The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – NFL Style

Before I disappeared for three weeks in Eastern Europe, I said that putting a single NFL team in London was not a great idea and that expansion of the NFL to accommodate international expansion was probably a worse idea. My reason was that there is not enough quality quarterback talent to go around as it is.

A reader sent an e-mail suggesting that I do an analysis of the mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL and I agreed that was a good idea but that I did not have time to do it while preparing to go on vacation. Now that I am back, I have run out of excuses…

In order to do this, I have to separate the starting QBs into categories and so I have put them into five categories sort of in the shape of a bell curve. The categories are:

    The Top 4 – or – The Elite

    The Next 7 – or – The Really Good QBs

    The Great Unwashed 10 In The Middle – or – The Good

    The Lower 7 – or – The Bad

    The Bottom 4 – or – The Ugly.

As I was doing the allocations here, I immediately recognized that there will be arguments about where I put certain QBs. However, I don’t think there will be any cases where someone will think I was off by two categories. So here is the distribution in alphabetical order in each category:

The Elite: Brady, Luck, P. Manning, Rodgers. Some might want to suggest that Peyton Manning is on the downside of his career at this point and/or that Andrew Luck has not won anything yet. Fine… I still think all four of these QBs belong in this category

The Really Good QBs: Brees, E.Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Romo, Ryan, Stafford. Some might object to putting Ryan or E. Manning in this category at the expense of Flacco or Palmer. Fine… My objective here is to get to bottom two categories to check out the mediocrity levels there.

The Good: Bradford, Carr, Cutler, Dalton, Flacco, Foles, Newton, Tannehill, Palmer, Wilson. I can sense the unrest boiling up in the readership already. I just put Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco (Super Bowl winners both)in the same category with Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton; yes, I did. More interestingly to me is that I put Nick Foles and Sam Bradford in the same category and they were traded one for another in the offseason.

The Bad: Bridgewater, Cassel, Griffin III, Kaepernick, Mariotta, Smith, Winston. I had to put Winston and Mariotta somewhere and since most rookies struggle a bit I figured to put them here. The Bucs and the Titans have to hope that they will not be in this category should anyone think to do this again next season. However, with regard to the others in the category:

    Bridgewater showed improvement late last year but let us not mistake his performance with the stuff of legends.

    Cassel has been in the NFL for 10 seasons and has had 2 good years (2008 and 2010). This year he battling EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor for the starting QB job; any QB in the NFL who is a “certified journeyman” would be the hands-down starter over either of those other guys.

    RG3 had a great rookie year and has stunk in spades ever since. Because of that rookie year, I put him one notch above the abysmal QBs for this year – but one more season like the last two and he will go to the back of the class.

    Kaepernick regressed last year along with the rest of the Niners’ team. Maybe he belongs one category higher here but I do not know who to “demote” from the list above to accommodate him there.

    Smith is a game manager and not much more.

The Ugly: Bortles, Hoyer/Mallett, McCown, Smith/Fitzpatrick. The Texans are trying to decide between Hoyer and Mallett as their starter; for me, this is a coin flip that does not turn out well for the fans in Houston. The Jets will have to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick until Geno Smith’s jaw heals but the fact of the matter is that neither one is very good.

    Bortles has all the physical tools but here are last season’s results. His QB Rating (flawed as that yardstick is) was 69.5. To give you an idea who else is at that rating level, let me point you to Kordell Stewart. Ka-beesh?

    McCown will start his 13th season in the NFL in September; he has averaged fewer than 4 starts per season in his career. Last year in 11 starts, his team was 1-10.

The 11 QBs in the bottom two categories here are not great QBs who suffer only by comparison to the elite ones at the top of the scale. They are a pretty mediocre lot and it makes my point that if the NFL expanded to 36 teams (the next logical number for the league) there would have to be even more mediocrity starting under center in the future. Is that what you really want to see? I don’t.

Finally, to lighten the mood here a bit, here is an observation on the MLB All-Star Game from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Pete Rose was in the Fox broadcast booth for the All-Star Game. He was very informative. I had no idea that the underdog covers the spread 32 percent of the time in All-Star Games.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Off-Field Football Injuries…

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who said:

Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.

In the course of participating in football as a collision sport, players incur injuries in a variety of ways. Jets’ QB, Geno Smith, just incurred an injury off the field when his jaw collided with the fist of IK Enemkpali who, up until that moment of collision, was a linebacker for the Jets. The first reports said it was a “sucker punch” provoked by Smith’s delay in reimbursing Enemkpali $600 that Smith said he would give to the linebacker. The background here is not important; what is important is:

    Enemkpali was cut by the Jets and just signed with the Bills who, coincidentally, are now coached by Rex Ryan who coached the Bills last year and who play the Jets twice each year.

    Smith is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. That makes Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter on the depth chart for now and, frankly, that is not such a huge step down from Geno Smith. However, if Fitzpatrick goes down, things could unravel quickly for the Jets this year.

According to a report in the NY Daily News this morning, a “Jets’ source” said that Smith deserved what he got not because of his late payment of the $600 but because he was in Enemkpali’s face pointing at him and perhaps even poking him. If that is the case – and I have no way to know if it is –, then Geno Smith is dumber than toast. None of that would raise the level of Enemkpali’s behavior beyond the level of moronic. Even at the Pop Warner level, players know that they should not purposely take out their own starting QB.

The weirdness of this situation calls to mind three other football players who incurred injuries outside the field of play in strange ways:

    Just recently, Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger or three playing with fireworks.

    Outside a nightclub at about 2:00 AM, Plaxico Burress felt the need to brandish a handgun – an improperly registered one at that – leading to Burress shooting himself in the leg.

    In the Jags’ locker room the coach had placed a large tree stump and an axe and told players that the motto for the team for that season was to “Keep choppin’ wood.” Punter, Chris Hanson, took all of this very seriously and picked up the axe to chop a bit of the wood. The axe ricocheted off the stump and sliced into Hanson’s leg seriously enough to require surgery and to keep Hanson out for the season.

Football is a collision sport indeed. Nevertheless, players find ways to injure themselves rather seriously outside the game too…

One final note relevant to the Jets and their QB situation came when Jared Lorenzen – you remember him as The Pillsbury Throwboy and/or The Hefty Lefty – tweeted that he was available for the Jets and that he already looked good in green. That is the color of his uniform in an Indoor Football League where he is playing QB at something like 320 bills.

I realize that trying to apply logic to the sequence of events related to the NFL’s desire to put a team or teams in the LA market is a futile exercise and that the only thing that matters is “league revenue”. Having said that, there are strange doings in that arena:

    There was evidently a law in St. Louis and/or Missouri that required a referendum before the city and or state could shell out taxpayer money to upgrade the Rams’ stadium. That requirement meant the city/state could not meet the NFL deadline for proposing what they would do to keep the Rams in St. Louis. So the folks in charge went to court to get the law that was on the books declared too vague to enforce so that they could pledge taxpayer money without a referendum.

    If that is not strange enough, they did that even though the Rams’ owner does not want to stay in St. Louis and would prefer to spend lots of his own money to build a stadium in Inglewood, CA.

    The city fathers in San Diego – after fiddling around with the Chargers on stadium matters for about 10 years – came up with a plan to spend about $400M taxpayer dollars on a new stadium for the Chargers in a location that the Chargers have deemed unacceptable for at least the last 5 years.

    The only sane behavior by city officials comes out of Oakland where the city has not even tried to finance a new stadium for the Raiders for the very simple reason that Oakland does not have that kind of money to throw around. So, the Raiders are faced with this situation:

      A. They stay in Oakland and play in an outdated and dilapidated stadium where the drains back up once in a while putting raw sewage on the locker room floors.

      B. The NFL grants them permission to move to Carson, CA as joint tenants with the Chargers.

      C. The NFL grants them permission to move somewhere else where a new stadium might materialize – think San Antonio or Las Vegas.

Paramount in all of these maneuverings is a strong desire on the part of the NFL that it not be the target of any serious lawsuits by cities that lose teams and/or cities that believe they should have gotten a team if the selection process had been “fair”. The saga continues…

Finally, here is a note from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald from about a month ago related to another lawsuit brought against the NFL.

“A federal court ruling said NFL cheerleaders deserve to earn at least the minimum wage. Thank goodness these women will finally be paid commensurate with the valuable public service they provide.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

I have said it before and will reiterate it here. José Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving for these sorts of rants. Here is the latest “Canseco antic”:

    He is going to spend an entire week living as a woman as a show of support for Caitlyn Jenner. Canseco will be in full drag dress-mode for that whole week.


The fact that Canseco will also be involved in his own “reality show” come next Fall of course has nothing to do with this behavior. It is all about learning what Caitlyn Jenner “feels” and nothing at all about an episode for the Internet reality show Spend a Day with José. Yeah, right… That is the reason that Canseco just happened to tell TMZ that he was doing all of this to experience “life as a woman”. If you are buying that, you are probably also in contention to become the next President of the Flat Earth Society.

Here is a link to an article on this nonsense just in case you think I might be making all of this up. Trust me, I do not have nearly the creativity needed to do that…

Speaking of sports figures whose off-center behaviors provide plenty of material for these kinds of rants, let me direct your attention to Sheldon Richardson, nominally a DT for the NY Jets. I say “nominally” because Richardson is certainly going to serve a 4-game suspension for running afoul of the NFL substance abuse policy. Recall, that policy has nothing to do with PEDs or HgH; that is the policy that deals with “recreational substances”. In the aftermath of the announcement of that 4-game suspension that came after a minimum of 2 failed drug tests, here is what Sheldon Richardson did to get his head on straight:

    He got himself arrested for a variety of traffic “violations” including a high speed chase with officers at speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Here are two comments from sportswriters outside the NYC area regarding this matter:

“Suspended Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson got clocked doing 143 mph on a Missouri highway.

“Guess his coaches should have been more explicit when they told him to work on his speed rush.” (Dwight Perry, Seattle Times)


“No more calls, we have a winner! Arrest of the year: Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, already on NFL suspension for flunking a drug test, is arrested for allegedly driving 143 mph, resisting arrest, tailgating, driving without lights and running a red light. Cops say they find a fully-loaded semiautomatic handgun in the car, which reeks of weed. Awesome.” (Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle)

Here is what some of that Richardson had to say after the fact:

“After my suspension, that was just one bad night. I thought it would be fun to show my family members something. They never rode in a car like that before.”

The car Richardson refers to here is a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur. As a reference, the MSRP for a new one of these puppies is just a tad north of $200K so it is reasonable to assume that Richardson’s family members had never ridden – not rode – in a car like that. It is also probably safe to say that they had never ridden in a car on a public highway in excess of 140 mph and – oh – did I forget to mention that there was a 12-year old child in the car while it was going in excess of 140 mph.

By comparison, José Canseco and his week living as a woman begins to sound perfectly rational and mainstream…

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the myriad exchanges that happened around the MLB trade deadline that I think might have some kind of effect on this year’s pennant runs and/or the futures of the teams involved in the trades. Scott Ostler took a more global view of the trade deadline with this observation:

“Just once at the trading deadline I want to hear a manager say, ‘Do we need help? Did Custer need backup? We’ve got four guys who are like rotted teeth; they must be replaced immediately. Has anyone checked our GM for a pulse?”

You are never going to hear a manager say that out loud, but you have to know deep in your heart that some of them have to be thinking those kinds of thoughts – with a lot of added profanity and scatological imagery – as the trade deadline comes and goes.

It appears that ESPN is going to expand its coverage of the Little League World Series – and the games that lead up to that event – this year. According to reports, there will be 135 Little League games on TV this month and that is an abomination. Remember those football players at Northwestern who are suing the school and the NCAA claiming that they are exploited individuals who toil for the benefit of their school and their conference and the NCAA with nothing coming to them in return? Well, those guys ought to be made to spend a couple of weeks with the kids – and their parents – involved in the Little League World Series. Were I the judge in their case, I think I would order it just as a teaching moment. In terms of athletes who are exploited for the benefit of others and not the athletes themselves, here are some groupings:

    Top Tier: Little League players, women’s rhythmic gymnasts, T-ball players on T-ball traveling teams.

    Much Lower Tier: College athletes on scholarship who play “revenue sports”.

Since I cited Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle twice already today, I might as well go for the trifecta here:

“I don’t write the headlines, but if I did, the story that Tim Lincecum has degenerative hip problems that are keeping him sidelined would have been headlined: ‘Hip-hip no way.”

“For a more exact diagnosis of Lincecum’s problem, we bring in Dr. Bruce Bochy: ‘There’s some stuff going on there.’

“A second opinion from Buffalo Springfield: ‘Somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

RIP Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford passed away yesterday. He was an excellent player for the NY Giants in an era where football stars were of a much smaller magnitude than baseball stars. I think his off-field involvement with the game was even more important than his Hall of Fame playing career.

In 1970, the NFL was virtually a “Sunday only league”. Yes, it played a game on Thanksgiving Day and yes, it played a game or two on Saturdays in December after the college football season was over. But the vast majority of the games were on Sunday afternoons. Then the Monday Night Football “experiment” started and in the first season Keith Jackson did the play-by-play while Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith were the color commentators. After that opening season, Frank Gifford took over the play-by-play duties and maintained that spot for the next 15 years whereupon he became a color commentator for another dozen years or so.

Monday Night Football showed that the NFL was more than a “Sunday only league” and that it could be a TV juggernaut. Frank Gifford was a significant part of that movement for the league for more than a quarter of a century.

Rest in peace, Frank Gifford.

While I was gone, the good people of Boston – and of Massachusetts as a whole – seemingly came to their senses and terminated their bid to hold the 2024 Olympics there. The mayor of Boston had been a supporter of bidding for the games but when he was faced with signing a “host city contract” that included clauses making Boston responsible for any cost overruns that “might occur”, he balked. Evidently, there was some pressure from various Olympic officials with regard to a deadline for signing and Mayor Marty Walsh would not be cowed by the USOC. The folks in Boston ought to hold a parade for Mayor Walsh.

Again, while I was gone, the baseball trade deadline came and went. Given the number of players changing teams – at the major league and minor league levels – the real winners in all of this would seem to be the moving and storage companies. However, some of the myriad trades seem to me to be more impactful than others and some teams seem to have made out well in the wheeling and dealing:

    Phillies traded Cole Hamels to Texas and got back 5 prospects in return. Texas needs starting pitching and the Phillies are not going to be a serious contender while Cole Hamels is still in his prime. Good trade on both sides…

    Phillies trade Jonathan Papelbon to Washington for a pitching prospect. The Nats’ bullpen has needed help all year and the last thing the Phillies need is a reliable closer in a season where they seek to lose fewer than 100 games.

    Phillies trade Ben Revere to Toronto for two minor league pitchers. Revere can hit for average and can steal a few bases; the Blue Jays can use him in left field and/or as a DH. Good trade on both ends of the deal…

    Tigers trade David Price to Toronto for three minor league pitchers – two of whom are deemed ready for the majors. If those two prospects work out for Detroit, this is a good trade both ways; if not, the Blue Jays come out ahead…

    Rockies trade Troy Tulowitsky and LaTroy Hawkins to Toronto for 3 prospects and Jose Reyes. The Blue Jays are obviously going for the playoffs this season with all these trades. Two question marks here:

      Can Tulowitsky stay healthy?

      Will Hawkins’ eligibility to collect Social security affect his pitching?

    Tigers trade Yeonis Cespedes to the Mets for two minor league pitchers. The Mets need offense and Cespedes can hit. He will be a free agent at the end of this year so this could turn out to be a “rent-a-player deal” for the Mets.

    A’s trade Tyler Clippard to the Mets for a minor league pitcher. Clippard was a very good set-up reliever in Washington up until this year and will help the Nats’ bullpen. More importantly, the Nats wanted him back in recognition of the value he could bring to their bullpen; but the Mets prevented that from happening.

    Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals for 3 minor league left handed pitchers. Given the Royals’ pursuit of the playoffs this year – and perhaps a return to the World Series? – this trade seems to favor them.

    Brewers traded Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Pirates for a pitching prospect. The Pirates are playoff contenders this year and Ramirez’ bat should help them – if he does not give up more runs in the field than he produces at the plate.

There was one exchange that was simply puzzling to me:

    White Sox sent Conor Gillaspe to the Angels for “cash considerations”. Gillaspie has been having a bad season but last year he hit .282 and fielded well. The Angels need someone to play third base while David Freese gets healthy. It seems as if the White Sox – a team going nowhere – could have gotten something more than “cash considerations” here.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald made this observation about minor league baseball:

“Minor league baseball team the LeHigh Valley IronPigs dressed like camels on Hump Day. Here’s your first clue you’re not on the verge of making the majors: you race onto the field in a camel costume.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

I’m Back In The Saddle Again…

Gene Autry began all of his Sunday night TV shows by singing these verses:

I`m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again.

Ridin` the range once more
Totin` my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again.

That is kind of the way I feel about now getting back into a writing schedule – but with an inability to update or access my old clipboard documents. But that is my problem to resolve…

Bob Connolly had this item in his Dreams Blog recently:

“The Miami Marlins serenaded the Washington Nationals on Wednesday with ‘noises of flatulence’ piped through the stadium loudspeakers while the Nats took batting practice.”

The olfactory imagery here is particularly apt for these two teams. Since the All-Star break, the Nats are about 10 games under .500 and the Marlins have been so bad that they have actually fallen behind the Phillies in the NL East standings. When I left for Eastern Europe, that was almost unthinkable…

The NFL is going to have increased scrutiny of the game balls and their inflation levels this season. Allow me to give that $11B per year entity a brief protocol that ought to obviate any future Deflategate situations while still giving QBs the ability to prep their own footballs:

    Each team will deliver a dozen footballs to the officials 3 hours before game time. Those balls will all be in a deflated condition. The balls will be marked in a way that each ball can be uniquely identified.

    The officials will have in their dressing room/prep room both a pump and a pressure gauge – a calibrated gauge at that.

    The officials will inflate all of the balls from both teams to a pressure within the limits of the rules. They will then record all of those measurements AND they will use sealing wax to cover the valve-stem entry point on the ball. Any ball with a damaged seal will not be eligible to be used for any play in the game.

BaDaBing! BaDaBoom!!!

Dean Blandino – head honcho for NFL officials don’t you know – said recently that officials have to strive for consistency.

    Memo to Dean Blandino: You got that half-right. They need to strive to be consistently correct. If they are consistently wrong, that is not a good thing…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle wrote recently that the National Anthem renditions at various sporting events need an upgrade. I could not agree more. Some of the “local talent” they trot out to sing the anthem is enough to make your hair hurt and while it may be “cute” there are precious few sixth grade glee clubs that can sing the song even marginally well. One more note from experience:

    Jazz saxophonists have their place in the musical cosmos but standing at home plate and blaring the anthem in to a microphone prior to a baseball game is not their place.

Tonciu, Romania is a town that thought it needed a soccer pitch for the local youth to play on and to develop their skills on. So, the City Fathers decided to spend about $20K to create such a facility. However, here in Curmudgeon Central, we know well that no good deed goes unpunished and now those City Fathers are being held up to scorn and ridicule for the implantation of their “nice idea”. Here is a link to a story – with a photo – in the Irish Mirror to explain from whence the scorn and ridicule emanate…

Time for a Quick Quiz. We have not had one of these for a while now:

    Which is the worse idea:

      1. Getting onto an elevator with Ray Rice – or –

      2. Putting Lance Armstrong in charge of a drug testing protocol.

    100 words or less…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald and I think alike on this issue:

“There is YouTube video of a drunk golfer in Wolstanton, England, who got his head stuck in a trash can. If this guy is granted an exemption for next year’s Masters, I’ll watch.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Not Just Bad – Outstandingly Bad

As the unofficial second-half of the baseball season got underway, I noticed in the standings that the Phillies had been outscored this year by 155 runs in 93 games. That means they lost by an average of 1.67 runs per game and that seemed like an awful lot to me. So I tried to do a bit of statistical searching and here is what I came up with:

    In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders were an ultimately awful team – but there was a method to their stinkitude. One owner had two ball clubs at the time and he put all the good players on one team and left the Spiders with bupkes. That team holds the record for being outscored in a full season; their negative run differential was a whopping minus-723. Their record for the year was 20-134.

      [Aside: The Spiders had exactly one 2-game winning streak all season long.]

    Ignoring that team because of its unusual ownership situation, the worst run differentials for a season have been:

      The 1932 Boston Red Sox (minus-349) posted a season record of 43-111. This team lost by an average of 2.27 runs per game.

      The 2003 Detroit Tigers (minus-337) posted a season record of 43-119. This team lost by an average of 2.08 runs per game.

      The 1962 Mets (minus-331) posted a season record of 42-120. This team lost by an average of 2.04 runs per game.

It might seem as if the 2015 Phillies are not even near approaching these levels of non-competitiveness until you think that the Phillies are trying to trade off their best starting pitcher (Cole Hamels) and their best relief pitcher (Jonathon Papelbon). If they pull off those trades with 60 games or so left on the schedule, who knows how many times they could lose games by a score of 9-1…

Just to give you an idea of how bad the Phillies are this year, the second worst negative run differential as of yesterday belonged to the Chicago White Sox who had been outscored by only 74 runs in 89 games (0.83 runs per game). The Phillies’ average margin of defeat is twice as big as the next worst team in MLB!

Given how badly the Phillies have played this year, it is not shocking to see that the Phillies have dropped more than any other MLB team in average attendance as compared to last year. They still average 24,423 fans per game but that attendance represents a drop of 6,014 from last year. There are 5 teams below the Phillies in average attendance this year but 4 of those 5 teams are perpetually at the bottom of the MLB attendance rankings. The Phillies need to find a way to “goose attendance” and I have an idea for them to consider:

    The Phillies will need to hire a new manager next year. It will not matter whom they hire; the team is going to be bad again next year. So, maybe the idea would be to hire a manager who would – by his presence – generate interest in the team. Remember, one can generate interest in a positive or a negative way; and with that in mind, perhaps they should consider hiring …

      Ozzie Guillen.

Ozzie will not make the Phillies into contenders but he will get people in Philly talking about and paying attention to the Phillies. Let me be clear; I am not suggesting this would be a long-term move for the team. My Over/Under for how long Ozzie Guillen would last in Philly is 15 months.

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“Dan Patrick, Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann and now Colin Cowherd. Will the last star to leave ESPN please turn out the light?”

I might add Jason Whitlock to that list even though he is still technically with ESPN but he is not in charge of the about-to-launch website The Undefeated. Greg Cote is onto something here; all of these folks are hugely talented and opinionated people. And ESPN had all of them and managed to find a way to lose all of them. I have no idea how the suits on mahogany row at Disney Corp see all of this, but no one who is paying even the least bit of attention can fail to see that this is both a “talent drain” and a “brain drain”.

I read recently that Russell Wilson said that God spoke to him just after the interception at the goal line in the Super Bowl and it is because of that communication that he has dealt with that disappointment as calmly as he has. Look, I am in no way going to make light of or discount any sort of communication that took place between any athlete and his Deity. Nevertheless, I do have to make this observation:

    Seattle Seahawks’ fans probably wish that God had spoken to the Seahawks’ coaching staff about a minute before that occurrence so that they might have chosen to call a less stupid play at the goal line…

Finally, one more timely observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Milestone: It has been 15 days since an NFL player blew off any fingers playing with fireworks.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Looking Ahead To College Football

Due to an impending hiatus from writing/”researching”, I realized that I was getting behind the eight ball with regard to the upcoming college football season. So I started earlier this week to gather some basic information that might be useful in a variety of ways once that season gets underway. The place I always start is with the schedules – and for college football finding the schedules for a number of teams in a variety of conferences is a whole lot more of a pain in the butt than finding the schedules for – say – the NFL.

However, once I had some of the schedules in front of me and had a chance to look at how they differed from one another, I see that there are still schools that are committed to padding their records by scheduling mouthbreathers as their out-of-conference games. Let me give you eleven examples; I am sure that if I spent a lot more time looking at more of the 128 Division 1-A schools I could find more:

    Auburn: Home games against Louisville, Jacksonville State, San Jose St. and Idaho. Auburn does not have a single road game in their out of conference schedule.

    Baylor: Road game at SMU and home games against Lamar and Rice. This is a team that aspires to be in the College Football Playoff this year.

    Florida State: Home games against Texas State, USF and Tennessee-Chattanooga and a neutral site game against Florida.

    Kansas State: Home games against South Dakota and La Tech and a road game at UT-San Antonio.

    Kentucky: Home games against La-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky and UNC-Charlotte and a road game at Louisville.

    LSU: Home games against McNeese State, Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky and a road game at Syracuse.

    North Carolina State: Home games against Troy and Eastern Kentucky and road games at Old Dominiion and South Alabama.

    Mississippi: Home games against Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State and New Mexico State and a road game at Memphis.

    Rutgers: Home games against Norfolk State, Washington State and Kansas and a road game at Army.

    Ohio State: Road game at Va Tech and home games against Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. The best you can say here is that Va Tech would be a 2 TD favorite over the Alaska Asthmatic College team…

    Penn State: Road game at Temple and home games against Buffalo, San Diego State and Army.

I am sure someone will notice that I did not put Alabama on that list teams with embarrassing out of conference schedules; and indeed, I was going to do that until I noticed the totality of the Alabama schedule which made me sympathetic to their scheduling of a couple of patsies (Middle Tennessee, La-Monroe and Charleston Southern). Alabama opens against Wisconsin on a neutral field; this year it plays all of the teams in the SEC West and from the SEC East they draw Georgia (on the road) and Tennessee. Besides, Alabama is going to win a minimum of 10 games this year unless they schedule NFL teams.

BYU is an independent and so all of its games are “out-of-conference” because they do not have a conference. The Athletic Director at BYU has lined up a serious set of challenges for the team this year:

    Just in the month of September, BYU plays road games at Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan with a visit from Boise State mixed into that lineup.

    The rest of the schedule is not as daunting but they do have games against Cincy and Missouri thrown in there.

Changing the subject here, I have often tried to advocate the position that public money ought not to be sued in great quantity to build stadiums/arenas for pro sports teams. I have long believed that few if any of these stadiums ever generate sufficient NEW tax revenue for a city/state to cover the costs of building a new playpen for wealthy owners. At the very least, a new stadium or arena project should be a cost-sharing endeavor with the majority of the costs coming from the team and/or the league.

Since my powers of persuasion are obviously limited in that dimension, let me ask you to watch this commentary from John Oliver on the subject of using public money for such endeavors. In addition to being humorous, his argumentation here is eloquent. When cities borrow hundreds of millions of dollars in order to build a stadium for a team, that lowers that city’s ability to borrow money for schools and public safety and public transit. In science class we learned about the Law of Conservation of Matter; well in government terms the Law of Conservation of Matter means that you cannot borrow the same dollars twice nor can you spend already borrowed money on two things at once.

I recommend you take a few moments to watch John Oliver here…

Finally, Brad Dickson addressed the continued expansion of the number of college football bowl games in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The NCAA approved several new college football bowl games. We’re running out of decent host cities. Take one of the new games: the Bozeman Pecan Bowl. Then there’s the Dubuque Doughnut Hole Bowl. We need more college football bowl games like television needs more television dance competition shows.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The DeAndre Jordan Kerfuffle

Now that the dust has seemingly settled with regard to which team in the NBA will get to pay DeAndre Jordan for his services next year, I would like to address much of the hubbub that surrounded that entire matter. Let me establish a couple of foundation pieces here:

    DeAndre Jordan had a verbal agreement to join the Mavericks next year. Verbal agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on.

    DeAndre Jordan broke no laws and broke no NBA rules in doing what he did by reneging on that verbal agreement with the Mavericks and resigning with the Clippers. In fact, the NBA rules and the CBA negotiated with the NBPA enable exactly this kind of behavior by all NBA free agents every year.

What DeAndre Jordan did do was to demonstrate that he not particularly trustworthy and that his word is not worth much. The deal he got from the Clippers reportedly gives him an opt-out year when he will be 29 years old. So, if you were another GM/owner, would you be putting much stock in whatever he said he was going to do in the midst of that time when only verbal deals can be negotiated but there is a waiting period until they can be put to paper? I have said this before in a different context but it applies here too:

    Integrity is like virginity; you only get to lose it once.

I also do not hold DeAndre Jordan in high regard based on the fact that he was not big enough to call Mark Cuban and tell him straight up that he was not going to honor their verbal agreement. True, he had no obligation to do so; but it would have been the honorable thing to do. And for the record here, I have long thought that Mark Cuban is not a whole lot more than a self-promoting pompous ass who would do just about anything to be in front of a TV camera or a live radio mic. Notwithstanding that sentiment, Jordan owed Cuban the courtesy of learning about this directly from the source.

In addition, the media covering this mess of a situation went hyperbolic when relating DeAndre Jordan’s value and his defensive prowess. He is indeed a good defender and rebounder but let us keep this in the realm of reality:

    DeAndre Jordan is not now and will not be “The Next Bill Russell”.

One final thing about the coverage that bothered me was an implicit double standard. Jordan was not lauded for his weaseling out of his agreement but he was portrayed as a young man who reflected on a decision and decided it was not in his best interest. Therefore, he was in the right – even if he may have handled it improperly. Now think how the reverse situation would have been portrayed:

    Three days after the verbal agreement, Mark Cuban looks back at what he just agreed to and says to himself:

    “Are you nuts? You are going to give this guy umpty-million dollars and he cannot shoot from outside dunking range. I am going to call a press conference to let everyone know that I changed my mind and he can go sign with anyone else he wants because I do not want him on my team.”

Somehow, if Cuban – or any owner – reneged on a verbal deal before the signing period opened, I doubt they would be treated nearly as kindly by the folks covering the story…

Greg Cote had this view of this situation in the Miami Herald:

“Clippers star De Andre Jordan agreed to terms with Dallas, changed his mind and resigned with Los Angeles. Tell me, is there anything in sports better than the sight of an angry helpless Mark Cuban?”

Now that we know that Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger in that fireworks accident a couple of weeks ago, I want to offer him a piece of career advice for the time when his NFL playing days are over:

    Do not entertain the idea of becoming a “bomb disposal tech”. In that field, losing a finger is considered a “good day at the office”…

Keith Olbermann’s latest incarnation at ESPN lasted about 2 years. As I have recounted here before, I watched his show a couple of times a week and found it entertaining and informative – even on those occasions where I totally disagreed with the stances he took in his commentaries. I would like to think that ESPN will find some way to replace his program with a new “high-brow” show and not simply another re-run of SportsCenter or – perish the thought – First Take.

Bob Molinaro summed up my sentiments here in a recent comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Out the door: If you are a fan of Keith Olbermann’s TV humor and homilies, too bad. Yet again, he and ESPN are parting ways. ESPN says it’s a business decision, while skeptics believe Olbermann’s critical harangues of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had something to do with the breakdown in contract negotiations. Business of a different nature, as it were, given the cozy relationship between ESPN and the NFL. At any rate, Olbermann’s departure lowers ESPN’s on-air IQ.”

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month:

“Earlier this week a leap or extra second was added to the world clock. Mel Kiper Jr. used the extra second to release his first three mock drafts for the 2016 season.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Why The Wonderlic Test Is Important…

Today is Bastille Day. Sadly, I have no news to report here that resembles the storming of the prison fortress in Paris on this date in 1789. So, in lieu of trying to force-fit some sort of sports story/event into the narrative of the French Revolution, I will just fais marcher with the normal happenings here.

Before I took my brief hiatus, the NFL announced a couple of 4-game suspensions for players who had violated the substance abuse policy. Sheldon Richardson and Rolando McLain will each sit out 4 games. However, it is important to note that neither of these gentlemen failed a drug test involving PEDs; they will sit out for flunking a drug test for “recreational drugs”. So, I think it is important to understand what they had to do in order to “earn” this 4-game suspension. The following is my understanding based on my reading of the current CBA that is available to the public:

    Players are tested once a year for “recreational drugs” – such as marijuana. These are not PEDs; they are specifically spelled out in the CBA; the tests take place during the team OTAs in the spring. The players know this; the agents know this; the coaches know this. There are no “gotcha moments” here.

    The first time there is a positive test the player is placed in the NFL “drug watch program” which means there will be more frequent tests and some counseling. If the player goes along with the counseling program – or appears to be going along with it – it takes two additional positive tests before he can be suspended.

    If the player is uncooperative or refuses to participate in the counseling activities, a second positive test – not a third positive – can get him a 4-game suspension.

These two players – and all the ones that have gone before them who have been caught up in the substance abuse policy – have failed at least two and possibly three drug tests. However, they only came up on the NFL radar because they failed a drug test when they knew in advance when it would happen. If you wonder why the NFL administers the Wonderlic Test to potential draftees, this might be one of the reasons. Failing the first drug test that puts you on the league’s “watch list” is nothing more than an IQ Test.

These two players – and others before them and future players to be identified later – miss out on 25% of a season and 25% of their salary for a year because they got caught (or will get caught sometime later) with “stuff” in their bloodstream even though they knew when and where their blood test would happen. Let me be clear; no one from the Nobel Committee is banging on my door to tell me that I am in the running for one of their prizes. Nonetheless, I know for sure that I could avoid a positive test in this sort of a regimen even if I were a regular user of one of the substances on the “substance abuse list”. It really is not all that difficult…

The NFL announced a 10-year partnership agreement with Tottenham Hotspurs last week. The NFL will play two of its London Games at the new Tottenham stadium between 2018 and 2027. The new stadium will have features that the NFL may use to “motivate” current stadium managers to adopt:

    There will be a retractable roof. While this is very important in a place like London where it rains a lot, be assured that the league can point to various “mud games” in many of its existing stadiums and it can appeal to the comfort of the fans paying exorbitant prices for tickets as ways to hint – ever so subtly – that a retractable roof would be a great addition to existing facilities.

    There will be a retractable grass field with an artificial turf field below it. The grass field will be used by the Spurs for their EPL games and any other futball matches that may need to be scheduled there. When the NFL is coming to town, they can move the grass field away and expose the artificial turf underneath so that the NFL game can be played in top notch conditions without tearing up the pitch for the Spurs in their next home game.

Look, if the NFL wants to play 2 games a year in London, I have no problem with that so long as the teams in the league have no problem with that. However, consider these comments from the Mayor of London; the not-even-veiled implications bother me a lot:

“We are already working very closely with the NFL including on plans to get more Londoners involved in the sport … Touchdowns at Tottenham can only add to our reputation at a global sporting powerhouse and help us take another step towards our goal of having a permanent NFL franchise here in London.”

I just got off the train. Having one franchise in London would be a logistical nightmare for the team based there and for teams in its division. That is a bad idea whose time ought never to come. If the NFL is hell-bent to expand to Europe, it needs to have more than one team there. And that statement alone ought to give fans a problem.

    How many teams in the current NFL have rosters that are made up of marginal players? If that is too broad a question for you, then let me be more specific:

      How many of the current 32 teams have marginal QBs?

    If the NFL expands in order to accommodate “foreign market expansion”, that is going to dilute talent all around the league; there is no way to pretend that it will not. It is painful to watch some of the bottom feeders in the league already and expansion to accommodate teams in Europe – and or any other markets – will simply create more teams that make your teeth itch when you watch them.

I wish the NFL and the Tottenham Hotspurs nothing but good fortune and financial windfalls in their 10-year deal. However, I hope that the Mayor of London and the global expansion forces within the NFL – (Hint: Roger Goodell) – find ways to prevent all of this from becoming permanent.

Finally, a word from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I worry about Draymond Green. He says he got to where he is because of his determination to ‘overcome the doubters.’ Now that he has the big contract and universal respect, there are no doubters. Can Draymond overcome the handicap of not having any doubters? I doubt it.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………