Fantasy Friday

March 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Blame it on Arian

Free agency kicks off next Tuesday. Some serious dudes are going to be hitting the open market. Game changers like Michael Bennett who led your Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks with 8.5 sacks and Jairus Byrd who since joining the league has had more interceptions and forced fumbles (33) than any other safety. They and a number of others will have more than a few “under the cap” suitors looking to secure their services. What’s common about these two and other interesting free agents is that they fall on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensive players entering free agency in 2014 come with more questions than answers: Is Eric Decker what the numbers tell us he is or has he been elevated beyond recognition by the company he keeps? Can Michael Vick who could not do it in Chip Kelly’s offense do it in a place like … say Minnesota? Is Maurice Jones Drew running on fumes?

Teams courting these players will not be doing so because they are infatuated but because they are desperate. Missteps, missed opportunities have brought them to a place of reluctant commitments – commitments that come with them that sickening feeling: “I feel trapped.” And no team will feel more trapped, more desperate than those looking to fill the positional need at Running Back.

First off, the Running Back is a rapidly diminishing role. Do you remember the last Running Back to take a team to the Super Bowl? You may have to go all the way back to Terrell Davis. It’s a pass happy league with the diminished role of the RB being chopped further into specialized, committee systems. Furthermore, the RB – outside of maybe the Nose Guard – takes more punishment than any other position in the league making 30 years the standard age at which they are led to pasture.

Recent history of high profile RB signings isn’t helping. There’s Steven Jackson who was supposed to shore up the Falcons backfield but ended up playing twelve games, failing for the first time since his rookie season to crack a 1000 yds, and producing a career worst 3.5 per carry avg. Chris Johnson signed what was the richest contract given to a RB and promptly followed with the worst season of his career. He ended 2013 by dipping below 4 yds per carry avg. And as disasters go, can’t forget Arian Foster.

Foster went from an undrafted free agent to taking over the league in 2010. After a second outstanding season, Foster was rewarded with a five-year, 43.5 million dollar contract before the 2012 season. A no brainer – as safe an investment as you can get. After struggling through an injury plagued 2013 pre-season, Foster was ultimately put on IR after playing only eight games. This offseason, between the news of back surgery and rehab, word got out that Foster allegedly fathered a child with a University of Houston coed. Doh! How’s that long term deal looking now?

Next week, Darren McFadden will sit across the table from a GM. The fear of commitment will be palpable.
“Hey, man, I know there are some durability issues, but I’m still young. And when I’m on the field, there’s no question about my productivity.”
“Look, nothing you can say will put me at ease … you can blame Arian for that.”



Fantasy Friday

February 28th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Jerry’s World

“I paid for it. It’s mine!”

Did you hear what Jerry Jones said? Last week at the Combine in Indy, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his acquisition of America’s Team, Jones sat down with Chris Mortensen and Suzy Kolber of ESPN. During the interview, Mortensen sac’d up and asked the big question, “Are you going bring in a GM?”

The Dallas Cowboys has one, don’t have to count ’em … ’cause there’s only one playoff win since ’96. That’s one in 16 seasons. Despite holding down the top spot in worth (Forbes puts the Cowboys at 2.3 billion), the Boys have been the picture of mediocrity since their early ’90s run. Over this period, there have been a “turnstile” of head coaches – six in all. The one constant has been Jerry Jones in the General Manager’s seat. So, naturally, the question is going to come up.

Paraphrasing, Jones response was, “I paid 140 million for this team, which Lamar Hunt (Principal founder of the AFL, founder and owner of KC Chiefs) called the riskiest thing he’d ever seen. I risked everything, and so earned the right to have all critical decisions regarding the team to go through me. If someone else has the balls to pony up a comparable figure then he can tell me what to do.” Really? You’re going with that? “I bought it. It’s mine!” Oh, that’s not childish at all.

Geez. You’re not painting a tricycle. It’s only one of a handful of the most recognizable sports franchises in the world. It’s a marquee team of the most popular sport in America. The Cowboys represent the City of Dallas at the very least, but more likely the State of Texas. Not to mention the countless people who literally make their living on the team. It’s a little bigger than you, don’t you think?

Yeah, absolutely, there’s something to be said about being an owner. Of course that affords you certain rights. No dispute there. Those rights however do not include installing yourself into a role and then not holding yourself to the same standards to which every other one of your employees are held. Wait a minute … could this be the reason why Jason Garrett still has a job? Why they do not draft another QB? The reason why Montee Kiffin is still on their staff? Has the disparity in standards created such a tension in Jones that now he has unwittingly begun to apply the mediocre standards he allows for himself onto the rest of his organization?

Whatever is going on, it’s equivalent to a billionaire with little flight experience, upon purchasing an airline insisting, “I bought this thing, it’s mine so no one’s going to tell me I can’t fly the New York to London leg. Damn it!”

With a blind man at the helm, it’s no wonder the team has one playoff win in sixteen seasons. And it’s not looking good for you Cowboy fans. Money and power has a way of blinding a man, but you’d think over a decade of ineptitude would restore some sight. You would think. And with Jerry Jones, you’d be wrong.

Eating Crow

February 4th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Did I say the Broncos?

Yes, I believe I did. Well, I don’t have to believe. All I have to do is scroll down and read it. Funny how clear it is now. The two Broncos units with significant injuries were the offensive line and the secondary. Injuries on the line occurred at the start of season, and by the time they’d arrived in New Jersey, Denver had answered the questions about the line. It is worth noting however that one of those injuries were to their all pro left tackle, Ryan Clady. The secondary was another story. A patch work group composed of stars of yesteryear and undrafted free agents took a huge hit when they lost their best player in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Harris’ injury meant that Champ Bailey who had been struggling with his own injury all season would be pushed into the starting spot opposite Rodgers-Cromartie. And other guys like journeyman Tony Carter would have to play a major role.

The prevailing sentiment was that Seattle didn’t have the weapons to exploit Denver’s weakness in the secondary. Seattle would do it’s usual twenty-five to Marshawn Lynch, dink and dunk to Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, and see what they could get out of Harvin. In the first quarter, that is pretty much what we saw. After being spotted two points, and with two trips deep into the redzone, all Seattle could muster was 8-0 lead. Denver accomplished its defensive priority by shutting down Marshawn Lynch. What it could not do the rest of the game was stop Seattle on 3rd downs. Nor could the unsung offensive line that had overachieved keep Seattle’s edge rushers off Peyton Manning. In the end, the two units beleaguered by injury had no answer for the deeper, healthier, younger Seahawks.

But what is not being talked about are the turnovers and the near turnover. There were technically four turnovers in the game. Two interceptions which included a pick six and two fumbles. But if you include the safety on Denver’s first play and the failed fourth down attempt at the end of the first half, we’re looking at six turnovers. And then there was the near turnover which was in my opinion one of the most critical plays in the game. With Denver down 0-8 late in the first quarter, Knowshon Moreno fumbled on a second and manageable, something like 2nd and 4. Although he recovered the ball, it made it 3rd and 7. On the very next play, on 3rd and 7, down 8, and yet to convert a 1st down, Manning pressed. The pick to Chancellor set up Seattle’s first TD. 15-0. It got down right ugly after that.

From the other side of here, tough to see Denver’s line so thoroughly dominated. Tough to see Seattle complete pass after 3rd down conversion pass. Tough to see special teams play be so one sided. But more than anything, it was hard to see Denver turn the ball over what amounts to six times.

Of course, that’s the point. We cannot see the other side of here. It’s why Vegas always wins. Why an orangutan ironically named Eli is 7-0. Why I’ll be eating crow. Damn. Can you pass the salt? This crow looks gamey.


January 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

I am the father of teenagers. Yeah, I know. There are two of ’em. Couple years ago, my son got me in the fraternity into which fathers reluctantly, apprehensively shuffle. And although my daughter who turned thirteen a couple, short months ago technically followed her brother into teendom she was in all intents and purposes a “teenager” long before he. Her foreshadowing helped, but let’s face it: I’m new. Not sure what to do, where to go. And I have that familiar feeling that my whole stint here will be accompanied by this uncertainty. “You’re lost? Get used to it.” Okay. I will say this though, these teenagers have my full attention. So I’m learning.

Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned. The other day, I had a tough conversation with my son. I was correcting him, and he didn’t much want to hear it. I’ve discovered that talking incessantly at someone who’s not listening doesn’t get them to listen. Just multiply that statement by fifty when applied to teenagers. We were both done. Before parting in frustration, I told him that I loved him, that I thought about him and his sisters all the time, prayed for them every day, worried about them. When I said this, he looked into my eyes. After not making eye contact the whole time I was correcting him, the impassioned reminder about his father’s love had him looking into my eyes. In that moment, I literally saw him soften.

You will have tough things to say to your teenagers. They will come at a time when their capacity to listen to you will plummet like a led ball. The only thing that will keep your words buoyant will be their belief in your love for them. I really think my teenage son looked into my eyes, and examined my words. In that moment of fixed gaze, he cross-referenced my words to his memory.

What have I learned about parenting teenagers? Love them in a way now so that years from now when you’re neck deep in cell phones, skinny jeans, under developed thought processes, peer pressures … love them in a way now so whilst in the midst of all that, when you remind them that you love them, they’ll look into your eyes and find those words to be undeniable.

The Hand You’re Dealt

November 20th, 2013 § 2 Comments

The last thing my Father taught me was this: “You gotta play the hand your dealt.” Neither one of us knew he was teaching me this valuable lesson. But as I’m going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, I harken back to my Father’s last, great life experience – his death.

Somewhere back there in post war South Korea, my Father contracted hepatitis. He probably didn’t know he had it. At forty-six years of age, he collapsed on a golf course. The initial diagnosis was kidney stones. I still remember the light-hearted, pre-surgery visit at the Queen of Angels hospital. The next day with him half conscious, writhing in pain, the surgeon delivered the news. Liver cancer. After two years of a mostly uphill fight, my Father succumbed to the disease. He was forty-eight years old.

He wasn’t planning on dying. My parents had just bought their first home in America. And coupled it with a brand new, brown Cadillac Sedan de Ville. Business was booming in the little sandwich shop they’d purchased in a subterranean shopping center in Downtown LA. Straight off a plane to the American dream in five short years. And then the sky caved in … nothing could be done about it. It was the hand that was dealt.

As much as we’d like to believe that we can affect the Dealer’s turn of the card, we can’t. Once the hand is dealt, within the confines of the cards dealt, we play. But before we can play that hand well, we have to accept it. Throwing it in in disgust isn’t going to help. Wishing ain’t helping either. No, we must accept. I’m not talking resignation. Not saying, “Fold ’em.” I’m saying without accepting, we’ll not know how to go about playing our hand.

It’s a tough, seldom mastered lesson. As I grope for it, a comforting thought is that I don’t really know what the best hand is … I think I know, but I don’t really. It’s what makes me chase the elusive flush when if played well, I could take the pot with a pair of Jacks.

Fight Part 2

October 24th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

A fight isn’t all bad. In fact, depending on the circumstances, avoiding one might be the real crime. Somethings require a fight, demand a fight. When that something occurs, best know how to go about fighting. That’s my point. In those instances when a fight was the best course before me, I shrank from my obligation. There’s all kinds of things I could point to but more likely than not, like most, I ran because I was scared. The fear was mostly of letting her in, availing myself to her, showing her the soft underbelly. “Nah, I’m fine. Whatever.”

When a fight is required, and not initiated, something even worse happens. That thing gets buried … or better, it gets sown. Eventually, it sprouts and takes over. Once that happens you’re no longer out for understanding. Reconciliation is not the goal. It’s all about payback. “Oh yeah? Is that how it’s going to be? Okay. We’ll see about that. Let’s see how you like it.”

Those sound like fighting words, but they’re not. They only sound like it because we don’t know what a good fight sounds like. We’ve not been taught. Those words are cowardly and out of control. They reek of toxic things like revenge and retribution.

A good fight has some important elements: 1. A good goal. In marriage, the goal is not to win, not to make your point. It’s reconciliation; 2. Discipline. All’s not fair in love and war. It’s not about satisfaction. The passions inflamed in a fight make it all the more important to remain self-controlled. 3. Like all fights, it requires a great deal of courage. Do not give in to fear. In interpersonal relations, fear is a poor counselor.

Just learning, but I’m getting pretty good at it. As we learn, we’ve begun to teach our kids how to fight properly.

Fantasy Friday

August 16th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Your guess is as good as mine …

My fellow fantasy degenerates: Draft day is eminent. Dum.dum.duuumm… And if you’re as dorky as I am, you’re pretty pumped. Yeah, I admit it. I can’t wait. Once the day is set, that box glows with significance on my calendar. I’m starting to frequent the ESPN Fantasy Football page. Preseason football has taken on relevance. And yep, I’ll have some of those pre-game butterflies when I sit down in that fateful hour. It’s a big day.

On that day, we’ll be making our money in the middle rounds. The first three rounds will go pretty much as expected – the order having as much to do with who you draft as your preferences. In rounds four through ten, you get to “stretch your legs” a bit. The self expression restrained in the interest of safety gets to come out and play a little. In these critical rounds; strategy, gut and nerve can get you the type of value that can have you sitting in abundance during those hard, cold winter months. While other owner are scratching in the barren wasteland of the November waiver wire for Green Bay’s third string RB, your problem could be trying to decide from a stable of startable options.

Who are these guys? Your guess is as good as mine. But if you’re interested in my guesses, I’ll let you look. But before I do, here is a basic principle I follow: Don’t believe the hype. Hype will force a reach. I’ve always felt a reach takes away a pick. Conversely, finding value in effect gives me an extra pick. A couple years ago, I took Stafford in the 7th as my starting QB. He ended up performing like a 2nd round QB. In essence, I ended up with two 2nd round picks. Okay, I’m taking a hard look at these dudes:

QB: Coupling Romo or Eli with Carson Palmer. Romo and Eli are going as low as 8th and 9th rounds. Palmer as low as 12th. They throw to Bryant, Cruz, and Fitzgerald. I also like Michael Vick. Now that might be because I have a hard time accepting that I was wrong. Be careful with that one. Lot hinges on Chip.
RB: Was CJ but I feel the hype meter on the uptick. A couple guys I’m thinking are MJD – contract year, rested from the end of last season, and only 28. And Ryan Mathews. I know, I know. I don’t buy that he’s injury prone. Ahmad Bradshaw is injury prone, Beanie Wells was injury prone. Think DJ Fluker is going to make the line better and Woodhead and Ronnie Brown don’t scare me. Rashard Mendenhall? Did I write that? Only because Bruce Areans, his O Coordinator from Pittsburgh days is his new head coach. And Bruce made Vick Ballard a suitable option.
WR: Tons. Might get all my WR in the middle rounds. Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Stevie Johnson, Josh Gordon and DeAndre Hopkins. Might take a flyer on Michael Floyd, Brandon Lafell, Golden Tate, Kenny Britt, Keenan Allen and Aaron Dobson will do.
TE: Rob Gronkowski in the fifth? How about it? I’m also taking a hard look at Dustin Keller, Jared Cook and Jordan Cameron (Buzz growing with Cameron). If Antonio Gates is there in the eighth or below, why not?

But again, your guess is as good as mine.



Fantasy Friday

July 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Draft Day Do’s and Dont’s

Look, I don’t know. Is Kaepernick going to be a top five QB? Will taking him in the 5th make your season? Can’t say. Without Crabtree, does Kaepernick struggle mightily? What about MJD? Will he have an inspired resurgence in a contract season? Or has the little wrecking ball run into one too many walls? No clue. They say Montee Ball is going to take over duties behind Peyton. And I’ve heard how often Denver likes to run it from inside the opposition’s ten. Yeah, I’ve heard. I also heard Ryan Mathews was going to be the second coming of Marshall Faulk.

Here’s the number one Do and Don’t: Do remember that you Don’t really know. There’s no shame in it. No one does. For every one you hit, you’ll probably miss two. Sure, go ahead and take credit for taking Adrian Peterson in the second. Tell everyone you knew. Have fun with it. So long as you tell yourself the truth, that right after taking him, late in the second you kicked yourself for not taking the Law Firm. And if you really don’t know then …
Don’t lock onto players. Last year, I locked onto Michael Vick. Realizing that I wasn’t seeing clearly, I told myself to wait until the 4th. “If he’s not there, you can console yourself with Matt Ryan.” I got antsy and jumped up to take Vick in the third. That’s what getting locked will do to you. Had I taken Ryan in the 6th, I would have been 4-2 at the halfway mark instead of 2-4.
Don’t lock and Do remain flexible during your draft. More often than not, autopick will pick you a better team than you’d pick for yourself. My point is the human element with it’s preferences and biases do more harm than good. By all means, have a plan but in each round consider the dozen or so players who are available around your pick. It’s fine to be looking for Wes Welker in the fourth, but take a hard look at Larry Fitzgerald if he’s still on the board.

Some more Do’s and Don’ts
Do have a plan. Tough to be flexible without a plan.
Do a couple mock drafts. You’ll be surprised how bad things can go the first time around.
Don’t take a flyer in the first two rounds. In early rounds, if you have the choice between Steven Jackson or Montee Ball, take Jackson.
Don’t believe the hype. There’s a reason why they are deep sleepers … they usually don’t wake up.
Don’t ignore history. Sure Darren McFadden can play all sixteen. It’s possible. History says he won’t. And when it comes to you vs. history, I’ll give the nod to history.  

Finally, Do have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously.

Marriage Mondays

July 16th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Every little bit …

I remember the mornings. We’d sit … linger at the dining table, me with my coffee, her with her glass of water (Before I got her hooked on coffee). A lasting picture of our first year of marriage is us talking at that little dining table. I can’t recall the myriad of things over which we lingered in conversation. I do know it wasn’t just light, casual banter. Some of it was me unloading my frustrations with work – that first year of marriage was a tough year for me at the office. A good deal of it revolved around things we were learning … about ourselves, about the world, about life, about faith and hope. We listened, laughed, and discovered the person we had married.

The kids came. Our “talks” took on a decidedly pragmatic turn. There was very little lingering of any kind. But whenever we could sneak a date or a moment, we tried to find a table, two chairs. A drink in hand and conversation. Every little bit …

Our kids are no longer “nipping at our ankles.” And I found myself the other morning lingering again: Her on the couch. Me in my chair. Coffees in hand. Talking.





June 14th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Dad, can I get this?
No. You already have two of those and you never play with the ones you have.
Can I get this then?
No. What? What are you going to do with that? No.
Can I get some candy?
What about some soda?
No. We’re going to eat lunch here in a minute. No soda. No candy.
Well, what can I get then?

When you’re a Dad, you end up saying “No” a lot. A lot. All the time. No. No. No! After awhile, it feels like that’s all you’re saying. All day long. No. No! They give us good cause. They ask for unreasonable things. Ridiculously expensive things. Things not good for them. For most children, whatever the eyes see …

I remember early on in my fatherhood, my kid asked me for something. “No” came blowing out of me. The response was spontaneous. No thought or deliberation, the “No” that was already there at the tip of my tongue blurted out. A skittish, snap reflex to the unrelenting barrage of random, disjointed requests. But this time I paused and asked, “Why not?” And in this particular instance, there was no good reason for me to say “No.” I can’t remember the incident, just my pause and evaluation. Maybe it was going to inconvenience me a bit. Or maybe it wasn’t entirely sensible. Can’t remember. What I can remember is the conclusion that I drew: I ought to reconsider.

From that day on I told myself, I’m going to try to say “Yes” as much as possible.


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