Johnny Manziel Is An Underdog

This is a tough morning to be a member of the Johnny Manziel is going to be a successful NFL starting quarterback fan club. The haters and hot takers have lined up to serve some well deserved smackdown after Johnny Football and the rest of the Browns took a big old dump in the Dawg Pound yesterday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie quarterback provided little for fans to cheer about as he looked overmatched and overhyped. His ability to improvise was severally limited by the Bengals defense and when he did hang in the pocket his reads were late and his throws inaccurate. The Browns defense deserves it’s fair share of the blame for final the result too but all in all after Sunday doubters have every right to question if Johnny Manziel is going to make it in the NFL. However, supporters should feel emboldened now too because for the first time since a then red shirt freshman led Texas A&M over #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Johnny Football is an underdog.

And underdogs are fun to root for. So while there will still be plenty of grumps out there who want Manziel to fall flat on his face because they don’t like his style or confidence, fans will coalesce around the notion that nobody believes in him and therefore when he does succeed those that remained loyal will be able to take a great deal of pride in standing by their man.

Either that or the Cleveland Browns trade for Jay Cutler this offseason.



Roger Goodell At The Ryder Cup

Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired legendary manager of Manchester United, will address Team Europe at the Ryder Cup Tuesday evening. So far U.S. team captain Tom Watson has been tight lipped about who, if any, guest speakers he has lined up for the Americans this week in Scotland. But if flight logs out of Teterboro Airport are any indication then a certain beleaguered commissioner of the NFL might very well be en route to Gleneagles at this very moment. And, as fortune would have it, we have obtained an advanced copy of Roger Goodell’s address to Team USA at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Thank you all for coming today. I’d like to make a few points and then I will be happy to evasively answer any of your questions pertaining to things that I am now comfortable discussing. First, as I’ve said before, I made a mistake in the handling of the Ray Rice situation but even though as commissioner of the NFL I am the one responsible for the decisions being made I have not once considered stepping down from this exalted position and continue to maintain the support of the owners for whom I have helped make lots and lots of money. Phil, if things hadn’t fallen apart between you and the Chargers ownership group then you too would have come to understand where my true loyalties lie.

But back to my original point which is that as the person in charge of the most powerful, influential sports league in our country I take full responsibility for mishandling the Ray Rice situation so far but promise to make changes in the future to ensure that the next time there is an incident involving domestic violence that the facts and timeline of events are presented somewhat clearly and that the new special governing body charged with handling these investigations includes at least a few women who will ultimately be the ones I would like to see shouldering the blame should another coverup ever be exposed. [Read more…]

NFL Storyboarding: Bill and the Bathtub

Weekly NFL picks in storyboard form.

Week 2: Bill and the Bathtub

One day, an average man, let’s call him Bill, woke up same time as usual and went to take his normal morning shower only this time when he stepped into the bath he slipped on a bar of soap and spun helplessly in the air. As time slowed down random moments from his life flashed before his eyes.

He thought about how later that day at work he was going to have to choose between two acquaintances, one who recently committed a heinous act of violence that was caught on video and the other who years ago was suspected of something equally horrific yet it could never be proven because there were no cameras in the bathroom. These two instances, and many more like them, were cause for major concern for Bill who didn’t want to lump all employees of the corporation into the same category, because like any business there are always a couple of bad apples (1) but it was becoming increasingly difficult to watch the brutality unfold on a weekly basis and he was not alone in feeling that it was the bosses who deserved the blame for perpetuating such bad behavior because the only thing they were ever interested in doing was protecting their ridiculously lucrative brand, especially when it came to the precedent they had been setting regarding punishments and suspensions for various infractions which made very little sense to Bill or anyone else in normal, regular society. If something didn’t change and soon Bill believed the entire business model would cease to be sustainable.

He thought about this and many other less consequential moments from his life as he fell head over heals down towards the bottom of the bathtub. He thought about how last week at his coffee shop, a new barista stepped in minutes before the morning rush and even though the customers didn’t think the new barista would make coffee like the regular barista the new barista proved fully capable. A few days later, the regular barista returned and all the customers got really excited because this barista was like a wizard with caffeine and really knew how to make coffee. Unfortunately, the beans that the barista was working with were overrated and the coffee ended up bitter and full of sediment (2) which Bill realized as he was walking to catch a train and when he went to pitch the coffee into the garbage can a businessman in an expensive new suit stepped in his way causing Bill to spill hot coffee on his hand. He thought about yelling at the businessman in the expensive suit but when he looked more carefully at him he realized that in addition to the nice clothing he had bright red hair which was unfortunate because businessmen with red hair never get the initial respect they deserve even when they are employed by companies with high expectations. (3) Bill decided to forgive and forget and after drying his hand with the corner of a newspaper took a seat on a nearby bench.  [Read more…]

Glory Be To The Gridiron

Another season of NFL football is upon us, that time of the year when our collective consciousness shifts away from the pews and pulpits to the sanctuary of the sofa. Where the term Hail Mary has an entirely different connotation and Saints and sacks are venerated equally. Football’s popularity is truly Biblical in proportion and for many, therein lies the trepidation and concern.

In 2014 the violence on the field is still very much a part of the appeal but the handling of the violence off the field has brought the integrity of the league into question. As the most popular sport in the U.S. the NFL has a significant standard to uphold, one that should include zero tolerance for domestic violence. Roger Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice situation damaged the trust between fans and the NFL. The Commissioner’s recent decision to apply stricter punishments moving forward to players and team personnel involved in domestic violence is a clear indication and acknowledgment of a past mistake and lapse in ethical leadership.

But has the damage already been done? Has the brutality and hubris of the NFL finally caught up to them? There were many fans this summer who threatened to swear off football if the league didn’t change its ways. For those people the ultimate tests arrives this Thursday night on NBC as the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks welcome the Green Bay Packers to town in what should be a television ratings bonanza. Will enough households not watch for the NFL and its advertisers to take notice or will The Shield weather this latest wave of criticism like it did the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin hazing situation or the ongoing concussion lawsuits?

In all likelihood, the popularity of the sport, at least on television, marches forward and while the league still needs to deal with other pressing concerns like stagnant stadium attendance and dwindling participation at youth levels, fans will continue to flock to bars and basements to watch the carnage unfold because if there’s one sport that can recover from the obtuse mishandling of the Ray Rice situation it’s the NFL, a league now so synonymous with Sunday that in many parts of the country snap counts have replaced sermons as the ultimate form of repentance.

Long ago football and the NFL figured out that their sport is as much about community as it is anything else. Friends love to gather together to cheer on their favorite teams and players. That socialization, that fraternization, cannot be easily replaced or manufactured which is why football remains king of the field, court and pitch.

So like it or not, and unless television screens across the country remain dark, football as our national pastime is here to stay.




Leave The Jaguars, Take The Cannoli

Bad JagsWhen the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars mosey on into the Rockies Sunday to take on the 5-0 Denver Broncos they will enter the Mile High arena as 28 point underdogs, the largest spread in NFL history. Even as four touchdown favorites you’d be wise to lay it all down on Peyton and co. to cover because, well frankly, if there’s anything worse than the Jags new two-tone helmets it’s been their play on the field which so far this 2013 season has varied between unwatchable disaster to dangerously inept.

It’s ironic then that a Jacksonville franchise with new ownership and a front office committed to analytics is at the mercy of some historically awful statistics. The Jags offense has scored 51 points this season, 7 points more than last place Tampa Bay which, mind you has played one fewer game and may or may not be in the throws of a full scale mutiny. So when fans hold a Tim Tebow rally outside of EverBank Field perhaps it’s time to listen because it’s hard to imagine the prodigal son playing the quarterback position any worse than either Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.

Before lumping it all on the offensive side of the ball, some of the blame resides in the defensive huddle where the Jags have given up 163 points, 4 points more than the Philadelphia Eagles, a team with an offense predicated upon limiting their time of possession thus placing a tremendous amount of stress on an already oxygen deficient defense. To be fair, the New York Giants have given up the most points in the league at 182 but if you live in the NY metropolitan area then you know all too well the terrible troubles being unearthed in the Meadowlands this season.

In fairness, the Jags have faced a difficult schedule so far with previous opponents compiling a 16-8 record. But it certainly won’t get any easier with the 5-0 Broncos who are on the opposite side of a sabermetricians scale having scored a league high 230 points, 78 more points than the Dallas Cowboys, who, by the way, Denver put up a 51 spot against yesterday afternoon. (And yes, Denver’s defense gave up 48 points in victory but at the pace that game was played neither team was capable of stopping the other.)

In the end, the Jags/Broncos game will probably see a very nice television rating because fans, and Vegas, will want to watch what transpires regarding the point spread. For Jacksonville’s sake let’s just hope Peyton Manning and his backup Brock Osweiler engage in some friendly rock-paper-scissors to determine who plays the second half. Otherwise, things could get ugly. Quickly.

Infographic courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats