Posts Tagged ‘Tom Brady’

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

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

Melanin Mount Rushmore

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

by OGICIC

MMR

I’ll be honest, I’ve never participated in the “Kobe v. LeBron” or “Kobe v. MJ” debates and I’ve refrained for a simple reason. None of the aforementioned names come anywhere close to being the “greatest” in basketball. I love Floyd Mayweather and he has a success story which is filled with hard work and dedication, yet in still he can never be the “greatest”. I just watched the Super Bowl and was rooting for the Patriots, though after the victory I refused to engage in the “is Tom Brady the greatest?” discussion. Why? Because the greatest is named Jim Brown! The greatest in basketball are named Bill Russell & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! The greatest boxer is named Muhammad Ali!

How do I define greatness, or the “greatest”? I define it by one’s performance on and off the field. To be the “greatest” means that you persevered through far more than anyone else, emerged victorious and uncompromised. How can Michael Jordan, or LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant be the “greatest”? I’ve never heard of MJ speaking up for the inner city youth that die for his shoes, much less the Chinese youth that make them. I appreciate LeBron’s speaking up on issues and his philanthropic efforts, but how does any of that exist without Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? If we are to talk hardware, Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships and did so as both a player and coach in one of the most racially hostile cities in America (Boston). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (aka Mr. Never White America’s Negro) won 6 NBA championships. If we are to talk about more than championships, Bill and Kareem have been avid advocates and spokespersons for Melanin/Hebrew/African-American people! They stood with boxing’s “greatest” Muhammad Ali, as he took on the racist and biased institution.

Jim Brown? Well he only won 1 NFL Championship, yet his fight of racism and injustice, his youth work and his constant advocacy have more diamonds in them than any ring!!!!

Thats how I define greatness……so sorry….MJ never has a chance, Kobe not even close, LeBron (I guess we can wait and see) can be 3rd at best! Brady, no way, Montana, never heard of him. Marshawn………heeeeyyyyy……..ask Jim about that one!

Zachariah Ysaye Oluwa Bankole “OGICIC”, for War Room Sports

WHY I HATE THE PATRIOTS AND THE “MY BOYS” SYNDROME

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

(Image via BleacherReport.com)

(Image via BleacherReport.com)

I hate the Patriots…….but not for the reason you might think.  I hate them for the same reason I hate Notre Dame, the Dodgers, Duke, and the Celtics.  I HATE THE PATRIOTS BECAUSE AT SOME POINT IN THE PAST THEY BEAT MY BOYS!  PERIOD!
 
I couldn’t care less why they beat my boys.  Whether due to cheating, being better, or a combination of the two.  Even if it were primarily due to cheating, I still don’t care.  All cheating is not created equal.  If a prosecutor withholds evidence and as a result wins a conviction to send an innocent man or woman to prison, I care about that cheating.  If a person hides income in a divorce proceeding to reduce his/her child support obligation, I care about that cheating.  But if Tom Brady and/or Bill Belichick spy on the opponent and/or take air out of some balls to give them and edge at winning some football games, it just doesn’t make my short list of things about which to be outraged.
 
I am not suggesting that there should be no penalty.  If they broke the rules, they absolutely need to be held accountable.  But the moral indignation being pontificated is laughable.  The citing that this explains the Patriots’ success doesn’t even deserve a response, but I’ll try to provide one nonetheless: “Spygate” was revealed in 2007.  Brady went down for the season in the 2008 opener.  The Patriots still won 11 games that year WITH MATT CASSEL AT QB!  If winning 11 games with Matt Cassel at QB doesn’t convince you that Belichick can flat out coach independent of cheating, I give up.  And speaking of 2008, make no mistake about this: if it were revealed tomorrow that the 0-16 Lions both spied and deflated balls as the Patriots have, no one would give a damn.  Integrity of the game, blah blah blah…..GTFOHWTBS.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

2014 Preseason NFL QB Rankings 1-32

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

by Devin McMillan

Dev Blog

 

 

 

 

QBs Top 4

The NFL season is almost here.  Everyone’s making lists, rankings, predictions, etc, so I’d figured I may as well jump into the mix with my 2014 Preseason NFL Quarterback Rankings.  There are tons of QB rankings in existence with various criteria.  While my rankings are not exactly lifetime achievement awards, consistency definitely plays a significant role in my thought process.  HOWEVER, while a bad season by a good QB may drop him a notch or a few in my mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean I will rank that QB below a quarterback who has only had one or two good seasons.  For example, even though Eli Manning threw the football to the opposing team 27 times last season, it doesn’t necessarily mean I will rank him under someone like Nick Foles, who only threw it to the other team twice.  There are some young QB’s who still need to show and prove for at least another season to reach their potential on this list.  So in essence, your past body of work does indeed have meaning here, but it is just a major variable among variables.  So without further ado, here is where I currently rank the 32 starting QB’s in the National Football League:

1. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

Drew WillyNow 38 years old, “The Sheriff” is coming off the very best season of his storied career as he led the 13-3 Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, only to be destroyed by the Seattle Seahawks.  The beatdown was so brutal, it makes it easy to forget that Manning completed 68.3% of his passes last season, for 5477 yards, 55 TD passes, just 10 INTs, and a hefty passer rating of 115.1, while starting all 16 regular season games.  It will be interesting to see how he will come back after such a deflating loss in the Super Bowl, but after a ridiculous season this late in a ridiculous career, it’s only right that he enter the 2014 campaign in the top spot.

2. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

ARPrior to the resurgence of Peyton Manning, I had Aaron Rodgers ranked as the best QB in the NFL.  Even with the resurgence of the Denver signal-caller, an argument can still be made for Rodgers.  What may play against him in the “best in the league” argument is the fact that injuries limited him to 9 games last season. While his bottom-line statistics suffered due to missed time, Manning lit the league on fire with record numbers.  However, in those 9 games, Rodgers still proved his importance to the Green Bay Packers and his stature in the NFL.  The team went 6-3 with him at the helm, while only posting a 2-4-1 record without him.  His 104.9 QB rating was among the tops in the league and a healthy Aaron Rodgers will be looking to reclaim his top-spot in the upcoming season.

3. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints

DBAnother 5162 yards, another 39 TDs, another 104.7 QB rating, another year at the office for Drew Brees.  His continuance of a consistent assault on the NFL record books, along with the return of his head coach Sean Payton, helped the New Orleans Saints climb right back into the ranks of contenders last season (11-5), after a brief fall-off (7-9) in the 2012 season.  “The Little QB That Could” continues to defy the odds, and with his #1 target (Jimmy Graham) locked in, and last year’s 4th ranked defense, he should prove his ranking once again with another successful season down by the Bayou.

4. Tom Brady – New England Patriots

TBTom Brady is greatness personified.  While throwing mainly to a group of rookies last season, “Tom Terrific” still amassed over 4000 yards (6th time in his career) and 25 TDs (9th time in his career).  Even though he had a bit of a “down” year statistically, his steady hand still helped to guide a consistent New England Patriots franchise to a 12-4 mark, another division title, and an 8th Conference Championship Game appearance under his leadership.  He hasn’t displayed any real signs of slowing down, so his place in the top 5 should be secure for the foreseeable future.

5. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

ALI struggled with the decision to put Andrew Luck this high on my list.  However, the proof is in the pudding with this guy.  In my opinion, he is BY FAR the best QB in the newer crop of signal callers.  He has not registered eye-popping statistics thus far in his tenure, but since joining the 2-14 (2011) Indianapolis Colts for the start of the 2012 season, he’s led them to back-to-back 11-5 campaigns, at a time that we all thought the team would be in rebuilding mode.  He just has….”IT”….whatever “IT” is.  What better answer than “Andrew Luck” is there to the question, “which NFL QB would you take to start/build a team around right now”?  I imagine he’ll be shooting up to the top of this list within the next few seasons.

6. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers

PRHe’s baaaack!!!  Phillip Rivers has been described by Jimmy Williams of War Room Sports, as the “Nas” of NFL quarterbacks.  He “went from top 10 to not mentioned at all”, but the 2013 NFL season was his Stillmatic album of sorts, triumphantly returning him to the elite of the league.  In leading the Chargers to a surprise playoff berth last season, Rivers completed 69.5% of his passes, for 4478 yards, 32 TDs, against 11 interceptions, while posting a 105.5 passer rating (following back-to-back years of 88.7 & 88.6 passer ratings respectively).

7. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

BRTeam success has been waning in “The Steel City” as of late, but “Big Ben” is still a very effective quarterback.  It seems as if his arsenal gets depleted every year, as he has lost another big target in Emmanuel Sanders this offseason.  However, with a reliable Antonio Brown, a steady Heath Miller, all-purpose rookie Dri Archer, and the “Mary-Jane Brothers” in the backfield, Ben Roethlisberger should once again justify his top 10 status among NFL signal callers.

 

8. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys

TRProbably the most hated quarterback in the entire NFL, I feel Tony Romo is a bit underappreciated.  Never lacking statistical success, Romo is usually solely blamed for the underachievement of the Dallas Cowboys as a whole, year in and year out.  I’d venture to say that without Romo, the Cowboys wouldn’t even sniff the .500 record they’ve earned the past three seasons.  For you stat guys out there, it’s ironic that Romo has such a reputation of being a choker, considering his 69.6 completion percentage and 105.6 passer rating in the fourth quarter just last year.  He is one of the active leaders with 11 fourth quarter comebacks in the past three seasons and for his career, he has led 20 fourth quarter comebacks and 23 game-winning drives.  With all those facts uncovered, I still have eyes, and yes, I’ve most certainly seen Tony Romo make several untimely mistakes that has cost his team.  However, his mistakes aren’t as glaring as that Cowboys defense that ranked DEAD LAST in the NFL last season.  Well, I guess it is as glaring…if that’s what you WANT your eyes to see.  Romo may not even last the entirety of this season, as he is still dealing with back issues.  But either way, I predict another disappointing campaign for him and his “Boys”.

9. Eli Manning – New York Giants

EMIt is rather difficult to justify Eli Manning remaining in the top 10 of NFL QB’s, but this is a case where a guy has some historical credit in his wallet.  A TERRIBLE season in 2013 saw the two-time Super Bowl MVP toss the ball to the other team at an alarming rate.  With only 18 TD passes, 27 interceptions, and the lowest passer rating since his rookie season (69.4), Eli can only go back up from here.  The team sounds confident that he will do just that under the Giants’ new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who brings along an entirely new system.  One more season like last year and Eli can kiss my top 10 good-bye.  The younger Manning has always earned his keep in the playoffs. Now if only the Giants can make it back to the playoffs, Eli can get back into his element.

10. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears

JCWhat will another year under Marc Trestman do for Jay Cutler?  Along with one of the best wide receiver tandems and one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL, I think it will do wonders.  His first season under Trestman was cut short by a torn groin muscle.  While on the shelf, he had to sit back and watch his backup become the most popular guy in town by actually playing better than he did.  Now with McCown in Tampa, he can concentrate on performing without having to look over his shoulder.  A confident Jay Cutler is a scary Jay Cutler.

11. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons

MR“Matty Ice” played significant portions of the 2013 season without his main offensive weapons.  Roddy White missed 3 games and was clearly not healthy throughout the season while dealing with a high ankle sprain and then a hamstring.  Steven Jackson missed 4 games dealing with a hamstring of his own.  Budding star Julio Jones spent the final 11 games of 2013 on injured reserve after fracturing his right foot, which already had a screw in it.  Left tackle Sam Baker also went to injured reserve after missing 5 weeks with a left knee injury.  Unfortunately, Sam Baker will also miss the entire 2014 campaign with a torn patellar tendon, suffered in a preseason loss to the Houston Texans, this time in his right knee.  Everyone else is back, even though Steven Jackson is battling through another hamstring injury and legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez has called it quits.  Many see Matt Ryan as an elite QB.  Injuries are always a devastating obstacle to overcome, but elite QB’s rise to the occasion.  While Ryan’s numbers didn’t suffer last season, he obviously didn’t make a big enough impact to overcome the obstacles.  Will he live up to his billing this season?

12. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions

MSMatt Stafford is the personification of the term “stat-monster”.  In the past three seasons alone (his only three as a full 16-game starter); he has passed for 14,655 yards and 90 touchdowns.  The problem is…he’s only led the talent-laden Detroit Lions to the postseason once in 5 years.  In his short career, Stafford has led 10 fourth quarter comebacks and 12 game-winning drives, but cannot seem to translate his late-game heroics into playoff berths.  The Lions again have high expectations in a very competitive NFC North division this season, but they’ll only go as far as their 6th year passer will take them.

13. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

RWThe quarterback of the reigning Super Bowl champs hasn’t rang up eye-popping numbers, but he has been much more than a “game manager”.  In his first two NFL seasons, Wilson has shown remarkable poise and maturity while being asked to lead a team that was ready to contend in every other area.  He has thrived in the role of the Seahawks’ only “question mark” and has answered every question quite impressively.  Blessed with special instincts and athletic ability, Russell is a passer who runs when he HAS TO, and is not afraid to slide and live to play another play.  Admittedly, the way the defense played in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks would have won with me under center that night.  However, Russell Wilson’s impact in leading them there should not be overlooked.  He went through some young quarterback struggles along the way, but he never completely hit the wall.  I’m sure the Hawks’ defense will struggle at some point and we’ll get to see how Russell responds when the rest of the team is depending on him to hold them down through a rough patch.

14. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

Andy DaltonI didn’t understand the amount of opposition to Andy Dalton’s new deal in Cincinnati.  He has shown marked improvement in each of his 3 years in the league, and has led the Bengals to the postseason in all 3 seasons as well.  However, the playoffs are where Dalton’s struggles have been most prevalent.  In 3 playoff games, he has thrown 1 touchdown against 6 interceptions, and his passer rating has fallen to 56.2 from 85.7 in three regular seasons.  If Dalton is to stay on the top half of this list, he must start performing in the postseason.

15. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers

Cam NewtonMost likely the most physically imposing QB in the league, Cam Newton took no time surpassing the expectations of many doubters, including myself, after being chosen #1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.  In 3 seasons, Cam has accounted for 92 total touchdowns (64 passing and 28 rushing), two Pro-Bowl appearances, and one playoff game.  The Panthers brass hasn’t exactly blessed Newton with world-beaters on the outside, but great QB’s don’t always need big-name receivers to be great.  It’s up to Cam to lift the level of play of everyone else on that offense.  He has.  He will.

16. Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles

NF2014 is a very important year for Nick Foles.  After a brilliant 2013 campaign, filling in for the oft-injured Mike Vick and becoming the Eagles’ full-time starter, Foles has to prove that last season’s success wasn’t just an aberration.  The decision-making ability that led to his “27 TDs vs. 2 INTs” performance in 2013 needs to be on full display this season, in order to win over a tough crowd in Philly.  Foles can go either way here.  A season like, or close to last year’s, could vault him up this list, just as a bad season could easily send him on a slide down these rankings.  He is currently a victim of his own sample size.

17. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers

Colin KaepernickPrior to last season, Ron Jaworski said that Colin Kaepernick “could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever”.  Even though football fans went crazy at the prospect, I understood that “Jaws” was merely making a point about Kap’s skill set and potential.  If the young quarterback wants to realize anything close to that potential, he has to be more consistent.  He has games where that “upside” in on full display, but he’ll follow it up with a stinker or two that makes you doubt that he can lead the Niners to a Super Bowl victory.  You know the clichés: “You’re only as good as your last game”; “what have you done for me lately?”; yadda, yadda yadda.  Just remember, this is only Kap’s second year as a full-time starter, and with his new contract, he has plenty of motivation to chase Jaws’ vision of him.

18. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens

JFTwo seasons ago, Joe Flacco concluded one of the greatest postseason runs we’d ever seen with the Super Bowl XLVII MVP award.  Last season, the newly-minted $120.6 Million Man followed it up with a 19 touchdown, 22 interception, clunker of a season, that saw he and the reigning Super Bowl champs left on the outside of the playoffs.  I’ve certainly seen him play at a level that would put him much higher on this list.  Will we ever see that again?

 

19. Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs

ASWhat you CANNOT deny over the past three seasons is that Alex-Smith-led teams win.  However, the issue with many fans and analysts is whether or not his teams win BECAUSE of him or simply because they are good teams.  He has been branded with the dreaded title of “game manager”, and though he boasts the 4th highest TD to INT ratio in the NFL over the past three seasons, I am tempted to attribute that statistic to his perceived fear of letting the ball fly in certain situations.  Alex Smith believes he is a franchise quarterback.  He also believes that he is a major reason behind last year’s turnaround of the Kansas City Chiefs.  Strapped with a new 4-year/$68 Million extension, Smith will set out to make the rest of us believe it as well.

20. Robert Griffin III – Washington Professional Football Team

Robert Griffin IIIEven coming off the knee injury suffered in the lone playoff game of his brilliant rookie season, I personally thought year two was a great opportunity for Robert Griffin III to shake the growing “running quarterback” label and show off his chops as a passer.  The scouting report coming out of Baylor read that RG3 was a passer that just happened to possess world-class speed.  In a year where his mobility was limited, he didn’t show this to be true.  Now with a new coaching staff in place, he has another opportunity to show us that he can achieve super-stardom in this league as a passer.  He has a full cupboard of weaponry to utilize in his quest to prove doubters wrong.  Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed, and Alfred Morris in the backfield could be a frightening prospect for opposing defenses.  It all comes down to what Griffin can do behind an improving offensive line.  It’s a HUGE year for RG3.

21. Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals

CPCarson Palmer will never again be the quarterback that he was on his way to being in his second and third seasons in the NFL, but he still has enough left in the tank to lead a talented Arizona Cardinals team to a playoff berth.  In order to be that guy, especially in the tough NFC West, Palmer must cut down on the turnovers.  A focused Carson Palmer can still pull out the carving knives from time to time, but in those moments that he loses focus, he’s prone to bad mistakes.  Without a legitimate threat holding the clipboard behind him, the team is his.  What he does with it in 2014 remains to be seen.

22. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins

RTFrom year #1 to year #2, Ryan Tannehill improved his completion percentage (+2.1), his passing yards (+619), his TD passes (+12), unfortunately his interceptions (+4), and his passer rating (+5.6).  However, his improvement only contributed to one more game in the “win column” for the Miami Dolphins.  The young signal caller has shown plenty of poise in the pocket and he’s on track to becoming a very good quarterback in this league.  What I question however, is will his impact increase with his quarterback skills?  That remains to be seen.

23. Josh McCown – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

JM66.5% completions, 1829 yards, 13 TDs, 1 INT, 109 passer rating, 3 wins, 2 losses.  These are Josh McCown’s numbers in the 8 appearances (5 starts) he made for an injured Jay Cutler last season in Chicago.  This put the 12th-year journeyman back onto to NFL radars, which resulted in a starting job in Tampa Bay.  The pressure to perform is high, as the Buccaneers are being touted by many as a team on the rise this season.  McCown has unseated a capable second year guy in Mike Glennon, who played fairly well in 13 starts in his rookie campaign last year.  I don’t think anyone expects Josh to play at the clip in which he played last season in Chicago, but how well does he have to play to keep the youngster on the bench?

24. Matt Cassel – Minnesota Vikings

Matt CasselAfter a pretty good preseason by both quarterbacks, Matt Cassel beat out rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job…but how long will he keep it?  The only way I see Cassel holding onto the spot for the duration of the season is if the Vikings are winning games.  That’s a tough order in the competitive NFC North division.  Cassel played in 9 games last season and started 6 for the Vikings, so it’s obvious that he has the edge due to knowledge and experience.  Though he’s a viable NFL quarterback, make no mistake, Cassel is simply playing the role of “seat-filler” for the next “future of the franchise” in Teddy Bridgewater.

25. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Houston Texans

RFRyan Fitzpatrick is with his third team in three years.  How much should we read into that?  The 2005 seventh-round pick from Harvard has had some semblance of success in this league, which prompted the Buffalo Bills to pull the trigger on a 6-year/$59 Million deal ($24 Million guaranteed) after a 4-2 start back in 2011.  The Bills won only 2 more games that season and Fitzpatrick finished with a career-high 23 interceptions.  As a matter of fact, he’d only go on to win 8 more games as the Bills’ starting QB after the ink dried on that contract.  Last year, he started 9 games for the Tennessee Titans and led them to a 3-6 record while tossing 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while filling in for the oft-injured Jake Locker.  The Houston Texans have the talent to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 season, but I’d say the biggest question mark is the quarterback position.

26. Geno Smith – New York Jets

GSGeno Smith was thrown into the fire last season in his rookie year.  His response wasn’t very consistent.  He had his moments where he appeared to be “steadying the ship”, but overall, turnovers were his undoing.  In 16 starts, he tossed 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, while leading the NY Jets to an 8-8 record.  The Jets believe they can contend for a playoff spot this year so they’ve hedged their bet by adding veteran QB Michael Vick, to give Geno a little push.  We’ll see how he responds in his sophomore year.

27. Shaun Hill – St. Louis Rams

SHThrust into the starting role due to yet another ACL tear for Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill evidently inspires enough confidence in Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher to stand pat, instead of making a desperate move to bring in another QB.  On the other hand, it could be that Fisher doesn’t want to give up drafts picks for someone else’s backup and actually save them for a run at his own rookie stud in the upcoming draft.  Yeah, I’ll go with that.  However, Shaun Hill has ample experience in this league and could prove to be a very good stopgap in the meantime.  He has started 26 games between San Francisco & Detroit, and has thrown 41 touchdowns against 23 interceptions.  He is steady, and besides, it’s not as if we knew exactly what we would get from Bradford in the first place.

28. Chad Henne – Jacksonville Jaguars

CHJust like Matt Cassel, 4 spots up this list, Chad Henne will start the season filling a seat for the “future of the franchise”.  The difference in this situation, is that his rookie backup (for now), Blake Bortles, clearly outplayed him in the preseason.  It’s clear that Jags’ head coach Gus Bradley isn’t quite ready to throw his new toy into the fire, but judging from Chad Henne’s NFL resume (55 TDs/62 INTs/ 18-32 record as a starter), I presume that we’ll see Bortles at some point this season.

29. Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans

Jake LockerJake Locker is entering his 4th season in the NFL, but we still don’t know enough about him.  Since becoming the Titans’ starter in 2012, he has missed significant time, only starting 18 of 32 games, with a myriad of injuries (foot, hip, and shoulder).   Any time he has started to show promise, he goes down with an injury.  I believe this is a “make or break” year for Locker.  If he can remain healthy, he has a lot to prove.

30. E.J. Manuel – Buffalo Bills

EJ ManuelManuel’s shaky rookie campaign was limited to 10 games due to not one, not two, but THREE knee injuries. In those 10 games, we really couldn’t get much of a glimpse into the future, so this is the year for him to prove to Bills fans that their team made the right decision in making him the first QB off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.  He hasn’t looked great in this year’s training camp and preseason, but hopefully that all will change when the ball is kicked off on Sunday.  In an attempt to sure up the depth at the position, the Bills have signed veteran Kyle Orton to be the team’s backup.  If at any point during the season, the keys need to be turned over to Orton, the Bills may be back in the market for a QB in the offseason.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

31. Brian Hoyer – Cleveland Browns

BHWith a lot of help from his teammates, Brian Hoyer struggled throughout the 2014 preseason; however this did not prevent Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine from naming the 6th year backup QB his starter over rookie sensation and Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel.  Hoyer started 3 games last season, subbing for the injured Brandon Weeden, before going down in the third game with a torn ACL on an awkward slide and hit from Bills’ linebacker Kiko Alonso.  He was impressive in the first two games however, throwing 5 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions, while leading the Browns to consecutive victories (they also won the third game, even though Hoyer went down in the first quarter).  How long will his leash be, considering the highly-touted “Johnny Football” is lurking behind his shoulder?

32. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders

DCDerek “was just handed the keys to this” Carr a couple days prior to the official start of the NFL season.  Even though his head coach touted Matt Shaub as the starter all throughout camp and preseason, Carr’s early development gave Dennis Allen the confidence to roll the dice on his 2nd round rookie.  We’re hoping that playing right away doesn’t have the same effect on Derek as it did on his brother David, but Oakland’s offensive line should be good enough to avoid that from happening.

 

HAPPY FOOTBALL SEASON EVERYBODY!!!

 

Devin McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports

NFL Preseason Mash Ups: AFC East Personas

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

by WingFan

Wingfan

 

 

 

 

Team: New England Patriots

Persona: George Clooney

GCIn the entertainment business, one marquee name deserves another.  The New England Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the new millennium and are considered by many to be the league’s most recent dynasty. The Clooney factor is as follows: their quarterback is golden boy Tom Brady, their first lady is Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen, and their head coach is master strategist Bill Belichick. Prior to the 2000s the claim to fame for the Patriots was nearly being shutout (scoreless) in the 1985 Super Bowl by the Chicago Bears.  Before the television show “ER”, Clooney’s claim to fame was his occasional appearance as Booker Brooks on the television show “Roseanne” – a role as line manager at Welman Plastics. Yeah, that’s basically a shutout.  Clooney landed “ER” and the Patriots landed Belichick. Both scenarios produced fertile ground from which success could blossom.

In 2001, “The Danny Ocean” days began.  Both Clooney and the Patriots rattled off a trifecta of blockbuster performances.  The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001 and then back-to-back in 2003 & 2004. Clooney did Ocean’s Eleven and then came back with Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen, leading 10 other all-stars like he was Tom Brady.  After winning three Super Bowls, the Patriots continued their winning ways by taking home eight more AFC East division titles in nine years, producing an undefeated regular season, and appearing in two more Super Bowls – though they lost both.  The Patriots and Clooney played some spy games too.  Clooney took on a controversial role in the suspense thriller Syriana while the Patriots took on a controversial role in “Spy Gate” – an NFL investigation into the Patriots practice of videotaping the opposing defenses’ hand signals and basically telling Tom Brady where to throw the ball next.

They’re cashing-in on the success, having some fun, and dating some models.  Tom picked up Gisele, and George picked up the rest.  Relationships with The Patriots and Clooney can be a risky proposition, as both of them tend to only date for a couple of years before they move on to another teammate.  The tabloids take their shots every now and then, but the Patriots and Clooney do a great job of keeping their private matters private.  Bill Bellichick is not only a master strategist, but he’s also a master at giving up zero information to the public. This talent is passed down to his team like a Jedi force.  Clooney is often found speaking more about his philanthropic work than his private life.  Clooney recently got married to a bombshell in England and the Patriots signed cornerback Darrell Revis, who plans on preventing bombs from shelling New England.  At some point, Gravity might bring them back down to Earth but for now they’re still chilling in the highest stratosphere.

 

Team: New York Jets

Persona: Nicki Minaj

NMHave you ever seen the way Nicki Minaj talks down to Mariah Carey on American Idol?  Me neither…but with a last name like “Minaj”, I would think she’d take a liking to the voluptuous Ms. Mariah.  The thought of a pop rapper talking down to a pop legend success is insane – that’s the NY Jets.  Seriously, Nicki is just starting to figure out what her worth is while Mariah knows exactly what her worth is – it’s measured by Forbes every year.  The Jets won Super Bowl III back in 1969, which does help to make them popular, but they’re no Mariah.  Unfortunately, one Super Bowl and a couple American Music Awards don’t really equal Mariah’s Five Grammy’s or The Patriots 3 Super Bowls!

So why do the Jets and Nicki feel so compelled to mouth off to George Clooney or Jay-Z like they’re Drake?  The simple answer is that trash talk comes with the territory.  Nicki talks big because that’s part of the Hip-Hop culture.  The Jets talk big because that’s part of the NFL’s culture.  For a deeper answer as it pertains to the Jets, you have to start by looking at the ownership and work your way down.  Jets owner, Woody Johnson, is relatively new to the NFL and he wants to own the back page of the NY Post – a space typically reserved for the biggest story of the day in NY sports.  Nicki Minaj wants to own social media like it’s the back page of the NY Post.  The NY Giants are often the subject of the back page headline and Woody wants to change that.  Nicki wants the headlines like Woody Johnson.  Aside from her music, she uses her choice in fashion to accomplish her goal.  Woody uses his choice in hiring to accomplish his goal.  Woody hired a foul-mouthed head coach named Rex Ryan and Nicki acquired some very bright outfits for the red carpet.

Rex Ryan’s dad was Buddy Ryan, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach – a man who encouraged fights among players on his own team.  Early on in Rex’s career with the Jets, he made headlines for his use of four letter words on HBO’s football reality show Hard Knocks.  Nicki made headlines early in her career for lyrics that crossed gender roles.  As they have matured, Nicki and Rex have started to tone down parts of their personality.  Nicki’s wigs aren’t from Crayola anymore and Rex seems like he opens a thesaurus every now and then.  Nonetheless, everyone is still left wondering if their bark is bigger than their bite.  Let’s just wait and see.

Team: Miami Dolphins

Persona: Lindsay Lohan

LLFlorida is not only home to the Miami Dolphins but it’s also home to Disney World – a place that’s great for the kids and a miserable parent trap for the parents.  Lindsay Lohan’s debut Disney film was called The Parent Trap.  A child actress could not ask for a more perfect company to work for than Disney.  The Dolphins could not ask for a more perfect season than their 1972 Super Bowl season.  Everything Disney created around Lohan was a win.  Every game the Dolphins played that year was a win.  In fact, the 1972 Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl after finishing the regular season undefeated.

For more than a decade Lohan and the Dolphins stayed in “The Magic Kingdom” – basking in the glow of their perfect worlds.  If Lindsay tried television, Disney made it work.  If she tried music, Disney made it work. The Dolphins drafted a legendary quarterback named Dan Marino and Marino carried the Dolphins like Disney carried Lohan.  If the Dolphins needed a first down, Marino made it work.  If they needed a big play, Marino made it work.  The Dolphins practically forgot about running the ball during Marino’s tenure, and still, Marino made it work.  Eventually, all good things have to come to an end, and so Lohan left Disney and Marino retired.  With NFL records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in his career, Marino became arguably the greatest passer in the history of the game.

After the Disney era, it was bye-bye Fantasy Land for Lohan and the Dolphins.  Since Marino retired in 1999, the Dolphins have experimented with nineteen different quarterbacks – still searching for their next Cinderella.  We’re not sure how many different substances Lohan’s experimented with over the past decade, but the story is the same – still searching.  A consequence of losing a great quarterback is usually the loss of a team leader. The Dolphins substitute leaders recently came under fire when Jonathan Martin, a second year offensive lineman, quit the team because of unprecedented abuses including bullying and hazing.  Without Disney’s guiding light, Lohan has been arrested and placed in rehabilitation clinics for her substance abuse issues.  One thing is for sure; it’s time for Lohan and the Dolphins to finally grow up and get it together.

 

Team: Buffalo Bills

Persona: Billy Bob Thornton

BBTIt’s hard to argue with a name like Billy Bob in a city like Buffalo, NY.  The Buffalo Bills are as close to a small town team as there is in the NFL and Billy Bob is as close to a small town ego as there is in Hollywood.  Buffalo is still a pure sports city: pure fans that like pure football and appreciate pure sportsmanship.  Billy Bob is an acting purist who has always sought to be the “anti-film” actor, rarely accepting the blockbuster role.  Steering clear of major headlines associated with O.J. Simpson (an iconic member of the 1970’s Buffalo Bills who was the pride of the city until his life fell apart) is testimony to the Bills’ belief in keeping their team as pure as the snow of a Buffalo winter.

Eventually Billy Bob and the Bills found their way into the heat of the spotlight. We’ll call this “The Angelina Era”.  Billy Bob married one of Hollywood’s elite, Angelina Jolie.  The Bills entered their “Angelina Era” in 1991 when they made it to their first Super Bowl, only to lose to the NY Giants in the closing seconds of the game on a missed field goal by the infamous Scott Norwood.  Somehow Billy Bob and the Buffalo Bills are defined by this era despite their disdain for definition. Some of Billy Bob’s biggest acting jobs came while he and Angelina were swapping blood and getting matching tattoos.  Some of the Buffalo Bills best players competed and became legends during their Angelina Era (1991-1995) as they made it to the Super Bowl four straight years. Four consecutive Super Bowls is a unique distinction, both because no other team has ever duplicated the feat, and also because no other team has ever lost four straight times.  The agony of losing four straight Super Bowls could only be matched by the agony of Angelina Jolie divorcing you and marrying someone like Brad Pitt – you’re just never the same after that.

Billy Bob has vowed to never marry again and he hasn’t really been able find another role as pure as Monster’s Ball or as purely comedic as Bad Santa.  The Buffalo Bills lost all of their Hall of Fame talent after the Angelina Era: pure competitors like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Darrell Talley, and Andre Reid (look them up).  There is promise though…Billy Bob is dating a beautiful woman and fathered a daughter while the Buffalo Bills have drafted stand out quarterback EJ Emanuel and top wide receiver Sammy Watkins.  Sometimes it’s not about replacing what you had, it’s about moving on without it.

 

Wingfan, for War Room Sports

NFL: 10 Things We Learned From Week 1

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

by Ricky O’Neil

Ricky O Blog

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of HeavyInTheGames.com)

(Photo courtesy of HeavyInTheGames.com)

Week 1 of the NFL is behind us and there can be alot of things to be excited about. Rookies finally getting starts, players coming back from injuries, and one of the most outstanding single game performances we have ever seen. These are some of the important things that I learned while watching.

1. Peyton Manning is not human
Manning decided to open the season with an outstanding performance. SEVEN passing touchdowns against the Baltimore Ravens. The addition of Wes Welker helped, Demaryius Thomas is still catching TDs, and also the Ravens not having Ed Reed or Ray Lewis could have played a role.

2. Adrian Peterson could very well break the single season rushing TD record
We all know what type of running back AP is, but did we really think his very first carry would go for a touchdown? 78 yards straight to the house on the first play from scrimmage for the Vikings. Even though he only had 93 yards, he also had 3 TDs. 25 more in 15 games is possible.

3. The Steelers defense is not what it once was
This being my favorite team, it saddens me to say this, but the years of the Steelers ruling the defensive side of the ball are over. James Harrison gone, rush defense not as good, but at least they’re still making some type of effort, only losing by 7.

4. Geno Smith Prospering???
Even though playing the Bucs, Geno Smith and the NY Jets got a victory in Week 1. Smith threw for 256 yards and one TD, and also rushed six times for 47 yards. Now let’s not look too far into it because they play New England this week.

5. Tom Brady is still Tom Brady
They played the Bills…The game should not have been close at all in my opinion, but it became interesting late in the game. Tom Brady put together a game-winning drive (like usual) and the Patriots won by 2 with a late FG. Brady threw for 288 yards with 2 TDs. “Brady being Brady.”

6Chip Kelly’s offense is very exciting
The Eagles got a W to start the season off and Chip Kelly got the game ball afterwards. The fast-pace offense had a total of 77 offensive plays. It was great to see the “Oregon Style” offense in the NFL. Plus Mike Vick is the PERFECT guy to be running it.

7RG3 was nervous stepping back onto the field
Even though the Redskins put up a fight late in the game, RG3 did not look like himself in the first half of his game Monday night. Scared to take a hit of any kind. But as he got back into the groove of the game, he started stepping up and rushing a little bit. The Redskins still lost by 6.

8. Philip Rivers can’t close a game out
The Chargers were winning ALL GAME… Philip Rivers was having a great game. The Chargers defense was stepping up, making all the big stops needed. Houston started a comeback, and all Rivers needed to do was hold on to the football. Of course, deep in his own endzone, throws a pick 6 and Houston tied the game up. After that, Houston ends up kicking a FG to win the game. SMH… Same Ole Rivers.

9. Carson is on his way back!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is going to win MVP, but Arizona could be the best place for him. Not a bad defense, plus Larry Fitzgerald to throw to…not bad. Losing by 3 to the Rams isn’t a good start with a new team though.

10. Colin Kaepernick can throw the ball just a well as he can run
Playing the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick stayed in the pocket more often than not. Throwing for 412 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, becoming the only 49ers QB (other than Joe Montana) to throw for 400 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs.

Week 1 was very exciting and we have 15 more regular season weeks to go… And as for my Fantasy leagues, I went 4-1 so I’m a happy NFL fan
FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!!!

 

Ricky O’Neil of ITMORO, for War Room Sports

2013 NFL PLAYOFFS – THE INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Monday, January 14th, 2013

by Nwaji Jibunoh

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is approximately 2:15am Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and the pre game show is about to begin.  An alarm blares as a certain fan is forced to wake up from that early morning slumber, run to the refrigerator to get an ice cold beverage, a light snack, and then turn on the TV; but not too loud for fear of awakening others in that household who may be fast asleep.  For the next almost 3 hours, with only friends stateside to talk thrash with via Facebook, an NFL fan is engrossed from half way across the world in the 2013 playoffs.

This is the typical situation that anyone living on this side of the pond (Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East), must go through in order to enjoy the playoffs live and not a broadcast delay the following day when you will pretty much have got the full synopsis of the game by the time the replay comes on.

Football, or better classified as “American Football”, has never been as popular as the other American export Basketball for numerous reasons.  The main reason is that a lot of schools in this part of the world don’t have Football programs due to lack of interest and facilities, whereas basketball is quite popular because it is a lot easier to erect a few baskets than it is to buy football equipment.  And with basketball being played as a global sport during the Olympics, the rest of the world pretty much understands, appreciates, and loves that particular “American” sport.

However, over the last 10 years with the globalization of ESPN and FOX Sports, there has been a huge introduction of American Football to the rest of the world.  With such coverage, you will always find keen sports fans willing to learn something new and have a new team to support.  For most people in the States, they support teams based on a particular affinity to either the city the franchise belongs to or certain players.  The rest of the world has several different approaches to selecting favorite NFL teams.  You ask the majority of Europeans, Africans, or Asians who have never lived or schooled in the United States who their favorite team is, they will either say the New England Patriots or the New York Giants.  The reason being is that in the last 10 years, these are the two teams that have featured prominently in the Superbowl finals.  And of course, with Tom Brady being married to one of the hottest women in the world, people kind of flock towards the Pats.  In addition to that, a lot of new NFL watchers are starting to enjoy the sheer athleticism of the game and also the depth of technical coaching involved.  The world’s most popular sport; Soccer, does not have as many playbooks or as many coaches as football does.  This peaks a lot of curiosity into how the game is played and how every yard/inch/route/block counts for a victory or a loss.

This year, I have seen a heightened interest amongst sports watchers over the playoffs.  Since leaving the United States in 2004, I have not witnessed as much interest in the playoffs from die-hard soccer fans as I am witnessing this year.  ESPN International has spent a lot of marketing dollars hyping up certain players/rivalries/legacies/Cinderella stories to the point that folks over here just want to see how everything pans out.  There are the traditional Patriots fans, and then amazingly there are Ravens fans all over the place.  This is primarily due to people falling in love with Ray Lewis after seeing him do his intro dance, and of course the whole story with this being his curtain call.  It is all getting very exciting and I sincerely hope to see more people hosting those early morning Superbowl parties like I have been doing for a long time now.

It is interesting to see the sport grow to the level it is now.  It is also interesting to see little minor leagues pop up here and there with flag football tournaments.

With enough time, interest, and understanding of the game, I do believe that the NFL will gain as much popularity as basketball, showcasing how every sport has the potential to truly be a global game.

 

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.

Eli Manning: Undoubtedly Elite

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

By Devin McMillan

It all started back in August (2011) on a New York City radio show.  Show host Michael Kay asked New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning if he considers himself an “elite” quarterback, in the class of say……3-time Superbowl champion and American Golden Boy, Tom Brady.  Eli’s response?…

“I consider myself in that class.  Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he’s a great player, and what you’ve seen with him is he’s gotten better every year.  He started off winning championships and I think he’s a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships.  I think now he’s grown up and gotten better every year and that’s what I’m trying to do.  I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best.”

America’s response?…

Eli’s comments were met with laughter, ridicule, and in some circles, even a little anger.  No one believed him.  But what was he supposed to say?  Was he supposed to say, “no, I’m not in that class, I’ll never get any better than I was the last time you saw me, Tom Brady is my daddy”?  Had he spoken with that sort of lack of confidence, the firestorm of criticism may have been even greater than what he received for exuding the utmost confidence in his talent, skill level, and abilities.  What would Giants fans have thought had Eli cowered in the face of what should have been viewed as a challenge to him to become the very best he could be?  I wonder if they even believed him.  I’ve had discussions with Giants fans in the past few years who wouldn’t even say that Eli was the best quarterback in the NFC East, let alone one of the better signal callers in the league; a ridiculous notion if you ask me.

I believed Eli’s comments to Michael Kay, and had been a believer for quite some time prior to them.  I had long before noticed his propensity to shine in clutch moments and I believed he was well on his way to climbing from underneath the huge shadow cast over him by his older brother.  Only this was a belief difficult to defend due to the stat-lackey nature of most sports fans.  Though Eli Manning tossed the pigskin around for 4002 yards and a career high 31 touchdowns in the Giants’ 10-6 2010 season, football fans chose to concentrate on the one glaring statistic that could legitimize their arguments against Eli’s ascension into the conversation of the elite…the 25 interceptions.  Forget the 156 touchdown passes up to that point.  Forget the 4000 yard seasons that have become a trend as he improved as a QB.  Forget the 60-43 record as a starter.  Forget the 13 4th quarter comebacks and the 16 game winning drives.  Forget the Superbowl win after the 2007 season.  Forget the Superbowl MVP he EARNED with his performance in that game vs the then 18-0 New England Patriots.  Forget all of that stuff and just for a minute watch the game and make a judgment without a boxscore and preconceived notions.  It would serve the world better if more of us would learn to administer the “eye test” from time to time rather than depend on Sportscenter highlights to form our sports opinions (That’ll be the day…).  This was Eli Manning in a nutshell through the 2010 season.

Then came “the comments”.  Eli had boldly stated his arrival to a nation full of cynics.  And all he did after that was have his best season as a pro.  In the all-important 2011 campaign, Manning completed 61% of his passes, for 4933 yards, to go along with 29 TDs, 16 INTs, a QB rating of 92.9, 7 more 4th quarter comebacks, and 8 more game winning drives; all while the Giants struggled to a 9-7 record and a division title in an unexpectedly weak NFC East.  He also threw an NFL record 15- 4th quarter touchdowns; a record originally set by Johnny Unitas (14) and shared with Eli’s older brother, Peyton.  In the postseason, he raised his game even more, completing 65% of his passes, for 1219 yards, to go along with 9 TDs, 1 INT, a QB rating of 103.3, 2 more 4th quarter comebacks and 2 more game winning drives.  This run consisted of a home win vs Atlanta and 3 road wins vs the NFC #1 seeded, 15-1 defending champion Packers, the #2 seeded 49ers, and a Superbowl rematch with the AFC #1 seeded Patriots.

In my opinion, Superbowl XLVI was Eli’s finest hour.  Not because he had his finest game or anything of that nature; but because after all of the intense scrutiny that commenced prior to the season because of his comments, he was in a position to “zip-up” all of his critics in a Superbowl rematch with arguably the greatest quarterback, coach, and dynasty of this or any era…and boy did he deliver!  On the biggest stage in sports, Eli went 30/40, for 296 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, with a 103.8 QB rating.  Though quite efficient, it wasn’t Eli’s statistics that were most impressive (which it usually isn’t).  It was the calm and poise he once again demonstrated, but this time in the biggest moments of the biggest game of his life.  Eli Manning’s most important season ever came down to the wire with another one of his signature 4th quarter comebacks and another one of his signature game winning drives.  On that final drive, Eli went 5-6 for 76 yards, including a beautiful 38-yard sideline throw and catch from Manning to Manningham, capped off with a 6-yard Bradshaw rushing TD…”by mistake”.  The evening culminated with Eli hoisting his second Lombardi trophy and his second Superbowl MVP at the expense of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots, and anyone who still refuses to give Eli Manning his “just due” for being the “elite” winner that he is.

Besides his proverbial trip to Disney World, Eli’s night came complete with a 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible Centennial Edition (fit for an MVP) and these comments from his also often-embattled head coach, Tom Coughlin:

“That was quite a drive that he was able to put together.  He deserves all the credit in the world, because he really has put his team on his shoulders all year.”

Anyone with eyes and an objective opinion can see that Tom Coughlin is right.  The brightest spot of a struggling Giants team all season was the play of their quarterback.  Unlike Kevin Durant, Eli Manning didn’t sport a backpack at his press conferences.  But he damn sure hung a big blue one off his shoulder pads for 3 hours every Sunday this Fall.  I understand as much as anyone that football is the ultimate TEAM game and that no one wins or loses by themselves.  If not for the Giants front four stepping up to help late in the season, or their running game eventually showing up in the playoffs, or their entire team deciding down the stretch that they were “all in” for an historic run, Sunday night may not have happened.  However, not many thought that Eli Manning had a chance in the world to remotely live up to his reply to that dreaded Michael Kay question on an innocent August day.  Has he made you a b-ELI-ever yet?  No matter how you slice it, you definitely can no longer spell “elite” without Eli.

Take off your backpack Eli.  You can rest your shoulders now…and maybe; just maybe, the doubters can rest their mouths.

Devin McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports