Jun 232012

Greetings and a happy Saturday to all! The has been a very slow week at GiR, but of course with the exception of the bounty hearing and subsequent meetings it has been a slow week in the NFL.

Here at GiR Central we are still unpacking, as I ready for myself for another business trip this week. Unlike another football blogger, I have to maintain this NFL addiction with a non-NFL day job, which really gets in the way of just being able to think football 24/7. But the bank is insistent that we make mortgage payments, and who am I to argue? I rather suspect we have another light week come up, but I know there are articles on the way from some of our staff writers, and I am working on a rather fun one that I hope to get the chance to post while I am on the road this week. Plus, the Rat’s Widow is beginning the research on her weekly predictions, and that series promises to be a lot of fun.

I don’t know about anyone else, but watching Mike Florio at PFT flip flop on the bounty situation has been rather disheartening. I tend to think that, due to his legal training, Mike fixates on a single point, blows that point out of proportion, and then begins making broad generalizations based on that point. None of the key evidence in the Bountygate scandal has really changed, but Mike is now on the player’s bandwagon. For example, the debate is now raging over whether or not it was Mike Hargrove  who can be heard demanding payment after a hit on Vikings’ quarterback Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game. Now the thought is that it might actually be Remi Ayodele who made the comment, given that Ayodele was the player who hit Favre high on the play. Personally, watching the video I tend to think Hargrove actually said it twice and couldn’t be heard the first time, so he repeated himself to be heard. That’s why you see his lips moving, but then his head ducks briefly out of the shot at a key time. But even if it is Ayodele who said it, I will ask the question…

So what?

Even if the NFL investigator erred in identifying the correct player for the comment, Florio seems to be missing a basic point that should be a part of his legal training; there is a difference between making an error and making a substantive error. Even if the league erred in identifying the correct player, the fact remains that the comment, “Give me my money” was made on the sidelines following what was believed to be a game-ending hit on Favre. In my mind it doesn’t matter who said it; the comment remains proof that payment was on the table for a Saints’ player injuring Brett Favre. We don’t know how many players the NFL interviewed, or if Ayodele was one of them, but this is simply a case where the players and now Mike Florio are calling on technicalities to try to minimize or outright dismiss a case that on its face is compelling. Identifying the wrong player does not negate the case.

OK, enough on Bountygate, at least for the moment. I remain convinced that Roger Goodelll is going to stick to his guns, and to allow the case to play out in court if necessary. And then the courts can determine how important the technicalities are.

Other NFL items this week? There were only two that I took real note of. The first was that the Patriots re-signed safety James Ihedigbo, primarily a special teams player who was pressed into way too much playing time in a depleted secondary last season. And while Ihedigbo performed as well as he could be expected to, it was painful to have to watch him be tended to by trainers after what felt to be nearly every single play. Given the Patriots defensive improvements in the off-season, and the fact that  Steve Gregory seems to be fitting in to the Patriots’ system very well, I am not sure there will be room on the roster for Ihedigbo this season.

The other amusing gem was from San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. That’s right, the same guy who informed us that the 49ers should be Super Bowl favorites is back, with an even bolder proclamation. According to Davis, he will “be the best tight end to ever play the game.” That’s quite a mouthful there, Vernon. While there is nothing wrong with confidence, I am beginning to wonder if this guy isn’t a few fries short of a Happy Meal. First, Mr. Davis, you’re not even as good as the second best tight end for the Patriots. But then again, there are probably only a handful of tight ends that are as good as or better than Aaron Hernandez. But there is no way that he, or any other tight end (Jimmy Graham included) is better than Rob Gronkowski, and only Graham could be considered as good as Gronk at present. Davis has been in the league for six seasons and never broken the 1,000 yard mark in receiving. He has scored double digits in touchdowns once, and yet he’s ready to put himself up with the current great performers AND with legends like Mike Ditka. Riiight. Davis ranked 32nd in receptions last season, racking up 792 yards and 6 touchdowns on 67 catches. The best ever? He finished behind seven other tight ends just last season. Give it a rest, Vernon.

OK, with that out of my system, it is time to have a productive day at… you know… day job kinds of things. Damn bills. And I don’t mean the kind from Buffalo.


Jun 192012

Sometimes people just don’t know when to quit.

I think most football fans are just about sick of the Bountygate story and the continuing denials emerging from current and former members of the New Orleans Saints. It has already been established by Sean Pamphillon that Drew Brees, Scott Fujita and the NFLPA have worked together to seek to pin all of Bountygate on the coaches. Jonathan Vilma seems to have taken point on criticizing Roger Goodell and the NFL, but Drew Brees has been sure to get his shots in where he can. Such was the case this Monday on Twitter, where Brees wrote, “If NFL fans were told there were “weapons of mass destruction” enough times, they’d believe it. But what happens when you don’t find any????”

Drew Brees is making the comparison of Bountygate to the falsified evidence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Seriously.

Whether or not he believes the nonsense he is spewing, Brees is now elevating his hyperbole to a disturbingly alarming level. Where do we even begin to de-construct the myth that Brees is seeking to create?

Do we start with the ludicrousness of comparing a sports situation to a predetermined political decision by former President George W. Bush that resulted in an illegal invasion, the deaths of 4,409 American servicemen and women, and an estimated 109,000+ deaths overall? Does Drew really want to compare his alleged plight to the millions of people who had their lives ended or disrupted as a result of armed conflict? Really?

Even if you excuse Brees’ bravado, the pieces of information available to us prior to this week’s hearings as well as the information released yesterday simply do not support the idea that the players stand falsely accused. As I detailed on June 7,  the Saints had engaged in an historic use of bounties and had been repeatedly warned by the league to discontinue the practice. Players were documented as having contributed and receiving bounty money for various impact plays and a ledger was even found with proof of payouts to players. There is zero question that the Saints, over a long period of time (multiple seasons), maintained a pay for performance system that is explicitly forbidden under NFL rules. And the players were so brazen about the practice that in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Mike Hargrove (one of the players implicated in the scandal) can be heard running off the field shouting, “Pay me my money” after he believed that he had injured Brett Favre. Couple all of this with admissions from the New Orleans Saints and their coaches, and the assertions of Brees and others simply don’t add up. And that was before new evidence was released at the hearing yesterday.

To be sure, the NFL has entirely botched the release of supporting information. I am not sure where they are getting their advice on how to present a case, but they would be well served to take another approach. Although the NFL released only 200 pages of an estimated 500,000 page collection, much of the information released (according to Mike Florio at PFT) was in essence irrelevant. But a few key points were not, and Brees is not choosing to address these points because he knows damn well that it does not support his attempt to create a distraction to draw people’s eyes away from the facts of the case. But among the pieces of information released yesterday, we did learn that several players offered money to make plays on Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, and that this included Jonathan Vilma offering $10,000 for anyone who could take Favre out of the game.

Other evidence? One document noted that Charles Grant offered $10,000 for a quarterback takeout pool, while Scott Fujita and Will Smith both contributed money to what was known as a “general pool.” Darren Sharper also contributed money for Pick-6’s and QB hits. Another document had Vilma, Smith, and Grant down for contributions, as well as Scott Shanle, Leigh Torrence, and Troy Evans. An even more disturbing document tallied “Kill the Head” (undefined) totals in 2010, with Vilma leading the way with 62 tallies. And another document recorded the awarding of $1,000 to Roman Harper for a “cart-off.”

Finally, a slide included in the NFL’s presentation contained a photo of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” with the notation “Must suspect be delivered dead or alive?” Even the NFLPA knew this piece of information looked bad, as they referenced the photo as “a poorly chosen and ironic example to use.” That’s putting it mildly.

It is with all of this information in hand that Drew Brees wants us to believe that the evidence against the players is no better than falsified information that led to an American war. Riiiight.

Until recently, I saw the Bountygate scandal as an unfortunate blemish on a touching, feel-good story for the Saints and the city of New Orleans. But it’s never the crime that does the real damage; instead it is always the cover up. And that is the case here as well. The continued proclamations of unfairness by the NFL made by Scott Fujita, Janathan Vilma, and Drew Brees have, at least for me, forever tarnished the accomplishments of the Saints franchise and their Super Bowl win. I will stop well short of calling for an asterisk like many unthinking fans will, but it is simply unforgivable in my view for the players to continue acting like six year old children standing over a broken lamp proclaiming, “I didn’t do it.” When pressed, the six year old insists they didn’t do it and that they don’t know who did… it might have been the dog or the lamp fairies. Well Mr. Brees, there are no lamp fairies. And just like the 6 year old who eventually admits their misdeeds, I rather suspect there will be a long delayed but inevitable admission on the part of some of the players involved. Just because you can fight a public relations battle with the National Football League doesn’t mean you should.

Now Mr. Brees, please shut up and go stand in the corner.

UPDATE: Brees has apparently figured out that the WMD analogy was not a good idea. Five hours ago, he sent the following tweets:

– My WMD comment has nothing to do with politics or our brave military. Merely an analogy to show how media influences public perception

– I apologize if the WMD comment offended anyone. Especially our military. There is no one I respect more than our service men and women

At least he realizes that his comment may have been offensive. However, the tweet really was not critical of the troops, but could instead be interpreted as being critical of the Bush administration and/or seeking to trivialize an event that led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people. In any event, Brees has once again proven the adage that it is better to be perceived as a fool versus opening one’s mouth (or Twitter account) and removing all doubt.

Jun 182012

It’s good to be back after a busy moving day and Father’s Day weekend. Greetings to all of the dads out there; I hope your Father’s Day was as good as mine was.

Thursday we had the movers in to relocate all of Ghost Rat’s and Rat’s Widow’s possessions to our new home. We are going to be swimming in boxes for a while, but it’s nice to have all of the furniture in place and to be working on the punch list that we have started upon moving in. It has also been fun to get back into the groove of doing yard work, which I am already beginning to think is going to be an endless opportunity.

The first order of business though was getting the Gridiron Rats command center up and running, which I did with much success thanks to my friend who actually knows something about technology. My friend Matt built our new machine and set up our home network so that we could be back on the grid. See the accompanying picture of the new beast.

Then for Father’s Day, the Rat’s Widow bought us tickets to see my beloved Red Sox play at Wrigley Field on Saturday night. Even better, the Sox won on the back of six strong innings from Jon Lester, a good relief effort, and a two run homer from Salty. We had a fantastic Father’s Day breakfast Sunday morning at the Rise N Dine Pancake Cafe (amazing food) before heading home. We spent the afternoon working on the house before doing a Father’s Day cookout with my kids. All in all, I can’t imagine a better Father’s Day weekend, and even breaking my toe on Saturday didn’t interfere my ability to enjoy everyone’s expressions of love.

And this is why we haven’t had much on the site for several days… life happens. As it is a fairly uneventful time in the NFL right now, I am simply waiting on some of our writers to finish some new pieces, so additional content is on the way but it may be a somewhat slow week here at GiR. Thus, I will take this opportunity to renew a call for our readers to “Like” us on Facebook and share us with your friends.

A Giant Fuss

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Jun 182012

I have been very amused by the story coming out of Boston and New York over this past week surrounding the Patriots’ waiver claim of former Giants’ tight end Jake Ballard. The situation began innocently enough, with the Giants needing to make a decision about whether or not to maintain the emerging tight end, who was a solid contributor for the Giants last season, on their 90 man roster. The Giants knew that Ballard would not be able to play in 2012 as a result of the injury he suffered in the Super Bowl this past February, but they wanted to keep the talented player. Because Ballard is not yet vested, NFL rules require a player to be placed on waivers prior to being sent to the Injured Reserve list for the year if the team is not willing to carry him on the roster through the preseason. This can be a dicey proposition, since all other 31 teams get a crack at the player being waived – in this case Ballard. Then, if the player clears waivers without being claimed by another team, the player is welcome to sign back with the team that waived him and head to the IR for the season, ready to go for the following season. And so the Giants hoped to waive a very talented young tight end in order to retain his rights for 2013.

This was not a wise move by the Giants. The safer play would have been to carry Ballard against the 90 man roster limit until after training camp and just before the regular season, when they could have moved him to either the IR or the PUP list. Sure it would have cost them a roster spot in the meantime, but that seems well worth it for a guy that caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns. Instead the Giants gambled that no one would place a claim on Ballard, while tempting every other team to claim a bright young prospect. Which is exactly what the New England Patriots did.

The Patriots claimed Ballard off of waivers, willing to pay the $540,000 needed to secure Ballard’s services for 2012 and giving up a roster spot that will eventually be claimed back before the start of the new season. The Giants cried “foul”, citing the “unwritten rule” that teams don’t place waiver claims when they know that the team placing the player on waivers still has an interest in him.

Giants’ Head Coach Tom Coughlin tried to reflect his bitterness without specifically targeting the Patriots.  When asked about the claim, Coughlin replied, “Discouraged is a minor description. Very disappointed. I don’t have a lot to say about that. Just the fact that we’re disappointed. Very disappointed.” When asked why the Giants didn’t just carry Ballard for another two months, Coughlin replied, “Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t have the answers for you. We’re all disappointed. That’s all.”

It took veteran quarterback Eli Manning to call out the Patriots for having done something wrong. When asked about the loss of Ballard, Manning replied, “Obviously just shocked. I knew because we were going to put him on IR — kind of just the rules of how things go before you put someone on IR who is not vested — we had to waive him thinking no one would pick him up because of his injury and probably not being able to play this year. And the Patriots of course kind of sweep in and steal him from us.”

Steal? Really, Eli? Is that your final answer, or do you want to phone a friend on this one?

Bill Belichick summed the situation up well when the question was put to him. “There aren’t any unwrittens,” Belichick said. “You can’t negotiate a contract, release him, and then re-negotiate another contract with him that was already done in advance.  I’m sure the Giants weren’t doing that.  So the player is on waivers, he’s on waivers — ours or anybody else’s.  I don’t know what unwrittens you’re talking about.”

The claims by Coughlin and Manning that they are shocked or that they feel the Patriots stole from the are preposterous. The primary reason why the unwritten rule exists is that because in most cases when a host team places a player on waivers, the player is simply not good enough for other teams to take note and/or the player being waived simply doesn’t factor into their plans. Thus, if the Patriots place wide receiver Britt Davis on waivers between now and the regular season, maybe another team will take notice and maybe they won’t. And perhaps the Patriots would be simply trying to slide Davis through to get him to the practice squad, but they would be taking the same risk that the Giants took that no one else was interested in Davis. That’s the way it works with players of Davis’ caliber.

Now imagine that Drew Brees got hurt, and the Saints decided that they really didn’t want him eating up a roster spot prior to the regular season. Or imagine that the Lions had tried to do a similar thing with Barry Sanders back in the day. Does anyone really believe that all of the other teams in the NFL would pass on talent like Brees or Sanders because it would be concerned as bad manners and aviolation of unwritten protocol? Puh-leeeze.

To be sure, Ballard is no Brees or Sanders. But he does represent a notch above a Britt Davis. This is a guy that is a young talent and proven NFL contributor, and the Patriots got to see him first hand before an injury took him out of the Super Bowl. Ballard represents that middle tier of player that is a lock to be on an NFL roster, but not yet a star. It was therefore silly (or stupid) of the Giants to conclude that everyone else would take a pass when provided the opportunity to improve their roster, even if Ballard is unavailable for 2012. And the New England Patriots are the masters of thinking about roster management in the long-term. Ballard can’t play in 2012? No problem… he can still provided intelligence about the Giants in case there should be a Super Bowl rematch. Far more importantly, Ballard provides insurance in the event that Gronkowski suffers a serious injury that sidelines him in 2013, or if there is an injury to Aaron Hernandez. And given that the Patriots tight ends are a nearly unstoppable part of their offense, Ballard’s return in 2013 offers the potential of 3 tight end, 1 running back, 1 receiver offensive sets that will terrorize opposing defenses. Ballard is not better than either Gronk or Hernandez, but he would be a wonderful complement in addition to being insurance against injury or holdouts.

In the final analysis, the New England Patriots simply outwitted the New York Giants by calling their bluff, and now the Giants and some of their fans are whining like kids who had their favorite candy taken away. While the Giants have bested the Patriots twice in recent Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots maintain their shrewd team management practices and continue to establish themselves an ongoing threat to win the Super Bowl. The Giants finished 9-7 last season and while they are a very good team, they are not even prohibitive favorites to win their own division this season. In the meantime, the Patriots engaged in significant improvement of their own roster during the off-season and moves such as claiming Ballard demonstrate they are always focused on future improvement. The Giants may be Super Bowl champions, but it appears they have something still to learn about roster management. Perhaps their attention should be more focused on learning that lesson and less on whining that the Patriots did something wrong.

Jun 122012

I have never been a fan of Terrell Owens. I say this with no spite, anger, or personal animosity toward the man. Instead, I’ve reached my conclusion based on nothing more than observation and fact. My first exposure to Owens was during his now infamous midfield touchdown celebration at Cowboys Stadium. At the time (i.e. prior to YouTube), it was the most selfish act of immaturity and poor sportsmanship I had seen. In his subsequent moves to the Eagles, the Cowboys, his cup of coffee with the Bills, the Bengals, and lest we not forget the Allen Wranglers, neither Owens on the field performance nor off the field shenanigans gave me reason to respect him as an athlete or a man.

On May 8, 2012, Owens took his carnival act to the set of the Dr. Phil Show where he was confronted by three women, each alleging he fathered their child and was delinquent in paying child support. As the show progressed, a tearful Owens confessed had fathered four children with four different women, owed $20,000, $13,400, $11,200, and $5,000 respectively in monthly child support payments, and was nearly broke after having poorly invested or squandered almost all of the $80 million he earned during his professional career.

For those of us who follow professional sports with any degree of regularity, Owens story isn’t new. In fact, for us cynics, Owens situation does nothing more than make him an honorable mention for the NFL Frequent Impregnator Team. Should you have forgotten the starting line up allow me to refresh your memory. Team captain, Travis Henry, once a stand out running back for the Buffalo Bills, has sired eleven children with ten different women. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is believed to have fathered nine children by eight women in six different states. Cromartie’s child support obligations became such a financial burden the Jets gave him a $500,000 advance on his new contract. Ray Lewis is rumored to have six children with four different women but you didn’t hear that from me. I want to live. Former Lions wide out, Charles Rogers allegedly has five children by four women, none of which were conceived on a Sunday or Monday. I know this because I watched a lot of NFC North football during Roger’s playing days and not once did I see him produce on Sunday afternoon or Monday night. (Hey, hey!)

NFL athletes are not alone when it comes to finding themselves in these circumstances. Similar examples can be easily found throughout the world of sports. Professional boxer Evander Holyfield, for instance, has 42 wins, 10 losses, 2 draws, 1 and ½ ears, and 11 children (9 illegitimate). Former NBA player and current Milwaukee Bucks coach, Scott Skiles, is thought to have six illegitimate children. MLB journeyman Vlad Guerrero has four kids by four women.

Moral judgments aside, having a child is expensive. Having multiple children with multiple partners is crazy expensive. In State of Illinois, the minimum child support payment for one child is 20% of the supporting parent’s net income. Two children is 28%. Three children is 32%. Four kids equals 40%, 5 kids is 45%, and 6 or more children is 50%. Again, these percentages are the minimum and rarely the court ordered norm, especially for a professional athlete. Regardless if you’re making $10.5 million a season or $10.50 an hour, child support obligations can create a substantial financial burden no matter the lifestyle.

Couple these financial demands with bad investments, frivolous spending, predatory friends/family members, and ill-qualified “financial advisors” and it is no wonder Sports Illustrated found that 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or insolvent two years after they are out of the league.

There is no better illustration of this point than former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. In 2004, McAlister signed a seven-year, $55 million dollar contract extension. Unemployed since 2009, today McAlister lives in his parent’s home unable to financially support himself, let alone pay the $11,000 monthly child support obligation to his ex-wife.

While the repeated acts of bad judgment by Owens, Henry, Cromartie, and others grab the headlines, let us not allow the circumstances of a few taint our perception of the whole. For a vast majority of professional football players, the typical talk around an NFL locker room is in many ways no different than the typical talk around the office coffee machine. Fortunately for us desk jockeys, Bob from Accounting shows up to work in a pair of khakis and tie, not an ill-fitting bath towel and flip-flops.

As long as there is someone to listen, fathers in both work environments will boast to one another about their son’s little league team, their daughter’s ballet recital, or their baby’s most recent developmental milestone. They will conspire with each other how to scare 15 year old boys away from their 13 year old daughters, brain storm on ways to still be “cool” in the eyes of their teenaged sons, and, most importantly, show up to work each day in an effort to provide for their children out of sense of personal responsibility and love, not because a television psychologist says so.

Flip Stricland will be a monthly contributor to GiR, and is a professional football meteorologist.

Jun 122012

I should have seen it coming.

Last week I posted the Rat’s Tale with the joke that Chad Ochocinco would end up playing for the New York Jets. I should have known it would be the Miami Dolphins. Why does this move make perfect sense? Several reasons.

1. Ocho gets to be on Hard Knocks this season. Is that perfect, or what?

2. Miami is Ocho’s hometown.

3. Ocho will get to visit both New England and Cincinnati this season as a member of the Dolphins. If he makes the roster.

4. The Dolphins agreed to Ocho’s demand that, since he had such a hard time learning the playbook in New England, they will give him all of his route assignments on an Etch-a-Sketch in the huddle.

OK, so I made the last one up… maybe. But it seems like a match made in heaven for Ocho and Stephen Ross, who has to rank among the top three in the clueless owners category. As an added bonus for Chad, he will even get to wear the number “85.”

To Chad’s credit, he worked hard and kept his mouth shut (for the most part) in New England, but I rather suspect that being on Hard Knocks is going to be like putting a candy bar in front of an 8 year old; it will be just too good to refuse, and Chad’s natural personality will come out. I have already decried having the Dolphins on HBO this season, and said I am not likely to watch. Sending Chad to Miami either makes me want to rubber-neck an accident scene, or get rid of HBO altogether. But since HBO carries Game of Thrones, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

On a side note, the move is going well, though I am sore. Tomorrow is a cleaning and packing day at the old place and Thursday is the actual move, so I will be (mostly) without internet the next two days. But we’ll be back with a passion this weekend. I have two pieces under development that I want to get posted, and I know other writers have material on the way as well. Stay tuned!

Update: If you haven’t yet done so, please read Flip Stricland’s inaugural article dealing with NFL players and child support. Great piece, and indicative of what we hope to bring to our readers.

Update (6/13/12): WE HAVE THE INTERWEBS!! Amazingly, Comcast showed up early to do the internet install and we are good to go. What I lack however, is time. Oh well… one step closer to having this move be done. On a related note, the DirecTV installer is here… Sunday Ticket, baby!!

Jun 112012

Tedy Bruschi is without doubt my all-time favorite NFL player. Here is a guy that was not predicted to succeed in the NFL and morphed himself (with the help of Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick) from an undersized defensive end into one of the most successful and popular linebackers in recent memory. From a guy who was cut from the Patriots on repeated occasions, Tedy played in five Super Bowls and won three, and was considered one of the key leaders during New England’s dynasty run. He suffered a stroke, but then rehabilitated enough to come back and continue playing at a high level before finally retiring on his own accord to begin a career in broadcasting. Further, this is a guy who negotiated his own contracts in New England, sitting down with management to strike deals that benefited both sides. Therefore, Tedy knows about leading and what it takes to be successful, and he probably has advice for other players that they would be wise to hear.

It is for all these reasons that I took note of Bruschi’s recent comments directed at Tim Tebow, suggesting that the Jets would benefit a great deal from a little more “shut the hell up” (my quote) from Tim.  Speaking on ESPN’s NFL 32, Bruschi said, “Stop talking to the media so much. You need to disappear, okay, Tim Tebow? You’re not the starting quarterback, it’s Mark Sanchez’s team. I want my voice to come from my head coach and my quarterback — my starting quarterback. That message has to be consistent… I want one voice. One quarterback, not two…”

There is a lot of wisdom in Bruschi’s comments, which were supported by Damien Woody, now also an ESPN analyst and former center and guard for the Patriots, Jets, and Lions. Every time Tebow speaks as a backup quarterback (or punt protector if you prefer), he is competing with Mark Sanchez for being the voice of the team. Every time he speaks about “competition,” despite having already been named the backup, Tebow unwittingly (or in a very calculated way) sows the seeds for quarterback controversy. Despite the media demand for Tim Tebow, the Jets will benefit more from having a backup quarterback who says and does all the right things for the team, such as deferring to Sanchez and (Head Coach Rex) Ryan. By going the modest route, Tim earns fan respect and (more importantly) teammate respect, and doesn’t cause the same dissension that led to quarterback controversy in Denver. And by doing so, if Sanchez falters or is injured, Tebow can step forward and claim the position as his without giving the appearance of having orchestrated a coup.

Yet for all the reasons why taking a low-profile approach might make sense, it is destined not to happen in New York (Jersey). First, the Jets seem to enjoy attention and controversy, and I sincerely doubt that any players or coaches will rein Tebow in. There is no respected veteran presence in the Jets’ locker room that is on par with what Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Rodney Harrison brought to the Patriots during their run. And Ryan is the polar opposite of Belichick; he is far less of a control freak and far more of a guy who wants to be a player’s friend. And all the while Tim Tebow is sitting back and enjoying this, calculating that by being over the top in his excitement and passion while cultivating love in his Tebow-maniac fan base, he will once again be able to push aside a starting quarterback through the combination of strength of will and less than perfect incumbent play. The simple fact of the matter is that he is probably right. Mark Sanchez is prone to both mental and physical lapses, and is in the bottom tier of starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He is a low-hanging fruit for the likes of Tebow, and the installation of a new offensive system and a new offensive coordinator (not to mention new wide receivers) does not bode well for Sanchez’s immediate future. This is why Bruschi’s advice, while on the mark, won’t be heeded.

For Ryan’s part, he continues talking up Mark Sanchez, and the fact that last season wasn’t all Sanchez’s fault (it wasn’t) and that Sanchez won four playoff road games over two seasons. But Rex is making a weak case, and I think in the back of his mind he knows it. Those four playoff victories resulted in zero AFC Championship wins, zero Super Bowl appearances, and zero Super Bowl wins. Ryan (and Sanchez) can only survive for so long on the past, and a slow start to the 2012 season could make those playoff wins seem even further away than they already are.

We are in a quiet period now, with some of the Jets assembling in California to do some off-season work, but this topic will pick up again in training camp. And then the media will pick apart how both players perform in the pre-season and who sees how much time, and the debate  over who should start will begin to simmer. And while the Jets have a soft schedule in 2012, the front end of the schedule is not an easy one. Before you know if, the Jets could be sitting at 1-4 and the cries for the coronation of King Tebow will be in full throat.

I see this as a reasonably likely outcome in New York this season, though Tebow is far less likely to duplicate last year’s success and playoff run if he can assume the helm. The AFC East isn’t nearly as wide open as the AFC West, and the Jets don’t look likely to contend with the Patriots or the Bills in the East, nor with the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals for a wildcard spot. But it is entirely possible that the 2012 season will end with Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez on their way out the door, and a new group of front office staff and coaches will have to contend with the same question that John Elway and John Fox had to struggle with at the end of last season. And this time there won’t be another Peyton Manning available to bail them out.

UPDATE (6/12/12): As if on cue, Rex Ryan needed to protest, perhaps too much.

Jun 082012

Happy Friday, everyone!

It’s a slow day on GiR; it seems lots of our folks are already away for the weekend, and day jobs have kept the rest of us from attending to our other website duties. Please note the new artwork that is accompanying this column, which is courtesy of my 12 (nearly 13) year old daughter. We are both big fans, so it is only fitting that GIR should accompany our site.

NFL shorts:

1. Rob Gronkowski got an offer he couldn’t refuse. The Patriots rarely rip up rookie deals, but Gronk has so clearly outplayed his rookie deal that the patriots wanted to be sure that he didn’t hit the open market anytime soon. For his part, Gronk is taking the sure money now. It’s possible that he could have gotten more elsewhere if he was allowed to hit free agency, but it’s also possible that another injury to Gronk might limit his effectiveness and cost him a lot of money down the road. The Pats protected themselves with a $10 million escalator, but that is an issue for another day, or another few years. In this case, both sides can claim a win.

2. For the record, Darrelle Review wants you to know that he wants to retire as a Jet. As long as the Jets allow Revis to hold them hostage with constant re-negotiations. So what Revis should have said was, “I want to retire a Jet, as long as the organization keeps kissing my butt.”

3. Ocho got cut because, after all this time, he still didn’t know the playbook.

4. The Saints finally have a new offer on the table to Drew Brees, and some have suggested that a deal is imminent. That’s a good thing, because I am still trying to figure out how and why the organization has taken this long to pay the man.

5. Santonio Holmes threw a tantrum in practice. Get your popcorn ready.

Quick GiR notes:

1. I hope people got to read the introduction from Rat’s Widow. My soon to be spouse has decided to join us, and I couldn’t be happier. It should bring a completely different perspective to this site, and maybe even attract other football widow/ers.

2. Just a reminder that I am moving my base of operations next week, so Wednesday through Friday may be light days. I’ll still be on and moderating posts, but may not be able to chime in much during that period of time.

3. We are still in a slow football period, as training camp is still down the road, and football news is usually slow. However, the lockout of NFL officials promises to dominate summer conversation, and I know we will be paying close attention at GiR.

4. We will also be introducing some new writers soon. Like Gandhi but Taller is busy writing, as is Flip Stricland. Two other people are planning to join the team and last night a third (and… gasp… a Jets fan!) expressed interest. The list continues to grow.

5. Finally, if you are reading our site, please share this with others, and please like us on “Facebook.” Social media and word of mouth is our biggest draw for the initial launch, though I will be posting Facebook ads as the summer goes on.

Have a great weekend, and keep checking back for more new pieces from our contributors.

Jun 082012

I am Rat’s Widow, soon to be married to Ghost Rat, and not a huge football fan. I enjoy drinking beer, eating wings, and shouting expletives at the tv as much as the next girl. I just don’t have an investment in who is playing, let alone who wins. I watch the Superbowl exclusively for the commercials. While others are drafting their fantasy football teams, I try to get a laugh by telling people that I have a “fantasy” fantasy team–it only exists in my imagination. Or at least that’s how it was until last season. I suffered an incidental exposure to both an acute and chronic condition that I have come to know as “New England Fever”. Symptoms include: bad call-induced Tourette’s syndrome, voice volume increase, psychomotor agitation, pacing, post-loss depression, compulsion to blog and the delusional belief that one can transmit messages through the television to NFL players and coaches. If left unchecked, New England Fever results in death…of the relationship. Without intervention, I was to become A FOOTBALL WIDOW!

In all fairness, Ghost Rat warned me that he loved the Patriots, which I greatly underestimated. He doesn’t quite elevate to the level of Jimmie Fallon’s character’s love of the Red Sox in the movie Fever Pitch, or at least he is waiting to bust out the Pats sheets and towels until after the wedding. When I watched the man I love transform into a raving lunatic (sorry, honey) during the first game I watched with him, I came to some realizations, not the least of which being the need for a CPR refresher just in case another Pats turnover actually sent him into cardiac arrest. I realized that we actually had common ground when it comes to the NFL, namely our mutual love and respect for Tom Brady. His admiration is based on Brady’s talent, his unwavering commitment to excellence and precision on the field, and the professional manner in which he conducts himself off the field. Mine has everything to do with the cuteness of his butt….

When the Ghost Rat told me that he had the idea for Gridiron Rats, I admit I rolled my eyes. When I saw his enthusiasm, as well as that of his friends and fellow contributors, I got on board and thought of how I, a football widow, could contribute and get in on the fun. Then it hit me– WIDOW’S PICKS!!

Each week, along with the well thought out and well researched picks of the regular Gridiron Rats contributors, I, too, will submit mine. Maintaining a sense of humor is critical in successfully coping with chronic illness, so my picks will serve as my balm to soothe the symptoms of The Fever. They will be based on a different criteria every week, which will be clearly explained. In the end, it is entirely possible that my picks will prove to be as good as, if not better than, those made by these die hard fans. I guess we’ll just have to see…

Ghost Rat’s response: I plead guilty as charged. With respect to Widow’s Picks, the Rat’s Widow will indeed be joining us as we note our picks each week, so please tune in to see if she beats the pants off of the “experts.”

Jun 072012

READERS PLEASE TAKE NOTE – The Rat’s Tale column will be a recurring piece on our site that is a FICTIONAL football story. This is parody, not reality.

Jets sign receiver quartet

The New York Jets today announced the signings of wide receivers Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, and Plaxico Burress to one year contracts. Each will make $2 million for the 2012 season.

According to Head Coach Rex Ryan, the Jets have little to lose in these signings. “We figure we have two quarterbacks that aren’t worth crap, so we might as well provide them with receivers that aren’t worth crap either. I know we have been asked about bringing in such head cases, but we figure our team chemistry probably couldn’t get worse, and if it does we know that Plax is probably packing heat.”

In an unrelated move, the Jets have inquired with the Jacksonville Jaguars about trading for wide receiver Justin Blackmon and are considering a futures contract for former quarterback Ryan Leaf, pending his future release from prison. When asked about the signings, Jets’ owner Woody Johnson said, “I didn’t want to talk about Darrelle Revis’ contract anymore, so this seemed to be the easiest way to go.” Tim Tebow responded to our request for comment by simply telling us that he “is excited.”