Me and Chicken Little Have Something in Common

The sky is falling, okay it isn’t.  But, I have been gone a while so I feel like being dramatic.   I have been waiting, looking forward to, and longing for this football season for a long time.  Let’s just say I had a rough summer.  Then, fall arrived, and with it came pre-season rankings, fantasy football drafts, and fresh starts for every football team- fantasy, NFL, and college alike. 

If you’re anything like me, you obsess about this new beginning.  Every coaching hire, every acquisition, every rank.  Then, your fantasy draft day arrives and with it not long after week one making you realize, as i did, that most of the ranking and the research meant nothing.  It was all names on paper, whatever the media and teams felt like sharing, and some knowledgeable guesswork. 

It’s always this way to a degree.  But, this year, unlike others in recent memory, predictions and educated guesses were all thrown out the window.  The 49ers were supposed to be the popular upside pick on the rise, right?  The Cowboys are supposed to make it to the Superbowl being held in their own stadium.  This had to be the year the talent on paper showed up on the field in week 1.  The Chiefs and the Bucs couldn’t be all that good, could they?  Tomlinson couldn’t have enough juice left in his legs to cast a shadow on Shonn Greene. 

But then the Cowboys lost 2 in a row, Green was showed up by the supposedly washed up LT, the Chiefs were 2-0, and then, to top it off, Peyton Hillis scored 32 fantasy points against the Ravens, who hadn’t given up a rushing TD in either 2 previous games this season, while riding my bench in week 3.  While I know I am not alone, when it fell on top of MY head, I really felt it.  This season there seems to be some awful football being played.  Or is it just me?  I am not saying there isn’t any quality football being played.  I am simply saying that I am shocked at the level, and amount, of mediocrity. 

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that injuries are reigning over the NFL, leaving those with Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Andre Johnson, Mike Turner, or pretty much anyone playing QB for the Eagles, to begin the drop/add waiver wire game, or the handcuff game, that all of us as fantasy managers, and more importantly those working in front offices, know so well. The high ankle sprains, toe injuries, groin issues, and NO, I am not referring to the Kansas City junk grabbing week 1 and 2 drama, have probably touched most of us at this point, pun intended. 

But injuries aren’t to blame everywhere and some things could have been predicted.  The Cowboys were just overrated.  Again.  I don’t care if they beat the Texans.  Marion Barber and Felix Jones should be tearing it up.  They should not wait until their coaches job is on the line, again, to win a game.  Peyton is dominating and it doesn’t matter who is on the field catching the ball when he’s the one throwing it.   He finds a way for his team to win.  The Chargers are, once again, having a slow start despite Rivers throwing for over 300 yards.   Arizona is bad. 

A psychic in the East Village could have “predicted” these things for a $5 palm reading.  But, other things, not so much.  Mike Martz and Jay Cutler seem to be in love.  Vick got the starting job a day after Andy Reid assured us Kolb was his man, which wasn’t long after he traded his franchise QB to a division rival making everyone really believe Kolb was his man.  The Rams, and their fans, have to be looking forward to the many wins they now have to know are coming this decade.  Ben Roethlisberger?  Who?   The Steelers don’t need a pro bowl QB with a super bowl ring to win games.  It seems any guy off the street can play QB for them.  Hey!  Hey, you!  Want to play quarterback for the Steelers?  Big Ben is no longer needed and the way Pittsburgh fans were feeling about Roethlisberger before they were winning without him might just lead to him losing his starting gig.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they start him immediately but, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t.  They are one of the only teams in football I would say this about, we all know what the Jets would do

After three weeks of football season I have been wondering what some of these teams were doing this off season?  For example, I know the NFL has become a run by committee league.  But, really, someone should have told the brilliant mind of Bill Belichick that even 3 brittle mediocre RBs would not lead to a running game other teams would fear.  Especially when your star wide receiver is getting older.  Still talented, no doubt, but older.  Minnesota really did put all their eggs in Farve’s basket.  How’s that working out for them?  Working out in the local high school stadium is not the same as training camp it seems.  I, for one, am shocked to learn this. 

Many teams seem to have ignored, or could not manage to aqcuire the talent needed to fill their holes.  The Saints, Patriots, Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys, and there are more teams I am omitting, have clear personnel problems, or lack of personnel causing problems, costing games, and possibly costing some teams their whole season. 

I can say from experience that it is awful to realize only 3 weeks into the season that the season already appears over for the team you root for.  Take solice in the fact that if One Tree Hill can manage to stay on the air for this long, there has to be some way those in this position can get passed the frustration and keep watching football on Sundays without throwing the new 55″ LED LCD television you purchased right before this season started out the window, right?  I mean, there’s still a fantasy team to manage and picks to make at least, right? 

There has to be something that can be learned from all this. So, in no particular order, here is what I learned, or learned before but forgot and then quickly remembered, in no particular order.

  • Handcuffs are worth the bench space.  I don’t care that there are reports Ray Rice is walking without a limp and is reporting he feels fine.  The MRI results haven’t been announced yet.  He’s on my fantasy team and I already picked up McGahee.  If I owned Mike Turner, I would own Jason Snelling too.  There always has to be someone you can drop.  Like, for example, Eddie Royal.  Just like last season, he’s an unpredictable tease.  I am sure there’s an Eddie Royal or a Shonn Greene on your roster just waiting to be dropped.  Then again, the week you drop them is always the week they break out.  Don’t worry if it happens, they’ll be back to tease and break someone else’s heart the week after.
  • The NFL is insane to be thinking about expanding to 18 games while also adding restrictions to off season work-outs.  The green, oh, I’m sorry, I meant the greed, is messing with their heads.  If Steven jackson, Andre Johnson, Mike Turner, Ray Rice, and the many concussions haven’t convinced them this is an awful idea, nothing will.  I blame the monkey commercials.  People really do want to see 2 more weeks of monkey commercials. 
  • A great coach and/or a great defense can win games.  No prolific running, or passing, game is required. 
  • An internal team turmoil that we can see is present, but will never really be fully reported, can kill a season.  Just watch the Giants yelling right behind Coughlin on the side lines.
  • Unless you are Peyton Manning, one player cannot carry an entire team for an entire season.  Sorry Drew Brees.  Any comparisons to Peyton should just stop.  There were other greats, there are other greats, there will be other greats.  But, he isn’t just great. 

So, if you’ve already given up on your team for the season, there’s always fantasy, or an underdog team you can’t help but enjoy watching win.  And, if that isn’t enough for you, keep in mind that next year there might not be any football to watch (wow, it seems I turned 30 and started actually becoming my mother, perspective and all).

It’s not clear what Joe Pacquette Jr. expected when he showed up at the Detroit Lions headquarters. It sounds like he received a pat on the back and a handshake from QB Matt Stafford and head coach Jim Schwartz. Did we mention he walked 400 miles to get there?

Joe Paquette Jr. walked 400 miles from his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Detroit for one reason. He is a die-hard fan of the Detroit Lions. And he wanted the team to know it.

Paquette arrived at team headquarters Wednesday and was greeted by coach Jim Schwartz, quarterback Matthew Stafford and other players.

Paquette, 63, said he started his trek from Munising Aug. 8. He walked as much as 32 miles a day during the two-week journey he hopes inspires the team.

His walkabout must have worked. The Lions barely beat the Browns this past weekend. Who knew some random crazy guy walking 400 miles could do something money and a Super Bowl trophy couldn’t? I think I heard Ndamukong Suh thank Paquette for inspiring him to try and take off Jake Delhomme’s head. Unfortunately he failed because well … he plays for the Lions.

If Ice-T thinks the cop that arrested him yesterday is a punk bitch, who knows what he would call Tank Johnson. Even judges are calling him out for being one in addition to a coward.

Willie Bernard Posey, Johnson’s bodyguard and best friend, was shot and killed by Michael Selvie, in Chicago last year. The South Side gang member was sentenced to 55 years in prison last week.

Circuit Court Joseph Claps admonished Posey but unloaded on Johnson who apparently fled the scene when the police showed up and left his friend to die on the floor.

“Mr. Johnson has to live with his behavior that night, his failure to render aid to a person he described as his best friend…his cowardice and his attempts at self-preservation,” Claps said.

Johnson told the police he wasn’t at the club at the time of the shooting. He later testified that he didn’t want the Bears to can him and he was on thin ice with them due to previous legal troubles.

Is Marvin Lewis going to stand up for Tank like he is for Cedric Benson? Who would have thought Jerry Springer would be the classiest person to come out of Cincinnati?

Finding a Diamond in the Football Rough

After all of the 255 names were called at the NFL draft last week, there were many players who would have loved to be Mr. Irrelevant.   There are many players who would have appreciated sitting sitting in the green room looking awkward and embarrassed while waiting for their name to be called.  Because, better late than never, right?  Think about it.  They get together with their families, friends, or whoever.  They might even have a party.  Then, they slide further then where they thought they’d be.  So they wait.  And then the team they thought would take them passes to take a better player that was still on the board for the simple reason that some GM, or owner, was smoking some crack.   So they keep waiting.  And then they wait some more.  This year, the torture waiting stretched over three days. 

But, for many teams, and for many players, the draft is just the beginning of the search to figure out who will be a part of the following season’s roster.  Before the draft ends, before the ink is dry on the contracts, before a single bite of a porterhouse steak is eaten, every NFL team is looking on their draft board to see which players were still waiting to celebrate.  Then, the mad dash to sign the undrafted guys begins.  For some players, all they can hope for is a try-out.  For others, the draft may not even be over when they are celebrating the relief that came in the form of a phone call from a team wanting to sign them if they remain undrafted.  Some teams have even given try-outs to guys who never played football.  Antonio Gates played basketball for Kent State and Vince Papale was a 30 year old high school teacher and bartender before he was Invincible.  This year, the Patriots are giving a try-out to a wrestler, John Wise, since it worked out for Belichik with Stephen Neal. 

For some players, remaining undrafted is a blessing in disguise.  They often get the same $25,000 signing bonus as the players drafted at the end of the 7th round.  But, there is an added addition.  They may be able to choose where they land.  When there are multiple teams calling with offers, they get to choose where they end up.  So, if they are a safety and one of the two team’s are deep at the safety position they can choose to go to the other team.  I am sure last year Matt Stafford might have thought twice about heading to Detroit.  Remember that game where his dead was hanging at his side and they STILL left him in the game?  Yeah, I think he would have preferred a choice, don’t you?

Undrafted free agents are also the keys to success for many teams .  For one, they’re cheap.  Many teams sign contracts worth $30, $40, or even $50 million for their first round pick.  With all those eggs in that one basket, many teams want to try and get more bang for their buck.  Second, they have something to prove.  After the draft, these players dreams are riding on luck, heart, and hard work.  Third, behind every draft, is a list of players who never amount to much and another list of undrafted free agents who end up making the pro bowl, or many pro bowls, during their career.  Let’s be honest, even the teams who have successful drafts year after year miss every now and then.  Undrafted free agents have to compete for a starting spot just like everyone else.  So, there are many who become success stories.  Just imagine a coach’s satisfaction after his dollar bin find turns into a game day contributor, nevermind a pro bowler.  

The list of undrafted free agents who have had successful careers is a long one.  But here’s a list of a few who made the pro bowl in the past few seasons. 

  • Tony Romo (Please note, this is the only time, I repeat, ONLY TIME, I will say anything remotely positive about Romo.)
  • Wes Welker
  • Kurt Warner
  • Miles Austin
  • Antonio Gates
  • Willie Parker
  • Antonio Pierce
  • Adam Vinatieri
  • Shaun O’hara

Isn't the resemblance uncanny?

That being said, there are some teams who are more successful at picking up undrafted free agents than others. As much as I dislike Mr. Burns, I mean Bill Belichik, he has a proven record of success, shocker, when it comes to signing undrafted free agents.  The league average is 13 per team.  The patriots had 18 on their roster last year.  And, so far, they signed another six this year.   But this year’s leader going into rookie minicamp are the New York Giants.   The Giants have signed 12 undrafted free agents and have another 25 undrafted players stopping by the stadium for a try-out. 

So, the draft is over but the work has just begun.  And the next time you are talking with your friends about how much money some team wasted in the 2010 NFL draft on some garbage first round pick, be the person who mentions the steal from the bottom of the abyss only to be rescued by some team who took a chance.

Larry Fitzgerald Is Stronger Than Japan

Larry Fitzgerald conquered Asia on his post NFC playoff trip to the Far East. He took on China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia. His website has pictures from his various stops. We found this gem by way of Twitpic.

Fitzgerald even owns the animals. Let’s see General Tojo or Ho Chih Minh pull that off. My references aren’t dated.

Vietnam. Bánh Mì. I need some Nicky’s stat.