The NFL Anthem Rule Changes

Last Wednesday, the NFL Owners and the powers that be decided that there would no longer be any protests of the national anthem. They instead implemented a new rule in which any player caught kneeling and not ‘Respecting’ or ‘Honoring’ the American Flag could cost their respective team 15 yards before the game even starts. The alternative would be that the team can decide to simply stay inside the locker room while the anthem is being played. The league also made it clear that a player who ‘Disrespects the flag’ on the sidelines could face a fine for his actions.

To better understand why this rule was put into place, we’d have to travel back to August 14, 2016, when then 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem. When questioned about his reasoning behind this, Kaepernick explained that this was his way of protesting the racism and police brutality that many African Americans have faced before and around that time. He also said that he was going to persist with his protests until something was done to achieve a greater sense of unity as a nation.

Kap first started kneeling on September 1st of that year and that was just the spark that ignited this long burning fire that has been as divisive to the NFL world as our President has been to our country. The protests continued into the previous NFL season with President Donald Trump claiming that players who kneel or protest should be kicked out of the league, (and that was just last year around week 3). In response, every NFL team found their own unique way to express unity.

 The tensions were continuing to rise, many people stopped watching the NFL claiming that these players were disrespecting the flag. Despite the fact that Kaepernick and several other players made it clear that they were trying to call for a positive change. These attempts for change resulted in a big step backwards when the new rules that were put into place or are about to be enforced.

What many people don’t realize is that athletes who have made political statements isn’t something that’s unprecedented. The 1968 Olympics had Black runners raise their fists during the anthem, Muhammed Ali protested the Vietnam War, etc. So the anthem protests here is simply history just repeating itself.   

Honestly, I feel that as long as those protesting the flag are being proactive for the same reasons that Kaepernick has been, then there’s no problem. Since his initial protests, Kaepernick has donated at least 1 million bucks to various charities that go with his cause. One example is when he gave Keith Livingston’s charity 100 Suits for 100 Men. The charity which provides decent clothes to people that have limited job shots when they leave prison.

These protests might also be able to get the ball rolling on the conversation about the still present issue of racism and police brutality. While there are many people out there that find this to be uncalled for, I just want to ask you one question, do you think that the issues here are NOT worth talking about? Are the issues these players protesting nonexistent? If you ask these questions and come to reasonable conclusions, maybe you’ll feel that these protests are not as offensive as you may think at first.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/05/24/what-the-nfls-new-rules-for-anthem-protests-really-mean-for-the-first-amendment-according-to-experts/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.837c662076c8

https://www.sbnation.com/2018/5/25/17391410/nfl-anthem-policy-timeline-colin-kaepernick

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A Rookie Replacing Roethlisberger?

A little under a month ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted QB Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State which left many people curious. Is this young man meant to take over the reigns from aging incumbent Ben Roethlisberger? Big Ben (Who’s only 36) was quoted as saying that, “I was surprised when they took a QB, I thought we’d be getting players that could help us win now.” On the 93.7 The Fan radio station in Pittsburgh. Many have speculated that Roethlisberger has seen this a way of the Steelers’ organization threatening to replace him in the near future.

Roethlisberger has done it all during his long career, two Super Bowl titles in three appearances, 6 Pro Bowl trips, Offensive Rookie of the year and co-led the league in passing yards during the 2014-15 season. Ben also mentioned in that same interview on The Fan, that he felt it “Wasn’t his job to get him ready to replace me,” which leads to the debate of how one should read this situation.

We’ve seen this type of situation many times before in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers being drafted in ’05, Steve Young coming in behind Joe Montana, the list goes on. I’m not saying that Rudolph will be as good as either Rodgers or Young, that remains to be seen. But when you consider that Roethlisberger is 36, which is pretty old for a QB, I think the Steelers were simply drafting for the future. Ben doesn’t have anything to worry about at this point. If the Steelers were drafting Rudolph to have him learn the position the first before taking over, that’s the smart move. We’ve seen rookie QBs get thrown into the firing line too quickly and then it backfires, just like it did for Deshone Kizer for starters and Ryan Leaf. Starting a rookie QB is a risky move, so letting a young buck learn the ropes slowly is often the best route.

When it comes down to the question of ‘Should Ben teach Mason how to play QB to take his job?’ that’s a ludicrous idea. Why would you teach someone how to do your job in the hopes of you losing it to the young blood under your wing? The best thing that Ben can do, is show the kid a few tricks of the trade and let the coaches/ Mason Rudolph do the rest. Training anyone to take your job from you is not how these things are supposed to work. As of right now, Big Ben is the starter, unless he gets hurt or something to that effect, his starting job is safe. The Steelers are just planning for the future, and maybe Roethlisberger should consider that if he’s confused about this, they’re not trying to replace him, they just want a plan in place when he retires, that’s what’s going on here.

 

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23406759/quarterback-ben-roethlisberger-surprised-pittsburgh-steelers-drafted-mason-rudolph

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Roethlisberger

Tony Dungy to be Enshrined in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor

On September 24th of this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will enshrine their first winning coach in the franchise’s history upon his departure. That man is Tony Dungy who compiled a record of 54 wins and 42 losses during his 6-year tenure as the Bucs Head Coach. The Buccaneers were seen as a joke at the time that Dungy took the job in 1996 and things didn’t start off promising as the team went 6-10 in his first season. But the Bucs were able to create a sense of hope at the end of that season as they pulled together a few impressive wins to end the season on a high note. This would be his sole losing season during his time as the Bucs Head Coach

This isn’t the first time Tony Dungy has been honored for his efforts as a head coach, he was enshrined in the Colts’ ring of honor in 2010 where he won his first and last Super Bowl in 2007. Dungy may not have been around to coach the Bucs to their 2003 Super Bowl win in San Diego, but he got the team to be a playoff caliber squad that was perfected into a Super Bowl winner by his successor Jon Gruden.

Tony Dungy also took take the Buccaneers to the playoffs four times during his tenure as their head coach was there to watch the beginnings of many great players get their start. This includes Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who was one of the great pioneers of the Tampa 2 Defense that would help made the Bucs a tough team to face at their own field.

The Buccaneers will host the Pittsburgh Steelers that day on Monday Night Football in week 3 September 24th of this year. Hopefully the Bucs can give their former coach a lovely night to remember against Big Ben & Co.

  

The Packers 2018 Draft and Seasonal Overview

Packers 2018 Draft Summary

After a very disappointing 2017 season, the Packers knew what they needed from the draft and they also had a new GM at the helm in Dallas last week. Coming off of a 7-9 season, their first losing season in nearly a decade, the Packers knew that they needed a few fresh faces on Defense to help make them more formidable against opposing offenses. The Packers drafted three defensive players, DE James Looney, DBs Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, as well as LB Oren Burks. It’s great to see the Packers draft defensive players that address the three main groups on Defense as they haven’t been a dominant defense in quite some time.

The Packers new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine will have a fair amount of fresh faces to work with this season that will hopefully rejuvenate a defensive squad that ranked only 21st. The biggest problem that has plagued the Packers the past few years has been the secondary, a lot of young players that had talent but not a lot of wisdom. Jackson was a turnover machine last year for Iowa with 8 interceptions, turnovers were a major perk of the Packers secondary during the late 2000s and the first half or so of this decade, but they haven’t really been that productive at forcing turnovers as of late. Only forcing 11 ints versus the 18 that they threw offensively.

The D-Line and Linebacking core needed a few new faces as well, Martinez and Ryan have been doing okay, but Clay Matthews has turned in a ghost who occasionally materializes to sack the opposing team’s QB. But that has happened as often as a lineman running a 4.8 40 yard dash, not something you’d want outside of a LB who’s claimed that, “I’m a Pass Rusher,” during the 2014 season. So with the drafting of Burks and Looney, maybe the Packers pass rush will return to a much intimidating force, which will in turn help the secondary produce more turnovers.

The Offensive side of the Packers organization has some question marks to address as well, especially when it comes to supplementing the weaponry to Aaron Rodgers. The team made a very questionable call in trading Jordy Nelson to Oakland to make room for Seahawks’ TE Jimmy Graham. In response, the Packers have drafted WRs J’Mon Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Replacing Nelson is a daunting task, as he and Rodgers were a very powerful duo between 2008-2017, so bringing in Jimmy Graham is mitigated by that move and drafting two young WRs shouldn’t be as comforting as it may seem.

The Packers do have an entire offseason to get the Offense ready for the season, but I still have my reservations about these moves. Getting a new TE was a good idea and I know that Jimmy Graham is similar to Nelson in terms of skill set, but it’s going to be hard to recreate that chemistry that Nelson had with Rodgers. Plus, drafting a few rookie wideouts while you still have Cobb, Adams, and a growing talent in Geronimo Allison, but getting a few more wideouts for Rodgers to work with is a good idea. Hopefully these rookies are quick learners of the Packers new offense led by Rodgers and OC Joe Philbin.  

Special teams never really seemed problematic as the Packers only drafted a Punter when they already have a decent one in Justin Vogel, so it seems that the Packers have tried to address the problems that they had offensively and defensively. The 2018 season at this point is very similar to two other seasons, namely the 2009 and 2014 seasons.  Both seasons had the Packers coming off of disappointing campaigns the previous years, and they went from 6-10 in 2008 to 11-5 in 2009. The 2014 season saw the Packers go 12-4 after a frustrating 8-7-1 season in 2013. This year will also see Aaron Rodgers coming back from a broken collarbone and trying to regain his status as one of the most efficient passers in the NFL. Losing Jordy Nelson may be a crippling blow to some, (It still kind of is to me) but with an entire offseason to come up with ways to make the offense click, I still think that this draft might help bring Green Bay back into playoff contention this season. Some might say Super Bowl, but it always pays off more to be realistic, rather than foolishly optimistic, but we shall see.

https://www.packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2018/04/25/2018-nfl-draft-green-bay-packers-picks/552404002/

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/gnb/2017.htm  

The Raiders get a new deal on their Carr

Last Thursday, Derek Carr became the highest paid player in league history, according to Ian Rapoport from NFL Network. Carr’s new contract gives him 125 million bucks over the next five years, and it’s a very well-deserved deal.

The Raiders have been a proud franchise to say the least, from their Super Bowl wins in 1976, 1980, and 1983, to their resurgence in the early 2000s. However, after losing 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVIII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team failed to make the playoffs until this past season thanks to the likes of QB Derek Carr and star wideout Amari Cooper leading the way.

This sudden spark didn’t happen overnight though once Carr was drafted going into the 2014 season, Carr went 3 wins and 13 losses in his rookie campaign as a starter for the Raiders. The following year, (2015) the Raiders climbed up to a 7-win season and hit a new high with 12 wins last season.

Carr’s numbers have also dramatically climbed in that time span as well, going from a 76.6 QB Rating during his rookie year, to a 96.7 rating in 2016. Carr’s career has been a pattern of constant improvement the following season, and it’s been a long time since the Raiders have had a stable QB in the starting lineup, so as far as the contract goes, Carr is worth every penny. But there’s still room to grow.

The Raiders lost in the wild card round to the Houston Texans 27-14, a game in which Carr missed because of injury. The insult was made even greater by the fact that the Texans were beaten by Oakland in week 11 by a score of 27-20, WITH Carr in the lineup.

Carr and Cooper, along with Linebacker Khalil Mack, are the three key components to making the Raiders a credible threat in the AFC. I don’t think they could beat the Patriots, but with the potential that’s dripping out of the 4th year Quarterback, it just MIGHT happen.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2674596-derek-carr-signs-raiders-contract-qb-reportedly-is-nfls-highest-paid-player

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland_Raiders

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/C/CarrDe02.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Oakland_Raiders_season

Can the Panthers Pounce Back in 2017?

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were near the top of the world in 2015, going 15 wins and only 1 loss during the regular season. They defeated the Seattle Seahawks 31-24, in the divisional round, and then obliterated the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Title Game, 49-15. Winning the Super Bowl against a fading Peyton Manning seemed like a cinch, but it wasn’t. The Panthers lost 24-10 to the Denver Broncos and Cam looked pretty anemic against the vaunted Denver Defense, fumbling twice and getting picked off once. Newton threw 41 passes completing only 18 for 265 yards. It was the start of a huge decline that carried over to the 2016 season.

The Panthers started off 2015, 14-0, they would only go on to win 6 games in 2016, which leads many to believe that Cam Newton’s MVP season in 2015 was a fluke. However, the 2017 season is months away, and the Panthers may be able to get back on their paws. Here are some ways that they just might be able to get back to the playoffs.

Protect the QB

One of the biggest weaknesses that the Panthers had last year was that Newton got sacked on a consistent basis. Last season he was sacked 36 times, that’s a little over 2 sacks per game, Newton has always been sacked 30 times or more throughout his career. The total amount of times Newton’s been sacked (211) over his 7-year career has led to a lot of injuries, not to mention the fact that the Panthers do a lot of the read option plays which puts Cam at risk more often. The Panthers have retooled the offensive line and Head Coach Ron Rivera is decreasing the amount of QB run plays in the playbook, so perhaps this trend will change in a positive way.

Another thing that’ll protect Cam Newton is a good running game, and drafting Stanford Running Back Christian McCaffrey will certainly help. McCaffrey ran for 3922 yards throughout his collegiate career, including a 2019 yard performance during his sophomore year and averaged 6.2 yards a carry over his career. So perhaps McCaffrey can help give the Panthers their traditionally strong running game back.

Injuries

Another part of the problematic 2016 season, was the fact that Carolina had to deal with several injuries that held them back. 30 players were injured, including Cam Newton, Offensive Lineman Michael Oher, and Linebacker Luke Kuechly.  Wide Receivers Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr further exacerbated the problems and keeping these players healthy will at least help the Panthers get a few more wins.

Michael Oher, whose life was famously portrayed in the 2009 film, ‘The Blind Side’, hasn’t been playing as well either, so it’s going to be a year of potential redemption for the Panthers, Oher was out most of the season, missing 13 games and being a few years removed from winning a Super Bowl with the 2012-2013 Baltimore Ravens certainly has that veteran presence that the Panthers need to get back on their feet.

Kelvin Benjamin

One of the other key members of the Carolina offense that needs to get into shape in order to help his team win is fourth year wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin caught 63 passes, for 941 yards, and found the endzone 7 times. During Benjamin’s time at OTAs, it seems that he’s gained a bit of weight and will have to work hard to get to that 4.61 speed he ran at the combine 4 years ago.

Benjamin’s normal playing weight was 245lbs, but now he looks as though he’s 10-15lbs, and the good news is that he has 3-4 months to get back into better shape. This is not, (As many other speculators have claimed) an attempt at childishly making fat man jokes, but Benjamin needs to get back into shape if he’s going to make a splash at the end of his rookie contract this year.

Benjamin’s rookie season in 2014 was a smash hit, he gained 1008 yards on 73 catches during the 2014 season for 9 touchdowns, missing the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL injury. Considering that this is a few months before training camp and the start of the season, Benjamin should have enough time to get back into shape, or at least, better shape.

Final Thoughts

Despite my positivity in several parts of this story, I don’t think the Panthers will get back to their 2015 season, but I think they’ll at least be 8-8 during 2017. They’re in a division that isn’t being clearly dominated by ONE team like the Packers in the NFC North, or the Patriots in the AFC East, but the Saints are always dangerous, the Falcons are looking to redeem themselves this season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to climb up the ranks a bit this season.

If the Panthers can fix these problems I mentioned in this article, I think they should at least be able to be in playoff contention much longer this season than last year. But expecting them to go 15 and 1 again, or get somewhere near that, is a bit unrealistic for me to accept. That 2015 season captured a moment where the Panthers were nearly unbeatable, but now, I think they’d be better served trying to make the playoffs, instead of trying desperately to hit that mark again.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Carolina_Panthers_season

https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/06/02/carolina-panthers-offseason-grades-free-agency-nfl-draft#

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/N/NewtCa00.htm

http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/christian-mccaffrey-1.html

http://catcrave.com/2017/01/31/carolina-panthers-offensive-line-depth-issue/

http://catcrave.com/2017/01/31/carolina-panthers-offensive-line-depth-issue/

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/car/2016_injuries.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvin_Benjamin#2017_season

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/kelvin-benjamin-looks-out-of-shape-at-panthers-otas-and-even-hes-disappointed/

The Greatest Player of all time doesn’t exist

Many people have used the phrase ‘Greatest of all time’ a statement handed out only to the ONE player in ANY sport who tops everyone in the past, present or future. Seeing how this is a football blog, we’ll keep this argument limited to just the NFL only. Ever since the Patriots rallied against the Falcons from a 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI, many have decreed Patriots’ Quarterback Tom Brady as ‘The Greatest Player of All Time’ which isn’t a fair or accurate sentiment. Every player is great in their own way, and it’s hard to determine this without looking at every element of the game.

Long before people we’re saying this about Brady, people would argue whether former 49ers’ WR Jerry Rice was the greatest and if he was better than the Packers’ receiver Don Huston. To better explain my point here, let’s look at the facts shall we? Jerry Rice for starters holds records for receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards, however, this took place between 1985-2004. I say this because this was when the Passing game was becoming more commonly used instead of solely running the ball, when Don Hutson played (1935-1945), be became the first official modern Receiver who held the records for nearly every significant receiving category in the league. Hutson lead the league in receiving scores in 9 seasons and lead the league yards for 7 seasons.

Hutson also helped the Packers win the NFL Championship Games in 1936, 1939, and 1944, Rice helped his team win 3 Super Bowl titles (The equivalent of the NFL Championship games from Hutson’s era), so they’re evenly matched in the area that most people focus on in this argument, the amount of championships a man wins in his career. While Rice helped to further evolve the NFL Offense, Hutson revolutionized it. Another thing that helps Hutson earn value points for this argument is that he also played safety and caught 30 interceptions during his career. Back in the older days it wasn’t uncommon for a star player to play multiple positions, Rice only played wideout while Hutson played both ways.

Tom Brady has won 5 Super Bowls, but has lost twice to the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012, making that 7 Super Bowl Appearances. Quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-1983) and Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers, 1979-1992) both won 4 Super Bowls in the 1970s (Bradshaw)and the 1980s (Montana) and they NEVER lost any additional Super Bowls. In the 1960s Packers’ QB Bart Starr won 5 championships between 1959-1968, led by the legendary Vince Lombardi as Head Coach. Starr only lost ONE game in the postseason as the Green and Gold’s leader in 1960, but aside from that, he won the big game every time.

Tom Brady also isn’t the highest rated QB in NFL history (QBR: 97.2), that title belongs to Aaron Rodgers who has a rating of 104.1. Brady also doesn’t have some of the records that Peyton Manning Holds in Passing Yards and Touchdowns. The point of the matter is that whenever someone is proclaimed a GOAT, it brings on a lot of debates, which won’t ever end. Whoever’s the best player…to me that claim and argument is too subjective for there to be a definitive answer. Heck, there are QBs that have NEVER won a Super Bowl that people have claimed to be great players like Dan Fouts of the Chargers who never reached a Super Bowl. The same can be said for Dan Marino who held almost every significant QB record for Touchdown passes, yards, pass attempts and completions, etc. The only Super Bowl he ever played in was a 38-16 loss in 1984 to the 49ers, it was only his second season. His records stood until 2006 and 2007 when Packers QB Brett Favre broke all of those records that Peyton Manning has broken some of since then in 2014.

What makes a player great is solely based on your opinion of the player to begin with, that’s why I think saying someone in ANY sport is the greatest has his or her sky high in the clouds and isn’t looking at the bigger picture of the sport.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Rice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Hutson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Marino  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_Starr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Favre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peyton_Manning

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Bradshaw

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Rodgers