Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

When Facts are Not the Truth: The Blackballing of Colin Kaepernick

Monday, June 5th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

CK

It seems Dan Orvlovsky will be calling it a career.

Yes, that Dan Orvlovsky was still in the league in 2016.  The same one who in 2008, made the 2nd most egregious (after a throwing a pick 6 inside your own 20) hustling backwards move a QB can make.  He literally sacked himself!

While with what would become the 0-16 Lions, Orvlovsky retreated away from the Vikings Jared Allen and with absolutely no awareness of the back of the end zone, which by rule is a safety and two points for the Vikings, and gives them the ball.

This play was literally his claim to fame.

Nevertheless, he was never subjected to the ever sticking “he can’t read defenses…I mean the back of end zones”.  In fact, after that season and play, 3 other NFL teams, the Texans, Colts, and Buccaneers thought he was good enough to be a backup.  Simply put, a guy who was not good enough for arguably the worst team in NFL history still got 3 other jobs with NFL teams.  Still, yet some are still trying to rationalize with a straight face that “system” incompatibility explains why Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job?

You may as well piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining!

This is a perfect example of when an analysis can be factual and well-based and yet not be truth at the same time.  Facts are statements or analysis that can be supported with verifiable reality.  Truth are facts within the full context of contributing factors.

The facts are that Colin Kaepernick is not, nor ever has been a traditional drop back passer.  It simply is not his strongest skill-set and thus a system calling for that is not a good match.  Some pitchers have a great fastball but not much of an off-speed pitch.  Some guards are good at penetrating but don’t shoot well from the outside.  Most professionals are incomplete.  It doesn’t mean that there is no job for them.

But when these facts are offered up to explain why he doesn’t have a job in the NFL, they are not truthful.

Always be leery of the “he can’t read defenses” critique, which is a dog whistle way of calling Black quarterbacks dumb.  The fact is he has had a poor offensive line which has contributed to an unreliable running game and non-threatening receivers.  Under such circumstances, knowing when to get the hell out of Dodge is actually a sign of intelligence.  Staying in the pocket to take an unnecessary beating would be dumb.

The truth is, the overwhelming number of NFL QBs, both historically, present day, and even the Hall of Famers are system dependent!

Only one today is not burdened with such limitations and that would be of course Aaron Rogers!  He is the beginning and end of the current list to have all the specialized skills that can accommodate any of the common offensive schemes/systems of today.  In short, one must be able to throw the deep out, be accurate in traffic, avoid the rush, and extend plays when the pocket breaks down; and also know when to get rid of the ball, usually with a 3-step drop.  Historically, for me, only 4 others come to mind; Roger Staubach, Warren Moon (you must remember the Moon at Washington and in the CFL), John Elway, and Steve Young.

No, Tom Brady cannot run the read-option or avoid pressure, nor could Peyton Manning.  Big Ben has never nor ever could be a traditional 3-step drop West Coast passer.  In fact, that would be contrary to his strength which would be to extend plays.

So, if 95% plus of NFL QBs are system dependent, then that could not possibly be the reason for a QB not being able to get a job.  The truth is that the NFL is arguably the most exclusive cartel in the world.  Its owners only answer to a commissioner that they have the authority to fire.  Even if their product is bad, every team prints money.  Such people are not very interested in anyone posing serious questions about the society that allows them such privilege, and that is what Kapernick did.  They didn’t have to all agree on a conference call or meet at some golf club for the blackballing to take place, any more than drug lords need to verbally agree that potential witnesses need to be taken out.  It’s understood.  Common interests often are reflected in common motives and behaviors.

It is warranted to “peacock” about American freedom of speech.  I am not aware of such a principle being written into law quite the way it is here.  But part of that pride should come from having the capacity to stomach the speech or expression one does not like or agree with as well.  Thus far, the NFL has not mastered that aspect of the principle.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

SAT Scores and the NFL Combine: Why Both are So Often Unreliable

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: A general view of the draft stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

 

NFL Draft day is here.  And what we think we know from our instant information on steroids era is leaving us no more informed about who will be a good player than in past years prior to the NFL Combine.  Call it a case of too much information in the wrong hands.

 

A great case study for this was the 2003 NFL Combine when a very well run franchise wanted a particular player very badly.  However, it was feared that the player would not be there when the teams’ turn came.  Though this team had two first-round picks, it did not want to trade up or give up one, if not necessary.  So their best hope was for the player to run a disappointing 40-yard dash.   This organization was smart enough to realize that the teams picking ahead of them were doing so for a reason: they were not very smart and overvalued NFL Combine information.

 

The player they wanted obliged them and ran a poor 40-yard dash, and as a result, the Detroit Lions bypassed him and took WR Charles Rogers at number 2.  The NY Jets did the same and took DL Dwayne Robertson at 4, as did the NO Saints taking DL Johnathan Sullivan at 6.   None of those three played more than 6 years in the NFL, a combined 14 years overall and 0 Pro Bowl selections.  This team with its 10thpick took an edge rusher out of Arizona State who would go on to record 6 double digit sack seasons and become a 6-time Pro-Bowl player.  Even after missing most of 2015 with an injury, he had 8 sacks last year, at age 33.  This year will be his 15th in the NFL.

 

The team was the Baltimore Ravens and the player was Terrell Suggs.  In addition to being the ugliest man in the NFL, he has been terrorizing my Steelers and the whole damn league ever since.

 

It’s not just the NFL.  Remember all the fuss about how much weight Kevin Durant could or couldn’t lift?

 

It might surprise some of you how this process of reading way too much into combine data is not much different than the impact of the SAT/ACT scores on the college admission process.   In my time as an educational professional, I wish I had a dollar for every student I have come across with great SAT/ACT scores who fell flat on his or her face, not just at a 4-year college, but also at the community college level.  I would be even richer if I had a dollar for all those I have encountered speaking little to no English and/or coming from impoverished situations, often with no household knowledge of the college process, and yet thrived, even to the point of earning transfer scholarships.

 

What the two processes have in common is how much of an indictment they both are of how we assess human potential.  Even more disturbing is the underlying reason we fall prey to this; simply put we are analytically lazy.

 

It’s a lot easier to look at numbers and be overly reliant upon them when making an assessment than it is too take the time to make a holistic and comprehensive assessment.  What NFL combine numbers and SAT scores do not measure is resilience, work ethic, and emotional intelligence, in spite of the fact that there are tools to measure both resilience and emotional intelligence.  Instead the NFL uses the Wonderlic.

 

I am not suggesting that none of the information collected is valuable.  I am, however, adamant that the vertical leap of an offensive linemen in football is not a piece of information that serves any useful purpose.  Furthermore, I argue the information collected should never replace direct interaction and other developmental factors, such as those already mentioned.  After all, at age 18-22, none of us are fully developed neurologically and thus even the best assessments are grasping as indicators of future success.

 

There is good news on the college front.  There are now over 800 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions that have changed their approach to standardized test scores, by not requiring the SAT or ACT for admission.  So when high school counselors advise students with poor SAT or ACT scores about their college options, they can still offer them hope to include both those 800 colleges, in addition to the far too often undersold community college.

 

Unfortunately, I see no trend in the NFL against the current conventional thinking, which is to remain a slave to combine data for fear of looking stupid if one takes a chance on an outlier way of thinking.    It’s as if teams would rather continue to fail doing what most of the league does as opposed to taking a chance doing things differently.

 

Tonight, the cycle continues.  I’ll kick back with friends and watch but not far from my mind will be something a highly successful college and NFL coach once said about the draft, to paraphrase; you only have to worry about maybe a 3rd of the league.  The other two-thirds are so dysfunctional that they will self-destruct under the weight of their own idiotic decision making.

 

I wish the Ravens were among that two-thirds dysfunctional group back in 2003.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

 

The Trouble with G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) Debates

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

About a week ago, BEFORE the outcome of the Super Bowl, I made the case against Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. …or more specifically, against the overly simplistic criteria of Super Bowl rings so many use to come to such a conclusion. Since the Patriots’ improbable comeback, social media has been inundated with claims that it validated his G.O.A.T. status.

 

Even before last week’s win, Brady was well within the conversation…even if the conversation itself is inherently flawed and incomplete. Why? Consider Joe Montana’s response to the question about Tom Brady.

 

“I think that it’s really hard to put anyone in that bucket,” he said. “Even before he got five-you look back to some of the guys some people don’t even know, Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, I can’t remember which one but one of them won like seven or nine championships and was so far ahead of their time. It’s so hard to compare guys from then to now, how they would compare here and how we would compare back then.”

 

Maybe this is merely one competitor’s refusal to surrender the mythical throne to another, but even if it is, can it be denied that he has a point?

 

Here is the trouble with G.O.A.T. debates: 1) they wreak with recency bias; 2) they lack consideration for era context; and 3) its participants have no way to factor in the eye test.

 

Why are they subject to recency bias? Because it is a natural tendency of human memory. That is precisely why those running for political office try to get the last positive idea about themselves and/or negative idea about their opponent out before the actual election. Whatever is most recent is often deemed “better” or at the very least, most reliable. This is compounded as time goes by. As hard as it might be to comprehend, in 30-40 years some very knowledgeable basketball fans will be having a G.O.A.T. debate and it will not be open and shut that such a title will go to Michael Jordan. In fact, some will not even give MJ proper consideration. As ridiculous as that sounds, trust me, it will happen.

 

Then there is the lack of consideration for the context of eras. Regardless of the sport, different rules and circumstances provide for different challenges. So essentially, the comparisons are next to never “apples to apples”. For example, for most of Mel Blount’s career as the best corner of the 1970s, he could literally maul receivers all over the field until 1978 when the “one chuck within 5 yards” rule was implemented. Add that to the fact that he didn’t have to cover long playing on the back end of the Steelers “Steal Curtain” defense and pass rush. So as great as he was, how does one compare him to Deion Sanders as a cover corner?

 

How does one compare Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady, who faced the same 11 guys on defenses that were far less sophisticated when compared to today’s defenses? But Unitas also had to use receivers that had a much more difficult time getting open then any that Brady has had. Finally, defenders could actually rough up Unitas without getting the flag that they would get today against Brady.

 

The differences cannot be limited to sports factors alone. Our food supplies are different, one could argue for both the better and worst of that supply, I contend has led to bigger and stronger athletes, if not necessarily better. Thus, the more recent era produced a 300+ pounder named Shaquille O’Neal. It’s often said he would have knocked Bill Russel into the second row. But would he have been 300 pounds had he come along during Russel’s era? Would Russel have been a mere 215 pounds had he come up during Shaq’s era? Unless an adjustment is made for both, it’s as a ridiculous comparison as it would be comparing the production of a secretary with a typewriter with one that has a computer. Or the closure rate of a homicide detective with DNA with one before DNA.

 

The last factor in the flawed GOAT debates is the lack of the eye test. This is what stat junkies fall for all the time. Statistics alone do not provide the nuance that only actually watching an athlete does. In other words, consider sports greatness the same as the Supreme Court considers pornography: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you SEE it.

 

Statistically, some will make the case for Andy Petite being a viable Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) candidate over other lefthanders such as Mickey Lolich, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Vida Blue, or David Wells; none of whom are or ever will get into the HOF. I remember all five of them and trust me; Andy Petite, though a very good pitcher for many years, was not as good as any of them.

 

So how can we continue these flawed, but highly entertaining debates? One simple adjustment; instead of declaring who is the G.O.A.T., how about we simply limit it to the G.O.Y.T. or Greatest of Your Time? Under this banner, we are all qualified. Recency bias is not a factor, we can all speak to era context and we limit our assessment to those we have actually seen play.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

City of Atlanta Top 5 Sports Meltdowns

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Bosher #5 react after losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 05: Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Bosher #5 react after losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Honorable mention: 1981 Falcons had a 2-touchdown, 4th quarter lead on the Cowboys at home in the NFC playoffs, only to give up 20 4th quarter points and lose 30-27.

 

Honorable mention: 2012 Falcons blow a 17-point lead at home in the NFC championship game, losing to the San Francisco 49ers

 

5) Twins outlast Braves in 7 games of the 1991 World Series on Jack Morris’ 10-inning, 1-0 shutout

ATL #5
4) 1996 Braves bring a 2-0 World Series lead over the “Stankees” back to Atlanta and proceed to lose 4 straight, as the defending champs

ATL #4

 

3) 1998 Falcons lose Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos after their safety and NFL Man of the Year gets busted in a prostitution sting on South Beach in Miami, the night before the game

ATL #3

 

2) After winning game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semis in Boston, the 1988 Hawks bring a 3-2 lead back to Atlanta, only to lose in game 6 and then game 7 in Boston, overshadowing one of the greatest basketball duels ever, between Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird

ATL #2

 

 

And the top Atlanta Sports meltdown of all time is……you know. LOL

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for a 5th Time!!!

Monday, February 6th, 2017

TB

For New England Patriots Super Bowl LI gear, click HERE or click the link below.
New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship Gear

Why Tom Brady is NOT the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

TB

Tom Brady is a beast: a straight up mercenary of NFL defenses.

 

Don’t give me all the Spygate, Deflategate, or any other gate asterisks. As much as I would like to cite these factors as the reason he has tormented my Steelers so much, it just does not stand up to scrutiny.

 

Before the spying was revealed in 2007, the Patriots were 4-1 with him under center, including two playoff wins in Pittsburgh, against my Steelers. His touchdown to interception ratio was 7:3 and his QB rating was 97.9. Pretty damn good, right?

 

Since the spying was revealed, the Patriots are 5-1 with Brady under center, including scoring 55 points against my team in 2013, most ever against a Pittsburgh team. His TD/Interception ratio is 19:0 and his QB rating is 127.3.

 

No typos there, folks.

 

If they were spying before, I wish they would go back to spying today.

 

He is indeed on my Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks.

The case here isn’t that he is not on the shortlist of greatest of all time. Only that he is not THE greatest of all time, and that isn’t as much due to him as it is us. The primary thing we use to put Brady over say Aaron Rogers is Super Bowl rings. Why is that flawed? Because the “how many rings you got?” is the most superficial and intellectually lazy argument in sports.

 

If it’s all about the rings, then Jim Plunkett and Doug Williams were both better than Dan Fouts, right? Mark Rypien and Trent Dilfer were better than Dan Marino, right? Of course not, GTFOHWTBS!!!!

 

Likewise, Tom Brady is not better than Aaron Rogers or Joe Montana, just as Bill Russell was not better than Wilt Chamberlain or Mickey Mantle was not better than Willie Mays.

 

Football is the ultimate team sport. So how silly is it that we assign credit for winning Super Bowls to one position in these debates? Brady has been instrumental in the Patriots great run. He has not won Super Bowls by himself.

 

And even if we were inclined to credit him based on individual performances, Brady has been a shadow of his regular season self in the Super Bowls. Consider them one by one: against the Rams he was still in the game manager mold. His MVP in that game was as much based on sports writers’ anti-kicker and defense bias as it was Brady’s performance. Everyone knows Vinatieri was as or more valuable in that game. Against the Panthers he threw 3 interceptions. In other words, he kept both teams in the game.

 

Against the Eagles, Deion Branch won MVP. Any time a receiver, not named Jerry Rice, wins Super Bowl MVP, it’s an indictment of the QB performance. And don’t let me start on who the real MVP was that game, playing on a barely-heeled broken leg. Hint: the writers are still dissing him in HOF voting and his initials are T.O.!

 

Granted he torched Seattle, arguably the best defense that he has faced in any Super Bowl. But we all know that but for the worst call in football history (not just NFL but AFL, USFL, College, and High School), the Patriots don’t beat Seattle and Brady would be a .500 QB in Super Bowls going into tonight’s game. As a matter of fact, both he and Belichick are a few plays here and there from being 0-6 in SB’s.

 

By contrast, Joe Montana’s TD/Interception ratio in 4 Super Bowls is 11:0! That too, is not a typo.

 

So win or lose tonight, Tom Brady is not the greatest QB of all time.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

MY ATLANTA FALCONS ARE GOING BACK TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog

 

 

 

 

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn gets the infamous Gatorade bath.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn gets the infamous Gatorade bath.

The date was January 17, 1999. I was in the West Towers Dormitory of Howard University. It was my sophomore year and The Atlanta Falcons had risen as the formidable force in the NFC. They had beaten the 49ers and were coming off a regular season 14-2 and were getting ready to go up against The No.1 seeded Vikings. The game went back and forth and The Vikings were keen on showing why they were pretty much unstoppable that season. When the game went into overtime, I felt as though this might be it. Two plays later and that man [Morten] Andersen kicked a FG that sent the Dirty Birds to the Super Bowl. “Elation” cannot explain the feeling I experienced until that elation quickly turned into despair only 2 weeks later, when the Falcons got a hiding at the hands of John Elway. Very painful…..let’s move on.

After that Super Bowl, the Dirty Birds became a regular NFL team that really didn’t accomplish much. We went from season to season just coasting along and remaining relevant in the NFL. It wasn’t until we drafted Michael Vick in 2001 that we began to see a resurgence of Atlanta magic at the Georgia Dome. Those years of having a deeply athletic elite QB made a big difference in some foundation work of where the Falcons would eventually end up. Then, the dog fight situation happened (grrrr), Vick gets suspended, and then we get a number 3 draft pick with Matt Ryan in 2008.

When Ryan joined the Falcons, I was optimistic given what he had done at Boston College. Since he joined, The Falcons have been to the playoffs 5 times where Matt was only able to record 1 win. Matt Ryan went from “Matty Ice” to “Matty can’t win in January”. 2012 was promising because we saw the Falcons go 13-3 in the regular season and then make it to the Conference Championship Game, only to be ousted by the San Francisco 49ers, even though the Falcons started off the game 17-0.

From that point up until now, we have barely broken .500 and not even gone to the playoffs. Last season, long time coach Mike Smith was replaced by Dan Quinn; a no nonsense thoroughbred Defensive coach that came up through the Seattle system. Immediately we saw a turnaround in the way the team played by starting out the 2015-2016 season 5-0, only to be hampered by injuries, bad situations on penalties costing us vital plays, and overall sloppiness. The season ended 8-8 and most fans were wondering what next and how do we build on these mistakes.

2016 started out promising.  Flashes of the previous season prevailed in certain games, but it wasn’t until the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in November that we began to see the Falcons firing on all cylinders, only losing one game from that point up until now, making it a 7-game winning streak going into the Super Bowl.

The last two games of the playoffs have been nothing short of a phenomenal display of the ability of this team. Beating teams with powerhouse quarterbacks such as [Russell] Wilson and [Aaron] Rogers shows just how far and how prepared this quad is. The offensive weaponry at the disposal of Matt Ryan justifies why he leads the league in touchdowns to several different receivers. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Jr are having epic seasons and the ground game controlled by [Tevin] Coleman and [Devonta] Freeman are just gems to watch. Then you have the mostly rookie defense who get stronger by the day.

All in all, it has been a fairytale story for the Falcons. From relative obscurity to playing in the Super Bowl for the second time in their history remains remarkable for fans like me that were introduced to this franchise via association, by living in the city.

Sunday, February 5th, the Dirty Birds will have the opportunity to take us back to the days of Jamal Anderson and the antics that defined the Dirty Bird, but this time flying away sky high in Texas.

 

Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.

Dear Steeler Nation Mike Tomlin Ingrates: Take a Seat and Shut the F#%& up!!!!

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

MT

The divisional round of the NFL playoffs are underway this weekend.  If your team is still alive with the hope of reaching and winning a super bowl, be grateful.

 

After all, you could be a Bills, Vikings, or Browns fan.

 

This brings me to the baffling criticism more than a few of my fellow members of Steeler Nation have for head coach Mike Tomlin. Yes, that Mike Tomlin.  The Super Bowl winning coach with a 64% lifetime winning percentage; the same one who has not had a losing season in his first ten.

 

A summary of the critique is that he was a token fast-track hire due to the Rooney Rule, which is the NFL rule that mandates a minority coach be interviewed for all head-coaching jobs; 2) he inherited a great team, and situation with an upper echelon QB in Ben Roethlisberger; and 3) that he has lost to a lot of bad teams.

 

Let’s address them all from the last forward:

 

Under Tomlin the Pittsburgh Steelers have absolutely loss to a lot of bad teams.  There is no way around this.  Even if we overlook losses in 2012 and 2013 when the team was only 8-8 itself, there is still more than enough of a sample of mind boggling losses to include 3 in 2009 as defending champs to the likes of a 4-12 Chiefs team, and 5-11 Raiders and Browns teams.  (The Raiders loss was especially appalling, given it was at home to a career backup journeyman QB.  Tomlin has gone 1-3 to very bad Raider teams).  In 2014 there was the home loss to the 2-14 Buccaneers and another loss to a 4-12 Jets team.  And who can forget the playoff loss to a Denver team in 2011 as defending AFC champs?   Yes, by definition that Denver team was not a bad team, by virtue of making it to the playoffs.  But you still can’t lose to a team led by Tim Tebow.

 

So that criticism is valid and is on Tomlin.

 

The other two are crap!

 

Was Tomlin handed a great situation, team, and upper echelon QB?  The answer to that is mixed:  yes, great situation for the stability the Steelers management provides but Ben was hardly an upper echelon QB at the time.  As matter of fact, he was coming off his worst year as a pro, throwing 23 picks in 2006.  Upon Tomlin’s arrival in 2007 he had one of his best two years of his career.  Has it ever occurred to any of Tomlin’s haters that just maybe he has had as much of a hand in Ben’s success as the other way around?

 

Sure, the team was a year removed from winning it all in 2005, but went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in Bill Cowher’s last year of 2006.  I would not call that great.

 

Has it occurred to you that Tomlin might know something about coaching, even without Ben?  After all, in the 17 games Ben did not start under Tomlin, the Steelers actually have a winning record (9-8), including a 3-1 start in 2010, when Ben was suspended.  When Bill Belichick started this year at 3-1 without Tom Brady, it was lauded as evidence of his coaching brilliance.  Why not the same for Tomlin?

 

I am not suggesting that he is as good a coach as Belichick.  He is not!  I only insist that our critiques have a semblance of consistency.  The fact is that over his career, Belichick is 50-53 in games not started by Tom Brady.  Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy is 3-5-1 when Aaron Rogers does not start. Sean Peyton is 0-2 without Drew Brees for the Saints.  Winning consistently with or without an upper echelon QB is nowhere near as easy as this faction of Steeler Nation would have you believe.

 

How have others done who have inherited even better situations?  Let’s look at when George Seifert took over the reins from Bill Walsh for the 49ers, and when Barry Switzer took over for Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys.  Both inherited SB champs and HOF QBs in Montana and Aikman, much further along in their development than was Ben when Tomlin took over the Steelers.  Seifert would repeat in ’89 and win yet again in ’94.  After 8 years, he won over 70% of his games.

 

A cautionary tale for Steeler nation is that it wasn’t enough for the 49er faithful and they ran him out of town.

 

They have not won a SB since.

 

Switzer won in his second year in 1995, then presided over the gradual decline of the Cowboys to become an afterthought by the late 1990s.  Only now are they beginning to emerge from the wilderness.

 

I ask you Steeler Nation: would you rather have had Barry Switzer?

 

Winning consistently in the NFL is never a sure thing.

 

Winning Super Bowls, even with a HOF caliber coach and QB is even less of a sure thing.

 

There have been a total of 5 such combinations over this era to include Shula/Unitas, Allen/Juergensen, Grant/Tarkenton, Shula/Marino and Levy/Kelly that NEVER won a Super Bowl.  This group of 5 has a cumulative record in the super bowl of 0-10!!!!!!

 

Sure, Shula won when paired with Griese, but the point remains that they don’t grow Super Bowl winning coaches on trees, nor are they bottled and sold.

 

The last suggestion (which is that Tomlin’s hire was tokenism) is as insulting to the Rooneys as it is to Tomlin.

 

If any organization in sports deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to which coach to hire, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  When they picked Tomlin to be their coach, they had only two for the better part of the previous 40 years.  Both won Super Bowls.  Tomlin has won a Super Bowl.  They got this!

 

If those of the football world were only as outraged by the reasons for the Rooney Rule as they are about the Rooney Rule, we may not need a Rooney Rule!

 

On an even larger level, the snipes at Tomlin reflect a larger, uglier American reality reaffirmed by the recent presidential election.  The simmering narrative that anyone Black who ascends to a position of prestige and or privilege did so without merit and at the expense of “hard-working Americans”, which is dog-whistle-code for “White folks.”

 

When Ronald Reagan employed his brand of the “Southern Strategy” to lure what would become known as “Reagan Democrats,” ground zero for this demographic was the greater Pittsburgh, PA region. As the steel mills of the area closed, Steeler fans spread all over the country, which is what in part makes up Steeler Nation today, but that mindset is as prevalent today as it was when Reagan won the White House in 1980.   Donald Trump used the same formula, only on steroids, to win the same office in November.

 

As for solutions, within football alone, there aren’t any.  If Tomlin continues to win, it’s what he is supposed to do with all that was “given” to him.  If he does not, it’s validation that he is not a good coach and should have never gotten the job.  He could walk on water and his critics will complain that his feet got wet.

 

This solution is above and beyond football and requires the critics to look at themselves in the mirror and reassess their expectations. This requires rational self-assessment…..a quality that fanatics (fans) have very little history of displaying.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Aqib Talib…and Where is an Old Raider When You Need One?

Friday, January 6th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

AT

By now, you have heard that Denver Broncos corner Aqib Talib literally snatched the chain off the neck of Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree.

 

For this he was not penalized.

 

For this Crabtree did nothing.

 

Think about that for a minute…….

 

My guess is that most will think about one of two things: 1) What the hell is the matter with Talib?;  or 2) What the hell is the matter with Crabtree?

 

Can you imagine anyone doing such a thing to Raider legends Jack Tatum, Lyle Alzado, or even mild-mannered Cliff Branch?  It would have NEVER happened.  And if it did, Talib would have been dealt with on the spot!  No one bullied the old Raiders….they were the bullies as “The Autumn Wind” confirms.

 

On Talib, in the era of football when it is most difficult to be a good corner, he is a great corner.

 

That’s the end of the contextual accolades for him.

 

He is also a first class jackass.

 

We know he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  You can’t be if you shoot yourself, which he did.  But I would like to think his deal is more complex than simply being an idiot.

 

I don’t know if the root of this is a bad upbringing, mental illness, or any of the other usual suspects.  Frankly, after people hit 25 years of age, I don’t especially give a damn about the “why”.  We are not talking about a child, but a grown damn man running around daring someone to check his ass.  If he goes up against the wrong dude in a night club, he may be obliged and blown away.  If this ever happens, some will lament about how “misunderstood” he was when in fact he is on the short list of professional athletes most likely to be mourned the least in the wake of such a tragic ending.

 

That very foreseeable ending for Talib is the most important reason why Crabtree needed to do something!  Bullies are never bilingual.  They understand one language and one language only, and that is their own.  By doing nothing, Crabtree contributed to the embolden of Talib making the tragic ending I or anyone else can foresee all the more likely.

 

Dolphins Seahawks Football

I am not saying that it was Crabtree’s obligation to save Talib from himself.  I am saying that in the larger scheme of things, it would have been better for all parties involved, had he retaliated in the one language Talib understands.  Not out of some inflated sense of machismo or superficial notion of manhood, but out of a need to do his part to keep the world around him in balance.  When we allow anyone to get away with mistreating us without accountability we allow a dangerous imbalance that will inevitably demand correction.  That correction almost always comes in the form of loss….be it loss of face, profession, freedom, or life.

 

Crabtree’s failure to respond will only encourage the Talibs of the NFL to continue along the same pattern and sends a message to the rest of the league that they can treat Crabtree any way it chooses.  Can you imagine what the likes of Pacman Jones will do to Crabtree now?

 

Whatever the ensuing melee that would have resulted from a justified Crabtree response would have been, we all know it would not have ended in anyone being shot to death.

 

In the streets or at the club, not so sure.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

McCaffrey and Fournette Are Right!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

(Image courtesy of The Sporting News)

(Image courtesy of The Sporting News)

 

Both Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette have chosen to skip their bowl games in preparation for the NFL combine and draft.

 

Their basic reasoning is risk/reward analysis: the risk being another Jalen Smith or Marcus Lattimore cautionary tale by getting hurt and losing millions by dropping out of the first round of the draft, where virtually all of the guaranteed money is.  The reward: a pat on the back from your pimp…ah I mean coach and athletic director for leading your team to a victory in a game that is all but meaningless to everyone except those who collect the TV revenue, and that ain’t the players.

 

From some corners we hear the same old tired responses such as, “they signed a contract” or “they are quitting on their teams.”   

 

Let’s address both.

 

On the contract, it would seem to me that a natural evolution of the student athlete organizing movement would be to challenge just how legally binding are these contracts?  After all some are with 17-year old minors.  My Judge Mathis law degree says such are not binding.  Even if they are, who really thinks that a 17-18-year old fully understands all the parameters of such a commitment?   The most compelling response to the contract piece is the fact that highly sought after coaches routinely break their contracts for the cash and greener pastures after having “promised” their recruits in their parents’ living rooms that they will be there for the duration.  If the college experience is truly an educational environment and coaches are themselves educators, then both McCaffrey and Fournette have learned well.

 

As for quitting on their teams, yep, that is exactly what they are doing.  No way around that except to say that many of those same teammates that they are quitting on would do the exact same thing if they were in that position.   And what position is that?  The position of coming to the reality that all college athletes are not created equal.  If the 3-year starting left tackle at Ohio State or Alabama can’t see that his value is higher than his teammate who is the 3rd string tight end and occasional special-teams player in his fourth year, he is an idiot. 

 

Finally, what they won’t do is feed you or your family if you suffer a career-ending injury or worst in a meaningless game.  Any bowl game short of the playoff means about as much as a professional pre-season game.

 

The stakes are even higher for a running back, which is the ultimate pro-sport disposable.  They last on average of about 3 seasons.  They cannot begin to draw their pension until 55 and the annuity at 35.  According to a Sports Illustrated report in 2014, nearly 80% of NFL players are broke 3 years into retirement. 

 

Against this backdrop, if Fournette or McCaffrey were your sons, can you honestly say you would advise them otherwise?

 

They are both making a sound business decision and showing that they have learned the valuable lesson of placing the proper value on their labor.

 

NCAA big-time college sports is as transparent an example of the American Capitalistic “pimp and ho” system as there is.  If these two young men have learned to pimp themselves in their best interest rather than passively allow others to do so in their best interest, I say more power to them and hope and suspect more will follow suit.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports