First of all, I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year. I hope that 2016 will be a healthy and prosperous one for you. I also extend my good wishes to my editor, Eric Gargiulo, and all my fellow bloggers at Camelclutch.com, and their families, as well. I am looking forward to see what will be in store for 2016.
Now, that the niceties are out of the way, let’s get down to business. On January 3, 2016, the 2015-16 NFL regular season ended. That’s a sad day for many of us NFL fans, especially those, whose teams missed the playoffs. I will say that the NFL season overall was not as exciting as prior years, but it did get a bit interesting near the end, when there was some final playoff pushes. The playoff teams and seedings are finally set. There have been coach/GM firings, and controversy. I plan to cover this in this blog. So, without further ado, here is my analysis of the entire 2015-16 NFL regular season, giving you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and I have decided to throw in a brief prediction of what I think will happen in the Wild Card games this weekend.
TOM BRADY’S PERFORMANCE AT 38
At age 38, one would expect Father Time to come calling for most athletes, especially quarterbacks. Well, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is not most athletes, and is certainly not most quarterbacks. Despite fighting one of the most ridiculous scandals in sports history in Deflategate, and despite the media attacking the man from all sides, concerning people in his personal life, Brady had an MVP-like season. He threw for 4,770 yards, 36 TDs, and had a passer rating of 102.2. That is phenomenal. He led the NFL in Touchdowns thrown. He led a banged up Patriots team to a 12-4 record, and the #2 seed. He suffered a mild high ankle sprain in the Week 17 match-up vs. the Miami Dolphins, but is expected to be fine for the January 16th Divisional Round playoff game. He recently said that his ankle is better, and has taken part in the 2 walk through practices this past Wednesday and Thursday. While QB Cam Newton is likely to be named the NFL regular season MVP, Tom Brady’s accomplishment at 38 should be acknowledged.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS PLAYOFF RUN
Talking about stumbling out of the starting gate, in the early part of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs looked hopeless. They had a 1-5 record, and had no semblance of a professional team at all. I thought that coach Andy Reid was going to be run out on a rail at season’s end. The Chiefs appeared to be headed to own a high first round draft pick in April of 2016.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the season. The Chiefs started to win, starting with a defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 25, 2015. That sparked a 10 game winning streak, making the Chiefs one of the hottest teams in the AFC playoffs. QB Alex Smith and his ability to take care of the ball is one reason for the turnaround, but I credit the Kansas City defense, especially the improved play of DB Eric Berry, who made a successful recovery from Leukemia. Berry’s return to the game is no more than miraculous.
WHAT IS A CATCH?
I have never seen something that should be so simple, turned into something that is so complicated. The quarterback throws the ball, and the receiver catches said ball. Why is this such a hard concept? The receiver in today’s game has to do ten thousand things before it’s a catch? They have to keep their feet inbounds, and have control, and this, that, and the other. Is this figure skating, or the NFL? Dean Blandino, the Vice President of Officiating, has to get a bunch of retired receivers like Randy Moss to help him decide what defines a catch? The NFL needs to get it together, because there’s too much confusion among fans, commentators, the officials, and especially the players.
JOHNNY MANZIEL’S NFL CAREER
We fans of popular music know that the industry is littered with artists, who have thrown away their careers, and even their lives, thanks to various vices, such as drugs, alcohol, and money mismanagement. My readers know to whom I’m referring, and I don’t need to list them. NFL players have also thrown away careers, and it is very sad. It is very sad, when you see it happening with your own eyes.
Johnny Manziel’s throwing away his NFL career. I never was a fan of his, as a college QB, and I also said he would not make it as an NFL quarterback, mainly because of his immature behavior. Sadly, it appears that I was right. Despite going to rehab, Manziel STILL went out to a club, and not only lied to the team, but had his friends attempt to lie for him. Now, there’s this convoluted story about his going to Las Vegas in disguise, and not showing up to the team’s facilities on Sunday. Does Manziel think that he is above the rest of the NFL?
Manziel can’t just be a great QB based on his name alone. He has to put in the work. He has to be dedicated. He has to do what Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning do, to become a great quarterback. Those two are the first to arrive, and the last to leave. They study film. They stay in shape. They’re dedicated to their craft. They have fun, I am sure. I’m not saying that Manziel can’t have fun. I’m saying that if he wants to be a great quarterback, he needs to be dedicated.
DYSFUNCTION IN CLEVELAND AND TAMPA BAY
The ominous “Black Monday, ” where coaches and general managers get fired is never easy. I may not be a fan of the person, but it’s never good to see anyone lose his or her job. That being said, I will be discussing two firings that highlighted two of the most dysfunctional teams in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns fired GM Ray Farmer and Coach Mike Pettine on Sunday night, January 3rd. On Wednesday, January 6th, in a rather shocking move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Head Coach Lovie Smith. There’s always a surprise firing during “Black Monday,” but Smith’s firing was out of left field.
Let’s start with the firing of Lovie Smith. I am still trying to process his firing. The Glazers, who own the team, don’t want to lose offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter,so they fired Lovie Smith. I can understand that. What I can’t digest is that they fired Lovie Smith over the phone. Evidently, per Profootballtalk
, the team wanted to have a meeting with Smith on Thursday, and he sensed something was up, and asked questions, so that’s how they ended up firing him on the phone.
That doesn’t sit right with me. Bucs ownership sound so unprofessional.
The Buccaneers have gone through 3 head coaches in 5 years. What kind of stability is that? This team is a mess. I know Lovie Smith is not the greatest coach in the world, and his 8-24 record in his 2 year tenure proves it. However, ownership has to be held accountable for keeping the franchise stable. The NFL is a win now league. I get it. However, there has to be some patience by ownership.
Now, I will discuss the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have one of the most loyal fan bases in the NFL. They love their team, and will be in the Dawg Pound, cheering for their beloved Browns. These fans have lived through a ton of heartache, such as “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “The Move,” and also having the indignity of seeing the former Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, win the Super Bowl in 2000 and 2012. What do these fans get for their loyalty? They get one of the most incompetent owners that I have ever seen.
Owner Jimmy Haslem, after firing the aforementioned GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine, put one of the team’s attorneys, Sashi Brown, in charge of of the entire roster, as Vice President of Football Operations. Mr. Brown was the salary cap specialist. Now, he is going to help pick the players on the team? Mr. Haslem, you are not going grocery shopping, you are supposed to be putting together a winning team. Having a salary cap person putting together the team doesn’t make sense.
The Browns made another weird hire. They hired New York Mets executive Paul DePodesta. If you have seen the film, “MoneyBall,” Jonah Hill is Paul DePodesta. Sashi Brown is huge on analytics and Paul DePodesta is, as well. I am a bit skeptical of this tactic. It is easier to use data and stats with baseball, than it is with football. You CAN measure stats and data with MANY positions in the NFL, like QB. RB, WR, etc. How do you measure stats for a Left Tackle, or the Right Guard? In the NFL, especially, data and stats don’t tell the whole story. Besides, DePodesta is a baseball guy. Again, a mess.
Part of the dysfunction in Cleveland also involves drafting the problematic Johnny Manziel. I don’t know why they thought they could deal with him. The signs that he was a bad apple were all there. He constantly partied in college. He’d talk back to his coaches. He only got suspended for a half of a game, because of who he was. He was never held accountable for his actions in college. What made the Browns think that Manziel would behave when he got to the professional level? Are their analytics going to make sure they don’t screw up again in the NFL Draft?
BRIEF 2015-16 NFL WILD CARD PREDICTION
I end this blog with a very brief prediction for this weekend’s 2015 NFL Wild Card prediction. I will start with the AFC, this Saturday. In the first game, on ESPN/ABC at 4:35PM EST, between the Kansas City Chiefs (#5) and the Houston Texans (#4), I see a tough, low scoring affair. The Texans won’t have LT Duane Brown, and the Chiefs likely will have passed rusher Justin Houston. Texans’ J.J. Watt will have a role, but I think the Chiefs won’t collapse, and win. Chiefs win by a score of 24-17.
In the 8:15PM EST, contest on NBC, between the Pittsburgh Steelers (#6) and the Cincinnati Bengals (#3) , I am expecting a tough game between two teams who hate one another. I hope that there won’t be any ejections, considering what happened the last time they met. Regardless, I expect a high scoring game. The Steelers shaking secondary needs to step up. The loss of RB D’Angelo Williams will hurt, also. The game is in Prime Time. The Bengals don’t like to play in Prime Time. Steelers win by a score of 34-30.
On Sunday, January 10, the NFC takes its turn. It will be very cold between the Seattle Seahawks (#5) and the Minnesota Vikings (#4) at 1:00PM on NBC. I don’t think that will bother the Seahawks, as RB Marshawn Lynch returns. Even though he’s missed practice with a bad back, I expect Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to play Seattle QB Russ Wilson has been playing lights out. Seattle beat the Vikings earlier this season. I expect the same result. Seahawks win by a score of 37-14.
On FOX , at 4:30pm, ET, the Green Bay Packers (#6) take on Washington (#3). On offense, the Packers appear to be up and down. One week, they look good, and the next, they’re getting killed. Perhaps the loss of Jordy Nelson was a bigger loss than expected. The offensive line is like a turnstile. Washington has a subpar defense, even though QB Kirk Cousins has been playing well, especially at home. I still don’t see Green Bay losing this game, and as I picked this team to be the NFC representative in Super Bowl 50, I am picking Green Bay to win this game. I am sure my readers from Green Bay will like that. Packers win by a score of 30-27.
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