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On Thursday, CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist Pete Prisco crapped out a column in which he proposed that NFL players don’t deserve the $765 million concussion settlement they recently received from the league.
The piece truly sets a new low for sports “journalism”, starting with Prisco’s suggestion that he’s planning to sue his high school and Pop Warner league for concussions he suffered during his playing day, and ending with the notion that any debilitating injuries suffered while playing the game are for the greater good, since without the NFL, he wouldn’t have a job.
Last night, on his new ESPN program, Keith Olbermann decided to tear Prisco a new one, going through his article piece by piece and providing counterpoints in the form of former NFL athletes who had lost their most basic mental capacities as a result of injuries sustained while playing the game. Clocking in at just under 8 minutes, it’s a fairly swift and brutal takedown by Olbermann (who is often smug and condescending in his own right), but one that’s definitely worth watching:
Tampa Bay rookie head coach Greg Schiano has already come under a lot of fire this season for his questionable coaching tactics. Schiano’s insistance on thumbing his nose at coaching convention in his first year in the NFL – most notably by bull rushing the kneel down play at the end of games - hasn’t sat well with much of the league’s old guard.
Some have defended Schiano for playing to the final whistle and instilling mental toughness in his team, while many coaches, players and fans (us included) have flat-out labeled his coaching style as bush league.
But on Sunday, Schiano’s latest stunt may have finally cost his team the game.
During the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers 35-28 loss to the Saints, with Tampa Bay trailing 28-21, New Orleans set up for a 50-yard field goal attempt. But just prior to the snap, “the Bucs’ defensive line abruptly shifted and, according to Saints players, shouted in unison.” The move drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, keeping the drive alive for New Orleans and setting up a Pierre Thomas touchdown run just four plays later.
Considering that the Bucs were in position to tie the game on the final drive, those extra points (4 if the Saints had converted the long field goal, 7 if they missed) could have proved the difference between winning and losing for Tampa Bay.
Every year, we try to refrain from pulling a Tom Smykowski from Office Space, and jumping to any conclusions about the NFL season prematurely. In a sixteen-game season, it generally takes several games for teams to figure out their identity, and a lot longer than that to determine a realistic playoff picture.
So while it’s tempting to draw knee-jerk reactions from a couple of games, we at least try to wait until the quarter-point mark to start making our hyperbolic and definitive statements about the season ahead.
And even though many of these will undoubtedly prove wrong, we’re not afraid to draw these bold conclusions after just week four of the season.
So without further adieu, here are our top 5 observations on the 2012 edition of ol’ Jump To Conclusions mat:
True to his word, following last week’s game-ending controversy against the Giants and with his Buccaneers losing 16-10 to the Cowboys today in the final minutes, Tampa Bay rookie head coach Greg Schiano once again blitzed his opponent’s victory formation as Dallas ran out the clock.
In fact, this time the Bucs went after the snap three consecutive times, with Schiano calling a time out to act like a tough guy and scream at his players before the final attempt.
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE
Before the mics go silent, you can hear Schiano loudly shouting “I don’t give a f@ck what they think”. And since he knows the cameras (and all of his critics) are watching, Schiano then proceeds to coach harder than he had the entire game, tearing into his players as though it was the biggest play of their lives. He specifically went to extra care to make it seem as though he’s coaching technique to swipe at the snap before it reaches to the quarterback … as though this somehow would justify his “strategy”.
As expected, the Cowboys were fully prepared for Schiano’s tactics, and once again, it didn’t work. Despite the fact that the Cowboys’ center got blasted backward on each attempt (with the Bucs lining up offside on the last try), Tony Romo was able to cleanly field the snap … and Tampa Bay still lost.
Our final thoughts on all this: While Schiano is well within the rules for coaching his team to play this way (and will apparently get a lot of practice at it), no matter how you slice it, it’s still a bush league move. It’s the equivalent of getting your ass kicked in a street fight, and then when your opponent lets up and starts walking away, flailing wildly at his junk. There’s a small chance you’ll hurt the guy, but it’s definitely a cheap shot.
And regardless, you’re still a dick.
As the NFL pre-season kicked off in earnest tonight, with 12 teams getting their first taste of live action in 6 games, we were generally thrilled at the return of our favorite sport to our television sets. But that exuberence was quickly tempered by the painful reminder that these games are currently being officiated by amateurish, inexperienced replacement referees.
There is currently a big black cloud hanging over the 2012 NFL season, in the form of the ongoing labor dispute between the league and the NFL Referees’ Association. And it’s something the league needs to put an end to immediately. Roger Goodell says he’s comfortable with the replacement refs, and the league claims that the substitutes won’t affect the level of play on the field … but we”re not buying that for a second.
Without trying to overstate the seriousness of the situation, and in one of the rare instances we agree with current FOX analyst (and former NFL VP of Officiating) Mike Pereira, this lockout is a threat to the very integrity of the game we love.
Professional football is a multi-billion dollar business, and over the years the NFL has gone to painstaking measures (and financial expense) to put the best product possible on the field. And recently, they’ve been going especially out of their way to put up a pretense of protecting player safety. But for some inexplicable reason, Goodell seems perfectly content to let the quality of his product – and safety of his players – rest on the shoulders of a ragtag bunch of CFL, AFL, LFL (yes, Lingere Football League) and Division II/III referees.
Not surprisingly, this – like every labor dispute in history – is about money. The league is balking at giving the refs a comparable raise to the one they received in 2006, as well as letting the referees keep their pensions.
In an effort to present the viewpoints of passionate fans from around the NFL, ReadAndReact will occasionally elicit special guest commentary from some of the more rabid fans we know. We’ll ask them to share their thoughts on the biggest news stories of the day, unfiltered and without limit, for your reading enjoyment.
GUEST COMMENTARY FROM A JETS FAN
Ok, now that I have had time to take it all in … I am still a little confused. I just don’t get it.
Mind you, I have been a Jets fan all my life, and have continually been baffled by what the team does both in the off season and on the field. Being a Jets fan is always like living on a roller coaster of emotions. Something will happen to spark hope, a glimmer of greatness if you will (two consecutive AFC championship appearances). But then reality sinks back in and we end up with the same ol’ Jets! I thought that all of our off-season moves were going pretty well — signing valuable players and filling needed positions at safety and back up QB and then … BAM. Tebow time.
As a displaced Jets fan living in Denver, this was like the nausea that arrives after you have been swiftly kicked square in the nuts. It sucked. But theres nothing I can do so I am trying to see the value and not try to understand the “why”. One thought I just can’t shake out of my head is that Woody made the decision to fill seats and sell jerseys. I went to a few home games in New Jersey last year and the stadium was maybe three-quarters full. I know that Tannembaum and Rex are really pushing to “win now”, as it’s likely that their fates are in line with the success of this season, but picking up Tim Tebow doesn’t really seem like the team’s golden ticket.
That being said, maybe that was never the Jets intent. Maybe they just saw an opportunity to bring value to the team at little perceived cost. With the media surrounding Tebow and New York being what it is, maybe we are just blowing this whole thing way out of proportion. If the Jets made this move to get back, say, Brad Smith, no one would be making such a huge fuss about it. Brad was a QB in college and took over 10 snaps in wildcat formation in many games for the Jets. The big difference was his fit on special teams and in other positions. If Tebow is really willing to do what ever it takes to help the team like he said in his press conference he could prove to be very valuable for the Jets.
The major thing that is keeping me from jumping on the Tebow band wagon is the 4th and 6th round pick we traded away. Will the looks the Jets get with Tebow, combined with his unknown in special teams, be better than the other positions we could have filled in those spots? How bout some offensive linemen? Some pass-rushers perhaps? I guess the draft and the season are the only ways to tell, and it never does anyone any good to play the what-if game. He’s here, he’s a Jet, and now we can just wait and see.
John Elway dangled a tasty carrot and the former Colt bit.
Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest free agent of all time, has chosen the Denver Broncos as team he will ride into the Hall of Fame. The Broncos will now be the hottest team in the league this offseason, and billions of eyeballs will be glued to Mile High Manning this autumn. Elway lured Manning by promising to build players around him, and by letting him run his own offense in Denver, which should easily make the Broncos the team to beat in the AFC West. And with a 5-year, $96 million dollar contract, it seems clear that the Broncos and their team of doctors believe Manning is healthy, ready to play, and capable of making a run at the Super Bowl for the next half-decade.
As a lifelong Broncos fan, I can’t help but be excited about adding an all-world player to the squad. Especially a cerebral quarterback like Manning who is one of smartest to ever play the position. But immediately after the shock of the ‘Manning to Denver’ news set in, many of us in Bronco Country asked the obvious question … what about Tim Tebow? What about last season? Timmy’s magical run, winning 7 of 8 games and leading the Broncos to a thrilling OT playoff win at home against the Steelers. Tebow’s 80 yard “Tebomb” to Demaryius Thomas was by far the most exciting play by any Bronco since Elway’s “helicopter” in Super Bowl XXXII. Every single Broncos fan enjoyed that season, whether they approved of Tebow or not, and Denver seemed to be headed towards next season with notable momentum. It was truly spectacular, and many fans thought we had something special.
But now – almost unthinkably after you grasp what he did last season – the Broncos will show Tebow the door and welcome 36-year-old Manning to the team. Some Broncos fans and all of Tebow’s faithful feel betrayed, but the fact of the matter is simple: John Elway was never sold on Tim Tebow. He didn’t draft him, didn’t want him as the future of the team, and frankly, he didn’t believe in him. The ironic part for Elway was that Tebow went out last season and made A LOT of other people a believer. Not just Broncos fans, but sports fans all over the planet (as we witnessed with Tebow-mania) were hailing Tebow as the savior of the franchise. But Elway still wouldn’t publically give him the loving security fans thought he had earned. Now it makes since why Elway never backed him, because deep down he knew that Tim wasn’t his guy. He didn’t want to commit. Yet Tebow’s surprising success meant Elway was stuck with him, at least for this upcoming season, if not more if Tim kept winning. There was nothing Elway could do but wait it out and see if Tebow succeeded or failed.
Lucky for Elway, the QB Gods work in strange ways, and they sent Manning into free agency this off season… and it didn’t take long for the Broncos VP to connect the dots. Manning is only QB on the market that Elway can immediately swap for Tebow without disgruntling the Denver fanbase. This is the only logical way Elway can divorce the Broncos from Tebow in a way that looks like he’s making the right move, the smart move. He is choosing proven over potential, and you can’t really argue with that. Tebow did wonderful things for the Broncos last year, but Elway saw a way to get rid of him without being the villain and jumped at the opportunity.
We know how the first few weeks of the NFL off-season can be particularly brutal, as we adjust to having no football on Sundays to plan our lives around. Some have turned to the NBA, Linsanity and the impending charade of All-Star weekend to quench their thirst for sports, while others look toward March Madness, and still others eagerly await pitchers and catchers to report to spring training.
But there are those of us for which the NFL is really a year-round sport, and no substitute will do in its place. For us pro football geeks, we shift our attention to the upcoming draft and its annual predecessor, the NFL Combine. With the 2011-12 season behind us (and all but the Giants left with a bad taste in their mouth), hope now springs eternal for all 32 teams and their fans as they prepare to add a new class of young talent to their roster … and for some franchises, the annual hope and optimism that comes with the draft process is generally far more enjoyable than the reality that plays out during the season.
Next Wednesday, the football world will converge on Indianapolis to begin poking and prodding at this year’s prospects for the NFL Draft. Terms like upside, ‘tweener, body lean, footwork, long-strider, high motor, intangibles, football IQ, measurables and triangle numbers will become part of the sports lexicon as scouts attempt to determine which players have the best chance to become difference-makers at the next level. But far too often, these numbers from the combine – and the allure of potential over performance – overshadow a player’s actual ability on the field during his college career.
So we’ll be paying some attention to the happenings in Indy next week, and especially looking forward to the draft in April … but yeah, overall, this:
If you’d like to add your vote for this year’s Pro Bowl (one of sports’ least exciting all-star games), fans can do so through this Monday, 12/19 via the official ballot at NFL.com. And if you’re a Giants fan (or a particularly astute fantasy geek) you might notice two glaring omissions from the candidates at defensive end and wide receiver … namely, DE Jason Pierre Paul and WR Victor Cruz, who have each had breakout seasons at their respective positions for New York.
Pierre-Paul is currently 5th in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, while Cruz is 3rd in the league in receiving yards with 1,150, but neither are eligible for your votes to go to Hawaii. According to the Ralph Vacchiano of the NY Daily News, JPP and Cruz are victims of an antiquated voting system, and both were left off the ballot by the Giants organization, who were forced to make some difficult decisions based on the sheer volume of talent they have at certain positions:
Teams are only allowed a certain number of players at each position – two defensive ends and two receivers, for example. In some cases, there are other categories, such as a “flex” spot for either a running back or a receiver.
Since the Giants had to submit their players before October 25th, they put Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora as their two DEs, and Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham as their two WRs. For the flex position, they chose Brandon Jacobs after giving the RB slot to Ahmad Bradshaw.
Up until now, we’ve remained silent on the whole Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Mainly because we’re an NFL blog and it’s not professional football news, but also because the troubling subject matter is a little bit outside of our normally light-hearted sphere.
And there’s simply no way to avoid just how ugly and disgusting the whole affair is, especially as more and more details come to light. If you haven’t seen it already, the full 23-page Grand Jury report is available online, and it’s worth the disturbing read to get a full understanding of the exact nature & scope of the allegations against Sandusky by his victims. Of all the reprehensible details, it’s the idea that someone would utilize the very foundation he founded to help troubled youth (The Second Mile) as a feeding ground for his sexual perversions that truly makes the blood boil. And as despicable as Sandusky’s behavior was, it’s almost equally disturbing to see how the members of the Penn State University staff and football program seemingly helped to sweep it under the rug since at least 1998.
The guys at Deadspin have been all over this story, and one of the more troubling facts to come to light is that, as recently as 2009, Sandusky was running overnight football camps on university campuses. Which means that even though he had retired from coaching in 1999, and had previously been prohibited from bringing young boys onto the main Penn State campus (due to being caught showering with – and possibly sodomizing – a 10-year-old in an athletic building in 2002), he still managed to not only stay around the program, but create scenarios within the university where he would have unsupervised access to young boys.
Which brings us to the point of our story: During the summer of 1990, as a fresh-faced 16-year-old from Connecticut, I attended football camp at Penn State University, where I was coached by Jerry Sandusky himself.