With all that has transpired in the last few days, we need my friend Zeus to put the current state of the NFL and Patriots Nation into proper perspective.
This and That (Train Wreck)
After much anticipation, Sunday was a rough day but what followed on Monday was even worse. I’d much rather talk about football than the other b.s. that’s been going on but I guess that’s just not the way life works anymore.
1. Opening Day found the local fans a bit overwrought, with the stubborn drought of sports related adrenaline continuing unabated since the winter. It’s been a more than a decade since the Patriots dropped their opener, so the game proved to be nerve jangling to say the least. I spent a good bit of the fourth quarter pacing in front of the gigantic television shrieking obscenities, something that I fear has prompted our new neighbors, a lovely young couple from the UK, to seek alternative housing arrangements. (Sensing my obvious distress, they wanted to get help but couldn’t decide between calling 911 or an exorcist.)
The outcome plunged New England into a pit of black despair. Any strengths we hoped that the team possessed had quickly evaporated. And our darkest fears about aging, infirm, unathletic players and senile, incompetent coaches had grown exponentially to become far worse than even the most dire pessimist might have imagined. Such torpor will continue at least until the next decisive victory.
2. Cant’ Block, Can’t Tackle, Can’t Win – Schemes and game plans can’t overcome poor fundamentals, mental errors and stupid penalties. After a respectable (and perhaps underrated) first half, the wheels came off in Miami. The third quarter alone was as bad as anything we’ve seen since Rod Rust’s team played that way on a weekly basis. It was an odd twist that the more Dolphin players left with injuries, the better Miami played, prompting the question as to whether they were playing the right guys in the first place. That’s two loses in a row at Miami. Let’s not forget that at home last year, the Patriots had to come back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to win 27-17 in a game that Miami had under control. A disturbing trend against an AFC East rival to say the least…
3. Not Ready for Prime Time – Was Bill Belichick’s biggest objective in preseason getting his team to September in one piece, perhaps prioritizing health over preparation? Given the assorted torn ligaments, dislocated joints, shattered bones and vibrating crania being reported league-wide throughout training camp, it’s hard to argue with this approach. So players like Gronkowski, Mayo, Easley and Dobson saw little or no action, while healthy veterans (Brady, Revis) played only sparingly. It’s fair to wonder if the lack of preseason game action was a contributing factor in the uneven play we observed Sunday, not so much from a conditioning standpoint, but with respect to the team’s ability to execute on a cohesive basis. It’s a tough choice, but if you’re going to try to win a War of Attrition, you might as well show up with as many able bodies as possible.
4. Half and Half – The Patriots were not alone in what appeared to be a nearly league wide epidemic of Trick or Treat Football that saw teams play well in one half and abysmally in the other. Much like the Patriots, many teams were not ready to play 60 minutes of football on Opening Day.
5. Roger Goodell took over as NFL Commissioner on August 8, 2006 as a self-professed hard-ass. Goodell’s justice is characteristically harsh, haphazard and capricious. He has taken a hard line with players for indiscretions large and small. He stomped on the Patriots for a technical rule violation that even he acknowledged provided little if any competitive advantage. His excessive punishments in Bountygate required intervention from his retired predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, who vacated all of Goodell’s player suspensions.
Might the players who have been on the receiving end of Goodell’s autocratic dictates be wondering what happens when The $44 Million Man publicly screws up in such a monumental fashion? What little credibility Goodell still had with the rank and file is shot to hell. Today’s NFL demands discipline and accountability, but I guess that only applies to The Hired Help.
6. Train Wreck – The NFL is at the pinnacle of its popularity and profitability. Were the league a publicly traded stock, Warren Buffet would be buying by the boatload because the business right now is so fundamentally sound that no amount of mismanagement could possibly derail the cash-laden freight train. The sad fact of the matter is that the owners regard this unprecedented success as giving them carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want. Ethical or criminal misdeeds by the owners themselves are barely recognized, let alone punished. Business partners such as the broadcast networks are treated like servants and the ticket buying fans are a mere afterthought. Every possible aspect of the game is being monetized and sold to the highest bidder, even the Super Bowl half-time show.
It is hubris of the highest order.
Mark Cuban is right – The Hogs Are at the Trough and they are getting fatter by the minute. The fatter they get, the stupider they get. It’s a huge train wreck waiting to happen.
7. Shame – Ray Rice’s disgraceful assault on Janay Palmer speaks for itself. I hope the Rices get the help they need and I think it is counterproductive to say that a 27 year old man doesn’t deserve a second chance. However, Rice and his enablers are off to a terrible start. Knowing what actually happened, the attempt by Rice, his despicable attorney, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL to foist any degree of culpability for the assault onto the victim was a cowardly and cynical a thing as I have seen in my lifetime. The stink from this shameful act will not go away any time soon.
A very special thank you to Zeus for his much needed unique perspective and analysis.
Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats
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