Roger Goodell Lays Down the Axe

Yesterday Roger Goodell handed out player suspensions for their involvement in the “Bountygate” scandal. Goodell previously suspended the coaching staff and management of the New Orleans Saints for their institution of a bounty program on their football team. After further investigation Goodell had to bring the hammer down on the players involved. The punishment that followed would hopefully guarantee that this would never happen again in the National Football League. Here’s how player punishment went:

Jonathan Vilma suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season.

Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, out for the first 8 games of the 2012 season.

Will Smith, who missed the first 2 games last year due to injury, suspended for 4 games.

Scott Fujita, currently on the Cleveland Browns, out for 3 games.

Many suspected that suspensions would be given out. I don’t think anybody thought they would be this harsh. Some may have even thought there would be more players suspended. The report stated that their were up to 27 players involved in the bounty program. Looks like 23 of them got off the hook.

Today Jonathan Vilma sounded like he would appeal the suspension, but I’m not sure that will do him any good. The thing that irks me the most about Vilma’s situation is that he found out about his suspension the same way I found out he was suspended; by watching T.V. I even said to my friend yesterday, I wonder how they found out about their suspensions. Hope they got a phone call. Roger Goodell could have at least had the decency to give them a proper phone call. Roger, come on man you’re better than that.

Yesterday Stephen A. Smith of ESPN New York said that he didn’t like that Goodell suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma for an entire year. The same penalty that his coach had been previously given for his involvement with the scandal. His point was that Sean Peyton had many more years of coaching left in him and that Jonathan Vilma had only a few years left to play. Football players have a much shorter shelf life than their brain trusts. To that extent I agree, but then again these were players that were trying to shorten the shelf life of other players. Nothing good was to come out of this. The message sent by Goodell should be clear though. This shall never happen again or else.

Goodell did what he had to do to protect his players. The NFL is in the middle of former players wanting to file lawsuits against the NFL because of what concussions, head trauma, and other injuries have done to them physically and mentally. Dave Duerson committed suicide last year in February. One month ago a former Atlanta Falcons star of the 70s, Ray Easterling, committed suicide. Former San Diego Chargers linebacker and USC great, Junior Seau committed suicide yesterday in his home in San Diego.

Goodell needs to protect his players in every which way. Football is a rough and physical sport no doubt, but Goodell has taken steps to reduce the physical damages that players endure. Give Goodell credit. As a fan, at first, I did not like the rule changes. Quarterbacks already have reputations as being prima donnas in a sense and the new rules protecting them made it seem all the more true. Penalizing defensive players for making a hit on an opposing player seemed absurd to me. This is why offensive numbers have skyrocketed and I didn’t like it. As a human being, I think that these changes are for the betterment of the game and for player safety. If you love the game of football you have to love the changes to protect the players, the people we enjoy watching on Sundays, the people whose jerseys we buy and wear proudly. On the field we think they are invincible. Off the field they are no different than you or I.

Hearing about all these things about football players years after they play the game will also discourage younger kids from wanting to play the game of football. Most professional athletes are talented in multiple sports. They usually have their choice of baseball, basketball, or football. Who would want to play a sport in which by the time your 40 you will have a great chance of suffering severe depression, head trauma, or other injuries. Most wold wind up picking a much safer sport. The way the league was heading with all the concussions and lawsuits being filed, the NFL has a real chance of being shut down. No NFL fan would want to see that I can assure you. These changes are what is needed to prolong to life of the NFL as well as ensure the health of their current, former, and future players. Roger Goodell is doing what is best for the NFL. You will soon realize it.

T-T-T-Timmy and the Jets

First and foremost I want to make it clear that I am a die-hard Giants fan. All in. I heard about a kid named Tim Tebow when I was in High School and he was a senior making his decision to play for the Florida Gators in college. Since that day I believed this kid was going to be a winner. His career at Florida didn’t disappoint me as he won a Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and added 2 NCAA championships to his resume. Last season in Denver didn’t disappoint Tebow fans either as he led his team to the playoffs and stole a game from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. Denver’s resent acquisition of Peyton Manning took the Broncos in a different direction and ultimately decided to trade Tebow to the Jets for a couple of draft picks.

Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum, and Rex Ryan have said that their pursuit and acquisition of Tim Tebow was purely a “football” decision. Really? Purely? The same team that just gave their “Sanchize” quarterback a contract extension after striking out on their attempt to pursue Peyton Manning, the man who can be looked at as pushing Tebow out of Denver. That football decision? I’m not doubting that the move was partially based on a “football” decision, but one would be naive to believe that it wasn’t also for some publicity. Since Rex Ryan took over the New York Jets a few years ago they have been posted on the back of New York newspapers ever since. Rex Ryan has promised a Super Bowl trophy to Jets fans 3 years in a row and has come back with nothing more than broken promises and broken hearts. This move will further more keep the Jets in the eye of the media as Tebow was the most publicized football player in the league last year. He had the second highest selling jersey next to, “Discount Double-Check” and MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Tebow is one of the most popular player amongst fans whether you like the kid or you dislike him. By that I mean by his football talents. There is no way you can not like the kid as a person. He’s genuine, he says all the right things, he’s a great role model, and is involved in various charities etc. If you don’t like Tim Tebow the person there’s something seriously wrong with you. If you don’t like Tim Tebow the player, well numbers never lie now do they.

Wins are the only thing that matters to NFL players, just ask them. If he threw for 500 yards a game but they were 6-10 would you still be obsessed with the numbers he put up. His numbers aren’t great, but he wins games. Jets fans know that. They’ve said the same thing about Mark Sanchez when they were en route to back-to-back AFC Championship games. The thing about those teams were that their defense was arguably best in the game and that’s what got them there. It wasn’t Sanchez’s arm. Defense wins championships and the Jets had the right formula, but the wrong quarterback. He’s bottom 5 in the league when it comes to total QBR. If he was middle of the row then maybe the Jets could have made Rex Ryan’s promise come to fruition.

Let’s focus on what 2012 holds for the Jets. I’m a Tebow fan like I said. I am not a Jets fan. I don’t know if this is going to help the team. I’m going to strictly focus on the quarterback battle. The Jets held a press conference today to officially welcome Tim Tebow. Tebow said that he and Mark are friends and that they hope to have a healthy working relationship. Sorry to break it to you Tim, I’m not sure that it works like that. Joe Montana who is regarded as one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the game didn’t really like the idea of a young Steve Young waiting in the wings trying to take his job. Aaron Rodgers has said that Brett Favre didn’t really mentor him in becoming a quarterback. These are two legends of the game who were well established when a “backup” was thought of as a successor to take the starting job. Mark Sanchez is by no means an established or legend of the game. He’s a young player who knows that nothing is promised in the NFL. The Jets just brought in a guy who Rex Ryan has openly said could take up to 20 snaps a game. 20 snaps? That’s about 1/3 of the total snaps a quarterback takes per game. They plan on using Tebow on third and short situations. Sanchez can run 2 plays for 8 yards and then be put on the sideline to watch another quarterback attempt to get the first down. He can drive down the field and then have to go to the sideline again and watch another quarterback come in and possibly get the touchdown. That doesn’t bode well for any quarterback, I don’t care who you are. Maybe the Jets are trying to catch lightning in a bottle by bringing in Tebow. If Sanchez plays far better than he has in his first 3 years, than the so-called psychology behind this moves works well. Can he handle the pressure? I’m not so sure. Tebow has proven he can step up to the pressure. He took a flailing Broncos team and led them to the playoffs. Sure his talents are a bit raw and limited, but he can win games. He too, before Rex Ryan, guaranteed a championship at Florida, only unlike his new coach, he delivered.

The Jets locker room has been in disarray particularly with the fallout between Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez. Anonymous players have come out and bashed Mark Sanchez. Antonio Cromartie has said that the Jets don’t need Tebow. The locker room is something that Rex needs to get under control. You put yourself out there in the media, promising all these things, saying this, saying that. Rex don’t put your foot in your mouth again (no pun intended). He knows what it takes to win he was on the Ravens Super Bowl team in 2000. If players don’t perform to their ability it’s the coaches job to get them to. Maybe this is another reason they brought in Tebow. If Mark Sanchez doesn’t perform and the T-E-B-O-W chants start at Metlife Stadium, Rex will have to seriously consider giving Tebow a start or two. The Jets organization brought this upon themselves. They said Sanchez was their starting quarterback, but if he’s not playing well guess they’ll have to go back on their word. Wouldn’t be the first time. Probably won’t be the last.

Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

Peyton Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts earlier last week.  For the first time in Peyton’s career he is a free agent.  He seems to be doing his due diligence as he looks for his next team.  Even before his release many teams seemed to be in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, which included the Redskins, Dolphins, Jets, Cardinals, Seahawks, Broncos, Browns, 49ers, and Titans.  Since his release some of these teams have made moves that would seem to take them out of the running for Peyton’s services.  The Jets have given their 4th year QB, Mark Sanchez, a contract extension.  So it’s safe to say they are out of the mix.  The Redskins have made arguably the biggest offseason move thus far trading up in the draft with the Rams for the 2nd pick.  All indications are that they will draft Robert Griffin III as he is considered the second best QB after Andrew Luck whom the Colts are planning on drafting.  That’s another team out of the running.

The remaining teams have a fighting chance.  Or do they?  Manning has met with the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals this past weekend.  Many sources consider those two teams the favorites to land Peyton Manning.  Although Manning has said he prefers to stay in the AFC he took a tour of the Cardinals facility in what was reported as being a 7-hour trip.  The reports that the Denver Broncos feel they have a 95% chance of landing Manning have appeared to be false.  There will be a lot of false rumors coming out as this is a media coverage delight and the speculation won’t end until Manning himself comes out and says what jersey he will don in the 2012 season.

The only teams really left besides the aforementioned favorites are the Dolphins and the Titans.  Manning reportedly has declined visits to with the Seahawks and the Chiefs.  That leaves four teams: Dolphins, Titans, Cardinals, and Broncos left in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.  Let’s take a look at where Peyton could wind up waying the pros and cons of each team.

The Broncos have a good defense and can run the ball very well, something Manning did not have much during his tenure with the Colts.  Their defense came on late in the season last year even though that didn’t appear to be the case when they met the pass happy Patriots in the playoffs.  They have an average Offensive line giving up 42 sacks last year, but that must be a credit to running the option with Tim Tebow.  Any option run he had for a loss would count for a sack.  Willis McGahee also benefited from the option running the football, but the Broncos should get back a healthy Knowshon Moreno.  The receiving core for the Broncos features Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.  Keep in mind that Reggie Wayne could join Peyton wherever he lands and it is rumored that Dallas Clark could also follow.  That would make a good receiving group and Peyton has been known to make receivers better than the are a la Austin Collie.  The AFC West was not particularly good last year with the Broncos winning the division with an 8-8 record.  Manning could easily make them the division favorite and a chance to go to the playoffs.  The cons of joining the Denver Broncos is that Peyton Manning has just come off of 3 neck surgeries and the cold weather will not help.  The cold weather will give him aches and pains in his surgically repaired neck.  The turf will get harder as the season progresses and one thing Manning has to think about his continuing to stay healthy.  He is accustomed to playing 8 games during the regular season in a dome where weather is not a factor.  Look for that to play a huge role in where Peyton Manning lands.  

The Arizona Cardinals have one of the top receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and a very good tight end in Todd Heap.  Add Reggie Wayne to the mix and they have one of the best one-two punches at receiver.  They can run the ball pretty well considering that their offensive line has been nothing to brag about giving up 54 sacks last year.  Maybe   they can address that issue in the draft and in free agency.  A trade is possible but not likely to help fix that offensive line.  Of all the teams left they are the only team to play their home games in a Dome where weather will not play a factor.  Their defense was in line with the league average.  The Cardinals started the season off at 1-6, but had an amazing second half going 7-2 in their final 9 games to finish the season at 8-8.  The downside of Peyton Manning is that he has said he prefers the AFC over the NFC and that is the only con I see about him signing with the Cardinals.

The Dolphins have long said they want Peyton Manning to help the very talented but young team.  They proved last year that they can run the ball with the likes of Reggie Bush.  With Manning under center Bush could even return to his old form when he played for the Saints.  Brandon Marshall is a talented receiver but after that the receivers are average at best.  Again Manning could make them all look like Pro-Bowlers and the addition of Reggie Wayne would also be helpful.  Sorry, I’m just going to assume Reggie Wayne will follow Manning to wherever he goes since the two have played together for many years.  The Dolphins defense is one that late last year seemed to get better with every game.  Defense should be a key factor in where Manning ends up as well as the team’s offensive line.  The Dolphins gave up 52 sacks last year and like the Cardinals they could use some help in that category.  Peyton Manning also has a house in Florida where he resides in the off-season, but I’m not so sure that will be much a factor in his decision.  Manning may have to decide if the offensive line and whether or not Joe Philbin will give him full reins of the offense.  Philbin was previously the QB coach to Aaron Rodgers, so I’m sure Joe will already have an appreciation for an elite player at that position.  

The Tennessee Titans will get to meet with Peyton Manning and the owner Bud Adams has already shown his desire to bring in Manning.  The biggest pro about signing with the Titans is they only gave up 24 sacks this past season which was tied for second in the league along with the Saints.  Only the Bills had given up less sacks with 23.  Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, whose seasoned ended early due to injury, are good receivers.  They still have Chris Johnson, who will only benefit from have Peyton playing in front of him, who ran for over 1,000 yards with a little more than 400 receiving.  Those receiving numbers could rise with Peyton Manning.  The Titans have one of the better defenses only giving up 19.8 points per game.  The weather is warm for a majority of the season and Mike Munchak will undoubtedly have to give Peyton control of the offense.  The extra factor in deciding on this team would be that he gets to play the Colts twice a year.  Any player that is cut by a team wants to go back and prove to them that they made a mistake and this is no different.  I think that this might be the best decision for Manning to make.  Good offensive line, good defense, warm weather, and a chance to beat your old team twice.  The only negative I would give the Titans is that they don’t have a lot of firepower on offense, but like I mentioned before Peyton can raise the game of your offense.

That all being said I believe that Manning’s two best options are the Titans and the Cardinals.  Manning can’t afford to play in the cold weather with the Broncos or get sacked that many times with the Dolphins.  The warm weather and the dome will have to be in Manning’s best interest.  Before he was released I thought that the Cardinals would be the best fit for Peyton, but since then I’m going to give a slight edge to the Titans because they have one of the better offensive lines in the league, it’s warm, and he gets to get back at the Colts….twice.  Neither team signing him would surprise me, but I’ll give the slight edge to the Titans.  Until then everybody is going to keep speculating on where his decision to go will be.  Where do you think he will end up and why?

Roger Goodell…Bounty Hunting Hunter?

The biggest news around the NFL this offseason has been deflected from the scouting combine, the draft, and where Peyton Manning will land.  All because of what is being called as “Bountygate”.  It has been leaked out that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had implemented a bounty system for the defense to injure or get key players on the opposing teams offense to take to the sidelines.  Williams is also being linked to a similar situation during his tenure with the Washington Redskins.  Williams has even come out and said that the allegations are true and is not denying anything.

Since this news broke many ex-players and current players have commented on “Bountygate”.  Even Charles Barkley has come out and ripped the “punk” who “snitched” on Gregg Williams.  Many players have said that there are common situations on a lot of NFL teams.  Maybe that’s true one cannot deny that, but only one team is being accused and investigated with another to follow in the Redskins.  It’s possible that any team Gregg Williams was the defensive coordinator will go under the microscope.

Brett Favre, who was the starting quarterback for the Vikings who played against the Saints in the 2009 NFC championship game, has spoken out.  It was reported that linebacker Jonathan Vilma put a $10,000 bounty on Favre.  “I’m not pissed,” Favre said. “It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys. I would have loved to play with Vilma. Hell of a player. I’ve got a lot of respect for Gregg Williams. He’s a great coach. I’m not going to make a big deal about it. In all honesty, there’s a bounty of some kind on you on every play.”  He even said that thinking back on that game that he wouldn’t call it odd, but he remembers thinking during that game that he was being hit on every play.  Handoff. Hit. Pass. Hit.  He is friends with Darren Sharper and even said to him on a late hit during that game, “What the Hell was that Sharp?”

Eli Manning was asked about the Saint’s bounty system.  A team his father played with for 11 seasons.  Eli said, “Obviously it is a big deal, what’s going on. It’s not good for football and can’t be a part of football. I know Roger Goodell will do a good job figuring all this out and making sure this doesn’t happen again.  “I’m kind of sitting there and I say, ‘I know the opposing teams are saying the same thing about me,’ ” said Manning. “But when you start talking about injuring a guy and carting him off and trying to end his season or career, that’s not what this game is about. I think we should have more respect for the game than that. It can’t be a part of football.’’  That is coming from a current offensive player. A tough one at that who was hit 20 times in the NFC Championship game this past season.

On ESPN, a panel of Tedy Bruschi, Marcellus Wiley, and Mike Golic discussed the bounty system that the Saints are being investigated for.  Marcellus Wiley and Mike Golic took a similar stance.  They both agreed that bounties are “meaningless” if clean hits are being applied and some money is collected along the way.  Golic like Barkley is more upset with the person who “snitched” on Gregg Williams than the actual accusation of head hunting for money.  Tedy Bruschi, however took the stance that there is a difference between hitting hard and trying to injure someone.  Money incentives can change anybody’s motivation to go out there and take someone out of the game.

I have never played football, actually I have, but I have never played full contact football.  So my opinion is not that of someone who has played the game and knows how it is in the locker room etc.  I also think depending on what side of the ball you play on will have an impact of your opinion as well as what era you played in.  Favre for instance played during the early 90’s, before all these new tackling and quarterback protection rules.  It is understandable that he is “not pissed”.  He played the game differently from quarterbacks now.  He also never got hurt enough to not start the next week as he holds the all time consecutive starts streak.  The quarterbacks of today may have a different feeling today, because they have been raised in a league that is expected to protect them.  Anything resembling a late hit will be called on the field and fined by Roger Goodell.

Another point that was brought up by Wiley and Golic was whose to say that a clean hit won’t injure someone compared to a “dirty” hit.  Players get hurt on clean hits all the time.  I have to agree with that statement.  In today’s game a “dirty” hit will be exploited by the NFL and that player will be fined and quite possibly suspended a la Ndamukong Suh and his foot stomp.  Late hits are often called on the field and later fined, the Steelers linebackers can tell you about that.  So as long as the hit is clean nobody should have a problem with it.  What most will have a problem with is that a player would receive monetary compensation for injuring someone.  I like to think that any athlete would respect their peers and would never want to intentionally injure someone.  Let’s put it in a bit more of perspective.  Injuring someone is one thing but let’s just say that a bounty had been put on a quarterback and players were motivated to injure said quarterback.  They put a hit on the quarterback and paralyze him.  Would the defensive player still want that money?  Was it worth the extra change?  Not at all and I think that’s something that should be taken into consideration with all of this.  Wanting to injure someone has probably crossed the minds of many players before, whether or not they to action on it is another thing.  I often sit in front of my TV yelling to kill the opposing quarterback.  Yes, I’m guilty, but I’m sure I’m not the only one.  I don’t in fact wish that the other player is severely injured or that their career ends or that the player that did in fact sideline them get paid for such an accomplishment.

Many NFL players as well as other sports figures are role models to younger kids and players.  They are supposed to set a good example for the youth that watches and idolizes them.  This does not set a good precedent for them.  Roger Goodell will get all the facts together in his investigation.  At the very least they should lose a first-round draft pick if not more, be fined quite a bit of money, more than the collective bounties paid out, and possible suspension for the coaches involved.  The latter will probably not happen being that Bill Belichick was not suspended nor fired for his “Spygate” scandal several years ago.  The Patriots lose a first-round pick and were fined upward of a half million dollars.  This scandal is being described as worse than the one the Patriots committed so the penalties should be more harsh.  At the same time I think the Pats and “Spygate” had more of an impact on the game than the Saints and “Bountygate”.  The Patriots won 3 Super Bowls before word that they were taping the opposing teams walk through became public.  They have since been to 2 Super Bowls and have walked away empty handed both times, thanks to my Giants.  The Saints have won 1 Super Bowl in a season in which the bounty system was most likely in place.  In the Championship game in 2009, a  few late hits and in my opinion a few terrible calls later and they were on the way to the Super Bowl.  Great play calling in that game brought them home their first Lombardi Trophy.  Now that the scandal is out and looking in retrospect to that game against the Vikings many might say, much like people say of the Patriots, that championship should have an asterisk next to it.  HIndsight is 20/20, but Roger Goodell’s bounty hunting is clearly in the future.