Slush In Your Shoe, 2018 Browns and others

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”

 Doug Larson
 

Every season we come to this point in the Football year. The draft just around the corner, the combines, and Free agency. Every year teams who struggled the previous year ignore the slush in their shoe and cast a positive eye toward the future.  Fans and GMs both say with a smile if we can just get Player X.

I find myself this year in the same boat that teams like the Browns, Colts, and Giants are in, I am trying to put my own 0-16 season behind me and look toward the new season with a fresh set of eyes. Coming off a winter that seen Pop laid out on the operating table with my heart, literally, in someone else’s hands. I have a sense of what these teams must feel.

When you are in the middle of the pain, you fear this may be the end. The clouds will never clear up and the winter cold will always surround you. Then you close your eyes and take a deep breath. When you open them, you are surrounded by the people who love you, and even though you still feel weak. The Spring sun warms you and a voice inside you tells you that you have survived and you will be ok.

Last season I wrote an article, http://www.faileascreations.com/2017/04/23/the-future-for-the-cleveland-browns/ , I made my predictions for what the Browns should do with their picks and laid out a case for a bright future. My pick prediction was good, even if my optimism was misplaced. Well here we are again, preparing to climb on board the hype train.

The Browns have been very active this spring, making trades for Jarvis Landry and Bills mobile QB Tyrod Taylor. Pairing these 2 with their 2017 first round TE, David Njoku and a full season from talented but troubled Josh Gordon. Not to mention the fact they are sitting on the #1 overall and #4 picks in the draft. The Browns are positioned to finally move out of depths of Hell they have been mired in and move with a smile forward. I laid out the case last year in my article, that the AFC North was an aging division and on the verge of core changes, and nothing has happened to change my mind.

If the Browns don’t do something stupid, they can take Saquon Barkley, the Penn State phenome, who has drowned comparison to Peterson, and wowed the on lookers at the combines in Indy. At 233 this kid is a freak, benching 225 lbs. 29 times. To give you a comparison Browns all world O lineman Joe Thomas was only able to get 28 in 2007. He is not just strong but crazy fast. He laid down a 4.4 40 and a 41” vertical. These numbers pass combine numbers by some of the greatest, like Julio Jones. Now we all know that the life of an NFL back is a short one, and teams have been hesitant to invest to heavily in the volatile position. I understand all that, but consider this, what would a team like the Browns give for a Bell, Johnson, or Elliot? They would back up the armored truck. Take just those 3 teams from this past year, with the exception of Bell the other 2 missed significant time and it was clear how much their teams relied on them. Barkley could easily be a difference maker.

Now what to do at #4? Up until last week I was saying, easy choice goes QB, but now you have, maybe not a top 10 QB but you could argue top 15 QB. They could still use their #4 on one of the very good crop of QBs or maybe trade back to later in the 1st and still get a QB to backup Taylor and season themselves before being pushed into the deep end.  With a healthy line anchored by Thomas they could make more than just dent but put a scare into teams that use to overlook them.

The Browns are not the only team to end the 2017 season with slush in their shoes. The Giant at 3-13 are picking 2nd and the Colts who finished 4-12 are looking to rebound with the #3 overall. The Giants are interesting, they could go QB at 2 to look to find the aging Manning replacement, but I could see if the Browns go a different direction at 1 the Giants would not let Barkley slip past them. The Colts would also love to see Barkley fall to them, the fantasy thoughts abound with Luck and Barkley, but I don’t see more Blue and White for Barkley. My prediction for the Colts is DE Chubb and the G-Men go with Rosen. The Browns could come back at 4 with USC QB Darnold or maybe trade back and look to grab someone like Mayfield later in the first and use some of the other picks to sure up the D and give last year pick Myles Garrett some support.

The draft is always a crap shoot. You can end up with a generational player or JaMarcus Russell. You never know for sure but each of these teams will be looking with optimism that the Spring will bring the new growth to each of their gardens, and a large crop of victories, and the slush will dry from their shoes.

A Fathers Hopes and Fears

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” —–William Shakespeare

This past week we received a package in the mail. It was addressed to the parents of DeAndre. As I opened it up I could tell at a glance this was not some junk mail advertising. I rushed inside to share it with my wife. As I read the introduction tears began to stream form my wife. It seems that our son had been nominated by his former teacher for a very special summer camp. It is called National Youth Leadership Forum. Explore STEM. A education camp that focuses on Engineering and Science. To be excepted into the program the student must meet the highest academic requirements and have been nominated for exemplary leadership traits. I knew immediately it would not be cheap but I would do whatever was required to get him to this.

If you have read my articles before you know I like to start each one with a quote. I spent a long time looking for just the right one for this article. I searched Children Future, Sons Education, and about a dozen other combinations of the same theme before I found this one. I selected it because I want to be honest.  I have some things that I want to confess, some of which are not flattering and a bit embracing, but I feel they must be said.

I guess I will start at the beginning. I am not DeAndres biological father nor is my wife his biological mother. I met my wife about five years ago and we just celebrated our 4th anniversary. When I met my wife, she told me he was her son. He called her mom so I did not question it. After a bit of time had passed and it was clear that our relationship was developing into something more she confessed that he was in fact her Grandson. He was placed into her permanent custody when he was just 2 years old. The child psychologist had instructed her to look at him as her son and treat him as such. This was for his stability and growth. It was not easy for my wife in the early days. She had just the year before lost her first husband unexpectedly and Dre was traumatized by what he had seen at a very young age. He had to work with some very caring children’s psychologist to help him control his rage and anger. Although he struggled with this he had no problem in developing. He was speaking in full sentences by the time he was 2 and could read before he went to Kindergarten. When I started dating my wife Dre was 5 years old we took to each other right away. I worked at a job that was 4 10s and was off on Fridays.  So, I would come over on Thursday night and spend the weekend with them. Sybrena told me that Dre would get very angry with me on Sunday night when I left. He could not understand why I had to leave. When we married Dre was by best man.

Now the parts that are not very flattering. My wife watches out for me she protects me from myself and anyone else who might do me harm. She is a fighter. She has been her whole life. She has overcome things that would break lesser people. I won’t delve too much into her spirituality, but she is gifted in ways I don’t totally understand. She was the one that found out that I was diabetic and had been for a while. This is not hyperbole, had we not married I would have died. I had no idea of my health issues and when I was single I enjoyed drinking with the boys, probably too much.  About 2 years ago she also wanted me to be checked for Autism. I can’t tell you how angry just the insinuation made me. Yea I was shy around new people sometimes and had some strange habits but to think I could be Autistic was not possible. I guess I don’t have to say but it turns out I am on the spectrum. I still struggle with this and the stigma attached to it. As a child, I was withdrawn had very few friends and struggled in school. 45 years ago, they just called it learning disabilities and had very little help for me. As a result, I would struggle in classes that did not hold my interest. I enjoyed sports very much but was not physically gifted I was tall and gangly to the point of being a bit clumsy. My lack of ability did not stop me from playing and when I did I played with burning competitive passion. It was not uncommon for me to throw myself into the stands to keep a ball from going out of bounds or dive at much larger and stronger kids to tackle them. I still am this way. If you play a pickup game of basketball there is a better than average chance I will blow something out trying to play D.

Some people are just natural athletes. They can pick up a game with little to no effort and compete and exceed with ease, this is DeAndre. He is everything a student athlete should be. He has been the best player on his team each year he has played a sport. His first year playing basketball he was so much more advanced than the rest of the kids that the coach would have to sit him for long stretches just to keep the other team close. One game he scored 24 points the final score was 28 to 18. Honest it could have been 40 points had the coach not held him back. It reminds me of the old joke. Who was the only man to hold Michael Jordan to less than 25 pts a game, answer Dean Smith. He played flag football also. He had touchdowns rushing, receiving and interceptions. He led the league in scoring and next closest was a 12-year-old that somehow snuck under the wire age wise to play with 10 and 11-year old’s. Dre was 10 at the time.

Since the theme of this is honesty I will tell you that the inner child in me is very jealous. A kid who is very smart to the point of not having to try hard to get A’s and B’s. A naturally gifted athlete, faster than most and fantastic hand eye coordination. A personality that attracts people to him. On a side note, this is going to be a problem over the next few years with the girls. All of this is not at all like I was as a child. I get angry with him sometimes when I think he is not working hard enough, because I know that the only way I could even stay on the court with most other kids was to almost kill myself with effort. I get angry when I see him finish his homework in 5 minutes when it would take hours for me to do the same, yet he still brings home the grades each time.

I am so fearful that I will not be what he needs. That I will fall short of what is required as a parent.  That like my youth my best effort will fall short. I have come to love him like no one else and I bristle each time someone even mentions his biological father. The plan is to officially adopt him next year. Then I will be able to give him my name. I can’t express to you what I have felt over the last week. I look back over these 5 years and think how much he has grown. I pray to God that he gives me the ability to guide him and push when he needs to be pushed. To hold when he needs to be held. I think how easily this could have gone bad for him. I wonder what if any my influence has on him. I only want to provide for him and his mother. To make their lives better.

I hate asking others for help, It goes against my grain but this camp will cost 3000 plus. Had I had a year to plan for that I could make it happen but we need 500 by November and the rest by January. So, I am asking if you can help with any amount even just 5 bucks it will help. We have set up a GofundMe account. The link is below, and thank you for your help.

Thanks

https://www.gofundme.com/deandresummercollegeprogram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

noun, (used with a singular or plural verb)

(in Chinese philosophy and religion) two principles, one negative, dark, and feminine (yin) and one positive, bright, and masculine (yang) whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

 

The ancient Chinese symbol of light and dark, good and evil. We have all seen the symbol some of you may have tattooed on your person, but it is more than the sum of its parts, and much more complicated than just positive and negative. It is 2 facets of the same entity. Each contains elements of its counterpart. We all have both within ourselves. Two brothers born of the same mother. Traveling the same path until they diverge, one to light and one to dark. I want to be clear that I am not making judgement calls on the paths that my subjects have taken. Each team has had its share of hard knocks and past success. My intention is to point out the decisions each has made and how they are now perceived by the public.

If you are a regular reader of my work then you know I have wrote about both teams this season. The New York Jets, Yin and the Cleveland Browns, Yang. Two sides of the coin that determines possession.  Both teams glory days have long faded. The only thing that remains are Butt fumbles and Drug rehab for draft picks. Let us make no mistake both teams are still bad. If the Browns win 5 games this season it will be a moral victory for the team that went 1-15 last season. The Jets ownership has shown, this preseason that they are already looking toward next season. The thing I find extraordinary is how each of these bad teams are perceived by NFL pundits and fans alike. The Jets, the dark, are considered a dumpster fire. A team trying to lose in the hopes of landing a Franchise QB. The Browns, the light, a team on an upward trajectory. Their past poor decisions have been exercised and forgiven.

In my article, Grounded Jets, which was written prior to the release of Eric Decker. I detailed the salary dump of the Jets. It was clear that they had their eyes firmly set on the top picks next season. They have been criticized in the press for the perceived blatant attempt at tanking. Do I believe that the entire team is behind this effort? No I do not, however, will it matter if the right people are onboard. The 1919 Chicago White Sox did not need every member of the team to be a part of throwing games, just a few key members. The key members of the 2017 Jets are their owner, Woody Johnson and GM, Mike Maccagnan. They have decided to cut the roster to the bone, so that all that remains is a Green and White shell. What is to be gained by doing this? It is my belief that they have zero confidence in either of their QBs. It was announced this week that 38-year-old journeyman Josh McCown will be the starter when the Jets brake camp and start their march toward 2018. The Jets chose McCown over Christian Hackenberg, which came as a bit of a surprise since for the majority of the preseason Hackenberg got most of the reps with the first team this offseason while a healthy McCown watched for the most part. The motivation for this is unusual on the surface until you scratch away the top layer. Never in all my years have I seen a team so committed to next season. I am sure they wanted to use this preseason not to prep the team for success this year, but to evaluate the remaining players for the future. It seems clear that they have a good understanding of what McCown brings to the table, but what is unclear is the future in Gotham for the young guy, McCown and Petty. The driving force of a successful team is the QB. In the words of Tampa coach Dirk Kotter to his QB for this season Hard Knocks “You’re the only guy that can really lose a game for us because no one else touches the ball enough.” That applies not only to Jameis Winston but the other 31 starting QBs. With their decision to go with the 38 year old McCown, it is clear they have no intention of putting up a pretense. To this I warn, once you apply the brakes to this level it is hard to restart the forward momentum again. You run the risk of building a culture of losing, and that is something that is had to unload.

I have been open about my optimism of the Browns. I laid out in my article The Future of the Cleveland Browns which was published prior to the 2017 rookie draft, I made the case for a rosy future for the Browns. I made predictions on what I felt was the perfect strategy for the draft and what they should do moving forward. To their credit they have stayed extraordinarily disciplined. They shied away from taking the hyped rookie QB in favor of a difference maker on the defensive line, in Myles Garrett. All the reports out of Berea are glowing for the number one overall pick. He is explosive and showing the natural talent that made him the scouts consensus pick.

The Browns were not content to rely on just their draft picks. They shored up their offensive line with the addition of Free Agents Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter and re-signing Joel Bitonio to match with Father Brown, Joe Thomas. These moves have given the Browns, according to Pro Football Focus, the second ranked offensive line.

They have continued to make the right moves this off-season, cutting ties with veteran corner Joe Haden. A move that raised some eyebrows until you look at the number of games he has missed over the last few seasons. This clears the way for young guys like Jabrill Pepers and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

The Browns ended their QB competition this week when Coach Jackson announced that rookie QB Deshaun Kizer had won the starting job over Brock Osweiler. A move that indicates they are planning their future around the players they have drafted. It was clear at times this season that Kizer was not ready but he is very athletic and should provide a spark to this offense and specifically the run game. The Browns will take advantage of his young athletic legs which intern will help the run game. Crowell should benefit greatly behind that line and the very mobile Kizer. Coach Jackson has given indications that he intends to use Duke Johnson as a pass catching specialist, even playing running him out of the slot.

The Browns still have some questions at key positions, specifically at Wide Receiver. They signed Kenny Britt from the Rams to pair with 2nd year Wide Out Corey Coleman. Coleman, the Browns 2016 1st round pick out of Baylor didn’t live up to the hype suffering with a broken hand he received in practice late in September and struggled to produce the rest of the year with an anemic passing game. Where they finished 27th in receiving yards, with 3,649. They bring in Britt who managed to put up a 1000 on a Rams team who was even worse than the Browns, 3,313. They are hoping that adding a 2nd target will allow Coleman to step up to his first-round value.

Einstein said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” The Browns and the Jets are both trying to find their balance. Both have made mistakes and both have suffered. They are at different locations this season but each organization hope to move toward a proper alignment and find their true Yin and Yang.

 

Duane (Pop) Gillespie  

2017 Panther Training Camp

Carolina Panthers 2017

Training Camp Highlights

 

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” — Muhammad Ali

 

I live in Hendersonville, NC. It is about 2 hours west of Charlotte. I am fortunate to live less than 45 minutes from Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford University and I was lucky enough to check out the kickoff party for the Panthers last night. It was full of all the pomp and circumstance you would imagine. The Panther cheerleaders, the large drum used for the “Keep Pounding” cheer, and of course the biggest showman of all Cam Newton. I must admit some negative bias, not a big fan of too much “Look at Me”, maybe it’s my age. After all the Dabs and dancing was done they did manage to get some work in.

One of my main goals was to get a look at Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers 1st round draft pick. I wanted to see if all the hype I heard for like a year about this kid was accurate. The first thing that caught my eye was how he carried himself on the field. He was a ball of energy. As soon as he walked on the field he was running patters by himself. He was seldom standing still. He would stop long enough to speak to a coach or a teammate, then right back to moving. He was serious and his effort was clear to see. He did show a little confusion in the 7 on 7 drills when Cam had to physically direct him into the correct alignment. The one drill that really made me say wow was a foot drill with bags. The speed that his feet moved was crazy. He looked as if he was dancing and all the other backs looked like they were doing a foot drill. His cuts are crazy fast. Although it was a non-tackle practice they ran a handoff to him that was meant for an inside run. He made a jump cut that I am sure no lineman on any team would have secured him. He comes into the league with a level of professionalism that most rookies do not have. He has been raised to be a Pro and it shows. The work that his Father, Ed McCaffrey has put in with him was on full display, and he didn’t Dab once. Write this down, his TD celebration will be a spike at most more likely a toss of the ball to the Ref and a few high fives. He is the real deal, now if Carolina can get the ball to him look for a great career.

The other major item on my agenda was to watch Newton throw. For a while I thought I might not see that. The team had been on the field for like 20 minutes before he came out of the locker room. When he did finally come to the field he circled the field glad handing like a Southern politician and in between he danced and tried to pump up the crowd. The few passes he did throw were softball dump offs with little to no zip. I am sure he was holding back and most likely had the blessing of the coaching staff to take it easy. He did air out a about a 30-yard corner route late in the 7 on 7 drills. It looks to me that he is still nursing that shoulder but I suspect he will be fine. If you are counting on him running this year I wouldn’t hold my breath. In previous years when I have watched him at camp you will see at least one or 2 designed runs. Not this year. The types of plays Carolina was practicing makes it clear they are very serious about using their new shiny toys. They will work hard to get Cam to take less shots by throwing short.

The talk of Kelvin Benjamin coming to camp over weight might have been somewhat real. He is a large man, but from my vantage point I sure couldn’t say he was WAY over weight.  I wish I had that kind of body. Let the talk continue to drive down his value and you should be able to get a solid #2 WR at a very good value.

Some other observations I noticed. Rookie Curtis Samuel was working out a lot with special teams. Look for him to be heavily used in punt returns. Luke Keckley was a full participant, and is clearly the most popular player on the roster, getting a much louder and exuberant cheer from the fans, then Newton. After suffering through much of last season with Concussions it was good to see him. He will be much needed in their LB corp. If the Panther expect to contend in the South they will have to shore up the secondary from last season.

The Panthers are in, arguably, the most competitive division in the league. With the teams, so even with talent the least thing can let you finish last. The Panthers will look to regain the form that allowed them to reel off 15 wins on the way to the Super Bowl in 2015. To repeat this, they will have to change the nature of their offense. They will look to protect Newton by utilizing the short passes and shoring up their secondary. Anything is possible in the South, so don’t count them out. —– KEEP POUNDING

Duane (Pop) Gillespie

The Alien Cometh

“Even if the aliens are short, dour, and sexually obsessed—if they’re here, I want to know about them.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

 

The Alien Cometh

I wanted to do this article because I recently did a PPR experts draft with the guys from Pyromaniacs. I was picking from the 2 hole and like a good boy I did what I was supposed to, and took whoever was left between Bell and Johnson, I got Johnson. When it came back to me at 23 and 26 I took the next 2 receivers, Baldwin and D. Thomas. Both were 90 plus catch guys and clear #1 WRs. I go into any draft with targets I like and one target I am very interested in this year is Martavis Bryant. I knew his ADP was 4th round and my plan was to take him if he was there when my spot came back. Instead he went 3rd round I was a little shocked until I realized if you are picking in the 11 hole you better take him there or you won’t get him.

I have heard all the reports this offseason. He looks great, he has added 15 lbs. of muscle, he catches everything, he caught a bird that flew to close, yada yada yada. That is all well and good but part of me has a hard time believing he should be that high in the first place. I mean after all he is still the #2 option in Pittsburg, behind the best WR in the game today. How much is there for him to get?

I started my stat look up for teams that supported (2) 1,000-yard receivers. I found just 4 for 2016 they are Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington. The four #2 guys averaged 74 receptions. The number 1 guy was Michael Thomas with 83. My premise going in was how much production can Bryant get on, being generous, 85 catches. I went back to his 2015 numbers and found he had 15.3 per catch and .12 TDs per catch. If he maintained that number over the season he would finish with 1300 and 10. Those numbers would put him 5th in yards behind Evans and 6th in TD’s behind Beckham. Can he get 85 receptions this season? I am not sure; the below table is a breakdown of the Steelers receptions for 2016.

Antonio Brown 106 1284 12
Le’Veon Bell 75 616 2
Eli Rogers 48 594 3
Sammie Coates 21 435 2
Jesse James 39 338 3
Ladarius Green 18 304 1
Cobi Hamilton 17 234 2
DeAngelo Williams 18 118 2
Xavier Grimble 11 118 2
Darrius Heyward-Bey 6 114 2
DeMarcus Ayers 6 53 1
Markus Wheaton 4 51 1
Fitzgerald Toussaint 3 33 0

With what they already had they also add Trojan stand out JuJu Smith-Shuster, a big body strong player who has drawn comparison to Anquan Boldan. I could see him eating into Coates and Rogers numbers for sure. If we figure the overall catches go up say 10% to 409 for the team. I am giving the following breakdown.

Antonio Brown 105
Martavis Bryant 80
Le’Veon Bell 60
Eli Rogers 25
JuJu Smith Schuster 25
Sammie Coates 8
Cobi Hamilton 5
DeMarcus Ayers 5
Justin Hunter 5
Darrius Heyward-Bey 5
Jesse James 40
Xavier Grimble 15
James Conner 15

 

That is 393 and you figure maybe 15 or 16 misc. to go to unknown. Ok so that is 80 for Bryant with that number then he ends with 1,224 and 9. Just behind Nelson in yards and Beckham in TD’s. The possibilities are crazy. A guy with this much talent could be huge. He could also be a big bust.

While we sing Glory to the Alien and bow before his greatness let us remember one thing. He is coming back from an entire year on the pine for something that was incredibly dumb. He was busted for multiple violations of the NFL drug policy. Anyone who knows what the policy is and still can’t seem to get away from it clearly has an issue greater than Football.

Weather agree with the policy or not is irrelevant. If your employee tells you to wear a blue shirt or mandates the length of your hair your hair, you better do it. My issue is not the legalization of it. Personally, I believe it should be, however, a rule is a rule and to ignore it and jeopardize a million-dollar career. Is at its core one of the single dumbest things you can do.

I do expect a big year from Bryant. I think there is a better than average chance that he could get WR1 numbers but if you can get him as your 2 all the better. If the Alien can stay away from the Chronic he and Brown could put together a record setting year for a duo.

The Power of a Womans Voice on the Husband

 

“Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.”  — Franz Schubert

My last article was one on the plight of the New York Jets. It focused on the overall rebuild and specifically the receivers and Eric Decker. I speculated then that perhaps Decker might be the next to go and sure enough the Jets cut him. This article is not as much about where he might land but something we as fans dismiss easily.

Like most NFL players Eric Decker has a wife and a family. Families are the forgotten part of the package when we look at it from the outside. When we hear of players changing teams we think of only how that will affect the teams, receiving and departing. We give little to no thought on the mental stress the player and his family must endure with the upheaval. All married players are a team of two, the player and the wife. Make no mistake a wife’s voice carries the weight of an entire offensive line. When a player becomes a Free Agent, or is cut he must decide what is the best fit for his career, but that is only a small part. He must decide if the city is a fit. How are the schools. How will it affect my wife’s career? Make no mistake, her voice carries a lot of weight.

When players are married to famous women as Decker is, country singer Jessie James Decker, that voice is even louder. Most of the early reports have mentioned the Ravens, Buffalo, and the Eagles as possible landing spots. I heard a report today that Decker was visiting the Titans. Which at first, I was skeptical of the need. Why would the Titans sign him when they have such good young receivers? Well, put aside the fact that he, when healthy, is a stud. I feel confident in saying there is a voice in his ear saying wouldn’t be nice to be so close to my work. The fact that he visited the Titans in the Country Music Capital of the World is no coincidence. Why would he not want to come to Nashville? I think this will be the landing spot for him if the Titans are serious about having him. Personally, I would love it. I like Decker and for him to be matched up with a up and coming team and QB it could be great for all involved. Now I know it will depress the value of Corey Davis, but Decker is no spring chicken and has had multiple injuries over the last couple of seasons.

I don’t want to get to deep into the weeds of his Fantasy value as a Titan, or how it affects other players, I want to bring it back to his wife. As a married man, myself I can attest to the fact that I am the happiest when my very strong-willed wife is happy. Jessie James Decker is not the only famous wife of a player. Tom Brady is married to super model Gisele Bundchen. Brady is locked into one more season for sure but beyond that who knows. At  this point in his career Brady must decide every offseason about life after football. Bundchen said in an interview on CBS This Morning program that Brady played through a concussion last season. I bring this up not to cast shade on Brady or Bundchen but to highlight the fact that a wife will have a level of knowledge that NO one else will have. She will know things that coaches, owners, agents, and fans will never know. She will always be his biggest supporter and closest confidant. This is the way it should be.

When we hear of the next big move or decision that a player makes, let us remember. As fans our voice is at the bottom of the list. Players will talk to their agents, to their coaches, maybe to the owners, but will listen closest to the single most powerful voice known to man. The powerful voice of his wife.

 

Dedicated to My Queen

Three Old Men Sitting on a Bench

I had already planned this article out in my head. I would start with this funny joke about 3 old men sitting on a bench complaining about things they can’t do anymore. It was a little crass but still funny. The article was supposed to be about the limitations of Jamaal Charles, Mashawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson for Fantasy Football. I would go into each of their injuries and their roles on the new teams. The fact that each has much younger competition behind them. Then something happened yesterday that made Pop re-think the article and my outlook on each of these men.

My third Grand child was born yesterday. He is a healthy boy 7lbs 14 oz. Baby and Mom are both doing well and I can’t wait to start teaching him about Sports and life. “That’s great Pop, congratulations, so how does that tie into the 3 old guys?” Well, I will tell you. It’s like this, I am an OLD guy. None of us on this planet knows what is beyond this mortal realm. Depending on your belief system you might say we go to a golden cloud or we become a drop of rain or maybe we are reborn into another body. I am not going to get into all of that because none of us truly knows what lays beyond. We each try to leave our mark on this planet the best we can. You may be a captain of industry, or philanthropist. You may solve some world problem that saves countless lives, but let’s be honest more than likely most of us will pass on without a great impact to the World at large. The one thing that we can do is affect the lives of the ones we love. To make sure that they are our legacy.

I did not have children of my own flesh; however, I was fortunate to meet a woman who puts up with all my issues and her son DeAndre to who I am Dad and I plan to adapt legally this year. Her family who has excepted me and my faults and to them I am Pop. Xavier is the third Grandchild that has born since me and my wife married. His older sister clings to me like a tick and gets very upset if I am not where she expects me to be. They are my legacy. I dream that when I pass on that no one thinks about my limitations but how I was as a person, Husband, Father and Grandfather.

All three of these players should one day be enshrined in Canton. Someone they care about will say some nice words. They will help him on with the gold jacket and then uncover the bronze bust. As you age the body fails before the mind does. It tells you, that you can do it but the body doesn’t respond. You tell yourself I just need to push harder, but the body doesn’t respond. Each of them have different motivations, I am sure. I also think that at the core of those motivations is they don’t want to go out like this. Who would? Everyone wants to go out on top. Manning and Elway both were very fortunate to end on the note that they did, lifting the Lombardi Trophy above their heads in victory. Let’s be honest both of those player won because they had a great TEAM. Peyton struggled through most of the 2015 season, and John relied on a fantastic run game. The 3 guys from this year play the most demanding position, physically, in football.

To my 52 years all three of these guys are young whippersnappers, but everything is sped up for a NFL running back. If you get 5 seasons that is great. These men have played the hardest position in football at the very highest levels for many years.  Each producing memories that will go down in the archives, but the mind still calls out to the body, you can do it. I am sure for short stretches each of them will have some level of success. We will catch a glimpse of Beastmode. Peterson will blow by some slow-footed Linebacker and take one to the house. Charles will use those silky hands to snag one he should have never been able to catch and turn the corner and be gone. The fans in Denver, Oakland and New Orleans will cheer for them. They will sell loads of Jerseys and sign lots and lots of autographs.

I am hoping beyond hope that each of these guy’s laydown incredible numbers. Peterson rushes for 2000, Charles has 1000 rushing and 1000 receiving. Lynch has 20 TDs. If they do that or even half of that then it will be a victory for every old man who struggled to get out of bed. Who had to ice down his knees, who looked at the young guys playing ball and wanted to join them. Or simply thought about how things could have been.

I spoke of my legacy, my Son and my Grandchildren, football is the legacy for each of these men they have given everything they have to play this game and they each want to be remembered not for blown out knees and bad backs. Their minds say they are good to go but Father Time is undefeated.

I have said in other articles that Fantasy is a bit cold. You need to detach yourself from feelings and just look at the facts. These are the facts as I see them for each of these men.

Peterson – With the loss of Max Unger, New Orleans center, they will struggle to be as effective in the run game. They still have the 27-year-old Mark Ingram, and they drafted Alvin Kamara from Tennessee. A pass catching back who should fit in nicely to the team that throws the most to their backs. Peterson will get a chance but at best he will split carries with Ingram. He could see a fair amount of goal line touches which will give him some numbers. My recommendation in Standard is your number three back. In PPR even lower.

Charles – I won’t go to deep into Charles for this year since I have already done that in my article Mile High Disappointment. The short version is to avoid the Denver backfield all together. Let someone else deal with the headache.

Lynch – Marshawn is the only one of these backs I feel somewhat ok with. He has two younger backs behind him, but both are small frame guys. Lynch should monopolize the goal line carries and should put up good number for the first half of the year. My recommendation is draft him if you can, about 3rd or 4th round. Then when he throws up 3 big games trade him.

As a fellow old guy who has more years to his stern than he has to his bow. I know what they are going through. We all want our legacy to be pristine. We want to be remembered for our greatness and not our short comings. As I stared at Xavier sleeping in my arms. I thought about how I will be remembered. I pray they remember me fondly and I pray we all remember the 3 old men on the bench fondly as well.

 

 

Mile High Disappointment For Devontae Booker

What’s a man got to do to eat around here?

I am sure Devontae Booker was looking forward to feasting in the 2017 season. After taking over for the injured C. J. Anderson in his rookie year, it looked clear that Booker would be the clear handcuff for the often-injured Anderson, going into 2017. After the departure of Forsett and the trade of Kapri Bibbs the Broncos looked set on having their Bell Cow Anderson and a clear-cut handcuff in Booker. From a distant view the future looked bright for the Broncos 2016 4th round pick. That is until the arrival of future hall of Famer Jamaal Charles.

From my point of view Booker failed to impress in his first five starts of 2016, so much so the Broncos went and signed Justin Forsett who had been released by the Ravens. Forsett was soon moved into the starting role but was not much better than Booker. Most of the issues were with a subpar line that was ranked by Pro Football Focus in the bottom Quarter of the league. Denver made some moves to help the line issue by drafting the big Tackle from Utah, Garrett Bolles, and adding former Dallas Guard Ronald Leary. Both of which should help improve their run game. I am afraid that help will not benefit Booker.

Like Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face.”  Well the signing of Charles sure fits the bill for a face punch. The Bronco’s will use him in 3rd down situations and Anderson, if he is healthy will be the back to own. Of course, the best laid plans will all be for naught if the often-injured Anderson or Charles and his bad knees go down, but what are the chance of that.  

“Pop this is Fantasy Football I need to know what to do about Booker?’ I hear you, it is a tough call. If Denver had an ok line and showed a commitment to Booker I feel he could be a competent back, but neither of those things are in place for the 2017 season. The line should be better than last season but not a significant amount. Anderson will be the clear back to own in Fantasy with Charles as a PPR darling. Where does that leave Booker? Sad to say, but on the outside looking in. I don’t see any early season value to Booker especially in Re-draft leagues. Although the clever player will keep an eye on this situation if either of the two walking injury reports go down Booker jumps back to what he was last year, a hot waiver wire pick at mid-season.

My advice for Fantasy for the overall running back picture for the Bronco’s is this. Don’t participate in it. Stay away from this backfield if you can. I would not look at Anderson higher than round 5 and Charles only in a PPR league, but I expect Charles to be over drafted on his name alone. In dynasty, with the large rosters I could see keeping Booker. After all it is just his second season.  The way I see the handcuff situation for Anderson is this. Charles is a 3rd down pass catching specialist. If he goes down that role will not fall to Booker but would just increase Anderson’s roll. If Anderson goes down don’t count on Charles stepping into that roll unless he gets touched by the hand of God that somehow takes 5 years off him. Look for Booker to step into that roll and it be a true 2 back committee.

I know Devontae Booker has worked hard to get to this level. No one gets to the NFL if you don’t work hard. Booker had to work his way into a Division 1 school because of academics. Playing for American River college before working his way to Utah. Then tearing his Meniscus his senior season at Utah. Every step of the way he has had to overcome adversity and this is one more hurdle he must overcome.

Fantasy Football can be a cold game. I have noticed the players who are strong fans of a certain team they are automatically behind the 8 ball, because they can’t diverge themselves emotionally from their favorite players. I guess me having Asperger Syndrome helps in that case. I like players but can’t say I have a favorite team. It makes it easy for me to write off a player when he fails to produce. I am writing off Booker for the 2017 season but as a fan of Football I am still pulling for him. Keep your head up kid and think this is just a Mile High Disappointment not the end of the trail.

Pop

The Future for the Cleveland Browns

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare

 

The quote for Shakespeare is an accurate description for the past and future fate of the Browns. Let’s be honest, most of the Browns issues have been self-inflicted. But there is a new day dawning and I choose to look at what can be, with a wary eye on past mistakes. I feel that if Cleveland handles the next few years right they can move into the level of NFL teams who have a shot each year to make the playoffs.

The browns are sitting on 9 picks in 2017 and 11 YES 11 in 2018. They hold the #1 overall pick this year. This is the kind of situation that can make a team if done correctly, but if done incorrectly you could continue to be the laughing stock of the NFL.

There have been a lot of rumors that the Browns plan to take Trubisky with the first pick. This is how you can continue to be the laughing stock. Don’t get me wrong he might make a good NFL QB but I doubt he will be an every year playoff QB. I am not sure any of the 2017 QB class will be “GREAT” but a few can be good to ok. Is this really what you want from the #1 overall pick. I suspect this is a bit of pre-draft subterfuge. Perhaps they are looking to trade out of the #1 spot with another team in the top 5, who all need a QB, except the Titans, you guy are good. Hue Jackson is a smart guy he knows good and well that it doesn’t matter if Peyton Manning was coming out of Tennessee this year, the Browns need a lot of help in a lot of places. I have been studying Dane Bruglers 2017 Mock and he has the Browns taking DE Myles Garrett #1 and with their second pick in the first-round Alabama’s TE O.J. Howard. To me this is the way to go. You have an impact player at the most important defensive position. Someone who can set the tone for the rest of your team. THAT is what you want from a #1 overall pick. The second pick has a little more flexibility, I like Howard here but you could go in a few directions and still be good. There are some WR’s that would be available, or if you have your heart set on trading back this would be the spot for it. The spot I would look at QB would be with the third pick 33 over all in round 2. I think one of the top 5 QBs will still be there. The rest of the draft  they should use to sure up that defense. The two things you need to win the big one is a QB but almost as important is a defense.

If I was to give one word of advice to the Browns it is, patience. It did not take one season of bad picks, poor free agent moves and bad player behavior to get you to this point, and one season won’t fix it. But if you play it right 3 could. No matter who they take in 2017 they are still going to be bad next year. I think they will be better but not a lot. I am thinking like 3 wins. Which will put them in the hunt for the #1 overall again next year. Which most college experts are picking to be the next generational QB, USC phenom Sam Darnold. The real big advantage for the Browns are those 11 picks they hold. They will have enough capital to wow almost anyone. They must be disciplined enough to not reach this year for a lesser QB. Except the fact, you are at minimum 2 seasons away. Let’s look at another factor that may not be oblivious to most. The AFC north is a sinking division. The Bengal’s have been decimated by departures. A once strong team is now a shell of its former self and are in need of everything except QB and #1 WR, 2,3 and 4 WR they very much need. The O Line needs rebuilt if they expect Dalton to be able to do anything at all. The Ravens a once strong team is now just an also ran. No real stand outs on either side of the ball. “But Pop what about the mighty Steelers?” They are currently the best team in the division. They have the best RB and the best WR in football. They are one of only a couple of teams that can give the Patriots a challenge. Like a lot of strong teams, they are one key player injury away from total collapse. Roethlisberg has already let father time creep into his head. I do feel the offseason rumors of his retirement were silly, but let’s be honest. Would it be a stretch to think he hangs them up in say 3 seasons. Then how effective will Antonio Brown be with a lesser QB, and Bell like every RB is one blown knee away for the finish.

Let me say for the record I am not a Cleveland Browns fan. I have never even been to Ohio, but what I am is a football fan who loves a great redemption story. The story of a down and out team fighting against perception and their own past inadequacies. If they can overcome the pull of the drug that gets to many teams, a franchise QB. Their stars will hold their future and perhaps a shiny silver trophy.

 

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