Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 Yards and a Whole Bunch of Nothing

     I love NFL Draft Combine. I really do. It's a time for players you've watch for years in college make a name for themselves and become first round studs. However, the whole process the NFL scouts go through to pick their players is exhausting and could be made dramatically easier. Look, you may sit and read the paper or ESPN about how wonderful a particular player is or how well he'd fit into your team's offensive or defensive scheme, but in reality, no one has any idea what their talking about. They're analysts, not experts. They're the guys who thought JaMarcus Russell would be throwing for 4,000 yards every year rather than dropping codeine and getting accused of a felony, though he was not convicted. The combine, which I may or may not begin to refer to as the Underwear Olympics, has a trademark "activity," the 40 yard dash.
     To many scouts, it is the all-powerful measurement of talent, brains, fitness, and whatever else you can get from twenty somethings running around in their underwear. The late Al Davis (At Left) had a proven track record of always picking the fastest player, based on their official 40 time, in the draft, which is odd, mainly because Al Davis looked like a zombie, and zombies usually want to hang out (can zombies even do that???) with their slow moving brethren. As anyone would predict, this soon became a problem, so much so that Raiders scouts would add on time to the faster but less talented athletes and make the more talented but slower players look faster. The Al Davis scenario, though extreme, is not uncommon in the NFL. I've seen so many talented players get knocked down into the second and third rounds simply because they were a few hundredths of a second behind what was expected.
   For a modern example, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was supposedly thrown from the lofty mountaintop that is the top five picks of the draft to the murky depths of the top ten, just because he ran a forty yard dash at a speed any weekend warrior would kill to have. The problem, obviously, was that he was too slow. Richardson is undoubtedly one of the best running back prospects in years, so much so that I would venture to guess that if this draft was held in 1990, he would have a shot to be the first overall pick. But, because he was a few hundredths of a second off the expected, he has seen his stock drop a tad. There's not even proof he was slower. The forty is about as inexact as a congress economic plan, as the scouts test a runner by hand with a stopwatch, and then they all group together to find an average, which will become the "official" time.
     In reality, the forty is almost useless. Nobody really cares how fast a 400 lb. lineman can run forty yards, yet we still have to watch him try to survive without getting a hernia. It is very rare for a player, regardless of position, to run in a straight line for one hundred twenty feet, yet we still test it. A better measure of true speed is the shuttle run or the agility cone drills, not the forty. If scouts put less stock into how fast a player can run and more into his character, strength, talent and overall how well the player would fit into a give team, then maybe sports writers can start calling themselves experts again and the teams could actually get some picks right. 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forever A Colt

     March 7, 2012, a day that will live in infamy throughout the sports world. It signifies the death of a legend and the beginning of something foreign and incomprehensible. Peyton Manning was released on March 7, 2012, and parted ways with the Indianapolis Colts after over a decade of providing stability and prosperity. Colts owner Bill Polian and Manning staged a press conference, and each of them realized that this was an unfortunate necessity, and that they must move on. Manning gave a moving speech, in which he stated that, "I've been a Colt for almost all my adult life. But I guess in life and in sports, we all know that nothing lasts forever. Times change, circumstances change, and that's the reality of playing in the NFL....I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought a lot about where I've been. And I've truly been blessed. I've been blessed to play here. I've been blessed to be in the NFL. "And as I go, I go with just a few words left to say, a few words I want to address to Colts fans everywhere. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback. Thank you."

     His being cut leaves the Colts with one option-to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, (At Left) who, ironically, has been compared to Manning for many years. He's the Colts only hope. They have gone into full-on rebuilding mode by cutting former All-Star tight end Dallas Clark, and the perennial disappointment we call Joseph Addai. Let's hope Irsay didn't screw this one up. His father is forever infamous as the guy who moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis overnight without so much as a goodbye. I can only imagine how bad the backlash would become if Manning wins a Super Bowl with the Broncos...or five.

     Manning has since moved on now. He signed a deal with the Denver Broncos worth $96,000,000. But why? Well, as I stated in the last post, the Miami Dolphins were to dumb to even concoct a vaguely intelligent plan, and I instantly ruled them out. The Redskins were out early by essentially trading for Robert Griffin III. The Arizona Cardinals commit to their quarterback, Kevin Kolb, by giving him a huge roster bonus. The slimming of the field left only the Tennessee Titans, whose head coach blocked for Manning's father Archie, The Denver Broncos, and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are undoubtedly the best team out of the three, but Manning didn't chose them. Why? Manning has always stated that it would be his dream to play against his brother, Eli Manning, in the Super Bowl. The 49ers are in the same conference as the Giants, so signing with them would permanently eliminate any chance of that dream becoming reality. I was really pulling for the Titans to swoop in and grab Manning. What would be better than seeing him and dynamic running back Chris Johnson playing against the Colts in a divisional game? But the Titans had a weakness, and that may have been their strength-that they were in the same division as the Indianapolis Colts. Manning seems too nice and not bitter enough to torment his former employer.

     That leaves the Denver Broncos, whom I predicted to win this twisted March Madness competition at its conception. I don't know why. I just did. It seemed right.  They had the polarizing freakazoid athlete that we call Tim Tebow, who has just been traded for a 4th round pick to the New York Jets, but that didn't stop legend John Elway from getting his man. The Broncos have a suspect defense at best, and really lacked the offensive weapons to do anything. If Manning wanted offensive weapons he'd have signed with the Cardinals or 49ers. But he didn't. As mentioned above, he signed with them for $96,000,000. We saw what happened when a largely unchanged Colts team lost Manning. Now we can see what happens when a playoff team gets him. Manning will forever be an Indianapolis Colt, and we can see that even he realizes that. I mean, look at the picture at left. He doesn't look to happy. I can only wish him the best in the future. Just know, Peyton Manning, to me and all the sports world, you will an Indianapolis Colt.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stoopidity: A Tale of the Miami Dolphins

     One of the best players in the history of the NFL becomes available, you have the cap space, you have the offensive weapons, you have the offensive line to protect him, you have the weather, hell, the player even has a HOUSE in your city, and most importantly, you need him. But, in your infinite stupidity, you trade your best player for next to nothing, essentially taking yourself out of the bidding war. 

   In case you're wondering who this player is and what team could commit such atrocities against the Church of Common Sense, it's quarterback Peyton Manning and the team is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins had a great wideout in Brandon Marshall, as only Wes Welker has had more catches over the last 5 years. They had a need at quarterback, as draft bust Chad Henne signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They even have former first overall draft pick Jake Long anchoring one of the league's better offensive lines. Yet, with no clear alternative, they traded the aforementioned Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks, far below the market value for a player of his caliber. The draft picks they received in the deal won't even get them one of this year's top-tier quarterback, so they have to go for a free agent.   They had no other proven and viable option at quarterback for the 2013 season except for Manning, yet Miami's GM decided to shoot himself in the foot when he may have well had a substantial advantage. We may as well start calling them the Miami Dumbphins. The draft picks they received in the deal won't even get them one of this year's top-tier quarterback, so they have to go for a free agent.

     The Dumbphins may go and overspend for a quarterback in free agency not named Manning. Take Matt Flynn for example. The former LSU starter has only started one game this season, but in it, he set Green Bay Packers records by throwing for over 480 yards and passing touchdowns, creating speculation as to whether or not the Packers would use the franchise tag on a backup quarterback. They did not, and it is believed that he will become very rich very quickly this offseason, taking advantage of an overly eager and excited owner. But all is not lost. If the Dumbphins get smart again, they could trade down from the eighth overall pick to stockpile picks for later on in the draft. They could grab a quarterback prospect like Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, or Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, and have some more picks in the early second round or late first to grab a wide receiver. That's the ideal situation. It is more likely for Miami to overspend on Matt Flynn then to trade down in the draft and do as suggested above. The Dolphins will either have to convince Peyton Manning to sign with them based on the promise of drafting a wide receiver, or simply go for someone else. As depicted wish.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Problems

     Athletes are accused of crimes all of the time, whether it be for simple battery, tax evasion, or even drug dealing. These players are usually acting alone and their respective teams not liable However, the recent allegations of the New Orleans Saints having a bounty program, which pays defensive players for injuries they cause to offensive opponents, could have the whole organization in unparalleled legal trouble. Potential charges range from conspiracy to potential tax evasion. On  article from Sports Illustrated has stated that as many as 7 different types of crimes could be brought to court against the Saints.

      The most obvious is battery, which is the intentional and unlawful causing of physical harm to an individual. In Louisiana, it is simply the intentional causing of severe pain. One might argue that this charge is unreasonable, as players play football accepting that severe injury is a possibility, but players do not expect an injury, rather than the stopping of the ball, to be the main target of a tackle. There's a line between stopping the player, and slaughtering him, and payment for the injury of another definitely crosses that line, constituting the said charges. In the NFC Championship game a few years ago, Saints captain Johnathan Vilma supposedly offered $10,0000 to anyone whom knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. He was hit late, bashed in the head, and crushed on running plays when he didn't even have the ball. Saints players as a whole were fined over $25,000 for plays made on that day. Lousiana state law states that causing intentional and severe harm to another person is classified as batter. A cart-off, where the player is so incapacitated he needs to be carted off the field, was awarded over $1,000, which, if the tackle was intended to injure, would raise the severity of the crime to second degree battery.
    Let's assume a player, John X. Doe, was found guilty of battery. The player who was battered, and his family, could press a personal injury claim against Mr. Doe, because the hit delivered was intended to be injurous, and no player expects to be the target of a hitman while on the field. It is very likely that the John Doe would have to pay for the battered player's medical bills, lost salary due to missed time, and other monetary retribution.

    If players were convicted of battery, then all the other players involved, along with then coordinator Gregg Williams, would be vunerable to a conspiracy charge. Conspiracy, by its legal definition, is the agreement between two or more separate parties to commit a crime. In this case, the crime would be battery, and it is a near guarentee that a conspiracy charge would be brought against the aforementioned parties if players were found guilty of battery.  Even if certain people, like head coach Sean Payton, did not participate in this system, they could be charged with negligence because they showed a disregard for the wellbeing and safety of others.

     Another, less obvious charge that could follow would be tax evasion. If the players accepted payments for injuries caused, they may have not paid taxes for them, even if they were "ill gotten." I wouldn't be surprised if the IRS is keeping its evil, all-seeing eye fixed right on the New Orleans Saints.

     These recent allegations have the New Orleans Saints and the other teams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has coached in hot water. It is likely that the Saints will be docked draft picks, have players involved be suspended, and monetary fines. Add in the legal ramifications and possible six month jail sentences for battery, this is truly an unprecedented case of what goes on behind the scenes in the NFL.

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