Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Goodell needs to deal with Irsay

- May 26th, 2014

Last week, an NFL owner was parading around lobbying to land Super Bowl LII for his team.

Normally, this wouldn’t seem weird, but the owner doing so was Jim Irsay, who is somehow still under investigation by the league for getting arrested while driving under the influence back in March.

And it wasn’t like the Colts owner was just allegedly driving after having an extra glass of wine with dinner. Irsay was allegedly pulled over with $29,000 in cash and “numerous” bottles of prescription pills in the vehicle according to police.

And after this news broke, it was revealed that Irsay has been battling personal demons of this ilk for a while and that nobody has been able to get through to him.

So, it’s probably a good thing that the Super Bowl didn’t go to Indianapolis – the last thing you want to do is reward someone who is still under investigation.

But why is this investigation taking so long, Roger Goodell?

There is a fair amount of hypocrisy in this whole thing, which was pointed out quite eloquently by Washington safety Ryan Clark.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24569362/ryan-clark-jim-irsay-case-shows-hypocrisy-of-roger-goodell

Clark was on the Steelers when Goodell banned Ben Roethlisberger for four games due to his involvement in an alleged rape – a case that never went to trial and was ultimately dropped.

Now we have an owner that has been actually charged with two offences and the commish is sitting on his hands.

We just witnessed his NBA counterpart Adam Silver – just months on the job – strike quickly and deliberately against Clippers owner Donald Sterling, though it should be pointed out that situation is much bigger than a DUI charge.

Goodell can’t drag his feet anymore. He’s already not a favourite among the fans or the players and needs to improve his image of being completely in the owners’ pocket.

At least Irsay has entered rehab, but that shouldn’t cut his punishment too much. After all, Browns all-pro receiver Josh Gordon is facing a potential season-long ban for testing positive for marijuana, which is actually legal in some states now.

If Irsay and the Colts aren’t fined a big amount and possibly even forced to forfeit a mid-round selection in next year’s draft, I’ll be very disappointed.

A statement has to be made that the rules are for everyone – owners included.

Trade talk heading into the NFL draft

- May 8th, 2014

Mock drafts are some good fun, but really, you can’t take into account the vast amount of trades that could, should and maybe even will take place during the first round on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.

Here’s a quick breakdown on how quickly things could get shaken up.

-The Texans have been talking for months about potentially trading out of the No. 1 spot. If the right deal comes along, they would love to pick up a few extra selections if they can still grab Khalil Mack a few spots back. But, according to reports, the asking price for the top pick might be a bit too steep for anyone to bite: Three first-round picks and a second rounder. That of course varies depending on how far Houston would be moving back in tonight’s draft.

-The Rams came into the No. 2 overall pick thanks to trading away the same pick a couple of years ago to Washington. If they can get a similar haul, they’d love to move back and stash picks. St. Louis also sits at No. 13 and, again, could be willing to move back if the price is right.

-The Falcons are always looking at moving up in draft, but this time it doesn’t really make sense. They really want Jadeveon Clowney, but would have to move up to No. 1 to get him – which may be too rich for their blood. Sitting at No. 6, they’ll likely land a franchise tackle they desperately need, or Mack.

-The Cowboys could also move up, but it won’t be for Johnny Manziel. Considering how much of an albatross Tony Romo’s contract is and the huge needs they have on defence, taking a playmaking QB doesn’t make sense. But then again, Jerry Jones’ moves often lack that trait.

- A couple of teams in the teens are eying fast-rising receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Steelers and Jets are both in the market to move up to grab him.

-You can expect a lot of teams to try to trade into the back end of the first round in hopes of landing potentially free-falling QBs. If guys like Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or even Derek Carr are in play, expect a lot of phones to be ringing.

-Two teams that could be looking to pick up some picks and move out of the first round are New England and Seattle. The Pats love to stockpile picks by moving backwards while the Seahawks are pretty stacked across the board.

-Reports have the Buffalo Bills trying to move up into one of the top two spots, but one of their targets doesn’t make sense: Clowney. While Greg Robinson would be a great addition to their offensive line, the Bills don’t really need to add to an already great pass rush – especially when you consider the cost to do so.

-Another team that might be a trade partner for the Rams at No. 2 is Tampa Bay. But who they would select is a mystery. It could be Manziel, but new coach Lovie Smith loves Aaron Donald – who can be probably be had No. 7, the Bucs original slot.

-With the Browns likely passing on a QB at No. 4, they could grab a QB with their second first-round pick at No. 26. They might be looking at either Bridgewater or Carr at that range, or they might even luck into Manziel should he slide.

-The team that’s the biggest wildcard for a possible QB selection is Tennessee. The Titans didn’t pick up Jake Locker’s fifth-year option and might look to move on from the oft-injured pivot.

AS FOR THE OTHER GUYS

And, in case you were wondering, here’s some names that were just below the line for my final mock draft and may have appeared in a past version, but didn’t make the final cut.

Expect many, if not all to have to their names called on the second day of the draft.

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Cyrus Kounandjio, OT, Alabama

Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois

Kony Ealy, DE-LB, Missouri

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Jimmy Garpoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

JaWuan James, OT, Tennessee

Breaking down Super Bowl XLVIII

- January 31st, 2014

The biggest game of them all couldn’t have a better matchup. It’s the best offence in the history of the NFL against the best defence in the league this year.

It’s a clash of titans worthy of playing a game known as the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos against the Seahawks impervious defence. It’s everything that you could want.

What made Denver’s attack so powerful was its ability to continually march down the field with short and intermediate passes that keep Manning in the pocket for just short periods of time. That means he wouldn’t be hit, putting at risk his surgically repaired neck.

The bad thing for the Broncos is that the Seahawks defence is essentially built to stop offences just like that. They’ll beat up receivers at the line, throwing them off their routes and disrupting the timing of patterns.

It’s not like the Broncos extraordinary amount of receiving options – four different receivers had 10+ TDs this season – will weigh heavy on the Seahawks either. Seattle has shown great depth in its secondary after having to deal with injuries and suspensions this season.

It looks like the weather won’t play a huge role, but you can’t discount the fact that it’s going to be close to freezing. It won’t hamper the passing game too much, but we might see one or two drops as a result of the cold. The wind can’t be discounted either, as Manning’s “ducks” may hang just a little bit more than usual – which could be some very bad news.

And while I write the name Richard Sherman with a groan, his impact should be big for this game. For the AFC championship game, Demaryius Thomas said that he wasn’t looking forward to facing Aqib Talib; Sherman is every bit as physical and great in coverage as Talib and probably better. That’s why you can’t buy that Thomas says he wants to Sherman to cover him – that’s just hiding his nerves.

Another two X factors that you can’t forget about the big game: Seattle’s amazing safety duo of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. They’re probably the best tandem in the NFL and will have some sort of impact on the game, either with an interception, or breaking up a big pass. Also, Pete Carroll rarely dials up blitzes, usually using four-man rushes. If his interior line can create pressure on Manning, it could force some mistakes.

But while the Seahawks defence matchups up well with the Broncos offence, you can say the same thing when reversing the roles.

The Broncos had the fourth-best run defence in the league and will be charged with stopping Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson on the ground. While Denver is quite adept at stopping opposing rushers, their numbers are slightly inflated by the fact that teams were forced to pass against them a lot while trailing late in games. And Lynch has gone up against strong run defences before and done just fine – just look at his 109-yard performance against San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

The big X factor for Seattle is Percy Harvin. With the dynamic receiving threat healthy for the Super Bowl, he should be a big part of the gameplan for Seattle. He’s likely to have at least a couple of crafty screen plays drawn up for him and should serve in return duties.

Speaking of return duties, you can’t discount the big advantage that Seattle has in special teams in general. It’s about the kickers or punters either, it’s about the coverage teams. The Seahawks were among the league’s best at stopping returns, which says a lot about their defensive depth as it’s the third and fourth string guys that are on those teams. That fact means that Trindon Holliday the Broncos dangerous kick returner, shouldn’t get a chance to break a big return like we’ve seen before.

What we’re in for is likely a low-scoring Super Bowl, much to fans chagrin. That favours the Seahawks and that’s who I’ll take.

While this has undoubtedly been Peyton Manning’s season from the first kickoff when he scored seven TDs against Baltimore, to setting multiple passing records, to slaying the rival Patriots in the AFC title game, it won’t end pretty for him. He’ll be the bridesmaid and we’ll be stuck with another season of debating his legacy.

The pick: Seattle 23, Denver 20

MVP: Russell Wilson, SEA

This playoffs: 3-4-3

This season: 119-125-9 (3 games with NL)

What does Peyton Manning’s future hold?

- January 29th, 2014

While there has been much talk about Peyton Manning’s legacy leading up to the Super Bowl and if a win would make him the greatest QB of all-time, the real question is what the future holds for the Broncos all-world QB.

The reality is that, at 37-years-old, Manning’s career is near its end. There’s no way around that. It’s very rare that players even make it to play at 38 in this league, let alone after four neck surgeries.

So, could Manning retire after the Super Bowl? He may say that he’s not thinking about it, but I bet that it’s in the back of his mind just a little bit.

There wouldn’t be a better way to go out if Manning won the MVP and the Super Bowl in his final year. He already has the MVP dialled in after being named the all-pro team QB unanimously, only the Super Bowl stands in his way of that dream.

Not many legends actually get a chance to go out on top and it’s a chance that may be too attractive to turn down.

If Manning can’t prevail over the tough Seahawks in the swamps of New Jersey on Sunday, then I think it’s close to 100% that he’ll come back. There’s nothing like unfinished business to keep a motivated guy like Manning going.

But it’s not very fun to speculate on what Manning would do if he comes back next year, that much is obvious – throw for 50 more TDs and probably 5,000 more yards while winning the AFC West again. That would easily put him past Brett Favre for most passing TDs (he needs 17 to tie) and would leave him roughly 2,000 yards short of the record.

And it’s not like he couldn’t hold up to play another season. The only injuries he has suffered since his return were a couple of sprained ankles that didn’t even cause him to miss any time.

But speculating about Peyton playing on isn’t fun; what would he do if he retires?

There are three real options: Go into coaching, go into TV or take a year or two off.

I, personally think that the last option is the least likely. Manning is too dedicated to the game of football to stay away from it.

Even when he’s on the field, Manning is an excellent coach. He seems destined to be able to pick up a clipboard and start doling out advice right away and would be an outstanding offensive co-ordinator, or at least a QB coach. I would only question where he would choose to coach, as a good situation may not be immediately available.

That might keep him off the sidelines for a year or two, which leads to his most obvious stop on his post-playing career path: Television.

When at Tennessee, Manning studied communications and is known to be a great speaker and, of course, football mind.

Every network would be falling all over themselves to try to land Manning, leading to a huge bidding war. I’d say either FOX or NBC would be the favourites to land him, but that’s just my uninformed speculation.

But really, the only thing that we know for certain is that five years after he does hang it up, Manning will be enshrined at Canton – there’s no debating that.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

How to fix every sport’s all-star game

- January 27th, 2014

Even after all the rule changes and tweaks made for Sunday’s night Pro Bowl, the game itself was so terribly blah that the only redeeming thing about it was the final few minutes.

So the time has come and I have taken it upon myself to fix all-star games once and for all. Yes, we’re not going to fix just the NFL’s version of the all-star game, we’re going to fix them all. It’s a tough job – well, not really – but somebody has to do it.

Let’s start with a general problem that plagues every all-star game: Fan voting.

I understand that these games are exhibitions for the fans and a way to reward players, but having fans vote for the starters leads to controversy every year. Just look no further than basketball fans electing Kobe Bryant to start this year’s game despite playing just six games due to his Achilles injury and a broken bone in his knee.

I won’t go as far as to take voting away from the fans completely, but let’s scale it back a bit. How about having the top vote-getters in each conference make instead of the entire starting lineup? Or why not use fan voting as one of the factors, but not an automatic place on the team? That way we would see only the most deserving players competing.

Another general improvement I would make is to up the payday for the winning teams, giving players more incentive to compete instead of playing some unreasonable facsimile of defence that is often embarrassing to sports and competition in general. More cash at stake – for the players or charity – would eliminate some of the matador defence you often see in these games.

As for the individual games, let’s start with the easiest one to improve, the NFL’s Pro Bowl. How do you improve it? Eliminate it completely. Using a fantasy draft to pick the teams was a nice step forward, but not enough to salvage that trainwreck. Let’s just scrap the game entirely. Give the players their titles as all-pros, give them a trip to Hawaii, but don’t force them to play another meaningless game. It has no value to the fans, league and TV networks, so let’s just quit this farce.

For baseball, it’s hard to make changes when you consider that something is actually at stake for their Midsummer Classic. If you take out the whole playing-for-homefield-advantage thing, a fantasy draft could be quite interesting. You could even have the winner of the home run derby get first pitch and such. One other thing would be to have the fan-voted starters finish the game instead of starting it. That way you wouldn’t see some of the lesser “stars” facing off with the game on the line – although that does create more heroes in the game. Otherwise, there’s not much you can do improve the best all-star game out there.

The NHL, which started this fantasy draft craze, has pretty much plateaued. I think you could actually take it one step further to make deciding teams even more fun: Do it shinny style. Have every stick thrown in the middle of the ice and sort it out like that. Or, instead of having players as captains, have two lucky fans pick the teams. What a publicity win for the league that would be!

The only real way to improve the game itself would be to have a higher compete level and players that actually try on defence. An 11-9 score isn’t exactly representative of a real ice hockey game. But, again, that’s a general ASG problem.

The NBA all-star game is perhaps the easiest fix: Use a fantasy draft. There is no league in which the players are driven by slights as the NBA. Being passed over by a teammate who is captain or picked behind a positional rival would bring out the best sides of players in this meaningless exhibition. If you don’t think Rajon Rondo would go crazy after being picked last, you’re crazy.

And if you want me to fix the MLS all-star game – which is basically an exhibition against a European team – you’ve come to the wrong place. That thing is a nice exhibition, but it’s beyond fixable.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki