Houston Texans

How The Houston Texans Can Win The Super Bowl

The AFC South has been one of the worst divisions in football for two years now. The Houston Texans have won the AFC South both seasons with back-to-back 9-7 records.

The biggest problem for the Texans is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Texans started four different quarterbacks in 2015: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. They started two more quarterbacks last season: Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

Starting six quarterbacks in two years is not the formula to winning the Super Bowl, but they are really close.

Super Bowl Defense

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant four years ago that it led them to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory. The Patriots came up with a goal-line interception three years ago to the win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in the NFL two seasons ago and shut down the top scoring offense to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Patriots came back down from 28-3 this past February to win the Super Bowl. That could not have happened if their defense didn’t shut down the high-flying Falcons offense.

The Texans have a defense capable of playing to the level of all these other defenses. Houston allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last season at 301 per game. They also allowed the second-fewest passing yards.

Houston also has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. He only played in three games last season, which makes what Houston’s defense did more impressive.

Watt is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for most all-time with Lawerence Taylor. Adding him back to the mix makes them an elite defense.

The Texans also finally saw the emergence of former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks last season. Clowney’s amazing play doesn’t show up in the stats. He constantly received double teams without Watt in the lineup, but still made plays. In the Wild Card game against the Raiders, he made an incredible interception that took over the game.

These two great defenders will make one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. The Texans also have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, headlined by Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus. If the secondary can make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye, they could contend for the best defense in the NFL.

What Is Missing?

It is no secret that the Texans need to improve offensively. Houston’s offensive line ranked 18th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. They must improve both guard positions if they want to improve the overall line play.

Running back is not an issue of concern. Lamar Miller finished 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards in just 14 games. Alfred Blue is also a solid backup to Miller.

The receiving corp is solid with Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller, but headlined by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 189 receptions, 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Those stats are impressive with six different quarterbacks over two years.

It all comes back to quarterback play. The Texans are a quarterback away from being the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. There is one quarterback perfect for the Texans that they need to get.

The Missing Piece

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: http://boltbeat.com)

Houston threw millions at an unproven Brock Osweiler and it failed miserably. Osweiler has since been traded to the Browns and the only quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. These quarterbacks won’t even win the division, let alone a Super Bowl. So what should the Texans do?

The Texans could find a quarterback in the draft, but most analysts feel there are no NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft. Free agency is always an option and Houston was hoping to get Tony Romo, but he retired. Jay Cutler is available, but that option could be just as bad or worse than what they already have.

That leaves only one option, a trade. The Houston Texans should go all in for a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for Philip Rivers. The Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a championship and Rivers is 35 years old.

Rivers has accomplished a lot in his time in the NFL. His career record is 97-79. Rivers has 314 touchdowns, 156 interceptions and 45,833 yards.

By most comparisons, he is the AFC’s Tony Romo. Everything he has done of significance has come in the regular season. His playoff record is 4-5 and couldn’t get to the Super Bowl with Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates.

This narrative could change with a trade to Houston. His career would be revitalized and he would have a three to four years to win the Super Bowl. He would have the necessary weapons to succeed; such as a running game and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. The Texans would have a top five defense and an offense capable of keeping pace on the scoreboard with any team in the NFL.

Houston, if you want to win the Lombardi Trophy, trade for Phillip Rivers.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Denver Broncos 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The Denver Broncos are up for day 18 of Draftmas.

Summary

Denver finished the season at 9-7 last year after winning the Super Bowl in 2015-2016. They are in a very tough AFC West and will be looking to get back into the playoffs this season.

The offensive side of the ball was clearly the problem for the Broncos last season. They averaged just 20.8 points per game and were in the bottom half of the league in terms of passing and rushing yards per game.

Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will probably be the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart next season. If Siemian doesn’t perform Lynch will get his chance. C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker are serviceable running backs, but could be upgraded. The Broncos have two great receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but could use some depth behind them.

Von Miller (Photo courtesy: espn.com)

The real area that needs improvement is the offensive line. Ronald Leary was signed to play left guard, but the tackles still need to be upgraded.

Defensively, The Broncos were great at pass defense, as they were the only team in the league to give up fewer than 3,000 yards through the air. Denver does need to improve in the trenches. They gave up the fourth most rushing yards in the league.

With their pass defense, they don’t need much secondary help. The Broncos do however need to improve their defensive line. Defensive tackle and end are huge needs and have to help stop the run. The linebackers are solid, but Todd Brown could be upgraded, but it’s not a huge need.

 

Picks and Needs

The Broncos have ten picks in this draft, but three of those are in the seventh round. Denver isn’t too far off from getting back into the playoffs, but needs to make the most of these picks.

First round: (1) No. 20

Second round: (1) No. 51

Third round: (2) No. 82, 101

Fourth round: (1) No. 127

Fifth round: (1) No. 177

Sixth round: (1) No. 203

Seventh round: (3) No. 238, No. 252, No. 253

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Running Back- This isn’t a glaring need, but could be helpful to the offense. C.J. Anderson has had an up and down career so far. Devontae Booker played decently in his rookie season in limited action. With a loaded running back class the Broncos may take a running back if there is good value.

Tackle- This is the biggest need for the Broncos. To get this offense going the tackles have to protect the quarterback and open up holes in the running game. Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson both need to be upgraded.
Wide Receiver- The Broncos have Thomas and Sanders, but may want a third threat through the air.
Tight End- Virgil Green could be upgraded, especially in a great tight end class.
Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- Denver signed a lot of veteran defensive linemen, but none are great players. They need to load up on defensive linemen to help stop the run.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Broncos could realistically get where they are drafting.

First Round:

Pick #20: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Ryan Ramczyk (Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

With both tackles being a need, the Broncos will be able to take one of the top three in this class at 20. Ramczyk was a solid left tackle in college, who is a good run and pass blocker. He did a pretty good job blocking Taco Charlton when the Badgers played the Wolverines. He doesn’t have good mobility and athleticism and can be beat by fast rushers and blitzers. He might fit in better at right tackle in the NFL.

 

Second Round:
Pick #51: Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State

The motor of McDowell is questionable, but the Broncos should be able to get the most out of him. He has the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line and should help clog up running lanes for the Broncos.

Third Round:

Pick #82: Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

Hodges has loads of potential and is a great receiving tight end with good size. He did very well in workouts for scouts. He can even split out wide and give Denver a lot of options.

Pick #101: Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State

Johnson has all of the physical tools to be a great tackle in the NFL, but his tape from college didn’t lie. He needs to be groomed into a great tackle. He presents good value here and if worked with properly, could be a great tackle in the NFL.

Conclusion

The AFC West is going to have four solid teams next season. With some good draft picks here, the Broncos can battle it out and make the playoffs once again.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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Tony Romo: Making the Right Call

Tony Romo has decided to hang up his cleats in favor of a headset. The 36-year-old former quarterback will reportedly be joining CBS as their top analyst, replacing Phil Simms. The Cowboys will release Romo on Tuesday, making him a free agent, but he will elect to not sign with any teams at the moment and get ready for his first NFL season as a color commentator.

With his injury history, Romo is making the right decision.

Romo’s Recent Productivity

There is no doubt that Romo can still be a productive starting quarterback in the NFL. He has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL history at 97.1 and teams in desperate need of a quarterback would have loved to have him as their starter.

Photo courtesy: bloggingtheboys.com

His last fully healthy season was one of, if not his best, seasons of his career. In 2014 he led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record, but ended up losing in the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The game would bring a lot of fans to question what a catch actually is, as Dez Bryant’s catch on a crucial fourth and two was ruled incomplete as he didn’t keep possession of the football through hitting the ground.

Romo still had a very successful season, throwing for 34 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He set his career-high for completion percentage in a season with 69.9 percent of his passes completed.

Since that season Romo has had to deal with injuries and rookie Dak Prescott taking over as starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Possible Landing Spots and Health Concerns

With all of the recent success and the chance to join teams that are a quarterback away from being true contenders, Romo is giving up a lot to go into broadcasting. If he were able to go to a new team and win a Super Bowl, he could even get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Romo is giving up a lot, but is also saving his health. He has been injured so many times in his NFL career, with a lot of them being serious injuries. While he has to be respected for his ability to suck it up and play through injuries, including a punctured lung, there comes a time when enough is enough.

He has three back and two shoulder injuries that will be wearing him down. The back injuries will be something he will have to deal with his whole life. It’s better to quit playing now than to chase down a Super Bowl on a new team. A lot of NFL players have to deal with injuries long after their playing days are over, but Romo has chosen to prevent any further damage.

Photo courtesy athletespeakers.com

The teams he was rumored to go to the most, the Texans and the Broncos, both have offensive line struggles at the moment. There is a good chance that he could get hit a lot more than behind the Dallas offensive line and re-injure himself. Denver allowed 40 sacks, while Houston allowed 32. Dallas on the other hand gave up just 28, all while Romo sat on the bench. While he could be the answer that each of these teams is looking for in their quest for a Super Bowl, the risk of injury behind their offensive lines is not worth it.

There is a chance Romo could come back to football, but for now he is going to get paid a lot of money to broadcast games. If Romo truly has played his last down in the NFL, he should be remembered as a Dallas Cowboy legend, who often didn’t have the team around him to support a Super Bowl run. His gutty performances playing injured and leading big comebacks will not be something forgotten by Cowboys fans any time soon.

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More Than Just Football: If Colin Kaepernick Goes to the Chicago Bears

The Colin Kaepernick saga is coming to a close in San Francisco on March 9. The 49ers want to go in a new direction that won’t include the last 49ers quarterback to make it to a Super Bowl since Hall of Famer Steve Young.

Where will he go? Hopefully to another historic franchise on the downslide. More than just football, Colin Kaepernick to the Chicago Bears is a match made in heaven.

The Bears have been shopping Jay Cutler since the end of the season. Cutler has been the starting quarterback for the Bears for eight seasons. Chicago is expected to either trade or release him once he is healthy.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Cutler is due $13 million for next season. Whenever he passes the medical clearance, the Bears will do what they have to do.

The move to San Francisco could bring Cutler closer to the Shanahan family once again. Newly acquired head coach Kyle Shanahan is the son of Mike Shanahan. Mike Shanahan coached and drafted Cutler in Denver. Mike and his offense produced arguably the best Jay Culter we have seen in 2008.

In 2008, Cutler produced career highs in attempts, completions and yards. Why wouldn’t he want to go San Francisco?

Now back to Kaepernick.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP

Kaepernick’s involvement in activism would be perfect for the Windy City. A city that is riddled with crime and violence and disappointing football seasons needs a person and a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick. It is also a good move for Kaepernick on the field.

The Bears have an upcoming defense and a good bit of offensive players that suit what Kaepernick can do. They have two big and shifty running backs in Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford.

They possibly have two big body deep threats on the edge with Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery. He also has a big and fast tight end in Zach Miller. It is similar to the roster he had in his early years in San Francisco.

The move that could bring Kaepernick to the Bears would be for so much more than football. This is one of the times where politics and sports do mix.

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Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

Cleveland Can’t Pass on Watson

Cleveland can’t pass on Deshaun Watson. It is that simple. We all know the sad story that is the current Cleveland Browns. Their history is littered with unfortunate events and bad decisions. Their biggest success came in 1964 when they won the NFL Championship. Since then, there has been little to cheer about in Cleveland.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.ramweb.org)

Cleveland came close to glory twice in the 1980s. The first unfortunate event was later called “The Drive” that took place in the 1986 AFC Championship game. With just a little over five minutes left in the game, the Browns led the Denver Broncos 20-13.

The Broncos had the ball at their own two-yard line. John Elway proceeded to lead the Broncos on a 15-play 98-yard drive to tie the game at 20 with only 37 seconds remaining. The wind had been sucked out of Cleveland and the Broncos won in overtime 23-20.

The second unfortunate event is labeled “The Fumble” and took place the following year in a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship game again. The Broncos jumped out on the Browns early with a 21-3 halftime lead.

Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw four second-half touchdowns, but the game was tied 31-31 in the third quarter. With six minutes remaining in the game, John Elway threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 38-31 lead.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.elacommoncorelessonplans.com)

With only 1:12 remaining in the game, the Browns had driven down to the eight-yard line. Earnest Byner took a handoff and looked like he was about to tie the game when he was stripped at the 1-yard line and the Broncos took an intentional safety and won the game 38-33. For the second season in a row, the Browns were devastated in the game prior to the Super Bowl.

One of the last major unfortunate events for the Browns franchise was “The Move.” Browns owner Art Modell announced in 1995 that he was moving the franchise to Baltimore and thus, the Baltimore Ravens were born.

The history of the franchise would remain in Cleveland, but what hurt the most for the city is that the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl just five seasons later. Cleveland fans have always felt that that championship should have been theirs.

The Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999 and have had 28 different starting quarterbacks. 28 is a ridiculous amount of quarterbacks in just an 18-year span. There has been zero stability at the position and they need a franchise quarterback badly.

The Franchise Savior

It is laughable that Deshaun Watson is getting such little respect in the draft. So-called experts say he lacks accuracy and good decision making for a quarterback. What tape or games are they watching of Watson?

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.bleedinggreennation.com)

Watson had a legendary college career. He was the first player in college football history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He went 32-3 as a starter and led Clemson to two straight national championship games. Both were against Alabama and the legendary Nick Saban.

In his entire career at Clemson, Watson threw for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns and only 32 interceptions. Where people go wrong in analyzing Watson is saying he runs too much, or that he is a run-first quarterback. That is absolutely false. Yes, he did rush for 1,934 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career, but Watson only runs when he needs to. He keeps his eyes down field while extending plays.

One thing Watson must work on is his down field accuracy. At his young age, he has time to develop that aspect of his game. Where Watson excels most is when the game is on the line. If there are less than four minutes in the game and you need a touchdown, Deshaun Watson delivers.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: https://me.me/t/deshaun-watson)

He is the most clutch quarterback in college football history. He has proven it time and time again and his latest example was against one of the greatest defenses in college football history on the biggest stage. This is one of the greatest traits a quarterback can have, and it can’t be taught.

For so long, the Browns have been stuck at the bottom of the barrel. Their franchise has made so many head-scratching moves. They have overthought decisions and jumped at quarterbacks that had no business leading a franchise. Cleveland has had a lot of bad luck in the process as well. They can end all that by getting a franchise quarterback.

This one is right in front of their face. Do not make the mistake that the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers made. Dabo Sweeny is absolutely correct, any team that passes on Deshaun Watson is passing on Michael Jordan.

 

 

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John Lynch

Lynch Trying not to Join Infamous List of NFL Head Scratchers

The San Francisco 49ers raised more than a few eyebrows at the end of last month when they hired John Lynch as their new general manager. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame playing career, Lynch has no relevant front office experience to speak of. In fact, he is coming straight out of the television broadcast booth.

While it is much too early to pass judgment on Lynch’s hiring, there have been a few other peculiar NFL coaching and front office hires in recent years. For the most part, they have not worked out.

Art Shell: Raiders head coach (2006)

Art Shell

Photo courtesy of USA today

Raiders fans will not enjoy the first part of this article. Up until very recently, Oakland spent almost a decade as the NFL’s top dumpster fire. For some reason, late owner Al Davis thought it would be a good idea to bring Art Shell back as head coach after a 13-year hiatus.

The game changes in 13 years and it left Shell behind. Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Raiders, but his second tenure as head coach is best left forgotten.

His first big hire to his staff was offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Walsh had been out of football for six years and was running a bed and breakfast.

Walsh is also infamous for saying that the skills of wide receiver Randy Moss were “diminishing.” After being traded to the Patriots, Moss had a record-breaking season in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s Raiders stumbled to a 2-14 finish and he was let go after a single season. Somehow, Oakland’s next head coaching hire was even worse.

Lane Kiffin: Raiders head coach (2007-2008)

Lane Kiffin

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

Lane Kiffin is well known to football fans now. When Davis first hired him to resurrect the Raiders in 2007, Kiffin was a 31-year-old who had never been a head coach at any level of football.

The friction between Davis and Kiffin was almost immediate. The Raiders still had virtually no talent on the roster. To make matters worse, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell who went down as one of the most spectacular draft flops in NFL history.

Davis fired Kiffin during the 2008 season in an epic press conference that resulted in Kiffin taking legal action against the Raiders. He posted a record of just 5-15 and has since bounced around the college ranks.

Matt Millen: Lions President and General Manager (2001-2008)

Matt Millen

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Times

This is the story that makes 49er fans most nervous. Much like Lynch, Millen was hired straight from broadcasting after a really good playing career in 2001. The result was disastrous. Under Millen’s direction, the Lions best single season record was 6-10.

While no one in the NFL fails all on their own, Millen’s biggest gaffe was using a first-round pick on a wide receiver three straight years. Moreover, the Lions passed on guys like DeMarcus Ware to draft Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers.

After years of losing and fan protests, Millen was put out of his misery in September 2008. The Lions had just begun what would become the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Millen has since returned to broadcasting.

Paul DePodesta: Browns Chief Strategy Officer (2016-present)

Admittedly, the jury is still out on this one. However, that does not make hiring a former MLB analytics guru for a major executive role in the NFL any less odd. The Browns have been a laughing stock since returning to the league in 1999. Maybe they know something the rest of the world does not, but I doubt it.

A 1-15 debut was not encouraging for DePodesta and the rest of the Browns revamped front office, but next year will tell the tale. The Browns have five of the first 65 picks in the 2017 NFL draft and are among the league leaders in salary cap space. That should mean a significant improvement. If not, it may well be back to the drawing board yet again in Cleveland.

What you do not see in this article is as important as what you do see. Generally, the teams who make these type of moves are bad for a decade or longer. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Broncos do not go outside the box very often. Those are the teams in contention year in and year out.

Given the current state of the 49ers, Lynch will be fighting the odds not to join the likes of Millen, DePodesta, Kiffin and Shell.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Terrell Davis

The Right Terrell is Going to Canton This Year

There is not much more that can be said about Super Bowl LI. For every epic comeback, there is an equally epic meltdown on the other side. Prior to the game itself, the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was a big source of debate. Lots of controversy has surrounded Terrell Owens being “snubbed” again, but there is a Terrell being enshrined this year, and it is the right one.

While there is certainly a case to be made that Owens is more worthy than Terrell Davis, if you look beyond raw numbers, the reverse of that argument is not the least bit crazy and here is why.

First, this was a crowded year for the Hall of Fame. With the maximum of five “modern era players” going in this year, three were stone cold lead pipe locks. Pass rusher Jason Taylor, quarterback Kurt Warner and running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

That leaves two spots. As much as we all like to make fun of kickers, the most important thing in the NFL is scoring points, and Morten Andersen has done that more than anybody else. Thus, he is worthy of a spot after having to wait a few years. It is reasonable to speculate that many voters came down to Davis and Owens for the final spot.

Before making the majority of my argument, it was necessary to point out the strength of the class as a whole. You would be hard-pressed to take one of the other four inductees out to make room for both Owens and Davis in the same class.

 It is virtually impossible to overstate the impact of Terrell Davis on the Broncos organization. Prior to his arrival in the mid-90s, the Broncos were a slightly better version of what the Colts are now. They had a truly great quarterback who was not surrounded by much additional talent.

John Elway led Denver to three Super Bowl appearances in the 80s. The closest the Broncos got to winning one of those games was a 19 point defeat against the Giants. As Elway entered the twilight of his career, a Super Bowl ring looked like a pipe dream.

Denver Broncos

Photo Courtesy of Denver Post

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan plucked Davis from obscurity and made him the starting running back as a rookie in 1995. By 1997, Davis had posted consecutive seasons of well over 1000 yards rushing to start his career. However, the Broncos and their aging quarterback had not found postseason success.

Davis had another stellar year as Denver won the AFC West. In four playoff games that year, Davis rushed for over 100 yards in each and tallied eight touchdowns. The Broncos upset the Packers to win Super Bowl XXXII. Davis scored three touchdowns and was named Super Bowl MVP.

In 1998, Davis was again the centerpiece of the Broncos offense. He rushed for over 2000 yards. There have been only seven such seasons in NFL history. Davis was named league MVP as the Broncos coasted to a second straight Super Bowl victory. He rushed for a total 1049 yards in the 97 and 98 postseasons combined.

Starting in 1999, Davis was haunted by knee trouble that started when he attempted to make a tackle on an interception return against the Jets. He would appear in just 17 more games after 1998. He retired during the 2002 preseason.

His lack of longevity certainly hurt his Hall of Fame chances, he had to wait a decade. However, when he was at his best Davis was as good as the game has ever seen. The injuries prevented him from being near the top of numerous rushing record lists. Even so, fellow Hall of Famer and teammate Shannon Sharpe summed it up best in Davis’ A Football Life documentary on the NFL Network. He was quoted as saying “Without T.D. we don’t win Super Bowls”

Terrell Owens

Photo Courtesy of foxsports.com

Similarly, think about how differently John Elway’s career would be viewed if not for the two Super Bowl wins Davis spearheaded in the last two years of Elway’s career.

As for Terrell Owens, he ranks second all-time in receiving yards and third in touchdowns. On that alone, he is certainly Hall of Fame worthy. Unfortunately for Owens, players do not exist in a vacuum nor should they.

As productive as he was, Owens never made a team he was on better. The 49ers were perennial contenders before Owens arrived. Philadelphia was already on a string of runs to the NFC championship game.

In 2004, the Eagles finally reached the Super Bowl, but Owens was injured for the playoffs and did not return until the Super Bowl, which Philadelphia lost. He turned in an admirable performance despite not having fully recovered from a broken ankle.

The only thing having Owens on your team guaranteed was not winning many big games and him throwing whoever his quarterback was under the bus for not getting him the ball enough, despite those Hall of Fame numbers. This always led to more ridiculousness like him being sent home then holding press conferences and doing sit-ups in his driveway.

San Francisco 49ers

Photo Courtesy of si.com

Owens played for five franchises in his career. With his numbers, it is very telling that T.O. bounced around so much. In his first three stops, Owens eventually became a cancer to the team he was on. Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb have said as much, Tony Romo has always been more tight-lipped about the controversial wideout.

In his final two years in Buffalo and Cincinnati, Owens was simply irrelevant. Your reputation follows you everywhere. In the case of Owens, that includes the Hall of Fame ballot. He has no one to blame but himself. He will forever be more known for his dancing and politicking than his on field work. Any other player with those numbers have already taken their rightful place in Canton.

The good news for T.O. is that he will absolutely be inducted in the not too distant future. For now, there is no issue with a guy whose teams won Super Bowls because of him going in before a guy whose teams often imploded around him.

 

 

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Franchise Analysis – Denver Broncos

Entering the 2016 season, the Denver Broncos had one question: “Who will take over for the legendary Peyton Manning?” One could argue that the question still remains. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback, but not capable of overcoming below average running back and offensive line play. Other than the quarterback position, where else do the Broncos need to improve to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy in 2017?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Broncos failed to pick up where they left off in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both contributed to an offense that ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. The offense dropped to 22nd in points and 27th in yards this season. Who carries the blame for such a decline? We’ve already outlined the quarterback regression, but let’s take a closer look.

Trevor Siemian proved he has limitations this season. Will the Broncos be able to elevate his play by improving his supporting cast this off season (Courtesy of; DenverBroncos.com).

If it wasn’t apparent last year, it should be now. Peyton Manning covered up a lot of holes on this team last season. Even in his diminished state, Manning’s mind and control of the offense allowed him to put the Broncos in the best play possible on every snap. When Manning played, he accounted for 16 of the 39 sacks allowed. He was able to call plays that wouldn’t ask the offensive line to block for four to six seconds. He was able to minimize the impact that his average to below average linemen had on the passing game.

Even with an upgrade at the left tackle position from Ryan Clady to Russell Okung, the Denver Broncos still struggled. The biggest hole in this starting unit was the right tackle Donald Stephenson. Using Pro Football Focus player rankings, Stephenson was rated as the 77th best tackle out of 78 qualified players. Stephenson was also rated as the worst pass-blocking tight end in football. No quarterback can have success when one of his tackles is constantly getting beat.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

One aspect of the Denver Broncos that was never in doubt, was their defense. As a whole, they ranked 4th in both points and yards allowed. The unquestioned strength of this defense is their secondary. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. provide this defense with incredible flexibility. Talib is able to match up with the top tier receivers on the outside and Harris can lock down even the best slot receivers. When a defense doesn’t have to roll coverage to a player or exchange responsibilities in the secondary, they can focus on rushing the passer.

Sylvester Williams had a down year defending the run. Will the Broncos look to upgrade the nose tackle position, or hope Williams will bounce back in 2017? (Courtesy of; Predominatelyorange.com)

When Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the emerging Shane Ray are able to rush the passer, this defense is suffocating. However, they must get better at stopping the run. This defense, despite their greatness, was 28th in rushing yards allowed. In their 3-4 defense, the nose tackle must be able to occupy double teams and keep linemen from blocking linebackers. Sadly, Sylvester Williams was unable to do that. Williams ranked as the 106th best interior defender against the run out of 117 qualified players. Denver must upgrade their nose tackle in their base defense if they hope to have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2017.

Divisional Analysis

The best way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win your division. What does this team need to ascend back to the top of the AFC West?

Clearly, Denver needs to have more production from the quarterback position. However, that doesn’t mean the position needs an upgrade. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback and can absolutely play better with an improved supporting cast. They also have their 2016 first round pick, Paxton Lynch. What Siemian lacks in talent, Lynch has. With these two players on the roster, they don’t need to try and upgrade the position.

Outside of the right tackle position, Denver could benefit greatly by upgrading their tight end. In 2016 we saw Carson Wentz be productive with an average at best collection of receivers. While they may be better than my analysis, they certainly aren’t as talented as Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. What allowed Wentz to succeed? He had a receiving first tight end that worked the middle of the field in Zach Ertz. Given that this team isn’t great in pass protection, an upgrade at tight end will allow whoever is starting to get the ball out of their hands quicker.

Some options in the draft include David Njoku from Miami, Gerald Everett from South Alabama, and Evan Engram from Ole Miss. I know I didn’t include O.J. Howard, but I don’t think Denver will use their first round pick on this position and Howard most likely won’t be available in the second round. If Denver wanted to use a day two or three pick to address this position, they could select Tyrone Swoopes from Texas or Eric Saubert from Drake University.

We talked previously about their lack of production from their nose tackle. Given the importance of that position in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in another player. Given John Elway’s track record of acquiring defensive free agents, I could see them going that route instead of the draft to address this need.

PostSeason Prospects

There are certain criteria that can translate into post season success. Where did the Denver Broncos stack up to the rest of the league in 2016?

It’s almost incredible that this team won nine games and didn’t finish inside the top 20 at any of these critical criteria. What’s most telling is their third down conversion ranking. It goes beyond just third down. This statistic gives you an idea about their success on first and second down. Because they struggled so much to run the ball effectively on first and second down, they often faced longer third down attempts than most NFL offenses. Also, if you can’t convert on third down, you won’t have prolonged drives. Thus, their ranking of 28th in Time of Possession.

This defense is unbelievable. Despite having a bottom third offense, the Denver defense was top 10 in every relevant defensive metric. Of course, they were not good against the run. No team can just run the ball for four quarters. When teams put the ball in the air, most of the time, it fell incomplete or in the hands of a Broncos defender. If they can just be an average team against the run in 2017, they will find themselves in the post season.

2017 Predictions

There’s no reason to doubt that John Elway will address their needs this off season through the draft and free agency. I think they will absolutely find a way to get more production out of their quarterback, whoever it is. I do want to say, under no circumstances should they try and acquire Tony Romo. Yes, Romo is talented. He’s better than every quarterback on that team, but he isn’t a good fit. Putting an injury-prone quarterback, who’s older than 30, behind a suspect offensive line is foolish because they will have to give up substantial defensive assets to acquire Romo.

This team cannot sacrifice their defense to support their offense. Elway and company will do everything possible to put their team in the best position possible. Overall, I think it will be enough to get them back into the playoffs. I believe the Denver Broncos will finish 11-5 and second in the AFC West and enter the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Assembling the Ultimate NFL Dogdeball Team

NFL Dodgeball

With the Super Bowl matchup set, the two-week long waiting game has begun. The NFL Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando on Sunday. The game itself has become mostly unwatchable. However, a dodgeball challenge between select players from the two conferences could be somewhat entertaining.

It also got me thinking which players from the NFL’s past would make up the ultimate dodgeball team. I am talking about these guys in their prime. I am by no means a dodgeball expert. This is meant to be a somewhat lighthearted and imaginative piece. Please take it as such.

Photo Courtesy of philly.com

Randall Cunningham– Natural athleticism is a plus for any sport. Why not lead off the ultimate NFL dodgeball team with one of the greatest pure athletes the NFL has ever seen? With a career completion percentage under 60, accuracy was always an issue for one of the original dual-threat quarterbacks. However, his career rushing yardage total is good enough for second all-time among quarterbacks. That kind of speed and elusiveness would be well-suited for dodgeball.

 

Bill Romanowski– This is all about intimidation. In the NFL, rules were merely guidelines for the four-time Super Bowl champion linebacker. The altercations involving Romanowski are countless. From spitting in opponents faces to openly admitting to trying to injure former teammates, controversy always followed Romanowski. A self-admitted product of “roid rage,” he was no doubt a scumbag during his career. I do not advocate cheating, but I do advocate trying in a hyper aggressive manner. The original “Romo” always walked that fine line. Romanowski is the kind of guy I want on my side in any competitive endeavor. Listen to the guy talk in a short clip below from CBS news. That kind of energy would dominate the dodgeball court if harnessed correctly.

Chuck Bednarik– Some of the same things I said about Romanowski are also true of Chuck Bednarik. Bednarik played in an era where players got away with a lot more. He played his entire career with the Eagles and is a member of the NFL’s 1950s all-decade team. He was the last player to play both offense and defense on a regular basis. He did so as a linebacker and a center. In the video below from the Graham Smeaton YouTube channel, Bednarik describes knocking Giants quarterback Frank Gifford out cold. Watch it and then imagine the kind of damage this guy could do if he was given a ball to throw at your head.

Barry Sanders– I am still mad this Lions’ legend retired so young. If there was ever a guy that could run between rain drops it was Barry Sanders. The NFL’s third all-time leading rusher would have had every record imaginable had he played a few more years. Defenders could never tackle him. Nabbing him with a ball would be a tall task. His historically low key personality would be an interesting counter to guys like Bednarik and Romanowski. Even though they rarely got it done, it is fun to watch defenders try to tackle Sanders. Enjoy ten of his finest masterpieces from the NFL’s YouTube channel.

Steve Largent– At under six feet tall, durability would be a concern for Seattle’s all-time leading receiver. However, there is a place on the dodgeball court for anyone who can make catches like the undersized Seahawk did. The video below from the NFL’s YouTube channel gives you a small taste of his greatness.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of the Seattle Times

Bo Jackson– Simply put, Bo Jackson is one of the most athletically gifted people the world has ever seen. You can count on one hand the number of people that have played two sports at the highest possible professional level. Prior to getting derailed by injuries, Jackson always looked like the best player on the football field or baseball diamond. He is the kind of athlete that would have translated well to any sport, dodgeball included. The same can be said for Deion Sanders, but this team already has enough strong personalities.

 

Well, there you have it. The fiercest NFL dodgeball team my twisted mind can come up with. Who would make your ultimate NFL dodgeball team?

 

 

 

 

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The Underwhelming Crop of New NFL Head Coaches

With it all but confirmed that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be taking over as head coach of the 49ers when Atlanta’s season ends, all six of the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies are now filled. Some are stepping into better situation than others, but I find all but one of the head-coaching hires underwhelming. Quite frankly, that is putting it mildly. Here is a look at each:

Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Of all the hires, this is the one that has a chance to work long-term. Marrone is an experienced coach at both the college and pro levels. He did a very respectable job for two seasons as the head coach of the Bills in 2013 and 2014 before a mutual parting of ways. In 2014, he guided the Bills to just their second winning season since 1999. EJ Manuel was his quarterback for most of his time in Buffalo. Not many coaches could get nine wins with EJ Manuel as their quarterback. He has barely seen the field since Marrone left. Marrone also turned Syracuse football into a competitive program during his time there ending a bowl game victory drought of nearly a decade

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville.com

The hiring of two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin as an executive to oversee all aspects of the Jaguars organization is the biggest thing working in Marrone’s favor. Coughlin knows what it takes to win and will bring instant credibility and discipline to Jacksonville. These have been lacking ever since Coughlin left as head coach following the 2002 season. The Jaguars roster is not terrible at the moment and will have chances to improve through the draft and free agency. Whatever they have to work with, Coughlin and Marrone will get the most out of it. They both have done that for their entire careers in football.

 

Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)

While McDermott’s stints as defensive coordinator in Carolina and Philadelphia were largely positive, his Panthers defense took a major step backward last year. They fell out of the top 20 in almost every statistical category after being one of the most dominant units in the league for the better part of two years. Some will point to the loss of Josh Norman. While it certainly did not help, I do not think it explains the entirety of Carolina defensive decline. No one player should mean that much to defense. If he does, there is something wrong with the system.

 

Combine this with the traditionally dysfunctional Bills front office and fairly new ownership that seems to think the roster is better than it actually is, and I see no way for McDermott to lead this team beyond .500, which is almost exactly the same record Rex Ryan had during his just under two years in Buffalo.

 

Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)

 

 

Here is your classic case of too much too soon. Unlike most of the new hires, the unit McVay coordinated last year was quite good. The Redskins offense had the fewest three and outs in football last year. Even so, he is the youngest coach in league history. Moreover, he is inheriting a mess. Other than the defensive line, there is almost nothing here to work with. Additionally, this is another franchise struggling to find its relocation groove. That only makes McVay’s job more difficult. There are a lot of 60-year-old coaches who could not handle this job.

Photo Courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

 

While the Rams have done a great job surrounding McVay with quality assistant coaches, unless he can walk on water, it will be an extremely difficult task for him to get this franchise turned around. The one thing working in his favor is that the Rams gave Jeff Fisher plenty of time to get things going in the right direction. It did not work out, but McVay will need that same luxury to build a winner.

 

Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)

This is the real stunner to me. Lynn spent most of last year as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. While the Bills were the top rushing team in the league, it is impossible to be a legitimate contender in the modern NFL averaging under 200 yards passing a game like Buffalo did. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, you have to find a way to get more from your passing game than that. It certainly does not merit being hired as head coach.

 

Buffalo wanted to get an early look at Lynn. Thus, he was named interim head coach replacing Rex Ryan for the season finale. Not only were the bills routed by the Jets, but they were on the wrong end of a football folly for the ages. Watch it below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel. I have no words just watch.

 

After allowing a play like that to happen on his watch, under no circumstances would I hire Lynn as the head coach anywhere. Much less head coach of are relocating franchise trying (and mostly failing) to ingratiate itself to a new city. For those that will say a career of a coach should not be defined by a single play, fans and media do it with players all the time. Why should coaches not be held to the same standard? There is no way Lynn’s time in LA the lasts long or ends well.

 

 

Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)

 

Strangely Joseph is the least qualified candidate of the new head coaches. Yet, he landed the best job with one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises over the last half decade or so. Following the sudden resignation of Gary Kubiak, Joseph has been handed the keys to a franchise that won a Super Bowl less than a year ago.

The Broncos roster is loaded with talent and ready to win now. The objective is to win Super Bowls. In theory, this is the objective for all NFL teams every year, but for most teams it simply is not realistic. It certainly is for the Broncos. They missed the playoffs this year for the first time in five years and still managed to post a winning record.

Given that standard of success, I just do not see how hiring a guy who spent one year as an NFL defensive coordinator and oversaw the 29th-ranked defense last year is going to accomplish that goal. I have no clue why multiple teams were interested in this guy as a head coach. He is clearly well thought of around the league. However, there is a difference between that and being a good head coach.

Joseph will likely be the most successful of the new head coaches early on based solely on the strength of his assistant coaches and general roster talent. Eventually, he will likely follow the same path as former Broncos and current Bears head coach Jon Fox who won a lot of games in Denver but was let go for not being able to get over the hump.

 

 

Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)

 

Of the five hires who will be first-time head coaches, Shanahan was most deserving of a job. The work he has done with Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense this year is amazing. Unfortunately for him, he got the one job that nobody short of Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick could make work right now. Shanahan will be San Francisco’s fourth coach in as many seasons. There was never any talent on the roster for Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula to begin with. Shanahan is the same boat. Kelly and Tomsula were given just a single season.

How any candidate could trust ownership with a track record like that is beyond me, but there are only 32 head coaching jobs to go around. So, I do not blame Shanahan for taking the gig. Ultimately though, his success or failure hinges on the 49ers finding a general manager who knows what he is doing and Shanahan being given enough time to figure out the quarterback position and the rest of the roster. I do not trust ownership to do either.

Every year when new head coaches are hired, I find myself asking the same question. Are these the best guys the NFL can come up with? Even the less glamorous franchises like the Jaguars are worth over $1 billion according to Forbes. Why a team does not offer someone like Nick Saban enough money to make him the highest-paid coach in the league is baffling to me.

 

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