Sep 032013

John ElwayGhost Rat’s note: Are you sensing a trend yet? Another article, another prediction of a third Lombardi trophy in the Mile High City. In Brod’s case. hope also springs eternal for Tony Romo and the boyz, as Brod sees a deep playoff run for Jerry Jones’ crew coming this season. One thing for sure; the NFC East is up for grabs, at least for three of the four squads (sorry, Philly).

New England124
New York Jets214
Kansas City88
San Diego88
New York Giants88
Green Bay97
New Orleans106
Tampa Bay79
San Francisco115
St. Louis610
AFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Houston over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Cincinnati
Divisional Round
Denver over Houston
New England over Indianapolis
AFC Championship
Denver over New England
NFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Dallas over Atlanta
Seattle over Detroit
Divisional Round
Dallas over New Orleans
San Francisco over Seattle
NFC Championship
San Francisco over Dallas
Denver over San Francisco
Dec 082012

Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown died in a car crash early this morning in Irving, Texas. The car was driven by Dallas nose tackle Josh Brent, who has been charged with intoxication manslaughter in Brown’s death.

According to a report released by Irving police, Brent was behind the wheel of a car at 2:21 a.m. when it hit a curb, causing the vehicle to flip at least once before coming to rest in the middle of a service road. When officers arrived on the scene, Brent was responsive and able to speak. Brown, 25, was unresponsive and transferred to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

It turns out that this is not Brent’s first run in with law with regard to driving under the influence. The University of Illinois product and native of Bloomington, Illinois was sentenced in June 2009 to two years probation and 60 days in jail as part of a plea deal from a DUI arrest in Champaign County, Illinois.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of this accident and the passing of Jerry Brown,” Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. “At this time, our hearts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with the members of Jerry’s family and all of those who knew him and loved him.”

Brown, a St. Louis native, was signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad earlier this season. He was also Brent’s college teammate at Illinois.

As we have previously noted at GiR, the problem of DUI is one that has blown up in the NFL’s face this season. This is at least the fifteenth incident involving active NFL players, and is the first this season to result in a fatality. Whatever the NFL thinks it is doing about the problem of DUI and its players, it isn’t working.

Week 8 Recap

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Oct 292012

Another Sunday, another wild slate of games in the NFL. The theme of this week’s outcome is job security, or in some cases the lack of job security for key coaches and players. There’s still half a season left to play, but some themes are beginning to take shape.

Here are your results from Week 8:

  • The Buccaneers whip the Vikings 36-17 and show that they may not yet be a serious playoff threat, but are a dangerous team to play; Doug Martin has a huge game with 135 yards rushing while Josh Freeman is effective in throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns
  • Da Bears edge the Panthers 23-22 with late rally in ugly win on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould; Ron Rivera edges closer to the door depite a game effort from Carolina
  • Yes, it was played in the slop, but Norv Turner’s job security hangs by a thread after the Browns upset the Chargers 7-6; Trent Richardson runs for 122 yards in a solid outing
  • Matthew Stafford finally looks like Matthew Stafford for a week as the Lions edge the Seahawks 28-24 behind 352 yards and three touchdown passes by the Lions’ quarterback; Jim Schwartz moves off of the hot seat while Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch look good in last minute loss
  • The Packers struggle against the Jaguars’ defense but emerge with a 24-15 win; Blaine Gabbert outduels Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers earns the win
  • The Dolphins help edge Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez closer to finding a new color with a convincing 30-9 win; Reggie Bush wins the war of words and the game; perhaps the Jets should be apologizing to their fans
  • Andy Reid and Michael Vick updating their resumes after Matt Ryan and Julio Jones team up to whip the Eagles 30-17; Falcons now 7-0
  • Ben Roethlisberger, Jonathan Dwyer, and swarming Steelers defense halt RG3 and the Redskins 27-12
  • Patriots light up the Rams 45-7 as Brady is sharp and Ridley surpasses 100 rushing yards again; defense improved as both teams head into bye week
  • Andrew Luck and Vick Ballard connect for beautiful game winning touchdown in overtime as the Colts beat the Titans 19-13; so much for thinking that Matt Hasselbeck would claim the starting job back from Jake Locker
  • Raiders top the Chiefs 26-16; Brady Quinn’s reign lasts twelve and a half minutes while Darren McFadden rushes for 112 yards
  • Giants win a wild one as the Cowboys commit six turnovers in a 29-24 loss; Jason Garrett and Tony Romo now 3-4 and will no doubt evoke some reactions from Jerry this week
  • Broncos crush Saints 34-14 behind big performances from Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and DeMaryius Thomas; worst defense in the league just gets worse for the Saints
  • still to come: San Francisco – Arizona
Sep 182012

I watched the Falcons beat the Broncos 27-21 last night and marveled at the defensive game plan put together by the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They confused Peyton early and often to stake the Falcons to an early lead and then held off the late Manning surge to escape with a hard fought victory last night. I noted that running back Michael Turner didn’t exactly have a great game last night, rushing for 42 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.

What I didn’t know was that Turner’s night was about to get a whole lot worse.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Falcon’s running back was arrested early this morning for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Turner was allegedly driving his Audi R8 97 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-85 northbound near Indian Trail Road just after 4 a.m.

Turner of course is now entitled to his legal process and presumption of innocence, and this article isn’t just about Michael Turner. Rather, the purpose of this post is to raise a simple question: what the hell are NFL players thinking when they choose to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car?

This has been quite a year for NFL players and DUI arrests. Since the end of the 2011 regular season, here is a list of the players arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence:

July 20 – Titans WR Kenny Britt (DUI)
July 19 – Chiefs CB Donald Washington (Possession, Driving under influence of drugs, Speeding)
July 14 – Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (DUI)
July 10 – Rams DE Robert Quinn (DUI)
July 2 – Buccaneers CB Eric Wright (DUI)
June 23 – Lions CB Aaron Berry (DUI)
June 10 – Giants OT David Diehl (DUI)
June 3 – Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (aggravated DUI)
June 2 – Vikings FB Jerome Felton (DUI)
May 27 – Lions DT Nick Fairley (DUI, Eluding police)
May 9 – Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (DUI)
April 26 – Redskins S Brandon Meriweather (CUI)
February 1 – Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (DUI)
January 27 – 49ers LB Aldon Smith (DUI)

You get the point… I could essentially put together a football team with the number of players arrested. So why are NFL players not getting the point? And what is the league going to do about it? This is the same NFL that has partnered with MADD to create a game-day designated driver program for fans but couldn’t get players to use a Safe Ride program set up by the league for players, which was ultimately shut down because it wasn’t used. So what gives?

Yes, the league regularly takes disciplinary action against players for various acts of misconduct, and no doubt Turner will face a penalty once the facts come out. But that is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. The past several seasons have been full of tales about the NFL’s increased focus on good citizenship and personal responsibility, yet it is still a cause for celebration whenever PFT’s meter for days without an arrest hits double digits. I get that these are young adults that think they are invincible. What they seem to fail to get is that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and that privilege can (and should) be compromised when a player cannot meet basic behavioral expectations. Unfortunately, the coddling of athletes from high school through college and into the pros has too many of these young men thinking that there will always be someone else to fix the problems that they create and they can therefore avoid responsibility for their actions. The old argument raised by Charles Barkley that he wasn’t a role model isn’t even a question to many players anymore, and this is extremely disheartening, especially to a parent who attempts to be a role model to his own children and who is disappointed when athletes that his children idolize fall far short of being good citizens (thank you, Michael Vick).

I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are many, many NFL players that “get it”, but as we all know if takes many pieces of good publicity to make up for just one bad one. And 15 DUI arrests of NFL players in 2012 is giving the NFL a black eye that no amount of positive news is going to overwhelm.

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones received some criticism for creating a personal code of conduct for Dez Bryant as a result of Bryant’s off-field issues. The plan was complete with a 24 hour security detail to protect Bryant from himself. Maybe Jones is on to something.

Aug 102012

Welcome, patient readers! As I’m sure you’re painfully aware, it’s been two long months since the first installment of this series (The Snowball Report: 2012 AFC). As they say, “Poop happens.” Also, “It’s better to sue than jockey.”

Yeah, don’t ask me. Ask this guy.

Anyway, in case you’ve forgotten, the point here is to identify that one team from each division which shouldn’t bother coming out of the tunnel in 2012, because they haven’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell of making the post-season. Frankly, the AFC edition of this was much easier than the NFC — there’s only one division on this side of the aisle where the choice is obvious. I’m speaking, naturally, of the…

NFC West

2011 Results: 49ers (13-3); Cardinals (8-8); Seahawks (7-9); Rams (2-14)

2012 Offseason Grades[1]: 49ers (A-); Cardinals (C-); Seahawks (B-); Rams (A-)

Do we really need to spend a lot of time, here? In certain corners of the internet, the 49ers are the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Seahawks, while not locks for a playoff berth, can enter the 2012 season with high hopes — assuming the Seahawks resolve their QB situation quickly, and Kevin Kolb gets over his little snit. (Aww… your team thought about going after Peyton Manning? Who didn’t? Get over yourself.)

So, that leaves the poor Rams. Seriously… in 2002, coming off two Super Bowls in the previous three years, a wunderkind under center, and an offensive genius stalking the sidelines, who woulda thunk St. Louis would have a grand total of one playoff win in the next 10 years? It’s sad, really.

There is hope for the future. Jeff Fisher is awesome (as part of the ’85 Bears, he couldn’t be otherwise) and there’s still reason to think Sam Bradford could soon be among the top ten (twenty?) in the league. Nevertheless, don’t talk to me about playoffs. The NFC West Snowball is the St. Louis Rams.

NFC South

2011 Results: Saints (13-3); Falcons (10-6); Panthers (6-10); Buccaneers (4-12)

2012 Offseason Grades: Saints (D-); Falcons (C+); Panthers (B); Buccaneeers (A)

For me, the story in this division is clear: can the Falcons get over the hump and knock the Saints off the top? Smart money says not yet, but it will be interesting to watch.

I’m thinking neither Carolina nor Tampa have much to look forward to this year — to get a wild card berth, they’ll have to get past either the Falcons or Saints AND hope every other contending team in the NFC slips on the soap while showering. Ain’t gonna happen. But there can be only one snowball…

The Bucs have a young team, with a leaner, meaner Josh Freeman under center and a new head coach. It’s a volatile situation, which means the upside could be huge (unlikely as that may be). On the other hand, USA Today’s summary of the Panthers’ offseason begins with the words, “If the doctors and trainers come through…” Not exactly a vote of confidence. The NFC South Snowball is the Carolina Panthers.

NFC East

2011 Results: Giants (9-7); Eagles (8-8); Cowboys (8-8); Redskins (5-11)

2012 Offseason Grades: Giants (A); Eagles (B+); Cowboys (A-); Redskins (B)

Let’s see. Giants win the Super Bowl, then spend the next six months getting better. The Eagles have shored up their defense. The Redskins bet the farm on RG3 (man, I’m already sick of THAT acronym) while picking up a number of better-than-average free agents.

That leaves the Cowboys. “America’s Team”. Jerry Jones’ plaything. The raison d’etre for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Whatever.

Fact is, they’re the NFC version of the Raiders. Flashy owner who loves to play head coach/GM (someone buy the man a copy of Madden ’13 already) and loads of grade-B talent, yet never able to really gel and make the dynamite go boom. In my opinion, they’d be better off promoting Kyle Orton to starter right now — it’s gonna happen by week 6 anyway. I don’t see them making the playoffs. On the other hand, there are others with more obstacles to overcome. The NFC East Snowball is the Washington Redskins.

NFC North

2011 Results: Packers (15-1); Lions (10-6); Bears (8-8); Vikings (3-13)

2012 Offseason Grades: Packers (B+); Lions (B-); Bears (B); Vikings (B)

And so we come to the hardest pick of all.

I can create a realistic scenario in which any of these teams (except maybe the Vikings) could win the division. And the Vikings, despite their poor 2011 record, are worthy of wild card consideration. Christian Ponder showed flashes of, if not brilliance, then at least competence, and the addition of Jerome Simpson should help considerably.

There’s really no reason to talk about the Packers (ever), and the Lions are no fluke. But it’s the Bears who give me the most excitement coming into 2012. They were in pretty good position in late November; 7-3 and tied for second in the division with three consecutive games looming against the weak AFC West. Unfortunately, Cutler’s injury on an interception return in the win against the Chargers (along with loss of Matt Forte) spelled doom. Assuming Cutler is back to pre-injury form, and there’s no reason to think he’s not, the addition of Brandon Marshall means the Pack and Lions should be looking over their shoulders all season.

Thus, by default (although I’m not as confident in this as I am with some others), the NFC North Snowball is the Minnesota Vikings.

[1] As before, I’m using grades assigned by USA Today. Because reasons.

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.