Tag Archives: Down By Contact

City of Rams

Let’s just get this out of the way, Los Angeles Rams has a nice familiar ring to it. The reality is that the NFL doesn’t need Los Angeles and LA definitely doesn’t need the NFL, but it’s going to happen, one way or another, and soon. The most notable thing that ends, should a team relocate to the City of Angels (or nearby), is leverage for NFL owers to get public funding to stay in their current locale. It’s fair to say the Rams are the frontrunner for Southern California, but it isn’t necessarily about leveraging the good people of St. Louis and they aren’t alone in their conquest to plant a flag in or around Los Angeles.

For years, almost since they left town in the first place, we’ve been hearing rumors about the Rams and/or Raiders returning to LA, but there’s never been any sense of urgency to actually make it happen. The Rams have called the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis home since arriving in 1995 and the organization isn’t thrilled with the minimal improvements to the venue over the last 21 years. The Raiders have played at O.co Coliseum since their return to the East Bay, and I’m guessing sewage back-up is just the tip of the iceberg the football team and their co-tenant, Major League Baseball’s Athletics, would cite in reasons for escaping Oakland. The leverage issue comes into play when you consider the Rams and Raiders found Los Angeles is a big enough market to share, so a single team landing there doesn’t necessarily eliminate another owner’s leverage.

Bring the Rams back to the west coast and watch the Raiders abandon the bay for the second time in under 35 years, and we can stop talking about teams like the Jaguars and Vikings heading west, right? If only it were that simple. The Rams do appear to have the best laid plans and pieces are already in place, with their owner Stan Kroenke buying the land of the old Hollywood Park in Inglewood. Speaking of being up to no good, there are other suitors looking to move to and co-occupy a new stadium in Carson, south of LA Proper. While no one would dismiss the idea of multiple teams in a gigantic market like the Los Angeles area, many would doubt even the Los Angelinos could support three team in a single market, squeezing Kroenke back to the Gateway City, or perhaps somwhere a little rockier.

The Chargers aren’t happy with Qualcomm Stadium and haven’t been for a long time. Even if as a dark horse, the Chargers, along with the 49ers have long been considered a candidate to head up I-5, but to cooperate with a division rival for a better venue is questionable. If I’m Chargers owner Alex Spanos, I’m not sure I want to partner up with the Davis family, even if it is Mark and not the late Al. Honestly, this could be a 20-year mistake in the making, but the Carson plan seems to have some legs. For football in the LA area, the Carson plan seems to eliminate wiggle room; it’s either the Rams and only the Rams, or no Rams at all, if the Chargers and Raiders can make Carson work.

Of course, money talks and the Kroenkes have plenty of it. Forbes values Stan’s net worth at over $6 billion and his wife Ann, of the Wal-Mart Walton family is worth over 5 billion herself. What does that mean? First, it means the $250 million they’ve put into the Inglewood NFL project, which was approved by the city on Wednesday isn’t the devastating loss that it is for someone like Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam, who is worth less than half than either Kroenke. They would likely find a way to recoup the investment, maybe from the NFL, if they needed to jump ship. They also haven’t burnt the bridges in St. Louis and there is a new proposed open-air stadium that would be contingent on the Rams remaining in Missouri, so don’t rule anything out.

Behind Door #3, they could identify the weaker partner, and there always is one, between the Spanos and Davis families, and try to push them out of the Carson partnership. In my opinion, it makes more sense to have an AFC/NFC split between co-occupants in a stadium, and as bad as the accomodations are at Qualcomm, the Raiders are more desperate for a new home, since they will have a hard time getting a new facility in a shared market with the 49ers in the Bay Area. It’s a lot more likely that the Chargers can get something done in San Diego, though the prospects have died down in recent years. Should the Rams be able to force one or both of those AFC West franchises out of the LA picture, there’s sure to be more drama in the division because of it. Speaking of the AFC West…

Kronke has controlling interest in the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, so we may not want to permanent attach ourselves to Kroenke and the Rams. If Pat Bowlen, who is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, looks to sell the Broncos, expect Kroenke to deepen his footprint in the Denver market and sell the Rams to a local buyer in St. Louis. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch speculates on the Broncos situation, as it relates to Kroenke:

If Kroenke owned the Broncos — one of the league’s best and most financially valuable franchises — he would no longer have to worry about being in violation of the NFL’s cross ownership rules. And he would be in control of every franchise in the lucrative Denver market including the town’s MLS soccer franchise.

If Kroenke agreed to keep the Rams in St. Louis, perhaps the NFL would make sure that he had the first right of refusal to purchase the Broncos. (And then sell the Rams to local, St. Louis-based ownership.) Some will insist that the Broncos aren’t for sale, even with team owner Pat Bowlen in decline as he deals with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

All of that is just speculation though (Bowlen is trying to keep the team ownership in his family), and the most likely scenario, given that he already owns the land and Inglewood has approved this, the Rams will likely move to California before the 2016 season and play in the Rose Bowl until the venue is built at the old Hollywood Park. For St. Louis, this likely means the end of the NFL forever, and it has remnants of the Cardinals heading west in the 80s, in that few will miss the team this time around as well. At this point, it may just be a matter of whether they’ll have the market to themselves or have to compete for market share. Truth be told, their current reach is limited to the outskirts of Bears and Chiefs country, but in Southern California, there may be a village of Rams fans ready to dust off their Eric Dickerson and Jackie Slater apparel.

Of course, as the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer has stated, the people of Los Angeles come from all over, with their own allegiances from elsewhere and there’s this mutual lack of need, even if there’s some level of desire to get the NFL back. There’s no longer time to contemplate the if and the why, but now it’s the when. The time is now, and the Rams are the most perfect fit. Expect it to happen.

Adrian Peterson’s Future in Minnesota, or Somewhere Else

I still remember where I was when I first caught wind of the marks Adrian Peterson put on his child. It was Friday, the last day of an awful week for the National Football League. A night after the Baltimore Ravens and their Ray Rice-loving fan base was showcased on CBS’s Thursday Night Football, the thought was that the worst was behind us. With all respect due Rice as a pretty good football player, he is not and never was the superstar that Peterson was. With Peterson in this mess, sweeping off-field violence under the rug ceased to be an option for Roger Goodell. Since that Friday afternoon, neither Rice nor Peterson has played a down in the NFL, but that’s likely to change in 2015.

Rice, like some other also-rans in the league, was released and suspeneded indefinitely by the league because video surfaced of him striking his girlfriend in an Atlantic City elevator. He was later reinstated, but did not sign with anyone, an inaction you can almost probably attribute more to lack of interest in his football abilities, going forward, more than anything else. He’s clearly not the story, when you look ahead to 2015, not when compared to an all-time great like Peterson. Technically, Adrian Peterson remains a Minnesota Viking, though it’s fair to say, that’s subject to change before training camp.

For the next three seasons, through 2017, Minnesota controls Mr. All-Day, but none of the money is guaranteed. If he wasn’t Adrian Peterson, Vikings owner Mark Wilf would send the troubled star packing, no questions asked. However, there’s at least a conversation to be had, whether he’s the greatest Viking of all-time, though the floor would certainly listen to arguments for Fran Tarkenton and a few other names a die-hard Viking fan might throw out there. On March 21st, he’ll be 30 years old, and for many, that’s when you have to do the sniff test on NFL running backs, to determine if they’re expried or not. Again, with anyone else, that might be enough to cut bait, as if the wounds on his 4 year-old child weren’t enough, but we are talking about Adrian Peterson.

I know we went over all of this last fall, but in the context of the NFL sweeping its problems under the rug, it’s probably worth re-visiting exactly why Peterson wasn’t on the field for 15 of the Vikings’ 16 contests in 2014. On that Thursday, the infamous date of September 11th, a Montomery County (TX) grand jury indicted him on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Again, the is a 4 year-old we’re talking about, and pictures revealed welts and open wounds on the boy’s back, rear end, legs, ankles and other unmentionables. Our world class athlete used a tree branch to show his pre-schooler who the boss was.

The former Oklahoma running back swore he never intended to harm his son in such a way. Let’s keep in mind, it wasn’t that long ago that Peterson’s biological son was buried after the child’s mother’s boyfriend beat the 2 year-old to death. For most, that would put things in perspective, and not to kick Peterson while he’s down, but many believe that he was far too apathetic about losing his flesh and blood, though he learned of the young man’s existence and that flesh and blood connection just days before the child died. For what it’s worth, I am inclined to believe Peterson’s claim about not wanting to harm his son. The problem is, he did.

Child discipline gone too far, that’s often the claim when it comes to abuse. Though I don’t have children of my own, many who do have asserted that children that age can be a pain in the ass. I’m sure I was that same pain in the ass at that age, and what’s a parent to do when acceptable corporal punishment (if you can believe there is such a thing) meets resistance? If you’re attempting to strike a child in a safe place and they move, you could miss and strike an unsafe area. I honestly buy that, but that buys you the benefit of the doubt on one wound. After that, well, every mark you leave and each inkling of pain you cause a defenseless child is simply a road map to grand juries, public outrage, and Commissioner’s Exempt lists.

How he ended up on that list, that’s something of a focal point, at least from Peterson’s camp. Did Kevin Warren conspire with the NFL to make sure he landed there? Warren is the team’s Vice President of Legal Affairs, and at the time, an exemption was a better alternative than suspension for Peterson’s bankroll. He was initially deactivated for one game, and if this sound familiar, it might be because Goodell only suspended Rice for two games before the public outrage forced his hand into something indefinite (which was justice, but admittedly unfair to Rice). An arbitrator later ruled in the league’s favor to keep Peterson on the Exempt List for the entire season, rendering his 2014 season over.

Now, for avoiding the PR nightmare that would have ensued, had the Vikings and the NFL let this child abuser on the field in Week 3, just days after envoking their new Domestic Violence policy, there is tension between the Vikings and Peterson, at least from where Peterson sits. The Vikings want him back, despite the criminal activity and despite his upcoming 30th birthday, but the running back’s camp is trying to leverage a trade. The problem is, the Vikings hold all of the leverage cards.

We’re going to hear about the Cowboys and it makes sense, DeMarco Murray’s future in Dallas is far from stable and the Cowboys are much closer to the finish line than Minnesota promises to be for the remainder of Peterson’s prime. It would also be a return home to Texas, but he does himself few favors forcing Minnesota’s hand here, as it is up to them to get the right value to trade him, when they could simply ask him to report to camp and play out his contract. And how dare he create problems with the team, when they “have been staunchly loyal to Peterson, probably to a fault,” according to Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press in Minnesota.

They deactivated him for one game after the allegations surfaced but briefly attempted to bring him back the following week, despite the fact that the populace was ready to torch Winter Park. After formal charges were filed, they got him on the commissioner’s exempt list so he could continue to get paid his full salary for doing nothing.

While he was gone, they didn’t badmouth him. They never wavered publicly in their support for him and, often referred to his stellar character — a hard sell at the time.

And they always said they wanted him back. What else were they supposed to do, issue a statement saying that Peterson’s 4-year-old son got what he deserved?

The real question is, does anyone (aside from the Cowboys) want the headache? The shelf-life thing may not pinpoint to a running back’s 30th birthday, but it is real. We’ve seen it too many times to deny the precedent, is Adrian Peterson the exception to the rule? My take: if anyone can defy garden-variety limitations a human being is supposed to encounter, it’s him. So, once you’ve established that the 30 year-old Adrian Peterson is worth the while from a football standpoint, you have to really evaluate if you can handle him in the locker room? In Minnesota, those familiar with him might forgive the actions that put him in Texas courtrooms, but he’s clearly ready for a change of scenery, and if he’s in a new locker room, it will be a direct result of the damage he inflicted on the body of a 4 year-old. He’d be around men who probably don’t know him, men with young children, and men who won’t forgive what he did to that defenseless boy.

Sure, he can help the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Colts, Chargers, and some NFC teams the Vikings would see on a regular basis, but what would those teams be willing to part with, especially considering his future with his current employer is not tenable? He doesn’t have another 2000 yard season in him, and with the Vikings, he’s due almost $13 million in 2015 alone. Who wants to shell out that type of cash on a gamble. The gamble doesn’t seem to reside with Peterson staying out of trouble with the law, but maybe it does. If he’s upset with anyone other than himself through this entire ordeal, which took nearly a full season from a potentially record-shattering career, maybe he’s learned nothing at all. And as older players go, is he the one you want mentoring your younger players?

It’s possible he’s immune to all of this inside the cloak of Jerry Jones or whichever owner ponies up the ransom Wilf and GM Rick Spielman are going to demand to give Peterson his way, and really, it might work out. However, logic would dictate Peterson and his agent take a step back and realize just how healthy remaining in cold Minnesota might be for Peterson on the whole.

The NFL Combines Gym Class and Job Interviews

The NFL isn’t struggling for popularity or market-share with today’s sports fan. They own the sports calendar five months out of the year, and it’s probably more when you factor in how much time is spent on the draft in April and May or uncountable number of Fantasy Drafts that take place in August. The process of the actual draft is a year-round thing, and I believe that the College Football calendar is a part of the process. However, the NFL doesn’t need to own the end of February.

They just don’t. There’s enough going on, with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in Florida and Arizona and it’s time to pay attention to College Basketball, if you’re making any educated choices on your bracket. You could focus on the NHL, NBA, tennis, golf, and even the NFL is making news outside of Indianapolis this week, but we’re televising a glorified gym class on the NFL Network. I think the combine is a necessary evil, not so much for the blue-chippers, but for the lesser-knowns and middle-of-the-road prospects to back up what NFL scouting departments already know about them from film. For the viewing public and observing media, it’s too much and it gives us too much to misinterpret.

Part of me wishes more of these things took place behind the scenes, but people, especially those craving something, will latch on to anything and everything. Slap an NFL shield on a bake sale or a game of chess; they’ll watch it if it’s on the NFL Network and/or ESPN. Keep this behind closed doors. In fact, don’t even let us know the results. It gives us less to be wrong or outraged about on draft day. We like the NFL, but we’re too far behind the scenes with this exercise every winter. I don’t need this any more than I needed to see John Wayne taking his physical and ASVAB before kicking ass as a Marine in his movies.

What would be missing, if we were forced to return to a time without the gym class heroes? Maybe I wouldn’t know that the USC offensive weapons didn’t spend a lot of time throwing up 225 on the bench or that a Wisconsin running back doesn’t have his sea-legs under him in February. Maybe I wouldn’t know Kevin White is a freaky fast runner or that Jaelen Strong can elevate his 6’2″ frame 42 inches above the earth vertically. Maybe I don’t think Shane Ray has the right work ethic if he won’t run in Indy. Maybe I’m not supposed to know any of this.

I’ve said it in the past. No one gets discovered at these things, even if a previously unknown aspect about a prospect is revealed. Based on everything I’ve heard about the interviews, it’s what happens at the table, when a 22 year-old goes face-to-face with the Sean Paytons and Jim Caldwells of the world, that the job interview starts. Brandin Cooks told Rich Eisen last week that the Browns asked him to thing of all the ways he could use a paper clip in one minutes. It’s a bizarre question, sure, and it might even be a throw-away question, but we’ll never know the logic behind it. That’s what makes the people that make these decision smart, while the rest of us are dumb. Our local media can’t tell us what’s said behind closed doors, only who’s walking into the rooms.

Why do we bother familiarizing ourselves with this part of the interview process, while remain in the dark on the juiciest part. Maybe we won’t always be blind to what’s said in there. HBO’s Hard Knocks is basically being force-fed as a part of the league’s marketing, so we might not be far from getting interview audio via NFL Films, even if it’s something that gets put in the vault for a year or two, as to avoid being too detrimental for public consumption. Me, I think it’s all detrimental for public consumption. Kicking down that fourth wall reveals things we don’t want to know. It’s more about things we don’t want to care about.

Caring about how a person performs in drills, while wearing shorts, it’s not my bag. I don’t understand what it is, beyond satiating some NFL off-season craving, that makes so many people tune in and analyze these things. If I watch a left tackle handle [INSERT COLLEGE LEAGUE HERE]-caliber pass rushers for a season or two on tape, my opinion isn’t going to change if he doesn’t run fast or throw up iron like it’s an olympic event. I get so little out of it that I tend to skip it, but a round of applause is due the people who make this a real-live event with sponsors and wall-to-coverage.

I just don’t need to watch these world-class athletes in a regimented gym class, seeing them play the game was, is, and always will be enough for me.

Larry Fitzgerald: Catching Feelings

Fans of the Arizona Cardinals, and more importantly, the teams front office can let out a giant sigh of relief. After agreeing to terms this week, on what amounts to a 2-year deal, Larry Fitzgerald is very likely not going to offer his services to a second NFL team. Of course, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim, the team’s president and general manager, can wear big smiles on their faces, as retaining Fitz is a win-win for the organization. Being able to re-work the future Hall-of-Famer’s $31 million saves the team about 13 mill in cap space and prevented them from having to make what they call a tough decision.

There was more to this than a simple matter of a satsifying sentiment. If there’s anyone that needs to be a Cardinal for life, it is Larry Fitzgerald, but if you can ignore the reduced role he asssumed in Bruce Arians’ offense in 2014, we’re still talking about a player that can help your offense. It’s true, the 2014 season was a rough ride for the former Pittsbugh star, in more ways than one. For the first time in his career, he did not appear in 16 games for the Birds, and the quarterback carousel in Glendale certainly did not help matters either. He barely matched his rookie numbers, but we’re talking about someone looking at throws coming from Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, and then Ryan Lindley, just in time for the stretch run and their quick playoff exit.

All season long, Cardinals fans have been given reason to approach Larry Fitzgerald’s future with caution, and to brace themselves to be on the outside looking in at Fitz catching his 100th touchdown pass from Tom Brady or Tony Romo. Now, they can throw caution into the wind and know that he’ll always be their #11, right up until the moment he puts on the yellow jacket in Canton. As far as his reduced role is concerned, they just weren’t getting him the ball. He’s the numero uno for Arians, for Palmer, and for this team. You aren’t paying attention if you think Michael Floyd or either of the previously unknown Browns (John or Jaron) can step into the role. And, that’s the start of the problem with this whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for wearing one jersey your entire career and being part of this organization complete 180 degree turn from what they were in the dreadful days of Sun Devil Stadium, where Larry played his home games his rookie year. He’s been part of three playoff teams, and we’re not forgetting the role defenses have played in getting the Cardinals to the post-season in 2008, 2009, and 2014, but you need to go back to 1975 to trace the franchise’s three prior playoff berths. For a few minutes in Tampa, there was a reason to believe Fitz had caught the Super Bowl-winning touchdown, outrunning the Steelers secondary, but as we all know, it was not meant to be that time around.

That got me to thinking, when I factored in how 2014 went down and the shakiness the team faces at quarterback in 2015, is doing the right thing, being loyal, in the best interest of Larry Fitzgerald? He doesn’t have an Anquan Boldin on the other side of the field, keeping secondaries honest and giving him favorable match-ups. He doesn’t have a Kurt Warner, the good version anyway, spinning the football to him, and Carson Palmer should inspire anyone to stop looking for green pastures. Carson Palmer, at age 35, is Plan A; the rest of the depth chart at the position is a giant uknown at this point. The running game doesn’t promise to be spectacular, not that it ever has. This isn’t matrimony. It’s okay for Fitzgerald to start thinking his best chance at a ring may not be what the desert has to offer.

Despite all of that, the Cardinals are a good football team. Some might even say they’re a Top 5 organization, or that they’re at least run on the field by a Top 5 Head Coach (#2, behind Belichick if you’re asking me, which you’re not). At the end of the day, I think it’s that coach, the one that got the most out of Stanton and Lindley, made do with Charlie Batch when he had to, and found his way into the postseason with a Tim Couch/Kelly Holcomb platoon. Quarterback whisperer? Perhaps. Maybe not. You do have to consider what awful luck the Cardinals experienced, not only with the quarterbacks, but with Andre Ellington, not to mention how devastated they were on the defensive side of the ball with injury and suspension. They were still a good team.

If what happened to Palmer happens to Brady, Romo, Manning, or Rodgers, how confident are their receivers in the understudies? These are questions you tend to ask when you want to doubt the grass is greener on the other side. They are doing something right in Arizona, if they were able to plant the seed of doubt in Fitzgerald’s head, and I think they did just that. There’s definitely a logical approach on convincing the face of their franchise to never hit the open market, but there’s nothing wrong with a little ethos appeal. A brand that once saw star players like Simeon Rice and Anquan Boldin walk away unhappy has one of the game’s best of all-time catching feelings. Instead of wasting more time doubting whether Fitzgerald made the right call, I’m content to give the once-dysfunctional Cardinals a gold star for their work on this one.

Niners Living That Life After Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh isn’t walking through that door. It’s that simple. The writing was on the wall for months, and sure enough, it became official when the 49ers’ regular season ended with a 20-17 victory over the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals.

You could see the appreciation the players had for him in their on-field farewell to the greatest 4-year head coach in the history of the game, but you could also understand how the relationship reciporcated, that is just the thing about the new head coach at the University of Michigan. It doesn’t matter if you’re with him for a week, a season, or an entire career. If you’re with him, you’re family. His 44 wins over seasons in the organization reflect that.

The guys are going to miss him, that’s a given. The fans are going to miss him, but they’re really just going to miss the Niners winning, and only if that’s how it goes down. Right now, the assumption is regression. Hell, it’s already begun, unless you want to ignore how a team with three straight conference championship game appearances downgraded itself to one of the best teams to miss the postseason in 2014. The magnitude of a fall from so close to the top that we tend to micro-analyze it, and maybe that’s the part that isn’t fair.

It’s okay to give Harbaugh and San Francisco a pass on the 2014 season. Motivating yourself for a lame duck is difficult, especially when you consider that even a fireball like Jim Harbaugh was probably a little deficient himself in the inspired category. Even when you have only 31 equals, and that could be relative here, a volatile relationship with your superiors only ends one way. Whether he quit or got fired, Harbaugh had one fate, and that was to be gone before the 2015 season begun. Comments from Harbaugh and the always-open-to-interpretation from the club’s general manager this week leave one with few other options, other than to believe he was indeed fired.

Onward and upward with Jim Tomsula, so it goes for 49ers President Jed York and GM Trent Baalke. Without doing a serious amount of reading up on the guy, I couldn’t say much about Tomsula, and neither can anyone else, but he’s a company man. After spending the better part of a decade in Europe coaching in the World League, NFL Europe, or whatever they called it, Tomsula landed on Mike Nolan’s staff in 2007.

The next year, Nolan was pink-slipped and Mike Singletary got his shot, but Singletary demonstrated that there’s more to being a head coach in the National Football League than just being a really good football coach. The former Chicago Bears linebacker lost his locker room, and ultimately, he lost his job before Week 17 of the 2010 season.

Tomsula got the big whistle, so to speak, for their season finale against the Cardinals, a 38-7 victory for San Francisco. Days later, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was named the head coach. Tomsula was one of him, an intense guy that would do the job for free. Harbaugh didn’t hesitate to retain Tomsula as a defensive assistant. The guy may not be much to look at, but it’s no accident that so many people vouch for Tomsula’s ability to coach this game. How you replace Harbaugh may be just as important as how you mange him, when he’s under your charge.

tomsula

The last two jobs he’s left, his successor has come from his own ranks. Even the next man up at the University of San Diego, Adam Caragher, spent six years leading the FCS Terreros at USD before moving up the FCS ranks at San Jose State.  To keep it more recent, David Shaw hasn’t missed a beat since Stanford, the place of Harbaugh’s first major college gig, named Shaw to replace his former boss in Palo Alto.  Bottom line, Jim Harbaugh leaves every program in better shape than he inherited it. For the braintrust in Santa Clara and for Tomsula, the pressure is on. Precedent leaves little excuse for failure in Life After Harbaugh.

The NFL: It Fascinates Me

If there’s so much we dislike about the game of football, its players, its coaches, its writers, its government, and yes, even our fellow fan, why do we bother with it? Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but the game simply fascinates me, and I’m not alone. Remember, the game is only three hours of your week for sixteen weeks out of the year, if you affix yourself to one team.

And to the “3 Hours Per Week” Club, us die-hards just chuckle, which isn’t to say we’re without envy. Some of us have jobs where we clock out and disavow any knowledge of what happens there until we report for our next shift. For others, work consumes our lives and lingers on the mind during dinner, family-time, and in those minutes before we fall asleep at night. For those that clock out daily, but never stop working, you know the life of the NFL fan, or should I say fanatic(?) better than most.

If your favorite team missed the playoffs, you’ve now gone seven Sundays without a dog in the fight. Yet, there you are, tuning into the NFL Network, checking Twitter for the latest, and thinking about how 2015 is going to be different, hopefully better. From the time I started watching the game 30 years ago, it’s always been the same, with some obvious differences that today’s technology affords us. The day my season ends, it’s on to the next one.

Even if you win the Super Bowl, and trust me when I say, that’s a treat I’ve barely sniffed, it’s still the same. How do you do it again? For those that came up short, you’re asking, how do we finish the job? Nothing is ever enough, unless you’re ready to walk away on top, a la John Elway, and that only happened after he did it twice and would have been expected to get it done a third time. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did it three times in four years, but it took a decade of scratching and clawing at it, with very different supporting casts, to make it happen a fourth time.

Everyone talks about that stuff, and no one questions that playing to win the game, especially a championship game, is what it’s all about. That’s not even the fascinating part. Really, it’s the anticipation of everything, even the otherwise minute stuff, that makes the NFL, the shield, the empire that it actually is.

Personally, I don’t play Fantasy Football. I don’t bet on games against the spread. I don’t watch the draft from start to finish. And, I tend to avoid the pre-game shows. Still, I anticipate it, all of it.

I still want to know who the hot fantasy commodities are going to be, who is going to be favored and by how much, and the bar that Vegas sets for each team, as far as wins and losses are concerned. The draft has become a holiday, and much like actual holidays, they often disappoint (being a life-long Browns fan contributes to this in ways unimagineable). The schedule comes out in April, and the announcement of what date that will be is almost as suspenseful as learning who plays each other and when. Even though I do try to avoid studio shows, I’m always eager for a soundbyte to make waves that transcend the airwaves where they initially reside.

As unfortunate as it is, because heinous crimes are heinous by nature and lesser crimes are still bad, the off-field and off-season beat of our favorite game comes with its own intensity. We know that Josh Gordon and Greg Hardy are worth the price of admission on the field, and that matters more to some us than the type of human beings they are when the clock hits zero. Some of us care about the men they are, but most of you do not.

The game and everything that comes with it are bigger than the sum of their own parts. Those parts will modify, be replaced, and they’ll move on, but game isn’t going anywhere. It will change, and for the better, but it won’t come without its share of red ink for certain aspects. We’ll be able to ignore those and continue to be fascinated by a game. It’s not really fair to call professional football a game, because we’ve reached a point where few can deny it is THE game.

Down By Contact: Super Post-game Show

In Super Bowl XLIX, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.  The win is Tom Brady’s fourth championship in six tries.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich

Down By Contact: Super Pre-Game Show

Seattle is back, and you could say not much time has passed since the Patriots played for the Lombardi Trophy themselves, so the Super Bowl is familiar ground for the principal players on both teams involved.  Chris Green and Jeff Rich take a look at the game ahead.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich

Down By Contact: Sunday Postgame Championship Edition

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With an improbable comeback, the Seattle Seahawks are headed back to the Super Bowl.  Russell Wilson found Jermaine Kearse on the game’s final play in the endzone for the walk-off win on the first possession of overtime.  Mason Crosby hit the game-tying field goal with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after the Seahawks erased a 16- point halftime deficit to take a 3-point lead inside the two-minute warning.  Seattle had a mistake-ridden day, but overcame turnover to win their second NFC Championship in as many years, and third in the last ten.

In the nightcap, the Colts made it interesting for 30 minutes, though they trailed 17-7 at half.  It was never pretty for Andrew Luck and company, as the CBS broadcast showed their dismay throughout the first half on the visitors’s sideline.  It went from frustrating to flat-out ugly as the Patriots reeled off 21 straight in a matter eight minutes on their way to a 45-7 win for the AFC title, and punched their ticket to Glendale for the second time.  In two weeks, they’ll see Pete Carroll and company in the franchise’s 8th Super Bowl.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich