Tag Archives: Mike McCarthy

NFL18 Cherry Picks W4: Matthews Sports Angel-Hands As Brees Staves Cantonization

30 Sep

Together they constitute the 2d-longest running coach-QB duo in this current NFL, the New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees, dating back to 2006, tied with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and just one year greater than Big Ben and Mike Tomlin in the Steel City (07).

Only the Belichick-Brady pairing (2000) is longer in time and just a bit more accredited with eight (8) Super Bowl appearances and five (5) wins.

And like the Packers (2010-11) and Steelers (2008-09) long, successful pairings, Sean & Drew earned an NFL championship ring together (2009-10) in a game most memorable to this writer for the Saints’ head coaching call to start the 2d half with an on-side kick, one his men recovered and put in for score. New Orleans had been building back against the Manning-led Colts but this gutsy call gave the NFC rep full momentum which they never relinquished (NO 31-17).

But since that pinnacle performance, it’s been a mixed bag for the Big Easy bunch: Four (4) playoff shows + four miss-outs = lots of unfulfilled expectations, so much so that Sean’s retention by the Saints has been subject of discussion in recent years among fans, if not ownership (Tom Benson (d.2018) and family).

The Bountygate scandel certainly took its toll on New Orleans‘ winning ways.

The defense, traditionally a mainstay in New Orleans (67), has struggled somewhat since those semi-glory days, with the burden heavy on an offense that never lacked for passing yards but, like most NFL clubs today, found a reliable run-game (80-120y per) hard to come by, as hard to roster for most clubs as the master matriculator under center.

And that shaky defensive trend has continued into 2018. With a record of 2-1, the Saints have given up on average 34+ per contest. Not exactly awful in this NFL age but still pretty poor stoppage effort, one that cannot forever rely on future Canton inductee Brees to keep bailing them out of jam after jam with his heavenly passing arm.

The Austin, Texas native Drew is set to turn 40 next January and shows no sign of decline (80.6% / 1078y / 8t-0i / 144-107).

This Sunday or next he’s likely to surpass Peyton Manning’s pass yardage mark of 71,940 (71, 523). I remember when the Vikings’ Fran Tarkenton (47,003) surpassed the great Johnny Unitas’ (40,239) in the mid 70s, both marks, in their times, that seemed unbreakable. And that’s a big one. Yardage on level with the TD record, Peyton held, as well (539), another one that, baring serious injury, Drew should nab in not too distant future (496).

It does bear mentioning, Mister Brady is within striking distance for taking that yardage title himself someday (66,803), though, that’s a longer chance for Tom than the TD record (494), the ultimate holder of which is anybody‘s guess. Then there’s a guy in Green Bay named Rodgers.

All of this leading to the conclusion, we live in a very special time for great pocket passer quarterbacks. So enjoy it while you can, before flash-QB becomes the norm, again (30s-40s single-wing tailback).

Most sporting types know about old “Angel Eyes,” the Bad one of Sergio Leone’s trio of bounty-hunters that flavorize his Classic spaghetti Western, The Good The Bad And The Ugly (66), played by the incomparable Lee Van Cleef (d.89).

What they may not know, at least by its official name, is the National Football League’s own version of angelica called, the angel hands.

It attaches whenever a defender makes serious contact with an offensive player and immediately throws his sticky-hands up like a pair of angel wings, claiming innocence of any wrong-doing the officials or fandom my charge.

In Week 3’s Packers – Redskins tussle (DC 31-17), Green Bay linebacker and Campbells® Soup spokesman Clay Matthews was flagged in third-quarter play for unnecessary roughness as he pile-drove DC signal-caller Alex Smith into the FedEx Field turf in a disallowed sack.

Cries of over-protection and a seriously “soft(ening)” NFL soon flowed from the mouth of the charged offender, but Matthew’s whine has a bitter taste.

As Matthews rolled out of his thunderous thump of Smith, his right, then left hand rose upward in typical angel manner, clearly indicating his own self-doubt, a likely awares of the rule (one that, rather than soften the game had aimed to prevent over-zealous sack-seekers from needlessly pile-driving opponents into the ground) and then a pre-emptive plea for sympathy. A hard tackle is a favored feat among footballers and its followers but the pile-drive is a personal macho move that is best left to video aficionados.

Clay’d been better to’ve kept his hands to himself, post-piling.

But alas, when a Packers’ lad feels mistreated and declares that mental state to the world (“NFL’s gone soft”), the League that reveres Lombardi like he were its Founder (Halas), listens, whether it’s “earn(ed)” or not. They Suits & Skirts on the Rules Cmte have now undertaken to review what appears a sensible rule. And that can only mean one thing: “Soft(ening)” the rule to sooth egos. Oy vey.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 4

Jets @ Jaguars: 9.30 Fox 1:00: Jags
Miami @ Patriots: CBS: New England
Eagles @ Titans: Fox 1:00: Philly
Bills @ Packers: CBS 1:00: Green Bay
Lions @ Dallas: Fox 1:00: Cowboys
Tampa @ Chicago: Fox 1:00: Bucs
Bengals @ Falcons: CBS 1:00: A-Birds
Saints @ NYG: 4:25 CBS: New Orleans
Ravens @ Steelers: 8:20 NBC: Pitt
KC @ Denver: 10.1 Disney 8:15: Denver

Record: 8 – 5

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Drew-Brees, wc.cca, Kelly-Bailey, 1.8.11; Brees, wc, DB-King, 9.14.08; Clay-Matthews, wc, Amy-Anderson, 2010; JimMarshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 9.30.18 @ 11:40aE; Copyright © 2018

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W7: Minus Rodgers, Packer-Backers Brace For Future Shock

21 Oct

For the Green Bay Packers and their frothy fandom, NFL 2017 has poured them a big brimming beverage of Future Shock to imbibe. Drink up, blessed ones.

But the title of their novel state reads different than the 1970 best-seller: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Football Without a Great Quarterback Under Center. It should fly off the shelves. Sure, Steve.

— — —

Future Shock was a non-ficition write penned by New Yorker Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016). It was a well-received prediction on how change, through technologies and their profit-seeking managers, will become a constant in the lives of every person on the planet. It’s a prediction that’s proved fairly accurate.

Now the Pack are faced with the toughest change any team, any not sporting a defensive leader the likes of Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, will face in a season: The loss of their offensive field general in Aaron Rodgers. A difference here: Most changes today are designed to optimize profits. This one wasn’t designed and definately won’t spur gains as Rodgers happens to be that rare, well-decorated four-star variety commander (five-star: Baugh, Graham, Clark, Layne, Van Brocklin, Starr, Namath, Griese, Jurgensen, Staubach, Unitas, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, Aikman, Favre, Roethlisberger, Mannings).

— — —

The green & yellow stand at 4-2 in this still fairly early yet angstful NFL season, thank you, knee-jerks, tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. The 2-time MVP Rodgers sustained a 2nd collarbone break in 3+ seasons (13) early in last week’s road contest versus the Vikings who currently hold the tie-breaker.

But this time the injury is a bit more troubling for Rodgers.

The Chico, California born and Cal-Berkely educated Rodgers is 3-years older than when he had the last CB-fracture, expecting then the heal process to be slightly slower and maybe less certain. The body ages, skin gets thinner and bones more brittle. We can slow the process, but it still ages. Worse is that the injury this time fissures on his better half, his right, throwing side.

The surgery is complete and it’s postulated the 2010 Super Bowl winner and Kaepernick fan will miss the rest of the 2017 season. But don’t be surprised if he makes a return before the regular slate finishes. That would be fine timing for GB because his Packers team will no doubt still be in the thick of it, having only to compete in the typically sad-sack North Division (1960s). That is, if his backup in 2d-year man out of UCLA (5R-2015), Brett Hundley (2g / 56C% / 1t-3i), can muster enough offense to help his team take 3-4 victories and make Rodgers’ task (making the post-season) that less daunting.

In 2013, Rodgers went down in W9 (v CHI). Under Matt Flynn the Packers played to 2-5-1. Upon Aaron’s return W17 versus those Bears, GB won the game to make the playoffs at 8-7-1 where they lost a nail-bitter at home to none other than the Harbaugh 49ers (20-23) and Kaepernick who, as he always did to GB in the post-season, passed poor (16-30) but ran wild (98y) to victory.

Any new signal-caller, especially in Green Bay where expectations run higher than the cholesteral count of a tailgating, beer-guzzling, cheese-inhaling, bratwurst hound on game-day, can use some serious help from his backfield. Maybe ‘use’ isn’t the right word: desperately needs the help of his backfield mates. Brett might have that in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones.

Montgomery looked somewhat promising last season: On 77 attempts he scored 3 TDs with a spiffy 5.9 YPC. That average has come down in 2017 (3.2) but the Stanford man has only carried the pigskin around 10 times per contest. Some guys need regualr action to get it rolling and Ty may be one of those guys.

Rookie Jones (2017 – 5R – TX-EP) had a great game in Dallas where he gained 125 (6.8) and scored a touchdown (45-215y / 4.8 / 2t). But of couse, Aaron’s largely an unknown at this point in time. And promising is promising.

— — —

Since the early 1990s, the Green Bay Packers roadway to the championship has been one paved mostly with easy victories, MVP awards, a plethora of All-Pro selections, more Super Bowl trips than most NFL clubs (3) and lots o’ lots o’ friendly national press coverage for the green & yellow gang.

It began in 1991 with the arrival of one crafty General Manager in Ron Wolf (HOF15), he of the Oakland Raiders chamipionship ways. Wolf would secure the key components to Green Bay’s long-awaited post-Lombardi revival.

In 1992 Wolf persuaded 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren to take up residence in a place that’d become a graveyard for coaches ever since the Great One’s departure following the Pack’s victory over AFL Raiders in SB2 (68).

Then he pulled off the master-stroke, the deal that proved linchpin to the whole Green Bay renaissance and his eventual election to Canton when he snatched a rookie bench-warmer quarterback / party-animal with a rocket arm named Brett “Mississippi” Favre from Atlanta’s roster for one 1st-round draft pick.

In 1993, shoring up the Packers’ defense became Wolf’s focus as he enticed Philadelphia Eagles free-agent sack-master Reggie White to “boldly go where (fewer of his black race had been going) before,” Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After that group had won two NFC titles, Wolf retired and the torch was passed to Ted Thompson (2005) who “boldly (went) where no man had gone before” in drafting a 1R QB (Rodgers) to replace a still vibrant, iron-willed, Wisconsin demi-god in Favre, and show the future Hall-of-Famer the proverbial door.

— — —

In this run of success, Green Bay has returned to the Super Bowl three times, won an arm-load of NFC North trophies and muscled their way into becoming a Thanksgiving regular along with traditionals Detroit & Dallas. And while it’s fallen short of the Walsh – Seifert string and Cowboys title tally of the 90s, you wouldn’t know it by the cock-sure confidence most ‘Backers exude from every pore, every minute, everyday since the rebirth began.

But “the times they are a-changin.’”

The first collarbone crack heard ‘round Wisconsin in 2013 sidelined the master matriculator in W9 and the Packers nose-dove (0-3-1). Expect something similar this time around. It’s just a taste of something they haven’t had to stomach since the days of Lindy Infante‘s final campaign: mediocrity.

In fact, there’s a whole generation of Packerland folk who’ve never know the despair most the rest of NFL fandom experience with a certain regularity, who’ve never had their faith tested, week in, week out, year after year.

A great QB is a god-send. His ability to read D (fluid intellect), implement a plan, take hits in the pocket while possessing an innate ability to move the ball, all add up to wins and may mask what is otherwise an uninspired team.

Someday the Packers will be slumming, blue bloods without a great signal-caller, without even be a ‘can’t miss’ college draftee in their sights (See; 1970s-80s). But in the not-to-distant future, Mr. Rodgers will return and will win many more games. So if you’re a Packer-backer, just “relax.” Know that both of those futures will come to fruition and that a little humility goes a long way in preparation.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Ravens @ Vikes: 10.22 CBS 1:00: Baltimore
Saints @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: New Orleans
New York Jets @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Dolphins
Panthers @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams: Fox 1:00: AZ
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Colts
Dallas @ San Francisco: Fox 4:05: Cowboys
Bengals @ Pittsburgh: CBS 4:25: Cincinnati
Seahawks @ New York Giants: CBS 4:25: Seattle
Falcons @ New England: NBC 8:30: Atlanta
Redskins @ Eagles: 10.23 Disney 8:30: DC

Record: 22 – 15

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; A.Rodgers, 12.30.12, Minneapolis, wc.cca, JoeBielawa, E.Griffen; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, wc,12.27.09, LambeauField; B.Favre, Dugan, wc,11.15.09, MN-NationalGuard; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain, wc; Jim-Otto, 1970, TCG
Posted: 10.20.17 @ 10:47pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Pre-Play: Bloom Is Off But Arians Still In League’s Elite Coach Class

5 Sep

NFL 2017 head coach ranking with Bruce Arians of Arizona Cardinals @ #5:

1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
4) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
5) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

— — —

It was a rough 2016 for the Arizona Cardinals and their 5th-yr HC Bruce Arians who still gets mentioned when the NFL’s best are bantered about.

Arians must be a firm believer in aberration, i.e., an unpleasant deviation from the norm. He HAS to be because he won’t, he CAN’T believe that his fairly talent-laden NFC West squad would again lay an egg like they did in NFL 2016 when, in oppposite of many favorable prognostications by fans & press and general roster health they finished a disappointing 7-8-1. Eek.

Progression can be a wonderful thing. From it will spring forth hopes, learning experiences and maybe, just maybe, a 5-year, $25M ($15M guaranteed) contract with a nice buyout clause ($7.5M). Maybe.

I don’t know how the Paterson, New Jersey native’s, who is set to turn 65 in October (10.3.52), contract with owner Bill Bidwell reads but given his former progression, its terms are most likely fair & balanced to both sides.

The problem with progression is that any sudden halt in one’s steady forward progress and it can be bone-jarring. Ouch!

— — —

Beginning his coaching career at Virginia Tech in 1975 as a graduate assistant, Bruce didn’t get his first top NFL gig until late in the game at age sixty when he took over as Indianapolis interim for the ailing Chuck Pagano who was out in cancer treatment (2012) and proceeded to win the first of his two AP-COY awards (+ 2014). In 2013 he took the reins at Arizona and kept winning, going 34-14, a total that excludes his 9-3 Colts mark (11-5), W-L numbers diverted to Pagano‘s career tally by NFL’s record keepers.

2012: Colts 9 – 3
2013: Cards 10 – 6
2014: Cards 11 – 5
2015: Cards 13 – 3
2016: Cards 7 – 8 – 1

Odd as Arizona’s 2016 devolution, odder still was that it happened even as there were some quite notable individual and team bright spots.

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the Bengals’ 1st-Rd draftee out of USC in 2004, appeared to’ve fully recovered from his 2014 knee injury, making fifteen starts and putting up reasonable if not great numbers.

Career-long Card and another 04 draftee in receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his eight 1000-yd season in 2016, surpassing the 100 career total in TDs (104).

On defense, Arizona sported a double-digited sack-duo in linebackers Markus Golden (12.5 / tie 3rd) and Chandler Jones (11 / 8th). Not how I’d use my main-defenders (sacks) but it got the job done in part as AZ’s defense ranked a spiffy #2 in yapg (305 (301 HOU)) but a so-so #14 in papg at 22.6 (15.6 NE).

The brightest spot was rising star and MVP candidate (I had him #2 heading into W17), running-back / receiver David Johnson, the 2nd-year man out of Northern Iowa who ran for 1239 (+ 16td), caught 80 passes for 879 yards (+ 4td) and led the League with 20 pay-dirts in total.

Some small comfort for Arians & Crew may’ve been the fact that 2016 was, as Winston Churchill put it in describing the Soviet Union circa 1939, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” especially in the ho-hum NFC which may help to account for this prognosticator’s worst effort to date.

In the American, surprise disappointments were the Jets (10-6 (15) > 5-11 (16)), the Ravens (10-6 (14) > 5-11 > 8-8 (16)) and the Bengals (12-4 (15) > 6-9-1 (16)) who were expected to contend and then, of course, el-foldo come playoffs.

In the NFC, Cards and defending Halas hoisters, Carolina, were favored to shine but stumbled in start and never recovered; Seattle didn’t find the fierceness and only Atlanta & GB looked worthy of taking on New England. And if you thought Dallas (13-3) was the real-deal with the rookies, you don’t watch much NFL.

Will Arizona rebound in 2017? League’s looking pretty pathetic these days, bound to get worse with the art of tackling fading fast and flash-QB filling the ranks, meaning, any team with pro talent in key positions, and that means AZ, should have a good shot a taking the Hunt or Halas trophy come January.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-sign, wikiproject; B.Arians, G.Skidmore, 8.5.16, Glendale, wc; L.Fitzgerald, wc, Al-Anbar, Al-Asad, USO, 3.8.09, Cpl-J.Hernandez, Cpt-J.Daniels; Arians, 3.22.17, DoC, T.LaRussa, G.Skidmore; Topps, J.Otto, 1970
Posted: 9.5.17 @ 4.28pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17: A Patriots Peer, It’s Back To Top-Tier or These Packers Turn Flat-Beer

28 Mar

Pretendership: It’s an NFL station most Green Bay Packers devotees have never knelt before in prayer for guidance and delivery. Anyone rooting for the Acme club yet having no recollection of the play that made John Brockington and Lynn Dickey house-hold names in the badger state is probably in that blessed group.

But that’s for later.

For now, just imagine rooting for an NFL team, one that not only wins most of its regular season games but will have on display any given year a future Cantonese or two roaming the turf, that for most of your conscious life has been an NFL contender. Imagine that. Easy enough for New England Patriots faithful but for the rest of fandom it’s a little hard to picture even in the mind’s eye.

Twenty-five years of pretty much football bliss in Northeastern Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, thanks in large part to two men (GMs), four if you count the coaches (Holmgren / McCarthy), six if you include the QBs (Favre / Rodgers).

Sure, there were some struggles, a few 8-8s seasons, even a couple losing campaigns, but there was always an easy scapegoat to find (Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, Bill Schroeder) and soon enough the Good Ship Green & Yellow would find its contender course again and all was ship-shape.

The Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson Packers have never dominated the sport as did former Green Bay juggernauts under Vince Lombardi (60s) or founding father Curly Lambeau (20-40s) but playoff births have been nearly automatic since 1992 and the two Super Bowl victories (1997 & 2011) have given the period of prosperity a legitimacy that can only come with championships.

While the Patriots recent reign of championships is incomparable in this still newish century of play, it’s not hyperbole to write that it is actually the Packers, hang with me here, by way of a crafty continuity in success that’ve been the more impressive of NFL’s two most juggernautious franchises these past 25 years.

Sure, New England coaching genius Bill Belichick and his sure-to-be 1st ballot HOF quarterback extraordinaire in Tom Brady are likely the most terrific title tandem in the Super Bowl era (See also; Noll & Bradshaw, Landry & Staubach, Walsh & Montana), but the manners in which both Wolf and then Thompson engineered their respective coach – QB tandems-in-terrificness are the templates in ‘How To,’ 1) Acquire a diamond-in-the-rough bench-warmer (Brett (ATL)), and 2) draft a replacement (Aaron) for a living legend.

Just imagine, two consecutive GMs who respectively displayed an expertise in post-draft patience (Ron) and then prediction on player longevity (Ted), that player in Favre being, to Wisconsin sports fans, next to God, making it very risky business to draft any heir apparent in 2005 (Aaron).

Wolf’s persistence and then shrewd calculation in extracting Favre from Atlanta’s roster in trading a #1 pick (respectful enough to get their interest but not so generous to get ’em wondering) should be an example to every GM and fantasy fan, i.e., that post-draft follow-up can be of greater value than draft day doings.

And Thompson, in showing Brett the door by drafting the Berkeley Bear Rodgers in 2005, took one humongous gamble. To appreciate just how bold a move it was you have know just how popular was the man from Southern Miss.

Directly north up in Wisconsin, Favre was bigger than Lombardi had ever been, in part because every female sport fan in America’s Dairyland had become enamored with the dude. And that’s putting it mildly.

You think Tom Brady’s huge in 2017? He is, but Brett Favre was huger. Hell, Brett was bigger than the NFL. The Green Bay Renaissance that he and his team fashioned, back-to-back Super Bowls and plenty o’ playoff action, briefly put them in the America’s Team seat, after the Aikman Cowboys disbanded, a starry status that played no small role in facilitating formation of the still budding international game in the early 2000s (Mexico City (05), London (07)).

Consider that when “Onslow (Geoff Hughes)” dons Packers gear on the hit British TV comedy, Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95),” it’s not because of NFL rules changes or networks addition of female sideliners. It was Favre, plain & simple.

So if Rodgers doesn’t pan out when handed the offensive reins in 2008, Ted probably gets run out of paper-mill country on a rail, figuratively speaking, after hustling out the family dog first (See; Devine ‘74). But instead, the pan turned up gold and Ted will get a street named after himself, if he hasn’t already.

“Mississippi,” as Falcons Jerry Glanville referred to the rookie QB in smirk, had a couple good seasons left in the tank when he exited Lambeau: An injury-affected Jets campaign (10-6) and two seasons with arch-rival Minnesota, the first in 2009 which would be his best single statistical show and see the Vikes fall to the Bounty-gate Saints in the NFCC10-OT and finale when he dragged himself back for one more go before hanging up his Canton-bound cleats.

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

Mercurial might aptly describe the 2016-17 Green Bay Packers.

Hovering around .500 to the midway, then going three (losses) in the hole, the Pack found some consistency the rest of the way (6 + 2PS) until getting stomped in the NFCC at Mercedes-Benz (Georgia) Dome (44-21 (24-0 H)).

The party isn’t over, not by a long shot, not while perennial MVP entry Aaron Rodgers has his legs underneath and maintains his pin-point passing precision. But some of the good-times have started to head for the exits and a few of those that remain are looking a bit green around the gills (gulp).

One of those always in attendance is the Green Bay defense. It’s a curiosity for even as they helped raise a Lombardi for head coach Mike McCarthy in 2011, it’s also a unit that’s looked wather wobbly since the Reggie White – George Koonce – Sean Jones – LeRoy Butler bunch broke-up.

Team ranks tell the tale. In 2016, the Green figured about where they usually do in the McCarthy era, 22nd in yards allowed per game (364), 21st in points (24+). In the NFCC17 those middling marks came home to roost as Atlanta feasted.

At the center of the defensive scheme has been The Hair, sack-minded linebacker Clay Matthews. Never a top tackler, perplexing for a middle-man, Clay’s numbers have been trending down since that Super season to the point where real value should be a real question for GB staff. He does make a fun soup commercial.

The run game, as party-goers go, hasn’t had much to say lately.

The weighty part of the ball-carry was spending most of its time at the buffet. But Lacy’s gone now and won’t find better eats in the greater Seattle metro, that is unless you really like salmon. And maybe that‘s the point. Bon appétit, Eddie.

Ty Montgomery (2y-SU) filled the void nicely in 2016, for a time, then faded late, 2010 draftee James Starks was not re-signed of , another 2d-yr. in big guy (6’1 255) Aaron Ripkowski (Sooner) will full-back just fine (4.4 – 2td), F/A pick-up Don Jackson (Nevada) had 10 carries last year while former Seahawk Christine Michaels was inked to a deal but has much to prove (9-GS from 2013 (4.3)).

Finding replacements, not mockery, is why the draft matters.

And then there’s Mike ‘What Have You Done For Us Lately’ McCarthy.

Coaching the Green Bay Packers, an early NFL entrant (1921) with accolades enough to fill a cruise liner (sink it along with its Captain in rough waters), is like riding a tiger: When times is good, everybody purrs, but when the champagne rarely flows, the big kitty pitches a fit and sometimes eats its own (gulp).

Mike’s got a monkey on his back clutching an NFCC runner-up trophy in symbol of GB’s disaster known as Cheese-Melt 2015. Packers 1st half lead frittered away and overtime nailed their coffin shut as the Seahawks returned to the Super.

Mike McCarthy has been suffering the “slings and arrows” of regional critics with no return trip to the Big Game. But the rather disappointing playoff runs, enabled by a rather terrific career regular mark (.651), is just part of a pattern he’s displayed since being hired to replace Mike Sherman in 2006. Some good years, a few pedestrian and patience, more patience.

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

Mike’s big mistake was caving to pressure after the Melt to concede offensive play-call, a concession he…revoked (?) at last season’s midpoint. Trust then becomes an issue. But remember, MM turned Packers back into champions when all looked discombobulated, six (6) years after the guy who was prone to sideline temper tantrums left for the State of Washington.

It wasn’t easy filling Favre’s sizable shoes…wait…come to think of it, it actually was pretty easy for Thompson. But Brett was bigger than life and there’s only been one mobile pocket-passer the likes of Mr. Rodgers, a player who, as he will enter his thirteenth (13) NFL summer camp shortly, I’d give four (4) 1Rs in trade today if by some fluke he became free and I a GM in need.

Such a smooth succession in kingly QBs in Packerland in pass of the bejeweled scepter of signal-caller royalty, the Patriots (Belichick – Brady) have not yet displayed. Course, they haven’t had the need. When Tom retires, likely same time Bill hangs up his headset, we’ll see how they do it in Foxborough.

But the Pack are on the championship clock. They need to return to elite status in 2017 (12-4) or their royal carriage may turn pumpkin before anyone expects it.

Last season’s road to the Halas Trophy (NFCC) was not exactly strewn with pot-holes in serious contenders. It was more like the E-ZPass® highway.

The Atlanta Falcons were the real deal in 2016-17 yet may still feel the reel this upcoming campaign from their colossal collapse in SB51.

To write that the rest of the NFC was deficient would be an understatement.

Though much ballyhooed after a W1 loss to the Giants, the Cowboys much anticipated playoff turned Texas-sized soufflé in loss at home to Green Bay; G-Men and Lions proved pretenders, not because they lost in the PS which, by itself is no fraud, but in both getting shellacked; Seattle, never quite the same since losing SB49, gave one of those shellackings (DET) but then got one themselves (ATL); and while Tampa surged to respectability, Redskins never got rhythm, Vikes were extra-mercurial (6-0), Panthers licked their wounds all season (SB50 – L) and pre-season hopeful Arizona never got going.

Residence in the once vaunted North divsion, f/k/a Black & Blue, always boosts the Packers pre-season rank which sits just under Atlanta as NFC favorites, ahead of Seattle (Lacy ≠ Lynch), then Arian’s Cardinals sure to rebound, the Giants, Lions, Dallas who won’t surprise in 2017, D-Vikes, maturing Bucs and sometimes capable conundrums in Redskins, Eagles, Saints and Carolina.

Procuring a reliable run-game is not the challenge that is finding a top-flight, resilient pocket passer, but good ball-carriers don’t grow on trees, either.

Letting lunch-a-lot Lacy exit looks prudent now, but if McCarthy, Thompson and OC in former GB ball-carrier Edgar Bennett cannot in trade or late-April draft find that impactful runner(s) to spell Rodgers and give opposing DCs a ground-attack to diagram, and then the bodies to shore-up a defense that too often turns leaky in rough waters, Packers will continue to get bounced too early from playoffs, Mike will get pink-slipped with no contribution to anyone’s awareness and this era of exuberance will creep to a close, great QB, notwithstanding.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: A.Rodgers-M.McCarthy, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; Packers-print, wc, 1959; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.08; Minnesota-Vikings-GreenBay-Packers, P.Loadholt-C.Matthews, wc, 11.14.11, M.Morbeck; M.McCarthy, TJ.Grant, wc, 8.11.07; NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao
Posted: 3.28.17 @ 11:39am EST, edit 11:01; 3.31; Copyright © 2017

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

18 Sep

Bad Blood

The date: October 22, 1961.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things would get better for the Norsemen.

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

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

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

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

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

Record: 4-4

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

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

14 Jun

Clutch Cargo

‘NEWS FLASH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooray for histone!

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

NFL16 Wild Cherry Picks: Veni, Vidi, Vici

8 Jan

‘I came, I saw, I conquered’

The NFL playoffs.

They mark a new beginning in the championship campaign of conquest, a whole new season, in fact (0-0), and you could even say afford an extension of the holiday season if your team happens to get its ticket punched.

....winter.wood.2007.wc.NinoBarbieri.thmIt’s when the crème de la crème get mettle tested by the fiercest foes and not infrequently the worst weather Mother Nature can doll out (See; SEA @ MIN (-0°?)).

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

Which team can prove Julius Caesar, conqueror of the vast playoff landscape of combatants that lay ahead?

Some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition in weaponry, positioning and the art of field tactics & technique.

....RomanLegion.wc.StoriadItalia.1979.Mainz.tmHome-field and 1st-Rd byes, deserved as it they are, give a decided advantage. And while all 12 invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy), only a handful are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

Panthers at 15-1 and bye-ing time to polish their armaments and fine-tune strategy look best suited to wear the victor‘s laurel. But their lack of battlefield experience (1-2 Rivera – Newton – Kuechly) and atypical command tactic (Camster-the-Hamster (run-QB)) makes them a questionable conqueror.

In Mark Antony fashion, Seattle sent strong message to Arizona (36-6) that they are not ready to relinquish their tight hold on National Conference supremacy.

And Caesar Augustus that rules from New England always shapes the map.

Roll Call

Patriots: Coach (Bill), player (Tom) and sports success story of 2015, injuries all around are taking heavy toll on the Empire as the ranks are in depletion.

Seahawks: The thumping they gave rival & riser AZ, run-game modifications that work and 3-year playoff prowess all make them NFC’s team-to-beat;

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumbPackers: Early loss of catch-machine Nelson was either underestimated or has proven a too frustrating fill-in. Mobility & quick-release are Rodgers’ keys.

Broncos: Pey-Dirt’s back in the saddle and will be given ample opportunity to work off rust and find the end-zone;

Steelers: Trademark Steelers D must’ve run afoul of Patent Office politics and been revoked because it’s been lesser in 2015 (#21 / 11). And with Williams hobbled, Big Ben must, as he often does, carry offensive load;

Panthers: Cats are 1-2 in recent PS and have not faced the toughest of slates. Keeping Cam pocket poised or letting him rabbit-at-will is Rivera’s big call.

Chiefs: Like Cats, another so-so slate but KC too balances like a top (O/D) and QB Smith looks for his first Super (10y) after 2012’s chance slipped away (SF).

....Dalton.wc.emeybee.9.17.13.thmBengals: The monkey on Cincy’s back is so big (PS 0-5 Lewis) it could buckle their collective knees if they fall behind in early going but this year’s squad has a cool confidence and determination that bodes well.

Vikings: “Baby It’s Cold Outside (Loesser)” is theme in Land of 10.000 (frozen) Lakes. Good thing it’s a 1:00 start. Will Peterson’s back injury warm and can 2y-QB Teddy move-the-chains and forge TDs to match a potent ‘Hawks offense?

Redskins: NFC Cinderella favorite for NFL’ers who appreciate commercial art and history (See; logo). Run-game quirky but hosting befuddled GB a blessing.

Texans: AFC’s underdog favorite for having turned injury-lemons into lemonade. Coach O’Brien, JJ Watt and their QB crew now seek February champagne.

Cardinals: Were on the march until Seahawks stymied. Bruce Arians is not one to panic nor placate his troops so expect a donnybrook in divisional.

....cherries.B.Kua.wc.cca.thumb.6.1.08

Wild Cherry Picks 2016

Chiefs (11-5) @ Texans (9-7): 1.9 ESPN 4:35: KC wins
Steelers (10-6) @ Bengals (12-4): CBS 8:15: Cincy wins
Seattle (10-6) @ Vikes (11-5): 1.10 NBC 1:05: Hawks win
Pack (10-6) @ ‘Skins (9-7): Fox 4:40: Green Bay wins

Record: 97 – 98

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Julius.Caesar, wc.cca, AV.Domaszewski, 1914; winter.wood, wc, Nino.Barbieri, 07; RomanLegion, StoriadItalia, 1979, wc, Mainz; Packers.cheer, wc, M.Morbeck, 9.26.10: A.Rodgers, wc, 2008, M.Morbeck; A.Dalton, wc, 9.17.13, emeybee; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.8; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 1.8.16 @ 3:06pm EST; Copyright © 2016