“Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.”
Obviously we have a dilemma on our hands with regards to NFL Rules on helmet to helmet hits, and more specifically, with the way James Harrison plays as if these rules don’t apply. But we aren’t seeing anything that we haven’t seen constantly over the past 50 years in the National Football League. The only difference is that now, there are rules in place that attempt to prevent certain types of contact on the football field.
“A linebacker’s job is to knock out running backs, to knock out receivers, to chase the football,” -Ray Lewis
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8: If a player uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily. Although such violent or unnecessary use of the helmet and facemask is impermissible against any opponent, game officials will give special attention in administering this rule to protecting those players who are in virtually defenseless postures……h) If a receiver has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself, a defensive player is prohibited from launching (springing forward and upward) into him in a way that causes the defensive player’s helmet, facemask, shoulder, or forearm to forcibly strike the receiver’s head or neck area — even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet, facemask, shoulder, or forearm is lower than the receiver’s neck.
These are the two distinct instances the rule comes into play most often, and clearly, James Harrison led with his helmet last Thursday night on the play that gave Colt McCoy an obvious concussion. That isn’t the part I’m here to debate. I’m giving a few reasons why I don’t think Harrison’s play was “dirty” in the sense that people, especially fellow Browns fans, are calling it, and I definitely don’t think it warrants a suspension. Some of the finest players in NFL history were out to destroy their opponents physically, whether that meant sending them off the field with a concussion or not. But there are other aspects in play in this physical game that aren’t accounted for by most people’s initial reaction. Fact is, while rules are rules and need to be followed, the rules are not fullproof. They don’t account for all given situations (i.e. when a quarterback leaves the pocket, becomes a runner and no longer a passer, then switches back to a passer after 5 steps with the ball tucked under arm), some rules can’t account for instances in which the speed of the game is faster than human motor skills will allow a player to react (even if it seems debatable on camera to the naked eye of the person who has never experienced just how fast it really is. this isn’t highschool speed.), they don’t always factor in that typically, as a player goes to protect himself, the first thing he does is dip his head and shoulder into the line of fire, many times leaving defenders no other choice but to strike his helmet, and they absolutely do not account for the fact that football, at it’s highest level, while in an attempt to be safe, is also a game that depends on a mental edge, intimidation, and calculated, anticipatory thought before, during and after a play. What do I mean in the final part of that last thought? THIS: THAT IF A DEFENSIVE PLAYER KNOWS HITTING SOMEONE UP HIGH IS GOING TO MAKE HIM THINK TWICE ABOUT RUNNING, CATCHING, THROWING, BLOCKING OR MAKING ANY SORT OF PLAY THE NEXT TIME AROUND, THEN HE HAS DEVELOPED A STRATEGIC COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.
“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” -Jack Tatum
It’s simple really. From now on, every single time Colt McCoy lines up opposite the Steelers defense, at least a few seconds of his pre-snap read will be wasted on him scanning the field to find out exactly where James Harrison is lined up. That’s how Butkus wanted it, that’s how Ronnie Lott played, that’s the way Dick Lane, Jack Lambert, Bill Romanowski, Steve Atwater, Ray Nitschke, Jack Tatum, John Lynch, Ray Lewis and all the other fierce hitters in NFL history all approached the game. Hitting someone up high was always the way to instill fear into a player.
“I wouldn’t ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was, you know, important – like a league game or something.” -Dick Butkus
It was always the way to get him thinking, wondering, sometimes fearing when exactly the hit was going to come. Not only that, but it was always the easiest way to separate player from football. You hit a guy near his waist or at the knees and he’s most likely hanging onto it. As a defender, you’re taught to create turnovers, hit guys as hard as you possibly can, and to sell out with your body on the line in order to make sure the offense doesn’t gain another yard. If that means sending someone out for the game, that’s the way all those guys I just named would have done it. They were never out to end careers, or permanently damage brain cells, while it is a harsh reality of the NFL that those types of things happen, but when winning is what separates the best from the average, the winners from the losers, and the players from the unemployed, you bet that a guy is going to gain a mental edge through a vicious hit around the head and shoulder area if he can. While the rules are rules, all be them recently enforced and somewhat impossible to abide by 100% of the time, I do not believe that Harrison is out to paralyze someone. I don’t think he’s dirty. I think he plays football the old fashioned way. I think he believes guys wear helmets for a reason, and I believe that he’s got the mental edge on nearly any quarterback he faces from here on out because of the hit he laid last week. And after saying all that, I’m certainly glad Colt got off the turf, because as you may know, I’m a believer in him and what he can do with a little organizational help next season.
“Here’s what it comes down to. As a football player you’re trained to lie to yourself. You’re trained to say, no matter how you feel, ‘I’m fine. I’m the iron man.’ There have been a few times I’ve said that to myself. I felt one of these in the Super Bowl, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. I just fought through it.” -Bill Romanowski
I haven’t blogged in quite some time, and It’s allowed me to sit back and observe, and to think logically and react to one of the few things in this life that I truly love and know–the game of football, and more specifically, the quarterback position.
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard it all regarding Colt McCoy. He can’t be continually accurate with short throws. He’s got no arm to make the deep ones. He’s a winner. He’s tough as hell. He talks like a little kid. He sucks. He’s not the future. He needs more games. He’s already had too many games. He’s getting better. He’s getting worse. He can’t read defenses. He holds the ball too long. He extends plays. He’s a winner. He was a winner in college, but that was college. He should be benched. He should have stayed out instead of coming back in with a shoulder, or ankle, or head injury. He did the right thing by playing in those situations. He needs weapons. He’s got no protection. He’s doing his best. His best isn’t good enough. His best will get better. It’s beginning to become clear to me that the basis behind the rationale of many Cleveland fans is clouded. It’s frustrated. It’s emotional. It is apathy showing it’s careless face.
This post is less about Colt McCoy than it is about our treatment of any quarterback we’ve had since Bernie Kosar. It is less about the Browns themseleves than it is about Browns fans.
I love my town. I came back for a reason. I wrote about it earlier this year. You can find the link below this post.
But there’s a part of me that sits back and sees all the bitterness that fans here show, and it’s getting to be even more exhausting than the product on the field. It’s like we think we deserve greatness and we deserve it from you instantly, or else we don’t need you here, we will find someone else. Well every time we’ve gone that route, we’ve ended up right back in the hole in which we started. Just because coincidentally, Jordan hit a shot over Ehlo, Elway (one of the best ever) drove his team 98 yards with time winding down, Byner fumbled, Art Modell moved our beloved team when the city refused to help him fund a new stadium, and Lebron–who we anointed, enabled, and placed on a pedestal to become the King he claims to be–dragged us through the mud on live television, it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t make any one feel bad for us–except us. Before you spout off on me and say, well if that’s how you feel, then you’re not a true fan, I’m well prepared for you to bring that to the table while I laugh at you. I want to win as bad as anyone anywhere. Anyone who’s ever been in a huddle with me will tell you I will win at nearly all costs. All those moments I just recalled, moments that many Clevelanders attribute to a curse, those moments hurt me too. They do. Every time I see or hear them, it stings. But not to the point where being a fan of my team has turned to something else, something ugly and detrimental. I’ve sat through every season since 1999 wondering if this was the year. If this was the team, if this would finally be the beginning of something sustainable and exciting.
I’m not old enough to remember the nostalgia of Cleveland Municipal Stadium and the Kardiac Kids, other than vicariously through conversations with my close friend Sam Rutigliano or on the television. I don’t know what it’s like for the Cleveland Browns to be “good”. And if you do know and you were around, be thankful you had some great years. Close your eyes, try to feel what it was like, and be glad you got to witness so much awesome football and pride for your city. Or, if you’re like me and your Browns have been miserable for years, take a minute to ask yourself what being bitter solves other than temporarily making you feel a little better about yourself. Being a fan isn’t about dissecting every move a team or player or coach makes in every second and looking for somewhere to place the blame, or using our past as an excuse or a reason to place blame on someone for screwing up. If constantly bashing guys and pinpointing the reasons for our downfall gives you relief, then you’re doing this thing wrong. To be a fan isn’t to constantly question and criticize, it is to have faith and pride in where you’re from and what the collective whole of your group represents. It’s about screaming your ass off when your team is doing well. It’s about defending them til the very end when someone speaks poorly of them. It’s about brown and orange being more than just colors, and instead an identity–of people, of a place, and more importantly a mentality. Winning helps and losing sucks. But bitterness that never goes away has turned fandom into apathy for our franchise, that apathy into skepticism, and now, at it’s most mature, constant cynicism. Soon, cynicism will turn to pure hate if you allow it.
The expectation of failure is an awful one to wake up with every day. And yet, we do it only with our sports teams. You don’t get out of bed thinking you’re gonna fail at your job today because you had a bad day yesterday. You don’t expect someone close to you to die when they were alive and well just a few days ago. You don’t just quit living because things haven’t been the best recently. But when it comes to our sports teams, all hope is gone. When someone says “even if we beat the Steelers tonight, I’m not going to feel any better than when we lose,” there’s a problem with that thinking process psychologically. And it speaks directly to that bold sentence in the last paragraph. We don’t expect the present players and coaches to improve because our recent history tells us they’ll be just like the last ones, and the ones before them, and before them, when logically, we know these players and this staff are independent of any of the ones before them. Sucking early on with minimal cohesiveness and sucking at a more mature state with more time and chemistry are not directly related. Sometimes they are mutually exclusive, other times, they go hand in hand.
Yet every year we start poorly, whether there’s a new regime in the front office, a new quarterback on the field, holes in the offensive line, lack of depth on defense, no explosive playmakers at skill positions, we lose all faith and convince ourselves that cleaning house is the best answer, and it will be the best answer every single time this happens. We call these excuses instead of hard concrete facts, and try to think of the best way to fix them in order to give ourselves instant gratification. In reality, if we go back and look at numbers and given playing environment (players around them, coaching staff, etc), neither Kelly Holcomb, nor Tim Couch, nor Derek Anderson, nor Brady Quinn, nor even the young Colt McCoy-who seems to have more balls and toughness than all of them combine–were really that bad when we quit on them. Apathy tells us they could have stayed average, cynicism tells us they could have gotten worse, but fandom should tell us they would have gotten better. Sure, the trend of failures tells us plenty about the 14 starting quarterbacks and 6 coaches we’ve had since 1999. But does our constant pessimism and doubt say more about us as fans? I believe it does. Had every team in the NFL felt the need to toss young QB’s to the curb as quickly as we in Cleveland do, we would have never seen the likes of Bradshaw, Aikman, Namath, Fouts, Griese, Tarkenton, and Young, among others. They were all beyond terrible in their first few seasons. “But they all showed glimpses of hope,” say analysts and fans today with perfect hindsight. I say, if winning is everything, and indeed it is in the NFL, then by the judgment and evaluation process we use here in Cleveland, instead of having a bronze bust in Canton, they would all have been busting like JeMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf.
Don’t read this as me preaching Colt as the next Troy Aikman with another two or three years time to grow, and don’t read it as me bashing on fellow Browns fans. It’s about taking a step out of your own shoes and emotions and built up bitterness and giving a good look at how your thinking has a fan has changed since 1981, or 1987, or 1999, or even since 2007. I love my Browns, and I love my city as much as anyone else in this town, don’t get that confused. I’m just saying, maybe if we weren’t so overcome with feeling like we’re owed a winner and instead began to take the cynicism and turn it slowly back toward the direction of faith and support in a few good men over a little time-and make no mistake, Holmgren and Heckert are good football men-then being a Browns fan would start to feel less like a death sentence, and a bit more like the fun, pride-filled thing we signed up for.
Link to my piece about Cleveland: http://www.news-herald.com/articles/2011/09/01/sports/doc4e5fc57b663f0102484443.txt
It’s impossible to ask everyone to go back and watch each and every game on their DVRs, but I’d beg you to do so if you are going to actively voice your opinion on our 2nd year QB who is without a doubt progressing on a fundamental level.
People have blown me off because I’m not a former NFL veteran, and therefore my opinion shouldn’t matter any more than your average football fan. That’s fine, you’re entitled to yours, I’m by no means right all the time, and I’m simply voicing the things I’ve seen and learned over time. However, the way I became a First Team NCAA All-American, got nearly a dozen NFL workouts, and had the chance to go to the NFL combine and meet numerous coaches–all while being 6’0″ tall and coming from an D-III school that had never won anything until 2007 comprised mainly of three things: 1. My athletic ability/god given arm talent that I am blessed to have. 2. The study of defenses and how they are designed to stop you. The countless hours of film and evaluation of players, schemes, coverages, blitzes, disguises, and all other variables that go into having a successful play. 3. Tens of thousands of reps in footwork and follow through, arm motion, eye movement and fundamentals. All of these things took me from being a 58% passer as a freshman starter, to being over 70% as a senior All-American.
What’s my point? My point is, by being through the ringer and getting much closer to the NFL than even most Division I QB’s ever dream of, I think I have a credible opinion when it comes to evaluating the QB position. I plan on coaching the position at a high level eventually, and fact is, I’ve seen Colt doing the things that he gets graded on, and he’s doing them well. For fans to be certainly convinced that he’s not the guy after such a short stint in the league, you are flat out wrong. Is that not to say he won’t ever develop and become the franchise guy we need? NO. It’s also not to say that he will be a pro bowler in a few years who takes us to a championship. And if people can go ahead and list reasons why after watching the game half drunk in section 319 that Colt surely sucks, I can go ahead and tell you why I see positives after watching our “ugly” 6-3 win against the Seahawks 3 different times.
Pessimistic fans are sick of hearing “EXCUSES” from the guys who claim not having an offseason, not having any weapons, being in a new offense, and having a star running back who is M.I.A. actually matter. That’s fine, but I’m sick of hearing those same fans give their “EXCUSES” for having a lack of patience with our QB, our management, or our coaching staff. Truth is, THOSE THINGS DO MATTER. We have a QB who we’ve committed to, at least for this season, who each and every one agrees has developments to be made. He’s not 6’6″ and doesn’t run a 4.4 like Cam Newton. Hence the reason he wasn’t the #1 pick. I know people doubted Cam, but in the world of football, it takes only 1 team to fall in love. Carolina Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson was the one. And just because Cam throws for 300 a game doesn’t mean he’s got it figured out. It means his team isn’t very good, and he’s throwing a lot near the end of games. And he had a game two weeks ago against the Falcons when he threw 0 TD’s / 3 INT’s. (Uhh remember when Colt had to throw 60 times against Tennessee and threw for 350 yards?) So, knowing Colt needs time, LETS GIVE HIM TIME, and let’s stop comparing him to the #1 overall pick, because it’s apples to oranges.
Why Sunday Impressed Me:
1. Whoever keeps insisting that Colt is missing short throws is obviously not watching the game. He made one bad throw on a pass to the right flat on a sprint out. He threw a screen that probably should have been thrown away, and he held only one ball I saw that should have been thrown sooner. Other than that, he completed, with accuracy, passes between 3-10 yards all day long.
2. On 3rd down, this dude was very good on Sunday. Here are a list of all third down plays in successive order during Sunday’s game against Seattle:
3rd & 15: Colt is swarmed by the opposing defense with almost no time and sacked for a loss of 2. Browns Punt.
3rd & 2: Pass dropped by Ben Watson for first down. Browns Punt.
3rd &1: McCoy pass complete to Monterrio Hardesty for a gain of 11. Browns First Down. Later in the drive Hardesty runs for a first down on 3rd &3.
3rd & 5: Colt doesn’t set correct protection as Browns motion TE Alex Smith to opposite side of formation. Seattle sends automatic Safety blitz from weak side, he rocks Colt in the back, and we get a favorable 15-yard penalty for Cam Chancellor leading with the helmet. Browns first down.
3rd and 10: Colt scrambles for 6 yards, keeping us within field goal range, not making any bad decisions with the football and we attempt a 48 yard field goal well within Dawson’s range. Our left guard attacks line of scrimmage, unsoundly turns shoulder, Field Goal Blocked.
3rd & 9: Pass complete to Greg Little for a gain of 6. It doesn’t get us the first down, and that’s partially due to the fact that Seattle had us blanketed since we aren’t sending receivers downfield. Seattle jumps on 4th & 3, keeping our drive alive.
3rd & 9: McCoy passes to Evan Moore for a gain of 5 to the Seattle 35. Gets us within FG range, sets up first score of the game. Browns Field Goal Good. 3-0.
Here comes some good stuff…
3rd & 8: McCoy pass to Chris Ogbannaya for gain of 17. Sure, it was a short throw, but it was the RIGHT throw. That’s what I need to see from Colt. And here, we saw it. Browns First Down.
3rd & 14: McCoy throws 12 yard deep out to field sideline from his back foot. This is an extremely tough throw, but he knew they needed a chance to get the first down. Massaquoi fights for 3 more yards. Browns First Down.
3rd & 9: McCoy tries to fit it into a tight window to Massaquoi over the middle. Mo Mass takes a hit to the head, and suffers a possible concussion. You could argue the pass should have been caught. While in Seattle territory, this would have been a 54 yard FG attempt–which Dawson has shown he can make, especially with good weather. However, Browns elect to Punt.
3rd Quarter: Colt is MONEY on first drive of 3rd quarter, until final play of series.
3rd & 8: Colt pass complete to Cribbs for gain of 9. First Down.
3rd & 4: Colt pass complete to Evan Moore for gain of 16 to Seattle 47. First Down.
3rd & 8: Colt pass complete to Greg Little for gain of 9. First Down. Two plays later, McCoy makes one of his bonehead mistakes (inexcusable yes, inexplicable no. 14 games into his career, these throws will happen.) and throws interception taking a shot downfield.
3rd & 12: Colt passes incomplete to Ogbannaya for loss of 4. Ball should have been thrown into ground near Ogbannaya’s feet as screen pass was never open and no gain is better than losing yards. Browns Punt.
3rd & 2: Pass dropped by Josh Cribbs, would have gotten first down. Browns Punt.
3rd & 3: Colt passes across middle to Alex Smith for a gain of 13 showing good accuracy when we desperately needed to move the ball. Browns First Down.
3rd & 6: McCoy’s pass is complete to Chris Ogbannaya for a gain of 7. First Down Browns.
3rd & 9: McCoy’s pass is incomplete as Brian Robiskie falls down during his route. Ball looked to be in a good spot. My question is why does coaching staff have Robiskie in on 3rd down, and secondly, why are we targeting him as our go to in that situation? Browns attempt field goal. Dawson nails it. 6-3.
(KEY DRIVE UPCOMING FOR BROWNS TO EAT CLOCK, WIN GAME)
3rd & 4: McCoy pass complete to Evan Moore for a gain of 9 yards. First Down Browns.
3rd & 11: (BIGGEST PLAY OF GAME IN MY OPINION) McCoy avoids pressure as flood gates appear to open and he makes a few athletic moves, scrambles for 12 and slides for the first down. Huge play by the QB in toughest spot in game. First Down Browns.
3rd & 4: Ogbannaya rush for gain of 6. First Down Browns.
3rd & 6: Ogbannaya rush for gain of 3. Following play, Browns attempt a 24-yard field goal, which is for all intents and purposes no more than an extra point. Once again blocked.
For the day on 3rd down, Colt’s stats: 10/15 passing. (2 were dropped, 1 receiver fell down) He was sacked twice. One, he never had a chance, the second resulted in 1st down on penalty. Twice he scrambled, once to get us into FG range, the other for 12 yards and a first down. So on plays when Colt was expected to get us a first down, HE CORRECTLY EXECUTED 13/18 TIMES. We had the opportunity for 15 points, leaving 6 out there, and choosing to punt on another. If we hit two, or even one of those kicks, we aren’t bashing this offense like we have been all week. Oh, and the NFL average 3rd down efficiency is below 40%. We were 72% on Sunday.
3. Colt managed the game very well. When most rookies and young QB’s are expected to throw as much as Colt was on 3rd downs and in tight ballgames, they are prone to make mistakes. Colt’s only real mistake came deep in Seattle Territory early in 3rd quarter. While it left possible points on the board, it did not put stress on our defense to defend a short field. Seattle had to go 88 yards for a TD, and that was something they weren’t capable of doing against us on Sunday. Colt made a huge play in the 4th quarter to scramble for a first down and give Browns a chance to take another 4 minutes off the clock.
4. Colt still looks like he’s a bit uncomfortable on some plays, but that will happen when you are knocked down 21 times! Any young guy, or any QB for that matter, who gets hit that many times in one game is gonna be gun shy for a bit. Luckily he’s got an All-Pro protecting his blind side. The O-line is struggling a bit as a unit, and for him to make good throws when he’s got time, I’m on board as saying he’s improving.
Colt Needs to Work On:
1.Throwing on the run. I thought this would be a strength of his, however it has shown to be a weakness. I think Shurmur is calling sprintout plays and play-action bootlegs because of the previously mentioned struggles up front, but truth is, Colt still isn’t seeing the field well outside the pocket. On naked play actions, there are defenders repeatedly in Colt’s face, but there are other times when he can absolutely set his feet and throw yet doesn’t. Let’s cut down on these play calls, and let’s cut down on bad decisions when we do sprint out.
2. Getting into the right pre-snap situations. Audibles are important, and when Seattle lines up in a 5 man front with three linebackers, we are outnumbered and shouldn’t run the football most times. Late in game, eating clock is one thing, but early in the game, Colt needs to see that Seattle was coming out with the center and both guards covered by D-linemen, putting us in a disadvantage running the football. First thing the QB needs to do when coming to the line of scrimmage is check out the safeties, who will tell him a lot about the defense’s plan on a given play. Second thing, set protection for passes, or get into a better situation for running plays. A few times Colt blatantly missed a blitzer, when it was obvious Seattle was automatically bringing overload pressure on backside when the TE motioned away. If Colt can study what defenses look like before the snap and meticulously take notes, then the 6 seconds after the snap will become much easier.
3. Colt needs to watch Drew Brees. Similar size and build to Brees, and neither of them has a huge arm. Brees always throws on his toes, giving himself an extra few inches of height, and his release point is always as high as possible. By standing tall in the pocket and by throwing with his arm at “12 o’clock” Brees’ fundamentals help him play taller than he is. And Brees’ eyes are always active on pass plays moving defenders and evaluating defenses on the fly. He has excellent vision, and the time between when Brees Sees, Perceives and Acts is almost instantaneous. Brees’ lack of armstrength is made up by his quick decision-making. This off-season, Colt should study him religiously.
All this said, I’m not crowning Colt, and I’m not drowning him either. What I am saying is that he was making good decisions, accurate throws, and plays with his legs when we were in a tight ballgame, and any big mistakes could have meant a loss instead of a win. So yes, I absolutely see progress and reason to believe that with more time and experience, and possibly an entire off-season with his coaches, that Colt can grow into a franchise player if he learns to evaluate himself and work on his weaknesses. I also believe that as he grows, Shurmur will take off the reigns and we will see longer pass plays. But people need to understand that the longer the ball is in the air, the better chance that something can go wrong. And until he completely understands defenses, Shurmur will keep him mostly under 15-20 yards.
For now Browns fans, it’s important to not let our clouded perception that every QB we have is doomed to fail. I think our troubled past is getting in the way of our future, and even our present. We need a constant, and we haven’t had one at QB for nearly 20 years. If Colt isn’t the answer, let him prove it. Don’t deny the kid a chance to fail, because he might just prove you wrong. Best part about him is that he is the type of person that will never say “I told you so.”
As I write this, a Cleveland Browns spokesman is reporting that Peyton Hillis has no hamstring injury, and that it was simply a coaches decision to keep him on the sideline, helmet in hand.
I’ve been meaning to get to the bottom of this really screwed up situation for a while, because the opinion that “Pat Shurmur’s Ego is the reason Hillis is on the bench” is asinine to me. In the first two games, Hillis had 54 total touches-44 carries on the ground, 10 pass receptions. In the Cincinnati game we blew it on a defensive gaf, and in game 2 the Colts were never in contention, so everyone coming out and saying that Shurmur doesn’t like to run the football and that he simply doesn’t like Hillis, there’s no backing behind it. Something drastic happened within the organization between the 2nd and 3rd game that caused this backlash that hasn’t ceased since. Fine, they say Peyton Hillis had strep throat. That’s ok. When you get the antibiotics and take a few days off of practice, you’re no longer contagious to everyone else, and barring any 1800’s scarlet fever-like symptoms, you strap up on Sunday and take reps until you physically are too exhausted to go.
Hillis said, “you know what, I don’t get paid enough to get suited up when I’m feeling like shit.” His agent agreed, Shurmur sent him home, and that led to a stand-off between player/coach/management. Anyone thinking Shurmur didn’t like Hillis from the beginning, or that Hillis was truly too sick to play, or that Hillis really had a hamstring injury that didn’t get reported to the press-box for over a quarter and a half (including a 12 minute half time) and that he was fake-begging his coach to get back on the field to make it look like he wanted to play, you are all wrong. The NFL has ego’s all the way from the ball boys, to the PR department, to the players, the coaching staff, and upper management. It is the highest level of football, it is one of the most recognizable and most profitable businesses on this earth, and because of it, nearly everyone involved treats it like they are driving the bus. It’s a shame that Hillis and his agent can’t see things from a reasonable angle and accept that he is susceptible to injury because of his running style, and because he will be expected to touch it 30 times per game. Asking too much is one thing, but skipping games is another. I understand being too sick to play, but in reality I think Hillis was too sick to play for only $500,000 or whatever his exact salary is. Had Hillis been getting paid $2.5 million or the number he’s asking for, then strep throat becomes a non-issue and he plays against Miami.
Unfortunately for us Browns fans, a season that was anticipated to be one filled with the excitement of a new regime, a big running game, and the recognition of having our poster boy on the cover of the best selling sports video game of our time, has become one of doubt, controversy in the locker room, and completely illogical trade talk now that things aren’t going smoothly. Trading our best player who isn’t even 26 years old, who carried our offense in every win we had a season ago, who people think doesn’t fit in this west coast offense (AND COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG), is the dumbest thing this organization can do at this point. Even with his agent asking for an illogical amount of money, even with our head coach seemingly forming a grudge to show him what can happen if he boycotts playing, and even with a solid #2 back in Monterrio Hardesty, losing our best offensive weapon (ASIDE FROM JOE THOMAS WHO IS IRREPLACEABLE AT THIS POINT) would be devastating to our team.
This needs to be solved, and it needs to be solved now. The way it can happen is by Hillis realizing that with his reward to our team, comes a large risk due to the nature of his position, and by our head coach realizing that in order for his system to work, he DOES need a solid, durable back who can run, catch passes, and block for his young QB. The last thing Shurmur needed coming into his first year was a locker-room issue like this contract dispute and all the secrecy surrounding it. If there’s a problem between he and Hillis, he should simply say it, and that once the contract issue gets worked out, there will no longer be games like Tennessee and Oakland where Hillis is a negligible part of the offense. It begins with both sides dropping their ego at the door, and moving towards the realization that they are on the same team, they have the same goal, and in order for both of them to have job security down the road, they need eachother. Easier said than done I suppose.
Dude that Aaron Rodgers guy is GOOD. Like really good. But then again, no one is surprised anymore when he dominates a game. His rise has been swift and fun to watch. Who was this guy at Cal? Why’d 21 teams pass on him? Why’d he sit four seasons behind Favre?
Doesn’t matter now, because he’s the dictionary definition of LEGIT.
Alex Smith, 49ERS. Here’s a guy everyone was ready to quit on, except his head coach Jim Harbaugh who looks to be the newest genius of developing QB’s. (See: Andrew Luck) The niners went out and boatraced the Buccaneers, and Alex Smith has them at 4-1, their only loss coming to Dallas in overtime on a blown coverage when no-name receiver Jessie Holley took a bomb down to the 1 yard line to set up for the game winner. Smith is playing with a new fervor, has the confidence of his teammates, and seems like he’s responding well to his new head coach who had a lengthy NFL career as a QB himself. Seems like the perfect mixture for the 49ERS to win the NFC west. They are already 2 games up after five weeks, and if Smith keeps taking care of the football and hitting the slew of underrated receivers (minus the recently injured Josh Morgan), I think San Fran is playoff bound.
Brandon Weeden, OK STATE. Finally a game without tossing a few picks, which Weeden is almost assuredly good for. Check out this stat line: 24/28, 288 yards, 5 TD’s, QB rating: 231.0. Oh, and dude only played til halftime in a 70-28 butt whooping of Kansas. That’s two games in a row without a pick for Weeden, who threw six in his first three games. For the season he’s at 75% completions, almost 2,000 yards, and 15 TD’s. I’m not usually a big stat guy, but for as much as the Cowboys chuck the pill, he’s done a good job protecting it of late. The nation’s #1 scoring offense has no shortage of weapons, with arguably the best receiver in college football in Justin Blackmon, but make no mistake, they aren’t scoring 51 per contest without a good qb. Let’s just say this 26 year old QB isn’t laying eggs and being booed out of games like Joe Bauserman.
Eli Manning, GIANTS. A week after I praise Eli for not being typical Eli, he goes right back to his old ways. Four turnovers at home against the Seahawks as 10 point favorites isn’t the best way to follow up a big win on the road. Three touchdowns are nice, but the last ball that was taken back 94 yards for a touchdown shouldn’t have been thrown, so I’m not going to even give daylight to the fact that it could have been caught. I paused the tape at Eli’s point of release and saw four white jerseys surrounding one blue jersey. I pressed play, and the ball was tipped and picked off, sealing the Giants’ fate. It’s a little upsetting that his brother’s career might be cut short and Eli is out here still getting paid $100 million dollars to be mediocre and inconsistent. How dare I give him praise last week when I knew this is where we’d be seven days later.
Stephen Garcia, SOUTH CAROLINA. How can someone land on the Regressed List after not taking a single snap in the game on Saturday? By being a huge asshole, that’s how. Go ahead and take your final chance at playing college football and shit all over it by breaking an agreement you made with your head coach about following his rules. While Garcia got dismissed from the team FINALLY after his um-teenth suspension, leaving his team at 5-1, sitting pretty as the leader on the “easy” side of the SEC, not all was bad. Spurrier opened up his offense this week, giving Connor Shaw a chance to play. All Shaw did was throw for 311 and 4 TD’s. At this rate, I’d say Garcia should finish school, part ways with the east coast USC, and stop acting like a complete COCK. And, without any major slip-ups, (their toughest conference game remaining is at Arkansas) it looks like South Carolina should coast into the SEC championship game later this year.
All that said, I want to comment on Braxton Miller. The kid is a freshman so I won’t hate on him too much for this but I want to say one thing. You are on the road in Lincoln, Nebraska against a team who is supposed to kick your ass and you are giving them a 21-point whooping into the third quarter. You realize as the playmaker you are, and with the incompetency of your backup that if you come out of the game, the life will be sucked from your football team and Nebraska will step on your throat and take the game from you, even down three touchdowns.
With a minor ankle sprain, Braxton Miller leaves the game up 27-6, and with him goes all confidence of the OSU team. With Miller listed as the starter again this week at Illinois, I have the right to call it a minor sprain. If he starts on Saturday, SHAME ON BRAXTON MILLER. I believe Miller thought the game was won, and for that matter so did the coaching staff. He figured if he came out, not risking further injury, that his team would seal the deal even if the Huskers scored a couple touchdowns making it a close game at the end. Braxton, I know you are a freshman with a big career ahead, but dude, your team counts on you as their heartbeat already after only a half season. Double tape that ankle, shoot it up with some cortizone, rub a little bio-freeze on it, and stay on the field and win your team that game. Sorry folks, but if that ankle can heal up in a week, then it wasn’t bad enough to come out and watch your defense melt down and Joe Bauserman toss ball after ball into the fifth row. If you’re a winner, be a winner, a little minor pain is what I consider a fair trade-off to be the starter as a frosh at THE Ohio State University.
I went about .500 last week, but today has some favorable matchups and I’m even gonna pick every single NFL game just to see how it goes.
Illinois -14 at Indiana. Good weather, good quarterback, and much better team than Penn State. This is a rout.
Rutgers +6.5 at Pittsburgh. Confident that the Scarlet Knights can score some points. I never like betting against Ray Graham though. He’s scary good.
North Carolina -13.5 vs. Louisville. The Cardinals are bad. North Carolina hasn’t beaten up on teams as of yet, I think that changes today.
Georgia Tech -16 vs, Maryland. Maryland has turned out to be quite bad since week 1, and Ga Tech blew a 42-14 lead in the 4th quarter last week and ended up winning by 10, pushing against the spread. Yesterday this was at -14, which means a lot other people like the Yellow Jackets too.
Georgia -3 at Tennessee. This spread also went from -1 yesterday. I’m inclined to buy a .5 point just to make sure, but Georgia has been getting better every week and I really can’t see them winning by less than 5 here on the road.
Arizona -2.5 at Oregon State. Oregon State is really, really bad. Like Akron bad. That said, I’m hoping Nick Foles has a Nick Foles day and the Wildcats defense shows up for at least part of the game.
East Carolina +11.5 at Houston. Every time I play the Pirates as a double digit dog they cover. That’s all.
Nebraska -11 vs. Ohio State. The Buckeyes offense is not exactly clicking, and a night game on the road isn’t the best remedy to make a frosh feel comfortable. Nebraska got waxed last week, but the are still miles ahead of OSU at this point.
Wyoming +10.5 at Utah State. Utah State hangs with teams that are better than they are, then blows it at the end. This one should be no different.
LSU -14 vs. Florida. Backup QB. On the road. Death Valley. Best defense in the nation. Tyrann Mathieu. Enough said.
and for my NFL picks, since we are doing all of them, I’m just gonna give my pick and you can figure out why.
CHIEFS +2 AT COLTS
CARDINALS +3 AT VIKINGS
BILLS +3 VS. EAGLES
RAIDERS +5 AT TEXANS
SAINTS -6.5 VS. PANTHERS
BENGALS +1.5 AT JAGUARS
TITANS +3 AT STEELERS
GIANTS -9.5 VS. SEAHAWKS
49ERS -3 VS. BUCCANEERS
PATRIOTS -7.5 VS. JETS
CHARGERS -3.5 AT BRONCOS
PACKERS -6 AT FALCONS
MNF: BEARS +5 AT LIONS