Tag Archives: Pete Carroll

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

Advertisements

NFL17 – SB51 Super Cherry Pick: It’s ‘Follow You Follow Me’ With MVP Models Matt Ryan & Tom Brady

1 Feb

Seems only fitting that the two NFL teams, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, that showcased the two top players in 2016 in MVP favorites Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, should’ve successfully run their respective E-ZPass® playoff gauntlets and made it to the biggest sporting showcase on the planet, held this year at NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas, for Super Bowl Five-One.

Making his first appearance in the NFL championship game is Ryan, aka, Matty Ice, the Exton, Pennsylvania native who finally gets the Platform to showcase those super signal-caller talents he‘s been displaying in the NFC South for near a decade. In that span, Falcons have compiled a PS mark of 3-4 (67.6 C%, 16-7i).

For Brady’s part, the San Mateo, California native is just doing what he does. Mere mortals might go to the Florida beach once a year but Tom, when all that AFC fun is done, usually takes a trip to the Big Game, this being his 7th (4-2).

brady-8-28-9-k-allison-wc-2m-dcThere’s not much more to write about the sure-fire Canton candidate, except that Tom’s risen above the junior media’s rolling bitch-fest on Roger Goodell (likely the same scribes who’d vote in Barry & Roger), the Commissioner who meted-out Brady’s 4-game susp’n to open the season, stating that he, Tom, who did not make his phone available in the inquiry, holds no ill-will towards NFL’s top Cufflink. A Progressive in the spirit of Robert La Follette is Mr. Brady. His Dad? What are ya’ gonna’ do?

Fitting too that the two teams most in control of their seasons (flagging destiny), would end up facing-off in the Super Duper. Delivering on destiny is never a sure thing (See; Cats SB50, Dallas 2016), but one team in Houston will truck it.

The Patriots (14-2) began their 2016 campaign without Tom Brady under center, using a duo of QBs in Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, together managing a better-than-expected 3-1 mark, then lost Rob Gronkowski but just a mere one game the rest of the way. The A-Birds (11-5) stumbled outta’ the gate in a home loss to rival Tampa Bay (24-31), went on a 4-game streaker, the up & down at midway (2-3) but kept their heads about them and finished strong going 5-1.

Most certainly fitting is that the top head coach in the pros today in Bill Belichick will be strategizing across the NRG field from NFL’s hottest new head coach in the Falcons’ Dan Quinn. The Mighty one (with a win) is no stranger to the Big Game in having served expertly as DC to Pete Carroll in Seahawks two Trips.

cherries-cloth-6-11-picdrome-wc-cca

Super Cherry Pick: For All the Marbles

New England Patriots (16-2) v. Atlanta Falcons (13-5): 2.5 Fox 6:00 EST

This one is simple: Defense. We know both teams are offensive juggernauts this season (NE 15 consecutive) and possess generally reliable kicking games, so it comes down to which can stop the scoring best over four quarters, the last being the key-Q. Falcons defenders, having stopped previously potent offenses in the Seahawks and Packers, have been playing over their heads, closing the regular season ranked #25 (yapg) and #27 (papg) while the Patriots are playing to form (#8 / #1), keeping opponent scoring totals close to their season average (15.5). In B&B’s two Super Bowl losses, both to the Giants (2008 / 12), their opposite in head-coaching was Tom Coughlin who’d previously turned Jacksonville into contenders as soon as their 2d year of existence (1997: AFCC loss to NE, 20-3), meaning, by the time TC signed with NYC, he’d seen it all and had become a post-season pro. It’s Belichick Time. Patriots win.

Record: 87 – 93 – 3

wood-topps-1970Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; cherries-cloth, wc.cca, picdrome, 6-2011; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 2.1.17 @ 11:40am EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 – SB51: Lombardi’s Legend Lives But It’s Bill Belichick’s Trophy Now, Vince

27 Jan

When the Big Game (SB51) is over n’ done, when all the “whohoopers” have blown and “tartookas” have bung, when the champions raise the Lombardi as a prize they’ve just won, serious discussions should begin at NFL Central about the prospect of re-naming the Big Trophy, after he hangs up his headset, of course, for the New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick who has for the better part of two decades mastered the sport like no other before.

— — —

It is Vince Lombardi’s name that is etched onto each Super Bowl trophy since 1971 (SB5), the year after the great NFL coach, teacher and cultural icon died from colon cancer in the nation’s capital city, Washington, D.C.

belichick-wc-d-shankbne-4-24-12-m176Vince’s pro journey began as the offensive coordinator on the 1950s Jim Lee Howell Giants (Landry as DC), then on recommendation of the Packers first choice, Iowa’s Forest Evashevski, was offered and accepted the project of resurrecting the greatness that had been Green Bay football under its founder, Curly Lambeau. When he was done in the Dairyland (‘68), having piled up five (5) NFL titles, including Super Bowls I & II, the Brooklyn-born taskmaster (Thurston: “He treats us all the same, like dogs”) was the standard of excellence in coaching and then started to tackle a new project in Washington, D.C. in guiding the long-suffering Redskins to their first winning season since Harry Truman’s first year as President in 1945 (7-5-2 (69)).

Lombardi’s Packers dominated much of the 60s, became the pride of Wisconsin football fans once again and, in its earlier days, the source of no small joy for the #1 Catholic and Vince’s friend in the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

With his winning ways and confident, at times arrogant air, his legend grew to colossal size, so big that the name Lombardi become sacrosanct in sporting circles. All of which means a call to replace the name on the Silver Swag would lead Packer-backers and media friendlies to just about freak.

But the Vince Lombardi brand of ball is as old as a pair of Johnny Unitas high-tops. Not lesser in its importance, just older.

His style of coaching (“Captain Ahab” to Mike Tomlin’s “cheerleader(ing)?”) and game plans that dominated the gridiron are long gone, unknown to younger fans as the NFL’s Network rarely showcases their vintage & voluminous NFL Films library, fixated instead on gab & top ten lists to bring in the teeny-boppers.

lombarditrophy-wc-safetycap-6-16-16-619kThe last remnants of the Lombardi / pre-pass game retired when his rival Bud Grant handed-in his clipboard (‘85). Though personalities far apart (See; MMQB – SI.com), Vince & Bud were like-minded in their passion and emphasis on ground-game, team-play and toughness: No gloves, warming or sticky, nor heaters on the Metropolitan Stadium (d. 1983) or Lambeau Field sidelines, no matter the frigidity (-13°). It was a man’s game, though, on occasion, brutish ball (See; Ice Bowl).

‘So what’ you say, ‘Lombardi’s name is a terrific tie to the NFL’s glorious past!’ Agree. Nobody loves history more than this scribbler but the trophy should be fairly current in name-plate, more representative of the National game as it stands. Not to cue a change every ten (10) years but when 2+ generations have spanned and a good candidate is present (BB), a renovation is in order. Frankly, the Tiffany-designed trophy needs an update, a new model to lose the tail-fins.

This pitch isn’t about pegging the best head coach in NFL history. We know who the best assistant coach is in Buddy Ryan (d.2016), Hall-worthy anyway, voting snobs, but trying to make permanent the best ever by etching a name is foolish.

There’s never been a better football coach, motivator, than Vince Lombardi. But then one could safely say the same about Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, NFL founder George Halas (NFCC trophy), Weeb Ewbank, Hank Stram, Curly Lambeau, John Madden and so on and so on.

sb-trophy-wc-2-5-12-l-tyrnes-s-lukeNot just any ol’ championship coach should be knocking the great Vince Lombardi off of his lofty, symbolic perch.

And Bill Belichick ain’t just any ol’ champion coach.

New England’s hoodie-wearing, gridiron guru is nonpareil and stands as the League’s new standard of excellence, a winning method as clear and consistent, as admired and feared by opponents as was the Green Bay Packers power-sweep in the 1960s. Success seems almost automatic.

What about Spygate? With ever-changing technologies there’s a corresponding rapid change in societal mores and then challenges in defining new boundaries.

His detractors might diss this on Bill, ‘Without Brady, Belichick is fair at best.’

But every great coach has his great player(s): Holmgren had Favre, Jackson had Michael, Huggins had Ruth…and Gehrig, Pop Warner had Thorpe, Riley had Magic, Bill has Tom and Vince had Bart Starr, who, if not the master-motivator behind the success was the master implementer of Lombardi‘s vision.

The difference? Some have a flair for innovation. In the Big Name group, men like Pop, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sid Gillman, Hank Stram, Halas, Walsh, Lambeau, Paul Brown, Lombardi, Tommy Gorman, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Dick Irvin, Adrian “Cap” Anson, Pete Carroll, John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Knute Rockne and Belichick invent ways to win while putting an emphasis on fundamentals.

lombardi-starr-wc-cca-gbBeauty of Belichick is best illustrated, not in Pats 2016 regular season mark (14-2), almost ho-hum for a B&B team, but that even as Tom was out, NE went 3-1 (Ws v. AZ, MIA and HOU), guided by two quarterbacks who, though played with composure, had zero (0) starts prior between them in Jim Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

By the time Bill retires, probably not long after his #1 (Tom) hangs up his cleats, Lombardi’s name will have graced the Big Trophy for over fifty (50) years. That’s a long, respectful time.

When the Powers-that-Be named the trophy in 1970, it was about excellence, empathy & remembrance. Another naming (2020+) could be about excellence, remembrance and relevancy. But even if, Belichick, as was Lombardi, is proud and would likely refuse the honor. Great minds think alike. Vince wasn’t all too keen either about renaming City Field for the legendary Lambeau. But one can hardly imagine today the famous frozen tundra titled any other way.

Will Bill Belichick hoist his 5th Lombardi when SB51 comes to a close? That I have not yet decided. Whether he does or doesn’t, the name game will begin.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; B.Belichick, wc, D.Shakbne, 4.24.12; LombardiTrophy, wc, Safetycap, 6.16.16; SB-Trophy, wc, 2.5.12, Tyrnes, S.Luke; Lombardi-Starr, wc.cca; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UoM
Posted: 1.27.17 @ 1:40pm, edit (+BW) 1.28 @ 9:42 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Division Cherry Picks: Chaff Aside & Eight Seeds Alive, Goddess Ceres Asks, ‘Who’s Got Destiny?’

11 Jan

Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks

They are the juggernauts of the oh-so sticky-glove era, winners of four (4) of the last eight (8), seven (7) of the last thirteen (13) NFL championships and almost half (13) of the last thirty (30) American – National Football Conference Super Bowl births. That’s alot of Bowl Babies, “by gosh by golly.”

ceres-wc-france-late19c-jlpc-9mThey are the haughty half of the eight remaining teams in the division playoff round, teams who have in recent times won their respective Conference hardware (Halas / Hunt) and are again in position to punch their ticket to SB51 in hopes of hoisting the vaunted Lombardi trophy, again.

The rich getting richer? It’s been the unaltered economic state going back to Nixon and will likely continue on with Trump directing the flow, so why buck the trend, eh? Ugh.

It’s in divisional play where the bye guys (no pun) in the Patriots, Falcons, KC and Dallas will now be tested under the brightest of lights and fiercest of foes. Simply stated, this is “the best of times,” for football viewers.

wilson-2-5m-11-11-12-l-maurer-wcUnlike the NCAA championships (March Madness) where Rd-1 of 34 games displays some of the most exhilarating and unexpected outcomes, NFL’s wild card stage is largely an exercise in separating chaff (hull) from the wheat (seed), i.e., threshing or thrashing, as it were. While Derek Carr’s presence would’ve had an impact, injuries plague every team and the WC is becoming semi-pathetic.

Did any unbiased, rationally-minded prognosticator truly believe that the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders or Miami Dolphins stood a snowball’s chance in Hades of advancing? And the one team some thought (moi) might put up a fight and make it interesting, the Giants, they too looked like they didn’t belong (13-38 GB).

Atlanta Falcons
Kansas City Chiefs
Dallas Cowboys
Houston Texans

They are the wannabes, the aspiring four remaining teams who’ve been out of the mix (Super) for so long (ATL, DAL, KC), or never in it (HOU), that they cannot rightly call themselves a standard-bearer, no matter the jersey sales (Dallas), and must earn their way back to where the big boys hang their hats (See; above).

kelce-wc-j-beall-9-14-14-1-5mThree of the four, Falcons, Chiefs & Cowboys, will play host to a juggernaut, boosting their chances a bit but had better bring their best game or next Monday they’ll be spending the day planning the next family cruise.

Winner’s Tale

1) Always able: Easy ability to matriculate (24+ pts);

2) Fourth-quarter defense that stops the scoring and bolts it down. Same holds true in college football and something that Alabama genius Nick Saban overlooked this time (“Clemson’s Dabo Swinney may have the nation’s best progression (75-27) since taking the Tigers’ reins (2008) and is a top candidate to topple cartel. Explains the raise ($5M) (9.2.16)”);

3) Fewest turnovers; and

4) Reliable kicking game (50 yd+).

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4m

Cherry Picks Division Grade

Seattle (11-5-1) @ Atlanta (11-5) 1.14 Fox 4:35 EST

Almost four years to the date (1.13.13) when in the divisional it appeared Pete Carroll’s building project hadn’t yet matured. Seattle played Swing Time in Atlanta to roar back for 21 points in the 4Q, only to lose on a late Matt Ryan-led FG drive (30-28). Falcons “Mighty (Dan) Quinn” was Hawks’ DC then and next year when Seattle hoisted (SB48). A-Birds are a scoring machine (33+) with best PS kicker in Bryant (92% (6-8 50+)) but DQ hasn’t built the top-stop (D) like he did in Emerald City. Awash in injuries, Seahawks’ defense still sticks while Rawls motors (6.ypc-DET). Earlier W6 battle is indicative (SEA 26-24): Close one where 4Q stoppage will decide it: Seahawks win.

Houston (10-7) @ New England (14-2) CBS 8:15

Osweiler battles Tannehill for ‘Rodney Dangerfield award (“no respect”)’ while facing maybe the best coach-QB tandem in history (Bill & Tom), in Foxborough, versus well-rested hosts with Tom in top form. Houston will need a Texas-sized shamrock to pull-off upset of the century. O’Brien has the defense clicking on all cylinders, even sans Mr. Celebrity (Watt), but the Pats, scoring experts they are, also play some D themselves, leading in all-important PPG rank (15.6), 2+ pts lower than next best, NYG (HOU 20.5), which goes to their W3 blanking of Texans (27-0). “Houston” would like to play for the crown in their NRG park come February but may have to satisfy still with the world’s Rollerball (‘75) championship (Ouch!). New England wins.

packers-cheer-9-26-10-m-morbeck309k

Pittsburgh (12-5) @ Kansas City (12-4) 1.15 NBC 1:05

Fans of this former AFL power hope Andy Reid’s plan gets Chiefs back where Hank Stram got ‘em when KC did “matriculate” all over the Vikes (SB4). Steelers defense is rated (342 ypg (12)) but KC bests their guest on PPG, 19.4 < 20.4. It’s former Chiefs guru Haley designing Pitt’s scoring scheme (24.9 ppg), a smidgen up on Chiefs OC Childress (24.3). Steelers have big weapons in Brown, Bell, Big Ben and SB coach Tomlin who wants desperately to prove he’s more than a “cheerleader.” No ICBMs in KC but QB Smith is cool customer, Ware aches (rib) but is all-purpose, Kelce a top TE and Peters a game-changer. Digits and W4 win (43-14) say Steelers favored but Ben’s gimpy (ankle) and Chiefs benefit from the home-field advantage: Kansas City wins.

Green Bay (11-6) @ Dallas (13-3) Fox 4:40

Packers get top TV slot, again, though, green & yellow would just assume face America’s Team sooner than later. Big Question: Will Dallas’ transplendent rookies in Prescott & Elliott hold up under bright lights or is middling GB defense (#22 / 21) enough to rattle their senses? Green Bay lit-up Vikes top D (#3 / 6) in W16 on a secondary that defected. No such discord in Dallas (#14 / 5). Boys W6 win at Lambeau (30-16) caught Pack in a state-of-funk, one since deodorized by a 7-game streak (sweet smell of success). GB still has a run void but Ramblin’ Man Rodgers is locked in. Long layoff helps veteran-led teams like Patriots but takes the edge off young Turks (Dak & Zeke). Nelson ribbed but was non-factor vs. NYG. Experience trumps exuberance. Packers win.

Record: 83 – 91 – 3

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-sign, wikiproject; Goddess-Ceres, France, late.19c., wc.cca, JLPC; R.Wilson, wc, 11.11.12, L.Maurer; T.Kelce, wc, 9.14.14, J.Beall; cherries, Hispalois, wc, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; Packers-cheer, wc, M.Morbeck, 9.26.10
Posted: 1.11.17 @ 11:14am, edit 3:35, pic-fix 1.13 @ 2:20pm; Copyright © 2017

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

NFL15 Cherry Picks W16: Super Sizing

24 Dec

Measuring the Material

Maybe you’re not buying any new cloths this holiday season. Some don’t.

.....tailor.1888.wc.Meggendorfer&Bonn.tmYou’re one of those rare individuals whose wardrobe is A-okay. You’re covered: No frays, no tears, not sos anyone would notice, and still setting the right mood with what ya’ got. All is hunky-dory. That’s grand.

Me, I need mood alteration, new material and variety-spice. And so thinks my beautiful wife, a judgment I trust (“I’ve got alot of faults…but ingratitude isn’t one ‘em (Patton ‘70)).”

Most of this shopping happens online. And before you give that credit card and click the ‘Order’ button you will have to size-up. Typically, it’s no problem unless your spree runs into December when sizes & supplies run low. Side-track: Is it just me or are those button-fly blue-jeans (Levi’s 501®) the kookiest koncept to come down the pike? A string of buttons…down there? Those knobs “gotta’ go.”

.....SuperBowl.Ring.7.3.14.wc.USEmbassyCan.thmAnd the same kind of sizing-up goes on in the NFL: Who‘s a contender, who‘s a pretender and so-on. With just two games remaining in the regular slate, measuring the playoff material in the holiday rush has become a standard operating procedure for footballers.

But volatility is the word in 2015. Up one week, down the next is the norm for far too many teams this year. And it‘s not just about injuries, either, though, they‘re mounting (See; Denver, etc.). It’s not the rule, as Carolina, New England and Arizona’s consistency attest but it might just as well be one.

Baker’s Dozen

1. New England
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
....baker.M.Andaya.USS.JC.Stennis.11.7.06.PJ.Perkins.thm4. Green Bay
5. Carolina
6. Pittsburgh
7. Kansas City
8. New York Jets
9. Cincinnati
10. Denver
11. Minnesota
12. Washington
13. Houston

Cardinals

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiDefense matters on a Arians team (#7 / 7) and loss of key cog Mathieu is big, someone Dick Sherman might emulate (tackling). Arizona took a chance on “Honey Badger” after drugs came to light at LSU but the former Tiger has come up aces. Torn ACL (v PHI) creates a void (80t – 16pd – 5i) that’s hard to fill this late in the game. Last year it was Palmer, this year Johnson & Tyrann. But Bruce Arians is a wizard and Cardinals feel destined for Super things this go-round.

Panthers

Another team feeling manifest destiny will take them to Santa Clara and the balanced ball backs up the feeling (O: #8 / 1; D: 3 / 10). But quarterback Camster-the-Hamster’s rabbit-habit (9a per) is red-flagging. Not just the injury invite (See; TJ Yates, RG3, etc.) but the failure to fully fashion pocket poise and reading ability necessary in the toughest games in the most critical moments by caving too often to athleticism.

Packers

Hard to imagine Rodgers-led team flying under-the-radar but that’s just where GB’s been cruising in the NFL analysis stratosphere since hitting the skids (1-4) midway. But they didn’t lose faith, found focus and hit the high-life again with a budding balance (O: #21 / 10; D: #17 / 5) that post-season stalwarts need. ‘Hawks & Cards may rate better in full capacity but Green Bay packs more pieces today.

Seahawks

Like Packers, ‘Hawks hung tough in a tough stretch (open 2-4) and now find themselves in the thick of the NFCC race. Cats ‘showed ‘em what-for during that tough time (23-27 W6) but Seattle favors a re-match. Problem: Run game ‘got gone’ with injury exits of Lynch and super-sub Rawls. Solution: Mind of Carroll. If it’s close, Steve Hauschka is a go-to kicker: 96%, 4-4 50+.

Patriots

...Brady.11.29.15.wc.J.Beall.thmDeflategate ain’t over (NFL filed appeal reply this week) but Pats excelled when it hung heavy (SB49) and figure to do the same. Brady’s playing for another MVP trophy and hands-man Edelman might return for the PS but like the ’Hawks, the RB slot is a question-mark with main-man Blount’s hip-injury. And like Denver, defense has been superb (#6 / 6) but injuries are mounting. Solution: Mind of Belichick. If it’s close, Steve Gostkowski is the man: 94%, 4-5 50+.

Steelers

If Big Ben stays mobile, Pitt, still not playoff set, may prove too big a test for any AFC playoff’er. All other individual talents (Brown, etc.) blend into team ranks at this time in the campaign and Steelers top-out in scoring but need to hunker down on the D-side (O: #2 / 4; D: 24 / 11), traditionally a Steel City strength. Run game reliant on vet Williams but Tomlin has these guys believing.

Chiefs

Andy has ’em thinking February football, something unthinkable in 1st 3rd when KC opened with road win (HOU) only to give up next five. A win over Ben-less Steelers in W7 started the current ride (8-0). QB Smith is All-Pro‘ing in 2015. As ygpg is low (O: #24 / 336y), Chiefs find ways to score (8 / 26): Opportunistic, and talent for modification (West (Charles)). Issue: 2nd half slate < challenging.

...Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.105.08.thmBroncos

Battle of Back-Ups (Brock v AJ) Monday as Andy & Pey-Dirt mend. On their returns, rust issue is no biggie as both automatic but they’d like their ‘house in order.’ Broncs riding a 2g L-streak as both were close. Upside of Ls: No QB controversy; Down: road playoffs & mood. O-side’s been struggle in 2015 (#23 / 18) but now D’s giving points (#1 / 29). “(Bolts) Without a Country (Hale)” come calling for finale. If it’s close, Prater splits-the-uprights: 94%, 4-4 50+.

Jets

Big surprise of 2015 contenderships as Arians protégée, where Bowles was voted first AP-ACOY for NFL14, helped shape Cards’ stout Ds before taking his first hired-as-head gig in Jetsland (MIA interim 2011 (2-1)) (Fitz & BM, co-surprises #2). Had midway rough patch but have strung 4 Ws and face good playoff primer vs Pats and Bills. Trouble is, losses will bump ‘em out of PS altogether.

Bengals

No house of cards, Bengals “Got (Growl)” whomever’s under center, though Andy makes it near purr-fect. Playoffs? That’s a whole ‘nother kitty, with monkey-on-its-back (Lewis & Dalton: 0-4). But Cincy shows indisputable growth (O: #11 / 4; D: 9 / 1) from prior years and seeks showcase at home for the PS. Trouble: Denver has it’s own agenda.

Bad Spot

NFL/PA greedmeisters: Games on Thursday and Saturday work but both should’ve been scheduled in day-light hours for the holidays. “Grabbing with both hands,” Rog & DeMaw.

...cherries.cloth.picdrome.6.2011.thm

Cherry Picks Week 16: Back in the Black

San Diego (4-10) @ Oakland (6-8): 12.24 NFLN 8:25: Raiders win
Redskins (7-7) @ Philadelphia (6-8): 12.26 NFLN 8:25: Eagles win
San Francisco (4-10) @ Detroit (5-9): 12.27 Fox 1:00: Lions win
Pittsburgh (9-5) @ Baltimore (4-10): CBS 1:00: Steelers win
Dallas Cowboys (4-10) @ Buffalo (6-8): Fox 1:00: Bills win
Chicago (5-9) @ Tampa Bay (6-8): Fox 1:00: Buccaneers win
Carolina Cats (14-0) @ Atlanta (7-7): Fox 1:00: Falcons win
Indianapolis (6-8) @ Dolphins (5-9): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Patriots (12-2) @ NY Jets (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Pats win
Texans (7-7) @ Tennessee (3-11): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Jaguars (5-9) @ New Orleans (5-9): CBS 4:05: Jaguars win
Green Bay (10-4) @ AZ (12-2): Fox 4:25 (GOTW1): Cards win
St. Louis Rams (6-8) @ Seattle (9-5): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
New York Giants (6-8) @ Minnesota (9-5): NBC 8:30: Giants win
Cincy (11-3) @ DEN (10-4): 12.28 ESPN 8:30 (GOTW3): CIN wins

Record: 83 – 81

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: SuperBowlRing, wc.cca, 7.13.14, US-Embassy-Canada; Tailor, wc, Meggendorfer&Bonn, 1888; baker, wc, M.Andaya, USS.Stennis, 11.7.06, PJ.Perkins; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; Brady, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, 6-2011, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.24.15 @ 2:27pm; edit 10:53 EST; Copyright © 2015