Payback and Awarness for Military Vets from the NFL

One of my main motivations for starting this blog was the indifference and hypocritical nature of the NFL and its teams. One of the sorriest examples of this was revealed in 2015, and came at the expense of the US Military, Tax Payers and our Military Veterans.

Last May it was reported up to 14 NFL teams accepted money from the Department of Defense as payment for marketing fees. The teams included the Jets, Falcons, Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins, Vikings, Steelers and Rams who all accepted money in exchange for “Patriotic” displays during games.

As a former US Marine, I found this to be disrespectful display of arrogance by the NFL. A complete slap in the face of every football fan, as well as the current and former military members. NFL teams who garner millions from hardworking Americans with expensive tickets, merchandise and concessions. Who take in millions from advertisers and build elaborate stadiums on the backs of taxpayers, couldn’t help themselves from taking even more. Thankfully the NFL has found some moral ground in 2016.

These false show cases of admiration and acknowledgment become nothing more than meaningless charades that allow the masses to feel fulfilled, and allow fans to watch their “Games” without a guilty conscience.

In a recent report the NFL has finalized an audit of marketing agreements from previous years. Roger Goodell, the much criticized commissioner of the NFL agreed to pay back over $700,000 to the US government. This announcement came in a letter to Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, who were highly critical of the practices of teams accepting DOD payments.

At this time the NFL is the only major sports league who has agreed to a repayment. The NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and NASCAR also received similar payments, but have yet to make an effort for repayment. The NFL and especially the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots were by far the biggest culprits.

A small win and move toward redemption for an all too forgotten minority in modern America….The Military Veteran.

Discarded and neglected is often the outcome for many veterans. What is even worse than being forgotten? Being recognized while the many issues and ailments military veterans face continue to be ignored. These false show cases of admiration and acknowledgment become nothing more than meaningless charades that allow the masses to feel fulfilled, and allow fans to watch their “Games” without a guilty conscience.

I applaud the NFL and Roger Goodell. Great job, its a start to a hopefully more committed awareness for our veterans.

**********************************************************************

In another piece of great news, the former Raider/ NY Giant and recently retired Justin Tuck took to challenging his former teams with the 22 pushup challenge.

For those who are unaware, the 22 pushup challenge is to help raise awareness to the epidemic of veteran suicide and its prevention efforts. Similar to the ALS ice bucket challenge, participates challenge friends via social media to the pushup challenge. Many military members and others have participated, posting videos online.

Tuck  is a model for exemplary leadership and social awareness. Tuck was a mentor and dynamic player throughout his career, and has continued to show great character off the field. I am proud to say the Oakland Raiders were the first to answer the call, getting a little extra conditioning by doing 22 pushups as a team.

This is a great example of the power the NFL and its teams have. This is the right way to use that power, devoid of exploitation and backhanded graciousness.

Enjoy the video and take on the challenge #22PushUpChallenge. https://www.instagram.com/p/BFmj3ACpbHZ/?taken-by=therealjustintuck91

 

Advertisements

The Oakland Raiders’ Commitment to Relevance: Vegas, Draft, Offseason

The Oakland Raiders have been the hot news item during most of this off season. A knockout free agency period, another solid draft, leaked scouting reports, and some big Vegas news, the Raiders have been keeping things interesting for football fans.

A bit of a disclaimer, I am a huge Raiders fan. The commitment to excellence, the bad boys of the NFL, the snarl and swagger, the maverick legend Al Davis, and the never out of style Silver and Black….Hell what’s not to love?

Well….you could say the nearly 14 years of mediocrity and absolute disaster the organization became in the late great owner Al Davis’ last years. Davis passed away in 2011 without one last Lombardi trophy, and without much certainty for the Raiders.

In what started off as a rocky debut, new owner Mark Davis has shown impressive competence and patience. The bachelor rookie owner, sought out great football minds and did what many in his position would not….he tossed ego aside and listened. He listened when the name of Reggie McKenzie was mentioned as a possible first ever general manager of the Raiders. He listened when the name Jack Del Rio came up in his coaching search. And he listened when he was told he was “3rd place” in the LA sweepstakes for relocation….

But 3rd place was not exactly the plan Mark Davis had in mind. After talks in Oakland and the Carson project fell through, Davis took his one man, coach flying, dumb and dumber hair having, silver and black jumpsuit wearing self to the nearest city willing to talk stadium. The first destination was San Antonio, then a brief flirtation with San Diego, and now the ever forbidden city of pro sports…..Viva Las Vegas.

I see you Mark….I love the spirit, the tenacity, the maverick boldness that your daddy had…but sorry you’re not fooling me.

Numerous reports keep filling the web about the validity of a Vegas move for the Raiders. Meetings held, financial figures tossed around, and every bit of commentary you can handle. To me its all smoke.

Vegas, LA, Oakland, a Raider is a Raider, I will be a fan either way. But the reality of a Mark Davis owned team realistically building a viable stadium in any city, seems like a bad bet. In LA the NFL put Davis and the Raiders third for a reason. San Antonio is Jerry and McNair country, and Vegas frankly is long odds. My strong belief is the NFL and its owners are not fans of Mr. Davis. He is not a big money owner, has little clout or influence and frankly is an outsider in the world of NFL Billionaires.

Mark will have to part ways with the team and organization that his father built. Will it be this year, next year, maybe five years down the road, who knows, but the NFL will not allow a franchise with as much financial potential as the Raiders to be run by the “Tommy Boy” of the NFL.

Sadly the Raiders, whereever they land, will not get a stadium built as long as Mark Davis has controlling interest in the team. The NFL can wait, the fans will suffer, and Mark will be stuck in a “Cold War”, as a Davis fighting against the NFL Goliath.

**************************************************************************

On to better news….This team may be really good! Haha, man it feels good to be a Raider fan. Jump on the bandwagon quick. Actually, nevermind….”Fuck Off!” Raider Nation doesn’t do “fairweather” fans. We are diehard and dedicated, from 4-12 to 12-4. The team you love to hate. With new players, comes new respect and this team is bursting with young talent.

When you land two cornerstones in one draft, its easy to get cocky. This fresh team now begins and ends with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. The 2014 studs have cemented their status as elite players, with potential to tear up the league for years.

Free agency was very kind to the Oakland Raiders. I was satisfied with the signing of big man “KO” Kelechi Osemele, the giant versatile guard/tackle from Baltimore. He fits the mold of a tough, road grader with the ability to play tackle if needed. But the additions of Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith really excited me. Two key players at key positions to help solidfy a young and improving defense. Irvin to me will be a versatile chess piece in the Raiders D, rushing the passer, covering tight ends and spying QB’s. He will see the field more than in Seattle, who relegatted him to pass rush specialist. In Sean Smith the Raiders have found the ideal fit for what they’re looking for in a corner. Big, Fast and Physical. Smith is a perfect pairing with surprise addition David Amerson from last year. The Raiders brought back Donald Penn, who solidfied the left tackle position since arriving in Oakland, and Reggie Nelson who helps supplant the great Charles Woodson at safety. A solid mix of veteran players, and a big win for the Raiders organization.

Yet talent on the field must be developed and directed, and the Oakland Raiders may have one of the most underrated coaching staffs in the league. The NFL will take notice of Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the stellar experienced staff he put in place. I always felt Del Rio was underrated in Jacksonville. He always had a tough disciplined defense and a solid gut punching offense. Solid on both fronts, but always lacking a dynamic QB. In Oakland Del Rio inherited a true leader and talent in Derek Carr, pairing him with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last season. Musgrave utilized Carr’s quick release and mobility in the pass game. Musgrave will hope to improve on the running game as well this season, which has been a strong point wherever he has coached. On defense Ken Norton Jr brings a burst of energy to a hungry defense. There were definitely holes in the Raiders D last season, but you saw real progression and great adaptation as the season progressed. I think the defense grew, as did first year coordinator Norton. I expect big things out of this defense, whether it be 3-4, 4-3 or some awesome hybrid, the sky is the limit.

Speaking of defensive talent, the Oakland Raiders stayed put in the draft and selected Karl Joseph with their first pick. Dynamic, hard hitting and a playmaker, Joseph was impossible not to love on tape, great addition.

Below is a quick recap on the draft and some comments.

  1. Karl Joseph- Seemed like a reach, but the more you look into Joseph the more you like. Compared him to Bob Sanders, completes this D.
  2. Jihad Ward-An even bigger surprise and a definite reach to me. Has upside, but raw with few years playing football. Preferred Jonathan Bullard, who went in 3rd rd.
  3. Shilique Calhoun-Solid, nothing flashy, just a good football player. Depth with limited upside. Backup with possible starting potential.
  4. Connor Cook- Loved this pick, it finally confirmed Reggie’s Green Bay roots and his ability to build this team. Raiders finally playing chess not checkers in the Draft.
  5. DeAndre Washington- Love this kid, such a perfect complement back. Barely heard of him, Reggie may have stolen another one. Compare him to Charlie Garner (remember him?)
  6. Cory James- Versatile LB, who is instant special teams standout. Replaces Ben Henney on ST, if Henney starts at ILB. Can rush passer as well.
  7. Val Alexander- 6’5, 326lbs, yeah he fits the bill. Surprised he was available, has limitations athletically. Reggie loves big men up front.

UDFA: Few names that have chance to make team

James Crowser-DE/LB, Denver Kirkland-G, Max McCaffrey-WR

 

Are Mock Drafts Actually Addicting?

Welcome to the world of “Clickbait”, the manufacturing of emotion. A familiar strategy pressed upon us internet zombies and unaware consumers of content. We have seen it and fell for it, and frankly it works.

In the football world, there is no better “Clickbait” than the ever compelling Mock Draft. (Scroll down, if reading hurts your brain: Mock Draft Below)

“The outsized role emotion plays in your intuitive judgements and daily choices, and your lazy brain.” Bryan Gardiner Wired 

A mock draft, a speculation of the annual NFL Rookie Draft where teams get picks to select eligible college football players to join their teams. And quite possibly the most compelling aspect of the pro football offseason.

Year round, mock drafts are posted from top notch experts to your everyday football fan. There is even a mock draft the day after the real draft (Insane!). But mock draft season truly heats up after the Super Bowl. The season is over and draft positions have been finalized.

Between the NFL Combine, Free Agency, and college pro days, football sites and analyst have found mock drafts to be the best filler for what used to be a boring offseason. Now the offseason has been appropriately name “Draft Season”. A new age of 24/7 wall to wall coverage of everything draft from major networks to social media. All tied together by endless mock drafts.

Mock drafts tap into the emotion and passion of football fans. They turn real estate agents, police officers, students and car salesman into amateur scouts. Hours spent analyzing edited game tape of top prospects, listening to commentary from the draft experts like Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock, and deciphering the endless draft rumors and news coverage.

Mock drafts combine some incredibly tempting attractors to the human brain. They have become the perfect storm of click bait for football fans. From the use of numbers 1-32 picks/ 7 rounds (31 picks this year), use of structured list with NFL teams, the endless variable outcomes and of course the most essential ingredient….emotion.

Mock drafts play with our emotions on the level of porn and video games. Draftniks can not resist the “latest updated mock” or “mock draft 3.8” and “a mock draft shake up at the top”. Clever click bait titles that result in quick hits of dopamine for the mock draft dopes, me included.

The funny thing is, after this year’s draft, many of these mock drafts will never be heard from again. Everyone can be an expert again come next year. The mock draft continues to dominate football culture.

Umberto Eco-The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it.

Two emotions stand out amongst the rest. The absolute top two picks of the emotion draft: Hope and Anger.

Hope is tricky thing, it can mean loyalty or it can also equal stupidity. As a Raiders fan I am all too familiar with hope. Jamarcus Russell was hope, Darius Heyward-Bey too, and Darren McFadden was hope, he doesn’t break. But hope is what drives fans to tune in to the NFL Draft, and what drives us to keep clicking on those hopeful mock drafts. Hopefully this year we get it right, a lottery ticket in the form of young college athlete. (kinda sick)

Anger is basic and predictable. Mock drafts are subjective, pure opinion based, throw names on the wall, crap shoot. Of course they’re ripe for criticism. Comment sections, Twitter, and Facebook post, the hostility is evident. Don’t like who the latest mock draft chose for your team, let it be heard. Don’t think (fill-in the-blank) prospect deserves to be number 1? Tell them why. Who doesn’t like to stick it to these so-called draft experts. Who wouldn’t want to be the one who actually predicted that trade, or unknown prospect sneaking into the first round. Its competition mixed with animosity, rolled together with a little bit on football geekdom sprinkled in.

The mock draft is our football obsession and we love it. Click bait may be a bad thing, but I truly believe mock drafts are just fun ways to open up dialogue and interest for the game. A sensible addiction that lets us imagine “control” of our team, one mock draft at a time.

Just for good measure….My Mock Draft Below. #KeepOnMocking

  1. LA Rams-Jared Goff
  2. Eagles- Ezekiel Elliot
  3. Chargers-Deforest Buckner
  4. Cowboys- Jalen Ramsey
  5. 49ers *Trade w/Jags-Carson Wentz
  6. Ravens- Laremy Tunsil
  7. Jags *Trade w/49ers-Leonard Floyd
  8. Browns- Ronnie Stanley
  9. Bucs- Joey Bosa
  10. Giants- Myles Jack
  11. Bears- Noah Spence
  12. Saints- Paxton Lynch
  13. Dolphins- Vernon Hargreaves
  14. Raiders- Sheldon Rankins
  15. Titans- Jack Conklin
  16. Lions- Laquan Treadwell
  17. Falcons- Darron Lee
  18. Colts- Taylor Decker
  19. Bills- Shaq Lawson
  20. Jets- Kevin Dodd
  21. Redskins- Ryan Kelly
  22. Texans-Corey Coleman
  23. Vikings- Josh Doctson
  24. Bengals- Emmanuel Ogbah
  25. Steelers-Eli Apple
  26. Seahawks- Vernon Butler
  27. Packers- Reggie Ragland
  28. Chiefs- A’Shawn Robinson
  29. Cardinals- Keanu Neal
  30. Panthers- William Jackson III
  31. Broncos-Joshua Garnett

Do Fisher and Snead Have Too Much Control of LA Rams Future?

Desperation is…well….Desperate. It can be plainly obvious and rarely ends with any positive result. Smart men make dumb decisions when faced with desperate matters. Football is no different.

Head Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have guided the Rams through a perpetual state of average since 2012.

7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 (win/loss column for Rams in past four years)

Many other Coaches and GM’s would have had their walking papers by now. Yet the duo of Snead and Fisher is one that is both well liked and respected amongst both players and personnel, resulting in a longer than normal leash.

It also helps that owner Stan Kronke is a very hands-off owner on football matters, and views an NFL franchise as another savvy investment, rather than a live and die on Sundays love affair.

Speaking of Kronke and investments, his latest is a big splash in the 2nd largest market in the US. Los Angeles, a hibernating bear awaking from its 20 year slumber to welcome the NFL back to LA. Kronke can not lose, and will do whatever it takes to win in LA market. Both in business and on the field, Kronke wants to do things bigger and better than ever before, making LA a football Mecca for all fans.

Frankly Fisher and Snead are just along for the ride. Both looking down the barrel of LA cannon. Help the Rams win or get shot out of LA, along with their lackluster records. Sorry but 7-9 just isn’t LA.

In a tenure that started off with promise, GM Les Snead in his first year pulled off one of the greatest draft steals in recent memory. Trading his top pick to the Redskins for three first round picks in consecutive years 2012-2014 as well as a second rounder in 2012. We all know the outcome of that trade, and what it meant for the Redskins who drafted QB RGIII, now playing for the Cleveland Browns.

For the Rams it meant slow and steady, building around Sam Bradford and Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s plan of running the ball and playing great defense. That plan was put into action using those acquired draft picks.

Three defenders used with the first three picks and offensive lineman Greg Robinson with the last first rounder obtained from the Redskins.

One big problem. What Fisher had in his previous stint with the Oilers/Titans was a MVP quarterback in Steve McNair. An underrated small school, tough as nails, by any means necessary leader on the field. The Rams had the opposite at QB, Sam “Fragile” Bradford.

Fisher and Snead forgot what their rivals in the NFC West knew. Having a great defense was good, but having a quarterback was better. All three rivals invested wisely in the quarterback position, with mostly positive gains. Outside of Kaepernick’s recent collapse, he along with Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer have been great successes. All three QB’s have led their teams to Conference Championship games and two of the three have played in Super Bowl’s.

Now back to that desperation I spoke of. Snead and Fisher are no doubt on the “Hot Seat”. The time to win was yesterday and the move to LA means even more pressure to produce. Both GM and Coach are launching that last Hail Mary, hoping to save their jobs.

Smart men, make dumb decisions.

Relying on a Rookie to save your job is not exactly a solid plan. Yet this is what desperation creates. From a savvy trade to a dumb one, I frankly can’t agree with the Rams decision to trade up from #15 to #1 in the 2016 NFL Draft. I understand it, but refuse to go along with it.

Two quarterbacks, who would be late first round or second round picks almost any other year, are now the “Saviors” of not only a Franchise, but two respected football men.

What right to Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have to trade the LA Rams future away on the 50/50 chance they land a franchise QB? Why are “Hot Seat” GM’s and Coaches permitted so much power to dictate future outcomes, when they may very well not be around to suffer the consequences?

As a Raiders fan I understand the value of lost draft picks. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie was left with no 1st, 2nd and 3rd picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, due to previous owner and coaches decisions. Of no fault of his own, McKenzie and the Raiders were punished by desperate moves made by individuals no longer with the team.

The Rams traded away two 1st rounder’s, two 2nd rounder’s, and two 3rd rounder’s in that “Desperate” move for a quarterback. 6 players of high value and potential, now gone on the hopes that Jared Goff or Carson Wentz can play and win…..Now!

That’s right rookie you start now and you better win some games while your at it. No sitting on the bench for a few years, no clipboard and visor. It’s now or never. That is a whole lot of pressure on a young player under the bright lights of Los Angeles with a team built to win now.

While I wish all the best to either Goff or Wentz, and I like both players, history is rarely kind to desperate moves. Recent draft history also shows the likely hood of either rookie QB producing and saving the jobs of Snead and Fisher to be very low.

I understand the move. Hell, what to they have to lose. For all the power NFL owners hold, you would think desperate moves like these would be blocked or vetoed. Rams will rise and fall on the next QB, and the fate of football in LA may rest on Jared Goff (My prediction) as well…..Good Luck.

 

 

Josh Gordon and the Hypocrisy of Professional Sports

Can we say it? Could it be true? What is the definition of a professional athlete in America? Can you explain what Professional Sport is?

It’s sacrilegious to begin a post with questions, but oh well. These questions are important and open up a vastly different perspective of how we view and treat today’s modern athlete.

We have a misconception in America and maybe across the world, that athletes represent the moral and respectful reflection of societies current standards. This is not true. Rather athletes are the representation of who we really are, not what we suppose or presume to be. Athletes are great, flawed, misunderstood, lost, found, misrepresented and every other adjective you can think of.

Some are murders, rapist, great leaders and philatrophist.

But in our intense admiration, and with the business that is all major sports leagues, athletes are held to a much higher standard. A standard that no longer fits the times, nor identity of the NFL and the other major sports leagues.

Welcome to Cleveland! Home to the NFL’s Browns, a team looking for a fresh start, but who boast two of the more high profiled players in recent months. Making headlines in the off season is never a good thing. For both Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Josh Gordon making headlines for all the “wrong” reasons has become the norm.

Both Manziel, who has battled alcohol abuse and Gordon who has numerous positive marijuana test, can now be classified, or should I say crucified as “Wrong”! At least in the public’s, media’s and NFL’s eyes. I emphasis wrong to make a point. The interpretation and the media analysis of young athletes has made us very clear about what “wrong” is.

Can you imagine, a 23 year old (Manziel) and a 24 year old (Gordon) participating in the drinking of alcohol and smoking Marijuana!!!! Oh My!!! Hide the woman and children! Somebody must act, before these heinous young men are let loose on the streets…..

That folks is sarcasm and false hysteria, if you didn’t catch on. But it highlights the kind of outrage produced by media commentators and league officials. It’s overhyped and overblown, not to serve as some kind of Public Service, but instead to hurt the brand of the player in question.

I am not here to defend the character of both Manziel and Gordon, I never met them. You can follow them on instagram or twitter if you want. Hell I’m not even a Browns fan, so no bias there either. I rarely drink and don’t smoke weed, so cross that off your list.

What I do know, is that they provided incredible entertainment while in college and in the pros for thousands of football fans, including myself. Note: Another key word; “Entertainment”.

Because what you see folks is, Sports, Football in general is just Entertainment. Which makes every game, every player and every participate in the NFL and every other sport league, merely producers of entertainment. No different from WWE, Real Housewives of Atlanta, Batman Vs Superman, or the next Kanye West album. Entertainment, plain and simple.

Why is ok for a rock star, a rapper, an actor, a reality star to not be subject to the high standards of morality, pushed upon the young athlete? Many actors and musicians have and are currently users of both drugs and alcohol. Did it prevent them from doing their jobs? Were they subject to evasive testing and harsh penalties?

Why do we demonize young athletes, many with troubled upbringings, some with no strong parental guidance. Why do we throw them to the trash, the minute they stop entertaining us?

Or rather, are stopped from entertaining us…

Josh Gordon’s play was never affected by his alleged drug use. Why should I care that he smokes weed on his off days. Manziel was given little time to develop, suffered in a dysfunctional franchise, and was tossed when the off field hysteria didn’t make Cents. From 1st round pick to expendable, hell even JaMarcus Russell got more time than Johnny Manziel!

Merely Business and Administrative decisions made on behalf of the financial interest of teams and the league. Nothing more, nothing less.

The double standard is clear. The NFL and other professional sports leagues care not for its young athletes, it cares for its brand. The shield is protected at all cost. The hypocrisy is allowed to flourish, while young men are left without a career and livelihood they worked their whole lives for.

You can be a millionaire, but only by our rules…That’s the NFL way. We’ll sell you beer and take money from taxpayers, but don’t you dare smoke weed or have off field problems. These heavy handed punshishments have to end. Especially for health, drug and non violent offenses.

The NFL dictatorship has spoken. I just feel bad for the wasted years and potential of these young athletes who are caught up in the hypocritical, backwards and outdated system of control. Welcome to NFL in 2016, same as it ever was.