The Trouble with Colin Kaepernick

Five seasons ago, Colin Kaepernick was a blown personal foul penalty away from leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl title. During his playoff run, he set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in any game. After the following season he signed an extension worth $54 million guaranteed. Despite struggling under two coaches who would only last a season each, he still threw for 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions on a team bad enough to secure the #2 pick in the draft.

And today he can’t find a job.

Of course, you already know that. And you probably know that Kaepernick is good enough to be one of between 64 ad 96 quarterbacks employed by an NFL team. And you definitely know that Kaepernick being out of a job has absolutely nothing to do with how well he plays on the football field.

But instead of launching into the stupidity of why Kaepernick can’t find a job or debating the appalling nature of how he’s being treated by the League and its member teams, I’m instead going to participate in a little experiment.

Last week, I listened to local sports talk personality Mike Valenti lament the stupidity of the Jacksonville Jaguars opening their quarterback competition between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, instead of handing it over to either of the outright. Obviously, Valenti pointed out that it was asinine that the Jaguars would start the season with either of these 2 as their starting QB, and insisted that they were idiots for not calling Kaepernick. But, for reasons I’ll get to later, it’s not nearly that simple.

So I’m going to examine every team’s quarterback situation and determine whether or not they should bring in Kaepernick and examine just how deep his so-called blackballing goes.

AFC East
Buffalo Bills – Tyrod Taylor, TJ Yates, Nathan Peterman. None of these have ever done anything in the NFL and Taylor is so inept as a QB that the team benched him rather than risking injury and triggering his contract to become guaranteed. Kaepernick’s an upgrade over any of them.

Miami Dolphins – Matt Moore, Retired Jay Cutler, Brandon Doughty, David Fales. The Dolphins’ QB position opened up when Ryan Tannehill blew out his knee in the preseason, but one could argue that Kaepernick would be an upgrade over him as well. Logically he’d be a perfect fit here, but then we look at the political situation. Kap once did a press conference in a Fidel Castro t-shirt and compared his regime to those in the U.S. (I never argued that Kaepernick was the smartest knife in the block). And in the city with the nation’s largest concentration of Cuban exiles, that’s a non-starter. No go in Miami.

New England Patriots – Tom Brady, Jimmy Garopolo, Jacoy Brissett. Not even worth discussing, and easy no.

New York Jets – Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg. Unless the Jets are playing for the #1 pick in 2018 (which is entirely possible), Kaepernick could sign 5 minutes before kickoff and be the starter for this embarrassing franchise.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Thaddeus Lewis, Josh Woodrum. It’s widely believed that when Flacco went down with an injury that would keep him out for a week during the preseason, Ravens owner Steve Biscotti nixed any chances of signing Kaepernick over ticket sales concerns. But while Mallett sucks, he’s definitely more in line with Flacco’s style of play and if Flacco goes down the Ravens are probably screwed anyway. No point in rocking the boat when Flacco will be back for the regular season.

Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Jeff Driskel. Established starter, similarly styled backup, so no need here.

Cleveland Browns – Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan. Kizer is likely the Browns’ designated QB of the Future for 2017, but Kaepernick plays with a similar style and could be a good mentor (as much as a guy everyone thinks is a cancer can be a mentor). He’d definitely make sense in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Bart Houston. They’ve got a future HOF’er as their starter and Kaepernick isn’t the same style QB. Pittsburgh’s set.

AFC South
Houston Texans – Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden. In this putrid division Houston has gone to the playoffs with Savage, Brock Osweiler and TJ Yates. Kaepernick could come in and do the same and provide a stop-gap before Watson takes over for the next decade.

Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris, Philip Walker. Assuming Luck is healthy (the new version of “Assuming Matthew Stafford is healthy”), they’re set for years, and they’re probably doomed if he’s not. No point here.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen.  Considering a conversation about this team’s QB situation inspired this post, this seems like a no-brainer. However, I once read an anecdote that Jacksonville is so racist that when David Garrard was the QB the team was practically forced to sign two black quarterbacks to back him up for fear of fan backlash that the white guy wasn’t starting. In a world where Tim Tebow is a free agent and also the walking messiah in northern Florida, Kaepernick wouldn’t stand a chance here.

Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel, Alex Tanney, Tyler Ferguson. Mariota isn’t going anywhere, and there’s a solid argument to be made that Kaepernick is a better QB than Cassel. With a similar playing style and Mariota’s tendency to get hurt, Kaepernick could be a good backup option here.

AFC West
Denver Broncos – Trevor Simian, Paxton Lynch, Kyle Sloter, Chad Kelly. With the exception of Kelly, who’s only known because he’s Jim Kelly’s nephew and a total asshole off the field, all of these guys are anonymous nobodies (redundant?) who have done nothing. Kaepernick could fit here.

Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray, Joel Stave. Kaepernick has already beaten Smith in a QB situation and has a similar playing style to Mahomes, who the Chiefs took in the first round this year. If Mahomes isn’t going to play this year, I’d take Kaepernick over Smith, and if he is, Kaepernick would be a capable backup and mentor.

Los Angeles Chargers – Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens, Cardale Jones, Mike Bercovici. I could see Jones as the eventual heir apparent to Rivers, and the playing styles aren’t particularly similar. No fit here.

Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook. As a Michigan State grad, I’m supposed to stand up for Connor Cook, but the guy sucks and was a well-known asshole who could very easily wear out his welcome wherever he goes. Derek Carr might’ve been MVP last season if he hadn’t gotten hurt, so he’s not going anywhere. Kaepernick might be a good fit in a couple of years when the Raiders move to Vegas where he’s from, but no dice this year.

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore, Cooper Rush, Luke McCown. Prescott isn’t going anywhere, but Moore isn’t much of a runner and Kaepernick would allow an easy transition if Prescott were to get hurt. Plus, Jerrah loves him some controversy and would sign Hitler if he could run for 1500 yards. Not only is Kaepernick a decent fit for Dallas, I’m borderline floored that he hasn’t signed there yet.

New York Giants – Eli Manning, Josh Johnson, Geno Smith, Davis Webb. Just as a little aside, it’s amazing where Eli Manning ranks on the all-time passing lists (8th in passing yards, 7th in touchdowns, completions, and attempts, etc.). He’s been a joke for his entire career and he’s a definite first-ballot Hall of Famer. As for the Giants, I’m amazed that Johnson and Smith are still in the League, and they’re in the same mold as Kaepernick. Of course, their owner is the guy who signed a kicker whose wife had called the police on him over 20 times and complained that he’d gotten more calls about not signing Kaepernick than any player ever. He would make sense here as a player, but because their owner’s a douche, he won’t.

Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Matt McGloin, Dane Evans. Wentz was the #2 pick in the NFL draft and barring a Teddy Bridgewater type injury he’s not going anywhere for a while. All of his backups are in a similar mold as Wentz, so Kaepernick doesn’t make sense here.

Washington Redskins – Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld. I’ll be damned, Colt McCoy is still in the League! I’m absolutely stunned. Anyhow, you’d have to think that someone who’s as dedicated to social justice as Kaepernick is wouldn’t sign with the team with the most racist name in sports, so this one’s a pretty simple no.

NFC North
Chicago Bears – Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Mitch Trubisky, Connor Shaw. The Bears made arguably the biggest free agent signing of the offseason, then made the dumbest draft day trade in history to take another QB. And then, just for good measure, they signed the immortal Butt Fumble! So, no, I’d say Kaepernick doesn’t fit here.

Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Bye Felicia Kaaya. Stafford’s not likely to go anywhere and half of Detroit wants Rudock to take over yesterday. Kaepernick would not go over well in this town.

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, Taysom Hill. Who has ever heard of any of Rodgers’s backups? And I mean this year, Matt Flynn doesn’t count ever since the Lions turned him into an immortal. So no, I’d say Kaepernick doesn’t fit here.

Minnesota Vikings – Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Taylor Henickie, Mitch Leidner. Obviously Teddy Bridgewater was the QB of the future until he had to have his leg reconnected. Kaepernick has done more than any of these QB’s in their career, so I’d bring him in. It would make the ridiculous draft bounty they gave up for Bradford look pretty stupid, though.

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms, Alex Torgersen. Seriously? The Falcons have 3 QB’s named “Matt” on the roster. Was that intentional? Not that it really matters, but Ryan won the MVP last year and the backups are similarly styled, so no Kaepernick here.

Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb, Garrett Gilbert. Kaepernick is essentially Cam Newton Lite, and Newton’s bound to have his brain scrambled by one of the 47 hits to the head that the refs don’t penalize this season. Carolina probably makes more sense than any other team for Kaepernick.

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, Garrett Grayson, Ryan Nassib. The Saints seem to like undersized QB’s who took their schools to unexpected bowl games. Kaepernick doesn’t seem to fit that particular mold, or the Saints’ system for that matter, so no.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, Sefo Liufau. The Bucs clearly like rapists (sorry, “accused” rapists) as opposed to guys who stand up for injustice, so I’d say he doesn’t make a ton of sense here. Then again he and Winston have a similar style, so let’s go with yes.

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, Trevor Knight. I’m actually floored any of these guys are still in the League, although obviously Palmer is in a different category than the other 3. Palmer probably has a year or two left, but Stanton has a playing style similar to Kaepernick and isn’t nearly as good. By those standards I might bring him in, but probably better to leave well enough alone.

Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Dan Orlovsky. Goff may well suck, but he was the #1 pick in the draft last season so he’ll be around for a while. All 3 QB’s are similar styles, and Kaepernick isn’t the best fit, so no go here.

San Francisco 49ers – Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, CJ Beathard, Nick Mullens. As someone who’s watched Michigan State for over 20 years, I have no idea how Brian Hoyer ever took a snap in the NFL, let alone lasted 8 seasons. Kaepernick is better than any of these guys with his eyes closed. I have no clue why he opted out of his contract, but he shouldn’t have.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson, Trevone Boykin, Austin Davis. Seattle’s the only team that even brought in Kaepernick for a tryout. Then they signed Austin Davis, and if you said you know where he went to college, you’re a liar (Southern Miss, by the way). After the defense supposedly shit all over Russell Wilson I can actually understand why the Seahawks didn’t sign Kaepernick – the last thing Pete Carroll needs after a Wilson interception is Richard Sherman screaming in his ear to put in Kaepernick. So I’ll say it makes sense that Seattle passed.

So by my count, I see 12 teams where Kaepernick could fit, 15 where he doesn’t, and 5 (Miami, Jacksonville, Washington, NY Giants, and Seattle) where political issues interfere. Twelve teams, several of whom have signed domestic abusers and players who can’t pass a drug test, won’t make their team better because he chooses to protest the injustices in this country.

There’s much to be said about Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Personally, I’ve got no problem with it, although I think Kaepernick’s hurt his cause by wearing socks showing police dressed as pigs and a Fidel Castro t-shirt and proclaiming that he wouldn’t vote because it didn’t matter who won, which is absurd. And obviously the people who disagree with Kaepernick’s protest have as much right to their opinion as I do.

But you’ve got to admit that when you look at the ease with which guys like Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Josh Brown, Pacman Jones, and Leonard Little found jobs after far more appalling behavior, it’s hard to argue that the NFL has its priorities in order.

Fixing the NFL (Part 2)

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It’s Super Bowl Sunday (or, if my writing/editing/posting history is any indication, sometime around Draft Day), which means football is on the brain.  As opposed to the other 365 days – it’s a leap year, remember – where football is on the brain.  Still, it strikes me as being as good a time as anyway to take another look at how we can fix the NFL.

My devoted readers – I’m talking to you, Dad – may remember that I already did a “Fix the NFL” post a few years back, and if you don’t, you can read it here.  Despite the fact that the NFL has stupidly listened to exactly none of my ideas (ok, they fixed the extra point, but they did it in a less than satisfactory way), we’re not going to rehash many of those issues here.  Instead we’re going to look closer at the business and societal issues with the game more than what happens on the field.

Without further ado:

Fire Roger Goodell.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon into a brick wall.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon into a brick wall on the surface of the sun.

Have I mentioned firing Roger Goodell?

Look, I think Goodell has his fans.  He has at least 32 of them, because if he didn’t the owners would’ve fired him already.  Unfortunately, a drunk monkey could’ve run the NFL during Goodell’s era and there would’ve been no difference.

People will tell you that Goodell’s grown the NFL’s business by leaps and bounds during his time as commissioner.  But that growth is due to, in my eyes, four things: gambling, fantasy football, the public financing of stadiums, and the DVR.  I’ll elaborate.

Fantasy football and gambling are no-brainers.  The NFL wouldn’t exist without it.  Or if it did it would be the NBA and Major League Baseball would still be America’s pastime.  Doubt me all you want, but I’m right.  The NFL could probably exist without fantasy football, and it did so with explosive growth up through the 1980’s, despite two seasons with work stoppages.  The reason is that football is so easy to gamble on that millions of people watch the games with absolutely no interest in who actually wins the games.  And football has been gambled on since the sport began, well before Roger Goodell was able to get his grimy claws on the game.

As for public financing, if you include the forthcoming Minnesota, Atlanta, and L.A. stadiums, 9 teams will have moved into new stadiums during Goodell’s reign.  Add the renovations in Buffalo and Kansas City and the fact that the Raiders and Chargers will eventually move, and you’re up to 13 teams that will have moved into new or renovated stadiums during Goodell’s reign.  All of these stadiums have been at least partially financed with public funds, with the billionaire owners claiming that the government – and the public that pays for government – needs to pony up because a new stadium offers so much benefit to the municipalities.  (I won’t go much into the scam, but if you want more information, go look at Field of Schemes.)

The thing is, since Jacksonville and Carolina entered the League in 1995, only the Bears, Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons, and Saints remain in the same facilities; we’ve discussed the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Bills, and Falcons, and only the Packers haven’t taken public funds for renovations (although the Packers breed a special breed of stupidity, as they financed their stadium by suckering their idiot fans into buying stock certificates that have no actual benefit of team ownership).

My point is that teams were suckering their fan bases into paying for their stadiums well before Goodell came into power.  Hell, they’ve been doing it in every other sport, with practically every team threatening to move if they didn’t get a new stadium financed with public funds.  This isn’t new, and it surely isn’t Goodell’s doing.

Finally, we come to the DVR.  Back in 2000 TiVo introduced the first DVR, and as their use has become more and more common in American households, the networks are looking for DVR-proof programming.  And nothing is more DVR-proof than sports.  Sure, there are a decent number of people who start the game an hour late, skip the commercials, and finish when everyone else does.  But for the most part people who are watching sports are doing it live, meaning they are consuming the commercials that are so important to the networks.  As a result, TV rights fees for sports have shot through the roof.  From 2006-13, TV rights fees were $3 billion/year.  From 2014-21, they were over $5 billion.  That’s not Roger Goodell’s doing, it’s because the networks are desperate.

And for all this business that Goodell had nothing to do with, what has he given us?  Embarrassment.  League disciplinary processes that leave us sympathetic to pieces of shit like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy.  Suspensions so heavy-handed in the Bountygate investigation that his predecessor was brought in to overturn his findings.  Discipline that was probably light in the infamous SpyGate scandal, although we’ll never know because immediately after the penalties were handed down he destroyed all the evidence to protect his buddy Robert Kraft.  And a ridiculous make-up suspension – a suspension he’s still suing to uphold despite the fact that numerous arbitrators and courts have ruled that the suspension was ridiculous – of Tom Brady over some deflated footballs (to make up for the aforementioned light SpyGate penalties) that were so important to the outcome of the game that the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0 after the offending footballs were removed from play.

And that doesn’t even mention the concussion catastrophe, which I’ll get to later.

Fire Roger Goodell.  Hire a drunk monkey.  It’s not that hard to be a commissioner in American sports.  Hell, Gary Bettman’s been doing it for over 20 years.

Fix the Concussion Crisis

Look, I get it.  Football is a dangerous game.  We watch as much for the bone-jarring collisions as we do for the amazing catches from Antonio Brown and the amazing runs from Todd Gurley.  But it’s recently become amazingly clear that playing football at all levels kills people.  It’s simply by the grace of God that no one has died on an NFL field as a result of a violent collision.  It is coming and it will likely destroy the League.  But the NFL can get in front of it and prevent that with a couple of easy fixes.

First, have independent concussion doctors on site at every game.  Let’s make it 3 doctors at each game who will have the power to stop the game if they see a guy struggling and will review him away from team personnel to determine if he is capable of returning to the game.  Players go into concussion protocol now, but players still believe that the doctors are more concerned with the team that employs them than they are with the players’ well being.  So we’re removing the concept of team concussion doctors and replacing them with League concussion doctors.  And just so we make sure that the League can’t step in and say that Cam Newton is cleared for the Super Bowl (when we know it would be an utter disaster for the League if Derek Anderson had to start), the doctors will be hired independent of the League.  Let it be the state’s medical boards that handle it.  If the NFL doesn’t like it, threaten to pull their favorable antitrust status.

Second, lifetime medical insurance for anyone who’s ever played for, been drafted by, or signed with an NFL team.  This will prevent the League from even trying to make the argument that the problem wasn’t caused by their football history.  Make it retroactive for any living player and have an independent board review the status of any of the decedents of deceased players.  It’ll save the League on lawyers fees and it’ll gain them immeasurable public relations points.  It’ll be expensive, but the NFL’s a cash cow.  And when a player inevitably dies on the field, the NFL will be able to say, “Hey, we know it’s dangerous, but we’re taking care of it.”

How are we going to pay for it?

Expand the Season

But wait, DSC, how can you complain about the inherent dangers of the NFL and then tell us we need to expand the season?  Simple.  We’re not adding games, we’re adding weeks.

I didn’t see Concussion, mainly because the Sony email hack scandal showed that the studio pulled some punches out of fear for being sued by the League, but also because I both watched the League of Denial documentary and read the book, so I didn’t feel like paying to watch a movie that thinks Luke Wilson is a convincing Roger Goodell.  But the trailer had one interesting line, and that’s that the League owns a day of the week.  And it’s true: from September until early February, every Sunday is NFL Sunday.  So what better way to add income then by giving them more of those Sundays?

As it stands now, we get 4 crappy preseason games and 16 regular season games over 21 weeks, with each team getting one regular season bye week.  The owners have started to realize that fans don’t want to pay full price for a preseason ticket, so they drop the price of the preseason games and spread the difference over the regular season games.  And we pay it, because we’re stupid sheep.

Now imagine 2 preseason games and 16 regular season games over the same 21 weeks, but with 19 weeks in the regular season.  What’s the difference?  I’m glad you asked.  And if you didn’t ask, you should have.

As it stands now, if you’re one of the 99% of America that has cable (that’s an estimate, but it’s not far off), you get to see 5 games a week – Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and 2 on Sunday afternoon (and if you choose to skip around you can see 3 of the games on Sunday afternoon).  That’s 85 games a season, or 33% of the 256 games on the schedule, and that doesn’t include the nationally televised Thanksgiving games or the occasional late-season Saturday games.

Now, expand that 2 weeks without adding any games, and you’ll see 105 games, and you’re up to 41% of the season, all without dropping another penny.  And you do it in a way that helps player safety, and everyone loves that.

You may recall that in my prior diatribe about fixing the League I suggested that the final week of the regular season should be the final Sunday of December, with the playoffs starting the first week of January.  With this in mind, Week 1 would take place the week of August 23 and Week 19 would take place the week of December 27.  Is August 23 early?   Yes.  However, this would mean that the preseason games would start on August 9 (no sooner than normal), with the “real” games starting sooner.  And who would hate that?

(Well, Major League Baseball, but we’re not talking about them right now.)

So how will it work?  Each team plays a 16-game season with 3 bye weeks.  The players get added time to rest and recover and we likely see more players playing more games.  There will be no bye weeks from Weeks 1-4 and 17-19.  Two divisions each (one from each conference) have a bye week every fourth week from weeks 5-16, with the same divisions on the same bye weeks to eliminate any competitive advantage with teams getting longer gaps between bye weeks.

What’s the benefit?  You just gave the networks two additional weeks of DVR-free unstoppable NFL programming, which always finishes at the top of the ratings.  That’s roughly 12% more games for the people to see, and, more importantly, 12% more TV revenue.  At $5 billion a year as it currently stands, you’ve just added $600 million additional revenue without requiring the players to play another game.

If this isn’t the most brilliant and simplest fix to the game, I don’t know what is.

Lifetime Bans for Violent Criminals

Greg Hardy is a pile of shit who threw his girlfriend onto a futon full of assault weapons while she begged him to kill her, paid her off so that she wouldn’t press charges, and then promised to come out guns blazing when his suspension was up (and let’s not even discuss his comments about his opponents wives and girlfriends).

Adrian Peterson whipped the shit out of his 4-year-old son, scraping his legs and testicles, and while he was off on a league-mandated sabbatical (he was only retroactively suspended), he got caught smoking weed and threw himself an elaborate Egyptian-themed birthday party where he refused to allow anyone to discuss the charges against him.  He has shown zero remorse and seeks no redemption, despite the fact that publications such as Sports Illustrated really want to give it to him.

The NFL Players Association, because these pieces of shit are dues-paying members, are required to stick up for them, so when Goodell tries to do something good like banish these monsters in a manner that fits their crimes, he does it based on guidelines that aren’t in place and require the NFLPA to stick up for them.

So I say ban them for life.

Electrocuted a dog?  Gone.  Killed a guy while you were driving drunk?  See ya.  Knock your wife out and then dragged her out of an elevator?  Banned.  Threw your girlfriend onto a pile of assault weapons?  Outta here.  Beat the shit out of your kid?  Get out.

Playing football is a privilege.  In exchange for your considerable talents you are paid a ridiculous sum of money and expected to not be a total garbage human being.  If you fail to do so, that privilege is taken away.  And for anyone who says we’re taking away his right to earn a living, save it.  We’re not doing that.  He can go work as a janitor, or a clerk at a 7-11, or, perhaps, he could use his college education, say he made a mistake in job interviews and it’s cost him dearly, and hope he can make something of his life.

But if you’re guilty of committing a violent crime, you’re done.

And just so we don’t let the teams off the hook, they’ll be required to pay the remaining guaranteed amount of his contract to a charity of the victim’s choosing.  We won’t be total dicks though…we won’t make them take a salary cap hit.

“Fix” the Playoffs

Let’s face it, the NFL playoffs are about as good as it gets, second only to the NCAA tournament in terms of excitement and watchability.  But it can get moderately better with a few tweaks.

First, add a wild card team.  The NFL ditched one of their wild card teams when they expanded to four divisions in 2002; this corrects that issue.  It also makes securing the top seed a more important endeavor as it gives that team the only first-round bye.  And perhaps most importantly for the League, it gives them two additional playoff games, which means additional revenue.  An opening-weekend tripleheader on both Saturday and Sunday would be to everyone’s liking, I’m certain.

Second, seed the teams by record.  I’m fine with division champions being guaranteed a playoff berth (for the most part…I’ll get to that in a second), but that’s it.  In the 2015 playoffs, all four home teams lost in the Wild Card round.  If we seeded based on record, two of those teams would’ve played on the road.  The NBA is going this route, and while I hate to tell anyone to follow the NBA’s lead, in this case they’ve got it right.

Third, and definitely more controversially, a division title doesn’t guarantee you a playoff berth.  If you’re under .500 and there’s a team that has a better record than you and would otherwise be left out of the playoffs, you’re out and they’re in.  If you’re at or above .500 and a team has 2 more wins than you and would otherwise be left out, they’re in and you’re out.  Don’t like it?  Tough.  I hate rewarding teams for geography.

(If you read my first “Fix the NFL” post, you’ll notice I proposed a massive overhaul of the playoffs and the divisions.  I like that better, but this is more realistic.)

Kill the Coin Toss

There’s no such thing as home field advantage in football (same thing in basketball, but again, not my concern here).  In baseball you get the last at-bat at home, in hockey you get the second line change.  So the home team gets to determine whether to kick off or receive.  Same thing for overtime.  This eliminates any potential embarrassments such as the one we saw in the Green Bay-Arizona playoff game this year.

(And for you degenerate gamblers out there, because the Super Bowl is a neutral site, we can keep the coin toss for that game and that game only.)

Fix Overtime

I don’t have a simple fix for this one.  All I know is that the NFL’s overtime is stupid.  They changed it a few years back because the ball was taken out of Brett Favre’s hands after the Vikings lost the coin toss in the NFC Championship game (never mind the fact that Favre threw an asininely stupid interception that prevented the Vikings from kicking the game-winning field goal in regulation).  So now both teams are guaranteed a possession in overtime unless the team who wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on the first possession.  That’s just needlessly complicated.

The simplest answer is to just eliminate the sudden death nature of football’s overtime and play the full 15 minutes.  And because I’m lazy, let’s just do that.

Fix Replay

We’re instituting a couple of simple changes.  First, you have as many challenges as you have timeouts.  If that means you get 14 challenges and because the refs keep screwing up and you keep correctly pointing out that the refs keep screwing up, so be it.  Get the call right.

Second, everything is reviewable.  Some penalties are just obvious and aren’t really the judgment call that the referee’s union would like you to believe.  Illegally batting a ball out of bounds?  Reviewable.  Picking up the flag on an obvious pass interference?  Reviewable.  Thumb barely grazed the quarterback’s helmet, leading to a nonsensical facemask call?  Reviewable.

(Is it obvious I’m a Lions fan?)

Are you going to review a missed hold on 2nd-and-8 in the 2nd quarter?  No.  But you are going to review a play that would’ve given you the ball back late in the game or ended the game on the final play.

Third, institute a “Common Sense Committee”, or CSC.  The NFL refuses to fix the catch rule, which makes sense because it’s not like whether a catch is a catch should be the simplest question to answer in the NFL.  So because we’re not going to fix the rule, we’re going to institute a committee that asks for a common sense ruling when such a ruling is required.  So who’s on the CSC?  Simple.  Four drunk fans from every team (and yes, it’s football, they must be drunk).  When there’s a call that goes to replay (whether that’s by a coach’s challenge or on a turnover or touchdown), the CSC – excluding the representatives of the two teams involved – is called to review the play.  If the CSC disagrees with the outcome of the replay, the CSC’s decision wins out.  Utilizing the CSC, there’d be no such thing as the “Calvin Johnson Rule”.

Fix Officiating

The League will tell you that officiating is fine, that the percentage of incorrect calls was no different this year than it was in previous years.  This may be correct, but this year the mistakes were in particularly high-profile situations.  The NFL is a $12 billion enterprise that uses part-time officials.  I’m not the only one who finds this ridiculous.  The officials are crucial, and one needs only look back to the Fail Mary – a call so bad that it quite literally ended a strike by the officials’ union – to see how important they are.  So make them full-time paid employees and I guarantee it gets better.

(Although we may lose the greatness that is Ed Hochuli, because he’s a well-paid attorney in his “spare” time.)

We’re also allowing the League to correct the outcomes of games.  In two circumstances this season – a missed false start that would’ve led to a 10-second runoff and the end of the game prior to a game-winning field goal; and an incorrect face mask on the final play of the game that led to an untimed completed Hail Mary – bad calls resulted in outcomes different than what should have actually happened.  In these cases, the NFL is to be allowed to step in and change the outcome of the game.  It’s an extreme example and would not happen often, but it is a possibility.

Draft Pick Compensation for Incorrect Calls

This idea is so absurd that I’m completely separating it from the notion of fixing the officiating.  Will it ever happen?  No.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about it.

Take the Week 4 game between the Seahawks and Lions.  With 1:45 left in the game, Calvin Johnson caught a pass, gained the first down at the Seattle 1, then fumbled the ball into the end zone, where Kam Chancellor illegally batted it out of bounds.  The referees incorrectly ruled it a touchback – the illegal bat should’ve given the ball back to the Lions at the spot of the fumble – and the Seahawks were able to run out the clock and win the game.  Because we don’t KNOW that this game would’ve turned out differently – and thus the NFL wouldn’t change the outcome of the game retroactively – we send the game to a committee for draft pick compensation.  After the season, teams would send egregious calls such as this to the committee for review to determine how much the bad call impacted the outcome of the game and how much that game impacted the remainder of the season.  If the committee determines that the game would have ended differently, they determine the round of draft pick compensation.  The actual winning team loses their draft pick in exchange for the next “natural” (i.e., not impacted by trades) draft pick of the actual losing team.

(In this situation, the Lions would’ve had the Packers Hail Mary game overturned on account of the incorrect face mask call, making the Lions 8-8 and the Packers 9-7.  The draft pick compensation committee would’ve then determined that with the ball on the Seahawks 1 with first down and under 2 minutes to play, the Lions likely would’ve won that game, which would’ve made them 9-7 and in a tie with – and more importantly holding the tiebreakers over – the Seahawks and Packers, which would’ve given them a playoff berth.  Loss of a playoff berth or a playoff game is an automatic first round draft pick, with the Seahawks receiving the Lions’ next draft pick, in this case their second rounder.)

(On a completely unrelated note, I’m now horribly depressed.)

Give the Lions and Browns 2 Additional Wins to Start the Season

Look, they need it.  Either they’ll screw it up themselves or the refs will do it for them.

These 2 wins will not be used for playoff seeding.

Depressing stat: Since the Browns returned to the NFL in the 1999 seasons, the Browns and Lions have made the playoffs a combined total of 4 times (out of 34 total team seasons).  If you spotted them each 2 wins to start the season, that number goes up to a total of 7 trips to the playoffs.

But seriously, fire Roger Goodell.

The Perfect Ending

Sunday was the first without football since early September, and in an effort to be somewhat timely, I feel it’s important to discuss this past season before I wait 3 months to write something else in a timely fashion.

As seasons go, 2014 will go down in history as one of the worst in the history of the NFL, if not all of American professional sports.  Sure, in the League’s history, they’d probably say the strike years of 1982 and 1987 were worse.  And it’s hard to argue that this year ranks with the 1994 MLB season, which saw the cancellation of the World Series, and only Gary Bettman and the NHL would cancel an entire season.  But eliminate work stoppages, and this year’s football season was about as bad as it gets.

And the Super Bowl provided the perfect capper.

Let’s offer a quick recap.  The season really got off to its start in February, when Ray Rice knocked out his fiancee (now wife) and was caught on camera dragging her out of an Atlantic City elevator.  In July, Dictator…sorry, Commissioner Roger Goodell decided that seeing a guy dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator after he’d knocked her out was only worth a 2-game suspension.  In September, TMZ released the video of Rice actually hitting his fiancee.  Shortly thereafter (as in, later that same day), the Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  If you think it’s problematic that the NFL suspended a guy for an offense that they’d already suspended him for, congratulations, you’ve got more common sense than the NFL commissioner and really any of his advisors in the League office.

Four days after the Rice video surfaced, Adrian Peterson was arrested for beating the shit out of his 4-year-old son.  I won’t get into the ugly details of the case, but it’s safe to say that you’d think a guy who’s 6’2″, 217 pounds and is built to handle a football in the NFL 300-400 times a year probably could’ve found a way to discipline a 4-year-old kid without ordering the kid to bring Peterson a switch.  The Vikings “deactivated” him for a game, then ownership decided they wanted him reinstated, so they sent the GM out to make that announcement (despite the fact that the GM disagreed with that decision).  Of course, the GM did it in front of a backdrop that was covered in Radisson advertisements, so Radisson decided they were going to pull their sponsorship of the team.  Ownership then stepped up and decided to “deactivate” Peterson indefinitely (never question the power of the almighty dollar) and Peterson was put on the Commissioner’s exempt list, with pay.  After he pleaded his case out, a representative of the NFL told Peterson he would get a 2-game suspension, with time on the exempt list being credited against that suspension, only to have Goodell suspend him for the remainder of the season, with no consideration for time served.

Rice and Peterson aren’t what you would consider sympathetic figures, and Peterson’s behavior after he was deactivated probably had a lot to do with his punishment.  But look at the way the NFL treated the punishment process – to say they made it up as they went along insults the people who truly are making stuff up as they go along – and left the players union out of that decision-making process paints the League in a truly unflattering light.

So as these two cases hung over the League for quite literally the entire season, the playoffs went exactly how you would expect: with no one speaking about what happened on the field and instead talking about incompetent officiating, deflated footballs and the dumbest play call perhaps in the history of the League.

In the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Lions led by 3 at Dallas with just over 8 minutes to go in the game.  On 3rd and 1, Matthew Stafford dropped back for a pass to Brandon Pettigrew, who was both held and interfered with on the play.  The refs threw a flag, Dez Bryant ran on the field to complain, and then the refs picked up the flag without calling a penalty.  Not for the hold, not for the pass interference, not for the hothead running onto the field to complain to the refs.  It’s not quite fair to say that this one play cost the Lions the game – they scored 3 points in the second half, Jim Caldwell decided to kick the ball away on 4th and 1 instead of trusting his defense, and Sam Martin unleashed a 10-yard punt at the worst possible moment – but being in field goal range with a fresh set of downs would’ve made the Cowboys’ job a lot harder.

cowboyspi-copy

The following week, as if to prove that karma exists, the Cowboys got screwed by a bad rule (although not a bad call).  Dez Bryant made what should’ve been regarded as one of the best and most clutch catches in NFL postseason history to give the Cowboys 1st and goal inside the 2-yard line.  Instead, an idiotic rule that burned the Lions in 2010 was called – correctly – the Cowboys gave up the ball on downs, and the Cowboys lost a game that they might otherwise have won.

In the conference title game, the Packers collapsed, blowing a 12-point lead with just over 2 minutes left in the game to send Seattle to the Super Bowl.  Meanwhile, the Patriots destroyed the Colts, winning 45-7, but the big news became the fact that the Patriots were using footballs that were deflated to less than the NFL’s minimum requirements.  The fact that the NFL used properly inflated balls for the second half of the game, a half in which the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0, seems to be irrelevant.

(I saw an interesting theory prior to the Super Bowl that the Lions’ curse contributed to the Seahawks making the Super Bowl.  The theory went that the curse transferred from the Lions to the Cowboys on the pass interference that wasn’t, then from the Cowboys to the Packers on the Dez Bryant catch that wasn’t, then from the Packers to the Seahawks on their last-minute collapse.  Considering how the Super Bowl ended, it’s somewhat difficult to disagree with this theory.)

After the Wild Card round we talked about officiating.  After the Divisional round we talked about stupid rules.  After the Conference title games we talked about deflated balls.  So it’s fitting that the Super Bowl ended with a terrible play call and a brawl.

The general discussion surrounding the NFL for the past few years has related to things happening off the field.  Concussions, domestic violence, the general incompetence of the Commissioner.  Very few discussions have included the play of the players.  The only real discussion related to the play on the field this season became whether or not Tom Brady has cemented his place as the greatest quarterback of all time.  It’s not a ridiculous discussion, but it’s interesting that we probably don’t have that discussion if Pete Carroll calls for a handoff to Marshawn Lynch instead of having his QB throw it over the middle.

It hasn’t changed since the Super Bowl.  On top of the Pete Carroll play call, we’ve heard about a texting scandal that could bring about fines and suspensions to the Cleveland Browns, not to mention the year-long suspension of their star wide receiver and the story that their supposed QB of the future is in rehab.  Oh, and four more players have been arrested this week, on charges ranging from drug and gun possession to assault to animal cruelty.  The NFL is nothing if not consistent.

There’s nothing to suggest the NFL is going anywhere.  The viewership hasn’t changed, attendance isn’t down, and no advertisers have walked away.  So as bad as this season has been, not much will change.  But if we see many seasons where the discussion isn’t about what the players did on the field but rather what they did off the field, the number of kids playing the game might continue to drop.  There was a time when boxing and horse racing were on par with baseball; now they’re niche sports.  Is it realistic to think that the NFL is headed that way?  Probably not.  But stranger things have happened.

Let’s just hope that there aren’t many more seasons like this to help advance the NFL’s demise.

Why Sports?

As a lot of you (translation: my dad) have noticed, I haven’t written in a while.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  Work doesn’t like it when I spend time writing for my personal blog, I like to drink, TV has some really cool stuff going on, I like to drink and I’m also pretty damn lazy.  Also, I like to drink.  But in reality, it might come down to one damning thing.

Sports just aren’t as fun anymore.

Let’s do a little history lesson.  First off, I didn’t get “big” into sports until my dad had moved away to Illinois.  This isn’t any criticism, but there really wasn’t any history of me sitting on the couch watching my dad get pumped up about the Bears, so a lot of my loyalties have varied and the start of my histories with certain sports tie in to when local teams were good.

Now that you know that…

I got off to a good start.  My first sports memory was the 1984 Tigers winning the World Series.  I didn’t have much of a memory of that team, but I do remember the end of that final game.  From there it was on to the ’85 Bears, whom I picked up with my dad and will still argue are the best team of all time.  In ’87 Michigan State’s football team went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in over 20 years.  In ’88 the Pistons should’ve beaten the Lakers in the NBA Finals, and in ’89 they did.  That same year Michigan fired their basketball coach then won the NCAA basketball title (at that age you could switch collegiate loyalties as often as you changed underwear, so at least once a week).  In 1989 the Lions drafted the greatest running back not named Jim Brown; in 1991 they were a win away from the Super Bowl.

And those were just the local teams.  For some reason I liked Jose Canseco, so I watched the A’s win the Earthquake World Series in ’89.  That same year – as with all summers from the time I was 10 until I was 16 – I spent the summer at my dad’s place in Illinois and watched the Cubs on WGN every afternoon.  They went to the playoffs that year and I’ve been a fair weather Cubs fan ever since.  I loved Joe Montana, and I watched the 49ers win Super Bowls 23 and 24 as Montana cemented his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  My brother picked up hockey and the New York Rangers in 1994, so I learned the sport along with him (while wondering why Chris Osgood left the net).  And perhaps the biggest “betrayal” for any Michigan sports fan: in 1993 I discovered my dad was a Bulls fan and picked them up when the Pistons were down.  I stuck with them through the 72-win season in ’96, although the Dennis Rodman pickup helped me justify that one.

By 1997, the Red Wings had gotten off the schneid, beaten the shit out of the Colorado Avalanche, and would win 4 Cups in just over a decade.  The Pistons got over the teal era, and won one of the more unexpected titles in NBA history while going to 6 Eastern Conference Finals in a row.  The Tigers got over 13 consecutive losing seasons – including the worst year in American League history – by going to the World Series on a walkoff home run by Magglio Ordonez.  Michigan State’s basketball team capitalized on sanctions at Michigan and went to 4 straight Final Fours and won the national title in 2000 (my collegiate loyalties were locked in when I decided to go to East Lansing to study journalism for 6 weeks before I found out what journalists make).  The Spartan football team became a power and we’ve won 10+ games 4 times in 5 years, won a Rose Bowl, don’t measure our success on whether or not we beat Michigan, and talk about national titles without being called delusional.

I even gave up on the 49ers and shed my fair weather reputation when they fired Steve Mariucci and became a full-time Lions fan.  Then the Lions hired him and I completely understood what the 49ers were doing.  But while the Lions went through a stretch that would rival or even exceed the stretch the Tigers put us through, they weren’t contracted or moved, they didn’t have the Thanksgiving game taken away from them and they’ve even made the playoffs.

Things were good.

But dig deeper and it’s not hard to poke holes in the facade.  For a sporting society that lives on the idea of “Second place is the first loser”, a 4-team city (not counting the 2 Big 10 schools in the area) that hasn’t won a title since 2008 – with no teams that scream out that they’re favorites to win anytime soon – doesn’t leave a fan happy.  The average title drought for the teams in this city is over 26 years (the Lions surely don’t help that average), and within those droughts are some painful sporting legacies:

  • Tigers: David Ortiz’s grand slam in the 2013 ALCS, six total runs scored in 2012 World Series, pitchers forget how to field in 2006 World Series
  • Lions: only team to go 0-16
  • Pistons: team wide mutiny after starting 37-5 in 2006 Eastern Conference finals, destroyed by LeBron games in 2007 ECF, utter disaster of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon deals
  • Red Wings: blew 3-2 lead to lose 2009 Stanley Cup Final

But that’s not it.

Should the Tigers have won a World Series by now?  Probably.  Should the Wings have repeated in ’09?  Possibly.  Could the Pistons have won more than 1 title in their 6-year run?  Definitely.  Should the Lions…hmm…um…

Every city’s got one of those teams.

And yes, these things start to wear on fans.  This isn’t the World Cup where a tiny country can be thrilled that not only did they qualify, but they also played a powerhouse to a scoreless draw.  Or the Olympics, where we watch a guy almost drown while simultaneously celebrate his ability to complete.  This is America.  We don’t just go to enjoy the games, we pull for our teams to win championships and we know exactly when the last time it happened for all of our states (1957, 1984, 2004, 2009).

But no, it’s not the woulda-coulda-shoulda that takes the fun sports.  In fact, to a large extent that’s exactly what makes it fun.

But it’s not that either.

Everyone in America watched the Great Home Run Chase of 1998.  We watched as this man who seemed destined for years to break the most hallowed record in American sports fought off a personable upstart, and then hit the magical mark of 70, a mark that seemed almost as unbreakable as the 60 that Babe Ruth hit in 1927.

Then 3 years later someone else hit 73.

I, like everyone else, was blinded to the fact that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were chemically enhanced when they broke the record.  And as the years went on I didn’t much care, because it turned out that everyone in the game was juiced.  I care that it was clear that those chemical enhancements cheapened that magical summer, that 73 isn’t anywhere near as romantic as 60 or 61*, that there are many who still believe that 755 is the home run record.

But no, that’s not quite it either.

It’s who I’m giving my money to.

As I’ve said before, I believe sports owners to be among the most despicable people on earth.  The history of professional sports is littered with stories of owners doing whatever they could to pay the players – the people the fans are coming to see – as little as possible, to treat them as chattel, to restrict their rights, to control what they wear.  It continues to this day, with the NFL fining players $10,000 for wearing Beats headphones to mandatory post-game press conferences.  “Guys, we know Beats is the big thing now, but we’ve got a contract with Motorola which, believe it or not, is still in business.”  And yet somehow the fans paint the players as greedy whenever there’s a work stoppage.

But no, we’re still not quite there.

No, it’s the fact that these people I give so much money to – and I’ve given a ridiculous sum of money to professional sports owners over the years – not only don’t give a fuck about anyone to whom they’re responsible (fans, players, employers, families, etc.), but they think we’re stupid enough to buy their shit.

That’s it.

I started thinking about this post as I boatgated before the first game of the Lions’ season.  It was that day that the infamous video of Ray Rice knocking out his now wife went public.  The Ravens acted quickly, cutting Rice.  The NFL was in a bit of spot, because they’d already determined that watching a guy dragging his unconscious fiance out of an Atlantic City elevator was only worth a 2-game suspension.  Nevertheless, the League suspended him again, a suspension that has been reversed because it turns out that you can’t suspend a guy for the same action when the only thing that changed was that the whole world saw what you’ve already clearly known.

Over the next few weeks I watched intently as Roger Goodell insisted they hadn’t seen the tape when they clearly had.  As Vikings ownership suspended Adrian Peterson for beating the shit out of his 4-year-old son, then activated him, then suspended him again when advertisers yanked their support.  As the NFL somehow made people who had beaten their wives and children into sympathetic figures.

Sports just didn’t really feel great anymore.

That was over 3 months ago.  I sat there watching that video thinking to myself, “Do I really want to support this company anymore?”  When does the NFL become Wal-Mart, or Apple, or GM?

Including that Monday Night game, I’ve been to 4 NFL games since then.  I am the problem.

The NFL handed out painkillers and steroids like they were tic-tacs until Lyle Alzado died of a brain tumor and went public believing that the two were related.  They fought the disability claims of players who were living in their cars with dementia caused by constant helmet-to-helmet collisions.  They ignored the somewhat obvious fact that concussions could have long lasting impact (you know, beyond the 3 plays that the NFL thought they had), despite the fact that concussion issues were a plot point in Varsity Blues, which came out in 19-freaking-99 (thanks Bill Simmons…asshole).  And now they’re trying to convince us they’re concerned about domestic violence while giving a 2-game suspension to a guy who knocked out his wife and then dragged her out of an elevator.

Hell, we can’t even escape politics on the field.  When players throughout the country have expressed their Constitutionally-protected right to express their opinions (whether the venue for those opinions were appropriate is for everyone to decide on their own) about high-profile police killings they’ve gotten shot down by fans and police spokespeople.  Never mind that it was members of those police departments that led to the demonstrations in the first place.  No, it’s the young black man – and it’s always a black man – expressing his opinion who’s the problem.

And yet through this entire mess, the NFL has lost not one single viewer.  Not even me.  The only Lions games I’ve missed this year were because there were more important Tigers games taking place at the same time.  And until they start losing viewers (and, more importantly, money), what the NFL does about these public relations disasters won’t matter.

Sports have just gotten less enjoyable.  I’ll get enraged by people at the bar who have differing opinions about trades the Tigers have made.  I’ve had the text message equation of a knock-down, drag-out brawl with a friend of mine who suggested I had gone off the deep end because of how I felt about Brad Ausmus’s bullpen usage.  I was genuinely afraid he was going to have a stroke, which leads me to believe he’s got a mindset about sports not far off from mine.

Which brings me back to the whole point of this post.  Why sports?

And then I think of this picture.

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That’s what sports is.  That’s a picture taken after the Lions had beaten the Falcons in London on a last-second field goal in October.  My friend and I hadn’t been getting along all that great, mostly because I’ve got thin skin and take things personally.  But after that game, we just celebrated and chatted with foreign (wait, I guess we were the foreigners) football fans in a magnificent stadium.

It’s an excuse to travel to see  faraway friends, like the friend who moved to Germany for business.  That’s why we were in London in the first place.  Without the Lions, I don’t know if we’d make that trip.  You’d like to think that friendships survive thousands of miles, but you don’t know.  Having your teams to talk about makes it easier.

It’s complaining with your dad over text about our football teams.  It’s a bit hard to be sympathetic to his plight.  As bad as the Bears have been, they still have 1985.  While I haven’t been a full-time Lions fan since birth, geography has required me to follow them since I’ve been watching football.  We don’t talk on the phone much anymore – why bother when texting and email is so much easier – but every Sunday we text about our teams.

Talking to strangers has always been an issue for me.  I can’t talk to women.  It’s a crippling issue that has kept me single far longer than I’d like.  But I can inject myself into a random conversation about the 2002 Fiesta Bowl or whether Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame like it’s nobody’s business.  I spent a long chunk of my life feeling weird about myself, and being involved in a sports conversation makes me feel normal.

So I guess that’s why sports.