Opening Kickoff:It’s approaching mid-August which means colleges and pro teams are preparing for the upcoming football seasons and the rest of the sporting world can expect to be relegated to an afterthought until the Super Bowl is over.
This year, I want to change things up a bit and look at the college game as well as the pro game. There is no more exciting regular season than NCAA football. Teams know one loss can be enough to kill their chances to land in the NCAA playoffs. Their convoluted system of picking the four teams for post season play makes each week must see viewing.
Unfortunately, with just two semifinal games and a championship game, the rest of the NCAA Bowl Season is pointless. I would move those games to Labor Day weekend and use them as an expanded Kickoff to the new season while increasing the playoffs to eight teams.
On the other hand, the NFL regular season lacks the urgency of the college game, but their post season is superb. Increasingly, we see fewer playoff duds and more wire to wire excitement culminating in great Super Bowls.
First and Ten Thoughts
- I am not ready to jump on board the Kyler Murray excitement band wagon. Keep in mind, his team, the Arizona Cardinals, are atrocious. Their head coach might know offense and his Air Raid system has led to staggering numbers put up by college quarterbacks, but let’s face it, it hasn’t won championships. The Cardinals might be fun, but I still see them in the bottom quarter of the NFL.
- Many experts see the Indianapolis Colts as the team with the best chance of ending the Patriots reign as champions. However, before you get too excited, just remember their quarterback, Andrew Luck, has been troubled by a calf issue since late last season and it’s keeping him from practicing. Without Luck, the Colts are a mediocre team.
- It’s now or never for Dallas. They can’t claim any more excuses for not getting to the Super Bowl. Their staff believes this is their deepest team since the 90s. Anything less than a trip to the Super Bowl will have to be a disappointment. However, they have big names seeking big contracts, a coach with zero job security, and a divisional opponent, the Eagles, many believe is deeper and better than Dallas. Dallas may be fortunate to go 10 and 6 and grab a wildcard spot.
- Another team with an offense that excites fans is the Baltimore Ravens. I am not buying it. If they rely on the feet of Lamar Jackson as much as last year, it is just a matter of time before he ends up battered, bruised, and concussed into submission. If they rely on his arm, well, all I can say is I hope they don’t have to. If coach Harbaugh insists on doing so, at least sign Colin Kaepernick as your back up.
Message to Melvin Gordon: You are not worth what you are asking. You scored about as many touchdowns last season as Gayle Sayers used to score in two games and averaged a little more than 50 yards on the ground. You are a good all-around back, but in no way are you great. You are, however, expendable.
- Don’t expect Aaron Rogers to change who he is or what he does at this point in his career. He is as stubborn as he is talented. A new head coach might bring a freshness to the Packers offense it has lacked the last few years, but when push comes to shove, Rogers is going to do what he thinks he has to no matter what the head coach has to say. If Rogers puts up great numbers, his coach will have to live with it and the frustration it brings.
- I am one of those who is excited to see Nebraska football on the upswing. Scott Frost is the perfect coach for that school, and I am crossing my fingers in a few years he will have the Huskers in the mix for the college playoffs on a regular basis.
- If the last 20 years have shown us the way to run a football organization in the NFL is the way the Patriots have run theirs, then the next 20 years might be running it like the Rams have been doing the last two. They seem to know how to fill in holes with the right mixture of draft picks, trades, and free agent signings. With a coach and GM seemingly on the same page, I see no reason to think the Rams are not in for a long run of success.
- College football polls are being released. I tend to ignore what the coaches poll says since they have no time to follow other schools once play begins. That said, at this point, my top five would consist of Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Texas, Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan, and Florida have a lot to show me before they deserve their high rankings.
- I was saddened to read of the recent passing of sportswriter Don Banks. He had a direct, honest, and simple way of making a point, whether he was complimenting a team one week or holding them accountable the next. He was greatly respected and will be missed.
How do you spell hot seat in college football? How about Clay Helton? The only reason he still has a job is USC first needed to hire a new President who will then hire a new Athletic Director that will insist on hiring a coach of his choosing. I doubt it will be someone who wants to put their career in Clay’s hands.
Another coach who I think is on the hot seat if his team is healthy this year is Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers. Last year was a nightmare in terms of injuries so you can’t blame their record on him. However, they now have enough pieces in place to where they should be able to win at least half their games and make their division rivals Rams and Seahawks work to beat them. Unless, of course, the Nick Bosa ankle sprain is a harbinger of things to come.
Player of the Week: Since it is only preseason, it is difficult to anoint someone for what they accomplished on the playing field. As a result, I am going to hand this week’s award to Tom Brady. Yes, he has won enough already, but the fact he signed his next contract without any long drawn out process shows again how he is committed to winning and nothing else. It’s another team friendly deal which allows the Patriots to keep Tom supplied with plenty of talent. After the contract was signed, Tom and his wife listed their home for $39 million which should help offset any money he lost in his negotiations.
Idiot of the Week: You might think the term idiot as being a bit too harsh, but I will do my best to explain why I think someone is deserving of this weekly title. No one is better suited for this award than Oakland Raider Antonio Brown. After arriving to training camp in Napa via a hot air balloon, something he probably personally filled, Brown has been unable to practice as a result of the severe frostbite he has on both feet thanks to wearing the wrong foot ware inside a cryotherapy machine. I wonder how Jon Gruden is feeling about Brown wearing wet socks inside a machine that drops to sub-freezing temperatures to aid healing.
After thinking about it, I am changing the name of this weekly award to the Antonio Brown of the Week.There’s really no difference.
According to our president, there is no political appetite for discussing legislation on tougher gun ownership laws. If last weekend was not enough to entice our leaders to think of the wellbeing of the nation, then nothing ever will. We either accept mass shootings as normal in our society when they aren’t in any other civilized nation or we elect men and women with the courage to lead us out of this ongoing nightmare.
Let’s keep football in perspective. Like much of the world we live in, it is filled with contradictions, drama, joy, and heartache. However, unlike the recent events in El Paso and Dayton, whatever football brings us is temporary. Remember, the NFL stand for Not for Long.
The pain and heartache felt by families, friends, and entire communities that must deal with the aftermath of a mass shooting or natural disaster are all consuming events that leave good people with lifelong scars.
Football is nothing more than a pleasant distraction. Teams live to play another week. There’s always next season. Life keeps moving forward in the NFL. If only the real world were that simple. For two more American communities, life will not be the same this fall. It might not be the same next fall and it will likely have a few more communities to join them along with places like Newtown, Aurora, Parkland, Las Vegas, Thousand Oaks, and countless others.
Football is also not war. It is sport. It is here for our entertainment and the players who play the game are entertainers who display their athletic talents so we can take a break from our lives. We will talk about the games with family, friends, and colleagues. We will argue over game results, bet money on their outcome, and purchase merchandise all to show others how much we love a game.
However, we might be better served as a nation if we began addressing our social ills in a more open and honest manner so that we relied less on distractions like football to take our minds off what has become of this country. Football, in my opinion, plays way too big of a role in our society while real issues go unsolved or not talked about.
Top photo: Clay Matthews who was signed by the Rams in the offseason.
He, along with Eric Weddle, have made the Wade Phillips defense that much better.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.