Tag Archives: Northwest Territory

NFL18: Wild West as Chiefs Roll Dice on QB and Rival Raiders Gamble On a Gruden Return

20 Mar

The upstart AFL was never too tied to tradition to forgo taking a gamble or two.

That was a pretty typical tack for any entity trying to survive in those days when monopoly was tightening its Court-aided grip on their respective business interests (NFL, MLB, communications, food, energy, banks, etc.).

One of those dice-rolls was instant-replay, introduced by red & white-striped zebra Cal Lepore (1919-02). Like it or not (me no likey), I/R continues to have a big impact on the game of football and sport generally.

And unlike the AFL’s older brother, the National Football League, which, in the 1960s, was stuck in the ‘three yards and a cloud of dust‘ offensive mentality, the American Football League (1960-70) was wide-open, turning the pro game into a pass-first profession, thanks largely to men like Oilers quarterback George Blanda and the strategies of San Diego Chargers sideline genius, Sid Gillman.

Sadly, at the insistence of deal-maker and co-founder Lamar Hunt, the AFL in 1971 merged with the more established NFL and became the AFC (NFC). In 2018 it takes absolutely NO gambles, not even on the Super Bowl halftime show where Justin Timberlake promised he wouldn’t pull another nipple-stunt like he did in 2002 with co-creator-in-crass, Janet Jackson.

But stop the presses!

Two AFC West teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland-Las Vegas Raiders are harkening back to the days of yore by risking plenty in making dicey decisions that could significantly shape the 2018-19 NFL season.

KC head coach Andy Reid is entering his sixth season at Arrowhead and chose to part ways with his starting QB, the capable veteran but still priming, Alex Smith. He did this in the midst of a luke-warm, NFL signal-caller pool, while the Davis Trust decided Jon Gruden, he cooling his heels and collecting lots o’ loot at Disney (ESPN) for the last ten years, was worth another look-see (1998 – 02) in hopes he can shake off the rust and hasn‘t lost the zeal.

Rivalry: For many decades it stoked the fires in the sport furnace.

When Mays, McCovey & Marichal visited Chavez Ravine to face Drysdale, Wills, Koufax and rest of Walter Alston‘s West Coast Bums, all California buzzed.

When the Halas or Ditka-coached Bears arrived at City (Lambeau) Field in Green Bay, much of the NFL media turned out in anticipation of fireworks.

When Russell and Chamberlain, Magic and Bird battled under the NBA boards, the Earth stood still, then rocked with rhythm.

And when Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Boston Bruins headed to Canada to face Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and rest of the Habs at the Montreal Forum, it wasn’t the War of 1812 (all Canucks) but you could cut the tenison with a knife.

Today, regionalism and the long-running, raucous rivalries that sprung forth from those adjacent locales has largely been neutralized, some weirdly cancelled altogether, at least in the college football setting.

On campus, the rivalry has been sacrificed for a miniature playoff system, positioned by mindlessly-drawn, mega-conference alignments and then, just as in the professional game, capped-off by celebrity (Heisman race), sold most seriously by a socially-driven junior media who can’t seem to get enough of the gossip and tiresome tidbits that accompany any life that runs in the mix.

But happily, rivalry still rocks the craddle of competition where men butt heads in the National Football League, though, you might not sense it where some of the League’s oldest grudge matches have become little more than concessions to tradition with one or both clubs are, to put it politely, in re-building mode. The Bears v. Packers (or Cardinals), Giants v. Redskins (or Cowboys), Bengals and Browns remain mired in mediocrity.

Yet some rivalries remain vibrant.

The SaintsFalcons, both recent Halas hoisters, still rules the Southland.

VikesPack are the dominent donnybrook in the Old Northwest Territory.

On the Pacific rim, Dick Sherman believes his transfer south to the 49ers will rekindle a rivalry with his former squad, the Seahawks. If Dick weren’t in full-fade, maybe, but more likely Pete, Russ & Bobby will keep doing what they’ve usually done to the Miners these past ten years: Beat the metal out of ‘em, even with Mr. Garoppolo now grappling the pigskin for the Bay backers.

And the best rivalry West of the Mississippi? That’s still the RaidersChiefs.

This will remain so even after the Silver & Black pull up stakes to head east and settle in Nevada. It may grow bigger, given the closer proximity, as long as LasVegas keeps the logo and color montage ‘as is.’ Add gold into the design, get gaudy, and then they are no longer the Raiders.

Both teams are AFL originals, Chiefs relocating from Dallas (Texans) to begin the 63 season and Raiders filling a slot that opened up for inagural 1960 when the Vikings backed-out on an offer to join the senior circuit NFL in 1961.

The rivalry’s intensity reached boiling point in late 1970 as both teams, the Chiefs reigning SB4 champions, battled for the AFCW crown. With KC ahead and QB Len Dawson on the turf after having ran for what seemed a game-clinching 1st-down, Raiders’ defender Ben Davidson speared Dawson with his helmet, triggering a melee where the Chiefs Otis Taylor was later penalized for his own ferocious response in defense of his quarterback. No permanent injuries but it all nullified KC’s gain, Oakland got the ball back, tied it up late, won in OT, clinched the West, the Chiefs were prevented from defending their Super Bowl win and missed the post-season. Ouch!

You can believe, stories like that are handed down by generation.

With Gruden back on point for the Raiders (OAK-TB / 95 – 81), owner Mark Davis hopes Jon can set young Derek Carr back in the saddle of success and work the same magic he did in coaching the Buccaneers to their first ever Super Bowl (SB37) when they trounced the Oakland club he coached just the year prior.

Carr has the pocket poise, taking-off a mere 23 times in 15 starts in 2017 (6-9). The O-line helps in that regard (20sk) but the Raiders need to provide the young QB with more offensive weapons to work his own magic that raised hopes in 2016, while Jon must retrieve those personal skills that served him so well with diva players like Keyshawn who, I must say, matured into a fine studio voice.

As to KC, a stable coaching state has not inspired off-season confidence.

In trading away veteran quarterback Smith (Redskins) and only toe-testing in the free-agency pool, Andy Reid & Co. have, at this posting, saddled themselves with a near-rookie QB in Patrick Mahomes (NFLD17) who’s started one (1) NFL contest (a win on zero TD, one INT) and who, at Texas Tech, showed a tendency to rabbit (averaging 10+ per). All meaning, it’s project time on the Plains.

Not being a pro-style signal-caller like Carr makes Mahomes’ promotion all the more perplexing when you consider the scheme Reid employs: WestCoast.

Evasive quarterback mobility is a plus but the WC-scheme sets the signal-caller to facilitate OTHER player movement in getting the pigskin to his ball-handling teammates in a forward thrust to pay-dirt. It won’t function at an optimal level if said QB is in flash-mode whenever that pressure floods the pocket.

The Patrick Mahomes issue aside, Kansas City does have some formidable offensive threats in dual-duty Kareem Hunt (1327y rush / 455y catch), veteran tight-end Travis Kelce (1038y – 8td), 3d year receiver Tyreek Hill (1183y) and new addition (BUF) in Sam Watkins who, if healthy, fills nice as a secondary choice in the slot, an essential for every title team.

Powerful as those players be, they must have a field general who can matriculate with confidence and consistency to maximize their capabilities in order to make a major run. Without one, team talent is only half-realized and a Wild playoff spot may be the best scenario for the Chiefs whose Super drought (SB4) is longer than the team they vanquished (MIN-78) in KC’s lone NFL championship.

StevenKeys
MacroSport
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, 2011, wikiproject; KCTV5-Dani-Welniak, Reid-Andy, wc.cca, 12.31.17, J.Beall; Packers-Vikings, 11.14.11, M.Morbeck, wc, Loadholt-Matthews; dice, N.Morberg, wc, 2.22.09; J.Gruden, wc, 2003, USNavy, John-Woods; J.Otto, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 3.20.18 @ 6:05pE: Copyright © 2018

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MLB17 Chin Music: With Cubs Ascendancy, Baseball’s Spotlight Swings Midwest

4 Jan

Now that the Chicago Cubs have rediscovered their long dormant championship flair, a find expedited by an ownership (Ricketts) that acquired top managerial (Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon) and player talent, the 2017 MLB spotlight swings Midwest, back to the region where major league baseball was first imagined (Hulbert), empowered (NL – 1876) and then came to thrive.

Champions for the 9th time (Cap Anson (6), Frank Chance (2) & Maddon (1)), the new & improved Northsiders seem to have a vision, egos largely in check, are still wearing their classic blue-pinstripes and still lovable even as ticket prices climb. All of it is, of course, a friggin’ nightmare for Cubs regional rivals (Pale Hose, Redbirds, etc.). But then teams of substance love a challenge, right? Right.

cubs-wc-18k-1957-78-sportslogoThe toast of that “toddling town,” the “big shoulder(ed)” Bruins who last November won their first World Series since 1908, that being the 2d in a back-to-back (1907), making it the first dynasty in the World Series era, the same year “Take Me Out To The Ball-Game” made the stadium scene, currently hold the biggest championship sandwich in all of sport. Chomp!

Cubbies (you can still call ’em that) took MLB’s first title in 1876 when the great Al Spalding (Byron, IL) was a top moundsman precedent to launch of his sporting goods empire, and have sandwiched in that 140 years all the good & bad included therein, by way of their 2016 triumph over the hearty Cleveland Indians.

Baseball may not’ve been invented in the old Northwest Territory but its people and their passions certainly played the major role in turning the game, and its entertainment value, into America’s great national pastime.

While the White Stockings (Cubs), led by legendary men like Spalding, Fred Goldsmith, Ross Barnes, Deacon White, Anson, King Kelly, Larry Corcoran, George Gore and John Clarkson, were dominating the new National League in taking 6 of its first 11 championships, including 3-straight (1880-82), 250 miles southwest, German immigrant made-good-in-beer, owner Chris von der Ahe was building his St. Louis Brown Stockings of the rival American Association, a team featuring Charles Comiskey and Bob Caruthers, into an equally titanesque team, one that dominated their fraternity in fashioning their own early dynasty in winning four-straight AA titles (1885-88).

cubs-wc-bpl-1906-196kLook at the line: Harry & George Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869), Chicago wheeler-dealer William Hulbert who first conceived of the major league and then worked to keep it alive (1875-6), acting with iron-fist as defacto Commissioner, the White (Cubs) and the Brown Stockings (Cardinals): Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Providence, they all had their glory, some of it sustained, but until Babe Ruth suited up for the majors (Red Sox / Yankees), regardless of what John McGraw might say, west of the Appalachians was where the game’s ‘main office’ would remain until the 1920s.

Since the Yanks gave up their World Series monopoly (1963), the joy of winning has spread from coast-to-coast. Good for baseball, good for fans, worldwide.

Today, it’s the Cubs who stoke Midwestern pride. And as the Bruins are the most popular sport franchise in the nation, even before they raised their latest championship banner, or will come April, that state means plenty.

Their biggest off-season news, exit of table-setter Dexter Fowler to St. Louis. Cubs will miss his run production (84 – 125g) and playoff pop. What they won’t miss of the 30-year old are his SOs (124) and low OBP% (.393).

cubscelebrate-wc-11-3-16-a-pardavilaiii-7mCardinals: Though the Yanks had rebirths in more recent times (70s / the Joes), from 1926 to the present it’s been the Cardinals who, while never fashioning back-to-backs, have been the consistent standard of excellence in the major league game on par with the Highlanders.

Tigers: It’s been 30+ since Michigan’s pride won a WS in that transcendent 1984 when Sparky Anderson & Co. jumped out early and never looked back (.614). Two flags and a half dozen playoffs under Jim Leyland left the franchise hopeful yet frustrated. Aces remain in the aging Verlander and Cabrera, purse-strings tighten on big payroll and Tigers’ ownership seem content to lick their wounds for now.

Indians: Like Detroit, after Mike Hargrove’s two pennants and two WS losses, Tribe lowered expectations for a time. Now back on a mission with the same man who helped quench Red Sox championship drought (x2), hoping Terry Francona can get his club back to another Series, up 3-1 and able to close the deal.

Royals: Cast-off from Milwaukee, Ned Yost has managed KC to two flags in three years and a World Series win (‘15), Royals first since 1985 when Dick Howser skipped, Brett hit, Saberhagen won and Quisenberry closed. Stumbled a bit in 2016 but kept heads above water (81-81) and expect to contend again.

arrieta-wsg6-11-2-16-a-pardavilaiii-3-2mBrewers: Kick themselves for thinking Yost the wrong man (fired 2008, 83-67). For a club priding itself on thrift, even if it means one flag in 47 years (‘82), they should kick themselves, hard. Good call on Fielder but at 5’11” and near 300 lbs., how long could it last? Wisconsin taxpayers still waiting for a return (WS) on their Miller Park investment (2001). Patience is a virtue, until it’s not…Mark.

White Sox: Cubs southside rival (1901), Sox play in a park (Guaranteed Rate) whose name changes for dollars, making it occupant’s poor play seem of lesser importance. Champs in 2008, Pale Hose now remind Chicagoans of ‘85 Bears whose single SB win stands as both a testament to excellence and unfulfillment.

Reds: Last pennant, 1990 (win).

Twins: Last pennant, 1991 (win).

Pirates: Last pennant, 1979 (win).

canned-cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: RizzoCelebrates, wc.cca, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; Cubs-logo, wc, 1957-78, sportslogo; CubsTeam, 1906, Boston-Public-Library, wc; Cubs-Celebrate, wc, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; J.Arrieta, wc, 11.2.16, WS-G6, A.PardavilaIII; can-of-corn
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 11:17am, edit 3:06 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16: Uff Da! Vikings Have ‘Miles to Go’ in Frosty North

4 Aug

Home Sweet Home

There’s nothing like getting new digs.

As school gets under way across America, that’s just what alot of folks are doing before the rains come and the snow flies.

It’s alot of work getting settled in but once you unpack, make the connections, fill in the familiarities it’ll feel like home again. Course, it’s a little different for renters (moi): Fewer commitments but sometimes more surprises.

“Chris Stevens” explored the topic in Northern Exposure: There are two kinds of people, he said, “owners” and “renters.” The “Morning” man came into a small inheritance and tried the proprietor thing for a spell to help a friend (“Holling”) but soon discovered such was not the life for him. He bailed on the venture and let Vincoeur keep the stake. A truly inspirational TV show if there ever was one.

.........Favre.11.15.09.wc.1.2m.NG.MNThat vision on people aught not to be confused with the “Blondie” version (The Good the Bad and the Ugly): “There two kinds of people, my friend (“Tuco”), those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” But I digress.

The Minnesota Vikings have new digs.

US Bank Stadium is built. It’s big, bodacious, glassy, steely and it recently held a 2-day grand opening for the public (7.23-24). Uff da! That’s Norwegian for booyah or wow!

Nixing a return to open-air design of Black n’ Blue rivals Green Bay (Lambeau), Chicago (Soldiers) and their own Metropolitan (d.1981) that saw so many wins in the 60s & 70s when Bud Grant’s teams were undisputed rulers of the Northwest Territory, the powers instead chose a fixed-roof (Ford) in an abstract expression that’ll keep bodies cozy and revenue rolling in (SB52).

I know what you’re thinking, are the Wilfs (Zygi) renters or owners of this brand spankin’ new stadium? Sure you are.

Though team owners and other investors covered 52% (+/-) of construction cost while tax dollars from State residents and Minneapolis visitors (“hospitality tax”) pick up the rest of the tab (48%), more or less, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, a body created by State legislature and comprised of government-selected membership will own, “control and operate (SMG)” the whole kit n’ kaboodle (Wikipedia). Purr-fect.

.........USBankStdm.wc.7.24.16.Darb02.2mNo longer laughing stock of the League as when the having-let-fall-into-disrepair Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (1982-14) roof collapsed on Vikings’ sad 2010 season (HHH’s memory deserved better), then relegated to semi-welcome guests at TCF Bank the last two seasons as University Regents pitched a PC fit right on cue when Purple hosted the Washington R-Words…oh, wait, aboriginal Americans are fine with the name (“9 of 10”), Redskins, the reigning NFCN champs (11-5) are ready n’ willing to make this season the start of a new era of championship play.

Question is, are these 2016 Norsemen able…to fulfill that mission?

They may have a ways “to go” before forging a destiny and own even their North division, one the Pack dominated for most of these past 25 years beginning with Hall of Fame inductee (8.6) and former Viking, Brett Favre’s GB tenure (‘92), and then which the Vikes had owned for most of 70s (Grant) and 80s (Burns).

Black & Blue Betters

No surprise then that NFL schedulers picked Vikings’ arch-nemesis the Packers to do the honors of helping break-the-seal on the new USB (interface) Stadium in W2 action (9.18) after the Minnesotans return from Tennessee (Pack @ Jax) to open divisional play and begin the trek to SB51 in Houston (2.7.17).

No surprise either that both Minny & Heebie-GB were saddled with juggernaut-caliber schedules, or, as our friends the Brits will soon be pouring into the frothy football colloquy, ‘That‘s one bloody tough sed-jewel, mate!’ I look forward.

........Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.12.7.8.73kIt’ll be a good early test for both Northern toppers. And the Bears and Lions, like the quick-learner said, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me (10x), shame on (my sorry ass).’ Two tougher customers with zip you won’t find than Misters Cutler & Stafford but “forget about it.”

Pack hopes to right the ship after earlier-than-expected PS exit (@ AZ), due to an atypical middling offense (#23 ygpg / 15 pspg) led by Mr. Matriculator Aaron Rodgers who suddenly looked average, missing, maybe too much, his GTG in Jordy Nelson, along with the typical (since LeRoy Butler retired) just-good-enough D that ranked in middle-of-the-NFL-pack, again (#15 yapg / 21 papg).

For the host team, of primary importance is re-establishing divisional dominance not held since 2009-10 season when Brad Childress and All-Pros Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson & Favre, who gets Cantonized (OH) on Saturday and whose NFL story contains a brief but memorable closing chapter written in purple ink, bested their regional rival in both meetings leaving no doubt on top dog.

And that’s just what any aspirant need do if seeking to unseat a sitting juggernaut like Green Bay, New England or Pittsburgh. Winning ain’t enough and it certainly ain’t everything, “Steve (J.Wayne).” Eking out a win by a field goal won’t cut it, not as the competition stiffens, meaning, even had Blair Walsh not hooked it to close out a playoff loss (SEA), Vikes short-comings were sure to roost in what‘s become a snake-pit NFCC setting (’98 / ‘10) for the Minnesotans.

Minnesota’s road to titletown must go through…Titletown, whether in Brown County (WI) or the traveling version come to pay respects at USB.

........Zimmer.9.20.14.1m.wc.MN-NGThink GB’s offense was near-anemic in 2015? Purple people came in just under green & yellow in points scored per game (#16) and a pathetic 29th in yards gained. It was of course the defense that made Vikes playoff contenders, ranking #13 in yards allowed per (344.2), just 4y behind #10 Tampa, and a stellar #5 spot in points allowed (18.9), besting NFC winners Carolina (19.2) and a mere four-tenths (0.4) behind eventual Super champs, Denver.

If you follow pro ball you know the NFL’s a quarterback League. Field generals need not pile numbers like Misters Moon, Brady or Favre but he’d better enjoy airing-it-out as habit to build leads and be Eveready® to claim it back when behind, willing to take reasonable risks, i.e. eye for threading needles, or your team will too often have to rely on the foot of a kicker, a key cog but which is no good way to blueprint a championship run.

The names Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Doug Williams and Jeff Hostetler don’t conger up images of bronze busts, not so far, but they’re all deserving champions who had the physical ability and collective wherewithal to put up big numbers in big games when it mattered most.

And ‘where’ exactly Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater will end up and ‘with’ whom when his story is written, only the Sporting Gods know for sure.

Bridge Work Ahead

The second of Vikes two 1st rounders in 2014 (32) (Bruin backer and 2015 Pro Bowl selectee Tony Barr #9), QB Bridgewater (LOU), pegged by head coach Mike Zimmer and OC Norv Turner to lead Minnesota to the promised land, appears still seated firmly at the drafting board as yet unable to translate that blueprint into an easy on-field matriculatory style and scoring scheme.

......Bridgewater.8.4.14.wc.M.Deery.6.5mTeddy, a Pro Bowl selectee himself (Who wasn’t? Oh right, “Johnny Red-Flag”), TB sports a fine career C% (65) and keeps the picks to an acceptable quantity, averaging just over ten each campaign.

But when you won’t venture forth, take calculated risks, your picks can remain few. You gotta throw ‘em to make ‘em (TDs). The Miami native throws about as many TDs (28) as INTs (21) and the sticky-gloves aren’t helping much (8f ‘15). In his one playoff appearance last January versus the Seahawks, Ted again had that nice C% (71%) but only threw for 146y and zero (0) TDs.

Safe & simple won’t get ‘er done in the elite class of competition. I put Ted (5 (1-10)) just a notch below Mr. Mariota (5.5) and the set-for-life ($$) Mr. Osweiler (6 (HOU)) in the PPP assessment: Pro potentiality and progression.

Again, I know what you’re thinking (It’s the ginkgo biloba): ‘Hey, AOTC, TB’s receiver crew was definitely not too awesome in 2015. That will change in 2016. With 1st-rounder (23) Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) a deep threat, Stefon Diggs (2y) taking the next level, Kyle Rudolph (TE) present n’ accounted for and Jarius Wright filling the slot, the Bridge is gonna’ start extending the field, dude!’

Maybe, but a so-so receiver corps is no good excuse for mediocre matriculate.

Top QBs, even the younger version (Luck / Wilson / Winston), make players around them better. It’s why the Nelson void does not entirely explain the Rodgers downturn in 2015. You’ve gotta’ challenge your receivers, yourself and set the bar higher, encouraging coaches to show faith and communicate (listen) all along the way. On a different team, Mr. Gronkowski is good but I doubt he‘s gronksome minus Tom Brady.

.......Peterson.1.28.12.wc.Arvee5.0.309kWith Nick Foles now in Chiefs’ fold, I say is it’s a damn shame a very capable, proven matriculator like veteran Shaun Hill who could teach a thing or two by example and was still rostered at this posting, must sit idle, only getting a start if someone goes down with injury.

And then there’s the indomitable Adrian Peterson.

All-Day had a terrific comeback season, leading NFL with 1485 yards (92.8) after sitting most of 2014 on susp’n. In 2016 he enters his 10th run. Gas left in the tank? Good guess says, yes. But big-time backs don’t often carry clubs to titles, not since John “loosen up” Riggins, Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson & Jamal Lewis were carrying the loads with capable QBs under center.

When the Vikes can turn one of those 4-team division title trophies into genuine, jewel-encrusted NFC Halas hardware and trip-to-the-Super-Bowl titles (‘77), I’ll sit up and take note. Hell, if Purple just get to an NFCC more than once a decade (98 / 10) the new digs will be worth it, even if monster trucks are the top tenant.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Viktor-Spc.M.Mecuk, wc.cca, 11.7.10, MN-NG; B.Favre, 11.15.9, wc, MN-NG; USBankStdm, wc, Darb02, 7.24.16; A.Rodgers, wc, 12.7.8, M.Morbeck; M.Zimmer, wc, 9.20.14, MN-NG; T.Bridgewater, wc, 8.4.14, M.Deery; A.Peterson, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 8.4.16 @ 4:45pm, edit @ 11:15 EST; Copyright © 2016