NFL16 Cherry Picks W14: Are 11-1 Dallas Cowboys Super-Sizing or Just Surviving?

5 Dec Cowboys at Redskins 9/18/16

Monday Minute Waltz – NFL Week 13

The two most annoying words in sport today: fantasy points.

Mr. Bortles: “Trying to do too much (NFLN)” or just…plain…bad…judgment?

Larry Fitzgerald’s 2Q sideline handshake w/Redskins opponent DeSean Jackson was probably not the un-“selfish” play Cards’ coach Bruce Arians had in mind.

— — —

I don’t know who first uttered that buoyant phrase, ‘a win is a win is a win,’ but it’s point is pretty hard to dispute.

It’s the sentiment I expect was expressed by each and every Dallas Cowboys player & coach on their return flight home last Thursday nite following their narrow victory (17-15) over the hosting Minnesota Vikings.

cowboyshat-wc-5-16-8-dukeha-109ksb4That the Cowboys won their eleventh (11) straight contest and continue to have most people in the sporting biz thinking them colossal are morale boosters, for sure. That they won by the skin of their collective teeth is not all that disconcerting in that nearly every title team that’s hoisted the hardware had a close game or two on their road to Titledom.

The Minnesota win was valuable. Dallas won on the road, on short rest, topped a contender, a team that should’ve been highly motivated for victory to 1) keep playoff hopes alive that’ve been fast fading and, 2) win one for the Zimmer as head coach Mike was unexpectedly absent having emergency eye surgery (Detached retina?).

But how you win can be as important as how you lose.

‘Winning ugly’ has become a cute characterization today but in fact can be an omen, a warning sign of deficiencies that if not attended to forthwith will turn into big trouble down the road upon entering the playoff expressway.

The foreboding flipside to the Cowboys win last Thursday is in their failure to trounce a team that started hot (5-0) but has gone fairly frigid (1-5) since a week 5 win over the equally troubled Houston Texans.

garrett-j-wc-1998-user-archbridge-11kAdded to that, the host club’s home-field advantage was just lesser in that they were without their head coach and spiritual guide in Zimmer. Special teams man Mike Priefer, a key figure in the Chris Kluwe case, did a fine job filling-in and may’ve made identical calls to his absent boss but it’s just not the same.

In short, the Vikings were vulnerable, easy prey and the Dallas Dudes didn’t take full advantage. Cowboys’ failure to flex goes not only to the skill issue (do they have enough), but also to psychological aptitude as well, i.e., killer instinct.

Put more philosophically, does Dallas have the spirit of a champion?

Since their bye week, and setting aside the cakewalk win over Cleveland (35-10), in their five following victories, the Cowboys have won by an average score of 5.6 points. That’s less than a TD and that’s a close game. And had the Vikings game officials viewed the closing helmet hit on Vikes QB Bradford with an eye keener to protect passers from unnecessary harm, that average might even be lower.

Now comes the final stretch. All four of the Cowboys’ remaining opponents are contenders, some more serious than others but contenders, nonetheless.

First up are the Giants, a scheduled meeting whose timing is probably much to the liking of head coach Jason Garrett.

prescott-9-18-16-k-allison-187kThe division rival from New York (8-4), even with last Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, G-Men are the only team in 2016 with moxie enough to topple the ‘Boys, taking the win in opening week (20-19). Garrett would just assume play the re-match now in the Metropolis having enjoyed a 10-day rest in preparation.

Next up is an AT&T call from the Buccaneers, who are, at least this week, one of the hottest clubs in the League at 7-5, followed by a visit from the roaring Lions (8-4), at least this week. Closing out the regular slate is a rematch with division foe the Eagles (5-7) whose losing mark should not belie their competitive play and the fact they’ve chalked up convincing wins over the Steelers, Vikes and bad-luck birds of Atlanta.

If the Cowboys, who qualified for the post-season on their Minnesota win and Redskins loss (@ AZ), close out strong (3-1), do so with emphasis (8+) and hold home-field, Super LI may be just their size come February.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 14

OAK (9-3) @ KC (8-5) GTW: 12.8 NFLN 8:25: Chiefs win
Steelers (7-5) @ Buffalo (6-6): 12.11 CBS 1:00: Bills win
Broncos (8-4) @ Tennessee (6-6): CBS 1:00: Denver wins
Washington Redskins (6-5-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles: Fox 1:00: Philly wins
Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5): Fox 1:00: Cardinals win
Houston Texans (6-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-6): CBS 1:00: Colts win
New Orleans Saints (5-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): Fox 4:25: NO wins
Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) @ Green Bay (6-6) GTW: Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Dallas Cowboys (11-1) @ New York Giants (8-4) GTW: NBC 8:30: Giants win
Baltimore (7-5) @ New England Pats (10-2): 12.12 Disney 8:30: Patriots win

Record: 58 – 68 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Garrett, wc.cca, K.Allison, 9.18.16; Cowboys-helmet, wc, DukeHa, 5.16.18; Garrett, wc, User.Archbridge, 1998; RD.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.5.16 @ 4:20pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: In a Sorry Season, David Johnson is an Arizona Bright-Spot

1 Dec uofphx-std-wc-k-lund-4-10-09-2-2m

Stiff-Arm

It was the time-tested stiff-arm tactic that first caught my eye when happening upon Arizona Cardinals then rookie running-back David Johnson (UNI) two summers ago in a pre-season exhibit game against the San Diego Bolts.

In carrying the pigskin prize, the Clinton, Iowa native had habit of putting his free-arm out like the Heisman guy, an effective tactic at keeping his AFC opponents at bay long enough to tack on a few more yards, no doubt to the delight of Cardinals staff.

az-cards-wc-m-epsilon-9-2-12-logo-10k-2005It’s true that pre-season play by tradition and common sense does not often go full-tilt and must be viewed in a different light than the regular season play. The reasons are well known: Rusty from the layoff, trying to avoid injury (to yourself / opponents) and a team chemistry that is still in flux due to new teammates by-way of the draft, trade or free-agency.

But if I recall right, this Cards – Bolts exhibition was one of the later games when the synergy is beginning to set in, defensive hits get more pointed and borderline players are fighting for their lives to make the final roster. And in this heightened state of competition, David looked to be a gem.

The Whole Package

From the get-go, you could, if possessing of even a rudimentary level of football know-how, see that this 3rd round 2015 draftee (#86) out of Northern Iowa had all the tools to survive head coach Bruce Arians’ roster-cut and then thrive at the pro level once given a starter’s spot.

It’s kinda’ basic but Johnson clearly knew his playbook. And how many rookies and then vets too have suffered a roster cut simply failing to know that much?

arians-8-5-16-wc-g-skidmore-2-2m-az*David let the O-line do its thing, found holes the playbook predicted and when they weren’t there, could cut on a dime and carve out his own. Then, when quarterback Carson Palmer put the ball in flight, it found sanctuary in a pair of hands that were made to catch.

That pre-season audition, impressive to this viewer and his coaches no doubt, seems to have started David Johnson on a professional pathway to a cherished place.

Born to NFL?

Making the Cardinals cut and sharing duties with former 2000-yard running man in Chris Johnson, David would go on to rush for near 600 yards, eight (8) touchdowns, haul in 36 catches for 457 yards and convert four (4) of those for pay-dirt. Pretty spiffy statistics for a greenhorn.

This 2016 season has David appearing as one of the few bright spots in a sorry Cardinals campaign (4-6-1), one where the team is beginning to show the blight of the dreaded “selfish” disease, as recently pointed out by Mr. Arians. But it’s seen the sophomore’s upward trajectory put David in class with the National game’s top rushers and most reliable go-to receivers.

az-cards-plane-e-maloney-4-6-08-425k*In handling triple-duty in the lion’s share of AZ’s rushing game, a healthy portion of the reception load and turning much of it into touchdowns (13), Johnson’s fashioning himself into a top NFL multi-purpose running back, nearing that stupendous class of 1970s greats like the Minnesota Vikings’ Chuck Foreman and St. Louis Cardinals’ Terry Metcalf, both offensive stalwarts who could do…it…all!

Entering W13 action, here are David’s NFL ranks in key personal stats:

#3 in rushing yards with 921;
Tied at #27 in receptions at 55 (#2 RB);
#40 in reception-yards with 613 (#1 RB);
#1 in touchdowns with 13 pay-dirts, and
#1 in yards-from-scrimmage (run / catch) with 1534.

Every year as the NFL season winds down there are a handful of viable MVP candidates to mull over. This 2016 campaign is no different (Brady, Prescott, Elliott, Carr, Wagner, etc.). But if David Johnson is not in one’s discussion on who should take home the coveted Associated Press award, it might be best that person forget about talking football and stick with The Walking Dead.

*Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Arizona-Cardinals word mark, wc.cca, M.Epsilon, 9.2.12, 2005; UniversityPhoenix-Stdm, wc, K.Lund, 4.10.9; B.Arians, wc, 8.5.16, G.Skidmore, Glendale-AZ; AZ-Cards-plane, wc, 4.6.8, E.Maloney; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.1.16 @ 3:11pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W13: Will Dak-Delirium Finally Get Jason Witten That Ring?

29 Nov witten-j-wc-1-21-15-pb-sgt-m-jackson-j-sarvinski-dvids

There’s been alot written lately about Dallas Cowboys back-up quarterback, Tony Romo. Even more written on his resplendent rookie teammates in Ezekiel Elliott and starting QB, Rayne Dakota Prescott. Too much written about the Dez Bryant – Josh Norman dust-up and not enough written about Cowboys top defender in tackle-machine, Sean Lee.

Who you won’t be reading much about is old #82. Old in football time, that is.

He’s been on that Dallas’ roster (2003) longer than Mr. “Right” and caught his first NFL pass from none other than Quincy Carter (2001 – 04), the Georgia Bulldog who led the Vaqueros that year to a spiffy 10-6 record.

witten-j-12-7-15-wc-k-allison-dc-2mThe man is the 6’5” 257 pound tight-end for America’s Team, Christopher Jason Witten.

Romo’s top target for 10 years, Jason’s piled up catches (1072), yardage (11, 768), touchdowns (62), games (218) and Pro Bowl appearances (10) enough to put his name on Jerry Jones’ Ring of Honor and have fashioned in his likeness one of those bronze Cantonese busts when he finally decides to hang up his cleats.

More important, however, than the personal accolades, is the former Tennessee Volunteer’s skillful and workaday play (Witten’s missed just two (2) starts from 2004), a well-rounded repertoire that’s kept the Cowboys either in contention or respectability for his entire tenure in the Lone Star State.

And like Jason’s celebrity teammates, his AFC opposite in Rob Gronkowski gets nearly all of the love. Of course, almost every NFL player could claim the same shortage in appreciation where the way-popular Gronk is concerned.

The gregarious Rob is also on track to Canton sometime down the road (his 2011 was sublime) and deserves much of the extra coverage, on the field and in the tabloids. But the Gronkster has missed significant parts of three (3) seasons, including this 2016, since taking to start in 2010, and surprisingly, or not (See; Bill & Tom), his absences, while impacting negatively on Pats‘ offensive options, does not always prove detrimental to the victory outcome.

gronkowski-r-wc-a-campbell-9-14-14-975kThe same could not be said about GTO (go-to-option) Jason’s influence on his team’s success prior to this 2016. Described in one word: Indispensable.

Granted, Witten’s numbers have been in decline ever since his banner year, like Gronkowski‘s, in 2011 (110 – 1039). But the offensive weapons at the Dallas quarterback’s disposal are more plentiful than ever (reducing Witten’s targets) while the Volunteer’s skill-set appears still top-tier and in need of sustained defensive attention.

Could this be the season when veteran Jason Witten and the Dallas community get their long awaited, much deserved Super Bowl berth, the year defined by a talented pool of draftees, the year when all the stars seem to be aligning for the Cowboys? Their NFL opponents hope not.

But Cowboys fans, who are nearly as numerous as those stars in the sky, and those NFL regulars who will, at times, view the games with a neutral eye, understand it is players like Jason Witten, on offense, that fuel the matriculation necessary to victory yet shun the spotlight even as their role is prominent to that end, who really make their teams and the NFL click.

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4mCherry Picks Week 13: Showing ya’ what for

Cowboys (10-1) @ Vikes (6-5): 12.1 NBC 8:25: Dallas wins
Chiefs (8-3) @ Atlanta (7-4): 12.4 CBS 1:00: Falcons win
Detroit (7-4) @ New Orleans (5-6): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Houston Texans (6-5) @ Green Bay Packers (5-6): 1:00 CBS: Packers win
Philadelphia eagles (5-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1): Fox 1:00: Cincy wins
Miami Dolphins (7-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Buffalo Bills (6-5) @ Oakland Raiders (9-2): CBS 4:05: Buffalo Bills win
New York Giants (8-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5): GTW Fox 4:25: NYG wins
Washington Redskins (6-4-1) @ Arizona Cards (4-6-1): Fox 4:25: Arizona wins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) @ San Diego Bolts (5-6): Fox 4:25: Chargers win
Carolina Panthers (4-7-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1): NBC 8:30: Seattle wins

Record: 52 – 63 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Witten, wc.cca, 1.21.15, PB, Sgt.M.Jackson-J.Sarvinski, DVIDS; Witten, wc, DC, K.Allison, 12.7.15; R.Gronkowski, wc, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; cherries, wc, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.29.15 @ 12:45pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W12: Who Makes Your Playoff Final Four?

25 Nov carroll-10-6-14-k-allison-wc-600k

Minute Waltz Thanksgiving

Late-game INT aside, Bradford’s value to Vikes’ roster is unquestionable;

Lions Tahir Whitehead goes John Lennon (Here, There & Everywhere): 11 solo;

Cowboys’ Sean Lee goes Paul McCartney v. Redskins with 14 tackles, 9 solo;

Cowboys half-time show: Grotesque, in the contemporary Super Bowl tradition;

Steelers @ Colts: A proven back-up QB on roster is no luxury, it’s a necessity.

Minute Waltz Week 11

brady-8-28-09-k-allison-wc-cca-862mCards miss their Sun King, Tyrann Mathieu;

Likely less than ten 1000-yard rushers in 2016;

Tannehill = Rodney Dangerfield (“no respect”);

It’s “Future Shock” for the Green Bay Packers and the Cheesehead Nation who are now fast approaching Mediocre City;

Quarterback GWD totals are driving much of the excitement this 2016 season.

The Jell-O® Four: Proof is in the Pudding

For clothing, proof is in the wear…and the wash.

manningeli-wc-4m-aj-guel-10-10-10In the culinary creations (food), the proof is in the tasting…and then the digestion (Burp!).

For football teams, evidence of a championship caliber (SB) is found in week-to-week play.

At the two-thirds mark of this NFL 2016 season there’s been plenty of game action, mettle testing from which to glean who are those top (four) contenders for hoisting the 2017 Lombardi trophy. That all making it possible for some bold predictions.

Not the Super Bowl forecast, mind you. Picking those two teams at Week 12 would be like pre-season prophecies on the Big Game, which are about as valuable as four-day old turkey. Hash it, Honey!

Instead, it’s time to select your AFC – NFC Conference championship teams for the games that often prove more competitive than the Super (Snoozer) Bowl.

roethlisberger-9-9-12-wc-cca-j-beall-3-9mTime to cut through all the crap, i.e., playoff pretenders (NFCN, AFCS champ), and settle on the four juggernauts who are just one win away from the Big “Par-taaay (D.Heffernan),” teams that’re most likely to run the gauntlet and come out Top Dog. Woof, woof!

And because it’s possible that your (my) Conference picks will face-off earlier in the PS, consider THAT game to be the championship bout between the two best with its winner making the final four, or too possible that none of your chosen CC teams at W12 will even land a playoff spot (0-4), you could end up with some sizable egg on your face when the title tussles actually kick-off in mid-January. But no risk, no reward, like if you go all Rogers Hornsby with the picks (4-for-4).

What to look for in Conference championship combatants?

1) Balance (offense / defense team rankings);

2) 1st-Team All-Pro talent at key positions;

3) ‘In good’ with the Gods (at / below League average on injuries), and

4) Small point-margins in losses. How you lose is as relevant as how you win.

wilson-2-5m-11-11-12-l-maurer-wcJuggernaut Club cues: D-mettle and composure (GWD).

2017 NFC Championship: Seattle v. Giants
2017 AFC Championship: Patriots v. Steelers

Seahawks: It’s Carrolling Time.
Giants: Gathering of veterans (Eli)
Patriots: Bill, Tom & Pax Patriotana
Steelers: Big Ben Roethlisberger

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7Cherry Picks Week 12

Titans (5-5) @ Chicago (2-8): 11.27 CBS 1:00: Bears win
Bengals (3-5-1) @ Baltimore (5-5): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
Cardinals (4-5-1) @ Atlanta (6-4): Fox 1:00: Arizona wins
Los Angeles Rams (4-6) @ New Orleans Saints (4-6): Fox 1:00: Saints win
San Diego Chargers (4-6) @ Houston Texans (6-4): CBS 1:00: Chargers win
Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) @ Tampa Bay Bucs (5-5): Fox 4:05: Seahawks win
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Denver Broncos (7-3): NBC 8:30: Denver wins
Green Bay (4-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-5): 11.28 Disney 8:30: Pack wins

Record: 49 -58 -2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: P.Carroll, wc, K.Allison, 10.6.14; T.Brady, wc, Allison, 8.28.9; E.Manning, wc, 10.10.10, AJ.Guel; B.Roethlisberger, wc.cca, 9.9.12, J.Beall; R.Wilson, wc, 11.11.12, L.Maurer; cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wc, wikiproject
Posted: 11.25.16 @ 1:13pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NCAAF16: Bad Karma Behind the Brian Kelly – Notre Dame Blues?

22 Nov kelly-wc-9-17-12-andyohsbass09-77k

Karmic Backlash

It’s become standard operating procedure today for many in the mainstream and social media, that when a public figure makes a misstep or puts them self too far ahead of interested others, that judgment is passed quickly and with teeth.

So when current Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly bid his then employer the University of Cincinnati an unexpected sayonara in December of 2009 before conclusion of their football campaign (Sugar Bowl), one would’ve expected his dubious departure to’ve received the same testy treatment.

kelly-wc-j-meier-7-25-12-356kInstead, sport observers turned a collective blind eye to the move: No big deal.

Why the kid gloves then for Kelly and his new employer, the University of Notre Dame? South Bend clout? Chicago clout? Boston clout? Catholic clout? The Pope’s a powerful pontiff. No lo sé.

When Kelly, who, on taking the job in northwest Indiana, was in his 3rd season with the Bearcats (‘06 (1) – 09), a tenure that began when he left C. Michigan to take the reins from Mark Dantonio (MSU) to coach UC in the International Bowl and compiled a 33-6 mark, undertook in-season negotiations with ND to fill the void created by Charlie Weis’ firing and left Cincinnati (#3) before their Sugar Bowl (UF), this observer expected negative reverberations for the opportunistic act. But outside of maybe southwest Ohio, nary a peep was heard from sporting types on what could be termed, at best, exploitive, at worst, unethical behavior on Brian’s part who apparently lets nothing so trifling as loyalty and spirit-of-contract stand in the way of what looks to be the perfect job (cha-ching!).

In fairness to the Everett, Massachusetts native (10.25.61), the slightly seamy game of coaching musical chairs has become as standard of a practice in college football as has that rush to judgment in the world of scribblers & gossips.

Nevertheless, Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame cohorts might now be getting their comeuppance for their crass contract play some seven years back. Maybe Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State handlers, too (MSU 3 -8 (2016)).

notredame-logo-wc-nduBut not from mainstreamers and social gadflies. Uh uh. The media are as captured and compliant as an FDA new drug approval committee. Eek.

Rather, Kelly might be getting his just deserts from the Sporting Gods, those spirited entities in charge of that immeasurable force called karma. In his case, bad karma. Specifically, the karmic backlash.

As of last Saturday’s contest, a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech, his record with the Fighting Irish stands at a modest 59-30 (.662), 3-3 in bowl action. Brian did as early as his third season get the green & gold to a BCS title game (12-1), then got steam-rolled by the Crimson Tide, 42-14. Since then it’s been fair-to-middling.

“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”

Last January Notre Dame and Brian Kelly inked a 6-year extension. While other terms such as salary were not made available, the coach’s haul is estimated to be $4 million a year (coacheshotseat.com).

AD Jack Swarbrick (2008), Trustee Chair John Brennan and Board members chose to re-invest in Kelly in a signing just weeks after the team took another PS shellacking, this time in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl from the team coached by the other half of the two-coach dominated FBS system, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer, 44-28 (See Also: Saban (CBK: Krzyzewski & Calipari)).

Their basis: Swarbrick cited the word “foundation” and it having been laid with knowing care by Brian Kelly in key facets of a strong college football enterprise.

Also factoring into their decision may’ve been the fact that his coach’s win-% (.705 (55-23 thru 2015)) ranks better than Weis, Willingham, Davies and Faust, all four who came in just above or below the .550 mark. Terrific.

notredamestadium-wc-1930-bpl-tichnor-3mBut “foundation” and ‘better than Charlie, Ty, Bob & Gerry’ ain’t gonna’ cut it when it’s Notre Dame football, where Rockne, Layden, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine & Holtz forged a standard that became bigger than life, a regal reputation admired by sport fans from coast to coast.

Like Dallas (1996) in the NFL, the Fighting Irish are still top dog nationally. When they do well, the world seems right with money-makers and fans alike. But with Nick and Urban building legendary programs in their respective schools, that top spot gets more tenuous with every season sans national title #16, the last coming as far back as 1988 (Holtz), the longest drought since Knute arrived (1918).

With the Irish falling at home to Virginia Tech their 2016 record sinks to 4-7.

The Irish had five players go pro after post-2015, but all the top factories lose most of their rated workforce to the NFL draft come declaration day. Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Washington, PSU, they all cope with the talent drain.

Brian Kelly represents that growing element in college sport where personal opportunity becomes the “foundation” of that individual’s coaching career, ergo the Cincinnati play. Coaching legend Larry Brown is their poster-boy. And it’s a mind-set that always has an eye open for NFL possibilities (BK- Eagles 2012).

Notre Dame Trustees would be wise to adopt a similar approach. Re-read its football coach and athletic director contracts, in good faith, but in a light most favorable to its University and in perpetuating its champions legacy. Then, when they find their new candidates, make them reasonably generous offers but only AFTER the college football season ends. Oy vey.

macroecono-lamcasinoroyal-2011-wcSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo credit: B.Kelly, wc.cca, 9.171.2, Andyohsbass09; Kelly, wc, J.Meier, 7.25.12; ND-logo, wc, UND; ND-Stadium, wc, BPL, TichnorBros, 1930; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011
Posted: 11.22.16 @ 3:17pm, edit @ 5:17 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: In Deferring to Dak, Tony Romo Fails the Grit-Test

17 Nov romo-wc-hat-486k-k-allison-12-7-15-dc

He didn’t take many questions in Tuesday’s press conference. Instead, Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback for the past decade, Tony Romo, read a statement. He got goods reviews from the press corps and blogisphere bunch.

But place me about 800 yards west of the cheering section.

Grade given by this football fan for Romo’s blood-less abdication: D.

In his oration, Romo deferred to rookie back-up QB Dak Prescott on the starter question: “He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record and that’s hard to do.” Very nice. Maybe too nice.

“Right” schmight. There are no “right(s)” in football, just ethical duties and contract obligations that some players will always meet, some will sometimes, some won’t but on their best day and a few don’t seem to give a damn at all.

romo-10-13-10-bigcatsliar-wc-343kOkay…you say you believe in rights. That should make you a Thomas Jefferson fan (BoR). For the sake of argument, let’s say rights do exist in football. Then I’d say, Tony Romo’s earned a BIGGER right to re-claim his starters job than has Prescott in retaining it, and with ten years of All-Pro play, sound character and seniority, shouldn‘t have to convince his owner of it, not if the Cufflink appreciates loyalty, anyway.

‘Seniority is lame,’ say some, but just wait until you start having to look over your shoulder at the young Turks coming to take your job. It won’t seem so silly then.

And I don’t want to read any hearsay from captured scribes or Cowboys’ brass (Steve Jones) on how Tony supposedly asked politely for his job back. Straight from the horses mouth (TR) or save it. Even if, this you don’t ask, you demand. If you lose the argument you take your lumps and stay a team-player, giving advice / support as needed. But you don’t ask.

And therein lay the wild-card in this hand of high-stakes football.

What would Jerry Jones have done if Tony had pushed hard to get back his starters spot, made an issue of it, would Jones have conceded, admiring the veteran’s moxie and taking it as good sign that maybe now Tony finally has the wherewithal to lead Dallas back to the Super show? Test of tenacity, as it were.

Apparently Romo never pressed the point, never handed in his exam.

Leaders, champions, they don’t defer to hot-streaks, popularity contests or young Tom Brady analogies. The greats will advocate, argue, fight tooth n’ nail for that starters spot and slot-to-glory, with both fists-a- flyin’ if necessary, Ty Cobb style when you had to fight for the right to play. And they did.

prescott-9-18-16-k-allison-187kIf I were Jerry Jones or Jason Garrett I’d likely tab Dak Prescott the starter myself. Stick with the hot hand and healthier frame than the oft-injured Romo.

I wrote, ‘likely.’ I’d need convincing that three good wins (DC, @GB, PHI), one pretty good win (@ PIT (Ben still bunged)), four walkover wins (CHI, SF, CIN, CLE) and one loss (NYG) gives a first-year guy the nod over a 4-time Pro Bowler.

But Tony Romo’s not an owner, he’s not a coach, he’s not Cowboys PR person, he’s not a GM implementing a youth movement or authoring a masters thesis on ‘Diversity and the NFL.’ He’s a man who dresses in shoulder-pads, cleats and rides point for America’s Team, or used to, anyway, the top job on the planet, a man with great passing stats in line for Cowboys’ Ring of Honor but posts a pedestrian playoff mark that raises doubts about his clutch-capability.

A man with that Dallas record and deep well of gridiron knowledge should NOT willingly hand over the starters spot. NEVER. And that’s Tony Romo all over.

From his first year as a starter when he bobbled that FG snap late in a playoff loss v. Seattle in Parcells final season (’06), you wondered about Mr. Romo. The bobble was a blip. Things like that happen. But with Romo it’s always something, something to derail the run. In fairness, Dez did (catch it (See; GB 2015)).

It doesn’t matter that Romo may be the only man in these United States who thinks he should start over an 8-1 rookie. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.” Some players, those imbued with spirit of competition and personal achievement, would understand and give their backing. Great quarterbacks have great big egos. They’d better.

jones-12-7-15-k-allison-wc-339kAnd if Romo had been given his job back and his ‘mates had tanked in protest, tanked on the team, tanked on the fans, that’s their problem. You go out with your head held high knowing you’ve done what a leader does: Take charge, give it your best, give it your all until that final gun goes off.

‘But what about the team,’ you say, ‘Dak’s got ’em believing?’ Sure he has, but Romo’s a master-craftsman in the pocket who’s won a playoff game or two, had Dallas believing in prior campaigns and could likely do it again. It’s theory but as sound as the Dak strategy.

I wish Mr. Prescott well. Youth must be served, elections excepted.

As for Tony Romo, I hope you like your Ring-of-Honor ceremony. When you get back to the fairways say ‘hey’ to President Obama and remember this link lesson: Drive for show, put for dough, Canton covets moxie that few come to know.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: T.Romo, wc.cca, 12.7.15, DC, K.Allison; Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.10; D.Prescott, wc, 9.18.16, K.Allison; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, DC, K.Allison; cherries-cloth, wc, picdrome, 6-2011; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.17.16 @ 5:07pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W11: Pax Patriotana, Caesar Trumpus, Mamarazzi & the Demigoths

15 Nov belichick-wc-cca-k-allison-8-28-09-110k

I started cutting my political teeth way back in 1968.

I remember the year because it was an event, a national tragedy that began the process: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy (d. 6.6.68), younger brother and AG of slain President John Kennedy (d. 11.22.63), who, after that dreadful day in Dallas, would go on to become Senator from New York and then Democratic presidential candidate, at a rally in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles.

I can’t say any news outside the home, no matter its import, could’ve shook my young world at age six. But upon hearing the shocking report, my older brothers had headed over to the Humphrey – Muskie headquarters somewhere on the North Shore of Chicago, to throw their support behind the next most viable opponent of GOP front-runner, Richard Nixon. When they returned they had a cachet of campaign buttons, a few of which ended up in my tiny hands, along with a bumper sticker which still reads: “McCarthy Supporters Now For Humphrey.”

kennedys-wc-1-29-61-c-stoughton-626kAs for the turbulent Democratic convention about ten miles south, a ruckus that started in the streets and probably sealed the win for Nixon, I didn’t have a clue. Tooth enamel’s tough stuff.

It’s funny how a single event or piece of political paraphernalia, as ephemeral as it may be, can shape one’s life. I’ve had an interest in politics bordering on passion ever since. And, by jove, still have the mementos from that oh-so sad, significant day.

When my baby teeth fell out, I started to cutting the permanents.

I devoured my share of “heaping helping(s)” of empty TV calories for sure (Josie and the Pussycats, Gilligan’s Island, etc.) but ate up good servings of brain food in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Electric Company (1971), ABC Wide World of Sports and the evening news delivered by legends like Cronkite, Brinkley, Reasoner, Huntley, Walters and Chancellor.

And it was Parker Brothers and their board-game Landslide (1971) that gave me hands-on experience with the electoral college and how presidential campaigns must roll their own dice in strategizing on the States. My teeth were sharpening, though, my friend Tom who owned the board game must’ve had a Trump skill-set because he out-tallied me every time. Gotta’ romance those swing States.

But that passion turned downright frigid in lead-up to 2016’s election day.

Not a big fan of Donald or Hillary, I will, nonetheless, honor the November 8th win, respect the authority of Office and hope for the best, in opposite of that .00003174% of Americans, including LeBron James, Gregg Popovich (“sick to my stomach”) & Steve Kerr who’ve chosen to ‘take their ball and run home’ because they didn‘t like the result. Best advice for the Neo-Visigoths: Find a copy of Edward Everett Hale’s ‘The Man Without a Country (1863)’ and read in deep.

Clearly, the campaign to win and then keep basketball player’s “hearts and minds” is a never-ending effort for the NBA coach. So much for trust, eh? Ugh.

clinton-6-10-16-pp-wc-11-2m-l-shaullAnd Hillary Clinton is no loser.

Taking the popular vote is champion and aught win the White House in a democracy. But unlike Al Gore in 2000, whose loss of Florida’s electors constituted the biggest heist job in American history, with the DC Robes as accomplices after-the-fact (Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98), Ms. Clinton never came close to taking the college kitty. In short, the lady blew her chance.

But that doesn’t make her a mascot to suffer the mamarazzi.

Reference to Margo Gerster who, with baby-on-back, cornered Hill on a nature walk two days after the draining election, thinking it proper to void Hillary’s (& Bill’s) privacy to solicit a Facebook moment (What’s HC gonna’ do, tell mom to take a hike?), an image widely disseminated soon thereafter, finding CBS (“Hiker Crosses Paths”), CNN (Erin Burnett) and whomever else feeds the faux pas. Bad play, ladies. And where were the Secret Service? But I’m not surprised.

At first blush the electoral college appears antiquated, anti-democracy and whenever it veers off from the popular vote, always ends in GOP hands.

But a historical tidbit unbeknownst to Demigoths and the normally insightful Bill Maher, the EC is a test the Founders necessitated that a deserving candidate must pass, a test still relevant. The winner must possess the savvy, the wherewithal in mastering the map to sway voters State-by-State, and in the process acquiring a healthy respect for the union that is this United (50) States of America.

The first black president seems now an entitlement, the first female Commander-in-Chief knowing she must, in famous words of John Houseman, “eeeearn it.”

obama-trump-11-10-16-jesusemen-oni-voa-119kThe former First Lady lost the election long before the elector test or her “deplorable” line and had nearly nothing to do with any FBI commentary. In failing to distinguish herself from her former boss, President Barack Obama, majority voters in key States made a statement: ‘Not tough enough, and not again, or for awhile, anyway.’

Most Americans had high hopes when the first minority took up residence in the White House in 2009. Obama was short on experience, seemed, apart from the birth certificate confusion, almost too perfect for the post and resorted to his own form of flippancy when topics got hot, but his ready smile gave assurance and he seemed eager to take on the big challenges that awaited.

Obama will be remembered for four actions: 1) Brokering the deal with America’s healthcare “monster(s)” to create Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (NFIB (2012)), costing greedmeisters next to nothing yet heaping much of the tax burden upon the middle-class (contra-FDR); 2) advising on capture / execution of 9-11 designer, terrorist Osama bin Laden (2011); 3) taking sides in the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman incident (2013) (“Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago”) after attacker Martin died of a gunshot fired by block watch volunteer Zimmerman who claimed self-defense, was charged and then acquitted, and 4) picking his NCAA basketball tourney bracket selections come March Madness.

Unfortunately, on the one issue that Obama was particularly well-suited to keep moving the nation forward, race-relations, he has instead presided over what can be called a period of race regression, a sorry state not seen since Reagan-Bush.

As for Donald, he’s sharp as a tack, has energy and an undeniable charisma, a pride in his person and nation and a certain maverickness that McCain the Senator never displayed, a trait lacking in Presidents for quite a spell (LBJ). But his anti-choice stand feels political, must check his habit to flippancy (global warming) and his disdain for regulation (Dodd-Frank), market-place competition and American jobs (monopolist) bespeaks of a boyish greed potentially more disastrous economically than Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down goof.

trump-wc-11-9-16-transition2017-450kMost troubling is that neither candidate exhibited the foresight, honesty, courage to put the voters to a test in self-sacrifice (“ask what you can do for your country (JFK)”), a national unifier if there ever was one. No measurable progress happens without it.

It’d be analogous to Roger Goodell having chutzpah to ditch pink-wear in favor of a field-friendly color for all cancer victims and research (dark green), to use his bully-pulpit to force NFLPA to institute serious PED-testing or to tell NFL fans and sport scribes who curry favor to stop the incessant whine on game officiating come each “Monday morning.” Ugh.

So what does Trump-the-President mean for the NFL and its fandom?

A President, no matter the political party, usually has little impact on League operations or policy. But if a particular Commander-in-Chief has a real interest in the gridiron game, any comments he makes will make news.

And this president-elect might actually have an interest.

President Obama put on a good show, giving warm congratulatory speeches in welcome to a steady stream of title teams that now visit the White House for one more pat-on-their-collective back. But while he’s a love for the links, Barack appears to have no interest in the combative sports (+b-ball). And though he lacks the competitive spirit that led the Kennedys to engage the pigskin for some lawn version touch-football, Don clearly has a curiosity for the National game.

Which toggles four sport topics on Trump: 1) The future of White House pep-rallies now that monarchial King LeBron has given thumbs-down with Trump-soon in residence; 2) What NFL team does Donald Trump favor; 3) how happy is Redskins owner Dan Snyder today, and 4) will the President-elect and his immigration blueprint alter future NFL – Mexico game plans?

redskins-chiefzee-wc-2-4m-k-allison-1-10-16Since the 1970s America’s seen a prodigious growth in sporting endeavors, champions of which nearly all seem to find their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So was born a new tradition that’s become about as tired as the never-ending supply of Law & Order reruns, diverting CICs from pressing duties or the down-time that a President must take to keep sound in mind & body in the most stressful job on Earth. Time then the custom gave way to common sense and got terminated by the new Prez. As Trump doesn’t need another reason to tick-off female Dems in cancelling only the less-popular women’s visits, if it happens (sure), expect him to can the whole kit n’ kaboodle.

Who’s Trump’s top NFL team? A New Yorker, he may be a Giants, Jets or Bills fan. If his ties to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are sincere, it’s good chance he’s Foxborough friendly. Like Barack, he’s always working an angle so it’s hard to get a read. If it is the Pats, Don’s hitching his wagon to arguably the greatest pro football dynasty in history. In 2016, the Cowboys believe, Carroll’s crew never quits, Big Ben’s 5-star field general, John Harbaugh mastered the pros and Bruce Arians coaches the Cards, but it’s New England, with their rare loss (SEA 11.13), that remains Empire’s standard.

To the Washington Redskins and their war-in-defense of their 82 yr. old moniker against a niche effort spearheaded by Oneida’s Ray Halbritter and taken up in 2012 by johnny-come-latelies in corporate kids-for-change, malleable media, Democrat elite, a smattering of celebs and the Washington Post whose polling reported “9 of 10” aboriginal Americans are not offended by the motif, a new President in Republicrat Trump will undoubtedly lead to a more sensible, honest directive given the Department of Commerce and its Patent & Trademark Office. Court cases are pending but it’s likely this and other PC-appeasing stands taken by Dems held some sway over mod-voters in swingers. It didn’t help, anyway.

As for the impact the recent American election will have on the NFL – Mexico business relationship, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will publicly downplay its significance but if a border-wall does become reality (doubtful), it’s hard to imagine its continuation. It will be interesting to see if Texans v. Raiders MNF game will out-draw the last record-setting NFLM meet in 2005 between Arizona and San Francisco which drew 103,000+ at Estadio Azteca.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 11: Thank goodness for the spread

Saints (4-5) @ Carolina (3-6): 11.17 NBC 8:30: NO wins
Ravens (5-4) @ Dallas (8-1): 11.20 CBS 1:00: BAL wins
Jacksonville (2-7) @ Lions (5-4): CBS 1:00: Lions win
Tennessee Titans (5-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-5): CBS 1:00: Indy wins
Buffalo Bills (4-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1): Fox 1:00: Bengals win
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs: Fox 1:00: Chiefs win
Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-4): Fox 1:00: Cards win
Miami Dolphins (5-4) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-5): Fox 4:05: Dolphins wins
Philadelphia (5-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1): CBS 4:25: Seahawks win
Green Bay Pack (4-5) @ Washington Redskins (5-3-1): NBC 8:30: GB wins
Houston Texans (6-3) @ Oakland (Mex): 11.21 Disney 8:30: Houston wins

Record: 45 – 51 -2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: B.Belichick, wc.cca, K.Allison, 8.28.9; Kennedys, wc, C.Stoughton, 1.29.61; H.Clinton, wc, 6.10.16, PlannedParenthood, L.Shaull; Trump-Obama, wc, 11.10.16, Jesusemen-Oni.VOA; D.Trump, wc, Transition2017, 11.9.16; M.Trump-M.Obama, theWhiteHouse, wc, 11.10.16; ChiefZee, Redskins-DC, K.Allison, 1.10.16, wc; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.15.16 @ 2:34pm, edit @ 11:36 EST; Copyright © 2016