Friday, January 23, 2015

How The NFL Decided To Dominate The Ratings This Week

Two weeks between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl?  Time for Roger Goodell and the NFL to manufacture a controversy to keep the NFL at the top of the ratings charts.

Here's how they pulled it off.

1. Choose a foil that will easily be believed to be corrupt

Bill Belichick will never be mentioned without the term "Spygate" being tossed into the discussion.  An easy choice for the NFL to frame for the ratings plot.

2. Create a situation that has enough gray area to keep themselves from getting blamed

NFL teams each provide 12 balls for each game that are inspected 2.5 hours before kickoff.

While the referees are supposed to check the pressure, there's no way to know if they did or did not.  It's widely assumed that they check the balls by manually handling them (quick pause to chuckle) and there's no known report to state whether or not they meet league standards.

3. Make an issue out of something silly

The pressure that the Patriots balls are being accused of is so minuscule compared to regualtion balls that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't effect the outcome of the game.

It's not like the tried to have the Patriots get extra timeouts or additional chances to accumulate third down conversions.

This issue won't have actual football fans thinking the game is not being played fairly, just the liberal wimps that think everyone deserves a trophy who they know will get sucked into this kind of thing.

4. Have their media associates (ESPN) play along

The talking heads in Bristol, along with the usual lineup of Belichick and Patriots haters, have been tearing into the Patriots while conveniently ignoring the list of former and current NFL quarterbacks that admit to "doctoring" footballs to their liking as well as the statements from Colts players dismissing this ludicrous allegation that the pressure of the balls made a difference in their 45-7 loss to the Pats.

According to the anti-Patriot media folks, Belichick should be fired, Brady suspended for the game, and both should never be trusted again.

5. Reveal that there was no intentional wrongdoing as the team's get to Arizona on Monday to start Super Bowl preparations

This will be over by the time the Patriots embark for Arizona on Monday.

The NFL will issue a statement saying there is no evidence of intentional tampering by the Patriots and 20 years from now, referee Walt Coleman will admit he never officially measured the pressure before the game.

Well done Goodell.  You kept the attention of the country on your league during Pro Bowl week at the cost of nothing more than the legacies of the greatest coach, quarterback, and franchise of the last 25 years.

The real victims will be the Seahawks, who are destined to lose 41-20 to the Patriots next Sunday.

With So Many Draft Picks, What Is Danny Ainge To Do?

Once Danny Ainge decided to break-up the core players that led the Celtics to a championship in 2008 and a return trip to the NBA Finals in 2010, he focused on adding as many draft picks as he possibly could in an effort to rebuild the team in the chase for the franchise's 18th NBA championship.

I will spare you the details of who owes them what picks they have the rights to because it's a long and complicated list but if you must know, click here to see the details.

With as many as 17 draft picks over the next five years, it is time for Ainge to turn some of them into players that can help the Celtics in the immediate future.  One way that Ainge could cash in his chips for a potential cornerstone is to seek out a talented young player that is struggling to find his way with his current team.

To me, no player better fits this description than DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings.  The 24-year-old post player was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Kentucky and slipped to the Kings only because of reports he had a bad attitude and was not a hard worker.

While those issues continue to be associated with Cousins, he has posted excellent per-game averages of 18.4 points and 10.5 rebounds in his career, highlighted by his current season averages of 24 points and 12.7 rebounds.

Cousins should be the perfect "buy low" candidate for Ainge.  I fired up the ESPN NBA Trade Machine to find a match for Boston and Sacramento, adding in Oklahoma City as a third team to facilitate the deal.

In this deal, Boston would add Cousins from the Kings and Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson from the Thunder.  The Kings would pick up Gerald Wallace (for salary purposes) and Jared Sullinger from the Celtics, along with Boston's first round picks in 2016 and 2018 as well as the Clippers first round pick in 2015 that is currently owned by Boston.  Sacramento would also add forwards Mitch McGary and Perry Jones from Oklahoma City.  The Thunder would receive Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass, and Tyler Zeller from Boston.

The Kings get a reset on their franchise, adding three future first round picks as well as the emerging Sullinger and the hope that McGary and/or Jones develop into contributing players.

The Thunder beef up their rotation for a playoff run while shedding Jackson, who is not happy in his current role with the team.  Thornton can team with recently acquired Dion Waiters to replace Jackson's bench scoring, Bass is a veteran forward who can score, rebound, and defend, and Zeller is a young skilled 7-footer who would provide interior depth for the the Thunder.

Boston would add a potential franchise player, who would hopefully recognize the opportunity to play in a better organization and for one of the game's bright young coaching stars in Brad Stevens. Perkins would be brought in as both a mentor to Cousins - kind of like how Kevin Garnett once mentored him when he was a young Celtic - and as an expiring contract this summer.  Jackson would get a glorified try-out for Boston while trying to improve his image before becoming a free agent this summer.

Adding a player like Cousins would give Ainge the building block he needs to get the Celtics back to the level of championship contender.  Marcus Smart, James Young, and Avery Bradley are a promising nucleus in the back court and the versatile Kelly Olynyk would, on paper, be a nice complement to Cousins offensively.  Ainge would still have several first round picks, as well as a lot of salary cap room, to add pieces around Cousins to make the Celtics a possible contender in the East as soon as 2016 or 2017.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Patriots Fans, Embrace The Hate

They can't beat us so let's enjoy some attempts to mock Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots over a ridiculous - shall I say "over-inflated"? - non-issue that has somehow become more important than Martin Luther's Reformation, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, World War II, the Cold War, and the introduction of the blue M&M combined in the days following New England's 45-7 rout of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

Who are "they", you ask?  Everyone.  That's right, America is once again going full throttle against the Patriots.  Which, if history is to be remembered, is when Belichick's troops do their best work.

Without further ado, here are some of the best "Deflate-Gate" images the internet has to offer.








Sorry, Seattle, looks like a 41-20 Patriots victory.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Deflate-Gate Is Not A Story (But Yet It Is...)

I'm sure there was a time in America when winners were celebrated for winning in an impressive fashion.

That's sadly not the case today.  There always has to be an excuse to explain why the losing team was not good enough to win.

That is the case with the allegations made by the Indianapolis Colts that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated the footballs they used in Sunday's AFC Championship Game - a contest won by the Patriots 45-7 - which is now bringing the attention of the national media to the doorsteps of Gillette Stadium looking for someone to blame.

The person from within the Patriots organization who is getting the most criticism is head coach Bill Belichick.  There are already people calling for Belichick to be suspended for the Super Bowl or for him to be fired even before all the facts of the story have come out.

What we know as of this morning is that 11 of the 12 footballs were shown to be inflated less than NFL rules require.  The Colts brought the balls to the attention of officials during the game on Sunday after linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass and felt the ball was unusual.

The NFL's investigation has determined that almost all of the footballs provided by the Patriots were inflated less than they should be by rule.  The investigation is now looking into who is responsible for the balls being less than the required 14-15 ounces.

There has been no mention of a similar investigation into the Colts footballs.  With weather being a possible reason the footballs were under inflated, it would clearly make sense to evaluate the Colts footballs for comparison.

The questions should not be "Who did it?" or "Will Belichick be fired?" but instead be "Who cares?" and "Why are we wasting time on this?"

This is not a big deal and NFL quarterbacks routinely "doctor" the football to their liking.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a former Super Bowl and regular season MVP, has come out saying he likes to inflate the balls more than the NFL allows to help his grip and gets upset when the referees take air out of the ball.

Should Rodgers be stripped of his MVP awards?  Absolutely not.

In that article, Rodgers mentions that Peyton Manning has lobbied the NFL to allow the footballs to be handled by players before the game.  If Manning is manipulating the footballs he uses in games should he forfeit all of his trophies?  Again, no way.

Peyton's younger brother Eli Manning had a feature done on his handling of the footballs the Giants use for their games by the New York Times in November 2013.  It provides explicit details of how Manning preps the balls to be used for games so he is comfortable with the feel of the ball.  The NFL should not overturn both of his Super Bowl wins to the Patriots because of this.

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano issued a series of tweets last night stating that the footballs are inspected inside but the pressure of the ball changes when moved outside.  Gano, after realizing he was inadvertently defending the Patriots, issued more tweets saying he was only talking of his experiences.  The point is that the Patriots may not have even intentionally deflated the balls.

Football is a sport and there is always a certain amount of gamesmanship in any sport.  It's not like Belichick implanted GPS sensors into the balls to make sure they found their way into the hands of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman off of Tom Brady's passes.

Someone - Brady? - likely handled the footballs prior to the game to make them more to Brady's liking.  That should be the end of it.

With the Patriots and Belichick it's never that easy.  Back in 2007 the NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and fined the Patriots $250,000 and took the team's first round draft choice when it was revealed that the team was videotaping opponents defensive signals.

All of a sudden, "Spygate" was the reason why the Patriots had been so successful under Belichick. That ignored the fact that every NFL team employed scouts to "steal" opposing teams signals. Belichick and the Patriots may have been the only team taping opponents signals but the idea that they were alone in doing it is absurd.

Earlier this year, former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, now with the Buffalo Bills, said that the Patriots were in violation of NFL rules for misreporting injuries.  The NFL typically fines teams for these offenses, like the Bills and Redskins were back in 2012, but it's not a major offense.  Yet, when it was the Patriots and Belichick involved, it became a major story for a few days.

Sadly, people today loathe success and instead of finding ways to emulate another's winning ways they look to find ways to tear them down.  Belichick has not had a losing season since 2000, is leading his team to its sixth Super Bowl since 2001, and instead of being applauded as the best modern day coach in football is vilified for nonsensical things like a football weighing an ounce less than it should or taping opponents signals instead of watching them and taking notes like everyone else.

Hopefully this story will die down by the end of the week.  It's a shame that the media and the fans are focusing on such an inconsequential action that may not have even been done by the Patriots (if you believe the weather was a factor).

The Patriots-Seahawks match-up in the Super Bowl - the two best teams in football - should be the focus with the expectation of a (hopefully) great game on February 1.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conference Championship Game Random Thoughts

A few things I picked up on while spending 10 hours on my couch watching football yesterday.

***

I know that I'm probably the millionth person with any sort of medium to say this but when the Packers twice decided to kick field goals in the first quarter, I felt they were doomed.

It's not that I, or anyone, could have predicted the amazing Seattle comeback but why leave points on the board playing against a team that feels invincible when they are at home?

Mike McCarthy employs one of the best quarterbacks of his generation and to not trust him to convert so close to the goal line twice early in the game opened the door for a historic fourth quarter collapse and a loss that will haunt the Realm of Lombardi for many years to come.

***

It will be a pastime in New England the next few weeks to make an enemy out of the Seahawks but please take a minute to pay respect to an organization that is on the verge of joining a select few with back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Yes, it's easy to criticize their trash talking and bravado - especially in comparison with the usually tight-lipped Patriots - but they are a tough, defensive minded squad that plays with passion and intensity on every play.  Their refusal to quit on themselves yesterday is a testament to the championship culture that Pete Carroll has built in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was a kid and the Patriots were bad, it became necessary to enjoy the great NFL teams in other cities during the playoffs.  My early Super Bowl memories are of Joe Montana's 49ers, the Parcells Giants, and those dominant Cowboys teams of the early '90s.

If the Patriots were that bad today, this Seahawks team would certainly be one I'd enjoy watching.

***

Now that I've said my piece on respecting the Seahawks, I hope those bums enjoy getting thrashed by the Patriots on February 1.  

***

The Colts desperately needed a quick start against the Patriots and when their first drive was a 3-and-out followed by fumbling a punt return before their second drive, it was clearly going to be a looooong day at the office for them.

Andrew Luck will probably have a lot more shots at winning conference titles and Super Bowl championships but his first attempt at a trophy ended horribly.

A lot of his struggles are attributed to the game plan put together by Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and the Patriots defensive staff and the execution on the field by the defense but don't let Luck off the hook so easily.

The third-year quarterback did not get any rhythm going early and put his own defense in harms way by only putting together one sustained scoring drive in the first half.  Even that drive was not completely on Luck as an uncharacteristic stupid penalty by Vince Wilfork and the obligatory Brandon Browner penalty extended the only Colts scoring drive of the day.

Luck is very good with an obviously bright future but let's not put him in the conversation of great quarterbacks right now.  He has a long way to go to be considered an elite, championship caliber quarterback.

***

The mastery of formations and keeping opposing defenses off balance further proves the genius of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

I am like many who occasionally curse at the television from the cozy confines of my living room when it seems McDaniels play calling is becoming "too cute" but his ability to consistently put his offense in position to score is a good sign heading into the Super Bowl against Seattle's defense.

***

I have a feeling the Patriots defense will tire quickly of hearing off the accolades of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense very early during the Super Bowl hype machine.  These slights, perceived or not, will lead to a commanding performance with Darrelle Revis proving he's still the best corner in football and Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Devin McCourty showing the world that there's quite a bit of talent on the New England defense.

Collins in particular could be the biggest breakout star of the Super Bowl.  Two years ago he was toiling for winless Southern Mississippi and now he's a key piece - and an emerging All-Pro - on a Super Bowl team.  He may end up being the key to stopping Russell Wilson's runs.

***

Early prediction?

26-13 Patriots.

Brady joins Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four Super Bowl titles as a starting quarterback.

Belichick is forced to re-name his boat to VI Rings.

And Collins wins Super Bowl MVP for notching 14 tackles, a sack, and an interception.