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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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Media Beheading of NFL Out of Touch
by
Sep 19, 2014 -- 11:24am

One CNN anchor turned to the other last night and said, "how does Roger Goodell still have a job?" 

The answer from the other, “the NFL is in big trouble.”

The NFL is in big trouble?  According to whom?  Not the consumer.  An NBC/Marist Poll out last night indicates that an overwhelming 86% of Americans polled say their viewing habits of the NFL won’t change at all because of the recent events involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and others. 

The same poll indicated that despite the one-sided public media lynching of Roger Goodell, more Americans think he should keep his job than be fired.  Forty-three percent of the respondents said Goodell should remain commissioner while just 29% said he shouldn’t.

Sadly for the media mob intent on firing everybody, most consumers don’t agree and most businesses don't operate that way.  While it may seem obvious to some that a head or two must role when a mistake is made, that view usually comes from the perspective of inexperience.  

What many outraged media executioners don't understand because in most cases they've never been asked to manage anybody but themselves is that firing a loyal earner for a mistake or two no matter how big is an option of last resort, not first.    

By most accounts, Roger Goodell is an earner.  NFL revenue keeps increasing, franchise values keep going higher, and the new CBA with the players was a negotiating success for league.  The notion that a monkey could do Goodell's job because after all, the NFL prints money without even trying, might be true.  It also might not be true. 

What is true is that most of us don’t have enough information to make any definitive declarations about Goodell or his job.  There are things we see like Spygate, Bountygate, Vick, PacMan, and 18-game wishes but most of what Goodell does is never seen by anyone except for those that employ and work with him.   

We don't have a clue what his day to day responsibilities are and we have limited information on whether or not he handles those responsibilities effectively or not.  His employers know.  We don't.

Joining the blood-thirsty media mob at Goodell’s door is the media and cause celeb battle cry right now.  It's the typical response from those who are rarely asked in their own lives to solve a problem.  Asking for a beheading in the midst of a crisis may seem provocative to an MSNBC show host but at its core, it’s whiny.  The demand for answers and the assignment of blame can wait for a few NFL stabs at a solution. 

When Hurricane Katrina crushed New Orleans it was repulsive to watch media anchors and pundits pleading with officials for names to blame while those same officials were dropping water and food to stranded families on rooftops.  There's plenty of time for blame and perhaps a Goodell execution, especially if he lied about seeing the elevator video.  For now however, let a league that has some pretty sharp people take the first shot at fixing the problem. 

While the media blamers have spent most of their time begging for scalps, the NFL actually has been doing some work.  It’s barely been noticed but shouldn’t Goodell and the league get some credit for the implementation of a new domestic violence policy?   

We all know that Goodell messed up by giving Ray Rice two games initially because he acknowledged the mistake and took personal responsibility saying in a letter to all NFL owners, "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better."

But since that mess-up, he and the league have done more than they're getting credit for.  The most severe penalties for domestic violence in any sport now exist in the NFL. 

That new policy rolled out in late August includes an automatic 6-game suspension for a first-time offense with a longer suspension if the facts indicate violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or violence against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.  For a second offense, it’s banishment from the NFL. 

Goodell also ordered an independent investigation which will be led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller III.  Of course the media mob will say this is so obviously not independent because Mueller worked for a law firm with ties to the NFL but Mueller's reputation for independence is impeccable.  

Mueller is a former United States attorney, a senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.  There isn't one person who's been asked about him since his designation to this NFL investigation that doesn't speak about him in terms of having an untouchable level of high integrity.

A new domestic violence policy and an independent investigation of the Rice situation seems to have made no difference to an hysterical media intent on seeing Goodell pay with his job and the league be labeled as some sort of NCAA program that’s lost institutional control.

In a clever sleight of hand trick, the media blamers divert your attention away from the NFL’s substantive responses to the crisis and turn you towards the motives behind the responses.  It's all about why they laid out a plan for more severe penalties rather than the action itself. 

The why in this case is the league only came up with tougher penalties because they were bowing to public criticism and pressure.   That may be true but does it nullify completely the action itself?

See, if the blamers acknowledge that the league actually has been taking substantive action, then the blame game festival stops.  So the move is to question the motives for the action rather than give credit for trying to fix the problem.

Motives can be revealing but actions speak loudest.  Roger Goodell and the NFL haven't been rendered impotent by the media mob screaming for heads on a platter.  It may seem that way but they’ve implemented tougher penalties for domestic violence and will likely do the same with child abuse. 

Football fans understand something many in the media don’t.  They recognize that the Rice and Peterson cases don’t speak for an entire league. 

Most NFL players are actually decent citizens.  And while fans recognize that some players are young, aggressive, entitled, wealthy, and lack in personal courtesy and common decency, that knowledge isn’t going to change the way they consume the sport. 

The latest NBC/Marist poll reflects that.  Fans want their football diversion regardless of these recent events.  With that said, they’d probably prefer that the league work harder to outlaw some of the recent unacceptable behavior.  Most recognize the difference between the occasional bad boy pot smoker and the girlfriend beater. 

But they don’t believe the portrait painted by a frenzied media the last few weeks that attempts to dupe viewers, listeners, and readers into thinking that the NFL is a league that actually endorses the beating of women and children.  That's too much reach for reasonable.

The NFL did indeed make a mistake by not being tougher in these cases before.  The initial 2-game suspension of Ray Rice was far too light.  Learning from those mistakes and acting on them can become good measure regardless of the motive.



Skins-Jags Recap
by Kevin Sheehan
Sep 14, 2014 -- 5:28pm
RG3

The good, bad, and more from the Redskins 41-10 win over Jacksonville.

Good:

1.  Defense.  One of the best days defensively I can remember.  Of course it's Jacksonville and you can't get overly euphoric but it was a near-perfect performance if not for a couple of dumb penalties and what appeared to be another bad play by Rambo.  36 of Jacksonville's 48 offensive plays were 3 yards or less.  The Skins held Jacksonville to 8 first downs, 148 total yards, 3 of 13 on 3rd down (2 of the 3 on penalties), and sacked Chad Henne 10 times. The run-defense was dominant....the pass rush relentless.  I'm not going to go nuts but it's so obvious how much faster, overall athletic, and better the defense is this year.  It all starts up front and the addition of Hatcher, the increased presence of Baker, and the improvment of Jenkins is making everyone else on the defense better.

2.  Jason Hatcher/Chris Baker/Jarvis Jenkins.  The Skins haven't had this much interior athleticism and muscle in years.  Hatcher was unblockable, Baker nearly the same and Jenkins' season is off to a good start.

3.  Brian Orakpo/Ryan Kerrigan.  If Hatcher plays the way he's played in the first 2 games, Orakpo and Kerrigan are going to have monster seasons.  Kerrigan had 4 sacks....Orakpo had 1 but both were great.  Kerrigan has great feel and is so smart as a rusher and as a weak-side defender against bootlegs.  Orakpo has been outstanding against the run in both games.

4.  Robinson/Riley.  Speed like they haven't had inside in a long time.  Both are dangerous blitzers and Robinson in particular is solid in coverage.

5.  Amerson.  He's impressive in coverage and tackled well.

6.  RG3 before the injury.  If there were ever a snap shot on how much better RG3 can be if he's a run-threat then today was it.  Two read-option runs for 22 yards, a read-option/play-action throw to Niles Paul for 19 yards, and a nice play-making throw to Jackson on a bootleg on the play he got injured.  He appeared poised to have a big day before he got hurt.  The crowd felt the electricity of him running early and making plays as they chanted "RG3, RG3".

7.  Kirk Cousins.  Completed his first 11 en route to 21 first half points.  There's no doubt he's comfortable with all of the things Griffin has been uncomfortable doing.  He knows where to go and usually does it quickly.  He makes checks at the line of scrimmage like the one I think he made that led to an Alfred Morris run for 18 yards.  His accuracy hasn't always been great but it was solid today.  He took a sack late in the half that knocked the Skins out of FG range.  It appears he didn't see the blitz on that play although that could've been a mistake by Trent Williams too. 

I'd like to hear the fool that still thinks it was a bad idea to draft Cousins.  He came of the bench to win 2 games in 2012 that helped the team win the division.  Last year's starts weren't great but they had one healthy receiver and the team was 3 and 10 and counting the hours until the season was over.  He's going to have some inconsistent days which is a given for someone with just 4 NFL starts but he's an NFL starter for sure and perhaps a good one in the right scheme.  This scheme, which is very similar to the Shanahan scheme, is a good one for him.

8.  Rush offense.  Morris had a nice day.  Helu had a great 9-yard run.  Silas Redd was great in mop-up duty.  He's got terrific vision...perfect for the zone run scheme.

9.  Andre Roberts.  Always open, makes every catch, is solid after the catch, and is dangerous as a punt returner.  His 37-yard punt return set up points in the 2nd quarter and was his 2nd big return to set up short-field points in as many weeks.

10.  Niles Paul.  Almost didn't put him on this list because he dropped what may have been an easy 20+ yarder and perhaps a touchdown but he's proving that his move to tight end from a pass receiver stand point was a good move.

11.  Special Teams.  Tress Way kills the ball....49.8 per boot.  Forbath was 2 for 2.  Coverage was near-perfect except for a 40-yard kickoff return.  Trenton Robinson is a special teams star in the making.  He also had a pick when he replaced Rambo in the 2nd half.  He's great on coverage teams.  There were a few penalties on Sp teams including an offside on a kickoff but it's obvious that the end to the salary cap penalty allowed the team to go out and upgrade talent.

Bad:

1.  Penalties.  11 for 98 yards.  It was the only thing that seemed to keep Jacksonville on the field or the Redskins out of the end zone for at least one more score if not two.  A few of them were totally unnecessary.  D-Hall's 15-yarder was totally unnecessary with the runner already stopped and who knows what Trent Williams did to get called for unsportsmanlike conduct but it cost his team a chance at 7.

2.  Injuries.  Griffin and Jackson.  I think it's obvious that Griffin is brittle.  Interesting to see that he had seemed to improve as a slider.

3.  Rambo.  His chances to play are running out.  That was a terrible angle on the touchdown to Lewis.

More:

1.  Jackson's catch early was a catch.  CBS's Mike Carey (the ref who didn't work a Redskin game for his last 7 years as a ref because he's offended by the name) said it should've been overturned.  He called the league an "it stands league".

2.  Trenton Robinson played for Rambo in the 2nd half.

3.  D-Hall seemed to have a rough day.  He got beat on a deep ball to Hurns early that should've been a touchdown and he had a totally unnecessary 15-yard personal foul.

4.  Breeland nearly made the "good list".  He's going to make some plays this year.  He almost had a pick-6.

5.  The Davis 15-yd penalty on the punt return is another example of how football has changed.  Three years ago, that's one of the plays/hits of the weekend.

6.  Gus Bradley's timeout with 3 seconds left in the half gave the Skins an additional play.  It looked like they weren't going to get the play off.



Skins-Jaguars Preview & Pick
by
Sep 14, 2014 -- 1:04am

The Redskins will beat the Jaguars if...

1.  they don't beat themselves.  This is much more obvious after last week but even against Jacksonville, the Skins can't turn it over and give up back-breaking special teams plays and win. 

2.  if the QB is more of a playmaker than he was last week.  Jacksonville's defense is decent so Griffin may need to make a play or two this week.  He was effective in the 2nd half last week as a distributor taking what Houston's defense gave him and throwing for nearly 200 yards over the final 30 minutes.  Few plays however reminded Houston's defense that they were playing "RG3", the 2012 rookie of the year and the best playmaker that season.  A few plays that remind Jacksonville that they're playing "RG3" instead of a statuesque pocket paser would help him and the team.  Houston never feared going after him and Jacksonville won't either unless he gives them a reason to fear him.

3.  the defense makes a play or two.  We were promised an unshackled defensive approach this year now that Shanahan is gone but Orakpo didn't sniff the quarterback in the opener.  He was in coverage more than he was turned loose as a pass rusher in Houston.  Some of that was down/distance but Haz, Orakpo, and company puffed out their chest this offseason and said, wait till this year.  After one game, we're still waiting.  If this is going to be a good year for the defense, they can't let Chad Henne come into Fed Ex and beat them.

Prediction:

Redskins 20-13. 



Smell Test #3
by
Sep 12, 2014 -- 11:57am

WHAT'S THE FRIDAY FOOTBALL SMELL TEST?

It's a contrarian handicapping philosophy. I look for the games where the public is convinced they are right about a point spread and I go the other way. Have fun and as always, this is for entertainment purposes only.
 
PREVIOUS YEARS
 
2006-- 60.4%
2007-- 56.6%
2008-- 63.1%
2009-- 57.5%
2010-- 48.8%
2011-- 48.7%
2012-- 54.1%
2013-- 47.4%
 
THIS YEAR
Last Week: 3-3
Overall:  4-4
 
SMELL TEST PICKS FOR WEEKEND OF 9-13-14
 
Saturday, September 13
 
East Carolina +10
South Alabama +14
UTSA +13.5
Texas +7.5
Rutgers +3
 
Sunday, September 14
 
Browns +6.5
Bengals -5
Chargers +6
Bears +7
 
Monday, September 15
 
Eagles +3


Skins-Texans Wrap
by Kevin Sheehan
Sep 07, 2014 -- 5:51pm
Redskins

The good, bad, and more from the Redskins 17-6 loss in Houston.

ESPN Galleries Good:

1.  Rush offense.  It's the only part of the team that you can say only good things about.  Alfred Morris (14-91yds) and Roy Helu (4-46yds) averaged 7.6 yards per carry.  The o-line, particularly when running away from Watt was very good in the run game.  

2.  1st-half defense.  It would've been an A+ grade if not for Rambo's blown coverage and tackle on the Hopkins touchdown.  The Skins D forced 5 punts on Houston's first 5 drives.  On Houston's first drive of the game, Cofield's penetration allowed Baker to make a stop on 3rd and 1.  On Houston's 2nd drive, Robinson made a 3rd and 1 stop on a play Cofield was held on.  On Houston's 4th drive, Hatcher deflected Fitzpatrick's 3rd down pass.  Hatcher had a 3rd-down sack on Houston's 5th drive.  The defense minus the Rambo play was lights out in the first half.

3.  2nd-half offense moved the ball.  The turnovers in the red zone cost them a legitimate chance to win the game but they got into the red zone because they ran the ball well and took what the defense gave them in the passing game.  Soft coverages left Garcon (10-77) and Jackson (8-62) wide open for most of the day on short quick throws.  Griffin did a nice job of getting the ball out quickly and accurately.  He hit receivers in stride in the 2nd half.  A throw to Roberts and the one to Paul where he fumbled were the two biggest yardage plays of the day.  Both were perfect throws.    Stretching the field was not an option and they didn't force it because they didn't have to.  They were in the game down one score and stuck with the gameplan of taking what Houston gave them.  Unfortunately, they couldn't finish with points because of the turnovers.

4.  Andre Roberts.  He averaged 28 yards per kickoff return and 18 on punt returns.  It would've been better on punt returns if not for a great tackle by his own teammate Darrell Young.

Bad:

1.  Turnovers/mistakes.  Two turnovers instead of scores on the two best offensive drives of the game to start the 3rd quarter were killers.  Add to that a blocked punt, blocked PAT, and the bad coverage/tackle play by Rambo on the Hopkins' touchdown and all of that was too much to overcome, especially on the road.  The Niles Paul fumble was unforced.  The Griffin/Morris fumble was a result of Griffin tripping over Lichtensteiger's foot.  The blocked punt appeared to be Helu's missed block.  There were other game-impacting mistakes like the sack taken by Griffin on a 3rd and 8 early in the 2nd quarter when they were in FG range.  The rush didn't give him much opportunity to throw it away but it looked like a missed chance at the line of scrimmage.  Houston showed blitz, there were still 10 seconds on the playclock but it looked like Griffin never saw it.  There were near mistakes like Morris' near-fumble at the 1 that was challenged but there wasn't enough video evidence to overturn.  If that had been ruled a fumble, the Skins would've been shut out.

2.  End of first-half clock/game mgt.  It was his first game as a head coach but Gruden can't let the clock run out on the half when you have the ball on your own 41.  Even though it was 3rd and 25, a throw underneath against soft 3rd and long coverage could get you close to FG range.  Let's say you throw it underneath to Helu and he gets to the Houston 37.  It's still short of the first down but then you can run the clock down and attempt a long FG to end the half.  Letting the clock run out was really a head-scratcher.

3.  2nd-half defense.  After a very good first half with the exception of the mistake by Rambo, the defense allowed Houston to eat up 12 minutes of clock on two of their first three drives of the 2nd half.  Houston was 7 for 9 on 3rd-down on three 2nd half possessions.  Like the Redskins, the Texans only scored 3 points in the 2nd half because they turned it over in the red zone too.

4.  Officiating.  The game's crew was clearly still in preseason mode.  The two roughing-the-passer calls on Swearinger and Jenkins are two of the worst calls I've ever seen.  There's no way the league can look at those two plays and confirm they were the correct calls.  Both players, Swearinger and Jenkins, made textbook tackles based on the rules.  Neither hit was helmet-to-helmet, neither was late, neither was too low or too high, neither was leading with the helmet....just awful calls.  The intentional grounding call on Griffin late in the first half was the wrong call also.  That was a big play even though there was an offensive P.I. call on the same play because of the loss of down.

More:

1.  JJ Watt is what an elite defensive playmaker looks like.  The Redskins don't have anyone in his class.  Then again, most teams don't.

2.  Tress Way punted very well.  The block didn't appear to be his fault; it  looked like Helu missed a block.

3.  The missed PAT...couldn't tell if it was kicked too low or not.

4.  Ryan Kerrigan continues to be a guy that makes plays that impact games.  His tackle/strip on Foster in the red zone early in the 4th quarter kept the Skins in the game.

5.  Can't imagine this was the plan but Logan Paulson was matched up one-on-one with Watt on at least 2 plays.

6.  D-Hall's 15-yard penalty on Houston's first 2nd-half drive was offset by a Houston penalty but still...he can't lose his cool there.  The Redskins forced a punt on that drive but lost some potential yardage because of the offsetting penalties.

7.  Griffin wasn't much of a run-threat today but the quick throws against soft coverage combined with a strong running game should've been enough to win if not for the turnovers/mistakes.  The only play that looked like it may have been a read-option style play was the 3rd and 1 Morris run where he got nailed by Watt behind the line of scrimmage.  It looked like Griffin could've kept it and run for huge yardage.

8.  By my count, the Redskins ran 54 of 63 offensive plays from either the Shotgun or Pistol formation.  This is clearly where Gruden thinks Griffin is most comfortable, especially when throwing the ball.

9.  On their only TD drive of the game, the Redskins didn't throw the ball once.  Roberts' 25-yd punt return gave them the ball at Houston's 46.  Morris and Helu carried 3 times for 45 yards down to the 1....D. Young scored.

10.  Jordan Reed injured on his first catch of the year....not very durable it appears.



Skins-Texans Preview and Prediction
by
Sep 07, 2014 -- 12:38pm

The Redskins will beat the Texans if...

1.  Griffin is a playmaker.  If the goal is to drop him back and have him read, progress, and step up into a traditional pocket, it's going to be a long day and a long year.  The way Seattle used Russell Wilson the other night is the way to use Griffin.  Read-option style plays should be a part of the offense to pose Griffin as a run-threat even if he doesn't run.  It puts the defense on its heels and as we've seen in the past, it gets Griffin into a rhythm in every other aspect of the game.  He feeds on confidence and rhythm and the way he's always gotten confidence is to make plays with his arm AND legs.  It's not just the read-option though which shouldn't be anymore than 10-15% of the play calls.  It's quick throws with 4 and 5-wide sets.  Bootlegs get him out on the edge as a passer/runner.  Screens will help.  Wilson rarely dropped back and threw from the pocket.  He was out on the edge threatening the defense with his playmaking ability all night against Green Bay.  I think we'll see some of the same today from the Skins' offense.  We better hope we see it will likely be a rough day.

2.  the defense is good as they say they are.  The've talked all offseason about how good they are, let's see it.  They face Ryan Fitzpatrick today.  If they can't make him look less than average, what are they really?  The scheule is favorable for a big defensive year.  Last year they faced Peyton, Rodgers, Rivers, etc....this year it's Fitzpatrick and Henne to start the year.  Big chance for a quick defensive start.

3.  they avoid back-breaking plays.  Last year it was turnovers and sp teams gaffes, none of that today if they're going to beat a much-better-than-advertised Houston team in their building.

Prediction:

Houston's defense is good.  Close game but a loss.

Texans 24-20.



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