Archive | September, 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W4: ‘Comes The Revolution?’ Not Without a Message of Hope

27 Sep

Last season ex-QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Last week President Donald Trump reflected on the protest at a political rally by putting a foot (in his mouth). His words then incited NFL’ers from all walks on Sunday to stand arm & arm prior to W3 action as a show of unity in response to the Chief Executive’s unflattering though not exactly shocking remarks.

All of it constituting a snoozer of a class in NFL Anatomy 101.

And for once it wasn’t Roger Goodell at the center in the storm of player and junior-media discontent. Though, I haven’t yet seen a picture of the Raja hand-in-hand with any players or fellow Cufflinks in defiance of the President’s remarks. If I do I may get a print and have it framed. Oy vey.

The hubbub created a distraction not unlike that in the days just after sleazoids at TMZ released the Ray Rice – Jinay Palmer punch video, another topic tornado that tore through the entertainment media terrain only to weaken in strength when the slate of W3 games turned out to be quite watchable.

*Kaepernick wasn’t directly responsible for this knee-jerk show of League unity and apparent reinvigeration of his vague, racism-laced protest (See; white-only pig socks). The Commander-in-Chief can take full responsibility for the current melodramatic State of the Players’ Union.

The President, in lambasting (“fire”) NFL nappers (national anthem protesters), owners, fans (“leave the stadium”) and even League efforts to reduce post-career concussion-related maladies (“ruining the game“)* was kind of like that kid on the playground who unexpectedly grabs the football only to run around wildly while the regulars stand motionless in amazement, a bit befuddled, except THIS time, instead of letting the energetic ball-hog run himself out in seclusion, the populars decided to lock arms, feign anger and spotlight the little devil.

I like a bold President who speaks plain when occasion calls (“buck stops here (Truman)”), but a little bit o’ judgment (“son of a b#tch” was bad), even when stumping for votes (Sen.Strange (AL)) goes a long way in making the Term a success, especially when you’ve got your index primed to press (v. N.Korea).

Presidential PC Push Back

The one truly disturbing aspect about the President’s comments on the NFL was his disregard for the League’s effort to reduce the post-career onset of what has become a national health tragedy in neuro-degenerative disorder, mainly in trying to make helmets more effective and ban certain tackling techniques that always cheapened the spirit of sport. Football players and real fans understand.

If Trump’s family have been spared the scourge of Alzheimers and like dementia, referred to today by some in the medical community as diabetes of the brain (sugar), they can consider themselves very lucky because most Americans are becoming very familiar with the sorrow and stress, mental + financial, that accompanies the disease, including afflicted patient and tireless caregivers.

Better that both sides protest the harm that the nation’s sugar-diet wrecks upon its collective body and soul. But what would sponsor PepsiCo say?

There’s hypocrisy on both sides of this protest aisle.

The Trenders (NFLPA), more than a few who take childish pride in on-field & social-media trash-talk, have lined up behind a person (CK) they may not like, whose specific message is unclear and who they probably wish to just fade, are taking on a politican who rags about a monopoly (See; USFL 83-86) yet whose economic game-plan aims to, just as did former-President Obama, secure those very cartels that leave consumers powerless.

While many cite Donald’s USFL venture for comparison, I happened upon a curious quote by actor Aldo Ray whose birthday was on Monday (1926-91). Here is what the 50-60s tough-guy and co-star in one of the great sport comedies, Pat and Mike (52), had to say about…saying things: “I regret I don’t have more control of my tongue because I speak too frankly and honestly, and this world is not meant for frank, honest people. They don’t mix. Reality is pretty phony.”*

Yes, honesty is not always the best policy. It’s subject to common sense or, again, that mental ability we call judgment capability. Tell a Yank they can’t reasonably protest and you’re in for a fight. That one goes WAY back (See; 1776).

But the NFL platform today presents a unique stage for protest. It’s a symbolic power-grab where progress sits the bench for political profiteering by displays of anger, much less justified than in 1968 (Olympics), with little risk of ramification as entire teams lock arms and cocoon themselves cozily in the spirit of club.

Try pulling this kneel thing at your Walmart company picnic during a pledge or anthem and you may not last too long with the Arkansas-headquartered operation, whether in Little Rock or Kalamazoo.

“Comes the revolution?”* Not bloody likely.

For a successful movement you start with seriousness, then add hope to the message, not just self-serving anger and nervous conformity. But hope needs truth, a good share, anyway and honesty-patriots in 2017 are in shorter supply than were clean meat and woolen socks at Valley Forge (1777-78).

Marriage Rocks

What then is the end game here?

The mass player protests seem intended to spite the President while owners and coaches most assuredly joined up to keep it all cool. Not the most sincere protest, so don’t expect it to continue indefinitely, not in the same form, anyway. And with Kaep short on truth and his goals lacking clarity, like, were he seeking due process or specific facts in cases of investigated police misconduct from City, State or Justice Department watchdogs, player passion for protest will likely give way to career concerns, sooner than later, for most of the hand holders.

Will NFL owners put the ‘welcome mat’ out for Mr. Pig Socks and recruit an owner to roster the flashman to further spite the Oval Officer? Probably not, as the majority of fans, even minorities, are not too cool with Kaep and his agenda. But expect the NFL Cufflinks, even as President Trump serves their economic interests, to have a good chuckle or two postulating the possibility.

The marriage between sport and patriotism has been a long one. Like all recognized unions in bliss, it has had its ups and it has had its downs but for the most part it’s been one of purpose and contentment.

If the NFL and it players continue to use that consecrated coupling as a means to vet-out every feeling and foible facilitated by any trend that on-ramps the virtual highway, the divorce proceedings will begin in earnest, not between the partners sport and patriotism, but that joining of loyal football fans and the discretionary relationship they’ve long had with the game and its well-paid profiteers.

Perhaps wiser heads can impress upon the faux protesters the realities of life: ‘Your conference call to Misters Goodell and Smith is ready now, Ms. Nooyi.’

Cherry Picks Week 4: Back to Business

Bears @ Packers: 9.28 CBS 8:25: GreenBay
Titans @ Texans: 10.1 CBS 1:00: Houston
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
LosAngeles @ Cowboys: Fox 1:00: Rams
Buffalo @ Atlanta: CBS 1:00: Falcons
Philadelphia @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:05: Eagles
Raiders @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Indianapolis @ Seattle: NBC 8:30: Seahawks
Washington @ KC: 10.2 Disney 8:30: Chiefs

Record: 2-5

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; President-D.Trump, Transition-2017, wc.cca, 11.9.16, 450k; IndraNooyi, PepsiCo, 1.23.08, wc.cca, Davos, 3m, WEF; British-General Cornwallis-Surrender-At-Yorktown, 115k, JohnTrumbull, oil, 1797; JimOtto, NFL, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.27.17 @ 12:16aE, edit 9.28; Copyright © 2017
References: *Cnn.com, “Trump: NFL Owners Should Fire Players Who Protest,” S.Tatum, 9.23.17; “The Battle Cry of Aldo Ray”. Movieline, 1.1.91 (Wikipedia); Glenda Farrell, Here Comes Carter (36), WarnerBrothers

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W1: Nuff With Knees & QBs, It’s Time For Bridesmaids & Tacklese

8 Sep

Even the best NFL tacklers like Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner could enjoy the chick-flick Bridesmaids (2011). That’s no foolin.’

When the thin one (Kristen Wiig) starts to panic on the jetliner (pills + liquor), triggering the air-marshal plan, it’s on-the-spot volunteer “Megan (Melissa McCarthy),” a G5 federal employee, who lays her friend flat with the best flying tackle seen by this football fan since Pat Willis patrolled the tundra (ret. 2015).

‘That was acting, Steve.’ Sure, but then sport itself can be fairly fantastic.

Take soccer (fútbol) for example. ¡Ay, caramba! Those guys fall to the turf more than The Bad News Bears (76), pre-“Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley)” and “Amanda (Tatum O‘Neal).”

— — —

For all the fascination with scoring by guys like Tom Brady and David Johnson, the foundation of every team will lay in its defense. It’s football 101.

And if you don’t have it for the whole shebang, i.e., 4Qs for 16Gs and the entire post-season, you’re in for a shootout at worst possible time, something the Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers for that matter (NFCC), know about all…too…well.

The two key measures in team defense have traditionally been yards allowed per game (yapg) and point allowed per game (papg). Why? Because you can’t pile up points without both of ‘em. Get it?

In NFL16, Houston (301), Arizona, Minnesota, Denver and Seattle (319) held down the top five (5) spots in the former category (yapg). Combined, they were eight (8) games over .500, two division titles, three (3) had winning marks with the Vikes even-Steven and Cards ½ game under. Not proof-positive of the D’s value, but not too shabby an indicator, either.

A better gauge might be the later rank, papg.

Those top five (5): New England (15.6), Giants, Seahawks, Broncos & Cowboys, a combined thrity-five and one-half games (35.5) over .500. “Zowie!”

The short story, and that’s what you’ll get most often at NFLCherryPicks in opposite of the trend to long story (See; sabrmetrics), is that defense matters, alot.

We know about the Patriots positioning prior to the playoffs (#8 / 1) but where’d the Falcons finish up in the top D rankings?

An inglorious 25th (yapg) and 27th (papg) is where the A-Birds settled in. And like I wrote above, those deficienies will not remain hidden forever. Great teams will expose them in the brightest of lights.

So if Atlanta was so deficient on the defensive side, how would you think they could make it through the post-season and into the Big Game?

Besides stellar offensive efforts by their quarterback and League MVP Matt Ryan, 3rd-year RB Devonta Freeman, another monster stat-season by receiver Julio Jones and offensive line that did their job (37s), the non-team-related reason was that the NFC was a veritable graveyard of competition in 2016.

Youth-movement-led Cowboys rolled after a W1 loss to the Giants but proceeded to flop in the PS, Green Bay had to kick-start its campaign and lost home-field in the process, Seattle hasn’t been the same since Lynch went wingnut and Arizona, expected by some to make the SB51, proved the Big Enigma of 2016.

Falcons’ defense did have its performers that shone bright when it counted most, of note was the League’s top sack-master in Vic Beasley (15.5) and the 25th best tackler in Deion Jones (75s – 33a). Those aren’t eye-popping stats but Jones was busy elsewhere, having 14 PDs and 3 INTs. Another player, or two, like Deion and A-Birds might make a return trip to the Big Game in 2018.

Cherry Picks Week 1: On the right foot

Chiefs @ New England: 9.7 NBC 8:30: NE
Cardinals @ Detroit: 9.10 Fox 1:00: Arizona
Buccaneers @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Tampa Bay
Raiders @ Tennessee: CBS 1:00: Titans
Ravens @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Seahawks @ Green Bay: Fox 4:25: Packers
Giants @ Dallas: NBC 8:30: New York
NO @ Minnesota: 9.11 Disney 7:10: Vikings

2014: 97 – 55 -1 (NE)
2015: 105 – 101 – 1 (DEN)
2016: 88 – 93 – 3 (NE (8 – 3))

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: NFL-icon, wikiproject; B.Wagner, wc.cca, 10.6.14, K.Allison; M.Ryan, 8.8.16, wc, E.Drost; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; Wood, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.7.17 @ 8:28pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Pre-Play: Bloom Is Off But Arians Still In League’s Elite Coach Class

5 Sep

NFL 2017 head coach ranking with Bruce Arians of Arizona Cardinals @ #5:

1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
4) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
5) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

— — —

It was a rough 2016 for the Arizona Cardinals and their 5th-yr HC Bruce Arians who still gets mentioned when the NFL’s best are bantered about.

Arians must be a firm believer in aberration, i.e., an unpleasant deviation from the norm. He HAS to be because he won’t, he CAN’T believe that his fairly talent-laden NFC West squad would again lay an egg like they did in NFL 2016 when, in oppposite of many favorable prognostications by fans & press and general roster health they finished a disappointing 7-8-1. Eek.

Progression can be a wonderful thing. From it will spring forth hopes, learning experiences and maybe, just maybe, a 5-year, $25M ($15M guaranteed) contract with a nice buyout clause ($7.5M). Maybe.

I don’t know how the Paterson, New Jersey native’s, who is set to turn 65 in October (10.3.52), contract with owner Bill Bidwell reads but given his former progression, its terms are most likely fair & balanced to both sides.

The problem with progression is that any sudden halt in one’s steady forward progress and it can be bone-jarring. Ouch!

— — —

Beginning his coaching career at Virginia Tech in 1975 as a graduate assistant, Bruce didn’t get his first top NFL gig until late in the game at age sixty when he took over as Indianapolis interim for the ailing Chuck Pagano who was out in cancer treatment (2012) and proceeded to win the first of his two AP-COY awards (+ 2014). In 2013 he took the reins at Arizona and kept winning, going 34-14, a total that excludes his 9-3 Colts mark (11-5), W-L numbers diverted to Pagano‘s career tally by NFL’s record keepers.

2012: Colts 9 – 3
2013: Cards 10 – 6
2014: Cards 11 – 5
2015: Cards 13 – 3
2016: Cards 7 – 8 – 1

Odd as Arizona’s 2016 devolution, odder still was that it happened even as there were some quite notable individual and team bright spots.

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the Bengals’ 1st-Rd draftee out of USC in 2004, appeared to’ve fully recovered from his 2014 knee injury, making fifteen starts and putting up reasonable if not great numbers.

Career-long Card and another 04 draftee in receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his eight 1000-yd season in 2016, surpassing the 100 career total in TDs (104).

On defense, Arizona sported a double-digited sack-duo in linebackers Markus Golden (12.5 / tie 3rd) and Chandler Jones (11 / 8th). Not how I’d use my main-defenders (sacks) but it got the job done in part as AZ’s defense ranked a spiffy #2 in yapg (305 (301 HOU)) but a so-so #14 in papg at 22.6 (15.6 NE).

The brightest spot was rising star and MVP candidate (I had him #2 heading into W17), running-back / receiver David Johnson, the 2nd-year man out of Northern Iowa who ran for 1239 (+ 16td), caught 80 passes for 879 yards (+ 4td) and led the League with 20 pay-dirts in total.

Some small comfort for Arians & Crew may’ve been the fact that 2016 was, as Winston Churchill put it in describing the Soviet Union circa 1939, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” especially in the ho-hum NFC which may help to account for this prognosticator’s worst effort to date.

In the American, surprise disappointments were the Jets (10-6 (15) > 5-11 (16)), the Ravens (10-6 (14) > 5-11 > 8-8 (16)) and the Bengals (12-4 (15) > 6-9-1 (16)) who were expected to contend and then, of course, el-foldo come playoffs.

In the NFC, Cards and defending Halas hoisters, Carolina, were favored to shine but stumbled in start and never recovered; Seattle didn’t find the fierceness and only Atlanta & GB looked worthy of taking on New England. And if you thought Dallas (13-3) was the real-deal with the rookies, you don’t watch much NFL.

Will Arizona rebound in 2017? League’s looking pretty pathetic these days, bound to get worse with the art of tackling fading fast and flash-QB filling the ranks, meaning, any team with pro talent in key positions, and that means AZ, should have a good shot a taking the Hunt or Halas trophy come January.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-sign, wikiproject; B.Arians, G.Skidmore, 8.5.16, Glendale, wc; L.Fitzgerald, wc, Al-Anbar, Al-Asad, USO, 3.8.09, Cpl-J.Hernandez, Cpt-J.Daniels; Arians, 3.22.17, DoC, T.LaRussa, G.Skidmore; Topps, J.Otto, 1970
Posted: 9.5.17 @ 4.28pE; Copyright © 2017