Tag Archives: St Louis Rams

More Than A Friday: Is Spaceballs Actually Better Than Star Wars?

Um, no. Though, I do think Spaceballs comes with a cast of more likable characters, the hysteria behind the Star Wars franchise holds water.

What is it that they say? Mockery is the most sincere form of flattery, or something like that. To spoof something, there has to be something worthy spoofing, and Star Wars has it. When you’re not comparing or contrasting it against its source material, something you should not be doing anyways, Spaceballs holds up very well on its own as a comedy.

To prepare for my viewing of The Force Awakens, I, like many others, decided to get a refresher on the George Lucas franchise, going with an unconventional, yet logical order of viewing. It’s called Machete Order, and you start with 4 & 5, the first in order of theatrical release. That tells the story of Luke Skywalker, then you revert back to 2 & 3 to see his father’s story, without the concern of spoiling the reveal in Episode 5, since you’ve already watched it. You skip the Phantom Menace altogether, as it’s really unnecessary to the saga, and watch Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s stories come together in Return of the Jedi. It worked for me, and got me to thinking how complex the sci-fi trilogies are versus the simplicity of the spoof. Imagine how difficult it would be to create the prequel backstories for Vespa, Lonestar1Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role., and Yogurt. Would there have been a time that Yogurt aided the Mogs at war, and had a previous relationship with Barf, a la Yoda and Chewbacca? How was Helmet beckoned to the dark side of the Shwartz? Were Alderaan and Druidia similar places for princesses to grow up? Who knows? Who cares?

While we’re on the subject of immitation, what’s up with the NFL going with the Oregon model, when it comes to outfitting these professional organizations? Did you see what the Rams and Bucs were rocking for the final installment of the Color Rush games this season? I don’t mind a little color-on-color, in the wake of black & white televisions going the way of the dodo, but drowning us in monochrome is not a good application of games without white jerseys. On the field and in the stands, I began to feel the pain of those old scabs being peeled off, remembering that the Rams victory on Thursday night might very well be the last NFL game ever played in St. Louis. If it was, can the diehard Rams fans in Missouri somehow be pleased with what two decades of a team from Southern California brought them?

They got Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title; not bad for twenty years of existence in the Gateway City. Lions, Bills, Jaguars, and Carolina fans would gladly take that. The Browns, on the other hand, would take the perpetual 7-9 run that you get from Jeff Fisher, and they would be glad to have it. That begs the question2Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition., are the expansion Browns the Spaceballs to their original counterparts (the Browns that existed from 1946-1995)?

For those of you familiar with the new Browns, you’d probably liken the new chapter of Browns to some really low budget porn tie-in or a Lifetime original that cuts too many corners in production. You know how it goes, not funny or good, but for some reason, people tune in. This weekend, Cleveland visits the NFL’s answer to the Death Star, as it exists in the form of Century Link field. The Seahawks organization yields its own darkside characters; the once-wholesome Russ Wilson draws some parallels with Anakin/Vader, while Pete Carroll represents Big Poppa Palpatine, and you can find the Colonel Sanders and Major Asshole types on the Sea Chickens defense. How many assholes are on that team anyways?

The problem with the comparison is that the Browns lack heroes, even accidental ones like Han Solo or Lonestar. That’s not to put down the valiant efforts we’ve seen, but as Episode III reminds us, even the greats like Yoda fail from time to time, and sometimes there’s just no hope3No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.. Meanwhile, Browns fans are willing to die on that hill, screaming about how Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and/or Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the chosen one. In reality, the years of 5-11 seasons and no light at the end of the tunnel gives off that vibe of the love of our lives walking away and being left to burn in molten lava by the only friend we’ve ever had.

Maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and it’s Art Modell that left us all for dead, deeming us unworthy as fans of his team. We needed a Sith like Al Lerner or Jimmy Haslam to give us a new beginning, but despite having the Deathstar destroyed twice and the Emperor being betrayed by his established #2, the Republic had a better run than any Browns fan born after 1983. That story of murder, mayhem, betrayal, and redemption are a little heavy for a Friday morning. That’s where it’s nice to instead live in a world of using strawberry to “jam” a signal, Jedi-type weapons coming from Cracker Jack boxes, and Mr. Coffee being conveniently located next to Mr. Radar. At least we can laugh about our owner looking like a giant penis. You have to laugh.That’s the only option to get through a life that has you stuck in purgatory.

The only changes we know are when they go from “Suck” to “Blow”.

   [ + ]

1. Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role.
2. Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition.
3. No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.

More Than A Friday: Airwaves and Arizona Cardinals

No matter where you go on the AM dial, it’s the time of year where NFL talk simply dominates the airwaves. Oh, it’s hockey season? Well, that incredible hat trick and the pace of 3-on-3 overtime are going to have to wait; we’ll try to shoehorn that 90 seconds of NHL coverage between our fluff interview with the head coach of our local team and our commentary on another team’s quarterback’s reaction to being called names. Oh, there’s basketball too? Let’s see, the playoffs start in April, so we’ll see you at the end of May. The NFL season has made the turn for the back 9, so let’s keep that conversation going, ad nauseum.

Only I’m not nauseous. We only get 17 weeks of these regular season games, so give it to me, from every angle you’ve got. Just about every game serves up its share of intrigue, even if it’s just because the NFL has taken a page out of the Oregon Ducks playbook and decided to make uniforms part of the side show. We have heard a lot of talk about paper tigers, and that kind of thing sells when you’re dealing with more that just the football purists.

Here in Arizona, the tailgate was a bigger deal than the games until the Cardinals started playing respectable football. While the pregame parking lot party lot is still a huge draw, the curtains are really pulled back to start the show once you get inside University of Phoenix Stadium and witness the product the Cardinals are putting on the field.

Sure, we can find our Suns and Coyotes in action on any given night of the week, but the locals suddenly find themselves longing for Sunday in these parts. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more to say about a dysfunctional organization, and that dysfunction was the epitome of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals for many years after they landed here from St. Louis almost 30 years ago, but the casual fan is more interested in talking about success.

For the Bruce Arians’ Cardinals, defining success and turning the corner from being the team that was blacked out locally for over a decade isn’t about their accomplishments, but their potential. They reached the Super Bowl, and almost won the damn thing, if not for an incredible Santonio Holmes toe-tap to give the Steelers their 6th title, but that’s in the past. What have they done for you lately?

Kurt Warner’s retirement after the 2009 season put the Birds into a bit of a tailspin, leaving people to look back on the team that reached the post-season in consecutive years for the first time since the 70s as a fluke. It’s no wonder; since Warner, the Cardinals marched Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer out under center, with limited to no success for the team in that time frame.

So, why not throw Oakland a 6th-round pick for the services of a washed-up Carson Palmer? He’d spent the better part of two seasons in Oakland, after retiring rather than returning to the Bengals for the 2011 season. Speaking to the numbers, Palmer wasn’t as bad as most of us remember him being in Oakland, it was that his play didn’t add up to Raider wins, but the Cardinals were arguably one Peyton Manning away from being a Super Bowl team, the way the roster was built a year earlier.

Despite starting out 4-0 in 2012, the bottom fell out after the hot start, and the team would go on to lose 11 of their last 12, which equaled a 5-11 record and a pink slip for head coach Ken Whisenhunt. After that, enter Palmer and Bruce Arians, stage left.

At that point, they were playing meaningful football, going into the month of December. That first year, 10 wins weren’t good enough to make the tournament in 2013. Come 2014, you could have made a case for Arizona being that one team in the National Football League that no one wanted to play, provided the Cardinals stayed healthy at key spots. They were not able to do that, and the net result was Ryan Lindley marking himself as one of the worst quarterbacks in post-season history in a loss to the Carolina Panthers.

With a recent history that does garner some looks from football people that wouldn’t normally give their organization the time of day, Palmer and the gang entered this season with a chip on their shoulder. What they’ve done before this season is inconsequential, especially if you want to be taken seriously in discussing their Super Bowl aspirations. Through nine games, a 7-2 mark has given some weight to those thoughts previously thought to be outlandish, but who have they played?

But, They Haven’t Played Anyone

It took a big play or two at the end to put away the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, and the Saints seem to be a continuation of the mess that was the 2014 Saints. Okay, crossing them off the list. How about the Bears in Week 2 on the road? Forget about the Bears you’re seeing now, now that Jay Cutler and Adam Gase have found their groove, the Cardinals are awarded no points for a 48-23 win at Soldier Field.

It wasn’t that long ago that voices behind the microphone your drive home were trying to sell Niners and Cardinals as a rivalry. Sometimes, you have to reach for the narrative in the NFC West, which is seemingly void of natural rivalries1Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.. Sure, maybe players have told the teams’ flagship stations that they don’t like the other team, and maybe those two teams were at the top of the division, but that pairing never screamed, “throw the records out the window when these teams square off”.

Seattle and San Francisco had a little thing going, when they were the top 2 in the division, with the Cardinals playing games with the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Kevin Kolb running the offense. It made for exciting marketing for the games, but the 49ers regressed, and the edge was taken off of all their division games. So, the Cardinals score defensive touchdown after defensive touchdown at home against the Niners, and no one cares about their 3-0 start.

They’d lose to the Rams, obliterate the then-winless Lions in Detroit, and lay an egg in Pittsburgh to fall to 4-2. They still haven’t played anyone and they’re way behind the pace of all these unbeatens we’re covering in the NFL. No denying they were a good football team, but there were just too many great teams to get hung up on the pretty good one in the desert.

Let’s put them on Monday Night Football. The Ravens making their first trip to University of Phoenix Stadium, that should make for compelling TV. I’m sure a 1-5 Ravens team isn’t what ESPN had in mind, but they made it a football game, right up until the end. Kudos to the Ravens for showing up in prime time2Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns., but surviving a 1-6 team at home doesn’t sell anyone on your Super Bowl prospects.

A second half comeback, after trailing 20-10 at the half, in Cleveland had some people inspired, not just in these parts, but on the national scene. There were some skeletons rearing their ugly heads from the loss in Pittsburgh, that this team couldn’t handle adversity, and while the Browns are absolutely nothing to write home about, a 24-0 whitewash in the 3rd and 4th quarters of that game in Cleveland had everyone feeling this team was on the right track headed into their bye week. Even though there was no game to talk about that next weekend, terrestrial radio gave you your fill of Birdspeak, whether you wanted it or not.

Who could blame them? The Seattle game hung in the balance, and at 4-4, the Cardinals could potentially throw something of a knockout punch to the 2-time defending NFC Champions. Now, the Cardinals have been able to crack the code for winning in front of the Sea Chickens rowdy fans, but Carolina figured out that formula in Week 6, so the task may not have seemed so daunting. We’ve learned, from our talk-radio hosts, that you can dismiss some of the negatives with Seattle, namely their mediocre W-L record, and that the Cardinals have not proven they are a better team than the Seahawks until the show they can beat them.

Well, beat them, they did. The 39-32 final score doesn’t really tell the tale of how that affair went. Arizona got out to a big halftime lead, had a complete meltdown with Palmer putting the pigskin on the turf twice, deep in their own territory, and when they needed the big play, Jermaine Gresham and Andre Ellington were happy to oblige.

Leading up to this game, the sister stations up in Washington were calling these Cardinals “paper tigers”. They haven’t played anyone, they said. Now, the joke is on those who reside near the Puget Sound. Those Sea Chickens that went down at home to their division rival, they’re 4-5; at the end of the day, I guess the Cardinals still haven’t played anyone.

Is Anyone Out There?

Remember, what they’ve done means nothing. We see no rings, therefor the job isn’t done. What does 7-2 get you? Nothing, but maybe prime time games. The NFL flexed this weekend’s contest with Cincinnati into Sunday Night Football, the Cardinals second-straight appearance in NBC’s prime time slot and the Bengals third-straight under the lights. The Bengals look a lot less intimidating after their stripes were exposed by the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, and the big baby that is Andy Dalton showed a complete void of maturity, based on hearsay.

The travel Palmer and company face isn’t as severe as it was in their first nine games, what with Seattle out of the way and those three of their four games in the Eastern time zone in the books. They’ll travel to play the Niners and Rams in consecutive weeks, pretty much with a chance to lock up the division before a lot of people even get their Christmas trees up, but that division title isn’t the long game.

Unlike the old days, where you’d know who was in town because of the dominance of visiting jerseys at Sun Devil Stadium, this team has a distinct home-field advantage, and they want that in January. They’re still two games behind the 9-0 Carolina Panthers in the loss column, but they’re going to see the Vikings and Packers at home, with home playoff games and maybe a first-round bye in the cards, so there are no breaks.

If they take any, they might be stressing over their home finale with those pesky Sea Chickens in Week 17. In that case, I’m sure talking heads on the radio dial will have plenty to talk about, but topics for discussion are never in short supply in an NFL market. Though, you already knew that.

   [ + ]

1. Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.
2. Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns.

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.

Down By Contact #2: The Fun and Games

DownloadRSS (audio) | iTunes (audio)

The late week edition of Down By Contact will focus on the fans, and how they can be interactive with the action on Sunday, Monday, and even Thursday. Some people like to do it all, office pools, friendly wagering with friends, betting games against the spread, and of course, the ever-popular game of Fantasy Football.

This week, Jeff Rich welcomes Mike Burgermeister and Tarik Adam, the facilitator and top player in the Cheddar Bay Reality Football Competition, respectively, in the first segment. They preview the prime time and other marquee matchups in the National Football League, and even weigh in on the classic Army-Navy game in the college ranks on Saturday. Then, we shift gears from reality to fantasy, where More Than a Fan guru Alex Squires gives our host a remedial lesson on Fantasy Football, and gives some tips on who to start/who to sit in Week 15.

The Players
Jeff Rich (Host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Tarik Adam – @ClevTA
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF

London Games Slight NFL Fans in America

We don’t need the NFL in London. The NFL wants London and the rest of the globe, for the sake of the almighty dollar, or should I say Euro? It seemed innocent enough in the beginning, an occasional exhibition every couple of years, but now we’re playing games that count, and if we take it any farther, it will only get worse.

For the fans, players, and coaches, it’s just a giant pain in the ass. I don’t care who you are, seven hours is a long damn time to be on an airplane, even if the thought of crashing into unknown parts of the Atlantic doesn’t absolutely petrify you. Then, you have to think about the price tag. I don’t know about the average fan, but I don’t think I love football enough to spend $1100 just to spend a week or weekend in the constant drizzle of the land our forefathers once abandoned.

Westminster_fog_-_London_-_UK
It’s a beautiful day for football (and very little else) in London

You don’t bring sand to the beach, just like you don’t open a second restaurant in a new part of town to feed your existing clientele, so grievances to the NFL from its American fans about travel restrictions will likely fall on deaf ears. Roger Goodell and company will just as soon tell you to keep your money, save it for premium NFL exhibition action in your hometown next August. They’ve already got their hands firmly on our wallets. Next up for the NFL is the European Man Purses and all the riches that come along with them.

It’s such an untapped market. Think about it, we can take a group that drools and goes mad over soccer, and sell them on something similar, but a lot more interesting and fun to watch. I’ve never actually been to that part of the world, but based on the cultural lessons I’ve learned from watching the movie Snatch, you’d have to think that adding violence and a finite clock to the game they already love could only be plusses.

The locals across the pond love it. The first “real” game was played there in 2007, and it sold out in a matter of hours, a full nine months before it was played. It didn’t matter who played, 81,176 gathered for the inaugural game that featured Cleo Lemon and the Miami Dolphins against that season’s eventual Super Bowl Champs, the Giants. Champs or not, it didn’t much matter that this one lacked quality, the Giants held off Miami’s late rally to win a 13-10 slopfest in less than ideal conditions. The league scheduled one game a year there thru 2012; a second game was added last season, and we’ll get three this season.

It’s difficult to argue that it’s only a novelty, given the International Series steady attendance in its 8-year run. Wembley Stadium’s capacity for American Football, and you know it pains me to have to make that distinction, is approximately 86,000, and they’ve come close to reaching that in eight of the nine games played there so far. There was a noticeable drop-off in 2011 for Bears v. Bucs, but it bounced back for the Patriots and Rams in the 2012 edition of the series.

The Patriots are a big draw there, and who’d have thunk it? Old England likes New England. The Patriots, or maybe expatriates in this case, have played in the only two games that drew over 84,000 to the pitch, I mean gridiron, with lopsided victories over Tampa Bay in 2009 and St. Louis in 2012. The Rams, on the other hand, were supposed to volunteer to play a home game over there in three consecutive seasons, but had a change of heart before their game with Brady and the gang two years ago.

The league is trying to create some consistency, sending the same teams repeatedly for brand recognition, and they’re targeting anyone dumb enough to give up a home game. With the Rams wise to the scam, Jacksonville was the league’s next target, so the Brits get to see someone smear the Jaguars every fall for three years, unless they can convince the league to put the Browns on the other sideline in 2015.

Maybe Jacksonville fans don’t care about giving up a true home game every year, but I sure would if I was a season ticket holder. Arizona season ticket holders expressed dismay when they lost a home game to Mexico City in 2005. Maybe Jacksonville is different, because do you really need to watch more than seven games a year from your poolside cabana?

Jaguars 2014 Cabana
Nothing says North Florida like T-Shirts and Jorts in the pool at a football stadium

Well, the end game here is obvious and the tale of the tape says it all. We’ve gone from one, to two, to three games in as many years, which means the NFL likes it. For them to like it, it has to be profitable, so let’s deduce that it is. What’s the future here? We’ve heard London Super Bowl and we’ve heard about re-locating a franchise there, and those options sound more logistically sound than the current process of interrupting a season for off-shore neutral-site games.

If it’s just going to continue on its current path of sending teams there for a neutral site game, with someone forfeiting a home game, how long before we expand on three? I suppose it could become a weekly event, but the built-in post-London bye week would make that a bit of a challenge. Even if the whole thing evolved from three games to eight, that would be similar to having a home team without the burden of full-priced August games that don’t count.

Worse than giving up a home game, some proud city of fans could lose its team to this gimmick. I’ve been down that road and time doesn’t heal those wounds, not in the short period of 18 years in my case. And, if they want to put one team there, they could very well make a case for two. With a push for the NFL to return to Los Angeles, perhaps also to the power of two, fans of teams without new stadiums or deep roots in the community may find themselves without a team to root for on Sundays in 2015.

From not having a team at all, to having the best team, the Super Bowl seems to be the most realistic evolution of the London process. This would have the smallest impact on Joe Sixpack and the typical American football fan. Regular people can’t afford to attend the Super Bowl or the accompanying hoopla, so who really cares if they’re not going to Miami or they’re not going to London. The bottom line, they’re not going. The VIPs might have to drop an extra $500-$1000 on airfare, but they’re good for it. As for the rest of us, the highest bidder will be airing a London Super Bowl at 6:37 PM on that first Sunday in February, so we’re good too.

The Dolphins 38-14 win over Oakland at Wembley Stadium last month was the first of three to be played there in 2014, including this Sunday’s tilt between Atlanta and Detroit, which kicks off at 9:30 AM in the east.

With the Super Bowl being the least of our concerns, NFL fans back in the homeland should be concerned with the league’s growing interest in Europe. One year, it’s a home game. The next, it’s the entire home team. Given that we’ve shown no strength as fans in turning our back on Goodell or his faction, I’m sure there’s no concern about abandoning anyone as he looks to grow his customer base.

He knows that his bread and butter on this side of pond will always be exactly how he wants them to be, without shame and ready to throw money at his product.

The Not So Curious Case of Michael Sam

by Ryan Isley

Just when it seems that the NFL might be taking a progressive step forward, they take two steps back.

When Michael Sam was released by the St. Louis Rams this past week and then not claimed by any other team in the NFL, it raised eyebrows. I mean, how could a guy that was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the high and mighty SEC just a year ago be looking for work before his first season in the NFL even got started?

The real issue is that the downward spiral actually started during the 2014 NFL Draft, when Sam didn’t hear his name called on the first night. Or the second night. And then had to wait all day on the third day before getting that call from the Rams.

If we are to believe the national narrative that the SEC is the best conference in the history of college football and that their defenses are second to none, how does it stand to reason that a player who was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the conference falls to the seventh round of the NFL draft, being selected No. 249 overall? It doesn’t. In fact, it just doesn’t happen. Unless you happen to be Michael Sam and you announced before the draft that you are gay.

The nine players to win the award prior to Sam – and C.J. Mosley, who shared the 2013 honor with him – were all drafted no lower than 33rd overall, with nine of them being drafted in the first round. Five of those players were selected in the top-10.

YEAR PLAYER ROUND PICK
2004 DAVID POLLACK 1 17
2005 DEMECO RYANS 2 33
2006 PATRICK WILLIS 1 11
2007 GLENN DORSEY 1 5
2008 ERIC BERRY 1 5
2009 ROLANDO MCCLAIN 1 8
2010 PATRICK PETERSON 1 5
2011 MORRIS CLAIBORNE 1 6
2012 JARVIS JONES 1 17
2013 CJ MOSLEY 1 17
2013 MICHAEL SAM 7 249

 

While those other nine players may have been more versatile or fit a system better, they also had one thing in common – they are straight.

Teams hid behind the excuse of how they weren’t impressed with Sam’s performance at the NFL Draft Combine, which is nothing more than a glorified field day for NFL prospects. There isn’t any real football being played, but it has become a staple of what teams use to rank players.

While Fisher and the Rams taking Sam in the seventh round after nobody else was willing to use a pick on him might have seemed like a statement at the time, looking back on it paints a little hazier of a picture. Did the Rams really take Sam because they believed that he could play in the league, or did they do it for the purpose of publicity?

The Rams had 11 picks in the draft, meaning they were able to use a pick on Sam without the fear that if they didn’t keep him, it wouldn’t be looked at as a wasted pick. If he turned out to be a force and made the roster, it looks like a great pick. In the same breath, it put them as the lead story on not only every sports show in the country, but every newscast as well. Two birds, one stone.

Unfortunately, it seems like the Rams were banking on Sam being average, making the decision to not include him on their 53-man roster an easy one. Sam didn’t make the decision that easy, however, going out and getting 10.5 tackles and three sacks in the preseason for the Rams. With the Rams being deep at defensive line, it made it easier for them to justify cutting Sam. But it also didn’t hurt that he was drafted in the seventh round instead of let’s say the fourth or fifth round, which is the general feeling of where he would have been drafted had he not come out as gay prior to the draft.

With teams consistently passing over Sam during the draft, it is also making it easier for them to justify not signing him after the Rams released him. Well, in their minds anyway. But it doesn’t make the decision to allow him to go unsigned any less curious for those who aren’t running teams in the NFL.

The Rams gave Michael Sam an opportunity and he took full advantage of it, despite being cut. The Rams simply had other pressing needs than along their defensive line. After all, Sam isn’t a guy that can move around and play multiple positions. If he was, he might still be in St. Louis. But don’t expect me to believe that there isn’t another team in the NFL who could use a player of Sam’s caliber. Because this isn’t just about ability.

So since Sam performed not only in college – in the best conference in the country no less – and in the NFL preseason, it is fair to ask if he went unclaimed simply because of his sexual orientation. And the unfortunate answer to the question just might be that being openly gay has been a setback in Sam’s drive to make his dreams come true.

But why are teams hesitant to sign Sam, even if it was to their practice team? Are they afraid of the potential backlash from those who are ignorant enough to take to social media and embarrass themselves? A quick search of “Michael Sam” on Twitter Monday morning made my skin crawl. Some of the comments were so crude and so distasteful that I wonder how these people live their lives on a day-to-day basis. Are you really that offended by the sexual orientation of a guy you will likely never even meet?

Just remember the filth that was spouted after Sam was drafted, when he was shown on TV kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano. That kiss damn near broke Twitter and all of social media, but not because people were accepting of the fact that two guys were expressing their feelings for each other as the country watched. It was quite the opposite for the most part.

The problem is that if I am able to find these things with a simple social media search, NFL teams are able to as well. You would hope that in 2014, this wouldn’t be enough to keep a team from making a decision on a player, but fans are the ones who spend their money on the team. So if a team is afraid that bringing in a player might result in a loss of revenue from an ignorant few, it plays a role.

It also didn’t help that one of the game’s most respected voices said that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because of the distraction of having Sam on the team. While Dungy later clarified the comments, the words were out there and the damage was done. If Dungy was thinking this and also willing to say it, isn’t it also safe to assume that the decision makers of NFL teams were feeling the same?

Even if it is a hindrance to the beginning of his NFL career, going through this period of intolerance will only make Sam a stronger person. Which is saying something, because he has already shown that he is stronger than most by being willing to come out as a gay athlete before the biggest day of his life. He could have kept quiet and let the chips fall as they may, possibly resulting in a better draft position and an easier path to an NFL roster.

But Sam made a decision that had possible consequences most of us will never understand. He knew that there would be a backlash and detractors, some more vocal and hateful than others. But he also realized that for him to be able to be himself, it was a decision that he would have to make. For that, Sam deserves a ton of respect.

Being openly gay, however, does not mean that Michael Sam deserves a job playing football with an NFL team. No – it is his play and talent that show he deserves that opportunity. It just seems that his decision to be him is too much of a “distraction” for NFL teams to give him a call.

One day, it will not be a story when an openly gay man makes the roster of an NFL team or plays for a team on Sundays. Hopefully, Michael Sam gets his chance to be the first one to break down the walls of intolerance.

But don’t let anyone fool you – teams in the NFL are going to make this as difficult as possible. And in 2014, that’s a shame.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

 

You Can Get With This (or you can get with that)

Offense
 
 
As I shuffle through my IPod, scanning my 90’s hip hop songs, I came across one of my favorites: Black Sheep’s “The choice is yours (You can get with this, or you can get with that.)” It was simple, yet catchy. But, if you’re a hip hop head like I am, you analyzed the lyrics and were able to extrapolate much more than just the infamous, “engine, engine number 9…” line. But that’s a story for another day.
But, this song had me thinking; if I were to start a college football program from scratch, which side of the ball would I focus on; offense or defense? The college game is on a completely different plane than their professional counterpart. It’s been long said that defense wins championships. But in the college game, that may or may not be the case.
I’m going to go out on a limb and select offense. I love offense; especially the run game. How many times have you sat up, watching YouTube videos of running back highlight reels? I can honestly say, I’ve spent hours at a time, watching, analyzing, and, when the opportunity presented itself during my weekly flag football league, attempting to use some of the shifty juke moves that made these backs renowned.
The offensive side of the ball captivates the crowd. We sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the big run or a fade pass down the sideline. Most importantly, the offense puts up points. Yes, defensive plays can yield points, but not at the clip offensive plays can. Hell, if a defense forces a punt, that’s all that need be achieved. The offense can take over and put up the necessary points. If the defense can hold, it’s a win-win. Literally.
I’ve heard the argument over and over how the college game is lacking due to poor defense. Too many times, the scores are sky high, going tit-for-tat on the scoreboards. I love it for the college game. It can be a great talent evaluator for the next level. How many of you remember Reggie Bush’s 513 all-purpose yard performance against Fresno State in 2005? That game was amazing! I still watch the highlights from that game every now and then. And, you know what that score was? 50-42! Now, if you take a look at the defensive players on that USC defense, here are some names you may recognize: Sedrick Ellis (New Orleans Saints), Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals), Frostee Rucker (Arizona Cardinals), Brian Cushing (Houston Texans), Keith Rivers (Buffalo Bills), and Darnell Bing (Detroit Lions). Last I checked, these Trojans made it to the NFL; and started! How does a defense, where six of its eleven starters are NFL caliber players, surrender 42 points? And don’t say that Fresno’s offense picked on the other five players! C’mon now! Say what you want, but clearly the offense bailed them out of that one. Well, Reggie Bush did, at least.
Don’t get me wrong. I love every aspect of football. I certainly appreciate a stout or at least, a solid defense. I just find the offense to be more pivotal. Offense dictates defense. The more dynamic the offense, the more difficult the task the defense has in stopping it. It’s no coincidence, defenses have as many personnel packages as offenses do. There’s so much to account for. It’s also no coincidence that as offenses develop, defensive hybrid players are being groomed to add counter balance. I don’t recall playing against linemen that are 6’0 or taller, weigh 300 plus pounds, and run a sub five second 40-yard dash. It just didn’t happen; at least not that often.
If you paid any attention to this past NFL draft combine, #1 overall draft pick, DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) clocked a 4.53 40 time. Let’s put this into perspective: Clowney is 6’6”, 260lbs. He has the speed of a half back and the mass of Volkswagen Beetle. Ok, I’m exaggerating. But you get my drift. To further drive the point home, #13 overall pick, DT Aaron Donald (Pitt), of the St. Louis Rams, measured 6’0”, 284 lbs. and ran an official 4.68 40-yard dash. Twenty years ago, this was unheard of; if not for an outlier or two. It just goes to show, as offenses evolve, so must defenses, in order to survive.
Offense versus defense is the quintessential game of cat and mouse. There are times where either can have the distinct advantage. Over time, the roles reverse and reverse, yet again. There won’t ever be a point in which one side will be perpetually dominant. It’ll teeter from one side to the other. But, as long as offensive coordinators continue to find zany ways to get their most talented players the ball, and they will, the scales inevitably tilt in favor of the offense; until the defense catches up.

Kosar and Dufner, Ohio Boys in Biased Observer

The Intro

What a strange week it’s been. Baseball went crazy, we saw the first full week of NFL football, a guy from Ohio won the PGA Championship, and a different guy from Ohio was forced into an apology that that has a bunch of other guys in Ohio angry at the world.

Again.

I am going to be a married man by the time you read the next Biased Observer[1. It’s going to be a while. The honeymoon is in Las Vegas, and there’s no telling how long I’ll stay], and it seems I’m practicing for married life by drinking a bottle of water instead of beer while writing this. There’s also a good chance I will be doing yard work while you read this column, too. See? I’m already not complaining about married life[2. Really, though. I can’t wait].

If you are looking for a Cleveland Indians losing streak post-mortem, you need Dan’s Cleveland Sports Week in Review. Also this week, Jeff Rich shines his light on Stanford in Is Hogan a Hero and Mike looks past the PED controversy in baseball and focuses on the best clean[3. Or, at least not suspected of being dirty] players in baseball’s steroid era.

Go ahead and read those. I can wait. Just leave this window open so the metric for average time on page looks more impressive.

Jason Dufner is the New Tiger Woods

Of course Dufner is not the new Tiger Woods. They are nothing alike. I mean, Dufner won a major this year[4. Seriously, though, a Golf column without Tiger and Woods in the copy is tantamount to SEO suicide].

The 2013 Major Championship winners this year have been pretty eclectic group. Adam Scott took home the Masters Championship[5. Adam Scott is also the subject of the coolest golf picture since the last cigar selfie I took, but I’m not going to embed it because it’s famous and I don’t feel like getting sued. Just search “Adam Scott Masters Picture” and be amazed], Justin Rose elicited the most outdated headline ever when he won the U.S. Open Championship[6. A Kiss From a Rose. Seal sang that song for the Batman Forever soundtrack in 1984], Phil Mickelson won the Open Championship, and now Ohio’s own Jason Dufner finished off the 2013 Majors schedule by holding off Jim Furyk to win the PGA Championship.

I really wanted to see Tiger or Phil succeed and make a huge push for renewed dominance on the golf landscape, but I have to admit that seeing three players win their first major of their careers around a Lefty final round for the ages made this an incredibly fun golf season to watch. The fact that Dufner is an Olmsted Falls, Ohio native is just a tiny feather of this former Bulldogs’ cap.

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie

This whole story about Bernie Kosar criticizing the St. Louis Rams to the point where Jeff Fisher – Rams Head Coach – and Peter King – TheMMQB.com Editor – need to complain has so many layers that I decided to put together a list of my thoughts about this issue.

In no particular order:

  • Bernie Kosar is a Browns homer on a Browns homer, preseason telecast. Lighten up.
  • Play-by-play man, Jim Donovan, walked an old school, rough-edged football player into what was probably supposed to be a Catholic joke. Ooops.
  • Kosar needs to take some responsibility for not knowing when to shut up.
  • I was not offended, but I am also not going to pretend like I should be the moral barometer for our civilization. That would not go over well.
  • Jeff Fisher stuck up for his players. Good on him.
  • Jeff Fisher stuck up for his players by acting like a whiny little kid who won’t stop crying because he didn’t get a participation trophy for stinking up right field on his little league team. Bad on him.
  • Bernie was right, Kellen Clemons and most of the St. Louis receiving corps is painful to watch.
  • Bernie mentioning that family would be disappointed in those players because they stink at NFL football is about three quarters of the way to bush league. No one was hurt, but family should always be off limits. Even when trying to make a joke about crappy players.
  • Writing anything about Bernie’s family here would amply illustrate that point, but it would be a little too bush league for me.
  • Bernie only said the type of things that Charles Barkley says all the time.
  • Bernie isn’t Chuck. He will never have the panache and leeway that Chuck has, almost no one does. Who knows if that’s fair, but it’s true.
  • Peter King made a “Drunk Bernie” joke on twitter. THAT is just as bush league as anything Bernie said.
  • Both Peter King and Jeff Fischer are represented by Marvin Demoff – whose son Kevin is Executive Vice President of Football Operations & Chief Operating Officer of the Rams.
  • Read the last point again.
  • Bernie privately apologizing to Fisher in order to keep civil relations with a possible trade partner was a quick, painless, and fair way for Browns CEO Joe Banner to have dealt with the situation.
  • Bernie would have had to apologize to Fisher regardless of King’s tweets. What King did was turn this small, regional story into national news because of his relationship with Fisher and the Rams.

There. That is my list. I love Bernie, I like Jeff Fisher, and I have always enjoyed Peter King’s work. None of those things change. Although, in this particular case, I think King is the only guy who deserves the proverbial fist of rage.

King had no involvement in anything, and only opened his mouth because his boy Jeff Fisher had a tizzy. I can understand Fisher’s actions because a coach sticks up for his team. I can understand Bernie’s commentary because he’s a colorful, brutally honest, Cleveland guy. I can understand Joe Banner’s solution because he wants to keep St. Louis in the Browns’ good graces. I cannot understand why Peter King had to throw his considerable weight into the ring and crack a drunk joke about a guy whose had more concussions than Caligula had concubines.

Eh, King was probably just so excited over his fourth rack of ribs that night that the euphoria got to his head and he didn’t know what he was tweeting. Get it? He’s fat.

And Peter, I’ll apologize when you do.

{UPDATE 8/13/2013 7:18 AM}

Peter King tweeted that he was going to apologize.

THIS is what was actually buried on the last page of his MMQB:

Kosar’s a good guy, and I have always liked him. But I found the comments pretty far over the top and asked rhetorically, on Twitter, whether Kosar had been drinking. Which brought on a raft of criticism from the Twitterverse, saying I’d gone over the top. I don’t think I was over the top, but many of you felt I’d gone too far given the sea of trouble Kosar has had in his personal life. (None of which, from what I can tell, involve treatment for alcohol, or any admission of alcoholism.) My point was, I think there’s a way to be critical of players and teams, and analysts should definitely do that. But Kosar went too far, in my opinion. And not just mine. Kosar called Rams coach Jeff Fisher Sunday to apologize, and Browns CEO Joe Banner said Sunday the Browns “don’t condone the personal and unprofessional approach” Kosar used.

We’ll see what ends up in Tuesday’s MMQB column, as it hasn’t been posted at the time of this update.

{UPDATE 8/13/2013 1:36 PM}

Peter King apologized in his Tuesday MMQB Mailbag column.

I was at the Rams’ headquarters Saturday on my tour of training camps, but I didn’t hear about the story till the evening, when The MMQB team was en route to the next stop, Kansas City. I found Kosar’s comments to be over the top—very surprising for a former NFL quarterback who was watching the first preseason game. Saying the parents of the players would be embarrassed if they were watching? And the religion reference? I thought it was wrong. And so I tweeted, “My question for Kosar after comments in Cle-STL preseason game: Were you drinking? Good guy. But waaay over the top here.”

I was trying to be funny in an unfunny situation. Of course, I didn’t think Kosar had been drinking. It was hyperbole. I should have just said, “What were you thinking?”

On Sunday, the Browns stated that they “don’t condone the personal and unprofessional approach’’ Kosar used in the game. Kosar called Rams coach Jeff Fisher and apologized for what he’d said.

I thought it was over—but the Twitterverse didn’t. You slammed me for asking Kosar the drinking question, for being Fisher’s lackey, for having the same agent (Marvin Demoff) as Fisher. My first reaction was: Kosar’s the one who erred here. I’ll be damned if I’ll admit I was wrong. But after being off the grid for most of Monday at Vikings’ camp, the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking I was just as wrong for jumping on Kosar with a bad joke that some would take as me accusing him of drinking during the game. And so, Monday evening, I tweeted that I was wrong for an insensitive tweet—and I was. No excuses. I could have been critical of Kosar without being crass. Altogether my fault.

There are scores on Twitter who wanted their pound of flesh from me even after I said I was wrong, which is their right. The bile was subhuman, but I think overall Twitter served a good purpose here. It was right that so many of you who read me and follow me called me out on this; in the old days, pre-social media, I’d likely have forgotten about it. You didn’t let me. It’s good that we have our readers/followers/listeners to remind us that we ultimately are reporting and opining for them. None of that should change the stories we report, but hall monitors can be good when our opinions cross the line.

About my relationship with the Rams: This is the third time I’ve written about this, and as I’ve said in the past, it’s your right to stop reading me or following me if you’re offended by the fact that I have the same agent as Jeff Fisher … and the agent, Marvin Demoff, is the father of Rams COO Kevin Demoff. I’m not the only one in the business with an agent who also represents people in football. And I don’t apologize for it. For those who think Fisher had something to do with my tweet about Kosar, he didn’t; we never spoke about it, and still haven’t. If you think it colors my judgment when it comes to criticizing or not criticizing people such as Fisher, that’s your right. I believe in being up front with you when there’s an issue like this, and I’ll continue to be that way.

After this, he apologized additionally to an email comment in his mailbag.

I suppose by now that I need to weigh years of King’s fantastic NFL work against making a dumb comment about one of Cleveland’s sports heroes. Maybe King was just apologizing to save face, but I doubt it. I think King is a guy who always tries to be on the up and up, he just took a wrong turn by misjudging his sense of humor.

So, Peter, I’m sorry for the fat joke. I could stand to lose a few pounds myself.

 


Elite TEAMS win Super Bowls, not elite Quarterbacks

The matchup for Super Bowl XLVII (That’s 47, I had to look up the roman numerals) is now set.  The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers successfully navigated the AFC and NFC respectively, to wind up in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they will decide who will be crowned NFL Champion for 2012-13.

There are some significant storylines which will get a lot of play over the two weeks leading up to the game.  The Harbaugh brothers coaching against one another; and the end of the Ray Lewis era are the two which will get most of the headlines.  There is however another storyline which likely won’t get much coverage; and it has to do with the quarterbacks.

I’m sure we’ll know everything there is to know about Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick by the time the game kicks off on Super Bowl Sunday.  The aspect that won’t get much focus is that neither one of these quarterbacks are elite.  That’s right, one of these two quarterbacks will win a Super Bowl, and neither one of them is elite. 

I have long stood by the premise that you don’t absolutely have to have an elite QB in the NFL to win the Super Bowl.  Does it help to have an elite QB?  Sure it does.  Having an all-world signal-caller running your offense eliminates some major question marks.  It also covers up a lot of deficiencies.  Can you win without an elite quarterback?  Yes you can. 

Teams sell out every year to try and get that guy.  You see it over and over on draft day; some team will reach in the first round to grab a QB who isn’t worth the stretch.  Meanwhile, those same teams could be filling in gaps all over their roster by picking the best players available; and actually building the foundation of a great team.

Look at the list of quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls and many of them are all-pro caliber.  But there are some glaring examples of supreme mediocrity under center.  How about Brad Johnson for the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  Or Trent Dilfer for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.  What about theWashington Redskins?  The Skins won in ’87 behind Doug Williams and ’91 with Mark Rypien.  Let’s not forget Jeff Hostetler for the 1990 New York Giants? 

The aforementioned Bucs, Ravens, Giants, and going back even further to the 1985 Chicago Bears; dismantled the opposition with ferocious defense.  The Bears had Jim McMahon.  He’s a shining example of why you don’t need a star at QB to win it all.  That guy was atrocious.  When you have Walter Payton, and one of the best defenses of all-time, it doesn’t matter.

I’m sure I’ll take flak for this example, but even Kurt Warner can be thrown in to this group.  Many people believe he was elite.  His true identity was a pretty good starting NFL QB, who had an excellent grasp of the Rams offense in 1999; and a ton of playmakers around him.  I’d argue that at least half of the starting QB’s in the league in ’99 would’ve won with that St. Louis Rams team.  As Warner showed with a not so good New York Giants team just a couple season later; on his own, Warner was just another guy.

Any of those guys on an average to below average NFL team, would’ve been downright bad.  Put in the proper situation, with protection, a running game, and good defense; and suddenly they’re Super Bowl Champions.  Both Rypien and Hostetler beat a Hall of Fame quarterback in Jim Kelly to get their rings.

John Elway is one of the best QB’s ever to play in the NFL.  For years he carried a pedestrian Denver Broncos team to the Super Bowl, only to lose badly.  It wasn’t until they brought in a stud running back like Terrell Davis, upgraded his receiving corps, and put some semblance of a defense on the field, before he could grab a couple of rings.

Let’s take a look at the two Super Bowl participants.  I’m sure the media will try and sell us that Joe Flacco is on the verge of stardom.  Maybe he is? I can’t say for certain.  I tend to believe that you can tell if a player is elite right away.  Flacco has not shown that, and I don’t believe he will ever be elite.  Is he good?  Sure he is.  He’s an above average, starting NFL quarterback; and that’s all you need. 

How about Colin Kaepernick?  Given how young he is, there is certainly a chance he becomes an all-time great player.  I highly doubt it though.  Now, I have a tendency to dislike QB’s that are heavily reliant upon their legs to make plays.  That’s fine if you can do that, but ultimately in the NFL, you do need to be able to throw the ball.  Kaepernick may never be elite, but he can sling it enough to win a championship.  The Falcons made him do it Sunday.  He only ran for 21 yards.  With time to throw, he made the plays necessary to win.

The reason one of these average QB’s will win a Super Bowl is simple; they are surrounded by great players.  Both the Ravens and 49ers have solid football players on both sides of the ball.  Each of these teams can run the football.  Each of these teams can protect the quarterback.  And each of these teams finish tackles and hit harder than their opponents.

Baltimore and San Francisco went about building their teams in different ways.  The Ravens have sustained success while trying to find the right guy to man the QB position.  They never did reach, or dump half of their draft picks to get their quarterback.  By plugging in quality players all over the field, they’ve remained competitive year in and year out. 

The 49ers had to endure a period of struggle, prior to finding success in the last few seasons.  All the while, they began to add to the core of the team which is now on the precipice of a title.  The Niners did select Alex Smith #1 overall, but he wasn’t really a reach.  He was supposed to be picked that high, he simply didn’t pan out.  By staying the course, and making good draft selections each season, San Fran has grown into a Super Bowl caliber team.

Now, I’m not suggesting that any organization with a star at quarterback should dump them.  Having an all-pro QB puts your team ahead of the curve, and maybe just a few pieces away from being in the Super Bowl.  If you end up with the #1 pick in the draft, you take Andrew Luck like the Indianapolis Colts did this past year.  What I am suggesting, is that if your organization is patient, makes sharp evaluations, and puts talent on the roster; you can win championships without a stud at quarterback. 

Every few years we actually get a surprise MVP of the Super Bowl.  Without a golden boy running the show for either team, this may be one of those years.  It’s refreshing to see that either the Ravens or 49ers will be rewarded for winning as a team, in what is arguably, the ultimate team game.

Fixing the Football's Atrocious Overtime Rules

This past weekend I spent two wonderful days in Knoxville, Tennessee. I along with three of my other friends went on our somewhat-annual trip to Neyland Stadium and watched Tennessee take on new Southeastern Conference member Missouri. A side note to all of this, if you have never been to Neyland or have never heard the song “Rocky Top,” I promise you will have heard it at least 60 times by the time you leave. The game was rather entertaining as you can probably tell by the final score of 51-48.

Watching football in the south is an incredible experience that I will likely write about one of these days. While most of the game was rather enjoyable, the part that bothered me the most was overtime. I mostly prefer college’s football rules to those of the NFL because I like pure football without the blatant advantages given to the offense.

To summarize, in college football overtime starts with a coin toss to determine who will receive the ball first and which end of the field they will play at. Each team receives one possession in which to score and starting with the third overtime period teams are required to attempt a two-point conversion versus simply kicking a field goal. Both teams play at the same end of the field and start their possession at the 25-yard line. No game clock, but the 25-second play clock is used for each play from scrimmage.

Does anyone have a problem with those rules? I do. The picture above was taken from my seats at Neyland and is not zoomed. The four periods of overtime were played at the far end of the stadium. I know–buy better seats. Easier said than done. Would it be so hard for college football to alternate which end of the field they play on each period? No, but that is not even the biggest problem I have with overtime in college football.

Why do they start at the 25-yard line? The Canadian Football League, which uses the same “Kansas Playoff” format, starts each possession at the 35-yard line. I would prefer they started somewhere closer to the 50-yard line, but I am more than willing to accept the 35-yard line to force them to get at least two first downs before attempting a field goal.

Another issue, why do we need to continue playing until a team wins? Missouri and Tennessee played four overtime periods. Yes, it was fun to watch…if you were at home, and could go to bathroom and drink a beer. Neyland does not sell beer and it takes 10 minutes to walk to the closest bathroom. Solution: play two overtime periods. If neither team can figure it out, call it a tie and let us go home.

To be completely honest, I also do not like the overtime format the NFL uses. Sunday, I was out with fellow twitteres (is that a word?) Marcus (@seel_deal) and Becky (@reinhoren) watching the overtime game between St. Louis and San Francisco and the best part of the overtime was once we were into regular game mode. My point: the NFL should either play sudden death from the beginning or play an additional quarter.

Before I end, I would like to thank everyone for the excellent feedback you gave to Josh (@RailBirdJ) and I on our semi-impromptu college football podcast. We only planned to do about 20 minutes and ended up with 60 minutes of solid college football talk.



!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);