Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Coaching, Parenting, and Lessons from the Saints’ Collapse

Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

MW

Nothing in sports is second-guessed and dissected more than coaching. Few other things in the lager society are second-guessed and dissected more than parenting. Without question, coaching is hugely influential on the development of a player. Likewise, parents are even more so in the development of their children. Another common thing between coaching and parenting is the degree to which both are prematurely judged by people who are not privy to all the factors that go into coaching or parenting. The last play of the Saints vs. Vikings playoff game made me think of this.

As you all likely know by now, the Vikings were down 24-23 with less than a minute remaining and in desperation mode. Vikings’ QB Case Keenum lofted a pass up for receiver Stephon Diggs, who leaped to catch the pass and then ran another 40 yards or so for a game winning TD. He was able to do this due to one of the worst defensive non-plays I have seen in my life, on any level of football. Saints DB Marcus Williams lowered his head and blindly missed him, completely allowing Diggs to run for history.

 

I was, as I imagine most of you were, speechless.

 

Then I noticed a few comments on social media questioning how he was coached? Still others theorized that he was afraid to get a penalty. I thought to myself, “What the hell are these people talking about?”. Youth football players are taught at 6 years old to see what they hit.

 

Sometimes a rock is just a rock.

 

This had absolutely nothing to do with inept coaching. The young man simply messed up. He has had a very solid rookie season with 4 interceptions and if he survives this mentally, he seems to have a bright NFL future. But there is no need to overanalyze this. It’s not throwing the ball into traffic on the goal line in the Super Bowl when you have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Now that was boneheaded coaching and we didn’t need to know any other factors to conclude that when the Patriots beat Seattle in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.

 

These two examples are extremes. Sunday with the Saints, coaching was clearly not the issue. With Seattle, coaching clearly was the issue. But most coaching decisions, like most parenting decisions, have a great deal more nuance and gray factors to consider, and only those involved or very close to the situation are privy to these factors.

 

One of the best examples was how the late former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan handled the substance abuse problem of a young talented receiver named Chris Carter. When the team cut Carter, everyone familiar with his talent wondered why take such a young dynamic weapon away from QB Randall Cunningham? To that Ryan would only say, “All he does is catch touchdown passes”. For years, Ryan took ridicule for that comment and the decision to let Carter go. The receiver would go on to resurrect his life and career in Minnesota, which eventually led to his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Carter would set the record straight years later, acknowledging that his release was all about how unreliable he had become, due to his substance abuse problem, and had nothing to do with his on-field performance. Had that come out, Ryan was afraid that Carter would be blackballed from the league. So, Ryan took the hits for years, never revealing the real reason until Carter was ready. He was actually trying to protect his player.

 

Go to any town hall meeting, hair salon, or barber shop, and listen closely for that inevitable moment when the discussion turns to today’s youth. That will start the clock toward the “it all starts in the home” declaration. The issue is not if the statement is largely true. It is! The issue is that it is often a simplistic cookie-cutter, broad-brush explanation for the behavior of youth by people who have little interaction with the very youth they castigate. Regardless of parenting, there will always be youth who decide to drink and drive with disastrous results. It does not mean parent modeling or condoning of such behavior was the root cause. Likewise, players will sometimes fail well below their professional standard. It doesn’t mean bad coaching is the root cause.

 

Whether it’s coaching or parenting, I don’t know why so many are so hell bent on making such conclusive public critiques while being so poorly informed about the individual situation. I do believe it often says more about the critic than it does about those being critiqued.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

And the Platform Pimp of the Year is…………………..Jon Gruden!

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Trump won it last year, with Daddy Ball taking a distant 2nd.

When the Oakland Raiders rehired Jon Gruden to a 10-year/$100 million contract, he without question did the best job of pimping his Monday Night Football analyst platform for the greatest return. Yes, the deal is back loaded with the first 5 years actually paying him in the range of “only” $5 million per year and the last 5 paying in the range of about $15 million per year. One would think even that amount is heavily incentivized with bonuses for making playoffs, winning super bowl, etc…but this is the Raiders. Common sense isn’t so common.

Let me be clear what I mean by “Platform Pimp”. A platform pimp is anyone that exploits a high-profile situation, under the guise of problem solving, for their own benefit.  The really good pimps raise expectations to unrealistic levels, even without much of a track record of meeting such expectations. These people are very good at giving the impression of expertise in a certain area that is either in high need of a solution and or very popular.

I am not actually even mad at Gruden. I am just dumbfounded at how often and easily these 3 Card Monty players can actually get someone to play his game. In this case, that someone is the Oakland Raiders…who have gone for this okie-doke before…see Lane Kiffin.

In fairness to the Raiders, Gruden is far more accomplished than Kiffin was when they hired him. Gruden has had some success as a head coach, including winning the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay. But we all know that Tony Dungy built that team. His best work was actually prior to that with the Raiders, the team his Bucs beat in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. He did make the Raiders matter again, going 38-26 over 4 years. His two playoff losses could only be classified as bad luck. His 12-4 – 2000 Raiders lost to the Ravens, in no small part due to Baltimore tackle Tony Siragusa falling on QB Rick Gannon, knocking him out of the game. I have never been convinced that the Trent Dilfer-led offense of the Ravens come out of Oakland with that AFC title win if Gannon does not get hurt. I am convinced that the Raiders would have beaten the Giants to win that super bowl after the 2000 season. Then after the 2001 season, the infamous “Tuck Rule” game loss to the Patriots. One can’t blame Gruden for either one of those.

However, in Tampa, even with one of the greatest defenses of the past 25 years, his record was 57-55. The man who has promoted himself as quarterback and offensive guru couldn’t get much from his QB nor offense in his last coaching stop in Tampa.

The bottom line is that we are not talking about Bill Parcells in the 1990’s. Jon Gruden is basically Mike Shanahan, minus 1 Super Bowl ring.

So the central concerns are two: 1) if this happens, in the closest thing in American society to a transparent meritocracy, imagine what is happening where there is no transparency; and 2) It isn’t just the Raiders’ or even Davis family money. Though not directly, it’s taxpayer money as well. Connect the dots: part of the Raiders profit margin comes from generous tax breaks the city of Oakland granted them to move back and since to remain. These are tax breaks that have been pocketed and will certainly not be returning to the struggling working-class city, even though the team is slated to move. This Gruden contract is like the Raiders giving a final middle finger to one of the most loyal and greatest fan bases in all of sports.

What’s most important is to figure out why platform pimping works and how to recognize and avoid falling for the act. The simple reason it works is that there will always be a critical mass of people who love a messiah. This is true beyond sports. The notion that one person will come along and solve all of your problems, and in the process let the collective you off the hook is appealing. Though irrational, it is a lot easier to conceptualize one hero than it is to imagine the collective engaging in the tedious and often unsexy ground level work necessary for success. It’s the same as those whose primary economic freedom plan is to win the lottery.

Only the self-delusional have difficulty recognizing platform pimps. The three things necessary to avoid their game are as follows: 1) always remember that a platform in of itself does not equate to credibility…especially in the social media age; 2) Can you reasonably foresee the collective benefiting from this person’s work more than the person; and 3) does the person have a track record of success? Parcells always said, “You are what your record says you are.”

I hope that Terrell Owens is paying attention. His on-field performance is without question Hall of Fame worthy and yet he has been denied twice. I suggest he interview to become Gruden’s replacement on Monday Night Football. It would give him a platform to clean up the perception many of the HOF voters have of him….a perception that he surely had a role in creating.

If you are fortunate enough to secure a platform and stay in the public’s consciousness long enough to build a positive image, the fallacy of recently will impact its impression of you more than your actually merit based record. This is a good thing for Jon Gruden. Not so good for Terrell Owens.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Why Fans Feel That They Can Throw Things at Athletes

Friday, December 15th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

JJ

By now, you have witnessed the scene in Jacksonville last Sunday when a fan (or fans) threw objects at an ejected Seattle Seahawks player, who then attempted to go into the stands. I could parrot the “company line”, which says under no circumstances should a player go into the fan seating areas with malicious intent, regardless of provocation. But there is a part of me that feels perfectly comfortable with the notion of a 300-pound man going into the stands to “lay hands” on any coward who throws an object at him.

To understand why I don’t think this is the worst thing that could happen, we first need to look at why fans do this. There are basically 4 primary causes, being alcohol, the ever increasing prices fans pay for their tickets, envy, and the impunity that they have learned from the larger society about how they can treat Black men.

The last point about Black men is not to suggest that they are the only athletes that are the targets. It is to say that they are the overwhelming targets of this behavior. The first is easy. Some simply can’t hold their liquor and contrary to the common narrative, alcohol does not make one do what one would normally not do. Alcohol does encourage one to do what one has ALWAYS wanted to do but never had the nerve to follow through. Sobriety can act as a filter and catch certain thoughts and behaviors. But it only catches what was inside to begin with.

The second cause is the increasing prices fans are paying for seats. A fan needs to be reasonably close for whatever he or she throws to have a chance to actually hit and harm an athlete. Seats in the section from where the objects came last Sunday in Jacksonville, price at about $238 per seat. These are among the cheapest in the league at that proximity to the field. Imagine what one would pay in New York or Dallas for the same seats? With the price of that ticket, all too many fans feel entitled to do whatever they want.

The third reason is envy. The overwhelming majority of the fans in these seating areas are white and middle to upper-middle class. While the majority do not engage in such behavior, even when drinking, there are some who feel that regardless of how accomplished and wealthy the Black athlete is, he is still subject to them. This leads us to the fourth and most complex of the causes.

It has to do with the message the general society has received loud and clear about how it can treat Black men. That message has been that violence and disrespect is not only permitted but one need not concern him or herself with any accountability. Add all four up: alcohol, entitlement, envy, and a sense that they can treat Black men any way they like with impunity, and we really should not be surprised when this happens.

The insult to injury whenever this sort of thing happens is the focus which shines much more on how the Black athlete reacts to the treatment than the treatment itself. The NFL is like most institutions in that managing the reaction to injustice is a far greater priority than the injustice itself.

In defense of the NFL, there is only so much it can do about this issue. It can and should certainly cancel any confirmed offending fan’s season tickets and push for any applicable criminal charges. While it should do these at minimal, it would be a band-aid. It’s not as if fans come to games as blank slates, free of any of the biases that exist in the larger society. When one looks at the message from the larger society, which clearly says Black Lives Don’t Matter, it’s understandable why they think this way.

Throughout history, from the reaction to the Black Panther Party till today, America has made it very clear that the idea of Black men standing up for themselves in any venue for any reason, regardless of provocation, is to be suppressed. The fact that there is a simultaneous obsession with the right of just about every other demographic to bear arms is not considered a contradiction. Therefore, until the root of this behavior is addressed in the larger society, there is no reason to believe it will cease to exist in the sports world.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

What To Make of the Tired and Disturbing Case of Ezekiel Elliott

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

EE

The only thing that I am certain of in the battle between the Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel

Elliott and the NFL, which wants to suspend him for 6 games over allegations of domestic violence, is that

I am tired of it and want it to end!

Beyond that, all bets are off.

My initial thinking when pondering writing this was to rail against the self-interest obsessed Cowboy

fans, Jerry Jones’ white male wealth privilege and those apologists, mostly men, for abusers.

Then I did what I hope every opinion writer does: I actually engaged in a more detailed researching of

the “central charge” (I’ll explain why the quotations for this later) against Elliott. After doing this I have

come to the only conclusion anyone could come to, which is that I have no idea who is the victim

between Elliott and his accuser. The inquire raises more questions than it answers. To briefly summarize

the reasons for doubting the accuser are the following:

1) Text messages secured by the NFL show the accuser discussing blackmailing Elliott with a sex

tape;

2) The accuser tried to convince a friend to lie on her behalf and support her claim that Elliott was responsible for her bruises. The friend refused and cited a fight between the accuser and another lady in an affidavit as the possible source of her bruises; and

3) She verbally threatened to ruin Elliott

It’s important to be an ally of women in the fight against domestic violence. As a man, I believe that I can

play a similar role in this struggle as Whites can play in combating racism. I also believe that I have taken

concrete steps to be an ally. The data is clear in that the overwhelming number of allegations of

domestic abuse are true. Having said that, the quest to be an ally does not mean that I am obliged to

blindly endorse the allegations of everyone. Basic fairness demands that allegations, even from a

historically abused demographic, be scrutinized and when that is done in this case, the only conclusion is

that the accuser’s credibility is suspect, so much so that the NFL’s own lead investigator recommended

no suspension for Elliott.

So why is this still a pending issue dangling over the head of Elliott, you ask? There are two primary

reasons for this:

1) Ezekiel Elliott has been a knucklehead with enough documented acts that indicate a lack of

respect for women and poor impulse control and judgment in general. When the totality of his

record is considered, it is not that much of a stretch to believe Elliott is capable of what he is

being accused. The NFL collective bargaining agreement, which the players sign off on permits

the commissioner to consider such incidents in a cumulative manner when pondering discipline.

Therefore, any reviewing of the “central charge” alone is incomplete. It cannot be refuted by

“the police did not charge him” common claim because it’s not a legal process but a workplace

disciplinary process;

2) The NFL has an inconsistent track record when dealing with its players accused of violence

towards women, be it Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, or Josh Brown. As a result, there is tremendous

pressure to get this one right;

3) Elliott is the best player on the most popular team in the most popular sport in America. Anyone in that position, regardless of race, with these accusations is going to draw more scrutiny than say a punter, as was the case with kicker Josh Brown.

You may ask how the NFL can get it right if the player is literally not guilty of the accusation. That’s when

it gets even more complicated. Like it or not, there are at least 2 factors that the NFL considers BEFORE

the actual merits of the accusation. Those two are money and public relations. The actual merits of the

charges are at best a distant third . Money is easy enough to understand. Anything that the NFL deems as having the potential to dip into its bottom line must be dealt with ASAP. Then there are the public

relations of the issue, which is a direct extension of the money factor. This can be best summarized by

saying that the NFL is more concerned with damage control than it is the damage itself. That means

actually caring about domestic violence is not nearly as important to them as appearing to care about

the issue. What this all means is that in the wake of botching the Ray Rice and Josh Brown cases, they

needed a pound of flesh.

Enter Ezekiel Elliott!

So, after multiple court injunctions and stays and no clear ending to the stalemate, here we are.

Based on history, it’s highly unlikely that Elliott will avoid a suspension. It’s not a question of if he will sit

but when, and for how long. After all, even the golden boy, Tom Brady, eventually had to sit. Judges are

very hesitant to overturn provisions of a collectively bargained agreement and that is what the NFL has

as its trump card. Given that, what I have never quite understood is why the Cowboys didn’t play this

differently. Why not take the precedent of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger back in 2010? He got the

same 6-game suspension for multiple accusations of sexual assault. It was eventually reduced to 4

games, during which the Steelers went 3-1. They would win the AFC that year, making it to the Super

Bowl, a highly unlikely accomplishment had they taken the Cowboys approach to Elliott’s situation this

year. Even if Elliott’s suspension were not reduced, the 6 games would be over by now. They could have

gone 3-3 (their record with him after 6) without him. They would have him back, healthy and rested for

the second half of the season, including both games against the high-flying, first place Eagles. Now that is all in doubt, as are the Cowboys’ playoffs hopes.

So why didn’t they take that approach? I can only come up with 3 possible reasons:

1) Jerry Jones is used to getting his way and would not back down;

2) Elliot, like most professional athletes, is programmed not to back down and is engaged in this process in the same way; or

3) He actually did not abuse her.

I do not know which one, two, or all three might have been at the heart of the Cowboys’ strategy.

That disturbs me but not nearly as much as the fact that this saga has given a platform to misogynist and

apologist for those who abuse women.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

I Changed My Mind: The Case for Guaranteed NFL Contracts!

Monday, September 11th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via The Point After Show

Image via The Point After Show

That’s right. For years, I have been of the opinion that NFL owners should not be at risk for fully guaranteed contracts in a sport where the risk of injury was so great.

Then a fiscally-conservative buddy of mine expressed surprise at my position.   

Whenever those types are to the left of me, I get concerned. LOL

So I began to rethink my position, which was based on “reasonable owner risk”.  

The good part is that the term reasonable is so broad and subjective that it was not hard to undermine my own position with factually based reasoning.  

First of all, player health risk should be, at the very least, as much of a concern as the financial risk of billionaires. Sure, players signed up for this and thus certainly assume a degree of health risks. That does not mean that they absolved themselves of any right to advocate mitigating those risks. Speaking of signing up for risks, that is what any business owner does when he/she starts a business. For NFL owners, guaranteed contracts should be among those risks.

But even with that, are the owners really at risk? The TV money is divided up evenly among all 32 teams.  Owning an NFL team is like having a cash printer in your basement. Your team doesn’t even have to be good. Even the sorry winless 2008 Detroit Lions made big profits. If owners can’t simply write bad contracts off on their taxes, I’m sure they will TELL their Congressional lackeys….I mean representatives, to simply rewrite the code for their benefit. The 1 percent has been doing that since the beginning of the tax system. The only obstacle on this front would be an adjustment to the salary cap, allowing the injured players debt to be removed which would allow a team to replace him without taking a cap hit.

So capacity is not the issue. NFL revenues are projected to surpass $13 billion when all the receipts come in for the 2016 season, and that number will only increase. Yet, of the 4 major sports, NFL players have the lowest career earnings, even when the comparison is adjusted for the same number of years.   

Simply put, they got the loot and between tax loopholes and insurance policies, owners wouldn’t lose a dime.    

There are two primary issues that will make this an uphill battle: 1) a lack of player unity; and 2) the owners’ control of the narrative that the public largely believes.  

On the first issue, NFL players must have unity if they are to have any chance of getting guaranteed contracts. That will be especially challenging given that they have a very small window to make as much money as they can. Getting nearly 1700 guys to come together would be no small task, even for the best of labor organizers, and the owners know this. The 32 owners, on the other hand, are far better equipped to miss a few checks than are the 1700 players. A good place to start would be to abandon these ridiculous long-term deals. They are highly misleading and the sports media is complicit in the deception.  For example, say a player signs a 6-year deal worth $100 million. Unless he is an upper echelon QB, chances are that the majority of the money is back loaded and everyone, including the player, knows that he will never see that money. This leads us to the second issue, which is the capacity of owners to craft a narrative that appeals to a critical mass of the 99%, and thus undermines the player position in the court of public opinion. That narrative basically says that “you are being paid good money to play a game. You play at your own risk. Shut up and entertain us!”   

Such a narrative exploits the envy that many fans have of NFL players and their obsession to themselves join the 1% so much so, that they are willing to do the ideological bidding of the owners. The line of thinking is not that much different from the fact that most whites supported slavery, even though very few were themselves slave owners, which was a sign of aristocracy. Or many of today’s poor supporters of the “crony capitalist” in the White House. The reality is that players will get guaranteed contracts BEFORE the cartel of NFL owners or any other element of the 1% permit the fan class to join them. Ask Marc Cuban, the very wealthy owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He is both rich and white.  But it was not enough to gain his admittance when he attempted to buy the LA Dodgers. Major League Baseball literally allowed the team to go into bankruptcy rather than allow an “outsider” into the fold. The NFL cartel is even more discriminating than that of baseball.

So what it comes down to is organized people vs organized money. Contrary to the misleading narrative promoted by owners and their mainstream media PR firms, the players are not among the organized money class. If as fans, you can say that you watch football more so because of who owns the team as opposed to who is playing, then disregard everything that I have said.  But if you are honest and get on the right side, then the players have a chance to reap a more secure piece of the pie that they largely bake.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports  

Tactics vs. Objectives and the End Game of Protesting the NFL

Friday, August 18th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

CK

Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem to protest the unwarranted state-sponsored killings, primarily of Black men.

He did not protest for the right or even the privilege to continue to have a job as a professional football player.

This is obvious to most and an unnecessary reminder for some.  However, when one listens to this current discussion about protesting the NFL over the obvious blackballing of him, it’s clear that many are thinking about the two issues as one.

They are not the same thing.

At best, protesting the NFL will provide the pressure for Commissioner Roger Goodell to do what he should have already done and that would be to call in a favor from an owner to sign Kaepernick.  This would relieve the pressure and “protect the shield” from the bad optics this drama has created.  If that were to happen, all too many of those insisting on this protest, would then retreat to their normally unengaged lives.  Those in danger at the hands of the police by the mere virtue of their skin color will still be in the same danger.

A protest is a tactic and not an objective.  Kaepernick’s objective was to bring attention to the injustice of police brutality.  Therefore, if the tactic of protesting the NFL will not address the above noted objective, what would be the point?

Protest works best when tied to a larger movement.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 was tied to the larger Civil Rights movement.  Curt Flood challenging baseball’s reserve clause, which basically declared that a player, even when not under contract, was controlled by one team for his entire career, was tied to the larger struggle for free agency for baseball players and professional athletes in general.

Colin Kaepernick will be fine, even if he doesn’t play another down in the NFL.  The cause he has courageously taken up will now allow him to pretty much name his price on the speaking circuit, should he choose to do so, all around the country.  In fact, a case could be made that Kaepernick would be even of greater value to the movement if he does not play another down in the NFL.  That would then make him a martyr of sorts and few things are more inspiring to get others to take action than martyrdom.

Protesting the NFL will do nothing to dismantle the police industrial complex which is at the core of the issue Kaepernick raises.  So to suggest that the failure to engage in this particular protest is being unsupportive of Kaepernick really shows a gross misunderstanding of the scope of the issue. The fact is, police brutality, especially against Black men, is and always has been a fundamental part of the American DNA, and who does or does not have a job in the NFL will not change that one iota.  To suggest otherwise would be the same as offering a band-aid to a cancer patient, as if it were a cure.

I would wager that Kaepernick himself would much rather see those of us committed to the issue of police brutality join organizations that have as their missions to address such or related issues.  It might be the NAACP or the ACLU.  Or if you are in the Washington DC area, it might be the Prince George’s People’s Coalition or Pan African Community Action, or in Jackson Mississippi there is Cooperate Jackson.  And if there is no organization that addresses the issue to your satisfaction, then start your own, but be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Drive by social media activists and/or platform pimps will not serve the movement well. As the late, great Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) often said, “The struggle is eternal.”

The seeds of the terrorism that claimed lives in Virginia this past weekend were sown long ago.  Likewise, the oppression Kaepernick seeks to address existed long before he became a professional football player and will not cease whether he is in or out of the NFL.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

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