This offseason has already seen the making of a memorable one for history. Big crazy trades and free agent signing has set an overcast in the journey to the upcoming NFL Draft. One signing, in particular, would be the San Francisco 49ers acquisition of Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. Sherman, whose season was cut short after an Achilles injury in week 8, agreed to a contract worth up to $39.15 million dollars for three years, three days before free agency opened up. But there has been some controversy surrounding the deal itself and Sherman’s role in it. It is reported that Sherman himself handled the negotiations without the representation of an agent.
Some questions now have surfaced to why Richard Sherman would go this route and the future of players handling their own affairs pertaining to contracts. Some see this as the future of the league while others see this as Richard Sherman’s ego getting in front of his talent once again. Sherman has been critical of how agents operate and encourages a path for players to be more proactive in these areas. However, the same can be said about the team he signed to minutes after he was released, comprised a deal that many have criticized.
First, let’s talk about the contract. Richard Sherman has signed a deal that is worth $39.15 million dollars. The key word is “worth”. Most NFL contracts, like other sports and management positions, are worth a dollar amount. Most of the money to be earned is tied up in incentives, bonuses and allowances. Sherman’s deal includes $3 million dollars in full guarantees, $7 million in practical guarantees and up to $9 million in earnings baring injury during the 2018 season.
In an offseason where the value of individual prospects and a team’s desire to certain prospects have set an unprecedented amount of money for their acquisitions, this deal doesn’t seem to make much sense. This could be a fault towards Sherman who essentially worked out the deal himself. This contract is purely based on Sherman’s ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level. However, this opens a door for other players. Sherman, who is also a Stanford grad, is a key player in the NFLPA and knows how the business works. If players are to take the same route, they too might be able to capture some control in the debating process.
Players ultimately have all the power. They decide whether to take deals or leave hem on the table. Agents look to give them the best deal possible. In return, this could leave the player losing the ability to play for a favorable destination. Not saying that players aren’t sitting at the negotiation table but what Richard Sherman did, extends the amount power a player has.
Because of this, the player is able to negotiate a deal that they might feel is good for them. Most agents meet with teams with a hardline offer and it doesn’t really dip or bend from there. Plus with the ability of players to sit out, this pretty much twists the hands of management into submission. Most teams now have tried to stay away from hardline offers as they have led to some of the worst deals. Kirk Cousins suffered from franchise tag-itis because of The Washington Redskins horrible deal with Albert Haynesworth. As other teams have been ultimately forced to give in to player demands. If players want to take slashes in their guaranteed money in favor of being placed with the team that they desire to be on, then they should have that power.
What makes this deal seem sour is the subject at hand, Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman anchored one of the best defenses in five years that led to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. With the right defense, Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League. With that being said he should be paid accordingly to his value. Looking at this contract, it seems that he is selling himself a bit short. For example, as an analogy, Richard Sherman believes he should get $10 million dollars a year. Team A is willing to give him $10 million dollars and Team B is willing to give him $15 million dollars.
Your value isn’t the price tag that you put on yourself but rather how much someone is willing to pay. Despite his wishes, Richard Sherman is worth $15 million dollars in actuality. In comparison to the deal made in reality, Sherman would never see those $15 million dollars. If he never talks to Team B, it would be impossible. The idea of him not talking to other teams is quite depressing. He would never fully exercise the potential of the deal. This could be a downside for players who really want to play for a particular team and might be blindsided by their “wants” when they should focus on what should be owed to them.
At the end of the day, Richard Sherman has to accept or decline a deal. This particular deal is what he wanted and it is what he got. Other players in the future may not be so lucky. Determining a players’ value really depends on a broad spectrum. It’s not a discussion with a team who only really seems to benefit themselves and not the player. Despite this, a lawyer never acts as a legal representation for himself and a doctor doesn’t examine herself.
Agents are there to work out a deal. They know more about the process and are able to twist numbers and squeeze out the best deal possible. If that means shelving off between 1.5% to 4% in earnings so be it, there is no such things as a free lunch. In the future, negotiations should be left to agents as most believe that one would never let Sherman walk away with that deal. Sherman’s deal isn’t bad at all for other cornerbacks.
However, for an all-pro player, that gravitates a brand presence and is arguably the best cornerback in the league, it’s a terrible one. This contract is a deal for players that are on the cusp of proving themselves. For Sherman, he doesn’t have to. Despite suffering an injury and turning 30 years old in a matter of days, Richard Sherman has already proved his worth. A contract suited for someone who hasn’t is deplorable in his situation.
Fortunately, Richard Sherman got the deal he wanted. He went to the team he wanted and is in the best situation for himself. He’s happy and everyone should. More than likely, the deal will mature to be a wise one. It also might open the doors for other players to follow. On the other hand, if it flops, it would be a disaster and cemented as “pulling a Richard Sherman”. Who knows? Only time will tell.
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The route to the NFL is not for the faint hearted. The likeliness of getting drafted to the league is less than a tenth of a percent. With the average pro career amounting to a little more than three years, the odds of even playing for a professional organization are even less. But this is not a focus on the odds of playing in the league. That’s a different topic suited for a different discussion.
This year, on April 26, three thousand players will patiently wait for their names to be called to join the illustrious league of the NFL. After years of playing the game that they love and years of training and displaying their talents, they all have a chance to join one of the 32 prominent NFL franchises. Unfortunately, in the seven rounds, the NFL Draft will only produce two hundred fifty-six prospective stars.
(AP Photo/Matt Marton)
A few might be able to rise through the ranks despite not being selected, but most will never be able to call themselves an NFL player. With that being said, the draft has been coveted as the pathway to join the committee of world class athletes. As amazing as the history could tell, the draft has been seen as a bit disparaging.
While multi million dollar franchises essentially scour the nation’s top prospects like livestock to be prodded and displayed upon a global audiences to promote sponsors that in return, turn the NFL into a billion enterprise. This criticism of the draft doesn’t not come unchallenged. Some see it as a gateway to a career for some of the most championed athletes while others condemn the elitist culture of many sport teams.
What’s wrong with the draft?
Baseball might be America’s pastime, but Football is in every heart of each and every American. Nothing spews America like sitting back on a hot Sunday afternoon with a cold frosty mug and football on the tube. However, the moral and legal guidelines that help form our society tell a different tale. The monopolistic stature of the NFL has been a dark spot in our free market.
The NFL has already applied sanctions and requirements just to join that have shifted and shaped the amateur platform. The college system, which in recently and historically has raised questions of it’s legitimacy, might need to shake up it’s foundation. But than again, that is a different topic for one of our other HausMates. Our focus is how the NFL Draft and it basically violates the very essence of our free market.
Saquon Barkley, one of the most heralded prospects in this upcoming draft, recently put up the most impressive numbers at the NFL Combine. With a resume that included an All-American season in 2017 during his last year at Penn State, Barkley is looked to be the first player to be picked in the draft. Unfortunately, that draft pick resides in Cleveland, a franchise that has underachieved for more than a decade. The Browns, who have not competed for a title in this century, for the second consecutive time will have the chance to pick first in he Draft.
Losers Win Too
How can a team, who’s achievements have led to a parade for a winless season, be able to get one of, if not, the best player in the draft? Other than winning a championship, what gives teams an incentive to achieve? Before, the draft system was appointed to achieve a competitive balance within the league. However, if a team does not have the incentive to win a championship, there is no incentive to even compete. This has been an accusation of franchises in the NBA.
The term “tanking” is when a team does not compete during the season in exchange to receive a high draft pick. This has been debated since the NBA has a lottery system, but losing does increase their chances at a higher pick. No teams in the NFL have been accused of this, but the idea of Cleveland having two first picks in a row and more than likely having the chance to have it again this year is down right shameful. The fact that the nation’s top prospects have to be subjected to a franchise that does not show the same level of determination and motivation is down right deplorable. And now these young men are left with the task of uprooting an unworthy franchise to a path of success in down right contemptible.
Amateurs Pay Too
We can understand that abolishing the NFL Draft is not in the vision of most sport viewers but it could fix some problems for lower level athletes. Now, collegiate athlete are not represented in the best light as they attend major college programs.
The NCAA makes millions of dollars that don’t trickle down to the college athlete. In 2014, it was reported that only twenty four collegiate athletic programs actually make more money than they spend. With that being said, there isn’t a lot of money to be spent on athletes who put in the hard work at the prominent programs. Most athletes treat their participation as student athletes a profession.
The time dedicated in their participation does not amount to the reward in exchange. The idea of an education is not enough. With players now being able to succeed on the field and in the classroom, the myth of the “dumb jock” has been put to rest. And in return, these programs get more money out of athletes rather than vice versa. When these prospective players are eligible to go pro, they are at the mercy of 256 spots rather than choosing where they would want to play. Which in all result in putting an exceptional amount of work for little to no reward.
A Change For the Good?
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
The spectacle of the NFL Draft will never go away as viewers marvel at boys who start their pathway to become men. The idea of sports being involved only makes it better. However, things might change soon since the student athlete is evolving. Athletes may not be at the mercy of NFL franchises for too long. The odds of playing in the NFL are too unlikely than favorable and the NFL Draft diminishes those odds even more. There are alternatives to the current situation.
In 2004, Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers if they were to pick him in the draft. Eli Manning was trying to go the route of not playing his rookie season. With that, Eli would have been eligible for free agency after a year if he did not sign which would’ve led him to go to a team of his choice. Because this, the Chargers’ hands were tied and they were forced to eventually trade him. This may not work for Mr.Irrelevant but it could be a trailblazing pathway for new players.
Player representation in the amateur setting, alternative routes to the NFL, or even alternative leagues might be in the future not too far away from now. Though, if the amount of money continues to flow in the current direction, the prospective stipulations are more than unlikely. For now, we are going to have to settle for the NFL Draft. However, we have entered an enlightened age, a renaissance in some way for the underrepresented and unheard to have a voice.
The NFL right now subtly controls all factors of football and player development. This form of power has crippled individuals for many years. But there is room for a change. Like the music industry where artist can now build a brand without being a slave to corporate heads. Or an independent filmmaker can win an Oscar despite not having the financial and prominent backing of a studio. In the league of sports, this can be a wave. Maybe in the future, athletes won’t have to be forced to dream of being in the NFL but rather just to play football at the highest professional level.
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.As the years progress, more and more questions pop up about the current state of player management in the NFL.The NFL and the National Football League Players Association or the NFLPA, came to an agreement that was able to keep the league open for ten years. This agreement, which is currently active, is set to last until 2021. The NFL is looking to come to an agreement with the NFLPA to extend the collective bargaining agreement, but because of the status and current state of the NFL, it may be unlikely.
Though we still have a long while to get to 2021, the bargaining process makes it seem right around the corner. Other than the limited amount of time given to the two parties, other flags pop up that might deter a smooth bargaining process. The league’s popularity has been on a decline for the past few years and looks to continue to dip. Some speculate the idea of the NFL becoming more politicized while others blame it on an attempt to reconcile the NFL historic position on matters pertaining to players’ health. Star studded players of the NFL should consider saving up their money now and prepare for an NFL lockout in the near future.
Injuries, Injuries… Injuries
As stated before, the NFL’s decline in popularity may have been rooted in the underlying attempt to keep players safe. As rule changes look to manipulate the style of play on the field, the fan base hasn’t taken kindly to it. The NFL is looking towards a future to try and prevent injuries as much as possible. Many arrows point towards the increase in substance abuse for league players.
Today, in the United States, we face an epidemic unlike ever before. Though we are familiar with the government’s attempt to combat the use of illegal substance abuse and solicitation with the “war on drugs”. In the 1980’s, the crack epidemic shook the core of our nation and turned law abiding citizens into addicts. Though users of drugs were targeted to victims of low poverty environments, the notorious drug use went as far has seeping into the entertainment industry, even sports like the NFL. Players like Ricky Williams, Michael Irving and, arguably the greatest defender in NFL history, Lawrence Taylor, all have faced a battle with heavy drug use and alcoholism.
Today, the name of the game has changed to opioids and it is ravishing through the streets of our country. In contrast to people using illegal drugs to feed their drug habit in the past, today, the top drug supplier for most addicts is their primary care physicians. Due to the convenience and seemingly endless supply, prescription pain medication has been the main culprit of drug abuse in modern times. Just like before, this has seeped into our entertainment business and the NFL. Players are now touted with the task to medicate themselves to get through the rigorous season. Some have resisted the current trend and have looked towards alternative means of self medication.
Over the last five years, the NFL has seen an increase in marijuana use. Some believe that players are using marijuana as an alternative to pain medications. Currently, the United States looks towards a path to decriminalize marijuana altogether. Today, 29 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and 8 states have legalize the recreational use of marijuana. However, the Federal Drug Administration recognizes marijuana as a level I drug along with heroin, LSD and methamphetamine. The federal government still recognizes the use of marijuana as illegal. Because of that, it violates the league’s substance abuse policy.
What does this mean for the league?
As we head to the future, more players will probably join the path to using marijuana regularly. Regardless of the reason, more than likely, the use of medication will probably be cited as why. There has been a stint of players who have been suspended and banned due to their drug use. The NFLPA will look to for guidelines to make a less punitive approach towards offenders of marijuana use.
In other words, the players’ union will look towards an agenda with less harsh penalties for players who violate the league’s substance abuse policy, but mainly for marijuana. For the rest of the league players who indulge upon pain killers to get through the season, the players union should look towards the NFL putting more accountability in teams on trying to treat players through the season and offseason without medicating them with highly addictive pain medications.
A great debate has sparked between the relation of head injuries and players’ physical and mental fitness. The research into brain injuries have been pushed to the side by the NFL historically. Many experts believe that the push for players’ health regarding to concussions could kill the sport itself. Though, millions of dollars have gone to the medical research in understanding the causes and underlying symptoms of severe brain injuries over a period of time.
In 2017, former NFL player, Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in his prison cell after he was convicted of a murder back in 2013. Despite his attraction and involvement in illegal gang activity, skeptics are now making a different kind of debate. After a brain dissection during the autopsy of the 27 year old, medical professionals determined that Hernandez had suffered from a sever case of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head, including football players who suffer concussions. The public have been vocal on their skepticism of CTE leading to not only Hernandez involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd, but also the reasoning of why Aaron Hernandez took his own life. However, this brings us to different kind of discussion altogether.
What About Active Players Suffering Now?
Most players in the past that have been diagnosed with CTE have been long removed from the NFL. Deceased former players’ brain health gave reason to interpret the disease as the progression of this degenerative disease. However, these cases have been looked at for players who had been playing football for many years and at the time of their death where north of fifty to sixty years old. Hernandez was 27 when he died and only played in the NFL till he was 23 years old.
Being that Hernandez did not play for almost five years puzzles some on the severity of the damage done to his brain such a short time of playing. Of course, Hernandez could of sustained brain injuries after his tenure in the NFL, but that’s not likely. Before the focus was on past players, now, this has sparked a new consideration in looking into the health of players who are currently playing football now.
What does this mean for the league?
Players have to be protected. The prospect of having a shortened career or problems after the NFL doesn’t seem too attractive. Everything starts from the top. The NFL’s position will trickle down to lower divisions of football, even little league. Unfortunately, those humble beginnings of little league could be a deterrent to a career in football. All it takes is a few mothers to take their children out of participating in football. This could lead to a trend players.
The league has to do something. The NFLPA will push for policies that will ensure more medical research and regulations. To prevent concussions. this could mean harsher penalties for players on the field. Also, it could mean harsher penalties to teams. For example, allowing players to participate after suffering head injuries and have not been either cleared but also evaluated properly.
Will there be a lockout?
The two sides in the CBA negotiations barely seem to budge in times like this. The NFL seems to be pretty happy with the current situation of the agreement. Because of this, it will push for an extension as it seems to favor their position. However, this is not Burger King, you can’t have it your way. If one side is happy about a negotiation, the other side is getting the short end of the stick. The last CBA was seven years ago and a lot has changed since as the world will continue to change.
For the NFLPA, it is their job to speak on the behalf of all of the league’s players. They’re going to have to go to war with the NFL. An NFL lockout seems to be inevitable in the future.. There are many concerns that have to be addressed. Topics from the players administrative arbitration process to how the league conducts sanctions against players. And that is just a scrape of a laundry list of problems. For the fans, we’ll just have to wait to see what comes. At the end of the day, these negotiations are what helps the sport stay alive and entertain us on Sundays. We might have to miss a part or even a whole seaso but, it is imperative price to pay.
The gauge of greatness is measured in time. For the league’s most heralded superstars, their careers have been evaluated, scrutinized, criticized and praised, all in accordance of time. Some superstars find solace in individual recognition while others define their legacy along with the team’s they coveted. That success comes in waves or spurts. Some might see success fairly early in the career, cashing in on a team’s expectations on the individual. Other might be left to stay on the sideline in their anticipation for one day to sitting on that illustrious throne (ex: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady).
But for all players that set foot into the NFL, the vast majority don’t achieve much. Some don’t ever find their rightful place to call home. Even when all arrows lead up, some players can’t just get pass the hump. For those, we wonder what if and how. For example, the spotlight of our discussion, Johnny Manziel.
Johnny Manziel was one of the most electrifying college football players in history. With a strong arm, vision, ability to move around the pocket and scrambling prowess, Manziel was a legitimate threat to defenses. What critics frowned upon either being too small to play in the league or downright reckless, his fans praised his ability to be instinctive and play with heart. Despite being only a three star recruit out of high school, with performances against heavily loaded Southeastern athletic conference bill, Manziel was able to reach heights unlike before.
In his first year starting as a redshirt freshman, Manziel went on to break many records in the SEC and for NCAA. He became the first freshman to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. After an amazing year, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy, the youngest in history.
After completing his third year at Texas A&M, Manziel would forgo his last two years as a college athlete and pursue a career in the NFL. But the critics came on hard about whether drafting Manziel was wise. As the success came in heaps, so did the pressure to stay on the up-up. During his stay at Texas A&M, Manziel was center stage for a number of controversies. From suspect tweets wanting to leave College Station to Manziel being suspended for allegedly receiving payments for signing autographs. Even when before Manziel became starting quarterback at Texas A&M, the redshirt freshman at the time was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors. After pleading guilty with failure to produce identification, the other charges were dropped and Manziel was named the starting quarterback for the Aggies.
An Inevitable Downfall
Despite his size and the nature of his game on and off the field, the… Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the first round as the 22nd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, for Manziel, the trouble didn’t stop. Honestly, it got worse. Even though Manziel proved that he was able to see playing time on the professional level, his off field antics kept him off the field. After a season that showed promise for the young quarterback, it unfortunately led to an early ending for Manziel after suffering a concussion and he would not return for the 2015 season. The day before the Browns’ final game, Manziel was seen in a Las Vegas casino. The next day, as mandatory for all concussed players, Manziel failed to appear in front of the team medic.
Ugly, Ugly, and more Ugly
Not too long after, Manziel saw a string of problems going forward. In 2016, LRMR, a marketing agency that represented Manziel, reported that they would no longer work with him. Later that year, after only two months representing him, Manziel’s new agent removed Manziel from his itinerary of represented clients. Manziel stayed in the negative light due to an ongoing investigation by the Dallas Police Department. The investigation included a claim of domestic violence against Manziel’s former girlfriend. According to the victim, Manziel had forced her in a car, pulled her hair and threatened to kill her and himself. Manziel eventually accepted a plea deal that included counseling and monitoring by the state for a year or face prosecution.
From then, Manziel spent the next year at the bottom of bottles alleging an alcohol addiction. Manziel was also on record for abusing drugs, however, which drugs were never specified. In the beginning of the 2016 season, Manziel was suspended by the league for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Soon after, the Browns released Manziel. In addition to the death of his playing career, Manziel’s supporters had concern of his well being.
His father, Paul Manziel, told ESPN, “”He’s a druggie. It’s not a secret that he’s a druggie. Hopefully, he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses. I mean, I hate to say it, but I hope he goes to jail. I mean, that would be the best place for him. I’m doing my job, and I’m going to move on. If I have to bury him, I’ll bury him.” After a year of counseling Manziel found out that he was suffering from bipolar disorder and is now medicated.
A Bright Future
Johnny Manziel sat with reporters from ABC News discussing his new outlook on life. He talked about getting engaged, following his recovery and embracing his roots. All which see that point to a comeback. First and foremost, this article is not an advocation for Manziel’s defense. A lot can point to his downfall from his upbringing or his destination in Cleveland. Manziel came from a wealthy background, received more recognition than players that had worked harder and (or) were better, played in the NFL and threw his life away because of his sense of entitlement.
With that being said, the boy can play, which means a lot in this day and age of football. The Browns were looking for a player when Manziel needed a sense of mentorship. A franchise that is arguably the worst in NFL history didn’t have enough leaders for a kid like Manziel. From what he was in the past and his tenure with the Browns and how we see it today, no one can be surprised at the outcome.
(AP Photo | DAVE MARTIN)
At the age of 25, despite not playing football for about two years, Manziel is more than able to make a comeback in this league. For the ones that see it as impossible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Manziel had been offered with a chance to play in the Canadian Football League and for Manziel, that is a good enough platform to show his skills and the progress he made as a person during his hiatus.
Manziel is a good player that allowed his personality and behavior off the field inveigle who he was on the football field. Some might believe that that attitude gave him that star studded ability. That is for us to see going forward. The prospect of Manziel joint the NFL one day are pretty high depending on his performance in the Canadian Football League. Fortunately, Manziel is in no rush. At 25, a start in a career would be he usual for an NFL quarterback. Manziel has already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and seems to be looking towards the right path.
Like always, only time will tell whether Manziel would be ever to step up to the plate. Fortunately, the pressure is as high at it can get for him. To being able to take care of himself and live an honest life should be enough as his top priority. Football should definitely come second unless it is paramount for his recovery. What people will say, fans and doubters, shouldn’t matter as his destiny lies in only one person’s hands. For Manziel, well, he has a lot of time, none for mistakes but much to prove his rightful spot in this league or at least his place in our universe.
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1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Green Bay Packers
6. New York Giants
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tennessee Titans
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Houston Texans
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Washington Redskins
19. Detroit Lions
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Denver Broncos
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Los Angeles Chargers
25. Los Angeles Rams
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. Indianapolis Colts
28. Buffalo Bills
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Chicago Bears
31. Cleveland Browns
32. New York Jets
The 2017-2018 NFL season was anything but ordinary. It shifted from stories permeating of the last season. With those stories that molded political arguments and orchestrated the foundation to likes of humanity. This season touched hearts of survivors of this years unprecedented natural disasters and also filled the Twitter mentions of our beloved president. This year was a year to talk about not only for the sport of football but also the moral fiber of our society.
Simply, sports are not just sports. An argument appeared this year during the season. This year like the last, was highlighted by the many protests started by Colin Kaepernick. During a rally in Alabama, President Trump made some indecent remarks pertaining to the protest of players kneeling during the national anthem and flag. These comments created a dissolution among players and the leagues fans.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Some backed up the president believing that the protest were disrespectful to our armed forces. Others felt that the players were standing up against injustices in this country that the anthem contradicts and are not true for every citizen. And even others took no position on either side but agreed that the protest were well within the rights of the players. In an attempt to preserve the notion of free speech, across the NFL, teams united in a protest by kneeling or locking arms in unification before games or not attending the national anthem and flag bearing at all.
While some saw the protest as an act of defiance, not only to the president of the United States but to our country as a whole, some even saw the protest as illegitimate and did not stand for what Kaepernick originally kneeled for. While Kaepernick was kneeling to bring awareness to police brutality and racial divisions, the players were kneeling for their right to protest and protection of their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the craze did lose its originality as the notion of Kaepernick’s arguments have yet to be discussed.
Many were critical of the NFL’s involvement in political fashions and wanted players to just play citing “football is just a sport”. The problem with that is football is not just a sport. Sports are never just seen as a collection of over sized men and women competing in gladiator like feats for a trophy. Sports have been able to bring people together. Football was never just a sport, not in America. Football itself has embodied the very grit and passion of what it is to be an American.
What football means
In the digital age, football has spread to consumers across the globe and in almost every house in our nation. Players now have platforms and are looked as icons, heroes, and even moral leaders. If you don’t believe it, ask JJ Watt. Ask Benjamin Watson. Or ask Greg Olsen about philanthropy.
Sports are part of the platform to give back, uplift individuals and inspire future generations. You want proof? Remember when New Orleans natives watched their football time emerge from the ruins of their torn city and bring a title to avenge their will after Katrina. Or how an NBA championship can uplift a city after from a fifty year championship drought to embodied the strength of Cleveland. Or even this year, when Hurricane Harvey ravaged, displaced and destroyed lives in Texas, Houston natives were able to see their beloved baseball team bring home a championship and use the achievement as a beacon of hope.
Sports have been politicized since its very birth. The policies and rights bestowed upon each and everyone of us has given us the ability to watch, appreciate, and participate in sports and should never be questioned.
There is no discussion that should over shadow the celebration of champions. The Philadelphia Eagles have now joined the list of 52 teams to have been able to label themselves as world champions. For a long time coming, this achievement gave the franchise its first world title and the city of Philadelphia its first championship since the 2008 World Series where the Phillies were crowned victorious.
The ups and downs in this season did not falter the Super Bowl champions even when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went out with an injury. Orchestrated by a swagger unlike any other team in the NFL, the squad welcomed Nick Foles in the starting lineup as he led them to a historic run in the playoffs. During the Super Bowl, with no surprise, the Eagles were seen as underdogs as they faced the defending Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots, like many others, saw this matchup as a dynasty solidifying opportunity.
Thirteen years ago, the Patriots took the hearts of many Eagles fans as they beat them 24-21. A win that many saw to be spectacular, taking down a squad lead by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. However, this team was not the 2004-2005 Eagles. This team was heralded by a forgotten star in Torrey Smith, a mid season pick up in Jay Ajayi, and a backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Pitted against a team that mirrored the leagues greatest teams assembled of all time, the Eagles never cowered from its opposition. After beating the the Patriots by a score of 41-33, the Eagles brought home their first championship in franchise history.
A team that no one predicted to even compete for a title this year, hoisted the Lombardi trophy on February 4. To spice up the pot even more, at center stage, a player that had been sidelined under the play of an MVP candidate, Nick Foles, held the Lombardi trophy in one hand and the game’s MVP in the other. Of course the Eagles are winners and truly earned it after an incredible season.
AP Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Assistant Coach of the Year: Pat Shurmur, OC, Minnesota Vikings
Bridgestone Elite Performance Play of the Year: Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs “Minneapolis Miracle,” divisional round, Minnesota Vikings
FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB,
Philadelphia Eagles and Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Deacon Jones Award: Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year: Philadelphia Eagles
Salute To Service Award: Andre Roberts, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
There is no hiding this. For the second year running, to no surprise, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest losers of the year. To be frank, 0-16 is down right deplorable. After a year prior that the team went 1-15, the make up of this season didn’t seem any better. Mid-season reports around the organization had suggested that the franchise was looking forward to upcoming draft and ending the season despite only being five games into the schedule. The Browns have a chance to change a few names and numbers on the jerseys this off season but don’t count on it holding any weight. There is no player that will magically turn the tide for the team. The culture is now stuck in conundrum that leaves their fan base with more questions of doubt than accolades to take pride in.
How the Browns are going down the road in the future, the next generation of Browns fans will be Bengals fans, not like that is any better. Changes have to be made from the top if players are going to rally and motivate themselves. Something is going to have to change in Cleveland if change for the good is to come. For a franchise that has lost so much it has to believe in something first to fight for.
NFL Final Standings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New England
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Houston Texans
13. Seattle Seahawks
14. San Francisco 49ers
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Baltimore Ravens
18. Detroit Lions
19. Buffalo Bills
20. Dallas Cowboys
21. Oakland Raiders
22. Washington Redskins
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24. Chicago Bears
25. Cincinnati Bengals
26. Miami Dolphins
27. New York Giants
28. Arizona Cardinals
29. Denver Broncos
30. New York Jets
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. Cleveland Browns
Class of 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees
This year of football is in the history books. The off-season will guide us to a new year as questions mount for the future. What will come the NFL Draft? Will Colin Kaepernick play on a team next year? Will the NFL and NFLPA come to a solution to keep the league open? Fortunately, 2017 was all the glitz and glamour and also the grit and grime of our world. Despite records showing a drop in viewership for the league, those problems don’t come from the sport specifically. The NFL is a dynamic league that grows each and every year. A few policy changes and rule adjustments should get the NFL back in shape. Above all, for longtime dedicated fans, 2017 was a year to remember but also a foundation for what 2018 has to come.
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It is said that “numbers don’t lie” or “the numbers, they speak for themselves”. The Hall of Fame is coveted by the numbers. In a league where legacies are recognized by the numbers, they have to tell it all. For the greats, they have left the league with unforgettable performances. Unfortunately, for the ones outside of our era, those performances will only reminisce inside of the minds of who were able to witness them in person. Today, we hear stories about those greats before Sunday kickoffs by old fans that long for the return of the golden age.
For the rest, we have the numbers. Numbers that have been edged in stone and their history to live on forever. The greats know about numbers. In the NFL, these greats are enshrined in its Hall of Fame. On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2018. Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins and Tony Boselli are amongst the fifteen finalists that head line this year’s potential selections.
Among those few, to no surprise, some will not make it. While these finalists will finally make it one day, this year casts a shadow of some that have been outspoken about their lack of acceptance. One in particular is Terrell Owens.
Among the stars
First, if numbers tell it all, then for Owens it must be a lie. Terrell Owens is all about the numbers. After a prosperous sixteen-year career, the five time all pro receiver left behind a legacy that would intimidate the bronze mantel heads in Canton.
Surprisingly, this is his third go around to the Hall of Fame and as the experts predict, this will not be his last. For Owens, his legacy will not be measured by numbers but by merit. Oddly, for a league that recognizes players by numbers, why is it so detrimental to judge Terrell Owens by character? This is why or at least what they tell you.
“I love me some me!” A phrased coined by the six-time Pro Bowler described just the player he was. Owens was a child under the lights, but a man among boys on the gridiron. And teams felt it. While performances where the talk of nightly sport television highlights, Terrell Owens made a name for himself with trash talk, high stepping between downs and his notorious touchdown celebrations. It made teams blood boil the way he mocked each and everyone them. “The Eagle flap” in Philly, “the Ray Lewis dance” against Baltimore and the coveted “Owen’s Stance on the Dallas Star”.
Terrell Owens… the divider?
While some looked on with disgust, others praised Owens’ outgoing persona on the field. But Owens’ play wasn’t up for discussion. A quote from Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton when asked about his own touchdown celebrations,” If they don’t want me to celebrate, keep me out of the end zone then.”
Teams were hopeless. They couldn’t stop Terrell Owens so they watched along the sidelines as he paraded up and down the field over and over and over again. Owens’ passion to be great wasn’t just a show on the field, it was felt everywhere, even in the locker rooms. In his prominent stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas, Terrell Owens had problems with players, coaches and even management.
Whether it was Owens’ criticism of coach Steve Mariucci, especially during an outing against Chicago when Owens criticized the coach after blowing a fifteen-point lead, or in Philly where Owens butted heads with starting quarterback Donovan McNabb or even rumors around the Dallas organization about concerns on Owens’ mental fitness after circulation of an alleged suicide attempt there was always a story.
In trying to mend the bad blood between each and every team, the organizations and teams took sides. From locker room banters that led to fights, Terrell Owens was accused of dividing the teams. Festering chemistry and ultimately playing a role in causing the team to lack the moral fiber to compete for a championship. This has played one of the prominent roles for keeping Terrell Owens out of the discussion of the greats.
Numbers don’t lie… the numbers, they speak for themselves
Like said before, the sport of football is recorded in numbers. In points, in yards and in minutes. The numbers are objective. They don’t have a perspective or equate to certain occasions. The numbers tell it how it is and for Owens, it speaks in his favor. For all who have doubted the character of Owens can’t deny his talent.
Terrell was known for his prowess and passion between fifty-three yards. In his prime, he resembled the play of NFL titans like Michael Irvin, Andre Reed, Lynn Swann and Jerry Rice. Owens’ games was recognized as a product of the NFL played in the 80’s and 90’s of grit and toughness.
(Joseph Kaczmarek, AP)
He had memorable performances like his twenty-catch game on Jerry Rice day and an amazing game against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl after fracturing his tibia. While some saw his antics as childish, one could recognize them as passion. Terrell Owens passionate play mirrored the likes of sport greats like ray Lewis, Joe Namath, Kevin Garnett and even Michael Jordan.
For a career total, Owens snagged 1,078 receptions for 15,934 with 153 touchdowns, which rank in the NFL books fifth, second and third respectively. When people take sides on character, you can’t argue with the stats. Where Terrell Owens ranks among the elite in his position is still up for discussion. Arguably, Terrell Owens is at most the second-best receiver to play in the NFL.
Road to Canton
The ongoing criticism of Terrell Owens has been broadcasted by people who share a bad taste in their mouths when discussing his career. Writers, who were shoveled down to the lowest on the totem pole, now have the chance to get back at Owens. It is written. We have seen it before.
Pro Hall of Famer Kenny Stabler was subjected to the same treatment. Ostracized because some of his off-field behaviors, the Hall of Fame committee put Stabler on the back burner. When discussing his place in Canton. he was brutalized. Though he was selected in 2016, Stabler died in 2015 and went to his grave without seeing if he made it or not. While people don’t believe this will happen to Owens, you can’t tell the future. The idea that Owens would receive validation for his career after looking back thirty years from now is downright torturous.
As said by Shannon Sharpe himself. “The Hall of Fame is about the numbers”. With those stats, Terrell Owens should not just be a Hall of Famer, but be selected on his first ballot.
The writers’ criteria of what a Hall of Famer should be doesn’t quite match up to what a Hall of Famer is. If this is the case, why don’t the Hall of Famers themselves get a vote? If you ask the vast majority of gold jackets, they will tell you that Terrell Owens deserves a place in Canton. Hall of Famers like Cris Carter, Mike Haynes and Shannon Sharpe have publicly defended Owens’ place in the Pro Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, it is not up to them. The Class of 2018 looks to pass on Owens. Players like Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Dawkins all look to receive first ballot recognitions. Taking nothing from those guys, they were and ARE special to the game of football. They are part of the history of the NFL. For that, you cannot write the history without putting Terrell Owens towards the top of many lists. If the committee is trying to make a case and using Terrell Owens as the poster child, the damage is already done. For many of us, we questioned what a first ballot Hall of Famer is if Terrell Owens isn’t one.
(Ted S. Warren/AP file)
Any player that molds his career after Owens’, would be talked about for centuries. If this is the case, should Owens’ be the sacrificial lamb? Maybe. Fortunately, many of us still remember the great moments of Terrell Owens’ career. The time when Owens’ entertained millions. His number don’t need interpretation. And looking how Terrell Owens “loves him some him”, he doesn’t need the validation of writers. As quoted “If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed”.
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The Philadelphia Eagles return back to the Super Bowl after their last appearance in 2005. Back then, the team was led by a gritty defense and a showtime offense with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Hall Of Fame hopeful Terrell Owens.
Despite the amazing stardom surrounding that team 13 years ago, they suffered a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots. A 24-21 loss behind an Adam Vinateri’s field goal that cemented the game in the fourth quarter. With a city that starves for a championship, the Eagles seemed like they couldn’t quite get over the hump.
A prior Super Bowl appearance that amounted to the latest, the Eagles have made strides to change the tides of the culture of Philadelphia football. After a spectacular season going 13-3 for the year, the Philadelphia Eagles return to the Super Bowl. This time, the pot is even heavier with the chance of getting back at the New England Patriots. There have been a couple of bumps in the road, but Eagles have been the best team this year by far.
For all the boxing fans out there, it doesn’t matter how many punches you throw if you don’t land any. Also, there has to be power behind those punches to make a difference. The strength of the opposing fighter is how much more damage he can withstand than his opponent. The Eagles looks as if they are In the first round of a title fight, even though it’s the fifteenth.
No team has been able to bounce back like the Eagles. No team looks as fresh and composed this late in the season. Despite, numerous injuries this year, the Eagles have bounced back immensely. With injuries that created holes in the defense and limiting a backfield to only one able running back, the Eagles have sustained more damage than any team.
This damage was especially true for their starting quarterback Carson Wentz. An MVP was in the sights for Wentz after a stellar performance this season. After suffering an LCL tear, questions mounted around the league wondering how the Eagles would replace Wentz.
For some teams that lack camaraderie, effort and confidence, a setback like this would be an end for that team. Not for the Eagles. Actually, despite a couple of adjustments, the team hasn’t missed a step. Fortitude from a great defense, a mid season addition in Jay Ajayi and the subtle, but great play from Nick Foles, has helped the team transitioned seamlessly.
Another Super Bowl brings another underdog. Unfortunately, this year it maybe hard to decipher. The Patriots are a great team, but they are beatable. A steady attack by Foles and Ajayi with the team’s tuned offense can make things difficult for the top defense. Last week, when the running game was stifled, Blake Bortles threw for almost 300 yards in the Jaguar’s loss to the Patriots. In the loss of Carson Wentz, Nick Foles’ play has been spectacular and historic. The idea of Foles doing the same or more is not so far fetched.
Foles is actually one of the most efficient quarterbacks in history this run. With three touchdowns last week against the Vikings, Foles should be as confident as ever. He has to and should have a phenomenal performance.
The New England Patriots are titans in this league. Their dominance has been defined over the course of sixteen years. Under the lights of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, it looks to continue . The legacy of this ball club has casted a cloud over the league. Good things it’s always sunny in Philadelphia!
The Pittsburgh Steelers… The Dallas Cowboys… The San Francisco 49ers… are some of the most storied franchises in the NFL. However, on February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots have a chance to surpass them. They hone one the most impressive dynasties in professional sports. Last year, critics raved as Tom Brady surpassed the great Joe Montana in Super Bowl wins when he helped his team defeat the Atlanta Falcons.
After a playoff run that raised some eyebrows, the Patriots look to climb the mountain once again. This season came with its up and downs, but looked like another great season of the past. Led by arguably the greatest coach of all time, they finished a season that bloomed from a questionable start.
This year, Tom Brady separated himself from the doubters and set the bar to the highest its ever been. Coming into the season as the favorite to return and win the Super Bowl, the Patriots started off unusually bad. After a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, critics were quoted stipulating that the Patriots had taken a step backwards. Turning forty in August, Tom Brady’s abilities were questioned if he could lead his team back to the Super Bowl.
The defense faced strong criticism also. After allowing an astonishing 537 yards with almost 150 yards in rushing. Blinded by a facade of the championship prior to the season, the team went through a bit of a search for its identity.
But of course the team rallied behind the veteran presence of Brady, who led by example. In his seventeenth season, Brady put up 4,577 passing yards and 32 touchdowns as the 2x MVP look as dominant as ever.
The defense also followed him. After an abysmal showing in the beginning of the season, the defense grew immensely. After only allowing 366 yards per game this year, the defense became an anchor for the team. Last week, the anchors came up again. The high ranked defense stopped one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL and set up a signature fourth quarter comeback from Brady.
The Patriots have looked as dominant as they did at the beginning of their reigning dynasty. Thirteen years ago, they edged the Eagles in a score 24-21. If history repeats itself, the Patriots are looking good once again.
Tom Brady walks into this game as the greatest quarterback that ever lived, but could possibly walk out the greatest player to play in the NFL. For him, he has a legendary coach behind him. One could mention without Bill Belichick behind his sails, Tom Brady might not have made it this far, but that’s not a knock on Brady.
If anything, it’s in his favor. You can’t separate the greatness from Noll and Bradshaw, Walsh and Montana or Johnson and Aikman, so why separate the dynamic duo of Belichick and Brady? It is said, “Greatness is measured through repetitions of consistency”.
Time will tell how Belichick and Brady measure among the great ones. Till then, the time to witness their greatness is now. Super Bowl LII will be a testament to that. If the Patriots have anything going for them, it is a resume and laundry list of teams by the years that failed to stop them. On that list, the Eagles have shown up once but after February 4th, they might show up twice.
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Cleveland natives tend to feel the cold fronts coming off of Lake Erie this time of year. Unfortunately, what seems of late, they can settle for the bitter cold feeling of their once beloved football team. For at least a half a century, the city has been on the wrong side of history. Fortunately, recent success has come from the anchors of The Land, the Indians and the Cavaliers.
For the Indians, who haven’t had scent of a world title since the Truman administration, the tide is turning for the Wahoos. The past seasons have been pretty fortuitous to say the least. Coming off of a 100-win season in 2017 and World Series appearance the year prior, the Indians’ future looks brighter than ever. This upcoming season, the Indians are predicted to compete for a title as a top baseball club.
The Cavaliers have been through their own personal battles but still hold their position as Cleveland’s best export. The return of LeBron James has been filled with fortune and serendipity. The Cavs Captured a title in 2016 and ended the championship the fifty-year drought for the city. As long as King James and the Cavaliers are one of the heavyweights in the NBA, they will forever be the epicenter of Cleveland sports.
However, the Browns are at an all time low. Coming off a 2016 season that only amounted to a single win, 2017 couldn’t be any better. In fact, it wasn’t. The worst team of the past became the worst team of the present. And at this rate, they look to be the worst of all time.
On January 7, 2018, along Alfred Lerner Way, Brown fans celebrated their “perfect” season. Instead of cheers, cries for help were heard adjacent of the FirstEnergy Stadium. A parade that mirrored a funeral buried the 2017 Browns along with the NFL’s list of deplorable winless teams. With a platform built by greats including Ozzie Newsome, Lou Groza and Jim Brown, Cleveland has yet to return to such heights.
Enveloped in the lingering scent of their 1964 championship, which unfortunately now has only seen by a handful. The majority of the fan base still cringe over the most gut wrenching moments as the world recognizes them as miracles. The Fumble, The Drive, The Move, all still remain in many fans’ hearts as the lowest points in the franchise. Since the golden ages of the 80’s, the Browns haven’t been able to capitalize in the turn of the century.
Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports
Without a playoff birth in almost two decades, fans questions have turned to prayers. With a lack of a notable franchise star, a questionable and ever-changing coaching staff and poor management, the future looks pretty dim as of right now. Even at the franchise’s lowest point, it seems that it is going to get worse as the years go by. Only thing that is safe to say, is that the Browns are here to stay. The efforts of Art Modell in moving the team to Baltimore in 1995 was disastrous. Other than setting precedent for franchise relocations and expansions of the future, for Cleveland, it was futile.
With that being said, Cleveland will have to bare what is to come. In doing so, the seasons of the future might mimic the franchise’s lack accomplishments like the display this past year. For Cleveland to turn things around, this particular off-season will prove to be detrimental for the squad.
In the past, Cleveland has harbored quite a few franchise cornerstones. Some of who were regarded as not only arguably the best in their respective position like Ozzie Newsome, Bernie Kosar and Lou Groza but also the best player in the league. From 1957 to 1965, Jim Brown reigned as the best player in all of football. Bringing home a rookie of the year trophy, three NFL most valuable awards, and garnishing the franchise’s last championship in 1964.
At the height of his career, Brown retired from professional football in 1965, leaving the franchise in search for a new star. Spurts from Hall of Famers like Bobby Mitchell, Greg Pruitt and Leroy Kelly proved to be promising. Unfortunately, the void left by Brown became too hard to fill. That void still plagues the franchise fifty-years later.
An addition of a prominent all-pro player or an emergence of a young star may speak vibes for the team going forward. After an impressive season by the Buffalo Bills that ended in a playoff berth, the Browns now have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. In other words, the way the organization is going, the Browns won’t be seen in the winter anytime soon. Great confidence, effort and camaraderie comes from leadership, something the Browns lack. A star could be the epitome of these components and their focus and pursuit in becoming a contender.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
A bright spot in the tumultuous past has been the career of all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas, who holds the NFL record for most consecutive snaps played, has proven to be remarkable with nine all-pro selections and ten Pro Bowl appearances. But questions mount as the organization looks to move on from arguably the best lineman in football. According to Cleveland.com, reports show that the 33 year old might consider retirement after a ten year career with the Browns. On a laundry list of problems, this holds as the highest priority for the franchise.
Let’s be honest, Cleveland isn’t the most attractive destination for a free agent or even a draft pick. It does not have the appeal of Los Angeles, Miami, New York or even Texas. The golden age of the city is long gone so a potential of a star wanting to play in Cleveland is slim.
When asked about Cleveland, New York Knicks center Joakim Noah said during an interview with TNT in 2009, “I don’t know about this place, man. I just stayed in my hotel room, man. Every time I look out my window, it’s pretty depressing out here, man.” He reiterated his position in a later press conference season after facing the Cavaliers. He was asked if he had regretted his comments, he replied, “Not at all. You like it? Do you think Cleveland’s cool? I mean, I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about Cleveland?” The franchise has to offer more than just Cleveland to reel in targets.
A move in Free Agency
The Browns’ organization has been in a rebuild mode since the beginning of their playoff drought. Though certain components of the franchise might seem unattractive, it can be a valuable home for player looking to revitalize their career. A quarterback is probably the most inconsistent position for the franchise since the departure of Bernie Kosar… literally. Since Tim Couch, the last quarterback for the Browns to start an entire season in 2001, the Browns have started 25 different quarterbacks in 16 seasons, the league’s highest.
This one seems a bit far fetched, but any big name potential targets in this years free agency wouldn’t be any different. Drew Brees, who has plagued the NFC South Division with four division titles and a Super Bowl in 2009 might look for a change in scenery. After an astounding season with 4,208 passing yards with 23 touchdowns on 73% completion, an NFL record, Brees looks better than ever. The only ones looking forward to Brees departure are the Buccaneers, the Panthers and the Falcons. More than likely, if Brees is to leave, he would want to play for a contender. As tough as the AFC North is, contending for a title isn’t in the team’s imminent future. Brees would be the best case scenario. His pedigree would add appeal for free agents to come to Cleveland.
Kirk Cousins at the moment, is having a difficult time with management of the Redskins. During an interview on the Pritchard and Cecil Hour Podcast, former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan told the tandem when questioned about Cousins, “He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special”. McCloughan was responsible for putting the two franchise tags on Cousins. For that, Cousins has something to prove, something he won’t get from a contender. Cousins has to prove he is a legitimate franchise player.
A career in Washington may not be the answer. With franchise tags it seems that Washington is not 100 percent sold on Cousins. NFL analysts expect the ‘Skins to take a quarterback in this upcoming draft. The only downfall is that Cousins has dealt with a shifting front office. His trust of Cleveland management might not be enough to sign and he’s not wrong for thinking so. To counter that, Cousins play has reflected the ‘Skins success. But it seems a contending team’s management may not think so. Cousins might have to settle with a rebuilding franchise.
Cleveland as a destination could be in consideration. Not only for the money, but a list of players who also have a chip on their shoulder. Browns receiver Josh Gordon is looking to prove the critics wrong and have his named edged in consideration as one of the league’s top wideouts. Also free agent pick ups like Marquise Lee or Terrelle Pryor could be a good addition to the core. Pryor/Lee and Gordon could be wonderful targets for Cousins or Brees or even a younger quarterback.
Luckily for the Browns, bad seasons return great draft picks. The team gets an A+ for drafting Myles Garrett last year. After tallying seven sacks in only ten games, the rookie out of Texas A&M might break the chain of poor draft picks for the Browns. This year, they have a chance to do the same as they have the first and fourth pick (via Houston) of the first round in the draft.
Free agent targets like Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees might be out of reach for the Browns. Because so, the organization might have to settle for drafting a quarterback. Luckily, a whole slate of quarterbacks can fit the bill. Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Heisman trophy winners, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson all look promising for any team. The only problem is the fourth pick, which is a good problem to have. A perfect execution can be the foundation for the future and help pull the Browns out of this hole.
As a prediction, in the first round, the Browns are getting a quarterback and a running back. If the Browns are sold and solely want a particular quarterback, they should pick him first.
As the mock boards have it, the Giants have their eyes on Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. If the Browns want Josh Rosen, they should draft him. However, that leaves a home run hitter like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley on the board. If Josh Rosen is taken first by the Browns, the Giants or the Colts could take Barkley for the second and third picks respectively. If that’s the case, the Browns should draft Barkley first. The Giants will probably take Rosen, but the Colts won’t draft a quarterback. This leaves Darnold, Mayfield and others on the board for the fourth pick which should be suitable.
Injuries make most players question their futures but ultimately the doubt will fade. More than likely, Joe Thomas will stay with the Browns. He has a lot more football to play and like the Browns, he has something to prove. With that being said, the Browns should look to fortify their defensive line or secondary instead. Best bet is defensive tackle, Trenton Thompson from Georgia at the 33rd pick and Mike Hughes, defensive back from UCF with the 35th pick to replace the released Joe Haden. If the future of Joe Thomas fears the organization, Offensive tackle Connor Williams from Texas looks valuable at the 63rd pick. In the end, Spencer Drango looks promising after filling in for the injured Thomas this year if Thomas decides to hang it up.
The fan base
As the transportation hub of the Great Lakes, Cleveland rose to prominence in the mid nineteenth century. By the 1920’s, it became the nation’s fifth largest city. The progressive era brought on businesses and businesses brought a booming economy that welcomed an influx of people. This economy aided the birth of sports as Cleveland was dubbed, City of Champions.
Matthew Emmons- US Presswire
Because of these roots, the love for sports have seeped into the culture. There is no discussion, no fan base is more loyal than Cleveland fans. When most of our country’s industries of energy, automobile manufacturing, and agriculture slowly left the region, the residents of the 216 embraced sports. As the surrounding area seemed to deteriorate, Baseball, Football, Basketball, were seen as beacons of hope for natives of northeast Ohio. Camaraderie means everything to a team. A mystery lies whether if there is enough among the players. However, the fans show to not disappoint.
Over the last seven seasons from the ball club, the team’s record has only amounted to an abysmal 89 loses and 23 wins. However, the Browns fans have been able to keep up almost a full attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium over those years. That can be music to a free agent’s ears. There is nothing like home, but a place where you are wanted can move mountains. A free agent like Kirk Cousins, who has been doubted by his own ball club’s fan base would instantly be accepted among the dawg pound.
Cleveland’s downfall has come by its own merit. Poor management, lack of a stable roster, and a questionable coaching staff have prevented the franchise from reliving those glory days of the past and give what their respected fan base deserves. To no surprise, the Cleveland Browns’ organization is moving toward being the worst franchise, not only in the NFL but in professional sports. Not only because of its dysfunctional team’s performance, but the potential the team should have based upon the foundation it lays upon.
Despite all of this and what their record was this past season, there should optimism in Cleveland. It literally cannot get any worse than this. Anything is better than current situation of the franchise. And there’s hope. The region was built on determination and grit. The energy and commitment of the fans exhibit those roots. As grim as it may seem, light is always at the end of tunnel. But there aren’t any miracles in northeast Ohio, at least not in favor of Browns. No magical superstar is going to fall out of the sky and it’s unlikely LeBron James will take his talents to the Cleveland backfield.
With that being said the Browns are all they got. There are going to be desperate changes. Maybe a couple drifter-like free agents ever now and then, a couple of hiring and firing of coaches and questions of leadership will still linger. But maybe some advice from it’s parallel sport franchises in the Indians and Cavaliers might be of some help. As they’ve been able to pluck themselves out of their downfalls. It is well known the teams are built around stakeholders and the community. If any motivation the Browns are going to get, it lies within the roots of the fight that the city of Cleveland is willing to put up.
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There has been many downs in the short career for the four-year quarterback out of UCF. This year was filled with a few ups that have seemingly defined the potential of Bortles going forward.
This Sunday, he steps into the biggest game of his life as his team prepares to play against the defending Super Bowl champions. With no surprise, the odds are heavily against Bortles and the Jaguars.
The presumed MVP, Tom Brady, left the finishing touches of a spectacular season, going 35-for-53 with 337 yards and three touchdowns in a win last weekend against the Tennessee Titans. The defense stepped up too, limiting the Titans to 65 combined rushing yards.
The Patriots look to capitalize on an impressive win, entering the last pit stop towards Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance. However, standing in his way is a young and unchallenged, but unfazed team in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars’ last playoff appearance was 10 years ago. They have turned into a team that sports a young, but hungry coach in Doug Marrone. Marrone has orchestrated one of the best defenses in franchise history, a runaway Rookie of the Year candidate in Leonard Fournette and an offense led by the franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles.
Coming off of a 10-6 record and winning their first AFC South Division championship, Jacksonville is as confident as ever rolling up in Foxborough, facing the most storied franchise in the last two decades. But many are doubting them.
Facing the largest odds in these playoffs, most of which lands on Bortles, the strength of the team comes from its backfield. Unfortunately, on Sunday, it faces its toughest challenge yet when it comes up against the Pats.
If the Jaguars look to pull off the upset this Sunday, the pressure lies behind the arm of Blake Bortles. He’s coming off an impressive season, throwing for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. His efforts only amounted to the league’s bottom half of total passing. However, with the combination of a great running game and a poised Bortles under center, the odds could be in Jacksonville’s favor. All fingers point to Bortles to be counted out once again. Fortunately, this is not the first time he been counted out.
From his high school career to the pros, Bortles has been seen as the guy who others seem to feel will come in second or the “other guy.” During his playing career as the starting quarterback for the Oviedo High School in Florida, Bortles was one of the starred prospects in the area. Locally, Bortles was praised for leading his high school team to a playoff berth in his senior campaign. He finished his career with a county record of 5,576 passing yards and 53 touchdowns.
However, Bortles’ game was outshined by his cross-city rival Jeff Driskel, who was named ESPN’s No. 1 high school quarterback prospect and 10th overall on ESPN’s 150 top high school prospects in the class of 2011.
Driskel, who was heavily recruited by the nation’s top universities, eventually accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Florida to be the next featured quarterback after the decorated career of Tim Tebow. T
he nation’s eyes were on Driskel as Bortles wasn’t even recruited to play quarterback. Many schools, including Tulane, Purdue, Colorado State and Kansas State were all interested in the prospect, but none of which wanted the recruit at his respected position. Wanting to fulfill his aspirations of playing quarterback at the Division I level, Bortles eventually committed to play at the University of Central Florida, less than five miles from his high school campus.
Bortles’ start at UCF was difficult, again being seen as the second guy, this time to his fellow freshman. He regularly lost time behind starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who led the Knights to a 10-3 record in the 2010 football season.
With Godfrey’s play reminiscing the best true freshman performance since Daunte Culpepper, Bortles was seen to be on his way to exiting the program. Reports around the school’s athletic program suspected that UCF head coach, George O’Leary, was contemplating using the 6-foot-5, 210-pound freshman as a tight end going forward. However, these allegations were put to rest at the beginning of the 2011 season with Bortles backing up the starting position.
Photo by Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
During the season, starting quarterback Godfrey had trouble mixing the chemistry with the younger core group of the team. During this time, Bortles had standout performances in the time he was given against Charleston Southern, BYU and SMU. Despite a 5-7 season for the Knights, Bortles threw for 958 yards and six touchdowns, which solidified his starting position as the quarterback for the upcoming season.
In 2012, Bortles started all 14 games for the Knights, leading them to a 9-4 record and a bowl win in the 2012 Beef O’Bradys Bowl. Bortles won MVP, throwing for 271 yards with three touchdowns on a 76 percent completion rate.
Bortles went on to finish the season with 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 144.5.
Despite a breakaway season for Bortles, he was not touted as one of the nation’s top players. Before the 2013 season, Bortles had failed to make any top 100 list of prospects for the upcoming draft. Not allowing it to get to him, Bortles led the UCF Knights to an 11-1 season (its best record in school history until this past season) and captured the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship. He threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns with a 67.8 percent completion rate for the year.
Bortles concluded the season leading UCF to its first major bowl bid in the BCS era, facing the eighth ranked Baylor Bears in the 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. He went on to throw for 301 yards and four touchdowns. He also added a rushing total of 93 yards in pursuit of UCF upsetting Baylor 52-42. Bortles was named the game’s offensive MVP.
(Photo by Matt Kartozian, USA TODAY Sports)
Despite not being on any NFL Draft prospect lists at the beginning of the season, reports had shown that Bortles had quickly risen up the draft boards, even at one point showing that the junior could be the first pick in the entire draft. Bortles would then forgo his senior season at UCF and went on to become the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jaguars.
Over the years, the Jaguars have slowly and steadily made additions to its team in efforts to surround a franchise quarterback. The team lacked depth and experience. They also lost the former top pick Justin Blackmon, and its 2011 draft pick, Blaine Gabbert, was struggling.
Jacksonville made a desperate attempt to free up the base. They lost acclaimed running back Maurice Jones-Drew in the offseason and traded away Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers.
Bortles, whose career reflects those immense changes, struggled as a rookie as the Jaguars limped through a disdainful season, falling to 3-13. Bortles only threw for 2,908 yards and 11 touchdowns with an abysmal 17 interceptions.
The Jaguars kept Bortles as the starting quarterback over Chad Henne, who had started the first three games of that season. The Jaguars looked to fit pieces around its young quarterback after allowing a record 55 sacks, a problem that would continue to plague them in the next season as well.
With minimal changes to the team, Bortles overcame the unfavorable predicament with a strong season, throwing for 4,208 yards and 35 touchdowns, his career best. Despite heroics from Bortles, the Jaguars struggled to find the team’s identity and finished the season 5-11.
(Photo from Jaguars.com)
The 2016 season brought on problems, but ultimately a focus for the Jaguars. Allowing the of rest of the team to follow, the franchise led towards fortifying its defense, bringing in newcomers like Malik Jackson and Prince Amukamara. They used draft picks on Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and UCLA’s Myles Jack, both have shown to be cornerstones of the defense. Jacksonville also added Dante Fowler Jr., who was drafted the season prior, but was lost to a season-ending ACL injury.
Unfortunately, Bortles had a setback for the year and was seen as the root of Jacksonville’s problems. In the beginning of the 2017 season, fans argued that Henne should be restored as starter over Bortles with reports of the franchise in consideration of doing so. However, after a 3-13 season and the firing of Gus Bradley, new head coach Doug Marrone started his tenure with a clean slate and went along with Bortles being the starter for the season.
Armed with an ambitious franchise and a talented offense to complement a tenacious defense, Bortles put up his most efficient season, helping the Jacksonville Jaguars set up its first winning season in 10 years. They captured the AFC South divisional championship and a playoff berth. But as always, the critics returned.
In the Jaguars’ Wild Card matchup with the Buffalo Bills, Bortles threw just 87 yards on 12-for-23 passing. He threw a one-yard pass to Ben Koyack late in the third quarter for the decisive score. Despite pulling out a win, Bortles misfired on many passing attempts, feeding fuel for doubters. Some of which called his performance “awful,” along with both teams’ performances being “unwatchable”.
Questions mounted as Bortles and the Jaguars went up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many believed that the Steelers and the New England Patriots were destined for a showdown in this upcoming AFC Championship game, counting out the Jaguars to put any doubt in that vision.
However, the Jaguars never faltered and never trailed in the game, beating the Steelers by a score of 45-42. Bortles put up 214 passing yards on 14-for-26 passing and delivered a touchdown in the fourth quarter to hold back Pittsburgh to set up a date with the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.
With no surprise, the Patriots are favored to win this Sunday against the Jaguars. Despite a slow start to the season, the Patriots have cashed in on everyone’s predisposed notions of its return to the Super Bowl. They garnish a veteran all-time great coach and a quarterback who looks to cement his legacy amongst the greats.
For the Jaguars, well they have, Blake Bortles. The four-year man out of UCF, whose team faces one of the largest underdog odds in these playoffs. Once again, Bortles is the second guy, the “other guy.”
Although he is coming off arguably the greatest season of his young career, he falls in the shadow of someone who outshines him. Lucky for Bortles, he’s been here before, and despite the opposition, he has a crew that looks as determined and as confident as he is.
From a far sight, Bortles looks to come in second just like he did in high school, or at the collegiate level, or even the first steps of his professional career. With that being said, it should be safe to save some chips for the Jaguars as we have seen this team reach pinnacles this season beyond their expectations. Why should this game be any different? And for Bortles, his opposition shares a familiar tune.
Some time ago, Tom Brady was a relative unknown leading a forgotten Patriots team against some of the most star-studded teams of his time, beating the St. Louis Rams heralded as the “The Greatest Show on Turf” on the grandest stage of them all and giving birth to a dynasty for the ages. Perhaps this is Bortles’ time. Though he faces a threat that is far superior than his previous challenges were, Bortles is a far more superior version of his past self. And just like before, as the world looks on for him to be second, Blake Bortles looks to finish first once again.
Featured image by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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