a football player a much greater competitive advantage than simply taking some stimulants on game day. Football players routinely violate the NFL’s PED policy and get suspended. The punishment for stimulants like Adderall is the same as the punishment for steroid use.

Given the facts above, how does it make any sense that a player who is willing to cheat and use performance enhancing drugs wouldn’t use the drugs that actually give him the greatest competitive advantage? One reason could be that NFL players are so moral that they simply could not look themselves in the mirror if they were to take such a powerful drug like steroids, but can rationalize the use of simple stimulant. Another explanation could be that because the NFL does not release the specific drug that was tested positive for, players often lie and say that it was just a stimulant like Adderall.

Major League Baseball publicly states what a player tested positive for, and positive tests tend to be steroids and HGH. The same is true for Olympic drug testing. Perhaps the only group of athletes who would benefit more from steroid use are weight lifters, but yet the only drug that NFL players seem to test positive for is Adderall. As part of the NFL’s new drug testing policy, the league apparently can correct public misstatements from a player regarding a positive drug test. Time will tell if we see a sharp decrease in the number of players claiming they tested positive for Adderall, although it is worth noting that while the league can correct misstatements, they have not said that they will always do so.

Roger Goodell’s Troubles Are Only Just Beginning

Yesterday we received news that the DEA raided several NFL locker rooms as part of an investigation into potentially improper or illegal use of prescription drugs by NFL teams. This is very bad news for Commissioner Roger Goodell.  One of the most mystifying things in all of sports in recent years has been how Major League Baseball has received mountains of bad press and was even  subject to United States Senate hearings about the use of performance enhancing drugs by their players, yet the NFL, whose players look like Soviet era science projects, has largely escaped any negative publicity whatsoever. That is all about to change.

The contract in the leagues is downright mystifying. Bud Selig is widely condemned for turning a blind eye to PEDs after the 1994 strike as the surge in home runs and the pursuit by various players of the single season home run record sent ratings soaring. While that may well have been true, Selig and MLB would eventually make a serious effort to get drugs out of baseball. They instituted aggressive testing and punishment for the use of both steroids and HGH, and even launched their own investigations into the suppliers of drugs, which resulted in major suspensions to some of its biggest stars, such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

By contrast, the NFL is only now getting around to implementing an HGH testing program, and when players do test positive for steroids or other PEDs, they only get a 4 game suspension and are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. To put things in perspective, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for an entire year without ever failing a single drug test. He was suspended when MLB investigators, acting proactively, uncovered that he was a client of a PED supplier.

If you are wondering if baseball’s anti-drug efforts are working, consider that Giancarlo Stanton, who was just rewarded with a 13 year, $325 million dollar contract, led the National League in home runs this year with 37. In 1998 and 1999, Sammy Sosa hit 66 and 63 home runs respectively, but didn’t lead the league in home runs either year. As for the NFL, Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, ran a 4.7 40 yard dash as his combine in the mid-1980s. In the 2014 combine, 4 defensive ends ran a faster 40 time.

Roger Goodell has been hammered for turning a blind eye to domestic violence in the NFL. Just as it was looking like he had weathered that storm and was going to save his job, the federal investigators suddenly raided NFL locker rooms. If he thought he had it rough when media types like Bill Simmons were calling him names, just wait until he gets dragged before a Senate Committee in 2015.

Ten Thoughts from Week 2 of the NFL

  1. I have finally become a believer in the Madden Curse.
  2. All those people who have been saying for the last fifteen years that Andy Reid is an awful clock manager are correct.
  3. If any Raiders fans can see light at the end of the tunnel, it is most likely a locomotive.
  4. The Broncos offense failing to score a point in the second half and their defense repeatedly jumping offside late in the game may look like foreshadowing come playoff time.
  5. The Washington Redskins look like they will be the first team in history with a 4 year long quarterback controversy.
  6. Neither the Packers nor the Saints remotely resemble Super Bowl contenders.
  7. Having a fourth down, game tying touchdown negated by an assistant coach calling a last second time out could only happen to the New York Jets. It’s impossible to imagine something like that happening with New England.
  8. The 49ers looked rattled against the Bears. If they lose to the Cardinals next week they could be in trouble.
  9. I loved the way Phillip Rivers went after Richard Sherman and shut him up. Really put an exclamation point on an impressive victory.
  10. The ugliest loss of the week by far belonged to the Bucs. Lovie Smith is off to a rough start in Tampa.

Seeing is Feeling – How Video Shapes Public Opinion

Ray Rice was caught on video assaulting his fiancé and has since been cut by his team, suspended indefinitely, and become a pariah. Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend in July and he is quietly playing football with the Carolina Panthers as if nothing happened. Donald Sterling, due to a number of lawsuits and allegations over the years, was widely believed to be a racist, but he managed to be an owner for 30 years with virtually no complaints from any of the players or NBA executives. But when he was caught on tape telling his girlfriend that he did not want her going to games with black people, the NBA and the general public were outraged and he was forced to sell his team.

We always knew that Ray Rice knocked out his fiancé in that elevator, which was why there was a negative reaction to the original 2 game suspension. The NFL, after listening to all the criticism over the 2 game suspension, changed its policy so that in the future, a player would receive a six game suspension for domestic abuse. Then when the second Ray Rice video was released showing us exactly what we already knew, the NFL then suspended Rice indefinitely. Many have pointed out that it seems the real reason why Rice’s suspension is so long is that he happened to be caught on tape.

Leaving aside the discussion of what would have been an appropriate punishment for Ray Rice, it is intriguing how much more outrage the public feels when they actually see the incident with their own eyes. It is important to keep in mind that this is not a case where the video clarified guilt or innocence; we always knew that Rice assaulted his fiancé in that elevator and then dragged her out like a sack of potatoes. It was seeing it that caused the outrage.

The lesson I take from all of this is not simply that people are hypocrites, but rather that people may need to something with their own eyes before they truly know their opinion of it. Maybe people should hold off on forming strong opinions on something until they have seen it with their own eyes. How many supporters of the death penalty would have the same position if they had to watch prisoners being executed? On the flipside, how many people who typically favor leniency and early parole for convicts would feel the same way if they were forced to watch the actual violent crimes that were committed?

The same people that are now outraged over Ray Rice’s original two game suspension and calling for Roger Goodell’s head never batted an eye over the years as one player after another was convicted of domestic abuse and didn’t face a single game suspension. Those stories just faded into the background just like all those nightly stories on Ebola outbreaks, civil wars, famines, and child poverty reports. We hear the stories, conceptually we agree they are terrible, and then we clean up the dishes.

Over the past year we heard stories about this group in Syria that were so violent even Al Qaeda disowned them, but collectively we just shrugged off the thousands of deaths until we saw a video of a hostage being barbarically beheaded. Now we are going to war with them. If ISIS had massacred an entire village of 10,000 people that day instead of posting the video footage of killing that journalist, they would not be the target airstrikes right now. If Greg Hardy’s assault had been videotaped instead of Ray Rice’s, Hardy would be suspended and Rice would be playing football this weekend. Seeing isn’t just believing, seeing is feeling.

Ray Rice Fiasco Highlights Widespread Phoniness in Professional Sports

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly did we learn with the release of the video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancé in that Atlantic City elevator? We knew they were alone in the elevator. We knew that she was conscious when she stepped into the elevator. We knew that Ray Rice knocked her unconscious in the elevator. Nobody was suggesting that the woman fainted or slipped on a banana peel. Rice was after all charged with domestic abuse. Keep in mind that the original video did not show Janay Rice staggering out of the elevator clutching her face, it showed her completely motionless and unconscious on the floor.

Did people think that he merely pushed her away to ward off her violent attack? This is a person whose job it is to get violently tackled 25 times a game by 250+ pound men. Often 2-3 such men combine to tackle him, and intelligent people supposedly believed that he couldn’t withstand the onslaught from his fiancé for the 20 seconds it would have taken for the door to open? If Ray Rice’s fiancé was trying to beat him to death he could have held her off with one hand and drank a cup of hot coffee with the other without spilling a drop.

Before the second video, many sports commentators stated that Rice’s two game suspension was about right, though some publicly wondered if the penalty might have even been too harsh. Adam Schefter even posed the unfortunate question of whether the NFL was “lenient enough”. Now that the second video has been released the media is coming at the NFL and Roger Goodell with torches and pitchforks. It’s as if sports commentators had no idea that knocking a woman unconscious could look so distasteful until they saw that second video.

The reality is that members of the sports media, like most human beings, still have an instinct to stick with the herd. When the critical mass of public opinion began reacting with outrage to the second video, everyone sprinted off the front of the mob. The Ravens organization, which had the cluelessness to tweet about Janay Rice accepting her responsibility for the incident, promptly cut Rice and all the commentators who were once so quick to move on to the next story were all over the TV and radio voicing their outrage.

This is much the same as what happened with Donald Sterling. For years people had accused Sterling of discriminating against minorities and actually settled a huge lawsuit related to housing discrimination. Despite Sterling’s reputation, he carried on as an owner for decades and even had the league block a trade of Chris Paul to his team’s biggest rival, thus allowing Sterling to make his own trade for Paul. But when social media exploded over the leak of tape where he was caught telling his mistress he didn’t want her going to games with black people, everyone in the sports world was suddenly outraged and Sterling was forced from the league.

The phoniest people of all in this story is the top brass of the NFL, particularly Roger Goodell himself. In the span of just a few weeks he has adjusted his position on domestic abuse three times. First he felt a two game suspension for knocking your fiancé unconscious was sufficient. Then when many people voiced their anger that two games for domestic abuse was woefully inadequate given he had just suspended someone a year for smoking marijuana, he told us that he had reconsidered and that in the future players would get a 6 game suspension for domestic abuse but that they would not change Ray Rice’s original suspension. Then when everybody went crazy over the second video, he changed his mind again and said that Rice would be suspended indefinitely. Some might argue that this is uncharted territory for the NFL and they have now learned their lesson on the seriousness of domestic violence. That argument might hold some water if not for the fact that the most famous murder trial in the country’s history involved a star running back who abused his wife.

10 Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season

  1. The Denver Broncos will have a fantastic regular season and suffer a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.
  2. The Cowboys will be the same old Cowboys only more so this year and Jason Garrett will be fired.
  3. Michael Sam will play a regular season game. That will be the only positive news the Cowboys will generate this year.
  4. San Francisco will take a step back this year and not make the playoffs.
  5. The Bills will miss the playoffs again. CJ Spiller will average over 5 yards a carry and have about 12 rushes per game.
  6. Blake Bortles will play and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be a surprisingly respectable team.
  7. Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel will both play for the Browns and the Browns will continue to be the same old Browns. The only difference is that this year people will actually pay attention to them.
  8. The NFL and the player’s union will agree on HGH testing in exchange for softening the penalties for marijuana use.
  9. The Jets will be a circus again. Geno Smith will be replaced by Michael Vick at some point and for the second straight year the Jets will miraculously avoid posting a losing record.
  10. The Bengals will win their division again and actually win a playoff game.