Monday, January 27, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS BEFORE SUPER BOWL XLVIII



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

Since the media has another week almost to conger up things to discuss leading up to the Super Bowl, I guess that's what is happening with this letter as well.

Upon request from a few loyal readers, here is the latest.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

During the two-week wait between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, many stories get blown out of proportion because there is nothing better to talk about.  Following are a few discussion items during the hiatus.

NFL

RICHARD SHERMAN

The Seattle cornerback’s post-game interview took on a life of its own, just as if spontaneous generation was possible.  The Seahawks had just beaten San Francisco on an interception in the endzone, the pass having been tipped by Richard Sherman himself to prevent a Niners’ go-ahead touchdown.  The Seattle victory meant that his team would be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks.  Sherman’s rant became nearly as big of a story as the result of the game. 

After a game, I’m told the players usually get a 10 to 15 minute cooling off period before the media is allowed to interview them.  But this was a high-profile game, so the media had immediate access, and Sherman used his air time to personally attack 49’ers WR Michael Crabtree; he came off as crazed and out of control.  The interview was cut short by the network, anticipating that his remarks and demeanor could possibly have gotten even worse [Sherman’s mental state of mind reminded me of Howard Dean’s apparent intensity in an Iowa Caucus concession speech leading to his demise in his 2004 political race for the Democratic nomination].

But many players are very intense during a game, which especially helps defensive players reach peak performance levels.  Several former players noted that Sherman’s kind of talk and intensity is common among teammates on the sidelines during games.

Anyway, Sherman is no dummy and plays intelligently on the field (except for his taunting/throat choke penalty after the interception), and is not out of control off the field.  He graduated #2 in his high school class at Compton, CA, and I’m told he was the first Compton graduate in 50 years to get a college degree from Stanford (I cannot confirm that); he graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA.
Still, for me he’s too arrogant, if that’s what you call it.  He had a personal vendetta against Crabtree and he shouldn’t have used that forum to exact revenge or soothe his own personal issues.
 (Ed- A great report on Sherman and not one use of the word ‘thug’. But then, not everyone ‘white’ is racist, and visa versa. Also Britt is a great place.)


POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES FOR 2014

The league is flirting with the idea of changing how the extra point after a touchdown is handled.  One alternative suggests giving a team 7 points for a TD, getting rid of the point-after-touchdown (PAT) kick entirely, but allowing a team to elect whether to go for an extra point with a play from scrimmage –-- get into the endzone and score one more point; fail to get into the endzone, lose one point.  I’m not sure this option will fly; scoring negative points just doesn’t seem right.  There are other suggestions, but let’s wait for more definitive info before getting too excited about this change.  Something will probably happen by 2015.

The league is also considering expansion of the playoffs from 12 teams to 14 teams.  This change, just like all other rule changes, requires positive votes from 24 of the 32 owners.
This expansion would involve two more games on Wild Card weekend (six games total), with a suggestion that games for that weekend could be played on Friday or Monday in addition to the current Saturday and Sunday format.  This is going to happen, but maybe not until 2015.  And from there, you can guess that the next move would be an expansion to 16 playoff teams (50% of all teams in the league making the playoffs).

OTHER

Denver’s DT Terrance Knighton got a little notoriety in the Broncos’ playoff game against the NE Patriots, getting a key sack on QB Tom Brady.  I mention him only because of his nickname, “Pot Roast”.  At 6’3”, 335 lbs. (give or take, depending on how big his last meal was), he has a bit of an excessive gut, but he is filling a role on the defensive line for the Broncos.
Pot Roast came out of Temple University and was drafted by the JAX Jaguars in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  He earned a starting spot in his rookie season, but struggled through his young career with conditioning issues.  He became a rotational player with the Jags in 2012, and his contract expired at the end of the season.
Denver picked him up as a rotational DL player at the start of the 2013 season, and he struggled mightily.  His production increased in the 2nd half of the year and has been solid in the playoffs.  The Broncos will likely need him to be effective in helping to stuff the Seahawks’ running game during the Super Bowl.

FINAL HEAD COACHING CHANGE


CLEVELAND           The Browns had been the only team without a head coach since mid-January until finally hiring Mike Pettine, formerly the DC for the Buffalo Bills (2013) and the NY Jets (2009-2012, Rex Ryan’s “right hand man”).  Pettine will be the 8th HC for the Browns since they re-entered the NFL as a new team in 1999 (see quiz question below), and the 5th HC since 2008.

BUFFALO                       With the loss of DC Pettine, the Bills now need to find a new defensive coordinator.  It may be Wade Phillips, who has a long NFL coaching history.  He was the DC for Buffalo from 1995-1997 and then was promoted to HC for the Bills from 1998-2000.  He was the ATL Falcons DC for 2002 & 2003, and then DC for San Diego from 2004-2006.  Phillips got the head job with Dallas for the 2007-2010 seasons, and then moved on to HOU Texans as DC for 2011 through 2013.


2014 NFL PRO BOWL

The game in Hawaii aired on Sunday, January 26th, at 7:30PM Eastern on NBC.

The NFL scrapped the AFC vs. NFC format this year.  The two teams who played in the Pro Bowl were selected by team “captains” Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, similar to the way we used to pick “sides” in sandlot games (e.g., at the water tower “field” in Britt, Iowa).  In conjunction with the change, there was a two-day draft for all of the Pro Bowl players held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Key Team Rice selections:
NOR Saints QB Drew Brees
IND Colts OLB Robert Mathis
PHI Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
STL Rams DE Robert Quinn

Key Team Sanders selections:
KC Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles
CAR Panthers QB Cam Newton
TB Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis
HOU Texans DL J.J. Watt

The MGM sports books in Nevada installed Team Rice as a 1.5-point favorite over Team Sanders. Team Rice won.


RECRUITING FOR NEXT YEAR

Leading up to the official signing day (early February) for high school players entering college, there have been many verbal commitments.  The players can still change their decision and some have not committed yet, but here are the early verbal commitments as of January 20th by conference for the top 100 ranked recruits according to Rival100:

Conference      Recruits           Breakdown
SEC                 38                    ALA 9, LSU 6, TEN 5, TXAM 5, FL 4
ACC                12
Big 10              12                    Ohio State 9
PAC 12              9                    Coaching changes at USC and UW probably hurt
Big XII              5
Notre Dame       4
MW                  1
Uncommitted    19

Comments:
And the highly touted Southeastern Conference teams just keep getting richer.
We can only hope that these youngsters have a change of heart before signing day (or that Rival100 did a poor job of ranking the recruits and many of the future college football stars come from Rival’s #101 to #500 ranked players).

COACHING CHANGES

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hire its new head coach recently, Bill Clark.  He was the 2013 HC at FCS Jacksonville State and led them to an 11-4 record and an FCS playoff appearance.  Prior to that, he was the DC for South Alabama.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII PREVIEW

Sunday, February 2nd  -- GROUNDHOG DAY
According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
I tried to think of an idea to fit this into our football theme, but failed.  So there it is, for what it’s worth.

THE GAME

DENVER -2h vs. SEATTLE +2h
OVER/UNDER: 47 total combined points to be scored in game
If Denver remains the favorite, it will be the 30th straight game in which they have been favored (20-9 ATS in their last 29 games).  The last time they were an underdog was at New England in Week #5 of the 2012 season.

This game pits the AFC #1 seed against the NFC #1 seed.

The Broncos, the #1 offense in the NFL, are matched up against the Seahawks, the #1 defense in the NFL.  The irresistible force meets the immovable object (respectively).

There have only been four Super Bowls in history that have gone to kickoff with less than a 3-point spread.

Seattle is the first Super Bowl participant since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to have zero players on the active roster with Super Bowl experience.
Denver has only four players with at least one previous Super Bowl appearance.
This shouldn’t be a major factor in trying to determine the outcome of the game.

If Denver wins the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning will be the first starting QB to have won a Super Bowl for two different teams.

Denver won a coin flip and got their choice of jerseys for the Super Bowl.  The Broncos chose “ORANGE”, and to date they are 0-3 in Super Bowls when wearing the orange jerseys.

Weather is a big topic leading up to the game, since the game is…. Outdoors ….. in New Jersey…..in February.  As long as the temperature doesn’t get below 20 degrees or so and there is not a blizzard, the main factor could be the wind.  The early forecasts call for relative calm (8 mph winds).  But if the breeze kicks up, it could be a disadvantage to the pass-happy Broncos.

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION

QUESTION #1:  The Cleveland Browns moved their whole organization to Baltimore for the 1996 season and changed the team’s name to the Baltimore Ravens.  Who was the last coach for the “old” Browns in 1995?







ANSWER #1:
Bill Belichick, from 1991 through 1995.
The Cleveland Browns “relocation controversy” was the decision by then-Browns owner Art Modell to move his NFL team from its longtime home of Cleveland, Ohio, to Baltimore, Maryland, for the 1996 NFL season.
Subsequent legal actions saw a unique compromise that would later set a precedent in American professional sports: Modell would be able to retain the Browns' existing player and staff contracts, but his team officially would be an entirely new franchise in Baltimore, later named the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, the Browns' name, history, and archives would stay in Cleveland, and a new Browns team would begin play in 1999 after a nominal three-year period of "deactivation".

See you next season unless I do an after Super Bowl letter, or the Gambling Police catch me at my bookie's - TFC

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