Tag Archives: Johnny Manziel

NFL17 Cherry Picks W17: Like Unique Gifts & Good Men, A Franchise QB Is ‘Hard to Find’

27 Dec

Ever wonder why a quarterback’s never been drafted U.S. President?

They’re popular enough, the well-decorated variety, anyway.

Most signal-callers possess a pretty good leadership ability. Most of ‘em, not all (See; JohnnyManziel and ColinKaepernick).

Nearly all of ’em can audiblize at the line, i.e. think on their feet. That would prove helpful with the testy press-corps.

I don’t know how ‘threading-the-needle’ would help as Chief Executive but you’ve gotta’ figure it would have to come in handy somewhere.

There’ve been a few close calls.

There was Jack Kemp, former championship Buffalo Bills’ QB (64-65 AFL) and 1996 VP candidate on the Bob Dole ticket.

President John Kennedy and clan were known to engage in a spontaneous touch football before and during his White House tenure (1961-63).

Ronald Reagan, 40th US President, portrayed an early-era quarterback, known then as a single-wing tailback, as the legendary George Gipp in the 1940 bio-pic, Knute Rockne All-American, co-starring Milwaukee native Pat O’Brien as the equally tragic and successful Notre Dame head coach.

But never has there been an ex-college or professional gridiron field-general to call signals from the Oval Office on Pennyslvania Avenue.

It’s true, the game itself has only been around less than half as long as the nation (1776), and then highly-prized less than one quarter of that time (1910 >).

With the popularity QBs enjoy throughout North America (+ CFL) and World NFL (London / Mexico), a starship lift-off in junior high and on up to the pros, a cheer resonating louder than that heard by most politicians and even war-heroes (post-WW2), you’d think a gridiorn field-general would’ve connected for an Electoral College touchdown at some point these past 100 or so years.

You’d think.

But I suppose when you endure enough heavy hits in the pocket, for those QBs with poise, you’d be kinda’ crazy to venture forth into the pressure-packed position of President to suffer even more “slings and arrows.”

Be that as it may, ever since MickeyMantle, BillRussell, CassiusClay and BobbyOrr retired, the quarterback has reigned supreme in much of NorthAmerica’s non-soccer sports world. There’s no doubt on that point.

Which all leads to this troubling observation on an unsettling state of affairs in World NFL: We’re running out of professional grade quarterbacks, making it even less likely one will ever man, or woman, the Oval Office.

TomBrady, BigBen and DrewBrees won’t play forever, even as they’ve been giving good imitations of such capability in their long and illustrious careers.

Flash-QB’s the culprit, and the collegiate coach-lite mentality that leans heavy on the modern-day single-wing tailback. As long as the RIF-challenged signal-caller keeps running and winning Heismans & NCAA championships (Young, Tebow, Manziel, Newton, Winston, Watson), the pro-prepped, poise-under-pressure pocket passer (PPPUPPP) will be a rare NFL commodity.

And the social sins of greed and arrogance are only making the matter worse.

The Elway Effect: John, on fatherly advice, refused to report to Baltimore after the Colts made him the first selection in the 1983 NFL draft. UCLA’s Josh Rosen seems to be following the same gameplan. Maybe good for him, not for football and its fans.

So where does that leave the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears of the National, teams that seem to forever be trying to fill their field-general void?

The quick answer, based on our obsession with guys under center who must lead their offense that scores-at-will in what’s come to be known as a quarterback league, is a revolving-door of QB experimentation. Pick the best one available and hope your coordinators can inspire bravery in the pocket and hobble his rabbit habit.

Better answer: Defense. Build a 60-minute crew that can tackle, front to back, and then settle for a capable signal-caller who won’t be expected to carry the offense but merely protect the ball and execute the game plan with a certain courage and savvy. Simple, eh? Oy vey.

Cherry Picks Week 17

Packers @ Detroit: 12.31 Fox 1:00: Lions
Texans @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Texans
Redskins @ NewYork: Fox 1:00: Giants
Cowboys @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Dallas
Jacksonville @ Titans: CBS 4:25: Jaguars
Buffalo @ Dolphins: CBS 4:25: Miami
Raiders @ LosAngeles: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Cardinals @ Seattle: Fox 4:25: Seahawks
SanFrancisco @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:25: LAR
Panthers @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
Kansas City @ Broncos: CBS 4:25: Chiefs
New Orleans @ Buccaneers: Fox 4:25: Saints

Record: 71 – 52 (Won’t include W16 MIN @ GB)

NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; J.Garoppolo, wc.cca, CaseyMcNeil, 12.17.17; C.Wentz, 9.10.17, K.Allison, wc, Hanover-MD; Cherries-cloth, 2011, picdrome, wc; JimMarshall, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.27.17 @ 3:47pE; Copyright © 2017


NFL17 Pre-Play: Nobody Bullied the Beav and No One Needles the NFL, Kaep Krew

9 Aug

If you’re an NFL fan or root for Colin Kaepernick, not always mutually exclusive mental states, and feed those foibles by perusing online sport sites, you’ll know it has become common in recent years for certain players to have developed a cult-like following amongst the media, junior scribes, in particular. Individually, five names have received more press than probably every player combined, excepting Broadway Joe, of course, since the National went on-wire in 1920:

1) Johnny Manziel
2) Tim Tebow
3) Michael Sam
4) Colin Kaepernick
5) Richard Sherman

At this posting only one of the five, Sherman, has a job with our nation’s new national pastime (When a home run derby is your showcase event of the season, there’s big trouble) and soon to become international funfest (See; London).

Of the other four, it’s possible Manziel and Kaepernick could get a call for a 2017 quarterback tryout as injuries begin to mount in the League on commencement of training camps and contact. But that’s becoming more doubtful as the recent rapid-signing in Miami of free-agent QB Jay Cutler and longer-than-expected list of somewhat suspect number (#) ones (Kessler (CLE), McCown (NYJ), Hoyer (SF), Taylor (BUF), Glennon (CHI), Siemian (DEN), Savage (HOU)) penciled-in for 2017 strongly suggests about both their desirability.

For Tebow, who last played with the Jets in 2012, the chance of an NFL return is nearly nil. Tim’s rather particular (prideful), shunning CFL and tight-end talk, a spot for which he was tailor-made. Same holds true for Sam (nil) who never made a roster after being drafted late in 2014 (7 / 249), having two tryouts (STL / DAL), an invite to a combine and a brief suit-up with Montreal (CFL). Mike does, for some reason, have his own page at PFR.com, sans the Alouettes.

None of those deactivated states has stopped certain media from alternatively appeasing (groupies) or depressing (fans of sport) readers with a steady stream of stories seemingly designed to persuade, cajole or bully the League, its owners and neutral fans into giving three of the four another shot at the big time.

But “Eddie Haskell” couldn’t bully “Beaver Cleaver,” Reid & Pelosi couldn’t bully Dan Snyder, his Washington Redskins and the American Indian rank & file (See; WP “9 of 10” poll (2016)) and nobody bullies the NFL to decide who it hires and who it doesn’t. An exception: Ray Rice and women’s advocacy. The ex-Raven’s rehab appears real but his stigma sticks: Video is video, thanks to TMZ (ugh).

If you think that’s a poor analogy, then you never knew Leave It to Beaver (1957-63). It’s impact on Americana made Vince Lombardi’s power sweep look almost happenstance. And if you don’t know the sweep (Kramer – Gregg) you’d best bone up. Start in State of Ohio, then find George Halas (IL) and go from there.

Michael Sam

When Sam told the nation of his homosexual orientation just prior to the 2014 NFL draft, likely hoping to forestall his stock drop to a level so low he feared being undrafted entirely, his act was lauded by captured media as socially significant. It might have been more accurately called a self-serving act of leverage. A League that would appear unwelcoming to the first openly gay pro football player, college skill-set aside, might suffer a consumer backlash, so the Suits & Skirts may’ve thunk. Sam gets the call late from a Rams club seeking a re-location vote, then a tryout from affable Jerry Jones who is always looking for new renters (AT&T). The NFL looked open-minded, Sam got his cup o’ Gatorade® and everybody felt a little cheated.

Colin Kaepernick

Sherman recently claimed Kaepernick is being blackballed on his race. But that won’t fly. The NFL’s composition is overwhelmingly African-American. Others claim jingoism is motivating CK’s critics, arising from what appeared an anthem protest on police brutality, suspiciously timed as the former 49er’s starter-string in San Francisco looked to’ve run out. But America was born on protest (Stamp Act 1765). Refusing to stand at attention for the flag ceremony is disfavored but not necessarily offensive to most citizens of these United States. What owners may’ve found abhorrent (Tuesday nite ESPN reports Giants’ owner John Mara likes the Milwaukee-native to suit-up somewhere in the NFL for 2017) were Colin’s racist white pig socks. It doesn’t have to be a forgiveable act but until Kaepernick takes responsibility, even a re-signing won’t make him legitimate.

What if nobody comes calling from the NFL, where does Colin go from there? Oprah? That’d be nice, for him, when he and his co-author get a book done (I don’t know Dick’s writing skills but he does like a by-line (See; SI.com)). And believing in something (faith) is not enough. Wisdom, and no small amount of courage, do both matter. Protest can be passionate, or it can be theater if it lacks heart & soul (truth). And he can forget about autograph shows, they’re pro-diversity and patriotic, but the NBA célébrité will always be welcoming.

John Manziel

Johnny Football: He never did earn that moniker. Jon thought talent was the trick. So did Todd Marinovich, “Robo-QB.” He could matriculate in a typhoon but made drugs his love. Manziel could’ve been the greatest college quarterback in history but made booze his squeeze. We don’t really know anything’s changed at this posting. For a run-QB who never learned to take hits in the pocket, THE pro skill, Johnny Skittles can’t afford to have fun being stupid any longer. Like Colin, Jon never respected the game, or the business. That won’t be tolerated, not by owners, players, coaches, real fans or the almighty Sponsors.

Tim Tebow

It’s curious, Tim may be the only NFL signal-caller to have, in his one near-full campaign under center (2014 Denver), compiled a better than .500 record (7-4), led the most captivating team win-streak in recent memory (6-0), won a road playoff game (@ Pittsburgh) on a GWD touchdown strike, yet, the next season, be ungraciously traded away (Jets) where, for one season, he finished his brief career in a non-QB job as a decoy flanker-back (?). Curious, indeed.

Tebow’s fandom is still vast, kept current with his baseball venture in the Mets minors, one most likely to end in the same fashion to that of his pro football career when (if) on promotion he meets that “wicked” major league curveball, known to derail & dash many a career (See; Bull Durham (88)).

Most scribes never did subscribe to the Book of Timbo, hence, never did promote his cause for return. Bart Simpson just won’t rock to Christian hip-hop. Like all run-QBs, Tim’s skill-set proved limited (47.9 C%). But other wily field generals have too relied heavily on stoking emotional fires to wins & careers, Billy Kilmer comes to mind (1967: 10g, 47.5%, 0-4, 6t-11i (16y)), and Tim, had he been NFL retained, would’ve most likely seen his skill-set progress at least in the manner of fellow flashman CK: Never top tier (Brady / Moon) but a sufficiency to roster. And then nobody put fans in the seats, stadium and home, like Tebow did. The reality for the NFL is that flash-QB, with all his shortcomings (rabbit, RIF-fail), is here to stay, given his popularity in college by great success (titles / Heismans) and facilitator of coach-lite: Just give the Kid the ball and count the wins.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; C.Kaepernick, wc.cca, 10.27.13, D.Hartwig; M.Sam, wc, ED.Drost, 8.23.14; Starlito-T.Tebow-L.Garrett, wc, 11.1.12; J.Manziel, Kyle-Field, wc, shutterbug459, 10.20.12; J.Marshall, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 8.9.17 @ 12:39a EST, edit 8.10; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W3: Whosit at QB? Whocares…with Belichick’s Brain

20 Sep

Sittin’ Pretty

It’s one of the rivalry weeks in this early going of NFL16 as the Redskins take on the Giants, Lions visit Lambeau, 49ers with flair for football fend-off distraction and head north to Seattle, Steelers head East to Philly and the enigma that are the Falcons fly West to face conundrum that’s become their nemesis, the Saints.

Should be a ratings bonanza, even with the self-serve, i.e., Kaep Krudesader & Company. When being different (anthem boycott) morphs into just more of the same old same old (finger-point, blame shift & Change-in-$pecie).

Biggest news heading into Week 3‘s slate: With Patriots starting QB and Tom Brady understudy, Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a 1st -half shoulder bang at what appeared behest of Dolphins well-traveled linebacker Kiko Alonso in Sunday’s win over the visiting Miamians, NFL standard-bearer New England is now down to one rostered field general. That’s rookie Jacoby Brissett (NCSU), with end Julian Edelman, a 3-year flash-QB at Kent State, ready as the emergency guy.

brissett-wc-5-5m-b-salama-10-24-15*On Monday the Patriots’ braintrust in Bill Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels had few answers for media folk on whether Jim could go for their Thursday night game in hosting 2-0 Houston Texans, and then whether another quarterback would be rostered.

In limited duty on Sunday in subbing for the injured Garoppolo, Brissett, who went 91st (3R) in the 2016 draft and hails out of North Carolina State where he guided Wolfpack for two seasons as a run-QB, taking to rabbit nearly 10+ per, did pass his first test in going 6 of 9 with 0 TDs but no turnovers.

If the Continentals lose any more quarterbacks don’t be surprised if these names get dropped into the Foxborough discussion:

Tim Tebow: Timbo’s doing the national pastime thing now (Mets) but the man’s always in football shape. Too bad for Tim he didn‘t push for tight-end a few years back when given a Patriots pass-key and that big muscles won’t help much in hitting those nasty curves: Odds on call: 1000 – 1;

Jon Manziel: Last I read, ‘Johnny Big Hands’ had re-enrolled at his former school, Texas A&M, for what, only god knows because “Skittles® and beer” will not be part of that fine institution’s classroom curriculum. Odds: 500 – 1;

Shaun Hill: The former Maryland Terrapin (See Also: S.Diggs) started W1 for the Vikes and got a win (0 TD) but got handed back his clip-board in favor of Eagles cast-off, Sam Bradford who sports a career 26-37 mark but warmed Minnesota hearts with a big win over their dreaded rival the green & yellow on Sunday. A bit long-in-the-tooth by QB standards (36, 17-18, 62 C%), nobody in NFL deserves one more shot like patient Shaun. Odds: 200 – 1.

brady-8-28-09-k-allison-wc-cca-862mMike Vick: Currently a free-agent, Mike seeks a 5th team to keep the dream alive. Though he’s lost a step, ever since Vick returned to NFL action in ’09 (PHI) after 2-year susp’n for dog-fighting he’s appeared a model citizen, supportive teammate and now qualifies for the wily-veteran tag. What a “long and winding road” a Patriots finish would be for Mike. Odds: 100 – 1.

But with Tom set to make his return in W5 (@ Browns) after serving his 4-game Deflategate susp’n, marking the official display of NFL’s open-for-business sign, the Pats are sitting pretty at 2-0 in an AFC not exactly brimming over with stiff competition and then Garoppolo not expected to be sidelined for extended time, rostering another QB doesn’t presently appear the highest of priorities.

Whomever handles quarterbacking duties for the football version of America’s Team (sorry, Jerry, but apart from apparel sales it’s not even close, not as long a B&B click), you can be sure Patriots’ genius-in-residence in Bill Belichick will have matters well in hand, knowing when to tune it up and when to let it ride.

Best Equation in W2

New Digs (USB) + New Diggs (9r-182-TD) = Vikes win (v GB (17-14)).

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 3

HOU (2-0) @ NE (2-0): 9.22 CBS 8:25 (GTW): NE wins
Cardinals (1-1) @ Buffalo (0-2): 9.25 Fox 1:00: AZ wins
Raiders (1-1) @ Titans (1-1): CBS 1:00: Oakland wins
Detroit Lions (1-1) @ Green Bay Packers (1-1): Fox 1:00: Packers win
Denver Broncos (2-0) @ Cincinnati (1-1): CBS 1:00 (GTW2): Tigers win
Minnesota Vikings (2-0) @ Carolina (1-1): Fox 1:00 (GTW3): Cats win
Los Angeles Rams (1-1) @ Tampa Bay (1-1): Fox 4:05: Buccaneers win
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-1): Fox 4:05: ‘Hawks win
New York Jets (1-1) @ Kansas City Chief (1-1): CBS 4:25: Chiefs win
San Diego Chargers (1-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2): CBS 4:25: Colts win
Pittsburgh (2-0) @ Philadelphia (2-0): CBS 4:25 (GTW4): Steelers win
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ New Orleans (0-2): 9.26 Disney 8:30: Saints win

Record: 8 – 11

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: B.Belichick, wc.cca, D.Shankbne, 4.24.12; Belichick, wc, 8.28.9, K.Allison, DC; J.Brissett, wc, B.Salama, 10.24.15; T.Brady, wc, DC, 8.28.9, K.Allison; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.8; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 9.20.16 @ 6:07pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15-W1 HunchLine: Minute Waltz

17 Sep

Good Spot

New England Patriots

Sure, Brady’s win in Rd-2 of Deflategate was, in Bart Simpson® vernacular, awesome, for Tom and all camped in his corner (See also; NFL bean-counters), but the months of legal wrangling had to take emotional toll on the boys in red, white & blue. So hats off to Tom who was, in cool 60s vernacular, groovin (25-32, 4td)’ and Rob Gronkowski who was totally TD (3). Nod too to Steelers’ RB DeAngelo Williams (21-127).

Tennessee Titans

Four TD tosses (Mariota) in a road win are a confidence-builder for an opening-act. The effusive praise is to be expected given Marcus’ following, even versus a reclamation project like Tampa. Good thing his head seems screwed on straight. Titans aught send NFL schedulers a muffin-basket. It’s not bad (@ CLE next), with four contenders-in-a-row at home. The closing’s a toughie (NE & IND late).

More impressive was that Mariota, with fair defensive pressure (2sk), only reverted to scamper mode 2x (Winston: 6x) and left the rush to the men built for carry (Sankey / West). He’ll need pocket poise down pat before season’s end.

Buffalo Bills

.....Ryan.8.3.8.K.Allison.thmbCount me among the jaw droppers when Rex announced Tyrod Taylor, who’d never started a game in his 4 NFLs (BAL), would lead the Bills’ offense against favored Indy. But TT made a monkey out of me in leading his club to an impressive 27-14 win (14-19, 1td). The secret, like with Mariota, may be keeping the call uncomplicated. Red-flag: Ty took off nearly 10x, a rabbit habit that’s gotta’ stop.

St. Louis Rams

Training in an atmosphere of uncertainty (LA move?), Ferguson feelings still frayed and taking on NFL juggernaut and division rival in the Seahawks, the Rams, Jeff Fisher and new QB Nick Foles (18-27, 297-1t) fell behind early, kept cool, took the lead, lost it (2 LFs), came back and won it in OT. Moxie to burn.

Unga-Chaka Unga Unga (“Hooked on a Feeling (Blue Swede)”)

It was a heart-wrenching loss to Dallas (26-27) but Giants bright spot might be in finding a hidden gem in L-backer Uani Unga (10t-2a-1int), formerly of BYU, while Cowboys’ range-boss Sean Lee looks to’ve recovered from injury that sidelined him in ‘14 (7t-2a). If Miami LB Koa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi becomes a regular, he’s gonna’ live-up to that tremendous name (9t-2a). Tall tackler Anthony Barr (6-5) gave the Vikes something to crow about (10t-2a) and J.J. Watt is off to an MVP-ish season, not just because he got to the QB twice but the 9 solos, too. That’s the ticket!

Keen Koncentration (SD)

Chargers’ receiver Keenan Allen hauled in 15 receptions for 166 yards in Bolts come-from-behind win over Detroit who let one slip through their paws, while leg-hampered Julio Jones did his best to top his Eagles counterpart J. Matthews (10-102) and made sure Falcons didn’t throw this one away (9-141, 2td).

Smooth as Cocoa Butter

Carson Palmer came through with flying colors in his first game back from last year’s season-ending knee injury and Arizonans breathed sigh of relief. The C% was a bit rusty (19-32) but three TDs and no INTs is fine form. Fewer fingers crossed on reliable Alex Smith but who put on his typical terrific but off-the-media-radar performance versus the Texans (23-33, 3td). And if you’re perplexed on the “Cocoa Butter” call, ask any woman who’s experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of childbirth, what the brand-name ‘Palmer’ means to her. She‘ll be impressed.

Bad Spot

Bad form to do a Week 1 power ranking or to employ the word panic to tag any team that may stumble outta’ the gate (0-1). Ugh.

Johnny on the Spot

....Manziel.8.2.14.ED.Drost.wc.thmb.headJon Manziel threw his first pro TD vs the Jets but fumbled away two possessions and tossed an INT. “Big steps and little ‘uns,” Jon, big ones and little ‘uns. God how I miss “All Creatures Great and Small.”

Two teams (HOU / OAK) passed on vet QB in Matt Schaub (BAL (64C%, 130-86 TD-ratio) but most likely could’ve given their seasons good hope but who now sits idle on Ravens bench behind NFL’s new ironman QB in Flacco. Go figure the football mind, eh?

Sad Spot

Anyone who suffered a serious, side-lining W1 injury.

More notables include Panthers tackle-titan Luke Kuechly who suffered one of a plethora of concussions and hamstring pulls (Mike Evans (TB)) in NFL W1. Luke’s in protocol, as is Browns’ starting QB Josh McCown who should think twice next time before choosing to fly over traveling by land.

And all the trench-men and kickers who go largely unnoticed by fans.

See Spot Run

Cowboys will need a run game of note (Randle (16-65); McFadden (6-16)) before this 2015 enters 2nd half (Nov) with Murray’s exit (PHI) and Bryant’s foot bang.

Like Romo, Palmer too will need consistency from his run game (Ellington (12-69) & C. Johnson (10-37)) to seriously contend with Packers alive & well. Giving rookie RB David ‘Stiff Arm’ Johnson (NIU) time to shine could work a pressure-release valve for the Palmer-centric AZ offense.

And for all the negative press media-trolls scribble on the ‘Skins, the name they nearly never drop is Alfred Morris who just keeps doing what he does best: push the pig (25-121). Ditto on Bears’ Matt Forte who keeps on keeping Chicago respectable (24-141, 1td) and Niners’ Carlos Hyde who may make San Franers forget Gore but fast (26-168, 2td).

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: J.Fisher, wc.cca, E.D.Drost, 8.23.14; R.Ryan, wc, 8.3.8, K.Allison; J.Manziel, wc, 8.2.14, E.D.Drost; NFL-wikiproject.
Posted: 9.16.15 @ 11:28pm; Copyright ® 2015

Johnny Renaissance: Manziel Begins Anew

20 Apr

Shirley Ellis called it “The Name Game” in her 1964 pop hit.


Ever since Jonathan Manziel (Johnny Football®) made the national scene in 2011, his trademarked moniker and free-wheeling lifestyle have become fodder for a kind of national name game, i.e., “Johnny Red Flag,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Johnny Case (Study),” “Johnny Got His (Sample Cup)” are just a smattering of the gamesmanship.

Some of the word-plays have been complimentary, others have been critical but most have poked fun at the Tyler, Texas native (12.6.92).

And my title (“Johnny Renaissance”)? It’s not so much a prediction as it is a communiqué of good luck. Not because I’m a huge fan of Johnny Manziel.

Though he entered the NFL draft after his sophomore season, I had hoped he’d remain in college for the duration as I believed he stood good chance of becoming NCAA’s greatest single-wing tail-back, i.e., run-QB.


The 2nd-year Cleveland Browns‘ QB and Heisman winner (Tx A&M ‘12) was reported to’ve voluntarily entered a “drug and alcohol rehabilitation” facility in February (“Sources: Manziel Out” / Fox-AP / 4.11). He’s exited the facility and is expected to be in attendance at Browns spring camp to kick off Monday (4/20).

Addiction, if that’s what the rehab stint was largely about, and taking steps to combat it through self examination, is serious stuff.

So I say, bravo, Johnny.

As of this write, Jon will compete with three quarterbacks for the Browns starter job, a number of rostered signal callers likely to be trimmed down to three.

Others include former Buccaneer & Bear, the pricey pick-up Josh McCown, 2nd-year man Connor Shaw (one start in ‘14) and former Brown & Bill, Thad Lewis.

Last year’s primary starter Brian Hoyer (13gs) won’t be amongst the group as he was not resigned and contracted with Houston (2y / 10M). The McCown signing doesn‘t appear a big upgrade but then the Cleveland brain-trust has been a bit shaky in signal-caller calls ever since the Bernie Kosar days ended (’91).

Brownies are not alone. A matriculating, field-savvy, healthy, clutch, long-term QB is hard to find, and getting harder.

Manziel had two starts in (0-2) and did not impress (51+ C%, 0td, 2int, y/c 9.7). But he kept the scamper to a minimum (9-29y) and generally kept his composure, excepting that backwards scoot & fumble @ Buffalo.


Run-QB has not translated well to the pro game and I don’t expect Jon, nor Mr. Mariota, to change that trend.

The rabbit-habit works wonders on the unlevel playing fields of the college gridiron but does not cultivate the form nor mental state required for the pass heavy pro-set. Once the ‘bolt action’ begins it’s a nearly impossible habit to break. Taking hard hits is a painful learning process best begun when young, dauntless and a bit imprudent.

But most NFL observers are right now more concerned with Jon’s mental maturity and social behavior. A believed drinking habit is thought to’ve been a hindrance to his development on and off the playing field.

A devout devotion to drink will derail anyone’s development. Problem drinkers, especially of celebrity status, will usually trip-wire trouble of a very serious, regular nature, something I didn’t quite see in Manziel’s reported behaviors.

Before his rehabilitation, whenever I heard of Johnny Football’s off field shenanigans I was often reminded of that Barbara Streisand song, “People (Styne & Merrill (Funny Girl ’64)), “♫ people who need people ♫.” No joke.

Manziel appeared to this amateur psychiatrist to be a young man who simply reveled in the company of others, loved the spotlight and sharing his fame.

Whatever the reason(s) Jon went the rehab route, be it the crutch of alcohol or something else, the experience should do him good, physically and emotionally. We all could use a cleansing now & then, body and soul (See; libation, medicines, gluten, HFCS (in pop), plastics, mold, chemicals, etc.).


The fact Skip Bayless sent out the SOS for Jon just prior to his entrance into the facility means either Skip has a conduit into the Manziel circle or his skills in long-distance observation & diagnosis are out of this world.

Whether or not the rehab will result in a rebirth of sorts, learning to respect himself and others, is something Jon, we, won’t know for some time. Change is a process. The valuable kind will often come in small steps:

Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground and later win a little more (Louis L’Amour);” or, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in, day out (R. Collier).”

That reads like standard motivational speech: true enough but rather austere.

Jon might keep one thing in mind that may prove helpful: As busy & beautiful as life can be, a good chunk of it is boredom, even if rich and famous. If you can cope with that, fill it with value, you’re halfway there.

Something in Jon’s favor: With steady decline in the number of pocket-passers coming out of the college ranks, where Sir Runs Alot has stole the show and the hearts of many a coach, the single-wing TB (run QB) should come back in vogue and, if not dominate the NFL, surely hold a dominion. Law of supply & demand.

That should also portend a rebirth in defensive dominance as offensive passing skills become more the icing rather than the greater cake of champions.

If Manziel flies right, catches a few breaks and his club is serious about winning, he could be at the forefront of a Renaissance, personally and professionally (NFL). His new theme song: “I Will Survive (Gaynor ‘78),” of course.


Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: J.Manziel, wc.cca, ED.Drost, 7.25.14, Berea, pass; J.Manziel, wc.cca, ED.Drost, 8.2.14, Berea, head, thmb; J.Manziel, wc.cca, Shutterbug459, TxA&M, 10.20.12, thmb; J.Manziel, 7.25.14, Berea, run, wc.cca, ED.Drost, thmb; J.Manziel, Berea, 7.25.14, ED.Drost, wc.cca, standing, thmb.
Posted: 4.20.15 @12:56am 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.


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;

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;

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).


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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

NFL14 Cherry Picks W16: Poli-Spo 101

20 Dec

Soliciting Sport

Poli-sci: That’s college slang for a course in political science. Basically, it’s the study of government and people, powerful ones in particular, usually at the federal level and with a little history, economics and psychology mixed in for flavor. Life, essentially.

It was my minor while I matriculated, majoring in history. Surprisingly, not much politics, just the facts. Teachers are smart like that.

Today there’s a new subject sweeping America, it’s called poli-spo. That’s short for political sportician, which is the more likeable cousin of the sport technician (Costas, KO, SAS, sport radio, etc.), which is the former college roommate of the sport mortician (sabermetrics, fantasy) who can bore you to death.

They’re men and women who use the sport subject to achieve political and / or monetary ends. Left-wing, right-wing, it’s open enrollment, but definitely Machiavellian, i.e., ‘ends justify the means.’ Sincerity is an elective.

It’s a course that’s not yet been officially sanctioned by Harvard trustees (I just made it this week), but it’s actually been taught for many years now, going back to the Caesars who tossed victory garlands at the Coliseum, the stone one, in Rome, old days. History.

Politicians used to kiss babies. Now they tour on the sport cycle. Here’s a short list of some of the most recognizable, recent enrollees in poli-spo 101:

Chris Christie

The New Jersey Governor (‘10) is a Cowboys fan since childhood. No surprise there, as Dallas became America’s Team in Chris’ formative years (70s) under leadership of Tom Landry and Roger “the dodger” Staubach. Only the Favre phenomena has compared.


Now he’s taken his passion on the road to back his ‘boys. Funny it happens to coincide with Cowboy contention and a likely Presidential run. Maybe CC sees their stars aligning. But he best tread lightly. Hitching your wagon to Romo’s star is a risky association as Tone has a panache for ‘falling’ in clutch-time, not exactly what we seek in a Chief.

And I’m guessing, if Christie happens to run for New Jersey governor again, he won’t be donning the ten-gallon in AC.

President Obama

When the Commander-in-Chief spoke on ESPN’s “The Herd” last week, chiding the NFL (and NFLPA?) for being “behind the curve” on issue of domestic violence (Rice), Mr. Obama piled-on in manner not unlike Ken Starr and his politicizing of the Lewinsky affair (’98), a fishing expedition that left America holding its nose, bitter at the GOP and sympathetic with the bungling and personally humiliated President Clinton and his embarrassed family.

Just as the President cut a deal with the “monster(s)” of healthcare to fashion the ACA, Roger Goodell too took the easier route in relying on the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s template for his initial handling of the Ray Rice susp‘n (2g).

Had Mr. Obama been ahead of the curve on the issue himself, given federal guidance beyond the slew of standard speeches Chiefs and Cabinet members give on various topics and been proactive on this matter typically governed by State criminal codes, before it became hot, trendy topic on which other agendas might ride, his criticism here might carry weight with the public.

Voters of all ages are looking for independent minded leadership that works with others for solutions, not bandwagon-jumping and piling-on. Poor play, Mr. Prez.

Hillary Clinton

I count three ball caps she’s worn (Cubs, Sox & Yanks), but if Hillary hits the campaign trail again, the former First Lady and Secretary of State may give former MLB traveling-man Octavio Dotel (13 hats) a run for his money.

Wearing different hats, glad-handing, as it were, in the political arena, is a-okay. They gotta’ give voters what they want, i.e., “sweet little lies.“ We voters don’t handle the truth so well.


But when Clinton boards the anti-Redskins bandwagon in 2014, after decades of tacit public approval of the 80-year old Washington motif, leadership and sincerity become issues of concern for the would-be presidential candidate.

Want to create millions of named racists in America over-night? Start a logo war.

One could consider it mean-spirited and irresponsible to join and further a national campaign, begun surprisingly the same year Nike® assumes the NFL uniform contract (’12), that tries to add millions & millions of supposed racists to America’s roll of ignorance. That roll necessarily must include all connected to the NFL, the production, distribution and consumption. That probably comes to about 85% of the nation, give or take.

Those who’d validate those attaching harsh label (“racist”) to those who’d vote ‘yes’ on the under-siege motif, a vote absent the hate, the prejudice that makes-up racism, seem more than happy to do just that in adding mass amounts of names to their bad-people list.

Not exactly what Martin, Jack, Cesar and Bobby had in mind, Hillary.

“Tanks for Nut’in!’”

If “Maggs (Caddyshack)” were in with the Brownies, not the girls club, the footballers, she’d be livid. I wouldn’t say Cleveland tanked it against intrastate rival Cincinnati last Sunday (30-0 CIN), but this Browns team was clearly dispirited in W15 action.

It’s been a season of highs & lows for the Forest City bunch, playoff contenders through much of 2014 with some nice wins. But injuries to key cogs (Mack / Gordon) and a late-season switch-a-roo at quarterback (J.Manziel) by head coach Mike Pettine has got to have players somewhat befuddled.


It’s not as if head honchos must poll their rosters to make a QB change. That can’t work. But taking the pulse, getting a read from team leaders is a favored tack. Maybe Mike did as much, though, it doesn’t look that way.

As for the LeBron-Nike-LRMR-Manziel promo tour, the Cavaliers star is, like Christie, a Cowboys fan. Unlike the Governor, LJ keeps his Dallas devotion under his new Browns hat as he does his part to back his new friend and keep their shared interest trending.

Benched starter and just capable Brian Hoyer was not looking All-Pro in ‘14. He kept mistakes to a minimum in most games, helped forge viability for a stagnated Cleveland franchise but then the Browns hit a brick wall. Maybe ‘mates saw this as Brian’s year past midway, win or lose. They can hardly blame Jon for Sunday’s crash but he clearly wasn’t ready to start as his fumble bungle at Buffalo attested.

This week is about Pettine. Will he run the team or will the media keep assisting?

The Cutler Conundrum

Bears headed into hibernation early in 2014.

Chicago’s sorry state is not unlike the Giants of Meadowland. Though contention was expected, both under-achieved (5-9) with poor defense (CHI #30 ypg (Allen 5s – 34t) / NYG #26) and talented quarterbacks who’ve found no synergy. One difference being, G-men have recent ring-hauls (’08 / ’12) which carry weight.


Former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith, now at Tampa Bay, couldn’t beat Green Bay, while Marc Trestman can’t seem to beat much of anyone else in the League. But the prospect of re-boarding the coach carousel is one the Halas Hall brass must simply dread.

They feed off eachother, offense and defense, and it’s clearly a team effort in futility at Soldier Field in ’14 with Forte, Mundy & Willie Young the few bright spots. Trestman, Pres. Ted Phillips and GM Phil Emery know all too well it’s a seller’s market in the NFL for quality QBs and were they taking inquiries for Jay Cutler’s services the calls would be incoming.

Bears wouldn’t have been unwise this week to’ve stayed the course and ridden it out with Jay, rather than throw Jim Clausen into the frying pan. Then, in off-season, among other needs, add a favored backup QB if they can locate one and hold a competition next summer.

Curious Quotes

“Wow, that was a shocker.”

Shocking words from former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci (NFLN) Sunday night after the Niners loss to division rival Seattle (7-17) knocked them out of the playoffs (7-7) for first time in Jim Harbaugh’s short yet quite successful San Francisco tenure (3 NFCTs).


When linebacker extraordinaire NaVorro Bowman went down (ACL) in last season’s NFCT (SEA), the Niners 2014 season was pretty much mapped out (.500 (+/-)). All-Pro Pat Willis’ absence (W6) compounded the problem: a talent and leadership mix that’s sorely missed. Not that the fill-ins aren’t very capable, they are, but there’s more to this game than shear talent.

Had Packers or Patriots’ seasons gone south because Aaron or Tom were sidelined the entirety, no one would be expressing such “shock.”

Jim Harbaugh’s structure centers on defense, no surprise there, it’s a NFCW trait, though, pocket passer Palmer at Arizona gives Arians another dimension.

And again, as we’ve seen in Chicago, the offense will take cues from the defense and vice versa, though, again, Arizona’s defense has broken with that tradition in carrying their offensive-challenged team of late, and with pluck to burn.

With run-QB Kaepernick’s broad learning-curve (red-zone blues) and defense stalwarts down, most should’ve seen 7-7 coming last January. That written, unless it’s personality clash or disparate visions, Yorks would be mistaken to let Jimbo go elsewhere. It’s not exactly a buyer’s market for top coaches, either.


Cherry Picks Week 16: Mix & Mingle

Chargers (8-6) @ San Fran (7-7): 12-20 CBS 8:25: Bolts win
Ravens (9-4) @ Houston (7-7): 12-21 CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Browns (7-7) @ Carolina (5-8-1): 1:00 CBS: Panthers win
Lions (10-4) @ Chicago (5-9): 1:00 Fox: Detroit wins
KC (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Steelers win
Falcons (5-9) @ New Orleans (6-8): Fox 1:00 (GOTW): NO wins
Colts (10-4) @ Dallas (10-4): CBS 4:25: Cowboys win
Seahawks (10-4) @ Arizona (11-3): NBC 8:30: Seattle wins
Denver (11-3) @ Cincy (9-4-1): 12-22 ESPN 8:30: Broncos win

Record: 78 – 47 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Christie, wc.cca, Jagendorf, 3.2.11; Christie, wc.cca, 2.9.11, nightscream; H.Clinton, wc.cca, ChathamHouse, 10.11.13; Manziel & Hoyer, wc.cca, 7.25.14, Drost; Cutler, wc.cca, 11.1.09, Schadle; JimHarbaugh, wc.cca, M.Dempsey, CJCoS, M.Cullen; ripe.cherries, wc.cca, Chirak, 6.24.07.
Posted: 12.19.14 @ 8:56pm; edit 12.20 @ 12:24am EST