Just in time before the kickoff of the 2014 season, Zeus graces us with his presence and his unique perspective of the current state of the NFL.
1. Thank God it’s time for real football. – Happy to see preseason arrive; much happier to see it go… What a relief to finally be able to watch a real football game where the best players play and there’s a game plan designed to actually try to win the game. Might coaches be using preseason games more to evaluate talent and less to prepare the real players for regular season competition? Just another reason that four preseason games are way too many …
2. Good Golly Miss Molly! – Was it Adderall (The Dog Ate My Homework excuse for drug test failures) or did somebody dose Wesley’s mint julep with Molly juiced with enough speed to separate him from both his senses and handfuls of $100 bills? Welker’s sense of bewilderment and outrage seems genuine, but we’ve seen the same act from people like Lance Armstrong and Ryan Braun. Positive tests are not accidents and the fact is that the offenders are not likely to be forthcoming about what actually happened.
Still, the NFL drug policy makes little sense. Maybe the league should just focus on PEDs, letting the criminal justice system deal with marijuana and various other controlled substances. The collectively bargained drug policy is unnecessarily punitive in its application of suspensions and fines where treatment and counseling are far more likely to be of therapeutic value. Maybe someone can educate me as to precisely who is better off now that the league has suspended Josh Gordon indefinitely for having trace amounts of The Evil Weed in his bloodstream.
3. Will Gronk Play? – It’s amusing to watch Bill Belichick industriously stuff the cat that Gronk let out back into the proverbial bag. It is too bad Gronk shot his mouth off – I was looking forward to a reenactment of the 2007 Randy Moss Sandbag Caper. You may recall that after tweaking a hammy early on, Moss spent the bulk of the 2007 training camp in virtual witness protection, resulting in unfounded rumors about how the bad blood between the team and Moss would likely result in the release of the enigmatic receiver. For the record, Moss burned the jets on opening day with nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown. We’ll see if Gronk can put on a similar show on Sunday.
4. Value – The conventional wisdom is that you can’t have one guy be coach and GM because the coach’s survival instincts will create short term needs that will overwhelm the longer term perspective of the GM. So it’s at least interesting that Bill Belichick is so willing to defer the gratification of the New England Patriots. From the outside, it seems that the Patriots have imposed a strict discipline that requires performance and compensation to be in balance.
Many believe that the Patriots traded Logan Mankins because they are cheap, but that’s tantamount to saying that Bill Belichick is more concerned with Bob Kraft’s profits than winning football games. Does anybody really believe that?
It’s not about money, it’s about value. That is the philosophy that determines who stays and who goes. As players age, they become less athletic and more prone to injury. The combined effects of these two inevitabilities can be surprisingly sudden. Once it is determined that a player’s production no longer justifies his compensation, something’s gotta’ give. It’s tempting to make exceptions for long time stalwarts like Logan Mankins. But in the end, it is the enforcement of this discipline over the past 14 years that has allowed the Patriots to remain among the NFL elite.
5. Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown – The notion that you’re only as good as your last game has created the impression that the Seahawks are the second coming of the 1985 Bears. So while the Hawks did indeed thrash the overmatched Broncos (who turtled at the first hint of adversity) in the Super Bowl, they also beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game by the thinnest of margins.
One of the hardest things to overcome in sports is success. Pete Carroll lost two NFL head coaching jobs because of his unwillingness or inability to hold people accountable. It will be no surprise if Seattle opens the season on a tear, but sustaining that through the long haul of a 16-game season and the playoffs that follow is another thing altogether. There’s a reason no team has repeated since 2004. Maybe the Seahawks are good enough to overcome the distractions and complacency that accompany a championship. Time will tell.
6. The 2014 Festival of the Yellow Flag was supposed to include a crackdown on offensive pass interference. The so-called Competition Committee may well have legislated the screen pass out of existence with phony downfield blocking fouls. How dumb of me to imagine that the focus would instead be on pick plays. Of course, cleaning that up would have the unacceptable side effect of deflating the stupendously bloated stats of the league’s most precious asset, The Gigantic Forehead. So that’s Out of the Question.
7. The Professional Sports League That Cried Wolf – One of the problems with throwing a flag on just about every play is that fans will almost universally regard even the most blatant infractions with contempt. The bright side is that the paying customers will now be able to while away the hours required to watch an entire game hooting at the tormented Zebras, who will no doubt need significant professional help to endure the resulting trauma.
8. Pinocchio – It is NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino’s job to put a Happy Face on the weekly cavalcade of officiating screw-ups. How much does Dean get paid for lying through his teeth? It was Blandino who publicly declared Wes Welker’s blindside hit on Aquib Talib in the AFC Championship game to be legal because it was “almost simultaneous” with the pass reception. This newly invented fiction qualifies for the Creative Prevarication Hall of Fame. It was a bald faced lie.
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