Archive for the ‘NFL’ category

Thank You New York Giants And Other Thoughts…

January 24, 2012

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first thing I need to do is thank Kyle Williams and the New York Giants from saving me from a nightmare Super Bowl scenario.  Thanks to Williams second punt return snafu leading to a New York game winning field goal in overtime I now have a team to root for in the Super Bowl.

A big thumbs down goes to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans and kicker Billy Cundiff.  Because of Evans inability to hold on to a touchdown pass and Cundiff’s best Ray Finkle imitation I have to watch perhaps my least favorite team in the NFL, the New England Patriots gets a shot at yet another championship.

I would’ve liked to have seen New York and Baltimore in the Super Bowl.  Had that been the case all I would’ve been rooting for is a good game.  But I guess having a good guy/bad guy scenario works just as well.  At least it wasn’t the Patriots against the 49ers.  That scenario would’ve been a nightmare for this Raider fan.  Had been that situation I probably would’ve been rooting for New England because at least their gloating would have been taking place three times zones away.  Since I live in central California the prospect of seeing a gloating San Francisco fan on a near daily basis would’ve been too much to handle.

“Who’s got it worse than us?” – Sincerely, Kyle Williams, Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff

All in all I’m happy the NBA is back but frankly it’s painful to watch.  A couple of weeks ago the Bulls and Raptors play to a 77-64 final.  A few nights later the Mavericks and Lakers try to set the game back even further with a 73-70 final.  Last night the Magic single-handedly sent the game back to the Naismith era by scoring only 56 points in a game.

I know the shortened schedule is the reason for some bizarre happenings and some less than top quality performances but the three examples I just mentioned are inexcusable.  Isn’t there any way to fine these teams a games pay?  Clearly they didn’t show up on those respective nights.

After a 10-8 start that includes a 1-6 road record I completely overestimated the Lakers ability to contend for a title.  No team with that bad of a road record can expect to be playing for anything worth while this season except for a higher draft pick.

I can’t figure out if it’s the team needing time to adjust to a new offensive scheme or the team not having the right player personnel to properly execute the new scheme.  One thing I do know is that a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should not be this painful to watch on the offensive end.  With the way Bryant is jacking up shots, I feel like I’m watching the 2005-2006 or 2006-2007 Lakers and I don’t understand why.  This team is way more talented than those that featured such legendary never was’ as Kwame Brown and Smush Parker.

How about the Detroit Tigers coming out of nowhere to sign first baseman Prince Fielder?  The deal is for nine years and worth $214 million.  How’s that for protection for Miguel Cabrera who is a top two or three hitter in his own right?  Along with what the Angels and Yankees have done this off-season, the race for the AL Pennant is down to three teams despite pitchers and catchers not reporting for a little less than a month from now.

Today the Raiders hired former Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen as their new head coach. For Oakland this was the first head coach to be hired with a defensive background since John Madden in the late 60’s.  I don’t know much about Allen but I was a fan of the hiring General Manager Reggie McKenzie so “In Reggie I Trust”.

I’ve been a Los Angeles Kings fan for my entire life and I never ever thought I would see the day that a Kings goaltender would make an all-star team.  So a big congratulations goes to Jonathan Quick for his outstanding season thus far.  Without the outstanding play of Quick, Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi would be standing in the unemployment right along side former head coach Terry Murray.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse

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The Four Day Football Whirlwind That Was

January 10, 2012

With so much going on in the world of pro and college football  since Saturday there was no way I could decide on just one thing to write about so without further ado here are my thoughts on the weekend that was:

Saturday night New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had me shaking my head on a regular basis but in a good way.  For three hours I was amazed at the pin point precision throws  he was making as he carved up the Detroit Lions defense.  It was a performance that was nothing short of amazing.

I feel bad for the voters in this years NFL MVP race because whether you pick Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Brees you’re wrong even though you’re right.  Good luck with that voters.

Admittedly I didn’t watch much of Monday’s BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama.  After their regular season field goal fest, why would anyone want to sit through another yawner?  Yes, I understand that defense is extremely important but you can still have a great defensive game while having a 21-17 outcome.

Was Alabama the best team on the field Monday?  No question about it.  What they accomplished defensively both last night and this season was nothing short of historical.  Were they the best team in the country?  Yes.  With all that said, I still don’t think they deserved to be playing for a championship last night.  I’m sorry Alabama but as  far as I’m concerned you had your chance against LSU back in November and you lost.  I know it was by a field goal in overtime but you still lost.  Period.  Oklahoma State should have been playing LSU last night.  End of story.

In last week’s column I touched on what the Raiders should do in regards to Hue Jackson’s future as their head coach.  Today newly hired Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie announced that Jackson was being dismissed after just one season as head coach.  Jackson  lead the team to an 8-8 record that included a 1-4 finish and the team missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season.

While I disagree with the decision I completely understand why it was made.  As is common in the business world, when new ownership takes over a company they let go of the current people and bring in their people to guide the company in their vision.

The Raiders hiring of McKenzie is no different.  He comes from a Green Bay Packers background which is completely different than the “Raider Way” and he wants to bring in his people to to steer the franchise in his image.  Raider owner Mark Davis gave him that authority and McKenzie plans to execute it.

After guiding the Denver Broncos to a 29-23 overtime victory in Sunday’s wildcard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Tim Tebow has earned the right to enter next year’s training camp  as the starter regardless of what he does this weekend at New England.

I know Tebow’s pulled off some of the ugliest performances in recent quarterbacking history but he also went 7-4 as a starter and helped Denver get into the postseason.  If he wasn’t playing for the Broncos I would be rooting for him on a regular basis to keep defying the naysayers.

That being said, if you’ve read any of my previous columns you know how I feel about the Patriots so for this week only my rooting interests are completely behind Denver.  Come on Timmy!  I know you have another miracle left in you!

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

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The Failure That Was The 2011 Oakland Raiders

January 3, 2012

It was a season filled with promise despite the passing of owner Al Davis.  The once vaunted vertical game had returned.  The ground game was as explosive as any in the NFL.   The defense was playing inspired and the kicking team was challenging all-time records.   First year head coach Hue Jackson was making all the right calls both on and off the field.   Everything was falling into place for the Oakland Raiders.

For the first time since a trip to the Super Bowl in 2002, Oakland seemed like a stone cold lead pipe lock to end their playoff drought.  Through eleven weeks the Raiders were 7-4 and holding sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Unfortunately for  Raider Nation a season that was filled with hope, excitement and promise finished with emptiness, frustration and disappointment.

After losing four of its last five to the end the season including an uninspiring performance at Miami, a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter of a home game against Detroit and an embarrassing effort against San Diego, the Oakland Raiders are watching the playoffs exactly like you and I…on the couch.

No matter how you look at it the lack of a playoff appearance makes this season a failure.  Coming off a 8-8 season in 2010 that included a 6-0 record within their division, a playoff appearance for the 2011 Oakland Raiders had to be the only criteria by which success for this year could be measured.

Many think the inability of the team to finish should cost Jackson his job even after just one season.  I disagree with that believing that coaches need more than one season to showcase their abilities.  I would give Jackson one more year.  If they don’t make the playoffs after next year then I would give him the pink slip.

To give Jackson the best chances to succeed I would make the these changes.  The first thing I would do is  hire a General Manager and give them complete control over player personnel.  In this day and age I will never understand how teams expect to have success without a General Manager in place.  This person will give the team an identity and build it in their image.  Head coaches or owners should not be making player personnel decisions.

Owners put their employees in the best positions to succeed, general managers find the talent and coaches get the most out of that talent.  That is the recipe for success.  See Bob Kraft who owns the New England Patriots or Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss if you disagree with me.

The next thing I would do is fire Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.  His defenses inability to hold three different second half leads this year against Buffalo, Denver and Detroit are arguably the biggest examples of failure for the 2011 Raiders.

In losses to Detroit and San Diego the Raiders allowed them to drive over 95 yards in the fourth quarter in just a handful of plays.  That type of defensive performance is inexcusable.  To steal a famous line from Al Davis, “Bresnahan must go down and he must go down hard”.

In addition, I would try to upgrade the pass defense from my linebackers and try to bring a free agent or use what little draft picks I have left in this years draft to upgrade my secondary.  The play of the secondary was a source of weakness all season long and was routinely exploited throughout.

Lastly, I would do whatever it takes to re-sign Michael Bush.  As much as I love Darren McFadden, he has proven himself to be unreliable.  When healthy he is as good as any runner in the game.  Unfortunately he has never played more than 13 games in a season and is coming off a season in which he only played in seven games.  Bush may not have the speed and quickness of McFadden but what he lacks in that area he makes up for in durability and routinely proves he can perform like a starting running back when given the opportunity.

The 2011 season was a failure that will not soon be forgotten by fans of the silver and black.  It was a performance that should serve as a reminder of what happens when a team doesn’t give it’s best performance for an entire season.  It should also serve as a reminder that the Raiders should live by the example of their slogan and once again “commit to excellence”.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

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The “Raider Way” Has Become Old And Tiresome

September 10, 2009

As a sports fan, we are taught that if you are a real fan of a team you stick with them through thick and thin.  I’ve had more than my fair share of good times rooting for the LA Lakers.  They’ve won nine of their 15 championships in my lifetime and have only missed the playoffs twice during that time. 

Although its been over 20 years since the Dodgers last tasted October glory, they have made several playoff appearances to at least wet the palette. 

This brings me to the other side of my sports fan spectrum.  When it comes to the ice, I am a life long LA Kings fan.  Outside of the Wayne Gretzky era from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s when they were in the playoffs every season including a run all the way to the finals in 1993, there have been a lot of lean years to suffer through. 

The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2002 and that’s saying something when over half the teams make the playoffs in the NHL.  What keeps me coming back to drink from the Kings trough in recent years is it seems they have a plan in place and are sticking to it and with young talent like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty their future is definitely a bright one.

The second team in my life who rears their head on the “bad” side of my sports fan spectrum is the Oakland Raiders.  Anyone who’s familiar with the history of the league knows the Raiders were once a proud franchise.  From the beginning of the Super Bowl era to the end of the 80’s they had the best winning percentage in all of football, were the only team to make a Super Bowl appearance in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s winning three championships in that time and were a trend setter by hiring the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores and the first African-American head coach in Art Shell.

Growing up in southern California in the mid 80’s there were two teams playing in the LA/Orange County area and the Rams did nothing for me.  As a boy, I loved the silver & black, bad boy image the Raiders offered.  They most certainly had an outlaw feel to them and most importantly were winning games. 

Since 1990 when Bo Jackson played his last NFL game, the Raiders have only four double digit win seasons.  In the 1990’s they were at least competitive finishing with eight wins or more seven times.  Since their Super Bowl run to complete the 2002 season the Raiders have finished with double digit losses every year.  That’s six straight years with 10 or more losses, which unfortunately for fans of the silver and black, is a NFL record. 

Just when I think it can’t get any worse as a Raider fan, signings and trades that turn out to be abject failures rear their ugly head.  DeAngelo Hall and Randy Moss anyone?  Hall was a pro bowler with Atlanta.  Moss a perennial all-pro with both Minnesota and New England. 

The following draft picks in this decade have come nowhere close to fulfilling their potential:  Derrick Gibson, Phillip Buchanon (as a return man I will give him credit), Robert Gallery (yes he starts but is nowhere near the franchise type offensive lineman he was projected to be), Fabian Washington, Michael Huff.  These were all first round draft picks.  I just don’t understand how a team can miss the boat that many times.

As all of us know, everything with the Raiders points to one person, Al Davis.  Historically, he has been a maverick owner who has done a lot of good for the game and that’s proven by the fact he is in the hall of fame.  Three Super Bowls wins (albeit the last one came 25 years ago) is something that any owner would love to have on their resume. 

All that said, the game has passed him by.  Because he runs the Raiders like a dictator along with the fact he employs no one who is in charge of player personnel means that the end of gloomy days is not expected to come anytime soon.  I’m sorry fellow Raider fans but the “Raider way” has gotten old and tiresome.  The only time the Raiders enjoyed a nice string of success was during the four years Jon Gruden was the head coach.  Guess what?  He didn’t do things the Raider way.  Gruden’s tenure was the only time I can remember the Raiders not being amongst the league leaders in penalties.  Much like the first round draft picks of this decade, trading Gruden to Tampa Bay for draft picks was a mistake. 

The bottom line for me is that I’m ok with suffering through some lean years if I feel there’s some kind of plan in place.  If there was one, the Raiders wouldn’t be one of the jokes of the league for six years running.  The NFL is the ultimate parody league.  Every year it seems as though a team goes from missing the playoffs the previous year to playing in the postseason the next.  For a team to be this bad in today’s NFL is inexcusable. 

I’ve always contended that the most successful teams are where the owners get out-of-the-way and let the people they hired do their jobs.  Jerry Buss of the Lakers and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots are two owners who are shining examples of this. 

In the end, I don’t see the Raiders having any type of success let alone being able to win a Super Bowl as long as Al Davis is running the team in a dictator like fashion.  Until he hands over the reigns the team will always be stuck in the past, failing to catch up to the present.  The only way I see that happening is when Davis’ time on earth here is done.  

Never in my life have I thought about jumping ship from a team I consider myself a fan of but with the Raiders I’m closer than I ever have been.  As fans of any team I think we need to ask ourselves how long  can we take an owner continuing to make one poor decision after another thus creating a losing product on the field year after year. 

All I ask for from my teams is to have some kind of a plan in place.  I understand sports is very cyclical and it’s unrealistic to expect my team to be on top every year but if there’s no clear vision on the future, a team will be on the bottom for a longer period of time than they should.  Even though we might be in the middle of a storm, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to see the sun off in the distance. 

The Raiders are operating with no plan and because of that I don’t know how much longer they’ll be in mine.

From Hattiesburg to Minneapolis: The Return Of Favre To The NFL

August 20, 2009

To get an idea on how I feel about Brett Favre and his return to the NFL please read this post I wrote back in June.

When I first expressed those thoughts Brett Favre was in his annual offseason state of constant back and forth.  I could picture him spending the majority of his day attached to some kind of communication device asking any one of his friends or family members who would listen, “Should I come back or should I retire?” 

Like his play on the field, his inability to make up his mind on his future in the game had become legend.  As NFL fans we had spent as much time discussing “WWBFD?” (What will Brett Favre Do?) as we did discussing his actions on the field that contributed to his lore in Lambeau for guiding the Packers to a Super Bowl win while setting several all-time quarterback records.  This offseason had been no different than the previous three or four. 

Everyone of them had played out in the same predictable fashion.  In February Favre would either be crying or on the verge of tears saying  he was going to call it a career.   Fast forward to April where right before the draft Favre would announce his intent to return and give it another go for one more season. 

Like some of us fans, the Packers were no longer interested in being part of the yearly drama known simply as “As The Favre Turns”  so they decided to move on and see what their future had in store for them by handing the reigns over to 2005 first round draft pick Aaron Rodgers.

As most of us know, Favre was eventually traded to the New York Jets where he played the 2008 season and once it was over, he decided to once again cue up the annual NFL offseason drama “As The Favre Turns”.   As had been the case in the past, Favre announced to the football world that he was done.  No longer would we see the famed number four on an NFL gridiron.  Or so we thought.  This time though Favre was a free agent and was in complete control of his playing destiny. 

Enter the Minnesota Vikings, a team thought by many to be on the verge of being able to make a run deep into the playoffs and possibly a Super Bowl in a wide open NFC Central.  Once again while Favre was spending time with his family in Hattiesburg, Miss. while throwing the pigskin around in his Wranglers with his buddies he started to get the itch to return. 

Finally the stars were aligning.  Now was the perfect opportunity for Favre to play for a team that he wanted to a season ago.  A division rival of the Packers that Green Bay refused to trade him to.  Now was his chance to exact revenge on the franchise that he felt discarded him and the GM in Ted Thompson that sent him into Gotham exile.  He wanted them and they wanted him.  It was a match made in heaven as far as both Favre and the Vikings were concerned. 

I held out hope that the image of Favre wearing a purple and white number four was something that would never come to pass but I should have known that it was going to happen.  Like death and taxes it was going to happen and on Monday it did.  The runaway freight train from Hattiesburg to Minneapolis was going to get there one way or another and there was nothing we could do to stop it. 

Are the Vikings better off with Favre as their starter?  They certainly are both on the field and in the revenue department.  The Vikings have already sold 3000 season tickets and 10,000 single game tickets since his signing on Monday.  Is the league better off for having one of its legends to market one more season?  Only time will give us the true answer considering that Favre must play well but right now I’m going to say “yes”.

Despite the points I just made in the aforementioned paragraphs I am in no way happy with this football marriage because as I’ve said before on this site, Favre is doing this for selfish reasons and to stick it to the franchise that gave him a chance to be a legend and stood by him during every high and low both on and off the field for 16 seasons.  For Favre to say ” If you’re a true Packers fan, you’d understand” is insulting to the loyal fans that have stuck with him. 

I’m not a Packers fan so I guess I don’t understand.  But what I do understand is that Favre is selfish.  He believed that he was bigger than the team and when they made the decision to split from him and not vice versa his ego was bruised and he refused to handle it like a professional. 

Brett Favre is still one of my favorite players for the enthusiasm with which he’s competed, for the toughness he’s displayed en route to starting 269 consecutive games at quarterback and for his ability to shine in adverse situations much like the way he lit up my Raiders on that Monday night in Oakland the day after his father passed away. 

Considering he committed no actual crimes (see Plaxico Burress or Donte Stallworth) I am going to forgive him for his selfishness sooner than later, but like Kobe Bryant’s selfish performance in Game Four of the 2004 NBA finals, somewhere I will always have a bad taste in my mouth.

Brett Favre: Wants to Play For The Wrong Reasons

June 18, 2009

For NFL fans spring and summer is a time of transition from one year to the next.  Football has become a year round sport, between the draft, offseason moves, and the actual season itself.  Typical questions during the offseason include:  What free agents are my team going to be able to sign?  What players can they bring back?  Who should my team draft?  What rookies are making a big impression in OTA’s or during camp?  Is Brett Favre going to retire or play another year? 

Football fans around the world are once again subjected to the annual offseason miniseries entitled “As The Favre Turns.”  I have gotten to the point where I have stopped reading every article, listening to every story on TV and radio, or waiting on pins and needles regarding Favre and his inevitable decision whether to spend time with his family in Mississippi or return to a NFL stadium near you.

I just wish that he would make his mind up quickly and let some of the other important stories that surround the league come to the forefront.  There has been much discussion about why Favre should retire or continue his Hall of Fame career.  Regardless of what we, the fans, think Favre should do, he has earned the right to end his career on his own terms.  If he is still able to perform at a level that is high enough to satisfy the front office and coaching staff of a National Football League team then he should be able to continue his career.

With that being said, Favre should hang it up and call it a career.  I am really hoping that he doesn’t come back and play.  If he still wants to play because of his love for the game or to earn a substantial living, then that’s one thing.  In my eyes, Favre is not considering returning for any one of those reasons, but is doing it solely to spite the Green Bay Packers.  That is the tragedy in this whole matter. 

Green Bay was not wrong in their decision to let Favre go last offseason.  He had made his decision to “retire” and so they moved on.  What were they supposed to do?  They couldn’t just sit back and wait for him to change his mind.  Not to mention that Favre was 38 years old at the time and they had Aaron Rodgers, a 2005 first round draft pick, on the bench.  They owed it to themselves to see what they had in the significantly younger Rodgers who had been sitting on the bench for three seasons. 

Furthermore Green Bay was right in their decision to trade Favre to a team of their choosing.  There is no way that I would trade a Super Bowl winning legend on my team to a divisional rival.  Teams in every sport refuse to trade players to division rivals every year.  The Packers were not doing anything that was unreasonable. 

Would I have liked to have seen a better end to Favre’s time in Green Bay?  Without a doubt.  But when a player refuses to stick to the decision he made, this is what happens.  Favre made the mistake of thinking  he is bigger than the Packers.  No player on any team is bigger than the team itself. 

It is shameful that Favre is using spite as his motivation to return to the gridiron.  It is disappointing to see him treat the franchise that gave him the opportunity to become a legend in such a disrespectful manner.  Let us hope that the image of Brett Favre in a purple and white NFL uniform on Sundays is something that we will never be unfortunate enough to see.