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NFL19: Belichick-Brady Eke Out Excellence as Sense of Swan Song Season Settles In

23 Apr

It must be the hope, the dream of every pro athlete and coach, to finish-out a career on top of their game, either in strong stats or preferably, hoisting a champion’s hardware. And so much the better if this good fortune can be had with a body and mind that are still largely in-tact and, where the jock is concerned, untainted by the PED tattoo (ugh).

Fantastic final season finishes are not uncommon and deposited in the memory banks of fans and followers. For this writer, a few of them stand-out:

Golf great Jack Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters for a record 6th time at age 46; Steffi Graf wins her 22nd and final major singles title in taking the 1999 French Open, her 6th; In his 16th and final NHL campaign, Alberta-born Lanny McDonald captains the Calgary Flames to their first and only Stanley Cup (1988-89); Reliever extraordinaire Mariano Rivera ends his career in style by nabbing 44 saves on a stellar 2.11 ERA, securing a 1st-ballot HOF election; And Peyton Manning, plagued for two years by a neck injury, returns to the Denver lineup at mid-season to lead the Broncos to an SB50 victory before calling it a career.

And then there were those singular, final-game feats, like the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams who, on September 28, 1960, homered at Fenway in his final at-bat of a long, illustrious career (1939), and the Bambino, Babe Ruth, swating three home runs at Pirates’ Forbes Field on May 25, 1935, in his fond, if not somewhat inconspicuous farewell to the business of baseball.

But my favorite goodbye involves one of sports great personalities.

I lived in Wisconsin in 1976 when, that December, Marquette University men’s basketball coach Al McGuire surprised nearly everyone when he made statement he would be stepping down from his post at season’s end, an end not realized until his Warriors would win the NCAA national championship that following March by defeating his Finals opponent, Dean Smith’s UNC Tar Heels.

A dreamy career ending, if their ever was one.

There are two fellas today employed in Foxborough, Massachusetts, one a player, the other a coach, both getting long in the football tooth, highly accomplished (6 NFL titles) and both at that point in their careers where thoughts must certainly be turning to that day in the not too distant future when closure is in the cards.

The fellas: Quarterback Tom Brady (00) and his only pro head coach, Bill Belichick (91-5; 00), both still seemingly at the top of their games entering NFL19, all aglow after brushing aside the latest challenge to their decades long supremacy, the upstart Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 (13-3) who clearly got Belichicked, mate. It wasn’t a pretty win, yet it was a win and that’s all that matters in the NFL battle for the championship.

But it does beg the question, at their advanced NFL ages, eking out excellence in ever more narrow margins of victory and with key cog Rob Gronkowski having shown the way with his recent retirement announcement, is this the right time for B&B to peg 2019-20 as their final, swan song season?

And keep these points in mind: 1) When they do exit, Bill and Tom will likely do it in the same season, and 2) avoid the now common ‘This is my final season’ announcement and hopefully spare us a farewell gift-giving tour (ugh).

Here then are the reasons why I think this will be their last hurrah.

The clearest reason why Bill and Tom call it quits after this season, they’ve got little else of significance to achieve. Getting that second back-to-back (03-04, 04-05), a technical dynasty, may be the only thing motivating B&B at this point.

If one does not consider them the masterminds of the greatest team in NFL history (It’s a debatable topic), they’re certainly right near the top of any reasonable list. And to be frank, the Pats are the only consistent ’big fish’ in what’s become a little NFL pond of competition, the only real challenge left for them being their respective battles against age.

And when Belichick does leave the Patriots, I don’t suspect he’s going to take the Lombardi route in assuming a new challenge as Vince did in DC (1969). I’d expect he follows John Madden’s play-call and stays out for good, maybe accepts an advisory position with Kraft & Co.: “Easy money.”

Then there’s reason #2 to think this is a swan song season: Preserving health.

Tom’s been fairly fortunate in the injury department. He missed almost all of 2008 with a knee bang but has had fewer concussions than other QBs with as many seasons. He doesn’t want to press his luck and his wife may think as much. And even though Belichick works the sidelines, his job classifies as high stress, a state now considered by heart experts to be one of the highest risk-factors for myocardial infarction and poor health in general, along with sugar addiction.

And reason #3 why B&B likely call it quits after this season? It’s like Gordie Lightfoot says, “walk away like a movie star (♪ IfYouCouldReadMyMind ♫).” The Patriots presently are the NFL standard and can hold their heads high.

Even if New England fails to win their fourth consecutive Hunt trophy (AFC) (They’ve copped four of the last five, five of the last eight), a simple winning mark (9-7), playoffs or not, would go down in my book as a successful exit.

How Gronk’s absence will play on team chemistry is hard to predict. He’d a great career and one of Tom’s favorite targets for nine seasons (2010-19), but then Bill has cycled through many great players in his New England reign, finding such, or he and Tom molding those men INTO greatness.

Whenever the two DO decide to hang up their respective cleats and headset, it’s certain they’ll take a good part of the NFL with them, explanation to follow.

Their departure will mark the end of an era, not just one that saw a franchise sustain success on the girdiron for 20+ seasons, but the end of an era in how the game is played and then enjoyed, it seems progressively less & less by an evermore fickle fandom, many who‘ve made whipping-boys of the zebra set.

Though pocket passers will always remain in the game in some numbers as they matriculate the ball and fire-up the exictement best, Tom’s stand-tall-in-the-pocket style of quarterbacking, in opposite of the rabbit-habit trend (aka, flash-QB or single-wing tailback), will become more rare as every year passes, no pun. The college training ground guarantees it. If given a choice to take hits in the pocket, learning to read with poise, or run-at-will with the ball over incapable collegiate defenses, most young athletes will choose the latter.

The NFL has always been a business first, but since B&B teamed-up we’ve seen a serious ratcheting-up of profit-taking in TV transmission, advertising, stadium and merchandise costs. No stone goes unturned today where even player jerseys and shoe-wear become billboards, enriching owners and players alike.

But the biggest change they’ll leave behind is the NFL’s new commitment to the millennial business model in youthenization, one that demands constant change and has a haughty disdain for continuity (tradition).

This callow, artless approach is seen in endless uniform changes (Nike) and rule tinker, to appease the target market (ages 8-28); Networks display little for serious sport fans but cater to those who boner-up on celebrity, sex and shallow trash talk; skittish online reporters deliver the new message while stifling fan input (no more fan-blogging or comments allowed), and gimmickry in ephemeral events like combines, weekly power ranks, endless mock-drafts, mindless re-drafts from years past, their one concession to history, and then the oversold draft day itself where youth is served a heaping helping of freshly-baked heroes to devour, most who never really pan out anyway (6-8 yrs+).

So consider this an early adieu, Misters Belichick and Brady. Don’t spend it all in one place and thanks for the memories because they’re probably going to have to last us real NFL fans the rest of our lives.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, 2011, wikiproject; Brady-Belichick-x4; Patriots-HOF, wc.cca, Leoparmr, 10.20.08
Posted: 4.22 @ 9:04pE; Copyright © 2019

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NFL19 Super Cherry Pick: A Bowl of Contrasts Topped With Pocket-Passer Poise

3 Feb

It’s what they used to call the ‘Big Game,‘ usually referring to the college kind.

Hollywood loved it, fitting fandom in racoon coats and waved pennants as co-eds in the outdoor stands rooted for their pigskin-carrying hero who typically ran it into the end-zone for a touchdown and swell hugs all around.

As marketing matured, that high-spirited, collegial hoopla eventually gave way to pro game profits and creation of the super serious, late (6:30p k/o), long, commercial laden NFL Championship, aka, the Super Bowl, known as such since the 1970 game (SB4), this one presently numbered 53.

And when the Big Game rolls around, even as late as February when baseball begins to bud in the consciousness, its midnite conclusion (EST) marking the end of the holiday season, we look for themes to stoke interest and set it apart.

In 2019 there are three themes I spot: 1) The stark contrasts between the two participants in the New England Patriots (AFC) and the Los Angeles Rams (NFC); 2) no few commonalities, and 3) possible conflict in protests.

Contrasts

1) East coast (Pats) versus west coast (Rams)

2) AFL original (Pats 1959) versus NFL oldie Rams (1937), though, interestingly, the Cleveland locale originated with the second AFL (1936), the first lasting just one season (1926), the third born in 1959 and merging into the NFL in 1970 (66) as the AFC (NFC) in the present-day set-up.

3) A very experienced coach-quarterback tandem (Belichick-Brady) versus one in just their second season together (McVay 17 – Goff 16), as were B&B in SB36 (02), though, the Rams head coach does have the very experienced Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, a man with two Super Bowls under his belt, the first in 1981 with Denver in loss (SB24 90 SF), the second, having returned to Denver, but that one with a victory result (SB50 2016 W CAR).

4) Franchise history: More recently, New England has been template for success, winning ten Hunt trophies and five Lombardi in the Robert Kraft era, while the Rams have made two location moves the past twenty-five years (LA > STL > LA) and played in two Supers, both as St.Louis residents, one a win (00 TEN), and two years later a loss (02), that being the Patriots first championship hoist.

Commonalities

1) Defense: No forte for either club, both are quite capable. In the regular, even-Steven on ypg (359), edge Pats in ppg (20 v 24), but Rams tighten it better in the PS (22 DAL – 23 NO) (NE: 28 LAC – 31 KC).

2) Offense: If you know football, you know these two teas can put up the points, scoring almost at-will in regular (LAR #2 ypg – ppg / NE #5 in both), with Patriots holding slight edge in the playoffs, NE 41 LAC – 37 KC; LAR 30 DAL – 26 NO, though the Rams lesser totals accrued against slightly better defenses in Saints and Cowboys.

3) Pocket-passers: Both Brady and Goff are mobile when need-be but stand tall under pressure, running up-field only rarely. And the coaches like it that way, i.e., less injuries, more completions and fewer fumbles. Duh-hey.

4) Sort-of-a-rematch: Patriots and Rams first Super Tussle was in SB36 at the Louisiana Superdome (Feb-02), as New England topped St. Louis version of Rams, 20-17 to start the great Belichick-Brady run of championship play and effectively end the Rams, who’d taken the Lombardi (v. TEN) two years earlier in this same same host city of Atlanta, in the now demolished Georgia Dome, replaced by Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the summer of 2017.

Not much to gleen from those two facts, except that Brady-Belichick have been here many times and Rams can win in Georgia. But then, a similarly under-experienced coach-QB tandem in Pederson-Foles topped the B&B in last year’s Super, giving us all something to keep in mind: Experience matters but it’s not everything .. when your opponent has poise.

Conflict?

Will one, two or three players, take a knee for Colin Kaepernick in the biggest spotlight on Earth? If they do, he and his vague mission don’t seem worth it. CK is to some people believed to’ve been black-balled out of the NFL for his on-field protests, though, his same supporters will never include Tim Tebow in their line of gripe. That difference speaks to the sincerity question: Answer, not very.

The Win

The Patriots will again face another recently-tenured head coach (Pederson SB52) employing a not-inexperienced but not-well-tested quarterback (Foles). But Doug was an NFL signal-caller for ten-plus seasons, and though of the clipboard variety, certainly learned his share under Holmgren – Favre in Green Bay and as an assistant with offensive specialist, Reid in KC. That background proved invaluable to the Eagles QB Foles in SB52.

McVay handles his own OC duties, played receiver at Miami of Ohio and coached the same for half of his time in NFL (TB / DC) before taking the reins in Los Angeles. Against a highly-decorated club like the Patriots, knowledge by experience is everything, poise included. I don’t believe the Rams will have that deep well of knowledge at QB (Zac Taylor) to top New England through four quarters, the last as critical. Phillips has the years of experience but that’s D-side, edge Rams, and even then, his Super Bowl win was over the Panthers, not known as an offensive juggernaut. Brady & Company are not Newton & Friends.

Turnovers are always the wild-card, but not the officiating. The zebras are human, I want to keep it that way and champions don’t give game officials the power to decide the outcome. They win, regardless of penalties.

Super Cherry Pick 53: Patriots

Record: 64 – 52 (4-2)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, 4.25.15, White-House, USDoS; J.Goff, Rams, wc, 7.31.16, Praveer-Sharma; T.Brady, Patriots, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries, Hispalois, Cacares-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; J.Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 2.3.19 @ 5:33pE; Copyright © 2019

NFL19 Conference Cherry Picks: Presidents, Field-Generals & Super-Chiefs

20 Jan

The National Football League quarterback: He’s sometimes called a field general, a commander-in-chief who musters his troops into an offensive, forward thrusting campaign to gain territory and vanquish the enemy.

Though America’s Chief Executive and gridiron signal-caller live worlds apart in the duties department, there is a commonality their jobs share. Even as both are just one part their respective operations, as Big-Kahunas (A2-US Const.), each will in good times receive much of the credit while, in bad, most of the blame.

As the partial federal government shutdown remains a reality and new accusations of illegalities fly concerning the investigation into current President Trump’s prior campaign tactics, blame is being apportioned, some to the White House, some to Congress (Pelosi-McConnell), some to the lead investigator (Mueller) and some to the press (journalist / junior-media). Surprising, in this democracy called the United States of America, is that no blame will be assigned to the public who assume none of it on their own, THAT you can bank on.

Followers of the NFL too have, as is customary, been engaging in their own critique in apportioning praise and blame on recent playoff game results.

While the blame has occasionally been debited, in part, to a coach (Harbaugh Garrett), kicker (Parkey) or receiver (Jeffery), as mentioned above, most has been layed at the doorsteps of the respective losing quarterbacks, though, all of it easily enough recycled with yesterday‘s news.

In this final round of post-season Conference championships in lead-up to the Super Bowl pairing, the League’s crème de la crème are in the spotlight.

Typically, these are the best contests. The wheat has been separated from the chaff, making most games real barnburners with outcomes often decided late.

Adding to the watchability this go-round are the two quarterback match-ups.

Each game will pit a wily, well-decorated field general (Brady – Brees), against a much younger upstart, both Patrick Mahomes (KC) and Jared Goff (Rams) in offensive leadership of clubs in quest of their first NFL title in many moons.

It’s not far-fetched to pen, these four signal-callers are, this season, the best four in the business, given that two of them in Mahomes (1) and Brees (2) are the top contenders for AP-MVP award. And Tom, even on a less-than-stellar statistical season, is almost always terrific, while Mr. Goff (and team) has compiled a sparkly 24-7 RS mark after a learning-curve rookie year (0-7 – 55C%).

Tom Brady: New England Patriots

1) FDR: The only Commander-in-Chief besides the cherry-tree-chopper who could’ve been king (Defacto?). Elected four times, his economic vision prescribed emergency medicine in seriously Depressed times (New Deal) and took federal policy beyond simply feeding greed, then undertook to save the world (WW2). He had a wife who was pretty swell, too (Eleanor).

Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

2) Lincoln: Made the union whole, more human and gave his life in the process.

Jarod Goff: Los Angeles Rams

3) Washington: Iconic leader in War and government who led the world’s first revolt against Imperium slavery since Spartacus (d.71 BC), gave the new office of President serious stature and the budding nation a good head start.

Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs

4) Jackson: Old Hickory from Tennesse was his nickname, he was the first non-elitist President who fought hostile Indians, British invaders, banker thugs and brought the people and democracy to the nation‘s capital.

Cory Littleton: Los Angeles Rams (ILB)

5) Wilson: Prof President (1856–24) with steel resolve to make America a world leader in war (WW1) and peace (LoN), whose 2nd wife Edith (Ellen) co-ruled after his stroke (19) making her first unofficial female President (1872–61).

Aaron Donald: Los Angeles Rams (DE)

6) JFK: He saved planet Earth (Cuban Missile Crisis ‘62) and then lost his life in Dallas (11.22.63) in the risky battle against entrenched, corrupting power.

Anthony Hitchens: Kansas City Chiefs (ILB)

7) Cleveland: Should’ve been the first 3-term President, designing the template for modern-era “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

John Johnson: Los Angeles Rams (SS)

8) Jefferson: Crafty Louisiana Purchase doubled nation’s size, after drafting Declaration of Independence (‘76) and blue-printing first public college (UV).

Demario Davis: New Orleans Saints (OLB)

9) LBJ: Mis-policy in Vietnam did not derail efforts of this legislative juggernaut in making civil rights reality and protecting America’s seniors (Medicare);

Chris Jones: Kansas City Chiefs (DE)

10) Polk: Pragmatic, fiscally sound and productive, Mr. Manifest Destiny added thirteen (13) States in whole or part to America’s flag family of stars. Worn to the bone, he died only 3 months after leaving Office.

11) Truman: Plain-talking, former farmer, WWI major, haberdasher and pianist (See; leggy Lauren Bacall) finished out the big War with gutsy call on Japan A-bombs and proved critics and premature press-men, wrong (Chicago Tribune) with a strong, spirited and common sense administration.

12) Teddy: “Big Stick” policy boosts US clout, trust-buster checks monopolist greed and initiates our national parks network. A celebrity turned progressive.

13) James Madison
14) Andrew Johnson
15) William McKinley

Conference Cherry Picks: “Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Rams @ NewOrleans: 1.20 Fox 3:05pE: Saints
NewEngland @ KansasCity: CBS 6:40: Patriots

Record: 63 – 51

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; The-Conways, USCMC, D.Brees, E.Kirk-Cuomo, 11.2.09; cherries-ripe, Chirak, wc, 6.24.07; A.Jackson, wc, 1844, Boyer-Houghton-Mifflin
Posted: 1.20 @ 2:33pE; Copyright © 2019

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 Super Cherry Pick: Triumvirate of Trimountaine, Return of the Prodigal QB and Le Last Quack

3 Feb

Even as the respective player position and team ranks (D / O) figure this SB52 title tussle to be alot closer than gamblers and sabrhead kids predict, it always comes down to the quarterbacks. In Super Bowl 52 that’s TomBrady v. NickFoles. It feels like a no-brainer, but keep your thinking cap on.

Tom’s mantle is laden with NFL accolades. Nick Foles, not so many. But the glitter of gold is sometimes hidden in the recesses, waiting to be mined.

This is Foles 2nd go-round with Philly. His first (2012-14) was a rollercoaster. Baptism by fire in his debut (1-5), in year two he was nearly MVP-caliber (8-2 / 27t-2i). But in his third Eagles season, while quarterback capable (6-2 / 13t-10i), he failed to meet owner and the junior-media expectations, skewed as they were.

Shipped off to the Rams for 2015 (4-7), then KC for another way-stop as Smith’s back-up (1-0), we, and maybe Nick himself, are not really sure WHAT to expect on a rather short 2018 PS run which started on a bye (WC), then a 5-pt. win over the A-Birds (Dvn’l) and the romp over a clueless Vikings club.

And with sore ribs, Foles will be one, unlucky, hard, targeted hit away from handing the reins over to rookie back-up, Redskins 2016 draftee and former Hoosier signal-caller, 6’6” Nate Sudfeld out of Modesto, California.

The Bible tale on the prodigal son and his high-profile return is well known (Luke Ch.15: 11–32). Jesus is said to’ve recounted it to his followers. Ultimately, pride is subjugated, forgiveness given and atonement made. All of which has nothing to do with Foles, except the returning home part. Titles necessarily afford the writer an artistic license with a broad interpretation of its wording.

But remember what that lad from Tremadog (UK) said (Lawrence of Arabia): “Nothing is written.” If Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hoists the Lombardi come Sunday nite in Minneapolis, resurrecting Philadelphia’s NFL championship legacy (60), it won’t be a GREAT surprise.

As long as there are turnovers in football, ANYTHING can happen.

Player notes: Rob Gronkowski has been cleared by the Medicals for contact but the human body has a mind and schedule of its own. Don’t expect big things from party animal in SB52. And Eagles’ RB Jay Ajayi (5.8ypc) is reported ankle hobbled and available but, like Gronk, can’t be expected to be impactful.

Empire Builders and Destroyers of Dreams

All roads lead to Rome. You might’ve heard that one before.

Now, put that ancient Italian-directional-turned-proverb into NFL18 terms: ‘All roads (to Titledom) lead to (Gestalt of Greater Boston and their Patriots).’

You like history? Good.

The ‘all roads’ line came into being as the Great City evolved over centuries time into the hub of planet Earth’s first mega-Empire (241BC – 395AD).

A centralized, metropolis where commerce and civilization constantly converge, Boston came to be known as Hub City for New England and thereabouts.

Beantown was hub of early colonial America north of Maryland until Philadelphia displaced it in population in the mid-1700s. Curiously, its first moniker shares another common call with that former Empire across the Atlantic: The capital of Massachusetts was originally known as Trimountaine, in reference to its three ancient peaks, while the Roman gestalt really began to take off with its First (60BC) and then Second (43BC) Triumvirates.

Making the switch from a Republic into an Imperial (dictator) state, its course was greatly shaped by a set of Triumvirates and the two men who toppled their respective power-shares: The first saw JuliusCaesar muscle Pompey & Crassus out (60BC), the second had Octavian (Augustus) flex MarkAntony and Lepidus into oblivion on way to the Empire‘s zenith of greatestness.

All those histrionics lead up to this pithy remark: Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft! Okay.

Never in the history of Stateside sportdom has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three personalities.

— — —

You might say the Philadelphia Eagles wily running-back LeGarrette Blount is having the last laugh. And “that ain’t no joke (“TT” / Reno 911).”

The Eagles 2017 backfield addition had been Mr. Reliable for the Pats for 3+ seasons, rushing for over 1000 yards and 18 League-leading TDs in 2016 and helped NewEngland to two Super titles. For the E-Birds this regular season, he ran for 766y on a spiffy 4.4 average. All of it has helped him fashion one of the most inspirational football comeback stories in recent memory.

Just a few years back things looked bleak for Blount.

A sophomore at Oregon in 2009, his Ducks dropped their opener at Boise State, dashing national title hopes. As the two clubs began to part, LeG was taunted by Broncos’ Byron Haut with great zeal, triggering a grazing blow by Blount in return. In opposite of the time-honored playground standard that holds, ‘He who starts the fight bears at minimum equal blame,’ Blount was instead made scapegoat, given lengthy suspension and saw his Heisman aspirations vanish.

The Buccaneers drafted the Madison, Florida native in 2010 (2R-37) and LeGarrette responded by making the cherished 1000 yard club. But by year three he saw his role and production greatly decrease. In 2013, Tampa sent him to the Patriots who, even on a spiffy 5.0 ypc, sent him to Pittsburgh (2014) only to return to Foxborough that same year to contribute 3-TDs to New England’s playoff run and SB49 win over Seattle. Two years later, Blount rushed for 100+ in last season’s successful playoff run (SB51).

Sometimes le life can turn terrific.

Super Bowl 52 Cherry Pick

Eagles v. Patriots (MN): 2.4 NBC 6:30pE (+): NewEngland

Record: 83 – 62 (7 – 3)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; N.Foles, 12.23.12, wc.cca, T-Sgt.C.Walker, Dover-USAF; B.Belichick, R.Kraft, J.Kerry, 4.25.15, White-House, wc, USDoS; Cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc, Caceres, Spain; J.Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 2.3.18 @ 4:35pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Conference Cherry Picks: “Who’s Your Daddy?” Fathers Halas & Hunt Are Who

20 Jan

Every NFL fan knows all too well, the most anticipated games of the season are the Conference championships, American and National title tussles. The caliber of competition is at its peak for sure.

But just as important is that it’s the last time in the campaign, one that began back in September, when fans will be treated (like TV today is free (ugh)) to a normally conducted contest with a halftime that doesn’t annoy the begeebers out of the adult-minded viewers in audience.

Divisional Reflectional

Marcus Williams: Playing devil’s advocate and assuming the Vikes closing seconds TD hook-up between QB Keenum and receiver Diggs that won their Divisional over the Saints was not clutch but fortuitous (clutch), its blame lay not with the rookie D-back but with his coaches who postioned him too far back to make the INT / PD and yet instinctually could never lay-in-wait to tackle Diggs.

In a broader sense, the League’s obession with glory stats in INTs / PDs has most corner-backs out of position to make sound & sensible tackles that in this case would’ve prevented the big TD play and at least made Minnesota have to kick a 50+ field goal, assuming a timeout could’ve even been had.

— — —

Thomas Morstead: You probably never heard the name before last Sunday’s tussle and likely never will again outside New Orleans, but the spunky Saints’ punter made a tackle on a Minnesota retun that rang through the bird-infested rafters of U.S. Bank Stadium like with a Chuck Bednarik-like force that’s not been seen on the new millennial gridiron before (Just guessing on the birds). In the process, Tom sustained rib injury, but he’ll recover. His tackle, however, in opposite of so many pathetic attempts by punters and linebackers alike in this era, will remain in this writer’s mind for a long time.

— — —

Marvin Lewis leads a charmed football life.

The likeable, soft-spoken at pressers coach, hired by Cincy in 2003 (125 – 112 – 3), could’ve been fired in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016, 2017 (7-9) (0-7 PS). Many media had Lewis being fired by the Bengals’ ownership in the person of Mike Brown after another disappointing finish to 2017 at 7-9. But alas, the Tigers 15-year head coach will be back for a sixteenth season. He’s gonna’ have to coach a winning campaign, then finally win a playoff game, right, Mike? Mike?

That development, while former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, achieving 9-7 marks in his last two seasons in Nashville, got the axe, by mutual agreement, so it was reported. Imagine that, agreeing to your firing. The world of contract.

— — —

Hunting and Halasing for Silver Swag

The Conference championships aren’t just a showcase of the best in prof’l football this side of the 49th Parallel (See; CFL), it’s also the one time in the year when the two formally separate operations celebrate, in a sense, their respective founding fathers in George Halas (NFL) and Lamar Hunt (AFL), Leagues having merged in 1966.

The celebration takes place in having each father’s name etched onto his Conference champions trophy. To historians of the game, this gesture might seem a bit beneath what George Halas deserves, a nameplate on the Super Bowl swag itself. Halas ranks first in a tie with Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick in having taken five (5) NFL titles, was an early player with Decatur / Chicago and critical in the League’s formation and survival into today’s $8 billion business and national platform for every pitch under the Sun, from cars and cola to crass sock displays (C.Kaepernick).

2018 Conference Cherry Picks

Jaguars @ Patriots: 1.21 CBS 3:05: Pats
Vikings @ Philadelphia: Fox 6:40: Eagles

Record: 81 – 62 (5-3)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; P.Rozelle-G.Halas, 1980s, wc.cca, Summaria; L.Hunt-AFC-trophy, wc, A.Kirk; J.Marshall, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 1.20.17 @ 2:58aE, edit 4:55p; Copyright © 2018