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NFL18 Cherry Picks W14: St. Nick’s Maybe Memo to Packers, ‘Better a Big Fish Than Small Fry’

8 Dec

Fish n’ Chips

If there’s no news, then make some news. That could be a placard above the entrance to the managing editor’s office at SI.com.

Someone at the long-running magazine got it in their head this week to float the wobbly notion that Alabama football coach Nick Saban should become the next Packers guru to fill the vacancy created by the panic-driven firing of Super Bowl winning Mike McCarthy who’d been at the Green Bay helm for over a decade (06). Where there’s M&M (money & motivation), anything can happen.

But the Packers Executive Board doing what it takes to pry Nick away from UA where he rolls towards what could be his sixth national title in Tuscaloosa (7 + LSU), in money & position (club president), well, that’s about as likely as the forever frugal Brewers signing Bryce Harper to a 5-year deal: Not very.

There are plenty of reasons why someone of Saban’s caliber would never coach the green & yellow, starting with the fact the Packers would never go after someone with a celebrity carrying such a high price tag. That’s for the Yankees, Lakers and Cowboys of sportdom who like to throw money around.

Green Bay likes to think they can find diamonds in the rough, and they have, on occasion, but usually of the already cut variety (Wolf (OAK) – Holmgren (SF) – Lombardi (NYG)). Below the radar might be the better metaphor.

Besides that, the Packers Board of Directors ‘throw nickels around like manhole-covers (See also: Bears).’ But then all this has been common knowledge amongst real NFL fans for quite some time now.

And Saban himself might not like giving up the near reverential status he’s held in college football for about twenty years. At Alabama, Nick is becoming the John Wooden of college football (JW: 10 basketball titles @ UCLA). There’s Saban, and there’s everybody else, now that Urban Meyer has hung-up his head-set, again. The West Virginia native just might want to keep it that way, until he retires and goes into consulting and motivational speaking.

Though, it would not surprise that Saban has buried in the back of his mind a belief that he could do in Green Bay, or another NFL city, what Pete Carroll has done so marvelously in Seattle after his own great success at USC (2 titles 2003-04) and two brief NFL head-coaching stints with the New York Jets (94) and in New England (97-99 27-21), in winning back-to-back Halas trophies (NFCC 2014-15) with Wilson, Lynch and Legion of Boom. But such a build-from-scratch success story as Carroll fashioned is a rare feat indeed.

A Packers post means accepting the challenge of winning big in the Fox Valley. Key word there is ‘big.’ Winning’s not enough in Packerland. Titles must be won. That’s titles, plural. Once, as they said in the movies (75), is not enough.

Success in Green Bay does have its rewards.

The Packers are one of the most storied franchises in American sport. The head coach is a big fish in a small pond. That means you can gobble up pretty much whatever and whomever you want whilst you swim in it. They’ll probably name a street after you if you win a Super Bowl. Make that two, at least, two Halas trophies (NFCC). But if you don’t win early and often, they’ll hand you your walking papers right quick and might even string-up your family pet if the rabble get riled-up enough (See; Dan Devine 70s).

A former NFL Coach of the Year, Ray Rhodes, lasted but one 8-8 season before getting his pink slip from the Packers, even as Brett Favre had a sore thumb on his throwing hand most of that 1999 season.

Now this unexpected, rather ignominious mid-season firing of McCarthy, and you tell me, would you want take the reins in Green Bay? And it’s not like they’re gonna’ fork out the big bucks to help you assume the risk. No sir-ee, Nick.

This is a recent statement made by Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers on his relationship with Mike: “We would finish every time that we talked.”

And I know what Rodgers meant: Listening in kind. That means, hearing each other out and responding. Not always in agreement, but in understanding: That’s maturity, that’s respect and that’s not easy to find today anywhere.

The coach community is a club. They understand the ups and downs, risks and rewards that come along with being a head coach. Some of those risks are unanticipated, like getting fired in-season with a 125-77 overall. That then creates a community wide impression, and not a good one.

Another name that’s being bantered about for the Packers’ HC job in 2019 is Northwestern’s resourceful Pat Fitzgerald (95-70 / 3-5 (3-1 since 2012)).

Pat’s done a marvelous job in Evanston but the former All-American linebacker is a defensive specialist. And as any real football fan knows, while the HC must delegate duties to capable staffers, they must also have a near expert understanding of play on both sides of the ball. Not that the Pack couldn’t use a boost on the D side of things, but with a guy like Rodgers running the offense, it’s scoring that is Green Bay’s forte, at least in the forceable future.

And therein be the carrot on Packers President Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst’s stick, Mister Aaron Rodgers.

Sure, money is important to a coaching candidate but so too is the prospect of winning quickly and winning often so you can keep earning that money, and that’s what Mr. Matriculator gives his coach, in all likelihood.

But Aaron, future Cantonese he be, is no spring chicken, as he will be entering his fourteenth season come next summer training camp in 2019.

While his first three seasons were limited to clipboarding, the fact Rodgers has recently suffered two semi-serious injuries (broken clavicles), missing half of 2013 and 2017 seasons, makes one wonder if he‘s become … susceptible?

How many NFL seasons does the Berkeley Bear have left?

He’s not the type to play just to break records or get a paycheck. His endorsements have him set for life. But the beatings in the backfield take their toll, even with new rules in place to protect the field general. I’d say 4-6 year, and that may not be enough to pull in the biggest names.

Then there’s interim, Joe Philbin, who led the Dolphins for parts of four seasons, compiling a so-so record of 24-28 as Bullygate unfolded. Not impressive but capable enough to get a short-term deal as search goes on as needed, or not.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 14

Saints @ Tampa: 12.9 Fox 1:00pE: Saints
Patriots @ Dolphins: CBS 1:00: Pats
Baltimore @ KansasCity: CBS 1:00: KC
Indianapolis @ Houston: CBS 1:00: Colts
Atlanta @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: Packers
Panthers @ Cleveland: Fox 1:00: Browns
Denver @ 49ers: CBS 4:05: Broncos
Cincinnati @ Chargers: CBS 4:05: Cincy
Detroit @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: Lions
Philadelphia @ Dallas: Fox 4:25: ‘Boys
LosAngeles @ Chicago: NBC 8:20: Rams
Vikes @ Seattle: 12.10 Disney 8:15: Hawks

Record: 44 – 42

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, 2011; Fish-and-Chips, wc.cca, Mathias-Meckel, Blackpool, 2018; N.Saban, wc, 8.18.09, Ramma-Jamma-Yella; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.08; Willie-Wood, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 12.7 @ 10:49pE, edit 12.8; Copyright © 2018

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NCAAF-18: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, He’s At It Again!

1 Dec

Just when you think the magic has gone out of Pat Fitzgerald’s long success story at academic juggernaut Northwestern University (2006 >), he and his Wildcats go n’ pull another rabbit outta’ the college football hat.

The NU bunch have gone 8-4 in 2018 to win the Big Ten Western title (8-1), pitting them against perennial powerhouse Ohio State (11-1) on Saturday (8pE Fox) in a game with serious national title implications.

Patrick’s in his thirteen season at the Northwestern helm, his alma mater, where he was an All-American linebacker (1993-96), garnering an armload of personal hardware (Nagurski – Bednarik – B10-DPOY (2)) and helped lead Gary Barnett’s club to the 1996 Rose Bowl, a close, hard-fought loss against the Pac-10 champion USC Trojans (41-32), a game Fitzgerald missed due to a broken leg he’d sustained near the close of the Wildcats conference slate (Iowa).

His overall head coaching mark is a not-too-shabby 95-69, with a 3-5 bowl record, taking three of his last four holiday matchups. Fitzgerald has eight winning-seasons, one even-up and a 20-29 win-loss tally in his four losing campaigns. All this at a school where student-athlete still has meaning in fact. Not that their rosters are peppered with Rhodes scholar aspirants who help little old ladies cross busy Chicago intersections every day, but Pat’s employer Northwestern clearly puts education on the higher plain.

And you know something, I think what Mr. Fitzgerald has done in Evanston might be more, but at least AS impressive as the terrific jobs Nick Saban (Tuscaloosa (5 national titles)) and Urban Meyer (Columbus (1)) have done in their respective college towns. Not that it doesn’t take a great skill to marshal ample resources into a great results, it does, but to start from scratch when the athletic cupboard has, by tradition, been minimally stocked and then cook up a consistently competitive dish, well, that’s one heck of a chef.

Can the 21st-ranked Wildcats travel to Columbus to topple the 6th-ranked Buckeyes out of the CFP playoff picture and get back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1996? I was no Rhodes scholar in college, but any sport-minded grade school graduate with playground prowess could tell you, it’ll take a near perfectly executed Northwestern game-plan and at least a couple OSU turnovers to pull off this upset. And that’s why they play the games.

StevenKeys
MacroSport
Photo credit: Northwestern-University, seal, wc.cca, 6.17.1890; Pat-Fitzgerald, wc, 2008, Brian-Myers; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011
Posted: 12.1 @ 12:09aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W12: Pegging the Pretenders In a Contender Poor Playoff Picture

22 Nov

They‘ve gotta’ pick SOMEBODY, right?

The Halls of Fame, the Oscar®, that Mark Twain thing, we can’t make everybody happy with these honors and award shows but we sure can try, right?

And at the end of each NFL regular season the owners hold a playoff to spread the joy, selecting as many post-season participants as they can stuff into that PS bird, satisfying regional interests and keeping those coffers filling fat.

That meant expansion, adding teams (1971 AFL-NFL merger), crafting cute little divisions and then adding the wild card clubs which rarely have any wild about ‘em at all. So far, that means two more playoff participants per Conference.

Those slots must be filled, even if half the clubs are, for most the NFL weekends, just about as likely to stink up the joint as they are to shine bright.

Like most seasons, there are about 6 to 8 teams that have a pretty fair chance of winning their respective Conference (Halas (NFC) / Hunt (AFC) trophy) and then taking the Super Bowl, teams that look sound, front (O) and back (D).

We’ve got a ways to go before the twelve (12) playoff berths are awarded (Please, no cork-popping just yet, fellas (oy vey)), but it’s not too early to sift out the pretenders, those who’ll show their weaker hand and falter before the regular season winds up, while others will pass the mettle-test, in win or loss.

National Football Conference

Serious Contenders: Saints, Rams, Seahawks and Packers

We know New Orleans and Los Angeles have offense, but Saints are near top half in defense (Rams middle), while Hawks and Packers rank respectable on both sides, kinda-sorta.’ Even as their clubs sit around .500 each, I like the experience of Wilson & Rodgers, the latter whose club has a nice remaining slate. GB’s lost three close contests on the road vs top dogs, are better than half the clubs with winning marks and going 5-1 gets ’em into the PS where anything can happen.

Possible pretenders: Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Washington

Bears got growl that’s been hibernating since Lovie days and it’s not just Mack. Second-year QB Trubisky, like AFC counterpart Mahomes, has high confidence, though, with fewer weapons at his disposal. But Mitch also has a rabbit-habit which will cost him and his club dearly as quality of competition and game-importance grows. Cats and Vikes O&D ranks are respectable but both compete for 2018’s Fickle Franchise Award (+ Titans, etc.), while Washington’s solid season went down with Alex Smith’s broken leg in W11 action.

American Football Conference

Serious Contenders: New England, Pittsburgh and Houston

Houston (7-3): Texans started slow (0-3) but’ve found their mojo since (6-0), albeit on maybe the NFL’s easiest schedule. Nice win at DC in W11.

Possible Pretenders: Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Dolphins and Chiefs

Bolts loss at home to 3-6 Denver was telling and their remaining schedule, besides AZ (W12), is a bear. Indy, on the other hand, while a slow start has an easy remainder but probably won‘t gel soon enough to impact. Maybe 2019, if Andy can stay healthy. Baltimore is not better with Flacco floundering. Get him healthy again and back on track and we’ll talk about contending.

And the much touted Chiefs? They get their own separate breakdown.

The last Monday Night Football fiasco makes it clear (Rams 54-51 KC), the NFL, all four major American sports, for that matter, are now just about offense. Kids and the Jr.-media, especially the sabrheads who voted Mets’ deGrom NL-CY last week, just adore score. We adults like it too but, if unbridled, it makes us nervous because we understand that old adage, ‘what goes around, comes around’ or ‘careful what ya’ wish for, you just may get it.’

Defense, football, was born in a much more brutal time when boxing was big. Bad still happens today, of course. Selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cowardice abound, but your average fan, player and coach, are just not built that way, not like Chuck Bednarik and Lawrence Taylor. They loved to stick, to punish.

Today’s team must score early, often and be comeback capable. No pouting when your D miscues. Your offense must pull on their big-boy pants, get back out there and put another TD on the board, not settling for FGs. It’s a fair measure that the club with higher Super Bowl potential is the one that’s scoring proficient and at least defense capable, rather than the other way around (top D, so-so O).

The Chiefs clearly have offense, scoring well against some of the better Ds in early going (PIT, DEN, JAX, LAC). Keep in mind that those same teams will, as season progresses, figure better the habits of a newcomer like Mahomes which were unfamiliar in earlier weeks of play.

But KC’s own defense is atrocious, even when you adjust for the MNF disaster, which will haunt them in this final regular stretch and the playoffs where the level of competition is more clear and certain.

Kansas City is on their bye this Thanksgiving week to lick wounds and afford Reid & Co. time to figure a new plan. And don’t count on it. Andy is one of NFL’s senior gurus and made a Super Bowl with the Eagles, but defense has never been his stronger suit. The HC must delegate duties (DC), but it all starts at the top.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 12

Falcons @ NO: 11.22 NBC 8:20pE: A-Birds
Jaguars @ Bills: 11.25 CBS 1:00: Jacksonville
Hawks @ Carolina (GOTD): Fox 1:00: Seattle
New York @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Eagles
Dolphins @ Indianapolis: CBS 4:25: Colts
Pittsburgh @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Steelers
GreenBay @ Minnesota: NBC 8:20: Vikings
Titans @ Houston: 11.26 Disney 8:15: Tenn

Record: 40 – 38

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Welniak-A.Reid, wc, J.Beall, 12.31.17, KCTV5; cherries, Hispalois, wc, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; Jim-Marshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.22 @ 5:07pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W10: Absent Super Bowl Berth, Big Decision Befalls Packers Brass

11 Nov

It’s that time of year again. That time when talk begins about Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy getting the boot by his betters on the Board.

It’s a routine that began around 2013, a couple years after Mike & Company’s Super Bowl triumph over the Steelers. It, of course, has never amounted to much, not amongst practically-minded folk, anyway, except for periodically re-shuffling the play-calling duties to appease the gripers.

But this season might create a different mood, a cheese of a different color, so to speak, if a terrific turnaround and trip to Atlanta doesn‘t come to fruition.

At the midway, the Pack sit at 3-4-1, the tougher half of their schedule behind them where they faced maybe the two top Super Bowl contenders in the Rams and Patriots, back-to-back and on the road, suffering close losses versus both.

And if you think Packers’ R-back Aaron Jones’ fumble to start the 4th quarter of play against those Patriots as both were knotted at 17, was the reason for the green & yellow’s loss in Foxborough, you might want to stick with the NBA.

A more likely cause, one that’s reared its ugly head in nearly every Packers’ loss since White and Butler exited the Fox Valley (early 2000s): Poor defense.

On 3rd and seven at their own 27 in first series after recovering said Jones fumble to start the 4th quarter, Green Bay’s Swiss cheese D allowed Brady to connect with Dorsett for a 17-yard gain, giving the New Englanders good breathing space for a drive that would eventually end in a TD to take the lead, harness momentum and get the win.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to predict the Packers going 7-1 the rest of the way, a final regular season tally (10-5-1) that might be good enough to take the NFC North, a competitive division but with no juggernauts in the bunch.

Current division leaders Chicago (5-3) are improved with new QB Trubisky under center but look more a pretender with a youthful signal-caller prone to rabbit, a red-flag for fumbles and INTs in crucial game moments.

A visit to Seattle in week 11 (TNF), then traveling to arch-rival Minnesota ten days later on Sunday and one more seriously challenging home match-up versus Atlanta in W13 is the stretch that will decide the Packers and Mike’s fate.

All three, the Seahawks, Vikings and A-Birds are playoff contenders but of the fickle variety in 2018: One weekend they can look serious, the next, downright pathetic, even with fairly talent laden rosters.

Even at 9-6-1, a team can probably take the NFCN, the runner-up seriously challenging for one of the two wild-card spots in a down season for the NFC.

And with their remaining schedule, not terribly tough, unless you stand at 3-5, I’d not expect the Lions to get that wild-card spot.

But even a playoff spot and deep run may not be enough to save Mike. Anything short of a Super Bowl will be seen as a failure by Packers elite and fandom.

Aaron Rodgers is a rare talent, even as Green Bay had such fortune just prior to the Berkeley boy’s arrival in the person of Brett Favre. Once Rodgers hangs ‘em up, maybe less than five years with recent the injuries starting to take their toll, to nab a third consecutive Hall of Fame caliber QB is highly unlikely. The point being, Packers window for returning to the Big Game is closing.

McCarthy is not a great coach, but he’s a pretty darn good one (124-74-2 / 10-8 PS / SB45-W). He’s in that grade with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin (SB 1-1) who himself is looking to solidify a place in the history of another storied franchise.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 10

NO @ Bengals: 11.11 Fox 1:00pE: Cincy
Detroit @ Chicago: Fox 1:00: Lions
Washington @ TB: Fox 1:00: Buccaneers
Buffalo @ New York: CBS 1:00: Bills
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Jags
Los Angeles @ Oakland: CBS 4:05: Raiders
Seattle @ Los Angeles: CBS 4:25: Hawks
Dolphins @ Green Bay: CBS 4:25: Packers
Dallas @ Philadelphia: NBC 8:20: Eagles

Record: 38 – 31

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Aaron-Rodgers, Mike-McCarthy, wc.cca, 9.9.12, M.Morbeck, Lambeau-Field; ripe-cherries, Chirak, 6.24.07; Harold-Jackson, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.11 @ 2:45aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W9: Patriots and Red Sox Making New England America’s Region of Champions

4 Nov

Traditionally, after the War, it was b-ball (Celtics) and hockey (Bruins) that gave Bean-Towners their steady source for sportful community pride.

It’s when names like Bobby Orr, Cousy, the Joneses, Esposito, Kev McHale, Bill Russell, Cheevers, DJ, Chief Parish, Hondo, Bird and Red Auerbach made those cold Noreasters just slightly more bearable.

Today the tables have turned, in a good way.

Besides a singular season in the sun (Celts 08; Bruins 11), the Hub City has become the mecca for America’s two top entertainment venues, able to claim superiority in both the MLB and the NFL, the defending yet struggling Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) being of little consequence.

The New England Patriots of Foxborough and the Boston Red Sox have won collectively, nine (9) world championships since 2001, Bill Belichick’s Pats hoisting the Hardware in 2002, 04-05, 10 and 17, the BoSox, under three different managers, in 2004, 07 (Francona), 13 (Farrell) and in 2018 (Cora), nearly sweeping the Dodgers, 4-1. Those World Series titles to add to previous five (5) championships in the earlier part of the twentieth century.

Both clubs show no sign of fading from the title picture anytime soon.

So how do the other metropoli and national regions stack-up in the image department when it comes to tumultuous merriments?

Gotta’ start with the Big Apple (NYC-NJ), but that doesn’t look too shiny these days. The New York Yankees have had their share of World Series titles of late (2009 + 4), but the Mets, Knickerbockers, Nets, Islanders, Rangers (94), Jets and Giants since 2012 (08) have been pretty dog-gone pathetic.

As for Philadelphia, the 76ers and Flyers have been bad since Bobby Clarke and Julius Erving left town while the more recent championships seem to happen in the one-hit-wonder variety (Eagles: 2018; Phillies 2008). In the Western part of Pennsylvania, the Pirates, like Milwaukee, are beset with frugal ownership which, unless you’re talkin’ about the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, usually translates into no titles. But the Steel City does have Big Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers: 2006, 09) and Sidney Crosby (Penguins: 2009, 16-17).

Heading south, it’s been the collegians who’ve given fans something to cheer about: Duke in men’s basketball where Mike Krzyewski has taken up where Adolf Rupp left off in winning five (5) NCAA titles during his 39-year tenure, the last in 2015, and, since Florida football hit the skids and LeBron bolted Miami, it’s been mastermind Nick Saban at The University of Alabama scoring big, where his Crimson Tide have garnered five (5) national titles, the last in 2017.

Then there’s NFL owner Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys who had their 2nd run as America’s Team (1993-94, 96). Now they look done.

Out West, the Los Angeles Dodgers win Pennants (2017-18) but no more World Series (88) and the Lakers these days are just dreamers. But the Steve Warriors (Kerr and Curry) of the NBA’s San Franscico Bay area representative and Pete Carroll, first at USC (03-04), now at NFL Seattle (2014), are the leaders who’ve been carrying the Pacific time zone banner of greatness.

Continuing clockwise and heading to the Midwest, the St. Louis Cardinals still win on occasion (2011, 06) while the Detroit Red Wings were Hockey-Town for a time (2008, 02, 97-98) but have turned into a weigh-station.

The Old Northwest Territory’s biggest metropolis, Chicago, has been doing itself almost as proud as Boston has in the sporting venues, the Cubs finally breaking through again in 2016 with their first World Series title in over 100 years (1907-08), the White Sox winning the fall classic in 2005 (last in 1917), the Blackhawks recently winning three (3) Stanley Cups in six seasons (2015, 13, 10) and the Michael Jordan Bulls taking their final of six (6) NBA titles in 1998. Only the once proud George Halas’ Bears going long without a championship since their remarkable Super Bowl win in 1986 under Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.

And while they can only claim two world championships since Vince Lombardi parted company with Green Bay faithful in 1968 (1997, 2010) and must concede the Titletown moniker to their opponent this Sunday nite in the Tom Brady-led Patriots, the Packers have enjoyed one heck of a quarterback run in the persons of Brett Favre (1992-2007) and Aaron Rodgers (2005-present). Never in the history of the NFL has a franchise, for over 25 straight seasons, entered so many games with such hope for victory as have the fans of the green and yellow.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 9

Bears @ Buffalo: 11.4 Fox 1:00: Bills
Buccaneers @ Carolina: Fox 1:00: Bucs
Chiefs @ Cleveland: CBS 1:00: Browns
NewYork @ Miami: CBS 1:00: Jets
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
Atlanta @ Redskins: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Houston @ Denver: CBS 4:05: Denver
LosAngeles @ Seattle: CBS 4:05: Hawks
LosAngeles @ NewOrleans: Fox 4:25: NO
GreenBay @ NewEngland: NBC 8:20: NE

Record: 34 – 24

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject 2011; T.Brady, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison; cherries, 6-2011, wc, picdrome; Jim-Otto, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.4 @ 1:11aE (edit 6:05p (PA)); Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W8: Fans #1 Gripe Ain’t Commercials or Colin, It’s BAD Defense (oy)!

27 Oct

Ask your typical NFL super fan (fantasy shmantasy, real football fans just love to check scores) what irks them most about America’s #1 entertainment choice and you’re certain to hear a lengthy list of gripes:

Referees
Turnovers
Nike (uniforms, etc.)
Excessive TV commercial breaks
Player self-promotion and politics
Instant-replay delays
Thursday nite games
The high cost of attending a game
The dangers of attending a game
Scheduling bias / prejudice
Chatty TV announcers
Unqualified in-game, post-game TV reporters & crew
Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner)
DeMaurice Smith (NFLPA Executive head)
Foreign location tease (Time to franchise ‘em already)
The on-going PED plague barely tested in randomness

That should cover alot of ‘em.

But there’s one complaint your average fan will spout about at least 2-3 times every game: The awful, atrocious, unbelievably bad defensive breakdowns that demean about half of all the contests on the Sunday slate.

A reliable defense is hard to find these days, harder than a savvy pocket-passer.

And in the current depressing defensive state, a healthy DeShaun Watson (five TDs vs Miami on just 16 completions in Texans’ 42-23 win on TNF – W8) will probably pass Brees touchdown total in just over ten more years.

Even the dreaded late-game, prevent-defense can’t be held entirely to blame.

That pathetic defense that’s been around since the late 70s as some sort of cut-n-run-and-make-a-final-stand-somewhere-later psychology of ditzy DCs, still drives fans bonkers. But today’s defensive efforts, excepting a few individual stalwarts who like to stick (Darius Leonard, Corey Littleton, Kiko Alonso, Budda-Baker, Jessie Bates), are lousy pretty much from start to finish.

Tackling at the professional level has become a lost art, largely because not many junior-level coaches are teaching it anymore.

Half of the linebackers (Matthews Mack etc.), the position that should be the defensive mainstay, its movable rock, spend most their time seeking glory stats (sacks), leaving their position and wide gaps for opposing runners and receivers to do their thing, while most secondary sorries just don’t seem to care, turning themselves into mini-missles (most stand @ 5’9”), hoping the impact knocks ball-carriers off balance. The typical result: Dud missle (oy).

It is important to draw distinction between bad defense and the stoppers who simply run outta’ steam after a hard fought three quarters of battle.

Case in point: The Saints over-taking the hosting Ravens in Week 7 (24-23).

Up 17-7 entering the 4th quarter with the Saints offense on the march, John Harbaugh’s club gave up 17 unanswered 4Q points while his Flacco-led offense could only muster one TD in the final fifteen. Had Justin Tucker made the extra point to tie the game, maybe a different outcome in O/T would’ve been had, but the mis-kick wasn’t the main cause for the Ravens loss.

Ravens fans had to be seriously disappointed in Tucker and their team’s defensive down-turn, but even the most flighty follower, as Mr. Harbaugh, too, had to pleased with their defenders effort for most of the contest. To hold a Payton – Brees offense to 7 points entering the final Q is pretty solid D.

It’s fair to write, an offense that sputters late in the game (Baltimore) as they cling to a lead is sadly mistaken if they believe their defensive mates can continually bail-them-out of their matriculatory ineptitude, especially having to fend-off a master craftsman like future Cantonese, Drew Brees.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 8

Eagles @ Jax (Ldn): 10.28 NFL 9:30a: Jags
Seahawks @ Detroit Lions: Fox 1:00: Seattle
Buccaneers @ Cincy: Fox 1:00: Cincinnati
New York Jets @ Chicago: 1:00 CBS: Bears
Baltimore @ Carolina: 1:00 CBS: Ravens
Green Bay @ Los Angeles: 4:25 Fox: Pack
New Orleans @ Minnesota: 8:20 NBC: Saints

Record: 30 – 21

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Darius-Leonard, A.Peterson, wc.cca, 9.16.18, K.Allison, Hanover; Willie-Wood, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 10.27 @ 12:27aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W7: On Jim Taylor’s Death, One Can Ask, Where Are the White Ball-Carriers Today?

21 Oct

Perspective can be everything.

The angle, the light, the timing, the placement, they’re all important.

When you’re talking about performing a biopsy or having a tire mounted properly on your automobile, perspective matters not very much, but for many a circumstance in this life, it can matter plenty.

Debating the greatest ball-carrier in NFL history requires perspective.

Many believe the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, a team that won five (5) NFL championships and the first two (2) Super Bowls, to be the USA’s greatest pro football team of all-time (See also; CFL).

And a key cog in that magnificent machinery was fullback, Jim Taylor (1935 – 2018), who died recently at the age of 83.

Jim was a regular 1000-yard rusher in the mid-60s when 12-14 regular season games was the schedule and when the ground game, at least in the high-tone NFL (See also: Gillman, Hadl & Alworth (AFL Chargers)), was still the gridiron game plan.

So, arguably the best offensive player (Paul Hornung, Bart Starr and Boyd Dowler were three pretty key cogs, too) on the best team ever could fairly be called the greatest ball-carrier that ever laced ’em up, right? But that might be called having too narrow of a perspective, eh?

Around the same time JT was churning out yards and scoring TDs (83 career), there was another guy in Cleveland named Jim Brown who was doing what the guy in Wisconsin was doing but even better (led NFL in rushing eight (8) times, amassing 1863 yards in 1963 and averged 104 per game for his career), on a team you could say he carried on his back, or with his legs, more specifically, leading the original Brownies to the 1964 NFL title under head coach Blanton Collier.

Okay, so Jimbo Taylor might not’ve been the greatest ball-carrier in NFL annals, but he’s certainly in the discussion and was probably the biggest money back you could find in the golden age decade of the 1960s.

Both which, Taylor’s death and his football legacy, beg the question, where are the white ball-carriers in today’s NFL?

The last one of note I can recall was Mike Alstott, who played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Bucanneers (1996-06), being chosen All-Pro three (3) times and helping the Bucs to their first Super Bowl and victory in 2007. And of Mike’s eleven (11) campaigns, just over half could be considered highly productive.

White man can’t jump? Don’t tell that to Dick Fosbury or Dwight Stones. And don’t tell Paul Hornung or John Riggins he can’t motor with the pigskin, either.

But coaches at both the collegiate and pro levels are opting almost strictly for black running backs, a preference (bias) that carries over to the defensive side of the ball where the secondary is as well, almost entirely of one race, black. What Jim Taylor thought of the development I can just image. I’m sure he was asked.

Is the state explained by a clear and substantiated superiority of strength, speed, technique and tenacity by one race? I would think not.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Titans @ LAC (Ldn): 10.21 9:30aE: Bolts
Houston @ Jacksonville: 1:00 CBS: Jags
Carolina @ Philadelphia: 1:00 Fox: Eagles
Minnesota @ NYJets: 1:00 Fox: Vikings
New England @ Chicago: 1:00 CBS: Pats
Cleveland @ Tampa Bay: 1:00 Fox: Bucs
Detroit @ Dolphins: 1:00 Fox: Lions
Saints @ Baltimore: 4:05 Fox: Ravens
Cowboys @ Washington: 4:25 CBS: DC
Cincinnati @ Kansas City: 8:20 NBC: Cats

Record: 24 – 17

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Jim-Taylor, wc.cca, 1967, New-Orleans; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc,7.2.12; Jim-Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 10.21 @ 2:29aE; tag edit 11.27; Copyright © 2018