Why Continue The Olympics…?

I recall an adage that says we should always celebrate things that come to an end because that gives us the opportunity to start things anew. Well, I am back from our journeys and ready to resume ranting here – at least until our next scheduled travel adventures. Moreover, I return to the keyboard with a sense of affirmation and I shall bask in that feeling for today.

Back in March 2007, I wrote that it was time to “shut down the Olympics”. Here is how I began that rant:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to shut down the Olympics. I’m not talking about anything that is partial or temporizing. I mean it is time to cancel, negate, nullify, stop, cease and desist any, all, each and every activity that has to do with the Olympics. And the time to do it is now.

“They were shut down for a couple thousand years and civilization managed to march forward somehow. Then the Olympics were resuscitated and civilization continued to move forward. No big difference here. Therefore, since the Olympics have become nothing more than a scandal ridden set of events run by a bunch of preening snobs whose only interest is self-interest, I say it is time to call another halt in the Olympics for another 2000 years.”

Then, in April 2008, I wrote that it was time for the Olympics simply to go away. Here is how I concluded that rant:

“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.”

I have also suggested on more than a few occasions that the purported economic “benefits” of hosting Olympic games are more a mirage than reality. As much as I like sports, the Olympics make no sense in the world of 2016. So, how does this provide me with a glow of affirmation?

As I was on hiatus, the Washington Post published two columns by very responsible regular contributors to their Op-Ed page saying that my suggestions from 8 or 9 years ago are not so outrageous – and in fact ought to be given serious consideration.

Charles Lane’s column minces no words; it follows a headline that reads:

    “Stop the Olympics”

If you compare Mr Lane’s objections to the Olympics to my commentary from before, you will find that we agree on most points and that he has added more reasons to halt the games that occurred in the years between 2007/08 and the present. He points out specifically that prosecutors in France are currently investigating allegations that the IOC awarding of the 2020 Summer Games to Tokyo involved “payoffs” – or as we called them in the neighborhood where I grew up. “bribes” and/or “extortion”.

With regard to the impending Summer Games in Rio about 2 months hence, here is what he has to say:

“In Brazil, where the 2016 Summer Olympics are supposed to begin Aug. 5, police and prosecutors have found evidence that Olympics-related infrastructure development became a font of payoffs and kickbacks. Potentially involved are some of the politicians implicated in the wider corruption scandal that has destabilized the Brazilian government, at precisely the moment it should have been devoting full attention to the security and efficiency of the Games.

“In response, IOC officials spout indignant rhetoric and issue earnest threats against wrongdoers, just as they have on what seem like a million previous occasions.”

Basically, the Olympics have become a haven for despotic governments, doped athletes and bribery/extortion all of which are supported on the backs of taxpayers in host countries.

Oh, but it gets even worse…

Robert Samuelson regularly writes for the Post’s Op-Ed page on economic matters. He wrote recently a scathing piece that obliterates any of the arm-waving inspirational pleadings regarding how the Olympics provide huge economic benefits for the host city/country. Let me give you just a flavor of some of the data he cites in his piece:

    2008 Beijing Summer Games Costs = $45B

    2010 Vancouver Winter Games Costs = $7.56B Revenues – $1.58B

    2012 London Summer Games Costs = $11.4B Revenues = $3.27B

    2014 Sochi Winter Games Costs = $51B

    2016 Rio Summer Games Costs sure to exceed $10B

Moreover, he cites research that says the Olympics can cost a host city/country tourism dollars. He points out that in 2012, Great Britain suffered a 6% drop in tourism in the year that they hosted the Olympic Games. The fact is that lots of people go elsewhere to avoid crowds.

Now, if you take one item from Robert Samuelson’s piece and juxtapose it with one item from Charles Lane’s piece you get the following:

[From Samuelson] “After 9/11, security costs also soared. In 2000, they were $250 million for the summer Sydney Games; by the 2004 Athens Games, they had climbed to $1.6 billion and have stayed near that figure.”

[From Lane] “In the words of the Olympic Charter:

    ‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’”

So, how successful can the Olympics be in promoting a harmonious development of humankind and in promoting a peaceful society if folks have to spend $1.6B every 4 years just to try to keep the games from blowing up like a Roman candle?

It is time for the Olympics – Summer Games and Winter Games – to go on hiatus as I just was. The difference is that I was gone for about 3 weeks; the Olympics need to be gone for something around 3 centuries.

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

First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter Two

Now that your eyeballs have stopped spinning in their sockets from yesterday’s lengthy – and often turgid – offering, let me get back to business. [Aside: I promise this will not be nearly as long as yesterday.] I recognize that folks will differ on some of the judgment calls I made yesterday regarding individual players. I also recognize that some folks would prefer to use something other than a 4-point scale to categorize the individual players. I have no intention – or interest – in trying to convince anyone that my way is the only way to do this or even the best way out of many ways to do this.

Having said that, the categorizations I proposed and populated yesterday represent the way I think about this issue. Now, if I am going to try to expand on the outcomes of taking QBs in the first round of the NFL Draft, I will certainly be in the best position to do so if I start from my own way of thinking about the subject. As they say on the car ads on TV:

“Your mileage may vary…”

Based on yesterday’s data dump, there have been 80 quarterbacks selected in the first rounds of the NFL Drafts since 1980 – not counting the 2016 draft that happened last week. In case you did not do the counting – and assuming that I counted correctly – here is the distribution of QBs in my 4 categories:

    There were 18 Franchise Players
    There were 15 Good Players
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

The first thing that I notice about those statements above is that they do not represent anything resembling a “normal distribution”. There are about as many Busts as there are entries in the “Top 2” categories. If I were to collapse the categories to a 3-point scale and combine the Franchise Players and the Good Players into one category – let me call it Worthwhile Selections – the distribution would look like this:

    There were 33 Worthwhile Selections
    There were 16 Straphangers
    There were 31 Busts.

To use a baseball analogy, that looks like a “Dave Kingman Distribution”. Teams either hit a home run with a first round pick or they strike out. However, with all of the scouting and scrutiny and analysis that goes into these sorts of selections, it is not intuitively obvious to me how that is the outcome. However, I have a hypothesis here …

First, I am not trying to take sides in the ongoing argument about whether “modern analytics” is superior to the “old eyeball test”. I believe that both schools of thought have merit and have limitations. My suggested explanation for this “boom-or-bust” distribution of draft outcomes takes into account teams that may favor either methodology in terms of building their draft board.

Here is the basis of my hypothesis:

    College football is fundamentally a different game situation from NFL football.

The game itself is basically the same in terms of the size of the field and the length of the game and the majority of the rules that govern the game. However, the on-field aspects of college football and NFL football are quite different in much the same way that college football is different from high school football or Pop Warner football. Today, I just want to consider differences between college and pro football because that is where I believe the vagaries of the selection process reside.

I believe that the enormous difference in the overall talent level between college games and NFL games creates a distortion that is difficult to compensate for whether a team is using advanced analytics or grizzled veteran scouting reports. Focusing only on the quarterback position here, a college quarterback will sometimes face a defense that has no one on the field with sufficient athletic ability ever to play in the NFL. If that quarterback is from Lake Woebegone High School – and therefore above average like every other kid in that school system – he ought to look pretty good. He should have a nice stat sheet for the advanced analytics folks to feed to their algorithms and he should look “poised” “dominant” and “in command” to the veteran scout up there in the booth.

Sure, there are a few teams every year that can field a defense with 5 NFL quality athletes but none of them puts 11 defenders of that caliber on the field. So, a young QB who was a standout in college still has never seen or had to deal with opposition that is nearly as competent as the ones he will face in the NFL. The performance of many college QBs “looks better than it is” to the eyes of a scout and the stat lines gathered up by many college QBs “produce numbers that will never be close to duplicated” when faced with NFL defenses. My point here is that the evaluation process is inherently flawed no matter which approach a team chooses. The basis of that inherent flaw is the fundamental difference between college football and NFL football.

    [Aside: I believe this is the same “problem” that faces the “analysts” who assign five-star ratings to high school players as they graduate to college football and why so many five-star recruits turn out to be something less than that.]

If my hypothesis is correct, that would explain to some degree why teams drafting QBs in the first round have a roughly equal chance of making a Worthwhile Selection (41.25%) as they do in drafting a Bust (38.75%). The reason you are not likely to read many reports that champion this hypothesis is that the logical consequence of this hypothesis being correct has significant economic consequences – none of them positive – for segments of the sporting world:

    All the folks who spend months trumpeting their “draft boards” on radio and TV leading from the kickoff of the college season to late April would lose stature – – and income.

    All the folks who produce Mock Drafts – there is at least one out already for the 2017 NFL Draft! – would have to do so in sotto voce.

    All the folks who earn their livings traveling to college campuses to watch practices and then college games and talking to coaches might see their expense accounts curtailed.

There is little reason for lots of people even to think along the lines presented here. That does not mean they are right any more than it means I am right. I said what I put forth is a hypothesis not a law.

Another aspect of the drafting of first round QBs that is interesting based on the data from yesterday is that there are good years for QBs and there are bad years for QBs. However, the “bad years for QBs” break down into two categories:

    Bad Year Alpha: No QBs taken in the first round at all indicates that whatever methods of analysis were used to evaluate the crop of eligible QBs in that year found all of them “wanting”.

    Bad Year Beta: Teams that took a QB in the first round got a bust – no matter where they took their QB in the first round.

There were 4 Bad Year Alphas:

    1984: Despite the fact that no QBs went in the first round, there were 3 QBs taken in later rounds who had significant success:

      Boomer Esiason (Round 2) and Jeff Hostetler (Round 3) both took teams to the Super Bowl game.

      Jay Schroeder (Round 3) took a team to the AFC Championship game.

    1985: The best NFL QBs from this crop were Randall Cunningham (Round 2) and Doug Flutie (Round 11).

    1988: Stan Humphries (Round 6) led the Chargers to the Super Bowl once.

    1996: In retrospect, there is a good reason no team took a QB in the first round this year. When you have to debate “Who was the best QB taken this year?” and your choices are Danny Kannel and Tony Banks …

Call those “Bad Year Alphas” bleak all you want, the six Bad Year Betas listed below are much worse because in those years, teams that needed QB help spent a valuable asset – a first round pick – and no matter who they chose, they came up dry.

    1981: The Packers used the #6 overall pick on Rich Campbell. I must confess that I had forgotten the name “Rich Campbell” in the context of “football player” at either the college or NFL level until I did the research to write yesterday’s data compilation.

    1991: The Seahawks took Dan McGwire at #16 and the Raiders took Todd Marinovich at #24. Not only did both of them miss badly with those picks, they managed to pass on Brett Favre who was drafted in Round 2.

    1992: The Bengals took David Klingler at #6 and the Broncos took Tommy Maddox at # 25. Neither team got much of a return on their investment here…

    1997: The Niners took Jim Druckenmiller at #26. If he was the answer for the Niners, I do not know what the question was…

    2002: Talk about a Bad Year Beta for first round QBs… I doubt that anyone unrelated by blood to these three draftees would suggest that they had laudable NFL careers:

      David Carr #1 to the Texans
      Joey Harrington #3 to the Lions
      Patrick Ramsey #32 to the Skins

    2007: The Raiders spent the overall #1 pick on JaMarcus Russell and the Browns used the #22 pick to take Brady Quinn. That is simply depressing…

Before I wrap this up, allow me to let a bit of sunshine into the discussion here. There were banner years/vintage crops of NFL QBs in 3 of the drafts over the last 35 years. The first round in those years was highly productive:

    1983: John Elway, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino

    1995: Steve McNair and Kerry Collins

    2004: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The data suggest that taking a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft is a gamble. Sometimes it hits and the return on “investment” is huge; other times you go home with a hole in your pocket. Therefore, it seems appropriate at this point to offer up a few observations that folks have made with regard to the subject of gambling:

“In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win.” (George Bernard Shaw)

And …

“Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.” (John Dewey)

And …

“Luck never gives; it only lends.” (Swedish Proverb)

And …

“A gambler never makes the same mistake twice. It’s usually three or more times.” (Unknown) [Aside: the Browns have drafted a QB in the first round of the draft 4 times since 1999 and all of them have been Busts.]

Finally, I hope these last two Topical Rants have been satisfactory to “david” whose comment 6 weeks ago got me started. I enjoyed the data compilation and the fact that the data got me thinking about why only about 40% of first round QBs turn out to be Good Players or Franchise Players was a plus. So, let me say that if any other readers have thoughts about what might be interesting topics in the future, I remain happy to entertain them.

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

First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter One

Back on 16 March 2016, a reader signed in as “david” suggested – in a comment – that I do a review of quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft who did little or nothing for the team that took them. Here is his comment in full:

“You should do a piece on first round qb’s that have bombed out after confuting little or nothing to the team that drafted them. It would be an interesting trip down memory lane!”

That sounded like a good idea – and a lot of research work. So, I thought about how to do something meaningful along those lines while committing myself to a reasonable expenditure of effort. I knew from the outset that I was not going to go back to the mid-1930s and look at every NFL Draft in history. I will leave that sort of thing to the team of Mel Kiper, Sr. and Mel Kiper, Jr.

Here is what I decided to try to do. I would look at all of the NFL Drafts back to 1980 and specifically look at each QB taken in the first round year by year. I will categorize those quarterbacks in 4 groupings:

    Franchise Player
    Good Player
    Straphanger
    Bust

I would then try to point out QBs who went below Round 1 who turned out – possibly – to fit in either of the top two categories here and I will look to see if any great players at other positions were taken a pick or two below any of the Round 1 QBs who were a Bust. The reason for that sort of “piling on” is to demonstrate what benefit may have accrued to the team making the bad selection.

So, with those ground rules, let me begin this trip down Memory Lane in 1980:

    Overall #15: Marc Wilson – Oakland Raiders: He was with the Raiders for 8 years and then the Pats for another 2 years. The fact that he lasted 10 years in the league means he could not have been a Bust but he was nothing more than a Straphanger. Over his career he threw 86 TDs and 102 INTs. Meh!

    Overall #28: Mark Malone – Pittsburgh Steelers: He lasted 7 years with the Steelers and then 1 year each with the Chargers and the Jets. Like Wilson, he was a Straphanger based on longevity in the league. For his career, he threw 60 TDs and 81 INTs.

    Probably the best QB taken that year below the first round was Eric Hipple in the 4th round by the Detroit Lions.

In 1981:

    Overall #6: Rich Campbell – Green Bay Packers: He was with the Packers for 4 seasons starting 0 games and appearing in only 7 games. I think you would have to say he was a Bust taken with the #6 pick in the first round.

      Two picks later, the Niners took Ronnie Lott who managed to go on to a Hall of Fame career…

    In later rounds in that draft, Neil Lomax went in the 2nd round and Wade Wilson went in the 8th round. They were probably the cream of the QB crop that year.

Moving ahead to 1982:

    Overall #4: Art Schlichter – Baltimore Colts: If I have to justify to you why I put Schlichter in the “Bust” category, you probably should not read on much further.

      Just 4 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Mike Munchak who was a Hall of Fame quality OL for 12 years and just 6 picks later the LA Raiders took Marcus Allen who too went on to a Hall of Fame career.

    Overall #5: Jim McMahon – Chicago Bears: He won a Super Bowl with “Da Bears” and was in the NFL for 15 seasons with 6 different teams. He was certainly a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of that draft, there were no good QBs taken; perhaps the best of that lot was Mike Pagel – also taken by the Colts in Round 4.

Let me just say that the 1983 NFL Draft was a vintage year for QBs:

    Overall #1: John Elway – Baltimore Colts traded to Denver Broncos: Clearly a Franchise Player and a Hall of Fame inductee, John Elway is certainly one of the Top Ten QBs ever to play in the NFL – and maybe one of the Top Three.

    Overall #7: Todd Blackledge – KC Chiefs: I would have to put Blackledge in the “Bust Category” given where he was taken and which other QBs were still on the board when the Chiefs took him. He hung around for 7 seasons but only appeared in 46 games. For his career, his completion percentage was only 48.1%

      Just 2 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Bruce Matthews who merely spent the next 19 seasons as an anchor of the Oilers’/Titans’ offensive lines and made it to the Hall of Fame.

    Overall #14: Jim Kelly – Buffalo Bills: He may never have won a Super Bowl but he was the QB of a team that went there 4 years in a row and he is in the Hall of Fame. Obviously, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #15: Tony Eason – New England Patriots: He had an 8-year career and was the starting QB for the Pats in the Super Bowl against the Bears – which did not end well for the Pats. Nonetheless, I would have to categorize him as a Straphanger.

    Overall #24: Ken O’Brien – NY Jets: He had a 10-year career, 9 of which were with the Jets. He threw 128 TDs in his career against 98 INTs. I would put him on the list of Good Players.

    Overall #27: Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins: He is very deservedly in the Hall of Fame and therefore fits in here as a Franchise Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1983 NFL Draft, the next QB taken was not until the 5th round. Babe Laufenberg was taken in Round 6 and became “famous” in DC as an “Exhibition Game Wonderboy” and Gary Kubiak was taken in Round 8 and went on to a long backup-QB career and now a Super Bowl winning coach.

After the bonanza of QBs the year before, here is what happened in 1984:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 38th pick; it was Boomer Esiason by the Cincy Bengals. Jeff Hostetler and Jay Schroeder were both taken in Round 3 that year.

In 1985:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft once again.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 37th pick; it was Randall Cunningham by the Philly Eagles.

    Way down in Round 11 with the 285th overall pick, the LA Rams took Doug Flutie…

Now on to 1986:

Overall #3: Jim Everett – Houston Oilers: Everett spent most of his 11-year career with the LA Rams. He was a Good Player; for his career he threw 203 TDs to 175 INTs and completed 57.7% of his passes for his career.

Overall #12: Chuck Long – Detroit Lions: He was in the NFL 6 years but only appeared in 26 games. He started 21 games and the team record in those games was 4-17. His stats are underwhelming and even giving him some leeway because he played for the Lions, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

    Surprisingly, since the Lions are as hexed a franchise as there is, they did not miss out on any Hall of Fame quality players near their pick of Chuck Long in the 1986 draft. John Williams was available; he went to the Seahawks where he had a 10-year career with 2 Pro Bowl years.

In the later rounds of the 1986 draft, Bubby Brister went in the 3rd round to the Steelers. Mark Rypien went in the 6th round to the Skins; he had one GREAT year and won a Super Bowl with the Skins.

In 1987:

    Overall #1: Vinny Testaverde – Tampa Bay Bucs: Simply based on the fact that he played NFL football for 21 years – he started 6 games for the Panthers in 2007 at age 44 – I have to categorize him as a Good Player.

    Overall #6: Kelly Stouffer – St. Louis Cardinals: He played parts of 4 seasons for the Seahawks and for his career he threw 7 TDs and 19 INTs. I think you have to call him a Bust.

      Three picks after Stouffer, the Eagles picked Jerome Brown who had an excellent career cut short by a fatal traffic incident and four picks after Stouffer the Steelers took Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson.

    Overall #13: Chris Miller – Atlanta Falcons: He was in the NFL for 10 seasons – 7 of which were with the Falcons. He threw 123 TDs and only 102 INTs but unless you are one of the Falcon Faithful, I suspect you cannot recall any critical moment in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #26: Jim Harbaugh – Chicago Bears: He was in the NFL for 14 years started in 5 playoff games; threw more TDs than INTs and completed 58.8% of his throws. He was a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1987 draft, the New England Patriots took Rich Gannon in Round 4. He was a 4-time Pro Bowl selection and was All Pro 3 times in his career and he was the QB for the Raiders in the Super Bowl. In Round 10, the Green Bay Packers took Don Majkowski whose “claim to fame” is that when he was injured, the guy who took over his job was someone named Bret Favre…

Moving ahead to 1988:

    There were no QBs taken in Round 1 in 1988. In fact, there were no QBs taken in Round 2 that year either.

    The first QB taken was in Round 3; it was Tom Tupa taken by the Phoenix Cardinals. Tupa would have a much longer career as a punter in the NFL than as a QB.

    Perhaps the best QB in this draft was Stan Humphries taken in Round 6 by the Skins. Humphries was the QB of the Chargers’ team that was the AFC Champion in 1994.

The 1989 NFL Draft was a good one overall if not rich in QBs:

    Overall #1: Troy Aikman – Dallas Cowboys: He is a multiple Super Bowl winner and a member of the Hall of Fame. Clearly, he is a Franchise Player.

      The pick after Aikman was monumental bust, Tony Mandarich.

      However, after Manderich, the next 3 players taken all wound up in the Hall of Fame – Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

    In the later rounds, the QB who had the “best” NFL career was Rodney Peete.

In 1990:

    Overall #1: Jeff George – Indiana Colts: From his right shoulder to the fingertips on his right hand, Jeff George was a great QB. His problem is that he wore out his welcome on 5 teams between 1990 and 2001. His physical skills are too great to call him a Bust but his behavior demands that he be nothing more than a Straphanger.

    Overall #7: Andre Ware – Detroit Lions: He was on the Lions’ roster for 4 seasons. In that time, he started 6 games and produced no stats that made anyone sit up and take notice. He was a Bust.

      10 picks later in the 1990 NFL Draft, the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith who had more than an excellent career in the NFL.

    In the later rounds, Neil O’Donnell went to the Steelers in Round 3. Scott Mitchell went to the Dolphins in Round 4. John Friez went to the Chargers in Round 6.

If the 1990 draft looked like slim pickings at QB, just wait until you see 1991:

    Overall #16: Dan McGwire – Seattle Seahawks: One of his claims to fame is that he is Mark McGwire’s brother. He was on the Seahawks’ roster for 4 years and then he played 1 game for the Dolphins. He appeared in 13 games and started 5. I cannot convince myself that he was anything other than a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Cincy Bengals took DE, Alfred Williams who registered 59.5 sacks over his career.

    Overall #24: Todd Marinovich – LA Raiders: He was on the Raiders’ roster for 2 years and did nothing notable on the field. Off the field, he had more than a few substance abuse issues. He was clearly a Bust.

      One pick after Marinovich was taken, the Niners took DL Ted Washington who was an anchor at that position for years.

    In the later rounds of the 1991 draft, the Atlanta Falcons took Brett Favre in the 2nd round and then traded him away to Green Bay a year later.

The QB drought continued into 1992:

    Overall #6: David Klingler – Cincy Bengals: In six years in the NFL, Klingler started 24 games and his record in those games was 4-20. Need I say more…? He was a Bust.

      Two picks later the Atlanta Falcons selected Bob Whitfield who was an excellent OT over a career that spanned 220 games.

    Overall #25: Tommy Maddox – Denver Broncos: He did nothing for the Broncos, the Rams or the Giants before being ushered out of the NFL for about 5 years. He was a star QB in the XFL and then played for the Steelers for a couple of years. His best season was in 2002 when he started 11 games and led the Steelers to a 7-3-1 record in those games. Overall, I would call him a Bust as a first round pick.

      Six picks later, the Bengals took Carl Pickens who was a stalwart WR over a 129 game NFL career.

    In the later rounds of the 1992 draft, the QBs who had the “best careers” were probably Craig Ericson and/or Jeff Blake. See what I mean about a QB drought…?

Moving on to 1993:

    Overall #1: Drew Bledsoe – New England Patriots: Over a 14-year NFL career, Bledsoe averaged 230 yards per game passing and threw 251 TDs as opposed to 206 INTs. He once threw for 4555 yards in a single season. He led the Pats to the Super Bowl against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I would say he was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #2: Rick Mirer – Seattle Seahawks: He spent 4 years with the Seahawks and one year with the Bears before bouncing around to several other teams. His 50 TDs compared to 76 INTs is not very good; his 24-44 record in games that he started at QB is not very good either. Had he played a bit longer, I would have called him a Straphanger but with his short career and his being the overall #2 pick, I have to label him a Bust.

      Six picks after the Seahawks took Mirer, the New Orleans Saints selected OT Willie Roaf who was a dominant OT for 189 games and is now a member of the Hall of Fame.

    In the later rounds of the 1993 draft, the Packers took Mark Brunell in the 5th round; that was a “value pick”. In the 8th round, the Chargers took Trent Green.

Turning the page to 1994:

    Overall #3: Washington Skins – Heath Shuler: He was a Bust – plain and simple as that. Too add insult to injury, several years after the NFL bid him goodbye, Shuler returned to DC as a member of the US Congress whereupon he reprised his non-performing behavior.

      With the next pick after Heath Shuler, the New England Patriots took Willie McGinnest. He was anything but a Bust…

    Overall #6: Trent Dilfer – Tampa Bay Bucs: He was neither great nor awful for the Bucs over the first 6 years of his career. In 2000 he stepped in for an injured Tony Banks at QB and the Ravens went on to win Super Bowl XXXV. He was a backup in Seattle for 4 seasons and then was the starter for Cleveland for most of 2006. Overall, I would label him a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds that year, the next QB taken went in the 4th round. His name was Perry Klein and he went to the Falcons. If his name rings no bells for you, that might be because he never completed a pass in an NFL game. Probably the most accomplished QB in the late rounds of the 1994 draft was Gus Frerotte taken by the Skins in the 7th round. This was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1995:

    Overall #3: Steve McNair – Houston Oilers: Over his long career, he threw 174 TDs and only 119 INTs. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Kerry Collins – Carolina: He had an 18-year career in the NFL with 6 teams. He led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game and the Giants to the Super Bowl game against the Ravens. I would call him a Franchise Player. If you were to argue vehemently that he should be “downgraded” to a Good Player, I would offer token resistance.

    In the later rounds of the 1995 draft, Todd Collins went to the Bills in the 2nd round and Kordell Stewart went to the Steelers in the 2nd round.

Moving on to 1996:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

    In the later rounds, Tony Banks was the first QB taken; he went in the 2nd round to the St. Louis Rams. Banks was the most accomplished QB in this year’s draft. Probably the second most accomplished QB was Danny Kannel who went in the 4th round to the Giants. Once again, this was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1997:

    Overall #26: Jim Druckenmiller – SF 49ers: He appeared in all of 6 games in his career throwing 1 TD and 4 INTs. I think he is a Bust.

      About 10 picks later, the NY Giants selected Tiki Barber who had a more than adequate NFL career before going on to have a less than adequate broadcasting career.

    In the later rounds, the Arizona Cardinals took Jake Plummer in the 2nd round. Plummer was probably the only QB in this draft of any consequence – unless you count Koy Detmar who as a 7th round pick appeared in 104 NFL games.

QBs were at the top of the draft list in 1998:

    Overall #1: Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts: He is a Franchise Player; there is no need to discuss that further.

    Overall #2: Ryan Leaf – San Diego Chargers: He is a Bust; there is no need to discuss that further.

      Two picks after Ryan Leaf, the Oakland Raiders selected Charles Woodson who is not yet in the Hall of Fame but will be soon enough.

    In the later rounds, the Lions took Charlie Batch in the 2nd round and the Broncos took Brian Griese in the 3rd round. However, the biggest “value pick” that year was the Packers selection of Matt Hasselbeck late in the 6th round.

QBs were once again at the top of the draft list in 1999:

    Overall #1: Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns: He started 59 games for the Browns over 5 seasons and his record in those games was 22-37. Even factoring in that he was taken by an expansion franchise, he was a Bust.

    Overall #2: Donovan McNabb – Philly Eagles: He led the Eagles to the playoffs 7 times and to the Super Bowl once. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #3: Akili Smith – Cincy Bengals: He started 17 games over 4 seasons with the Bengals. His record in those games was 3-14. He was a stone-cold Bust.

      Two of the three QBs taken here were Busts so let us look at what was available soon after these three picks. Well, the next 4 picks in this draft were:

        Edgerrin James
        Ricky Williams
        Tory Holt
        Champ Bailey

      ‘Nuff said…

    Overall #11: Duante Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings: He was a Good Player until he encountered a horrific knee injury.

    Overall #12: Cade McNown – Chicago Bears: He lasted 2 years with the Bears and started 15 games with a record of 3-12. He was a Bust.

      Three picks after McNown, Booger McFarland went to the Bucs and the pick after that was Jevon Kearse who went to the Titans.

    In the later rounds this year, Shaun King was taken in the 2nd round by the Bucs and Aaron Brooks was taken in the 4th round by the Saints. They had the best careers of any other late round QBs in this draft. While neither King nor Brooks had good careers, they were more valuable than Couch, Smith and McNown who were in that first round tsunami of QBs.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2000:

Overall #18: Chad Pennington – NY Jets: He had an 11-year career with the Jets and Dolphins. Overall as a starter, he was 44-37. He was a Good Player.

In the later rounds this year, Tom Brady famously went to the Patriots in the 6th round with the 199th overall pick. The only other late-round QB who had any sort of career other than stop-gap was Marc Bulger taken in the 3rd round.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2001: (Is there an echo here?)

    Overall #1: Michael Vick – Atlanta: Before his conviction involving the dogfighting business, which cost him two years for “violation of the league personal conduct policy” because he was in jail, Vick had 6 productive seasons with the Falcons. Overall, he was a Good Player even though for part of his career he was not a “Good Person”.

    In the later rounds, the Chargers took Drew Brees with the first pick of the 2nd round and Brees continues to have an excellent career through today. Of the other QBs taken, AJ Feeley – taken in the 5th round by the Eagles – probably had the best career.

In 2002:

    Overall #1: David Carr – Houston Texans: He did not have a long or a distinguished career but part of that “failure” has to be attributed to the fact that he played behind a terrible expansion-team offensive line. In his first 4 seasons with the Texans, he was the most-sacked QB in the league for 3 of those seasons; in 2002, he was sacked 76 times in 16 games. As an overall #1 pick, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

      The player taken immediately after David Carr was Julius Peppers by the Carolina Panthers.

    Overall #3: Joey Harrington – Detroit Lions: Clearly, he was a Bust. What surprised me in checking his stats is that he started 76 games in the NFL. If I had guessed prior to peeking at the stats, I would have guessed 30.

      Two picks later, the Chargers selected Quentin Jammer who was a good DB for about 10 years.

    Overall # 32: Patrick Ramsey – Washington Skins: He played on some bad teams; but, importantly, he did not make them much better. He was a Bust.

      The Skins had the rest of the draft to select from instead of Ramsey but did not because – according to Danny Boy Snyder – he had “found” Ramsey at Tulane so the Skins traded up into the first round to get him for the “Owner/Scout”.

    In the later rounds of the 2002 draft, the QB pickings were slim. Josh McCown went in Round 3 to the Arizona Cardinals; while he is not any sort of “difference-maker”, he has had a longer and significantly better career than any of the first-round QBs from this year. David Garrard was taken by the Jags in Round 4; he was the only other QB in this draft of note.

After the bleak results of 2002, things improved – sort of – in 2003:

    Overall #1: Carson Palmer – Cincy Bengals: He is still going strong with the Cardinals; when I look at his career as a whole, I would call him a Franchise Player.

    Overall #7: Byron Leftwich – Jax Jaguars: He was in the NFL through 2012; however, in his 10-year career, he only played in 60 games. He threw 58 TDs and only 42 INTs in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #19: Kyle Boller – Baltimore Ravens: I remember one of the talking heads saying that Boller could throw a football through the uprights from 50 yards away with one knee on the ground. Wonderful – – except QBs never do anything like that. He was Bust.

      Two picks later, the Browns took Jeff Faine who was one of the best centers in the league for about 10 years.

    Overall #22: Rex Grossman – Chicago Bears: I read recently that Grossman is technically not yet retired even though he has not been on an NFL team since 2013. In his 11 seasons, he has led a team to a Super Bowl game (Bears in 2006) but he has only appeared in a total of 54 games in his entire career. I will categorize him as a Straphanger because of that one season in Chicago, but if you want to call him a Bust, be my guest.

    In the later rounds, Seneca Wallace taken by the Seahawks in Round 4 had the most distinguished career.

Things improved significantly for QBs in 2004:

    Overall #1: Eli Manning – San Diego Chargers traded to the NY Giants: He has won 2 Super Bowls; he has thrown 294 TDs and only 199 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #4: Philip Rivers – NY Giants traded to the San Diego Chargers: He has thrown 281 TDs and only 135 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #11: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers: Come on now, of course he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #22: JP Losman – Buffalo Bills: He only played in 45 games in the NFL and in my less-than-kinder moments I sometimes referred to him as “JP Loser-man”. He was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the St. Louis Rams took RB, Steven Jackson, who has gained a total of 11,438 yards to date.

    In the later rounds in 2004, the Falcons took Matt Schaub in the 3rd round. He was the only QB in the later rounds who did anything of note in the NFL.

In 2005:

    Overall #1: Alex Smith – SF 49ers: He is the Rodney Dangerfield of QBs; he is a lot better than his critics make him out to be. As a starter, he is 68-52-1; he has thrown 142 TDs with only 83 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player. If you think he is a Good Player, I will argue that he is a Very Good Player…

    Overall #24: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers: Without question, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #25: Jason Campbell – Washington Skins: The Skins traded up to get him and all they got was a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds, Kyle Orton went in the 4th round to the Bears, Derek Anderson went in the 6th round to the Ravens and Matt Cassel went in the 7th round to the Pats. Of the late round selections this year, Ryan Fitzpatrick went in the 7th round to the Rams and I was surprised to see that he has thrown for more than 23,000 yards in his career.

After two productive years, things were a bit lean in 2006:

    Overall #3: Vince Young – Tennessee Titans: He only played in 60 games and threw more INTs than TDs. He was a Bust.

      The next pick in this draft was D’Brickashaw Ferguson by the Jets. Ferguson has been a bellwether left tackle through last season.

    Overall #10 Matt Leinart – Arizona Cardinals: Plain and simple, he was a Bust.

    Overall #11 Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears: I was never a Cutler fan coming out of college. The player he reminds me of the most is Jeff George; Cutler has an outstanding arm and for some reason the rest of his being falls short. I will temporize here and declare him a Good Player – and I do not wish to argue about that.

      The Cardinals taking a Bust at #10 missed out on Hlati Ngota taken at #12. Ngota went to the Pro Bowl as a DT 5 times in 10 seasons.

    In the later rounds, Kellen Clemens went to the Jets in Round 2; Tarvaris Jackson went to the Vikes at the end of Round 2; Charlie Whitehurst went to the Chargers in Round 3 and Bruce Gradkowski went to the Bucs in Round 6.

QB pickings did not get much better in 2007:

Overall #1: JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders: I have referred to him as JaCarcass Russell. He was a mortal-lock Bust.

    The next two players taken after Russell were Calvin Johnson (by the Lions) and Joe Thomas (by the Browns). Johnson will go to the Hall of Fame; Thomas is way under-appreciated because he has played for bad teams.

Overall #22: Brady Quinn – Cleveland Browns: He only played in 24 games in a career that lasted until 2012. He was a Bust.

    Six picks later, the Niners took OT Joe Staley who was a critical player on a solid OL and is still a good player.

In the later rounds, you tell me who was the pick of this litter:

    Kevin Kolb – Round 2 to the Eagles
    Drew Stanton – Round 2 to the Lions
    Trent Edwards – Round 3 to the Bills
    Troy Smith – Round 5 to the Ravens
    Tyler Thigpen – Round 7 to the Vikes.

Things got slightly better in 2008:

    Overall #3: Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons: I think he is a Good Player but I realize that many folks think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #18: Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens: He has a Super Bowl ring and he earned it. He is another guy I could put in the Franchise Player category or the Good Player category. I lean toward Good Player.

    In the later rounds in 2008, only Chad Henne (Round 2 to the Dolphins) and Matt Flynn (Round 7 to the Packers) ever did much of anything in the NFL.

In 2009:

    Overall #1: Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions: Playing for the Lions is the NFL version of the Sisyphus Myth. Every season, they start to roll the rock up the hill only to have it roll down and crush them by December – at the latest. Stafford has played very well for very bad teams. He has thrown 163 TDs and only 98 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Mark Sanchez – NY Jets: He was the QB for a defense-led team that made it to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row. He was also the author/creator of the “butt-fumble”. He is not a Bust but he is surely no better than a Straphanger.

    Overall #17: Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Bucs: Sorry, I think he was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Eagles took WR Jeremy Maclin and 4 picks later the Browns took Alex Mack. ‘Nuff said…

    In the later rounds, Keith Null (Round 6 to the Rams) has probably been the most productive QB taken. Yowza!

In 2010:

Overall #1: Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams: He has a good TD/INT record with 78 TDs to only 52 INTs. He seems “injury-prone” and for an overall #1 pick he has been a disappointment. I think he is a Straphanger.

Overall # 22 Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos: To my mind, Tim Tebow is a better running version of Mark Sanchez but a poorer throwing version of Mark Sanchez. The NFL is a passing league and Tebow is not a passer. He made the most of his opportunities but he just does not have the “skill-set” that the NFL of today demands. I will call him a Straphanger knowing full well that many will argue that he is a Bust.

In the later rounds of the 2010 draft, Jimmy Claussen went to the Panthers in the 2nd round; Colt McCoy went to the Browns in the 3rd round and John Skelton went to the Cardinals in the 5th round. Pickings were slim for QBs in 2010.

At this point it starts to get more difficult to assign categories to players other than ones who have already shown that they cannot play dead in a Western movie. Players taken from 2011 through 2015 are still adding to their bodies of work. I will continue to make category assignments, but I reserve the right to change them in a few years after more precincts report in. With that as preamble …

In 2011:

    Overall #1: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers: I think he is a Franchise Player and could be on a career trajectory aimed at Canton, Ohio.

    Overall #8: Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans: Perhaps due to injury or perhaps due to insufficient talent, he is a Bust.

      The next player taken in this draft was Tyron Smith who has been an All-Pro selection and a 3-time Pro Bowl selection at OT for the Cowboys.

    Overall #10: Blaine Gabbert – Jax Jaguars: He was on some horrid teams in Jax behind some porous OLs. I will be generous and label him a Straphanger.

    Overall #12: Christian Ponder – Minnesota Vikes: He did not play in 2015 but I was surprised to learn that he is not yet retired. In any case, he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Rams took DE, Robert Quinn who has been to the Pro Bowl twice already.

    In the later rounds, Andy Dalton went to the Bengals in the 2nd round and Colin Kaepernick went to the Niners in the 2nd round. Neither Dalton nor Kaepernick compare to Cam Newton, but each is better than the other guys taken in the first round. Tyrod Taylor went to the Ravens in Round 6 and may have found a home in Buffalo as a starting QB.

In 2012:

    Overall #1: Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts: I think Luck is a Franchise Player who needs the “luxury” of playing with a competent OL and even a half-decent running game.

    Overall #2: Robert Griffin III – Washington Skins: He was great as a rookie and suffered an injury in a playoff game. Since that moment, he has stunk; there is no polite way to say that. The film from that great rookie year will keep giving him opportunities in the NFL – barring another catastrophic injury – and I think he is destined to be a Straphanger. [Aside: He will play behind a horrid OL in Cleveland this year so my mention of “catastrophic injury” here is not something that is out of the question.]

    Overall #8: Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins: I think he is on the cusp between a Straphanger and a Good Player. For now, I lean toward Straphanger but I can be convinced to change my mind here.

    Overall #22: Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns: Someday, he may rise up and qualify as a Straphanger; as of now, I think he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Steelers took OG, David DeCastro who has already been an All-Pro selection.

    In the later rounds, the Broncos took Brock Osweiler in Round 2; the jury is still out on him. The Seahawks took Russel Wilson in Round 3; he looks like a Franchise Player. The Eagles took Nick Foles in Round 3 and the Skins took Kirk Cousins in Round 4. Overall, 2012 was a good year for QBs…

In 2013:

    Overall #16: EJ Manuel – Buffalo Bills: He has thrown more TDs than INTs but his average passing yards per game is down around 150 yards per game. Maybe I am getting soft in my advanced age, but I will call him a Straphanger for now but can easily see him descending to Bust one of these days.

    In the later rounds, the Jets took Geno Smith in Round 2. The Bucs took Mike Glennon in Round 3; believe it or not, he has thrown 29 TDs against only 15 INTs; when his rookie contract is up, he can leave Tampa and the shadow of Jameis Winston and get a job somewhere else.

In 2014:

Overall #3: Blake Bortles – Jax Jaguars: He needs an OL in front of him; he has been sacked 106 times in his two years in the NFL. I think he is a Good Player.

Overall #22: Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns: This guy’s life is a mess; he is as big a Bust as the one on Dolly Parton.

    The Browns traded up to get Manziel; they could have taken Kelvin Benjamin with that pick and done a lot better.

Overall #32: Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikes: I think he will become a Good Player over the course of his career.

In the later rounds of the 2014 draft, the Raiders took Derek Carr in the 2nd round; the Patriots took Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round and we may well get to see what he has in his arsenal in the first 4 games of the 2016 season if Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension stands. The Bengals took AJ McCarron in the 5th round and he played well when Andy Dalton got hurt last season.

And finally, in 2015:

    Overall #1: Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Bucs: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    Overall #2: Marcus Mariotta – Tennessee Titans: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    None of the other QBs taken in the 2015 draft have played sufficiently in the league to draw any conclusions.

So, these are the fruits of my labor in response to reader “david”. However, it would not be satisfying to leave it here. After all, this just represents a counting exercise with a tad of judgment added on top to give a breakdown. I think there is more to think about here – and I know that this is already longer than most folks would have wished for.

Therefore, there shall be a “Chapter Two” to follow this essay where I make some comments regarding first-round QBs and why – perhaps- we see the data distribution that we see here. Come back tomorrow…

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

NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2016

For new readers who have joined the parade here in the last 12 months, this is an annual feature. During the Fall, I watch a lot of college football games on TV because I like college football and I am retired. The essence of a “happy retirement” is doing things you like to do. Ergo

While I am watching the college games, I like to look for players who might make it in the NFL as a means of earning a living. I keep a notepad next to the TV while I am watching and make notes on those players. Now, I gather them together for the purpose of deciphering them and compiling a list of players I saw who should be part of the upcoming NFL Draft.

That tells you what this feature is. Now let me tell you what it is not:

    These are my opinions based on my watching games on TV. I do not travel to games; I do not go to watch practices; I do not talk to players or coaches; I am not part of any organized cadre of folks who share information.

    This is most definitely NOT a mock draft.

Given that method of “data collection” there are obvious shortcomings to the system here:

    1. I live on the East Coast and therefore, it is more convenient for me to watch games played in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Over the course of a season, I see more teams in that part of the country than I do teams in the West.

    2. Even though there are tons of college football games on every weekend, I tend to focus on ones involving bigger schools and major conferences. That means there will be lots of players from smaller schools that I will have never seen. Thus, I will have nothing to say about them here – unless –

    2a. Several folks have come to realize that I do this sort of thing every year and they know that I will not see small schools often. If they see a player at their school or a school local to their area that they think should be mentioned here, they send me an e-mail and I include it here with the notation that this comes from someone other than me.

    3. Since I do not see any team play every game on their schedule – and often see a team only once or twice during a season – I can easily miss an outstanding player who winds up going in the first round of the draft.

What makes sense is to go position by position and for me to try to collate my notes around that. So, let me start with the Quarterbacks and that leads me to demonstrate the limitations of this essay right away.

    Carson Wentz (N. Dak. St): When the Rams traded up to acquire the first pick in the draft, Sam Farmer of the LA Times said that they did so to draft Wentz. The very fact that a respected reporter would make such a statement has to mean that some folks in the NFL think Carson Wentz is a really good prospect. Here is my problem; I never saw him play. Wentz’ detractors say he played against inferior competition in college. To those people I would say:

      Joe Flacco (Delaware)
      Rich Gannon (Delaware)
      Steve McNair (Alcorn St.)
      Tony Romo (E. Illinois)
      Kurt Warner (N. Iowa)
      Doug Williams (Grambling) … you get the point.

    I do not mean to minimize the importance of top flight college competition, but there are sufficient examples of players “making the jump from Division 1-AA football to the NFL” with significant success in the NFL.

    Jared Goff (Cal): My notes say that he is “very accurate” and “hits receivers in stride”. To be sure, the fact that he played in a spread offense made some of those throws a tad easier than ones he will have to make in the NFL, but the tools are there. Reports say he is highly coveted by NFL scouts; I agree he could be a good first round pick.

    Paxton Lynch (Memphis): He is big; a screen graphic said he was 6’ 7” and 245 lbs. However, he is also mobile and fast. Importantly my notes say “throws accurately on the run”. That might be an important asset for him at the NFL level. I think he will go in the late first round; if he is still available at the end of the second round, a team will be getting a bargain.

    Cardale Jones (Ohio St.): Even after winning the College Football Championship Game two years ago, I was not sold on Jones. He is big and strong and there is no denying his arm strength, but I do not think he delivers the ball quickly or with impact. Here are my notes: “big and strong”, “fast enough on the run”, decent accuracy” “happy feet – seems to want to run rather than throw”. I would take him somewhere in the 4th or 5th round.

    Connor Cook (Mich St.): I think he is the latter-day Kirk Cousins. He is not flashy; he has a good enough arm but not a great one; he can move around a bit but he is not a mobile/running QB; he is neither very big nor very slight. What he does is play solid error-free football. Here are my notes: “good accuracy” “very good on sideline passes” “big enough to take hits in NFL”. I think he is a sleeper in this draft; many reports say he will go in the third round. I think he is good value pick if he is still there in the third round.

    Christian Hackenberg (Penn St.): Here are my notes: “plenty big enough” “limited mobility” “strong arm but questionable accuracy” “can throw the ball a mile”. I think he is a project for an NFL team but has the physical makeup to be worth the effort. Maybe he goes in the 4th or 5th round…?

    Jacoby Brisset (NC St.): Here are my notes: “big and quick” “accurate short passes but misses lots of downfield throws” “ball sailed on him 3 or 4 times today”. Like Hackenberg, I think Brisset is a project for an NFL team but he has the physical makeup to be worth the effort. Maybe he goes in the 4th or 5th round just after – or just before – Christian Hackenberg?

    Blake Frohnapfel (UMass): Here is the first of four contributions from a reader via e-mail. The writer is a UMass alum; I note that here in the spirit of full disclosure:

    “The NFL likes big QBs (Manning, Roethlisberger, Osweiler) and [Blake] Frohnapfel is 6’6” and 235 lbs. He throws deep better than other QBs in the conference [the MAC] … he is more mobile than 235 lbs ought to be. He is definitely a project for the NFL but I bet a team will sign him as a free agent after the draft.”

Let me move on to the Running Backs; there appear to be more than a couple of capable folks here even though the position of running back in the NFL seems to have been devalued over the past couple of years.

    Derrick Henry (Alabama): If he does not make it as a running back for some reason, a team could move him to offensive guard. This man is very large; a screen graphic said he was 247 lbs; I think he is bigger than that. Henry “runs with authority” and “punishes tacklers – who are smaller than him usually”. He is not a breakaway threat at the NFL level, but he is a valuable asset and should go in the first round or the early second round.

    Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio St.): If you want a running back a tad faster than Derrick Henry but not nearly as big, then this is your guy. I particularly liked his ability to “change direction and accelerate immediately”. He too will be taken in the first or early second round.

    Jordan Howard (Indiana): Dean Wormer told one of the Delts in Animal House that “fat drunk and stupid was no way to go through life”. Well, Howard is “big, strong and fast” and if you are a running back, that is indeed a good way to go through life. He did not get the attention that Elliot got simply because Elliot played on a very good team and Howard played on a mediocre team. But Howard can play and if he drops into the top of the 3rd round, some team will get themselves a bargain.

    Alex Collins (Arkansas): “Plays in a pro-style offense that features power running” “good straight ahead runner” “quick enough to an outside hole”. I think he is well-prepared to play in the NFL and should go by the end of the 3rd round.

    CJ Prosise (Notre Dame): “Converted to RB due to team injuries” just last year. It sure looked to me like he had been doing this all his life. “Catches the ball well” is another plus. Here is a minus, “needs to get a lot better pass blocking”. I think he is 4th round pick.

    Wendell Smallwood (West Virginia): He is not very big but he is quick and shifty when he gets the ball. He “catches well”. Here is my note that says some team needs to spend a pick on him late in the draft, “reminds me of Darren Sproles”.

    Soma Vainuku (USC): He is a fullback so there are a bunch of NFL teams that will not even consider him. However, if you need a fullback, this guy is “built low to the road” and “an excellent blocker”. He has “decent speed” but “not gonna break any 60-yard runs in the NFL”. He is listed at 5’11” and 246 lbs. I am not sure he is that tall… He should go in the fourth or fifth round to a team that uses a fullback.

    Troymaine Pope (Jacksonville St.): Here is a second information dump via e-mail from a reader. I never saw Jacksonville St play and would not know Troymaine Pope from Alexander Pope, Pope Francis or Helen of Troy. The e-mail came to me after Jax St. hammered Charleston Southern in the Division 1-AA tournament last year.

    “I watched [Troymaine Pope] run over, around and through [Charleston] Southern’s defense like it wasn’t there. [Pope] is very fast in the open field and can make tacklers miss with sharp cutting. You won’t see him on TV but I’m sure NFL scouts have already seen him.”

    [Aside: For the record, I looked up stats for the Jax St/Charleston Southern game and Troymaine Pope gained 250 yards rushing and scored 3 TDs in that game.]

Next up, let consider the Wide Receivers coming out of college this year.

    Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma): “Good speed” and “sharp cuts on pass routes” is a good way to start when talking about Shepard. Then add “soft hands/catches about everything” and you have a good prospect. I think he goes in the late first round.

    Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss): He suffered a grotesque leg and ankle injury in 2014 but sure looked like he fully recovered when I saw him in 2015. He is “big and strong” and “fast enough”. He has “long arms and soft hands”. I think he goes in the first round too.

    Will Fuller (Notre Dame): I liked his “straightaway speed” and that he “gets open deep”. My concern was “not very big”. I think he could go in the 3rd or 4th round.

    Charone Peake (Clemson): “Perfect size and build for NFL” and “willing and able blocker on run plays” says that he should get a shot to play for pay next year. I think he is a 3rd round pick.

    De’Runya Wilson (Miss St): He is “very big”. “Screen graphic said he was 6’ 5” and 230 lbs and he looks it”. He “catches the ball well” but he is “not real fast”. Given the size, a team should take a chance on him in the late rounds.

    Kenny Lawler (Cal): He “gets open and [Jared] Goff throws him the ball”. Then he catches the ball and Cal moves downfield. Lawler is “big enough” and “catches well” but is “not real fast”. He “could be a good possession receiver” so I guess he goes in the late rounds.

    Corey Coleman (Baylor): Coleman was a terror in the Baylor offensive system last year. However, the important words here are “in the Baylor offensive system”. He is fast and he has good hands and he runs decent routes. He is not very big. Some reports have him rated as the top WR coming out of college this year but I have seen far too many Baylor speedsters come to the NFL with little or no impact to take him in the early first round. Here are my notes: “blazing speed” and “shifty runner after a catch”. “Good hands” but “not very big”. He may be a star someday – – or not. If he were still on the board in the 3rd or 4th round, I would take him. But early in the first round …?

Next up should be the Tight Ends. However, as I have collated my notes from last season, I do not have any players identified with the Tight End position. So, this is the simplest section imaginable. Let me move on…

Moving on to the Offensive Linemen, I have a robust list here.

    Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss): Lots of folks touted him as the overall #1 pick until the Rams/Titans trade went down. My notes suggest that might be a fair place for him to be taken. Here are three comments: “absolutely dominates on drive blocks” “pass blocking is excellent” “the man is a monster”.

    Jack Conklin (Mich St.): I thought he was a “dominant drive blocker” and a “good enough pass blocker”. He seemed “a bit slow” which is not great for leading runs outside. He should go in the first two rounds.

    Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame): He is “quick on his feet” and a “dominant pass blocker”. He too should go in the first two rounds.

    Taylor Decker (Ohio State): Looking at my notes, he looks like Jack Conklin’s twin brother: “powerful run blocker” and “OK at pass protection”. Here is another guy who should go in the first two rounds.

    Kyle Murphy (Stanford): He “does everything well except block downfield” because he is “not fleet afoot”. He should also go in the first two rounds.

    Joshua Garnett (Stanford): He “controls his space” along the line and “opened some nice holes for Christian McCaffrey”. My notes say that I “would take [Kyle]Murphy first but take this guy next”. That means Garnett should go by the end of the second round.

    Ryan Kelly (Alabama): He played center for the Crimson Tide and “dominated the interior line play”. Obviously, coming from a Nick Saban coached team he has sound fundamentals. He should go in the second or third round.

    Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas): This team loved to run the ball inside and Tretola is “a bulldozer blocking straight ahead”. His pass blocking is “good but not great” and he does not “pick up blitzes well”. He will likely be taken in the later rounds.

    Denver Kirkland (Arkansas): He is another “very large man” on the OL for a team that loves power running. He is “not as powerful as [his teammate], Tretola, but I think he is “a better pass blocker”. He will go somewhere near where Tretola goes in the draft.

    Vadal Alexander (LSU): “This man is huge” but at the same time “he can lead run plays”. The best thing about him is his “drive blocking on inside runs”. I would guess he is gone by the end of the third round.

    Caleb Benenock (UCLA): I liked his “good quickness and agility” and the fact that he was an “effective pass blocker”. He should go in the middle rounds of the draft.

    Austin Blythe (Iowa): He was the center on an offensive line that led Iowa to a Top Ten ranking last year. I thought he was “excellent in pass protection”, “quick enough to get a block on the OLB on sweeps” and “agile for such a large man”. I think he can go in the middle rounds this year.

    Siaosi Aiono (Utah): Frankly, I do not recall seeing Utah play last year but according to my notes, Aiono is “a fireplug” that can “block and move with agility”. If accurate, those sorts of notes suggest a late round pick.

Moving over to defense, let me start with the Defensive Line. I did not realize as I was making my notes that there would be a very distinctive SEC flavor to my listing – but that is how it turned out.

Before getting to my list, there are plenty of draft reports/analyses that have Sheldon Rankins (Louisville) and Vernon Butler (La Tech) as top-shelf defensive linemen. I did not see La Tech play last year so I have nothing on Butler; I did see Louisville play but have nothing in my notes on Rankins. That does not mean he is not a good prospect; what it means is that I did not make any note of his play in the particular game(s) I saw.

    Jarran Reed (Alabama): He is a “run-stuffer” who “is not pushed around even by a double-team”. He can generate “middle pressure against the pass” but he is “no so good on stunts where he goes outside”. I think he is a first round pick.

    A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama): He is also a “run-stuffer” who “dominates inside”. I read some pre-draft reports that say Robinson does not play hard all the time and often just mails it in. If that is indeed the case, then any coach who can motivate him to play hard all the time will have a gem on his hand. If what I saw was nonchalant play, I wonder what he would be like if he were driven… I think he also goes in the first round.

    Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): He “generates inside pass pressure all the time” and is fast enough so that he “gets in on run plays to the outside”. I also wrote “natural athlete”. The downside here is that Nkemdiche has had some off-field issues one of which involved the gendarmes and marijuana. Based on football, he should go in the first round. Based on his potential for meatheadedness, …

    Joey Bosa (Ohio St.): He was double-teamed about half the time because “he explodes off the snap” and “can push OTs around”. Lots of folks think he will go in the top 5 picks; I would not argue with that.

    Shaq Lawson (Clemson): He “plays the run very well” and “can rush the passer inside or outside”. He is a DE and not an OLB because I never saw him have any pass coverage responsibilities. For a team willing to play him at DE only, this is a first round pick.

    Kevin Dodd (Clemson): He is “strong and quick” and “gets good pressure on the QB”. Question:

      Is he good because teams are focused on double teaming Shaq Lawson on the other side of the formation? I think he goes behind Lawson in the draft – – but not more than one round behind.

    DeForest Buckner (Oregon): “Biggest college DE I can recall” and “really long arms” gives you an idea that he has the physical tools to be a DE in the NFL. He “rushes the passer well” and is “strong on runs to his side”. I do not think he can be an OLB because he is “not very fast” so he would probably have difficulty in pass coverage. I think Joey Bosa will be the first DE taken; after that, either Buckner or Shaq Lawson will be the next.

    Chris Jones (Miss St.): He is “big and very strong” and “quick in pursuit of outside run plays”. I also noted “hustles on every play”. He looks like a guy to go in the first two rounds somewhere.

    Carl Nassib (Penn St.): “Generates pressure on every pass play except when they drop him into coverage”. Another positive note was “hustles every play for the whole play”. This guy is a DE who might be able to convert to an OLB or a pass rush specialist. I think he goes in the 3rd or 4th round.

    Chris Mayes (Georgia): A screen graphic said he was 6’ 4” and 335 lbs. My comment was “Is that all?” Mayes is very large and not very mobile. He “does not rush passer well” but “he can be a nose tackle in the NFL”. I see him going in the middle rounds this year.

    DJ Reader (Clemson): “Nose-tackle prospect for any 3-4 team in the NFL” gives you an idea what I thought of this guy. He will go in the middle rounds.

    Sheldon Day (Notre Dame): He is “built like a bowling ball” and is “really quick for a D-lineman”. He is “not gonna knock down any passes on the inside” but he “will generate pass pressure”. He looks like a middle round pick to me.

    Travis Britz (Kansas St.): He “plays the run well” and he has “enough speed to generate pass pressure”. Also, “plenty of hustle”. He is a late round guy…

Next up are the Linebackers. In many years, I have more players on this list than any other position; that is not the case this year.

Let me note that lots of folks think Myles Jack – late of UCLA – is the top linebacker in the draft this year. I did not see him play because he was injured for the entire 2015 season. So with those introductory remarks, here is my list.

    Reggie Ragland (Alabama): He played ILB for ‘Bama with two top defensive linemen in front of him. No wonder Alabama’s defense was so good. Ragland has “good size and strength” and “he tackles with authority”. The only negative comment I have is “not a lot of speed” but ILBs usually do not have that. Another first round pick off the Alabama defense here…

    Joshua Perry (Ohio St.): He “gives 100% on every play” and is a “sure tackler”. On run plays he “forces everything inside because of his strength”. I would guess he goes in the late first round.

    Deion Jones (LSU): He “looks like he should be at safety” but he “is very strong and defeats blocks by bigger offensive players”. His “pass coverage was good” too. He will go somewhere in the second round.

    Joe Schobert (Wisconsin): He “plays the run well” and makes “form tackles”. However, he “gets beat in pass coverage situations”. He is probably a 3rd or 4th round pick.

    Cassanova McKinzy (Auburn): “Good speed” and “strong against the run” are his calling cards on draft day. I have no notes regarding his pass rushing abilities or his pass coverage abilities. Just a guess, but I’ll put him in the 4th round somewhere.

    Blake Martinez (Stanford): “Plays the run very well” is good news for a guy who plays ILB. “Disappears on pass plays” is not good news for any defender aspiring to play in the pass-happy NFL. I think he goes in the late rounds.

    DeVondre Campbell (Minnesota): “Athletic” “quick” “good tackler” “lots of hustle” and “decent speed” would tend to describe someone who will go in the top 10 overall. The problem here is that Campbell “plays out of control” and “takes himself out of plays”. He has the physical requisites to be an NFL linebacker but he needs coaching. I think a team that can afford to spend a year developing him as a linebacker will take him in the late rounds.

Next come the Defensive Backs. Because NFL teams like to move secondary players around, I will lump together the CBs and the safeties here.

    Mackensie Alexander (Clemson): has a lot of positive reviews from people who track the NFL Draft. I obviously saw Clemson play last year given my notes on other Clemson players but I have nothing on Mackensie Alexander.

    Jalen Ramsey (Florida St.): What’s not to like? Ramsey is “big and strong”; he is “fast/covers lots of ground”; he “covers receivers well”; he is “good against the run”. He will go in the Top 10 picks…

    Eli Apple (Ohio State): He is “super-fast” and “big for a CB”. He also “plays the run aggressively”. A negative comment was “not a tackler/drags people to the ground”. He will be drafted in the first two rounds this year.

    Vonn Bell (Ohio St.): “Solid against the run” and “good pass coverage” are the plus comments. “Not very big” is the minus comment. I think the plus outweighs the minus here and I think he will be taken by the end of the third round.

    Jayron Kearse (Clemson): He is “very big and strong” and has “the kind of physique an NFL team likes”. He is listed at 6’4” and 216 lbs. He played safety for Clemson and he “covered lots of ground in the secondary”. I think he too will be taken by the end of the third round.

    Xavien Howard (Baylor): “Good size” and “good in man coverage” are strong points here. The weak point is he is “not as fast as other DBs”. I think he will be a mid-round pick.

    Jalen Mills (LSU): He is “fast” and “very good in coverage”. He “needs to add strength” to play the run in the NFL. He should go in the third or fourth round.

    Trae Elston (Ole Miss): He is a “big hitter” and “strong against the run”. However, he is also “awfully small”. I think he is a late round pick.

    Jonathan Jones (Auburn): He is a good news/bad news player. Good news is “top-shelf speed” and “good tight coverage”. Bad news is “awfully small” and “could be overmatched physically” in the NFL. I think a team takes a chance on him in the later rounds.

    Richard Leonard (Florida International): This e-mailed assessment comes from a former colleague who has retired to Delray Beach in Florida. Over the years, she has taken exception to my “picking on” FIU’s football program – a charge I deny because I think that in prior years FIU’s football program was severely bad. Nonetheless, here is what she had to say to me:

    “[Richard] Leonard returns kicks and punts for the Panthers and he is their best cornerback. He is very fast …he is tough. If he can’t make the NFL at cornerback, he can make it as a special teams’ player.”

My former colleague has ample reason to take umbrage at my previous negativity with regard to the FIU football program. However, all of those disparaging comments are in the past. What she must be really upset with is this sort of commentary from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald just last weekend. Please note as you read this comment that Florida International University is located in Miami, FL and not in WhotheHellcares, Antarctica…

“FIU’s spring football game was canceled by bad weather. No, seriously.”

Now, isn’t that note from my former colleague the perfect segue to the final stage of this NFL Pre-Draft Analysis – the Special Teams Players?

    Kaimi Fairburn (UCLA): He is a placekicker. His kicks were “accurate” when I saw him. The note I have here says “kickoffs go into the end zone” which is not all that commonplace for college football these days. Most teams do not draft kickers but someone ought to sign him for a tryout in training camp as a free agent after the draft.

    Will Monday (Duke): He is a punter. His punts were “long” with “plenty of hang-time”. I also noted that he had a “pooch-punt 35 yards downed inside the 5 [yardline]”. Once again, teams rarely draft punters but I think he too ought to be signed and given a tryout as a free agent after the draft.

    Pokey Harris (Murray State): I will close with the fourth and final e-mail note from a reader whose daughter goes to Murray State or has recently graduated from Murray State.

    “[Pokey Harris is] a little guy who returns kicks for the Racers. The program says he weighs 175 lbs but he looks smaller than that … He is definitely not “pokey” and he can change directions at full speed to escape tacklers.”

There you have it. When I watch the NFL Draft – and I will not watch all of it to be sure – I will be looking to see how well my notes match up with the draft boards that NFL teams assemble. I will particularly look to see how well my e-mail correspondents did with their assessments of Blake Frohnapfel, Troymaine Pope, Richard Leonard and Pokey Harris.

Finally, since I used a Greg Cote comment from the Miami Herald above, let me close with another one from him that speaks to something that I consider immensely important with regard to the NFL Draft:

“I can’t wait for the draft … mainly because it puts a merciful end to the endless speculation of national mocks drafts and local flat-out guessing on what Miami might do.”

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

Whither The Oakland Raiders?

News seems to be heating up with regard to the possibility that the Oakland Raiders might move to Las Vegas. A recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, would be in Las Vegas at the end of April to meet with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee regarding the potential for an NFL caliber stadium in Las Vegas. Let me be clear about this:

    I have no idea whatsoever with regard to the stature and/or the importance of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee so I have no idea if this meeting is completely pro forma or if this is critically important.

According to the report in the Review-Journal linked above, whatever recommendations this Committee makes this summer will not be binding on anyone but I assume that its recommendations will carry some sort of weight. If not, then one needs to question why the Committee exists in the first place and why any NFL owner would take the time to meet with its members.

Las Vegas developers would propose to build a 65,000 seat stadium at a site near McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas near the top end of The Strip. I am surely not any kind of “real estate mogul” with any kind of useful insight into the Las Vegas market, but I can offer this observation:

    From my visits to Las Vegas and traveling to and from the airport there, I think there is ample room to put a stadium where these folks say they want to put it.

    By the way, I believe the proposed site for the stadium would be within walking distance of the Pinball Hall of Fame. That should be a positive consideration for this Committee…

The Raiders do need a new venue; the Coliseum in Oakland is a dump – and I say that knowing that some dumps around the world might take offense at being lumped into the same category as the Oakland Coliseum. Moreover, the Raiders’ lease with the city to use the Coliseum ran out at the end of last season; and in order to play there again this year, the lease costs for the team went up by $925K. That may not be a “killer amount” for an NFL team, but any increase in rent for a facility that suffers from random sewage backups into the locker room areas is problematic. The lease extension signed by the Raiders gives them two 1-year options to extend the lease for the 2017 and/or the 2018 seasons if they have to.

The NFL has seemingly kept an “open mind” with regard to Mark Davis’ interactions and meetings with Las Vegas movers and shakers. You could look at that in two ways:

    1. The NFL has quietly come to grips with the reality that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas is no more a threat to the “integrity of the game” than is the presence of illegal gambling in every other NFL city.

    2. The NFL is allowing Davis to do this to keep the pressure on the folks in San Diego to find a way to build a new stadium for the Chargers there. After all, if the Raiders can move to a city that was not on the radar at the previous owners’ meetings, surely the Chargers can pick up and go to LA where they can be part of the Stan Kroenke real estate development extravaganza.

With regard to his current thinking on those sportsbooks – those dens of iniquity – that the NFL has sought to avoid in the past at all costs, here is Roger Goodell’s more recent commentary:

“[The sportsbooks] are things we’d have to deal with. We would have to understand the impact on us. Each owner would have a vote; it would be a factor many owners would have to balance; the league would have to balance.”

And …

“Relocations are always, as you know and we experienced it this January, one, painful, but two, subject to 32 teams’ view about it. They each make their own decision on that. That would be a factor that I think many owners would have to balance, the league would have to balance, but until we got a hard proposal that really put that in front of us, we’d have to understand what the ramifications of that are.”

A “relocation” for the Raiders might be more “painful” than it was for the Rams or potentially for the Chargers. The Rams paid the NFL more than $600M for the privilege of picking up and moving from St. Louis to LA. Stan Kroenke could handle that because his net worth is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $7B and his wife is the niece of the late Sam Walton who founded a company you may have heard of – – Wal Mart. Let’s just say she does not need to count pennies…

Raiders’ owner Mark Davis has no such access to those sorts of funds. If estimates of his net worth are accurate, he could not pony up $600M because he does not have it. And that presents a hurdle for Davis and for the other owners in the NFL. They will surely want their relocation fee paid; Davis will not get a free ride here. However, they may be leery of him taking on a partner with deep pockets if that partner happened to be a casino owner/operator. The league as an entity and the owners individually may be coming to a point where legalized gambling is not seen as the demon it once was but I really wonder if they are ready to have a casino owner as part of their exclusive club.

The Raiders’ fans in Oakland are caught in most uncompromising position. Their team plays in a venue that needs a $400M upgrade just to be classified as “woefully sub-standard”. At the same time, the city is in no financial state that would allow even a reckless custodian of the public coffers to spend something north of a billion dollars to build a new stadium for the Raiders. In San Diego, people talk about the absence of “political will” to spend tax revenue on a stadium for the Chargers. In Oakland, it is simpler than that; the tax revenue base simply is not there. Absent a “manna from Heaven” situation, the Raiders need to move out of Oakland. Maybe that is in the very near term; maybe it is in the intermediate term. But the team needs to move and the fans in Oakland need to deal with that reality.

Here is another comment from The Commish that adds some gravitas to Mark Davis’ flirtations with cities other than Las Vegas:

“There are several cities that have a tremendous interest in the Raiders. I’m hopeful also that Oakland will be one of those and that we can avoid any relocation to start with. Those are ultimately decisions about where they go and the impact that the potential gambling that we’d have to deal with. We’d have to understand it, we’d have to understand what the impact is on us and ultimately each owner would have a vote on that.”

Translation: You folks in St. Louis/San Antonio/Tidewater, VA/Birmingham who might want an NFL team in your area can start to dig deep into your pockets. If you do, we will keep your phone numbers on our speed-dial list.

Obviously, nothing has been decided yet and the NFL has not yet begun to put the squeeze on the cities that might want to have the Raiders as their own in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that the Raiders are a franchise that is “in play” for any city that Is willing to spend the money to bring the team to its area. Most importantly, the reason that the Raiders are ‘in play” is that the cost of maintaining an NFL franchise is not an insignificant sum for a city these days. And Oakland is not a city with anywhere near the financial reserves to be able to afford such “team maintenance costs” without having to do some painful “other things” like close libraries, curtail transportation costs, keep police and fire departments funded at appropriate levels, … you get the idea.

Now if you think that the Raiders’ situation is complicated enough as it is and that there are too many balls in the air for now, just consider that the NFL could someday decide to expand to 36 teams. If that is the case, then international venues come into play and all sorts of other manipulative factors will become paramount. The fat lady has not yet sung; in fact, the fat lady may not be in the building yet warming up her pipes for her song.

Stay tuned…

Finally, in a previous incarnation, the Raiders took pride in populating the roster with some players who had a few anti-social tendencies. However, Al Davis is no longer among us orchestrating that sort of roster-mix. But if he were, he might take a close look at the person described here by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Kentucky fullback William Collins faces charges after police caught him and another guy walking down the street carrying a parking meter. He was actually preparing for another weird NFL combine event — the two-man parking meter shuttle.”

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

Predicting the MLB Season – 2016

Here in Northern Virginia, the signs of Spring are all around. Birds are building nests; trees have leaf buds; crocuses are in bloom; the sun is in the sky more than 12 hours a day. However, here in the confines of Curmudgeon Central, Spring awaits one more thing before it can officially announce itself. And that would be:

      Opening Day for MLB

If I had a countdown clock running – which I do not – there would be less than 100 hours remaining until the first pitch of the first game on Sunday afternoon when the Pirates host the Cardinals at 1:05 PM EDT. Therefore, I guess it is time for me to make my predictions for the upcoming season.

AL West:

    I like the Astros to win the division. They say a team needs to be “strong up the middle” in baseball and the Astros have a solid catcher, good pitching (the addition of Doug Fister will not hurt them at all), outstanding young players at second base and shortstop and a good centerfielder who was injured last year and should return to form this year. If you think there is a better SS/2B combination than Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, you will have to convince me.

    The Rangers will challenge the Astros and finish second. If Yu Darvish finishes his rehab on schedule and is the pitcher he was prior to surgery, they could make the AL West race interesting.

    The Mariners should finish third. They have 3 solid starters in Hernandez, Iwakuma and Walker. Kyle Seager is a really good third baseman but he may be only the second best player in the Seager family. (See below…)

    The Angels have Mike Trout (perhaps the best all-around player in MLB) and an aging Albert Pujols and decent starting pitching, but they do not have enough to be serious contenders this year.

    The A’s do not have anywhere near enough pitching to keep up.

AL Central:

    Naturally, I like the Royals to win the AL Central. They have won it the last two years and basically have the same team this year. What’s not to like?

    I will take the Tigers to finish a distant second here on the assumption that their starting pitching holds together. The Tigers should score runs with the likes of Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler in the lineup. The starters have good pedigrees but recent performances have been less than expected…

    I guess I like the Indians to finish third in the division. They are sort of the mirror image of the Tigers – solid pitching but should struggle to score runs. Michael Brantley opens the season on the DL; the Indians need him back in the outfield ASAP.

    In a coin flip, I’ll take the Twins to finish fourth here. There is just not all that much to like about the Twins.

    Losing the coin flip puts the White Sox last in the AL Central. Chris Sale is a top-shelf starting pitcher; after him, the Sox have nothing but question marks. Offensively, the White Sox have Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and a bunch of other guys.

AL East:

    The Blue Jays should win the AL East on pure offense. They scored 891 runs last year; that is 5.5 runs per game; everybody is back including Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnation in the middle of the lineup. Having Drew Storen in the bullpen to close games is a plus; the Jays should be taking leads into the ninth inning more than once in a while.

    I’ll take the Red Sox to finish second in the division by a nose over the third place Rays. The Red Sox should score runs and the addition of David Price to the starting rotation cannot hurt. Nevertheless, the rest of the Sox rotation is not much more than ordinary and they have huge question marks at the corner infield positions. Pablo Sandoval at third base and Hanley Ramirez at first base could make infield plays more exciting than they need to be.

    I’ll put the Rays in third place as a mirror image of the Red Sox. I like the Rays pitching but they might struggle to score much.

    The Yankees will finish fourth in the AL East because I think that Father Time is going to pay a very unwelcome visit to the Yankees’ clubhouse. A-Rod is 41; CC Sabathia has his own issues; Mark Teixiera is not nearly the player he was. The starting pitching is OK but nothing more than that. The Yankees’ bullpen is very good with Aroldis Chapman and Dellen Betances.

    The Orioles will trail the field here. I love Adam Jones in centerfield and Manny Machado at third base. The bullpen is very good too. Other than that…

NL West:

    I’ll take the Giants to win this division because I like the Giants pitching more than the Dodgers’ pitching and I like the Giants offense better than the D-Backs offense. Those 3 teams sit atop this division. The keys to the Giants’ winning are solid years from Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto and a healthy Hunter Pence.

    I like the D-Backs to finish second in the division because they have Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to head their starting rotation and Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of their lineup.

    I have the Dodgers finishing third here. The Dodgers’ starting pitching was great last year; this year it is Clayton Kershaw and a bunch of guys. I am not a Scott Kazmir believer… Corey Seager at shortstop is even better than his brother on the Mariners and that says a lot. Yasiel Puig is a head case; if he figures out how to play the game consistently, he can be a star.

    I like the Padres to finish a distant fourth in the division. If both Wil Meyers and John Jay bounce back from bad years in 2015, the Padres’ offense might be half-decent; otherwise… Oh, and their pitching staff is nothing to write home about either.

    I’ll take the Rockies to finish just a hair behind the Padres here. I just do not think the Rockies can score enough runs to keep pace with the number the pitching staff will give up.

NL Central:

    I like the Cubs to win the best division in MLB. Any lineup that projects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler as “bench guys” has to be taken seriously. The Cubs’ starting pitching is very good and deep. If they have a weakness, it might be in the bullpen. Remember, I said “if” …

    I like the Pirates to chase the Cubs in the NL Central. If Gregory Polanco plays up to his hype, the Pirates will have an outfield that matches any in the game. Their pitching is solid. Their biggest problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.

    I’ll take the Cardinals to finish third here. If you want an example of a deep starting rotation, look at the Cards. This is the Lake Woebegone of starting pitching; they are all above average. I think the Cards will not score enough to win enough to match the Cubs or the Pirates.

    The Reds will finish fourth in the NL Central simply because they have Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips at the top of their lineup. That is not nearly enough to make them contenders but it is enough to keep them out of last place.

    The Brewers will finish last in the NL Central.

NL East:

    I like the Mets to win the division simply because of their pitching. They have 4 really good young starters and Bartolo Colon who continues to find ways to get guys out. Oh, and their bullpen ain’t bad either. If David Wright’s health can let him play 120 games, the Mets will do just fine. The schedule is really nice to the Mets; their last 16 games of the season are against the Twins (3), Braves (3), Marlins (3) and Phillies (7).

    I like the Nationals to finish second in the NL East. The Nats need a big year from Jayson Werth who is 37 years old and they need the injury bug to stay away from Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper will put up big numbers but he needs help. The Nats starting rotation needs Stephen Strasbourg to pitch to his reputation consistently and for Gio Gonzalez to pitch better than he did in 2015. Jonathan Papelbon is a very good closer – but I wonder what might happen if he takes a loss because Bryce Harper makes an error in the outfield…

    I’ll take the Marlins to finish third in the NL East for a very simple reason. They are not nearly as good as the Mets or the Nats and they are not nearly as bad as the Phillies or the Braves.

    I’ll take the Phillies to finish fourth in the NL East because I think they are a year ahead of the Braves in the “teardown/rebuild” process. The Phillies’ future is still in the minor leagues but at least they have a couple of their young guys on the main squad getting experience like Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Nola.

    I think the Braves will finish last in the NL East and may lose 100+ games this year. They have recognizable names in the lineup – but the players attached to those names are on the downside of their careers like Erick Aybar, Nick Markakis and AJ Pierzynski. The Braves are a work-in-progress.

Play Ball!

Finally, in keeping with the theme of the day, here is a baseball item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Savannah, Ga., Bananas will become the 16th team in the Coastal Plain League, a summer circuit for college baseball players. So obviously the team MVP award will be known as the Top . . . nah, too easy.”

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

Bad Ads – 2015

The Earth has journeyed around the Sun yet one more time. As it proceeded on its way, I passed plenty of time watching sports on TV. The beauty of retirement is doing what you want to do when you want to do it – – and I am retired. What I often want to do is to watch a sporting event and so that is what I do.

The downside is that I have to watch/pass through loads of commercials on TV that are the funding source for my ability to watch those sporting events. I recognize their necessity; that does not mean that I have to like them. And, I most certainly do not like lots of them. As a Boy Scout one learns that one must take the bitter with the sweet. However, there is nothing in the scouting experience that precludes one from trying to make the bitter into something marginally sweet – or at least less bitter. That is what I try to do here.

I keep a set of notes on particularly annoying or stupid ads that I see on TV and compile them here as the final rant of the year. They may be annoying to watch, but at least I get some writing material from them. Before I start in on my list, I do want to take note of two dates:

    I saw my first “Christmas shopping ad” on October 20th. It was an ad for K-Mart touting their lay-away program for purchase of Christmas gifts.

    I saw my first two “Christmas automobile sales ads” on November 5th. Audi showed a car with a bow on the hood in a driveway and VW had an ad for leasing a car where the couple took the car and went hunting for a Christmas tree during the test drive.

    Ho, Ho, Ho…

Anyhow, here are some of the bad ads you and I were subjected to last year…

Beer companies sponsor lots of sporting events and that means I saw loads of beer ads making it rather probable that I would see some bad ones. The folks at the beer companies and their ad agencies did not disappoint:

    Budweiser told me, “We don’t brew halfway.” Well thank goodness for that. I do not claim to be a master brewer – or even an accomplished amateur. However, I do recall brewing some beer years ago and halfway through the process, the wort is not pleasantly aromatic and has a nasty flavor. Come to think of it, maybe the folks at Budweiser are indeed only brewing their beer halfway…

    Bud Light maintained their ad campaign saying that you should drink Bud Light if you are “up for whatever”.

      Memo for Bud Light: Here is what I would be “up for”. I would love for you folks to make a new set of ads that are not immensely stupid. I would also appreciate a beer that did not taste as if I were drinking it for the second time. Thank you in advance…

    Miller Lite would not be outdone in the quest for annoying TV ads this year. Recently they have paid good money for TV time to inform me that their swill now comes in the original short necked bottle that it came in when it was first introduced. And I should care about the packaging for what reason…?

There are categories of ads that put fine print on the bottom of the screen. These are disclaimers that seek to indemnify the sponsors for saying things in the ad that are not the whole truth and nothing but the truth and/or for showing something that might be deceptive in some way. As a rule of thumb, look at the amount of fine print at the bottom of the screen and recognize that the length of the message there is directly proportional to the degree of fibbing or exaggeration that you have been subjected to in the ad. Basically, there are two categories of here:

    Ads – usually for automobiles – that show something outrageous to the point where they would be dangerous if any viewer were stupid enough to try to duplicate it in real life. The message at the bottom of the screen translates to:

      Don’t be an ass! Don’t even think of doing this yourself.

    Ads where there are restrictions on the offers/claims made in the ad you are watching/listening to.

      Some car rebates are for only the 10% of dealer inventory that has been on the lot the longest. You do realize that means they are cutting the price a little more than normal for those cars they have not come close to selling yet. Such a deal…

      Websites that can get you “cash in your checking account tomorrow” are not lenders or brokers and do not make lending or credit decisions. And they are often illegal in a string of states. No wonder the print is so small; anyone who read that stuff would be really leery of contacting those folks.

      Law firms who want you to call them if you – or a loved one – has taken some medicine and suffered one of a series of dire consequences including death. That firm will probably not represent you but will refer you to a law firm in your area – which you could find for yourself if you tried.

A T-Mobile ad had a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad that negated much of the benefit that was touted in the ad. T-Mobile claimed that other cell phone companies “steal your unused data” at the end of the month after you paid for it but T-Mobile will roll it over into the next month. Sounds good, no? The problem is that you only get to use that rolled over data after you run out of the allotted data in the next month – and if you did not use it all in January, why is it a certainty that you might use all of it and then some of the roll-over data in February? But even more problematic is that after one year of rolling over all that data, you lose it if you do not use it. Here is the bottom line:

    T-Mobile will “steal your data” just like the other cell phone companies but they will do it a year later than the other companies.

    Somehow, that does not sound like such a great deal anymore…

Zaxby’s Chicken had a bunch of ads on during March Madness last year. They had one of the goofs from Duck Dynasty in the ads. In a particularly stupid and annoying one, the “Duck Dynast” could only place his order for the chicken in a series of grunts exchanged with the genius at the cash register. In another, he dressed in “chicken camo” so no one could see him eating his chicken. On the stupidity scale from 1 to 10, those rate a 12.5. I do not recall ever seeing a Zaxby’s Chicken here in the Northern Virginia area but I will say without reservation that those ads would keep me from trying the food there rather than enticing me into the place.

DirecTV tried to convince me to use their satellite TV service with a series of ads showing Hannah and her talking horse. Their pitch was that DirecTV rated higher than Cable TV in each of the last however-many years. Wonderful! DirecTV also probably rated higher than used car salesmen, cops setting up speed traps, child abusers and people who rarely bathe. If you say that my comparisons are irrelevant, my response is that they are as relevant as a woman and a talking horse are as spokes-creatures for a satellite TV company. And for the record, the idea of a talking equine specimen is not novel; anyone besides me recall Francis the Talking Mule from the 1950s?

KFC ads feature the reincarnation of “The Real Col. Sanders”. Here is the message that I get from those ads:

    The folks in “creative” at the ad agency simply have no good ideas at the moment.

I heard an ad on the local sports radio station for one of the online universities. I do not know if that is a national ad or just one put on the air here to annoy the inhabitants of the DC metro area. The ad is based on the premise that some industrial leader once said:

“If you don’t control your own destiny, someone else will.”

The message of the ad is that you should take control and call this school and enroll immediately or suffer the consequences of someone else controlling your destiny. Sorry, but either the industrial leader got it wrong or the enlightened folks who will be instructing you at the online university have it wrong.

    Neither you nor anyone else can control your destiny or any other destiny. If it were controllable, it would not be destiny.

Should you call the number and think about paying those people to instruct you in courses leading to a college degree, recall that they got your attention by trying to convince you to control something that cannot be controlled. So, how smart must they be…?

TD Ameritrade touted its investment tools in an ad featuring Andrew Luck. He offered folks a “piece of Luck” by plucking a few hairs from his beard and dousing the people with it. Some of the folks said that TD Ameritrade had given them those investment tools so they were confident in their planning for retirement. Finally, they tell you don’t need luck when you have confidence.

    Really?

    So, if I am confident that I am going to win the $300M Powerball Lottery this week, I don’t need luck?

    I don’t think so…

This year seemed to be one where the auto companies all got together and decided that they would bombard viewers of TV sporting events with stupid ads. There were so many that it strains credulity it could have happened totally randomly.

    Scion ads for their little cars used the slogan:

    “Scion; what moves you?”

    On one hand, it might be considered an interesting play on words. Scion is a car; cars move you from Point A to Point B. Clever? Not really. The first time I heard the ad pose the question here was my answer:

      “Prune Juice”

    The Ford Edge ads tell you to “Be Unstoppable”. Well, if I am in my Ford Edge I am not sure that I want to be unstoppable. I think I would prefer that the brakes worked properly.

    Lincoln had to have decided to creep out a minimum of 75% of the viewers with those ads with Matthew McConaughey driving along on a dark night with not another car on the Interstate. I can imagine the meeting between the folks at Lincoln and the folks at the ad agency:

      Ok, no other car maker has gone after the very-rich, the very-aloof and the clearly-creepier-than-Hell demographic. So, here is what we came up with for you…

    For Volkswagen, harken back to the days when they touted Fahrvernugen – the joy of driving one nominally got from a Volkswagen. Well, in 2015 we learned that some of the “pep” in the engines of some of those VWs came from software that allowed the cars to pass emissions inspections but then drive in higher pollution mode to improve performance. Sure, I’ll believe the next round of VW ads…

    Oh, and Audi had some “software shenanigans” too. For several years now, Audi has been flogging us with the slogan “Truth in Engineering”. I wondered if they might amend that this year to be “Truth in Engineering Plus Emissions Software Hijinks”. No, they did not…

People who buy cars also need to buy auto insurance so the demographics of sporting events tells insurance companies that they should spend some ad dollars there. Sadly, they do so and put bad ads in front of us.

    Progressive Insurance still has Flo involved. Let me say this simply:

      If Flo were drowning in a swimming pool, I would throw her a bowling ball.

    Liberty Mutual seems intent on capturing the naïve segment of the insurance market. Several of their “spokesfolks” opine into the camera that they are outraged when they “use their insurance” [file a claim] and then learn that their rates increase. That is how insurance works. That is why you will pay more for life insurance if you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day or are 500 lbs overweight.

    There is another Liberty Mutual genius who is shocked to learn that if he totals his new car, he only gets the depreciated value of it from the insurance company. Obviously, he lived in a cave until the moment he went to the car dealership to buy that car that he immediately wrecked.

      Memo to Liberty Mutual spokesthings: If you get the company’s accident forgiveness and/or new car replacement coverage, your monthly premiums will be higher. That is how it works. It is like the old ads for Fram oil filters:

        You can pay me now or you can pay me later.

    Allstate has a particularly annoying ad featuring a couple sitting in a restaurant. The woman asks if the man recalls saying that women are not as good at driving as men; he acknowledges that he remembers that. At that point the woman gets out her “safe driving reward check from Allstate” and proceeds to flaunt it at him for the rest of the ad. The only way to save that ad would be for the man – who is obviously a chauvinistic idiot in the first place for making the broad generalization that started all of this – to take his plate of food and smash it into the face of the preening schmoo of a woman he is with.

    Geico has had some good ad campaigns over the years and a few that have surely outlived their utility. I did not think I would ever be in this position but indeed I am:

      Every time I see “Peter Pan” fly into the reunion hall with his classmates who have aged while he has not, I say to myself, “Why can’t Geico bring back the cavemen?”

Cialis now comes in a low-dosage form that men can take every day. Cialis likes to say that it allows men with Erectile Dysfunction to be ready anytime. If they left it at that, I would think that the ad campaign was sensibly directed at the aging male demographic and move on. However, Cialis also tells us that it is sometimes effective in treating the symptoms of BPH – Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia – or an enlarged prostate that is not caused by prostate cancer one of which is frequent need to urinate both day and night. And so to cover all the bases, the ads begin by saying:

    When a moment turns romantic, why stop to take a pill?

      OK, I guess. Spontaneity is a good thing… Unless of course it happens in a crowded restaurant or a movie theater or a church service…

    And why stop to look for a bathroom?

      Uh … hold on there. If the moment is turning romantic and either party needs to go to the bathroom, it is probably a good idea for that person to find one and use it because it might become a significant reason why said moment ceased to be romantic.

      Another important reason to “stop and look for a bathroom” is that we spend time and energy teaching children that it is not socially acceptable to wet themselves whenever they feel like it wherever they are. When an adult “stops to look for a bathroom” he is behaving like a socially adjusted adult instead of an annoying rug-rat in need of potty training.

    These ads are even dumber than the vintage Cialis ads where couples in parallel bathtubs held hands while staring off into the horizon.

Napoleon Grills had an ad last year that showed a neighbor sneaking into a guy’s backyard to use the neighbor’s Napoleon Grill to cook a bunch of food. Even when confronted in the act and reminded that he could get his own grill, the guy keeps cooking. What is the message I am supposed to take from this?

    Buy a Napoleon Grill and then install a perimeter security system around your home so that potentially psychopathic neighbors do not sneak in and use your grill.

    I don’t think that is the message they want…

Until there were some legal issues with some state regulatory authorities and/or attorneys general, we were bombarded with ads for daily fantasy sports websites, Draft Kings and FanDuel. Mercifully, those seem to have abated in the past several weeks. I have 2 questions for the folks who are in charge of marketing those sites – leaving aside the questions of legality that will be settled in a totally different realm:

    1. If you are going to buy up 50 ad slots for a Sunday’s worth of NFL games, why not invest enough money to make more than two different ads that you will run in those 50 slots?

    2. If I did not respond to the two ads you did make the first 1569 times I saw those ads, what makes you think I will respond to the 1570th time?

One of the fantasy draft sites had an ad where Victor Cruz asked Odell Beckham, Jr. if he (Cruz) should start Beckham or Julio Jones that week. The catchy part of the ad is obviously supposed to be that Cruz and Beckham are teammates in real life and that is nominally an awkward moment. There is another message there and it paints Cruz as someone who is dumber than a paper clip.

    Beckham and Jones are two of the best WRs in the NFL.

    Fantasy football teams start 2 WRs.

    If Cruz were lucky to have both on his team, why would he even think of only playing one of them?

When the ad bombardment for Daily Fantasy Sports sites was at its crest, there was a potential danger facing our country and our civilization. Look at all of those ads; they all said the same thing. Sign up, put up some money and you – Joe Flintwhistle sitting there at home – can win big money and we will take video of your celebrations there in your home and put it on the air. What is the potential danger in that?

    It is not a giant leap for some guy in creative to look at those videos and pitch the idea of creating another “Reality Program” where the content is video of groups of fantasy sports players watching games and hyper-reacting to various plays throughout the day. Splice those together with a few interspersed narrative interviews of the participants and you have a new Reality TV Show.

    1. If anyone ever made such a monstrosity of a show, might I suggest they call it “Survivor: Insufferability”.

    2. We need another Reality TV show like we need an outbreak of rectal boils.

Blue Buffalo Dog Food shows an ad where a pet owner is sitting in a chair and is presented with the ingredient list from three different dog food brands. He says that he would select the brand of food for his pet based on the ingredient list. OK, that makes sense; if they stopped there, this ad would not be stupid. Here is what comes next:

    The pet owner says “If you can understand what is in the (dog) food, it’s good food.”

    Really?

    Suppose the first ingredient listed – the one in the greatest quantity in the dog food – is “Mule Snot”. You understand what that is if you have an IQ greater than a hunk of cheese, but that does not make the product good dog food.

The folks at Fairfield Hotels tell me that their guests include marathon jugglers, Olympic gymnasts, a “balancing wizard” and an American Ninja. Moreover, these folks do their act in the lobbies and halls in the Fairfield hotels. This does not make me want to stay there for fear I might encounter one of more of these goofs.

Wells Fargo Bank has a Christmas ad showing a stage coach traveling through a snow-covered terrain when it stops so that the horses can eat carrots offered to them by snowmen by the side of the trail. Then the stagecoach goes on to deliver presents to a child.

    Question: What in the name of Figgie Pudding does any of that have to do with banking?

Way too many ads tell us at the outset that these are “real people” and “not actors”. Given that the majority of those “real people” are being compensated for doing what they do, the distinction is sort of “blurry”. In any event, here are two messages for the folks who make those commercials and give us that disclaimer:

    1. It never occurred to me that those were holograms on my screen. Of course they are “real people”; they are not animations.

    2. Since when are actors not “real people”?

I do not know if hhgregg is a national company or a local one here in the DC area; they sell kitchen appliances and some electronics and things like that. Yesterday on the NFL early game shown here, they ran an ad for a one-day sale on the Saturday after Christmas. They paid to run an ad on Sunday for a one-day sale on the day before. I never took the course, Marketing 101, but somehow, that does not seem like a good idea to me.

Finally, dumb ads are not restricted to television. As I was browsing on one Internet site looking for stuff to use in my website rants, I ran across an ad along the right side of the screen with this “headline”:

    An overlooked method to pay off your credit card balance.

No, I did not go and read what that ‘overlooked method might be simply because I have a foolproof method for doing that which works every time:

    Step 1: Do not carry any credit card balances in the first place.

    Step 2: If that fails and you find yourself with a balance carried forward, then pay more each month than you spent on that credit card in the last month.

    Step 3: In short order, the balance will go to zero and then you can stay there by following Step 1.

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

University Of Missouri Football Boycott

Surely, you have read and heard about the resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, amidst protests over racial incidents at that institution. Clearly, the decision of the football team – players and coaches – to abstain from any football activities (practice and scheduled games) had a lot to do with forcing that resignation. The team has properly received accolades for their action here. In his statement announcing his resignation, President Wolfe urged the university folks to “stop yelling at each other and start listening and quit intimidating each other.” Whether or not you like President Wolfe, those words represent good advice.

There is an adage:

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I am going to be a fool today and pose some questions regarding the pragmatic outcome(s) of this forced resignation. Let me set the stage for just a moment:

    A quick glance at Google Maps tells me that Columbia, MO is only about 100 miles from Ferguson, MO. I know nothing about that part of the country from personal experience but I do know and appreciate that there is real – and not imagined – racial tension in Ferguson. The proximity of the University of Missouri to Ferguson has to add to any racial sensitivities on campus.

    Reports on this subject refer to a history of “racial incidents” on campus that have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the protesters. I do not know what those earlier racial incidents were; therefore, I have no way to judge their severity. It is not possible to imagine a racial incident that would fall in the “good” category; nonetheless, there are varying degrees of “bad incidents” and I have no way to categorize how bad the earlier incidents may have been.

I did see an interview with the student government president – a black male – on one of the news programs; he indicated that at a campus meeting, he had been the target of “racial epithets” including the “N-word”. I read reports that someone smeared a swastika on the wall in a dormitory using human feces. That act is disgusting on so many levels that I will not even try to understand what the perpetrator might have been thinking. That less than artistic expression came soon after campus protesters blocked President Wolfe’s car in the Homecoming Weekend Parade in protest of the “earlier incidents”.

In none of the reporting have I seen any indication that anyone involved in the protest thinks that President Wolfe was involved in any of the “earlier incidents” nor that he was the “fecal artist” who decorated the dormitory. Therefore, I guess I do not understand the vehement focus on his resignation as the prime objective of these protests. Now that he is no longer associated with the university, does that mean that the persons who confronted the student government president with racial epithets are gone? Has the “fecal artist” moved on to another campus somewhere?

Unless someone can demonstrate that President Wolfe was one of those miscreants or that he has been harboring those miscreants and shielding them from identification and punishment, those miscreants are still somewhere within the university community – unless of course these incidents have been perpetrated by outsiders from the start. I am currently about 800 miles east of Columbia, MO; from this vantage point, it seems to me that the “really bad guys” have not been “smoked out” of their caves.

The protesters got what they have been demanding. Now what?

Many news outlets have raced to proclaim that there is a new day dawning on campus here and that this is only the beginning of positive change on campuses around the country. Before I get caught up in that euphoria, let me point out that many of these news outlets are the same ones that proclaimed the joy of Arab Spring four or five years ago as a movement that would usher in a whole slew of democracies in North Africa and the Middle East. That was wishful thinking that never came close to reality; frankly, until I see what the newly created environment is at Missouri and how that newly created environment minimizes any racial incidents on the campus, I will merely hope that all the change at Missouri is for the positive.

Politicians at the state and national level have jumped into the fray proclaiming – obviously – that they are the side of everything that is right and good. I have not heard any of them intimate that they have any information regarding who is responsible for the acts on campus that they decry so prolifically. Frankly, they sound to me as if they are merely opportunists grabbing at a chance for face time in order to take a “proper position” on an issue they really do not have any knowledge of or involvement with. Call me a cynic if you wish but I would think a lot more highly of these politicians if they took to the microphone with declarations of facts and specific actions they are taking to make specific changes here. All I have heard to date is platitudinous pabulum…

Having experienced in the past mandatory diversity sensitivity training sessions, let me say that I am skeptical that any such activity will do anything meaningful to humanize the thought processes of the “fecal artist”. Real change, significant change, permanent change is not likely to emerge from diversity training sessions that end with the participants singing Cumbaya. Such diversity training sessions will not hurt anything but if they are the totality of the change ushered in by the change in leadership at the university, then the protest outcomes will likely be cosmetic and not meaningful.

The onus is on the protesters now. No one is going to start a “movement” to get any of the protesters to drop out of school. However, now that they have had their say, one needs to change the focus of accountability.

    Who is responsible for the racial incidents on campus and what is the new university culture going to do about those folks?

    Who is “the fecal artist” and what is to be done to/with him/her?

One potential outcome from this matter in a completely different dimension may be that college athletes in the revenue sports will recognize the influence they can have on university policies. This protest had been ongoing for a while but what brought it to a head was when a large fraction of the football team took sides in the protest and announced that they would boycott practices and games until the protesters’ demands had been met. According to reports, the cancelation of the game against BYU this week would have cost the Missouri Athletic Department $1M. The players should learn from that quick response to their stance that there is truth in the adage:

    Money talks; bulls[p]it walks…

Should the student-athletes choose to push this pawn a way down the path, they might see a different avenue toward payment for their athletic services. Instead of trying to get “employee status” by having a national labor union certified to represent players’ interests, perhaps the way to achieve that goal – if that is truly a goal the players want to achieve – is to wait for one of the major revenue events to commence and for the players at that moment to choose to withhold services. It would take Herculean coordination effort to make the following happen but imagine for just a moment the following scenario:

    It is a Sunday night in mid-March and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee has just announced its seedings for March Madness.

    The media is focused on who got snubbed and who got a seeding they did not deserve. Monday morning arrives and that frenzy of outrage is fully expressed.

    Then, comes the announcement that the players on the 68 teams are not going to take the floor. There will be no games; there will be no television; more importantly, there will be no television revenues…

The University of Missouri faced a loss of $1M for failure to show up to play BYU. The NCAA Tournament generates close to $1B for the NCAA and its member institutions.

It is probably too large an undertaking to get 68 teams to agree to such a boycott to make my scenario even close to a reality. However, there are bowl games in football and even the College Football Playoff where the occurrence of the event involves the cooperation of far fewer players at far fewer institutions. Maybe, this is the most important lesson about effecting change that comes from the action(s) of the Missouri football team in this matter. Maybe this action will demonstrate the levers and the fulcrum that players can use to force negotiations on things they want to have happen.

And like the campus protesters who have won their point now, if the players choose to use those levers, are they ready to accept the consequences and the accountability that will come from their success?

I think the resignation of President Wolfe is not much more than a symbolic happenstance. Without concrete steps that actually change things for the better, it will be a footnote of history. I think the football players at Missouri demonstrated to athletes at other schools that perhaps it is time for the players to take heed.

    Money talks! Bulls[p]it walks!

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

The Washington Nats Dugout Scuffle

The grand sports issue here in the DC area as of this moment is the dugout scuffle between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper. The Washington Nationals had a disgraceful season. Fanboys in the area will cry crocodile tears lamenting injuries to various players on the team as an excuse for the team’s miserably embarrassing performance this year. Nonsense. The problem with the Nats is pretty simple and it was expressed by one of the SF Giants players – do not recall which one – last year just as the Giants and Nats were getting ready to play each other in the NL Playoffs. Even last year, people revered the Nats’ lineup and thought it was an unstoppable juggernaut. This “mystery Giants’ player” said they had loads of good players but – as he grabbed his man-zone – he suggested that they did not have anything “there”.

That may not have been the most articulate expression of his analysis/opinion but it was much closer to right than it was to wrong. Moreover, the roster for 2015 suffers from similar problems that one might express in the same crude fashion. The Nats have at least a half-dozen – and more likely 10 – bona fide stars on the roster right now – – if all you look at are individual stats. What they also have are a bunch of guys who are stars AND are front runners. When things go their way, these guys just pile on the stats and make it appear that they are the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees. However, as soon as something starts to go wrong and the Nats need a clutch hit or play in the field – – not so much.

The weakest link on the Nats this year was the bullpen. More specifically, the least productive part of the team was the setup men who got the team through the 7th and 8th innings of games to usher in the closer. With the Nats this year, one of the most famous Yogisims was fully applicable:

The game was never over until it was over.

At the trade deadline, the Nats acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies and anointed him as their closer. The previous closer was “demoted” to being the 8th-inning set up guy. Hey, if you were good enough to have been the closer, you ought to be able to get through the 8th innings of games instead of the 9th innings, right? Well, that did not work and people ascribed it to an ego bruise. Please; spare me; you are getting paid millions of dollars to pitch one inning per game about 3 times a week; suck it up, buttercup.

Papelbon will receive exactly no votes in the “Mr. Congeniality Contest” nor will anyone ever nominate him for “Clubhouse Chemistry Guy of the Year”. However, no one can realistically challenge his competitiveness. He is one of those guys who seems to be a pain-in-the-ass; but if he is going to be in the league, it is probably better to have him be your pain-in-the-ass as opposed to the other guy’s pain-in-the-ass.

I wrote last year that I think Bryce Harper is one of baseball’s most polarizing players; I continue to believe that. Harper is incredibly talented; anyone who disputes that statement either has not watched Harper play or knows nothing about baseball. Harper is also one of those “frontrunners” I referred to above. As talented as he is and as dedicated to getting better year over year he is, if I needed a clutch hit to win an important game, I would much rather have Jayson Werth at the plate than Harper despite the fact that Harper is hitting about 100 points higher than Werth this year. Moreover, Harper will get only token acknowledgement in a putative “Mr. Congeniality Contest”.

If there had to be a dugout fight in the Nats’ dugout the day the team was eliminated from the NL Playoffs – after they were the pre-season favorites to win the World Series – the odds-on favorites for the combatants would have to have been Harper and Papelbon. The proximal event(s) that triggered the scuffle do not really matter; the scuffle has to be seen by the folks who run the team as a fundamental issue with regard to the roster they have built. They have individual “stars” on the team who seem to exist in their own orbits and only acknowledge the existence of other “stars” on the team during “mandatory walk-off victory celebrations”. That does not work in team sports; the Nats need only look at their NFL DC brethren to see how that formula for roster building produces little in terms of championship results.

What is the solution here? I do not know what the team will do but I think there are several fixed points in the environment that cannot be ignored:

    1. There is no way on the planet that the team will discipline Bryce Harper in any way for anything that is not a first degree felony. He is their “Golden Boy” and he has an agent (Scott Boras) who will not look kindly on an organization that even hints that there is a minor flaw in Harper’s greatness.

    2. The team is on the hook to pay Jonathan Papelbon $11M next year; they picked up that contract option when they traded for him in July. Moreover, Papelbon has a no-trade clause in that contract that he has to waive in order for the Nats to move him elsewhere. The Nats can trade Papelbon if they are willing to pay much/most of that $11M salary AND if they agree to take nothing more valuable than a liverwurst sandwich in return.

    3. Other members of the bullpen will recognize that they are set up to be the scapegoats for this season’s collapse and any of them who can sign elsewhere would be wise to do so. Any who choose to stay here will be under a microscope for any flaws starting the week before Spring Training commences in February 2016.

    4. The knee-jerk “fire-the-manager” option could well be invoked here. Matt Williams is described in the local press as being “all-business” and “stern” while the common wisdom is that the players would like someone who will pat them on the head once in a while. Maybe even pass out juice boxes and participation trophies… Nothing cures overly-indulged entitled individuals more than getting rid of a “no-nonsense” manager and replacing him with “Dr. Feelgood”.

For the record, what this particular roster needs least is a manager who will let the players do whatever it is they want to do. The team appears to have plenty of spoiled kids/brats on it; they need no encouragement to continue to live their lives in such a fashion. What this roster needs most is a significant restructuring. Some of their frontrunning “stars” need to be moved on to teams who will be enamored with their individual stats; and in return, the Nats need to acquire a few guys who – for lack of a more eloquent description – have something down in their “man-zone”. The problem with that avenue is that it will require the folks who assembled the roster – the activist owner and the GM – to acknowledge that THEIR roster and THEIR decisions were not so good. I just doubt that is going to happen…

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

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

For new readers, this is another of the annual features where I purposely – and purposefully – embarrass myself in public. What will follow here is my forecast for the NFL team-by-team where I predict the final standings in all of the NFL Divisions and the team records for each team. I will try to explain/justify/rationalize my selections knowing full well that many of them will be off target by astronomical distances. I do want to make something clear before launching into this essay:

    I do not hate any team in the NFL. I can say confidently that I did not inflate any team’s projected record because I “love them” or deflate another team’s record because I “hate them”. Looking at rosters and schedules, I think some teams are going to do better than other teams and that is all that is reflected here.

    Therefore, when it happens – as it always does – that a team that I have picked to have a 3-13 record winds up with a 9-7 record and perhaps sneaks into the playoffs, please do not tell me that I owe that team and its fans an apology for disrespecting them. That is not what happened and I will not apologize for something that did not happen.

    What did happen was that I made a huge mistake in terms of analysis and forecasting and I will indeed admit that I was wrong.

Before getting to the individual teams and their records for the season, let me begin by identifying 5 coaches who are – or ought to be – on a hot seat already. I will list them alphabetically lest anyone try to derive some priority order from the list that is not there.

    Gus Bradley (Jax): After a handful of successful years in Seattle as the defensive coordinator, Bradley got the job in Jax two years ago. Granted, he has been saddled with poor quarterbacking down there and the rest of the roster is not populated with Pro Bowl players either. Nonetheless, his record going into this season is 7-25. Let me just say that record is not sufficiently inspiring to induce the folks down there to take the tarps off the seats that the Jags cannot give away let alone sell.

    Jay Gruden (Washington): I know, he has only been in the job for one year but in Washington under Danny Boy Snyder’s regime, two years is long time in the job. Gruden’s “calling card” as a coach is that he is a “quarterback-whisperer” and he came to DC in hopes that he might bring RG3’s performance to mythic levels. RG3 will be the clipboard-holding #3 QB as the season begins… Now, if the two QBs ahead of RG3 also play poorly, Gruden’s “calling card” may decline significantly in value.

    Joe Philbin (Miami): Expectations are high in Miami this year; Greg Cote of the Miami Herald ranks the Dolphins as the 6th best team in the NFL. I do not agree with that assessment but that is some of what Philbin needs to deliver against in South Florida. Philbin has been in Miami for 3 seasons and has posted a cumulative record of 23-25. A repeat of that kind of record is not commensurate with the “6th best team in the NFL”.

    Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay): Like Jay Gruden, this is only his second year on the job. Nonetheless, the Bucs were as bad last year as they had been under Greg Schiano and Raheem Morris. Like in Jax, there are plenty of empty seats in Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs need not win their division for Smith to stay on the job, but another year near last year’s 2-14 record and he may be collecting on whatever remains in his contract starting in January 2016.

    Ken Whisenhunt (Tennessee): He took the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl after the 2008 seson and to the playoffs after the 2009 season. Since then, his teams have not been above .500. Like Lovie Smith above, the Titans went 2-14 in Whisenhunt’s inaugural year there. The team has to do better than that.

There are two other coaches in the league who might endure fan pressure or media pressure should their teams “under-perform” this year. I do not think either coach ought to be on a hot seat – let alone fired for a bad season in 2015 – but I will mention them here just because…

    Tom Coughlin (Giants): The reasons he should not be on a hot seat are myriad:

      Two Super Bowl rings
      A 96-80 record with the Giants
      Nine playoff appearances in his coaching career.

    Nonetheless, the Giants have missed the playoffs for 3 straight years and in those 3 seasons the team record has been 22-26. In the last 2 seasons the Giants have been 13-19 but that less-than-stellar record is inflated to a degree with a 4-0 record against the Skins – meaning against real competition, the Giants are only 9-19. The Giants’ fans and the NYC tabloids may not take kindly to another slightly less than mediocre season.

    Chip Kelly (Philly): He has been with the Eagles for two years and has won 10 games in both of those seasons. So why might he be on a hot seat? Well, in those two years, he has released or traded or lost to free agency some of the team’s best and best liked players. If the 2015 season craters, the fans in Philly will be in full throat…

Enough preamble… Getting down to business here, I shall begin with the AFC East. I believe the Pats will win the division again this year and that the Jets will finish last. I think both the Dolphins and the Bills will do well and that this will be one of the strongest divisions in the league as measured by the total wins by the teams there.

    Patriots 12-4: The sturm und drang of Deflategate is behind us and it will not be necessary to analyze how the Pats might do in 4 games with Jimmy Garoppolo under center and what – if any – lingering effects that might have on the team. The question for the Pats’ fans and coaches ought to be this:

      Did the Pats’ defense take a big step back from last year in losing Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Vince Wilfork to free agency?

    Losing two really good CBs from the defense puts the pressure on the front 7 to generate pressure. It is difficult to imagine that Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have not already figured that out and have been working on ways to do just that. The Pats get an early Bye Week (October 4) and return from that Bye Week to play Dallas and Indy both on the road. That is a speed-bump in any schedule.

    Dolphins 10-6: If I am correct, Joe Philbin will keep his job in Miami and the Dolphins will be an AFC Wild Card team. The centers of attention for the Dolphins will be QB Ryan Tannehill, DE Cameron Wake and free agent signee DT, Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins’ OL allowed 46 sacks last year; that was the worst in the league. Like the Patriots above, this is another case where a DL needs to generate pressure to prevent its DBs from being exploited. That defense – and particularly those DBs have time to work on their game because here is the schedule for the Dolphins from the start of the season until October 29. No matter how hard you look there are no great QBs the defense will have to contain:

      At Washington (Kirk Cousins)
      At Jax (Blake Bortles)
      Vs. Buffalo (Tyrod Taylor)
      Vs. Jets (Ryan Fitzpatrick)
      BYE (Probably the toughest QB on the list so far…)
      At Tennessee (Marcus Mariota)
      Vs. Houston (Brian Hoyer)

    The defense needs to use those games as learning experiences because in its last 3 games it will face:

      At San Diego (Philip Rivers)
      Vs. Indiana (Andrew Luck
      Vs. New England (Tom Brady).

    Despite his prediction that the Dolphins would be the 6th best team in the NFL, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald did have this cautionary note for fans in Miami:

    “An AFC East study by StubHub of fans who bought tickets to both NFL games and concerts reveals that Jets and Patriots fans tend to like Billy Joel, Bills fans go for Garth Brooks and Dolphins fans prefer Ariana Grande. Based on that, Miami clearly is going to finish last in the division.”

    Bills 9-7: Rex Ryan will indeed keep it interesting and the presence of Richie Incognito and Percy Harvin on the roster portends interesting storylines in Buffalo. Ryan takes his “ground and pound” offense about 350 miles northwest from East Rutherford, NJ to Buffalo NY. It’s a good thing he likes to run the ball because after a training camp competition, he settled on Tyrod Taylor as his QB with EJ Manuel as the only backup on the squad. The Bills acquired LeSean McCoy from Philly last winter and they are going to need McCoy to gain at least the 1300 yards he did in Philly last year so that Taylor is not in the position of having to win games on his own. The Bills had an excellent defense last year; Ryan is a good fit to coach a team with that kind of defense. The schedule in not all that kind to the Bills in September; here is how the start the season:

      Vs. Indy
      Vs. New England
      At Miami

    It gets a lot lighter in October and November.

    NY Jets 4-12: New head coach Todd Bowles earned his stripes as a defensive coordinator and he takes over a team that is strong on defense. In addition to a solid DL, the Jets have reunited CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. You might be tempted to wonder if this pair who were in NY together from 2010 – 2012 can still play; after all, CBs have a shelf life in the NFL. Absent injury, both of these guys can still play… The Jets’ problems are on offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a journeyman QB at best; when Geno Smith’s jaw heals, the Jets can only pray that this is the year when Smith rises up from being a miserable NFL QB all the way to being a slightly-below-average NFL QB. When Geno Smith was coming out of college into the draft, there were questions about his throwing accuracy and his leadership. His first years in the NFL seem to have confirmed that he is not the most accurate thrower ever and the fact that his coach and his teammates have not rallied behind him in the aftermath of “the sucker punch” sort of says he is living down to his “lack of leadership” expectations. Look for the Jets to continue to be a “run-first team” again this year.

Moving along to the AFC North, I do not think this division will be as strong as the AFC East but I do believe it will be a closely contested division race with the Ravens as the class of the division.

    Ravens 11-5: The Ravens’ defense was very good last year and should be just as good this year. Yes, they lost Haloti Ngata to free agency but they had some depth behind Ngata last year and things should be just fine on that side of the ball. On offense, the Ravens will have a new offensive coordinator yet again; I believe that makes three years in a row. The incumbent is former Bears’ coach Marc Trestman and he does like the throw the ball and often to throw it deep. Last year, Justin Forsett was the #5 rusher in the NFL with more than 1200 yards. Was he a “1-year wonder” or can he do something like that again in 2015? In Week’s 3-5, the Ravens face each of their division opponents with the middle game against the Steelers on Thursday night. That is not a fun schedule. And the last five games in December and January are not a cake-wale either.

    Steelers 8-8: Yes, James Harrison is still playing LB for the Steelers but truth be told the Steelers’ defense had gotten old as a unit and needed help. In that sense, the Steelers added by subtracting Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu during the off-season; they both had very good careers but both had gone past their sell-by date. Football-lifer, Dick LeBeau also left town to take up the head defensive chores in Tennessee. The Steelers will have to win on offense this year until the defense rebuilds itself. To that end, the 2-game suspension for LeVeon Bell and the loss of center, Maurkice Pouncey are not a good things but the presence of Antonio Brown to haul in passes from Ben Roethlisberger is indeed a good thing for the Steelers. In games outside the division, the Steelers will face top QBs who will test that defense:

      Sept 10 Tom Brady
      Oct 12 Philip Rivers
      Nov 29 Russell Wilson
      Dec 8 Andrew Luck
      Dec 20 Peyton Manning

    Given that scheduling fact, the Steelers had best be prepared to outscore their division rivals quarterbacked by Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and whomever the Browns feel like playing whenever.

    Bengals 8-8: The good news in Cincy is that the Bengals have made the playoffs for the last 4 seasons and no other team in the AFC North can make that statement. The bad news is that in all four of those years, the Bengals have been one-and-done in those playoffs. I think this year will break the cycle because I think the Bengals will be watching the playoffs on TV this year. Last year, the Bengals’ defense was more porous than it had been in prior years. If that was due to the aging process, that is not a good omen for 2015. On the other hand, maybe the decline in the defense last year was merely due to the loss of LB Vontaze Burfict who should be back this season.

    Browns 5-11: The Browns open the season:

      At Jets
      Vs. Tennessee
      Vs. Oakland

    Those may be the “Barking Dog Games of the Week” three weeks in a row. Josh McCown arrives in Cleveland in his mid-30s to serve as a placeholder at QB until the Browns can either decide that Johnny Manziel is their guy or they go out and acquire their guy. Somehow, the Browns never seem to be able to find “their guy” at QB no matter how hard they try. Here is their history of high QB draft picks since the re-launch of the franchise in 1999:

      Tim Couch 1999
      Brady Quinn 2007
      Brandon Weedon 2012
      Johnny Manziel 2014

    The Browns won 7 games last year; I just do not think it was skill and cunning that achieved that record. It still seems to me like “smoke and mirrors”. Hence, my prediction of a regression for 2015. Realize that the Browns were the worst team in the NFL in rushing defense last year giving up 142 yards per game. The Browns may have something going for them on offense for at least the early part of the season. New offensive coordinator, John DiFilippo, has never been an offensive coordinator before so his opposing defensive coordinators will have no “book” on him. The schedule is a difficult one notwithstanding those opening 3 games and they will have 6 difficult in-division games. I think the Browns will take two steps back this year.

The AFC South is a division of “Haves” and “Have Nots”. It is not the only division like that but it is the one where the distinctions are the starkest. The AFC South is also the weakest division in the NFL this year counting the number of predicted wins by teams in that division. I believe the four teams will only win a total of 28 games.

    Colts: 11-5: The Colts offense was very good last year so all they did in the offseason was to acquire some more talent on that side of the ball. Andre Johnson is not the player he was 5 years ago; so what, he can still play. Frank Gore is not the runner he was three years ago; so what, he can still play. Rookie WR, Phillip Dorsett is another addition to a receiving corps that can haul in deep balls from Andrew Luck. The Colts are loaded with skill position players but they seem not to have addressed two weaknesses:

      Offensive Line: Andrew Luck gets hit too often and the Colts’ running attack has not been threatening let alone fearsome.

      Defensive Line: The Colts do not get nearly enough pass rush without blitzing a couple of linebackers.

    Those issues may haunt the Colts when they face top-shelf competition/playoff teams but make no mistake, the Colts are one of the AFC South’s “Haves”. Look for them to get off to a fast start with the first month of the season looking like this:

      At Buffalo
      Vs. Jets
      At Tennessee
      Vs. Jax

    There is a tough patch in the middle of the season but just in case the Colts need a win in the final weekend of the year to secure a Bye Week in the playoffs, they can close out against the Titans at home.

    Texans 9-7: I think Bill O’Brien has the makings of a good coach in the NFL meaning he may have what it takes to get his teams to overachieve. There is little doubt that he a no-nonsense fundamental-football guy. He has a team in Houston that has a very good defense and an offense that desperately needs a QB. The Texans had a training camp competition and Brian Hoyer beat out Ryan Mallett for the job. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the most positive thing on both of their résumés is this:

      Both QBs were in New England as understudies to Tom Brady and under the tutelage of Bill Belichick.

    An injury to RB, Arian Foster in training camp will not help the Texans’ offense at all. The Texans get to play the Colts twice; if they are going to win, the defense – stronger this year with the addition of Vince Wilfork and a potentially healthy Jadeveon Clowney – will have to keep Andrew Luck and company under control. I mentioned how the Colts have a soft landing in the final weekend of the season should they need it; well, the Texans have soft games for the last two weeks facing the Titans on the road and then the Jags at home. Like the Colts, the Texans are one of the AFC’s “Haves”.

    Jaguars 5-11: That prediction may not look like much but it is significantly improved over last year’s 3-13 mark. The Jags signed former Broncos’ TE Julius Thomas as a main target for QB, Blake Bortles. In the buzzard-luck tradition of this franchise, Thomas broke his index finger and needed surgery about a week ago meaning he will not be available for the first 4 or 5 games. Bortles can use a reliable pass catcher; this is his second year in the league and that is a key developmental season for guys who ultimately develop into something other than long-term straphangers in the league. None of the Jags’ WRs will cause defensive coordinators sleepless nights so it falls to the other TEs on the team to carry the load for a month. Those TEs are not superstars but they are capable enough to fill in:

      Clay Harbor
      Marcedes Lewis
      Nic Jacobs

    The Jags running attack will need to up its game too; they have decent if not eye-catching talent there. Defensively, the Jags are pretty good and they added Jared Odrick from the Dolphins to a D-Line that has Ziggy Hood and Sen’Derrick Marks. I see improvement in the Jags for the season but they still remain one of the AFC South’s “Have Nots”.

    Titans: 3-13: The Titans were 2-14 last year so it is not surprising that there were few if any bright spots on the roster. The defense was terrible; the offense seemed lost at sea. The Titans bright in 77-year old Dick LeBeau from the Steelers to try to get the defense up to slightly-below-average – which is all that one might really expect in one year. LeBeau has been around the block a few times; he came into the NFL as a defensive back in 1959; Dwight D. Eisenhower was President at that time. To goose the offense, the Titans drafted Marcus Mariotta virtually assuring that whatever play they get at QB this year it will not be consistent from game to game; such is the way of rookie NFL QBs with very few exceptions. They signed a couple of WRs in free agency and drafted Dorial Green-Beckham one round after Mariotta. Green-Beckham is one of those guys with lots of talent and an equal amount of off-field baggage. Since the season has not started and everyone still sees the glass as half-full, let me point out that my prediction of 3-13 is a 50% improvement over last year. Big deal; the Titans are definitely one of the AFC South’s “Have Nots”.

The AFC West has three good teams and an improving fourth team. Measured by the yardstick of total wins by the 4 teams, I have it ranked as one of the top three divisions this year. I like the Broncos to win the division but it will not be easy.

    Broncos 11-5: For a team that went 12-4 last year, the Broncos sure did a lot of personnel shuffling. Coach John Fox is gone and replaced by Gary Kubiak; Terrance Knighton and Rahim Moore moved on too. The team lost TE Julius Thomas to free agency but it still has Owen Daniels to man that position – assuming that Daniels can stay healthy. The offensive line undergoes big changes this year after trading away the center, losing a guard to free agency and then watching the starting left tackle go down for the year with a knee injury. That could be very important because Peyton Manning was never a nimble QB and he is in his 18th season. He can probably still outrun an oak tree – but it might be close. A key thing to watch with the Broncos this year is their running game. They may need it to keep pressure off Manning. The defense was top-notch last year and should stay that way again; Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware form a formidable pass rush tandem and the Broncos drafted another pass rusher in Shane Ray. I think the Broncos will win the division.

    Chiefs 10-6: People like to chirp at Chiefs’ QB, Alex Smith, because he never throws any TD passes to WRs. Make no mistake, I am not going to try to convince you that Smith is a top-flight QB; he is not. However, the Chiefs have not had a great corps of WRs recently either. This year, in free agency, they picked up Jeremy Maclin from Philly and he should make a difference in KC. Recall that Maclin was in Philly with Andy Reid so he does not have a steep learning curve when it comes to his “new offense”. As long as Jamaal Charles is healthy and running the football, the Chiefs will not need to win games solely through the air. For the last two years, the Chiefs’ defense has been really good and there seems to be plenty of rubber left on the tires of that unit. Last year, the Chiefs lost LB Derrick Johnson and DL Mike Devito in the first game of the year. Surely the injury bug will find another team to bite this year, right? The schedule for the Chiefs is very tough especially at the beginning:

      Week 1: At Houston
      Week 2: Vs. Denver
      Week 3: At Green Bay

    I see the Chiefs as a wild card team in the AFC.

    Chargers 8-8: The injury bug bit the Chargers in the offensive backfield last year to the point that the team saw their 3 top RBs miss a total of 25 games. Presumably that will not happen again this year. Early on, the Chargers may need to rely on running the ball more than usual because TE Antonio Gates will serve a 4-game suspension through 4 October and drafting Melvyn Gordon last May gives the Chargers a featured back. Fortunately for the Chargers, that portion of their schedule is not as tough as other parts:

      Week 1: Vs. Detroit
      Week 2: At Cincy
      Week 3: At Minnesota
      Week 4: Vs. Cleveland

    Even with Gates in civvies in the stands, the Chargers could be 3-1 when he makes his way in to the locker room for Game 5 at home against the Steelers. Actually, the offense is not what concerns me about the Chargers. Last year they only had 7 INTs as a team and only sacked opponents 26 times. Unless the ball always bounces in your favor, that kind of defense is going to lose games for you. I like the Chargers this year – it is just that I like the Chiefs and the Broncos more…

    Raiders 6-10: Since the Raiders lost to the Bucs in the Super Bowl back in 2003, the team has been a hot mess. Twice they finished 8-8; in all the other seasons they never won more than 5 games. In the last 3 seasons, the Raiders are 11-37. Nonetheless, I see the Raiders as a team on an uptick; 6 wins this year would double their total from last year. They are not going to contend in the division; they are not going to the playoffs; however, they are better than they were and they are not going to be walkover opponents this year. The additions of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper to play with Derek Carr were good moves. The additions of Curtis Lofton and Nate Allen will improve the defense where the presence of Khalil Mack should start to get some national attention. Putting a no-nonsense guy like Jack Del Rio in the head coaching slot has to help too. Most importantly, the Raiders OL seems to be improving to the point where QB Derek Carr is not in mortal danger every time the offensive coordinator calls a pass play. The Raiders’ schedule is brutal especially at the end of the year; here are their last 5 opponents:

      Vs. Kansas City
      At Denver
      Vs. Green Bay
      Vs. San Diego (Thursday night)
      At Kansas City

    One other miserable feature of the Raiders schedule is the distance they have to travel for their road games. They have 4 road games in the Eastern Time Zone and none look to be “national games” meaning they will begin at 1:00 PM EST which is 10:00 AM on the Raiders’ biological clocks.

So, to recap the AFC I see the Playoff Structure looking like this:

    Patriots (Home field advantage)
    Ravens (Bye Week)
    Indy
    Denver
    Miami (Wild Card)
    KC (Wild Card)

Moving over to the NFC, I will take the divisions in the reverse order from the AFC for no particular reason than that is how I listed my notes on my clipboard. If anyone reads something of cosmic importance into that choice, please let me know because I think it is unintentional.

I think the NFC West joins the AFC East and the AFC West as the three best divisions in the NFL for this year. If I am correct, all three divisions will house teams that win a total of 35 games for the year.

    Seahawks 12-4: The Seahawks have had a balanced offensive attack for the last several years and managed to add TE Jimmy Graham from the Saints in a draft day trade. My guess is that deal made Russell Wilson break out into a happy dance; Graham is that good. I also think the Seahawks got a steal in the draft with Tyler Lockett who is a WR that always seems to find an open spot to catch a pass and who also returns punts and kicks. Unless Marshawn Lynch breaks a leg, the Seahawks will be able to run effectively. Oh, and the defense is pretty good too even with Kam Chancellor holding out for a new contract. If my math is correct, missing a game costs Chancellor approximately $275K. He wants a new and larger contract and it will be interesting to see just how many $275K game checks he is willing to forego to put pressure on the team. The schedule is not all that kind to the Seahawks; in addition to their 6 tough in-division games here are some other tough games:

      Sept 20: At Green Bay
      Nov 1: At Dallas
      Dec 13: At Baltimore

    Rams 10-6: I think this is a big step forward year for the Rams. The Rams’ defense is keyed by its defensive line where there are 5 first round picks on the roster and the oldest one is only 30 years old. Nick Foles is 14-4 as a starter and Jeff Fisher obviously does not think he was a “system guy” in Philly. A big plus for the Rams will be a healthy Todd Gurley at running back. He comes off a knee injury last year at Georgia but he is a horse at 225 lbs and he can break big runs too. Second year back Tre Mason will provide an interesting change of pace from Gurley. What the Rams need is for a WR – say Tavon Austin – to develop this year into a reliable lead receiver. The Rams have experience and stability on the sidelines; Jeff Fisher is an excellent coach and this year could put him into the playoffs. A game on November 8 may decide the Rams’ playoff chances; more on that later.

    Niners 7-9: The changes on this team are too numerous to mention so let me just name a couple:

      Coach Jim Harbaugh – gone
      Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio – gone
      RB Frank Gore – gone
      LB Patrick Willis – gone
      DE Aldon Smith – gone
      DB Perish Cox – gone

    You get the idea; this year’s iteration of the Niners will bear little resemblance to the teams in recent years. Moreover, I do not see the replacements for the missing players as upgrades. Yes, the return of NaVorro Bowman from injury is a plus and an upgrade; the same goes for the return from injury of Glenn Dorsey but the numbers just do not add up in favor of the Niners. The first nine games of the season – leading up to their Bye Week – are difficult. If they are 4-5 at that point in the season, it will be a good thing. What they must avoid is being 2-7 at that point.

    Cards 7-9: I am just not a believer in the Cards this year. I know they played well last year before Carson Palmer got hurt and that Palmer is back now and says his leg is better than before the injury. Here is my problem in a nutshell:

      The Cards won 11 games last year but only outscored opponents by 11 points. That is called getting a whole lot of lucky bounces of the ball – and footballs are of a shape where the results of bounces can be very random.

      So, I have to decide if the cards are going to win 13 games this year because they have their #1 QB back and that will lead to more points and more wins – OR – will the Cards regress to the mean in terms of having the ball bounce their way.

      I choose the latter outcome here.

    Todd Bowles no longer runs the Cards’ defense; he is now the head-guy for the Jets. His replacement is a promotion from within meaning that new coordinator James Bettcher is familiar with the talent and what it can and cannot do. There is one other inescapable fact; Bettcher has never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Like the Raiders, the Cards have 4 games in the Eastern Time Zone presenting “biological clock challenges” and the Cards’ schedule has 5 tough games to end the season:

      At St. Louis
      Vs Minnesota (Thursday Night)
      At Philly
      Vs. Green Bay
      Vs. Seattle

The NFC South was an embarrassment to the NFL last year. Carolina made the playoffs with a record of 7-8-1. Three teams will be bunched together in this division again this year and the Bucs will be looking up at them all.

    Saints 9-7: The addition of CJ Spiller at RB gives the Saints a “lightening option” at RB to go with the “thunder option’ of Mark Ingram. That will be good for the Saints because with Jimmy Graham now playing in Seattle, the Saints will probably run the ball a bit more. Another area of improvement for this year would seem to be the defensive secondary where Brandon Browner comes in from New England to man one corner position and Jarius Byrd returns to the safety position from Injured Reserve last year. I do not think the Saints are a very good team but they are playing in a division bereft of very good teams. As Carolina proved last year, someone has to win the damned division. The schedule provides me the feather I will put on the scale to make the Saints the division winners. The Saints are an indoor team; they have been that way for years and years. Every year they get 8 indoor games at home as they will this year. In addition they will get road games with:

      Sept 13: Arizona (indoors)
      Oct 25: Indy (indoors)
      Nov 29: Houston (perhaps indoors – retractable roof)
      Jan 3: Atlanta (indoors)

    That adds up to 11 indoor games plus a possible 12th one if the weather in Houston demands.

    Carolina 9-7: The Panthers reupped Cam Newton to a long term deal worth something north of $100M in the offseason. He is not a bad QB but he is not one of the Top 10 in the league either. The loss of WR, Kelvin Benjamin, for the season is not a positive portent for the Panthers. The current stable of WRs headed up by Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown and Jerricho Cotchery is something less than “inspirational”. Jonathan Stewart is the feature back but he has been in the league for 7 years now and has about 1100 carries; if Father Time catches up with him, there is not much else to turn to. Luke Kuechly is an outstanding defender and – put simply – is not replaceable by anyone on this roster. Like the Saints, I do not think much of the Panthers as compared to some other squads but they do have some easy division games and someone has to win those games. The Panthers have a very tough run in the middle of the season:

      Oct 18: At Seattle
      Oct 25: Vs. Philly
      Nov 2: Vs. Indy
      Nov 9: Vs. Green Bay

    Note that three of those games against good opponents are in Carolina. The Panthers need to win at least two of them…

    Atlanta 7-9: The good news for the Falcons is that their defense this year just cannot be worse than the defense was last year. New coach Dan Quinn has the reputation as a defensive guru having been the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks for the past couple of seasons. Before getting too carried away here, Falcons’ fans need to recall that before Quinn had that job in Seattle, it belonged to Gus Bradley who has been toiling in Jax for the last two seasons without sterling results. The best of the DBs on the Falcons last year was Desmond Trufant; he will turn 25 early in the season and the questions about him are very simple and very direct:

      Is he capable of becoming a reliable shut-down corner?

      If he has that capability, is this the year he might demonstrate it?

    The Falcons offense last year was pass-dominated; it featured Matt Ryan and Julio Jones so that is not such a big surprise. On the other hand, the running game stunk to be blunt about it. That will have to improve for this year; how much it improves will determine if the Falcons can still harbor non-miraculous playoff thoughts past Thanksgiving. The schedule is not all that fearsome for the Falcons and so I will propose a modest one-game improvement for this year.

    Bucs 4-12: There is no way to sugar-coat this; the Bucs were downright awful last year and they took Jameis Winston with the top pick in the draft with the idea that he is the cornerstone of their rebuilding effort. Winston’s physical skills are not now – and never have been – in question. The uncertainty about Winston remains:

      How is he between the ears?

      Is he 21 going on 25?

      Or is he 21 going on 13?

    NFL fans will observe and derive the answers to those questions from afar; the Bucs and their coaches will live through the answers. The Bucs start the season at home against the Titans with their new rookie QB who is supposed to turn the franchise around. If the Titans lose, they can say it was a road game and postpone their dealings with reality. If the Bucs lose at home to the Titans, it will be the mirror image of a moral victory; it will be a gut-wrenching defeat. The schedule for the Bucs is not horrendous; at one point in the midst of the season they look at the following:

      Vs. Jax
      BYE WEEK
      At Washington

    That is not like facing “Murderers’ Row”… I am predicting a 100% improvement for the Bucs this year based on a gentle schedule and the fact that even as a rookie, Jameis Winston will have games where he outshines what Josh McCown and Mike Glennon did last year.

      [Aside: Do you realize that in the recent past the Bucs have had Josh Johnson, Josh McNown and Josh Freeman all start at QB? Seriously, I am not joshing…]

Moving on to the NFC North, I see a two-team race there but it may surprise you to know which two teams they are.

    Packers 11-5: The loss of Jordy Nelson for the season is a big deal; Nelson was the target for more passes from Aaron Rodgers over the last three seasons than anyone else – and it was by a large margin. It is also a big deal in this sense:

      If the Packers lose another WR or two to serious injury, Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to “JV players”; that would be like asking the best NASCAR driver ever to win the Daytona 500 driving a Dodge Minivan.

    Nevertheless, do not forget that absent a brickheaded play on an onside kick in the NFC Championship game against Seattle, the Packers would have been in the Super Bowl. Absent a calamity of injuries to the offense, the Packers will score points; the question is how many points will the defense give up? Dom Capers is the defensive coordinator in Green Bay and his reputation is that he comes up with creative ways to use the personnel on hand. Fans in Wisconsin have to hope that reputation has a basis in fact for the 2015 season. I have gotten all the way into this team analysis and have not yet mentioned Eddie Lacy who is a quality running back that adds a run dimension to the Packers’ offense. The schedule for the Packers is interesting right out of the gate:

      Sept 13: At Chicago (huge rivalry game0
      Sept 20: Vs. Seattle (grudge match from last year)
      Sept 28: Vs KC (MNF game against a good team)

    Later in the season, the Packers play 2 Thursday games which is not quite as bad as it sounds. On Thanksgiving night, the Packers play the Bears for the second time in the season and then on the next Thursday night they take on the Lions.

    Vikings 10-6: The Vikes are my team to take a big step forward in the NFC this year. Last year the Vikes were 7-9 but it sure did not seem as if they were that close to being a “break-even team”. My optimism here is based on the fact that Teddy Bridgewater will take a; significant step forward this year on his path to becoming a good NFL QB; his play at the end of last year was significantly better than it was earlier in the year; I like to think of that as a positive omen. Moreover, the addition of Adrian Peterson to the backfield – even with a year of “football rust” on his chassis – can only be a plus for the offense. Here is a Vikings’ question with potentially negative implications:

      Will Cordarelle Patterson show this year that he is something more than a fast guy who is a return man?

    The Vikings lost a stud on the OL – tackle Phil Loadholt – to a season-ending injury in training camp; somehow, they need to find a way to replace him with someone more skilled than a guy who was a piano-mover two weeks ago. The schedule is relatively kind to the Vikings but I foresee that their key game is on November 8. More on that later…

    Lions 6-10: The Lions had a fearsome defense last year that kept them in games until the offense could figure out what the offense was there to do. Then in free agency the Lions lost Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley and replaced the two of them with Haloti Ngata and a rookie. With no offense to Ngata who is a quality player, he cannot fill in for two guys who were standouts as DTs. And that is not all that is missing from last year’s Lions’ defense that ranked second in total defense in the league. Also gone are George Johnson and LB, CJ Mosley. The Lions were 11-5 last year; my prediction for this year represents a precipitous if not calamitous drop. Yes, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are still in Detroit but with Reggie Bush having moved on to SF, can you name any Lions’ RBs without peeking? You are correct, the Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah last May and he may need to be a key part of that offense this year. The schedule is not a killer but there are two small segments that might prove challenging:

      Sept 27: Vs. Denver
      Oct 5: At Seattle (Monday nite)

    And…

      Nov 15: At Green Bay
      Nov 22: At Oakland
      Nov 26: Vs. Philly (Thanksgiving Day)
      Dec 3: Vs. Green Bay (Thursday night)

    Bears 4-12: The collapse of the Bears in 2014 cost the coach and the GM their jobs. Last year the team went 5-11; I think this year is going to be worse. One of the offensive “improvements” the Bears are touting is the reuniting of Jay Cutler with WR Eddie Royal; they had a grand old time of it when they were teammates in Denver. The problem is that grand old time happened in 2008; in NFL terms, that is Paleolithic. The good news is that new coach John Fox has been successful in Carolina and again in Denver. He showed that he was adaptable in Denver when he took a Tim Tebow-quarterbacked team to the playoffs and won a game there. He will indeed need that kind of magic touch in Chicago this year just to aspire to a .500 record. Let me explain why I say that. If Jay Cutler falters or gets injured, the #2 guy on the Bears’ depth chart is Jimmy Claussen. There are currently two guys behind him on that chart which is a frightening thought. Vic Fangio was cut loose by the Niners in their housecleaning at the end of the year and he found a landing spot with the Bears as defensive coordinator. He may provide a spark – but he does not have the ability to rush the passer or provide tight pass coverage. An important element in Fangio’s success with the Bears’ defense will be how much gas Jared Allen has left in his tank. In the first three weeks, the Bears have to face the Packers and the Seahawks; later in the season they have this scheduling stretch:

      Nov 9: At San Diego (Monday night)
      Nov 15: At St. Louis
      Nov 22: Vs. Denver
      Nov 26: At Green Bay (Thanksgiving night)

Finally, we arrive in the NFC East as our circumnavigation of the NFL world completes itself. This division will have a highly contested two-team race at the top which the Cowboys will win and a pretty-much guaranteed bottom feeder down the line.

    Cowboys 12-4: The Cowboys have an injury problem they will have to resolve quickly; Orlando Scandrick was their best DB last year and he tore both his ACL and his MCL in a practice about 2 weeks ago. Obviously, he is done for the year. Lots of folks have said that the Cowboys’ loss of RB DeMarco Murray from last year’s team was the thing it would miss the most; while I agree that Murray is a quality RB, the loss of Scandrick is to me significantly more important. The front seven for the Cowboys is solid and the addition of Randy Gregory seems to be a big plus – assuming that he can continue to steer clear of the substance abuse policy and testing by the league. The schedule gives the Cowboys a soft landing at the end of the year if they need one. Their last 3 games are:

      Vs. NY Jets
      At Buffalo
      Vs. Washington.

    Eagles 10-6: Chip Kelly has had his Eagles teams go 10-6 in each of his first two years with the club. I do not see any reason this year should be different. In the offseason, Kelly seemed to be morphing into the NFL version of Dr. Frankenstein by trading quarterbacks with the Rams, trading away his most productive RB, losing his top WR to free agency and letting a Pro Bowl guard become a cap casualty. Nevertheless, it looks as if the team is not crippled by any/all of that. Sam Bradford takes over the controls here; the Eagles’ offense involves lots of quick throws and lots of speed; will that game fit Bradford’s style? It sure was not what he was asked to do in St. Louis. Moreover, can he stay healthy? In those first two 10-6 seasons, Kelly has won games with Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles at QB. Not to be too snarky here, but no one in Canton is taking measurements for either player so they can get a head start on casting a bronze bust. What the Eagles need to do to improve their record is to improve their defense. The Eagles gave up more plays of 20+ yards than any other team in the league. Adding Byron Maxwell and rookie Eric Rowe to the secondary will hopefully reduce that number; adding Kiki Alonzo to the linebacking corps should help too.

    NY Giants: 6-10: The Giants were 6-10 last year and I do not think they are going to be any better or worse this year. Here is an unabashed bottom line analysis for the Giants:

      Last year their defense was horrible – which is pretty much what their defense was two years ago.

      If it doesn’t get a LOT better this year, the Giants will be mired in this level of mediocrity.

    One way to address that needed improvement is to change defensive coordinators and the Giants went back to Steve Spagnuolo who had held that job with the team back in 2007. That may have been a big addition for the team but the hand injury to Jason Pierre-Paul was a big subtraction for that defense. In the secondary, the Giants had to go out and sign Brandon Merriweather as a safety; Merriweather could not make it on the Skins’ roster so you sort of have an idea what his level of productivity might be. The Giants will win games where they get into shootouts with other bad defensive teams who cannot also keep up with the likes of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz. The schedule is not that bad for the Giants but the prediction of 6-12 assumes that the team breaks even at home and wins two road games – against Washington and Tampa Bay.

    Skins 3-13: It will be a long and winding road to rebuild this roster. New GM, Scott McCloughan, began the process last year but the amount of “has-beens” and “never-weres” on the roster means it will take multiple seasons to get to a competitive state. The Skins have 3 QBs and all of them have flaws. Kirk Cousins will start the year and he has the best chance of developing into a serviceable QB in the Jay Gruden offensive system. Behind him are Colt McCoy who is a career backup and RG3 who could not be a poorer match for the Gruden offensive system without undergoing at least one amputation. In the event that Cousins shows well this year, the Skins will have an interesting dilemma at the end of the year; Cousins’ rookie contract is up then. What to do…? On offense, the Skins will employ a power running game with two big backs; Alfred Morris is also in his walk-year and Matt Jones is a running back who seems to like contact so much that he goes looking for it whenever he has the ball. On defense, the Skins will give up big pass plays with receivers running in broad open spaces in their secondary. The Skins have a 3-week stretch in October where they may be able to catch their breath;

      Oct 18: At NY Jets
      Oct 25: Vs Tampa Bay
      Nov 1: BYE Week.

    When the Skins get that Bye Week they will have played 7 games. I think their best scenario is a 2-5 record but 1-6 is more likely. That home game against the Bucs might be a win going into the Bye Week which might engender talk of momentum and all that stuff. Well, just look past the Bye Week and you will see that after stewing for 2 weeks on their lousy record, the Skins get to travel north to pay a visit to the Patriots in Foxboro. Hello, momentum…

In order to make my prediction for the NFC Playoff structure, I need to explain the significance of “the November 8 game”. On that day the Vikings will play the Rams in Minnesota. That game will provide the tie-breaker between those two teams each with 10 wins. Only because the Eagles are not going to play either team will I concede them a wild card spot and declare that the other wild card spot will go to – – the St. Louis Rams.

Therefore the NFC Playoff Structure is:

    Seahawks (Home field advantage)
    Cowboys (Bye week in the playoffs)
    Packers
    Saints (Via a tie-breaker0
    Eagles
    Rams

So, let it be written; so, let it be done…

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