Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chargers Bolt San Diego

By Travis Stahl

It is a sad day in the NFL.  The San Diego Chargers are announcing that the team will be moving to Los Angeles as a deal for a new stadium in San Diego could not be reached.  What a shame.  Dan Fouts, Lance Alworth, Kellen Winslow and the others were such a fabric of the league.  The Chargers were one of the original AFL teams that merged with the NFL.  Not cool San Diego, you are not being classy.

Listen, I know these stadium deals are ugly.  Legislators cry about them, tax payers hate footing the bill and it gets put to a vote.  More times than not the new stadium gets built.  We saw Minnesota build a nice new stadium as did San Francisco.  St. Louis voted down it's stadium bill and now the Rams are in Los Angeles.  Nobody wants to pay more taxes.  But when you refuse to build new stadiums people are failing to realize how much money their city will actually be losing.

If you build a new stadium the NFL will start considering you for a Super Bowl.  Right now the stadium in San Diego is ancient.  The last Super Bowl played there was the Broncos against the Redskins.  San Francisco hosted a Super Bowl in it's new stadium and Minnesota is going to do the same.  Hosting the Super Bowl brings hundreds of million if not a billion dollars.  That's a lot of money to lose out on.  That doesn't even take in to account the money generated by every home game or other event that takes place there as well.  A new stadium can be the jewel of a city's downtown area.

But it just didn't work out in San Diego so now the Chargers head north.  The plan at this point I believe is to share the new stadium that is being built with the Rams.  I'm also just guessing at this point that the Chargers will continue to be known by that name and not change it due to marketing and merchandise.  I feel badly for the fans in San Diego for losing their team.  All that leaves the city with now is the Padres and San Diego State athletics.  That's slim pickings for a city size of San Diego.

We have seen cities lose teams before.  Cleveland lost the Browns.  Oakland lost the Raiders and then got them back again.  Same goes for the Rams with LA and then St. Louis.  This time though I don't see another team returning to the city of San Diego.  Mostly because if the city wouldn't build a stadium for the Chargers they aren't going to do so for another team.  And the NFL isn't going to expand any time soon.  The thing I hate most about this is losing the rich history of the franchise there.  One of my favorite images in league history is Winslow being carried off the field after the playoff game in Miami.  Now those are just part of the history of the team and the league.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Clemson Shouldn't Surprise Us

By Travis Stahl

Sometimes in sports we are shocked.  Buster Douglas beats Mike Tyson.  The New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots twice.  These things happen from time to time.  Last night Clemson defeated Alabama to capture the college football national championship.  I don't think we should be shocked about the Tigers claiming this title.

For years now everyone has been looking for the formula to beat Alabama.  Before you think I'm jumping to conclusions, I'm not.  I don't think Clemson found the blue print to take down the Tide.  But, what Clemson did have was the ingredients necessary to beat any very good defense.  They had a quarterback in DeShaun Watson who is mobile but can put the ball anywhere on the field with pinpoint accuracy.  And, more importantly, the Tigers have wide receivers who know how to get open.

That's what beat Alabama.  If the Tide has one weakness it's in the defensive secondary.  The 'Bama front seven is as good as most NFL teams but the defensive backs aren't the greatest.  That showed last night.  Clemson had four receivers with more than 90 yards receiving.  And on the final drive of the game when you thought Alabama would put up the wall and just stop Clemson in it's tracks Watson kept the ball moving down the field.  To score with one second on the clock was just the cherry on top of one of the best college football games ever.

Another reason we shouldn't dismiss this and call Clemson the little engine that could is this team is really good.  Remember last year's championship game?  Yeah, the Tigers were right there in the game and it was Alabama that scored late to pull out the win.  And that was without wide receiver Mike Williams who led Clemson in receiving in this championship game.  Clemson is downright good and last night laid that to rest for sure.  That is the blueprint to beat Alabama, be really good at every position on the field.

I hope this game doesn't push Clemson coach Dabo Swinney into the NFL.  He is a great college coach and now most college guys stay put.  The money is about the same but you get a lot more control over the players you put on the field.  Swinney seems like a college coach, losing him to the NFL would be a shame to Clemson.  Plus, Swinney, is like Nick Saben.  No matter who the team loses to the NFL the team is always restocked and ready for the next season.  Which reminds me, Bama is already favored to win next year's title too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Who is the NFL MVP?

By Travis Stahl

MVP.  We overlook those three simple letters sometimes.  The NFL Most Valuable Player is a pretty prestigious award.  In a league full of all-time greats the MVP is the one guy who had a season for the ages.  Usually, we have a pretty good idea of who is going to win the MVP.  This year though it is anybodies guess as to who is going to be the league MVP.

Realistically there are a handful of obvious candidates.  We have New England quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cowboys running back Ezekial Elliot, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott.  Maybe you could add Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to that mix although his play lagged off a bit at the end of the year.  And therein lies the problem with this MVP debate.  Stafford has flaws.  So does every other candidate.

Brady was the best player in the league hands down.  But he only played 12 games.  Rodgers led the league in passing touchdowns for the first time in his career.  But he only had 33 and the Packers weren't a great team.  Elliot and Prescott will likely split votes and some people will point out that the actual MVP in Dallas is the team's offensive line.  Carr was phenomenal right up until the point that he broke his leg.  Stafford had stretches of games where he would disappear.  Depending on who the voters choose may have a lot to do with how they characterize an MVP.

I view the award a lot differently than most people.  To me, the MVP is the one guy in the league who has the most impact on his own team.  The player who, if taken out of the line-up, would see his team just fall apart.  To me, and again, it's just my own opinion, that signifies true value.  New England was 3-1 without Brady in the line-up.  If Prescott went down I get the feeling Tony Romo would be just fine.  Same goes for Elliot.  I could run for 1,000 yards behind the Cowboys offensive line.  That leaves us with Rodgers, Stafford and Carr.  That's a tough decision.

If I had a vote, I would cast it for Rodgers.  Think about all we had to listen to earlier this season about how bad the Packers were.  Even when that was all going on Rodgers was playing well.  His completion percentage was down but he was still throwing for a ton of yards.  I would vote Stafford second and Carr third.  I just feel that if Rodgers were out of the line-up Green Bay would have no chance at the playoffs.  And, we have that MVP signature moment from Rodgers were he guaranteed the team would run the table and they did.  Maybe we will point to that moment as a defining time after the Super Bowl.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Black Monday

By Travis Stahl

Black Monday.  It sounds like either a popular shopping day or something the pirates celebrate.  Today is the day several NFL head coaches will find themselves out of work.  It happens every year.  Several NFL coaches have already been fired.  One thing is for certain, there will be several more names added to the list as the day goes along.

Chip Kelly in San Francisco and Mike McCoy in San Diego were fired late yesterday.  Plus Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak retired.  That's three openings already.  It would not be too surprising to see Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis added to the list today.  And word out of New Orleans is that Sean Payton is orchestrating a buy-out so that he can leave the Saints and make his way to another team.  Todd Bowles with the Jets and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati could also find themselves out of work.  Don't forget the Rams still need a head coach too.

We are guaranteed three job openings and there could be as many as eight or nine.  Sometimes a team just needs to change direction.  It doesn't mean any of the guys getting fired are bad dudes.  It just means they weren't the right fit for the team at this time.  Some coaches click with a team and get the most of their guys.  Some were never meant to be a head coach in the first place, right Chip?  Now those teams in search of coaches need to decide what to do.

There are a couple of retreads who have already been head coaches in Mike Smith and Todd Haley who have once again done well as coordinators.  Then there is Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter who has done wonders for the Detroit offense and will likely draw a lot of attention.  If Payton is allowed out of New Orleans he is sure to be the top priority for any team with an opening.  The only college coach who could be targeted by NFL teams is Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney who has shown an ability to put together some pretty significant offensive schemes.

If another team hires Rex Ryan I'm sure to just puke.  There is no way that can possibly happen.  As the day goes along keep checking to see the latest casualties.  There might even be a couple of surprises.  It wouldn't be shocking to see John Fox out of Chicago and we still don't know what Jacksonville is going to do about replacing Gus Bradley.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Ohio State Mess

By Travis Stahl

Yeah, it's a special Sunday edition.  Chalk it up to the holiday.  We were sitting at some friends house last night playing games and watching Ohio State get the bejeesuz kicked out of them by Clemson.  After the last Clemson touchdown I remarked how horrible this game was because everyone was going to come out of the rafters again screaming about how Ohio State wasn't supposed to be there.  Sure enough, people are furious again today that Ohio State was even in the playoff instead of Big Ten champion Penn State.

If you think Penn State should have been in the playoff instead of the Buckeyes because the Nittany Lions won the head-to-head match-up this season we need to set some things straight.  First of all, this is not the NCAA.  This is the Power Five conferences making decisions.  Second, you are yelling that it isn't fair.  Yeah ... so?  Who said it was supposed to be fair?  College football has always been the most corrupt, unfair business in the country.  Yes, it is a business.

Here is how college football has always worked, even before there was a playoff or the BCS.  If you are undefeated, you can play for a title.  The next tier of teams are those with one loss like Ohio State.  Then, if there are still not enough one-loss teams to fill the playoff spots then they can start looking at the two-loss teams.  That's Penn State.  Two losses.  The head-to-head win against Ohio State means nothing.  NOTHING!  If you want it to mean something expand the playoffs or change the rules.

We also had the topic of Western Michigan come up.  Remember, they finished the season undefeated also.  Again, it means nothing.  Only teams from the Power Five conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and PAC 12) are eligible for playing for the national title.  That's it.  Western Michigan or any other school from another conference will not be in the playoff.  That's why the other five conferences in the country are going to form their own national title playoff.

The playoff committee never said they were going to the four most deserving teams to be in the playoffs.  Instead, they have consistently said they are going to put the four best teams in the playoffs.  Just because Ohio State got drilled doesn't mean they aren't one of the four best.  Maybe Clemson would beat Penn State by 45.  Heck, USC might beat Penn State by 45.  The committee did exactly what they said they were going to do.  If only conference champions can play for the national title they need to change the rules.

Now that we have all of that out of the way let me acknowledge, I don't like any of it.  Not one bit.  I think there should be a playoff and I think it should have eight teams.  There should be the five conference champions and three at-large teams.  As with most things in college football it's all about the money.  The power Five conferences have it all and don't want to give up any of it.  The bottom line is the committee has the ability to generate more money by having Ohio State there instead of Penn State.  But you can't blame Ohio State for that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

So Long Rex

By Travis Stahl

I'm not a sadistic person.  I don't generally root for others to fail.  But I do enjoy a good "I told you so" from time to time.  Especially when the failure in question is performed by my least favorite NFL coach of all-time, Rex Ryan.  Ryan was fired as head coach of the Buffalo Bills yesterday.  It's about time.

If you remember correctly when the Bills hired Ryan fresh off of his firing from the New York Jets I laughed hardily.  Everyone knew at the time it was a bad hire by Buffalo as the team was backed into a corner and likely couldn't find another taker.  Ryan stepped in and immediately started running his mouth as per his usual antics.  "We're going to the Super Bowl."  "We can beat the Patriots."  "We're going to have a great defense."

None of those things came true.  Ryan couldn't duplicate the early success he had with the defense in New York and the team never made the playoff let alone sniffed a Super Bowl.  The only enjoyable thing about Ryan's time in Buffalo was watching Bill Belichick humiliate him over and over.  We've seen this twice now, that's enough.  The rest of the league needs to come to it's senses and realize this guy isn't head coaching material.

Yes, players love the guy at first.  He talks a big game and is widely regarded as a players coach.  But Ryan really has a poor eye for evaluating and developing talent and his offensive schemes are non-existent.  If Ryan has somebody else finding the talent for him, like he did with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore then the guy can put together a good defensive scheme.  But if it all falls on Rexy forget about it.

The only head coaching openings right now are in Jacksonville and Los Angeles.  Neither of those teams will legitimately consider Ryan as they both have young offenses that need developed.  If another team does decide to hire Rex then shame on them.  The guy is not a head coach in this league.  Defensive coordinator?  Sure, as long as he keeps his mouth shut.  We don't need to hear anymore bragging from a guy who clearly can't back it up.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

30 For 30 ... Woooo!

By Travis Stahl

Woooo!  You know what I want to talk about today.  Yesterday ESPN released a short clip previewing the new 30 For 30 that is about to be released on professional wrestling legend Ric Flair.  The clip was only 43 seconds long but it was plenty long enough to get me pumped up.  Flair is arguable the greatest wrestler of all-time.  This new documentary will give us an even deeper look into one of the most extraordinary athletes we've ever seen in the public eye.

I love the 30 For 30 films.  They focus on things time has sometimes forgotten.  Sure, they have some that feature popular topics like the University of Miami football.  But it's the obscure films like the one on the life of Tim Richmond or the one on Oklahoma running back Marcus Dupree that really entertain.  I think this Flair 30 For 30 is going to be a good one.  I don't know a whole lot about the guy's life away from wrestling other than that he survived a plane crash at one point in his life.  Who does that?  Ric Flair, that's who.

In the 1980's professional wrestling was king.  And while the WWF was the more popular brand of wrestling I always liked the NWA (later the named changed to WCW) a little bit better.  The NWA wasn't as flashy and over the top.  It didn't have cartoon characters as wrestlers.  It was real guys like Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A.  Of course there in the middle of it all was Flair, the most hated man in all of professional wrestling and always the NWA Heavyweight Champion.  No matter how much you hated the guy though you had to appreciate what a showman he was.

Flair was always in character.  The jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun.  The guy had some great matches.  Rivalries against Dusty Rhodes, Sting and Nikita Koloff were some of the classic wrestling matches of all time.  Flair would slap on the figure-four leg-lock to try to end the match.  But it rarely ended that way.  More times than not Flair would try to cheat his way to a win.  Sometimes it would work but it was always entertaining.  All the while Flair would be playing to the crowd and strutting around the ring.

The 30 For 30 films do more than tell a story.  They transport us back to a time we cherished and let us relive a subject long lost to eyes of many.  Flair has always been popular but he never achieved the wide spread hysteria like Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant or some of the other more popular WWF wrestlers.  I see this 30 For 30 as kind of a crowning moment for Flair.  It's a tip of the cap by an extremely popular series to the greatest professional wrestler of all time.