Saturday, January 28, 2017

Are They Kidding Me? Picking Super Bowl Winners for 2017-18 Already?

Don't writers have enough to worry about with the Super Bowl coming up?

Well, apparently not Gil Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys person--it's been so long I don't even remember what he did there! So he writes this article about 'Super Bowl' windows for winning or partaking in a Super Bowl over the next few years. And these are the teams he chose: Atlanta--which is playing in the Super Bowl! How hard is that one?, Dallas--well, naturally, he used to work for them and they have ol' Dak and ol' Zeke--what's not to love?, Oakland (or is it Vegas?)--after all Derek Carr, whom Joe Philbin idolizes to the point where he screwed Ryan Tannehill, and Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack are the three best young players not named Dak or Zeke in the NFL right? What could possibly go wrong?, Seattle--with a loud mouth defense--how does Kam Chancellor put up with this crap? Keep classy Kam! and no running game and Russell Wilson could have used that this year; Miami--really??? Gee is you read the comments you'd think they went 0-16 or something, but I get it, okay? With me, the Dolphins are in prove it mode, and that's it!; Green Bay--we all know Aaron Rodgers is the man, but when even he questions his coach most of the year...

I mean, I could pick the Bills, Ravens, Colts, Lions, Panthers, and Giants with the same amount of likelihood. Or the Bucs, Cardinals, Vikings, Chiefs, Titans, and Steelers. Or let's get real dark horse, and pick the Bengals, Texans, Broncos, Chargers, Saints, and Redskins, or the Eagles. The only teams one cannot pick are the Browns, Jets, Jags, Bears, Rams, and Niners. Bu then again...really, only the Browns have no chance, right?

But here is the real reason trying to pick Super Bowl participants for the next Super Bowl is ridiculous:

1. Did anyone pick the Falcons last year to be in it this year? Didn't every one have the Panthers--who finished in LAST PLACE?

2. The Jags had everyone fooled off of 2015 because Bortles had a great year, but, unlike the other overhyped team, the Raiders, the Jags actually suck. Now everyone is questioning the viability of Blake Bortles--one year after he had a great year! See how things can change?

3.  Everyone  thought the Texans did a great thing in signing Osweiler--well how did that work out? They made the playoffs off of good defense. They should thank their lucky stars Lamar Miller didn't think he'd get 20 or more carries in Miami and chose the Texans (and I think him as well--the Fins needed Ajayi more than Miller anyway!)

4. What's good for the Panthers is good for the Cardinals--they were 'legit' contenders as well. But at least they didn't finish last.

5. Injuries. They can never be predicted. Just ask Teddy Bridgewater, who may not be ready for 2017 either.

6. Coaching. Why is Marv Lewis--who can't discipline a Vontaze Burfict if his life depended on it--still coaching the Bengals? This team has blown it! Big time! (and the next time you play the Dolphins, I advise you folks to lose, okay? When you lose to Miami you make the playoffs!). There are a couple of good coaches who can be counted on to win (not counting BB here--but do great coaches have to cheat?)--Tomlin, Reid, Carroll, Harbaugh, Arians, Rivera, McCarthy, and a case can be made for O'Brien,Quinn, and Del Rio as well (too early to put Gase on here.) But without good coaching, teams generally can't sustain it for the long haul. But even good coaches have down years.

7. QB. Matt Ryan had a bad 2015, and a not so great 2014 or 2013 either--but look at how he turned it around in 2016. Cam Newton had great 2015, 2014, and even 2013--but he had a bad year. And you really can't pick a team for the Super Bowl unless you have consistent outstanding play--and only Brady, Rodgers, and Roethlesberger qualify here. Still waiting on Derek Carr, and I would not assume Andrew Luck would qualify now. When it comes to QB, there is too much uncertainty.

8. Defense. Though 'defense win championships', you have to know when to ramp it up--the teams that make the Super Bowl are teams that get hot (and healthy) on D at the right time.

9. Seeding. Playoff home field advantage has become crucial of late. It is no surprise that both Championship game home teams won--and clearly, the Pats learned from 2015 how important home field advantage is. And one cannot know the seeding until it happens.

10. The element of surprise. Supposedly. Big Ben is considering retirement. I don't think he will, but just the thought of that happening must be disconcerting for his team, which should be a legit contender for a few more years if he stays.

And let me add one more final ingredient--front office stability. And stability in general. The usual contenders are very stable organizations though they lose coaches all the time. Bu the thing is, you can't just keep incompetents to achieve stability-you must choose wisely, and everyone has to be in the right place at the right time. And this more than anything else is the biggest consideration for who is likely to win Super Bowls in the future.

Monday, January 2, 2017

An Addendum to My Year-Ago Post: Who Made the Playoffs?

Recall my screed on "why" the Miami Dolphins "would not make the playoffs":

Miami--Sorry, but until the Dolphins prove they can make the playoffs, I refuse to pick them to make the playoffs! Enough bogus optimism is enough!

So, I picked the Dolphins to miss the playoffs because they haven't been making the playoffs. Well guess what? THE DOLPHINS MADE THE PLAYOFFS! So now for 2017, I have no excuses for not picking them to make the playoffs...

Wildcard, but still. I did not watch or check out the outcome of the final Pats game, so I do not know if they are the 5th or 6th seed, but it doesn't matter. I would just assume that playing in Pittsburgh is better than in Houston--Lamar Miller can't pull his "revenge" crapola (like Rishard Matthews did with the Titans in week 5) if Miami is playing in Pittsburgh. And, let's not forget, Miami did defeat the Steelers this year. So it is possible Miami gets to the divisional round.

And I do not know what the others seedings are. In reality, seedings don't matter. Because Mr. Chip-on-Shoulder, Tom Brady, is winning his last Super Bowl anyway. Folks, now you know why ol' Goodell-owner Robert Kraft allowed Goodell to suspend Brady. It was a fix all along. (I wonder if Brian Touhy of The Fix Is In realizes this.) And they don't matter in the NFC either. The Seahawks don't suck, but they kinda do--they needed a last second play to beat Miami in Seattle? You can't beat a crappy Cards team in Seattle? What I suspected all along--Russell Wilson needing great D and great running game to win--is likely true and he is not the super QB the experts say he is (but at least he's better than Andrew Luck.)

But still, here are the seedings--Just checked the Sat. and Sun. TV schedule.
AFC: 1. Pats. 2. Chiefs 3. Steelers. 4. Texans. 5. Raiders. 6. Dolphins
NFC: 1. Cowboys  2. Falcons 3. Seahawks 4. Packers 5. Giants 6. Lions
(hopefully I didn't blow this one!)

So, these twelve teams made the playoffs despite any opinion I had as to why they wouldn't. And the new playoff teams are: Raiders, Dolphins, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Lions. As in 2008, the last year Miami made the playoffs, there were also six new playoff teams.

The Raiders made the playoffs because Derek Carr--Philbin was right about this guy--is the real deal, but you have to give Khalil Mack credit as well. Carr's terrible injury will likely mean the Raiders do not go any further, and was why they got the fifth seed, not the second seed they had much of the season.

The Dolphins made the playoffs--and it was Matt Moore, not Tannehill, who got them there--because Adam Gase knows football, knows what it takes, and what to do to do adjustments, letting Tannehill or Moore run the offense, Ajayi, benching or cutting players who needed to be benched (like Byron Maxwell) or cut (like Dallas Thomas). Watch out, Pats, because this is one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and the similarities between the 2016 Fins and the 1970 Fins are amazing. I won't go into all that here.

The Cowboys made the playoffs because their 2016 draft was maybe once in a lifetime--Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot--proving it's okay to go 4-12 the year before sometimes! And Tony Romo will be one another team in 2017. I knew Prescott was good, but folks this guy is amazing!

The Falcons made the playoffs because Matt Ryan returned to being the Matt Ryan we all knew he was, and finally, the Falcons are a very good running team as well. Who needs a great defense?

The Giants made the playoffs because Eli also returned to form with old ODB (I still prefer Landry!) and also a good running game, but their defense improvement--yes, OV was definitely part of that, maybe he left his "penalty machine" mentality behind in Maimi--is really what go them into the playoffs.

The Lions made the playoffs because Matthew Stafford had a year I would never had expected--but because Riddick and Abdullah were hurt, the Packers got them out of the division title.

The rest of the teams--the Patriots, Seahawks, Steelers, Chiefs, Texans and Packers--had made the playoffs the year before and most expected them back (though I thought the Andrew Luck Colts would replace the Texans as division winner.)

So, onto why the rest of the league did not make the playoffs:

I had said the Bills wouldn't because of Rex Ryan. I was right--this is a defensive guru who, on Jay Ajayi's 57 yard run in OT to help the Fins seal that win, PUT TEN MEN ON THE FIELD! Rexy, you deserve to be fired! WTF would a defensive coach put only ten men on the field? And, oh yeah, Dan Carpenter is maybe finished as a kicker--had he made a basic chip shot in the first quarter, OT would not have been necessary! And then he missed another one!

I had said the Jets wouldn't make the playoffs because of cap space and signing Fitzpatrick. I was right about the cap space, but I was wrong about Fitz--who sucked as could be expected after getting that renewed contract. Back to the drawing board, Jets!

I had said the Ravens would not make the playoffs because Flacco would not be able to get back to his Super Bowl standard. Well, I was right, but they were close, just couldn't lock down Pittsburgh.

I had said the Bengals wouldn't make the playoffs because did it matter even if they did? I was right, and Marv Lewis still can't discipline players! How many times does Vontaze Burfict have to screw things up there (and, oh yeah, in beating Miami, they assured they wouldn't make the playoffs but Miami would! Thanks for the loss, Cincy!)

I had said the Browns wouldn't...and until they get themselves a decent QB, they won't.

I had said the Colts wouldn't make the playoffs because of Joe Philbin, and "good luck, Luck," and folks I may be right. But the thing is you can't just blame it on Pagano. Who coached that terrible OL again? Oh, yeah, Philbin. So, I guess I'll blame Philbin. (That's what you get for screwing Tannehill!)

I had said the Titans wouldn't make the playoffs because of Mike Mularkey. That may be true, but in Marcus Mariota, they have a very good young QB, and hope for the future. Just not under Mularkey.

I had said the Broncos wouldn't make the playoffs because of their QB situation, and I was right Denver's D is as good as always, though. Maybe next year.

I had said the Chargers wouldn't make the playoffs because they didn't play the Dolphins all year long in San Diego. They played the Dolphins once in San Diego, and still lost!

I had said the Eagles wouldn't make the playoffs because of Chip Kelly--gone to Frisco, or Sam Bradford--who went to Minnesota when Teddy boy got hurt. So I guess the Eagles can blame themselves. Because they can't blame Chip Kelly!

I had the Bears out of the playoffs because of no Gase and yes Cutler. Now I don't know what's wrong with John Fox, but can you blame it all on no Gase and yes Cutler?

I had the Vikings not making the playoffs because of a down year from Teddy Bridgewater. But it was worse than that, as Teddy, who got the Vikes to 5-0, went down on injured reserve. What would have happened if Teddy did not get hurt?

I had the Cards out of the playoffs because of Carson Palmer returning to form--mediocrity--an Arians coming back down to Earth. I mean, blaming the Dolphins for bad weather in Miami? Ever hear of GOD?

I had the Rams missing the playoffs because of Jeff Fisher. Well they finally fired the guy!

I had the Niners missing the playoffs because of Chip Kelly. I was right. And, while it's okay for Kaepernick to protest, what kind of idiot goes to play a game in Miami--home to countless Cuban exiles--wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt????

So there you have it. And guess what? I am picking the Dolphins to make the playoffs next year (unless Tannehill gets into the playoffs and tears his ACL like he did his MCL).

Coach of the Year? Adam Gase. Of course!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Half-way Through 2016 NFL Season: The More Things Change

Since I do not follow most teams in the NFL and generally don't give a crap what happens to most teams, I feel I can take the objective approach to what is happening in the 2016 season which is really quite different than what I thought would be its state half-way through the season. There are some teams that simply are not where I thought they would be at this point while there are others way exceeding expectations.

I'd never be a Raiders fan in a million years, but I will say I am thrilled they are at the top of the AFC West. I am so sick of Denver--and you know why I can't stand the Broncos--they screwed me royally on a bet I made that they'd cover the spread, and they proceed to not cover the spread making me lose over a hundred dollars!--and I don't like the Chiefs, either--Andi Reed, like Bruce Arians, is a blowhard coach--not Rex Ryan, but still...  But at least Arians is a good head coach. As for the Chargers, I have no idea why they are not in the thick of things in that division. I mean they do have a good QB and Melvin Gordon, right? But I would not count on the Raiders being the kind of perennial contender that Denver has been--Jack Del Rio simply isn't that good a head coach. But is it any surprise that the Raiders are as good as they are now? For one thing, when you draft in the top ten every year (except 2012) since 2004, one can reasonably expect that at some point you would pick up a huge haul of rookie talent. Plus, the Raiders have had huge cap space for years so they can buy good players and with decent coaching can get something out of them. But all that will dissapte when they have to pay Derek Carr, right...and then there is Amari Cooper or whatever his name is...and Khalil Mack. Let's see if the Raiders can keep all three players. But, congrats Raiders, on finally giving your fan base something to cheer about.

But you know the media--they'll overhype this team until it fails to make the playoffs!

The other overly hyped team in the 2016 off-season was the Jaguars, and, as I expected, they suck. As usual. And Blake Bortles is pert near getting crucified in Jax town. And to  add insult to injury--the Jags just happen to play in the weakest division in the NFL, the AFC South. Gee you'd think the Jags would be better than 2-6! But good news--the Colts are almost as bad at 3-5. With. Andrew. Luck. So of course, the fans blame Chuck Pagano, not their over rated QB. You know, if they didn't have T.Y. Hilton, Luck would likely be the QB that I think he already is...meh! I mean, they call this guy another Dan Marino, right? Well, Marino had a crappy running game and lousy D as well--thanks, Olividotti! (and you too, Shula! Why'd you keep this defensive bozo around so long???), but didn't Marino's Dolphins still make the playoffs just about every year? If Luck is so awesome, what are his excuses? What is the Colts excuse for 3-5? (I'd like to blame Joe Philbin, but I won't.) And the Titans--who just might have saved the Dolphins season by crushing them in week 5, 31-17, sending them a message that they had to change their ways thus giving them a chance to do just that--with good ol' Rishard Matthews' help of course (the ol' revenge factor, which is used against the Fins almost constantly...but in the case of Mario Williams who clobbered the stinkin' Bills, it sometimes works to their advantage as well!--well, the Titans, who are 3-5 also but look good at it and with Mariota being a future good QB--well, I will predict this for 2017: the Tennessee Titans will win the AFC South. The Texans--but not because they are good, but because everyone else is below expectations--are likely to win this division. After what Denver did to Osweiler, I'd say he deserves it (as does Lamar Miller, but he might at some point regret wanting out of Miami. Yes, folks, he wanted out of Miami. I guess he didn't realize new HC Gase just might be in the position to give him the 30 carries he wanted this year. Just think--he coulda been Jay Ajayi!)

The biggest surprise in the AFC though is the AFC North, which used to be the strongest division in football. This year? The division leader is 4-4 and both the Steelers and Ravens are 4-4. Big Ben just might not make it through the entire season...can Pitt rely completely LeVeon Bell? I have absolutely no idea what the Nevermore's are gonna do, and the Bengals? Now wouldn't it be funny if they missed the playoffs this year? Because they just might, and here is a funny fact--from 2010 through 2015, the Dolphins owned this team, home and away, and each year they made the playoffs (2010, 2013, 2014 was when these two teams played, Miami winning all of these games). So this year, Cincy beats the Fins 22-7 in Cincy! So while the Fins no longer own the Bengals, the tigers just might miss the playoffs. Okay, okay...the Browns are no surprise.... And in fact that the Browns are worse than ever with a decent head this deserves a serious analysis that I simply have no time for here. But maybe on another post. Because the state of the Browns in truly fascinating, and points to a bogus remedy that one would think the Browns ownership would have figured out by now--you simply cannot forego not drafting a QB every year when you desperately need one! They coulda had Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Russell Wilson or Jimmy Garapolo even. But no. They draft Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. And in 2016 they coulda had Wentz or Prescott or Goff--and why is Jeff Fisher still coaching? Meantime, every decent player veteran wants out of Cleveland, which ain't no "Believe-land" and maybe never will be! Truly, for incompetence, no one matches the Browns! And yes, the Buckeyes would clobber this team!

You just know I'm leaving the AFC East for last, eh?

The NFC East wouldn't be the NFC East without the usual "title contender comes down to the final season game" scenario. Because this year, every single one of these teams has a possibility to win this division. But in fact I would love it if Dallas did, simply because I've seen Dak Prescott play in college and I really liked his play (even against the Aggies). Now fine if the Giants win it, but Eli Manning ain't his brother, and I am sick and tired of hearing about Odell Beckham (why? Because I prefer Jarvis Landry! That's why!) Or if the Eagles win it with a fine rookie QB, Wentz--and boy did they pull a boner on the Vikings when they sent them Bradford, getting two first round draft picks--hopefully these use them better than the Browns used theirs, or the Rams for that matter! Or even the Redskins, but I doubt if the Skins can hold on for this. But for sure, Kirk Cousins is better than RG3. Yet the Cowboys would likely be a shoe-in but for the--gee, when was the last time this occurred in Dallas?--QB controversy brewing between Dak and Romo?

Everyone picked either the Packers or Vikings to win the NFC North. But no one counted on Adrian Peterson and then Teddy Bridgewater going down (and having to give up two first rounders for Sam Bradford, who is not worth two first rounders!), and no one counted on OC Norv Turner retiring. But is the media right in claiming the Vikes are nearly toast? Furthermore, the media is bounding with bogus tales of Mike McCarthey being "on the hot seat" because the Packers' offense suddenly sucks. I mean, even Aaron Rodgers said that! But that's what happens when you lose Eddie Lacy--that is, a really good running back. Plus their D isn't very good either, and Clay Matthews is now hurt. Good luck Pack! Now I ought to write a dissertation on the sudden hugeness of Matthew Stafford  who is having--and no Calvin Johnson!--one helluva year. This is a QB who has been around 8 years, and now, after 8 years, he is finally THE GUY? (Take note, Dolphins fans who can't seem to give the same possible consideration to Ryan Tannehill, who has only been around 5 years? Five years of getting clobbered every game--and they wonder why he isn't Dan Marino?!? Folks, if Tannehill in year 8 of his career has numbers like Stafford, will you please cut the crap about this Aggie dude? He's the franchise QB, okay? Just like Bob Griese know what I mean.) And let me say I think the Lions will win the NFC North. The Bears? They still have Jay Cutler. 'Nough said.

After a really crappy year, Matt Ryan is on fire again. And Cam Newton isn't. Now let's blame the refs for that, shall we? Methinks Ron Rivera doth protest too much...sorry Willy Shakespeare, but you no longer have the copyright on that one! You see, folks, that's what happens when you have a diva at QB and you let Josh Norman go in free agency. What goes around comes around. Drew Brees is Drew Brees, and Sean Payton is over rated, as usual. (Still, I have relatives who are Saints fans, so don't mind my shmarmy-ness here.) And the Bucs are the Bucs. When the Bucs are no longer the Bucs, let me know.

I am not impressed at all with the Seahawks--they beat the Dolphins on the last play of the game because Kenny Stills dropped a perfect pass (which most Dolfans blame Tannehill right? SOP.) Then, they lose to a Saints team with no defense, and tie a lackluster Cards team. The score was 6-6. The mighty Hawks O scores 6 measely points? Shoot, since they only scored 12 on the Fins... in Seattle guys--and the Fins didn't have Ajayi with them either... And they need help from the officials to beat the 6 points. In fact, I hope the Patriots clobber these suckers! There, I said it! And they thought they had the replacement for Marshawn Lynch? I almost feel sorry for Richard Sherman here! Like I said, the Cardinals are lackluster this year, other than David Johnson, and will likely have to rely on their defense. The Niners? Chip Kelly deserves this team--and just let me say I really don't give a crap if Colin Kaepernick protests or not. Is this guy the new Tim 'I don't deserve the celebrity status' Tebow or what? Which leaves the Rams, and, like I said before, why is Jeff Fisher still coaching this team?

Now to the AFC East, where as I predicted the Pats will win one final division title. The Bills--who likely never expected to lose to the Dolphins--folks they need to get over their Jim Kelly mindset, okay? This ain't the freaking 1990s!--are where they are--great D and a decent QB in Tyrod Taylor with decent RBs and WRs and Charles Clay, but with a crappy OL (I mean if they can get manhandled by the supposedly "worst" D-line in the division, Miami's)--they are where they are because Rex Ryan can't keep his damned mouth shut when he should and can't coach offense to save his job--which means he likely loses it this year. Guys, the Bills will make noise but that's it. Because that is all Rexy is-noise. And the Jets are still the Jets: I thought Todd Bowles was too smart to fall for the "Ryan Fitzpatrick" is our franchise QB nonsense when even I could have told him that Fitz would be Fitz again...inconsistent, interception-throwing Fitz, the same Fitz that pulls that crap every time he's rewarded with a new fat money contract he knows he doesn't deserve--but what can I say, this is a Harvard grad, outsmarting the Jets, like he outsmarted the Bills in 2011. Further, the Jets now have a controversy on their great and glorious D-line, where one of the best D-linemen in the league, Sheldon Richardson, now wants out. And where Brandon Diva Marshall--too damned busy worrying about Byron Maxwell to play well, but I suppose that's Maxwell's fault!--won't shut up either. and how is Matt Forte working out for ya? When you coulda kept Chris Ivory? And has anyone noticed that Darrell Revis has disappeared?

And now, the Dolphins....Folks, when they got blown out by the Titans in week 5 I said to myself, "screw this team, screw Tannehill (yes, I said that to myself! About my Aggie homeboy! Shame on me!), screw Gase, screw Tannenbaum, screw Lance Joseph (lost to the Bengals! You used to coach their D! How could you?!), screw Darren Rizzi, screw every freakin' player on this team! I am done with you guys!--NOT! Because, being the Dolphins, when they reach their lowest point, something good happens (just like when they reach their highest point, something bad happens). Now today I saw a headline for a post by Miami Herald sports writer Greg Cote that suggested "something different' was happening this time what with a three-game winning streak: this one was different. And I may be wrong, but there really is something different about this Fins team and why they turned it around to go 4-4, beating three teams with better defenses than what they have (Steelers, Bills , Jets). One, unlike "clueless Joe" Philbin, who never could make the proper adjustments during a game or a season, Adam Gase can clearly do it, and get the players to buy into it. Folks, that was the reason Gase was hired--while he never played football, this guy knows the game and how to configure it...kinda like another guy who started out coaching young...ever hear of Don Shula? And then you have Belichick (without the cheating I hope!). And Gase has done three things that could indicate that despite the fact that it will be hard for the Dolphins to make the playoffs this year (since the AFC West is the new AFC North, with three teams likely to make the playoffs and with far better record than what Miami has: Raiders 7-2, Broncos 6-3, Chiefs 6-2), it is still very possible (and very likely in the future...someone is gonna replace the Pats next year, and it will likely be the Fins). One, Gase, the "QB Whisperer," is 'whispering' a bit differently to Mr. seeing to it that said Tannehill absolutely will not be clobbered again by rushers, which will allow Tanny to audible or have time to throw, short or long, and by calling running plays so Ryan doesn't have to throw 40 times a game like he did with Philbin. Two, Gase got rid of two OL players that simply didn't work hard enough--Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas, and got his starting OL on the field all at once: LT Albert, LG Tunsil (truly a steal in the 2016 draft), C Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod, and RT James. This happened week 6 against the Steelers. Three, another thing happened week 6 against the Steelers, a top run-stuffing team (and then against two more top run stuffing teams, the Bills and Jets)--Jay Ajayi. This guy, born in London, England--love the guy's accent!--who screwed up in pre-season by complaining about having to play in game 4 and then getting to sit at home missing the Seattle game--would Miami have won it if he had played?--and then having to sit behind Arian Foster, who they no longer need, which is why he is retiring--against the Pats in week 2 in another close loss, and then winning in OT against the Browns week 3 (OT? Really? But when you have a potential trap game with a rudderless team and a new head coach just learning how to be one) because of this RB getting a TD, and then Ajayi having a decent game in that Titans blowout--well, if you saw the guy at Boise State, you knew why he was a steal in round 5 of the 2015 draft (sitting out half the 2015 season with knee issues--his cartiledge is gone and it's bone on bone). So that Ajayi is only one of 4 runners who had two 200-yard games back-to-back (along with OJ Simpson Earl Campbell, and Ricky Williams) in NFL history. Fine, and he already has nearly 700 yards on the year. But that is not why giving Ajayi  the ball is so important.

Ajayi is a power runner. Like Marshawn Lynch, who was not only a power runner but an angry one. for that is how Gase and teammates describe Ajayi's style: angry and determined, with a huge chip on his shoulder. Ajayi is precisely the running back the Dolphins have needed--for years. Well, since Larry Csonka, who while being a fullback, ran with anger and attitude as well. And just as Bob Griese, truly a franchise QB while not being a Dan Marino, was truly a "field general" who won two Super Bowls--not by himself, mind you--unlike Marino, Griese never did anything "by himself"--so now can Tannehill be. Folks, there is nothing wrong with being a "game manager" "Alex Smith" type QB (with the difference being Tannehill can actually throw a bomb--Tanny is the second highest rated QB at throwing passes 40 or more yards despite the fact that neither Kenny Stills nor DeVante Parker have really lived up to their hypes--thank God for Jarvis Landry!) as long as you can rely on the running game (Smith had Jamaal Charles, Tanny now has Ajayi--who needs Lamar Miller?), you do not have to be Tom Brady.

And speaking of Brady, who is now 39 years old and mostly relies on either Gronk or the running game, Brady is having a great (super chip on shoulder) year. Just like Peyton Manning did at age 39, setting personal records in Denver--when he had the breakout year from CJ Anderson that he had to buffer his passing game. Folks that is why I truly think this is it for the Pats (plus Jimmy Garapolo played well during Brady's suspension) Brady wants to play until he's 50 or whatever. But Brady is what he is this year because Brady, alone among so many great QBs, MUST have a chip-on-shoulder episode to be the great QB he is, because that is the way Brady excels. He does not excel otherwise (and I defy any Pats fan to prove me wrong!). Now dumbass Roger Goodell might pull some other stunt against Brady just so Brady can take advantage of his super chip on shoulder mentality, but without that chip, Brady is just another great QB what with less motivation. And, in 2017 that motivation will not be there. But that motivation is likely to be somewhere else. In Miami.

So, you have Tannehill being a potential Bob Griese, a "field general/game manager" type, throwing bombs to Warfield-er, Landry or Stills or hopefully someday Parker gets his health and act together--or handing off to Csonka--er, Ajayi, who bull rushes in anger like Csonka, can be elusive like Morris, and catch passes fairly well like Kiick (Kiick, of course, was better, but Ajayi may improve here). But you also have a decent but not great defense (their DL is good and their LB corps is getting better because Kiko Alonso is...a potential Nick Buoniconti here) with secondary issues (Reshad Jones is out for the year, and Xavien Howard has been injured nearly all season) and Byron Maxwell not quite in Seahawks-level form, with him and Isa (Arabic for Jesus) Abdul-Quddus being the only experienced vets back there...similar to a kind of defense Bill Arnsparger had when he first arrived in Miami in 1970. Folks I hope you see where I am going with this. Already, Adam Gase is making decisions the way Don Shula did when he arrived in Miami in 1970. In 1970, it was a bit different from 2016--Shula's 1970 team started 4-1 and then lost three straight games including a blowout loss to the eventual Super Bowl champ Colts, Shula's old team, to go 4-4 after 8 weeks of play in a 14 game season. Gase also has his team at 4-4 after 8 games, but starting 1-4, then winning three straight games. Both Shula and now Gase are building on offense ball-control schemes with short but also deadly long passing plays where Griese and now Tannehill can audible--and where Griese and now Tannehill are being sacked less (Tannehill was only sacked four times in those three wins, with the Steelers getting not one sack...most of Tanny's sacks were by the Titans, with 6 sacks.) Why? Because not only does the new OL mentioned above open holes for the run better, but pass protects better now as well.

The bottom line: there is perhaps a stunning comparison between the 1970 and 2016 Dolphins that could very well lead them to being the next dominant team in the AFC East. Just as in 1971 they kicked the Supe champ Colts out, the 2017 Fins  just might kick out the Supe 51 champ Pats (yep, Brady and BB will go out with one final Supe win. Pats over either Seahawks or Cowboys).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Silly Season is Over...Hear Is What We Learned

That title is me being facetious; I have seen hundreds of "what we have learned" articles in the NFL media over the last couple of months and all are meaningless until the season gets underway. So what I am about to do is make fun of all this off-season hype as if I was actually in charge of weighing it in the balances.

Vonn Miller--an Aggie, which is why I give a crap about him--has until July 15 to sign his franchise tender with the Broncos, who are run by John Elway, who is as overrated a GM as Ozzie Newsome is...folks these two have made some great decisions, but also some crappy ones as well that no one likes to talk about because after all the consensus has them as being two of the best GMs in NFL history (and here's the kicker--three or so years ago they said the same thing about Trent Baalke, who is now considered one of the WORST GMs!)...and I really think Elway will regret letting Brock Osweiler walk, even if Osweiler wanted to walk. (It's one thing for players to walk if they really want to when they are say, good but not great RBs--Lamar Miller--or WRs--Rishard Matthews--but when it is QBs it's a different don't just replace a guy who was actually mentored by a Peyton Manning with a guy who made infamy with "the Butt Fumble.") As for Ozzie, what did he have to do with the bust Michael Oher who is now a player the Panthers just resigned to keep? And look at the WRs he's drafted lately (who cannot get on the field)...and the fact that he dissed maybe the best OL in the 2016 draft because he's freaked out about possible marijuana usage...

But anyway, IMHO they screwed the guy who mightily helped them win another Super Bowl (and an Aggie). Don't even think Elway is the best GM in the NFL right now! But again it's all about "well he just might get into trouble again" nonsense. Miller said he straightened up and has shown so. Miller is NOT Johnny Manziel, for pity sake!

And speaking of QBs...another so-called rising GM works for the Jets, McCagnan (spelling?), yet the Jets are STILL in cap hell (which was where Miami was as well, but for the Capologist of the Century Dawn Aponte...folks I'm being facetious, remember?), STILL have to get Mo Wilkerson signed, and STILL have to get Ryan Fitzpatrick signed (or else they are stuck with Geno you really expect Coach Todd Bowles, the best HC the Jets have had in years, to not praise the guy?). For the Jets are (as usual) stuck between a rock and a hard place--if they sign Fitz to what he wants they risk Fitz pulling the same crap he pulled after the Bills handed him over 50 mil and then he proceeds to suck the rest of the year--for instance, the 6-10 Dolphins swept the Bills in 2011!--and if they don't sign him they risk having to rely on Geno Smith, who the rest of the Jets do NOT want as QB! And just how did the Jets get into cap hell in the first place? McCagnan, and those before him, spent big on players they should not have spent big on...folks it did not work in Miami; why did the Jets think it would work in NY? (And the Dolphins may have learned their lesson; they have not made their usual big signings this year or is that Tannenbaum being Tannenbaum?)

I have a question for the Patriots not related to DeflateGate...every couple of years you guys draft a QB that you claim "will understudy Tom Brady" but then he never gets a real shot and then you draft another "understudy for Tom Brady" who will never get his shot either, and then some day Brady retires and you have no idea how good this understudy will be. And while Belichick has certainly brought glory to the Pats (astericks?), is he setting this team up for failure in the not too distant future? Unless Brady's suspension is lifted, we may soon find out how good or bad Garropolo or that rookie of theirs is. That event, Pats fans, could be exactly what your team needs.

It'll be interesting to know who the so-called experts will react if their off-season darlings, the Raiders and Jaguars, pull their usual crap instead of, as these experts predict, making the playoffs. Your pontificating on the "rise of the Dolphins" didn't work last year; what makes you think the Raiders and Jags (and the Bucs! Good grief! What has Dick Koetter ever done!) will fair any differently?

And what will Joe PhilBUM (because he screwed an Aggie, Ryan Tannehill) say if his wonder in Derek Carr flails even worse than Tannehill supposedly did last year?

And Allen Robinson better than Jarvis Landry? Are you kidding me??? How much were these players bribed to rank Robinson better than Mr. One-handed Grab (sorry, Odell Beckham) on the bogus NFL Top 100?

And here is my prediction for surprise team of the year--the Browns.

I'm joking, okay?

Finally, one Rex Ryan's claim that the Bills "won the off-season"...well, he did for the Bills media, that's for sure. Mike Florio did one helluva piece on what some Bills reporter said about the wonders of Rexy here. Folks, Bills fans, as hard core as can be, truly deserve better!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why "Your Team" Will Not Make 2016 NFL Playoffs

Cheatsheet, which has a sports category and an NFL category under their sports category, is posting articles as to why every team will or will not make the playoffs. For instance, they recently did a post explaining why the Denver Broncos (who won Supe 50) will not make the playoffs (and of course it all revolves around the "Peyton Manning retires" issue). Well, since every year there are usually four or five new teams in the playoffs (in 2015 it was the Texans, Chiefs, Redskins, and Vikings), that means four or five teams that made the playoffs the year before missed the playoffs.

Now we all know the Patriots will make the playoffs again as well as the Packers and Seahawks...right?  I mean as long as Brady and Belichick are in New England... right? Folks there is really only one reason New England is able to keep it up--because their division rivals have sucked for so long! Pats fans do not realize it, but at some point this will change. (True story: when Miami was dominating the AFC East in the early 70s I never thought that would change, not even after Csonka and the rest went to the WFL! I never saw the 1975 Colts coming! But goodness gracious, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets can't be incompetent forever--heck with the hire of Adam Gase maybe the clueless Stephen Ross has finally gotten the memo! And if the Jets can sign their defensive wonders and Ryan Fitzpatrick has another good year and they can somehow manage to keep Chris Ivory, a very big IF, there is no reason why the Jets can't challenge...the Fins are still a year or two away, though, unless Gase can completely unleash Tannehill (and get that God-awful OL together!)...the Bills? Sorry, but Rex Ryan and his bro are too much drama...that team should have made the playoffs this year, and is Tyrod for real?)

Folks, there is every reason in the world one can say the Pats won't make the playoffs, or the Packers or Seattle or even that wonder in Carolina. Just like one can say Tennessee or Jacksonville or (wait for it) Cleveland can!

So here is why every NFL team has a chance to NOT make the 2016 NFL playoffs, in divisional order (sorry, but with the Rams moving to LA it screws up my alphabetical order thing...from Kansas City to it's KC to LA!). Starting with the AFC (naturally, since I follow the AFC more), and I'll keep it short and sweet:

Buffalo--Rex Ryan, who admitted he is no longer a defensive coordinator, will eventually admit he's no longer a head coach.

Miami--Sorry, but until the Dolphins prove they can make the playoffs, I refuse to pick them to make the playoffs! Enough bogus optimism is enough!

New England--Did anyone see them get clobbered by Denver's defense and not be able to stop Peyton when they needed to despite the fact that Peyton had his worst year ever? The clock is ticking on the Patriots' demise.

New York Jets--Everyone is proclaiming Miami's cap hell as not workable (though Dawn Aponte is THE capologist!)--meanwhile the Jets have twice as many players that must be resigned for them to resemble last year's 10-6 record, and less cap space than Miami! And, oh yeah...what if they can't resign Ryan Fitzpatrick?

Baltimore--Everyone is saying the Ravens missed out last year just because of Flacco's injury...I mean after all Ozzie Newsone is THE GM, right? Well, what if Flacco does NOT get back to his standard? Can they resign Osemele?

Cincinnati--Since they can't seem to win in the playoffs, why bother? Fail, and maybe then they have a reason to fire Marvin "I can't discipline players" Lewis.

Cleveland--There are many reasons, but I can only pick one: because they're the Browns.

Pittsburgh--Big Ben, Antonio Brown,and LeVeon Bell all get put in injured reserve for the year in game one...folks that's all I can come up with...

Houston--Who's that guy who plays QB, it's not JJ Watt. (And they would not have made playoffs in 2015 had Miami, who they'd never lost to, not annihilated their butts, 41-0 at halftime! Now THAT'S a wake-up call!)

Indianapolis--Joe PhilBUM is their new OL coach...need I say more? Good luck, Luck!

Jacksonville--I just can't buy into the Blake Bortles "vast improvement from last year" hype...heck the same thing happened to Ryan Tannehill in 2014, which means...?

Tennessee--Mike Mularkey? Really?

Denver--Yep, the "Peyton Manning issue"...Plus the "Brock Osweiler issue"...

Kansas City--Now does anyone really think the Chiefs will win 11 games in a row again?

Oakland--Jack Del Rio will only take this team so far...too bad Joe "Screw Tannehill, give me Derek Carr" PhilBUM isn't coaching them!

San Diego--Now, if they played the Dolphins in San Diego about 12 times a year...maybe...

Dallas--what if Romo never gets well?

New York Giants--Gee, if Odell Beckham couldn't get it done, can Eli?

Philadelphia--Well, at least they can't blame this on Chip Kelly...Bradford, maybe...

Washington--Kirk Cousins gets a huge extension, and then, of course, won't earn it...the Skins can't surprise anyone this year...

Chicago--No Adam Gase, no good Jay Cutler.

Detroit--After what happened to the Lions in 2015, is not making the playoffs a surprise?

Green Bay--They barely made it last with the Pats, the only thing that keeps the Pack from NOT making the playoffs is lack of divisional opponent toughness...but the Vikes did it to them last year. With a healthy Aaron discount double check?

Minnesota--Even the great Teddy boy can have a down year...just ask Ryan Tannehill...

Atlanta--Well, they did beat Carolina last year, but still...

Carolina--Cam Newton has reached his peek and missing the playoffs will force the diva out of him.

New Orleans--Drew Brees simply cannot do it anymore, and Katrina was years ago.

Tampa Bay--Just because the Bucs went from 2-14 to 6-10 doesn't mean they'll jump four games again to 10-6...

Arizona--Carson Palmer will return to form, and Bruce Arians will come back down to earth...I hope! (And why does he give a crap Miami didn't hire Todd Bowles as HC in 2012? The Jets did in 2015--now shut up already!)

Los Angeles--and you thought I'd say "St. Louis"! LA or SL, Jeff Fisher is still LOL (Lose Out Loud)

San Francisco--Blame this one on Chip Kelly...somebody has to!

Seattle--This team is too arrogant to make the playoffs again, but at least they can't kick Marshawn Lynch around anymore...when they can't kick Richard "I am the greatest!" Sherman around anymore, let me know.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Super Bowl, 50. And Why It Is Nearly Impossible Now to Sustain Success

We have quickly moved in the NFL from the Coaching Carousel and the playoffs to the Super Bowl, which for this year only is designated with a non-Roman numeral, that is, 50, because that Roman numeral L just implies too much negativity, with L equals "lost" or "loss" or "lose". And unlike last year's matchup between the trash-talkers (Seahawks) and the cheaters (Patriots) in which I wanted BOTH teams to lose, for this year I have no favorite. I want the Panthers to win because their fans deserve it and it would be their first Super Bowl win...IMHO every team should have a Super Bowl win (okay, okay, every team not coached by Rex Ryan!). And while the Broncos are (thanks to my own stupidity when I bet they'd lose to the spread in 1981 and screwed me by beating it) one of my least favorite teams, it would be nice for Peyton Manning to retire with this Super Bowl win under his belt because he truly is one of the great ones (and I said retire! You next, Tom Brady!). Now the Panthers really are the better team...after all they nearly went unbeaten, and they are now the model of excellence in terms of management and personnel from GM to coaches to players, and just another example why if you are going to build an excellent team you really do have to reach the bottom first (in 2010 they went 1-15 or something, and then they cleaned house--and then they got it right just about every way you can in choosing coaches, Free Agency, and the Draft. Folks, how often does this happen? Very, very rarely!) The other reason the Panthers are better is that they are more "team" whereas Denver is so reliant on the presence of Peyton that had he not been there, no way would the Broncos have made it this far (and I'm not knocking Brock Osweiler here, but he would not have brought Denver this far, period!). So it would seem Carolina would win. Yet, Peyton and the rest of the Broncos just might be good enough to pull off an upset, and, who knows? The game just might have already been decided by the league front office/officials.

But to explain why it is nearly impossible to sustain success, what with front offices having to decide each year which players they will be forced to let go due to salary caps--and BTW, I favor salary caps, for the simple reason that "buying" a championship team is not fair and is only short term. Pat Riley "bought" a championship caliber team a few years ago for the Miami Heat and it worked, but not in the long term. And remember when George Steinbrenner kept buying great Yankee teams? Just how many World Series did this bought and paid for team win? A few perhaps, but not in the long run. Salary caps FORCE a team to make consistently good decisions, and that's what you want if you own a don't want to be firing folks left and right every year...which is seemingly what the Panthers did for years, even making John Fox, one of the better coaches historically, a lame duck.

A side note: it seems that the following structure in front offices works the best: either the owner/CEO/Whatever hires the GM (or his designate does...some owners have better things to do than "run" football teams), the GM hires the head coach, the head coach hires the coordinators and with their feedback hires the rest of the coaches, and the GM hires the scouting team for the draft as well as funnels in desirable free agents (and works with the "capologist"), and naturally works with the coaches regarding free agents and draftees. This type of set-up appears to be the one that works the best even with absentee owners. Other systems, such as direct owner (Jerry Jones, for instance) involvement in everything, or firing coaches while keeping GMs that hired them, and then the following year, firing the GM, while the new GM has to keep the same head coach (you know, like a certain team in South Florida has done for years...until now! Does Stephen Ross finally get it?), or firing both GM and head coach seemingly every year with no stability whatsoever (you know, the Browns?), or keeping, just for the sake of stability, the same mediocre head coach (the Rams) or the same mediocre GM (Mayhew...but the Lions finally figured that one out, as well!) year after year with virtually no success at all...or the newer meme of making a power-hungry head coach the de facto GM just because he's a genius (Chip Kelly...gee how did that work out?). And then, after all this is worked out, the owner/czar and GM and coaches and players and everyone else involved in any of the decision making MUST ALWAYS BE ON THE SAME PAGE!

Considering all of the egos involved, what is the likelihood of ALL of these folks ALWAYS being on the same page? And if they are not, then some level of (to use PFT's Mike Florio's favorite word) dysfunction is bound to happen. Over the course of the "post-merger Super Bowl Era" in the NFL, every team has had some dysfunction until at some point they finally get it right. Believe it or not, the now consistently stable Pittsburgh Steelers used to be one of the worst NFL franchises, until they finally got it right in the early 70s. Then in the 80s, when father Art Rooney passed the team passed the team onto his son, his some made a fatal mistake in 1983 that destroyed whatever was left of the Steeler dynasty: they failed to draft Dan Marino. This failure caused the Steelers to pretty much suck for about ten years, and at some point the great coach Chuck Noll retired and they hired Bill Cowher and made things right again. But just that one bad mistake badly cost the team. On his death bed, the elder Rooney's dying words to his son were: "You should have drafted Dan Marino."

Actually the most stable teams are the ones that get passed on from father to son/daughter, but that doesn't always work when you have competing family members (the fact that this situation happened when Dolphins founder Joe Robbie passed on, and no family member could figure it out, so then they had to sell the team, so that when Wayne Huizenga bought the team in the mid-90s his first thought was (and I am being facetious here) "just who the heck is Don Shula?" So Shula is forced to retire (he knew he'd be fired at some's a shame when such a great coach feels like he's going to be fired for no reason other than the new owner wants Jimmy Johnson...), and where have the Dolphins been ever since? In the land of dysfunction! So has absentee owner Stephen Ross, relying on Mike Tannenbaum (czar), Chris Grier (GM), Dawn Aponte (capologist, and one of the best IMHO), Adam Gase and his staff and the players, finally gotten the memo?

Apparently Jerry Jones has, allowing his some Mark to run the Cowboys, at last, as GM. Folks, the only reason Dallas sucked this year was Tony Romo's injury and lack of caliber replacement. But Jerry Jones finally got it right. So can Ross and the other newer owners. (Except the Pegulas in keeping Rex Ryan (and now his brother, who took a good Saints D and screwed it up!) and the same GM who hired Doug Marone before Marone quit (never a good thing...see Bill Parcells leaving Miami right after he threw QB Chad Henne under a bus in 2010), the Pegulas will likely have to deal with Dolphins-level dysfunction soon.

Finally, dysfunction can happen when you least expect it. Think 2015 San Francisco Forty-Niners...And great stability means nothing if you can't sustain success. Think the recent New York Giants. And sometimes you need a little luck...whether it's named Andrew or something else. And sometimes stupidity ruins everything (think the playoff Bengals...are they the stupidest playoff team ever or what?).

In other words, fans of the Carolina Panthers should count their blessings, because what Carolina has accomplished is an outlier.

And now onto finishing up this post with an article I almost posted two weeks ago but then got caught up in other stuff...


Just found out (after it was being claimed that Joe Philbin was being hired by the Giants for some offensive capacity) that this same goofy-looking former Miami head coach--who, when he supposedly said he wanted to draft Derek Carr in 2014 because he was giving up on Ryan Tannehill...why, after Tannehill had a fine 2014 season, though no playoffs--basically was throwing Tannehill under a bus (and Tannehilll knew it after the 2014 season...remember when Philbin said he didn't know who the starting QB would be before the London game against the Raiders?), which might explain why he did not seriously attempt to fix an offensive line that was basically killing Tannehill (most sacks by a wide margin since 2012)...well, anyway, the Colts have hired this SOB to "fix" their offensive line, right? But Philbin--or should I call him as he'd been called on a Dolphins fan site, the Phinsider--PhilBUM--certainly knows Andrew Luck is light years ahead of Tannehill, sooooo...yeah he'll fix the Colts OL, all right! Just like he fixed Green Bay's in 2010 when Aaron Rodgers (another QB light years ahead of Tannehill thanks to Philbin's crappy coaching!) was sacked about 60 times! (But they won the Super Bowl, sooo...)

And speaking of Tannehill...though he had an off -year and did regress somewhat, the fact is he did quite a bit better after PhilBUM was fired (what took Ross so long to do so? What with PhilBUM's throwing Tanny under a bus like he supposedly did, the man shoulda been fired right after 2014! Why does it take so long for some owners to get the picture?), and also did a bit better after DeVante Parker started playing after being on injured reserve for 8 weeks.

But that regression could end (or get worse?) in 2016 because Ross hired a head coach that is known to "fix" QBs, Tim Tebow to Jay Cutler, with Peyton Manning in the middle to show this coach a thing or two, that is, Adam Gase. Naturally, Dolphins fans are complaining about the hire "because he has no head coaching experience...they shoulda hired Hue Jackson! Or Mike Shanahan (really? After he threw RGIII under another bus?)! Or Tom Coughlin (who was "fired" the way Shula was in 1996--Coughlin "retired"--because the Giants sucked the past couple of years, WITH Eli Manning! So this is a guy who can "fix" Tannehill?)! Or Dan Campbell, the interim HC that had to fire Bill Lazor because Lazor was "also" (maybe) not utilizing Tannehill the way he should have been utilized, and then proceeds to screw up the running game some more...yeah, the player's coach who really did very little "fixing" Tannehil or anything else! But, as with the GEICO "it's what they do" commercial, that's what Dolphins fans do, complain! (Another reason to NOT be a Dolphins fan! All the optimism, just to be let down for the umpteenth time...why bother rooting for this team? But I could say the same thing about Bills fans...and speaking of the Bills...)

Leave it to Rexy to hire his brother, Rob Ryan--who couldn't coach the Saints or Dallas D to save his life--to "fix" the Bills suddenly crappy defense--because Rex Ryan screwed it up! Now how does Rex "Defensive Guru" Ryan screw up an already outstanding defense in Buffalo? So badly that Mario Williams doesn't want to return to Buffalo? But don't worry Bills fans, Rexy and Rob will get you to the playoffs next year. Right!

So the Eagles hire an Andy Reid protege', Doug Pederson, while the Bucs hire former coordinator Dick Koetter as well as Mike Smith for D coordinator, and the Giants hire former OC Ben McAdoo, and the Browns (no really!) hire Hue Jackson, and the 49ers hire Chip Kelly...

I don't have much to say about who the Eagles and Browns and Giants and Bucs hired, but Chip Kelly to the 49ers makes no sense considering dysfunction between owner York and GM Baalke is the reason Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan...and which head coach wants more power than Chip Kelly? But he won't get it in Frisco, where Baalke, once considered a top GM, now looks like a guy who courts dysfunction. And the Titans still do not have a head coach for 2016 (plus they fired their GM, Russ Weber). Maybe they're waiting for Panthers OC Mike Shula to become available. (Note: the Titans hired interim coach Mike Mularkey.)

I do not know if Gase or any other first-time head coach will succeed or not, but any head coach who has succeeded has had a first-time coaching experience, and some succeeded AS first-time head coaches. Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells, Mike Tomlin, Mike McCarthy, and, to a lesser extent, Tom Coughlin and Ted Marchibroda and John Harbaugh...and I am sure there are others that succeeded as first-time head coaches, some wildly. Others suceeded as second-time coaches (Belichick and Don Shula), and others are third-timers (Pete Carroll and others). So why can't any of the first time head coaches succeed? If these first timers are co-ordinators like Gase or Pederson, there is no reason to think they cannot succeed. Non-coordinators would likely have more issues, which could be a reason Dan Campbell only went 5-7 as Miami's interrum head coach. If you are a co-ordinator you have charge of either offense or defense or special teams with assistants under you.

Here is IMHO what a first- or second- or whatever-timer head coach needs to have to succeed:

1. A nucleus of talent that is willing to do whatever it takes, and especially a QB. Many writers are giddy over the Browns hiring Hue Jackson. But IMHO unless he gets a good young QB it won't matter. Don't let the Texans making the playoffs fool you...Brian Hoyer proved he is NOT a franchise QB and was the primary weakness, and Andrew Luck's injuries were the main reason Houston got in, not the Colts (remember that Miami made the 2008 playoffs mainly because Tom Brady was out for the year with an injury...this year the Texans became the mirage instead). So unless Jackson gets his QB, what is the likelihood he will succeed in Cleveland?

2. Complete confidence from the owner and front office. This is why I question the Niners' hiring of Chip Kelly, who brought his own level of dysfunction when he forced his way to the GM role in Philly; the Niners have already enough dysfunction. See number 3. But if Kelly can keep his ego in check, he should succeed with Kaepernick and Co.

3. Being the top choice of your owner and front office right off the bat. The Dolphins wanted Gase above all others, and they got him. In the past they had to "settle" for a head coach that was third or fourth on their list (Philbin, when they couldn't get Jeff Fisher...who has done nothing for the Rams either!...Same goes for GM, settling for Hickey, whom they also just fired). That means the owner and front office have confidence in you and will do whatever to have you succeed.

4. At least some co-ordinator experience, but previous HC experience is a better predictor of likely success. All the coaches who have had great success (see above) had some co-ordinator experience and some even had some HC experience, the more the better. But having many years of experience like Shanahan or Coughlin can be as detrimental as having very little because NFL trends change all the time and what if these older coaches can't or won't keep up? Inability to adapt is probably why Shanny and Coughlin couldn't keep up (which is why I cannot believe Fins fans wanted Shanahan after what happened with RGIII). Now Gase is very young, but when Don Shula started out with the Colts in 1964, he was as young as Gase is now.

5. Rapport with players. You do not have to be a "player's coach" like Rex Ryan or (supposedly) Dan Campbell to succeed, nor must you be a "tyrant" like supposedly Belichick is (or, according to some '72 Dolphins, Shula was), nor must you be a "genius" like Bill Walsh. But you must be a bit of all three: "player coach", tyrant, and genius. Few coaches have all three, which is why so few coaches truly succeed. They say Bill Belichick is obsessive-compulsive, and as long as he can make his players the same (you know, Brady?), he will continue to succeed with the Pats (a little cheating helps though). Regardless, you must be able to get the players where you want them.

6. Being in the right place at the right time. The best example of this nowadays is Ron Rivera. He gets a good young QB in Cam Newton, and then he gets the best MLB since Ray Lewis or Zach Thomas in Luke Keuchley, and then he gets a great WR in Benjamin and then he gets a great reclamation project in Michael Oher. What could possibly go wrong? The Panthers have drafted very well lately, have an excellent young roster with a smattering of savvy vets, and they are situated in the right division (the fairly weak, but not very weak, NFC South). And yes, they have a Shula (Mike, that is...).

7. Good scouting, good FA signings, and good drafting. See Panthers above. But also that could be why Mike Zimmer in Minnesota is looking good at this point (and why the Browns needed another new HC...what if the Browns would have drafted Teddy Bridgewater instead of Johnny "Mr. Immature" Manziel?  Drafting a future franchise QB is a must (and if you still don't have one, hire a coach who will develop one...which is why Miami got Gase--to make Tannehill into one!)

8. A Plan. But the plan has to have the front office and maybe even the owner involved, and this plan has to make sure the right assistant coaches and co-ordinators are part of it. That way, they know how to get the players in on it; after all, the players have to carry out the plan. For instance, do you plan around the talent you have, or force the talent into your plan? Or do you completely start over?

9. Luck. And I don't mean Andrew! By "luck" I mean a random event or two has to happen that will help you succeed where you might not have succeeded without it. Since I know much of Dolphins history under Don Shula I will provide this example: in 1983, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had just won two Super Bowls twice and had quite a run at success had the opportunity drafting with the 25th position, and having to replace the aging Terry Bradshaw, to draft Dan Marino, who after all went to the U of Pittsburgh, and was the draft pick of aging owner Art Rooney. But the Steelers, in maybe their biggest draft mistake ever, picked Gabe Rivera who, two years later, died (I forgot how). Had they gotten Marino, their dynasty likely would have continued. And Don Shula got lucky, and drafted Marino, who helped Miami continue to make the playoffs nearly every year until Marino's retirement (though no Super Bowl wins).

10. Foes' Failure. What has allowed the Patriots and Belichick to continue to dominate their division? Why, failures on the part of their divisional foes, of course! This has also worked (until their "Luck" ran out that is) for the Colts in the very weak AFC South. But nothing lasts forever, and the Pats won't be wonderful forever. Which is why the Jets with Todd Bowles and the Dolphins now with Gase (screw the Bills with Rexy and Rob...they had their chances) must get their HC hires right. When the Pats finally do collapse, one of these teams has a golden opprtunity to take over.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Not One Team is Super Bowl Worthy IMHO

I am going to assume the Pats will be a likely serious contender, but here's the rub...can they do it if Gronk is injured? I was thinking the other day about how well they perform when Gronk is healthe vs. if he plays but is not 100 percent and also if he is out of the game. Fact is when he is out of the game they are as likely to lose as win, and if he only plays some, the same thing...but if he plays the whole game the Pats are much more likely to win.

I have another question about the Pats' future: in 2017 (I think) Brady's contract is up, and, further, Jimmy Garapolo's rookie deal will also be up--but what will they do if Brady hogs the show and Garapolo never gets a chance to show what he can do?

I bring this up because of the very convenient situation in Denver:  Peyton Manning gets injured while not having a very good year...he's 39 after all...and then guess what? His understudy, Brock Osweiler, another apparently good QB from that 2012 draft, after hardly getting a chance at all just so happens to beat the Pats! So that even if he doesn't play that well again for the rest of the year, the Broncos KNOW that this guy can actually replace Manning, who most likely will not be back in Denver (or anywhere else) next year.

Now as much as the Pats need Brady (and esp. Gronk) to start games, are they going to let Garapolo rot on the bench? And is Brady mentoring him? Last I heard, Brady virtually ignored the guy...that is NOT good for the Pats, and is Belichick letting this happen?

On to the Packers, who needed a "Hail Mary" from Rodgers to beat the 4-7 Lions...and they are STILL half a game behind the Vikings. That's right, the Vikings! Having once been a Vikings fan, I will root for them the rest of the year and seem likely to make I like Teddy Bridgewater, who should have been the first QB picked in the 2014 draft, not Bortles.

Though the Panthers are still unbeaten, I just do not see them in the Super Bowl. I do not see the Bengals, either, but am glad Andy Dalton is sticking it to the media, who claimed he sucked. Same goes for Cardinals...has Carson Palmer EVER won a playoff game? And he's much older than Dalton.

The NFC East is a mess, and the really...look like the most likely division winner. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have poor records, and the Giants are meh.

The Colts have recovered somewhat and should win the AFC South. Andrew Luck is pretty much recovered, but now Houston is starting to turn it on (after the Dolphins gave them one helluva wake up call in week 7, going 41-0 at halftime!). I'm going with the Colts. But here is another rub...if the Colts do not win a playoff game, will Pagano be back with them? I read a headline somewhere saying he's quit coaching if he is let go.

I had high hopes for the Raiders who were doing so well early on, but have faltered. And to what extent has the possibility of moving to LA put a huge dent into the Chargers, who are a god-awful 3-8? And what happened to the once-mighty AFC North? The Ravens are 4-7? Really?

Going into week 12 it looks like the most likely teams to make AFC playoffs are Pats, Bengals, Colts, Broncos (not really a surprise there) and the wildcards being (most likely) Steelers and Texans...but of course that can change, and there are still 7 other teams who still have a shot. Only the Browns (2-9), Titans (2-9), and Chargers (3-8) have no shot.

For the NFC, I have no idea who wins the East...I never do, but just based on QB consistency I have to go with the Giants. Sorry Redskins. As good as the Vikes have been, I'm going with the Packers, and the Panthers and Cardinals in the south and west respectively. The Vikes and likely the Seahawks will be the wildcards. But the Skins, Bears, Eagles, Falcons, Bucs, Saints, and Rams still have a shot as well. Need I mention what disaster happened to the 49ers?

But I ask you, reader...are any of these teams that are likely to make the playoffs really worthy of winning the Super Bowl? Folks I am beginning to think things have gotten out of hand to the point where there seems to be a certainty about the game being rigged to be nothing but a circus.

In days gone by, the game actually meant something, and has now been rendered meaningless. The 2007 Patriots were pert-near perfect. What has happened since then? Smoke and mirrors.