Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘football’

Sunday Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 22, 2011

It’s May 22nd and we’re all still here, even those who were complete morons and spent their life savings on billboards.  The real apocalypse will come when the NFL and its players don’t grow brains and week one is not played on Sept. 11.

– I am officially predicting that the NFL season will not start on time.  I have no inside information nor do I have any evidence to support this, only knowledge that it will not be a fast process for this thing to wind through the courts.  The next hearing is on June 3, but it’s a given that the losing side will once again appeal.  Both sides have already gotten “wins” in the court system so far, but in reality everyone has already lost.  The bottom line is unless this thing gets expedited or the league and its players magically come to an agreement, there is no way we will see football on time this year.

– Ultimately we will not see football until the two sides actually get together and hash this out.  If games are missed, there will be numerous unhappy people, and I’m not just necessarily talking about the fans themselves.  Think about the hotels, restaurants and other businesses that depend on NFL related income during the fall.  Sports bars will sit empty on Sundays, hotel rooms will be left vacant, flights will have empty seats and numerous people will lose their jobs (think parking attendants, concession workers and other team employees).  The economic impact in all 32 NFL cities will be staggering.  It’s a broken record but it bears worth repeating: every single owner and every single player is putting their selfishness on full display, particularly when many season ticket holders can’t afford to renew their tickets in this rough economy.

– The sport that might benefit the most from an NFL lockout is baseball, which could have the spotlight during the playoffs in October.  I am still holding out hope that the MLB postseason will not include either the Yankees or Red Sox.  Of course ESPN might actually cease to exist if this were to happen.

– The Rockies find themselves still sliding downhill after getting swept in Milwaukee this weekend.  Friday’s loss was especially painful, when they scored runs in the 13th and 14th innings and still lost.  Today, Ubaldo Jimenez finally looked like the Ubaldo of old, allowing just two hits in eight innings, but the Rockies still lost 3-1.  The offense has been there at times but has not been consistent.  The bullpen has been awful, but at at least the Rockies are aware of this, giving Franklin Morales away and sending Felipe Paulino on a much needed trip to Colorado Springs.  Even the closer, Huston Street, has blown three saves this month.   The starting pitching has been very good, and the offense is getting better, but now the bullpen is the biggest problem.

– That said, the offense does need to be more consistent.  They rocked Tim Lincecum on Monday night, and Jason Giambi drove in all seven runs on Thursday, but this week the Rockies had losses of 2-1 (to Philadelphia) as well as 3-2 and 3-1 losses to the Brewers.  The game in Philly you can tip your hat to Cole Hamels, a true ace, but the lack of offense against Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf is disconcerting.  I have dropped both Marcum and Wolf from fantasy teams in recent years because of poor performance.

– The Rockies have gone from having MLB’s best record to being in grave danger of slipping to third in the NL West.  Thanks to San Francisco’s sweep of Oakland this weekend, the Rockies now sit 3.5 games behind the Giants.  On May 1 the Rockies had a 5.5 game lead.  The Rockies are now just half a game ahead of surging Arizona (winners of 8 of their last 10) for second place.  The Rockies host the Diamondbacks in a critical four game series this week, and if they aren’t careful the Rockies could find themselves in third place by the end of the week, especially with a weekend tilt against mighty St. Louis coming up.

– The Rockies have not won a three game series since April 15-17 against the Cubs.  They have a couple of sweeps in two game sets since then (against Chicago and San Francisco), but the other series?  Lost 2 of 3 to the Giants, Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Mets and Padres, a split of two games against the Phillies, and three straight losses each to San Francisco and Milwaukee.  Since April 16, the Rockies are 11-20.  Ouch.   I have advocated for the Rockies to get more national attention, but frankly those numbers don’t warrant it right now.

– Even so, I challenge ESPN to show a game that doesn’t involve an east coast team.  Tonight they have Cubs-Red Sox.  Tomorrow night they have Red Sox-Indians (although Cleveland is well deserving of some love with MLB’s best record).  Just once, can’t they show Giants-Dodgers or Angels-Rangers or something along those lines?

– I am fine with any of the remaining NBA teams winning the title except for the Miami Heat.  They just don’t deserve it given the way LeBron stabbed Cleveland in the back to go there.

– It is partially because of this that I will watch the NHL over the NBA 100 percent of the time during the playoffs.  I know no one cares about the four NHL teams left and probably can’t name a player still on the ice, but the action really is much more exciting than the loads of uncalled traveling violations and no defense of the NBA.  You just don’t know it because ESPN shows you 20 minutes of boring NBA press conferences instead of showing you hockey highlights.

– I do think the NHL doesn’t do itself any favors by putting most of its games on a channel no one can find.  Even when they’re on NBC, they’re usually too early on the west coast.  I guarantee commissioner Gary Bettman is rooting for an NFL lockout (and an NBA one as well).  If he plays his cards right for once, the NHL could really benefit from the selfishness of the other leagues.

– But really ESPN, 30 minutes of press conferences after the Bulls-Heat game is way too excessive.

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18 game season? Why not?

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 26, 2010

You’ve probably heard by now that the NFL is targeting 2012 for an expansion of the regular season from 16 to 18 games.  I think ultimately I am on board with the owners on this one, although there are plenty of reasons to hesitate. I so agree with some of the reasons from folks that think this is a bad idea, but I don’t think any of them are a deal breaker.  I think this is a case where the benefits end up outweighing the negatives.

I think the single biggest reason to do it is it would cut down on preseason football.  I don’t think there is any question that preseason football is the biggest rip off in sports.  Season ticket holders across the league are forced into paying full price to attend these useless scrimmages.  No one can say with a straight face that preseason NFL even closely resembles the regular season product.  I’m a football nut, and the only reason I watch every play of the Broncos’ preseason games is because I’m being paid to as part of my job.  An 18-game regular season would also mean a reduction in preseason from four to two games.  This seems like a no brainer that most fans would want to see two more meaningful games as opposed to two extra scrimmages that don’t count and feature many players who ultimately won’t make the team.

Fewer preseason games would also include the benefit for teams and players of less training camp.  Football has evolved considerably from even 15 years ago, for players are now keeping in shape year round, and thus don’t need lengthy training camps to get ready.  This is also another argument for reducing the preseason.  Four games are simply not necessary to get ready.  They don’t play any preseason games in college, and that has never seemed to be a problem in regards to the quality of play in week one.  I’d much rather see more games that count and reflect the true nature of the product as opposed to scrimmages where both teams are openly attempting not to win.

Now, I do acknowledge the problems with this.  The biggest one would be increased risk of injury given two extra regular season games, but to me this argument is voided completely by the removal of two preseason games and a shorter training camp.  Teams can lose guys to injury at any time; preseason, regular season or practice.  Just ask the Broncos about losing Elvis Dumervil for the season in a one on one drill.  It is unavoidable that these things happen, but I don’t believe there is any increased risk with a regular season game over a preseason game for any particular player.

One concern might be that some of the later games could be rendered meaningless if a team clinches too early and elects to rest players.  We’ve already seen cases where teams have sat guys for the last week of the year or even the final two weeks after clinching a division title or home field advantage.  While this is possible, it’s something that’s already a problem now anyway.  It is also equally possible that we could see even more fantastic races down the stretch for playoff positioning.  I think there would be enough excitement down the stretch that this wouldn’t be any bigger deal than it is now.

What about the record books?  This is a problem that baseball experienced when it went from 154 to 162 games.  When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, he had eight fewer games than when Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961.  Football could have similar issues with records for yards, touchdowns, etc.  For example, a running back would only need to average 59 yards a game to crack the 1,000 yard barrier for the season if it were 18 games.  The flip side of that is that this milestone is already less impressive than it was even 10 years ago.  More and more backs are already hitting that barrier now anyway, so what if more hit it over 18 games?  I say make 1,500 yards the new rushing milestone and this isn’t a big deal.

Of course there is the issue of player salaries.  The players of course would want to get paid for the two extra regular season games.  Their salaries are based on a 16-game schedule, and thus they do not get paid for preseason games.  This would also mean the owners lose one of two preseason home dates where they get full gate receipts and the players don’t see a dime of it.  It is perhaps fitting that the collective bargaining agreement is a really hot topic right now with a lockout perhaps looming in 2011.  If the owners want to push this through, the players are going to sign off on it as part of this agreement.

Despite the issues that come up with an 18-game season, I think more football is never a bad thing.  Two more games that count at the expense of two that don’t is not going to dilute the product.  If you were talking about making it  a year round operation or something like that, then dilution would be a valid argument, but this is a modest enough increase in real games not to be the case.  I think the extra meaningful games will only enhance pro football.  Are you really going to watch every play of your team’s fourth preseason game when all of your key players are going to see little to no action?  Unless you really want to see the guys that are about to get cut, you’re not missing much there.  Will you watch two extra regular season games?  Of course you will.

I think this will ultimately happen, and I think it will ultimately benefit the NFL.

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Play your starters!

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 15, 2008

This note is for Tony Dungy, Wade Phillips and Jon Gruden.  I’m sure there are a couple of others coaches I could include here to whom this would apply, and I don’t necessarily mean just this season.  It seems to me a clear pattern has been established that it’s a bad idea to rest your starters for the final regular season game or two if you’ve got a playoff spot locked up.  Past seasons have shown that the teams that play all the way through generally carry momentum into the playoffs, while those that rest starters for fear of injury often end up tanking in the postseason.  This shouldn’t be rocket science, yet coaches keep tempting fate anyway. 

 This postseason alone three teams were adversely affected by not taking their final “meaningless” regular season game seriously.  The Colts had the two seed in the AFC locked up heading into their final game against Tennessee, and while they played their starters for a half, there never was any real effort to win the game.  Lo and behold they struggled in their playoff loss to San Diego, which happened to follow a bye week.  This meant it had been three weeks since the Colts gave full effort to win a game, not a good plan in terms of keeping momentum.  This marked the second time in three years this happened to Indianapolis.  In 2005 the Colts started 13-0, rested starters the final two games, and lost to Pittsburgh in the divisional round of the playoffs.  So what happened last year when the Colts won the Super Bowl?  They were 12-4, but were forced to play their starters in the final regular season game to preserve their playoff position, and they actually had momentum leading to a Super Bowl title!  This really shouldn’t be rocket science.

Not to say that Indianapolis was alone.  The Cowboys started out great this year, going 12-1 before finishing 13-3.  Dallas, with the number one seed in the NFC locked in, basically went through the motions in the final game against Washington leading into the bye week.  They got clocked in the game, then gave a listless performance in the playoffs against the Giants following the bye week.  How about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  They locked up their division title with two games remaining, and elected to rest their starters for the final TWO games of the regular season!  Needless to say, it was not a shock when they were no match against the Giants in the first round of the playoffs, even though they were at home.

 Speaking of the Giants, it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise they’re still playing.  Even though they had nothing to play for in their final regular season game with their playoff spot secure, they went all out to beat the Patriots in the final game.  While they didn’t win the game, they gained confidence and momentum, and they have carried that into the playoffs.  How about the team they’re going to play Sunday, Green Bay?  The Packers took their final game against Detroit seriously, even though their playoff spot was locked in.  Thus, they looked fresh and rolled to victory in their playoff opener against Seattle.  As for New England, they too gave full effort to the end in the regular season, and they certainly didn’t skip a beat in their playoff win against Jacksonville.

 It’s amazing to me that coaches haven’t seemed to be able to figure this out.  If you’re a hot team you want to keep your momentum going.  Not to say that this is the only factor in determining the outcome of a playoff game, but there is no question it does seem to be a big factor.  It will be interesting to see if coaches keep this in mind in the future. 

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Blueprint for fixing the Broncos

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 25, 2007

Tonight’s Monday Night Football game was supposed to be a monster contest when the schedule came out in April; Broncos-Chargers for the AFC West title on Christmas Eve, in the spotlight to itself on a night when there are no other sporting events taking place.  The teams finished 1-2 in the division last year, and both were expected to be as good or better than last season.    Unfortunately for my Broncos, they haven’t lived up to expectations, and their 6-8 record means tonight is about as meaningful for them as the preseason.  It hasn’t been this depressing around here football wise since the Wade Phillips era.  The Broncos certainly have their problems, but there is a lot to be excited about for the future.  The truth is, there isn’t that much difference between the top of the league and the bottom, but the Broncos can take steps to ensure the medicority displayed this season is not repeated.

1. Keep the young offensive nucleus intact

The offensive skill guys have a lot of potential.  QB Jay Cutler is only in his second season, and has shown at times that he has the skills necessary to be a leader.  He’s got the arm strength, the ability to make plays out of the pocket, and at times has shown great leadership capability.  Considering the injuries around him he has had to deal with this season, he has posted great numbers and has been very productive for a second year signal caller.  Add in the pressure of playing in John Elway’s shadow, and you have to be impressed with what he has accomplished.  Keep in mind too that Cutler will only get better as the players around him get better.  Two of his best weapons to throw to, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, are also only in their second year.  Marshall has shown the ability to be a number one receiver, while Scheffler has proven to be a great red zone target.  It’s easy to forget that Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler were all selected in the same draft in 2006.  With all three showing star potential, perhaps Mike Shanahan does know what he’s doing in terms of personnel.  With a healthy Javon Walker back next year, along with Brandon Stokley and Daniel Graham, the passing game could be special next season.  Selvin Young has shown promise in the running game, and if Travis Henry gets his act together on and off the field, the running game should be back on track next season as well.

2. Get better on defense

Certainly this easier said than done, and may seem overly simplistic.  The Broncos’ biggest problem this year has been a complete inability to stop the run.  This has gone all the way back to week two against the Raiders when they allowed 159 yards to the mighty Lamont Jordan, who for many weeks has no longer been the starter at running back for the Raiders.  Much of the blame has been placed on defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who brought in a new scheme that the players had trouble adjusting to.  Many changes have been made along the defensive front seven during the course of the season, with Sam Adams and Gerard Warren among those being released.  Thing is, Bates has had tremendous success at each of his other stops, so perhaps he should be given another shot after this season.  Let’s not forget what this defense has been through since last season: the tragic death of Darrent Williams and leader Al Wilson’s departure because of a neck injury.  Not only were both guys key on the field the past few seasons, but both guys were tremendous influences in the locker room.  Players like that are not easily replaced.  D.J. Williams has done an admirable job replacing Wilson at middle linebacker and Dre’ Bly is certainly a talented corner filling Williams’ void on the field, but things have not been the same in terms of team chemistry.  Even Champ Bailey has not had the season he’s had the past few years, although he still was the only Bronco to receive a nod to the Pro Bowl.  The Broncos have also been decimated with injuries on the defensive line, losing Ebenezer Ekuban and rookie Jarvis Moss.  Another offseason to get more comfortable with Bates’ scheme and a chance to get healthy will help, but the Broncos would be well advised to look for help on the defensive front seven in the draft and free agency.  Potential free agents include Jared Allen of the Chiefs, Takeo Spikes of the Bills and Justin Smith of the Bengals, any of which would be a significant upgrade for the Broncos if they can afford it.  The Broncos might also have to make a decision on John Lynch, who is 36, has battled neck problems  and due $3.5 million next season. 

 3. Stay healthy

There isn’t anything that can actually be done about this expect hope for dumb luck, but injuries have certainly been a factor in the Broncos’ stuggles this season, particularly along the offensive line.  A draft choice in this area would probably be a good idea for depth, and to make sure Jay Cutler gets protection and doesn’t get knocked out. 

4. Get better on special teams

This one is a biggie.  The Broncos have struggled all season long in this area.  With Todd Sauerbrun released, the Broncos will need to find a punter who can be more consistent, and as well as someone who can boom kickoffs out of the back of the end zone.  The Broncos have allowed good starting field position for the opponent too many times, and we won’t mention a certain number 23 for the Bears that ripped them to shreds.  Speaking of which, they need to find themselves a consistent returner who can be a threat.  Glenn Martinez has shown promise returning kicks and punts but has yet to show consistency.  The good news is Jason Elam remains one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the league.

As with any season, luck can be as much of a factor as anything.  Luck can often mean the difference between a 12-4 season and a 8-8 campaign.  The Broncos have good young talent, but there are several areas they need to shore up to compete next season.  The good news is the schedule is shaping up to be very friendly in 08, with Miami, Atlanta, Carolina and the New York Jets on the schedule in addition to the fact the Chiefs and Raiders don’t figure to improve any time soon.  Just don’t get me started on the coaching staff.  Mike Shanahan has turned this around once and he can do it again.  He can start by paying attention to who plays hard tonight and who doesn’t in what has become a meaningless game on paper. 

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