Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Ben Roethlisberger deserves suspension from NFL

April 21, 2010

I’ve been pleasantly surprised that much of the media and public opinion has been against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended by the NFL today for 4-6 games for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.  While Roethlisberger wasn’t charged with a crime, the police report in his most recent brush with the law states that the alleged victim in the case claims that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her. The details don’t look good for Big Ben.

In the past, sports fans usually have defended the accused athletes in similar cases, believing that the alleged victims are trying to get money from the athletes.  So it’s nice to see the victim getting the benefit of the doubt for once.

On the other hand, Michael Wilbon’s defense multiple times on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” of Roethlisberger seems particularly boorish.  Wilbon seems to have a “boys will be boys” attitude and implies that he’s seen worse.  Incidentally, Wilbon’s writing quality seems to have slipped since his top priority has become TV.  Wilbon is no longer the best writer in D.C.

By the way, expect Byron Leftwich to start and play well for the Steelers during Roethlisberger’s suspension.  ESPN did 10 minutes on Roethlisberger today without even mentioning who his replacement would be.

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Mark McGwire and Steroids

January 12, 2010

Mark McGwire’s admission of using steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) is no surprise.  Baseball knew about it and looked the other way.  I look back to how Jose Canseco was universally ridiculed years ago for saying that much of baseball was using steroids.  It turns out he was right.  People don’t like it when you speak the truth.

What’s surprising is that there’s no outcry about steroids in football. Obviously many players are using steroids or HGH, which is not detected by tests.  It’s true that baseball’s records are considered sacred, and people would probably be more accepting of football players using steroids, but steroids and HGH still give players a huge unfair advantage.

The average weight of an offensive lineman in the NFL is about 310 pounds.  Thirty years ago it was about 260.  Not all of that can be accounted for with improved weight training and nutrition.  When you see wide receivers with huge arms that look like they’re flexed when they’re not, and they recover from broken legs in less than two months to play again, it’s pretty suspicious. Thirty years ago you didn’t see any wide receivers like that.

In 2006 former Redskins tackle Jon Jansen said a large number of NFL players were using performance enhancers.  “When there is something out there that people believe is going to help them, we’d be very naive and foolish to think that if you can’t test for it, guys are going to try it,” Jansen said. “Right now there is not a test for HGH, and when they develop that, I hope the NFL will institute that in our drug policy.”  Jansen backed off his statements when he was told to be quiet.

So the NFL now is just as bad as baseball was in the 1990s.  They turn the other way even though a very large number of ex-players die decades earlier than they should.  For years the NFL ignored the problems of concussions, while former players came down with early dementia.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Steve Courson wrote in his book “False Glory” that coach Chuck Noll “conveniently and most definitely turned his head to it.”  The word is that the Steelers, who won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, were one of the first teams to use steroids.

Former NFL player and coach Jim Haslett said “It started, really, in Pittsburgh. They got an advantage on a lot of football teams. They were so much stronger (in the) ’70s, late ’70s, early ’80s,” Haslett said in 2005. “They’re the ones who kind of started it.”

Dumb Comment

October 5, 2009

Yesterday on the Broncos-Cowboys telecast, Troy Aikman said one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.  He said that when he observed Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall at practice, he worked harder than any wide receiver he’s ever seen at a practice except for Michael Irvin.  I highly doubt that.  First, it’s not possible to work harder than giving 100 percent effort, so it would probably be a tie between about a thousand receivers as to who worked the hardest at a practice.  I also find the idea of Irvin working harder than any other receiver kind of ridiculous.  However, if there was a receiver who worked harder than anyone else it would be Art Monk, who by the way had more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Irvin and did it without a Hall of Fame QB.

Local Sports should be Local

August 9, 2009

I have a problem with the order of the sports stories on Channel 4 tonight, read by Dari Noka.  He buried the DC United-Real Madrid soccer game near the bottom.  Real Madrid is one of the most famous teams in the world, the game was local, and 72,000 fans attended.  Then the final story was the Legg Mason Tennis Championship, also in DC, which featuring two of the top six players in the world. The last two items were local, so they should not have been behind an NFL preseason game and a minor golf tournament.

Here’s the rundown of how it went:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  3. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  4. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament
  5. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  6. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC

Here’s how it should have gone:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  3. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC
  4. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  5. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  6. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament

Maybe I should get a life but maybe local sports should be taken more seriously, like back in the day when we had Glenn Brenner, George Michael, and Frank Herzog, not to mention Bernie Smilovitz and Steve Buckhantz, plus good weekend anchors like James Brown.

Ok, I just realized the NFL preseason game was on channel 4 (NBC).  That makes it more understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.  It reminds me of when I worked at Mutual Radio years ago – a minor golf tournament would get a report a minute and 20 seconds long, because it was sponsored, more than twice as much time as was devoted to a Super Bowl report.

Dhani Tackles the Globe

April 25, 2009

“Dhani Tackles the Globe” is a TV show on the Travel Channel in which Dhani Jones, an NFL player, plays the sports of different countries to which he travels.  I really like the show because it shows an American who plays a traditionally American sport playing completely different sports, many of which neither he nor many other Americans have even heard of.  One of the great things about it is that Dhani, a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, has a respect for other cultures and the sports they play. 

Many Americans, especially members of the sports media, look down on non-American sports and ridicule them.  Not just the obscure, seemingly strange sports, but even soccer, the most popular sport in the world.  In fact, you can’t watch ESPN doing a soccer highlight without seeing the anchor making fun of the sport – it’s almost as if it’s a requirement.  They should respect the sport and the passion that millions of fans over the world have for it.  It just makes ESPN and other sports media outlets look arrogant and shortsighted. 

When the Olympics roll around, or in fact when any sport other than football, baseball, basketball, or golf is mentioned, the U.S. sports media feels obligated to either make fun of it, state how much no one cares about it, or say how much they hate it, as if they are afraid of what they are not familiar with.  This is even true for relatively mainstream sports such as soccer, tennis, hockey, boxing, bike racing, or swimming. 

Forget about getting an American sports media person to respect something more non-American such as the sports featured on the show: Muay Thai boxing (Thailand), schwingen (Switzerland), rugby (England), dragon boat racing (Singapore), hurling (Ireland), jai alai (Spain), Surf Life Saving (Australia), kickboxing (Cambodia), sailing (New Zealand), and Sambo fighting (Russia). 

But back to the show.  Jones and the show’s producers do a great job of mixing in sports, cuisine, social life, and scenery.  A couple of minor issues – Jones sometimes seems a little awkward as he forces too many jokes, and sometimes he does a little bit of friendly trash talking which doesn’t always get understood by the people in foreign countries.  I have another criticism of the show — that South America isn’t represented, and the bigger oversight is that Jones did not travel to Africa, especially since he is African-American.  But these are relatively minor complaints.  For the most part, Jones is friendly, good-humored, and most importantly, respects the sports and games they play in other countries and their cultures.  It’s good to see that from a multi-millionaire American athlete.

In Switzerland, Jones did schwingen, or Swiss folk wrestling. Something notable about Switzerland was that Dhani seemed to get a slightly cold reception by many of the people, first by the competitors and later by the crowd.  As for how he did in the sports, he sometimes looked a little lost out there, but I applaud him for taking the risk of trying something new.  He got beaten badly a few times in Swiss folk wrestling.  I missed the one on Thai boxing.  He did relatively well in rugby as you would expect, though he only got to play for a few minutes. He didn’t do very well in dragon boat racing, played passably well in hurling for a beginner, and didn’t fare much better in jai alai.

The show is a good way to get to know other countries a little bit.  It’s a different spin on the usual travel shows.  Jones also spends some time learning some of the jobs people do in other countries as well as sampling native cuisines and participating in some of the recreational activities of these countries.  He sheared sheep in Ireland, milked cows in Switzerland, and rode (and fell off a) horse in England.  You also get to see some of the scenery in places like Switzerland, which is amazing.

You have to respect Jones for what he’s doing, going outside of his specialty in a specialized world.  Most people are specialists in one or two areas, so when someone comes along who is flexible, adaptable, and versatile, people don’t know what to make of it.  They can’t imagine people doing something other than what they do all day, year after year.  

If people call themselves true sports fans, they should not mock and disrespect anything that isn’t considered a major American sport.  You may not be that interested in different sports or understand anything other than football, basketball, and baseball, but if you consider yourself a sports fan then at least respect other sports.  (This is directed at every major sportscaster or sportswriter in America).  A better attitude would also go a long way toward dispelling the notion that Americans only care about the U.S. and don’t care about or understand other cultures.  As a multi-cultural nation of immigrants, we should respect the sports and the cultures of other countries.  My favorite sports to watch are football and basketball, but I try not to make fun of other sports just because I don’t know them as well. 

Dhani has also been active in volunteering and charity work.  From the show’s website: “Dhani has received accolades for his charity work for former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Change Project and the United Nations’ World Food Program. He also represented the New York Giants at a press conference for the “Gift of New York,” a September 11 philanthropy organization designed to provide victims’ families with free access to New York’s theatrical, artistic, cultural, sports and live entertainment venues.”  

More pro athletes should take advantage of the money they have and see the world in their off seasons.

Note to NFL GMs: Winning should Matter

March 15, 2009

Last year, I wrote that Byron Leftwich wasn’t getting a fair chance to be an NFL starting quarterback, and that NFL people were concentrating too much on his deficiencies instead of his winning record (24-20) as a starter.  A lot of NFL owners, general managers and coaches prefer style over substance, and they’d rather have a player who has what they believe to be the necessities to be a good quarterback (height, arm strength, mobility, etc.) than someone who is great at winning football games. 

Another example of this – NFL people putting a higher priority on style than substance – was Doug Flutie, who if he were given a fair chance would have been a very good NFL starting quarterback for 15 years.  Still another example was Trent Dilfer, who was the starting quarterback during the 2000 season for the Baltimore Ravens who won the Super Bowl.  Dilfer was 58-53 for his career, and he didn’t play on many good teams other than the 2000 Ravens.  For that 10-1 record and Super Bowl championship, Dilfer got kicked out of the door in favor of Elvis Grbac and then Kyle Boller, the poster boy for the first round draft choice who doesn’t work out. 

(At least Boller started for a few seasons.  Top 3 overall draft picks Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, and Akili Smith were all out of the league after a few seasons).  I guess it’s high risk/high reward, like stocks.  A good veteran quarterback (value stock) who can lead you to winning seasons is often passed over for a younger quarterback (more volatile, aggressive stock) who fits the mold but ultimately may not become a winner, but at least seems to have more potential. 

I was reminded of this oddity – how NFL teams don’t always like winners – when Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler was in the news lately.  Not because of Cutler’s anger at almost being traded, but because it made me remember that Cutler’s predecessor, Jake Plummer, went 40-18 with three playoff appearances with Denver.  Plummer was 7-4 in 2006 when he was replaced by Cutler, who lost 3 of the final 5 games of the season for the Broncos.  Denver failed to make the playoffs that year.  Ok, so you say the Broncos had to sacrifice a year for the future. 

But Cutler’s record as a starter is 17-20 with no playoff appearances.  Denver coach Mike Shanahan replaced Plummer with Cutler at the time because Plummer hadn’t played well in the playoffs, but he missed the point.  First you have to get there, and once you get there, you have an excellent chance to win it all.  The point is putting yourself in a position to win, which Plummer did.  Look at the Cardinals this year, the Giants last year, and the Steelers three years ago.  Each team barely made the playoffs but won or made it to the Super Bowl.  You have to get to the playoffs – after that, there is some luck involved.

There are two sides to every story, and Plummer did make too many mistakes, while Cutler has a very strong arm and will probably have success one day.  But at some point, production – wins – should matter.  Substance should matter over style.  Unfortunately, too often in the NFL, it doesn’t.     

Black History Month – Football

February 18, 2009

“You have to have the patience of understanding that at the time you will be ostracized, but as history moves into it, people will see that what you said made all the sense in the world.  As things change, the radical points of view that you had will not be radical anymore.  You have to have the courage to deal from that position.”

— Jim Brown, Black Star Rising, a documentary about blacks in the NFL in the 1950s and 1960s.

Brett Favre – Greatest Player in the History of the World?

December 15, 2008

Note – I originally wrote this in July so it’s a little outdated, but I stand by it.  I’m glad Favre is doing well now though so I won’t get accused of posting this after Favre played badly.  Because, trust me, he will play badly at times later this season, most likely in the playoffs.  Actually, the Jets at 9-5 already have doubled their win total from last year, but they made a bunch of great offseason acquisitions – offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, fullback Tony Richardson, and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who has been the best defensive player in the NFL, to name a few.  Meanwhile Green Bay has lost more games than they lost all of last year, but I still think they made the right decision by starting Aaron Rogers.  I have to admit, I am a little surprised and impressed by what Favre has done this year, and if he leads the Jets to the Super Bowl, maybe I’ll change my tune.  But I still think he’s one of the most overrated players of all-time.  Just a few weeks ago, he threw a ball away in the end zone.  The commentator said, “That was a smart play.  The old Brett Favre would’ve tried to force it.”  By “old Brett Favre,” do you mean the one from the previous 17 seasons?  Now, they have him “managing the game.”

 

This Brett Favre thing is getting pretty old.  Every year he says he’s going to retire only to come back.  For someone considered such a tough guy, he sure acts like a diva.  Actually he is tough – he never misses a game.   But he has to be one of the most overrated players ever.  He’s had a great career, but it gets a little tiring to hear the John Maddens, Tony Kornheisers, and other members of the media constantly fawn over him.  Actually, if any other quarterback did the things Favre regularly does – throw off his back foot, throw into triple coverage – basically make a lot of dumb plays – He would be considered much less of a player. 

 

Favre has won slightly more playoff games than he’s lost (12-10) but he’s choked big time in several playoff games.  He threw 6 interceptions in a loss to the Rams in 2002.  The next year, Favre’s Green Bay Packers lost at home to Michael Vick’s Atlanta Falcons after being undefeated at home.  I don’t think Favre belongs in the same sentence as all-time greats Joe Montana and John Elway, and I’ll only put him on the same level as Dan Marino because Favre won a Super Bowl and Marino didn’t.  But I still think Marino was better.  I strongly believe that Steve Young was better than Favre, and it wasn’t even a contest.  Young did everything Favre did but was a much better scrambler and decision maker. 

 

Also, the idea that Favre never had great receivers is ridiculous.  Just because he didn’t have a Hall of Famer who played 10 years doesn’t mean he didn’t have a lot of talent.  Sterling Sharpe was one of the best of his era, and Antonio Freeman was very good too.  So were Robert Brooks, Andre Rison, Javon Walker, Donald Driver, and Greg Jennings.  Plus he had two great tight ends, Bubba Franks and Mark Chmura.  Finally, Favre had a great head coach in Mike Holmgren, and more offensive coaches who went on to become head coaches in the league than just about anyone else, including Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid, and John Gruden. 

 

By the way, when quarterbacks such as Favre, Manning and Brady, as well as receivers such as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens put up numbers that are out of this world, let’s remember that passing statistics have exploded in recent years.   I originally published the table below at http://www.coachmike.net/artmonk.php last January in my article advocating Art Monk to get into the NFL Hall of Fame.  Even football fans often don’t realize that not only was there a huge increase in passing stats during the second 14 years of the Super Bowl era, but that there was an even greater increase in these numbers during the past 14 years. 

                                         

NFL

1966-1979

1980-1993

1994-2007

Number of individual 4,000 – yard passing seasons

2

19

46

Number of individual 100 – catch seasons

0

3

50

Number of 1500 – yard receiving seasons

0

5

15

 

Favre will be in the Hall of Fame.  You can’t argue with his numbers.  Most TDs, most yards, most consecutive games, 7-1 record in overtime games, etc.  But he also holds the NFL record for the most interceptions at 305.  And counting.

Byron Leftwich

December 15, 2008

I originally wrote this in August.  Byron Leftwich had a great game in relief on November 3, leading the Steelers to a win against the Washington Redskins. You better believe that as good as Ben Roethlisberger is, he won’t sit as long as he can walk because he knows how good Leftwich, a fellow Mid-American Conference (MAC) QB, is.  I do feel somewhat vindicated now that David Garrard has led the Jaguars to a 5-9 record so far.   

 

I’m kind of shocked that quarterback Byron Leftwich wasn’t signed by an NFL team this year until August 9, when the Steelers signed him to backup Ben Roethlesberger.  Leftwich has been criticized for having a very long throwing motion, which combined with his inability to run much hurts him at a time when mobility is increasingly important for NFL quarterbacks.  He has a career passer rating of 80.3, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 54-38.  Solid but not spectacular numbers.  But what about being a winner?  Doesn’t production matter?  Leftwich was 24-20 as a starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Has the NFL changed that much since Leftwich had his best season and led the Jaguars to a 12-4 record in 2005?  Everybody acted as if when Jags coach Jack Del Rio replaced Leftwich with Garrard two years ago, that it was a no-brainer.  Not only was it not a no-brainer, it was the wrong decision.

 

I heard the most ridiculous thing on Sirius NFL Radio this summer.  Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said that last year proved Leftwich couldn’t get the job done.  He didn’t join the Atlanta Falcons until week 3 of last year so he missed all of training camp, the preseason, and the first two weeks of the season.  It’s true that he has a long windup that takes a lot of time, but he has a strong arm, he is still in his prime, and he has been a winner.  He led some great comebacks in both college and the pros. 

Doug Flutie

December 15, 2008

I just think teams are too quick to focus on a flaw rather than whether a QB wins.  Doug Flutie, the former Heisman Trophy winner and Boston College star, is a perfect example.  They always told him he was too short, and he had to go to the CFL and win three championships and six MVP awards before he got another chance at the NFL with the Buffalo Bills in his late 30s.  He proved he could be an effective quarterback but even then he got passed over for more traditional quarterbacks like Rob Johnson.  Johnson was a bust.  It was a terrible decision to start Johnson over Flutie in the Music City Miracle game in 1999 when the Tennessee Titans beat the Bills on a last second touchdown.  Flutie had gotten the team there.  It was a classic case of playing a prototype QB rather than someone who won despite how he did it.  Flutie later started for the Chargers and retired as a backup for the New England Patriots at 43.