Tag Archives: ESPN

ESPN17: Start Bailing ‘Little Buddy,’ This Skipper Can’t Steer a Ship Either

4 May

ESPN president and Disney Suit John Skipper would never be confused on sight with Alan Hale’s seafaring TV character of the 1960s shipwreck comedy, Gilligan’s Island (’64-67 CBS). Now “Thurston Howell III,” Jim Backus’ sarcastic and always well-attired millionaire on the high-traffic but officially deserted key, he might bear a slightly better resemblance, at least in trappings.

Hale Jr. (“Skipper”), the son and near image of his famous actor father (mother was silent star Gretchen Hartman) and namesake who teamed with many greats including Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38) (“Little John”), played the perpetually frustrated captain with the half-dozen castaways and bore little physical likeness to the contemporary Cufflink and Columbia graduate.

But were you to compare the two on their judgment and disposition of respective charges (“S.S. Minnow” v. ESPN), “Mr. Howell” might very well say this of both leaders: ‘Now I say, Lovie, there are two men cut from the same cloth…burlap!’

Disney ≠ sports

Last week the Disney (ESPN) sports network made the real news page when they announced the firing of 100 or so employees, some of long standing like NFL reporter / insider, Ed Werder and anchor Jay Crawford.

You want details on the pink-slip parade? You’ll have to peruse the net yourself. I can’t afford the megabytes, not with usage rates soaring skyward (oy vey).

Suffice to write, if these terminations are consistent with the industry approach in recent years, most of the pinkees were male, white, older (35+) and performed their jobs with overall skill and dedication, i.e., too many college degrees for too few jobs and with too many niche markets to meet.

Do we care about the cut-down, even as sport fans? Hmmm, not really. Aside from the smidgen of camaraderie I feel for the majority in that I too am male, white, degreed and older, those fired should’ve seen this coming years ago and prepared accordingly with resume updates in phone #s and references.

This mass, forced exodus may be just one more phase in a pattern of ill-advised changes that’ve been steadily implemented since Skipper took to steering content calls in 2005. Though, in the case of fired NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, the former QB had not been the same since he seems to’ve taken that bad (saboteur-ish (?)) advice from “Kenny Mitchell” on the set to develop an edge (See; Rob Parker).

What the downsize does do is provide a sounding-board for this former Disney devotee to vent views on likely motivations behind the on-going chintzy changes being wrought by Skipper & Co. to the network’s motif & mission, and then the big markers along this sad journey that have turned what had been a sport fan dreamland (1979 – 2010) into a nightmare that seems to have no good end.

♫ Those Were The Days My Friend ♫

I was a regular of ESPN’s early entrée in the 1980s. I think those like me had grown up on ABC Wide World of Sport and figured this was the next best step.

Diversity in race, gender and games was absent in the anchorage and content in this Mercury stage of cable media, so to speak. But by Apollo phase (85 >) pay-load in variety had launched, hit pay-dirt ($) and has been in orbit ever since.

Bottom-line: Everybody was welcome. Male or female, black or white, young or old, USA-born or foreign, most viewers had a common thread running through their collective letter jacket: A sincere love of sport. We didn’t care if you were a purple octopus from Venus reading the copy, if you knew your stuff, we could tell and we watched. And if you didn’t, we could spot that too. But those fakes never showed up on the Sportscenter back then or were awful terrific actors.

If a fan of the American majors (MLB, NFL, etc.) and highlights, you were in clover. Sport news served piping hot, before poker (Zzzz), college aid (ESPNU), morning fashion plate, kid content (X Games), music promos, Sportscenter specialty segments and all those boorish talking heads. Had the foreign sporting fare been served up (soccer (fútbol), rugby, béisbol – 野球 – 야구), their fans too would be waxing sentimental and grinding their teeth over ESPN’s devolution.

And there was always the ticker at the bottom of the screen as your fall-back to get scores, sans the endless sabrmetric snooze for today‘s fantasy gambler.

For $12 a month, basic cable gave you a whole new world of information, not as broadly capable as the internet but less pricey and totally cool.

For news you got locals, networks and CNN Headline 24-7 with neutral anchors who just read the copy. For sport you got TBS (Braves), WGN (Cubs), USA network and Bristol-based ESPN: Also 24-7 with anchors in standard-issue blazers. Then came the acquisitions by ABC (‘84), Capital Cities Communications (‘85) and in 1996 the game-changer in The Walt Disney Company.

The anchor personalities were memorable (Tom Mees (d.1996) and Charley Steiner come to mind), all clear, often clever without being cute. There wasn’t a clunker among ‘em. The savvy Linda Cohn and Bob Ley are the two remaining but most moved on to greener pastures ($) only to fall off the map, so to speak.

And now it’s all gone, gone with the wind in Turner vernacular.

Youthenization

In the 90s began the serious expansion and then dilution of the ESPN product.

First came ESPN Radio (‘92), ESPN2 (93), ESPY nite (Only SAG name is worse) and then the X Games (95), the start of a youthenization that’s swept the TV dial (Expect a “Harry Potter” marathon on TCM in the not too distant future) and all consumerland (See; Honda Civic). All reasonable enough ventures but started a process of change that’s become OCD with the Suits & Skirts in charge.

With Disney’s stewardship an arrogant air began to permeate the place. Contra-indicated, given the history of Walt‘s baby, but this wasn‘t your father’s Disney.

Media high-hats arrived like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen Smith, Skip Bayless, most on the Sports Reporters not named Dick Shaap or John Saunders, radio Colin Cowherd, onliner Bill Simmons, host Trey Wingo and former jocks in Marcellus Wiley, Tedy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth, all displaying to differing degrees, that boyish bravado to stoke confrontation and then have come to define the new ESPN gestalt: Edgy and most often annoying as hell, for sport fans, anyway.

Once at the content wheel, John put his Disney-sized staple-remover to work.

Out went trusty ESPN News (b.96), bread & butter for the sport junkie.

SportsCentury, the hour-long documentaries hosted by Chris Fowler, before he took residence in the weight room, that did more for sport and history than anything Ken Burns ever did (or likely will), was given the boot in 2007.

Pulled from premium, mid-level satellite – cable package was ESPN Classic where light-hearted (Cheap Seats) and thought-provoking diversions (Woody’s World), made with equal parts of insight and comedy, were showcased.

And due to the network coined ‘instant classic’ phrase, any game, even from the nite before, qualified as vintage, meaning, Howe v. Hull, Lasorda v. Herzog, Bird v. Magic, Marino v. Kelly, were permanently shelved as pre-historic.

Then came the clearest sign that Disney no longer had any interest whatsoever in keeping up the pretense that their ESPN property was a sports network.

Even as 1st and 10 had became the most highly anticipated daily sport debate in all of American media (2003-11), sometimes as a segment (Cold Pizza / First Take (AM gab-fest format)), later stand-alone but always diverse, Skipper pulled the plug and replaced it with a niche-market sabrmetric / diversity combo show called Numbers Never Lie, then His & Hers. Perfect.

I don’t watch much Disney (ESPN) anymore. I’d suspect not many sport fans do (unless an engineer or heart surgeon, “numbers (can) lie” plenty). Why go where you’re not welcome, especially when the time allotted for real sport news is thinner than the newest female anchor?

Who’s likely to watch the “leader” in sport coverage nowadays?

1) College females and family with a connection to Title IX;
2) College males and young brothers with fantasy play lineups;
3) Foreign-born citizens and residents (ESPN Deportes 2004);
3) NBA followers; and
4) NFL fans who have by August developed a ravenous appetite for anything football. The exits of the too comfortable Tom Jackson – Chris Berman can only fuel the hunger to feast whatever‘s put onto the plate.

Cohn spoke recently about the firings, stating that she believes “politics” played a role in the employee upheaval. That’s very likely but something long standing, more deeply engrained in the Disney dynamic is really at its root.

Youthful whimsy in cartoon defined the Disney company Walt and his brother Roy began in 1923 Los Angeles. That core purpose in selling to children and adult sentimentalities to that end has remained the focus in today’s diversified media and entertainment giant. Modern empire-builders, the Disneys understood the emerging, malleable market that were Amercia’s youth (plus their giving parents) and designed a template for success that worked as a sort of incubator of early youthenization marketing which John has simply carried over to the ESPNs.

Even as yesteryear’s cartoons and theme-park pirate patches have been replaced on the network with slinky club-wear, rap music motifs, fantasy-driven stat-parades and ESPN phone-apps, the goal remains the same: Selling to kids.

What’s good for the Donald has not always been what’s good for the Daisy.

Most perplexing in John Skipper’s management of the ESPN monopoly is that in its multitude of channel options, sufficient to cater to all their target markets in kids, females, foreign fare and angry men (radio), he could’ve quite easily stayed connected to the substantive news format on one of those channels to retain the base viewership that had always been the network’s real sustenance.

But when a better, more sport-centric, likely more popular product is juxtaposed along-side a channel that runs so much niche stuff or downright gobbledygook, that arrangement can make programmers, not necessarily prospective viewers, very uncomfortable for having slotted the ephemera in the first place.

Me and my ilk departed from ESPN Islands long ago. There’s a free charter on the south end with weather updates on the hour. It’ll take you anywhere you want. All you need to board is a suitcase full o’ frustration and a love of sport.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: TheWaltDisneyCompany, wordmark, wc.cca; A.Hale.Jr., 9.12.66, wc, GilligansIsland, CBS; ESPN, wc, word mark; ESPN2, wc, word mark; ESPN, wc, 2.26.10, Jaworski, Wingo, Schlereth, Bruschi, J.Kern; ESPN-studio, wc, Jkinsocal, Bristol-CT, 2.2.13; StraightShooter, citrus.fruit-label
Posted: 5.4.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 5.4; Copyright © 2017

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NFL16 Cherry Picks W7: Dallas QB Dilemma Asks, ‘What Would Tony Do?’

19 Oct

If you like to write and then have habit of coupling that hobby with a love for everything that is the NFL, everything, that is, except Disney (ESPN) and Deion Sanders FaceTime chats (NFLN (ugh)), this particular hour in the week is one that either has you grooving with good thoughts or fumbling for a feature.

That time is Sunday afternoon around 4 o’clock (EST). It’s when everyone and their Grampa should be taking it easy, when NFL’s early slate of games have come to a close and the twilight tussles are just about to kick-off. It’s also when themes begin to emerge from the game results to work a collage of motifs that’ll be used in promotion of next weekend’s match-ups.

Side-bar: If you want to read a good definition for ‘Grampa,’ …this is difficult, go to urbandictionary.com (“sm1l3 (8.21.8)”). Too often a post place for petulance and porn-obsessed whatevers, this person’s insightful, heartfelt, humorous and non-conforming rendition gives UD a much needed injection of class.

hammock-wc-9-13-07-bjorn-som-tenger-45kSome topics are on-going but in the course of the game crystallize into a clear controversy (Dallas QB, hot-seat sizzle, etc.), others having just sprouted and quickly blossomed into fragrant fodder for the media to breath-in and exhale (injuries, officiating).

A few toppers from Week 6:

Did Kaep Krusader meet his Lionheart (or Saladin) in Buffalo loss? It wouldn’t take clouty customers the caliber of Richard or An-Nasir to expose the limited repertoire emanating from Colin-of-the-Crude-Socks (27-21 W-L / 57t – 26i).

Will Chuck Pagano, Todd Bowles, John Fox and any number of other struggling NFL coaches last the duration of campaign 2016?

Big Ben injured again (“I’ll be back”) while Ryan Tannehill staves off boyish boo-birds for one more week, keeping GMs around the League wondering ‘what if.’

Are the Packers in full throes of decline and rapid exit from the juggernaut category? Maybe, maybe not, but the Chicago Bears in this newish century (W7 @ GB 10.20) are the cure for whatever ails any NFL team.

How did the Cardinals’ David Johnson (UNI) fly under so many radars in D15?

But Ben hurts his knees near every season now, Pack’s been trending down since Cheese-Melt (@ SEA 1.18.15) and Oddball Odell is strictly Disney (ugh).

prescott-helmet-9-18-16-k-allison-thmSo that leaves the Dallas quarterback quandary at the top of the topic pile until Cowboys come off their bye to take on visiting division rival, the Eagles (W8).

With rookie Dak Prescott leading Cowboys offensive charge in timely triumph over Green Bay (30-16) (fifth consecutive W), a place steeped in sad outcomes for the Dallas gang, and deep-rooted veteran All-Pro Tony Romo set to return from his injury in the not too distant future, owner Jerry Jones and HC Jason Garrett are presented with that most wonderful of all coaching conundrums, having two capable QBs at the ready.

Nobody, not Jerry nor Dak, was happier post-Packers rout than was Mr. Garrett whose doubters could line the length of the old Chisholm Trail.

The Cowboys’ 2015 divisional playoff loss at Lambeau (Sometimes the sporting gods do take a hand (See: Cheese-Melt above)) still sits wrong in the saddle for Dallas dudes and dudettes and this win buries a few of those Fox Valley demons.

Yet the demons in Dallas still remain, those that’ve been keeping America’s Team from putting together their first Super Bowl run since 1996. And as every football fan knows, the decision to fill that quarterback slot is too important to be swayed by public opinion poll or political fronts that move in and out.

Many have been weighing in on this Texas-sized topic, including former signal-calling stalwart, Mr. Brett Favre, he now of the Cantonese sect (2016) and most recently uniformed with the Minnesota Vikings (‘09-10).

favre-dugan-wc-11-15-9-mn-ng-1-8mFavre backs Dak, who happens to wear the same #4 jersey and did his pro apprenticeship, like Brett (USM), in the great State of Mississippi (State).

Stepping into the Fox telecast booth last Sunday, “Mississippi” claims friendship and respect for Tony but believes you don’t mess with chemistry.

But then Brett in his playing days was not the sort to happily concede to another (Rodgers?), team chemistry or whatnot, not as long as the NFL ironman could walk upright. Had a former QB the likes of Jay Schroeder been invited to step on the Dak-Romo scale, you could expect a whole different take on the topic.

Inconsistent views aside, Favre was a gridiron king, and a demigod to boot in the grand State of Wisconsin, oh my gosh. Such players can return to action anytime they choose, damn that chemistry thing. ‘I‘ll take it from here, Sport, so you take a seat and watch how it’s done!’

Had Jim Garoppolo remained healthy and taken Pats to 4-0 during Brady’s 2016 susp’n, nobody would’ve begrudged Tom’s return to the starter role no matter if Jim had tossed 20 TDs to that point.

Tony’s not a king. He’s a prince among men and Jerry loves him dearly but he has no throne upon which to sit (stand), i.e., a record-of-note, an MVP nor Super Bowl title. The ring-bearers are about the only guys who can make that long-standing (lame) line on ‘injury won’t lose your starter’s job’ make any sense.

What Would Tony Do (WWTD)?

jones-12-7-15-k-allison-wc-339kThis might be how the decision goes down:

The braintrust will call Romo into Jones’ office for a chat. They’ll talk about his health status (back), his thoughts on team chemistry and the Dak dynamic since the rookie took the ball and Tony’s eagerness to getting back in the saddle.

Tone’s been a performer for Dallas (‘04) and deserves his say, maybe even the final version. And that’s just what Jerry and Jason will likely to do: Holding off any public discussion – announcement on the matter until Romo is in full re-possession of his health and is game ready (to do otherwise would only ding Dak’s confidence), J&J will play out the Romo string and ask Tony to make the call. Meaning, the long-time Cowboy will get back under center to resume the starter’s job when fit and expect to continue that good chemistry at the first opportunity.

Recent reports have Romo continuing his rehab beyond the bye and Cowboys’ game against the Eagles (W8), meaning, Dynamic Dak will likely have at least one more start to either enhance his aura of invincibility or expose an Achilles heel.

Not as unpredictable as portrayed, Jerry Jones loyalty can be counted upon, at least that’s the perception. And if Prescott progresses as Cowboys hope, the Louisiana native can expect the same treatment.

I too got caught up in Dak-delirium. ‘If it works don’t fix it’ is one of my favorites and Prescott is working just fine (5-1, 69 C%, 7t-1i, only 3.5 rush per (man’s poise-n in the pocket)). But also mindful that the Dak-led-Cowboys have topped five teams with a collective 14-16 record, minus the five Dallas drubbings.

romo-10-13-10-bigcatsliar-wc-343kAnyone with a winner’s heart, a champion’s spirit, will take the reins when given the chance and damn any torpedoes that come their way on knowledge that that‘s your duty. With numbers like Tony has put up in his ten years riding Cowboys‘ point, even as his clutch capability has been questioned (127 GS, 74-49, 65+ C%, 247t-117i), he holds ample depth-charges to drop any naysayer’s way. Ka-boom!

How would rookie Dak respond to clipboard duty? Like a trooper, I’d suppose, making the standard pitch to play but having wherewithal to accept the switch (demotion), tune out the nincompoops captured in his moment, know his day will come again soon enough and even appreciate the reduction in pressure. Consider DP still has alot to learn, much of which Tony Romo can teach.

A key to success in Romo’s return (and giving him the choice essentially tabs him to start) is that Dak is fully supportive. That helps keep the junior media in check when Romo has an off game and the squawking ensues for their new fantasy fave and lessens likelihood that socially-driven teammates will take to brood.

As to those teammates, if possessing of a champion’s heart they’ll take to Tony’s return like a professional and play with gusto. That’s the Cowboys’ way. If not, Jerry knows where to ship-off a sour-puss. Somewhere with lots o’ snow.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 7: Tussle in Twickenham

NYG (3-3) @ Rams (3-3): 10.23 (L) NFL 9:30a: LA wins
Saints (2-3) @ Chiefs (3-2): Fox 1:00: Kansas City wins
Vikings (5-0) @ Philadelphia (3-2): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Washington Redskins (4-2) @ Detroit Lions (3-3): Fox 1:00: Detroit wins
Buffalo Bills (4-2) @ Miami Dolphins (2-4): CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
San Diego Chargers (2-4) @ Atlanta (4-2): Fox 4:05(GTW): Bolts win
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) @ Arizona (3-3): NBC 8:30 (GTW): Cards win
Houston Texans (4-2) @ Denver (4-2): 10.24 Disney 8:30: Texans win

Record: 30 – 33

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: T.Romo, ProBowl, wc.cca, EV.Gonzales, USN, 2.10.08; Romo, hat, wc, K.Allison, 12.7.15; Man-in-hammock, Bjorn-Som-Tenger, 9.13.07, wc; D.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; B.Favre-Dugan, wc, 11.15.09, MN-NG; Favre, wc, M.Morbeck, 10.24.10; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, K.Allison; T.Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.10; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject;
Posted: 10.19.16 @ 5:38pm, edit @ 7:50 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: Kaep Krusader Sitting Tall In Anthem Boycott? Better Guess Again

30 Aug

What lives in a man’s heart, who can really say?

Sometimes even he won’t know, not until Father Time brings it all into focus, that is, if that man (woman) finds enlightenment along the way. ‘Some grow older and wiser, some just older.’

That’s the question (♥) football fans around the nation are asking themselves following Colin Kaepernick’s decision last weekend to sit down during the national anthem in a 49ers’ pre-season, pre-game (v GB) show of defiance and determination over the on-going issue of racial inequality in the United States.

.........Kaep.9.9.12.GB.M.Morbeck.wc.cca.291kGotta admire one who advocates for justice. It’s the motive, method and then level of sincerity behind the overt act(s) that’ll peak the curiosity, cue debates, set media scrambling and strain the sensibility of more than a few commentaries.

I’ve never been a big fan of forced conformity (one reason I‘ll never be rich), though, it has its place (HOA covenants, compulsory education, military service, immunizations, speed limits, etc.). That’s where one’s judgment capability, even surrounded by advisers, will come into play.

Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner (1814) is not the ♫ toe-tapper ♫ the former Super QB (47) has come accustomed to hearing when filling his cranium with music from the ever-present head-muffins he wears (Beats-by-Dre). But its inspiration is honorable (War of 1812), its cadence easy and makes no religious test in the version of which I‘m familiar (See; God Bless America (Berlin)).

.........Key.wc.8.9.48.USPS.BE&P.378kMaybe, just maybe, Kaep has other motivations in mind as he keeps up his sit-down strike for as long as San Fran brass keep him in uniform, which was a somewhat tenuous proposition before his pessimistic statement on the nation’s racial state.

And one has to wonder exactly how tuned-in to any issue of social merit could be the Milwaukee native, Cubs draftee (‘09-R43) and Runnin’ Rebel alumnus (2010) (Wikipedia) if that issue does not emanate (w/wisdom) from lips of his favorite balladeers, given the head-gear routine and the world of NFL accoutrements in which he and every pro player is ensconced: Limited library.

As such, I have a few guesses as to what else might be driving Kaepernick’s display of social conscious and non-conformity, and why now:

1) Never Stop Caring…or Careering

With his NFL gig appearing to be in fade-mode and possessing of a business background (UNLV), pumping-up your political credentials can enhance post-NFL marketability. On the issue of racism, one on par with the national jobs outlook (always assailable), Colin can’t miss.

But that’s too risky a tack, no, Stevo? ‘Au contraire, Esteban,’ might say his agent. ‘The folks who’re characterizing Colin’s gesture as un-American were likely not in his corner before nor target-market to buy his pitch today.’ What Colin’s boycott will do is solidify a favored position with his peers that may include the SAS’y one (Disney), Black Lives Matter and many in the Democratic Presidential nominee‘s campaign who’re all too eager to remind America just how much work is yet to be done on the racial fronts, at least one of ’em, and energize a base in the process.

Key, of a different note (♫), you have gotta’ protect & promote the product ($), whatever your commodity may happen to be. Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith (NFLPA) and Rich Sherman know it all too well.

2) Doing the Sam-Sham

.........Sam.wc.8.23.14.ED.Drost.380kLike Mike Sam before him (2014) whose deficiency in NFL talent did not stop him from receiving ample opportunities (Rams, Alouettes, Dallas, Vet Combine) after his pre-Draft disclosure of having a homosexual orientation, a social notoriety seemingly worked as leverage, Kaep too is, intentional or not, putting his 49ers team in a rather precarious PR position where his release / trade could give, to those of a bully bent, cause to attack the club in claim of racial insensitivity when, in fact, such postulated roster move could be rationally-based entirely on talent, or the lack thereof.

Theoretically then, Kaep could, like Sam before, use his new civil rights notoriety, as leverage to, in his case, forestall any roster move.

Much speculation on my part. But two (2) points on which I am certain:

[1] While Kaep’s intentions may be just, if not entirely free of self-interest, choosing to diss the national anthem is a bad play. Mixed messages and half-measures (unilateral racism) make for poor social statement. Indifference to such can suggest impure motives; And [2], when juxtaposed against actions of others in sport (Ryan Lochte), Colin’s call deserves at the very least a modicum of patience and consideration from his critics.

.......Lochte.Phelps.Et.al.wc.Rio.8.9.16.F.Frazao.5mWhen you think of the string of wrongs that Lochte perpetrated, all working a taint upon the Olympics, Brazil, team USA and then boyish dismissiveness of taking responsibility once the bad was exposed (“I exaggerated that story”) and following favoritism afforded by many in the media and entertainment worlds (Dancing With the Stars), in a comparative sense, Colin can be fairly characterized as Walking Tall (‘73 / 04).

And “this (calculated confrontation) too shall pass.”

The San Francisco 49ers, if they don’t release / trade CK soon will seek, then demand his cooperation as preferential treatment and actions viewable as un-patriotic cannot stand, no pun intended. The NFL will then assert policy directives while NFLPA will back its member regardless of the merits or non-conformity (CBA) of his actions (See also; PEDs).

When tackling issues that sweep across the social plain, the bravest people are often the loneliest (See; Trumbo & Abbey). They count their profits in common coins of community breadth, substantive gesture and the few but sincere conversions that may come. In weight-room lingo, it’s called no pain, no gain. True progress exacts a steep price in self-sacrifice, all around.

If Colin’s cause is sincere, largely unselfish and informed (again, the ♥ thing (?)), I wish the man well. Lacking in any of those and the Sporting Gods should, in time, exact their revenge, i.e., ex-QB.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: C.Kaepernick, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, GB, 9.9.12; Kaepernick, 10.27.13, wc, D.Hartwig; F.S.Key, wc, 8.9.48, USPS, BE&P; M.Sam, wc, 8.24.14, ED.Drost; R.Lochte3-M.Phelps4, 4×200, wc, Rio, 8.9.16, F.Frazao, Agency.Brazil;
Posted: 8.30.16 @ 12:25pm, edit 9.1 @ 11:26am; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: Draft Dogs & Ponies, Number Nomens and Write-In Roger Goodell

2 May

Nobody primes the pump like the NFL. Even in their off-season they’re on.

Concussion reports, Redskins wrangle, TMZ video drops (Rice), bad boys running amok (“Johnny Trouble”), grudge-holder grumble (Brees) or having your Face (Brady) suffer blemish of discipline (Deflategate), none of it seems to throw the National Football League off its stride.

The League’s bottom-line, top-line and everything in between grows like their assets swim in a pool of Miracle-Gro®.

Behold, NFL Draft16 (April 28 – 30). And note the capital ‘D.’ A big Deal.

First held in Philadelphia in 1936 as a conception of Bert Bell to level the playing field and keep the League fiscally fit, Eagles selected University of Chicago inaugural Heisman winner Jay Berwanger as the first #1 (Never signed with NFL and only 28 of 81 draftees did (Wikipedia)). In decades that followed, the serious football fan would tune into radio, read the hometown daily and then take in their local TV sportscaster who’d list off the names of the new hopefuls.

When draft-day took to cable in the 1980s on Disney (ESPN) it kicked-off in AM and telecast tailed-off soon thereafter. Most followers had a clue on their team’s roster needs and put their trust in their team’s selection. That trust is, for the most part, still afforded but the presentation has, in the words of former Rams / Cowboys’ executive Gil Brandt, succumbed to a clear “overkill” in shill.

......Goodell.8.30.12.wc.thmb.SSG.T.Wade.USMAToday the Draft is a full-fledged showcase that’s gone primetime on TV, internet and anywhere else sports information gets powerized.

But draft watching is not for every football fan.

Teams must replenish inventory but the valuation of selectees is too amorphous, hazy to vest heavily. But then the whole dog & pony show, from pre- (mock), to DD to post-party analysis seems mired in minutiae, i.e., bores the bejeebers.

One thing I’d like to see in post-draft coverage is that first moxified draftee who negotiates to have his planned digit displayed on his first team jersey, rather than that trite #1. ‘Make me happy, have it ready, Dude.’ If I missed it, kudos.

That upwards of 60% of 1Rs (up it by 5-10% for each next Rd) will have only marginal or zero impact on the NFL operation is a fact not lost on most fans whose curiosity peaks when all’s done and they peruse their own team’s post-draft tally to discover what the Suits & Staffers needed in roster-fill.

Celebrity-watch and fantasy fulfillment will bring in most of the draft viewership. Affirmation by association. Conformity never had it so good.

Even so, nationally unknown Big Men on Campus donning caps & gowns to graduate to their Big Payday (on the cusp, anyway) juxtaposed against the Big Cufflink Roger is harmonious enough but hardly the stuff of “must see TV” for the core element, i.e., fans of ‘tumultuous merriment (sport).’

As long as target-markets in kids, fantasy gamblers and host-City businesses keep cheering the Draft presentation the League can dial-out the static and will keep coming in loud & clear throughout the 50 and beyond (See; London, etc.).

And as the boredom red-lines for those who’d rather watch on-field matriculation than draft day speculation, the event pulls in respectable ratings. Credit NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for much of the show’s success, the whole blooming NFL gestalt, for that matter.

Hoopla and worker-mgmt ménage never resonated with such ♫ harmonious ♫ notes as it does on Draft nite. It’s a win-win for the NFL and getting winner by the year, though, the Nike deal is looking a gobbler (‘These Colors Run’). Goodell carries it off like a pro, better than the 2016 Presidential candidates.

.......NFL.Draft.4.22.10.RCMH.NY.M.O'Leary.thmWavering between maverick and loose-cannon, Mr. Trump exudes arrogance, tapping into voter frustration to further a mission-in-greed while Ms. Clinton cuts many of the same deals with corporations, captured by her own extreme element and jumps any PC Bandwagon rolling by, having made nary a peep about Redskins’ moniker pre-2012 (Nike NFL) in all those years residing in our nation’s capital, DC.

Both leaders could take a lesson in tactic & temper from gridiron Goodell.

Case in point, 2d Circuit’s recent reinstatement of NFL imposed penalty on Tom Brady and his Patriots for their actions in the Deflategate matter, overturning the trial District Court’s prior voidance of the 4-game susp’n and draft pick ding.

If 2d Circuit remains the ruling, Roger wins the legal battle and looks a leader who enforces the law (rules) showing no favorites, even when the offender (Brady) is practically a League logo. If NFL had lost the appeal or Team Brady miraculously gets a reversal (SC), Roger would still win as that result would’ve been good for business yet he’d have given it his best effort: Due diligence.

After ethical grounding, if there’s one character trait a Commissioner, a President, a leader must manifest it is strength, and the wisdom, the heart to exercise it when necessary, regardless of popularity polls. And that’s the lesson.

Though he came under heavy fire during the Rice – Palmer matter, some of it justified for the extremes in penalty imposition, some of it false for its hypocrisy, i.e., his critics variance in reactions to the videos, one wonders with the dearth of top-quality Prez prospects, a void that makes NFL’s sorry signal-caller state seem just so much over-inflated fodder (no pun), whether Goodell may one day throw his own hat into the political ring for the Commander-in-Chief job?

Roger was raised in politics, his father Charles Goodell (1926-87) serving four terms in Congress from the State of New York, leaving that office to fill the vacancy created when Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 6th, 1968, having been appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fulfill the term (1971). Like Rocky, Charles was one of the last liberal Republicans in Nixon era and lost his bid to keep the Senate seat when the liberal vote was split in benefit to conservative James Buckley (Wikipedia).

........Goodell.Swann.Craig.Elway.Petraeus.wc.SS.B.Lail.thm.2.1.9The Commissioner is a registered GOP‘er. His stands on abortion, immigration, taxes, economics, jobs & energy, the latter two still suffering the pseudo-silent treatment from the candidates, are unknown to this writer. Whatever position he plays on issues there’s one vote he should count on: DeMaurice Smith (NFLPA).

It’s because of that apparent ability to reach across the aisle to one’s adversary, coupled with the opposite ability to find the strength to sometimes do the necessary but unpopular deed, that Mr. Smith’s support for a theoretical future Goodell candidacy might be reasonably inferred.

No background will fully prepare one for the many difficult duties and mental – physical challenges that the U.S. Presidency presents to its holder day in, day out for at least four years. Too often critical of their performance, when we’re separated from our own self-interests it’s easier to understand the toll that the job takes on the White House occupants (See: Hair-color change).

If any job will provide smidgens of similarity in experience it might be Commissioner of the biggest game in town, the NFL. In peace-time, the major media attention the post and its subject territory (League) receives, and then the often thankless nature of the job where success can be measured by the critics you create, are both states President Obama understands all too well.

To trade-in a $40M a year job to try to become the biggest quarterback on the planet (Chief Executive), a job heavy with headaches and so small pay it’s practically a volunteer position, seems unlikely. But that’s just what might make Roger Goodell well suited to the White House.

Careful what you wish for, Don. Once you’re in this there‘s no walking away.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: R.Goodell, wc, 2.1.9, Sgt.B.Lail; Goodell, wc, 8.30.12, Sgt.T.Wade, USMA; NFL-Draft, wc.cca, 4.22.10, RCMH-NYC, M.O’Leary; Goodell, 7.10.8, wc, Sgt.B.DelVecchio; Afghan; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 5.2.16 @ 3:11pm, edit 5:47 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15: Tinker Bell Alert at Owner’s Meet

23 May

They’re back at it.

The tweakers, or as I’ve begun to call them, the tinker bells.

.......kick.NFL.M.Crosby.10.7.07.P.Cutler.wc.thmb

Those in the NFL’s upper echelon, probably under 30, who seem never satisfied with their wildly successful enterprise and must tinker or fix something that most often seems to work just fine. Change for change’s sake.

The Tinker Bell reference has nada to do with the Disney computer animated fairy, but rather, the J.M. Barrie character in the 1904 play titled, Peter Pan, who “mended pots and kettles…of the fairy folk (Wikipedia).” Just wanted to be clear.

Case in point: At the 2015 NFL owner’s meeting being held in San Francisco this week, the Competition Committee voted upon and discussed a number of topics, among them the placement of the PAT attempt (point after TD), also known as the extra-point (XP).

Overwhelmingly, members voted to change the point of placement from the 2-yd line, a spot it’s been for about 100 (?) years, and move it back to the 15, with Oakland and DC voting, nay. In addition, if defenders recover the ball on a block or fumble, it can be returned to the kicking team’s end zone for 2-points. Yippee!

......kick.NFL.J.Reed.wc.Andy.wc.9.29.8.thmb

And word is, more changes could be in the offing.

One famous sportswriter has called the extra-point attempt the “most boring” play in all of tumultuous merriment (I was a fan of sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun). He actually wrote “sport (“Fixing the Most Boring“ / 5.19 / P.King / SI).”

Myself, I’d argue the most excruciatingly “boring” part of any NFL game telecast are the scads of TV time-outs that water-down the action we attempt to drink in and digest with some semblance of continuity.

Every NFL fan knows as much and appreciates that the “PAT” has historically added a finer point of skill-test, diversity, as it were, to the game.

And though proponents of the change would probably say, ‘We didn’t ditch it, we made it more challenging so it can work as it may’ve been originally intended, as a possible point of distinguishment to prevent tie scores.‘ Fair enough.

......kick.wc.J.Brieske.Mich.1947.thmb

But apart from the fact that nobody, not so’s you’d notice, was complaining, this constant tinkerment with kicking aspects of the game of gridiron appears headed to what a small sect of ants-in-their-pants types seem more set on and that is elimination in its entirety of the foot-game from football, an aspect that’s pre-dated the forward pass, put at 1906 by some, 1876 by others (Camp & Thompson).

Buffalo Bills’ 29-year old place-kicker Dan Carpenter, who’s entering his 8th year as an NFL assailer of pigskins (spheroids today made of cowhide) and who made the 2009 Pro Bowl, is not all too happy with the XPA rule changes.

Dan wonders why a change that is likely (not “more probable than not”) to increase the rate of harder “collisions” with the 2-point gain gotten in a return of blocked kick, when the League and union have taken steps to reduce chances of such violent contacts?

.....tinker.bell.Wondercon.7731.wc.4.19.14.Mooshuu.tmb

And for the record, Carpenter has missed but a mere two XPAs in his NFL career (217 / 219). Highly challenging they are not.

Change can be good, for many reasons. Maybe best when it leads to the eliminations of unnecessary risks to player health, unsportsmanlike conduct or enhances a valuable competitive spirit of the sport.

But when agents-for-change ($) seek to validate their jobs by fixing things that work, including logos & uniforms which remain pleasing to the mass of fandom (See; Nike), in utter indifference to the Big Boring (tons o’ TV time-outs), changes that can sometimes go haywire (See; NCAA OT), it’s time fans sent the NFL a message: Stop tinkering with our game, tinker bells. We’re happy. If the faux fans are not, they can take up biking, watching HSN, solving math puzzles or tune into Disney’s ESPNU. It’s 24/7. Knock yourselves out, with loads of fun.

.......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: B.Cundiff, wc.cca, 8.2.14, E.D.Drost, CLE-NFL; M.Crosby, 10.7.07, wc.cca, P.Cutler, GB-NFL; J.Reed, wc, 9.29.08, Andy, PIT-NFL; J.Brieske, Michigan, wc, 1947; R.Goodell, wc, 8.30.12, SSG, T.Wade, USMA; Tinker.Bell, WonderCon, wc, 7731, Mooshuu, 4.19.14; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 5.22.15 @ 11:26pm; edit 5.23 @ 1:07am EST

2014 Duds Look to Re-Launch in NFL 2015

18 May

Now that NFL Draft 2015, brought to us by the City of Big Shoulders (Chicago), is in the books (Is there any event less deserving of its big build-up than the televised dice-roll that is the draft?), it’s a good time to glance back at what was, and what lay ahead.

.........Eli.1.15.12.M.Morbeck.wc.GB.thmb.1

Though, safe to write that a plan to look back and examine the past (history), a tradition that’d bonded families, communities and a nation for centuries long, would not exactly meet with applause from your average audience in 2015.

Nothing to do with sage Satchel Paige (“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”), but due to these two states: 1) a tendency today to love ourselves, our times with a fulsomeness, and 2) not much moolah to be made in getting too reflective.

It’s why Disney in its youthenization movement has forsaken its Classic and ESPN News channels to make way for the likes of ESPNU and scads of re-broadcasts, while their History channel (Hearst 50%) airs almost anything but, i.e., Pawn Stars, Swamp People, Ax Men and the like.

But while Mr. Obama doesn’t appear to put history too high up on his list (See; D-Day gum gauche) and the GOP can have selective memory, we sport fans put a premium on the past.

Whether it’s records & sabrmetrics, throwback uniforms, collectibles or the passing of a former great, oh-so sport fans will not soon forget from where their own journey began.

........Bubblegum.12.5.06.wc.Mary

And looking back over NFL 2014-15, it’s safe to write that it was one of the most memorable in recent years, for better and for worse.

Had it not been for the plethora of spotlight-grabbing storylines, i.e., Hernandez arrest, Rice-gate, the Peterson case and then post-season inflatables (exaggerated stories) like Catch-gate, or non-Catch, as it were (DAL @ GB), Meltdown-gate (poor Mike McCarthy (SEA @ GB)), Deflate-gate, featuring ‘Frick & Frack (J&M), and finally, 2nd-Guess-gate (poor Pete Carroll (SEA v NE)), this particular topic might’ve hovered above the radar and been spotted: the Duds.

Not in this writer’s memory have so many pre-season hopefuls seriously under-performed and played like they had something better to do but hung around anyway, to our chagrin. Largely on the QB issue, Houston, the Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Minnesota, St. Louis and Washington were not considered by most to be serious contenders pre-2014.

I count three American clubs (MIA, SD & KC) and six in the National Conference (NYG, CHI, ATL, NO, CAR & SF) who either made lift-off but veered off course into oblivion or never got off the launching pad in the first place.

AFC

Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (2014)

........Tannehill.wc.J.Rivera.9.16.12.thmb.2

Finishing 8-8 in ‘13 in midst of Bullygate, Joe Philbin survived the fallout and young QB Ryan Tannehill looked a keeper, even as fickle fans called for change. Despite low support in ‘14, Ryan had MIA in top-half offensively (ypg (14)), saw C% rise nicely (66%), hit 4000 mark and had nifty 27-12 TD ratio. But MIA couldn’t build momentum, even as LB Jelani Jenkins finished with 110 total tackles and the D finished #12 (ypg), just ahead of eventual Super champ and intra-divisional rival, the Krafty Patriots.

Draft‘15: Devante Parker, Louisville, WR, 1R-14; Jordan Phillips, Okla., NT, 2-20.

San Diego Chargers: 9-7

Having gone deeper into ‘14 playoffs with loss to Denver in divisional (24-17), Bolts were expected to take the next step up to serious contender. But while Phil Rivers kept up his end (66.5%, 4286y, 31-18), legs of Ryan Mathews which’d been a catalyst in ‘13 reverted to old form as he stared only 7g and moved to Philly in FA. Defense held the fort with FS Eric Weddle roaming wide (114t) and the stoppers coming in respectable ranks: 9th ypg (338) and 13th in ppg (21.8). Expect 3y head coach McCoy to right the ship.

Draft‘15: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, RB, 1R-15; Denzel Perryman, Miami, R2-16

Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7

........Smith.1.26.14.Cpl.M.Bragg.wc.USMC.thmb

Bolts, say howdy-do to your kissin’ cousins, figuratively speaking, intra-division foe, the KC Chiefs. Another 2013 achiever (L 44-45 IND ‘14 WC) who had justifiably high hopes of rising above the rabble in ‘14. So much of hope, figuratively so. Chiefs rollercoaster in ‘14 left observers scratching heads, their own, of course. QB Smith was stout again (65%, 18-6) even with leaky line (45s). Run-QB should be so brave. Charles settled to earth (1033 / 291 / 9td) from a Wow! ‘13 as offense finished w/in sight of cellar (#25 ypg). Like SD, defense carried at 7th ypg and 2nd ppg. And like his Chargers‘ counterpart, Andy Reid’s got the men. Whether he’s got plan, even KC faithful aren’t sure anymore.

Draft‘15: Marcus Peters, Washington, CB, 1R-18; Mitch Morse, MO, OL, 2R-17.

NFC

I don’t know if the Packers, Cowboys and Seahawks were as good as their spiffy records sported or just that their competition was so lacking that they simply had no choice but to win, lots and lots of games.

Lions, Cardinals and Eagles were others clubs who had seasons of note.

Detroit won 11 games (11-5) for first time in over two decades (12-4 ‘91) under new HC Caldwell and actually knocked off intra-division stalwart Green Bay in W3 (19-7). That alone is big doings for the usual also-rans of the NFC North.

.......Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.Swami

The surprising Cards looked the new force in the NFC until vet QB Carson Palmer went down midway and rising star head coach in Bruce Arians did his best to answer the rash of injuries that decimated his bunch as they limped into the playoffs.

And the Eagles missed the cut at 10-6 but showed spunk in staying respectable after QB Foles (STL) hit the DL and Sanchez entered. Chip Kelly and owner Jeff Lurie’s response: shake-up the roster (Bradford, Tebow (?), Murray, etc.) and give it another whirl.

New York Giants: 6-10
Draft‘15: Ereck Flowers, Miami, OB, 1R-9; Landon Collins, Alabama, S, 2R-33.

Chicago Bears: 5-11
Draft‘15: Kevin White, WV, WR, 1R-7; Eddie Goldman, Florida St., DT, 2R-7.

Atlanta Falcons: 6-10
Draft‘15: Vic Beasley, Clemson, LB, 1R-8; Jason Collins, LSU, CB, 2R-10.

New Orleans Saints: 7-9
Draft‘15: Andrus Peat, STAN, OT, 1R-13; Steve Anthony, LB, Clemson, 1R-31.

So similar, it’s then only fitting these four sorrowful squads get lumped together.

.......Cutler.wc.cca.11.1.09.M.Schadle.thumb

If you didn’t predict rebound for all four in 2014 (Saints did go 11-5 in ‘13 after falling to 7-9 (’12) in Bountygate year) you’re not much of an NFL‘er.

That looked to be an easy call as all four possess well-est’d QBs (Eli Manning, Cutler, Ryan & Brees) and had proven head coaches directing the action. Both Coughlin (NYG) and Peyton are Lombardi lofters, Mike Smith (ATL (Dan Quinn)) is the winningest coach in Falcons history (66 (7)) and Marc Trestman (CHI (John Fox)) had an NFL resume won along w/ back-to-back Grey Cups (Montreal ‘09-10). Cool credentials all around.

But look no further than the woeful defensive showings of all four clubs and it’s easy to see how things once again came unraveled for this football Gang of Four. All four brought up the defensive rear in the all-important categories of yards per game (ypg) (32-29) and fell to the bottom ten in points per game (ppg).

Carolina Panthers: 7-9-1

.......Newton.9.28.14.wc.wc.K.Allison.thmb

Though Cats sparkled at 12-4 in 2013, their pitiful playoff loss at home to the 49ers (10-23) had to make one wonder if the gaudy record was more mirage than matter. And sure enough, Carolina sunk to a losing mark in 2014 but did manage to take the South and win back smidgen of respect in knocking off the MASH unit that’d become Arizona in Wild Card round (27-16) before falling prey to Super-bound Seattle in divisional (17-31).

Camster’s moving in wrong direction as the scamper trends up again (103a / 539y) while pocket poise proves elusive (58.5% / 18-12). But as long Luke Kuechly keeps the defense top-tier (171tt (CAR 340 ypg (10))), Panthers are players.

Draft‘15: Shaq Thompson, WA, LB, 1R-25; Dev Funchess, MI, WR, 2R-9.

San Francisco 49ers: 8-8

Something tells me it may be awhile before we see the Niners trolling again for Super Swag. When that brass ring swings around (NFCC ‘12 & ‘14 / SB47), you’d better grab it with gusto and hold on tite for it may not come again for quite…some…time.

......Kaep.9.9.12.GB.M.Morbeck.wc.thumb

Anyone who thought San Francisco was a top contender in 2014, and there were many, might want to consider covering a different beat in 2015. Mediocrity was an easy call.

More troubling than Colin Kaepernick and coach’s inability to master the red-zone in crunch time (NFCC’14 / SB47) was the loss of arguably the game’s top defender in NaVarro Bowman to a torn ACL during the ‘14 NFC title match (v SEA).

Master motivator Jim Harbaugh (Jim Tomsula (E. Mangini DC)) has returned to his alma mater pump life back into a gasping Michigan program, perennial All-Pro Pat Willis has hung up the cleats and Bowman is hoping to return to form even as there is no position in football that puts more pressure on the intricate knee-joint than rover-in-the-middle.

Draft‘15: Arik Armstead, Oregon, DT, 1R-17; Jaquiski Tartt, SAM, S, R2-14.

.......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credits: E.Manning, M.Holzworth, wc, USAF, 11.19.13; E.Manning, wc, GB, M.Morbeck, 1.15.12; chewing bubblegum, 12.5.06, wc, Mary; A.Smith, wc, 1.26.14, Cpl.M.Bragg, USMC; R.Tannehill, wc, J.Rivera, 9.16.12; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; J.Cutler, wc, 11.1.09, M.Schadle; C.Newton, 9.28.14, K.Allison, wc; C.Kaepernick, wc, 9.9.12, GB, M.Morbeck; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 5.18.15 @ 6:47pm; edit @ 11:08 EST

NFL15 Wild Cherry Picks: “Got (Destiny)?”

2 Jan

New Beginnings

It’s a whole new season, the NFL playoffs.

For the player, his body’s telling him it’s time to pack it in for winter, catch up on sleep, reacquaint w/friends & family, read the mail, walk the dog, anything but more football. But the contract, the bills to be paid and the desire to be the best, all drive him onward & upward in hopes of greater glory.

.............Brady.wc.cca.mongomez93.thmb

Every team is even-Steven. And is that really true?

The slates are clean, that’s true enough. Everyone kicks off their post-season at 0-0. No bodacious personal or team stats to boost egos while any on-field shenanigans are just yesterday‘s newspapers (See; Suh), so to speak.

But some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition.

Home-field and 1st-round byes, deserved as it they are, make a decided advantage. And while all twelve invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the Lombardi trophy, only a handful, can we say, are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

Patriots: Belichick, Brady & Co. drip destiny, though, haven’t hoisted since ‘05;
............Wilson.wc.cca.12.29.13.L.Maurer.thumb

Seahawks: Defending champs righted the ship at a fine time, made better by having overcome adversity earlier in the season when a malcontent (Harvin) had to be moved;

Packers: Returning the Lombardi silver to its place of forging (Lambeau) seems apropos and Mike & Aaron the men to engineer it. Chink in armor? GB’s been wobbly away;

Broncos: Balanced, as Peyton has ‘em #4 in pypg (291), rush is fine (112 (15)) and the defense stout-ful (305 ypg (3)). Strong wins late (@ KC & SD) are qualified by troubling losses in 2nd-half (NE, STL & CIN) making one wonder if SB48 funk is past or present;
..............Roethlisberger.9.9.12.J.Beall.thmb.wc

Steelers: The trademark Pittsburgh defense must’ve run afoul of the politicized P&T Office and been ‘revoked’ because it’s been less protective in 2014 (353 (18)), but Big Ben’s been MVP-ish in demeanor and digits (302 (2));

Cowboys: The D is middle-of-the-pack (#15 ppg / 19 ypg) but offense clicks (4 / 7). That is an old ditty in Dallas, so question is, can Romo stay healthy and prove Mr. Clutch?

High Wattage or Road Warrior Romo?

Evolution, like time, marches on. They’re the champs. Undefeated.

What doesn’t evolve are opinions. Once someone sets their mind it’s unlikely to change. New perspective is as rare as a solar eclipse, but not half as interesting.

And sometimes the heavens open wide and the unexpected happens: re-think.

The MVP campaign for J.J. Watt, the man who’s fall-back candidate for Packer-backers (Rodgers), kicked into high-gear around mid-season. I let the bandwagon ride right on by. Too much emphasis on glory stats (sacks), not enough on substance (tackles).

.............Watt.9.23.12.J.Beall.thmb.wc

But in his final games with playoff hope, JJ turned up the voltage.

Versus the Ravens and Jaguars, Watt had 10 tackles and 4 sacks, a difference maker when it counted most (59t / 19a / 20.5s / 10pd / 4ff / 5fr). And while the tackles total is off his career high (69 ‘12), his assists and fumbles were up noticeably.

DeMarco Murray was an MVP darkhorse, looking Peterson-esque (‘12), but late season slowage shelved any more thought of a 2nd runner in 3-yrs nabbing the trophy. Besides, while a back need not break 2000 (1845) to be MVP-worthy, and DM was integral (12-4), TDs better be biggish (15+ (13)) and some raucous highlight runs sure help (34 lg).

Peyton was another darkhorse in ‘14. Stats pretty great and some nice road wins late but INTs up (15) and road loss at Cincy (4i) ends the candidacy for ‘13 winner.

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

As for the guy whose super stats, including wins, give him a slight edge over his QB contenders, and seems to’ve been penned-in by voters in November, Mr. Rodgers need prove nothing in the Clutch & Game departments. But I wouldn’t vote MVP for a guy who, in ‘14, played poor enough in every road mettle-match from start to finish: (L) Seattle, Detroit, Saints & Buffalo (wins at MIA (spike-gate), CHI, MIN & TB).

That leaves the top contenders: Tony Romo, Brady, Kuechly, Roethlisberger and Watt.

A key element to winning MVP? Momentum. You need numbers and wins will help, but allies in the media are a big boost. In Luke’s case, he led the NFL in tackles (153t, 54a, 3s, 11pd) but is a defender and, unlike JJ, got no push whatsoever from the pens.

Same can be said for Big Ben. Terrific digits, spirited team (11-5) but poor press.

To Tony & Tom, the numbers are close. While Dallas’ road record (a clutch measure) was perfect 8-0, ‘Boys had a slightly easier slate. But that Romo came back from injury and won his signature game (@ SEA), while Brady lost his (@ GB), gives edge to Tone.

Quarterbacks like Brady we hold to a higher standard, one to which other performers will never themselves be held. Unfair? Ah, it’s the cost of greatness.

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

Now there are two: Misters Romo and Watt.

JJ’s leadership (2nd in team tackles (Joseph (70)), on a club going another year (9-7) with competent (Keenum, Fitz & Mallett) but uncertain QB play, was enormous.

Tony just did more. Gargantuan. Putting up wins & stats, working through a bad back, excelling under a dark cloud of past failures and thriving on the road should earn Mr. Romo his first MVP.

But once most minds get locked in, there’s no key to open it to reason. Likely Mr. Discount Double-Check, clouty with casters, wins his 2nd trophy. Whoop-de-doo.

Drunk With Virtue

On Monday’s First Take (ESPN), the dour, less popular re-configuration of the network‘s formerly delightful and decidedly different sport debate show, 1st and 10, co-host Skip Bayless referred to the Cleveland Browns’ rookie QB Jon Manziel as an “alcoholic.”

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

Jon’s made no secret of his taste for gatherings, public & private, and party-favors that accompany. The stories of his extra-curriculars have been popping up with regularity for two years, ever since the former Texas A&M phreshmon phenom took the Heisman.

That Manziel man-child has a behavior problem is of no debate. Not because he parties. Guy’s not long out of high school. But because of what he’s earned and then might lose.

Libation in moderation (including high-fructose corn syrup based beverages, i.e., soda pop), but Johnny Twelve-Pack or not, “alcoholic” is a haphazard diagnosis by Dr. Skip. And any claim of concern as motive is a too convenient fall-back where ratings figure.

.............Manziel.7.25.14.ED.Drost.thmb.wc

If DUIs, DCs and the hung-over look start adding chapters to the Book of Johnny, talk of “alcohol(ism)” may be in order. Until then, it still looks like a straight maturity issue.

As for First Take, it’s always been the bad brother of OTL (ESPN), a network standard which has been sliding itself of late. Disney stirs the pot and we all stand in line to sup-it-up like it were “soup Nazi” blend. Ugh.

As for the Brownies, a good QB, coach and GM, for that matter, are all hard to find. They say ‘patience is a virtue,’ but some of us got virtue coming out our ears.

Browns fans deserve better, but so too, those that still watch First Take.

...........cherries.Hispalois.Spain.wc.cc.thumb

Wild Cherry Picks: Money up front

AZ Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers: 1-3 ESPN 4:35 EST: Cats win
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers: NBC 8:15: Steelers win
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts: 1-4 CBS 1:05: Colts win
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys: Fox 4:40: Cowboys win

Record: 89 – 52 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Brady, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison; Brady, mongomez93, wc.cca, 2012; Wilson, 12.29.13, L.Maurer, wc.cca; Roethlisberger, 9.9.12, J.Beall, wc.cca; JJ.Watt, wc.cca, 9.23.12, J.Beall; A.Rodgers, M.Morbeck, 2008, wc.cca; T.Romo, wc.cca, 10.13.10, bigcatsliar, wc.cca; ESPN, J.Kinsocal, 2.1.13, wc.cca; Manziel, wc.cca, 7.25.14, ED.Drost, wc.cca; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc.cca,
Posted: 1-2-15 @ 2:37am; edit @ 6:30pm EST