Wednesday, April 1, 2015

L.A. Bound?

The NFL always has some sort of drama going down.  Whether its trades and transactions, murder trials and DWI's, there's always something to talk about.

Although it's a less dramatic and slower developing story, ultimately this will have a much more significant impact on the league: a major buzz at the recent NFL owners meetings in Arizona may shake up the state (and location) of the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders.

Here's a quick synopsis if you haven't been keeping up...

It seems NFL owners are solidly behind Chargers owner, president and CEO Dean Spanos in his pursuit of a new stadium.  Spanos has overseen the daily operations of the Chargers since 1994 and has been pursuing a new stadium for the past fourteen years, which has been met with little or no response from the city of San Diego (which is German for "a whale's vagina," as Ron Burgundy so eloquently taught us).

Spanos's frustration has grown palpable.

The Chargers' current home, Qualcomm Stadium - formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium, which was formerly known as San Diego Stadium - was built in 1967 and is considered a relic. Spanos said recently, "We are going to try and stay in San Diego, but we will wait and see what happens," which is hardly a ringing endorsement. 

This sentiment, combined with the NFL's bound determination to place a team in Los Angeles, tips the needle in favor of L.A.  

It's funny how things often come full circle.  If the Chargers do end up in Los Angeles (and many NFL owners are predicting that will happen as early as 2016), the team would merely be coming back home.

In 1960, Barron Hilton, one of the original eight investors in the American Football League, named his Los Angeles-based team the Chargers.  A year later, they moved to San Diego.  

Perhaps we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves in this Chargers-back-to-L.A. scenario, though. 

An interesting wrench that has been thrown into the machine centers around another heavy hitter.

St. Louis Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, recently purchased 60 acres of "affordable" land adjacent to the famed Los Angeles Forum. He has joined forces with a group called Hollywood Park, which owns almost 300 acres of adjoining (and equally "affordable") land, which, together, makes up nearly 360 acres of fun.

The collective partnership plans a 80,000 seat stadium, a 6,000 seat entertainment complex with a surrounding wonderland of awesomeness to the tune of $1.86 billion dollars. That's some serious pocket change.

The project was unanimously approved by the Inglewood City Council in February and the Kroenke partnership has even reached an agreement with nine organized labor unions in the Los Angeles area.

This project isn't a pipe dream, it's very real.  As Cowboys owner Boss Hogg Jerry Jones stated at the NFL owners meeting last week, "That stadium will be built."  (nods head, winks, sips from his bottle of Ripple).

Kroenke is not happy in the Edward Jones Dome (formerly known as the Trans World Dome). The Rams and the city of St. Louis remain almost $600 million apart in plans for renovating the 20 year-old stadium which the Rams are now leasing year-by-year.

St. Louis recently unveiled plans for a $985 million stadium on the banks of the Missouri River, but it might be too little too late for St. Louis Rams fans. Kroenke seems "all in" (as they say) on the L.A. project.

To this end, it seems almost certain we will soon see this logo again...
The Rams called Los Angeles home from 1946 to 1994.  That's a long time.
Patriots owner and NFL super guru Robert Kraft has gone on record at the owners meetings: "Two teams will be playing in Los Angeles by 2016."  Love him or hate him, Kraft knows what he's talking about.  Anyone with a brain should be listening with both ears.

Not lost in this discussion is the always-disgruntled Oakland Raiders, which also called Los Angeles home during the days of big hair and heavy metal.  From 1982 to 1994, a pissed off Al Davis set up camp in the City of Angels, and the Raiders even won a Super Bowl as the "Los Angeles Raiders" (1983).

The Silver and Black returned to Oakland in 1995, but have once again grown disillusioned with their home and would love to move south to Los Angeles.  But that seems unlikely.

In fact, a recent article in Business Insider magazine envisions the Raiders heading east to St. Louis to play in the new river front stadium originally intended for the Rams.

The St. Louis Raiders?  Stranger things have happened, folks.

This, of course, is all speculation by people who know people who know someone.

But the real story is this: Lost in the shuffle are the fans of all of these teams.  Just a couple of years ago there was major speculation that my beloved Vikings were on their way to Los Angeles.  (It was not unprecedented for a Minnesota professional sports franchise to relocate to L.A.  I mean, the L.A. Lakers were not so-named because all of the lakes found in Los Angeles).

The thought of losing the Vikings was dreadful.  I had even gone so far as to seriously think about which NFL team to cheer for after the Vikings left (for the record, I had decided on the Chiefs).  Luckily, a new stadium was agreed upon and the Vikings will most likely stay in Minnesota for my lifetime.

Still, I learned my lesson; don't take this stuff too seriously.  It's just a game.

But for a football junkie like myself (and there a lot of you out there... in fact, if you're reading this in April, I'm guessing you're a fellow football junkie), the thought of losing my favorite NFL team was a sickening experience.

And now that mind game is being played with Chargers fans (the Chargers have been in San Diego for more than half a century), Raiders fans and Rams fans.

The fans make the NFL happen. Yet, the fans are never considered in a situation like this.  And that, my friends, is bullshit (pardon my frankness).

The fans are the ones emotionally invested in these teams.  They are the ones that buy the tickets, buy the merchandise; they are the ones that live and die with their team every down, every game, every season.

And they are the ones that end up getting duped.  It's a raw deal, but that's how it is.

I understand that Los Angeles is the second biggest media market in the United States, but the NFL stubbornly ignores the fact that they've tried and failed twice (three times if you count the AFL Chargers) to get a team to stick in L.A.  As we've seen, the Rams and Raiders were both Los Angeles-based from 1982 to 1994.  But the city wasn't interested in keeping either one.

If this all becomes reality, I'm guessing that once the polish and novelty wears off on the new Los Angeles stadium, attendance will become sluggish and the beautiful people will find something more fashionable to do on a Sunday afternoon in L.A. than go to a Chargers/Rams/Raiders game.  Especially if the team is not winning.

History repeats itself because nobody listens the first time. This is a classic example.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Good Night, All Day

It's been awhile since I've checked the waters of the NFL world.  The flash flood of free agency has slowed to a trickle and teams are hunkering down for the draft.

This lull in the storm is a good time to weigh in on a subject that I haven't really broached until now:  The Adrian Peterson saga.

Most of you know I'm a tried (very tried) and true Vikings fan.  I was born and raised in Minnesota and still live here.  My dad cheered for Bud Grant's Vikings every Sunday afternoon and was disappointed through four Super Bowl losses.  However, the support for his team never wavered.

My dad passed the love of the Vikings onto me and I've continued the family tradition by passing the passion for Purple and Gold to my own son.

So the Adrian Peterson situation is obviously something I've taken an active interest in and it is a story I've been keeping my eye on as it has developed.

There was time not too long ago when I felt Peterson was a role model.  A good guy.  Funny how things change.

Over the last seven months or so, Peterson has dug a massive crater for himself.  Inexplicably, he keeps right on digging.

It has come to a breaking point now and he has found himself with a shovel in his hand and without a leg to stand on.  That crater has taken the shape of a grave.

Peterson's turd for an agent, Ben Dogra, has recently stated that it is no longer in his client's best interests to play for the Vikings.  (That's really too bad because Peterson is under contract with the Vikings until 2017).  Last week, rumors ran rampant that the Cardinals were in negotiations with the Vikings for a trade.  But those rumors have since cooled.

I'm guessing the Peterson price tag was even too hot for the Arizona desert.

But let's not lose sight of one inconvenient fact:  Peterson is in his current situation because of one person:  Adrian Peterson.  And, unfortunately, he's getting really bad advice from a few "yes" men.

Peterson's "woe is me" act is nauseating.  It needs to stop.

It's like this:  it doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with Peterson's method of punishing his children.  In 21st century America, what he calls "whooping" is also known as "child abuse."

Yes, that's an ugly word, but (to coin a phrase) it is what it is.

Throughout this ordeal, Peterson has never shown remorse for what he did, other than in a prepared, generic apology written by his turd-agent back in September 2014.

Now that tune has changed.

Dogra (Peterson's turd-agent) has decided the best strategy going forward is to paint Peterson as the victim:  He's the poor southern boy who was beaten by his daddy.  He don't know any better.  Now he done got shunned by the Vikings, the only folks he thought he could trust.  They didn't have his back.  They disrespected him.  Poor ol' Adrian don't know who he can trust nowadays, but he sho' nuff know he ain't playing for dem Vikings no mo'.

Sorry if that offends you, but this is how his turd-agent has presented the sob story.  This is the truth.  And the truth can be very unpleasant.

Even if Adrian Peterson is not the brightest candle in the birthday cake (and his turd-agent's condescending manner toward his client would suggest this), Peterson surely realizes that the Vikings had little choice in how to deal with the matter.

We always hear the mantra "the NFL is a business," and shortly after the Peterson story broke last fall, sponsors started to pull or threatened to pull their association with the Minnesota Vikings.

Radisson was the first to go.

Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi also rattled their multi-billion-dollar swords and Minnesota's governor Mark Dayton even called for Peterson's deactivation.

Public relations and -- oh yeah, corporate billions -- speak loudly.  Very loudly.  Peterson was deactivated indefinitely before being placed on the commissioner's exempt list.

From a business standpoint, the Vikings did what any NFL team would have done.

If Adrian Peterson (or his turd-agent) wants to be pissed off, his anger should focus on Nike, which suspended his multi-million dollar contract, including revenue from jerseys, shoes and sporting equipment.

It should focus on Castrol Motor Oil, which completely terminated its multi-million dollar sponsorship with Peterson.

It should focus on Target stores, which pulled all associated Adrian Peterson apparel from its shelves (and the revenue that came with it).

It should focus on the Special Olympics, which has abstained from any further association with Adrian Peterson, who was, until September 2014, an ambassador for the international organization.

The salary Peterson was due from the Vikings absolutely pales in comparison to the revenue Peterson has lost in these sponsorships.  They didn't have his back, either.  But we don't hear about that.

But this all misses the point.  My unsolicited advice to Adrian Peterson is this:  if you're going to be angry at anyone, you should look in the mirror.

1.  Take responsibility for your actions.

2.  Take accountability for your actions.

3.  Own it.

4.  Understand that no one -- absolutely no one -- is going to feel sorry for you.  Stop trying to tug at the heartstrings of the nation because there are none to be had.

5.  Stop having your agent or your father speak for you.  Your father?  My God, are you serious?  You are 30 years old!  It is embarrassing.

6.  Understand what you did is not acceptable in the society in which you live.  Apologize in your own words.  Ask for forgiveness.  Then change your ways.  Actions speak much louder than words.

7.  For the first time in your life, be a f*cking man.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What a Day!

Yes, my friends I am still alive.  Like you, I've been waiting for March.  Happy New Year!  And it certainly has kicked off with a bang.

As irony would have it, I mentioned on Facebook yesterday morning that the first day of free agency would be a lot more exciting if it actually was the first day of free agency.  What with all of the wheeling and dealing going on over the past four or five days, it seemed that the initial excitement had been muted a bit.

I was wrong.

Suddenly it came across the wire that Jimmy Graham had been traded to Seattle.  Haloti Ngata had been traded to Detroit.  Nick Foles and Sam Bradford flip-flopped teams.  And that was just the first five minutes of the official start of the NFL new year!

Holy cow!

The dust certainly hasn't settled yet.  Plenty of big names are still out there and negotiations are ongoing even as I write this.  This is awesome stuff!  But for now, let's take a closer look at the fantasy impact after day one of the 2015 NFL off season.

Frank Gore is now calling Indianapolis home.  While rumors abound that Andre Johnson may join him there, let's not sleep on Gore.

Many fantasy experts have been shrugging off Gore for the last two or three seasons and all he's done is remain ageless.  Gore has 10 years under his belt and has touched the ball almost 2,800 times.  That's a lot of abuse, but I'm not counting him out yet.  A new team, a new scheme and I'm guessing some new life in those old legs is on the horizon.

The Trent Richardson experiment looks to be on life support dead and Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent.  Worst case scenario will be a RBBC between Richardson and Gore, but Gore will out work and out play Richardson (who is out worked and out played everywhere he goes), and will emerge as the go-to back for the Colts.  You heard it here first.

Straight from the "If You Can't Beat 'Em Join 'Em" department, the Seahawks have done their best New England Patriots impression and traded for Jimmy Graham.  In my opinion, you will find just one tight end in the league better than Graham, and he plays for the Patriots.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Graham once said that he'd rather retire than catch passes from anyone other than Drew Brees.  Well, now he joins Drew Brees Lite.  Graham is in for yet another terrific year; he's in his prime and he joins a team that was six inches and one bad play call from winning back-to-back Super Bowls.  I don't care what others say, his ceiling is unlimited.

I'm not a Saints fan, but I'm sure more than a few are scratching their heads down on the bayou today.  This is among the most puzzling trades I've seen in a while.

Speaking of puzzling trades, I'm guessing Philadelphia Eagles fans have scratched their heads bald over the past week.  Chip Kelly has gone full Matt Millen, single handedly setting his team back a decade with a series of highly questionable moves/trades.  I understand moving players that don't fit your system, I understand cap issues, but Kelly has been displaying some, um... well, let's just say no one can accuse him of not having massive kahunas.

I will be more blunt: he's gotten too cute.  This 2015 off season will prove to be his demise.

I absolutely don't understand trading Nick Foles, a very good young up-and-coming player, for Sam Bradford, who is the most brittle quarterback this side of Chris Chandler (if you're not old enough to remember "Crystal Chandelier," carry on).

Bradford has got the arm and is accurate as can be, but he's always hurt.  Now, I'm not talking pussy willow stuff, I'm talking major injuries -- he has torn his left ACL twice within 10 months, most recently last August.

Eagles fans are beginning to think that Andy Reid's Eagles weren't that bad after all.

I certainly would not hand the keys to a quarterback with that kind of history.  Chip Kelly has declared that "another" NFL team has already offered the Eagles a first round pick for Sam Bradford. I've no doubt this is complete baloney.  Kelly is obviously a gambler and I am immediately calling his bluff on this one.

Nick Foles is coming off his own injury, but a broken collarbone is a temporary set back.  Bad knees end careers.

Jeff Fisher and the Rams must be thrilled.

Speaking of being thrilled, Jacksonville finally scored big in free agency and Julius Thomas is now a member of the Jaguars.  Unlike many who are forecasting doom and gloom, I actually think Thomas will be just fine in Jacksonville.  I don't see 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on the horizon, but Thomas is a talented tight end and talent always rises to the top.

He's going to a young team with a talented young quarterback who desperately needs experienced players around him capable of catching the damn ball.  Thomas is still a top ten fantasy tight end in my book.  Yes, I said it.

LeSean McCoy was officially introduced as a member of the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday and that franchise easily has the best running back on its roster since Thurman Thomas.  McCoy had an off year last year and still ended up with over 1,300 yards rushing and five touchdowns.  McCoy has said that he will touch the ball 25 times a game in Buffalo (per Rex Ryan).  If that's anywhere near the truth, he will remain a top five fantasy running back.

Speaking of former Philadelphia Eagles, Jeremy Maclin has signed with the Chiefs, joining Andy Reid, the coach who drafted him in the first round in 2009.  Maclin tore his ACL in the summer of 2013, but came back last season and had a career high 1,300+ yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.  The Eagles were uninterested in bringing him back, so the Chiefs now have a legitimate threat at wide receiver.  Not a single Chiefs receiver caught a touchdown pass last year, but I can guarantee you that will change in 2015.  Maclin probably will not be a WR1, but he will see plenty of targets, more than enough to make him a very comfortable WR2.  

Brandon Marshall is officially a Jet, and he joins Eric Decker in what initially looks like a pretty decent 1-2 punch.  Unfortunately, one Geno Smith stands in the way of this being something to get excited about from a fantasy perspective.  The most recent news across the wire indicates Ryan Fitzpatrick is also on his way to the Jets.  Lord knows Smith will play himself out of a starting job (again), and I suspect it is just a matter of time before the Amish Rifle is slinging the ball to this tandem.

Marshall is coming off his worst season since his rookie year, and it's generally agreed that he's seen the best of times.  He's certainly no longer a WR1, but he might still be a viable WR2.

Torrey Smith is a mystery.  He has had one good season sandwiched between a bunch of average seasons.  He is now a member of the 49ers, joining Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis as the only viable receiving threats on the team.  There were times last season that Smith appeared completely cashed in and he did not have a single 100 yard game.  However, his career-high 11 touchdowns were 10th best among wide receivers last year.  Keep an eye on him.

So there's day one in a nutshell.  And what a day!  More to come!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Time Wasters

Yes, I consider myself a football geek.  But I hate this time of year.

Two of the biggest wastes of time, effort and energy in the football world occur in February: Mock drafts and the NFL Combine.  It drives me to drink.

About ten years ago, I fell into the mock draft trap.  For whatever reason, I thought it was important that I could predict who the Falcons were going to take or who the Eagles were going to take, and I found myself spending embarrassing amounts of time trying to do so.  I would have my mock draft ready to go, then change my mind and do it all over again -- it was ridiculous.

They were, perhaps, the most meaningless hours I've ever spent doing anything.  

After a couple of years of this nonsense, I got wise to it.  I realized I could be doing something else with my time (like writing this very post, which many would argue is an equally monumental waste of time). 

But even for those who still dabble in mock drafts, for those who still feel they can predict the unpredictable, I don't understand why anyone would put in any amount of thought into the process at this point in the football year.  Simply put, there is no way of predicting what direction any given team will go in the draft until the first couple rounds of free agency have concluded in mid-March.   

Once teams have addressed their needs and after a handful of surprise free agents have been signed with new teams (and yes, there are surprises every year), then you can waste your time mocking it up.

And even then it's a wild guessing game at the very best.  I've never seen a mock draft with greater than 50% accuracy.  Yes, that includes Mel Kiper, Jr., and he does this sort of thing for a living (I've often called Kiper the weatherman of sports; he's always wrong, still keeps his job, and is somehow regarded as the "expert" in his field).

But even worse than mock drafts polluting the air is the stench of the NFL Combine.  I absolutely hate it.  

Why, you ask?

Because it's a doggone beauty pageant.  Period.

I've said this over and over again, but it bears repeating:  why is the Combine even necessary in today's modern age?  Because it receives big time sponsorship dollars from Under Armour?  
Under Armour: "The NFL Scouting Combine is necessary because we say it is."  
NFL teams have three or four seasons of game footage to analyze for every single player.  NFL teams have the right to work out individual players, to interview individual players.  They've got dozens upon dozens of college scouting reports.  

Why does the NFL need to have this big gathering of dudes with their shirts off, prancing about in their underwear, running around cones and bench pressing a bunch of reps?

Rarely does a beauty competition yield the next Einstein.  The NFL Combine is no exception.

Honestly, when I hear the words "NFL Combine," I think of three players:  Matt Jones, Troy Williamson and Vernon Gholston.  Why?  Because they won the damn swimsuit contest.

An NFL scouts' philosophy has always been thus:  If you can run really, really fast, then you MUST be able to play wide receiver, right?

If you recall, Matt Jones was a quarterback at Arkansas.  He was huge, at 6'6" and 242 pounds. Despite a decidedly underwhelming college career, he ran a 4.37 forty time at the 2005 Combine, which nobody had ever seen before in a player his size.  Scouts nicknamed him "the Freak" [how original].  He was drafted in the first round by Jacksonville as a wide receiver.  He turned out to be a complete bust.  Why?  Because he couldn't run routes and he couldn't catch the ball.

As a Vikings fan, Troy Williamson especially gets sand in my craw.  He was, arguably, the biggest bust in Vikings draft history, although the Dimitrius Underwood debacle gives him some rather stiff  competition.
Despite a combined 91 receptions in three seasons in college, Williamson ran a blinding 4.32 forty time at the 2005 Combine.  Obviously, he had to be a star receiver in the NFL.

Over his five year pro career, he had a combined total of 87 receptions for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns (or what Calvin Johnson would call an "off year").

Why did Williamson fail in the NFL?  Simple.  You can be Flash Gordon, but if you can't run routes and you've got hands of Teflon, speed doesn't matter.

(By the way, one of the fastest 40 times in that ill-fated 2005 Combine belonged to cornerback Fabian Washington, who recorded a ridiculous 4.29.  He was taken in the first round by the Raiders.  Too bad he couldn't cover receivers... but he was fast).

Defensive end Vernon Gholston was yet another over-hyped workout warrior who couldn't play with the big boys.  At the Combine in 2008, he tied the highest bench press score with 37 reps of 225 pounds.  Regarded as a "sack master" in college, he was highly regarded because he was one of two players to record a sack against All-American Jake Long.  

A sack.  Singular.

Gholston drew huge praise and scouts compared him to Kalimba Edwards.  


Gholston was taken sixth overall by the Jets and was finally released after three seasons.  Guess what?  He didn't record a single sack as a pro.  Not one.  

But he sure could bench press.

So the moral to the story is to work out like crazy after your college career is over.  Forget about fine tuning your football skills.  Hire a personal trainer.  Get ripped.  Show off your six pack abs and run really fast.  Maybe grow out your hair a little.  If you look like a duck and act like a duck, the scouts will think you're a duck.

It can make you millions.