The end of the era of Joe Flacco in Baltimore got me thinking about franchise QBs and more specifically drafts. I remember the ’08 draft pretty well because at the time I was obsessed with the PS2 game: Head Coach. The graphics were terrible, but I loved being the Head Coach of a franchise, making all the tough decisions but having the actual game out of your hands. The first pick that year belonged to the Miami Dolphins who believed in Chad Pennington enough to forego a QB and draft Jake Long, the Tackle, from Michigan. At the time, this was shocking. There were certainly valid questions about the two top QB prospects, but the traditional thinking always was if you could get your QB, you get him. Joe Flacco was an unknown until the combine. He was the Quarterback for Delaware and had put up solid numbers after transferring from Pitt. The problem most scouts had was that Flacco wasn’t used to the routine NFL drop back since Delaware mainly played out of the shotgun formation. He had the physical skills that GMs dream of but lacked the fundamentals to back it up. To some, he was the next Ben Roethlisberger but with an even better arm, but to many he was another bust and unworthy of a first rounder. NFL.com compared him to Derek Anderson, who at the time was coming off a 10-5 season with the Browns where he threw 29 TDs and 19 Interceptions. Matt Ryan was the safer pick, Matt was the field general for Boston College and set multiple records. The main concern with Ryan was his arm strength which was far from elite. NFL.com compared him to Matt Schaub, which was hardly a compliment at the time. The Falcons took Ryan with the third pick and the Ravens traded down. The Ravens traded back up a few picks to land number 18, where they took Joe Flacco. So, what qualifies a guy as a franchise QB. Requiring a Super Bowl seems too much, as less than 35 have achieved this. The same argument would apply to an MVP award. The Pro Bowl is too easy because of all the players who drop out. My personal estimation isn’t a very scientific one, but basically a franchise QB is a QB who has a streak of 7-10 years where they have the team competitive and are never in danger of losing their starting spot. Many would say that’s too lenient, but they can write their own blogs. Flacco started 163 games for the Ravens and finished with a record of 96-67. Flacco benefited from having a strong team around him and reached the Playoffs in each of his first five seasons. In these 5 seasons, Joe threw for an approximate average of 3,500 yards and 21 TDs with 11 Interceptions. In 2012, The Ravens finished the season with the magical Super Bowl run to complete the unbelievable career of Ray Lewis. The following year Flacco took a step back throwing 22 Interceptions and the team finished 8-8. He would bounce back in 2014, but that would be the Ravens last playoff appearance of his tenure. Joe Flacco is a strange case because his first 5 years he seemed well on his way to establishing himself as a great QB. The next six years were mostly pretty rough and of course ended with him being benched in favor of a rookie and then traded for a mid-round draft pick. The Ravens may have made the right choice in selecting Flacco, but I don’t think he did enough for us to give him the label of “Franchise Quarterback,” and don’t even get me started on “elite”.
Nothing in life is perfect, most things aren’t even close. Everyone has their favorite sport and sometimes they over glorify it. Sports is like school, you and your friends complain about it all the time, but you wouldn’t let anyone else dare say a bad word about it. Maybe, that’s just my experience, but either way no one wants to hear criticism from outsiders. So, today I’m going to criticize the three major American sports (sorry NHL fans, or well not really). Let us start with the only one of the three currently in session. The NBA is a compelling league with superstars from coast to coast. The MVP race is between three or four players who do incredible things every night. Only 4 or 5 teams are out of the race for a playoff spot. The bad news is, no one cares. The NBA has a few huge problems. Number one is the Warriors. Yes, everyone lies about their hatred for dynasties or at least isn’t honest about how much they like to watch them. The problem is the NBA has had the same Finals matchup for four years in a row. The problem is half the teams make the playoffs. The problem is any fan who is even slightly a realist, can’t have legitimate championship aspirations. The good news is this can not last, the Warriors will disband and Lebron will retire. The league should breath a sigh of relief and then find a way to keep superstars away from each other. Or at least find a way to keep some form of hope for the other 31 teams. That’s enough ranting, lets move onto football. The NFL is still the king of American sports. A bad Super Bowl doesn’t change that. The League needs to find a way to keep star players healthier. A league that can’t field its best talent isn’t much of a league. The problem is my second complaint runs into my first, it would be about the dominance of offenses. Of course, everyone is going to be talking about how boring the defensive Super Bowl was, but we seem headed in the direction of 55-51 games becoming the norm. Fans want more offense, but too much of a good thing won’t help. Obviously the two complaints clash with one another. The third one is more of a concern about ratings. The NFL took back some of its ratings from a horrible 2017, but the Super Bowl has been declining for years even though this year featured Boston and LA. The last of the three sports is the National Pastime. There are so many issues its hard to narrow it down. First, appeal to young people. I don’t care how, find a way. Old people die its kinda what they do, you need a solid young fan base. Second, forget the National market. Focus on local ratings, like an election get out there and convince the wonderful people of Oakland why they should tune into A’s baseball. Third goes back to one, let children in for cheaper. Every baseball fan today can tell you their first time seeing the ball field as a kid. Its romantic and you aren’t going to fall in love with something you won’t see. Also, for crying out loud, make the Playoff games earlier so children can watch them!
The confetti falls and the Super Bowl Champions are crowned. The fans of the other 31 franchises sink back into the couch. Sure, we can recap the terrible game or bemoan the Patriots seemingly never ending reign, but does that really do it? Will that fill the empty hole left by an abrupt end to the football season. NBA and NHL fans will be quick to point out that other sports are going on. They are right of course, but the NBA will wait for us until the playoffs and are we really going to start getting to know the NHL now? Maybe it is just laziness or wanting to be depressed. It is as though enjoying sports after the NFL season is over, is somehow sacrilegious. Eventually, football will come back. College will start in August and the pros in September. The NBA playoffs and finals will carry us through May and June. Baseball with its eternal hope will bloom in the Spring. For some, NFL is where it’s at and where they will stay. They will tune into the combine and draft. They will enjoy every rumor that swirls during free agency, but who are they fooling? Like an addict, The football is what they crave and nothing else will satiate instead of it. Luckily, for them time will keep going and September will roll around. We will hear the inevitable questions about a Browns resurgence or a Patriots downfall. Training Camps and O.T.As will be the first sign. Preseason games will torture us for a month and then it will be the first week. The fantasy teams will be drafted, the players declared at 100%. Every team from the Cardinals to the Saints will have a 0-0 record. That Sunday will come and will be followed by months of glorious football. On that Sunday, the chances of a Super Bowl are for everyone. That Sunday is on its way, but for now we grab a beer and wait.
17 years ago, the Patriots held “The Greatest Show on Turf” to 17 points. Tonight it all came full circle. Yes, Tom Brady has ring number six and Gronk may be retiring, but the story belongs to one man. William Stephen Belichick is a genius. A mastermind of the NFL defense, the architect of a sixty minute strangle hold on the Rams offense. The Patriots held the Rams to 62 yards of rushing, and under 200 yards of passing. They disguised pressure, they brought twists and stunts, and they went all out when called for. The Patriots don’t have a Brady on defense, nor do they have a Suh or Donald. They have 15-20 players who have brought into the system, into the “Patriots way.” Tonight, it took big performances from all of them, from Stephon Gilmore to John Simon. Brian Flores deserves much of the credit, and his hire is well deserved. However, the Patriots are so frustratingly good because of their leadership and consistency. They won 11 games when Brady missed the ’08 season with an ACL tear, and they won 3 of 4 during the “Deflategate” suspension. Players come and go, and coordinators come and go, and Belichick stays and wins. The Rams will be around, maybe they will come back next year and go one step further. It only took Sean McVay two years to prove to the NFL that he was it’s future. Offensive masterminds are the future, each rule change seems to favor offenses. Quarterbacks throw 5,000 yard seasons with regularity. Football is an increasingly offensive game, but there is a 66 year old defensive specialist who isn’t ready to concede just yet.
One day Tom Brady’s career will end. Lebron James will say goodbye. Mike Trout will have a last at-bat. When those days come, I hope to be able to say I watched them. I really watched them, I tuned in from January to December and watched the greatest go to work. Some players are great because of a single moment, while others put up gaudy stats over a long career. The greatest ever in the sports of football and basketball separate themselves with wins. It is simply what they do, and we learn to accept it, even expect it. Jordan’s flu game, Brady down 28-3, Lebron taking down a 73 win Warriors squad. We know it must end, it always does. No one is undefeated, except time. However, a small part of us believes it will never end, that maybe this time he will play forever. Because just when the signs start to show, just when the great plays come only in bursts, it is then that they rise up and shock us again. There are some who seem so addicted to winning we just can’t imagine them doing anything else. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan. They came to play every day, even when their fans and coaches were already looking towards the playoffs they kept coming. Maybe that is how you have the opportunity to put up career playoff numbers that are as good as a full career. For Brady, he is over ten thousand yards, over 70 TDs, and sitting at 29 wins. In the Super Bowl, he has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 18 TDs. He will enter his 9th and go for his 6th, but he is up against quite the task. Suh and Donald will come and they will keep coming. McVay will take some early shots to test New England’s secondary. This is not a team that is going to bend to the legend. They have played great football all year and they will play another great game on Sunday. The Rams will have to discover quickly how they plan to run, because you assume one RB will have the hotter hand. Too often in the last few years we have watched a great young team lead by a brilliant coach and a talented QB and we declare them the next dynasty. I don’t know about a dynasty for a Rams, but I see a team that will show up every year for a good number of years. There are so many storylines and so many things to watch. Will Brandin Cooks ball out against his old team? Will Gronk be more involved? The real game will be between the vaunted Rams defensive line and the steady and calm Pats o-line. Brady needs protection obviously, but they also need to set up the run to control the game. The chess match between Belichick and McVay will be incredible, but I can’t see the Patriots losing two Super Bowls in a row. Pick- Pats 31-24 MVP: Tom Brady.
For the first time in history both championship games went into overtime. The Super Bowl is only two weeks away and it feels like a year, but we couldn’t have asked for two better games. Patriots vs. Rams in Atlanta in two weeks. Rams 26 Saints 23 OT- The no-call is what everyone else will focus on and for good reason. I’m going to discuss the other 59:55 in the game, but to be clear the Saints should have won. The Saints started off brilliantly with Brees looking calm and collected. The defense came up with a huge interception deep in Rams territory. Despite being in the Redzone for both of their beginning drives the Saints only took six points away. After a forced punt Drew Brees got the ball back and wouldn’t settle for a field goal. He threw a TD to Garrett Griffin who was an undrafted player off the practice squad. The Rams finally showed signs of life by going for it on 4th and 5 with a pass by their punter, Johnny Hekker. They ended that drive with a field goal to get on the board and make it 13-3. The two teams traded punts until Goff was given the ball with 2 minutes left of the half. He promptly lead them down the field including completing a 36 yarder to Brandin Cooks. The drive was capped off by a Todd Gurley TD, one of his four carries of the day. The Saints started the second half much like they started the first, they forced a three and out and scored a TD. Brees exploited the mismatch of Kamara being taken by linebackers and ended the drive with a 2 yard TD pass to Taysom Hill. The Rams answered with their own TD drive with another long pass to Cooks. This time Tyler Higbee caught the short TD to make it 20-17. The teams again traded a few punts and then the Rams went on a drive to the Saints one. Nothing at the goal line worked so they kicked the field goal to tie it up. The Saints answered with a field goal of their own to retake the lead with just a minute forty left. However, Goff did his job and so did Zuerlein who nailed the 48 yarder to send the game into OT. The Saints won the coin toss, but that’s all they could win. Brees was pressured and hit as he released the dooming interception. The Rams only advanced to the Saints 39, but somehow it was enough for Zuerlein who hit the 57 yarder with ease. The Rams haven’t been in the Super Bowl since 2002. Patriots 37 Chiefs 31 OT- The Patriots started the game off with an 80 yard TD drive of 8:05. Then they sacked Mahomes on 3rd down and began to drive again. A rare Brady interception at the goal line kept the Patriots from scoring again, but the Patriots defense kept giving the ball back to Brady. This Patriots drive before the end of the half was quicker and was capped off by a 29 yard TD pass to Phillip Dorsett. The Patriots went into the half with a 14 point lead, but more importantly Mahomes was being picked off the turf by his linemen every play. Something in the locker room worked because Mahomes came out firing. He completed a 54 yard pass to Sammy Watkins and a 12 yard TD to Travis Kelce. The Patriots took advantage of a bad punt with a field goal to push their lead to 17-7. Mahomes ended the 3rd quarter with a nice drive and started the 4th with a TD. Brady got down to the 25 of the Chiefs, but on 4th and 1 they were stuffed and the Chiefs took over. The Chiefs couldn’t go anywhere and punted the ball which appeared to go off of Julian Edelman giving the ball back to the Chiefs with great field position. After a review it was determined that he didn’t touch it, but then Brady threw a pick off the hands of Edelman and the Chiefs took the ball anyway. The Chiefs took their first lead of the game on a 23 yard TD pass from Mahomes to Damien Williams. With 7:45 on the clock and his team down by 4, Brady used a combination of good passes and good runs to retake the lead with just 3 and a half minutes to go. We had seen Brady do it many times, but could Mahomes rise to the challenge? He only needed 5 plays. With the score 28-24 in favor of the Chiefs, Brady returned to the field with 2 minutes to go. The Chiefs looked like they won the game when they forced another interception, but an offsides call negated it. Burkhead ran it in to make it 31-28 with 40 seconds left. Nothing fazes Mahomes as he drove them into field goal range and watched as Butker tied it to force overtime. The Patriots won the toss and Mahomes watched the end of his season from the sidelines. Brady brilliantly drove the Patriots down the field again and Burkhead punched it in. The Patriots advance to their 3rd Super Bowl in a row and Brady’s 9th.
Rams (13-3) at Saints (13-3)- It wouldn’t be controversial at all to say the two best teams in the NFC have made it through. Both teams feature explosive attacks in the air and on the ground. Both have solid defenses that are capable of stopping the run. These two have met before, with the Saints ending the Rams perfect run at 8-0. The Saints won that one in week 9 45-35. In the Divisional round the Rams not only beat the Cowboys, but also discovered a gift in CJ Anderson. Anderson and Gurley give the Rams a two headed monster to try and match the Saint’s Ingram and Kamara. The Saints defense was impressive in their win over the Eagles, holding the defending champs to 14 points. They forced 2 interceptions and allowed only 49 yards of rushing. The two teams are hot, well rounded, and well coached. It should make for a crazy game. Drew Brees lead the league in both completion percentage and QB rating. The Rams defense was less than stellar as they allowed an average QB rating of 93.8 for 17th in the league as well as over 122 yards of rushing for 23rd. The Rams were unable to put too much pressure on QBs with only 41 sacks for 15th in the NFL. The Rams saving grace on defense is turnovers. They forced 30 turnovers for 3rd in the NFL. Jared Goff averaged the 5th most passing yards per game with 293. He may find even more success against a Saints squad that allowed 269 yards per game. The Saints tied for the 5th most sacks with 49, but their real strength was stopping the run. They allowed only 80.2 yards per game for second in the league. Very similar teams in a lot of ways, the separation may come via the run. Either way the veteran QB is playing at a high level. Pick: Saints 28-24. Patriots (11-5) at Chiefs (12-4)- The Patriots heard our criticism and answered. They came up big on both sides of the ball and effectively put the Chargers away early. The Chiefs had a similar outcome against the Colts. Here we are the young QB who lit up the football world vs the veteran who keeps beating time. This Patriots team is built well for their QB, despite not having the best weapons around him. They rushed for over 150 yards and didn’t allow a sack against the Chargers. Meanwhile the Chiefs won handily without a monster game from Mahomes. The defense showed up in a big way and they looked like a complete team. The Patriots have done most of their good work at home including a week 6 43-40 win against these Chiefs. It will be a test to see if they can pull it off on the road. Mahomes put together an incredible season and the key to stopping the Chiefs begins and ends with him. The Patriots can’t boast much on pass defense, but did finish tied for 5th in turnovers with 28. Overall defensively they were seventh in points given up a game with just 20.3. The Chiefs were tied for first in sacks with 51 and picked up 3 more last week. Their ability to make Brady uncomfortable would seem like their best shot. Although the talk of the football world will be on the QBs, the Patriots may decide to rely heavily on the run. The Patriots were 5th in rushing yards per game with 127.3 and tied for 4th with18 rushing TDs. They bring that to a Kansas City team that allowed 132.1 rushing yards per game which was a lowly 27th in the NFL. The Chiefs were the most penalized team in the NFL with 137. It will be cold but not the freezing whether we anticipated. The QBs will get the most coverage but beware of the New England running game. Pick: Patriots 34-28.