Friday, December 2, 2011

NFL Legend Buckles to Crime and Punishment

This is the first installment of NFL Lucubrations in 2011, and most likely the only one.

Ain't That A Kick In The Head

Ndamukong Suh is a throw back player stuck in a sad time in the NFL, otherwise known as the Goodell Valley. First he got screwed out of the Heisman Trophy, and award that is supposed to go to the best player but goes to the most popular quarterback, running back or wide receiver, two years ago.

He destroyed NFL offenses in his rookie season in 2010, quickly gaining respect and fear from his opponents. Suh hits hard and often, thus drawing critics who have been brainwashed by Goodell to worship just the offensive side of the football.

Suh isn't producing as much this year, most likely the infamous sophomore jinx being the culprit, but he is still producing at a good rate. He isn't going to match last years tackles and sacks totals, and that will be helped by the fact he is going to serve a two game suspension for stomping an opponent out of frustration on Thanksgiving.

Part of the frustration is the fact that the Detroit Lions defensive line has not met expectations this season. Suh, the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year, was surrounded by more talent than he had ever played with before. He is spending his second season lined up next to Corey Williams, but the veteran is having maybe the worst season of his eight-year career.

Defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril have combined for 13 sacks so far, but they have offered little in run support with just 37 tackles. Linebackers Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch were two veterans signed as free agents before this year, but the duo has only 107 combined tackles. Pat Angerer, of the Indianapolis Colts, and Pro Bowler London Fletcher, of the Washington Redskins, have at least that many tackles by themselves.

Detroit used their first round draft pick this year on defensive tackle Nick Fairley, only to get just six tackles in six games so far. Dreams of this unit being Detroit's second "Fearsome Foursome" have not come about, with Suh and Fairley reminding no one of the great Roger Brown or Alex Karras in the 1960's.

Suh plays with a mean streak, one that recalls historians of "Mean" Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Greene, a member of both the pro and collegiate Hall of Fame's, also was the Defensive Rookie of the Year as a defensive tackle. Suh may not match the streak of 10 consecutive Pro Bowls to start out his career like Greene did, but there are other similarities between the pair.

Like Suh, Greene hated to lose and would often explode if frustrated. During a game against the Cleveland Browns in 1975, Greene repeatedly kicked the opposing center in the groin. "Mean Joe" would also bat the ball away from centers during games where his team was losing.

Not only does he own four Super Bowl rings as a player, he has earned two more as a coach and consultant since retiring. A two-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, there are few players in the history of professional football more respected and beloved.

Yet Suh is getting scorn for the same types of actions. Matt Slauson, a guard for the New York Jets, went to reporters to let them know he did not like Suh while the two were teammates at the University of Nebraska. Slauson then tried to say few of his fellow Cornhuskers liked Suh as well, yet not one of those teammates have corroborated these claims.

Some think Slauson's real issue is that he spent most of his time under performing in an injury-riddled collegiate career, which caused him to drop all the way to the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Others believe the cause of his ire was from being thrashed around by Suh continuously in inter-squad scrimmages during practice.

Slauson and others believe Suh's foot stomp of Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers was not unintentional, which Suh initially claimed it was. The star defensive tackle later apologized for the incident, but still garnered a suspension because he currently is carrying the tag as the dirtiest player in football.

Most of the media, many who never have played football or sports of any kind, claim Suh crossed the line of sportsmanship. While that may hold some truths, the game of football is bereft with emotions that can sometimes be borderline psychotic. As the legendary Jack Tatum, a Pro Bowl safety, once said, " I like to believe my best hits borderline on felonious assault".

That attitude of the game has been castrated by Goodell and rules he has invented like "putting too much weight on the quarterback". It is a game biased in offense and geared to carry the quarterback, one where defenses are now merely temporary obstacles at best.

After the incident on Thanksgiving, reporters were quick to run and get quotes from current and former players. Yet these came from offensive players, men who are basically the enemy of the defense. An outraged is expected from these types.

Playing in an atmosphere as antiseptic as a hospital, the modern defender must watch now only how high, low, or hard he hits a player holding the ball. They must engage an offensive lineman with kid gloves because blockers today are allowed to extend their arms and basically hold on each play, making it extremely difficult for a defender to get near the football.

Suh will have to go the rest of his career carrying the burden of an unjust label that comes from him playing the game with passion. He may have the respect of those who paved the NFL path to get get this game a multi-billion dollar empire, but Suh now has to carry the ire of the current leadership intent on making the game plush and cozy for quarterbacks and other offensive players.

This isn't his first fine, and it may not be his last suspension. If it is, we may soon see a docile Suh playing out the string of his career for a paycheck, something often witnessed in the game today, instead of striving for greatness.

Greatness that has made men like "Mean Joe" Greene and others some of the most recognizable and respected people in all of sports. If Suh wants to attempt to match that type of success, people like Roger Goodell need to get off of his back and let the man play this child's game with all of the zest he can muster. True gridiron legends are made by the man, fans and game, not meddling bores sitting in a posh office on Park Avenue in New York City.

Losing Isn't For Everyone

Cleveland Browns star Josh Cribbs was recently lamenting how he has experienced just 38 victories in the 107 games he has played with the club since joining them in 2005. With a new coach this season, his third with Cleveland, the results have been pretty much the same as they have been his entire NFL career.

The 2007 season was the best the Browns have had in his time there, where they went 10-6. Not only is it the only winning season he has experienced, but Cribbs also made the first of his two Pro Bowls that year after leading the league in all-purpose yards, kickoff return yards, and an average of 30.7 yards per kickoff return.

After setting a NFL record with eight touchdowns via kickoff returns in 2009, his last Pro Bowl year, Cribbs' production on special teams fell off in 2010. He has had a resurgence this year, but he is not satisfied because the new kickoff rules have made opportunities lessen for him.

He doesn't just return kicks or punts, but he is also does a bit of everything on offense. Cribbs was a quarterback in college, so Cleveland has had him rush the ball 121 times and toss 12 passes with them. He is also a productive pass catcher who is used in multiple wide receiver sets. Cribbs has snagged 88 passes so far, but his role has increased in the offense this year and he already has a career high mark in receptions with 29.

Despite the fact he is tired of losing, Cribbs will most likely spend 2012 in Cleveland. His contract will expire after that year, but the market for 30 year old return men may not be as desirable in the free agent market as he may hope.

Yet Cribbs harkens back memories of other legendary Browns return specialists. Men like Eric Metcalf, Greg Pruitt, Dennis Northcutt, Gerald McNeil, Hall of Famers Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly are just a few greats who spent years exciting Browns fans through the years.

Some will say this current Cleveland franchise isn't the same one that ties into the fantastic Browns teams that won eight championships between 1946 and 1964. That team went to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. This version of the Browns was born in 1999 and has had just two winning seasons since.

This may not be the Browns that sent 16 men to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the fans of Cleveland's Dawg Pound just want a few more wins. It is refreshing to see a guy like Cribbs, a real leader of the team, say what is obvious.

It is also heartening for Browns fans to know they have players whose desire to win is that immense. Many men have been in Cribbs situation of being with a franchise in an era of losing, but there are also many stories where perseverance was later paid off by championship victories.

It will take some time for team president Mike Holmgren to show results in his attempt to rebuild the team, but Cribbs realizes his window as a productive player shrinks with each contest that passes by. The team is young, but there has been sporadic signs in 2011 that the Browns will improve sooner or later.

Sooner is not soon enough for Cribbs, so Cleveland can expect him to fight until the end. It has been what Cribbs has done since he joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Blame The Coach For My Tears

Many Philadelphia Eagles fans have called for the firing of Andy Reid, the winningest head coach in franchise history, for years despite the fact his teams have won 122 out of 202 games since he was hired in 1999. That rage in helped by the fact the Eagles haven't won a championship since 1960.

Reid even has a winning record in the playoffs, but his teams only reached the Super Bowl once. He smoothly transitioned the squad from the Donovan McNabb Era last year, but the squad has hit a few bumps this season despite spending millions in the free agency market.

When fans saw the Eagles load their roster with Pro Bowlers like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cellen Jenkins, Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ronnie Brown, everyone expected the team to be headed for at least a division title in the NFC East. Many saw a Super Bowl ahead, which included yours truly.

But it hasn't worked out that way. Much like many other teams in professional sports history that doled out millions of dollars and got undesirable results, the Eagles have fallen flat on their faces in 2011. Things have fallen so far that Philadelphia was dealt their eighth loss already after getting stomped 31-14 by a young and rebuilding Seattle Seahawks team that has spent this season struggling themselves.

Owner Jeff Lurie is known for his loyalty, so there is hope he won't bow to a few fickle fans who starve for a trophy despite not knowing much about the game. Reid has made a few gambles that ended up being mistakes, like putting Juan Castillo in charge of the defense after the assistant had worked the offensive side of the ball the last 16 years with the team.

Trying to fill the shoes of Jim Johnson has been impossible since the guru died of cancer in 2009. Sean McDermott was fired after replacing Johnson, but he quickly found work with the Carolina Panthers. Yet fans need to realize the defense of 2011 is about the same as last year as far as yards and points allowed.

With the addition of Asomugha, Bryant, Babin, Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as retaining Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel, fans expected a huge improvement. The offense is also scoring four points less per game than they did last year, which reflects on Reid.

Quarterback Michael Vick, the man who replaced McNabb, looks like a $100 million mistake. He still remains injury-prone, but he has also regressed from last year when he looked like he finally adjusted to passing in the pocket. Young, who has filled in a few times after Vick went down, has also played erratically in his place.

Brown played so poorly that the Eagles looked to trade him weeks ago. But it isn't just the money Lurie has tossed that has hurt this team. It is the cash he hasn't yet passed out that ultimately became an issue.

DeSean Jackson had made two Pro Bowls in his previous three years with the team. An all-purpose wide receiver, the diminutive Jackson has been a threat catching, running, or returning punts for Philadelphia.

With his output, Jackson wanted a raise in pay. Lurie and his staff seemed more inclined to discuss this after 2011, considering the owner spent a fortune in free agency. Since this moment, Jackson has been a petulant child more inclined to be clubhouse cancer rather than a productive player.

What is confusing about his behavior is the fact Jackson went to the prestigious University of California, Berkeley., a school noted for their scholastic endeavors. All Jackson has done is lower his value with his behavior, so he wont be getting the cash he once sought.

Reid might catch the blame of Jackson's histrionics by some, but the coach has been trying to appease an ego while trying to get his 2011 to learn how to win. It is a juggling act that has not fared well for the team.

Coaches like Jack Del Rio have been fired already, even though that head coach was destined for this result after the owner forced him to cut his starting quarterback to save money. Men like Norv Turner and Tony Sparano should soon follow him to the unemployment line once this season concludes.

But Reid deserves a better fate. Some will say his players laid down on him this year, which should necessitate a change, but the unfamiliarity of a roster loaded with stars might need more time to gel. A squad in need of a real training camp, something the NFL was not afforded this year because of the players lockout.

After all of his productive years of service, Reid deserves one more season. A real season where he is afforded time to instill his philosophies into the newcomers, and possibly get rid of some distractions.

Every head coach is hired to be eventually fired because nothing lasts forever in the NFL other than legacy. Fans of Philly might be tough critics, but what is one more season to a group that hasn't seen a trophy in over 40 years?

Punches Hurt At Any Age

Many know how Canadian Football Hall of Famers Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca brawled a week ago at a luncheon to discuss a cheap shot Mosca put on a teammate of Kapp's during a title game in 1963. Many may not know that the history of these men have NFL ties that still reverberate today.

When Kapp was drafted in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, he basically was forced to the Canadian Football League because the Redskins never even bothered to contact him. Kapp is Hispanic and the Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate in 1962.

He was coaxed to join the Calgary Stampeders by legendary general manager Jim Finks. Two seasons later, he was traded to the B.C. Lions for four players, soon turning the team into a winner.

Leading them to the Grey Cup in 1963, the Lions faced Mosca's Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Mosca, whose nine Grey Cup appearances is a record, was a defensive tackle who was known as the meanest man in the CFL.

Kapp had a teammate named Willie "The Wisp" Fleming, a star halfback who would later be inducted into Canadian Football Hall of Fame himself. Fleming, who still holds the record for the longest play from scrimmage in CFL history, was tearing up the league during this time. Not only is Fleming the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lions history, he averaged 9.7 yards per carry in 1963.

Fleming went out of bounds after a carry, Mosca barreled into the prone player and knocked Fleming out of the contest. The Lions lost that game, but got revenge the following season by defeating Hamilton in the Grey Cup.

Kapp joined the NFL in 1967, thanks to Finks. Several franchises wanted his services, including teams in the American Football League, but Finks worked out a deal where his Minnesota Vikings waived a little-used halfback named Jim Young so that the Lions could sign him. Young would spend the next 13 seasons with the Lions and be named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Despite spending just three years with the Vikings, Kapp's Vikings made the first playoff appearance in franchise history. He made the Pro Bowl in 1969 and led Minnesota to the last NFL Championship Game ever. After winning that game, the Vikings went on to Super Bowl IV before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL.

He had played that year without a contract, thanks to an option in his contract. Despite having tied a record by tossing seven touchdowns in a single game, the NFL would not allow teams to contact the free agent until late September of 1970.

Kapp signed with the Boston Patriots, which caused the team to give the Vikings a pair of first-round draft picks, and struggled with a team that had just two wins that year. The newly renamed New England Patriots then drafted Heisman trophy winner Jim Plunkett, who also happened to be a quarterback with Hispanic heritage, and turned Kapp away at their facilities when he reported to camp.

After deciding to retire after that encounter, he spent the next decade acting in television and movies. He returned to football in 1982 by becoming the head coach of the University of California, his Alma mater.

Not only is he the last coach to lead Cal to the Rose Bowl, Kapp oversaw his squad make "The Play". This is when the Golden Bears lateraled the ball five times on a kickoff return as the clock expired to defeat rival Stanford University.

After being fired in 1986, Kapp went back to the CFL in 1990 and became the general manager of the Lions. Though he he lasted just 11 games on the job, Kapp was the man who brought star quarterback Doug Flutie to the CFL.

Yet with all of that success, he did not forget what Mosca did to Fleming in 1963. Kapp was close with the halfback and had coaxed Fleming out of retirement in 1968 to try to play with Minnesota. Mosca became a Hall of Fame professional wrestler after he retired from the gridiron.

The popular video of Mosca swinging his cane and Kapp pounding his fists has been seen by many. Some have dubbed it a "geezers brawl" because both men are 74 years old. Yet there is much more respect to be had than humor.

These men played the game for passion, not cash. They had successes beyond that time, but the passion surely still burns in souls not nearly as withered and damaged as their bones. It beckons to the heart as to why a true football fan loves the game, as well as to past participants as to why they played it.

No one is calling for a re-match, but no one wants or expects these gridiron greats to ever lose their love for their teammates, fans, or the game itself. We need more of this passion to touch us all.

Yoooooooo! Dis iz 7thStoneFromTheSun again. OK, I struck out in da afternoon games las weak and only went 7-6. I is now 104-67 overall. I knead two dew better dis time cuz it iz holidaze time.

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I got dis sneeky feelin da Panthers will win hear, cuz da Bucs just have let down demselves in 2011. Dey mite rebound dis weak,but I tink Cam will get er dun.

Panthers 27 Buccaneers 24

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

Da Pats are in da middle of a run dat will sea dem win dere final eight games. I tink dat defense gets dem bounced from da playoffs, but a 13-3 record will look good.

Patriots 34 Colts 20

Denver Broncos @ Minnesota Vikings

Da Teblow legend continues, but it is more an indictment of da crappy fundamentals of da NFL today. It is revoltin a NFL defense can't stop an option quarterback who can't throw da ball at all. Da Broncos defense is da reel savior of da teem.

Broncos 17 Vikings 14

Tennessee Titans @ Buffalo Bills

Both teems 2011 playoff hopes iz on life support, but da Bills showed me a little sumfin las weak. I tink dey will build off dat big victory las Sunday.

Bills 28 Titans 24

Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins

Da Raiders iz cummin off a big win las weak,while da Dolphins are just playin four pride. Oakland kneads two seel da deel by winnin games like dis.

Raiders 27 Dolphins 21

Atlanta Falcons @ Houston Texans
Game of the Week

Houston rules dere divishun wif a too game leed, but dey got quarterback issuez and is stuck havin two start a third-string rookie. Dey even went too a retirement community and brought Jake Delhomme back to be da reserve.

Da Texans will knead to rely on dere excellent runnin game and underrated defense two win hear. Lawrence Vickers, an excellent blocking fullback, mite miss da game and put more stress on Arian Foster and Ben Tate two be big.

Atlanta has been incunsistent and mediocre all yeer. But dere run defense is ranked second best in da NFL in yards alloud. Wif a rookie Texans quarterback expectin to see eight or nine defenders in da box Sunday, Atlanta will need to refrain from giving up big plays while controlling the line of scrimmage.

Da Falcons offense has not been as good as expected dis yeer, mainly because quarterback Matt Ryan has played poorly much to often. Halfback Michael Turner, just 52 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards, will need to be big against a Texans defense that is the best in the NFL in yards alloud and happens to bee forth best in rushin yards given up.

Who wins da line of scrimmage will prevail hear. Atlanta is a game behind New Orleans in da NFL South, so dey must stay pace. Dis iz why I iz rollin wif dem hear.

Falcons 23 Texans 14

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Dese teems faced each other too weaks ago, wif Pittsburgh winning by a touchdown in a very closely contested battle. Even tho da Steelers gained more yards and had one less turnover, Cincinnati took it two dem.

I expect a replay really, but da Bengals are a game behind da Steelers in da AFC North and a loss hear will drop them in the Wild Card playoff quagmire with such average teems like da Jets, Broncos, and Titans.
I tink it goes to da wire.

Steelers 21 Bengals 17

New York Jets @ Washington Redskins

Yeah, Mark Sanchez was a mistake to draft. Yeah, Rex Ryan ran his toe sucker much two much as his teem true frailties was exposed. Yeah, dis average teem only gets press cuz dey iz in New York.

Still, dey are very much in da AFC playoff race and should beet Washington two stay adrift in it. Dese too teems have faced each other just nine times before, and da Jets only win over da Redskins was a 3-0 barn burner in 1993.

Jets 23 Redskins 21

Kansas City Chiefs @ Chicago Bears

A battle of backup quarterbacks who knead a good rushing attack and defense too win. Da Bears.

Bears 24 Chiefs 10

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Da Ravens have had a habit of playin down to lesser oppossition in 2011, while da Brownies almost pulled off a big upset over da Bengals las weak. PLUS da Dawg Pound will never forgive Art Modell and will have extra venom four Baltimore.

Ravens 24 Browns 17

Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals

Now dat da Cowboys sit alone on top of da NFC East, dey knead to win deez type of games to stay dere.

Cowboys 27 Cardinals 17

Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants

Remember las weak how I told ya'll da Jints defense would get steamrolled by da Saints? What do yous tink da Pack iz gunna do? Capeesh?

Packers 35 Giants 20

Saint Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

At da beginning of dis seesun, most taught da Rams would be 9-2 and da Niners 2-9 now. Dat iz why dey play da games.

49ers 27 Rams 14

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints

I was one of dem who had Detroit goin two da playoffs dis yeer, but a loss hear will have dem drop another notch down on da ladder. Da Saints have to get dis two stay ahead of Atlanta in da NFL South.

I expect a high scoring affair, but I tink da Saints just got a few more weapons. If Detroit runs da ball well, dey got a shot.

Saints 38 Lions 31

San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Da Jags fired dere head coach dis weak, somethin da Chargers should have dun two dere head coach befour dis yeer even began. Why San Diego hasn't canned Norv Turner yet iz a question I have asked since 2009.

Chargers 31 Jaguars 17

Power Rankings

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. New Orleans Saints
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. New England Patriots
7. Houston Texans
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Atlanta Falcons
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Chicago Bears
13. Detroit Lions
14. New York Giants
15. New York Jets
16. Tennessee Titans
17. Denver Broncos
18. Buffalo Bills
19. Philadelphia Eagles
20. Washington Redskins
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
22. Seattle Seahawks
23. San Diego Chargers
24. Kansas City Chiefs
25. Arizona Cardinals
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Carolina Panthers
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Miami Dolphins
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. Saint Louis Rams
32. Indianapolis Colts

Welp,dat iz dat. I knead to get da fuck outta hear two do sum xmas shopping cuz yous alls knows dat dis goomba has a lot of hunnys to spread da mistletoe on in da cummin weeks. As dey say in Ol' Mexico= A.M.F.

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