February 6, 2013 joins the annual list of days to which I have a hard time getting into. Not just waking up, going to work or functioning, but for an event that college football fans far and wide look forward to each year: National Signing Day.
Top recruits from high schools across the nation take to making their own little (or big) press conference to announce where they will be taking their talents. Sounds exciting, and to an extent it is. Who wouldn’t want to know who will be the future players of their favorite team? I know I do.
That’s where the excitement ends for me.
Why is there so much hype surrounding ONE day of recruitment? I will say the way things are done now is much better than what they used to be. Could you imagine if players still had to sign letters of intent with a conference in addition to a school? Thankfully that hasn’t been the case for the last 33 years.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that bother me when NSD comes around and those bothers seem to grow more each year.
Ranking College Recruiting Classes
“This guy has them ranked 12” “Oh yeah? Well this place has them ranked 7!!” “At least it’s not like these people who have them ranked at 29”
When it comes to trying to decipher that strange algorithm that comes up with the rankings, it’s a crapshoot. Sometimes I like to think that there’s really just one person out there who knows what they’re talking about and there’s carbon copies of his work that are just a little off from the original. You can get a completely different outlook on a recruiting class from analyst to analyst and it really goes nowhere, offering up a lot of “what if” and “best case” scenarios.
Not to mention, if Michigan and Notre Dame are annually recognized in the top 25, if not the top 10, each year dating back at least the last decade, why aren’t they that successful every year if they had such great classes?
The Promise of Verbal Commitments
I’m torn on whether this is good or bad because it can make for very entertaining follow up stories, but watching players commit, de-commit, commit again, de-commit and then pick a school no one expected annoys me. One of the best examples of this is Eric Dickerson when he spited Texas A&M for SMU en route to an amazing football career.
Verbal commitments mean absolutely nothing.
They can enrage a fan base when those commitments are broken and leave a team searching for replacements after thinking they have a lock in tow. What ultimately needs to happen is the banishment of verbal commitments to help keep the public that much more on the edge of their seat come NSD. There are so many temptations and luring factors that play in to each recruit’s decision that it could waver one day from the next.
Just sign the paper and be done with it instead of playing the schools, their players and their fans for fools.
Feeding the Egos of Young Players
This is where the majority of my distaste for NSD comes from and 2013 is offering plenty of reasons, as have past years.
We’re talking about 17 and 18 year old kids with immense amounts of talent being given thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to help drive a team to college football greatness. So in the meantime, let’s give them a national stage to announce their intentions and watch as it all unfolds.
Some are entertaining, but many show the egotistical nature of a lot of athletes who believe they’re the next greatest thing and haven’t had a strong dose of reality.
Blame this on the media, the hype they infuse into every high school athlete and the amount of pressure they force on these kids every year when they clearly aren’t prepared for it. The one that seems to be the front runner this year is Stacy Coley, a U of Miami recruit, who upon making his selection donned a hat in Miami Orange and Green that read “SWAG”. He then goes on to say he wants to help Miami win a national championship. That’s if Miami is allowed to even play for one while he’s there barring the looming NCAA sanctions…or if Miami’s defense learns to stop anyone. What happened to just tossing on a hat, explaining your decision and not looking like a fool?
These kids aren’t NFL All-Pro players or even locks to be an NFL draft pick, so why place the hype on them now if we don’t even know if they’re capable of playing at this level?
As I said, I’m always excited to see who is next in line for wearing my team’s colors but the hype and coverage surrounding National Signing Day is overblown. Unfortunately the reason it is overblown is because it is so important to a team’s wellbeing moving forward. So despite my distaste, I might as well go put on my David Palmer jersey and hope for the best.
Social media is an amazing thing. You can keep in touch with friends from down the street or on the other side of the world, get to interact with celebrities and athletes, and receive the latest news at your fingertips. Over this past week, we’ve all seen the news regarding the havoc Hurricane Sandy caused on the East Coast. It truly is devastating to see entire cities and towns destroyed from the storm which will cost the nation billions of dollars to repair.
When I jumped online today and checked out the social media realm, I saw some news that made me question the ethics of the nation’s largest city, New York City. Less than one week removed from the deadly storm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims that holding the race will allow the city to open another avenue of fundraising and boost morale for the stricken region. Then, when asked how much money could be brought in through the marathon for those affected by Sandy, he claimed the New York City Road Runners and their sponsors have so far contributed $2.5 million dollars. I’m not sure what Bloomberg has been smoking, but this is a storm that may have caused more than 50 BILLION DOLLARS in damage.
Yes, the race does bring in a lot of revenue to the city, but that’s revenue. Not monies that go to the people needing it most in this rebuilding period.
On top of the “so-called” financial reasons for holding the race, we’re talking about an event that blocks off city streets, requires the work of police and firemen in controlling the area and creates a log jam for the city’s transportation routes; all three of which are nowhere near full strength and definitely won’t be by race time.
There is one statement that threw me over the edge. When discussing his reasoning for holding the race, Bloomberg said, "If you go back to 9/11, Rudy (former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani) made the right decision in those days to run the marathon and pull people together”. Back then, it was a questionable call by Giuliani, who leaned on the sports world (Yankees playoffs) to boost morale of the city. There’s a large difference between two months and one week. Especially when we’re talking about the impact of those events were and still are. Comparing the two in terms of time frame is borderline embarrassing. So Mayor Bloomberg, are you telling me that a week after 9/11, Mayor Giuliani would have allowed the marathon to take place had that been the case? I consider that highly doubtful.
A marathon is not a way to boost morale for people who just lost their homes, are living without utilities or are finding refuge in hotels, gymnasiums and other shelters. The way to boost morale is to focus on rebuilding the areas that have been devastated by a horrific storm and help those in need.
I can’t help but feel baffled every time I think of the reasoning for holding this race. I understand that it is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, marathon in the world. Now is not the time for cheering foreigners across the finish line in a 26.2 mile race, and that’s a realization Mayor Bloomberg has failed to understand.
I think I’ve seen the final play of Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game more than most people. I couldn’t help but watch the play over and over again when it had popped up on my Facebook news feed approximately 500 times in the moments after the game in addition to the following morning. Yes, we all know it was a poor call. Yes, pass interference should have been called on Golden Tate. Yes, the replacement referees have been sub-par throughout the first three weeks (and that’s putting it nicely).
You know what the worst thing about all of this is? Everyone is being played by the NFL.
Aside from the Twitter trends of #XFL and #Vince McMahon, the #NFL had 9 of the top 15 trending topics for an astounding 31 hours since the end of that game. That number is WORLDWIDE. Now the large majority of the hashtags were negative and that’s understandable. Despite that, all I can picture is Roger Goodell holding the slightest smirk despite what occurred on September 24, 2012.
Ever heard the term “Any publicity is good publicity”? Welcome to the nightmare the NFL has ultimately created. It hasn’t forced the hand of anyone involved in these labor talks with the officials and there’s a good chance that outcome will never happen. The a part of the NFL has to be loving the amount of attention they’re getting despite it being so negative and we, as fans, are just feeding the fire.
Talking about the awfulness that is the NFL replacement officials day after day is keeping the thought of the NFL in everyone’s minds that much fresher. I’ve heard and seen everything from “Boycott the NFL!!” to “Free laser eye surgery for replacement refs!” to Google even getting in on the fun with www.replacementgoogle.com (check it out, it is pretty entertaining).
Boycotting the NFL is as dumb of an idea as those eco-nuts who tried to boycott Exxon-Mobil and BP years ago. It just doesn’t work. People are going to watch football because it’s what they’ve been accustomed to doing for years. There will be those “boycotters” who continue to tune in so they can supposedly “watch what the replacement officials screw up next” while defeating their own purpose all along! Not to mention, the antics in Week 3 probably will have people tuning in next week just to see what the hubbub is about.
There is a winner in this mess and it’s the people who hold the key to ending the labor dispute. It’s going to take more than M&T Bank Stadium yelling expletives, NFL players sounding off, fan outrage and Twitter overload. The NFL has us right where they want us, so sit back, relax and enjoy the mediocre officiating.
The most hated week of the NFL season has arrived.
Yes, I love rivalries but the Chicago-Green Bay faceoffs get taken to a completely different level in the week leading up to the game. Luckily, we get to skip three days and find ourselves with a Thursday night game (that just means one team’s fans will have a rough Friday at the office one way or another). The senseless arguments that start with some stupid picture making the rounds on Facebook and e-mail, and then slowly find themselves dwindling down to nothing more than an insult war that has absolutely nothing to do with the current season. It honestly is difficult to find a well-rounded discussion between fans of the two sides these days.
Nevertheless, here’s the breakdown for tonight’s game.
It has been one week and each team saw very, very different opponents. So much so, that I don’t think you can really take anything away from them. Now if this matchup came in Week 4 or 5, several arguments I’ve seen or heard would be more justifiable.
I like both teams in certain matchups in this game and I believe it will be extremely close. The last eight games between these squads have been decided by an average of 7 points, which has me thinking more of the same for 2012. Except this time around, I think we’ll have a good ol’ fashioned shootout on our hands.
Watching the Bears rout the Colts last weekend, this fear kept creeping through my mind as the offense continued to rack up the points: Jay Cutler is leaning too heavily on Brandon Marshall. Cutler continued to press the small windows to fit the ball in, he was looking his way more times than I would have liked to see. Yes, Marshall is Chicago's best receiver in years but sometimes the 2nd or 3rd option makes for a smarter play and one that might work better in terms of fewer turnovers on the night.
I’ll use a comparison for the Packer offense against San Francisco. A chew toy: vicious dog as Packers Offense:49ers Defense. The Niners made them one dimensional by taking the running game out of the equation and it definitely showed its mark. Yeah it was only an eight point game, but Green Bay is lucky it wasn’t worse. That being said, the 49ers defense is arguably the best in the league and it is very unlikely the Packers will face another one like it this season.
Defensively is where I believe there is a great divide between these two teams. The Bears defense gave up 14 points to a Colts team that I was not too fond of (nor was anyone else). Seven of those points also came with backups playing defense so overall, it was a good showing from the Bears forcing five turnovers thanks to a beastly game from Tim Jennings.
I’m still trying to figure out what happened to the Green Bay defense. They were so good in 2010 and then fell off the table. Picking up where they finished off the 2011 campaign, the Packers couldn’t stop the run to save their lives and were missing multiple assignments downfield. Luckily, Randy Moss didn’t decide to try Moon the Crowd Part Deux after the biggest miscue of the afternoon. The majority of their woes came from not getting pressure on Alex Smith. Continuous pressure = success. Missed it last year, missed it last Sunday.
So anyways, heading into tonight, it would not surprise me in the least if this turns into the Jermichael Finley show, especially if Greg Jennings does indeed miss this game. But will it be a chorus of boos or cheers? He MUST hold on to that ball. Another key lies in getting Cedric Benson moving, something Green Bay failed to do last week. Benson has had success against the team that drafted him in the past, but the guard game must show up. Last week looked like two tackles and a center without much other help.
For Chicago it’s all a matter of spreading the ball out. Last week’s start was absolutely disastrous despite the positive outcome. I just feel the hype is getting a little too big inside the locker room after one game against a 2-14 team a year ago. If the Bears o-line can perform anywhere near they did last week though, Cutler could be in prime position for a field day.
It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”. When will these two teams find the offensive groove tonight? It will be early and often, forcing the determining factor over to the defenses. My money is on Lovie’s squad but very, very, VERY cautiously. Did I mention the very in there?
Honestly, Greg Jennings missing this game will help me tip the scales more towards Chicago. If that turns out to be the case, I don’t think the Bears will have an issue with forcing 2+ turnovers and stealing one from Green Bay.
Chicago 31 – Green Bay 28
That wonderful time is finally upon us. When we forget whatever we had planned on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, and park ourselves in front of that wide screen television to catch Roger Goodell’s Kingdom of Football-ery. So why not add in a few predictions to start off the league’s first Wednesday night opener?
Let’s start with the easy division in the bunch. Plain and simple, if the Patriots don’t win the AFC East this season, something is either terribly wrong or else we due for a major upset. Fact of the matter is the Dolphins and Jets both look like they have offenses that could get them as far as an 84’ Sheepdog. Buffalo is easily the sleeper in the division and may find themselves in a Wild Card spot at seasons end. Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to get back into form instead of allowing his team to fall victim to a “Derek Anderson” contract -- Patriots 13-3
Once again, another division that should be easily predictable barring injuries. One of these years the Houston Texans will stay 100% healthy and we’ll get to see what this team is really capable of. Is 2012 the year? If I had to guess, Schaub, Johnson or Foster will be down with an injury by Week 6. That’s as safe of a bet as Sylvester Stallone wanting to make a 7th Rocky movie within the next decade (it will happen.). Jacksonville is headed back to the cellar this year but Indy and Tennessee could make some noise by playing upset kings down the stretch -- Houston 11-5
Now this is going to be a fun race. You have Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Wait…there’s a fourth team? Well nevermind about them, whoever they may be. Baltimore will face some tests early without Terrell Suggs and an aging defense. Meanwhile, you have Pittsburgh with a battered and bruised o-line and running back corps. Cincinnati seems to be the pick to take a few steps back this season, but I’m not so sure. A.J. Green is due for bigger and better things in ’12 but how will Andy Dalton do? Who knows. Nevertheless, Baltimore will repeat. -- Baltimore 10-6
It would not surprise me whatsoever if the division winner ended up with a 9-7 record. All four teams have a shot at coming away with the AFC West crown. As long as Norv Turner is in charge in San Diego, this team will underperform. With no more V-Jax and an older Antonio Gates, let’s see where this passing game goes. Kansas City is healthy. No one seems to remember what they did two years ago, but I think they’ll be on the outside looking in. Oakland MUST have a health Darren McFadden in order to succeed. That defense is good, but not that good. Then we have the star of the latest HBO hit Manning in the Mile High City. Peyton Manning ventures to an outdoor team with a rebuilt neck and an unproven offense. I still take Manning now over any team in that division. Plus, that defense is scary good. So stop giving Tebow credit for last year. -- Denver 10-6
Vick will get injured, the Cowboys will come apart at the seams, Mike Shanahan will find a way to start 16 different running backs this season and the Giants? Well they’ll be playoff bound again. Let’s not forget after they beat the Pats the first time, they ran off to a 12-4 record. They’ll repeat the feat. -- NY Giants 12-4
I don’t think the bounty scandal will affect the Saints enough to deter them from another playoff run. Drew Brees and that offense is too good. However this is Atlanta’s division to lose. Matt Ryan should improve over last year with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Co. and the defense received an added piece with Asante Samuel for a MASSIVE steal. Tampa Bay will get some help with Vincent Jackson entrenched at wide out, but I’m not so sure about the rest of the team…or the guy throwing him the ball. I really want to say the Carolina Cam Newtons will make a statement this year but outside of Steve Smith, you have Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen. Not sold on that. -- Atlanta 11-5
San Francisco should have no problem rolling through the NFC West with that scary good defense out on the field, not to mention the fact they made a few nice additions to the offensive side of the ball. Seattle will be the biggest threat and outside of the home games, I don’t think that will be much of a threat at all. The Rams and Cardinals will sputter through the season with gaping holes with their defenses…you can throw in Arizona’s quarterback situation there too. -- San Francisco 12-4
Ahh…here we go. To get them out of the way, let’s put the Vikings aside and focus on the other three. I am cautiously optimistic that Matthew Stafford will manage to stay healthy for another 16 games. For him, that’s a tall order. Having no running game will come back to bite them this year after dodging a bullet last year. Chicago has me hyped up this year. The talent they’re boasting at wide out is something seen as rarely as Haley’s Comet. That being said, I don’t think the defense is as good as people make it out to be…especially if Brian Urlacher cannot stay healthy. The Packers still have no reason why they can’t win this division. They went 15-1 last season and with one heck of an easy schedule (like the rest of the division) they should flirt with 13-3 this year. The defense was borderline awful at times last season and in order for it to get better, they’re going to need rookies to step up. -- Packers 12-4
So there you have it. As for a full rundown for playoff predictions…
AFC East - Patriots
AFC South - Houston
AFC North - Baltimore
AFC West – Denver
Wild Card - Cincinnati
Wild Card – Pittsburgh
NFC East – New York Giants
NFC South – Atlanta
NFC North – Green Bay
NFC West – San Francisco
Wild Card – Chicago
Wild Card – New Orleans
Happy football season everyone!