Tag Archives: Bart Starr

NFL17 Cherry Picks W8: An 18-Year Feast But Still No Bliss Point For Brady Fans

28 Oct

It may now be that time for Tom Brady, after eighteen seasons of uninterrupted stellar quarterback play, to get tagged with that special moniker, the one that naturally bestows upon a fabulous personality or field general: King.

It’s a funny thing, though, typically, the royal moniker will associate with a guy who you wouldn’t normally expect could carry off the titanesque title.

There was King Donovan, the spouse of Imogene Coca and a 1950s character actor best known for his supporting role to lead Kevin McCarthy in the great science fiction, anti-Communist thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (56).

There was “King Football,” 1940s-50s Hollywood heart-throb, Victor Mature. It‘s the nickname Vic‘s character “Pete Wilson” was bestowed in the 1949 film Easy Living when he played star tailback (QB) for the fictional pro team “Chicago Chiefs” but is then afflicted with a heart ailment, threatening his career and marriage to gold-digger wife, the lovely & leggy, Lizabeth Scott.

There was the original sporting King (James) Brady, an Elmer, New Jersey native who pitched in brief stints with four MLB clubs in the early 20th century (3-2 / 3.08), a stretch that included one start with the Boston Red Sox in 1908, going the distance on an 8-hit shutout. That’s pretty spiffy stuff.

And there was, if not the most famous, surely the most curious of all monarchical entertainers, King (James) Corcoran, another Jerseyite and legendary signal-caller known as the “poor man’s Joe Namath.” Not too shabby.

A University of Maryland Terrapin, KC bounced around the semi-pro circuit for good part of a decade (Waterbury Orbits 1967 >), finishing his run in the short-lived NFL rival operation, the World Football League for the Philadelphia Bell (1974-75), leading the League in TDs (31) and in 1982 being inducted into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So notorious was King Corcoran as a self-promoting ladies man that his character was the basis for an episode of The Rockford Files entitled, “The No-Cut Contract (76)” and portrayed as “Larry ‘King’ Sturtevant” by then All In The Family co-star, future director and son of classic comedian, Carl Reiner, his son, Rob. And the son pulled it off, with “caps.”

Like Rob, and Roy…Rogers, “King of the cowboys,” Tom could pull it off, too.

Brady’s personal and team achievements are too many to list without boring the bejeebers out of the reader. Suffice to say, leading his career-long team, the New England Patriots, to seven Lamar Hunt (AFCC) and five Vince Lombardi trophies (SB), including last season’s memorable come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons, leads that long list of accomplishments.

But deserved as he is, I’m not so sure Tom’d want the royal tag.

Never self-promoting or boisterous, apart from those occasional on-field outbursts of team spirit, Tom is a leader by example who leaves the swagger to those so inclined, winners and losers. It’s a style in league with the League’s greatest, from Sammy Baugh to Bart Starr to Brett Favre.

This season, New England surprised by stumbling out of the starting blocks, losing at home in W1 to the Chiefs (27-42). They’ve righted the ship, going 5-1 since then and hope to bump it to six wins (v Bolts) before their bye in W9.

Tom himself has been, take a guess, ter-RI-fico (66.4 C%, 15t-2i, 8.4 yppa).

In the Pats two loses, their offense averaged 28.5 per contest. Not too shabby as shabby usually goes in this League, one whose Thursday nite event was dominated in media by a god damn cat running onto the field.

TNF, it’s gotta’ go already, geez, Louise.

Brady’s top five attributes: 1) Pocket presence (smarts & wherewithal to hang in the pocket and take the hits necessary to read D); 2) Judgment capability (low INTs); 3) Top talent (thread the needle); 4) Thick-skin (the tenacity to throw-off loss and rebound), and 5) What neurologists call a fluid intellect. Presented with a new circumstance, Tom can figure it out and quickly. Belichick helps.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 8

MIN @ CLE (L): 10.29 NFLN 9:30: Vikings
Atlanta @ NewYorkJets: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Carolina @ Buccaneers: Fox 1:00: TampaBay
Chicago @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Oakland @ Buffalo Bills: CBS 1:00: Raiders
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Houston @ Seahawks: CBS 4:05: Seattle
Cowboys @ DC Redskins: Fox 4:25: Dallas
Pittsburgh @ DetroitLions: NBC 8:30: Steelers

Record: 27 – 21

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; TomBrady, wc.cca, 9.14.14, A.Campbell; T.Brady, wc.cca, KeithAllison, WashingtonDC, 8.28.09; BartStarr, wc.cca, 1967?; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc.cca, 2011; JimMarshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 10.27.17 @ 10:32pE, edit 10.28; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport 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, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 – SB51: Lombardi’s Legend Lives But It’s Bill Belichick’s Trophy Now, Vince

27 Jan

When the Big Game (SB51) is over n’ done, when all the “whohoopers” have blown and “tartookas” have bung, when the champions raise the Lombardi as a prize they’ve just won, serious discussions should begin at NFL Central about the prospect of re-naming the Big Trophy, after he hangs up his headset, of course, for the New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick who has for the better part of two decades mastered the sport like no other before.

— — —

It is Vince Lombardi’s name that is etched onto each Super Bowl trophy since 1971 (SB5), the year after the great NFL coach, teacher and cultural icon died from colon cancer in the nation’s capital city, Washington, D.C.

belichick-wc-d-shankbne-4-24-12-m176Vince’s pro journey began as the offensive coordinator on the 1950s Jim Lee Howell Giants (Landry as DC), then on recommendation of the Packers first choice, Iowa’s Forest Evashevski, was offered and accepted the project of resurrecting the greatness that had been Green Bay football under its founder, Curly Lambeau. When he was done in the Dairyland (‘68), having piled up five (5) NFL titles, including Super Bowls I & II, the Brooklyn-born taskmaster (Thurston: “He treats us all the same, like dogs”) was the standard of excellence in coaching and then started to tackle a new project in Washington, D.C. in guiding the long-suffering Redskins to their first winning season since Harry Truman’s first year as President in 1945 (7-5-2 (69)).

Lombardi’s Packers dominated much of the 60s, became the pride of Wisconsin football fans once again and, in its earlier days, the source of no small joy for the #1 Catholic and Vince’s friend in the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

With his winning ways and confident, at times arrogant air, his legend grew to colossal size, so big that the name Lombardi become sacrosanct in sporting circles. All of which means a call to replace the name on the Silver Swag would lead Packer-backers and media friendlies to just about freak.

But the Vince Lombardi brand of ball is as old as a pair of Johnny Unitas high-tops. Not lesser in its importance, just older.

His style of coaching (“Captain Ahab” to Mike Tomlin’s “cheerleader(ing)?”) and game plans that dominated the gridiron are long gone, unknown to younger fans as the NFL’s Network rarely showcases their vintage & voluminous NFL Films library, fixated instead on gab & top ten lists to bring in the teeny-boppers.

lombarditrophy-wc-safetycap-6-16-16-619kThe last remnants of the Lombardi / pre-pass game retired when his rival Bud Grant handed-in his clipboard (‘85). Though personalities far apart (See; MMQB – SI.com), Vince & Bud were like-minded in their passion and emphasis on ground-game, team-play and toughness: No gloves, warming or sticky, nor heaters on the Metropolitan Stadium (d. 1983) or Lambeau Field sidelines, no matter the frigidity (-13°). It was a man’s game, though, on occasion, brutish ball (See; Ice Bowl).

‘So what’ you say, ‘Lombardi’s name is a terrific tie to the NFL’s glorious past!’ Agree. Nobody loves history more than this scribbler but the trophy should be fairly current in name-plate, more representative of the National game as it stands. Not to cue a change every ten (10) years but when 2+ generations have spanned and a good candidate is present (BB), a renovation is in order. Frankly, the Tiffany-designed trophy needs an update, a new model to lose the tail-fins.

This pitch isn’t about pegging the best head coach in NFL history. We know who the best assistant coach is in Buddy Ryan (d.2016), Hall-worthy anyway, voting snobs, but trying to make permanent the best ever by etching a name is foolish.

There’s never been a better football coach, motivator, than Vince Lombardi. But then one could safely say the same about Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, NFL founder George Halas (NFCC trophy), Weeb Ewbank, Hank Stram, Curly Lambeau, John Madden and so on and so on.

sb-trophy-wc-2-5-12-l-tyrnes-s-lukeNot just any ol’ championship coach should be knocking the great Vince Lombardi off of his lofty, symbolic perch.

And Bill Belichick ain’t just any ol’ champion coach.

New England’s hoodie-wearing, gridiron guru is nonpareil and stands as the League’s new standard of excellence, a winning method as clear and consistent, as admired and feared by opponents as was the Green Bay Packers power-sweep in the 1960s. Success seems almost automatic.

What about Spygate? With ever-changing technologies there’s a corresponding rapid change in societal mores and then challenges in defining new boundaries.

His detractors might diss this on Bill, ‘Without Brady, Belichick is fair at best.’

But every great coach has his great player(s): Holmgren had Favre, Jackson had Michael, Huggins had Ruth…and Gehrig, Pop Warner had Thorpe, Riley had Magic, Bill has Tom and Vince had Bart Starr, who, if not the master-motivator behind the success was the master implementer of Lombardi‘s vision.

The difference? Some have a flair for innovation. In the Big Name group, men like Pop, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sid Gillman, Hank Stram, Halas, Walsh, Lambeau, Paul Brown, Lombardi, Tommy Gorman, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Dick Irvin, Adrian “Cap” Anson, Pete Carroll, John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Knute Rockne and Belichick invent ways to win while putting an emphasis on fundamentals.

lombardi-starr-wc-cca-gbBeauty of Belichick is best illustrated, not in Pats 2016 regular season mark (14-2), almost ho-hum for a B&B team, but that even as Tom was out, NE went 3-1 (Ws v. AZ, MIA and HOU), guided by two quarterbacks who, though played with composure, had zero (0) starts prior between them in Jim Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

By the time Bill retires, probably not long after his #1 (Tom) hangs up his cleats, Lombardi’s name will have graced the Big Trophy for over fifty (50) years. That’s a long, respectful time.

When the Powers-that-Be named the trophy in 1970, it was about excellence, empathy & remembrance. Another naming (2020+) could be about excellence, remembrance and relevancy. But even if, Belichick, as was Lombardi, is proud and would likely refuse the honor. Great minds think alike. Vince wasn’t all too keen either about renaming City Field for the legendary Lambeau. But one can hardly imagine today the famous frozen tundra titled any other way.

Will Bill Belichick hoist his 5th Lombardi when SB51 comes to a close? That I have not yet decided. Whether he does or doesn’t, the name game will begin.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; B.Belichick, wc, D.Shakbne, 4.24.12; LombardiTrophy, wc, Safetycap, 6.16.16; SB-Trophy, wc, 2.5.12, Tyrnes, S.Luke; Lombardi-Starr, wc.cca; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UoM
Posted: 1.27.17 @ 1:40pm, edit (+BW) 1.28 @ 9:42 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W2: New Digs, Old Scores to Settle in League’s Fiercest Feud

18 Sep

Bad Blood

The date: October 22, 1961.

The place: Metropolitan Stadium (d.1984), Bloomington, Minnesota.

The weather: Overcast, mild (55°), breezy and humid (72%).

The event: The Green Bay Packers take to Minnesota tundra for the first time to face-off against the fledgling Vikings in the Norsemen’s inaugural NFL campaign.

The head coaches: Vince Lombardi (GB ‘59) v. Norm Van Brocklin (MIN ‘61).

starr-wc-cca-gb-1956-71-301kSome of the more notable players: Green Bay: Bart Starr (QB), Paul Hornung (HB), Jim Taylor (FB), Boyd Dowler (E), Herb Adderley (CB/KR), Willie Wood (S/PR), Ray Nitschke (LB), Willie Davis (DE), Jim Ringo (C), Forrest Gregg (T/G), Jerry Kramer (G) and Henry Jordan (DT); Minnesota: Francis “The Scrambler” Tarkenton (QB), Hugh McElhenny (HB), Tommy Mason (K-PR) and Hall-of-Fame Overlookees Jim Marshall (DE) & Grady Alderman (T/G).

I was around at the time but what you might call, highly dependent.

A fetus, was I, though, in using contemporary Supreme Court standard, given Mom’s stage of pregnancy, I would’ve been adjudged well into viability (24th week (+/-), lungs working) and fully vested with all Constitutional rights and protections appurtenant.

Nonetheless, awareness was not one of those rights, or senses, more accurately, and I literally could not have cared any less than I (probably) did as to outcome of this opening act between the Vikings and Packers in the early 60s. That (caring) would come ten years later as I invoked my right to choice and began siding with one of the two teams at issue. Hint: Brett Favre was one terrific QB.

And I was the better in amniotic fluid, having missed this earliest engagement.

tarkenton-wc-themiaminews-1-9-74-320kThe first encounter between these two Northern rivals, arguably the most hateful rivalry in today’s NFL, not so much amongst players who, like most jocks in 2016, schmooze plenty (ugh), but rather, acrimony in the stands amongst the fans, wasn’t much of a contest.

The Pack, who’d go on to take the 1961 NFL title, Vince’s first as a head honcho, in trouncing Allie Sherman, Y.A. Tittle and Sam Huff’s New York Giants, 37-0, gave a like lesson in prowess to the Purple People, 33-7 on that mild, late October day. Vandy Commodore and ’62 Pro-Bowler Tom Moore ran wild in Bloomington for 159 as Tark threw three to the other team and benched for George Shaw late.

In a funny quirk of scheduling (It was a time that allowed for inexactitude), Green Bay would give the Vikings another spanking the next Sunday (It was a time that allowed for discipline), though, not so firmly, in besting their new rival, 28-10 at Lambeau, then known as City Field (It was a time that allowed for succinctness).

Things would get better for the Norsemen.

By 1964, having been thoroughly thumped by the Acme monsters for six straight, the Vikings, who almost became an AFL original in 1960 (Oakland), finally got off the schneid and beat the Packers 24-23 in the Fox Valley en route to their first winning season (8-5-1).

peterson-1-28-12-wc-arvee5-0-309kIn time, tables would turn in favor of the Minnesotans with Lombardi’s move upstairs (‘68), then to DC and Bud Grant’s long run of success from late 60s into the 1980s. The W-L tally between the two would hover around the .500 mark even through the Favre era (including his Minnesota sojourn (’09-10)) but swing heavily back to the green & yellow with coming-of-age of Mr. Rodgers.

What to expect this Sunday as the Packers fly to Minneapolis to help break the seal on the Vikes new digs, US Bank Stadium? We know Mike & Aaron will matriculate and Coach Zimmer’s men will play some defense. Keys: Can the host muster enough offense in backing their QB, whomever it be (Hill / Bradford), and the visitors make enough tackles late to make those points Rodgers does put on the board, sufficient.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 2

Dallas (0-1) @ DC (0-1): 9.18 Fox 1:00: Redskins win
Bengals (1-0) @ Pittsburgh (1-0): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
New Orleans (0-1) @ NY Giants (1-0): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Miami Dolphins (0-1) @ New England Patriots (1-0): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) @ Houston Texans (1-0): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Tennessee Titans (0-1) @ Detroit Lions (1-0): CBS 1:00: Tennessee wins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) @ Arizona: Fox 4:05 (GTW): Cardinals win
Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ Oakland Raiders (1-0): CBS 4:25: Atlanta wins
Indianapolis Colts (1-0) @ Denver Broncos (1-0): CBS 4:25: Indy wins
Packers (1-0) @ Minnesota (1-0): NBC 8:30 (GTW2): Green Bay wins
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) @ Chicago (0-1): 9.19 Disney 8:30: Bears win

Record: 4-4

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: B.Grant, wc.cca, 1.10.77, Eugene-Register-Guard; B.Starr, wc, GB, 1956-71; F.Tarkenton, wc, The-Miami-News, 1.9.74; A.Peterson, wc, Arvee5.0, 1.28.12; cherries-cloth, wc, 06-2011, picdrome; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 9.18.16 @ 1:04am EST: Copyright © 2016

NFL16: Is There Really a Clutch Gene in the Strands?

14 Jun

Clutch Cargo

‘NEWS FLASH!

Roxanne Vivid (anchor): This just in. Some curious news from the science bunch. Craig, what do you have that’s exciting?

Craig Wherewithall (field reporter): Yes, Roxanne. Exciting? Possibly. Just a bit un-nerving? Oh yeah.

Biochemist researchers are preparing to make announcement today on what they claim is the first identification and isolation of a unique human gene tagged officially as CLT1 but more commonly known as the clutch gene.

Who’s likely to have such favored DNA nucleotide has not yet been determined but water-cooler scuttlebutt amongst genies, that’s slang for genetic engineers, Roxy, says a good, healthy appetite for turnips or radishes are, inexplicably two preliminary indicators of a person who may bear this curious gene.

What do ya’ think of that, Rox, turnips?

Roxanne Vivid: That’s why they pay you the big bucks, Craig.’

— — —

*........ClutchCargo.team.smIt’s not so far-fetched.

There’s a smoker’s gene, a breast cancer gene (BRCA1), a fat gene, a thin gene, a hair (loss (ugh)) gene, there’s gotta’ be an insatiable-gene that keeps us grabbin’ for more pop & chips and a longevity gene that may invite one to fully embrace that smoker’s gene. There’s even a Gene Simmons, a Gene Shalit, a Gina Lollobrigida (89 on 7.4) and a clutch of black-billed magpies.

So why couldn’t there be a clutch gene in amongst all of those co-mingled and cooperating chromosomes?

If epigenetists ever do pinpoint one’s clutchness you can expect corporate / government recruiters, with Constitutional case-law in hand, to dive head first into job applicant gene pools. NFL draft boards too would get into the act with cooperative agents and NFLPA Suits approval, drawing blood samples pre-draft in search of my mythical CLT1. Future Shock (‘70)? Future freaky, for sure.

Until that disturbing day arrives we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with assessing clutch capability the old-fashioned way: Game film, practice (yes, Allen) & play.

Why all this biochemistry blue-sky? To get kicking about the quarterbacks, of course. It’s summertime and you’ve gotta’ find NFL topics where you can, unless you like to vest heavily in the OTA stuff: Sweat City.

........DNA.11.21.11.wc.Spiffistan.thmThere are coaches, defensive stalwarts, even some of those who practice the oldest profession in football…on the field, the kickers, that should on occasion have their genes tested for stress and durability (What have they done to my Levi’s®?!).

But it’s the field generals who’ll have their moxie under a microscope and clutch credentials scoured from start to finish in NFL16, some of them well-est’d starters, others just getting their first taste of battle with no ribbons yet on their chests.

Veterans of the gridiron like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Russ Wilson, NaVorro Bowman, D’Qwell Jackson, Lavonte David, Paul Posluszny, J.J. Watt, Adam Vinatieri, who is 43 when NFL16 kicks off (12/28/72), and coaches Belichick & Carroll will have no queries made on their clutchness. They all got it.

Those signal-callers still a bit green, early in their NFL journey or who labor on teams that are regular cellar-dwellers will not be subject of clutch speculation here either, even as ‘bad team’ is relative to quarterback play, of course.

But those quarterbacks who, even holding of impressive résumés that may include a Super Bowl ring, well established skill-sets but fair-to-middling post-season marks, will necessarily open themselves up to the clutch query: Do such players possess the clutch chromosome or merely performed a fortuitous catch of the proverbial lightning-in-a-bottle?’

........Rodgers.McCarthy.9.9.12.wc.Morbeck.thmThe list of names could include Andy Dalton (CIN), Joe Flacco (BAL), Andy Luck (IND), Phil Rivers (SD), Carson Palmer (AZ), Cam Newton (CAR), Matt Ryan (ATL), Matt Stafford (DAL), Jay Cutler (CHI) and Tony Romo (DAL). Every one an All-Pro with an impressive playoff victory or two under his belt, some having even drunk from the goblet of champions but waving a red-flag by recent and regular failures in finishing the job, making observers wonder whether they still have clutch capability or ever really had it in the first place.

And there’s one more top QB sporting a small flag as well that stands out from even that select group of starry signal-callers: Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

Quarterback spot holds a special significance on every football squad, multiplied ten-fold in NFL circuit, bestowing a special cachet and no small amount of stress for its holder in locales like New York City (Giants / Jets), Dallas (America’s Team) and now on return to USA’s largest metropolis in Los Angeles (Rams).

But no command post is as pressure-packed (no pun) as that of NFL’s most successful franchise in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, City of Green Bay (13 titles).

One of the League’s oldest members (1921), it’s been a std-bearer for most of its near 100 year existence and showcased some of the best at the QB spot with the likes of Arnie Herber and single-wing tailback Cecil Isbell in 1930s and 40s and then modern pocket passers in Bart Starr, Brett Favre and now Rodgers.

.......McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.7.TJ.Grant.thmThe grinning guy in green & yellow and State Farm spokesman hoisted the Lombardi in just his 3rd season out of UCB (SB45 PIT) and has garnered two AP – MVP trophies since taking reins from the legendary Brett Favre in 2008. The passing numbers and weighty win-% keep piling up for Mr. Matriculator while a playoff appearance is practically a given with AR at the helm.

But Rodgers career playoff mark is a middling 7-6 with the infamous (not to Seattle fans) Cheese-Melt of 2015 still weighing on minds of Wisconsinites as the one that got away, leaving a lingering, bad taste in their mouths only to be rinsed clean by guzzling nectar from the cup of a champion (SB). Burp.

The drop-off in Aaron’s production in 2015-16 was short of glaring (60.7 C%, 3821py & 6.7 ypa, the latter #s career lows on 15g+) but noteworthy nonetheless. It’s common knowledge that the injury exit of GTG receiver Jordy Nelson was a factor in the drop but it’s also a known maxim that great QBs are possessing of the ability to raise the level of play of their teammates, when that surrounding cast is generally capable (See; Brady, Peyton, Big Ben, Brees, etc.).

With an earlier than expected exit from 2016 playoffs and the Purple taking the Black & Blue title, Packer-backers have been looking to scapegoat, someone other than a well decorated player with field citations: Hello, Mike McCarthy. It would have to be a coach, go figure.

.......Packers.Cheer.8.26.10.M.Morbeck.thmMike has coached Green Bay to eight winning seasons in his ten at the helm at Lambeau, seven double-digits, posts a .653 regular W%, has but one losing run, has managed the Pack to three NFCCs and won an NFL title in 2011 (SB45). But like his star QB in Rodgers, his post-season W% is an unremarkable 8-7.

That just passable PS mark, plus memory of Seattle still festering, has some Packers’ fans, most too young to recognize the name Chuck Mercein, comparing MM to the demigod Lombardi. That would be like judging The Searchers (’56) by today’s PC code. “Scar” would have to lose the snarl and drink tea with the Duke:

Scar: ‘More sugar, Broad Shoulders?
Ethan: Why yes, thank you. Nice teepee.’

Were Vince alive today (102) he’d understand the days of dynasty are over, the true form, anyway (’61, 62, 66, 67, 68) and that putting your team in position to play for the Conference title, something Mike has done his part to achieve consistently (’08, 11 & 15), is credentialing aplenty to be spared what’s become a yearly issue over his coaching caliber. Pack needs to energize in 2016? Sure. Mike needing to make his case? Nyet. Vince wouldn’t play that game. Wise man.

There’s little doubt these two GB gents possess a gene at least akin to the clutch variety. At worst, they’re certainly not clearly lacking in the nerve nucleotide.

Maybe everyone has a clutch gene, differentiated simply by the quantity or quality of histone protein that encircles our DNA strand (I did a smidgen of research), empowering one to seize the moment and perform in crunch.

Hooray for histone!

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.8; Clutch-Cargo; DNA, 11.21.11, Spiffistan, wc; Rodgers-McCarthy, 9.9.12, M.Morbeck, wc; McCarthy, wc, 8.11.7, TJ.Grant; Packers-cheer, wc, M.Morbeck, 8.26.10; NFL-wikiproject.
Posted: 6.14.16 @ 5:32pm; Copyright © 2016

NFL15 Cherry Division: Echoes of ’67, with Gloves

9 Jan

Reconstructing Legacies

It’s won’t be the Ice Bowl (‘67), and the “tundra” won’t be “frozen” when Dallas takes to Lambeau Field Sunday to face long-time rival Green Bay, not unless the forecast takes an icy turn for the worse (-13° ‘67). Weather folk expect seasonal cold on game-day (20°) w/partly cloudy skies, a slight warm-up from a frigid 11° predicted on Saturday before.

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But the cartels of Cowboys, Packers, assorted fandoms and production personnel that’ll fill the historical echo-chamber to its rafters this weekend (1-11 Fox 1:00 EST), will likely feel plenty snug, no matter the chilly climate.

In pre-game build-up, the hallowed history shared by the Pack and Lone Star bunch will hang heavy in the crispy & crackly Wisconsin air (unless, hace viento) as both squads fully fixate on trying to simultaneously reconstruct past winning ways while hoping to break with some losing legacies, old and not so old.

..............dallas.cowboys.wordmark.wc.cca

For the Cowboys part, they’re making their first post-season visit to Packerland since that bitter cold day (and they were all day-timers back then), December 31, 1967, armed for bear and cheese, and bent on avenging the late-game, sneaky loss (QB Starr) to the host Packers (21-17) in a game many aged 50 & up consider the greatest ever played.

Some of the participants, on both sides, might disagree, saying, ‘It was no game, it was a frozen farce.’ But such a titanic test of wills, courage & creativity may never again be put to two squads, championship venue or otherwise.

What Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hopes to resurrect is two-fold: 1) a playoff prowess they’d had versus the Pack, all in Texas, that began in their next PS meet post-Ice Bowl, the strike-shortened ‘83 win over Bart Starr’s bunch (37-26) and ending in a barn-burner win over Holmgren & Co., 38-27 (‘96); and 2) locate their America’s Team playbook and return to the Super State that made them beloved, coast-to-coast (’72, 78, 93, 94, 96).

...........Packers.logo.1959.wc.cca.thumb

While Dallas is America’s Team, Packers are most certainly History’s Team. Mike McCarthy looks to re-establish home-field advantage that’d made City-County-Lambeau fields graveyards for the title-dreams of visitors for 50 years. Of their last 9 playoffs, 5 have ended in home loses (‘14, 12, 08, 05, 03), something unheard of in days of Curly, Vince and even Bart (STL WC ’83).

So, what will Sunday’s frozen fist-a-cuff have in common with the Ice Bowl?

Besides the obvious (DAL @ GB, cold, etc.), these Packers, though not taking to tundra as defending champs (SEA), still can, like their brethren of yore, claim a superior status (SB ‘11) to Dallas who haven‘t supped champagne since ‘96. In ‘67, Tom Landry had not won an NFL title, having lost their chance (and trip to SB1) earlier the same year (1-1-67) in Big D, losing NFL championship to the Packers (27-34) to whom they’d fall yet again less than a year later in Green Bay.

............Romo.10.13.10.bigcatsliar.wc.thmb

Another resemblance: the QBs. Like Starr, the greatest field tactician in the history of pro football, Packers current signal-caller Aaron Rodgers has an NFL title to his credit going into Sunday‘s match, whilst his Dallas opposite, Tony Romo, like Cowboys colorful and talented ‘67 signaler, “Dandy” Don Meredith, still seeks his own clutch-charm (ring).

What will be different?

Again, besides the obvious (more TV ads, crowd goofs, muscle-mass explosion), the field condition will be much improved.

In 1967, high-tech maintenance had just been hatched and through a series of miscues the installed technology, well, laid a hard, slippery egg. Today, it’s an art form and the turf will be playable, i.e., no razor-sharp ice shards or cement-bounce, the type of ricochet that sent GB’s top-hands in Boyd Dowler out early w/concussion from the legendary game.

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And then there’s the hand-wear.

It’s become part of Ice Bowl lore: Vince Lombardi’s refusal to allow sideline heaters and glove-wear for his men in this coldest of contests. Different days, indeed.

That didn’t stop Cantonese linebacker Dave Robinson from using his noggin. Cleverly, Dave donned a pair of dark hand-mittens in hopes the coach wouldn’t notice. He didn’t, or didn’t squawk about it, and Robinson saved his digits from frost-bite, a malady many would sustain and suffer lingering pains from for the rest of their days (See: J. Pugh).

But no such worries today, no sir-ee, Bob. Those cozy & comfy symbols of sissified man-hood, and sticky solution to the butter-fingered ball-hawk, that make a small mint ($) for a handful but a mockery of the sport, have practically everything covered. But admittedly, at this time of the year, in northern Wisconsin, a little C&C can be excused.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

Two questions leading up to Sunday‘s juggernaut joust, apart from how Aaron Rodgers calf injury plays out (“The secret is not minding that it hurts (O’Toole (LoA)):”

Who will be Chilly Bowl’s Chuck Mercein, Packers little used full-back (‘67: 14a, 56y) who was co-hero with Starr in breaking big runs in Green Bay’s final scoring drive?

And, will convalescing Bart and his former on-field nemesis, Bob Lilly (“Mr. Cowboy”) be watching the game? None better than those two. And yet the broadcast won’t be the same w/out Ray Scott (d. ’98) calling the action. Should be a “dandy,” Don (d. ’10). We remember.

Deconstructing Victory

It’s become the new, annoying tradition following football contests where questionable calls, and referees who make ‘em, are run through the ringer by faux-football media and easily excitable patrons, as it were a national crisis.

Simultaneous-gate (‘12) may’ve triggered this endless, post-game paralysis.

That’s when the visiting Packers were defeated in Seattle on a last-second hail Mary from QB Wilson to Golden Tate for the game-winning TD. Grab was upheld, offensive PI noted, the striking refs relieved the replacements and looming disaster was averted.

Last Sunday it was a no-call on a flagged pass play in Detroit – Dallas game that ruffled feathers. The hosts caught a break and media went bonkers, deconstructing the win and in the process, pinned a scarlet F (favored) on Dallas’ uniforms for the rest of their run.

Bottom line: Titlists overcome, or avoid adversity altogether. Just ask Jerry Kramer (Instant Replay (‘67)).

Deconstructing by Injury

“Got (Health)?” It matters, especially to those who put their bodies on the line, week in, week out. Football season takes its toll, oh Mama. Three of the four wild-card contests last weekend were shaped by injury outs.

Repairing the human body is not like a race car pulling into pit-row. Can’t just put on a new set of Goodyear® tires. And even if you could, it takes time to figure their form, learn game plan and develop synergy with mates.

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Cardinals, Steelers and Bengals all got bounced in the wild-card round but have injury excuse. That doesn’t mean Indy, Baltimore and Carolina were undeserving winners, just that it aught provide cover from Monday morning ne’er-do-wells who dish out harsh.

Case-in-point, ESPN’s Stephen Smith, co-host of First Take. The bombastic one stated that Cincinnati is “accepting mediocrity…not Marvin Lewis, but Mike Brown.” Oh.

............ESPN.Jkinsocal.wc.cca.2.1.13.thumb

Only Smith and the new ESPN could spout silly, then leap-frog a black coach to get to the white owner, and get away with it, raising no racially-insensitive, red-flag.

Injuries late season can deconstruct a team. Replacements need time to acclimate to the scheme. Wiser football fans, players and brass will shrug & bear it when the wheels come off and look to next season in hopes of a healthier run.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Andy Dalton is, or is not, the long-term future for Cincy. He just wasn’t given a fair, and what some were figuring to be a final, playoff test in Colts game. Gotta let it play out in smart fashion.

Roger the Dodger

Mueller Report (in brief), released 1.8.15:

..........Goodell.thumbnail.flag

Winners: Roger Goodell, NFL and football fans;

Losers: Anti-Rogerians (AP, select media scribes, TMZ, ESPN (Disney) elite, Ray Rice, anti-Redskins, NFLPA leaders, on-line trolls, minions, etc) and the Committee to Promote Condoleezza Rice for NFL Commissioner;

Unaffected (or lost in analysis): victims & perpetrators of domestic violence and / or abuse, and a “criminal justice system” which, curiously, Mr. Mueller apparently believes should not be template for private sector.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Divisional Rd: “No funny business”

Ravens @ New England: 1-10 NBC 4:35 EST: Pats win
Panthers @ Seattle: 8:15 Fox: Seahawks win
Cowboys @ Green Bay: 1-11 Fox 1:05: Dallas wins
Indianapolis @ Denver: CBS 4:40: Broncos win

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: IceBowl, art, wc.cca, JL1Row, GBHoF, ’10; Icebowl, Gorham, 1871, HMoA, Pearl, ’13, wc.cca; Dallas.cowboys, wordmark, wc.cca; Packers, wc.cca, ’59, word-mark; Romo, wc.cca, bigcatsliar, ’10; NFLgloves, USMC.Iraq, 7.27.06, Cpl.Lewis, wc.cca; Rodgers, Morbeck, wc.cca, ’08; Bengals, wc.cca, wordmark, ‘71-96; ESPN, CT, Jkinsocal, ’13, wc.cca; Goodell, wc.cca, 8.30.12, SSG.T.Wade, USMA; cherries, wc.cca, ’11, picdrome.
Posted: 1-8-15 @ 11:59pm EST