NFL happenings before the draft

In sports news, baseball, soccer, and golf are still boring.

At least hockey has a compelling game tonight. The New York Rangers play the Philadelphia Flyers, winner take all. Winner gets the last playoff spot and the loser goes home. Go Rangers!

Now on to football.

There are only a couple of NFL players I want to focus on today, but first a quick NFL anecdote.

On Thursday,  couple of days ago, I took a flight from Palm Beach to Atlanta. I was hoping to get an upgrade to first class, but one passenger came and was ahead of me. Oh well. It turned out to be NFL wide receiver and future Hall of Famer Cris Carter. He is considered by many to be the second best receiver of all time, with the statistics to back it up.

I did say hello to him, and he was a nice guy. I kept it very brief, because it was a 5:45am flight. I had to get up before 4am, and I am sure he did as well.

For those who have never seen the “America’s Game” documentaries on the Super Bowl winners, watch them. They are outstanding. The NFL has now begun running a much sadder set of documentaries called “The Missing Rings.” These are the teams that should have won the Super Bowl but did not. The documentaries are heartwrenching and spectacularly done.

I told Mr. Carter that I recently saw the Missing Rings special about the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. That team went 15-1, and might have been the best team ever to not reach the Super Bowl. Despite leading the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Title Game 20-7, and still leading 27-20 with 2 minutes to go, it was not to be. Gary Anderson, who had not missed a field goal in 2 years, missed a 39 yarder that would have locked up the game. Then the defense fell apart and the Falcons tied it. Then the offense that exploded all year could not win it in overtime. The Falcons won 30-27.

The story of the 1998 Vikings is told by Cris Carter, Dennis Green, and one of my favorite players of all time, Big Dog John Randall. Cris Carter said in that documentary that “When I walked off that field after that game, I thought I might never win.” Regarding the Super Bowl, he never did.

I told Mr. Carter that the documentary of that team brought tears to my eyes. He said, “I guess that is a good thing.” I then told him the only thing I could say. He was one of the very best to ever play the game, and it was a pleasure watching him. He thanked me, and after we shook hands, I went to my seat.

I wanted to ask him what it was like to play with John Randall and be coached by Dennis Green. Yet even celebrities need and deserve privacy, especially at 5am.

As for the NFL in 2010, there are two major stories. Obviously the Donovan McNabb trade is a bombshell. The Eagles traded him to their division rival Redskins for a second round pick.

The Eagles are insane. As much as I detest Mike Shanahan (I think he hates Al Davis more than Al Qaeda. Enough already. You were fired 20 years ago. Get over it.), I may have to swallow hard and root for the Redskins just to see McNabb win big.

I will never understand what McNabb did to be one of the most underappreciated players in history. What is even more troublesome is that the Eagles also cast aside Randall Cunningham, coincidentally also in the 11th year.

Some people have speculated that there was a racial aspect to this, and I truly hope that is not the case. Yet a pair of black quarterbacks were not given their due. I think there is a different reason.

Neither Cunningham or McNabb were fiery leaders who yelled and screamed. They let their play on the field do the talking. They did not curse people out, kick over water coolers, or do any of the other stuff that “passionate” players do.

One of the biggest mistakes, and I keep coming back to this, that many people make, is that calm, quiet people lack passion. I am very vocal, but have learned to understand that “quiet passion” does exist. I identify with Coaches like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, and Bill Parcells. Yet Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and George Siefert were winners. Players are no different. Cunningham and McNabb were leaders on the field.

What is shocking is how they let him go to a division rival. The Packers did everything under the sun to keep Brett Favre away from he Vikings. He did a year with the Jets because Green Bay rejected Minnesota as an option. The Eagles let McNabb go to Washington with little fuss.

This reminds me of when the Oilers let Warren Moon go despite 7 straight trips to the playoffs (and 7 opening round losses, a couple of them on the final play). Moon went to the Vikings and was productive. The Oilers started 0-9, Coach Jack Pardee was fired, and the team finished 2-14.  Yes, Buddy Ryan leaving as defensive coordinator hurt, but Moon leaving was big. Cody Carlson was very impressive as the backup, but not as the leader.

Kevin Kolb may very well be a good quarterback, but we know that McNabb is a great one. 5 NFC Title Game trips in 11 years is an accomplishment. Also, the Eagles went 11-5 last year before falling at Dallas.

(Had the Eagles beaten the Cowboys, it would be Wade Phillips and Tony Romo being crucified. They went 11-5 as well. These teams are mirror images from a lunacy standpoint.)

Teams are too quick to want to move on so they can begin rebuilding and eventually get a championship. That is nuts when the pieces are already there to win one now. The Redskins are now a legitimate contender. The Eagles, I will say it now, are done.

The other big story involves Ben Roethlisberger (who is still not Jewish).

Roger Goodell will have his legacy prematurely tarnished if he cannot get a labor deal done. Yet there is no question that his NFL conduct policy is fabulous.

One area of concern is that a player does not have to be found guilty in a court of law to be punished. Yet conduct detrimental to the league does not have to be a criminal conviction.

Now if a person is falsely accused and is totally innocent of behavior, that is one thing. However, if they put themselves in a position to get in trouble, that is problematic.

The Roethlisberger case is similar to that of Kobe Bryant. Maybe they did not commit rape, but they were in the room with the women and they should not have been (although Big Ben is single, giving him some latitude).

With the legal case against him fallen apart, suspending him is a nonstarter. However, he may have to get some form of counseling. If he does, it would be done secretly since the policy of the NFL does not require disclosure of such counseling. This is the case with Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable. He faced allegations of physical abuse. No charges were filed against him. He met with Commissioner Goodell. Whatever came out of it remains secret.

This means that Big Ben, like Cable, may or may not be required to do anything. However, just because the courts let it go does not mean the NFL does. Goodell still needs to investigate the situation.

Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings, but he also has a penchant for reckless behavior. His motorcycle accident was avoidable. His current sexual allegations surrounding him were avoidable. He has shown very bad judgment, and Goodell is more concerned with the overall league as he should be.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had bad years after both of their championships. It could have been for other reasons, but Roethlisberger was absolutely a distraction.

At least the 2010 Draft is here soon. Then comes Rex Ryan and the New York Jets in the HBO series Hard Knocks. That will be worth watching, along with a heavy dose of NFL Films and NFL Network’s America’s Game documentaries.


Update: The Rangers led 1-0 but lost a crushing game in a shootout 2-1. The Flyers are in and again…the Rangers are out. In Women’s bowling news, the girls in the white shirts and black miniskirts were hot. The other televisions in this sportsbar had the 2009 strongest man competition, involving keg throwing. Some football players threw balls at targets. The Masters was played, and somebody won a green jacket. Golf is still boring. Baseball games were played. They were just as boring.



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