This is the worst time of year for NFL writing and the worst time of year for me as a sports fan. I heavily watch the NFL, college football, and the NHL. I infrequently watch college basketball, but once conference tournaments start I’m all in. I’ve never been an NBA fan nor do I ever anticipate becoming one. I just like hating on Lebron James because it’s fun, even though I can never fully hate him for what he did to Cleveland, because it was hilarious.
This is the time of year where writers go on vacation. Peter King always has random people write his weekly MMQB column which I’ve been accused of ripping off. NFL.com is not exactly a beacon of quality articles this time of year, even from their best writers (which NFL team is the OKC Thunder, really Daniel Jeremiah?). Sure, the NFL is now a 24/7 source of news, but that doesn’t mean it’s all interesting news.
The Bountygate player appeals are this week. I’m very interested to see if the evidence against the players is leaked to the public. There’s enough controversy around this scenario to begin with, and if the suspensions are upheld, the players keep fighting/complaining, and the evidence isn’t released, the NFL will have some legitimacy issues on their hands. This won’t affect the casual fan much. When it comes to suspensions and things of this nature, if the player isn’t a household name, Joe Fan won’t care if his team didn’t lose anyone.
But it will affect the informed fan as well as Saints fans. I was in New Orleans a few weeks back and every store had some sort of “Free Sean Payton” or anti-suspension shirt on display. There are a lot of people who question Roger Goodell’s power and this scenario has thrown a lot of fuel onto the fire. I generally assume Goodell is a wise enough man to do what is best for the sport in the long run. He gets paid the big bucks for a good reason. I compare the NFL to other major sports and it’s much more efficient and popular machine for a reason. That doesn’t mean it’s incorrect to challenge his authority.
In no other judicial system in the world is the judge, jury, executioner, and appeal process all one man. Ok, maybe in some crazy dictatorships it is, but you get the point. The players are already unhappy with Goodell’s power. I think it’s fair to say their union dropped the ball big time on this one. This wouldn’t be the only thing they dropped the ball on either. If these suspensions stick without hard evidence, we could have some huge labor unrest. Where it will go I have no idea, I doubt it will result in a strike, but the players may be willing to concede a point (perhaps some safety regulations?) in order to have a real appeals process. Watch this closely because it could get even uglier.
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The offseason does always succeed in giving us “that player is an idiot” storylines. I’ve had something the past several columns. Quite possibly the King Idiot and poster child for how stupid NFL players can be was in the news again. Pac Man Jones (he’ll always be Pac Man to me) just got a lot lighter in the wallet. Due to his involvement in a strip club shooting a few years ago, Pac Man is now responsible for $11 or $12 Million to a man who is now paralyzed due to the incident and his family. Pac Man incited a riot when he threw large amounts of cash in the air (making it rain) and gunfire soon followed.
The NFL had Pac Man speak to incoming rookies at the annual rookie symposium and with the above incident, it’s easy to see why. Pac Man has been a repeated loser who threw away the potential of a great NFL career to what feels like one of Dave Chappelle’s “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” sketches. Google that if you haven’t seen them, you’ll understand. It’s one thing to blow all of your money on stupid crap. It’s an entirely different thing for your actions to paralyze someone. It’s incredible to me that NFL players somehow get paid millions and somehow end up broke and in prison (see Charles Rogers’ recent appearance in the news).
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Going to the complete opposite side of the spectrum, LaDainian Tomlinson is officially retiring. LT had an incredible career and was either the #1 or #2 RB in the league the second he stepped foot on the field. The only RB you could say was better during his peak would be Marshall Faulk. LT is a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Fame player unless he has OJ Simpson level criminal problems in the next 5 years.
One thing you could never accuse LT of is taking a play off. He went 110% on every snap of his career. Even more impressive, LT missed 1 game in his first 8 season. One. And what happened that game? It was the 2004 season finale, a meaningless game because win or lose, the Chargers were already the division champions. During those 8 seasons, LT excelled at level only a few greats have achieved. He had no fewer than 1536 yards from scrimmage and 344 touches. He averaged well over 100 yards from scrimmage per game and 20 touches. He had double digit touchdowns each season.
If you were playing the San Diego Chargers, it was pretty safe bet he would have over 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. That was what you got from him for 8 seasons. That level of consistency is only seen among the greats he easily belongs to. Sadly, LT never got his Super Bowl. He’ll join the all time great without a Super Bowl team led by Dan Marino. It’s a shame, but it shows that many of the best players of their era still never get there.
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I mentioned this on twitter the other day, but the Bills have allotted their 3rd QB spot to QB/WR/RS/Playmaker/Relief Pitcher/Backup Goalie to Brad Smith, meaning Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young will compete for the #2 gig. Can you imagine 2 or 3 years ago how crazy that statement would be? Even when he was cut by Tennessee a little over a year ago, everyone assumed Vince Young would land on his feet. A year in Philly then he could compete for a starting gig in 2012. Young struggled in 2011 for the Eagles and it looks like his best bet is career backup.
I remember his draft so vividly. Leinart was the safest bet at QB ever after his incredible USC career. Young beat him in the national championship game with one of the best individual performances you’ll ever see. Then there was Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler who had all the physical tools and many said he would end up the best QB in the class. Well, they were right… kind of. Young never came close to his college form and his rookie year was possibly his best. Leinart never seemed to want to be a great NFL QB and crashed in Arizona. Cutler is the only one who’s still a starter, but not even for the team who drafted him.
It really shows you how random NFL success can be, especially Leinart. Leinart decided to stay for his senior season instead of going pro early and likely would have been the #1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Instead, the 49ers selected Alex Smith who before this season was almost as big of a bust as Leinart. Would Leinart have had the career renaissance Smith had under Jim Harbaugh? We’ll never know.
-I’m making a bold 2013 prediction. Greg Romeus will be in training camp for the Buffalo Bills. Allow me to explain. Romeus (former Pitt DE, I love my Pitt guys) just had his second major knee injury in the past two years and probably won’t get another chance with the Saints. Romeus was a potential top 50 pick headed into his senior year at Pitt before a back and knee injury sent him to the 7th round. He spent his entire rookie year on injured reserve and now had another knee injury.
The good news is Romeus is an incredibly talented player and his former head coach Dave Wannstedt, now the DC in Buffalo, will give him a shot. Former player Scott McKillop is currently getting a shot in Buffalo. To give you an idea on how good Romeus was, the guy who started opposite of him, Jabaal Sheard, was a top 50 pick and started immediately for the Browns and had a very good rookie season. Many thought Romeus was a better prospect.
-Like I mentioned at the top of my column, news is slow these days. Be wary of columns you read and whether or not they’re reports or projections. Many writers will take a possible story line and run with it to make it seem like a real story. I won’t mention any guilty parties out of fear you’ll give the garbage they put out a view.
-2012 Prediction: Cam Newton and the Panthers are the disappointing “it” team of 2012. A lot of people are predicting big things for them but I’m still very skeptical of what they have at WR opposite of Steve Smith and their defense needs to take a huge step forward. The Saints and Falcons are better teams.
-If you aren’t rooting for Brian Banks to get a real shot in the NFL (story too long to post, google it) then you have no heart. I hope he makes a practice squad somewhere.
-Can someone tell me why we should listen to Jim Brown about what he thinks of Trent Richardson? Why is this in the news and why do the Browns need to fix the relationship? Sure, the Browns have been one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL for a long time, but I don’t see why this is worth any time.
-It’s vacation season. I know like most people with vacation days I’m going to use the July 4th week for a little getaway. July 4th is on a Wednesday and I refuse to go to work 2 days, take a day off, then go back for 2 days, so my wife and I are going to visit some friends and family. Anyone have anything exciting planned? I have too many weddings to go to this year (still 2 more, including one where my wife is a bridesmaid and the other is out of town) so nothing exciting for me, unless you consider the deep south of Louisiana exciting. The most exciting vacation gets to follow me on Twitter for free! (Editor’s note – Cousin Eddie would refer to this as “the gift that keeps on giving”.)