Grey Area Politics

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At 12:51 p.m. yesterday, the reported the NFL’s announcement of the punishment for the New Orleans Saints regarding the bounty system they had. The Punishments are as follows:

  • Head coach Sean Payton suspended for one season without pay.
  • An indefinite ban on former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
  • Loss of the teams’ second round draft pick in this year’s as well as next year’s draft.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended for six games
  • GM Mickey Loomis has been banned for the first eight games of 2012
  • The team has been fined $500,000

Yeah. These bounties were totally worth it......

It is an incredible bit of news for the NFL. It means Sean Payton is now the first head coach to be suspended. For anything. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t even done there. According to several sources, 22 of the 27 Saints defensive players were in on the bounty system. What Goodell will do with these players remains to be seen.

A good majority of fans, players, and media types are quite upset over this news. And it is not for reasons related to how justly or unjustly the Saints were treated. A good majority in that clump of people believe this confirms that the 2006/2007 Patriots got off easy for cheating in the Super Bowl.

There really is no more despicable act outside of cheating.

While I will not argue with anyone that says the Patriots got off easy, I will not say the Saints penalty should be lessened because of it. Let us not forget what they are being punished for. The team had a bounty system that reward players (with money) for hurting opposing players. There have been rumors of bounty systems for years and this is time a team actually got caught.

Having a bounty system goes against everything football is about. Yes I know it is a violent sport, but the objective is not to hurt the opposing player. On defense, it is to prevent the other team from scoring. The second reason this goes against sports is the notion of taking players out of the game.

From my perspective, I want my teams to beat their rivals when they are at their best. It feels better and most of the time it results in a better game. A good example is the last two times the Steelers have beaten the New England Patriots. The first of those two came in their Super Bowl run of 2008. Tom Brady was out with a season-ending knee injury and the Steelers cruised to a 33-14 win in Foxboro.

This past season, the Steelers once again prevailed 25-17 at home against the Patriots. This time Brady was playing and as a  result, the game was closer. As a fan that felt a whole lot more satisfying.

If you are purposefully taking or attempting to take another teams’ QB or what have you out of the game, then you are cheating everyone: yourself, your team, fans, and the game. It is about as despicable an act as I have ever seen in the NFL or sports in general. That is why I am in full support of these actions by the league.

That being said, I would be lying if I said I did not feel the league should be more consistent with punishments. The Patriots got off lucky an they know it. A  It is part of the reason they were able to make that Super Bowl run in 2007. The NFL should have come up with similar sanctions for the Patriots.

Instead, what did the league do? They destroyed the evidence. We all know that, of course, but it still makes one wonder what was on those tapes (it couldn’t have been good).

Business man first, Commissioner second.

I am not sure what kind of advantage it gave the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, but the footage had to help in some way. Goodell enjoys handing out massive fines for repeat offenders of “illegal” hits. Yet, when a huge scandal such as cheating comes about, the league goes all Nixon on everyone. A little consistency would go a long way, Mr. Goodell.

However, in a league that is more worried about TV ratings than transparency, it is clear that this kind of horse manure will continue. As for the Saints, they have a long road to recovery. Make no mistake, they will feel the effects both this year and beyond. For once, the punishment fits the crime, but that does not erase years of inconsistency.


Franchise Monday

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Today’s 5pm deadline for franchising players has brought a  whole slew of activity from various teams from around the league. Franchising a player means a player is slapped with the franchise tag. It gives the team essentially one year to wait to go into further contract negotiations. It is a guaranteed amount of money for the player. It is a win-win situation. Some of the key franchise tag uses of the day include:

  • According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Colts used their franchise tag on DE Robert Mathis. Mathis is a huge part of that vaunted Colts passrush. If the Colts are to successfully rebuild their team, then they will need veterans like Mathis to guide younger talent.
  • Lost in the talk of heroes from Super Bowl XLVI is Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Weatherford’s punting was nothing short of phenomenal on Super sunday. He consistently put the Patriots in bad field position. That forced the Pats to go the length of the field to score rather than quick strikes. It was his first quarter punt that helped lead to the first points of the game, a safety.
  • Another key special teamer getting the tag is Broncos kicker Matt Prater. The fifth-year kicker might have the strongest leg in the league. He was instrumental in some of the comeback wins for the Broncos and maybe does not get his due credit. I don’t see why after all of the game winning or tying kicks he made this season. Might I also add that those kicks were not chip-shots either. The Broncos just ensured themselves a clutch boot for at least another season.
  • Speaking of the Super Bowl the Patriots just gave Super Bowl goat  veteran WR Wes Welker the franchise tag. It is apparently worth over $9 million dollars. Welker is one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets and bringing him back made too much sense. It gives Welker another chance at a dropped pass Super Bowl championship.

This deadline also brought with it some key free agent signings. The big signing of the day is, of course, the Texans resigning star RB Arian Foster. To say that Foster has been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. Foster was a beast in only 13 games last year where he piled up 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Fantasy owners in the Houston area are rejoicing.

The deal is for five years and is worth $43.5 million overall; $20.75 million of that is guaranteed. Beyond the obvious of this giving the Texans a chance at repeat postseason appearance, this signing (as well as one other) may have implications for other big-name free agents. The other signing is Bills WR Steve Johnson getting a five year, $36.25 million contract.

The player most likely affected by these deals in Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace. The Steelers did not give the franchise tag to Wallace. that puts them in a big hole for resigning the young wideout. Wallace will most likely demand more money than what Johnson received from the Bills. That is not money that the Steelers can pay. It entirely possible that no team will try for Wallace.

Although not likely.....

It is also possible, with the Pats tagging Welker, that they are trying to keep room open for Mike Wallace. Wallace would the Patriots a scary group of targets for Brady and something they have not had in while: a deep threat. The Bengals are also another team that may have interest. Since the Steelers are only putting a franchise tender on Wallace, that gives these teams an opportunity to go after the speedster (did I mention that he’s fast?).

The Steelers are only $10 million under the cap limit thanks to the plethora of cuts they have made in the last week. Even with that kind of money it is not a given that the Steelers can compete with the Bengals or Patriots in a bidding war over Wallace. Time will tell, but the hits may be far from over for the Steelers organization.

Bounty Hunters

I know that there has been a lot of talk in recent days about the New Orleans Saints and their bounty program. Believe me I will be covering it. I am just soaking in the details and waiting for me concrete details to come out. If it is true then its truly one of the more despicable things to come out of the NFL in recent years.

The concept of paying a player extra money to injure someone goes against everything sports should stand for. I will not speculate in this blog what potential repercussions should be for the Saints. But I will say this: if the allegations are true (and it looks like they are) then the Saints need a clean house. Now.

I will be posting more on this in the coming days. And yes, ESPN, this is worse than Spy Gate. I would rather see a team cheat then do this. But more on that later. Until then, have a happy Monday everyone!

What is best for the franchise

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Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Hands down. But like most veterans, he may not get to choose where and when that ending is. Perhaps you have heard some of the chatter of the last two or three weeks regarding his status as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

According to a report from Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, Manning had four (not three) neck surgeries in the past year. That is a huge piece of information regarding his potential status. According to that report, the Colts fear that Manning’s condition may be chronic. Banks also points to the fact the Peyton’s older brother, Cooper had a spinal condition that kept him

Irsay is facing the toughest situation of his career.

Colts owner Jim Irsay continually fights the notion that Manning is done in Indy. According to pro football talk yesterday, Manning and the Colts are already in contract negotiations. However, according to a new report today, Irsay and Manning have NOT had talks yet. The whole news cycle revolving his status has been dizzying and it seems to get worse by the hour.

The Colts would have to pay him $28 million if they want to keep him. The Colts most likely do not want to drop $28 million on a veteran. Irsay claims he wants Manning back as a Colt, but only if Manning restructures his contract. Whatever the case is, it appears they are about to draft Andrew Luck.

Could this man be leading the Colts soon?

In addition, there is even more uncertainty revolving Manning following this report of a fourth surgery. In the sports illustrated article, Don Banks said that league sources are reporting that Manning has developed bone spurs where his neck was fused. This may lead to further surgeries to repair that area of his neck (hence the fear of chronic problems).

Even more troubling is how Manning attempted to play before his neck was fully healed. He could hardly throw 25 yards, but was willing to play a red-zone-only role in the Colts late-season game against the Houston Texans. While this is primarily ludicrous from a health stand point, this is also mind numbing in terms of football sense.

It is clearly not a situation like baseball where you can just bring in a closer off of the bench. Momentum and execution of the players matter a great deal more in football. Having Manning simply come in and throw passes in the red-zone could lead to less points. Those points would bcome critical for a team that is only playing for pride.

No matter what happens, Manning would be the latest in a slew of veterans and elite players who have had to either restructure their deals  or be cut loose in the past week. Behind thhealth factors, the key question here is: will he be willing to restructure? The deal the Colts does not even guarantee him a spot on the Colts rosters for 2013.

Adding to the Colts’ delimma is the fact that teams are currently drooling at the prospects of Manning becoming an unrestricted free agent. Despite his health factors, there would be teams willing to drop cash for Manning. Think of a coach like Ken Whisenhunt out in Arizona who may have to fight for his job soon.

"Whiz" has been looking for a repeat.....but has fallen a bit short.

Sure he has coached the Cardinals to two postseason trips in his tenure, but his last trip came in the 2009-2010 playoffs. The NFL is all about “what have you done for me lately?” And the Cardinals have struggled to a total record of 13-19 since losing horribly to the Saints in January of 2010. They would love a veteran like Manning.

The last thing that Jim Irsay wants as an owner is to see his beloved, future Hall of Fame quarterback go to another team and win a championship. Outside of Arizona, there will be plenty of suitors licking their chops. This is where Andrew Luck comes into play.

The Colts currently have the number one overall pick in this April’s draft. All signals are indicating that the Colts will take Luck. It seems like the only choice the team has with that pick. Watching Luck play in the Fiesta Bowl, he seemed an awful lot like a young Peyton Manning. It was not a perfect performance, but there are aspects of his game that appear professional.

The thing that separates Luck from other college quarterbacks is that this: when he comes to the line of scrimmage, he has three calls in the huddle he can audible to. That is trait that Peyton Manning had when Tom Moore was his OC. Now, Bruce Arians is the new offensive coordinator and that brings in ideas he used while he was in Pittsburgh.

Arians likes to spread things out and use a variety of formations. Luck appears to have no problem grasping that concept. Luck can also throw a mean bubble screen, which is no doubt going to excite Arians.

In the coming weeks, what the Colts end up doing with Manning will determine what happens once they draft Luck. Here are the two options the Colts have on the table:

  • Keep Manning and draft Luck
  • Release Manning and draft Luck

The first option appears to be the safest one on paper. But there are far too many unknowns with that choice. What if Luck decides to pull a John Elway and skip town for another team? That happened when the Colts tried to draft Elway in 1983. Of course Elway went on to win two Super Bowls with the Broncos and the Colts struggled to one AFC title game appearance in that time.

But it was a very close call......

I am not saying that history would repeat itself exactly in the manner. After all, Denver is still hung-up on Tebowmania. But what I am saying is this: if Manning ever heals fully, then he still has mileage left in tank. Luck is young and may not want to sit behind a legend for 3-4 years. Unless, of course, Manning plans on mentoring the young gun.

But no legend who values their starting job has ever really done that. Joe Montana didn’t hold Steve Young’s hand while he developed under him. Brett Favre scoffed at the idea of mentoring a young Aaron Rodgers. the comforting thing for Andrew Luck is that both situations worked out pretty well for both backups.

If it turns out that Luck is impatient, then Colts would have no choice but to let Manning enter free agency. Doing this would ensure that new head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians get “their guy.”  They could shape and mold Luck however they choose without worrying about him being stuck behind a veteran.

For Manning, it would be strange territory. Seeing him in anything but a Colts’ blue uniform would be a weird site. But the NFL is a business and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay must do what he feels is right for his team. This is a team that has more problems than just at QB. The performance of Joseph Addai has dropped off due to injuries. In his place, Donald Brown was not much better either.

Part of this has to do with an offensive line that was not very good. On top of that, the Colts defense this past season was not much better. It may take a few years for the Colts to rebuild what was once a model for regular season consistency. A promising first-round QB draft pick is not going to help all of those problems. If anything, it was Manning’s presence under center that masked those flaws all these years.

One thing is very clear here: no matter what decision the Colts make, Manning’s health will be the key. This applies to teams interested in Manning as a free agent as well. Teams like Arizona and Washington will be bidding for like no tomorrow if he hits the market. The clock is ticking and the Colts have until March 8th to make a choice.

What is your take on the Manning drama? Should the Colts keep him or cut him? Post your comments below.

Random Notes

  • Randy Moss is officially trying to come back to the NFL. He joins Terrell Owens as two once-great-but-old receivers trying to make a comeback. The funny part is how few team seems to be interested in either receiver. It might have something to do with age, but most likely with how big of a lockerroom liability both are. Moss is the laziest receiver who will ever get into the Hall of Fame. But hey at least an IFL franchise has extended an offer.
  • Speaking of players trying to comeback, ESPN is reporting that former Redskins’ back Clinton Portis is trying to do what Moss and Owens are (or aren’t?). Portis is an older back and it is not clear how effective he can be.
  • Hines Ward’s career in Pittsburgh may be over pretty soon. According to rumors floating around, the franchise plans to cut ties with the Super Bowl XL MVP wideout. Talk about a business. Ward is one of the most beloved players in the history of the franchise. While it will be sad for many to see him go, the Steelers have plenty of talent at wide receiver. If they can somehow keep the three-headed monster of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders, then new OC Todd Haley will have a lot of toys to play with.
  • Ron Jaworski has been let go from the ESPN Monday Night Football broadcasting booth. Jaws was one of the more reliable analysts on that staff and his insight will be missed. On the other hand, Jon Gruden has proved himself to be a potent analyst. This will be the first time in 15 years that MNF has had a two-person broadcast team. The Tirico-Gruden combination does not have the ring, the résumé, or the name that Michaels-Madden had back in the day. Time will tell on this one, but it appears to be a very risky move.

Intro – The NFL Offseason

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Hello everybody!

My name is Kevin Green and I will blogging on this site about sports. I am a third-year student at Longwood University. I have covered sports for the student-run radio station WMLU 91.3 FM for a good majority of those three years. I have also written sports articles for the campus news paper called The Rotunda.

This is me, hard at work at the WMLU studio.

Rather than focusing on just sports in general,  I will be covering the NFL offseason. The Great Al Coleman of ESPN 950 in Richmond once told me that there is “always something going on in sports.” I have taken that advice to heart and I hope to translate it into an interesting and informative blog. The offseason will not be as dead as it always appears! So stay tuned as I will post more on the exciting coaching changes, free agency signings, and pre-draft hype.

Thanks for reading!