Tag Archives: leadership

NFL16: In Deferring to Dak, Tony Romo Fails the Grit-Test

17 Nov

He didn’t take many questions in Tuesday’s press conference. Instead, Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback for the past decade, Tony Romo, read a statement. He got goods reviews from the press corps and blogisphere bunch.

But place me about 800 yards west of the cheering section.

Grade given by this football fan for Romo’s blood-less abdication: D.

In his oration, Romo deferred to rookie back-up QB Dak Prescott on the starter question: “He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record and that’s hard to do.” Very nice. Maybe too nice.

“Right” schmight. There are no “right(s)” in football, just ethical duties and contract obligations that some players will always meet, some will sometimes, some won’t but on their best day and a few don’t seem to give a damn at all.

romo-10-13-10-bigcatsliar-wc-343kOkay…you say you believe in rights. That should make you a Thomas Jefferson fan (BoR). For the sake of argument, let’s say rights do exist in football. Then I’d say, Tony Romo’s earned a BIGGER right to re-claim his starters job than has Prescott in retaining it, and with ten years of All-Pro play, sound character and seniority, shouldn‘t have to convince his owner of it, not if the Cufflink appreciates loyalty, anyway.

‘Seniority is lame,’ say some, but just wait until you start having to look over your shoulder at the young Turks coming to take your job. It won’t seem so silly then.

And I don’t want to read any hearsay from captured scribes or Cowboys’ brass (Steve Jones) on how Tony supposedly asked politely for his job back. Straight from the horses mouth (TR) or save it. Even if, this you don’t ask, you demand. If you lose the argument you take your lumps and stay a team-player, giving advice / support as needed. But you don’t ask.

And therein lay the wild-card in this hand of high-stakes football.

What would Jerry Jones have done if Tony had pushed hard to get back his starters spot, made an issue of it, would Jones have conceded, admiring the veteran’s moxie and taking it as good sign that maybe now Tony finally has the wherewithal to lead Dallas back to the Super show? Test of tenacity, as it were.

Apparently Romo never pressed the point, never handed in his exam.

Leaders, champions, they don’t defer to hot-streaks, popularity contests or young Tom Brady analogies. The greats will advocate, argue, fight tooth n’ nail for that starters spot and slot-to-glory, with both fists-a- flyin’ if necessary, Ty Cobb style when you had to fight for the right to play. And they did.

prescott-9-18-16-k-allison-187kIf I were Jerry Jones or Jason Garrett I’d likely tab Dak Prescott the starter myself. Stick with the hot hand and healthier frame than the oft-injured Romo.

I wrote, ‘likely.’ I’d need convincing that three good wins (DC, @GB, PHI), one pretty good win (@ PIT (Ben still bunged)), four walkover wins (CHI, SF, CIN, CLE) and one loss (NYG) gives a first-year guy the nod over a 4-time Pro Bowler.

But Tony Romo’s not an owner, he’s not a coach, he’s not Cowboys PR person, he’s not a GM implementing a youth movement or authoring a masters thesis on ‘Diversity and the NFL.’ He’s a man who dresses in shoulder-pads, cleats and rides point for America’s Team, or used to, anyway, the top job on the planet, a man with great passing stats in line for Cowboys’ Ring of Honor but posts a pedestrian playoff mark that raises doubts about his clutch-capability.

A man with that Dallas record and deep well of gridiron knowledge should NOT willingly hand over the starters spot. NEVER. And that’s Tony Romo all over.

From his first year as a starter when he bobbled that FG snap late in a playoff loss v. Seattle in Parcells final season (’06), you wondered about Mr. Romo. The bobble was a blip. Things like that happen. But with Romo it’s always something, something to derail the run. In fairness, Dez did (catch it (See; GB 2015)).

It doesn’t matter that Romo may be the only man in these United States who thinks he should start over an 8-1 rookie. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.” Some players, those imbued with spirit of competition and personal achievement, would understand and give their backing. Great quarterbacks have great big egos. They’d better.

jones-12-7-15-k-allison-wc-339kAnd if Romo had been given his job back and his ‘mates had tanked in protest, tanked on the team, tanked on the fans, that’s their problem. You go out with your head held high knowing you’ve done what a leader does: Take charge, give it your best, give it your all until that final gun goes off.

‘But what about the team,’ you say, ‘Dak’s got ’em believing?’ Sure he has, but Romo’s a master-craftsman in the pocket who’s won a playoff game or two, had Dallas believing in prior campaigns and could likely do it again. It’s theory but as sound as the Dak strategy.

I wish Mr. Prescott well. Youth must be served, elections excepted.

As for Tony Romo, I hope you like your Ring-of-Honor ceremony. When you get back to the fairways say ‘hey’ to President Obama and remember this link lesson: Drive for show, put for dough, Canton covets moxie that few come to know.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: T.Romo, wc.cca, 12.7.15, DC, K.Allison; Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.10; D.Prescott, wc, 9.18.16, K.Allison; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, DC, K.Allison; cherries-cloth, wc, picdrome, 6-2011; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.17.16 @ 5:07pm EST; Copyright © 2016


NFL16 Division Cherry Picks: What’s a Leader?

16 Jan

Leaders: They come in all shapes & sizes.

If one trait stood out in the NFL Wild Card weekend, one that separated the mice from the men, it was the importance of having a leadership on your squad, from coaches to players, in skill and sensibility. Of course, lady luck and bad karma had their hands in it, too (See; SEA @ MIN).

........Manning.wc.8.26.12.J.Beall.thmSome wear the regalia of a commander.

Four-star General George S. Patton who led US troops to victory in North Africa (‘42), Sicily (‘43) and the Battle of the Bulge (‘44) in the Western crush of Nazi Germany, wore his medals with pride but was as near as famous for the his loose-tongue and “damn the torpedoes” tactic as he was for the Allied conquests he achieved.

Other chieftains are the stuff of fables.

Though he acted in the enormous shadows of his two famous co-stars, “Buzz (Corey Allen)” from Rebel Without a Cause (‘55) was the proto-typical teen-leader of the angstful 1950s. He had Natalie Woods heart, for a time, kept his kooky crew in check, brought James Dean (“Jamie“) into the fold and then accidentally drove off a cliff.

And people can lead by refusing to act.

.......Parks.wc.1955.USIA.NARA.thmRosa Parks was not an imposing figure at 5’3.” And she wasn’t the first bus-rider to stand (sit) against racial segregation (Rustin-Morgan-Keys-Browder et al). But Civil Rights leaders saw the time was right to test again Constitutionality of Jim Crow and in her the right person to do it in exercising civil disobedience in refusing to cave to command of a Montgomery (Ala) bus-driver to give her seat to a white rider.

And sometimes leadership becomes an excuse.

In wake of Texans thumping at the hands, arms, legs, etcetera of the visiting Chiefs, their quarterback Brian Hoyer (15-34, 0t, 4i) said this in his post-game press conference: “This wasn’t nerves…I wasn’t gonna’ take myself out of the game…that would be a lack of leadership, a cop-out.”

Pluck is admirable but sometimes a leader finds strength to hand over the reins when his way is clearly, not only not getting the job done, but helping list the ship. No shame in occasionally passing the baton, especially when there are back-ups galore (Weeden, etc.). Just another way of ‘taking one for the team.’ And there is where the head coach must lead (See; O’Brien).

Hoyer recovered in closing with, “bad things happen in life. Hopefully I can learn from this.” Hopefully, yes.

.......Watt.9.23.12.J.Beall.thmb.wcHis defensive teammate, national celebrity and Schwarzenegger buddy, J.J. Watt, left the game in the 3rd quarter with injury but didn’t exhibit any better command in post-game questioning.

Reporter: “Does this (loss) take the edge off the season?” “Yes…it’s all about the Super Bowl.” Okay, J.J.

A real leader wouldn’t feel the need to convince fans he really wants the Lombardi. It’s a given. But to devalue the terrific accomplishment Houston worked in an injury-riddled, QB-carousal campaign, to assess a 9-8 record with a mopey mug post-game is not the stuff of staunch to inspire the throngs who cluster near for autographs.

In the other AFC tussle (PIT v CIN) where gloom hung heavy in the loser’s locker-room, a place where leadership or lack thereof will make itself quite evident (explaining a win is easy), the issue of control or lack thereof was top topic.

......Lewis.9.16.13.wc.emeybee.thmThe unsportsmanlike penalties called on Bengals Vontaze Burfict (Brown) and Adam Jones, game-changer plays, raised that never-ending question: How much responsibility does a coach bear in keeping it clean on the field?

Did Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis show sufficient leadership in his manner & means regarding his players on-field behavior? By the same token, did Steelers coach Joey Porter show good example in stepping onto the playing field, putting himself in the middle of the ruckus and becoming a trigger-point?

When you question a coach’s responsibility, think of parenting.

The analogy is not childishness per se, although, anytime anyone willingly veers from responsible behavior it may be deemed immature, but rather, the limits on influence & control, as well as certain duties that are inherent in tutorial ties.

Mom & Dad, guardians, are asked the same sort of question regarding their kids and in turn ask themselves: How much, and then, what exactly can we do to try to ensure our children grow wise and fit-in with the flock?

......Madden.Collins.12.6.07.wc.USGovt.thmTo note, Hall of Fame Raiders’ coach, broadcaster and toy icon, John Madden had a controversial defender on his winning Oakland teams named John “Jack” Tatum. His nickname: “The Assassin.” He worked the NFL gridiron for 10 years, 9 with John, made three Pro Bowls and laid-out Darryl Stingley (NE) on a targeted hit that was so vicious it left the Patriots end paralyzed.

Others showed a natural leadership or one that has grown sure as sun-up with the test of time and many battles fought.

Andy Dalton’s substitute A.J. McCarron, an Alabama champion himself just two years ago, led a late-game drive to put his Bengals ahead only to see it fritter away as two of his ‘mates unraveled. In post-game presser he was dejected but not bitter, refusing to “point fingers” even as the justification was present.

.....Roethlisberger.9.9.12.J.Beall.thmb.wcWhile on the winner’s side, well decorated QB Ben Roethlisberger, having been knocked from the game earlier and, by some reports, spat upon by host fans as he headed to the locker-room for repairs, returned to lead a game-winning drive (FG).

Leaders keep it in-house and “their eyes on the prize.”

Who will step closer to that VLT prize after this weekend’s Divisional games will turn on three keys: Tall talent, little bit o’ luck and loads of leadership. Bank on it.

..cherries.Hispalois.Spain.wc.cc.thmbDivisional Cherry Picks 2016

Chiefs (12-5) @ Patriots (12-4): 1.16 CBS 4:35: Pats win
Packers (11-6) @ Cards (12-4): NBC 8:15: Arizona wins
Seattle (11-6) @ Cats (15-1): 1.17 Fox 1:05: ‘Hawks win
Steelers (11-6) @ Denver (12-4): CBS 4:40: Broncs win

Record: 100 – 99

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: P.Manning, wc.cca, 9.9.12, J.Beall; Manning, 8.26.12, J.Beall, wc; R.Parks, wc, USIA-NARA, 1955; J.J. Watt, wc, J.Beall, 9.23.12; M.Lewis, wc, 9.16.13, emeybee; Collins-Madden, wc, 12.6.7, USGovt; B.Roethlisberger, wc, J.Beall, 9.9.12; cherries, Spain, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc
Posted: 1.15.16 @ 11:00pm EST; Copyright © 2016

“Gods & Monsters:” Recalling ’85 Bears Catalyst McMahon

16 Jul

It has been called the greatest team in the modern NFL era.

Some will prefer a broader definition of greatest, one incorporating a sustained success or dynasty in today’s sport vernacular. For them, one of the following title teams would likely fill-the-bill:

1960s Green Bay Packers;
1960s Houston Oilers, San Diego Chargers & Buffalo Bills (AFL);
1970s Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins & Pittsburgh Steelers;
1980 – 90s San Francisco 49ers;
Joe Gibbs Redskins (1980s – 90s);
1990s Dallas Cowboys & Denver Broncos;
2000 – 10s New England Patriots & New York Giants.


But the greatest compilation of players to ever lace ‘em up and dish it out over course of a single NFL season is without much serious doubt the 1985 Chicago Bears, a run culminating with what had been the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl history (until SB24 (’90)), a 46-10 drubbing of AFC champion New England in SB20.

When the Bears (Decatur Staleys) commence their 95th summer training camp on July 29th at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, just north of Kankakee, hope will spring eternal (if Fox tightens that D), and it will mark the 30-year anniversary (UW-Platteville (‘85)) of the first leg in an 6-month journey that would culminate in the best football showing in NFL history.

Detractors mutter dictum along this line: ‘Those ‘85 Bears were a flash in the pan, one-hit ‘Monster Mash’ wonder.’ Fair enough, but WHAT a hit they were. Pow!

While it’s true those 80s Monsters of Midway were no dynasty, losing four of five straight playoff runs, three in a row at Soldier Field (‘87-89), for one spectacular season they were nonpareil, unmatched in might & means, before or since.

What comes to mind immediately with those Bears is defense. The particular image associated with that word can vary, depending on your particular taste.

Some start at the top with Cantonized player and Bears head coach, Mike Ditka (‘82-92) and his no-nonsense approach, while others dig deeper and tag the purported mastermind of Chicago’s D-scheme, player favorite, long time NFL guru and father of NFL coaches Rex and Rob, Mr. Buddy Ryan.

Still others vest their vision of greatness in the workhorses, men on the field who made it all happen. Hall of Famers like Mr. Intensity, defensive captain Mike Singletary and linemen Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, along with a half-dozen All Pros who would prove integral, i.e., Marshall, McMichael, Gayle, Wilson, Duerson & Fencik.


Move to the numbers and it comes crystal clear, these Bears were special.

The W-L gets your attention (15-1), the defensive rankings will win you over.

Team-averages on yards allowed per game (258.4) and points (12.4) were both League toppers in ‘85 but a stinginess on scoring not unseen before or since.

In 2000 both Tennessee (238.9 / 11.9) and Super champ Baltimore (247.9 / 10.3) bested Bears marks, only to be topped again in ’02 by Gruden‘s titlist Buccaneers (252.8 / 12.2). The 1972 “No Name Defense” Dolphins, the only undefeated championship campaign in modern era (‘07 Pats (16-0) lost SB42 to NYG, 17-14), set the standard with miserly marks of 235.5 (yapg) and 12.2 (papg).

But then both those Bucs and Ravens succumbed to opponents a total of four times respectively in the regular season (12-4), Brian Billick‘s men suffering a 3-game skid at mid-point before righting the ship, while Miami ran a gauntlet of slightly shorter version at 14-0. Every game matters, in more ways than one.

That toggles a key word in the debate on GTE (greatest team ever): dominance.

All four of those championship defenses, Bucs, Bears, Dolphins and Ravens, where shut-down variety, to be sure, but nothing shows greatness like dominance and nothing shows dominance like post-season play. Built for pressure and proving it against the best.

In their respective playoff runs, these are the opponent’s point totals:
Buccaneers (‘03): 6-10-21 (SB (OAK));
Ravens (’01): 3-10-3-7 (SB (NYG));
Dolphins (‘72): 14, 17, 7 (WA);
Bears (’86): 0-0-10 (SB (NE)).


While Ravens, Dolphins & Bucs matched da’ Bears in defensive prowess, it was Chicago who best displayed the balance of greatness by way of a notable offensive output as well, a side of their game that’s gone largely ignored by pigskin historians.

The ‘85 Monsters ranked top-10 in yards gained (364.8 (7)) and points scored on average (28.5 (2)), with the later tally coming in just behind the record-setting Air Coryell (Fouts) Chargers (29.2), whilst the Bucs and Ravens were fair-to-middling in matriculation, Tampa Bay as low as #24 in yards (312.6), #18 in points per (21.6), the Ravens slightly better at 313.4 yards (#16) and 20.8 (#14).

That Namesake Miami offense that included notables like QB Earl Morrall (9-0), Griese (5-0), Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Yepremian and All Pro lineman Langer, Little, Evans and Kuechenberg, together make a strong case for perfect balance, leading NFL in both ypg (359.7) and ppg (27.5). The totals, however, do fall just below Bears key scoring averages in ‘85. Phew! “That was close (Encounters).”

Every once in a blue moon the scoring side is subject of an ‘85 Bears roundtable and one name quickly comes to mind. Not Ditka nor OC Ed Hughes (d.2000), but Mr. Walter Payton (d.1999), aka, “Sweetness.” No surprise there, as Walter had a dozen seasons that’d make a career for most backs and 1985 was no exception.

In his 11th season (13) he rushed for his 4th highest yardage total (1551) and posted 2nd best career marks in reception yards (483) and run average (4.8). Teamed with fullback Matt Suhey (471 / 4.1) they together made a very formidable backfield tandem.

Helping making that all possible was Chicago’s cohesive and highly-regarded offensive line of Covert, Bortz, Hilgenberg, Thayer and Van Horne. Formidable.


But if you thought it was high-steppin’ Walter, “Iron” Mike, Singletary or Ryan who was key to this team’s success, a standard for greatness by which all other single-season team performances are still measured, you’d be mistaken.

The real catalyst to the ‘85 Bears, a man most often overlooked by corporate historians, was Chicago’s wild & wooly signal caller, James Robert McMahon, Junior.

I can hear the cackles: ‘You mean that cocky, gum-chewing, oft-injured, headband rebel (“Rozelle”) who introduced the helmet-howdy-do and led what may’ve been the most painful-to-watch music video all-time (“Super Bowl Shuffle“)? Him?’

‘Yeah, him.’

In those heady, bygone days, Jim could put people off when his confidence would turn, as it sometimes did, into boyish arrogance.

So, how pray tell did I arrive at this choice? It was one big performance which left an indelible memory.

The date: September 19, 1985;
The time: 8:00pm (EST);
The place: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was a rare Thursday night (?) telecast, the network, I don‘t recall. Assume it was ABC, birthplace of off-night Monday Night Football, which had been a national happening with “Dandy” Don Meredith’s colorful cowboy quips and Howard Cosell’s hearty halftime review of Sunday’s action. But by 1985 only Frank Gifford remained of the original trio and the former ratings topper was starting to tank. It’s never fully recovered.

But they had a humdinger in store this night.


What happened in 2nd half would give Bears’ confidence a jolt of adrenaline that would carry through all the way to Super Bowl 20 where it swelled to gargantitude.

Chicago entered the game 2-0, home wins by combined score of 58-35. Impressive, but not the frighteningly good football that would blitzkrieg the NFL in weeks to come.

With Vikes up 17-9 midway through the 3rd quarter on heels of a Tommy Kramer TD toss to all-purpose Anthony Carter, McMahon, who’d taken the two earlier wins but had sat this start (injury?), came in to relieve a capable but uninspired Steve Fuller. What happened next would set the wheels of destiny in motion.

Within seconds, Jim hooked up with deep threat speedster Willie Gault for a 70-yard TD strike: Score, 17-16.

Next Bears possession, McMahon matriculates to Minnesota’s 25 and hits sure-handed Dennis McKinnon for a second TD pass in just over five minutes. Visitors take the lead. The score, Bears 23-17.

Minutes later the former BYU field general throws third TD strike to his man McKinnon covering 45 yards. Bears up 30-17, a contest but the befuddled Vikes don’t know what hit ‘em and the Monsters of Midway have found their momentum-maker in McMahon.

Vikings would add another TD in the 4th but sure-footed Kevin Butler ice’d it and Chicago exited the Metrodome with a 33-24 divisional road win and a mojo that was bursting at the seams just looking for another opponent to turn into mash.

Talk about turning points.

Some men feed on pressure. Mobile pocket-passer Jim McMahon (early career) was just such a cool customer. Stan “The Man” Musial understood the type.


In discussing some of the toughest moundsmen he faced in his long & storied career, the Cardinals’ legend identified the great relievers Elroy Face and Clem Labine: “Both of them also had that extra something…they loved to come into the game in a tight situation, thrived on pressure and challenge. The tighter the spot, the better they loved it (The Complete Handbook of Baseball (‘76 ed., Z.Hollander)).”

Men like Jim, Favre, Ray Lewis, Chancellor, Mannings, Doug Williams, Montana, Lilly, Brady, Stabler, Joe Greene, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Jon Toews, LeBron and Curry, all grasp the leadership talisman and beckon their cohorts to follow.

And to that one, lone blemish on Bears record in taking a loss at Miami (24-38, W13)? It should be noted that Fuller started the game which was officiated at a time before the NFL began to seriously monitor crowd noise shenanigans to help keep the playing field level. Unlevel, Mr. Shula (See; Deflategate cmts).

McMahon would only start parts of three more seasons for Chicago after the memorable ride of ‘85. Injuries, more than Jim’s sometimes awkward confidence, defined his career as he bounced around the League, playing for five other teams which, ironically (See; C.Martin ‘86 (GB)), included Bears rival Green Bay, picking-up another ring in the process as a clip-board man in SB31 win over Bill Parcell’s Patriots (35-21).

But for one, glorious season, Jim McMahon and the rest of the Bears were the best that’s ever been. Of course (gum smack).


Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: J.McMahon, F16B, wc.cca, 5.1.88, D.Sutherland; J.McMahon, crop, wc, D.Sutherland, 88; Chicago-Bears, wordmark, sportslogos, wc, 1974; B.Ryan, wc, P.Souza, WH, 10.7.11; M.Singletary, wc, 12.17.00, wc, M.Taylor, USAF; M.Ditka, wc, J.Perry, 8.31.6; McMahon, wc, 93, Diz28; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011.
Title Reference: Bride of Frankenstein (‘35);
Posted: 7.15.15 @ 9:22pm EST
Copyright © 2015

NFL14 Cherry Picks W3: Only the Lonely

19 Sep

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance (Leader)”

Nobody likes a leader.

Most aren’t too crazy about clever blokes or knights on white charger, either, but that’s another piece.

Hyperbole, to be sure, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, people just don’t get too jacked-up about forward thinkers and truth tellers. Go figure.


Oh, some will, in certain circumstances, follow a leader’s command, i.e., military (“fight & obey”), fire & police (rural) and Wal-Mart store managers, when you can find ‘em.

The great ones (Abe – JFK – Jackie) will remain in the memories of the populace;

Their loving spouses will stand by their sides in tough times, and nearly everyone will take full advantage of any broad benefits that may accrue from brave stewardship.

But to actually like them? That’s probably a ‘no.’

Leaders make hard decisions, give clear message, can sacrifice friendships, careers and sometimes give their lives. They test our integrity and force us to think beyond ourselves and our times. And their choices might mean we have to sacrifice for the greater good. Imagine that? In 1944, sure, but 2014, not a very popular proposition.

The Old Hickorys, Honest Abes, Grovers, Teddys & Franklins, Woodrows, JFKs, they can have their time in the sun but it doesn’t usually last all that long.

To say leadership posts are challenging is an understatement, though, some offices do provide their perks and compensate accordingly, i.e. the reported $40M earned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2013. It may be lonely at the top but far from boring.

And those bronze statues proliferating everywhere? They ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.

It’s always been this way, as far back as the solitary tribal chieftain who stared into the unknown with no one to consult but the sky above and his or her person.


Baseball Commissioner Kuhn (‘69 – 84) was often at odds w/ specific owners (Finley / Turner) and sometimes players (Flood / Aaron), but there was a different level of respect back then, and Czars weren’t called upon near as frequent to act the disciplinarian.

Today we live in the information age. Combine it with a prevailing sense of entitlement, widespread aggression (MMA & Rd rage), disdain for integrity and an unbridled greed and you’ve got a state of cultural garden where leadership rarely grows (See: Vote 2016).

For Roger, that means this new wave of player criminal charging and League response can engender rebuke from, not only women advocates, but also from the torch & pitchfork crowd, meaning, anyone in conflict w/NFL policy, be it anti-Redskins, bitter Saints fans & the like, youthful angst, PED pushers, snobs on sport or just a pissy attitude.

The mainstream media does it’s part to fuel the flames of discontent.

Their goal: increase traffic on information highways (soc-media & TV), sensationalize the troubled topics, work the non-sporting, junior public into a frenzy with relentless and repetitious coverage of said topics, make a bushel of bills ($) and get that promotion.

But even Goodell’s biggest critics, those with a smidgen of humility, must concede that what the NFL is experiencing presently in off-field criminal and PED-related player conduct is unprecedented in its long history (c. 1919).

NFL, like other pro sports, is and always has been, a microcosm of the world in which it operates. The recent troubles besetting the League are largely age-old in their nature.

Drug – alcohol violations and / or abuse

Some recent violators: J. Irsay, J. Gordon, W. Welker & Aldon Smith

Back 30 years ago it was a different plague: cocaine.

I penned my first college paper back in the 80s (MATC) on the topic of recreational drugs in pro sport. The athletes whose careers were derailed or ruined altogether were many.

The PED plague is different. It has an element of chicanery that’s more widespread, more insidious. It’s disdain for fair-play & health sends terrible message to kids: ‘Look at me, I score big digits, big $ and don’t do LSD like grandpa & grandma did, how’s that wrong?’

The Phillips selection & off-field violence

Some recent chargees: R. Rice, R. McDonald, G. Hardy, A. Peterson & J. Dwyer

Like substance abuse, physical brutality is an enduring societal curse. The drafting of Cornhusker Lawrence Phillips (STL ‘96 / R1-6), and then his re-signing (MIA – SF), a man who’d been arrested for assaulting a former girlfriend while in Lincoln, in defiance of his character red-flags, was a bad sign for the League but not unique in the business.


Phillips is currently serving sentences in the California prison system for “felony assault (three teens w/car)” and “assault (on former girlfriend) with great bodily injury, false imprisonment, making a criminal threat, and auto theft (See: Wikipedia).”

One wonders if the believed prevalence of performance-enhancers is contributing to the upsurge in violence off the field, and outburst on it, making recent report of deal between NFL & union in upgrading League’s “Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse,” a welcome bit of news. That good is colored by report of an enabling down-grade of standard, courtesy of NFLPA cufflinks no doubt, in the “recreational” drug category, sending a glaring mixed message.

‘Rob Peter to pay Paul,’ who can‘t find his sandals in the haze? Oy vey.

Oddly enough, the Mob of Concern, aka, League critics, emanate a deafening silence, not just on the recent recreational drug enhancement, but on what should also be topics of concern in child gaming and a lowered Heisman standard, i.e., Jameis Winston (FSU).

Not the roulette wheel or Art Schlichter (80s) varieties of gambling, not yet (See: Silver (NBA)), but the seemingly innocuous, kid-friendly fantasy gaming that rakes in millions and indoctrinates children into routines useful in wagering, as if it were finger-painting.

Fantasy gaming just might be the new “Joe Camel.” ‘Gambling rocks!’ Ugh.

As for college’s reigning king Jameis, anyone telling you his recent high jinks are causing his stock to drop w/NFL Suits & scouts by way of the character issue, don’t you believe it. As long as Winston appears drug & criminal-case free, and keeps matriculating that ball, the Suits consider the young man “clean as whistle” and a lock for NFL Draft.15’s #1.


Goodell would’ve fared better and avoided much of the present faux-fuss had he gone the appeaser route, played to the crowd, aka, Adam Silver, by sensationalizing sad scenarios for PR (initially suspending Rice for a whole season), rather than respecting the template laid down by the Atlantic Prosecutor and likely approved by the victim, Palmer – Rice.

Off-field player issues are largely outside their employer’s control, beyond measures of deterrence & incentive. Goodell et al have, like an attuned, savvy signal-caller, audiblized at the line of scrimmage, having enhanced the PCP and “leadership team” on domestic issues. NFL does not seek and will not be expected to become a suedo-police state.

The dust is just starting to settle now on the NFL scene, with no new reports of any player being inducted into the criminal legal process as of this posting. Day’s not over.

Roger Goodell will keep suffering the slings & arrows of the non-sporting set who seek to capitalize ($) on his troubles (The Daily Show, Olbermann, Peter King, NOW, etcetera), but odds should favor him keeping his job even after the Mueller report is issued.

We know what Gloria Gaynor would say…sing, question on Roger is, does he want to survive as Commissioner? Owners & most fans would hope, yes, but “lonely are the brave” and no amount of loot can make a culturally thankless and very trying job worth keeping.

Curious Quote

“This is Robert’s team (Redskins). My job is to be the back-up quarterback.” Hmmm.

That was the soft speak of current #1 Washington QB, Kirk Cousins, who spoke Monday after subbing for the injured RG3 (ankle) and leading Redskins to a 41-10 win on Sunday over the hapless Jags whose junior fandom is biting at the bit for Mr. Bortles.


Message for Kirk: Make no apologies. Your “job” is whatever coaches tell you it is, and I’d guess that’s to lead your team into the end zone. Courtesy is good, but either you’re all-in and embrace the leadership role or it’s time to hand in your pads.

Encouraging Signs

Jay Cutler, Bears QB (@ SF): Tosses 4 TDs to bring Monsters back from a 3Q, 20-7 deficit for a 28-20 win. Equally discouraging for the other hombres, who miss Bowman.


Packers’ defense (v. NYJ): After giving 14, 1Q points, cheesy got chintzy and gave but one TD the next three. It was the Jets. As usual, Burnett (6-4) & Hawk (5 -5) lead the Pack.

Chris Conte, Bears’ safety: Conte made interception of the weekend as “that daring young man…(flew) through the air with greatest of ease,” to take away a 2Q Colin toss. Now, if speedy Christopher can only learn to fly (tackle) low (See: Bills’ Jackson, W1).


Cherry Picks Week 3: Bring ‘em on, please!

Chargers (2-0) @ Buffalo (2-0): 9-21 CBS 1:00 EST: San Diego wins
Redskins (1-1) @ Philadelphia (2-0): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Ravens (1-1) @ Cleveland (1-1): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Packers (1-1) @ Detroit (1-1): Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
49ers (1-1) @ Arizona: Fox 4:10: San Francisco wins
Broncos (2-0) @ Seattle (1-1) (GOTW): CBS 4:30: ‘Hawks win, again
Chiefs (0-2) @ Miami (1-1): CBS 4:30: Kansas City wins
Steelers (1-1) @ Carolina (2-0): NBC 8:35: Pittsburgh wins
Bears (1-1) @ New York Jets (1-1): 9-22 ESPN 8:35: Chicago wins

Record: 12 – 7

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credits: Un-named US soldier & R. Goodell / Afghan. / 7.10.08 / wc.cca / Sgt. B.Del Vecchio; R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSG T.Wade / USMA; NFL – wikiproject; L.Phillips / 8.21.05 / wc.cca / LA-Sheriff; J.Winston / wc.cca / D.July / 10.8.13; K.Cousins / 7.31.12 / wc.cca / K.Allison; J.Cutler / wc.cca / 11.1.09 / M.Schadle; ripe cherries / wc.cca / Chirak / 6.24.07

Posted: 9-19-14 @ 2:28pm EST