Tag Archives: Sid Gillman

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

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NFL17 Conference Cherry Picks: Top Dogs Hunting & Halasing on Way to Houston

17 Jan

If the Pittsburgh Steelers chatty guru Mike Tomlin is a “cheerleader” coach as one sport personality recently opinionated, then all I’ve got to say (write) is this:

Give me a W!
Give me an I!
Give me an N!
Give me another N!
Give me… … you get the picture. Mike’s a winner.

tomlin-wc-m-rooney-9-16-07-405kWhether he’s a skilled tactician in offensive (Sid Gillman) or defensive (Bud Ryan) scheme or a leader who prefers delegating those duties to specialize in the emotional game (rah-rah), Mike wins alot, regular (.644), post (.615) and is 1-1 in Supers. Tomlin & team went through a rough playoff patch in recent period (2012 – 2016 (1-3)) where Steelers went one n’ done, twice, then lost in 2016 divisional.

But Pittsburgh is 2-0 in their march on Houston (SB51), prevailing over a slightly off-center Miami club who were without starter Tannehill, and then Sunday won a gutsy road game over a scoring-lite Chiefs who’re back to the drawing board.

Tomlin is a bit off-center himself, showing poor judgment in the nationally-televised 2013 Thanksgiving contest in Baltimore, stepping into the pathway of Ravens return-man in a clear effort to disruption, hence the whopping $100G fine. More recently Mike was recorded making crude reference to his next week’s Conference title opponent, the Patriots. Stay classy, MT. Ugh.

halas-1922-wc-therakishfellow-188kThere’s been speculation that former Steelers Super Bowl QB and present Fox analyst, Terry Bradshaw and his curiously-timed critique of Tomlin, just prior to playoffs, was more than simple opinionating but instead intended to stoke the fires of Steel City players, a crew that’s been fizzling out early in recent playoff ventures.

Whether staged or sincere, Bradshaw’s statement on Tomlin’s coaching style seems to have had no negative impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers championship run, one that looks to be unified and motivated to the gills, a necessary group mental state given that their next destination has been most typically an opponent’s graveyard-of-dreams in Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7

Conference Cherry Picks 2017: Crème de la crème

Packers (12-6) @ Atlanta (12-5): 1.22 Fox 3:05 EST (Halas Trophy)

Conference play presents the best in competition as none of four remaining teams is a pretender. Nobody gets this far on smoke & mirrors. Experience over exuberance is how GB got back to the NFCC (2012). A-Birds punched their return ticket (2013 (Smith)) by topping the same Seattle and being the most offensively juggernautious team in NFL16, ranked #2 in YGPG, #1 in points scored and led by MVP-caliber Matt Ryan. Packers ranked at #8 / 4 and were rising at W17. For most of his coach career (1994 W&M), Falcons Dan Quinn has been a defensive specialist but that skill has not been apparent in Atlanta with poor 2016 team ranks indicate (#25 / 27). Lucky for the hosts, Packers didn’t fare much better on the D-side (#22 / 21), a group that nearly served up a Cheese-Melt II (See; Seattle 2015) in the Dallas divisional game. I like Falcons’ resolve: Behind early to the Seahawks (0-7), roar back with a killer 2Q (19), maintain matriculation and the D bolts it down (2H-10p). Kicker Crosby was cool late for GB (2-50+) but A-Birds Bryant (K) & Bosher (P) are toppers too. Clubs are very comparable, as it should be, except Atlanta’s run game is more est’d, and then they’ll be Benzing…the dome, not the hydrocarbon. Pack should’ve gotten hot earlier. Falcons win.

afc-hunt-trophy-a-kirk-wc-2-4m

Steelers (13-5) @ New England (15-2): CBS 6:40 (Hunt Trophy)

Media pounced on New England who lost but one quarter ((2) 10-3) to offensively tepid and defensively cranky Texans (34-16). Only surprise is that Brady’s O-mates failed to pounce on the QB’s crank (Clowney). Not in their job description (ugh)? Tom’s 2 INTs of tipped variety. Pitt had tougher time in KC but like Falcons, showed resolve. Must go back to ‘05 for Pittsburgh’s last AFCC visit to Foxborough, a 41-27 loss. Cowher’s out and Big Ben wants to forget (3 INT). Comparable clubs, too, on both O-side (NE: #4 / 3 – PIT: #7 / 10) and the stoppage (NE: #8 / 1; PIT: #12 / 9). Steelers #1 horse is clear (Bell) but I wonder why Blount (8c (HOU)), Pats proven gainer, fell to #2 behind Lewis (13c)? Pressure on the QB sets the tone: Pats OL is a wall (24sk (HOU 2)), Pitt’s is a bigger one (21 (KC 1)). Putting on pressure, both were…capable, Steelers made 38 sacks (1 KC), New England 34 (3 HOU). Weather folk see Sunday in Boston metro as 42°, clouds and no flakes, not from above, anyway (See; Mike). If not the AP-MVP, Tom should have shot at the Super variety. Patriots win.

Record: 85 – 93 – 3

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject; MikeTomlin, wc.cca, M.Rooney, 9.16.07; GeorgeHalas, 1922, wc.cca, therakishfellow; cherries-ripe, wc.cca, 6.24.07, Chirak; AFCC-LamarHunt-trophy, wc.cca, A.Kirk;
Posted: 1.17.17 @ 11:37am, edit 7:59 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL14 Cherry Picks W14: “Kingdom for a (QB)!”

4 Dec

Quarterback Crude

A (quarterback, a quarterback), my kingdom for a (quarterback).”

That’s word-play on a famous line from Shakespeare’s work, Richard III (A5 S4).

Edward de Vere (1550-1604), 17th Earl of Oxford and author of Shakespeare papers (a/k/a “Shake-a-Spear”), was quite the pen-master, quilled variety.

.........deVere.1575.Brown&Harding.wc.thumb

No word-processors, no writing tablets and not much in the way of research tools, beyond monasteries and small, private libraries, in those days of minstrels and non-refrigerated beef, all making Edward’s exploits that much more stupendous.

As for the Shakespeare character, allegedly from Stratford on Avon and emblazoned on 75 million beakers to attest to the fable, he was about as real as The Cat in the Hat.

And what was the #1 folly (sport) in de Vere’s day? Falconry, talons & tearing. The sport of aristocrats. They didn’t mess around in 1589, and if you did and got caught, it was off to the Tower of London or chopping block for you, poor devil.

..........Richard3.penny.R.Suarez.wc.thmb

What Richard shrieked on the battlefield as his world came crashing down around him differed slightly from the version above, but so similar are the sentiments to that of many an NFL king in 2014 it’s hardly worth quibbling over: a desperate and decisive shortage of a critical element to victory, at Bosworth, a horse, here, a top flight quarterback.

What the owner of a floundering franchise wouldn’t give for a top field general to take his offensive team to higher ground and winning ways.

Wide receivers can be game-changers (See; Rice & Alworth).

A few teams have ridden a running back to glory (See; Brown & Riggins).

A stout defense can make good offense look pedestrian (See; SEA ‘13 & CHI ‘85).

But even with a guy like Ray Lewis or NaVorro Bowman roaming the terrain, you best have a reliable Mr. Matriculator under center or kiss any Super Bowl plans goodbye. It’s why the quarterback gets the cheers in victory and jeers in defeat.

A good signal-caller is hard to find.

Today, there are approximately 60 rostered quarterbacks in the NFL. For those franchises who’ve secured their man, it’s like money in the bank: surety.

Teams that win consistently are QB contented. He need not be Canton bound, i.e., Peyton or Tom, but a dependable bloke who wins more than he loses, i.e., Flacco and Rivers.

By my count there’ll be 18-20 settled quarterback spots as summer camps open in ‘15, all but one (CAR) pocket-passers or mobile managers. That leaves a dozen or so teams that can be fairly characterized as facing a QB quandary and will then more than likely seek a starter, whether by draft, trade, free-agency or giving a current rosteree his big chance.

Keep in mind, of those 20 odd established stars, you’ve got half a dozen veteran QBs with 10+ years under their belts and another half dozen closing in fast on their 1st decade.

And while their jobs are not (or shouldn’t be) in danger, four of those est’d passers, Ryan, Brees, Cutler and Eli, are putting up numbers while having a tough time translating them into wins. But there is something called team defense, or lack thereof, and if put on the open-market, these guys’d move but fast.

Who will fill those vacancies when they come open in the not-too-distant future? Talented pro quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, they need nurturing, time to develop. Can’t crank ‘em out like so many widgets, not the pro type, anyway.

After getting the basics in high school, it’s college where advanced training for signal-callers is suppose to take place. But “there’s a problem, Houston.”

Unlike major league baseball, where an extensive minor league farm system will weed out college grads who don’t make the grade while grooming the honor roll, pro football gets Joe college straight off campus w/all his habits, good and bad.

A quarterback crisis looms on the NFL horizon.

It’s a paltry plight compared to the impending worldwide energy crisis that will prove catastrophic at the pace we’re on (2035?), but for the serious NFL fan and general manager, this present positional predicament should be of paramount importance.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

The player pipe-line running from college to the NFL, supplying trained passers, is dryin’ up quicker than a Texas’ oil well. Why? Sir Runs-a-lot is all the rage in amateur-land.

High school and college coaches both are taking a short-cut, using their EZ-Pass® on the highway to glory by slotting Mr. Athletic into the quarterback spot, giving him carte blanche to hog the ball and bring home the bacon.

And it‘s paid off in pork bellies.

National championships and Heisman awards are proof that flash-QB works wonders at the lower level of play, where disparity of talent can be wider than the Lone Star State.

Trouble is, teachers (coach) and students both are foregoing their Football 101 studies. They can prove time-consuming, tedious and a painful learning process enroute to becoming a proficient pocket passer, one who reads defense beyond “See Spot run.”

And NFL fans are paying the price.

Not unlike the 3-pointer in basketball, the proliferation of run-QB has set into motion a devolution of football, where today’s “Gridiron Flash” or modern-day single-wing tailback (30s) (‘read-option’ misnomer), is retarding decades of progress as the art of quarterbacking steadily becomes, if not a lost calling, a rare craft, indeed.

When Mr. Freelancer hit’s the pro scene, GMs are left “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinking’ and prayin’” his game doesn’t get lost in translation, a prayer that’s going unanswered.

The Suits aren’t the only ones biting at the bit.

Co-workers at tight-end, wide-receiver and backfield can’t be all too pleased at the fewer touches they get when run-QB covets the ball and fails to spread the joy. Those 2-3 fewer takes each game add-up over course of a season, lowering totals and the valuation that can show-up on draft days and contracting time.

Remember Mike Vick, now with the Jets? Moments of prowess (’03 (ATL v GB)), a bad break of his own making but not enough tools in the kit (56C%, 59-50).

Cam Newton takes NFL by storm in his first season (‘11), passes over 4000 yards (60%), sets rookie scoring mark (35td (14r)) and can’t get back in sync (27-31).

Colin Kaepernick bursts on the scene making Green Bay sharp look Swiss cheesy but couldn’t close the deal when spotlight shone bright (See: SB47 & NFCT‘14).

Tim Tebow makes the most of his chance by taking Broncos and USA on a wild ride called Tebowmania (’11 (7-4)) while setting the bar low on a QB staple (47.9C%).

And Rob Griffin looked a diamond in the rough (9-6, 66%, 20-5i (‘11)) but a panache for pace provoked injury (knee / ankle), eventual benching and now his future is foggy.

..........R.Wilson.wc.cca.11.11.12.L.Maurer.thumb

As for Seattle’s starry young quarterback Russ Wilson, run-QB supporters claim him as one of their own, example of why the flash-form is a winner. And they’d be wrong.

Wilson ran lots at Wisconsin but raised Lombardi only as he reigned-in the run-habit under Pete Carroll, evolving into a pro-set, mobile-manager, actually rushing fewer times (3-26) than did similar styled Roger Staubach in his first Super start (5-18 (SB6)).

Russ & Pete are now the template for conversion from playground run-around to savvy NFL signal-caller. Keys are a personality to permit, and a coach who knows his stuff.

And Manziel? Still a sideliner. Some say he’ll change the NFL (“yute(ful)” indiscretion). He’ll get his shot, but flash tends to think himself Superman, always able to make things happen. NFL defensive studs will make you regret such folly, when “the better part of valour is discretion (See; Buffalo, ‘Don‘t even think about it‘ fumble).” On busted play, drop & roll, kid.

The devolution at quarterback won’t end anytime soon. Question is, will NFL fans, with their higher standard and refined football tastes, forego the pass game, a central, defining trait of pro-play since Sid Gillman made the scene (AFL ‘60), in favor of run-rabbit-run?

Answer: It’s about as likely as a gusher in the Keystone State, or a photograph of young Billy Shakespeare scribbling and burning the midnite oil. When pigs fly.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 14: “Importance of Folly”

Dallas (8-4) @ Chicago (5-7): 12-4 NFLN 8:25: Bears win
Ravens (7-5) @ MIA (7-5): 12-7 CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
Colts (8-4) @ Cleveland (7-5): CBS 1:00: Browns win
Steelers (7-5) @ Cincinnati (8-3-1): CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
St. Louis (5-7) @ Washington (3-9): Fox 1:00: Redskins win
Buffalo (7-5) @ Denver (9-3): CBS 4:05: Broncos win
Chiefs (7-5) @ Arizona (9-3): CBS 4:05: Kansas City wins
San Francisco (7-5) @ Oakland (1-11): Fox 4:25: Raiders win
Hawks (8-4) @ Philadelphia (9-3): Fox 4:25 (GOTW): Seattle wins
Patriots (9-3) @ San Diego (8-4): 8:30 NBC: New England wins
Falcons (5-7) @ Green Bay (9-3): 12-8 8:30 ESPN: Green Bay wins

Record: 66 – 37 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Richard3, wc.cca, 10-1912; deVere, wc.cca, 1575, Brown&Harding; penny-Richard3, R.Suarez, wc.cca; NFL.wikiproject; Wilson, 11.11.12, Maurer, wc.cca; Cherries-on-cloth, 6.2011, picdrome, wc.cca.
Posted: 12.4.14 @ 5:54pm; edit 12.5 @ 1:02am EST