Sunday, December 15, 2013



I don't know what happened. I loved football when I was a kid. I was so upset once when Baltimore beat Dallas in a big game that I was furious at my little brother for teasing me about it (and, umm, I might have kicked him). This was only a few years after I was devastated that Baltimore had lost the World Series to the Mets - my local NY team and Cinderella story.  Anyway, after the Dallas debacle, I swore to myself that however exciting it might be, I would never to care so much again about a silly sport. I can't say I ever have cared that much since, but I came close last week.

For a while I actually stopped caring about football at all. Maybe it was the late 1980s. Then for years, there was nothing but the Super Bowl and sometimes a playoff game or so. When I moved to Va. in 2008 I decided to just put it on in the background on Sundays and maybe pick up a little more about it, so that when the playoffs came I could have a clue what was going on. I liked the ambiance of it, liked even to sit in pubs and watch it. But, I pretty much only watched Sunday. Super Bowl usually meant someone's house for a party.

Year after year, I watched more and more. Suddenly this year, 2013, I find myself virtually addicted to it. Suddenly all day Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights and then the NFL Network several hours almost every day. Suddenly, I care again which teams win. Suddenly, if my players don't do well, I feel bad about it. I can't believe it. I'm back.

A few weeks ago all the teams I wanted to win were getting the tar beaten out of them and I was frustrated and felt a little down. Then, they started to win again the last two weeks and it made me happy. When New England beat Denver a few weeks back, well, I was as exultant as I have been since the night Pres. Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. I wish I could say that wasn't true.

So, here are some football thoughts.

Home teams: Not even when I was a young did I get the home team thing. What do I care that the Jets and Giants play in NY? Of course, they really haven't played in NY in years, which makes it even more senseless to me. And why them and not the Buffalo Bills, who actually play here?  But, it's not just NY teams. I don't get why I should care about a particular team anywhere over the years more than any other team, unless they merit it. It's not like I know the player's personally (well, one, my whole life - another time for that).

Teams often have mostly different players a few years down the road. The owners stay the same for a longer time, but, is that who we are rooting for when we root for the home team - the owners? Unlikely. Nothing is more annoying after a Triple Derby race when we have to listen to the owners take the credit.  I don't even know who owns the Jets and Giants any more. Is it still the Maras and Hess? I gave up and just took a look at the wiki list of owners, so there is still a Mara involved with the Giants. I recognized three names on the list and I'm pretty sure they are the children of owners whose names I knew. But, that begets the real question which is still - why do we care at all about the home team when the players change so much, perhaps other than some "franchise" players.

Maybe the real question for most people would be the reverse - why don't I care, since it seems like devotion to the home team is either a normal human affection or part of our culture?  It probably has something to do with my disinclination to join groups or feel like part of one in general.  I know I do feel like part of the country and my family -- and that is sort of like rooting for a home team. But, there are actual reasons for those associations. I am attached to my country because of American ideals, even though we execute them imperfectly and have no interest in jingoism or exhibiting patriotism. But, I do not extend even this little bit of seeming home teamism to the sports world. When I watch the Olympics I generally root for whoever I think is best and possibly will set a record, rather than who is the Americans. There are always exceptions. I had no interest in our gold medal Olympic hockey or basketball teams winning, except for the 1984 dream team, who were potentially the greatest team in history. With regard to my family I actually only speak with and like those I know and have something in common with - that is, I either grew up in the same household with them or know them all my life. I have had no interest in meeting relatives I don't know just because they are technically related.  I don't pick my friends based on proximity to my home either. What I'm trying to say over and over again here by these examples is - I don't care about the home team and I don't understand why others do. I know it's a little (strange, unconventional, weird - whatever?) but that's the way I feel.

This is the best I can do with it is this. If a home team - the Jets or Giants are in the Super Bowl, I admit it hypes my interest in the game because so many people around me are interested and the enthusiasm is a little contagious. On the other hand, I didn't root for the Jets when they won the first Super Bowl for the AFL. The one year that I rooted for the Giants to beat the almost perfect Patriots was because of the story line, and because when the Giants lost to them during the regular season I had made the prediction that they would likely beat them if they met them in the Super Bowl season because of Eli's rapid growth as a quarterback and I . . . just . . . wanted . . . to . . . be . . . right . . . for . . .  once about the Super Bowl (my record of incorrect Super Bowl predictions is legendary).

This year while some of my friends are in agony (seriously) over the Jets and Giants, I could care less. There's enough things in life to worry about if you want.


With the rare super star drawing equal attention - an LT, a Jerry Rice, a Walter Payton - QBs get most of the attention in the league. It's understandable. With rare, rare exception, you need a top performer in that position to win more than any other, though, of course, if you are going to win the Super Bowl, everything must be clicking. A little while ago I evaluated the greatest quarterbacks in history. I feel more confident about my top ten than I do about the bottom. I'm still not sure that Warren Moon and John Brodie and some others do not belong on the list somewhere and a few of them not on it. But, that's the nature of the beast when you make top ten lists. I once made a list of best animal cartoon characters here and the commenter known as Conchis pointed out that I had left off Rocky and Bullwinkle. Now that's embarrassing.

There have been a lot of rule changes in the last few years designed to protect the QB. It has changed the game. What it means to me is that records for passers and receivers are not going to be equivalent to those they are breaking. E.g., When Manning shatters Brady's TD record this year (unless he gets hurt, he will likely smash it) it will not be clear to me he broke an equivalent record. It's not like everyone is throwing 7 touchdown games this year, but one other guy did. Is it the same as throwing  7 touchdowns in game years ago? Probably not. That's not to say it isn't any amazing achievement. No knock on Peyton Manning at all - he is a hall of famer and easily one of the greatest QBs ever - I'm sure he will have supporters for no. 1 all time, but his statistics aren't really measureable against Dan Marino's, just as an example. Of course, in my humble opinion.

A pet peeve - I wish that commentators would stop saying after a QB throws a great touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone that only 2 or 3 other QBs could make that throw. It's not true. I've seen mediocre NFL QBs do it. They practice it and many of them, probably most starters, and a number of back ups can do it.

The following is actually not a list, But, recognizing how controversial these things are and how I might change my mind tomorrow, these are my QB thoughts.

How much is the team? - We look at history and almost reflexively assign to presidents the successes and failures of others that he had very little or more likely nothing to do with. We do the same with quarterbacks. Without a good line in front of them, some QBs will still thrive (they have to be either a great scrambler or have a quick release), but there's no doubt that great lines add to a QB's stats and preserve him for the next game. The same goes for receivers. You need people who can catch the ball just as they need someone who will give them a chance. Great lines and great receivers make great QBs and vise versa.

Young guys

RGIII - I was not a huge RGIII fan from the beginning. Nothing not to like. Great athlete, personal, smart, soft spoken and even male model looks. I liked him. I just didn't think he was all that. His first year came in the same year any number of great young quarterbacks arrived. He was certainly among the best of them, but I really didn't think he was better than Kaepernik (who didn't start until late in the season), Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson -- though he really became a star this year. Nick Foles didn't take off until this year, but I would take him over RGIII too and though I like Tannehill (also a high pick like Luck and Griffin) down in Miami, he hasn't garnered national attention. Most of them can throw and run. But, RGIII seemed to get most of the attention. Perhaps he was just more personable, better looking and media savvy than Andrew Luck, who seemed to be the professional commentators' favorite. RGIII's game was also very similar to Cam Newton, drafted the year before, who's star seemed to fade last year but is shining again now. RGIII also had an impossible great game, going 15/16 with 4 TD's, something accomplished only by Steve Young before him, my pick for the all time greatest QB. But, that's one game, not a season or career. There's no doubt, he may not be the "one," but he had the potential to be a great quarterback.

So, this week Mike Shanahan, the Redskins coach, suffering through a terrible year after looking so good late last year and watching his young quarterback struggle back from injury, announced they were benching him for the last three games of the season and set the football world on fire. The rationale was that because he was the franchise quarterback, he needed to be preserved for next season and it was not only for his own good, but done with the approval of the team ownership.

RGIII has been respectful, some arguing too respectful of the decision.

Reading and watching the professional commentators, there were two perspectives, but almost all of them were pro-playing him. The feeling was that a) he had earned the right to play and was the franchise quarterback b) the fans were entitled to it c) it would demoralize him d) it would demoralize the team, many of the players who play with pain and injury. The other perspective, that maybe Coach Shanahan was right that he needed to be preserved was correct, was in the definitive minority.

Me, I was very happy, but not because I don't like the guy or wish the team ill. Here's why. I've caught Redskin games the past couple of weeks. Three weeks ago I was stunned by what happened to him. I could barely watch as he got pummeled, sacked and speared. In turn, perhaps because self preservation kicked in or maybe on the coaches instruction, he just started getting rid of the ball almost as fast as he got it. I don't blame him. You hit me like that, I'm getting rid of the ball too. I thought Coach Shanahan had actually understated it, perhaps to preserve the morale of his team and especially his offensive line's. Because they were responsible. No different than the less highly praised Geno Smith in NY, I felt his confidence was being destroyed.

Ryan Tannehill

I'm going to make this prediction - if he stays healthy, in 5-7 years, people will say that RT is as good or better than any QB who came out with him. This is solely based on my impression watching him.

I like this kid. He was the third QB drafted in for the 2012-13 season after Luck and Griffin. He gets nowhere near the press though some think this is the greatest QB incoming group in perhaps 20 years.  He can throw. I don't know if it is measured anywhere, but I think he throws the long ball deeper than any QB in the league. If not, he's got to be up there. He is sometimes criticized for throwing interceptions and he should be. But, the equipment is there. Give him a team like the Patriots, Seattle, NO, NE, Denver, etc., and I think he would progress very fast.

Andrew Luck

Some commentators are very high on him. He definitely is a very good quarterback. Over and over again I hear that they love that he is always looking, when in the pocket, downfield. That doesn't seem like rocket science to me, but okay. He is also a pretty good runner and a great athlete though you wouldn't know it to look at him. I think many professional commentators like him because he reminds them of the classic pocket quarterback like the Mannings, Rodgers and Brady, though he can run better than them (actually, Rodgers can run too). I can understand that, because I think pocket quarterbacks aren't history yet, and may end up with the better careers than the runners. Like with Griffin, I just don't think he is all that. But, certainly good enough. Star? I don't see it yet.

Oh, and I wish he would lose the beard.

Russell Wilson

One more of the new breed of quarterback that runs like a half back. Tired of hearing that he's short, that he was drafted low (is 3rd round really that bad?) and that if he wasn't short, he would have been drafted much higher, perhaps first. Seattle is obviously awesome this year, and may be on their way to a Super Bowl. He's got a lot of protection and a great team. His defense keeps him on the field. Yet, his stats do not overwhelm. I think he will be around for a long time. I do not see anything that tells me all time great.

Nick Foles

Also a sophomore, he's obviously setting the world on fire in Philly. It is probably lucky for the team that Vicks got hurt, because he had probably reached his prime and wasn't leading them to a Super Bowl. Out of all the second year quarterbacks, he might actually be the most impressive. 7 TDs in one game, 19 in a row without a pick.  I wish I could see him play, but it hasn't happened yet. So, I'll shut up about him.

Cam Newton

I thought he might be overrated and the subject of hyperbole in his first year and thought he was picked upon and underappreciated in the light of RGIII last year. This year, he is playing better than the last, but really, he doesn't show me that he's a great either.

Colin Kaepernik

Another young QB who got a lucky break in 2012 when the starting QB went down and played not only well enough to keep the job, but to get to the Super Bowl. Out of the crop of thrower/runners, he actually impressed me more than RGIII, Newton, Wilson or others. But, obviously, he is not playing that great this year in any dimension. But, when you look at his stats compared to Russell Wilson, sure Wilson's are a little better, but, he's got a much better team. Kaepernick has a lot of potential. He's as much a franchise QB as any of the youngsters, but, he's got to throw the ball better. Pretty obvious, but that's the story. I think he will. In fact, everything being equal, but looking ahead 5-7 years, I am predicting him no. 2 rated among this impressive group.

Middle Group

Eli Manning

I rate him a very good QB, not a great one, despite the two Super Bowl victories. He doesn't have the arm though he has the head. Still, give me one game and the team of my choice, I'd be as happy or happier with him than most other QBs. And, I'm looking past this horrible season.

Phillip Rivers

I may be a little biased in this as the night I am writing this his Chargers beat the better team, the Broncos in Denver. That surprised me. Rivers could actually be as talented as any QB in the game, but his consistency is the problem. Often it is just not playing for as good a team as others, but it doesn't seem like it with him. He just blows hot and cold. Still, lots of potential to be elite there.

Ben Roethlisberger

He could be a great QB if he was healthier. He himself acknowledged that injuries in 2012 hurt his conference. My opinion. He's friggin' crazy to have played. But, he may be, probably is, the toughest QB in the league and has all the talent to do anything with the right team. Of course, he's already proven that.  I don't quite think he is in the very elite group, but he's at the very top of the next tier.

Tony Romo

I think Tony Romo takes so much abuse because people believe he could be in the elite group. He certainly seems to have the talent. I'm not sure he's ever had the team for it though.

Joe Flacco

He won the Super Bowl last year and some were saying he was now the man. I didn't believe it and this year kind of bears that out. He's sure good enough, and, actually, personally, I like him a lot. But he's not elite. I heard him say before the season started that some people didn't like his team because they thought they were not good enough to win a Super Bowl. He was right. I was one of them. Their year does not surprise me.

The elites

There are four right now that I see - Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. I don't know who is the best though I am going to give you my preference. They are all fantastic. Obviously, being a little older puts Brady and Manning in their own category, but I don't know that the other two aren't every bit as good. You'd be crazy not to take any of them even at later stages of their career.

But, Manning v. Brady - who is best? Look, you can't deny that both are hall of famers and great quarterbacks. I prefer Brady and think he is a little better. Feel free to disagree. You could compare stats and Manning surpasses him in many categories, but, stats are not everything (when you like the player with the lesser stats better). At the end of any game, I want the ball in Brady's hands. He reminds me of Larry Bird. If the Celtics were down 6 points with a minute to play, I felt the other team didn't have a chance if Bird was on the floor. Feel the same about Brady, and once he had a full healthy team of receivers, he won every QB match up - four in a row, and I think came back to win it late in each and every one. He has far fewer comeback winners than Manning historically (who has more than almost anyone ever), but I think part of that reason is that Brady's teams were usually ahead, at least more so than Manning's teams. I could be wrong about that and I don't have the stats to back it up. I thought about doing a post just on Manning-Brady, but decided against it. Maybe some day.

A few things interest me. For one thing, too many people say they hate Tom Brady. At the same time they usually say he is a great QB - they just hate him.  Part of that impression may be I live in NY and he is a natural target for Jet fans and thanks to the Super Bowl, also the Giants. I do not expect home team fans to be rational about these things. But, I also think some people hate him because he's not only great, but he's ridiculously good looking (my favorite line this week from an article was - "If Megyn Kelly were to paint a portrait of Jesus, I assume he would look like Tom Brady (written by Jeffrey Goldberg)" and he's married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. He almost always says exactly the right thing and maintains his poise off the field in answering questions better than any player in the league - though, that's not a stat we can measure. What I really like about him. First, he's a great story, being a six or seventh round draft pick (I forget which) who, worked his way from 4th string to 2nd string QB when he got his lucky break by Drew Bledsoe, NE's excellent starting QB, getting hurt. He's a three time SB champ who would be a four time champ if the last time his great receivers (including Welker) could have held onto the ball, he's ridiculously consistent and in my mind, the coolest hand in the league in the last minutes of a game. You can't measure these things, of course.

Another thing that interests me is that people don't follow the usual  win-weighted rules in comparing Brady and Manning that they usually do when unfairly putting one player over another - like Russell over Chamberlain.  It's not that I disagree. I think the win thing is overrated, though it has to mean something.  Brady has a 3-1 Super Bowl advantage. His  17 playoff wins with Championship advantage.  Brady has won a record 17 playoff games, Manning a record loser 11 (tied with Favre).  Brady's teams have beat Manning's 10-4. Their post-season passing ratings are almost identical (Manning's slightly better).  Manning has many more td passes but he has thrown a lot more. The same is true of interceptions and the two go together. Brady fumbles more, but has been sacked more and the two go together there also.  Frankly, Manning is at least equal if not superior in most statistical comparisons, though you have to balance for two extra years. Manning will likely break Brady's single season td record this year, but not by much and in a year where the rules for hitting QBs has changed significantly. I'm not positive it is comparable.

Unlike Manning, Brady is not having a record setting year. But, some commentators recognize he spend most of the season with  a severely depleted team. If for no other reason, he didn't have Welker this year and Manning did. It makes a big difference. In fact, despite Manning's fireworks all season, some commentators have said this year that Brady was actually more impressive, simply because he was working with so much less. There were four games this year when Gronkowski was healthy and we saw what Brady could do with his team at full strength, topped no doubt by the 34-31 victory over Denver after being down 24-0 at the half.

Feel free to disagree. Enough about quarterbacks.

My picks. 

As the season was about to start, the ferocious commenter known as Bear emailed me with his Super Bowl predictions - Seahawks versus Broncos. He's looking pretty prescient, although they've both come down to earth a little the past few weeks. Nevertheless, they are still looking like the cream of their conferences.

My picks were done with less confidence (probably because he's so much better at it than I am), but I picked San Francisco again in the NFC. I wasn't sure who I picked in the AFC - thought it might have been NE - and had to look it up in my emails and to my surprise, I picked Denver too. Not as dumb as I thought. My back ups picks were NE in the AFC, which is still a reasonable choice (Gronk going down may change that though) and GB in the NFC, which doesn't look very likely, but still technically a possibility.  Obviously Bear's Seattle pick was better than my SF, but that may have been true last year too and SF made it. We'll see, won't we?


I cannot finish a post on the NFL without a word about how much I despise the end zone and sack dances. This is just a rant - I admit it. And, I've said it all before, but it really irks me. I love the NFL Network, but honestly, the fact that they do a segment every week doing a mock Dancing with the Stars type thing just irritates me, even if they don't take it seriously at all. I know, I'm a cranky, crusty old man (who doesn't dance, by the way, so . . . ), but these acts of self congratulation and unabashed crowing would have embarrassed Peter Pan, for crying out loud. It's down right cringe worthy. Yccchh.

If it were my kid who did something like that after a good moment, I would have taken her aside and said "Never do that again, honey."

The fact that some players do it when they are losing or their team has losing records is even worse. And if I were the coach and my team lost, the first film session the next day would be of them dancing in the end zone. I say again. Yccchh.

Rant over. Post over. Now I'm irritated and not going to even casually proof. Go easy on me.

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .