The Rio Olympics; The Aftermath…

The IOC previously selected Paris as the site for the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles as the site for the 2028 Summer Games.  The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo and preparations for that event are well underway.  Anyone who has read these rants for a while knows that I hold the IOC in very low regard; nevertheless, these last three decisions on venues are good ones.  The reason they are good decisions is simple:

  • All three cities reside in countries with solid/prospering economies and all three cities already have many of the necessary venues and infrastructure in place and in functional condition.

Some recent analysis of the aftermath of the 2016 Games in Rio point to the importance of putting these events in cities that are established and with sound economic underpinnings.  Sportspromedia.com has a lengthy analysis of the Rio Games and it is very ugly.  I recommend that you read this analysis in its entirety because it lays bare what happens when euphoric idealism (the status that existed when Rio was selected as the host for the 2016 Games) meets the real world.  Let me offer just a few of the lowlights:

  • Brazil’s economy was solid in 2009; the future looked bright; the political situation was stable by Latin American standards; there was plenty of time to make the Rio Games a showcase for the country.
  • Following on the heels of the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2014, the Rio Games existed in a time of economic collapse and political upheaval in the country.  Lots – and I mean LOTS – of the money appropriated to ready the city for the Games was wasted or fraudulently diverted.
  • Costs for the 2016 Games is estimated at $13.1B.  Problem is that Brazil does not have that kind of money in reserve in 2016/17.  Compounding the problem, the Brazilians only budgeted around $9B for these endeavors back when they actually had money to spend.
  • Many of the venues are “white elephants” – much like the huge soccer stadium built in rural Brazil for the World Cup that is now a bus parking lot.  The venue that housed the 2016 Opening and Closing Ceremonies has been vandalized with many of its seats ripped out and stolen.  Not surprisingly, it is unused these days.
  • The Athletes Village is described as “void of life” and the golf course constructed for the Games charges $180 for a round of golf.  In a country deep in a major recession, it does not get a lot patronage.

I am not so Pollyannaish as to believe that corruption and fraud do not occur in cities like London, Paris, Tokyo or Los Angeles.  However, here are a couple of comments from the Sportspromedia.com report that probably would not be written about the preparations for games in one of those cities:

“… the malfeasance in Brazil’s political system has long been cancerous and its scale staggering, with every governor elected in Rio since 1998 either facing corruption charges or serving a sentence. He adds that the lucrative building contracts and ensuing construction boom brought about by the arrival of sport’s two biggest events only spawned new opportunities for corruption, with deals between politicians and large construction firms for venues and other infrastructure inflated and founded on sizeable tax exemptions.”

And …

“If the financial and political consequences were dire, the social ramifications have been profound. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were evicted from Rio’s favelas to make way for large-scale construction projects and new real estate developments tied to the Games, exacerbating the deep distrust for elected officials that already existed among the city’s poorest people.”

And …

“Most troubling of all is the fact that wasted public money has contributed to shortfalls in funding for vital services such as policing, schooling and healthcare. Protests from unpaid civil servants against the corruption, crony politicians and overspending on the Olympics in general were a feature of the months and years leading up to the Games; since they concluded, crime has spiraled to the highest levels in a decade, with street violence and stray bullets having become a daily reality. Just last week, thousands of armed forces were deployed to Rio’s streets as part of federal efforts to increase security and preserve public order.”

 

The IOC – probably intending to be ever so politically correct – celebrates the fact that it presents to countries the opportunity to be part of the “Olympic Movement” and to “play with the big boys”.  The problem is that when countries overreach, the economic and social consequences are disastrous for the citizenry.  It is not just Rio; look at the aftermath of the 2004 Games in Athens.  The Greek economy was wobbly before the Games; it went into a freefall such that Greece was almost kicked out of the EU after the Games.

What would make sense would be for the IOC to take a position that would create some enemies.  They should come up with a list of a half-dozen countries that will host the Summer Games on a rotating basis.  There would be no need for “bidding”; there would be no mystery as to where the Games will he held when.  And those half-dozen countries need to be in robust economies.  Let me list some – perhaps most – of the contenders to be on the “List of The Half Dozen”:

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. China
  4. France
  5. Germany
  6. Great Britain
  7. Japan
  8. India
  9. Russia
  10. United States

Here is what is “wrong” with my list of ten countries that should be trimmed to six.  There are no “representative countries” from Africa or Latin America.  And because of the potential for dire consequences – social and economic – to smaller economies, there ought not to be any.  That last statement represents another collision between “idealism” and “the real world”.

The IOC will continue to do its business as it has in the past because the people at the top of the IOC and at the top of the various federations that govern the international sports involved in the Games are all in comfy situations.  Their isolation protects them from the suffering that can befall people in countries where the economy collapses under the added burden of Olympic expenditures that were beyond the means of the economy from Day One.  The IOC will not be able to slurp at the public troughs in Paris and LA to the same extent that they can and did in years gone by.  Probably by the time they come to consider the venue for 2032, they will go looking for another site to exploit.  Emerging economies beware…

Finally, all is not gloom in the world of the “Olympic Movement” – something that I have previously likened to a bowel movement.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot had this item in a column recently.  It shows that the IOC is looking to the future for the Paris Games in 2024 and is not slavishly tied to the threadbare motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”:

“C’est la vie: Another sign of the coming Apocalypse comes from organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics who are considering the inclusion of eSports – video gaming – as a competitive event.”

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

 

 

Had Enough Yet?

A regular reader of these rants lives nearby; yesterday, I happened to run into him at a local shopping strip and he thanked me for not writing about LaVar Ball three times a week like lots of other outlets do.  We got to chatting and I explained to him that I think LaVar Ball is a sports media and social media creation; he started out with saying some outrageous stuff about his son being better already than Steph Curry and that he could have taken Michael Jordan back in his prime; when that got him publicity, he escalated the outrageousness and that made him a mainstay for media coverage.  I think he is far more toward the “showman” end of the spectrum as opposed to the “sportsman” end; that is why I rarely write about him.

His latest antic – claiming that a female referee at the Las Vegas AAU tournament was fat, out of shape and incompetent and that she should “stay in her lane” – was beyond outrageous; it was offensive.  The media created LaVar Ball; the twits on Twitter and the “Faceboobs” made much of his stuff viral – not in the infectious sense but in the widespread sense.  Until those regions of modern society tire of his antics, please expect more of them and they will be more outrageous/offensive as time goes on.

But that conversation got me to thinking about the following question:

  • Which recurring sports story/sports topic are you most tired about hearing about?

LaVar Ball has to be on that list – – but he is surely not alone.  I have a few other candidates to suggest for your consideration.

  1. OJ Simpson: When he is released on parole in a few weeks, I have no interest in hearing about any retrospective on his murder trial, his Nevada imprisonment, his life adjusting to freedom, his golf game or his continued hunt for the real killers. I don’t know about you, but I have heard everything I ever want to hear from or about OJ Simpson.  Period…
  2. The NFL Draft:  Howard Cosell said about 35 years ago that Pete Roselle should get and Emmy and an Oscar for staging the most over-rated/over-propagandized annual event in sports.  If Cosell were alive today, he would think the hoot-doodle surrounding the drafts in the 1980s were “the good old days”.  Think about it for a moment folks; the NFL Draft for 2018 is still 9 months away; no college football team has played even a single down in the 2017 season.  Not to worry; there are already at least a half-dozen Mock Drafts for 2018 out there for your perusal.  I would rather gargle with razor blades…
  3. “Snub Stories”:  These are nothing more than a way for writers or sports radio hosts to vent their spleens for a short period of time.  “Snub stories” sometimes take the form of a team being “snubbed” by not being invited to participate for a round or two in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; another form is the outrage expressed about a certain player who was not named to an All-Star team or to the Pro Bowl.  The “Snub Stories genre” can also extend to teams who were given a spot in March Madness but were seeded far too low by the author’s yardstick.  I guess these stories make the venter(s) feel good for a moment – or else why do they spend the energy on them?  For me, they are tales told by idiots full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.  [/W. Shakespeare]
  4. Tim Tebow’s minor league baseball accomplishments:  I am not a Tim Tebow basher by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, I think he has gotten a very raw deal from a faction of the sports media who like to take shots at him for his overt religiosity.  Personally, I think the proper label for folks who do that is “bigot”; but that is the topic for another rant.  My problem is that I do not care at all about his successes and/or his failures in the minor leagues.  He is selling tickets for his team – and for their opponents when he and his teammates are on the road.  That is a plus for minor league baseball – – and I happen to think minor league baseball is a wonderful entertainment institution that needs all the support it can get.  Nevertheless, I don’t care if he hits a walk-off homerun in a game against the Macon Bacons, the Greensboro Grasshoppers or the Mudville Nine.  Wake me when he plays for the Mets other than in a game in September when the Mets are 15 games out of first place in the NL East…
  5. Tiger Woods’ progress toward his return to the PGA Tour:  For a period of about 10 years, Tiger Woods was the best golfer on Planet Earth and he played the sports media like a Stradivarius.  Then came the “car accident”; the one where his wife – at the time – “rescued him” by beating out the window of the vehicle with a nine iron.  Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain-killer addiction issues.  Tiger Woods is no longer even a competitive professional golfer – let alone someone who is presumably in contention to win any tournament he might deign to enter.  His story is on hiatus; it might be a great story of revival and dominance over great odds; it might be a story of tremendous talent wasted and demons that resided within.  Who cares anymore?  I do not until I know if he will ever be a shadow of his former self as a golfer.  As in the case of Tim Tebow above, wake me when he wins a PGA tournament and then is on the leaderboard the next week against top shelf competition…
  6. Colin Kaepernick … :  I do not want to hear from or about Colin Kaepernick until and unless he gets a job in the NFL or until he turns in his retirement papers and dedicates the rest of his life to whatever social justice causes are important to him as time moves forward.  The bottom line is simple here.  He has the talent to make an NFL team.  However, he may not have sufficient talent to offset the baggage he may bring to any locker room because of his actions off the football field.  In the world of sports media, we can surely do without any more “analyses” until he is suited up to play professional football.  OMG, what will the Twitter Twits do without this topic trending…?
  7. Pete Rose:  I have had enough.  I know of his on-field accomplishments; I know of his gambling and his prevarications; I am now being treated to stories of him having sex with a minor child about 40 years ago.  Enough already …

Finally, I have confidence that there are other sports stories that readers here will have had enough of and that they will share them with the rest of us.  Meanwhile, consider this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News about another form of “overdosing”:

“A charity hockey game in Buffalo lasted 11 days.

“Reports say a dozen people were sent to the hospital after overdosing on organ music.”

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

 

 

CTE And The Future Of Football

The topic for today is chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  From now on, I shall refer to it familiarly as CTE.  Depending on your particular mindset, CTE is either:

  1. A church bell tolling to indicate the imminent death of American football as a sport – – or – –
  2. A legal/financial liability that is an annoying burr under the saddle of Roger Goodell, NFL owners and NCAA Athletic Departments.

As with most things, I believe that reality lies somewhere between the extremes.  Let me start with what I think I know about this subject.  CTE is a degenerative brain disease; it manifests itself with symptoms such as dizziness, reduced attention span, memory loss, headaches, disorientation and suicidal thoughts/actions; there is no known way to cure the condition; it is progressive; it comes on as a result of a person suffering repeated blows to the head with or without full-on concussions because of those blows to the head.

Medical science has – currently – a severe limitation when it comes to diagnosing CTE.  The only real diagnosis comes from examining the brain tissue of a dead person; as of July 2017, there is no way to examine a living/breathing person to determine that he/she has CTE in an early stage or in an advanced stage.  That means there is no way to “screen” athletes before/during/after events that involve them taking repeated blows to the head to see if CTE has begun or has advanced.

Medical science has advanced to the point that there can be a post-mortem diagnosis which can then lead to correlation studies which can illuminate the potential dangers of playing football.  What it has done is to provide athletes with sufficient information that they might make informed decisions regarding their participation or continued participation in a sport like football.  Just this morning, the Ravens’ OL, John Urschel announced his retirement at age 26.  Urschel is not your normal NFL player; he was pursuing – and will continue to pursue – his PhD in mathematics at MIT.  Although he made no public pronouncement about the reasons for his abrupt retirement just as training camp began, the fact that a major study related to CTE and deceased football players became public only a few days before makes one suspect how he reached that decision.

The big news earlier this week was that a lab study on the brains of 111 former football players showed that 110 of them had some degree of CTE.  You can read reports of that study in this Washington Post article.  As a person trained in science, I know that correlation and causation are two different things but when the correlation is 110 out of 111 cases, one must sit up and take notice.

There is one aspect of this study that must be recognized.  There is a built-in sampling bias here that favors the correlation of CTE and playing football.  The brains that were examined came from players and or their families when either the player or members of the family had some reason to believe that the deceased had suffered some sort of brain injury.  That does not negate the study in any way; it does mean that this is not a “definitive” study that has explicated the entire situation.

Obviously, CTE has existed in Homo sapiens since the time when early men hit their heads on cave walls; the technology to detect CTE and the understanding of human brain structure and function have expanded since then, but the condition has persisted.  I have written before that people knew that boxers suffered from being “punch drunk” as they got older and people loosely attributed that condition to their history of being repeatedly punched in the face and head.  Football players similarly take repeated blows to the head albeit not in the form of punches.  Former head coach at Michigan State, Duffy Daugherty famously described football this way:

“Football isn’t a contact sport; It’s a collision sport.  Dancing is a contact sport.”

Former NFL players have sued the league successfully seeking compensation to cover the aftermath of their careers based on CTE symptoms.  That suit along with revelations like the ones in the study cited above have led more than a few commentators to suggest that the NFL and American football as a sport are on a downward arc.  That may ultimately be true but let me point out that CTE ought to be present in plenty of other sports as well.  If CTE is going to serve as the Grim Reaper for American football, then what about:

  • Boxing
  • Ice hockey
  • MMA
  • Rugby

Rather than conclude that football and these other sports are doomed to extinction based on the expanding awareness regarding CTE, I believe that the sports will continue to exist and will maintain a loyal fanbase but that there will be fewer athletes in the pool for teams to choose from.  Some parents will indeed refuse to allow their kids to participate in these activities but the number will not dwindle to zero so long as there are ample financial and social rewards for participating in those sports.

I suspect that the NFL – as the sport most closely located in the bull’s eye of this study – will address the results in a properly constructed legal and public relations manner.  I expect them to say inter alia:

  1. The league feels great sympathy for those former players who suffered in their later years and for the families of those players.
  2. The league supports further investigation into CTE and looks forward to a time when there is a diagnostic test for CTE that can be administered easily, and reliably during one’s playing career.
  3. The league has made player safety a priority as knowledge of CTE has expanded and will continue to do so.

The last point on that list needs to be expanded just a bit.  Recalling Duffy Daugherty’s assessment of football as a collision sport, it is not something that can be made “completely safe’.  I do not care what new rules are installed or what level of protective gear is invented and applied to players; football will be more dangerous to one’s brain than chess.  I think football is similar to NASCAR and/or Indy car racing in this aspect.  In both of those motor sports, there have been safety advances over the past 3 decades that have made those sports much safer than they were in the past.  But they are not “completely safe”; and as long as drivers are barreling around a racetrack at 200 mph, they will never be “completely safe”.

Auto racing execs and football execs need to recognize that safety is a real issue and it is important to the future economic well-being of their sport.  They cannot and should not ignore it; nor should they be paralyzed in their thinking by ‘safety fears”.  The CTE study announced earlier this week ought to make a broad spectrum of society take notice and begin to think about sports and athletes and economics and societal norms.  In today’s hyper opposition environment, I fully expect to be labeled as a societal cretin because I provide economic incentive to athletes to go out and injure their brains purely for my enjoyment.  Someone will identify me as akin to the folks who sat in the seats at the Roman Coliseum and watched gladiators fight to the death.

Obviously, I do not see myself that way and I do not think every sports fan should think of himself/herself in that way.  At the same time, I cannot control how everyone else sees me and if it is out of my control, I guess the best thing to do is to ignore those other folks.  Fighting/arguing with them is not likely to be productive; I doubt that I am going to reverse the course of my life regarding how I spend my leisure time.  So, arguing is going to lead to nowhere and I would prefer to do other things than engage in fruitless arguments.

Finally, there has to be a kernel of truth/reality in satirical commentary for it to be relevant.  So, let me close today with an observation by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the ardor of some football fans in 2017:

“During the Husker football Fan Fest last Friday a tornado warning was issued for Lancaster County and still virtually nobody left. That one sentence perfectly encapsulates Husker football.

“During the first Husker football Fan Fest free pizza and Chick-fil-A was served. Husker football, free pizza, free Chick-fil-A. I believe the unofficial attendance was 13 million.”

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

 

 

The Olympic Movement – Spare Me

I have long held the position that the IOC is venal and corrupt and that the Olympic Games themselves are flawed to the core and should be cancelled/abandoned/terminated.  Please take a moment and read this prior rant written sometime in 2003 and then reposted on a new version of the website in 2007.  Here is a summary paragraph to give you an idea of the line of reasoning:

“Remember, some folks will still cash $1B in checks for all of that. And that money comes out of your pockets because it is the US TV contract and the advertising on US TV that fuels all of this. Cancel the NBC contract for televising Olympic games and the IOC might be able to hold a ping-pong tournament in a low cost of living area of the world such as Mali. They probably have enough money left in “savings” that have not been paid out to consultants and officials and international conferences to afford hotel space in Bamako.”

I suggested bluntly and directly sometime in 2008 that the Olympic Games themselves ought to be canceled.  Please take a moment and read that prior rant here; as with the above, here is a sample paragraph:

“So, let me get to the bottom line here. The games have been turned into a medley of events where most of the events don’t belong there in the first place; the athletes are merely a bunch of self-indulgent employees of some sponsor; the people organizing the games are about as noble as gun-runners; the television coverage is overdone and cloyingly sweet and pseudo-poignant. And they wonder why the TV ratings were lower this year when these events were on an 18-hour tape delay than they were in Atlanta when they were live. If you can’t see why, then you are suffering from rectal blindness.”

With that as prologue, I hope my starting point for today – or my bias if you will – is crystal clear.  Now let me add this.  The Olympic Games are bad for the countries that host them despite the rosy PR statements you hear from the IOC and various organizing committees.  The Games can be beneficial in countries/cities where the economy is already large and established. In other situations, the economic “benefits” are negative –  not positive.  If you think that is harsh, consider:

  • Athens hosted the Games in 2004.  If the Olympics provided the Greek economy a huge boost, can you explain to me how Greece is in the economic condition that it is today?
  • Rio de Janeiro hosted the Games in 2016 – getting a double shot of “economic benefit” from hosting the FIFA World Cup just two years before that.  According to reports, the unemployment rate in Brazil in 14% and many governments have been known to shade the unemployment stats to the “low-side”.  The Olympic Park is unoccupied; several of the arenas are already boarded up; the former mayor of Rio is under investigation for taking about $5M in bribes.  Regarding the FIFA World Cup “benefits”, one of the largest new soccer venues built for the Tournament in a remote city is now used as a parking lot for buses.

Brazil has a federal prosecutor looking into the bid for the Olympics and the events in the run-up to the games.  He issued a report recently – it is not clear to me if this is a “final report” or an “interim report” – that contained just a few items of concern:

  1. He said that many of the Olympic venues are “white elephants”.
  2. A venue destined to be a public park in a “poor area” remains closed off with its venues unused.
  3. He says there was “no planning” that went into the original bidding and that “bribes and corruption” littered the path to the Games.

Most estimates say that the Rio Olympics cost Brazil $12B.  If you look at photos taken of the favelas in Rio, it should not take you long to think that maybe – – just maybe – – that $12B might have been spent differently by the Brazilian government.  [Aside:  Most coverage that refers to the “favelas” usually equates that word with “neighborhoods”.  I prefer to call the favelas what they are; they are slums.]

Even the casual follower of the events that lead up to an Olympic Games will recognize two recurring themes:

  1. The Games always cost a lot more than originally thought.
  2. The complexity of staging the Games is always a lot more complicated than originally thought.

The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo; the Japanese economy can take the hit.  The Games in 2024 and in 2028 are still under consideration but it appears now that only two venues are interested in bidding – – Paris and Los Angeles.  Once again, the French and American economies can take the hit.  Once those three sets of Games go off without triggering an economic nightmare in the host city/country, the ultra-politically correct faction of the world will rise up and “demand” that some developing country get a piece of these “benefits”.  I have no idea who will win the bidding for the 2032 Olympic Games, but I will not be surprised to see some folks push for a totally bizarre venue such as Kigali, Rwanda or possibly Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

  • Quick Quiz:  Name one other city in Rwanda and in Uzbekistan…

Please do not try to convince yourself that the Olympic mavens will realize by then that such out-of-the-way places must be taken off the table.  Remember that their brothers-in-venality – namely FIFA – have still to figure out how to hold the World Cup in Qatar because they saw only the bribes and gifts in the bidding process and not the average temperature in the summer in Qatar as they made their decision.

With that as the basis for my conviction that the Olympic Games are at best economically neutral and most often economically awful for the host city/country, let me turn to the events in the Games as blessed by the IOC.  Please understand; when the IOC includes new events in the Games, that means they become benefactors for added international organizations that oversee those new sporting endeavors and by extension they become benefactors for each of the national oversight committees in every nation where they play that sport.  The bottom line here is that adding benefactors to the list means more opportunity to “extract resources” from those new sources.  In US politics, they call this “pay to play”; for the IOC, that would be a literal description.

So, what new stuff is on the horizon?  Of course, it will fit nicely with the Olympic Motto:

  • Faster, Higher, Stronger

            About 2 weeks ago, I told you that the IOC has taken under consideration recognizing cheerleading as a sport and including it in the Games.  Now let me tell you that the IOC has decided to include 3-on-3 half-court basketball in the 2020 Games in Tokyo.  That’s right; the IOC is bringing a made-up playground game to the Olympics.  If anyone here wants to get in on the Olympic action, let me suggest that you start to push for the IOC to recognize HORSE as a new Olympic event right after you establish yourself as the head of USHOOF – the United States HORSE Oversight and Organizing Federation.  Give me a break here…

I said before that it was time to shut down the Olympics; I stand by that position.  In the past, I have referred to the Olympic Movement as a Bowel Movement; I stand by that position too.  Here is the state of play in 2017:

  • The Olympic Games – – summer and winter – – are not much more than an irregularly scheduled Reality TV show.  They contain loads of sub-plots and hidden agendas; they can regularly provide or concoct real or imagined heart-throbbing tales; they provide the TV cameras with lots of staged shots; when needed, they can provide a dose of glitz and glitter.  Oh yeah; every once in a while, a genuine athletic competition where the winner is not decided by the opinion(s) of judges happens to break out.

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

 

 

NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2017

Just a quick introduction here for new readers who do not recognize what this annual occurrence is.

  • It is NOT a mock draft;
  • It is NOT an expert opinion;
  • It is NOT the result of contacts throughout the country in the world of college/NFL football.

This is nothing more than a compilation of some notes I took while watching college football games on TV last year.

Because I like college football, I watch lots of games.  Over the years, I have formed the habit of keeping a notepad next to me as I am watching and when I see a player who I think might “graduate” to the NFL, I make some notes.  At this time of year, I dig those note up and try to decipher my handwriting – which is not always easy and may result in some transcription errors – to put together my sense of some names that should be called during the NFL Draft sessions.

My “methodology” here has several humongous flaws that need to be stated clearly and unambiguously:

  1. Since I am doing this by making notes on games I watched on TV, that limits the players I see to ones on the larger schools and better teams.  Let me be clear here; if I have the choice of watching a game between two SEC teams or a game between two Sun Belt teams, I will watch the SEC game 99 times out of 100.
  2. I live on the East Coast.  I am more likely to see a game that starts at noon Eastern Time between two Big 10 teams than I am to see a game that starts at 10:30 PM Eastern Time between two PAC-12 teams or two Mountain West teams.  I really do not have an “East Coast bias”; what I have is an “East Coast biological clock”.
  3. For some teams, I will only see them play once; I do not pretend to have seen every play for any team in the country last year.  That means there may be an excellent pro prospect on one of those teams that I did not notice.  Maybe that is because I am a doofus; maybe the player had a sub-standard game; maybe he was injured for that game.  Whatever…
  4. I am not connected with nor privy to any sort of extended network of people who scout football.  The only opinions in here that are not my own will be clearly marked as such.  Some long-term readers of these rants know that I do this every Spring and when they think they saw someone at a small school or at a school that might not be on my “go to list”, they will send me an e-mail and I will excerpt it here.

Now that the purpose and the limitations of what is to follow are out in the open, let me begin with my notes on Quarterbacks.

Various commentators have said that this year’s crop of QBs entering the Draft is not a good one.  I guess I have to agree with them because as I went through my notes filtering the players into position categories, I discovered that I only had made notes on 2 QBs:

  1. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss):  My notes say he is “big enough” because he can throw the football “accurately” and “with touch when needed”.  I said he might be a late first round pick based on what I saw.  That is unlikely to be the case now because he tore up his ACL in a game after the one I saw and he was subsequently “dis-invited” to the NFL Combine due to an off-field issue regarding a bar fight.  If I were a GM and the medical folks told me that it looks as his knee is going to be OK and the background investigators told me that the bar fight was unlikely to be repeated, I would surely look closely at Kelly in the 3rd round.
  2. Deshaun Watson (Clemson):  My notes say he is “big and mobile” and that he is “poised when pressure is on”.  [For the record, that note was made during the late stages of the CFP Championship Game against Alabama.]  I also said – from a previous game – that he is “not consistently accurate” with his throws and “does not always lead receivers well”.  I said he was probably a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.  If you believe the mock drafts, he will be gone sometime early in the 1st round.  Whatever…

Just for the record, there are a bunch of other QBs who are getting a following as the Draft approaches.  I saw lots of them and made no notes about them last year.  I saw Josh Dobbs; I saw Brad Kaaya; I saw Deshone Kizer; I saw Pat Mahomes.  I have no notes on any of them.  I am not sure I saw Mitch Trubisky at all because I have no notes on any other UNC players here.

Just as the draft experts are “down” on this year’s QB entries in the draft, those same experts say that there is quality and depth in the Running Backs coming out.  My notes would tend to agree what that overall assessment:

  1. Leonard Fournette (LSU):  It does not take a lot of genius to watch him play and realize he is a big, fast, strong running back who can “run over people and run around people too”.  I also noted that he is a “powerful and effective pass blocker” who “picks up blitzes well”.  I said he is “definitely a 1st round pick”.
  2. Dalvin Cook (Fla St.):  My notes say that his “acceleration through the hole is outstanding” and that he is “elusive once in the secondary”.  I also had him as “1st round pick”.
  3. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford):  His “speed” and “cutting ability” make him a prospect as a 3rd down back or a slot receiver.  I also noted that he is a “good pass receiver”.  I did note that he does not appear to be the sort of back would turn out to be a “featured RB in the pros”.   I had him as a “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick.”
  4. Joe Mixon (Oklahoma):  “Excellent runner and good pass catcher” along with “breakaway speed” indicate that Mixon has a future in the NFL.  I said he was “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick” – – but that did not take into account his off-field/character issue which could make him drop a round or so.
  5. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma):  He is a “power runner” and “runs over defenders not around them”.  He is “not a breakaway threat” but he will “get tough yards inside”.  Screen graphic had him as 6’ tall and 235 lbs.  That is a reasonable size for a power runner in the NFL.  I said “3rd to 5th round pick?”
  6. Alvin Kamara (Tennessee):  My notes say, “he is a slasher but not big enough to play all the time” but he “might be a great 3rd down back because he is a really good receiver”.  I had him as a “late round pick”.
  7. Jamaal Williams (BYU):  He looked very good in the BYU bowl game and gained about 200 yards.  I said “always makes another yard or two after contact”.  “Tough runner” and “good enough speed” were two other comments.  I said “late round pick”.
  8. D’Onta Foreman (Texas):  He is a big back with “surprising speed” but “not elusive”.  My notes say “third day pick”.
  9. Devine Redding (Indiana):  My notes say he is “built like a bowling ball” so he is “hard to hit”.  He is “not big enough or fast enough to be a feature back” but he is a guy who just “keeps on plugging”.  “Might make a team if he can play special teams?”  I said “7th round pick or UFA”.

Let me move on here to Tight Ends.  I only have notes on three players at this position.

  1. OJ Howard (Alabama):  I was impressed with his “really good speed for a man as big as he is” and his “good hands”.  He is a tight end who “can get deep”.  He “blocks well enough” in the run game but his “value is as a receiver”.  I said “1st round or 2nd round pick.
  2. Jordan Leggett (Clemson):  He is “big and fast with good hands”.  He also “takes plays off/does not block much”.  Assuming teams are convinced that he will give full effort all the time, I had him as a “3rd day pick”.  If they think he is going to be a malingerer, he will need to find another way to make a living.
  3. Jeremy Sprinkle (Arkansas):  He is “big, strong and excellent blocker for run game”.  “Catches well but not a lot of speed” makes him more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.  My notes say “third day pick”.

Before leaving the Tight Ends, I have to include here a message from a reader of these rants who lives in a suburb of Akron, OH.  He tends to be upset with me when I do not take MAC football as seriously as he does but our exchanges tend to be sarcastically tolerant.

“You never see Division II football so you never see Ashland University.  [Absolutely correct.]

“So, you never heard of Adam Shaheen the [Ashland] Eagles tight end.  [Once again, absolutely correct.]

“Put his name in your draft column next year and you will look smarter than you are.  [OK, I did that.  Looking smarter than I am is not all that difficult.]

I went and looked up Adam Shaheen’s stats; he caught 57 passes and 16 TDs last year.  More interesting from a draft potential standpoint is that he is 6’6” tall and weighs 275 lbs.  It is a big step from Division II football to the NFL, but this is a big man.  I will listen for his name…

Now on to the Wide Receivers…  Before I go through my notes, I have to admit that I am rooting for Cooper Kupp (E. Washington) to go in the early rounds.  After Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) urged me to follow his exploits in Division 1-A last year, I saw that he put up some prodigious stats against defenders who will never see the field in an NFL uniform.  I have no idea if he can play on Sundays, but I am rooting for him…

  1. Corey Davis (W. Michigan):  I saw him play twice last year – in the MAC Championship Game and against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.  He was the best WR on the field in both games.  My notes say “great hands” and “really fast out of his cuts”.  Wisconsin game showed “he can play against top college defenders”.  I said “1st round pick”.  For the record, he caught 97 passes for 1500 yards in 2016.
  2. Mike Williams (Clemson):  He has “excellent hands” and “makes plays on poorly thrown balls”.  I said he “helps pad stats for [Deshaun] Watson.”  I said “1st round”.
  3. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma):  He is a “little guy who is always getting behind the defender”.  He has “good hands and good speed”.  I said “2nd round maybe 3rd”.
  4. Chris Goodwin (Penn St.):  My notes say “big enough and probably fast enough” and “has good hands”.  He also “blocks downfield”.  I had him “going in 4th or 5th round”.
  5. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M):  I said he is “tall and skinny” but “has glue on his hands/catches everything”.  Looking at the stats, he is only 185 lbs and in the NFL if you are going to be that small as a WR, you need to be really tough and/or really fast.  In my notes I said “maybe 4th round/probably lower.”
  6. Gabe Marks (Washington St.): “Not very big but quick with good hands” is my comment.  “Worth a shot in the late rounds”

Before leaving the Wide Receivers, I am aware that John Ross (Washington) has gotten a lot of attention after breaking the NFL Combine record for time in the 40-yard dash.  I saw Washington play last year and I have no notes on Ross.  Maybe I was up getting a snack when he made some dazzling plays…?

Next up are the Offensive Linemen.  I used to try to differentiate them by position but over the past several years I have seen that NFL teams move these “big uglies” [ /Keith Jackson ] around from place to place on the line.  So, I’ll just combine them here:

  1. Cam Robinson (Alabama):  He is “big and strong and a good run blocker”.  He is “not agile in pass blocking but makes up for it with strength”.  I said, “Good enough to start for Alabama = 2nd round or better”.
  2. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin):  My notes say he is “big and strong and plays hard all the time”.  “Pass blocking is good and run blocking is better”.  I had him as a “1st or 2nd round pick”.
  3. Erik Magnuson (Michigan):    I said, “excellent run blocking” and “good enough pass blocking”.  “Got outside to lead running plays to his side”.  I said, “probably goes around 3rd round”.
  4. Pat Elfein (Ohio St.):  He is a “bulldozer as a run blocker” and “adequate in pass blocking – missed a blitz badly”.  I noted, “3rd round”.
  5. Isaac Asiata (Utah):  My notes say “really good interior run blocker and good enough as a pass blocker”.  I said he would go “3rd round or 4th round?”
  6. David Sharpe (Florida):  He is a “huge man” who is “dominant run blocking”.  “Needs work in pass blocking against speed rushers/not very quick” is the reason he will not go early.  I said, “late round pick”.
  7. Taylor Moton (W. Michigan):  I was much more focused on watching Corey Davis when I tuned into a W. Michigan game but I also made this note about Moton – –  “he is a good run blocker and a better pass blocker”.  I said, “could be a bargain in 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Damien Mama (USC):  I noted that he was “very big and very effective at power blocking” but that “he isn’t very mobile”.  My assessment was that he “can start at USC so that means some team will probably take him late in the draft”.
  9. Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M): “Big strong run blocker but not so good in pass protection”.  “Should get a tryout”; “final round pick”?
  10. Josh Boutte (LSU):  My notes say “just a huge man who is not fast but awfully strong”.  His “lack of speed/quickness will drop him in the draft”.  I said he is “worth a pick in the final round just because of his size.”

Before leaving the offensive side of the ball, let me share part of another e-mail dealing with an offensive lineman.

“IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] guard, Ethan Cooper, is athletic and quick even though he is 320 lbs …  He dominates D-II [Division II] opponents and if he does well at the [NFL] Combine, he could be drafted.”

And now, I shall proceed to the defensive side of the ball and focus on Defensive Backs first.  As with offensive lineman, I have given up on trying to figure out if NFL teams will take a DB and play him at cornerback or at safety; so, all I am doing here is to give you an idea of what I saw in terms of secondary players.

  1. Jamal Adams (LSU):  He is “big and athletic” and he “plays both run and pass very well”.  I did not see him do anything that he did not do well.  I said “1st round pick”.
  2. Marshawn Lattimore (Ohio St.):  He “covers really well” and “kept up with every fly pattern run by Michigan”.  I think he will “go in the 1st round”.
  3. Malik Hooker (Ohio State):  My notes say “big” “quick” and “very athletic”.  My assessment was simple, “Has to go in 1st round”.
  4. Marlon Humprhey (Alabama):  My notes were totally positive.  “Fast and athletic” … “great in coverage” … “sure tackler” … you get the idea.  Naturally, I thought he was a “1st round pick”.
  5. Jabril Peppers (Michigan):  He “is everywhere on the field” doing “everything except punting”.  His versatility should mean “he is gone somewhere in the 1st or 2nd round”.
  6. Adoree Jackson (USC):  My notes say “very fast and good in coverage” and “only question is size – big enough for NFL?”  Overall, I thought 3rd round”.
  7. Kai Nacua (BYU):  He is a “big hitter as a safety who covers well enough to be a corner(?)”.  He was “also out there on special teams”.  I said, “3rd or 4th round”.
  8. Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin):  He played well against Cory Davis in the Cotton Bowl and my comment was “is he big enough to be a DB in the NFL?”  The trend in the NFL now is for tall/rangy cornerbacks and Shelton is neither.  Thus, I said “probably late rounds”.
  9. Corn Elder (Miami):  In addition to a great name, he is “great against the run” with “good speed”.  However, he is “not quick to react to cuts made by receivers” so “he is a project” for an NFL coaching staff.  My guess was “4th or 5th round”.
  10. Nate Gerry (Nebraska):  My notes say he is a “big hitter” and “quick to fill on run plays”.  I also noted he “might not be fast enough to play CB in the NFL”.  So, maybe he is a safety?  My assessment was “late round pick”.
  11. Justin Evans (Texas A&M):  He is “strong against the run” but “not so good against the pass”.  The NFL is a passing league so my guess was “late rounds”.

Now let us look at the Linebackers.  I will mix together guys who played inside linebacker and outside linebacker and even some defensive ends whose real chance to make an NFL roster would be as an outside linebacker/edge rusher.

  1. Reuben Foster (Alabama):  Here is my opening comment, “If the ball carrier is there, Foster is there.”  He is a “big hitter” and “fast and athletic”.  My assessment was “has to be a 1st rounder”.
  2. TJ Watt (Wisconsin):  Somebody is likely to draft him simply for genetic reasons; yes, he and JJ Watt have DNA similarities.  My notes say that TJ Watt is a “sure tackler” and a “good edge rusher on blitzes”.  Overall I thought he would be “gone by round 2”.
  3. Derek Barnett ( Tennessee):  He is “strong against the run” and an “excellent pass rusher from the outside”.  I had him as a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.
  4. Solomon Thomas (Stanford):  Maybe he is a DE; maybe he is an OLB; definitely, he is “big, strong, fast”.  He “plays run very well” so he is “not a liability when doing something other than rushing the passer”.  I thought he was a “3rd round pick”.
  5. Taco Charlton (Michigan):  He is a “pass rusher first and foremost”; his defense against the run is “adequate”.  I said “3rd round pick”.
  6. Takarist McKinley (UCLA):  He is a “pass rusher off the edge – nothing more” but he has “exceptional speed around the OTs”.  I also noted that he “chased down two plays to the opposite side of the field for short gains”.  However, “run defense is not very good/gets pushed around”.  My assessment was “3rd day pick”.
  7. Rich Brown (Mississippi St.):  He is big and strong and a “run-stuffer”.  I also wondered “can he cover NFL TEs?”  My guess was 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Jordan Evans (Oklahoma):  He has “good speed for pass coverage” and “plays the run adequately”.  His pass rush seemed “half-hearted”.  The Big 12 does not yield a lot of defensive players so my guess was “late round pick”.
  9. Ben Boulware (Clemson):  My notes say “strong against the run and not real good against the pass”.  That probably makes him a “late round pick” at best.

Before leaving these linebackers/defensive ends/hybrid players, I have another e-mail to share with you.  This comes from a long-time friend who is a Villanova alum:

“While you are busy slurping Cooper Kupp in FCS football [what I always call Division 1-AA football], there is a real pro prospect from that level here in Philadelphia at Villanova.  Tanoh Kpassagnon could be a defensive end or an outside linebacker for an NFL team.  [Aside:  I would not even try to pronounce that name or give it a phonetic spelling here.]

“He dominates opponents in the run game and rushes the passer to (sic).  And he plays on most of the Nova special teams too.”

OK, so now you know about another small school player that I never saw even one time.  Make of those comments what you will and keep an ear out for his name in the draft.

In terms of Defensive Linemen, here are my notes.  There are not a lot of them but I do like the ones I have on this list.

  1. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M):  He is an “excellent pass rusher” and “he plays the run very well too”.  He “plays hard on every play”.  My assessment is 1st round pick guaranteed”.
  2. Jonathan Allen (Alabama):  He is a “monster against the run” and he “generates serious pass rush right up the gut of the offense”.  A screen graphic said he was 285 lbs; my comment is “he plays bigger and stronger than that” and “he plays faster than 285 too”.  My comment was “he has to go in the 1st round”.
  3. Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama):  He is a “run-stuffer but not a pass rusher inside”.  He would probably be better appreciated if he were not playing next to Jonathan Allen all the time.  I said, “3rd round pick”.
  4. Malik McDowell (Michigan St.):  He is a “big strong run defender” who can “generate some pass pressure inside”.  I said he was a “2nd round pick maybe 1st”.
  5. Ryan Glasgow (Michigan):  He is a “300 lb. nose tackle who stops the run”.  He has a “low center of gravity so he can add weight upstairs to become immoveable”.   I said “gone by 3rd round”.
  6. Jarron Jones (Notre Dame): He “spends a lot of time in the offensive backfield” and he “can put pressure on the QB outside”.  He is “big and quick but not fast”.  I said he was a “3rd/4th round pick”.

I only had one note on a Punter:

  • Toby Baker (Arkansas):  My notes say he is a “big kid” who “has lots of hang time on punts”.

I had a note on only one Kicker:

  • Andy Phillips (Utah): “Kickers are little guys; this guy is short and stocky – unusual.”  He “provided the margin of victory over BYU” last year.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the speed shown by WR John Ross at the NFL Combine:

“Ex-Washington receiver John Ross set an NFL combine record by running a 4.22 40. For perspective that’s how long it takes the Cleveland Browns to be mathematically eliminated most seasons.”

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

 

 

The Free Agent QB Market – 2017

Yesterday, we learned the fate of Tony Romo.  He is now an announcer and not a quarterback.  As is often the case, the answer to one question creates new questions that need new answers.  The answer to “Where will Tony Romo play football in 2017?” turned out to be “Nowhere,” and that generates quarterback questions for NFL teams.

By my count, there are 7 NFL teams that have serious problems at the quarterback position but it would be a mistake to lump all 7 into a single category.  I think there are 3 teams that could be playoff caliber teams if they were able to upgrade the quarter back position and I think there are 4 teams that just need a decent quarterback to reach the level of “respectable”.

Tony Romo would have been a consideration for at least 2 of the 3 teams in the “might be a playoff team with a better QB” and now that he is off the market, it might cause other dominoes to fall involving teams in both categories.  Let me go through my list of teams starting with the 3 teams that need upgraded QB play to be playoff contenders:

  1. Denver Broncos:  They are in a tough division; the Raiders are very good; the Chiefs’ roster is loaded.  The Broncos have a good defense – not as good as it was when they won the Super Bowl but still a good defense.  At QB, they have no one on the roster who – at this time – causes defensive coordinators to stay awake at night.  If the Broncos want to make the playoffs – and not “waste” a good defensive unit – they had to have an eye out for Tony Romo to hit the free agent market.  Now that he will not do so, the Broncos should become players in the QB free agency market.  Trevor Siemian was OK when he played last year and Paxton Lynch may have great “upside”, but there is plenty of room for an upgrade here in the 2017 season.
  2. Houston Texans:  The Texans’ situation is the same as the Broncos only more so.  The Texans’ defense is excellent; they led the NFL in yardage allowed last year; and they will get JJ Watt back in action next year.  They play in a mediocre division so they got to the playoffs last year even with sub-standard play from the QB position.  On the Texans’ roster this morning at QB are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  I have to think the Texans coveted Tony Romo and will now have to turn their covetous eyes elsewhere.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars:  Yes, I know the Jags only won 3 games last year.  The issue in Jax is simple.  They have added talent to the roster via free agency and via the draft over the last several years; but last year, Blake Bortles was just plain bad.  If that is what he is going to be as a QB down the line, then the Jags need to do something to change their situation.  I do not know what Jags’ head coach Doug Marrone and/or Jags’ QB coach Scott Milanovich think of Blake Bortles.  Here is what I am confident about:
  • If they do not find a way to improve the QB play in Jax relatively soon, their tenure in Jax will not be a long one…

Certainly, the Broncos and the Texans will be scanning the free agent market to see if any of the QBs there make sense as acquisitions in terms of economics and in terms of fit with the offensive philosophy of the teams.  Maybe the Jags also enter that marketplace but if they want to sell a veteran free agent on coming to Jax, they had best put together a solid economic offer because as noted above, the Jags won exactly 3 games in 2016.  As these teams begin to move, the other 4 teams in need of QB help can begin to shop around.

  1. Chicago Bears:  The fans in Chicago are probably happy to see that Jay Cutler is gone along with Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The Bears spent a lot of money to sign Mike Glennon and a little bit of money to add Mark Sanchez to the roster.  Glennon gets $18.5M guaranteed and a total of $45M if he plays out his 3-year deal.  But, what if he is not “the answer”?  Surely, John Fox and QB coach, Dave Ragone, know that Mark Sanchez is not “the answer”.  So, do the Bears go shopping in the free agency market yet again or do they go to the draft for a “development project”?
  2. Cleveland Browns:  Well, they acquired Brock Osweiler as part of a salary dump and roster cleansing by the Texans.  The Browns have 3 QBs on the roster as of this morning, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.  As has been the case since the Browns re-entered the league in 1999, they are in desperate need of an upgrade at the QB position.  However, trying to shop in the free agent marketplace presents the Browns with a dilemma.  The team is not any good now and is not likely to be good in the next few years.  The Browns are a long-term development project as a team.  Many of the free agent QBs are at stages of their career where they may not be of any value to the Browns by the time the team elevates to the status of “not awful”.  If I assume that will take a minimum of 3 years, then which of the available QBs would I want to commit myself to for something longer than 3 years?  My answer is:  None of them.
  3. NY Jets:  The Jets already dipped a toe in the QB free-agent market signing Josh McCown to a 1-year contract.  Call this what it is; this is kicking the can down the road.  The Jets may or may not have a serviceable QB for 2017; time will tell.  The Jets are in the midst of a roster reboot that – like the Browns – will take several years; they will not have Josh McCown as their QB in 3 years when McCown will be 40 years old.  Neither young QB on the Jets’ roster has shown he can play and the Jets may be in the position of drafting a QB yet one more time.  When last season turned to a disaster and the Jets never allowed Christian Hackenberg to see the field just for the sake of experience, that tells me that Hackenberg cannot play dead in a “Spaghetti Western”.  The Jets have to guess correctly about the QB position eventually; even the blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.
  4. SF 49ers:  Somehow, the new folks in charge of football in SF decided that the Bears miserable showing in 2016 was not the result of poor QB play.  The Niners have already signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley who made up the majority of the Bears’ QB cadre last year and produced a season record of 3-13 and scoring only 17.4 points per game.  Once again, this is probably nothing more than a temporizing move since both contracts are 2-years in duration.

To have a market, one needs buyers and sellers.  If you doubt that statement, ask any stock broker.  If these are the teams who represent the buyers, let us now take a look at some of the sellers – the remaining free agent QBs themselves.  Like the teams on the “buyer side”, I think the QBs fall into 2 categories – free agents who might go somewhere knowing that their job is backup QB and free agents who might go somewhere with the idea that they will be the starting QB.  Let me start with eleven potential backup QBs and a brief comment on each:

  1. Austin Davis:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2012.  He started 10 games and his team record in those games is 3-7.
  2. David Fales:  He is 26 years old.  Last year was his rookie season in Chicago and he is already a free agent.  Ka-beesh?
  3. Blaine Gabbert:  He is 27 years old.  In 6 seasons, he has started 40 games and the team record in those games is 9-31.  Shudder …
  4. Bruce Gradkowski:  He is 34 years old.  His last start was in 2010; his last pass attempt in the NFL was in 2012.  His arm should be well-rested…
  5. Shaun Hill:  He is 37 years old.  In 11 seasons, he has started 35 games and the team record in those games is 17-18.
  6. Thad Lewis:  He is 29 years old.  His last NFL action came in 2013 when he started 5 games for the Bills.  Not a lot of mileage on those tires …
  7. Matt McGloin:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the league 4 years and the team record in his starting assignments is 1-6.  Hi-ho …
  8. Dan Orlovsky:  He is 33 years old and I was not aware he was still in the NFL.
  9. Ryan Nassib:  He is 27 years old.  The Giants released him and then signed Geno Smith as their backup.  ‘Nuff said…
  10. Christian Ponder:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL for 6 years but he has not seen the field since 2014.  He has had time to ponder his future …
  11. TJ Yates:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2011.  In that time, he has started 7 games and his team record in those games is 4-3.

Candidly, there are slim pickings on that list above.  That is not to say that the remaining list of 4 QBs represent the motherlode of quarterbacking excellence but there is something to think about with these four free agents:

  1. Jay Cutler:  He is 33 years old.  I have never been a huge fan of Cutler all the way back to his days at Vandy but when he gets protection and is in rhythm, he can throw a football as well as anyone.  People complain about his “body language” and his “surly demeanor” and his “lack of leadership”.  If I were a coach, I might worry about that stuff too unless my alternative was to take my chances with a Tom Savage (in Houston) or either young QB (in Denver).  Even if Jay Cutler is truly as big a pain in the ass as he is often portrayed to be, he can still throw the ball better than any of those guys.  I also think that Cutler would be a good fit for the offensive philosophy in Houston where the Texans have tried to use QBs in the pocket and not in “free-lance mode”.  Now that Tony Romo is off the market, I think this is where the Texans ought to look.
  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick:  He is 34 years old.  He had a career year in 2015 starting all 16 games and leading the Jets to a 10-6 record; his performance in 2014 was pretty good too.  However, he has been in the NFL since 2005 and those are the only two seasons where he has been “better than a journeyman”.  Surely, he wants to have a shot at a starting job but at his age, it might be difficult to convince a “building team” to take him on and his résumé might be insufficient to tempt the really good teams who merely need a QB upgrade.  If he has a landing spot, I think it would be Jax in the event that the new coaching staff there has a severe case of agita brought on by watching Blake Bortles botch a bunch of possessions in 2016.  [Aside:  Bortles has been in the NFL 3 years; his record in Jax is 11-34 as a starter; he has thrown 51 INTs in those 3 seasons.  It is not as if the Jags are looking to replace Joe Montana here…]
  3. Robert Griffin III:  He is 27 years old.  I put him on this list as opposed to the list above because I believe that he only wants to be a starting QB and will likely make that clear in any interviews/negotiations.  I do not think he is any prize as a starting QB even though he did have that one magical season in Washington in his rookie season.  If indeed he “plays hardball” and signs with a team with the understanding that he will be the starter unless he completely screws the pooch in training camp, my guess is that he will not make it out of training camp.
  4. Colin Kaepernick:  He is 29 years old.  On one hand, Colin Kaepernick took the Niners to the Super Bowl and made a game of it.  He also led the Niners to the playoffs in another season his record in playoff games is 4-2.  That sort of “positive stuff” is not to be found on any other stat sheets here.  Then comes the negative stuff…  Last year – playing for a team short on talent around the roster – Kaepernick started 11 games; the Niners’ record in those games was 1-10.  At the end of the season, the new football regime in SF decided to jettison Kaepernick – along with Blaine Gabbert – in order to make room to sign Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.  As my mother used to say, “You are known by the company you keep.”  A coach/GM who takes on Colin Kaepernick has to be convinced that he has been in a career slump for the last couple of seasons and that the “real Colin Kaepernick” is one we saw when Jim Harbaugh was the Niners’ coach.  I am not sure where Kaepernick is a “great fit”, but when I look at the QBs on this list and then look at the QBs who are on rosters in the NFL as backups, I have to say that he has the skills to be somewhere.

And that last entry on the list brings me to the topic of “collusion” and/or “blackballing” because those terms have been tossed around by some folks who think Colin Kaepernick should have been signed by now.  It seems to me that these two things are related but they are not the same thing.  Blackballing is a way of “counting votes” in a secret ballot system whereby a single negative vote (a black ball) or a significant minority of negative votes can deny entry in to club or organization.  In the extreme, if there are 100 members voting on 1 new member and there are 99 affirmative votes and 1 negative vote (the black ball), membership is denied.

Blackballing does not necessarily involve collusion because no collusion is necessary.  If I belong to a club set up exclusively for right-handed people, then it is pretty obvious that someone in that club would vote against Steve Carlton or Phil Mickelson should that name come up for entry in the club.  If I were a member of that club passionately devoted to “the right-handed cause”, I would blackball either of those two individuals despite any other qualifications they may have.  I would open myself to criticism as a bigot and a royal doofus, but in the situation I just created, that is how I would behave.

Now, if my hypothetical club is a private club, I suspect that there is no legal reason that our bylaws and election procedures would be improper.  Stupid, yes; illegal, no.  I am not an NFL owner nor am I a GM, but I am confident that there is no such process among the owners with regard to who can and who cannot be a quarterback on any of the 32 NFL teams.  It is lazy thinking to apply this label improperly and then stand back in some sort of righteous posture having proclaimed the source of Colin Kaepernick’s unemployed status.

At the same time, collusion has a legal meaning and a colloquial meaning.  In a colloquial sense, consider that I and two neighbors own properties such that a developer needs an easement from one of us to allow him to develop some land near us; and also assume that we would prefer for that land to remain undeveloped.  If we meet at my house one evening and we all “pinky-swear” that none of us will give that easement to the developer without the agreement of the other two of us, we have colloquially colluded to prevent the developer from doing what he wants to do.  However, we are not depriving him of any of his rights and so our “pinky-swearing collusion” is not likely to be overturned by a court.

The rub in the Colin Kaepernick situation is that one of his rights would be affected by collusion among the NFL owners/GMs.  The operative CBA provides Kaepernick with the contractual right to free agency status; the owners have agreed to this; if the owners – or the GMs as the agents of the owners – then collude to prevent Kaepernick from being a free agent in the same way all those other QBs are free agents, then a court might look very unkindly on that behavior.

Recall in the mid 1980s, that the MLB owners colluded among themselves not to bid to sign any free agents who were not from their own teams.  That drove salaries down and that was an injury suffered by the players.  Courts awarded players something like $300M in judgments and penalties in those cases.  However, here is a key point:

  • The MLB owners shared information among themselves about what salaries they were offering to various free agents so that other teams might know what the player had in front of him during negotiations.  Even worse, they kept records of those interactions and those records were discovered.

About 20 years after those collusion findings, Barry Bonds sued MLB alleging collusion when he was a free agent – in his mid-40s – and got no offers from anyone.  In his case, he lost because there was either no documentary evidence of a concerted effort by the teams or if there was some such evidence, it was insufficient.  Just because a player is treated differently than other players of a similar stature, that does not prove collusion.  So, even if Colin Kaepernick enjoyed on-field stature similar to Barry Bonds – he most assuredly does not – , his lack of contract offers does not mean the owners have colluded to keep him out of the NFL.  Take a look at my list of 11 free agent QBs above and realize that some of them are not going to be signed this year – or maybe in any future years.  No collusion involved there; 32 teams would have decided independently to sign someone else.  If Kaepernick charges collusion, the burden of proof is on him and not on the teams.

I do not think that Kaepernick is being blackballed or colluded against due to his National Anthem protests any more than I believe that Thad Lewis is being blackballed or colluded against because he is African-American.  I think both of them are free agents at the moment and circumstances other than skin color or social protest form the basis of their continued free agency.  I would come to the same conclusion with regard to Adrian Peterson who remains unsigned as of this morning.  Yes, he had those domestic violence issues he had to deal with a couple of years ago.  I believe, however, his injury history over the past couple of years and the “high mileage” on his running back’s body coupled with reports that he wants $9M per year have more to do with his continued unemployment than collusion or blackballing over his legal issues.

I suspect that there will be only minor activity in the QB free agency marketplace.  With the draft only a few weeks away, I think teams will be spending much more energy on their “draft boards” than on free agent quarterbacks – most of whom will still be in that status after the draft is over and teams can see what they were able to get in the draft both at the QB position and at other positions on the field.  I suspect the next period of activity for free agent QBs will be in early May.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald about the virtue of NFL owners:

“NFL owners voted 31-1 to OK Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, with Dolphins’ Stephen Ross the lone dissenter. Ross has since been so heroically lauded in the media you’d think he’d rescued three nuns from a burning car.”

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

 

 

Reinventing College Football

 

Before I even get started here, let me make something crystal clear:

 

THIS AIN’T NEVER GONNA HAPPEN!

 

There is more than too much inertia and “history” built into the current incarnation of college football to assure that this sort of restructuring would be out of the question.  Nevertheless, just as a flight of fancy come with me on a gedankenexperiment where we reinvent – or reimagine if you prefer – college football.  What I want to do is to wave my magic wand and freeze college football as it exists today and then reinvent it.  I am not talking about the game; I do not want to invent a game where there is no tackling or where there is no such thing as pass interference.  I want to reinvent the way the game is structured/organized.

 

[Aside:  If Vice President Al Gore could presume to “reinvent the government” 20 years ago, I think I can presume to reinvent college football.  And, by the way, the non-implementation of my ideas here will have about the same lasting effect on college football as Vice President Gore’s actions had on the government.]

 

The top tier of college football in 2016 had 128 teams in what they call FBS or what I call Division 1-A.  That is the perfect number for my reinvention idea.  So, pour yourself a cup of coffee and put on your thinking cap while you take a trip in my fantasy world for a moment.  It just might be more interesting than a stroll down memory lane…

I want to break up the 128 Division 1-A teams into two equal parts.  Let me call these parts the “Big Boys Category” and the “Little Boys Category”.  I want to put 64 teams in each of the two categories and then I want to break each of the categories into 4 conferences of 16 teams each and each conference into 2 divisions of 8 teams each.  The Big Boys Category would consist of:

  • The SEC Teams (14 teams)
  • The Big 10 Teams (14 Teams)
  • The PAC-12 Teams (12 teams)
  • The Big 12 (10 teams) – – plus – –
  • The “14 Best Teams” from the other Conferences

The Little Boys Category would consist of the “other 64 teams”…

Now I want to divide those teams into 4 conferences and I will do that on a geographical basis.  The 14 teams that I added to this category from the “other existing conferences” would go into the existing structure on the basis of best geographical fit only because there has to be some sort of criterion here to avoid a ton of tsouris along the path leading to the assignments.

The Little Boys Category will be divided up into 4 conferences of 16 teams also and I would do my best to make this as geographically consistent as possible.  I am not focusing on the Little Boys category here nearly as much as the Big Boys Category but that will change later on…

In the new 16-team conferences in both Categories, there will be NO interconference play in the regular season.  An 11-game regular season schedule will consist of 7 games for each team in one’s division plus 4 games against teams in the other division of the same conference rotating the inter-division schedule every year.  In each conference, the two division winners will have a playoff to determine the conference winner.

The 4 conference winners in the Big Boys Category will get automatic berths in an 8-team CFP that will happen in January.  The other 4 teams in that CFP bracket will be selected by either a committee or a set of computers or a “college football czar” – makes no difference to me – and the winner of that 8-team tournament will be the College Football National Champion for the year.

I can hear lots of mumbling at this point with regard to “So, what’s the big deal here?” or “All he wants to do is change the composition of the conferences.”  As Lee Corso would say:

“Not so fast, my friend …”

You see, I want to do the same thing in the “Little Boys Category” but I want the playoffs there to have some sort of meaning or gravitas.  In fact, I think my idea here would make the Little Boys Playoff bracket almost as interesting as the one for the Big Boys.

What I want to do here is to steal the concept of relegation from the British soccer leagues.  Here is the deal:

  • The 4 finalists in the Little Boys Playoff Tournament will be promoted to the Big Boys category for the next season.
  • Geography will be the primary determinant for which team goes to which Big Boys Conference but in the case where that is not a clear choice, the team that finished higher in the Little Boys Playoff would get to choose where they will go.
  • To make room for them, there would also be a selection process – don’t care who does it or how – to determine which 4 teams from the Big Boys Category get relegated.  The easiest would be to relegate the worst team in each of the 4 conferences and then add the best 4 teams from the lower category.  Since college football never does anything in the easiest way, I am sure no one would like do it that way…

My reinvention of college football has pluses and minuses; I will be the first to acknowledge that.  Let me do the pluses first:

  1. Teams will play much more balanced schedules if they have to play all of their games “in conference”.  Every game will matter as much as every other game.  Athletic directors will not go out searching for a glorified scrimmage game against Comatose State because there will be no place on the schedule to put such a waste of time.
  2. Bowl games at the end of the season will be a lot more interesting because of the lack of interconference play.  There will be an element of inter-conference rivalry that develops and there will be a curiosity factor to see how conferences fare against one another.
  3. The big money will be with the Big Boys Category and so there will be a significant monetary incentive to win and to stay in the Big Boys Category.  Relegation will be more than just an affront to alums; relegation will be a good swift kick in the wallet.  A late season head-to-head game between two teams that are both 1-8 will be meaningful to each team – and particularly meaningful to each coach and athletic director.
  4. The Little Boys Category teams that do very well in a season can get to spend the next season trying to establish themselves in the Big Boys Category where the big money is.  That makes the Little Boys Playoff Tournament very important to the teams and the coaches – – and that will make that playoff into something that fans might be interested in.

The posers at the NCAA will not be able to complain that too many of their student-athletes will play too many games under my phantasmagorical new system.  Most teams will play only 11 games plus a bowl game (perhaps).  The best teams will play 11 regular season games plus 2 games in a conference tournament plus as many as 3 games in a CFP-like tournament for a maximum of 16 games.  In the current rendition of college football the two best teams play a 15-game schedule.  My idea is NOT a huge expansion of an already over-exposed sport.

Please note that I have refrained from including here one of my pet ideas from NCAA Mythical Picks.  Please note that the decision(s) on relegation will not be made on the basis of an on-field tournament where the losing team has to play on to see if it will be relegated or not.  My imaginary SHOE Tournament from Mythical Picks is fun for me to imagine; it would never work in reality.

I can hear screams of upset already over the idea of relegation because that relegation would potentially interrupt/destroy longstanding rivalries.  There is no “schedule flexibility” in my scheme so if one party to the annual “Big Deal Game” sucks wind for a year, they may indeed have to forego next year’s “Big Deal Game”.  You know what?  Life will go on…

I would be open to the idea of extending the relegation/promotion opportunities to the teams that finish in the Top 4 of the Division 1-AA national tournament that already exists.  The reason I would not mandate it from the start is that it is not clear to me that all of the schools in Division 1-AA would want to try to grow their football program into one that might continue to exist at the Division 1-A level.  For example, Ivy League teams would probably not want to do that and I really do not know how the folks at this year’s four finalist schools in the Division 1-AA tournament would feel about “being promoted” to the Little Boys Category of Division 1-A.  For the record, this year’s finalists are:

  • Eastern Washington
  • James Madison
  • North Dakota St.
  • Youngstown St.

By the same token, I would not presume to extend the relegation/promotion concept down from Division 1-AA to Division II or from Division II to Division III.  I know that sort of thing happens in the British soccer leagues and that is the model for my idea.  I just don’t know if it is a good idea to implement this all the way up and down the ladder here in American football.

Earlier on, I said that I really did not care how various selections would be made in this reinvented system.  Actually, that is not completely correct.  I do care that the humans involved in the decision making are people who can and will spend the time to pay attention to what they are doing.  A committee composed of athletic directors and coaches and journalists is not going to be satisfactory for a simple reason:

  • Those folks have other full-time jobs and commitments that preclude them from spending 40-50 hours per week doing nothing but focusing on the tasks at hand such as adding 4 at-large teams to the Big Boys Category CFP and/or picking the 4 worst teams in the Big Boys Category to relegate.  That is not a job done by simply reading stat compilations; the selectors need to take the time to watch the candidate teams and make decisions based on the “Eyeball Test” as well as the “Statistical Test”.

Oh, by the way, that same statement would eliminate a totally computer based selection process.  Computers are not yet to the point where they might perform any sort of “Eyeball Test”.

I made a passing reference above to a “college football czar”.  I doubt that I would have difficulty convincing you that finding an acceptable person to assume that position would be impossible.  However, I will offer a nominee for the job.

 

Larry Culpepper – the Dr. Pepper stadium vendor.  After all, he invented the College Football Playoff, right?

 

That completes your tour of my fantasy world for the reinvented game of college football.  It will never come to pass, but I had fun contemplating it.  And now, let me go and adjust my meds …

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

 

 

A Group Of 5 Football Tournament? No Thanks…

 

According to recent reports, some folks have begun to think that there ought to be a playoff bracket in college football for the so-called “Group of 5” schools.  In case you don’t know who the Group of 5 schools are, they are the schools that make up the 5 Division 1-A conferences that play – for the most part – minor league college football.  Here are the Group of 5 conferences in alphabetical order:

  • American Athletic Conference
  • Conference USA
  • Mid-American Conference (The MAC)
  • Mountain West Conference
  • Sun Belt Conference.

And probably because it is ever so proper to be “inclusive” in one’s thinking these days, the idea of this minor-league college football playoff would also be open to independent teams which this year would include:

  • Army
  • Brigham Young
  • UMass

This is such a bad idea; let me count the ways.  First, outside the highly provincial micropolises of the schools in these conferences, let me break some news to these folks here:

  1. There is a huge wave of indifference regarding just about everything involving football in each and every one of conferences.
  2. Every once in a while, a school such as Boise St. or W. Michigan (this year) captures enough non-local interest such that people wonder if those guys at that one school in that year year might actually be able to play with the “big boys”.  Often, that lone school from those 5 conferences can do that – – but no one else in those conferences can.  These conferences are where “Homecoming Game Opponents” are found…

That first reason that this is a bad idea leads directly to the second reason this is a bad idea.  If no one really cares and there is only one team in that Group of 5 every once in a while that can “play with the big boys”, then no one will pay attention to a tournament.  Oh, there will be faux attention paid just so the schools at the “kiddies’ table” get enough of the faux attention to stay at the kiddies’ table and be happy that they are there.  This playoff idea is like planting the seeds of an environment wherein the Group of 5 teams become a permanent underclass in the football hierarchy but they cannot complain because they have their tournament to focus attention on themselves.

Division 1-AA has a tournament.  Other than times when a player like Randy Moss comes from that tournament or when Carson Wentz becomes the overall #2 pick in the NFL Draft, does the Division 1-AA tournament create any goosebumps for anyone outside the school communities of the teams involved?  I’ll pose the same question about the Division II and the Division III national playoffs:

 

If you are reading this rant here, you must have some basic level of interest in sports and so you are the perfect audience to respond to this question, “Do you care even a little bit who wins or who is “snubbed” by not being invited to the Division II and/or the Division III football tournament brackets?”

 

Some say that this tournament idea can bring money to the Group of 5 schools that will give them the chance to “graduate” and compete with the “big boys”.  That is nonsense.  The amount of money that the CFP brings into the conferences involved in the top tier of Division 1-A football will dwarf the pittances that the Group of 5 tournament might draw in one’s wildest imagination.  Second, this will soon become the “Miss Congeniality” Prize for the smaller programs and will almost immediately take any and all of them out of consideration for participation in one of the bigger New Year’s Day Bowl Games – where there is real money involved.  I am confident that if I were to say awake for 72 consecutive hours I could come up with a worse idea for the Group of 5 teams.  I am not about to do that; I am, however, going to say that they better not get what they seem to be wishing for.

About 35 years ago, I was the President of the PTA for my sons’ elementary school.  Yes, I did that for an entire year and did not commit sufficient mayhem or physical violence that I was arrested and/or charged with some sort of violation of the law.  One of the debates ongoing at that time in our county was the extent to which classes in the school system should be offered in various languages.  Foreign languages were never my favorite courses in school and I am only proficient in two languages:

  1. English – and –
  2. Profane.

As my year-in-the-box progressed, there was a suggestion by a group of parents that the school system offer algebra taught in their culturally native language.  That is where I got off the train.  I asked for – and was granted – a time slot where I could address the school board and whatever other local politicians may have been in attendance at this open meeting.  Here is a paraphrase of what I told the school board that evening:

 

I hope you realize what you might actually be doing if you were to consider the idea of teaching algebra to high school students in something other than English.  What you would be doing is to lay the foundation for those students to become a permanent underclass in the US.  Like it or not, the fact of the matter is that the language of the generic economy and society here in Virginia – and in almost all of the US – is English.  Being bilingual – or even multi-lingual – is an asset for students, but they also have to know English to succeed – or to have an equal shot at success.  You can teach them lots of courses in lots of languages, but if you try to pretend that mathematics is something they can only learn in their “culturally native language” you are consigning these students to second-class citizenship.

[Aside: The Chair of the School Board happened a black woman.  She reacted to my closing statement.]  If I were an evil person and my intention was to consign a subset of the population to the status of “permanent underclass”, the first thing I would do would be to give them as poor an education as I could and to fill their time in school with things that will not be useful to them in the economy and the society that they will have to try to succeed in.  For a while, this country did that with slaves in the South until most of us figured out that was not the way to go.  If you pay more attention to feelings than you do to reality and your responsibilities as overseers of education, you will start down that path again.  Don’t do it.

 

Change the issue from teaching algebra in something other than English to high school students in the US to the idea of a minor-league football playoff and the outcome is similar.  If the Group of 5 wants to be sure they are never taken seriously and have a permanent seat at the kiddies’ table of college football, then this idea for their playoff is a great way to head on down that road.  No one is going to travel a thousand miles to see that championship game in person and precious few are going to tune on TV.  Imagine the burning interest in the game leading up to that championship contest.  This is an idea whose time has not yet come and is not going to come…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding one of already existing minor bowl games that would compete with a “Group of 5 Tournament” for attention:

“The Foster Farms Bowl was sparsely attended. Utah doesn’t really move the meter in Northern California, while Indiana doesn’t even move the meter in Indiana.

“Hint to bowl officials: Next year, please offer free Foster Farms chicken nuggets to every fan in attendance. Proposed slogan: ‘Come for the nuggets, stay for the football.’”

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

 

 

Bad Ads 2016

 

What follows here has become a predictable year-end event.  For those who have seen these sorts of things before, let me apologize while I take  a paragraph to let new readers know what lies ahead.

I watch a goodly amount of sports on TV.  That practice means that I get to – or have to – watch a lot of advertisements.  After all, those advertisements are the mechanism by which I get to watch all of my sports for next to nothing.  In and among the myriad ads, there are some that are genuinely stupid and/or insulting and/or confusing and/or disgusting.  I try to make a note of these sorts of ads and then put them together here as a way to end the current calendar year and to hope – against all hope – that the ads next year will not be so bad.  It never works out that way…

I have to admit that 2016 was a “different year” when it comes to finding “Bad Ads” related to sporting events.  I need to put everything that follows here into perspective:

  • In 2016, none of the ad campaigns featured on sporting events could come close to being as annoying/stupid as the “campaign ads” that polluted the public airwaves throughout the Presidential primaries and then in the general election campaign.  Those political ads were unctuous, slimy, misleading, weasel-worded assaults on the intelligence of the electorate.  The creators and promulgators of those ads – regardless of party affiliation – deserve severe punishment for the bullsh*t they inflicted on the populace.  Boiling in oil and/or drawing and quartering seem to be candidates for the appropriate punishments.

With that out of the way, let me go to my notes and see what sorts of things the ad mavens decided to inflict on viewers of sporting events.  A relatively recent trend in advertising seems to be ads for prescription drugs that one is supposed to ask their doctor about.  I don’t know about you, but I talk to my doctor about symptoms, aches and pains, changes in my well-being and the like.  None – as in not a single one – of those conversations has ever begun because I watched an ad on TV.  Anyway …

The year in advertising/promotion got off on a bad foot right away.  In January 2016 as the NFL playoffs were leading up to Super Bowl 50 which was to be telecast on CBS, that network ran promos touting Super Bowl 50 as:

“The most historic event in television history.”

Let me see here …  Super Bowl 50 as the most historic event in television history vis á vis:

  1. Lee Harvey Oswald shot to death on live TV by Jack Ruby
  2. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon
  3. The hostage taking and murders at the Munich Olympics
  4. President Nixon’s resignation speech
  5. The explosion of the Challenger spacecraft
  6. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall
  7. The end result of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, TX
  8. September 11,2001

Those 8 television moments are ones that come to mind because I remember seeing them and recalling where I was and what the circumstances were when I saw them.  I am certain that many folks can add to this list.  And the upshot of this list – with or without any additions from others – is very simple:

 

Super Bowl 50 is not even close to any of these events in terms of being ”the most historic event in television history.”

 

Annually, the Super Bowl is an event filled with new ads and marks the start of new ad campaigns.  Last year, Colgate used an ad spot to tell me how much water I consumed if I left the water running while I brushed my teeth.  According to the ad, I would waste more water doing that than some people have available to them for a week.  Given my background in science/engineering, my first reaction was to wonder how long it took the guy in the ad to brush his teeth and what was the flow rate of the faucet.  However, that quickly passed and I realized that this argument was one I had heard before:

  • As a kid, my parents used to tell me to eat all of my veggies because there were children starving in China.  Maybe in your family, the children were starving elsewhere; it doesn’t really matter.  The point is that the veggies – or the water in this case – are here and the starving children – or the water-deprived folks – are there.  There is a huge flaw in that argument…

[For the record … I do not let the water run while I brush my teeth.  I do this out of habit and not in any misguided empathy for people who happen to live in arid places like the Gobi Desert or Sudan.]

I encountered an Internet ad on Feb 4 2016.  It told me that I should buy a gift card from some pizza purveyor and then use it as a stocking stuffer.  The visual for the ad shows a gift card in a hand poised over a Christmas stocking hung on a mantel.  Given that this was February when it appeared on my computer screen, I figured there were only 2 possible explanations:

  1. Some “Internet ad placement specialist” somewhere hit a wrong keystroke and put a leftover ad from the previous Christmas season in queue for viewing about 6 weeks late.
  2. Some company has decided to get a jump on the marketing for Christmas and has decided to get the Christmas ad campaign going 10 months early.  If so, that would be a crime against humanity.

There is an ad for a drug that counteracts “repeated or chronic constipation” that is not alleviated by laxatives, a massive intake of prunes or the normal things one might resort to when one suffers from a “blockage down-south” so to speak.  At one point, the actor on the ad looks directly into the camera and says plaintively,

“My chronic constipation kept coming back …”

My first reaction on hearing that was “No sh*t!” but I realized that would be a cruel response to anyone with constipation.  So let me simply say that this moron reading lines in this commercial whose chronic constipation keeps coming back does not understand the meaning of the word – CHRONIC.

Dominos Pizza is a regular in these annual compilations.  Earlier this year, they had a promotion where you would get a free pizza after you placed 6 online orders of $10 or more.  They then proceeded to suggest six circumstances wherein you might order from Dominos in order to get that free pizza.  One of their suggestions was “a hot date”.  Seriously?  If you have “a hot date” and you order Dominos Pizza, my guess is that there will be no follow-up hot dates.

Another “repeat offender” that shows up here every year is Taco Bell.  This year they introduced their “Dollar Breakfast Menu” with 8-10 items that – slow down here – all cost one dollar.  Looking at all of these choices displayed on my TV screen, this is the thought that ran through my mind:

  • So, what do they charge you for the Kaopectate milkshake you are going to desperately need after chowing down on those bad boys for breakfast?

Applebees introduced the “Burger Quesadilla” to its menu.  Before you get too excited, this is merely a burger where the bun is replaced by a quesadilla; on the creativity scale this ranks about where Whack-A-Mole ranks.  Naturally, Applebees shows us smiling customers eating this new culinary delight.  One woman is so agog with this new concept that she says,

“Mind blown!”

My dear.  If the concept of substituting a quesadilla for a bread roll is mind blowing, I fear for your existence.  If your brain were converted to TNT, you might not be able to clear your sinuses.

KFC spent much of the year trotting out a bunch of D-List celebrities pretending to be Colonel Sanders.  Then they concocted silly and irrelevant circumstances for each of these reincarnated colonels to make a fool of himself.  The only way this ad campaign might become even marginally interesting would be for KFC to try to pass off Kermit the Frog as “the real Colonel Sanders”.

There is an annoying ad for Subway where a couple marks important dates in their life by which Subway sandwich is on sale on that day of the week.  For example, they named their daughter Terry because she was born on the day that the chicken teriyaki sandwich was discounted.  These mouthbreathers are annoying on top of being stupid.

 

Memo to Subway:  Annoying and stupid is not the exacta you should seek for the “characters” in your ads.

 

JP Morgan Chase has a retirement planning service ad that shows a couple with a pig on a leash walking around town.  The theme of the ad is that you should be able to live your life the way you want to live your life and if that means having a pet pig on a leash, well, mazel tov!  At the end of the ad, the couple – still with the pig on its leash – go into a bank to speak to a banker.  Look, I will be happy to take this ad off the Bad Ads list and retract my statement that this is abjectly stupid as soon as I see a real banker dealing with real customers who have a real pig on a leash in an actual bank.

Car manufacturers seem to revel in producing and showing dumb ads.  Let me begin with the one for the Audi Q-7.  According the disembodied voice in the ad, the car demonstrates that “a higher form of intelligence has arrived.”  Immediately I begin to wonder what this sedan got on the SATs but those thoughts went away quickly because what I see on the screen is the car clipping along at a high rate of speed on a foggy road.  Perhaps what the meant to say is that the car is a higher form of intelligence as compared to a boulder.

Audi decided to double down on this theme and by the time Spring arrived, they were not only asserting that this car was highly intelligent, they were declaring that intelligence is the new rock and roll.  It is jarring when an ad touting intelligence says something so trivially inane.  If I told you that I think intelligence is the new kielbasa, would that be any dumber than what Audi was trying to tell me?

Matthew McConaughey was back again this year doing creepy ads for Lincolns.  The creepiest – and the dumbest – one involves him dressed in suit walking to the edge of a swimming pool and doing a backwards belly-flop into the water fully dressed.  Question:

  • How and/or why is that supposed to motivate anyone to think about buying a Lincoln?

Equally low on the intellectual scale you will find the “Chevy Focus Group Ads”.  This series of ads features “real people not actors” with the group led by a facilitator with a mellifluous voice who says nothing important.  Actually, that is a good thing because the evident IQ level of the focus group participants suggests that Chevy spent a lot of time searching for people who live under the left side of the bell curve.

In the category of abjectly annoying ads for automobiles, all I have to do is to put two things in juxtaposition:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. You Don’t Own Me.

Right about now, I suspect you have just finished shaking off a sensation similar to the one most folks feel when they hear fingernails scraping on a blackboard…

There is a local car dealer here in the DC area who brags that he only sells “certified pre-owned cars”.  Really?  You take the time to certify for me that the car has had a previous owner?  Why is that important?  What this guy sells are “Used Cars”; you can probably deduce that from the fact that most of them are models from 2 or 3 years ago.

There is a radio ad for one of the online universities that says they provide each student with access to a “success coach”.  Maybe this university should teach a course in “redundancy”.  Have you ever heard of a coach whose mission was to teach you how to fail?

Coors had a mercifully short ad campaign where they touted their beer as “tough but fair”.  I tried to understand what those adjectives meant with respect to beer.  Here is the best I could come up with:

  • Coors is tough to drink because it is a fair-to-middling beer.

I am sure that the good folks at Coors and their ad agency has something else in mind…

Even dumber than the Coors ad campaign was one for Shock Top Beer.  Some guy in a bar is lured into a staring contest with a Shock Top Beer tap.  Not surprisingly, the beer tap wins the contest.  Message for the consumer?

  • You have to be as dumb as toast to drink Shock Top Beer.

Southwest Airlines now touts their Transfarency.  This can mean “low fares with no added fees” and it can mean that you can use your reward miles “any way you want it/anytime you need it”.  Here is the problem.  The ads have fine print on the bottom of the images on the screen – really small fine print.  If you look quickly you can see that “Rules and Regulations apply” which means that these ads are not as “transfarent” as they would like you to believe.

e-Trade had an ad where they used a “Benedict Arnold character” as someone to hawk their online trading product because – after all – Benedict Arnold knows all about being a traitor – er trader.  Maybe this would be clever to a third-grade class; maybe not.  One thing is for sure, Benedict Arnold is not a warm and fuzzy figure of American history and culture.  People who think using a stylized Benedict Arnold as a spokesperson for their product might someday take the next step and try using a stylized Pontius Pilate.  That would be a breakthrough in lunacy…

I will close this year’s compendium of bad ads with one that is local to the DC area.  One of our local stations “guarantees their weather forecast will be accurate to within 3 degrees.”  This is multi-level stupid.  Let me count the ways:

What does “guarantee” mean here?  What would I as a viewer receive as a recompense if the forecast was off by 4 degrees?  The answer is simple; I would get nothing.

Now that I know this station offers meaningless guarantees, my trust in its product is on shaky ground.  So, why should I tune in to see its next big investigative report that it will be touting someday if I don’t trust what the station says?

Back to the weather … When I hear a forecast and it says tomorrow’s high temperature will be 96 degrees, I realize that tomorrow is going to be uncomfortably hot.  Do I care if it is only 92 degrees or if it is 100 degrees – thereby falling outside the “guaranteed range”?  Not really; I will still be uncomfortable.  Here is what I want from a weather forecast where accuracy is important – and none of it has to do with a temperature range:

  1. Rain or no rain
  2. Snow/sleet/wintry mix or no snow/sleet/wintry mix.
  3. If “Snow”, then how much?  There is a huge difference between 2 inches and 16 inches.

In closing, let me offer all of you a chance to purchase a product that I guarantee will be effective and will make your life easier and more pleasant.  For three easy payments of $29.95 I will send you a giant spray can of Unicorn Repellant.  Never again will you need to clean up those annoying unicorn droppings from your yard; never again will you have the paint scraped from your house due to unicorn horns; never again will you be awakened in the middle of the night with unicorn cries as they play leap-frog in your back yard.  If you ever see a unicorn in your yard after using my repellant spray, just send us back the unused portion and we’ll refund your money.  One dose of my unicorn spray will last for weeks.  If you hurry and order now, I’ll double the offer and send you two giant spray cans of Unicorn Repellant; just pay additional shipping and handling.  But wait; there’s more …

Actually, there isn’t any more.  Those are all the ads from last year that I found annoying or stupid or ineffective.  As is always the case, I wish that the folks in creative at the ad agencies and the folks who deal with those people from the product side would make a New Year’s resolution to make ads more entertaining and less silly for 2017.  As is always the case, I doubt that’s gonna happen – – meaning I will be back doing this sort of thing again next December.

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

 

 

The LVQB Award for 2016

 

My distaste for Mock Drafts months in advance of the NFL Draft and/or anything that even resembles “Bracketology” more than two weeks before Selection Sunday should be clear to anyone who reads these things.  There is another form of this same sort of silliness that infects the NFL:

Weekly projections starting in October as to who is the MVP.

Since the award is based solely on the regular season, we have reached the point in the season where such projections can begin to be meaningful so articles of that type from here on out are acceptable.  All the earlier ones are wasted bits of memory somewhere out there on the Internet.

Another thing that ought not to surprise readers here is that the world is viewed differently here in Curmudgeon Central.  I will look at the MVP Award and probably agree that the recipient is deserving and move on.  I doubt that the selection – whoever it is – will give me agita.  However, recognizing that the MVP is a quarterback about 75% of the time, I often think of it as the MVQB award.  And that leads me to look at the world differently and wonder who – in 2016 – might be the LVQB or the Least Valuable Quarterback.

I eliminate from consideration all of the 3rd string QBs who never see the field; obviously, they have no particular value to a team but that does not make for an interesting discussion.  That criterion eliminates Tony Romo from consideration here even though he is taking down a large chunk of salary cap room for the Cowboys while contributing nothing so far this year.  In my mind, the LVQB is someone who is out there on the field on a regular basis but performs in such a way as to make his teammates and his coaches wish he were somewhere else.

The nominees are – in alphabetical order of the teams they play for:

 

Cleveland Browns – RG3 and Cody Kessler and Josh McCown as a tandem:  Note that I have not included Charlie Whitehurst or Kevin Hogan to this list because neither of them lasted long enough to throw 30 passes in the season.  The stats for Browns’ QBs do not really tell the tale for two reasons.  First, the team is always behind and has to throw the ball to try – ineffectively – to catch up; and second, the offensive line is so porous that the team has had to start 5 different players at QB this year because of injuries.  I will combine stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • RG3 QB rating is 58.5; Cody Kessler is 92.6; Josh McCown is 72.3.
  • They have thrown 12 TDs and 10 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.5%
  • They average 6.7 yards per attempt.

 

Houston Texans – Brock Osweiler:  If the Texans’ Front Office does not have a deep sense of Buyer’s Remorse about now, they are comatose.  They signed Osweiler to a 4-year deal worth $72M with $37M guaranteed 10 months ago.  Now he is on the bench having put up these sorts of stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 71.4.
  • He has thrown 14 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is under 59.6%.
  • He averages 5.8 Yards per attempt.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles:  I have to admit that I thought the Jaguars were going to be a division winner this year and much of that thought was based on the progress Bortles had made last year as a maturing QB.  Let me be polite here and say that train jumped the tracks in 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 75.8
  • He has thrown 21 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is 57.8%
  • He averages 6.0 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, he and his teammates have gotten his coach fired already this year.

 

Los Angeles Rams – Case Keenum and Jared Goff as a tandem:  The Rams gave up a lot of assets to move to the top of last year’s draft to take Goff so Keenum was a “placeholder” from the outset of the season.  Goff has played only a couple of games but has certainly not set the world on fire while in there.  I will report combined stats here other than the two QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • Keenum’s QB rating is 76.4.  Goff’s QB rating is 65.7
  • They have thrown 13 TDs and 17 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.7%
  • They average 6.4 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, they and their teammates have gotten the coach fired already this year.

 

New York Jets – Ryan Fitzpatrick:  I presume the Jets’ braintrust recognized that 2015 was an aberrant performance by Fitzpatrick and that is why they did not sign him until the 11th our and 59th minute.  He had an excellent year last year and in order to regress to the mean, he is now having an awful year.  He was benched for Geno Smith earlier this year which is inglorious to be sure and then he was benched in favor of Bryce Petty which seems to have been a desperation move by the team.  Here are Fitzpatrick’s stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 69.1.
  • He has thrown 10 TDs and 15 INTs
  • His completion percentage is 56.8%
  • He averages 6.7 yards per attempt.

 

San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick as a tandem:  When Chip Kelly has to decide which QB to put on the field, it is like he is deciding whether he would rather be hung or shot. In case you forgot, Kaepernick signed a 6-year contract with the Niners for a total of $116M with $61M of it guaranteed back when it appeared that he might become a real NFL QB.  I will combine their stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately.

  • Kaepernick’s QB rating is 86.6.  Gabbert’s QB rating is 68.4
  • They have thrown 18 TDs and 9 INTs
  • Their completion percentage is 56.0%
  • They average 6.2 yards per attempt.

 

Before announcing my selection here – The Committee’s vote was unanimous because it consisted of only one member, me – let me assure folks who may be frustrated with the QB play of their favorite team that I did consider Carson Palmer, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Trevor Siemian and the troika of QBs in Chicago for the list of nominees.  I can understand how fans of the teams they play for may not be fully satisfied with their performances in 2016, but I put them a clear step above the nominees here.

I understand that “value” in the title of this anti-award ought to imply that the cost to the team receiving these underwhelming performances is part of the calculus.  For that reason, I will take the Browns’ tandem and Blake Bortles off the list of nominees first.  Next, I will take Ryan Fitzpatrick off the list because his is a short-term deal and the Jets really had no choice when you consider the other three QBs on their roster this summer.

That leaves a short list of three.  All of them are worthy.  The Curmudgeon Central Committee decision is:

 

The LA Rams tandem of Case Keenum and Jared Goff.

 

The Rams gave up two first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks essentially for the right to take Jared Goff first in the 2016 NFL Draft.  These two QBs do not represent a large monetary investment or a salary cap problem for the Rams, but the loss of those picks over last year and this year’s draft are going to have a negative impact on the team for a while down the road.  Any prospective new coach needs to assess the talent needs of the team as a whole in light of two “lost draft picks in 2017” along with the potential of either of these QBs to turn into a serious NFL QB before taking the Rams’ job no matter what the salary offer might be.

I realize that the mere consideration of a Least Valuable QB Award at this time of year is out of step with the festive spirit of the season.  I do not intend this to be a buzzkill and so let me close with the definition of “buzzkill” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Buzzkill:  Someone who brings up the subject of world hunger during a lap dance.”

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