With the 2009 NFL Combine getting ready to kick off this weekend, hundreds of players are currently in Indianapolis getting prepared to jump high, run fast, and throw hard.
Scouts for all 32 NFL teams will be intently watching to see which prospects showcase their talents the best, and which fall flat and disappoint.
The NFL combine is the start of a long journey for these young men. Players across the country gather to dazzle NFL teams and to boost their draft status. Post combine, some players are heralded as improving their stock; others are deemed to be the combine goats.
Regardless of who runs the fastest or jumps the highest, it should be said up front–do not fall in love with the measurables.
Sure, it’s easy to do. A running back projected to go in the third round runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and showcases unique agility and an ability to catch the football.
Ofter, these players will be regarded as “great athletes” by Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, and many other pundits.
That’s not to say that the combine cannot showcase an otherwise unknown talent for the entire league to see. Players come in and have great success in the league despite limited opportunities in college and great combine and pro day workouts.
But I keep thinking back to the 2005 draft. All the talk was about which running back would go off the board first–Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, or Ronnie Brown.
Brown went to the combine and ripped it up. Ran a great time, excelled in the drills, and looked to have an unique combination of speed and power. Brown improved his draft status, and was selected as the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Now, Brown is a solid back in the league. Solid. I wouldn’t say great by any stretch. He shares time with Ricky Williams, which is fine, as this is a popular trend in the league.
With that said, Brown has never had more than ten rushing touchdowns in his pro career. He gained 1,000+ yards just once. And while his average per carry is solid, he’s not an every down back. Per year, he carries the ball about 220 times every year.
As a comparison, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings carried the ball 368 times in 2008 for almost 1,800 yards. Peterson also shared a bit of time with Chester Taylor in the backfield. And though he had more success and a stronger body of work in college, Peterson was drafted seventh overall.
So buyer beware. If I were advising an NFL team, I would tell them that the measurables are great, but use it as a guide on draft day. Don’t live and die by the numbers these players amass as they work out in shorts and sneakers at the combine this weekend.
Is there any other player–outside of maybe Donovan McNabb–who gets more disrespect than former Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia?
There’s no question that Garcia is a sensitive guy–but you would be too if your job was consistently threatened despite your proven ability to play in the NFL.
First it was San Francisco. Garcia came in after a great career by Steve Young and took over the reins of the team in 1999. In 2000, Garcia exploded. That year, he threw for 31 touchdowns and just ten intcerptions. 2001 wasn’t shabby, either, as Garcia threw 32 touchdowns, twelve interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 94.8.
During the 2002 playoffs, Garcia was instrumental in helping to lead the 49ers back from a 38-14 deficit in the third quarter. The 49ers scored 25 unanswered points and went on to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Soon, the Garcia-T.O fued would heat up. Owens, not liking Garcia for some unknown (but most likely) selfish reason, questioned Garcia’s sexuality. Owens, discussing Garcia, stated, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it’s probably a duck.” Garcia would be incredulous, making public statements that he doesn’t know why Owens was bent on cutting him down so harshly.
Garcia would eventually land in Cleveland, where then head coach Butch Davis refused to let him roll out of the pocket and make audibles. His time in Detroit was equally disappointing in 2005.
The next year, Garcia found himself in Philadelphia, where he was able to resurrect his career. With McNabb suffering a devastating injury towards to end of the season, Garcia led his team through an improbable run of victories, and the team advanced farther than anyone thought they would in the playoffs.
But then Garcia was promptly released–the team didn’t even make an effort to sign him. In fact, the Eagles signed Jay Feeley to a contract to be the team’s backup, thus throwing Garcia back into the unemployment line.
Garcia was eventually signed by Tampa Bay, but Jon Gruden’s love for playing “musical quarterbacks” lead to frustration for Garcia. Garcia eventually stated publicly that his head coach didn’t like to marry quarterbacks, he just wanted to date them.
That was evident in Tampa Bay. Garcia was routinely yanked out of the lineup in favor of other quarterbacks on the roster.
This past week, Garcia was once again released by yet another team. At age 39, Garcia would like to still play and doesn’t have any plans for retirement.
But why is Garcia so disrespected? If anything, his inability to stick onto a team reminds me of Doug Flutie’s NFL career. Two small, scrambling quarterbacks who were never given any expectation of success. And despite their ability to lead and to win, they are still discounted. In Buffalo, Doug Flutie was pulled by Wade Phillips for the highly ineffective (and far too often sacked) Rob Johnson.
It could also be Garcia’s personality–he does seem like a sensitive guy. It’s possible that he clashes with certain coaches or doesn’t take criticism very well. But he’s proven that he can win in this league. And in a league where quarterbacks such as Tarvaris Jackson, Derek Anderson, Brodie Croyle and Dan Orlovsky all started at some point last year, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jeff Garcia doesn’t latch onto some team.
The Super Bowl concluded just seventeen days ago, but it feels like ancient history.
So goes life in the NFL.
With the season officially ended with final Pro Bowl game in Hawaii, the off-season is now in full swing. Team are getting ready for the scouting combine, which begins on Wednesday with workouts commencing on Saturday.
Big name players plan to show up, though some (such as Michael Crabtree and Matthew Stafford) obviously don’t plan to do much while on the field.
Then there’s free agency. Players such as Matt Cassell, Karlos Dansby and Shayne Graham have already been franchised. Others aren’t so lucky. The Bucs have released Jeff Garcia. The Jaguars said goodbye to Fred Taylor. Deuce McCallister is out in New Orleans and the Ravens have cut ties with cornerback Chris McCallister (no relation).
Expect more blood shed in the coming weeks.
Oh, there’s also movement outside of the league, too. Marshawn Lynch was arrested on gun possession. Apparently, Plaxico Burress is Lynch’s hero. Lynch has already been in trouble with the law–last time it was a violation with his car (bumping a cop with his vehicle). Clearly, some players never learn. If Lynch gets suspended, he might just spend some time with PacMan Jones.
Then there’s the Vick saga. It’s been reported that the Atlanta Falcons are actively shopping the rights of still incarcerated former quarterback Michael Vick. Vick’s status with the league is in limbo, as he’s currently suspended indefinitely. If he does return to the the league, it will be interesting to see how much protesting a given team will receive from PETA and fans alike. Then again, if Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, and Lawrence Phillips can get second chances, is it really out of the realm for Vick, too?
Regardless, the NFL off-season is starting to kick into high gear. And it’s quite possible that it will be just as exciting as Super Bowl 43.
I’ll admit right from the beginning that the FlyMaster is a bonafide Brett Favre fan. It’s not his stats, both the good and the bad, or his exciting and often nerve-racking plays. For me, Favre played football the way everyone should play games. He went all out all the time and was always having fun. Let’s face it, sports are games and games are meant to be fun. Bottom line. Nobody puts their 6 year old son in sports in the hopes of him becoming a Hall of Famer. And for those of you who do that, shame on you. No, we put our kids in sports so they can learn some values and also so we see them having fun. Pure unadulterated fun. As we age many of us lose that inner-child and we then stop playing games. Brett Favre never let go of that inner-child and played the game like a 6 year old at the highest level.
Favre, unlike so many other major sports icons, possesses an everyman quality. His wrangler commercials are believable. His battle against painkiller addiction and his dogged determination to always go to work made him more like us than any other icon from this era. It’s imagineable to see Favre getting an offseason job just to work for work’s sake. It’s plausible to walk into an Hattiesburg bar and see Brett at the end of the bar holding court over a pitcher. Can the same be said of Tom Brady? What about Tiger Woods? No way, those guys aren’t like us. They’re openly better, and that’s okay. Favre is the uber normal man. This week we’ve seen some pretty low stories with A-Rod and Phelps, but quietly the “boy-man” Favre left the sports spotlight and I highly doubt there is anybody who can step into his role.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
Today, it has been reported that Brett Favre has informed the New York Jets that he plans to retire.
This isn’t shocking. While Favre had some success in New York, the team tanked in December and blew a shot at the playoffs with a loss against Miami in week 17.
Coupled with that, Favre has been battling against a shoulder injury that may or may not need surgery, while some of his teammates have suggested that Brett’s penchant for throwing interceptions was a significant reason as to why the team finished so cold.
At least Favre did not drag out his decision. And with a decision now made, the New York Jets can finally move on.
With new head coach Rex Ryan, there are a few options for the team to pursue.
They already have Kellen Clemens, a young quarterback who has seen limited playing time. He appears to have a big arm, but his potential is completely unknown.
The Jets could also go after a veteran quarterback. It’s highly unlikely that the Jets would like to give up what’s needed to acquire Matt Cassell. It’s also highly unlikely that the New England Patriots would want to trade their young quarterback to a division rival.
Jeff Garcia could be available, but Garcia is almost the same age as Favre. There’s no future in acquiring Garcia, and his style of play is very specific. Garcia likes to be able to roll outside the pocket–something he wasn’t given as much leeway to do during his unproductive years in Cleveland and Detroit. Garcia would have to truly fit into a system perfectly, and with a new head coach, it’s hard to know what type of system Rex Ryan prefers on offense.
Then there’s Derek Anderson of Cleveland–an intriguing prospect. Though Anderson had a disappointing 2008, his 2007 season was off the charts. He’s only 25 years old, and has a rocket arm. On the right team, it’s possible he could flourish. His salary wouldn’t be as high as Matt Cassell, and he could probably be had for a third round pick. The only sticking point would be that former Jets coach Eric Mangini is now the head man in charge in Cleveland. Due to the seemingly bad blood between Mangini and the Jets front office, they wouldn’t want to be trade partners with each other.
Other options include Pittsburgh’s Byron Leftwich, Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, and even Vince Young.
In a year when the quarterback class isn’t as strong–both in free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft, it just might be a seller’s market.
This time last year, Hank Steinbrenner came out and stated that he didn’t “like baseball being singled out” when it came to the attention by media and congress over the steroids issue. He later commented, “Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know how they managed to skate by. It irritates me. Don’t tell me it’s not more prevalent. The number in football is at least twice as many. Look at the speed and size of those players.”
In the wake of A-Rod’s admittance of steroid use between 2001 and 2003, I do think it’s interesting to contrast why there seems to be a double standard between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and football.
I do think it is amazing that guys like Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison–two prominent defensive players in the NFL–can test positive for steroids/HGH and no one truly seem to care. Do football fans not care about the integrity of the game? Do fans and maybe even the media enable these players because they want to see brutal collisions on the field?
I do think, though, that there are a few differences between baseball and football in regards to this issue. Harrison, and to some degree, Shawne Merriman, admitted that they were wrong. They were willing to accept their penalties. That doesn’t make what they did okay, but these players and others did not break NFL policy and continue to lie about it time after time. They didn’t play the “he said, she said” game.
That’s not to say that some of the players in the MLB should admit guilt if they aren’t guilty. But, at least in the court of public opinion, they all certainly aren’t innocent. Barry Bonds? Palmeiro? Clemens? Maguire? Sosa? There is this “hush, hush” mentality among these big name players, and yet damning evidence mounts against them that would appear to seriously cloud their credibility. With A-Rod stating that he did indeed take performance-enhancing drugs–after a 2007 interview with Katie Couric where he flatly denied this claim–an entire era of baseball has an enormous blemish on it.
Another distinct difference between baseball and football in regards to steroids is the actual benefit. It is known that steroids can give you a boost in strength, muscle, and speed. HGH, a substance that Rodney Harrison was found to be taking this time last year, is widely believed to aid in the recovery of injury. When Harrison apparently took the drug, he was attempting to recover much quicker from an injury than he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Again, this doesn’t justify his actions.
But at the same time, we as fans cannot begin to fathom the wear and tear on one’s body that playing in the NFL induces. There are former players that have a hard time going about their day due to massive injuries. ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, a former offensive lineman, has admitted to having at least twenty knee surgeries. And some former players even suffer from dementia due to the brutal sport of football.
Another issue is the impact steroids has on the game of baseball and football. Baseball is much less of a team sport than football. Essentially, baseball is a pitcher versus a batter. If the pitcher is taking steroids which in turn allows him to throw the ball with a bit more velocity, that is an advantage. If the batter is utilizing steroids to allow him to hit the ball further, that could potentially turn a double play into a home-run. That is, most certainly, an advantage.
These factors decide games.
Can games really be decided by steroids in football, though? Does steroids help you read a defense better? Does steroids allow you to make every single tackle on the field? Does steroids give you the drive to study film, decipher signals, or enhance your vision to see the hole?
Football is a team sport. If one person–or for that matter, a few players–are using steroids on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I am not convinced that that is an advantage. It may make you a bit stronger. It may make you a bit faster. But, unlike baseball, I don’t think those benefits can make you and your team better. I’ve seen guys come into the NFL who are complete physical specimens (Former number 1 overall pick in 2000, DE Courtney Brown, springs to mind), and yet could barely crack the starting lineup.
Guys who are the strongest and fastest and yet their careers never take off due to injury, an inability to pick up the playbook, or a complete lack of heart.
Remember, you need the physical tools and talent in the NFL, but football is most certainly a mental game. Akili Smith and Michael Vick could throw the ball out of the stadium and into oncoming traffic on the highway, yet they were both mediocre quarterbacks.
I am not saying that players cannot and do not benefit from steroids in the NFL. In 2006, when Merriman was suspended four games for steroids, he still racked up 17 sacks in 12 games. That is an incredible stat. At the same time, in 2007, in just 15 games, Merriman still registered 12.5 sacks. That is a very good total, still. And while steroids may have contributed to Merriman being able to get around the corner and sack Peyton Manning a couple extra times, steroids absolutely cannot aid you if you bite on Manning’s play fake and he throws it over the top to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown.
Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that baseball is a numbers game. Home runs, batting averages and bases stolen–it’s what baseball fans care about, from age 8 to 80.
Quick, name me how many yards Emmitt Smith gained in his career? How many touchdowns did Jerry Rice retire with? How many sacks did Reggie White have? How many consecutive games has Brett Favre played?
Even the most die-hard NFL fan would be hard pressed to answer those questions.
Yes, baseball is about the numbers, and if a player is on steroids and has a chance to balloon his numbers into the stratosphere, that is something that the common baseball fan can’t stand. No one wants someone to eclipse Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth without knowing they did it the old natural way.
With the Presidential election over, and the excitement of primaries, caucuses, and delegates far behind us, some people may be in withdrawl. Whatever will you do without politicians verbally sparring with each other as they fight for the chance to be the next President of the United States?
There is, however, a solution. Afterall, nobody really watches the NFL Pro Bowl. Though it airs in beautiful Hawaii each year (though this year will be the last for the Aloha state), the actual game is boring. Players obviously play not to get hurt, and the game itself is, truly, more meaningless than the last exhibition game in the pre-season.
With that said, there may be a few reasons to tune in. Free agency is right around the corner, and many players playing in this game (Albert Haynesworth, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and more) will be free agents.
On ESPN’s NFL Live, Haynesworth was discussing his future. He said he doesn’t know what the Titans will do, but that he’s open to seeing what other teams show a strong interest in him. Haynesworth then picked up a Colts helmet, posed with it, and stated that he could see himself in Indianapolis.
Peyton Manning was soon interviewed and stated that the Pro Bowl really is like a campaign. Players from a given team will court a soon to be free agent–hanging out with them in Hawaii, going out to eat, etc–and then when free agency rolls around, that player has signed with that team.
Look no further than when Terrell Owens wanted out in San Francisco. In the Pro Bowl that year, he was getting quite friendly with Ray Lewis and Donovan McNabb. That off-season, he was traded to Baltimore (temporarily) before landing in Philadelphia.
Oddly enough, Houshmanzadeh has already expressed a potential interest in playing in Philly, as well.
One has to wonder, if this kind of politicking does indeed work, is it any wonder why the awful teams never seem to get better? Surely, it’s not all about camaraderie–money is the number one motivating factor. But, if there aren’t a lot of Detroit Lions players at the Pro Bowl to openly campaign to a popular soon-to-be free agent, one would have to assume that he would be less likely to sign there. Bad teams need all the more representatives present to showcase the organization in a good light. Afterall, it doesn’t take much convincing to sign with the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers. If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, however, one would probably want to hear from a few players on the team about why signing in Kansas City would be such a wise move.
And while it is ultimately about money, no player wants to be stuck in NFL Purgatory–also known as Oakland.
Since the Super Bowl ended, many pundits and fans alike have stated that James Harrison’s interception return for a touchdown was the greatest play ever in Super Bowl history.
It was an excellent play, to be sure, but best ever? While I appreciate that the interception helped prevent a Cardinals touchdown–and more importantly Cardinals momentum–I don’t regard that play as the best ever.
For starters, it happened at the end of the second half. This wasn’t with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Second, while an interception return for a touchdown is incredible, I’ve seen Ed Reed this season have more spectacular interception returns than the Harrison scamper down the sideline. In my eyes, that play was more of an indictment of Arizona’s inability to tackle a linebacker running out of gas.
I’d argue that Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopping Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson on the very last play of regulation in Super Bowl XXXIV was much better. The Titans needed a touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime. Mike Jones, a relative unknown, prevented Kevin Dyson from gaining the extra yard that he needed. Despite Steve McNair’s efforts on that drive, the Titans came up one yard short. Ironically, weeks before, the Titans had benefited from the Music City Miracle–a play that essentially came down to whether the lateral from Frank Wycheck to (oddly enough) Kevin Dyson was indeed a lateral or forward pass. Was it a yard forward or behind? Well, weeks later in the Super Bowl, it was clearly one yard short.
In my opinion, though, last year’s catch by David Tyree was the best in Super Bowl history. In fact, NFL Films President Steve Sabol wrote an NFL.com article about it last season.
The Giants were all that stood in the way of the Patriots being immortalized for all time. Down 14-10, it’s 3rd and 5 at the Giants 44 yard line. There’s one minute and fifteen seconds left in the game. Manning takes the snap and finds a way to elude the grasp of Jarvis Green and Adalius Thomas. Manning hails the ball down the middle of the field, and a wide receiver that nobody heard of battles with a Hall of Fame safety in Rodney Harrison. Tyree pins the ball to his helmet while falling backwards. He holds onto the football. First down, Giants.
Just four plays later, Manning hits Burress in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The rest is history.
For my money, that’s easily the best play in Super Bowl history. It had drama and significant ramifications, but more importantly, it left you in awe. After an entire year, I still cannot understand how 1) Eli Manning was not sacked, forcing an almost impossible fourth down attempt and 2) how David Tyree–who only caught four passes in the regular season and whom teammates stated was dropping passes all week in practice leading up the big game–could find a way to hold onto the football in such a tough, high stakes situation.
It wasn’t all bad.
While I certainly couldn’t tell you what each ad was hawking, a few made me chuckle. A couple made me laugh.
The commercial that featured a man getting thrown out of his office window while still sitting on his office chair was funny due to the surprise. A couple of the ads featuring the Clydesdale horses were cute. The commercial depicting snow globes hitting vending machines–and a old man’s crotch–was great and Alec Baldwin promoting Hulu was simply classic Alec Baldwin.
But, of course, many missed the mark. The ad featuring talking, dead flowers arrived DOA. And bad ads featuring people shouting about Hyundai’s and cheap GoDaddy ads (still don’t know what the site is about) trying to tease viewers with sex completely missed the mark.
And the Troy Polamalu ad? Mean Joe Greene can’t be happy.
But more than that, with America in the midst of the biggest economic crisis in decades, with people losing their jobs and unable to pay for college, you would think the ad companies would specifically aim for more funny commercials. They didn’t have to be gut busting, “fall out of your seat funny” advertisements–but funny nonetheless. I spent more time giving a slight smirk to almost all of the ads rather than genuinely laughing. I kept thinking that that it’s hard to believe that millions of dollars are spent on such uninspiring, unfunny ads.
The ads that stick most with people after the Super Bowl is over are often the ones that made you laugh. I guess that’s why I don’t really remember most of them.
Late last night, Mike Tomlin became just the second black head coach in NFL History to win a Super Bowl. There was no coverage of it. No press conference. No discussion of it during media day or after the clock read 0:00.
Just two years ago, Tony Dungy became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl.
In fact, Tomlin’s race didn’t seem to factor into any discussion at all by the media and fans alike. If anything, Tomlin’s age was a bigger eye opener. At just 36–and in his second year as head coach–Tomlin became the youngest coach to ever win a Super Bowl.
On NFL Network last night, Deion Sanders brought up the point that age seemed to trump race this year. Tomlin seemed happy that his race wasn’t a significant story regarding the Super Bowl, stating, “I’ll continue to get older, but I’ll always be black.”
In a post Barack Obama world, one would like to hope that this becomes a trend. That a black man or woman–or any minority–can ascend to the pinnacle of their profession and the surrounding discussion will pertain to the quality of his or her performance rather than the amount of melanin in his or her skin.
It is well known that Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney is a big Obama supporter. He also helped usher into the league the now famous “Rooney Rule”–which states that a team with a head coaching vacancy must interview a minority for the position. It’s certainly possible that Mike Tomlin’s race–along with his resume–helped open the head coaching door for him. Hired just two seasons ago, it’s not abundantly clear that Tomlin was the correct choice.
In that respect, the Rooney rule worked to perfection. It allowed a man who might otherwise get passed over for a promotion to get an extra look. It opened the door for him–but it was Tomlin’s job to walk through it and secure the position. And he did. And oddly enough, from that point on, race didn’t matter.
Not even after a Super Bowl victory on the first day of Black History Month.
Now that is the epitome of progress.