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"Learning the Game" Archive


Enter My Contest To Win An Awesome Football Book!

Here's me, your favorite blogger (hee!) holding the book I'm giving away!

I love give aways! This week I’m giving away a copy of  ”A sportscaster’s Guide to Watching Football” by Mark Oristano. This is a great book for newbies or those who have no real formal knowledge of football. Even if you’ve been watching a while there may be explanations for why things are the way they are in football that you’re unfamiliar with. I think a lot of people could benefit from this book.

It’s also very short and easy to read. So it doesn’t make learning a chore.

All you have to do to enter the contest is visit my you tube channel and comment under the video telling me why you want to get into football or why you want the book. No right or wrong answers, I’m just going to pick the answer that sticks out to me the most. The contest ends in exactly one week (November 7th) so get your comments in!





Troy Polamalu Passes Concussion Test. What’s a Concussion Test?

Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu

Oh okay...

Football superhero safety Troy Polamalu was shaken up in the Steelers last game but has now passed his concussion test and could play in this week’s game. As I saw that news, I wondered what in the hell is involved with the concussion test. Well actually I wondered the last time Michael Vick passed the test, but this time I was actually not being too lazy to look it up.

Long story short, the test the NFL uses is the imPACT test. Some teams use the computerized version, others use paper and pencil. Don’t know how many teams use which version. I hopped over to the tests’ web site, and grabbed this info for those of you like me who have never had a concussion test and weren’t smart enough to guess what all it would involve.

The test:

  • Measures player symptoms
  • Measures verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time
  • Reaction time measured to 1/100th of second
  • Assists clinicians and athletic trainers in making difficult return-to-play decisions
  • Provides reliable baseline test information
  • Automatically stores data from repeat testing
  • Takes About 20 minutes to complete
  • Measures multiple aspects of cognitive functioning in athletes, including:
  1. Attention span
  2. Working memory
  3. Sustained and selective attention time
  4. Response variability
  5. Non-verbal problem solving
  6. Reaction time

Some of the modules include:

  • Module 1: Word Memory
  • Module 2: Design Memory
  • Module 3: X’s and O’s
  • Module 4: Symbol Matching
  • Module 5: Color Match
  • Module 6: Three Letter Memory

Essentially the test aims to find out whether the player is having issues commonly associated with concussions like memory loss etc. You’re welcome!


Cathartic Rant: 2011 Philadelphia Eagles Welcome Fans Back to Horrors of 1998

Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid

No. Just no.

As a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons I try not to blog on them often because I like to cover the whole NFL. But every now and then they WILL inspire me to rant and rave. So yes this post is long enough to rival “Roots,” but there’s no point in having a blog if you can’t let loose every now and again.

The Eagles are known as perennial contenders. And most of the time I’ve been a fan of the team they have at least been competitive. This year, they’re not competitive at all and I’m getting strong feelings of deja vu from the 1998 season.

In 1998, current Cleveland Browns Defense Assistant Ray Rhodes was the Head Coach of the Eagles. This 1998 team featured the talent of DE Hugh Douglas, LB Jeremiah Trotter, TE Chad Lewis, CBs Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent, DT Hollis Thomas, RB Duce Staley, and WR Irving Fryar. QB duty went to Bobby Hoyer until he was benched for Rodney Peete (who had previously shared QB duties with Hoyer and Ty Detmer).

It wasn’t a perfect team but it was damn sure full of talent. That year, the Eagles won 3 games.

The fans, media and everyone else complained that Philadelphia’s high priced stars weren’t stepping up in big games. Team morale was gone, play was listless, and the players weren’t listening to Coach Rhodes and it was largely his fault.

Fast forward to 2011 and here we are again!

Everyone is frustrated with expensive free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, and Cullin Jenkins, and expensive stars like Vick and Asante Samuel. 49ers running back Frank Gore, who racked up 127 yards against the Eagles in a win last weekend said that the Eagles gave up during their game so I think we can safely say the play is lackluster. Last week Eagles DE Darryl Tapp CASUALLY mentioned that former offensive line coach cum defense coordinator is still learning to call plays on the fly.


Who in the hell can trust coaches when they don’t know what they’re doing. Worse: who can trust coaches when they HIRE people who don’t know what they’re doing. If you spent your life coaching offensive players shouldn’t you AT LEAST have to be an offensive coordinator before you take over defensive coordinator duties? Andy Reid didn’t think so.

I’d say this season has all the making of 1998.

  • 1-4 going into week 6
  • Frustration with expensive talent
  • Terrible Coaching
  • Player distrust of Coaches
  • Loads of talent at key positions
  • Noticeable gaps in talent at other positions


LBs, DBs, and OL

Yes the Eagles have poor linebackers and poor safeties. But every team has holes. Football is a strategic team game. Coaches are supposed to look at the opponent and look at their team and figure out which plays to use to mask (or at least deemphasize) those holes. Reid’s biggest strength over the years has been making contenders out of patch-worked pieces. If he can’t do that anymore then why is he still around?

The offensive line’s weaknesses offends me the most due to the fact that Vick is their prized possession, Lesean McCoy might be THE BEST pass-catching running back, and Desean Jackson is their best weapon when down… priority numero uno should have been to keep Vick safe so that he has time to find Jackson and to make sure they could block for McCoy. They didn’t. And that fault lies with the Eagles front office. At 5 years old I knew to guard my favorite doll, a cabbage patch kid named Glenna Nola, as though my life depended on it. So there’s no way the Eagles front office didn’t know Vick needed protection.

Michael Vick

I didn’t appreciate seeing jokes about the Eagles possibly getting Andrew Luck. Not only is it not funny but it’s stupid. Vick has to get rid of the ball faster and he has to anticipate pressure better especially with his sham of a line. HOWEVER, overall Vick has played well under the circumstances. He’s been tough, and he has never given up during games. Now who’s ultimately responsible for Vick consistently passing on 2nd and 4s and treating McCoy like a stepchild anywhere near the redzone? Well, I’d say again it’s Coaching cause that’s the kinda jackassery that went on when Vick was still a happy Atlanta Falcon and Donovan McNabb was at the helm of the Eagles offense.

Wide 9

There’s nothing wrong with the Wide 9 scheme in my opinion. It does, however, call for players to learn it first and hopefully to have a good middle linebacker. Andy Reid chose to start 4th round rookie Casey Matthews at MLB. He later benched him in favor of 6th rounder Brian Rolle. Someone once asked Pat Kirwan what’s the hardest position to transition from one team to another. Kirwan’s answer? Middle linebacker. Why? To paraphrase, in order to be successful at that position you gotta know the back and the front of the defense including the lingo. In Matthews’ and Rolle’s case they didn’t just change teams they changed LEAGUES and had no OTAs during the summer. Reid should have expected problems and angled for at least one proven linebacker middle or otherwise. Just so you know, Detroit Lions’ LB Stephen Tulloch who previously played in the Wide 9 formation was available while the Eagles were trading their lives away for another corner.

Speaking of corners…

Nnamdi Asomugha

Asomugha built his well-earned reputation as a great cornerback playing press. The Eagles have him playing zone. But that’s not all. They also have him lining up all over the field. Same as Rodgers-Cromartie who is also very good in press and not so good everywhere else. When I peaked in on ONE play in the Bills-Eagles game today I saw Asante Samuel playing press on Stevie Johnson and I almost tossed my cookies. Samuel is a ball hawk, he’s not a press guy and he hates being tied to one spot or person. I had previously suggested Samuel try FS but after witnessing his idea of tackling, I take every bit of it back (not that it’s worse than the current safeties). Anyway, Asomugha and Johnson are almost exactly the same height and weight. Whose idea was it to have Samuel cover Johnson when he gives up 3 inches and 30 lbs to him?

The Eagles don’t need Asomugha to be Charles Woodson lite…they need Asomugha to be Asomugha. But in typical Eagles fashion, they pick a scheme and force personnel into it instead of looking at the personnel and playing to their strengths. RIP to Asomugha’s stellar reputation. He has to regret picking the Eagles over the Jets.


The 1998 season ended with the firing of Rhodes which made 1999 a rebuild season with Reid named as the new Head Coach. In 1999, Reid’s first season as the Eagles head coach their record was 5-11. The VERY NEXT year their record was 11-5 with largely the same talent they had in 1999. I genuinely believe that with better coaching the Eagles would be a better team this year and certainly next year with the benefit of off season activities.

In January of this year, I wrote that Andy Reid should be fired (and was subsequently LAMBASTED for it). But I stand by what I said although I could have expressed my thoughts more clearly. But just like today, I was angry when I wrote it.

Suddenly everyone is tired of Reid, including the press-though he’s been putting on the same rude show in the media for years now. The Eagles remain the ONLY team in the NFL in violation of the NFL access to coaches rules as Reid typically does not allow his assistants to conduct interviews.

For the record, it pisses me off whenever you call for a coach’s firing and people say “well who would you replace him with?” I take that opportunity to remind folks that Reid was plucked from relative obscurity to coach the Eagles. In other words, I’m sure they can find someone qualified. I’m not an advocate of staying in a bad relationship just because dating is hard.

I said at the beginning of this season that this SHOULD be a rebuild season for the Eagles and I would have preferred they fired Reid at the close of last season and made it official. I didn’t think they’d be *this* bad, but I didn’t think they’d necessarily go to the playoffs with 63% of their defensive starters new to the team. There are no easy games in the NFL anymore. You can’t roll over the Bills, Lions, Browns, Bengals, Raiders and other teams that have been consistently weak for a few years. Anyone can win on any given Sunday…teams must be smart and cohesive. The Eagles are currently neither.

I swear I didn’t start this site:

Final note… on the “Dream Team” label

Had anyone told me that I could have Vick, Maclin, Avant, McCoy, Jackson, Jenkins, Babin, Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, Samuel, Cole, Peters, Herremans, and Young all on one team YES I would have thought I was dreaming. A grand dream. A happy dream. The kind of dream where you wake up smiling and don’t know why. I love the talent that’s on this team. I STILL BELIEVE the Eagles are infinitely more talented than most of the teams in the NFL. Only in the hands of Andy Reid does this group become a complete nightmare.

Foreshadowing…if the Falcons lose to the Packers another rant soon cometh.



The ONE Question I Ask Myself Before Calling a Quarterback “Elite”

New York Giants QB Eli Manning

Last week was a week of QB overstatements. New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan said Jets QB Mark Sanchez is elite. New York Giants QB Eli Manning said he was in Tom Brady’s class of QBs (i.e. elite). And, somehow, the delusion managed to leave NY and travel all the way down to Baltimore where 3rd year QB Joe Flacco of the Ravens said he was a top 5 QB (i.e. elite).





I’m all for players (and coaches) fighting to get a place in the top player conversation. I’ve blogged about that before in reference to Donovan McNabb. The truth is, once people say something enough, people start to believe it. And once people believe something ain’t much that will change their mind. So hats off to Flacco, E. Manning, and Rex Ryan for trying to drive the conversation.

I don’t agree with what they said though.

Which brings me to the point of this post. What is an elite QB?

One of the reasons I hate getting into debates about “who’s the best such and such” or “who’s the top such and such” is because there are NEVER any parameters. Someone arguing for Tony Romo will cite his completion rate, somebody arguing for Brady will mention Superbowls, someone arguing for Rivers will emphasize passing yards.

*Enter conversation that goes round and round and never ends*

That’s why those kinds of debates make great fodder…everyone can argue forever and the only loser is my last nerve.

Short on that kind of patience, I boil my analysis of elite QB down to one question:

Can the QB do something on a CONSISTENT basis that no one else can do?

And by no one I mean, almost no one. But you get my point. A QB needs to have some sort of talent that makes them unique or rare. That talent needs to be CONSTANT-not appear in flashes here and there.

From my perspective:

Ben Roethlisberger is agile and tough enough to defy almost any defender—though Richard Seymour might want to have a word with me about this. He also has an uncanny ability to extend plays.

Tom Brady’s decision making is top notch. He just has a feel for the game that is unmatched.

Michael Vick’s athleticism and ability to extend a play puts him in a class of his own regardless of what other weaknesses he may have. And long passes are effortless for him, so is scrambling when he needs to.

Drew Brees’ ability to create a play with his arm is as stunning as it is fun to watch. Pro Football Focus found that if you discount spikes, dropped balls and grounded balls, Brees and Brady were the most accurate QBs of 2010. Brees also knows how to find weaknesses and exploit them.

Aaron Rodgers’ versatility makes him a complete QB with some real strengths in every area of measure. In particular, he can threat the needle and he has a quick release.

I can’t think of any “rare something” possessed by Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez that impresses me game after game. When I can, I’ll consider them elite.

That doesn’t mean they’re not good. Mark Sanchez has accomplished a lot in a short period of time and shows flashes of brilliance. Eli Manning has a Superbowl under his belt and managed to do it with the entire New York media firing shots directly at his butt cheeks. And Flacco is still the only rookie in NFL history to win two playoff games.

But good is not elite. And by my measuring stick they fall short.

So now you have my criteria. What’s yours?

Update: Sanchez became the 2nd rookie to play in two playoff games. Thanks for the correction @klew24. Maybe I blocked that out because I hope the Jets go up in flames. ^_^



NFL’s New Kickoff and Review Rules Make Their Debut

Lardarius Webb becomes one of, if not the first, victim of the NFL's new score review rule

The first pre-season games marked the debut of the NFL’s new kick return rules and the new score review rules. So…what do we think?

I talked about the kick return rule when it was first approved by NFL owners. Essentially, the kicking line has been moved up which increases the chance of punts ending up in the endzone before they’re touched by the opposing team. I think it’s hard to predict whether this rule will have the devastating impact on returners that returners themselves (Josh Cribbs, Devin Hester et al) believe it will. Obviously, the number of touchbacks is going to go up, but I’m not convinced that special teams will be totally devalued. I would probably say assessments of those players might be more difficult in the beginning. I’d be interested to see what others think.

I still stand by what I said about NFL owners showing disregard for positions and strategies teams have already invested in. But if it provides the added safety they claim, I think this is a rule change I can live with.

When it comes to the review rule, this season all scoring drives will be reviewed (whether on offense or defense) by the officials in the booth. If the booth guys believe the refs should review the score, they’ll send a message down to the refs so that they can conduct the review. As far as I understand it, the refs make the decision about whether the score stands or not. During the Baltimore Ravens-Philadelphia Eagles pre-season game, a touchdown by defensive back Ladarius Webb was called back after review.

Without yet experiencing the rule in a regular season game, I’m cool with it. I appreciate efforts to decrease missed calls. And this is probably as good a complement as any to the two reviews coaches get in a game (3 if they win the first 2). This means coaches can use their reviews on other consequential plays knowing that challenges to the big bear-the touchdown-will be handled by someone else. Only question now is how much time these reviews add to the games.



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