“In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold”
― Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam
The San Francisco Forty Niners
The noble franchise of Montana and Young has officially walked into the twilight and a grotesque, immovable usurper has taken its place. The Niners are finished. This season had all the earmarks of a great high stakes custody battle. Uncertain allegiances, missed opportunities, and that piece de magnificence where you fell like the egos involved truly care more about themselves than the team. Once upon a time this team was five yards from a Lombardi. Once upon a time Colin Kaepernick led the league in jersey sales, as the dauphin, the heir apparent to a mythical QB legacy. The GM’s daughter is tweeting about the offensive coordinator. The owner is backing away from reporters with a plastic smile. Kaepernick jerseys are being burned in effigy. The coach who was thought to be the keystone to this particular arch will be coaching in Oakland (or worse) next season. You can’t even watch this team play it’s so painful. “This used to be a peaceful town.” Brian Dennehy’s Cobb says with some nostalgia at the end of Silverado. That’s what it’s like in San Francisco. It used to be a great franchise. Now, it’s the Titans. Even when it felt like they were a bit lost during the Nolan/Singletary era, they were still close enough to Bill Walsh to feel like they could overcome it. This may not be a final death knell for the Niners as they have a ton of talent on the roster, but it feels like the days of yore are well in the rear view mirror and the next iteration of sustained success is far enough away to sigh.
Telling Cheerleaders how to wash their vajayjays
Boy do I miss the good ol’ days when you could just lay it on the line and educate your cheerleaders about their possible vaginal fungus. Straight talk, y’know? Now it’s all ooooooohhh I can’t tell my cheerleaders how to dine formally according to my guidelines or god forbid I tell them how to talk to disabled people! It’s a world gone mad! And now they want to also actually be paid! In money! Holy shitballs people! If I’m paying you, I’m telling you about your vagina. That’s just all there is to it. Fucking Obama.
Remember when Robert Griffin III was neck and neck with Andrew Luck to see who would go 1st overall in the draft? Remember when he used to drop back and then, in the flash of an eye, steal from the pocket for a forty yard gain? He was nimble and quick, like a young fox. He had the athletic superiority of a third year Michael Vick. Everyone knew they couldn’t stop him, they just had to try to prevent him from hitting a home run on every play. And look at him now. Coach-killer. Locker room cancer. Dude who doesn’t know how to slide. Gimpy. Injury prone. Inaccurate passer. Prima donna. Awful hair. Fakey-fake. Douche. Bust. A few weeks ago, then the Rams played the Washington team, they trotted out all the players they drafted in exchange for the second overall pick they sent to Washington. It was embarrassing. For Washington. And now RGIII may have cost his second coach a job in as many years. He is kryptonite. He is trouble. He is a franchise-killing failure and your heart has to go out to the owner of that team for the solid decade this will set them back. Who’s the owner again? Ah. Okay, then it’s just good ol’ fashioned karma in action. You reap what you sow, fellah. Moving along …
The “window” for the Falcons
Aaaaaand it’s closed. The window used to be based around Tony Gonzalez retiring. That was last year. They rented Steven Jackson for two years because the window was closing. Now we’re likely to see Mike Smith kicked out of the building and that imaginary window will go with him. You still have Matt Ryan, but you have a past-his-prime Matt Ryan. I always said that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco weren’t good enough to win a championship. I’ll end up half right.
The Running Quarterback
It seemed like a great idea at the time. Read options. The “threat” that would keep defensive coordinators up at night trying to invent a way to have their safety in two places at once. It helped usher in the “big nickel” defense. It was a structural change that would send reverberations throughout the football world, the way bloomers did for gals in the 1850s. New. Different. Better. But here’s the thing: those dudes get hit. And hit. And hit. And that makes them less springy and less effective. And guess what? They end up running less. What do you call a terrified running QB who’s afraid to leave the pocket? A really really shitty investment. Because he’s not really a pocket passer. He’s a pocket running back who isn’t accurate enough to move the sticks without the threat of that running element. It just doesn’t last. The pocket passer who’s fast/good enough to run on occasion (Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson) will always be a more stable and productive bargain than the running QB who can also throw (Cam Newton, RGIII, Colin Kaepernick).
Reggie Wayne’s Body
This week Reggie Wayne played his 209th game for the Colts, becoming their all time leader. His contract is up, his body is ruined, his role is diminished. Another great warrior succumbs to the ravages of time. Hell of a player.
Rex Ryan’s childlike optimism
Rex isn’t dead, but his childlike optimism is. We would see it in the form of bluster, but I’m telling you that he believed every word he ever said. If he said they were gonna win the Super Bowl, they were gonna win the Super Bowl. He saw it. He believed it. What died this season wasn’t Rex’s ability or his skill or his dedication. What died was his unfounded beliefs. We had a dude like this in my fantasy football league this year who drafted Josh Gordon because he believed that his suspension would be overturned and he’d be playing by week 1. He went so far as to read Ohio labor law (I’m serious) to make a guess and when Gordon wasn’t back until week 12 it ruined his season and his misplaced belief system.
Life is the ongoing process of learning that not everything is about you.— Joe Abercrombie (@LordGrimdark) December 14, 2014
Words to live by. Rex is going to thrive, I mean really thrive in the media. But he gained some wisdom this season and if he decides to come back to coaching, he’ll be the better for it.
The High Ground
Not that the NFL really ever had it, but it used to pretend like it did. With this year’s spate of scandals, the NFL can’t get to the offseason media shadows fast enough. There will be blips of scandal coverage next year for sure, when AP and Ray Rice inevitably return to the field (somewhere) but this season was a huge kick in the nuts for the powers that be. As they should be. Remember the Riley Cooper racial scandal or the Josh Gordon pot non-smoking scandal? Right. Because the other ones turned them to dust.
Long Term Talent Base
A recent Bloomberg poll shows that half of American parents wouldn’t want their kids playing football.
“Huzzah!” yelled American Samoa.
This category was almost called “The Marc Trestman Offense” but I’m guessing I know the reason it isn’t working as designed. Last year the Bears signed Fishneck to a $125 million dollar contract. This year they cried blood as he made them rue the day their fool hearts betrayed them. Cutler is physically gifted but practically awful. He’s a guy who has all the tools to be much better than he actually is but he seems to find a way to lose. You know that thing that great QB’s have where they absorb the mood and flow of the game? Where they know that they have to get a first down at point X, they have to hit the out at the sticks at point Y, they have to run and dive for the first down at point Z? Cutler has none of that. It’s like they transported an alien to Earth to play for the Bears. He’s football tone-deaf. This was his chance and he blew it.
The Johnny Football Hype Train
All it took was one start. One start and that train has ground to a screeching halt. One start and you know that the Browns will be in the market for a quarterback in the 2016 draft. There are a few ways people are seeing Manziel’s first start. Some are in the “it’s one game, give him time” camp. Some are in the “you can’t deny the natural ability” camp. On the other end there are people like me who watched him and saw that he just won’t be able to make it in the NFL. He’s the Josh Whedon of the Doug Flutie prototypes. It’s just nutty that this guy went in the first round anywhere. Another miss at QB in Cleveland. Such a bummer. And realistically is it too soon to call it after one game? It sure is. But I’m doing it anyway because he seemed that far outside the realm of good. Hopefully I’m wrong about that.
Breast Cancer Awareness
It’s not like we’re less aware now, but for some reason the NFL’s tribute to pink didn’t land this year. Maybe coming on the heels of the Ray Rice scandal didn’t help. Maybe it feels like a tired idea. Maybe brawny dudes in pink is just kind of dumb. It was just a complete shoulder shrug.
Chip Kelly Haters
He can do it at every level. That’s what this season says. No matter the outcome for the Eagles, Chip Kelly is real. His eye for talent is real. His offense is real. His ability to turn recycled crap (Sanchez) into competence is amazing. He’ll be a troublemaker for defenses for years to come. Andy Reid who?
Now when I hear someone say “spygate” I know they’re just bitter. It’s the football equivalent of Crocs. I see you in Crocs and I know we have very little in common. You say “spygate” and it does the same thing. The Patriots run of relevance continues and guess what? They’re not spying on anyone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a team bounce back from a beating the way they did after KC handed them their testes in week four. Now Chandler Jones is back, Hightower is back, Jamie Collins is playing out of his mind and Revis is patrolling the secondary. I haven’t even mentioned the offense because for the first time in a decade I don’t have to. This team is rounding into form and it looks like the road will go through Foxboro. It’s too early to talk about a Lombardi, but they’ll be in the mix. Tough to pin that on spying.
Kevin Coyle and Todd Bowles not being head coaches
Enough already. All these guy do is build great defenses. Somebody needs to put them in the big chair.
Jon Gruden Schadenfreude
I admit it, I’m in the vast minority on Gruden. There was this thread the other day about Gruden re-upping his broadcasting contract through 2021 and I expected to hear a lot of groaning. It was exactly the opposite. People love Gruden. They were high fiving and praising him for his “passion” and “love of the game.” Ha! I couldn’t be further away from that. I think he’s truly mentally ill, a fraud and a narcissist. All show and no go. All hat and no cattle. The perfect NFL charlatan. I was praying that he’d take a coaching gig so he could be exposed. Specifically because he has a show called Gruden’s QB camp where he interviews/schools/annoys all the pre-draft rookie QB talent and acts like he’s an authority. The fact is that he’s never developed a young QB in his life. His offenses were plagued with overly-complicated terminology and he himself was loathed by his players. And that was years ago, when coaches could get away with being Nazis. It’s a kindler, gentler NFL and his brand of manipulative mind game bullshit would never play. Never! Now we have to suffer through him being a crazy banana grinder every Monday. The guy’s a fraud, people. (And nice guy Mike Tirico has been disciplined for untoward sexual advances at the workplace. I didn’t believe it either. Google it.) In general, Monday Night Football is going to be on mute for the next half decade.
Not Drafting for Accuracy
Can we finally put this one to sleep? This is the stat everyone needs to look at. Can you hit a two by two window, seventeen yards away, while sliding to your right? No? Then why are we having this conversation? Accuracy is what builds great QB careers. Accuracy is what can get you into the playoffs. Ball control. Low turnovers. Putting the ball in a place where your guy can make a play. It all takes accuracy. All the rest is academic if the accuracy isn’t there.
It’s always sunny in Seattle
There are problems. Problems that a knowing wink from Cool Dad Pete Carroll won’t fix. We’re sure to hear more about it all after Marshawn Lynch is released in the offseason.
Elite Fantasy QBs
All of the biggies let their owners down in the playoffs. Except for Tom Brady who let his owners down the first quarter of the season. Brees being inaccurate. Peyton throwing up into a towel on the sidelines. Rodgers handing the ball over with shocking regularity. Is Andrew Luck the new gold standard?
Speaking of Luck, his in-game chirping has revolutionized the league. When he takes a big hit he hops up and says “Nice Hit!” to the defender. He’s super positive with his opponents. How will anyone ever top it? My favorite offshoot of this was a post on reddit where a Texans fan started talking shit to Colts fans and they gave him the Andrew Luck treatment back. It was inspired.
We’re coming to the end of it, and the playoff brackets are locking down. Pretty soon, football fans everywhere will have to start spending time with their families again. With that in mind let’s hope for a great finish and a bountiful post season. Happy Holidays everyone! (read that in the voice of Andrew Luck)