Judge Frees Tom Brady to Play

Patriots logoNew England Patriot fans, your long nightmare is over. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman overturned Tom Brady’s four-game suspension this morning. This (hopefully) puts an end to this drawn-out, painful, ridiculous witch hunt by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In making this ruling, Berman has made Goodell look like the fool that many people thought he was. While it became fairly obvious that many NFL owners pressured Goodell into the actions he took, it may well be that the commissioner will now have to fall on his sword. After this, his perceived authority and ability to discipline other players and owners has been seriously undermined.

Patriot haters will be up in arms about this. Nothing short of nuking the entire New England season would satisfy them. There is no objectivity in that corner. Patriot fans will be overjoyed and feel vindicated, though it IS possible there was some kind of hanky panky by members of the equipment staff.

I just hope to the heavens that this is the end of it.

 

RIP Frank Gifford

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Frank Gifford passed away Sunday morning. Photo Credit: Buzzquotes.com

NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford died this morning from natural causes at the age of 84. As a 55-year old, I remember Gifford more for his broadcasting career than his playing days. The versatile Gifford played running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and on special teams for the New York Giants.  His 5,434 receiving yards was a team record for 39 years until Amani Toomer bested it in 2003.

Gifford retired in 1964, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, and the Giants retired his number 16 in 2000. Most people younger than I remember his 26-year career on Monday Night Football that started in 1971. He was professional and a voice of reason in a booth often filled with rather large egos – the largest of which was Howard Cosell. He won broadcasting Emmys for his work there,

“It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved husband, father and friend, Frank Gifford. Frank died suddenly this beautiful Sunday morning of natural causes at his Connecticut home. We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being. We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers.”

His widow, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a co-host of the Today Show slot from 10-11 a.m.

Adrian Peterson Not Helping Himself

Vikings helmetLook, no one is ever going to confuse Adrian Peterson with a rocket scientist, but for a man who ran afoul of the law after beating his son and was suspended with pay by the Minnesota Vikings, he shows a remarkable lack of humility, gratitude and intelligence in the wake of all that.

Peterson went on a nine-post Twitter rant yesterday to protest what he perceives as mistreatment by the Vikings and their lack of honoring his contract. Ummm…last time I checked the Vikings could have just released him after his arrest. They would have been well within their rights had they done so. Just ask Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens. The Vikings didn’t do that and continued to pay him.

I think this is a blatant attempt to extort a contract extension and more money out of the Vikings, or piss them off enough so that they’ll trade him. From the start of his legal problems, he seemed to feel that the team had somehow disrespected him. I guess that’s because they suspended him. I ask, what were they supposed to do?

Now, to further “punish” the Vikings, Peterson has sat out the team’s OTAs, something you would think would be valuable for a guy who hasn’t played for a year! And how do you think his teammates feel about it? I’ll wager it’s not positive.

Peterson has insisted it’s not personal, it’s business. He claims he’s trying to secure his future with the franchise (read: extort money from them by holding out). Eric Weddle is doing something similar with the Chargers, though he’s in a much stronger position, given that he wasn’t arrested and suspended. It’s still wrong, but it doesn’t smell quite as bad.

Considering everything that happens, you’d think Peterson might show a little humility at what led to his suspension, show a little gratitude to the franchise that honored his contract and didn’t release him, and stop acting like someone who is entitled. Then again, if you read his rant and take everything into consideration, it’s not hard to see he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree and is getting some very bad advice from someone.

Time to zip the lip, put the smart phone away, and show that he’s still a player worthy of a new contract. How about this…. why doesn’t he honor his current contract. What a novel idea!

Super Bowl End Almost Predictable

Patriots logoIt took me a little longer than usual to write about the finish to the Super Bowl because it took me until the morning to snap out of the daze. Hell, if I had still been eating chicken wings at the time of the interception, I may have ended up in the hospital from choking on my food. I was rooting for the Patriots to win and was resigned to the inevitable loss after the circus catch made by Seahawk receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Then came the inexplicable play call.

One thing I know for certain, I am really glad I am not Pete Carroll or Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell today. I give Carroll credit for taking the heat, but wonder why he didn’t override Bevell’s play call. He can say anything he wants about playing for third down and running the clock out – it was just plain dumb. Marshawn Lynch was nearly unstoppable in the second half, cutting through the Patriot defense like a knife through butter. There is zero excuse for not giving it to him until he either scored or the Patriot defense rose up and stopped him. I guarantee you every Seattle Seahawk fan would have accepted defeat a lot easier had that been the case.

What we saw Sunday night is another example of something that I believe plagues sports today – overcoaching. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened in the biggest sporting event in the country.

You can find examples of this in every sport. It’s as if coaches and managers have to prove they have superior intellect by doing things that go against the grain. College and professional football may be where this is most apparent (going for it on fourth down at strange time, bizarre play calls, gadget plays that almost never work, etc.), but very few sports are immune.

Baseball managers have run amok in recent years with defensive shifts, 97 pitching changes, and 5,286 signs laid down by the third base coach between pitches – 5,285 of which are often read wrong by the batter or baserunner. Game times have increased exponentially because of a lot of the constant tinkering.

Basketball overcoaching generally manifests itself in bizarre substitution patterns. How many times have you watched a college basketball game, seen a player hit back-to-back three-pointers, then find that player on the bench ten seconds later because the coach wanted to put someone else in? What happened to riding the hot hand? College and pro basketball is not the local CYO league – everyone does not have to play!

What about golf? I just wrote about Tiger Woods the other day. Golfers today often have a swing coach, a putting coach, and a mental coach. Really? The result is often what we see with Tiger Woods now. So much conflicting information is fed into the brain that at some point there’s mental overload and gridlock.

Thank God coaches aren’t allowed during a tennis match!

The sport that may be the most immune to this modern-day match of wits is hockey. Some of that is because of the constant flow of action during a game. With the exception of trying to match lines or yanking a goalie who gives up three in the first period, there’s not much for a hockey coach to do once the game starts – the players play.

Having said all of this, it was perhaps the most exciting Super Bowl I have ever seen. The ending was surreal, but it was a wonderful game between two great teams. It was, without a doubt, one of those games we will talk about for a long time. It was a true vision of both agony and ecstasy. Unfortunately for Seattle fans, it was all brought about by a coach who thought he had to prove he was smarter than everyone else.

Deflate-gate Was Very Avoidable

footballI really resisted the idea of writing about the whole Deflate-Gate debacle. First of all, I’m not even a Patriot’s fan. Second, I don’t really care.

I’m tired of watching how people want to immediately accuse New England of cheating at every turn. Couldn’t they just be that good? Hell, I’m not even sure why the whole Spygate thing where they filmed Jet coaches to steal signs is illegal. Baseball teams have been trying to steal signs for a hundred years!

Having said that, no team in any sport should try to gain a competitive advantage by cheating. Baseball players have tried it for years by corking bats, scuffing baseball, and taking greenies and steroids. Hockey players have heated their sticks and changed the curve of the blade. If the Patriots knowingly did what they are accused of they should be punished – but you have to prove it first. In the court of public opinion, which is always overly negative and looking to tear down everything, they are guilty and should all be shot by a firing squad.

But here’s what I don’t get about the whole situation. Why does the NFL have teams providing their own footballs? That’s idiotic. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar operation. Can’t the league afford to supply all the balls and have them only under the control of the referees or a designated league official? The current system makes it easy for teams to tinker with the air pressure – and if you read a lot of the media reports this week, it sounds like it happens all the time.

Major League Baseball uses the same set of balls for both teams in a game. Otherwise, the Colorado Rockies might go out and buy the special “granite” balls that only their pitchers can use to keep the opponent’s from clubbing balls out of Coors field.

I don’t know if the Patriots did anything on purpose, and I really don’t care. I do think other teams have done it through the years, and I do think the Patriots would have beaten the Colts handily regardless. However, I know that the NFL created a system that makes it easy for teams to bend the rules.

Methinks it’s time to fix that.

John Fox Fired in Denver; 46-18 Not Good Enough

In a perfect broncoslogoexample of what’s wrong with pro sports these days, John Fox got fired by the Denver Broncos today after going 46-18 in four seasons and making the playoffs each year. He becomes the scapegoat for poor play by the guys on the field in yesterday’s game. I’m not even a Bronco fan, but this really got me riled up. Apparently, it’s his fault Peyton Manning got hurt late in the season and had a sub-par playoff game, and that his defense allowed the Colts to run up almost 400 yards of offense.

It’s really a microcosm of society today. Everyone had to have everything NOW. Our kids expect instant gratification, and it looks like they’ve learned it from a lot of adults – especially ones like Bronco GM John Elway. Good luck finding someone else that can do a better job than Fox, Denver.

“Although we came up short of our ultimate goal, I am proud of our team’s many accomplishments during these last four years,” Fox said in a statement this afternoon. “I truly appreciate all of the hard work put in by every player, coach and staff member within this organization.”

You should be proud, John, and I doubt you’ll be on the unemployment line long.

Peyton Manning – End of an Era?

broncoslogoAs I sit here watching the Indianapolis-Denver football game, I can’t help but wonder if we are seeing the final snaps of Peyton Manning’s career. He’ll be 39 in a couple of months, and he truly looks his age today. I know you have to give a lot of credit to the Colt defense, but Manning has looked a little unsure of himself and missed some throws you expect him to make. Heck, he overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on consecutive plays. His passes have also seemed to wobble a bit.

Let me be clear – I am not saying he should retire. I am just wondering how he will feel about his performance at the end of the day, and if he really wants to do this again. I’ve heard it said that he loves to practice, so maybe the idea of another training camp and the daily grind doesn’t phase him. But if he does decide he’s had enough, he certainly has nothing to prove – nearly 70,000 career yards (2nd all-time) and 530 touchdowns (1st all-time) guarantee him quick entrance into the Hall of Fame in Canton.

How ironic it would be if his last game is against the team that drafted him, and that let him go in favor of Andrew Luck who, despite a couple of interceptions, looked like a quarterback that is going to fixture in the playoffs for years to come. And if Manning does retire, perhaps the only thing he’ll look back on and regret is his 11-13 mark in the playoffs.

He said earlier he intended to play next year, but recently acknowledged he’d have to give it some serious thought at the end of the season. I, for one, hope he comes back and gives it at least one more year. Give the fans around the country a chance to say goodbye if he does feel the end is near. He’s earned it, and I know there are football fans across the country that would like to have the chance to say thank you.

Chargers Playoff Hopes Sacked

chargers logoIt was a simple scenario for the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Win a game on the road against a team starting its backup quarterback and you’re in the playoffs. Granted, winning on the road in the NFL is a difficult proposition – and the Chiefs had already beaten San Diego once this season – but after the dramatic rally against San Francisco last week I was certain this one was in the bag. Somebody forgot to tell the Chiefs. The KC defense forced three Chargers turnovers, and the Chief offense under second-stringer Chase Daniel didn’t turn it over once.

With this season in the books two things have become very clear – the Chargers need to draft a running back and offensive lineman in the upcoming draft.

Look, I love Ryan Mathews, but the guy played only six games this season because of injuries. He did play all 16 last year, but missed four the year before that, two in 2011, and four more in 2010. Brendan Oliver did his best to fill in the hole left by Mathews, but averaging 3.5 a carry isn’t going to cut it. It puts way too much pressure on Phillip Rivers.

I know there were a lot of injuries on the offensive line, but I think the staff has to take a hard look at the quality of the depth chart and make some improvements. Rivers got sacked seven times on Sunday, making it 36 for the season – the third highest total in his career.

I’m sad I won’t have a dog in the fight as the playoffs start. The good news is that baseball spring training starts in less than two months!