Looking back at the week in the NFL
Written by Curt Popejoy on 10/19/2010
I know I said at the start of the season I was done with the NFL, and for the most part I am. I am giving no financial support to a bunch of spoiled rich guys. I watch the games on my cable that are going to be there regardless but beyond that, the NFL gets nothing from me in terms of revenue. But I like to think I have a pretty informed opinion of the issues floating around the league so I figure a little rant isn’t such a bad thing.
My top gripe this week is all the talk about the big hits and how it somehow correlates to an argument against a longer regular season. For me, these are two separate issues and here’s why.
First are the big hits. I have to be pragmatic here. Players are getting bigger, faster, stronger, and more aggressive every year. But even with advances in technology in helmets and equipment, we are still made out of the same stuff we were when guys wore leather helmets. So it is only reasonable to assume that the amount of injuries is going to go up. And go up fast. So why are people shocked about any of this? We want this as fans. No, I don’t mean we want injuries. But we have bigger, faster, stronger. No one wants football from the 60s and even if we won’t admit it, the violent nature of the NFL draws in a ton of fans on a very visceral level.
I have to take all these big hits and put them into 3 categories because I don’t think it’s fair to lump them all together. First you have the blatant head hunter shot. The guy like that dope Brandon Meriweather from the New England Patriots, who seems to always feel the need to lead with his head, or go for the head of the ball carrier. Guys like this are just dumb, and some day Brandon, when you end up on the wrong end of one of your cheap shots, you’ll think about how smart it was.
The second is the inadvertent head shot. We see it all the time. Guys moving at the speed of sound out there on the field, a defensive player takes an angle and tries to make a shot, and at the last instant the ballcarrier shifts and bang, they go head to head. Unfortunate, but simply part of football.
The last group is that rare (and becoming more rare by the week) group of the big hitter who blows up a player and does it the right way. These guys often get lumped in with the first group, when they shouldn’t. The speed of the game sometimes makes it hard to see a great play, but thanks to replay we can usually sort out the good from the bad.
For me, the first group is the only one that needs addressed. How does the league stop this? And please don’t tell me, “it’s how they learned how to play and you can’t change ‘em.” That’s crap. No coach ever taught me to spear other players in the head. If that’s what they learned, then they need to “un-learn” it in a hurry. But right now, there’s really no motivation to do so. Yes, they get fined, but we are taking pennies from millionaires. If they really want to fix this, the NFL needs to do 4 things.
1. They must come up with a better system to review these questionable plays, because if you are going to amp up the fines and punishments, then you’d better be sure you don’t punish a guy in my second group.
2. They need to go after the franchise. If you have a player on a team, or a team that is getting multiple call outs for illegal hits, fine the owner. And I mean fine them big. If the league can find Bud Adams a quarter of a million for flipping off some fans, why not fine him twice that if Courtland Finnegan spears a player on purpose? You can bet if the league does, it’ll get Finnegan in more hot water than he wants. It’ll put the coaching staffs on notice as well, because even though I don’t think they are coaching them to do this, they are certainly allowing it.
3. They should make the penalty during the game more severe. I am not sure if doubling an unnecessary roughness is the right way to go, but add 5 more yards to it. This will come back on the player with his team, and hopefully help.
4. If none of the rest works, then they should start suspending players for these hits. That takes money out of the players pocket, takes them off the field, and hurts their team and once again it makes the player accountable to his team. I think this is the only place you can hit these guys. I am not one to try and soften the sport up (more on that in a minute), but if the hit is intentional to hurt another player, especially a head injury, you must amp up the punishment if you want it to stop.
Going along with this, there have been a ton of injuries this season, which as fans we hate to see. Running parallel to this is the argument for or against an extended regular season. I personally have no opinion one way or another at this point. I honestly think that with the way playoff teams rest starters at the end of the year, what you’d see with 2 more games are players sitting a little sooner.
But the point of this is, fans and media types want to argue that all the injuries we are seeing somehow validates the argument against extending the season. It doesn’t at all. The season is 6 weeks old. These injuries happen regardless of how many games we tack onto the end. Players are going to get hurt if the season is 3 games or 30. Will more? Obviously, that’s math, but don’t tell me because of injuries in October, we should play fewer games in February. There is not correlation. You want fewer injuries? Owners should expand rosters so you have more players to rotate. Lots of injuries look like they happen on a single play, but are really cumulative.
Or if you don’t want to get hurt you can adopt the policy of so many NFL players and just flop whenever a tackler gets close. I have spent plenty of time railing on what a giant wuss Reggie Wayne is, but yesterday Deion Branch challenged him for softest WR in the league. Guys jogging out of bounds instead of fighting for more yards, sliding like a QB in the middle of the field? It aggravates me to no end. You get paid millions of dollars to play a kid’s game. At least play hard. I am so thankful I get to root for a guy like Hines Ward every week who never jogs out and never flops. He fights for ever inch he can get. Any player who doesn’t should be ashamed of themselves.
Some other stuff about the NFL weekend
Colt McCoy looked much better than I thought he would. I realize he’s going to play worse, but I expected a total flop yesterday and didn’t get it. Making your NFL Debut at QB for the Cleveland Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers should have been a disaster waiting to happen. A lot of Quarterbacks won't fare that well against the Steelers this year.
Sam Bradford looks like a vet. The St Louis Rams made the right call drafting Bradford no.1 overall and I feel vindicated. The Rams are 3-3 right now, and they were 3-33 in their previous 36 games. Oh and how about Danario Alexander? One of the most talented WRs in the nation last year, but the league panicked when he got hurt that he’d not be able to recover. Well, he’s recovered and expect to hear a lot of Bradford to Alexander down the road.
The Kansas City Chiefs got screwed and then screwed themselves at the end of that game within moments of each other. They make a huge bonehead pass call on 3rd to give the ball back to Houston when they had been running so well and probably could salt it away with another first down. Then on the Texans next drive, they let Andre Johnson get away with murder on a long pass completion and even call the PI on the Chiefs. But there can be no NFL fan with a functioning brain that doesn’t know that these big physical wide outs push off a lot and they get away with it every time. Johnson does it. Larry Fitzgerald does it, they all do it. The only fix is to make PI calls reviewable and force the officials to make the right call.
The Steelers are the best team in the NFL. I will have a top 5 and bottom 5 tomorrow, but here’s a preview. I know they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, but that was BB (Before Ben) and now you can see the deep passing game is in full effect and that’s murder for the rest of the league. My only concern is that the defense will ease up too much, since they won’t feel like they need to carry the team. But top to bottom, there is no more complete team in the league.
This was probably the best weekend of the year for the Buffalo Bills, because you can’t lose on your bye week.
I was wrong about the New York Jets. I thought after losing Thomas Jones, and with all the injuries and suspensions this team would be in shambles. But they are winning and in this league that’s what matters. Their ability to take care of the football has been remarkable.
Speaking of taking care of the football, can anyone guess how many fumbles Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has? If you said 0, you win. In 127 touches, 0 fumbles. This is yet another example of just how great AD is. He heard all the criticisms and he fixed it. Best RB in the game for my money.
I am not a New York Giants fan, but I am so happy to see them turning things around. This team has a lot of really interesting characters on it, like Brandon Jacobs and Shawn Andrews and it’s so nice to see good things happening to good people. Go G-Men!
How ‘bout that Kevin Kolb? What Kolb did for the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend, in terms of football was a bigger win than anything Vick did as their starter, but Andy Reid insists when healthy Vick is the guy. I understand he has to do this, because you can’t keep going back and forth, but the truth is, in this offense, Kolb gives them a better chance to win. Kolb will start this week against the Tennessee Titans and you can best believe if he performs like he did against the Atlanta Falcons, that chubby head coach is going to start second guessing himself.
And finally, there isn’t a better coach in the NFL than Brian Belichick. And this is coming from someone who is not a fan. But when you trade off your best skill player, replace him with an ageing journeyman, you have a running back who could star in the remake of The Wizard of Oz, and questions all over the defense, and you still win, you are a supreme football mind. For that I give you props. Or you are a dirty cheater, I haven’t decided which.
Last Edited: 10/18/2010