Sep 052012
 

The New York Giants broke the streak for defending champions opening the season in prime time at home by being the first Super Bowl champion to lose in nine attempts, as Tony Romo and Kevin Ogletree led the Cowboys over the Giants 24-17 Wednesday night. Ogletree had a career night, catching eight passes for 114 yards, two touchdowns, and a critical first down that sealed the win

The first half was a boring display, as neither team could move the ball effectively and both ground games were negligible. But DeMarco Murray had a strong second half, finishing the night with 131 yards on 20 carries.

A full slate of games is on tap for Sunday as the rest of the teams open the season.

Aug 092012
 

A week or so back, Jerry Jones shot off his mouth as usual. This time it was about “Beating the Giants Ass” when the teams face off to open the season in September. This of course set off a round of ESPN/Fox Sports/NFL Network/CNNSI talking heads debating or writing about whether his comments mattered or not. For as much airplay as this latest bout of verbal diarrhea garnered, there seemed to be just a many commenters asking “why in the hell does it matter?” The Boys have not been among the upper echelon of NFL teams since the mid 1990’s. Whether it’s the merry-go-round of coaches, overall mediocre drafting, dubious free agent acquisitions (Joey Galloway, Ryan Leaf, Pacman Jones) and outright terrible trades (Roy “The Legend” Williams, nuff said) there has been much more futility than success. How is it that we pay so much attention to a team that by all accounts should get as much airplay as the Seattle Seahawks, a team with a nearly identical winning percentage since 2000? Because the Dallas Cowboys, Americas Team sets the platinum standard for success and everyone knows it.

In 1979, while trying to come up with a title for an NFL Networks recap of the 1978 Dallas Cowboys, a VP at NFL films thought the phrase “Americas Team” would be catchy so he went with it. Since then, the Cowboys have become the NFL’s signature team. Although established in 1960, well after such founding fathers as the Bears, Packers and Steelers. The Boys captured America first by not only winning (20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966-1985), but winning with a panache that turned fans of the NFL into either supporters or haters. The Cowboys made NFL cheerleaders glamorous; they were the inspiration for the best football movie ever and their home field is worthy of screen time in not one but two television show intros (it’s the same show remade but so what). The Cowboys do everything better than the rest of the NFL. You want icons of morality and faith; they gave you Roger Staubach, Tom Landry and Troy Aikman. You want Innovation? How about the Flex defense, iconic stadiums the marketing of aforementioned cheerleaders and revolutionizing the identification of new revenue streams . And of course the Cowboy do bad better than anyone else. From Hollywood Henderson doing liquid cocaine during games, to Michael Irvin and Primetime doing every woman in sight to a freakin “white house” for recreational activities, nobody parties like the Boys.

Now lest you think I am being facetious with this piece, I am a lifelong fan and the fact is that sustained time in the public eye has made the Cowboys the biggest draw in the juggernaut that is the NFL. I believe it’s a combination of of our fascination with the rich (Dallas is the most valuable sports franchise in the U.S. and second in the world according to Forbes Magazine), our appetite for schadenfreude and our appreciation of sustained excellence (they own the record for most consecutive winning seasons). There are teams that burst onto the scene and catch the national eye for a while (Patriots, Saints, Colts) teams that enjoy radical ups and downs in popularity over decades (Packers, Steelers, Bears) but no team has held the nations interest for as long and consistently as Dallas.

In this summer of concussion lawsuits, bountygate and Robert Kraft, I’m pretty sure Mr. Goddell just wants people to focus on football. The fact is that win or lose, the national media, fanatics and casual fans will continue to tune into the Cowboys. This the type of sustainability the NFL needs and if we happen to get more Tony Romo backwards cap sideline time out of it, then so be it.

A Giant Fuss

 Posted by
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.

May 222012
 

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Head Coach: Andy Reid

Projected Starting Quarterback: Michael Vick

2011 Record:  8 wins, 8 losses (2nd in NFC East)

No postseason appearance

4th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 99 wins, 60 losses, 1 tie (4th in NFL)

7 wins, 7 losses in postseason

0-1 in Super Bowl appearances

0-2 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

New York Giants

Head Coach: Tom Coughlin

Projected Starting Quarterback: Eli Manning

2011 Record:  9 wins, 7 losses (1st in NFC East)

4 wins, no losses in postseason (Won Super Bowl)

8th in Total Offense, 27th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 88 wins, 72 losses (9th in NFL)

8 wins, 4 losses in postseason

2-0 in Super Bowl appearances

4-1 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

Dallas Cowboys

Head Coach: Jason Garrett

Projected Starting Quarterback: Tony Romo

2011 Record:  8 wins, 8 losses (3rd in NFC East)

No postseason appearance

11th in Total Offense, 14th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 86 wins, 74 losses (T-11th in NFL)

1 wins, 4 losses in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

5-3 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

Washington Redskins

Head Coach: Mike Shanahan

Projected Starting Quarterback: Robert Griffin III

2011 Record:  5 wins, 11 losses (4th in NFC East)

No postseason appearance

16th in Total Offense, 13th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 65 wins, 95 losses (T-25th in NFL)

1 wins, 2 losses in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

3-2 All-time in Super Bowl