The NFL Pro Bowl happened this weekend and it was actually a fun experience to watch it. Lots of talented players participated, there was a fun skills competition and there was a high school championship game where one player apparently forgot it was flag football.
The NFL has had issues with making the Pro Bowl interesting. In the past, a lot of players were not invested because of injury reasons, but for some reason this year was different. Players were actually trying. The NFC defense, made up of a bunch of Seahawks players (Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright) , were really impressive. On offense, there was a ton of talent, the favorite of mine being Drew Brees, who only came slightly ahead of Philip Rivers and Travis Kelce.
It was nice to see such a talented group of players actually trying, showing off their skills without injuring anyone and having fun. I am hoping that the NFL keeps this up. It is great to see your favorite players all playing together.
We have a Falcons Patriots Super Bowl :-/ My Steelers lost, my Seahawks lost. Everybody lost and Brady and Bill Billick won. How the f*&^? Where is karma when you need her! This is some bullsh&%^! Screw the Patriots (sorry Mom) Go Falcons (Sorry Saints)
Matt Ryan you better do what is needed. Don’t you f*&$ this up. I do not have the time!
While I’m personally of the belief that football and politics probably shouldn’t mix I also think it’s incredibly interesting that our new presidential administration consists of not one, but two people who were involved in professional football leagues that attempted to compete with the NFL and (obviously) failed miserably.
Now, I admit it’s a bit of a stretch to include likely upcoming Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon in this category, but at least some level of involvement with the WWE’s XFL venture is easily documented. This article, for instance, has a nice quote of her talking about how the WWE will, “stand committed to our long-term goal of making the XFL a viable brand of alternative football.” And then two months later the league was dead and the WWE was kind of fortunate to “only” lose a reported $35 million on the venture, thanks to their partnership with NBC. Obviously, success such as this makes her exceedingly qualified to head up the SBA.
But there’s no denying incoming President Trump’s involvement in the USFL. And many people are saying (well, HAVE said) that he was actually the driving force behind the league’s failure.
I won’t attempt to recap the USFL’s history here as ESPN has already done a wonderful job of that with the moderately exceptional 30 for 30 Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (available here for $1.99). I highly suggest taking the time to watch Small Potatoes in its entirety, but if you only have time for a short clip, check out below. Please enjoy a pre-candidate-for-president Trump demonstrating his signature maturity and grace in responding to criticism:
And to think there are concerns in regards to his temperament! He shows such poise, such, grace! Not surprisingly, Trump is not a fan of this documentary, writing to the director personally to tell him that it is, “a third rate documentary — and extremely dishonest (as you know)… P.S. You are a loser.”
In short though, basically Trump took over possibly the USFL’s most visible franchise (they signed Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie out of college!), did a horrible job, and ended up either greatly accelerating the league’s demise or directly sabotaging its chances of succeeding by making the incredibly poor decision to compete directly with the NFL by playing in the fall. Some speculate he was simply trying to force a merger with the NFL and make the owners a chunk of money, but regardless, this didn’t work.
He also sued the NFL for violating antitrust law and unlike the majority of his lawsuits, he actually won! Well, he technically won, but check out the results:
“a bothered and bewildered jury of five women and one man awarded damages of just $1 to the failing football league.
Damages in antitrust cases are tripled, so the award given to the USFL will actually amount to $3.”
Wow, $3! But this was 1986, so with inflation, that’s like $6.61 in 2017 dollars! This LA Times article from the time has more details, but at this point the USFL had lost hundreds of millions of dollars and was effectively already dead. An unexpected huge judgement in the USFL’s favor was their final, slim hope at survival. Trump’s schemes failed miserably; as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle is quoted as saying, “They shot themselves in the foot.”
While others have made fun of Trump’s business acumen in exhaustive fashion, teasing him for hawking steaks and somehow managing to lose tons of money on casinos (which from a strictly gaming revenue standpoint should be essentially impossible), I don’t feel many people have expressed much concern regarding the fact that Trump very likely hates the NFL and his election cannot possibly have any positive effect on the league.
There have been a few hints that have lead me to this conclusion. First of all, Trump has already somewhat randomly criticized NFL concussion protocol, of all things. “We don’t go by these new and very much softer NFL rules,” he said after a supporter fainted at a rally, but later returned. “Concussion, oh! Oh! Got a little ding on the head, no, no, you can’t play for the rest of the season. Our people are tough!”
But I guess this makes sense, as I doubt Trump is particularly interested in mental health issues. You’ll also note that Trump never attended an NFL game during his campaign, but he did attend the Army vs. Navy college matchup. And at this point people probably forget that he falsely accused the NFL of sending him a letter about the debates competing with SNF and MNF.
But the biggest hint of Trump’s NFL hatred I think actually comes from the numerous examples and near flawless pattern of Trump harboring insane, long-standing grudges. He holds the best grudges, really terrific, the best. Recall his out-of-nowhere attack on Rosie O’Donnell stemming from comments she made in 2006 during the presidential debate or his public attack on Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair due at least partially to the fact that Graydon made fun about the size of Trump’s hands in the 1980s (more on that here). Sure, all this USFL stuff happened years ago too, but I think Trump has a world-class ability to recall these negative comments, losses, or bad press and feels the need to extract revenge — or at least rage against the “unfairness” — even decades later.
Given all this, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to make that Trump is not much of an NFL fan. I really don’t think this is that controversial of an opinion, but if you disagree you’re no doubt squealing something like, “BUT TOM BRADY AND TRUMP ARE FRIENDS! TRUMP READ ALOUD AN ENDORSEMENT LETTER FROM BILL BELICHECK REMEMBER?? AND REX RYAN INTRODUCED HIM AT A RALLY!!” All that is true, but I’d counter Trump’s potential gripe is with the league itself, not the individual teams or players. And that the Patriots are evil and the worst, just throwing that thought out there as a Bills fan.
But what can Trump actually do to the NFL?
Hopefully, the answer is, “not much”, outside of perhaps a 3am tweet criticizing Roger Goodell at some point. And perhaps Trump can pull petty stunts like refusing to invite the Super Bowl winning team to the White House, although I predict that he may pre-emptively nix that tradition to prevent personal embarrassment when only two offensive linemen and the kickers show up. Before you scream, “THAT’S RACIST,” there’s been numerous articles on the subject, with this Bleacher Report pre-election straw poll of 43 NFL players being perhaps the most telling:
20 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.
2 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Donald J. Trump.
21 of 21 white NFL players plan to vote for Trump.
But you could also argue NFL locker rooms are probably only slightly more divided than many of our own workplaces and most players are probably too busy with game plans, injuries, and reading through suggestive DMs from Instagram “models” to get too involved with politics anyways. Regardless, I can definitely see a few scenarios where the winning team refuses to visit the White House. However, I think it depends on who wins. The Cowboys or Patriots would probably go. Seattle or the Raiders, maybe not. And you know Kaepernick would LOVE to have the opportunity to not participate, but I’m fairly sure this isn’t a problem he’ll ever have.
So thankfully, even if there is controversy or scandals regarding labor, concussions, or using taxpayer money for stadiums during his time in office, there doesn’t seem to be all that much Trump could do to get some sort of tangible revenge on the NFL and hurt the league.
And that’s a very good thing, because the last time he tried to meddle in football… well… the results were moderately catastrophic. Here’s hoping Trump learned a few lessons from the USFL and the US of A avoids a similar fate.
The Steelers knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs, not with touchdowns, but with six field goals. Steelers kicker Chris Boswell kicked the most field goals of all-time in a single postseason game. The Steelers didn’t make it into the endzone once this game.
This game was surprisingly exciting mostly because it was so close and very bizarre. While the Steelers were busy kicking their way to victory, the Chiefs scored two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to make the score 18-16. The Chiefs then went for another 2-point conversion that would have tied the game; however, it was negated by a penalty and the Steelers killed the clock and held on for the win. This was the first time in NFL history that a team has scored two more touchdowns than their opponent and lost the game.
Kansas City’s playoff drought continues and the Steelers head to Foxborough to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Go Steelers!
This weekend the Cowboys lost to the Packers 31 to 34 and I was actually sad. To my surprise, I was rooting for the Cowboys. Dak Prescott’s success this season has been special and his on the field bromance with Ezekiel Elliot is fun to watch. But seriously, this was probably the best game during the playoffs so far. Going into the second quarter, the Cowboys were down 21 to 3. Aaron Rodgers was gleeful and the Packers were beginning to celebrate on the sideline. Then in the final quarter the Cowboys scored successive touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to tie the game 28-28. The Packers then took possession and Aaron Rodgers led the Packers down the field where they scored a field goal. The Cowboys then answered with a field goal of their own after Dak Prescott led a great drive down the field; however, the Cowboys left 35 seconds on the clock, which was more than enough time for Rodgers to lead his team again and seal the win with another field goal.
I blame this Cowboys loss on bad play calling by Jason Garrett and his coaches. During the Cowboys last drive, Prescott was instructed to spike the ball instead of running more time off of the clock. I suppose the Cowboys thought 35 seconds couldn’t possibly be enough time for Rodgers to engineer a drive that could seal the game, but they clearly didn’t appreciate who they were dealing with. Even though the Cowboys’ season ended, they have lots to be happy about. They likely found their franchise quarterback and they have a stellar running back and both are rookies, so they should be able to contribute to the team for a long time. I hope not, but I expect the Cowboys will have another great season next year.
The Texans could have won their game against the Patriots if it wasn’t for their quarterback, Brock Osweiler. The Texans acquired Osweiler, a former Peyton Manning backup, in the offseason and agreed to pay him $72 million over four years. That is franchise quarterback money and Osweiler is no franchise quarterback. He has shown it time and time again, but at no time was it more apparent than during yesterday’s game against the Patriots. The Texan’s defense was excellent last night in keeping Tom Brady and the Patriots off of the field and the Texans’ offense on it. The defense harassed Tom Brady all night. They forced two interceptions from Brady who until last night, only threw one interception the entire season. They made Brady make mistakes throughout the game, which doesn’t usually happen. They made sure Osweiler got the ball back quickly, but whenever Osweiler got the ball back, he couldn’t wait to give it back to the Patriots. He threw interceptions, he threw terrible throws; in general, he made all of the mistakes. The Texans lost to the Patriots 16-34 thanks to Brock Osweiler.
I have no idea what Osweiler or his agent said to the Texans to make them agree to pay a man who can barely play the quarterback position $72 million (with $37 million guaranteed). His previous team, the Broncos were not too sad to see him leave last year when his contract expired, even though their own franchise quarterback was retiring. There also didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in him from other quarterback thirsty teams across the league. I believe this should have told the Texans all they needed to know about his ability.
After last night’s display, many people are calling for the Texans to cut Osweiler. They would have to pay him $37 million, but keeping him one more year would cost the team more and is that really worth it? They may want to cut their losses at this point. Separately, Osweiler cleary has a very good agent. Other players should look into hiring him.
Well I knew I was right to be worried about this team’s chances against the Falcons. They were simply too injured on defense to go up against the league’s current best offense. Deshawn Shead went down during the middle of the game, but the biggest loss felt was that of safety Earl Thomas III. The defense couldn’t stop anything the Falcons did on offense. Matt Ryan threw to at least 7 different receivers in one drive and nearly all of them gained yards after the catch. The Seahawks defense also managed to not intercept Matt Ryan once, which isn’t like them. Ryan passed all over the Seahawks defense. It was just sad.
On offense, it wasn’t much better. The Seahawks offensive line could not handle the Falcon’s defensive line, but that is no surprise. The Seahawks have a notoriously terrible offensive line. Russell Wilson spent most of the game scrambling to find open receivers, he was hurried on a lot of his passes and sacked at least three times. At one point rookie right guard Rees Obhiambo accidentally stepped on his quarterback when he dropped back to pass while in the Seahawks end zone and caused a safety. Obhiambo was taken out of the game after this mistake and replaced with the already injured Germain Ifedi. Needless to say, Russell didn’t have much to work with on the offensive line side. On the receiver side, the usual suspects showed up to play, such as receiver Doug Baldwin, tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Thomas Rawls. But everyone else, other than Paul Richardson, seemed like they were not around. Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse contributed virtually nothing to the game. Then on the last play of the game, tight end Luke Willson killed a drive by catching the ball, then bumbling it only to have it intercepted by the Falcons. After that it was game over. The one bright spot on offense was the connection between Russell Wilson and Paul Richardson. I really hope the Seahawks actually focus on upgrading the offensive line for next season. They keep promising to, but so far there haven’t been any visible results.
The first week of the playoffs began last weekend and I am happy to report that both of my teams, the Steelers and Seahawks made it to round 2! The Steelers played the Dolphins last week and the Seahawks played the Lions. I was pretty certain the Steelers would win. The Miami Dolphins aren’t used to that Pittsburgh weather. I was more concerned about the Seahawks. The offense still isn’t really consistent and the defense doesn’t have Earl Thomas III, but luckily everything worked out.
The games this week are going to be a bit more difficult to predict. The Seahawks are playing the Falcons in Atlanta today. Matt Ryan is currently the leading passer in the league and he has tons of weapons to throw to. Even if the Seahawks manage to shut down Julio Jones, there is still Mohamed Sanu and a number of other choices. Without Earl, I am worried Ryan is going to light the Seahawks defense up. My fingers are crossed that this is not the case.
The Steelers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs tomorrow. I am also worried about this game. I honestly think this could go either way. The Chiefs have been playing great on both sides of the ball and they are playing in Kansas City, so weather could be a factor. I hope I don’t lose both of my teams this week!
Also, this doesn’t involve my teams, but in my last post I predicted that Eli Manning would magically turn into a good quarterback during the playoffs…but I was wrong! The Giants lost to the Packers…badly. Eli played like regular season Eli, which is not good. The only sad thing about the Giants loss is that we will have no more Manning face this season.
But Eli is in the playoffs and playoff Eli is nothing to sneeze at. For some reason, Eli suddenly remembers how to play football during the playoffs. Somehow Eli has beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl to become a two-time winning Super Bowl quarterback. I’m still hoping for my Steelers and Big Ben to knock the Patriots off of their mantle, but if they don’t, I need Eli to put on his cape and take the NFC (Sorry Russell and Dak) and beat the Patriots. I only wrote this post to post that photo of Eli. He is a quintessential New Jersey dad.
The owner of the 49ers, Jed York, held a press conference today and I wasted part of my afternoon watching it. York said the usual things: “this season was unacceptable”; “fans deserve better”; “we’re going to build a championship team”; etc. and so forth. The 49ers just barely managed to not be the worst team in the NFL this season by winning one more game than the Browns (the 49ers won two games). As a consequence, York fired the current head coach, Chip Kelly, and the team’s general manager, Trent Baalke. Kelly is the third coach to be fired by the 49ers in as many years. York is now left to his own devices looking for a new head coach and a new general manager to somehow save this dumpster fire of an organization. The sad part about the 49ers current situation, is that it didn’t have to be this way.
Just a few years ago, the 49ers were a winning team. They were titans of the NFC West with a stellar defense, a decent quarterback and a winning record. They made multiple appearances to the NFC Championship game and made it to the Super Bowl once. This all happened under the helm of coach Jim Harbaugh. Unfortunately, Harbaugh was fired by York for petty reasons and the 49ers have since slipped into NFL oblivion. York managed to get a new stadium built in Santa Clara, but has been forced to give tickets away for free to 49ers games on twitter. Tickets were selling on StubHub for less than $14.
Since the unceremonious firing of Harbaugh, the 49ers have failed to garner interest from players or coaches. No one wants to work for that organization and I don’t blame them. As long as York is at the helm of this team, I do not see the 49ers going anywhere, which is sad. Men give their bodies to this game. They at least deserve a fair chance at winning something.