The Post

On Michigan State, ESPN, and Our “Scan and Scroll Society”

I’ll admit. I’m as bad as the next guy. Maybe worse. I scan my Twitter feed, dozens of times a day. Same for my email in-box with headlines of stories people forward to me. My attention span – MINE! – that of a grown-ass 49 year old man, is probably only a few clicks better than my teenage daughters.

The internet has done this to me. To us. To everyone. The much written about “feedback loops” that the tech giants have engineered into the social media platforms we all use, make us constantly hungry for the NEXT thing. Next story. Next photo. Next response. Next, next, next…

So what happens then, when a complex story with layers, comes washing past us? Like anything else, we scan, and move on. Scan, and draw judgement. Scan, and forget. Or quite often, scan and get the whole story WRONG!

I committed just such an error yesterday, on a subject I normally consume with voraciousness, and on something very simple. I had seen in my twitter feed that golfer J.B. Holmes had taken an absurd 4:10 to hit a single golf shot at Torrey Pines on Sunday at the par-5 18th.

I could have sworn it was that he had to wait 4:10 for a ruling!

Nah. He just couldn’t decide whether to hit 4-wood, or 5-wood, finally decided to lay-up, and started to get roundly heckled by the annoyed gallery.

I went on a rant on-air about this Monday, only to be quickly corrected by listeners. Why had I assumed it was a ruling? I guess because 4:10 to hit a shot is so absurd that I just assumed that couldn’t be correct. Why didn’t I stop, read the article/watch the video of the incident when I saw it scroll across my feed?

Pffffft. Maybe later, man. I’ve got new mentions to look at, bro.

Now take the so-called “Michigan State Scandal” and apply the same dynamic. How many of us have dug through all of the reporting, from all of the outlets, to draw our own conclusions about what is going on now, what went on before? I know I didn’t, until I forced myself to dig through it.

Magnifying the problem, is known bad actors like ESPN with their OTL division swooping in for a well timed hit piece on Michigan State football and basketball, awkwardly strapping it to the Larry Nassar case with bungee cords and duct tape. “See, LOOK! It’s all one big story! We are BREAKING NEWS here, everybody!”

Except they aren’t. ESPN just resurrected a few cases at Michigan State from a decade ago, added their own “narrative sauce” and served the plate up hot with a side of subtle, muted outrage.

Detroit radio host Mike Valenti, is not a neutral observer. He went to Michigan State. He’s the guy who delivered the most epic extended rant in sports radio history (yes, ever!) when his Spartans blew a game against Notre Dame years ago.

But his opening segment the other day could not be more spot on.

It’s as if ESPN thought: “Hmmmm… this Nassar thing is now basically over. What can take this story that just generated our highest pageviews in 8 months, into a new realm?”

Ahah. Football. And Basketball. Boom.

And so the phrase “Michigan State Secrets” is born, interviews that were taped in the summer and kept in the can are suddenly released, and 10 year old cases which were both investigated by police and forwarded to prosecutors, are then re-animated for public consumption, and outrage.

This is not news. This is sensationalism, and storytelling. Longform clickbaiting.

Furthermore, where is the perspective on numbers? Let’s say there were 16 reported sexual assaults involving football players over 10 years. Round it up to 2 per yer, per 125 players on MSU’s roster. What’s the campuswide rate of reported sexual assaults among NON athletes at Michigan State? If that rate exceeds that of the football team, should the headlines read: “Michigan State Football Leads the Fight Against Sexual Assault on Campus?”

This scene in the movie “Neighbors” pretty much sums up how headlines can be spun in many directions depending on what side of the desk you are on.

And to expand it even further, can we get some context as to Michigan State’s number of reported sexual assaults by football and basketball players, as compared to all similar D1 programs across the country. What if it’s in the bottom 3rd compared to everybody else?

Do you still have a story? Does ESPN even care? Hell, they spent time and money interviewing people for this piece back in August. What are the chances they’ll just delete the tape? Right.

Lastly….ย  a quick thought on D1 college hoops coaches.

Personally, I think Tom Izzo is an egomanical asshole. Or to put it another way, a necessary trait for any successful D1 basketball coach. Sorry to paint with a broad brush, but I’ve come to accept the fact they are all basically millioniare hoop bosses, living on the razor’s edge of recruiting rules, and frantic to keep Johnny (who maybe can’t read) or Jimmy (who abuses his girlfriend) eligible long enough to make one more Final Four. Whether it’s Slick Rick Pitino, Calipari The Con Man, Coach K the Rule Bender, Ol’ “Easy Course” Roy, “What’s the Take” Calhoun, Bobby “The Chair Slinger” Knight, they are all different shades of awful.

It’s only the constant shine from Dick Vitale’s on-air worship of them, that glosses over the warts.

If Tom Izzo or Mark Dantonio did something wrong, then make that charge clearly. Now that I’ve done some reading, I am yet to see it.

NFL Shark Fins Beginning To Surface on Kirk Cousins

The NFL off-season has predictable patterns. You can’t help but notice them as one year fades into the next. The kind of things that are just “theory” in December as teams are eliminated from the playoffs one by one, begin to harden into action come January and February.

Case in point: I distinctly remember how Cam Newton was talked about coming out of Auburn as a mid-first-round pick. Yes, MID. You can look up the news stories, and the early Mel Kiper Jr. mock drafts. This despite the fact he would go on to win a National Championship in spectacular fashion over Oregon.

By the time his workouts came, and once Carolina began to ponder their future with Jimmy Clausen, Matt Mooore, and Brian St. Pierre under center (yes, those three all started at least 1 game!) Newton rose right to the top of the draft like a helium balloon that had slipped out of a little kid’s hand.

It also helped that ESPN’s Trent Dilfer came away from watching a private workout with Cam, and was absolutely enthralled at how Newton could drive the ball with ooomph! all over the field.

Cam Newton went #1/#1 come late April, like it was never a doubt.

Just like 2 years ago, when both the Rams and Eagles traded significant assets to move up to take both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, 1-2. That was an absurd notion back in December. I would know this. I take calls for a living from fans with the most VIVID imaginations.

Nobody was talking about that in December. Come draft day, it was a done deal.

Which brings me to Kirk Cousins.

In December, there was talk about the supposedly “shrinking” pool of possible suitors for his services. San Francisco and Los Angeles (landing spot 1A and 1B we speculated over the summer) had slammed shut. Jacksonville made it to within 3 minutes of the Super Bowl. The Steelers fired Todd Haley and Big Ben said: “Retire, who me, retire? Get outta here!”

And the dysfunctional Browns were just capping off an 0-16 farce, while deciding to keep Mr. 1-31, Hue Jackson. Bah! Kirk to the Browns? Never. He’s not an idiot!

But take a look out on the smooth glass water, people. The shark fins are circling and you can bet that teams are coming for Kirk.

The first shark I think will be on the scene is Denver. They are still my bet to get it done. My hunch goes like this…. and it’s just a hunch.

My hunch is that Kirk will get franchise tagged by Bruce Allen and told to “go find a team you like.”

My hunch is that Kirk will talk to Denver first. They will make him feel like the best quarterback on earth. They will offer him something very nice, but not mind blowing. Think $24M AAV, $75M guaranteed. Maybe more. Denver will need to shed some blood to make it work. They’ll find a way.

My hunch is that Kirk will like that alot. Some scoff when Kirk says it won’t be about making the most money. My hunch is that he’s going to prove you wrong on that point, too.

The appeal of Denver for slightly less, will be powerful. They remain a “Tiffany Franchise” and Kirk would go from an Arena League Legend QB in Jay Gruen – a guy who likes to second guess Kirk’s on-field risk-aversion – to being wooed by a Team President who is a bona-fide Legend and Hall of Famer in John Elway. The pitch will be persuasive and include many highlights of Denver’s formidable defense.

My hunch is that Denver and Washington will then haggle over compensation.

My hunch is that the best the Redskins can hope for is a 2019 1st (it’ll be lower, Denver assumes) and a 3rd now.

My hunch is that the Redskins will take it, “declare victory” and move into the Colt McCoy/Baker Mayfield era.

My hunch is that the 2019 1st will be used to move up to get Mayfield.

My hunch is that many glossy ticket brochures with Mayfield’s face will be printed and mailed out.

My hunch is that a stream of anonymously sourced quotes about how Kirk “fell short” of expectations will be leaked.

My hunch is that Kirk will be fucking FABULOUS in Denver right away.

My hunch is that the “Never-Kirkers” will never admit they were wrong, and make new excuses for how it didn’t work out.

But then again… these are all just hunches. I’m wrong a lot, like anybody trying to see the future.

But should Denver fall through, look at the other shark fins now circling the boat. Cleveland will be a real contender. They have so much cap space, it reads like a misprint. Should the Redskins get cute and try the $28M restricted tag on Kirk, Cleveland will capsize the boat with a massively front-loaded deal that nobody can match.

Cleveland’s present, it’s recent past, and most of it’s longterm history is nothing but misery. But that doesn’t mean the future is doomed to be the same. Never before have we seen an NFL team sitting on such a staggering arsenal of picks & cash.

They could buy Kirk at an exorbitant price, not blink, then turn around and draft Saquon Barkley and sun-blocking DT Bradley Chubb on top of it. Pro bowler Joe Thomas has already called his shot on that. Or you could flip the #1 or the #4 for multiple picks down the line. They could have 4 first round picks under 25 years old on defense, plus Cousins throwing to first-rounder Corey Coleman and a (hopefully) sober Josh Gordon.

Sick.

Don’t think Minnesota isn’t lurking either. All three QB’s come off their books this winter, and since they have to spend on somebody, why not spend on somebody who’s a dependable upgrade?

Now we have Arizona breaching the surface. At his introductory press conference, new head coach Steve Wilks met the biggest issue head-on and said they would have “an active and aggressive” plan to find a veteran QB.

The NFL winter has it’s own gravitational pull, that erases the tepid assumptions of December. The good news for the Never Kirkers is this: if Bruce Allen plays his cards shrewdly, the Redskins won’t just walk away from the Cousins’ era with only egg on their face.

NFL Primetime Reboot With Boomer and T.J. Still A Delicious Drink

As a sports fan, I am aware that time ripens all things. Luck might be the most powerful force in the sports universe, but nostalgia is a close second. Nostalgia as a sports fan, makes the olden days always seem better. Always. Probably because you remember sports through the lens of a much younger man. With more hair, smaller pants, and fewer worries.

Even still, I have to say how much of a delight it was to see a mini-reboot of the great sports highlight show of all time: NFL Primetime. ESPN brought back Chris Berman and Tom Jackson (with a splash of Keyshawn, who.. meh… you can have) on Sunday night after the AFC and NFC championship games. They brought back the old music. Berman brought back the stupid, hackneyed nicknames.

It was glorious.

To this day, I bitterly resent the fact that the suits at NBC murdered this great show with a knife in the back at the negotiating table at the 11th hour. NBC, having just bid for the rights to Sunday Night Football, insisted that this beloved NFL institution be burned alive – ala Shireen Baratheon in Game of Thrones – because “Football Night In America” needed the stage to itself from 7-8 p.m. eastern in advance of kickoff.

ESPN suits, just didn’t care.

Berman was 1000% right, and Shapiro was like virtually every suit in media who just never “get it” when it comes to what constitutes QUALITY and what truly MATTERS to the customer. The average NFL fan didn’t give two shits that ESPN had the rights to Monday Night Football for 8 years. Or Spanish language rights. This was like CBS throwing “60 Minutes” in front of a moving train just because they had won the rights to another network’s soon-to-fade sitcom.

NFL Primetime was 60 minutes of virtually wall to wall highlights. And not just “highlight.” The show included “lowlights” and “transitionlights” and “don’tforgetthisplaylights” in any given NFL game. Screen time for Berman and Jackson was minimal. Their commentary was usually applied on top of rich, thick cuts of video. There were no roundtables. No vanity interviews. No chuckle-fests.

It was the biggest all-meat crabcake in sport television.

NBC’s version was – and remains – pure shit. A cursory package of highlights on some games, lasting literally no more than 3 or 4 plays. Needless live reports from the site of the game coming up. Slow moving pre-taped player interviews. Needless Costas.

NFL Primetime allowed fans who maybe didn’t see their favorite team, get a real sense of what the hell happened that Sunday. They would show you a backbreaking WR drop on 3rd and 10. Try getting that now. The media suits like to say “nobody watches TV for highlights, you can get those on your phone.” Oh, sure. The same handful of great plays you’ve already seen all day. NFL Primetime gave you the how, the what, and the why of a game.

And Tom Jackson was old school and did his homework. The caliber of modern retired NFL studio analyst is dismal, to say the least. A bunch of camera preening and cliches.

There is no show like NFL Primetime anymore, despite the fact many of us football fans would actually pay money for it. A rock-solid starts-at-7-no-matter-what, intelligent and thorough recap of the games. ALL the games. Not just the handful of sexy matchups. The NFL used to apply some real production weight and talent to their post-game. But then a few years ago, they shifted Eisen & Co. into being pre-game ponies, and relegated the highlight show to being Mooch and TV Dude In Nice Suit #3 sitting at what looks like a bistro table.

Oh yeah, one last thing. When ESPN suits bought MNF they paid $1.1 BILLION for it, and were promptly given the best remaining game after CBS, Fox, and NBC got their pick of the litter each week. NBC was only paying $400 for SNF, and YET, they still had the audacity to tell the NFL to murder ESPN’s baby, NFL Primetime. ESPN should have stood up and said: “Hey, look how much we are paying you compared to them. We’re not doing this. Period. And if there’s another cable outlet with a $1.1 billion check waiting outside the door, then maybe you should let them in.”

It remains one of the greatest crimes in sports TV history.

It was nice having you Back-Back-Back for one night, Boomer. Everybody misses that show. Everybody.

Skol-Blooded: The Aftermath, and Images From the Minneapolis Miracle

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings leaps to catch the ball in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on January 14, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Diggs scored a 61-yard touchdown to win the game 29-24. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

If you want as many hi-resolution images of the play, then Sporting News has you covered here. If the Vikings make the Super Bowl, there will no doubt be one of these shots hanging in every Vikings fan’s woodpanelled basement mancave.

Here’s the best multiple-angle reel of the play. Note how one killjoy ref actually threw a flag at Diggs for the helmet celebration. Which, sure. Is *technically* a celebration penalty, un-sportsmanlike conduct. Funny though, they never actually assessed it, which is weird given the obsession with the fake extra point.

A super-slow-mo NFL Films version of the play. Pure football porn. Or, if you are a Saints fan, it’s football porn that you find out stars your teenage daughter. The kind that will make you vomit.

This was the explanation from Pereira about the utterly stupid exercise of fake-not-kicking-an-extra-point-you-didn’t-need-or-want. It’s a rule that is easily fixed. “Any team which scores a touchdown, can decline their try for two, or decline to attempt an XP, for any reason, at any time, with no penalty.” Boom done. Who in the flying fuck cares if some team gets “screwed” by a single point on the 7th tiebreaker? I mean, really. (Oh wait, excuse me. It’s the NINTH fucking tiebreaker. My bad!) True story: when I was in elementary school, we had a band teacher named “Mr. Engle.” Bless his heart. Listening to awful elementary band “music” for a living. Probably drove him mad. He had a helmet of jet black, dapper-dan slicked 50’s hair, and didn’t put up with any bullshit. When my buddy Donnie Riegle would forget his snare drum on band day, Mr. Engle made him walk around the cafeteria where we practiced “looking for it.” No matter how many times Donnie pleaded that he LEFT IT AT HOME, Mr. Engle’s punishment was for him to do something utterly pointless. Goodell and Mr. Engle would hit it off great. Change this fucking rule. Now.

The play has already been “Tecmo-Bowled.” I am skeptical that this was actually done via the game’s authentic software, or rather a “controllable software” type of “hack” that allows you to script any play you want. Either way. I dig it.

Was Jon Gruden an eerie sooth-sayer about Keenum? Or does he say this about every QB prospect he ran through the Gruden QB Camp?

Sean Payton is, uh, honest with his feelings toward the men in stripes.

Here’s a video clip from my afternoon drive show on ESPN980 in Washington, D.C. If you go to Redskins.com and/or download the Redskins mobile app, you can watch me flail around like this for the 1st hour each day, from 4-7 p.m.

And lest anybody forget, here’s your matchup for Sunday night. Get horny for it, people. If only Jeff Fisher was available for the coin toss!

It all makes perfect sense.

Alabama’s National Championship Stunner In Tweets

I think this was the greatest college football game ever. Not the “best played” but certainly one of the most dramatic. Sure, Tua Tagovailoa may be a well-known 5-Star stud among the high school recruiting nerds of America, but to everybody else he was a “who the HELL is this kid?”

Alabama, college football’s ultimate “BOSS” team was getting its face kicked in. Trailing 13-0, Nick Saban pulls a bold move and pulls his 26-2 starting QB for a lefty Hawaiian wearing #13. Who has never started a college game.

And it worked. But not before a million crazy moments happened. If you missed it, you missed it. Here’s your cheat sheet!

The greek kid missed his 1st kick.

Body Control!

Everybody in the pool!

Hardman Jr. Flies Like the Wind

Look How Close it Was!

Tua Escapes To Help Alabama Off the Mat!

Mekhi Brown Loses His Mind

Mekhi Brown’s Punch

Two picks in 8 seconds

Georgia Has TWO “Get Back” Coaches

Tua improvises and Ridley helps save his ass!

The greek kid blows the Championship winning kick.

Coaches React to Missed Kick

The lefty freshman from Hawaii, ol’ #13, slings a legendary dart.

The Nantz-Romo CBS Booth Runs Away With Wildcard Weekend

When we as fans, watch an NFL game from start to finish with rapt attention (i.e. the playoffs) it’s easy to get annoyed with the highly paid broadcast tandem assigned to the game we are watching. After all, we have allowed them into our living room as guests for 3 hours, and what they say, and how they say it, can have a direct effect on our enjoyment. (Regardless of our rooting preferences). The worst announcers leave you more angry than if they had eaten all your food, drank all your beer, and started making out with your girlfriend. The best ones make you say: “Hey, that was fun! See you next week!” as they walk out the door.

So with that, let me rank the four different “A-Team” broadcast booths from the Wildcard Weekend.

CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson
Earlier this year, I said that my initial impression of the rookie Romo was good, but that he was “a little chatty.” Now after watching him slice and dice play after play in the Jags-Bills game, I am not afraid to say he’s best TV football analyst in my lifetime. Note: I said “best” which is an important distinction from “favorite.” For many, John Madden will always be your favorite, and you can still argue he’s “the best.” I won’t quibble. I will just say that Romo has cracked the game open on TV in a way that is revolutionary. No, it’s not just him occasionally trying to blurt out a play before it happens. It’s the fact that he is both telling you WHY a play did or did not work, while at the same time thinking about broader game/time/drive strategic decisions. Romo is also funny without trying, genuinely self-effacing, a little bit smart-assy, and best of all – genuinely excited to be watching football! I can only imagine how re-invigorated Nantz must feel, as I said the last few years that Phil Simms was the anchor threatening to drag both of them down. And you can cheap-shot Nantz all you like as the sotto voce voice of the Masters who doesn’t belong in an NFL booth – but you’d be wrong. Nantz’s calls are crisp, energetic, on point and on time. He’s now doing his best work yet on the NFL next to Romo. Oh, and Tracy’s great. Grade: A+

Fox: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
For some, Buck is too stentorian in his delivery, and just a bit reeking of overconfidence. I disagree. I think Buck is fantastic. He has great command of the game, understands and gets ahead of strategic moments to help set them up, and always delivers a perfect shot of announcer adrenaline on big plays. His partner though? Oooof. Aikman isn’t quite as bad as Simms was in the last few years, but it’s close. Contrasted to Romo, Aikman is great at repeating what you just saw happen in real time, although Aikman merely narrates the slow-motion replay. The how-what-why of any given play – i.e. the stuff we on the couch have little ability to decipher on our own – is almost never revealed. And when a point made with just 4 or 5 words will do, Aikman makes sure to use no less than 50. Worse yet, is that Aikman is a drone. His plodding cadence to every play, is so repeatable that I bet if you stacked his waveforms in an audio editor, they would look virtually identical. He leans on crutch phrases with no nutritional value (“great job” and “excellent play”) and has one of the least critical eyes you’ll ever see when it comes to penalties. (Hint: virtually all of them are “good call.”) And if Troy Aikman has ever said a single funny thing while calling a game, I’ve yet to hear it. Erin Andrews? Still a 10, in my book. Grade: B

NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya
My annoyance with Michaels and his elongated “whine-calls” is well documented at this point, so I will try not to pile on. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then listen to all the times he groans, growls, and extends a nasally syllable while he waits to see if a catch is made. Al’s saving grace is that he seems to hate replay as much as I do these days, and he loves sliding in a subtle point-spread reference on late game bad-beats. It still doesn’t make up for the fact that on obvious game-breaking plays, Michaels will often call them as a matter of fact 1st-and-10 play in the 1st quarter. The Mohammed Sanu screen pass that broke the Rams back is a perfect example. (You’ll either have to find it yourself, or take my word for it.) On the Collinsworth front, I have grown to be a (mostly) un-apologetic fan. He really peels back layers of the game that are not readily apparent, and doesn’t take himself or the game too seriously. He too could benefit from a less-is-more approach to word count, but so could they all. If only we could do something with that voice. Michelle is great. Whatever she does. Grade: B-

ESPN: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Most people simply don’t have a taste for McDonough as a lead-voice on a big weekly national TV game. I get it. He’s like a cup of steaming hot black coffee. No frills. But gets the job done, and done right. I’m okay with him, because his preparation is first rate, and his calls have all the appropriate “punchiness” for the moment. That said, it was unfortunate that he seemed to transcend through his pre-pubescent years on the Kansas City fumble-TD-return-that-never-was, although I can understand how such a play might wreck an announcers vocal chords. Had it stood, it would have been the modern day Joe Pisarcik fumble, only with higher stakes since the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” happened in November, not the playoffs. As for Gruden, well, he played his character reasonably well all these nine years on ESPN. From the very start, it was obvious Gruden was pulling punches on teams, coaches and players while up in the booth. I think I said just a year or two into his stint: “He sure sounds like he doesn’t want to burn any bridges back to the sidelines.” And sure enough, that approach never stopped. Every now and then, Gruden would let some hot truth spill out into his headset. Most of the time, however, it was just giving Frank Caliendo more source material to work with. I don’t know who ESPN thinks is a front-runner to replace him, and I think it would make sense to re-configuring the entire booth (assuming McDonough doesn’t have some insanely huge buyout). And Lisa Salters gives short updates from the sidelines. She’s not Sergio Dipp. Grade: C-

Incompetence Is An Amazing Thing

Prior to Saturday’s wildcard game in Kansas City, Ian Rappaport tweeted that Titans coach Mike Mularkey was at risk of getting fired if he didn’t win on the road, as an 8.5 point underdog. Chosen to be the crew chief refereeing the game, was one Jeff Triplette – a man who seemingly cannot be fired. No matter how many times he screws up.

As it turned out, Mularkey won (with some help by Triplette’s inventive notions of “forward progress”) and I assume he’ll keep his job. As for the league’s walking calamity in stripes, Mr. Triplette, who knows?

He should be fired tonight. He should have been fired years ago. But he might do the Super Bowl. Who can say? If the league itself cannot see this level of bumblage, and spare it’s playoff entrants from a Triplette-led game, then perhaps they are seeing something in Jeff that us mere mortals at home, cannot.

Either that, or Triplette has the drop on Goodell somehow. A photo of Roger with a goat on a moonlit drunken night in Ixtapa. Emails. A secret recording. Something. Because when everybody who follows this league on a slavish and devoted basis, knows well ahead of time that assigning this guy to a playoff game is nuts – and he then he goes out and screws a bunch of shit up! – you need to start delving into semi-crazy “alternate” explanations.

We will likely never know the answer. But if you are old enough to have worked in the “real world” at more than a few places, you know that incompetence comes in all forms, in all workplaces. And quite the often the reasons WHY somebody totally incompetent is allowed to keep on screwing up with no consequence, are enough to make your head melt.

Family connections are usually the #1 reason. “I can’t fire the kid, he’s family.” The #2 reason is often that firing the incompetent person would have an even more severe negative consequence than keeping him/her. And let’s also not be naive about incompetence. It is usually very self aware. Incompetence is like an organism that develops remarkable survival insticnts and defense mechanisms.

I mean, you don’t think Jeff Triplette doesn’t KNOW he sucks? He has to! He may not have twitter, but at some point somebody in his orbit must have said: “Hey, look what they are saying about you in my timeline!”

So fine. The NFL keeps their objectively, obviously, least competent referee employed for reasons we can’t understand, or will never know. It happens. But WHY assign him to the playoffs, when it would have been easy to pass him over!?

This is what strains the patience of us as fans. It is the loudest message possible that the league’s lords of the realm, do not care about the quality of their product as much as we do. That they don’t pay attention to little details of their business, that can cause serious damage, yet are easily fixable.

Jeff Triplette in the playoffs is not a banana peel in a shopping mall that somebody should have stopped to pick up before somebody filed a lawsuit. He’s an open manhole in the middle of a school crossing.

A Few Thoughts On NFL Teams With “Lots” of Injuries

At approximately 4:05 eastern today, the Washington Redskins’ 2017 season will come coasting into the station and come to a complete stop with a whoosh of hydraulics, and the metal lap bars will lift out of the way. We will be told: thank you for riding, now please exit to your left. We will be bitterly disappointed it’s over, but eager like kids to get back on again. Sadly, the line that meets us on the way out, looks like it’ll take forever to get through. Which it will. As it always does.

This is football. Four quick months of ecstasy, pain, anger and hope following your favorite team. Then an excruciating 8 months of just basically sitting around, waiting for football to come back.

This year, my team, the Redskins did not make the playoffs. This was not unusual. Thankfully, there are teams whose appearance in January is even MORE rare than ours, but “not playoffs” is quickly becoming our “default” position. We are now 5-20 since 1992 when it comes to making the playoffs. Not good.

I believe making the playoffs is the basic definition of a “successful” season. Sure, you may scrape in at 8-8 (or even 7-9 like the Seahawks and Panthers did recently) and be going nowhere, but because the NFL has the second toughest post-season to achieve by percentage (MLB: 10 of 30 = 33%, NFL: 12 of 32 = 38%, NHL: 16 of 31 = 52%, NBA: 16 of 30 = 53%) it’s still an accomplishment worthy of feeling good about by any organization, unless your name is currently the Patriots.

So this year was a failure for the Redskins. Duh.

Failure invites (no, demands!) analysis and introspection. Why did it go wrong? How did it go wrong? What could have been done better? Were we just not very good, or did we get un-lucky? Was it the schedule? The refs? Or…. a common lament: THE INJURIES!

For many Redskins fans, they will point to this year as the year that injuries derailed. The coach has not been shy in doing a subtle “woe-is-me” two step when the issue is raised by media members. I wouldn’t say Jay Gruden has “wallowed” in that excuse, but he certainly has been splashing his legs in it while sitting on the side of the pool.

I reject this excuse for 2017.

If you look honestly at this Redskins team, there was a LOT of parts of it still standing by the time the season was declared DOA. Sure. The Redskins were 5th in the NFL in total number of players place on IR this year with 23. (Note: The Saints were 6th, with 22, FWIW). And sure, the top half of the league in IR placements, will likely only get 4 teams in the playoffs, and the bottom half will place at least 8. So duh, the NFL is alot about staying healthy. I think we’ve all been over this plenty of times.

But not every player placed on IR matters as much as somebody else. To wit: Carson Wentz is equal to probably 6 guys on IR, Tom Brady 10 (or more!). And some players get placed on IR, only because the season HAS BEEN DECLARED OVER already. This is the case with the Redskins Trent Williams and Jordan Reed: arguably our two biggest IR losses.

Let’s talk about sequencing of wins and losses in the NFL for a moment. Forgive me if I’m late to the party on understanding this concept, but it has sunk in with me now that winning games EARLY in an NFL season, is by far one of the most important factors in making the playoffs. In fact, I would argue that wins in the first 8 games of the year, are almost worth 1.5 wins in true value.

This is because once December hits, not only are many teams essentially out of the playoff race, but many others are depleted at various key positions themselves, or they have lost their most important piece: the quarterback. If your team can enter December still viable for the playoffs with a winning record, you can feast on these decimated and/or disinterested teams.

But the key is that YOU yourself, must have won enough of the early games to take advantage. Otherwise, you are just two chumps playing each other, with Dick Stockton watching from above, and Jeff Triplette wandering around looking for his flag.

The Redskins suffered “wave injuries” on the o-line in early October. It greatly reduced their chances to win some key divisional games against the Cowboys and Eagles. But then the team played a truly inspired 3 week stretch against maybe the toughest part of their slate: a win at Seattle, a 38-30 loss at home to the Vikings (the most points anybody has hung on Minnesota this year), and then the choke job at New Orleans.

Nobody was blaming injuries then.

What this team needed to do (as does every team) is win the close ones that were right there to be won. In other words, close. If you could “flip” the result of the Chiefs game (Doctson’s endzone dislodgement – I refuse to call THAT one, at least, a “drop”) and just not CHOKE vs. the Saints, then today’s game against the Giants is a ticket for 10-6, and most likely a playoff spot.

AND…. this could all have been done with our two most important pieces resting for the last 3 weeks in Williams and Reed. No way those guys would have been IR’d if the Skins were still playoff hunting. They would almost surely be suited up for the wildcard game and then… who knows?

Some guys going to IR for the Redskins this year, have had virtually NO effect on the team’s ability to function. Terrelle Pryor was a bust. Plain and simple. C Spencer Long was nice, but rookie Chase Roullier did not miss a beat according to those who understand line play. The Redskins had the luxury of having both edge rushers healthy all season (Kerrigan and Smith) with a 3rd one in Galette coming on strong at the end. They have had both LCB and RCB healthy and available virtually all season, with a great slot CB in Kendall Fuller holding it down. The safeties have been solid (although we missed Nicholson’s spark) and the amorphous pile of interior D-linemen have been mostly there all year (McClain, McGee, Hood, et. al.) and Ioannidis had a great half season when healthy and next to rookie Jonathan Allen.

On offense, sure: losing Chris Thompson hurt bad. But I refuse to weep for the loss of Rob Kelly. Fact is, this coaching staff and front office has missed badly at finding a difference making running back, and we are reminded of that fact virtually every Sunday. The Skins are 29th in rushing (YPC) and compounding that pity is the fact Kirk Cousins is top-5 this year in passer rating on play action.

My goodness, can you imagine him with a decent run game, and single “A” wide receiver? (Hint: You will, next year, with somebody else).

As the season closes, I refuse to say injuries submarined a playoff caliber team. Two games they threw away (at Chiefs, at Saints) and two others they didn’t get off the bus for (at Cowboys, at Chargers). Combine that with front office miscalculations at WR and RB, sprinkle in a schedule that had a few nasty short-turnarounds, and sure… a splash of the injury bug… that’s the story of the 2017 Redskins.

Now, you’ll excuse me if I don’t rush to order my “Three Straight Non-Losing Seasons” hat just yet.

The Game Remains the Same: Kirk, Kirk, Kirk

In the 2000 election cliffhanger between Bush and Gore, the late Tim Russert gained political TV immortality with a simple dry erase board and a single word written 3 times. Florida. Florida. Florida.

Russert knew, that no matter what else was happening in all the other state returns that night, the entire election was coming down to Florida. He proved to be more right than any election night pundit has ever been right.

In Redskinsland, we have our own dry erase board right now: “Kirk. Kirk. Kirk.”

I am not breaking any new ground here, and this thought is hardly original. But it is worth hammering home as the 2017 season fades to black. One can pick apart attractive elements of these last few wins against the dregs of polite QB society (Gabbert and Osweiller, back to back. Ooof!) but none of it matters.

The game is Kirk. The franchise is Kirk. The future is Kirk. There is nothing else.

So as we approach the long winter ahead, let me share my still muddled thoughts on what is both technically possible vs. what I believe is more likely to happen. While losing the best QB we’ve had in 20 years over stubbornness, frugality, and pride is enough to make me sick, I’ll admit the game of analyzing the multi-dimensional puzzle does fascinate me.

In sum, “The Kirk Problem” has been a slow forming football tumor, where with each year of delay by the team to take aggressive surgery on it, makes a good outcome less and less likely.

Let’s start with what’s possible. The Redskins can transition tag Kirk for $28M or franchise him a 3rd time for $34M. They could actually afford to do either, without having to release a bunch of players. A transition tag would invite possible kamikaze runs by a handful of teams with massive cap space and a desperate need for a QB. The 49ers, Browns, and Jets are three teams estimated to have at least $30M more than the Redskins this winter. But the Niners are now out, thanks to “Jimmy GQ” who is now 4-0, and I don’t think in a million years Kirk would go to the rudderless Jets and the glare of a ruthless New York market.

The Browns are little different, I think. They are somewhat more hapless than rudderless, and they have draft assets which will continue to strengthen the roster for years to come (provided Haslam lets football people make the picks, not homeless guys outside his favorite restaurant.) Sashi Brown and his moneyball gang may be gone, but the picks they acquired remain. If you were to drop a Kirk Cousins into the Browns right now, the difference would be shocking. Plus, Kirk is a “midwest guy” who may well fall in love with going someplace where he will be instantly adored by a fanbase that has been starved of even competent quarterbacking since their rebirth in 1999.

In short: if the Skins transition tag Kirk, the Browns are bringing all the money they got on a front-end-heavy contract with hooks, poison pills, and whatever else they can throw at the Skins in order to make them choke on it. And I think Kirk will listen.

None of the other teams that would be desperate for Kirk’s consistent and comfortably-in-the-top-10-in-the-league quarterbacking, have the salary cap Brinks truck capable of a transition tag heist. I’m looking at you: Arizona, Denver and Jacksonville. But I believe all three of them would entertain “Option B” on Kirk: A “tag and trade” for a brand new home, and a long term contract.

The Skins would hit Kirk with his $34M tag, and then tell Kirk’s agent to take calls from interested teams and get your expected long term deal shaped out in principal. Once that’s done, Kirk’s prospective “new team” can call Bruce Allen and figure out how much it’s going to cost in a trade.

The team to watch out for here: Denver. Denver. Denver.

Everybody and their mom knows that the QB is supreme in terms of NFL success or failure, but a franchise being run by a Hall of Fame QB knows it more acutely than anyone. And he’s got a great defense just dying on the vine behind a bunch of scrubs and dummies at QB. While they don’t have as much money to bury Kirk and his agent with, they have several things that would make it very attractive to me, if I were Kirk Cousins.

Above all, the Broncos remain a Tiffany franchise with a truly devoted fanbase. And even though the team currently is filtering through the Pat Bowlen succession plan, ownership will remain in the family and likely continue to be looked at as the Rocky Mountain version of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If I’m Kirk, I don’t need to break the bank on a deal with Denver. I’d even take a shade under Derek Carr money, and then WALK to Mile High with a smile on my face.

The Redskins will want at least a single #1 from Denver, and heck, they might get it. And Elway might consider that first-rounder the “easiest check he’s ever written” (as my buddy Chuck once said about hiring professional painters instead of doing it himself).

I think Arizona is in a similar boat (and don’t forget, Bruce Arians is a long-ago QB himself) and would be in the running as well. And Jacksonville will likely depend on just how good or bad Blake Bortles looks in the playoffs.

Then there are wildcard teams and situations. Are the Giants truly committed to Eli? What if Big Ben retires in Pittsburgh? What is Minnesota going to do with their collection three free-agent-to-be QB’s?

As for the Redskins… well.. sure. Bruce and Dan will likely try to re-start the whole “let’s get a long term deal” talks going as soon as possible with Kirk and his agent Mike McCartney. I predict they will go nowhere. Regardless of how suddenly generous the Skins newest offer might be, McCartney is going to simply point to the slashlines of Kirk’s last 3 seasons and say: “You bet against us 3 straight years. You keep losing. Sorry. It’s over. Either you work with us to help you claw back a nice draft pick or two from another team, or we’ll break you over the rocks of that $34M 2018 number and then leave after that. Your choice.”

And forget reading the tea leaves on every nice thing Kirk says about Washington D.C., this team, the importance of continuity, blah blah blah. Kirk is the kind of guy who is going to care about dumping us gently as fans, a sort of “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of breakup.

Redskins at Giants on Sunday December 31st at MetLife. Set your DVR’s to record and hit “Save Until I Delete.”

The New Star Wars Movie Is Awesome…. Almost

Let me start by saying my Star Wars “nerd level” is fairly low. I am an enthusiast for the series, not a fanboy nor fanatic. So you have to take this review from the perspective of a middle-aged man who liked the originals alot, was disgusted at how awful the middle-three were (like most everybody was), and got pretty pumped when Disney bought the whole thing and told George Lucas: “Shut up… and hold my beer.”

So after seeing The Last Jedi on Wednesday night – fashionably late by about a week – here are my thoughts.

On the whole, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5, or 3 1/2 out of 4 if that’s your defacto movie rating scale. The general story of the next generation of characters has been laid out logically, and I find all of the principals to be both likable and well cast. In short, they picked winners in Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron). All of them are growing into their characters nicely, and I don’t have any hint of starting to be annoyed by them at this point in the Star Wars reboot.

The battle scenes are fucking spectacular. You cannot, in any way, sniff your nose at how fucking awesome it is to watch them in a cranked up THX enabled movie theater on a 70 foot high definition screen. Okay, some things make me scratch my head like: “How come blown up ships ‘sink’ in the dead of outerspace, instead of just float apart in pieces in all directions?” Ahhhh, never mind. It looks cool.

The sound effects of all of the different guns, blasters, cannons, photon torpedos, light sabres, light chainsaws, light pruning shears, and on and on… are again: fucking phenomenal. I hope there’s an app somewhere that has nothing but a sound panel of all the cool new Star Wars weapon SFX’s.

The scene where Princess Morgana Leia, the Kissing Intergalactic Bandit, gets blasted out of the command deck of her ship, into outerspace, only to magically awaken and somehow float herself back to the sick bay on a nearby ship is total bullshit. Serious, terrible, ugly blot in the movie, if you ask me. Its easily the biggest clunker in there. If you want to kill her just to then save her, fine. Have Leia hit the windshield of a passing ship, get scraped off by some gigantic windshield wipers, and then have a crew member say: “Wait a minute! That’s our Princess!” THEN you can drag her onboard and save her. None of this “use the force” crap (I assume) when we all know that Princess Leia doesn’t really have the force.

And yeah, they are starting to stretch what the force can and can’t do. It used to be fooling enlisted Stormtroopers by saying “these aren’t the droids you are looking for” and lifting heavy wrecked spaceships out of swamps. Now you can use the force to make intergalactic Skype calls just about anytime you want. Ahem. The holographic “Not Really Luke” character he projected with “the force” from several planets away to help the good guys escape was another huge stretch.

Just a word to the writers: you gotta dial back the magic of “the force.” Because if you make it so “the force” can do just about anything, then nobody believes in the action packed struggles of all the other characters. You think: “Well, why doesn’t he or she just use the force there?”

The last thought I had about Star Wars was the fact that it’s a family movie, almost written for the next generation of kids. And guess what: that’s what it should be. Get a whole new generation hooked on the story and they can pass it on to their kids.

But I wished that someday someone made a Star Wars type future space movie that was R rated, and targeted at adults. Granted, there’s probably not a market for that movie, given how much you are limiting your audience.

But think how cool a gritty, dark, more authentic space odyssey movie could be where there is high tech weapons, amazing science, but very little supernatural fantasy crap (i.e. “the force”). And when two characters get horny for each other, you see more than just a nice deep hug, or a gentle kiss on the lips.

I’m thinking Stars Wars meets Game of Thrones (realism and brutality) where there is a tighter reign on the realism of space physics, science and technology, and flesh and blood lust, greed, evil, good, humor, suffering and the rest.

Ah well… someday. Maybe.

In the meantime, The Last Jedi is great. Go see it. And don’t be afraid to see it in 3D. I did by accident tonight, and thought I would hate it. I moved up a closer than I normally would sit (because the 3D glasses make the screen seem about 15% smaller somehow) and it was a helluva a ride being enveloped in the effects.

The Han Solo backstory movie comes out this spring. Which will make 4 Star Wars movies in the last 2.5 years, compared to (likely) just 1 Cleveland Browns victory in that span.

Browns fans, I don’t know how you do it.

Drone Advice For Newbies

For years now, people have heard me raving about consumer “drones.” Or more accurately, “quadcopters.” These expensive toys are nothing short of the greatest gadgets of my lifetime. They are marvels of technology, that blow my mind every time I think about all of the technology they leverage to work as amazingly as they do.

That said, I felt the need to give any drone “noobs” out there a Five Point Primer on becoming a drone owner/pilot.

1. This Is Still Very Much, A Hobby

I say this because it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that whatever you decided is your quadcopter of choice (more on that in point #2) it’s just a fun thing to fly around and take pictures and videos with. It’s not. You are now entering a bonafide hobby, in which you will experience lots of excitement, but also a bunch of frustration, anguish, and sometimes hours of lost time. Read every manual and tutorial you can. Watch every well produced tutorial video on your particular drone on-line. Learn every little nook and cranny of the dense app that controls your drone. Test out every single mode. Test the obstacle avoidance. Practice takeoffs and landings. Do controlled tests in windy conditions in open fields, at just above head level to see how your craft reacts. In other words, LEARN your hobby. That is, unless you just want to fly the thing into a tree, or panic when something goes wrong (which happens ALOT) and you watch the craft go flying off into the great beyond. Do NOT let anybody fly it, unless you are there to gently coach them, and it is a low obstacle environment (i.e. wide open field, or 200’+ in the air where there’s nothing to hit). Accept the fact you will need to do troubleshooting, firmware updating, problem solving, and do it regularly.

2. Get Something from DJI

Yeah, I know I will get plenty of people touting how good, how superior, and how awesome “Brand XYZ” is when it comes to their drones. And that may be true. I haven’t flown any others. All I know is that DJI was the first mass marketer of hi-tech quadcopters, and they are still the top dog by a longshot. This means a few things. 1) They have a vested interest in staying top dog, so they generally do a good job of customer service, helping you get your drone back quickly if you send it in for repairs, etc. 2) They have learned from all of their screw-ups and design flaws from previous models. For example, GoPro decided to get into the drone biz because the early DJI Phantoms required you to supply your own GoPro, so when DJI started making their own cameras, GoPro got suckered into saying “oh yeah, well, then we’ll make drones too!” It’s been a disaster. The GoPro Karma drone has been widely panned, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they never made another one (even though they say they will. We’ll see.) DJI now has three great levels of consumer drones. The Spark is a great entry drone, with hard fixed wing arms and a sturdy 2-axis gimbal and non-4k camera. The Mavic is my current drone and it’s amazing. Small and foldable, but full featured with 4K imagery. It’s amazingly good for being so small in high wind conditions. And then the full sized Phantom 4 lineup. DJI is dusting everybody in this field right now. Stick with the best.

This guy is pretty hilarious, and his tech reviews on YouTube are the best!

3. Taking Off and Landing Are Still the Two Most Important Things

This is the same as it is for any other aircraft that carries human beings beyond the surly grasp of earth’s gravity. Your two biggest perils, are at the moment of departure and again upon safe arrival. Period. Full stop. Soak that in. I say that because it’s easy to get cocky on both fronts. I often will get lazy and launch my drone from a flat spot, in between some trees, or dangerously close to the side of my house. I take for granted that I will have full control of the aircraft when it comes time to land it at home, and I can make sure to avoid those things coming down. Uh-unnnn. Not ALWAYS. You will be amazed (and panicked) at times when your app crashes, or your drone “disconnects” from the controller. In that case, your drone is programmed to come home, but two key factors are involved. 1) Did you set the return home height so that you’ll avoid ALL trees?ย  2) Is your “home point” a clear flat surface with plenty of space for the onboard software to land? And I have crashed my drone trying to be fancy landing it on the roof of my car. Stupid. One time, a gust of wind, caught it at the very last moment and it clattered about 5 feet to the ground off the edge of my car. Luckily, there was only cosmetic damage, but it was totally un-necessary.

4. When In Trouble, Go Up!

This took me a few panic-crashes to figure out, but I finally learned. If you must land in a tight spot (semi-dense forest) or on a moving something (boat) and you are struggling with the landing or think you might smash into something….. GO UP. Quickly! 99% of the time, there will be nothing above you, and once you are up 50-100 feet, you can let the drone sit there, while you re-think your landing strategy. UP is almost always safe. I once tried to land my drone a picnic table on the deck of our beach house in high winds, because you know, 1 week with a drone and everybody think’s they are Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.” I GOT IT!!! Well, I donked the thing off face of the house in a last second panic, and watched it crash onto the deck and fuck up the gimbal. Good job, dummy. Even though I launched from that table (stupid) I could have easily just aborted the dicey landing by zooming back upward, then gone downstairs to the street while the drone was hovering high above, and guided it down safely. Instead, it $75 plus parts and shipping. Dummy.

5. Never Forget: You Didn’t Get Into Drones to SAVE Money

Yes, yes, yes. There will be times when you think this toy is a huge waste of cash. You will start to get a bit jaded at seeing what your neighborhood, or a golf course, or a river, or whatever looks like from above. You will crash your drone. It will require repairs. It will cost money. But guess what? Who cares? It’s still so fucking cool to have one, you will be glad you do. If you are like me, you will marvel at how this is not just all possible, but how is it still LEGAL!? When I was a kid, only a few dedicated hobbyists had remote controlled airplanes (circa 1978) and they ran on MINIATURE fucking ether powered engines that were damn near impossible to start, loud as shit, and ran for approximately 3 minutes. The planes they powered took the nerves of John Fucking Glenn to successfully pilot, and landing them safely was just a rumor. They were still the coolest thing going. So this age of drones we live in now…… my goodness people. What a hoot.

Respect others property, privacy, and obey all FCC regulations. Understand that it’s likely more and more absurd airspace restrictions will be introduced soon, so let’s fly where we can, when we can. Understand that even cooler drones will keep coming out, model year after model year. So what? Sit out a cycle, and get the newest one every OTHER model roll-out.

As this hilarious spoof video says: “Fly Your Money.” I couldn’t agree more!

The Day Replay Died

Today was a glorious day for the Replay Resistance movement. The oppressive regime of “rules nerds” and machines suffered several humiliating defeats in front of the eyes of Football America.

In short, I have never been more sure of our eventual victory. One day, “Instant Replay” will be voted out of the NFL. Mark my words.

The people who will scoff at me on this, are the same ones who scoffed at my notion that replay got almost as many calls “wrong” as they fixed. Even those die hards are starting to recalibrate their preconceived notions about replay’s actual value in making our football games more good and fair and right and yeah…. better. Unhgh! Take that!

Whatever. Nerds.

Let’s start with a basic premise few people want to even ask, much less answer: “Who says every call has to be right?” Since when has ANY sports fan of more than 5 minutes in their life thought that officials dont fuck up at least a handful of times every game, in every sport that involves a referee?

These are, after all, just GAMES people. For our enjoyment! Was the ending of the Steelers-Patriots game FUN for anybody? Sure, Pats fans were HAPPY, but that’s different from it being FUN.

They should add the Jesse James play and eventual reversal to the end of that DirecTV commercial about people who get excited about stupid little shit in life happening to them. (Wet grocery bags? YESSSS!)

The reason we “don’t know what a catch is anymore” is because the league has tried to keep writing the rulebook to accomodate microscopic advances in replay technology. The notion of “surviving the ground” on catches did not exist in the 1980’s. A catch was akin to pornography: you know it when you see it.

The league will likely try to keep writing and re-writing the rules to prevent these disasters, but guess what: it’ll fail. Because the level of video precision and techno-prowess we have now, is the WORST it’ll ever be in our lifetimes. It’ll start getting so good, your head will hurt trying to figure out where does a player’s “shin” begin to figure out if he was “down?” You’ll be staring at 3 fucking little crumblet’s of rubber turf infill that flew in the air, and have to ask yourself…. “did his TOE do that, or was is the WHOOSH of his foot flying by?”

I am not kidding. This is coming. It’s only a matter of time.

The NFL requires (for speed purposes) to use very CRUDE judgements on all kinds of things -holding, pass interference, spotting the football et. al. – because to microscopically try to make all of these calls “right” would expand games to 5 hours or more.

So now that replay only expands games by about 10-15 minutes, the perfectionist ninnies who like it, say it’s worth it because – GASP! “what if a bad call determines who gets into the playoffs or stays home!? Coaches could get fired!”).

Coaches get fired anyway! And bad calls routinely steal games from teams without any benefit of a video review. All… the… time!

Flaws, holes, and illogical double standards abound. Had James caught the ball legally, but the refs on the field ruled it incomplete, the Steelers would have had to challenge it because only “scoring plays” are automatically reviewed, not “almost scoring plays.” Which they couldn’t because they didn’t have a timeout left! But wait, they didn’t have to, because the league steps in to review all “close” plays in the final 2 minutes of each half. But what if the league didn’t think it was a “close” play? The Steelers might have stood around waiting for a replay to come, while the playclock drained out to zero causing a delay of game.

Worst of all, replay has ruined the moment in sports. And honestly, the moment is all that fucking matters. The moment of pure joy (or agony) when your team plunges the dagger of a game winning touchdown into your hated opponents back.

Now “the moment” has been reduced to sitting in a doctors office waiting to hear the results of a blood test. Oooh. Fun.

And as for the other brutal reversal today in Carolina, all I can say is that call was total bullshit. A microscopic assumption of one asscheek coming down barely inbounds before the other one landing 8 feet on the white line, why that’s the stuff of pure imagination. Alberto Riveron must have an imaginary friend who walks with him to work. A pink fluffy elephant named “Mr. Stomps” that he talks to on the elevator ride up to the TV lined mancave in downtown Manhattan from which he decides whether you just wasted 3 hours of your life with a totally horseshit call.

And Riveron is never wrong! Have you noticed that? It’s like your fucking wife is officiating every game in the NFL now! He stood by the ridiculous Austin Sefarian-Jenkins overturn, as well as the time Zach Miller nearly lost his goddamn leg!ย 

To all of the technocrats and “fair-ies” who still defend the value of replay, turn in your red flags now and you shall be shown mercy. To everybody else, you better dig in. Because your days are numbered.

The Replay Resistance is growing, and our day of glory is certain. It’s just a matter of time.

A Whole New Meaning For The Term “Griffining”

When Robert Griffin III was a Redskin, it was clear he had trouble reading defenses from the pocket. Now that he’s out of the NFL, it’s apparent he also can’t read the room. Or reality.

I have no animus against Griffin, although I admit to a morbid kind of fascination with his ability to craft an alternate timeline than the one the rest of us are watching. It’s always sunny in Robert’s world, I guess. Nothing is ever really his fault, and his notion of “dedication to craft” lasts about as long as a typical millennial’s attention span.

Griffin got flown up to ESPN this week to get run through the infamous “Bristol Car Wash.” He appeared an multiple shows over the course of two days. Most of the questions were boilerplate, if not softballs. This was no intervention.

I guess ESPN thought it might be newsworthy, that in a season where 52 different quarterbacks leaguewide (and counting) have seen significant playing time, how is it possible that Griffin hasn’t been picked up by somebody – anybody!

Well…. the more you hear Robert talk, the more you realize why. Griffin claims he had two (semi) solid offers this season. One was from the Cardinals, where he didn’t think starting out 4th string was going to lead to anything. Well, given how bad Blaine Gabbert has been these last 4 weeks for the Cards, Griffin might have landed a prime chance to start all of December. If he played well, that could lead to a solid offer this winter from somebody.

But… nah. Why bother, right? Robert always knows best. It’s also why he claims he turned down the Ravens offer to start pre-season Game #1 against his former team, the Redskins in August. Robert was quick to wrap himself in a cloak of false modesty saying he could have “done the selfish thing” and said yes, but that he didn’t think one week was enough to prepare properly to learn the Ravens offense.

Bruh. Really? It’s PRE-season game… number… ONE. You can’t find a softer landing spot than that.

So he turned down the only two offers he had this summer, claimed that he was a peace with the possibility he will never play football again, but then in the very next moment tells ESPN that he’s rested and ready, and could actually help a playoff bound team with QB issues… RIGHT NOW!

Yup. You got it. He went on ESPN and basically begged the Eagles for a shot.

Dummy.

This is where even the most hard-core PRO Robert fans have a hard time staying on board with this guy. You just want to hustle your way onto a playoff team? Really? Do you not realize that IF the Eagles wanted to sign you, they know how to pick up a phone and reach your agent? Do you know that asking for that shot on ESPN makes you look desperate and delusional?

And what about all that “I need time to absorb an offense” stuff? Ah, never mind. It all makes sense to Robert, I suppose.

Midway through this season, Griffin decided to get away from tweeting motivational popcorn quotes and engaging in feuds with his ex-Redskin teammates, and to start tweeting supposedly insightful “QB on QB Stuff” on all of the “film” he’s still studying on the best QB’s in the NFL.

That lasted about a week. Then he stopped. Now the tweets appear to have been deleted. Oh well….

The brutal reality is that Griffin has to fight his way back into the league. If you ask me, Canada is his best bet. Hell, it’s what Flutie did. Tommy Maddux played in the freaking XFL before getting a second stint with the Steelers.

Griffin had me totally fooled with his fake leadership, and fake sincerity when he arrived here in DC. I think I even said he had “uncommon maturity” for his age. Ooof. What a sucker I was.

I’d guess the league’s take on Robert Griffin III is roughly the same as mine is now: a guy who will say all the right things, and then follow through on doing very few of them.

Sunday’s Snow Game Was All I Wanted for Christmas

Last Sunday’s Bills-Colts game in a prototypical “Lake Effect” blizzard, might have been the “deepest accumulation game” the league has ever seen. I don’t think they keep stats on that, but they should.

Judging by what we saw on TV, I’d say the boys played in at least 6 inches of fresh powder, if not 8 inches or possibly more. The should-have-been game winning 2-point throw and catch to TE Jack Doyle, saw him prancing about in an endzone of virgin powder that would have made even Vail or Breckenridge envious.

It was…. awesome. On so many levels.

For starters, there cannot be enough credit given to CBS and their technical crew for delivering a televised product that was not just watchable despite the blizzard, but actually lovely in many regards. The team of cameramen, cable-pullers, production assistants and foot soldiers should win an Emmy for their work. (Is THERE an Emmy for “Best Broadcast In Utterly Miserable Weather Conditions?”) Even better, when the snow did let up a bit in the second half, the main camera angle delivered a picture that had the extra shine of a certain Christmas classic you probably know.

“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below..”

It’s ironic that the NFL will now regularly suspend play with just a hint of lightning anywhere within 10 miles of the stadium (like with the nearly 90 minute delay in the Broncos-Cowboys game earlier this year) but they won’t even think about delaying a game in snow to maybe wait until it lets up a bit, or to work on clearing the field so the game is more playable.

Nah! Nobody’s gonna die… right? Play ball!

@unholyxvii @jake_has_a_tail #NumbBillsFan #Bills #BillsMafia #BuffaloBills #PunchDrunkSports #blur

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Football is indeed, the one outdoor sport that endeavors to ALWAYS….. play on… no matter what. Football is the United States Postal Officer of sports: neither wind, nor sleet, nor rain shall stop this game from being played!

And I’m fine with it. There’s always ways to adjust your attack, and all 22 guys have to play in the same conditions. Footing wasn’t good. Blocking wasn’t clean. Players were slow. So what!

As the game wore on, I became more and more fascinated with the physics (and chemistry) of snow removal, juxtaposed with limited time and resources. “Hmmmm, I thought stroking my chin. Couldn’t they bring in a fleet of snowblowers, snowthrowers, plows, or power-brooms at halftime, and get that field accumulation knocked back to zero, I wondered?”

Well, problem one: where would you put it all? If it really was 8 inches on the ground, then you start stacking up 8 inches on 8 inches on 8 inches…. well, you’ll have a parking lot mountain pretty quick. If you put those mountains in the endzones, you would need a front end loader to manage exactly where you stacked it.

Also, I was told by a Bills fan that in a previous snowstorm, the Bills grounds crew DID use a powersweep to clear the field, but that it had the unintended result of sweeping off all of the rubber-pellet infill that is used in modern field turf.

Mass-melting snow is always an attractive thought, and I have been pointed to various videos of massive industrial snow-melting machines that some cities have had to use when there was nowhere left to dump the white stuff.

Of course, you can’t just make it disappear. It then becomes a giant machine with a full belly of water! Surely, you couldn’t use those inside the stadium.

Okay, back to why the game was amazing.

Adam Vinitieri. Now owns the two best snow kicks in NFL history, one for a game tying 45-yard FG in the Tuck Rule Game (the actual game winner was relative chip shot) and a howling 43-yard extra point that hooked with the wind in this one to force overtime. (Note: Vinitieri’s fluffed miss early in the game, has likely lowered his season-long bonus for accuracy, costing him almost $500,000!)

Bare Hands: I have no idea how or why these tough guys play football in the snow bare handed like they do. Maybe there’s not a good “weather glove” that has yet been developed by NFL equipment makers that can perform and function while maintaining body heat.

Win the Game! The Colts still played like the game was important to them! This fact is still one of the reasons the NFL remains the gold standard of American spectator sports. Players still TRY hard even when seasons are lost and quitting would be the relatively easy (and sane) thing to do. Even the oft-mentioned phrase about players always putting good football “on tape for other teams to see” didn’t even apply here! They were playing in 8 inches of snow! But the logic of football remains constant: you gotta be out there for 60 minutes getting smashed up no matter what. Might as well try to win the damn game.

Most football loving adults my age, having grown up in Northern climates, have played a backyard “snow game” at least once in their lifetimes. When the chance presents itself, it’s a giddy joy getting out there, and splashing around in the powder.

But as my memory serves, those game lose tended to lose their lustre and joy before too long. Fingers became numb. Bitterly cold patches of mud and water formed underneath the snowpack, soaking your jeans after random tackles. Your lungs started to burn after processing giant gulpfuls of arctic cold air.

It got “un-fun” pretty quick. But for the better-men-than-you-and-me of the NFL, those guys kept playing. Unfazed. Amazing.

Here’s to the Bills and Colts! And CBS! And to a visual Christmas present delivered a few weeks early. Dilly Dilly!

 

Conditions Are Ripe for A Redskins Convergence of Chaos

It’s an early forecast, but here goes: we have all the necessary conditions for a major December Redskins shitstorm forming over Ashburn, VA. Doesn’t mean it will materialize, but the long range models are all looking rather ominous.

You have the stagnant air of the Kirk Cousins Contract Standoff settling in over the coming off-season. You have the explosive energy of a potential high pick in a draft that will be chock full QB prospects with first round grades.ย  You have the building moisture of a head coach who looks exhausted and flummoxed with every press conference.

All that’s needed now, is a sudden drop in the barometric pressure of 5 straight losses to end the season…. and kaboom. The shitstorm will be on.

Plenty of things just haven’t worked out this year for the Redskins. The main ones are these, in my opinion.

A Credible Running Game Never Materialized
Jay Gruden has always had a rep as a pass-first, pass-second, and run-when-you-can offensive guru. His passing schemes have been described as elegant and flawless in their design. Some will say that almost all of Kirk Cousins’ success has been due to learning how to paint by Jay’s numbers. But even in today’s league, you gotta run the ball. Run it when it gets sloppy and cold. Run it when you are choking out a late lead. Run it on 3rd and 4th and short to keep the ball, and move the chains. Jay expressed over-the-top faith in Fat Rob. The fan base was in love with Samaje Perine and his absurd college production from the minute he arrived in camp. Neither guy is very good. Chris Thompson carried us as part of a TE-RB screen-heavy team, until he and everyone else got hurt.

The Offensive Line Got Destroyed by Injury
There’s no way to plan for this kind of devastation. None.

The WR Plan To Replace Garcon and Jackson Flopped Like The Movie Gigli
On paper, it was entirely defensible. In fact, I may have even voiced my support for it (minus letting Garcon go, although paying WR’s significant 3rd contracts is generally a losing NFL wager). I too, penciled Pryor in for a big season. Whoops. He ran poor routes, and had worse hands when healthy. Then he got hurt, and it was over. (But hey, we’ll always have the Instagram catches!) As for Doctson, I think he’s a bust. Many people get angry when I say that. Sorry. He’s got 29 catches through two years. And yeah, he was hurt last year. Pity. But this is a production league. That he was a slow starter this season following an injury the Skins medical staff had trouble even finding last season, does not inspire confidence. To my eye, Doctson is a slow-loping, high-leaping, one-trick pony. He doesn’t seem fierce or explosive on the ground, and his hands are… underwhelming. For a first round pick, that’s a bust – even with 5 TDs this year. First rounders need to give you at least 4 solid years of production right out of the gate. They are not “stash and develop players.” You are justified in being impatient with them! Now, I’m not advocating we cut him. And he may yet make a Nelson Agholor comeback from the brink. But I’m leaving the pumpkin patch on this one. There are plenty of Skins fans who bombarded me on Twitter that will gladly wait for the “Great Pumpkin” to arrive on this kid.

The Defense Inexplicably Sunk Back To The Bottom of the NFL Lake
We had such high hopes after the first month. Then Jon Allen got hurt, along with every decent inside linebacker we had. The secondary still has plenty of very attractive parts, which is frustrating. We have an expensive blue chipper in Josh Norman who has played like a lost puppy as of late. Bashaud Breeland went from being our best cover corner last month, to being benched for some reason on Sunday. Kendall Fuller is a wonderful young slot corner, and DJ Swearinger has been a very good free agent purchase. So what gives? Maybe the blame goes to Greg Manusky, but I’m not that smart. All I know is that nobody is making any plays on defense. Nobody. Six of our last 8 opponents have scored 30+ on us. We’re back to square one.

Jay Gruden Is Indeed, Regressing
Hey, he admitted as much after the loss to the Chargers. So I’ll go with that thought, and elaborate. As good as Jay seemingly was to get his team prepared for games like Seattle – where they had no business winning, with all of those injuries, and I’ll include New Orleans where they had the Saints DEAD to rights (99% win probability in the 4th quarter) – he still doesn’t know how to squeeze out close wins with tactics and guile. His grasp of using timeouts is horrific. He won’t press his case to the refs with any zeal like a Sean Payton or Pete Carroll, even though working the refs in the NFL is absolutely effective in certain situations. He admits to maybe not knowing the rules. And “give up” decisions like not going for two on Sunday (farfetched as any comeback might have been) because he was worried about incurring more injuries (huh?) went over like a fart in an elevator. Jay has the friendly tone of an upper-midwest meat butcher, chatting you up as he wraps your sirloin at the local “Shop ‘n Save.” I’m not saying being an asshole would make the team play better. But I AM a believer in tone. And when Jay’s horky-dork tone is the soundtrack of repeated pulseless efforts when the season is on the line (last year Panthers and Giants, this year Cowboys and Chargers) it’s hard for me to think there’s ZERO correlation between the two. I’m not saying fire him, but what was a promising year in his career arc as coach, is quickly evaporating.

Injuries are always ready as an excuse, but it’s the teams that use them as such who can usually be found at the bottom of the league table. I’ll never forget when Bill Belichick sent home several high profile players who were 10 minutes late to practice – the day after a 2 foot blizzard!ย 

Oh, it snowed? That’s your excuse? Fuck you. Time to practice.

We now head into a dangerous stretch. There are three demonstrably bad teams coming up, with two bad QBs under center (and Eli!) two games at home where another dud effort will be met with derisive boos from a half-full and mostly drunk FedEx Field fanbase. I’ll go out on a small limb and say they MUST win one of the home games before shoving off for New York to finish the season. If they don’t…. buckle up.

At that point, an oh-by-the-way win to make them 6-10 would have no effect on the dismal vibe heading into January. Cousins will be due another massive guarantee of $28 million at worst. An already bitterly divided fanbase on Kirk’s worth, will grow even more hostile. Another year of “Rent-A-Kirk” is utterly untenable, even if the league granted the Redskins a ZERO cap hit to do it. Kirk and his agent know this inherently, and as such will just stare at any pen on a long term contract Bruce pushes in front of them like it’s coated in anthrax.

All of the conditions are present for another crazy, ugly January in Redskin-land. Winning will be perhaps the only way to stop it. I said back in August that “ain’t nobody leaving an 11 win party!” That was true, even if it didn’t happen. The corollary theory, which I didn’t even bother to contemplate is similar: “Ain’t nobody STAYING for an 11-loss police raid.”