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10/10/11

Raiders Al Davis and Apple’s Steve Jobs Contributions to the NFL

Late Raiders owner Al Davis

The late Raiders owner and general bad-ass Al Davis in younger days.

A lot of wonderful pieces have been written on Al Davis since he passed away. Up until Ice Cube’s 30 for 30 documentary aired I knew a little about the Davis and the Raiders’ storied franchise–but not a whole lot. And it’s a shame too, because Al Davis has contributed to two major things of interest to me: Vertical offense and creative marketing.  The marketing side of his contributions is covered fairly well in the 30 for 30 documentary. And reporters are doing a great job explaining his impact on the NFL’s passing game. I think that this is the best description (fairly brief and easy to understand) that I’ve seen.

In short Davis help change offenses from stretching the field horizontally to stretching the field vertically. That means rather than covering the field side-line to side-line, Davis looked to cover it from the line of scrimmage to the end zone. Before Davis started extensively using rarefied (at the time) formations and strategies offenses weren’t really in the business of “attacking.” Offenses looked for ways to exploit defenses, sure, but Davis wanted defenses to work for every stop.

What does all of that mean today? Well, I’d say a few things.

Stretching the field from the LOS to the end zone makes football way more watchable. Some of the most boring games we see today are ones that involve a lot of short screen passes, stifled runs down the middle, and Wide Receiver jams that should have resulted in deep plays. The more of play action that takes place at the LOS the less watchable football is–especially when you’re watching on TV. Bringing football the length of the field puts more of what’s happening in view.

Think about the fact that even with modern broadcasting abilities, we probably see about 1/100th of what happens on that field. When all of play action is smash mouth running, covered blocking, and crowds of bodies blanketing the play there’s not a whole lot to see. Vertical offense helped take football from a game you kinda have to love and be there to appreciate to a game with broader appeal. Without  guys like Al Davis and Don Coryell and, to an extent Bobby Bowden, I doubt we’d be seeing receivers like Calvin Johnson do much stuff like this. And I doubt there’d be such a stage for guys like Lil Baby Darren Sproles (I gotta stop calling him that!), LeSean McCoy and other pass-catching running backs that rely on space to make it do what it do if not for Davis inspiring more use of the slot.

I feel confident in crediting Davis and the aerial pioneers with my love of the NFL. The ideas they implemented created a ripple effect. Once offenses were altered, defenses followed suit. And being obsessed with defense the way that I am, I love that the emphasis on the passing game has caused defenses to present a variety of looks for my personal enjoyment!

For a great article on Davis, check out this one from SI’s vault.

Steve Jobs contribution to the NFL is actually sort of related if you’re thinking about “modernization” of the game. NFL teams are starting to move their playbooks to the ipad. I’m interested to see which teams will be the slowest to embrace the new technology. I think the use of the ipads is a great thing. I haven’t seen exactly how the playbooks look on ipad and I don’t know all the capabilities, however, I can fully imagine players getting somewhat of a second life experience with the ipad letting them more fully envision their roles, the moves of other players, draw on the screen the way that coaches draw on the chalk or white erase board. Seeing little men on a screen sounds so much better than dry ass Xs and Os.

And then there’s this:

In a lot of ways, this is exactly what tablets are meant for: easy access to data via wireless networks, high-quality photos, and portability. And from a coach’s or player’s perspective, imagine being able to quickly sort through a large set of plays, look at them in a stylish graphical presentation, see animations of them in action, and more–or to download a photo of the last play seconds later.

9/19/11

Some Guy In DC is Pretending to Be Eagles QB Vince Young

Former Titans and now Eagles QB Vince Young

Who in the hell do you know that could pass for Eagles QB Vince Young?(photo from startingaces.com)

In strange news, some dude in DC has been doing paid appearances pretending to be Eagles QB Vince Young. Young says the impersonator has been taking pictures with kids and accepting payment to show up to events.

The agency that represents veteran NFL quarterback Vince Young says its client is being impersonated by a man in Prince George’s County.

“I heard that he has been taking money, taking pictures with little kids at hospitals,” Young said on Monday.  “It’s been real sick.”

EAG Sports Management company said in an email that it had become aware of a man posing as the quarterback in the D.C. area.  According to EAG Sports Management agency, since June the man was collecting money for appearances as the quarterback, “conning unsuspecting women and some men into believing his scam.”

I think the most disturbing part of this is the fact that Vince Young has a pretty unique look and it’s odd to me that someone could trick a bunch of people into thinking it’s him. I want to see this guy.

Watch Vince talk about his doppleganger here.

9/11/11

Steelers Troy Polamalu Signs Brand New Contract in the Airport

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu signs contract in Pittsburgh airport on the way to play Baltimore Ravens

Troy Polamalu became latest big name player to sign bigger contract

NFL owners continue to make it rain on their best players–wait…are we still saying make it rain or did that go out of style when Bryant Gumbel said it to Pacman Jones? Oh well whatever. Lots of money being thrown around this week. Now, Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu and his gorgeous flowing locks are getting their jackpot.

Polamalu’s contract is “expected” to average out to a little more than 9 million dollars per season, but the ink isn’t dry yet so the details haven’t been announced. I’ll update this post when I have more information and a strong opinion on it. For now, enjoy this photo the Steelers posted of Polamalu in the airport making the new terms official as they head out to play their fiercest rival, the Baltimore Ravens IN Baltimore today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8/3/11

Will Thursday Night Football Ruin My Entire Life? Can There Be Too Much Football?

Football Football Football Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday...

No, I don’t think my headline is dramatic. It’s completely and utterly serious. Far be it from me to begrudge the airing of even more football but Jeez Louise…if the NFL starts Thursday games before week 9, that’s 3-4 games every week for the entire season.

Yall know I can’t stay away! My eyes are tired just thinking about how late I’m going to stay up soaking in every play.

This is the downside to the relative parity in the NFL. There are very few games on the schedule I look at and say “yeah I’m gonna pass on that one.” I mean, I don’t particularly want to see the Redskins or Bengals play…well…any team. But I wouldn’t need much convincing to watch the Browns, Bills, and Radiers no matter how bad they’re predicted to be.

It’s my own fault. I mean it’s not like I do game recaps on this blog, so technically I could DVR games and watch them later. But I want to be in the moment with everyone else. Or whatever. I’m making up shit. I just wonder if there’s such a thing as too many nights of football or if I’m thinking like some old person who has to work in the morning.

Not to be a negative Nancy but there is such a thing as over saturation. I think one of the appeals of football is how rare it is. Look at how many folks don’t watch the NBA until after the break. Or worse–the playoffs. The sheer amount of games can be overwhelming.

Reminds me of this post on Cris Collinsworth Football Pros about the peaking of ESPN. Not completely parallel but something to think about.

7/12/11

Special MBA Program for Athletes Could Help NFL Players Avoid Financial Ruin

Rocky McIntosh signing autographs back in his playing days

Former Redskin Rocky McIntosh is one of 22 enrolled in GWU MBA Program for Athletes and Celebs

In heartwarming, positive, uplifting or whatever news, George Washington University has started an MBA program that is tailored to athletes. According to the Washington Post:

The program has a nontraditional schedule aimed to help students balance their studies with their athletic careers. The current group studied in Washington for 10 days this summer. They’ll meet again in New York in February and later next year in Los Angeles. They’ll hit each of the three cities again in the second year of the program. While there is some work and reading assigned during the long gaps between classroom time, the athletes say they have such busy travel and work schedules, the flexibility offered by the program was a huge draw.

Apparently though there are other types of athletes in the program (which is in its first year), such as former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, the majority of the 22 players enrolled are current or former NFL players.

While the program’s inaugural class features an NFL assistant coach (the Minnesota Vikings’ Jimmie Johnson) and a professional poker player (Michelle Lau), most members of the group are football players, including current Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowler on special teams; former Ravens linebacker Duane Starks, who played 10 years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with Baltimore in 2001; and Will Witherspoon, a nine-year veteran currently with the Tennessee Titans.

School officials said it made sense to target the NFL because many football players are forced to pursue a second career much sooner than they might prefer. The average NFL career is less than 31 / 2 years — though the average for players on an opening day roster is actually closer to six years, according to the league. Those numbers are recited ad nauseum to players each year, starting at the rookie symposium that precedes each season.

One of the great things about the program is that it welcomes the stars’ spouses to enroll as well. GWU says:

…families of celebrities and athletes often face challenging periods when ending one career and beginning another. In an effort to alleviate some of this pressure experienced by families, GW encourages spouses to take part in the program. This model will equip spouses with the same business skills, language and tools, which will help families to work together when taking their next steps.

I think this is particularly important for football players because their lifestyles often face a stark decline once they retire, and many spouses aren’t prepared for it. This program can help BOTH of them return to work or expand their earning potential. But the thing I like the most about this idea is the fact that many players go broke, not because they overspend or have too many children, but because they enter bad business deals. They either start businesses they don’t have the skills to run or trust the wrong folks.

GWU is one of the top schools in the country, I think their program has the potential to really have a positive impact and set the standard for more programs like this at other top colleges.

 

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