Tag Archives: NFL

Has the NFL peaked?

By Josh Orum

Now that the NFL season is over and we have a small break until the draft, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on the game’s larger challenge: how to deal with its concussion problem.

If you follow sports news, you’ve probably heard something – or a lot – about this issue. In summary, it turns out that repeated concussions lead to a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The symptoms evolve slowly, and don’t show up for a while. They basically they start with psychosis, and end with a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers type symptoms.

On the Atlantic Monthly, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about whether football players can truly assess the risks that come from playing football. A lot of people have responded to the whole football-is-surprisingly-dangerous idea by saying that football players know the risks and have the personal responsibility to decide on their own.

This avoids the larger point, which is that football players – in fact, no one – knew the true dangers of the sport. Even today, we still don’t know the extent of those dangers.

Many sports are dangerous, and participants must take that into account when they decide whether to play or not. Participants in every sport – baseball, basketball, race car driving, big wave surfing, climbing, cycling, skiing – know the risks because they are clear. Injuries happen on the field and on the track. People get hurt, and even die in full view.

And that’s what’s different about the brain injuries occurring in football. They aren’t clear. They’re revealed years after they’ve occurred. And they aren’t just something that players can “deal with” like a knee injury or bad hip – these are ticking time bombs that change them as people and kill them.

Even knowing this, I’m sure people will still want to play football.  It’s not a decision I’d make, but I don’t have a problem with others making it.

The NFL faces several problems:

  • Given this knowledge, there will almost certainly be a decline in kids playing. This won’t directly effect the NFL – it’s not like there will be a shortage of players, but if their kids aren’t playing, it will have less hold on communities, and become a smaller part of the national conversation.
  • Greater understanding of the true damage the sport does will turn some people away, people who can stomach physical damage but have a harder time accepting brain damage.
  • There will be intense pressure to introduce things that improve player safety. I don’t expect these to actually improve safety that much (the hits that are the real culprits aren’t the big hits that make highlight reels, but the small happen on the line and occur every down), but they will change the nature of the game.
  • Finally, and most potentially most damaging, it appears the NFL knew about the problem and hid the information (the same problem the tobacco companies faced). I wouldn’t be surprised if this has a legal and financial impact on the NFL.

In the end, I think the NFL is currently at the apogee of its power and popularity. I’d be surprised to see it exist in the same form in a decade or two. I expect it to face significant declines in popularity, and the style of play to change dramatically.

It’s unfortunate because American-style football gives us some of the best combinations of strategic and tactical brilliance viewable today.

So what changes are needed? I expect that the NFL will focus on rule changes that lead to fewer “big” hits. As I wrote earlier, these won’t really make a difference because it’s not the big hits, but the routine hits that matter, but they may also negatively change the nature of the game.

On the other hand, there are two changes the NFL could implement that would not only reduce the likelihood of CTE but also improve the quality of the game:

  • Make smaller helmets. Though they purportedly exist to protect, helmets lead to bigger and harder hits. If you’re using your head as a welcome without a helmet, you’ll immediately feel the impact. If you have a big helmet, you’re more likely to use it.
  • Dramatically increase the size of teams. What if a coach was able to completely shift out the offensive and defensive lines every down? Not only would linemen have a chance to recover a bit, but they’d stay fresher throughout the game, and have less wear and tear throughout the season.

What do you think about this?

By Josh Orum
You can contact Josh at josh@thecouchletes.com

NFL Season Wrap-Up

By Kevin York

Well, that’s it. The NFL season is over – 512 regular season games, 10 playoff games and then the Super Bowl. We were along for the entire ride, from predicting the records for all 32 teams to a series of posts leading up to and following the Super Bowl. Now it’s time to lay this football season to rest.

This doesn’t mean we’re going to stop talking football until August. That’s just not possible since it’s the favorite sport of a majority of The Couchletes; in fact, this week Ryan will be publishing a post on the under appreciation of Frank Gore. Laying the season to rest just means we won’t be talking about it quite as much as we now move on to focus more on sports like basketball, baseball and even golf and soccer…at least until we start talking about the NFL Draft (and until I start talking about all the changes the Packers need to make next year, a post that will probably come sooner rather than later).

To officially wrap up this season, I thought I’d highlight some of our favorite posts from this past football season, along with a few original editor’s comments. Enjoy!

Dear Kevin (September 11, 2012)
One of the few posts that Rahul has written, this one led to a vicious and angry response from me. What can I say? I don’t really take Packers losses well. Or the trash talk that comes from friends after a Packers loss.

Dear Roger Goodell (September 25, 2012)
A classic. The post that single handedly brought back the ‘real’ refs. At least I’ll continue to tell myself that for years. This post also happens to be The Couchletes’ all time most viewed post.

The Seattle Seahawks: Top of the League or Overrated? (October 17, 2012)
Well…turns out I was wrong on this one. The Seahawks ended up being one of the top teams in the league. In my defense, I was still bitter about the loss win loss the Packers suffered in Seattle when I wrote the post.

Are We Seeing the Real Jim Harbaugh Emerge? (November 27, 2012)
I got some healthy criticism for this one, largely from my fellow Couchletes. Yes, I’m pretty critical of Jim Harbaugh, but I’ve been hearing more and more that others aren’t fans of his either. I think I just got there sooner than others.

The Evolution of the NFL Cornerback (January 11, 2013)
A good post by Ryan about a subject that seems to be overlooked by many. The best way to combat some of these high powered passing offenses is to ‘grow’ cornerbacks in a different way. Pun intended (you’ll get the pun after you read the post).

And in case you missed any of them, here are the awards we handed out recognizing the top players and coaches of the NFL season:

  • The “official” Couchletes’ awards. Our choices for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
  • A division by division analysis of the top players of the year and preview to the Couchletes’ awards.
  • My 2012 All Pro team

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

The Best Offensive Line Story of the Year: The Up and Down Tale of Bryant McKinnie

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

As people look forward to Sundays Super Bowl, there’s been plenty of talk about the skill position players. Joe Flacco. Colin Kaepernick. Ray Rice. Frank Gore. Michael Crabtree. And of course, Ray Lewis’ retirement. There’s a big storyline that many people are missing though, and it’s one that casual fans may not notice.

This Super Bowl matchup features two really, really good offensive lines.

The big guys in the trenches often get overlooked because they don’t score and they don’t tackle. There aren’t a lot of stats to measure them by, at least none that someone watching a game on tv instead of from the press box can keep track of easily.

San Francisco has one of the three best offensive lines in the game, maybe even the best. They’ve largely built it from the ground up through the draft, which is exactly the way I’d do it if I were running a team. I always advocate building a team from the inside out, starting with two strong lines. A good offensive line can make an average quarterback or running back good or a below average quarterback or running back average. Everything starts with the offensive line. You can’t run or pass with any effectiveness unless the big uglies up front are winning their battles.

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

The 49ers’ Mike Iupati is probably the best guard in the league. Joe Staley is a top five tackle and the other tackle, Anthony Davis, is a top ten tackle. They drafted all three along with Iupati’s counterpart opposite him on the right side of the line, Alex Boone. Only center, eleven year veteran Jonathan Goodwin, was not drafted by the 49ers.

Baltimore’s offensive line is not quite as good as San Francisco’s, and wasn’t as built through the draft, but is also a top ten unit. I don’t know the last time we’ve seen two lines this good in the Super Bowl. We didn’t get it last year. New England and New York deployed solid lines, but they weren’t in the same league as this year’s group. The Packers and Steelers started two injury plagued lines the year prior.

It really is a great story, but the matchup of these two great offensive lines isn’t the story I’m referring to in the title of this post. That story belongs to just one member of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line.

When people think about the Ravens’ offensive line, the first name that usually pops in their head is Michael Oher, the big tackle that the book and movie, The Blind Side, were based on. Next is probably guard Marshal Yanda. I mentioned earlier that San Francisco’s Iupati is probably the best guard in the league; Yanda is the other guard in that conversation. Both made my All-Pro team. Once you get past Oher and Yanda, the next name to come up is center Matt Birk, the veteran who was close to retiring last year, but came back another year for a shot to win the big one.

The name that probably doesn’t come up as often is the Ravens’ other tackle, Bryant McKinnie, and for good reason. He reported late to camp, out of shape and overweight. The team cut his salary and he sulked his way through bad practices. He wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the year; he wasn’t even a starter at the end of the year. McKinnie didn’t become a starter for this year’s Ravens team until the wild card round playoff game against the Colts.

What did he do in that game, his first start of the season? McKinnie held Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney to not only zero sacks, but no tackles at all. None.

Bryant McKinnie began his college football career at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he moved from his high school position of defensive end to offensive tackle. After two years at this junior college, he transferred to the University of Miami for his junior and senior year. As a Hurricane, he was an All-American his junior year and was unanimously selected for the honor again as a senior. He also received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman, was selected as Sports Illustrated’s Player of the Year and finished eighth in the Heisman voting as a senior. That 2001 Miami team also won the national championship.

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

McKinnie was drafted in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft as a 6’9″ 335 pound senior by the Minnesota Vikings with the seventh overall pick. For the next eight years, the giant tackle was a mainstay on the Vikings’ offensive line, even making the Pro Bowl in 2009. From 2003-2007, McKinnie started every game and had a streak of 80 straight games started. He was a solid NFL tackle and for the most part, lived up to the hype surrounding him coming out of Miami.

In the summer of 2011, his fortunes went south, and due to his own doing. He reported to training camp weighing over 400 pounds; this coming after he finished the previous season at 360 pounds and promised coaches he would get in shape over the summer and drop some weight.

After he was cut by the Vikings, McKinnie was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, largely due to former Miami teammate Ed Reed speaking on his behalf to Baltimore management and vouching for him. He started all 16 games for Baltimore that year, but then at the beginning of 2012, McKinnie’s fortunes again changed as I described earlier with reporting to camp overweight and having his salary cut.

So how did we get to this point? How did McKinnie regain his starting job, in the playoffs no less, and dominate a great pass rusher like Dwight Freeney?

Bryant McKinnie worked his butt off, for one thing. In addition, a string of other things happened along Baltimore’s offensive line that eventually put McKinnie back in a place to step back into a starting role. Ironically, turns out Michael Oher was not as astute at protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side as the movie based on him would seem to indicate. He’s much better playing at the right tackle spot where he can run block. However, during the regular season, the Ravens played Oher at left tackle and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle since McKinnie reported to camp out of shape. When Reid suffered a toe injury, and McKinnie had put together several really good weeks of practice, it led coach John Harbaugh to move Oher back to right tackle, where he played in previous seasons, and start McKinnie at left tackle.

The lineup change ended up paying off for Harbaugh, McKinnie and Baltimore. The big tackle has played well throughout the playoffs and done his part to give Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw the ball downfield, which is exactly what he’s done.

While this matchup of offensive lines is certainly impressive, what’s more impressive is the up and down story of Bryant McKinnie and how he’s worked himself back into a job and helped lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

2013 NFL Pro Bowl Preview

By Kevin York

Since I’ve written previews on a number of this season’s playoff games, including the AFC and NFC Championships, I thought I should write one for the Pro Bowl as well. Especially since it’s such an important game and fantastic match-up of strong, motivated teams.

Ok, I’m just kidding. I’m not actually writing a Pro Bowl preview. Does anyone really care about the Pro Bowl? I mean, the people playing in the game don’t even care that much.

Here’s what you can expect:

  •  Lots of scoring
  • Soft, if any, defense
  • Poor tackling
  • Potentially the last time we’ll see this game (reportedly, if the players continue not playing hard, the NFL may not play the game anymore)

So if you’re not doing anything today and find yourself watching the game, enjoy! Hope it’s better than the last few…

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

Overlooked Assistants: These Guys are Due

By Kevin York

All the open NFL head coaching jobs have been filled now. Just to recap, here are the new faces in their new places:

  • Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Arians (former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator)
  • Buffalo Bills – Doug Marrone (former Syracuse University head coach)
  • Chicago Bears – Marc Trestman (former Montreal Alouettes head coach)
  • Cleveland Browns – Rob Chudzinski (former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – Gus Bradley (former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator)
  • Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid (former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator)
  • Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly (former University of Oregon head coach)
  • San Diego Chargers – Mike McCoy (former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator)

This year there seemed to be a higher than usual number of college head coaches considered for an NFL head coaching job. Kelly and Marrone were of course ultimately hired, but Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly were also considered by at least one team.

It didn’t seem like there were as many NFL assistant coaches considered this year. Aside from the three men listed above who previously served as coordinators, there were only a few NFL assistants that frequently surfaced as candidates: Ray Horton (former Cardinals defensive coordinator, now Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator), Jay Gruden (Bengals offensive coordinator) and Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator). All three of those men are certainly deserving, but I feel like there are three current NFL assistants that were really overlooked in the interview process.

Photo Credit: (Karl Mondon/Times-Herald)

Photo Credit: (Karl Mondon/Times-Herald)

Vic Fangio, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator
When Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the 49ers and Fangio took over the defense, he had a good amount of talent to work with, but he put all those pieces together and guided the unit to the top of the league. In both years under Fangio, most would say San Francisco’s defense has been one of the top three in the league and all the statistical categories would back that up.

Additionally, Fangio figured out ways to incorporate players such as Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner who were cast offs from previous teams. People saw those guys as talented yet underperforming, which is why San Francisco was able to get them on the cheap. Fangio figured out ways to incorporate them into his defense and hide some of their flaws. He’s done such a stellar job of this that Rogers and Whitner have received some undue credit for their performance in these last two years. The scheme and personnel management talent that Fangio has shown are important skills for a head coach to possess.

Photo Credit: (NFL Photos/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (NFL Photos/Getty Images)

Winston Moss, Green Bay Packers Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach
The former NFL linebacker has been an assistant coach since 1998 and has steadily risen through the ranks until he became assistant head coach of the Packers in 2007. He’s been seen as a talented assistant for some time and I actually thought he’d get more consideration for a head job by now.

Moss has coached Green Bay’s inside linebackers since he joined the team as an assistant in 2006. What he’s done is create one of the deepest positions on the team. Actually, probably the deepest besides wide receiver. Look at the unit this year. The starting inside linebackers were supposed to be A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Then Bishop got hurt and D.J. Smith moved into his spot. Then Smith got hurt and Brad Jones moved into his spot. Yes, a third string player ended up starting for most of the season – and did well. Moss also worked Robert Francois into his rotation and to a lesser degree, young developing players Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning. He’s shown a keen ability to develop young talent, a must have skill for an NFL head coach.

Photo Credit: (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Photo Credit: (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator
What Roman has done in San Francisco is pretty remarkable. He took Alex Smith, a quarterback that was pretty much left for dead, and turned him into a Pro Bowler. No previous San Francisco offensive coordinator, except Norv Turner, had ever been able to get even consistent game management from Smith and Roman makes the guy a league leader in passing efficiency and QBR. Head coach Jim Harbaugh gets all the credit for revitalizing Smith, but Roman deserves just as much credit, if not more.

What’s possibly even more impressive is that Roman shifted the offense, in mid-season, to tailor it more for Colin Kaepernick’s skills and comfort level after Harbaugh made a quarterback switch following Smith’s concussion. The result? An offense that became dynamic and explosive. It didn’t miss a beat and improved in most areas. That’s the kind of work I’d look for in a head coach.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

The Couchletes’ 2012 NFL Season Awards

By Kevin York

In December, I wrote a post previewing the NFL season awards, going division by division and highlighting the best players of the year and the potential candidates for our year end awards. Today we’re ready to reveal the best of the best, our choices for MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

I’m not going to go through our winners and highlight a lot of stats. If you want that, check out all the other sports sites. We’re Couchletes. We don’t have the time or means to do all the research to show why a quarterback is more valuable than a running back, so I’m not going to approach this like that. I’m just going to talk, like Couchletes do.

MVP – Peyton Manning

Photo Credit: (Peter Aiken/AP)

Photo Credit: (Peter Aiken/AP)

Peyton Manning showed us what he’s worth this year. Six wins. This year’s Denver team wasn’t much different than last year’s – except at quarterback. Exchanging Tim Tebow for Peyton Manning gave them six additional wins and the top seed in the AFC. Ironically, in the playoffs the two quarterbacks reached the exact same point. We’re not going to focus on that though since this is a regular season award.

Why Manning over Adrian Peterson? Manning was playing the most crucial position on the football field and led an entirely new offense for Denver. He brought it all together. Yes, Peterson was the entire offense for Minnesota, but a quarterback has more responsibilities.
Others considered: Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady

Offensive Player of the Year – Adrian Peterson

Photo Credit: (Patric Schneider/AP)

Photo Credit: (Patric Schneider/AP)

Peterson very nearly had an all-time great season, as in better than anyone else – ever. He missed attaining that status by only nine yards. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson actually did have an all-time great year, breaking Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record. So why Peterson over Johnson? It was a tough decision, but ultimately, Peterson carried more of his team’s offensive load. He needed people to block for him, but did the rest himself. Johnson needed someone to throw him the ball and people to give that person time to get him the ball. We found Peterson’s year slightly more spectacular than Johnson’s.
Others considered: Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, Brandon Marshall

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J. Watt

Photo Credit: (Dave Einsel/AP)

Photo Credit: (Dave Einsel/AP)

J.J. Watt redefined the way not only defensive linemen play the game but also the way offensive linemen play it. It’s mind-blowing how quickly a man that big can move. Equally impressive is how great he is at defending both the run and the pass. Rarely do you find a lineman that excels so much at both. A lot of attention went to Aldon Smith and his quest to break the single-season sack record. Lost in all of that attention was the fact that Watt was just as close to breaking it.
Others considered: Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Geno Atkins

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Andrew Luck

Photo Credit: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This was a strong category, but we ultimately decided that Andrew Luck stood out more than the other contenders. Luck put up great numbers for a rookie and did it without much help around him, not nearly as much as Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III had to work with. Those two had great running games and great offensive lines to take the pressure off of them a bit. Luck didn’t have either of those and had a receiving corps comprised of Reggie Wayne and a number of no-names. Additionally, Luck was handed the entire playbook from day one. Wilson and RG3 were allowed to gradually assume more of the offense each week. That’s why we saw the Redskins running Baylor’s offense near the beginning of the year. Luck didn’t get that luxury and proved he could handle it.
Others considered: Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Luke Kuechly

Photo Credit: (Bob Leverone/AP)

Photo Credit: (Bob Leverone/AP)

This is the award that goes largely unnoticed. The general public doesn’t know the defensive rookies nearly as well as the offensive rookies. Those people missed the play of Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, a middle linebacker who should soon be finding himself appearing in Pro Bowls alongside the likes of Patrick Willis. Kueckly anchored that defense, a unit that didn’t have a lot of talent, and played superbly.
Others considered: Casey Hayward, Janoris Jenkins, Bobby Wagner

Coach of the Year – Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians

Photo Credit: (AJ Mast/AP)

Photo Credit: (AJ Mast/AP)

No one expected the Indianapolis Colts to be very good this year. After news surfaced that Head Coach Chuck Pagano would miss much of the season due to treatment for leukemia, the expectations fell even more. The job that Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians did this year given the circumstances was extraordinary. Arians certainly proved he deserved a head coaching job, which he received in Arizona, and I’m excited to see what Pagano can do given a full season next year. This combination overachieved with a team that didn’t have a ton of talent. Getting the kind of results they did make it hard to argue with giving them this recognition over any other.
Others considered: Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Leslie Frazier

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

Random Saturday Morning Thoughts

Detroit Lions fans, I don’t want to hear about the bad call against you during the Thanksgiving day game. You had numerous chances to win. If you want to see a real screw job, go back to Green Bay vs. Seattle… ///


What’s going on in the state of Indiana? It’s like it’s the late 70s there. Indiana ranked number one in the nation in basketball. Notre Dame sits alone at the top of college football’s rankings and remains the only undefeated tem left in the nation ///


The New York Jets may not have the worst record in the NFL, but they just might be the worst team. Mark Sanchez, how do you run directly into your own player and fumble the ball? He was right in front of you. Big offensive lineman, can’t miss him. The Patriots are a good team, yes, but the Jets had some pretty embarrassing turnovers in the game ///


I’m over Oregon. Good recruits, TONS of money coming into the school (they probably should call themselves the University of Oregon, paid for by Nike), yet they can’t get over the hump. I think we’re looking at a school that plays in a slightly sub-par conference (we’re seeing over the year that it’s not as good as a number of the other big conferences) and beats up on those opponents (most, anyway…), yet when they run into good, well coached teams, fall flat. It goes to show that substance still matters more than flash ///


Too bad Ohio State isn’t eligible this year (and as a Penn State fan, I never thought I’d say that). I’d much rather see Notre Dame play Ohio State in the national championship this year than see a one loss SEC team sneak in. I’m tired of seeing the SEC and I’m not even sure they’re the best conference in the nation. Rankings released every pre-season have about five SEC teams ranked, so each season starts with the notion that the SEC reigns supreme. Then they spend the season playing each other and small directional colleges, some of whom aren’t even division one ///


Seems that every year in the NFL, teams that start out hot tend to lose steam by the end of the year. Look at the Falcons and Texans as proof. Each only has one loss, but they’re struggling to beat sub-par teams now. In contrast, look at teams like the Broncos, Packers and Patriots. They struggled some at the beginning of the year, but now they’re on hot streaks. Did those three get hot too early though? Or will we see others end the year on hot streaks to enter the playoffs? ///


By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

Random Saturday Morning Thoughts

Since the San Francisco Giants rode Sergio Romo to the World Series title, do they need Brian Wilson anymore? Should they think of trading the pirate-bearded former closer coming off his second Tommy John surgery? ///


If we look at history for a hint at the future, I think Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, likely starting for the first time this Sunday for an injured Michael Vick, is in for a big payday eventually, either in Philadelphia or elsewhere. Want proof? The other quarterbacks that have followed Michael Vick – Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Kevin Kolb ///


If both Alex Smith and Jay Cutler don’t play in Sunday’s Bears-Niners game due to the concussions they suffered last week, could the game be decided by which defense scores the most points? ///


Where would “The” Ohio State University fall in the BCS standings right now if they were bowl eligible? ///


Was Mitt Romney never asked about his favorite sports teams during election campaigning? I never heard anything about it and usually that comes out at some point in campaigning. My guess? When campaigning in Ohio, his team is the Browns; in Florida, the Dolphins; in Colorado, the Broncos ///


Hopefully Johnny Manziel gets the proper consideration from Heisman voters this winter and the word ‘freshman’ following redshirt in his eligibility status doesn’t cloud judgement. Remember, Johnny Football is the same age Tim Tebow was when he won the Heisman ///


John Farrell leaves Toronto to become manager of the Red Sox. Toronto then brings in a serious haul of players (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, , Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera) that should put them in real contention next year for the AL East. Think Farrell is still happy with his decision to leave the Blue Jays? The first time Boston heads to Toronto next year will be interesting ///

The Seattle Seahawks: Top of the League or Overrated?

On Sunday the Seattle Seahawks improved to 4-2 by beating the New England Patriots 24-23. After the game, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman made the following comment to Yahoo! Sports:

“Any time you run a gimmick offense, you’re a little bit afraid — you’re not sound in what you’re doing in your base stuff. You’re running this hurry-up stuff, and there’s a reason it’s not effective, because there are great defenses out there who will stuff it. We figured out early in the game what the calls were, what they were doing, and what the adjustments were. We started executing better, and that’s why they got only six points in the second half.”

Sherman jawed back and forth with New England quarterback Tom Brady throughout the game, and following it, he and Seahawk safety Earl Thomas confronted Brady. As Sherman told the Tacoma News Tribune, the two Seattle defenders communicated to Brady, “We’re greater than you. We’re better than you. You’re just a man — we’re a team.”

Here’s a photo of Sherman approaching Brady following the game.

Classy and respectable approach to one of the game’s greatest players, huh?

Lil Jon Richard Sherman also asserts that Seattle has the best defense in the league. He tweeted about the game and the two teams as well: “Patriots fans mad lol… Talking bout Super Bowl rings…. What have u done lately? Oh ur 3-3 lol”.

The guy does a whole lot of talking, especially for only being a second year player. Richard, the Patriots offense has been one of the league’s best over the past six or seven seasons. It’s not a “gimmick.” Tom Brady was schooling the league while you were still a little freshman in high school. You should also know that you didn’t ‘stuff’ the Pats no huddle offense. In fact, go back and look at your game tape. They ran a no huddle for 25% of their plays or less.

Also, learn some respect. Brady’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. You’ve done nothing in your short career thus far. You’ve won four three eh, we’ll say three and a half games. Brady is a legend with three Super Bowl rings. Were you looking for respect with your comments and actions after that game? I hope not. All you really did was show your immaturity and intelligence. Or actually lack thereof. Typically Stanford people present themselves much better. You really need some perspective (this was ONE game against a non-division opponent) and some self restraint.

But now, Lil Jon Richard, let’s go back to your tweet about the Pats only winning three games. How many games have you and your Seahawks won and lost? And what’s the real strength of that record?

You’ve beaten a Dallas team that’s struggled heavily on offense and on the road this year. You beat Carolina, a team that’s having difficulties in Cam Newton’s second year and coached by Ron Rivera (we’re now seeing why he never got any of those head coaching jobs he had been interviewing for when he was the Bears defensive coordinator). Then you beat New England in a game where they really seemed to beat themselves more than you beat them. You lost on the road to an Arizona team that doesn’t look quite as good now as it did after the first three weeks of the season. You also lost on the road to St. Louis, which I would say is an average team. They have a solid defense, but no playmakers on offense. You also of course had a loss win loss against the Packers. Some people put an asterisk next to that “win.” I’m one of those people since it led me to write a letter to Roger Goodell that resulted in the reinstatement of the NFL’s official referees.

I looked into the Seahawks defensive stats and had planned on listing them in this post to analyze. But then I realized, why bother? Look at these teams – Dallas, Carolina, Arizona, St. Louis. Those are some poor, poor playing offensive teams. Seattle played the Packers when Green Bay was struggling to really figure out what it was doing. Packers coach Mike McCarthy actually put a game plan together that seemed to be better suited for Seattle’s defense than Green Bay’s offense. Russell Wilson earned a win for throwing an interception, maybe the NFL should give McCarthy a win for the brilliant game plan he devised…for Seattle.

The only team Seattle has played that has a good offense is New England. Sherman and his teammates on the Seahawks D gave up 475 yard of offense to Brady and the Patriots in that game. That’s a top tier defense? I don’t think we’d see the Niners, Vikings or Bears doing that. The Ravens only gave up 396 yards to New England in week three.

I feel like the media has greatly exaggerated how “great” Seattle’s defense is because they’re looking at stats against sub-par opponents. They’re also looking too heavily at that eight sack first half against Green Bay where McCarthy and the Packer offensive line did everything short of rolling out a red carpet leading to an already prone Aaron Rodgers.

Look at the broader picture here, mainstream media. What would you say is the strength of this defense? Pass rushing is what I think most would respond with, citing Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. I think many forget, or don’t even realize, that Irvin isn’t a starter. Red Bryant is the starting defensive end opposite Clemons. Why? Because Irvin is undersized. He’s a liability against the run. Irvin is closer to the size of an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but Seattle plays a base 4-3 with Irvin on the line as an end. The problem is he’s smaller than nearly all defensive ends in a 4-3. He’s also smaller than a number of outside linebackers in a 3-4. He’s a tweener and Seattle is essentially playing him as a one down defensive end in more obvious passing situations. Bryant is the regular end because he’s bigger and stronger and can stop the run.

So if pass rushing isn’t Seattle’s real strength, maybe it’s stopping the run. They haven’t allowed a 100 yard game yet after all. The most they’ve allowed is 87, which came on Sunday against new England. Look again at who they’ve played though. None of those teams is a strong running team. We’ll see how their run defense stands up against San Francisco this coming Sunday.

So it has to be pass defense. That’s their strength. I guess by default, you’d call it their strength right now since no one besides Brady lit them up. But then again, none of those other quarterbacks have really lit it up against anyone this year, minus Rodgers this past Sunday against Houston. That one doesn’t count though since McCarthy developed his first half game plan from the Seattle point of view rather than Green Bay’s.

Seattle has had a fairly favorable schedule through the first six weeks and to their credit, they’ve made the most of it. However, looking at the rest of the schedule, I see an 8-8 team. The Seahawks play much better at home than on the road (see: struggles against Carolina, Arizona and St. Louis) and they have some tough road games remaining.

The team lacks leadership and I have a feeling Sherman’s comments may be the tipping point into that becoming more obvious. They don’t seem to have veteran leadership. A team like the Ravens would never allow Sherman or any other rookie to get away with that kind of criticism of Tom Brady. Pete Carroll has never been a good leader of professionals. It’s why he largely failed in previous NFL stints. He’s a college guy. Ra! Ra! Ra! That works in college. He’s comfortable with it. Why do you think he’s surrounded himself with a lot of young players. Because older veterans may not buy into the philosophy as much. But we’re seeing the kinks in the armor. A team that’s really strong at home, but struggles on the road with inferior opponents? That’s the making of a college football team.

Seattle is 4-2, yes, but let’s not make them into world beaters just yet. Talk to me when they’ve won something. Like a playoff spot or even better, a playoff game. Until then, Lil Jon Richard Sherman, Seattle fans and the short sighted media…give me a break.

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson, AP

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

Dear Roger Goodell

Dear Roger,

I’m a huge fan of NFL football. I have been my entire life. I’m a Packer fan, but I’ll watch any NFL game. I’ve just always enjoyed the final product that much. My dad’s a Bears fan, but I can remember as a kid watching lots of different games with him Sunday afternoons and Sunday nights – Broncos, Steelers, 49ers. As a family, we always had the Lions and Cowboys games on TV during Thanksgiving gatherings. Me (a Packers fan), my dad and brother (Bears fans) and my uncle (a Colts fan) would watch the games together, regardless of who was playing. You see, it didn’t matter who was playing. We just loved football.

When you became NFL commissioner, I thought you were a great choice. I may have been slightly biased. I’m a PR guy. You started as a PR guy. It gave all of us PR guys the thought, the hope, that we could actually have a sports management job at some point in our career. Of course we were dreaming, but you gave guys like me hope. Your first few years as commissioner, you showed that my initial instinct about you was right. I thought you did a great job.

Through three games of this season, you now have me questioning you as a good commissioner. Actually it’s not a question. You’re blowing it. You’ll now be remembered for this more than any of the good you’ve done for the league. This situation with the lockout of the NFL refs has shown a different side of you. It’s not an issue of bettering the game. It’s an ego situation for you (and your owners).

Last night was the most embarrassing situation I’ve seen from the NFL, ever. Worse than bountygate, even worse than when you locked out the players last summer. Last night directly affected the outcome of a game. It affected records. It affected standings. It could affect the playoff picture. And you caused all of this by allowing it to get to this point. Sure, you answer to owners, but you’re also supposed to be a negotiator, someone who looks out for the best interests of the league when owners get focused only on themselves and their team.

Roger, I’m not just talking about that final play, when I say it was an embarrassing situation. You remember, it though, right? The final play? Green Bay safety MD Jennings intercepted Russell Wilson’s hail mary, but your officiating crew gave the touchdown to Golden Tate, a receiver who shoved Packer cornerback Sam Shields to the ground (I believe that’s offensive pass interference, but what do I know?), then got one hand on the ball that Jennings held in both hands and cradled against his chest (that’s possession based on my understanding of football…). No, I’m going further back – the roughing the passer call against Green Bay linebacker Erik Walden (he hit Russell Wilson as the ball was leaving Wilson’s hands – clean hit) and the pass interference call against Shields when he was defending Sidney Rice against a pass down the sideline (Rice actually interfered with the pass on that one, grabbing Shields’ collar and pushing off his head). Those were both blown calls that extended and influenced (via field position…) Seattle’s penultimate and final drives of the game. And it’s not just me saying those were the wrong calls. Jon Gruden, Mike Tirico, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer agreed with both. The whole game was poorly officiated, but those really stuck out as having great influence over the outcome.

It was a slow buildup to this point over the course of the season. The first two weeks showed mistakes, some being fairly large; however, this third week of the season was by far the worst. The replacement refs have affected game momentum (and by extension, games, to a degree) and last night they finally affected the outcome of a game. You affected the outcome of a game.

What you’ve done, what you’ve allowed, and your owners have allowed, is an erosion of the integrity of the game. This isn’t the game we all came to love. Sure, last night’s game directly affected me as a Packer fan, but it goes beyond the Green Bay fan base. The NFC West will be very competitive this year, so so an extra win for Seattle has implications for San Francisco and Arizona. And who knows which team will be affected by poor officiating next week? They had a noticeable affect on the Baltimore-New England game Sunday night too.

You’ve also insulted our intelligence as fans. Don’t tell us there’s no noticeable difference between the real refs and the replacements. We’re smart enough to see it. That’s a slap in the face.

But what can we do as fans? You have all the power. You and your owners. We can’t stand up to that. Or can we?

We actually can, to a degree. As long as you see no change from the fans, you won’t feel any need to change – “they keep watching, why change? Why cave in to the refs?” Well, guess what? I’m not watching anymore. Not until you bring back the real refs that we, as fans, deserve. I’ll read about games online or in the newspaper. I’ll get my information from sources where you don’t get a cut of the advertising money. Christmas is approaching. I have a lot of fans I typically buy NFL merchandise for as gifts – brother, dad, fiancee, future father in law, future nephews, friends, friend’s kids. They won’t be receiving anything having to do with the NFL from me. They’ll get other gifts this year. Maybe I’ll put my money toward the NBA or Major League Baseball. You won’t be receiving any of my money until this ends.

Sure, I’m only one guy, and even with encouraging my friends to follow my lead and take a stand, it won’t be noticeable to you. It’s a small group, not even a blip on your radar. But that doesn’t matter to me. The integrity of the game matters to me. The professionalism. The accuracy. The accountability. I won’t be a part of this mockery. Call me when you bring the real refs back.

Kevin York