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Today’s Topic: 12.4.2013

College has become something of a hassle for today’s student athlete, especially those who are seen as “superstars”.  A stick on the rollerblading path of success, a boring trailer waiting for the movie to start.  What ungodly comparisons could some of the brightest minds make for an athlete having to sit through lectures and recitations and exams?  Who knows?  Cardale Jones, Ohio State’s third-string Quarterback, may have said it best that he “we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL”.  Cardale came to one of our nation’s Universities, known as “higher education” to some idiots, to play football.  Naturally, I mean that’s why college’s are around, right?  Today’s Topic takes us to a college in Eugene, where a top five pick spurned the NFL….and for what?  To play school?

12.4.2013

I’ve never considered myself a huge Marcus Mariota fan, I guess mainly because I’ve never been a huge fan of Oregon; in fact, I root against Oregon more often than I root for them.  Why?  I have no idea.  I have no connection or disconnection to Oregon, but I always find myself hoping they go down in flames week-in-week-out….except when I pick them against the spread, of course.  The Ducks have become a polarizing team thanks in large part to Nike owner Phil Knight.  He has showered the Ducks with countless gifts including the nation’s most gaudy and awesome uniforms, facilities which no other school can match, and an overwhelming sense of entitlement.  Lost in the Phil Knight scramble are the Oregon players.  They have seen to become an amorphous blob of annual speed racers.  Every year Oregon has the nation’s quickest running back and most versatile quarterback.  Why pay any attention?  These guys are all system products, products which begin with the tantalizing props Phil Knight provides via his astounding wealth and generosity to the University’s athletic programs.  So why would anyone pay any attention to Marcus Mariota?  He’s just another Oregon quarterback who can throw and run, but will find his comeuppance in the NFL because he’s just another stat machine bred by the Oregon program, right?  Well, suddenly the entire nation is agape at a decision made by Mariota and he’s captivated the entire country with a decision many thought ridiculous.  To quote an ESPN commercial, “He’s coming back.”

What are Mariota’s reasons for coming back?  I thought he would have told the media what it wanted to hear, “I want to win a championship”, “I just couldn’t leave knowing we have left so much unfinished this season”, etc.  He’ll talk football, because he’s a football player.  He ain’t at Oregon to play SCHOOL, and the media doesn’t pay attention to him because he’s playing SCHOOL.  Mariota is only making headline news because he’s a football player who is staying in school.  Manziel, Hundley, Bridgewater…all names which appear on the 2014 draft board rather than a 2014 attendance sheet.  I’m not condemning these players.  If I were in their place, the riches of the NFL would be difficult to pass up, but he (Mariota) is shunning these riches.  He’s Matt Barkley-ing the NFL; although, I think we can all hope he meets a better end to his decision than Barkley has.  Believe it or not, my assumptions about Mariota’s decision were as wrong as the constant dick sightings in the movie Wanderlust starring my boy Paul Rudd.

In some back recess of my mind, I’m hesitant to laud Mariota; after all, who knows how much SCHOOL factors into the decision.  Quoth Marcus, “It is an honor to be a student at the University of Oregon and to have the opportunity to represent our institution on the football field alongside my teammates […] I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great University.”  Tears are coagulating in my eyes and suddenly I have a huge man crush on Mariota.  He could be being facetious, pandering to the world of unread blogs such as this because it makes him look like a great guy.  No one is beyond facetiousness; however, for the sake of my own sanity and the sake of what I have already written, I’d like to personally declare myself a huge Marcus Mariota fan and praise the young man for making a decision which few would dare…actually staying in college to play some SCHOOL.

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The Football Mentality:

We saw Stephen Strasburg taught an austere lesson this season when the Washington Nationals’ organization shut down the ace despite his  dominance on the mound because he had reached the innings limit the team had prescribed prior to the beginning of the 2012 Major League Baseball season during September.  Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, and Ricky Rubio have all been huddled underneath the protection of street clothes without any thought of placing a team’s star player onto the National Basketball Association’s court without knowing first that he has not just fully recovered; he has little to no risk of re-injuring himself.  Call it the Greg Oden law or the Francisco Liriano Amendment.  Whatever the name, the teams of the MLB and NBA are no longer willing to sacrifice the long term prospects of a future star in order to get that one big win…now, the National Football League….

Think of the three players who have dominated attention in the National Football League this season, and I promise to all that is holy I shudder at what may happen to the man-card of anyone who thought of Tim Tebow.  The three biggest names of 2012?  Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Robert Griffin III.  What common thread brings all three of these gentlemen together?  Try risking life and limb (mostly limb) in order to partake in the weekly gladiator gauntlets which are commonly called football games.  Manning was coming off a career threatening neck injury.  Sure, Manning played it safe by sitting out the entire 2011-2012 season; however, there are few parts of the body which are as scary to think about playing injured with than a neck…especially when the sport you’re playing is football where a hit may trigger your body to contort in such a way you may under why the career path of contortionist never breached your mind.  Manning’s neck could be one shot away from putting Peyton (one of the NFL’s greatest players, a living legend, and a great advertiser) in a wheelchair.  Not a soul can be certain of the state of Manning’s neck; nonetheless, the doctor’s told Peyton he was healthy enough to play and so he shoulders his pads every Sunday and enters the Colosseum  in order to try and bring home a win for the Col….Broncos.  Peterson?  He is even more of a risk than Manning.

AD was injured during week 16 last season.  His injury?  He tore the living shit out of every goddamn muscle which holds together one of the human body’s most intriguing and undervalued muscles: the knee.  AP endured an injury which may not have been as career threatening as Manning’s, but placed AD at a much higher likelihood of inviting a brand new tear to his knee this season.  Thankfully AP did not tear the living hell out of his knee this year, but managed to come within 9 yards of the record for rushing yards in a single season.  There has never been as impressive a season in my mind, because AD worked harder than any individual has to garner his statistics…even if the sweat poured outside of the regular season and the fight came months before Minnesota ever kicked off on opening weekend.  Look at Ryan Broyles or other NFL players who have a history of injuring the knee.  AP had no business playing this season and if Minnesota wanted to be positive the NFL’s best runner would be around for the next couple campaigns; AD would have been dressing in hoodies and sweatpants for 2012-2013.  Finally, let’s talk about Robert Griffin III.

Robert Griffin III is an easy (maybe not correct, but easy) choice for Rookie of the Year in the NFL this season.  His statistics are unbelievable and he led a pretty bad team to the playoffs.  He has caused NFL gurus to reconsider the style of Quarterback which is most valuable.  His ability and the turmoil a defense endures due to his speed could have been an undervalued factor in the benching of Alex Smith in favor of the mobile Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.  His playoff contest, however, didn’t quite roll along as planned.  Washington strolled to a 14-0 lead and any sensible coach would have told Griffin to sit his ass on the bench as he limped off the field like Lily when she strikes her shin on a pipe during the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall dates the crazy coffee girl…too long of a reference?  Anyway, Griffin later muffed a hand off with Alfred Morris and the ball was simply sitting a few yards ahead of Griffin….just sitting there.  Griffin anchored his injured leg into the turf and attempted to push off to collect the valuable pigskin so Washington could resume its drive.  Griffin’s knee bent further than David Beckham’s free kicks and everyone in the entire world cupped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his seat, and uttered a quiet whine of disbelief.  The seemingly unstoppable Heisman winner writhed in pain before being led off the field.  He would be diagnosed with a torn MCL and ACL.  He has already undergone surgery and now there is the rehabilitation.  Griffin looks doubtful for the start of 2013.

As I stated, it took demoralizing injuries to prominent players with amazing potential to change the way the MLB and NBA to change their paradigms of injured stars.  The reward of playing their young stars with serious injury seemed so minuscule compared to the risk of those players aggravating their ailments.  The NFL has a different mentality and this season more than any other allowed a fan to witness the NFL’s stance.  Players continue to be consider more tools by the organizations they play for than people whose lives are being shaped by the career path chose.  Clearly all athletes are aware injury is a risk; however, an athlete never wants to sit around and watch his or her team compete without being able to play a role.  It falls into the hands of the organizations and even Big Brother (Roger Goodell and his chums) to keep a player out of harms way even if it means the team loses a game or a season.  I hope losing Robert Griffin for early 2013 and possibly even the entire 2013-2014 season (I can only pray Washington plays it conservative with their star) was worth losing to Seattle in the Divisional round of the playoffs.  Kirk Cousins on two healthy knees cannot be much worse than a hampered RGIII.  We’ll soon find out as Cousins’s opportunity rests for the opening weeks of 2013.  The NFL has some reevaluating to do.

 

NFL Mid-Season Report

Week 9 of the NFL season has ended and this means the nicely numbered NFL season has reached it’s halfway mark.  The Browns, Giants, Packers, and Seahawks have all played 9 games because they are too cool to make this the precise midway point.  We’ve seen some surprises and some teams sink back into the doldrums where they belong (Here’s looking at you, Arizona).  Now we’ll have to look at a few things.  We’ll start with the absolute basics:

Mid-Season MVP: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

Coach of the Year: Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

All-Pro’s:
QB: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

RB: Arian Foster, Houston Texans

WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

OT: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

OG: Jahari Evans, New Orleans Saints

C: Jeff Saturday, Green Bay Packers

DE: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

DT: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

OLB: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

ILB: Jerod Mayi, New England Patriots

S: Stevie Brown, New York Giants

CB: Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears

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Here are some other points to make, I s’pose:

Biggest Surprise (in a good way): Chicago Bears

-The Bears are 7-1.  Jay Cutler has been abysmal at times, but they have managed to win games.  If it weren’t for the defense and the celebrity Eagles team, Lovie Smith and Cutler would have the hottest seats in the NFL.  Luckily, they have the defense and thus have managed a 7-1 record.  If the offense ever produces like a legitimate NFL team, they’ll be extremely dangerous.

Biggest Surprise (in a bad way): Kansas City Chiefs

-The Chiefs may be the NFL’s worst team.  They were a popular pick to win the AFC West at the beginning of the year as they seemed to have extremely capable players at many positions.  We’re learning the difference between theory and actuality with this team.

Andrew Luck vs Peyton Manning:

They have the exact same number of passing yards through 8 games (2404) which is kind of cool.  Manning has a higher completion percentage and twice as many touchdowns as Luck while throwing 2 less interceptions.  Perhaps one of the more surprising stats in Luck has thrown the ball 44 more times than Peyton; although,  Peyton has 13 more completions.  Luck also has outrushed Peyton 148-9….but who cares?

That’s about all…here are the team-by-team power rankings!

1) Atlanta Falcons; 2) Houston Texans; 3) Chicago Bears; 4) Green Bay Packers; 5) San Francisco 49ers; 6) Baltimore Ravens; 7) New York Giants; 8) New England Patriots; 9) Denver Broncos; 10) Pittsburgh Steelers; 11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 12) Indianapolis Colts; 13) Detroit Lions; 14) Seattle Seahawks; 15) Minnesota Vikings; 16) Miami Dolphins; 17) San Diego Chargers; 18) Dallas Cowboys; 19) New Orleans Saints; 20) Philadelphia Eagles; 21) Arizona Cardinals; 22) Oakland Raiders; 23) Washington Redskins; 24) Cincinnati Bengals; 25) St. Louis Rams; 26) New York Jets; 27) Tennessee Titans; 28) Carolina Panthers; 29) Buffalo Bills; 30) Jacksonville Jaguars; 31) Cleveland Browns; 32) Kansas City Chiefs

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