Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Washington was Right About Cousins All Along

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

KC

With the agreement to acquire Kansas City QB Alex Smith, the marriage between Washington and its QB, Kirk Cousins, is all but over. Though Smith’s contract extension details have yet to come out, my guess is that it is front loaded for him and back end friendly, which would allow Washington to get out should he start to decline quickly. Cousins will become a free agent and command in the range of $27-29 million per year, making him the highest paid player in the league.

The issue was not if Washington would have saved money signing QB Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal two years ago. They obviously would have. If I had purchased a nice car in 2016, it would have cost me less than in 2018. But could I have afforded the maintenance and up-keep necessary for that vehicle to function at its maximum best? If the answer is no, why buy the car?

The issue was if they had signed him, would they have been any better off than the Baltimore Ravens have been since they re-signed Joe Flacco? Is Kirk Cousins a top 5-10 caliber QB that will keep you in the hunt for a Super Bowl every year? If the answers to these two questions are no, then Washington was right all along about Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is a more than adequate starting NFL QB. He was never as bad as ESPN talk show host Bomani Jones suggested, comparing him to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also is not a top 5-10 guy, which is the only QBs teams should lock up with the big money.  The two glaring concerns I have about Cousins as a QB are: 1) that he is not a confident down field passer; and 2) he is not a good improviser. These happen to be the two QB aspects that defenses fear the most. They do not fear a guy whom they know will stay in the pocket and throw short passes most of the day. That is what Kirk Cousins has been.

It’s about now when some reading this will respond with stats. They do in fact look good for Cousins over the past 3 seasons. They are also terribly misleading. At no time in football history have QB stats been as artificially embellished as they are today. There are several factors that have created this environment: 1) the generational influence of the West Coast offense which emphasizes the short passing game (of which Washington Head coach Jay Gruden is a disciple) and; 2) increased defensive sophistication in scheming, especially in taking away big plays.  As a result, what was at one time the 3rd or 4th option, the check down pass to a back has now become the second and sometimes primary target. This leads to higher pass completion percentages and appeals to the defensive-minded coaches as well, as it is more risk averse. These same coaches are from the school of thought that says, “just don’t lose us the game”. This philosophy leads to a game manager mindset in the QB and less down field passes.

Don’t feel bad for Cousins. He is going to benefit greatly from a perfect storm of factors, most of all being the fact that the demand for quality QBs so far outweighs the supply. That is how the likes of Brock Osweiller and Mike Glennon could cash in and neither are near as good as Cousins. Some team will make Cousins the highest paid QB/player in league history. That’s just the way this thing works.

It’s not that you can’t win a Super Bowl with Kirk Cousins as your QB. You can. The 2000 Ravens won with Trent Dilfer, the 2002 Bucs won with a Brad Johnson past his prime, and of course the 2015 Broncos won with a washed-up Peyton Manning. What did all 3 of those teams have in common: all-time great defenses and the inability to sustain the success on an annual basis. Bill Cowher kept my Steelers in contention with a QB list of Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. But they could not get over the hump until Big Ben came. The Steelers were also an aberration in that they draft and develop players on an exceptionally high level, which makes them less desperate to over pay to sign free agents or re-sign their own proven players.

Don’t let this year’s NFL conference champion QBs fool you. Yes, you can win with a less than top 5-10 QB, but good luck at sustaining a team in the Super Bowl hunt without one. There are only two viable tactics for getting an NFL QB: you either lock up the top 5-10 guy to a long-term deal or you get a guy at a discount and invest the rest in your defense and other areas of your team. What hamstrings a team is when it locks up a guy in the 12-15 range, which is where Cousins is, to a long term deal that won’t allow it to add the talent around him.

Washington concluded this about Cousins and they were right. As one analyst put it, they wanted a prenuptial agreement with him and he found it insulting and refused to sign it, knowing what he could get on the free market. I don’t blame either side.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Why the Rooney Rule is Not Enough

Monday, January 29th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

RR

In the Spring of 1994, I was completing my first year as a teaching intern at the Lowell School in Washington, DC. It was one of several prestigious private schools in the area, predominantly white, that had formed a minority teaching intern program. The idea was that this would create a pool of teaching candidates from which the schools could choose from to increase the diversity among their teaching cadre. As a result, that Spring I had multiple interviews with schools in the area, from Sidwell Friends (where the children of presidents have attended) to Landon. The interviews had two things in common: 1) all the schools were run by and served the upper class of DC; and 2) there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I was going to get hired.

But I served their purpose of being able to say, “We reached out”.

Whenever this time of year in the NFL comes around, it reminds me of that experience.  Black coaching candidates are on display like show ponies, often with little to no chance of actually getting hired. It’s all a byproduct of the Rooney Rule, which mandates that teams interview a minority candidate for NFL head coaching and general manager vacancies. It also validates my contention that the Rooney Rule, though effective to some extent, is not enough to get a management demographic that is reflective of the player demographics in the NFL.

To really understand the core issues here, it’s important to realize that the hiring process anywhere consists of two fundamental aspects: 1) Systemic; and 2) Cultural.

Systemic change can be largely accomplished through changes in policies, especially those with foreseeable outcomes. In this respect, the rule has been generally effective. Since its inception in 2003, more minority head coaches and GMs have been hired than in all the 70 years prior in the NFL. Its major limitation is that it does not extend to the most common source of head coaching candidates, which is offensive and defensive coordinators. The conventional thinking is that a head coach needs to be able to hire his own staff to give him the best chance to succeed. I have no football-based rejection of that notion, so I will not pretend otherwise.

The other aspect of hiring is culture. While systemic change is largely fostered by changes in policies and rules, the only way to change a culture is to either change the minds of people or get rid of those whose mindsets are at odds with the culture one wants to build.

And that is essentially where the Rooney Rule is limited in its capacity to change the hiring practices in the NFL. As the old saying goes, “you cannot legislate morality”. What happened when laws were introduced to curb money laundering, mandating banks to report deposits of $10K or more? The launderers simply kept their deposit under that number, because while the law could modify observable behavior, it could do nothing to change the mindset of the launderers. They put on the dog and pony show of compliance while continuing to think in a way that undermined the spirt of the law. Likewise, NFL teams do the same when they invite Black men to interview for jobs that they have no intention of seriously considering to hire.

I am not suggesting that there is no value in going through the interview process. I actually believe that there is. I am suggesting emphatically that the interview skills of Black head coaching candidates are not remotely the central issue. The mindset of those in power is the issue.

I serve as a Know Your Rights facilitator through The American Civil Liberties Union. The trainings are geared to educate the public about what to do and what not to do when pulled over by the police. I believe that they can literally save lives and thus cannot be trivialized. I am, nevertheless, somewhat conflicted when I do them because it can leave the impression that those being killed are the problem. They are not. The problem is the mindset of the people with the power to kill them with impunity.

The problem is not the coaching candidates. The problem is the mindset of those with the power to hire the candidates, which specifically are the 32 NFL owners, most of whom are white and all of whom are very, very rich. If you believe anyone that gets to that place in life is going to change his mind because of a rule, good luck.

Ultimately, the Rooney Rule needs to stay in place for the clear improvement it has shown and because doing nothing is not an option. It is an important step in the right direction on the systemic side of the issue. But we should be sober about its limitations.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

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

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  

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

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

The War Room Episode 312

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) stares at Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) in the fourth quarter in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 115-101. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

Check out the latest episode of #TheWarRoom (The Best Podcast Since Al Gore Invented The Internet), featuring JRSportBrief, on the #WarRoomSports Podcast Network!

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/war-room-are-legacies-at-stake/id876851099?i=1000370868076&mt=2

Youtube: https://youtu.be/6cb5ul8Xo9E

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BlogTalk: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thewarroom/2016/06/16/are-legacies-at-stake-during-these-nba-finals-ft-jr-sport-brief-ep-312-1

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The Economics of Playing NFL QB

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Brock Osweiler is introduced in Houston (Image via WashingtonPost.com)

Brock Osweiler is introduced in Houston
(Image via WashingtonPost.com)

Does Brock Osweiler, on the basis of 7 starts, deserve the $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) that he has coming to him?

Of course he does, if some idiot is willing to pay him.  That is what the market is willing to bare.  What a team is willing to pay and what can be justified by on the field performance have never been completely in line.

Keep in mind that we are not talking about some billionaire owner being subsidized by taxpayer dollars to build a stadium, largely with seasonal workers and jobs with no benefits.  We are talking about a guy playing a game, largely financed by our voluntary viewership and patronage for a league that has made it blatantly clear that it could not care less about the health of its players after they are done.

He would be the idiot not to get every dime he could get and only those with a poor understanding of the economics of playing NFL QB are unclear about this.

What are those economics?  Think of it this way: there are 32 NFL teams.  If we evaluated the performance at starting QB with a letter grade, I can only come up with 17 that could clearly be graded as at least a “B.”  I am excluding rookies and first year starters in Tennessee, Tampa, and Washington, even if they are trending upward, due to the cautionary tale of RG3.  Simply put, their sample is too small to make a final assessment.  But even if they pan out, that still leaves 12 teams with a significant need of an upgrade at QB.  The irony of it all is that 3 of those 12 (Vikings, Texans, and Broncos) made the playoffs last year, to include the eventual champs.

Bottom line is that there are more NFL Teams than there are high quality QBs.  This produces an odd economic reality which allows the unproven and proven pedestrians, in terms of performance, to make out like bandits……..and we should not blame them for exploiting a situation reinforced by the false narrative that a team must have an upper-echelon QB to win the Super Bowl.

History shows that a dominant defense is a better predictor of winning the Super Bowl than an upper-echelon QB.  Consider this, of the 50 Super Bowls, the losing QB in nearly half of them (23) are either hall of famers or league MVPs.  Eighteen of them split between Elway, Tarkenton, Kelly, Staubach, Warner, Manning, and Brady lost more than one.  Compare that to this list of single SB starters to include Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Phil Simms, and Jim McMahon.  Their Super Bowl record was 6-0.  The common denominator was dominant defense.

I submit that as long as the false narrative of needing elite QB play is more prevalent than the reality, which is that there simply are not 32 dudes on this planet that can play NFL QB at an elite level, about a 3rd of the league will continue to chase that which simply does not exist in a quantity large enough to meet the demand.

Smart economics would stop going for the home run at QB and instead load up on defensive talent.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports