2016 NFC West Previews & Predictions

Michael Bennett & Cliff Avril sandwich Drew Brees amid the din of Qwest Field.

Michael Bennett & Cliff Avril sandwich Drew Brees amid the din of Qwest Field.

If you go back to last year’s NFC Divisional Round, the Seattle Seahawks learned the hard way how valuable the homefield advantage was they had enjoyed the previous two seasons. After having traveled 8,931 miles in round trips to Phoenix, Minnesota in the Wildcard, then taking the field in Carolina, they were an exhausted team. Falling behind 31-0 by halftime to the eventual NFC Champion Panthers. Their season came to a close with a 31-24 defeat at the hands of Cam Newton and company.

In an attempt to make it to their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years, Seattle needs to draw teams up to the Pacific Northwest. Let them fatigue with the travel. Yet a question remains: So who are they?? The team that fell behind big in Carolina or the team that came roaring back outscoring them 24-0 in the 2nd half??

seahawksalt22016 NFC West Predictions

Seattle Seahawks 12-4**

Arizona Cardinals 10-6*

San Francisco 49ers 6-10

LA Rams 4-12

The first question that will arise from the desert will invariably be: “What about the Arizona Cardinals? They won the NFC West last year?”

Which is 100% true. Yet let’s take you back to week 17 of the 2016 campaign and offer the genesis why they aren’t favored.

In week 10 the Cardinals had knocked off the Seahawks in a rousing 39-32 road win to become the media darling of the NFC West. National sports shows and pundits flocked to the desert to interview this team. Some even waxed philosophical about Carson Palmer for league MVP, he was having that good of a season. Yet a date with an old bully loomed in the last week of the season.

There was an outside chance the Cardinals had a shot at homefield advantage, and more important could knock the Seahawks from the playoffs. Just as important to the Cardinals psyche was the chance to sweep their nemesis and prove to themselves the first win was no fluke. They had become the heavy in the NFC West and this would cement that notion to both teams…to everyone.

carsonpalmerWell the Seahawks punched the Cardinals right in the mouth as Palmer deteriorated (12 of 25 for 129 yards 1 TD / 1 int) into his worst performance of the year. He was pulled in the 2nd quarter in the middle of being routed 30-6 by intermission, finally falling 36-6. His spotty play continued against Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs, as the offense struggled for continuity in a 26-20 overtime win.

The only reason they won that game was Larry Fitzgerald early in overtime caught an intermediate route, cleared Clay Matthews, and in normal circumstances runs out of bounds with a 1st down. However Fitzgerald knew he had to take matters into his own hands and turned upfield instead of going out of bounds. He ran like the Cardinal’s playoff life depended on it going 75 yards to the Green Bay 3. Winning the game with a shovel pass 2 plays later.

Then comes the 4 interception and 2 fumble meltdown 49-15 loss to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. Palmer finished with 3 poor games when the stakes were the highest and has to prove he’s not a shot fighter. He hasn’t had a good postseason outing since the 2002 Orange Bowl in college. Only problem is Pete Carroll was his coach then and not the division rival as he is now. Much like a boxer after a vicious knockout loss, the Arizona Cardinals need to win the battle with themselves psychologically. Starting with Palmer. That is why they aren’t favored.

Bruce Arians and the window for the Arizona Cardinals is going to close after this season. Its now or never to make it to the Super Bowl with Palmer (37 yrs of age) and Larry Fitzgerald (33 yrs of age) leading the charge. David Johnson is coming into his own at RB and should rush for 1,300 yards this season.

The Cardinals had the 5th best defense in football and pulled off a coup of a trade picking up OLB Chandler Jones from New England. However his addition is offset by Tyrann Mathieu rehabbing another blown out knee. Can Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher get enough out of top pick DT Robert Nkimdiche and Jones in the rush to keep from his exotic blitz packages?? Mathieu had CB like coverage skills when 100% healthy. This season he could get exposed by those blitzes so they need the front seven to get after opposing QBs.

rams.takingfield.losangeles

The L.A. Rams taking the field for the 1st time in the 21st century.

In Los Angeles we had 90,000 come out to the LA Coliseum to witness the Rams returning to Southern California, and we are in the honeymoon stage. Lets not forget this was the 32nd or dead last offense in the NFL last season, and 1st pick Jared Goff needs a lot of work.  Despite RB Todd Gurley’s 1,106 yd 10 TD debut season, this is a team that had to take a QB#1 overall after tossing an anemic 11 TDs last season. It looks like journeyman Case Keenum will start as the prized rookie (Goff) learns the pro game from the sidelines. The question that arises… Can Coach Jeff Fisher and QB Coach Chris Weinke get Goff ready to be an NFL signal caller?? Maybe they will…but not this season.

The 49ers could be the surprise of the season with Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick leading a new charge under Chip Kelly. Carlos Hyde will have to become the every down back Frank Gore used to be and rush for 1,200 or better. Kaepernick and an improved Gabbert will win 6 games this year as the 49ers build back to respectability.

Now Russell is as big a threat in the pocket as outside of it.

Now Russell is as big a threat in the pocket as outside of it.

Which brings us to Seattle. The Seahawks had a dress rehearsal of the upcoming year without Marshawn Lynch in 2015.  Wilson became the focal point of the offense and developed as a total signal caller. In completing 329 of 483 for 4,024 yds 34 TDs to just 8 ints, Wilson graduated from being the resourceful scrambler to a bonafide elite QB add MVP candidate.

With so much attention on Wilson, Rawls (830 yds / 4 TDs) was able to settle into the RB position along with Christine Michael. The defense is still one of the NFL’s best although they lost LB Bruce Irvin to the Raiders. Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman are still patrolling the secondary with LBs Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright eating up the passing lanes underneath. The Seahawks have to get more from Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett up front this year. At times the pass rush wasn’t there last year and exposed the back 7 some.

Seattle is the class of this division and should challenge for homefield advantage.

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Kevin Greene Belongs In The Hall of Fame: War Damn Eagle – HOF Edition

kevin-greene-pittsburgh-steelers-unsigned-8x10-photo5_2860d2f89fbbfa8abd33b1369cf0eb00Originally Published 3, March 2011 w/ Postscript 10, August 2016 

There are players that come along and break the mold and there are those that totally destroy it.  Enter Kevin Greene, one of my personal favorite players and one of the reason I love football (all sports) in the first place.  He broke molds, stereotypes, changed perceptions as much as any player over the last 25 years.  What am I talking about? Do you realize that of all the outside linebackers, the player with the most sacks in a career is Kevin Greene?  Do you realize that Kevin Greene had double digit sacks for FOUR different pro football teams? Yet I digress…

As the 1980’s beckoned, the 3-4 defense became the choice of many teams as the best way to attack NFL offenses.  All that changed with the 1985 Chicago Bears march to the Super Bowl. As teams started to revert back to the 4-3 defense as a staple, a lessor known talent started to lay his foundation out west with the Los Angeles Rams in 1986.

Kevin Greene started to rush as an outside linebacker in 1986 and recorded 7 sacks that year. Yet he didn’t gain notoriety until 1988 when he bested Lawrence Taylor with 16 1/2 sacks to 15 1/2 for the NFC lead at linebacker.  Whereas the majority of the modern age athletic linebackers were black, Kevin Greene was a white defensive player who broke that mold and with his crazy “War Eagle” Auburn attitude he was a great pass rusher from that season on.  A player that other Rams looked to on game day to lead them on and off the field.

In his single season in San Fran, Greene helped the ‘Niners to the 1997 NFC Championship against Green Bay.

However by the time we move to 1993, very few teams employed the 3-4 defense. Then the Steelers went looking for a linebacker to match Greg Lloyd that would be more effective than Jerrol Williams.  Kevin Greene signed, and Pittsburgh became Blitzburgh.

The Steelers had two outstanding linebackers to crash the pocket.    The last bastion of 3-4 defense at the time and Greene was the impetus of a chaotic defense.  Who should blitz? Who should drop? Dick Lebeau, Dom Capers, and Bill Cowher tinkered with different zone blitzing schemes that became the scourge of the league.  He helped the ’94 and ’95 teams to the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XXX respectively.  During his 3 years in Pittsburgh he recorded 12.5 sacks in ’93,  14 sacks in ’94, and 9 sacks in ’95.  It was Kevin Greene’s arrival that made the Steelers defense lethal.

Even after outplaying the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX and poised to return to the title game again from a personnel standpoint, the Steelers let Greene go for a younger Jason Gildon.  He rejoined Dom Capers who moved on to become head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers and tag teamed with Lamar Lathon, formerly of the Houston Oilers, to form a 1-2 linebacker punch equal to that of Blitzbugh.

He recorded his second highest career sack total, at the time, with 14.5 in Carolina. He led the league with Lathon coming in second in sacks with 13.5.  Again he was the impetus of a veteran laden defense that dethroned the champion Dallas Cowboys in a divisional playoff and made it to the 1996 NFC Championship Game where they lost to Green Bay.  The Carolina Panthers made it to the NFC Championship Game in only their second season.  Wow.

After a falling out with Carolina brass following that 1996 season, for which owner Jerry Richardson later apologized, he signed a 1 year deal in San Francisco where he was a pass rushing specialist and only started four games.  Yet amazingly he still compiled 10.5 sacks and helped the 49ers to the 1997 NFC Championship game where they fell to the Packers 23-10.  See a pattern here?  After the apology from Richardson, Greene re-signed with Carolina and played on for two more years for them recording 15 sacks in 1998 and 12 in 1999.

Kevin Greene was a street fighter tough player who brought that attitude to any team he played for.  He was a blood and guts player that teamed with Greg Lloyd and Lamar Lathon, each had their best years across from Greene.

What was the most puzzling aspect of Kevin Greene’s career was how teams kept thinking they’d replace him even though he was super productive and I wonder would he have moved around so much had he been a black outside linebacker.  I don’t think he would have.  You can’t tell me race had nothing to do with it either.  He was athletic, strong, tenacious and for the life of me can’t figure why teams  thought they’d replace him.  Do you realize that for 4 straight years, Kevin Greene was a defensive stalwart on 3 different teams that made it to the conference championship game?  Twice is a coincidence, four is a pattern.  He was a winner.

Greene, making his presence felt early in the 1994 AFC Championship Game.

How do you gauge impact?  The most sacks in NFL history for a linebacker with 160 and third all time behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith.  He was a 5 time Pro Bowl participant and made the All Pro team twice. He led the league in sacks twice during his career. If that’s not enough… Add the fact Greg Lloyd and Lamar Lathon’s best sack totals of their careers came when they teamed with Greene.  Lloyd had 10 sacks in 1994 and the aforementioned Lathon’s 1996 total of 13.5 in Carolina.

Each team he left had a defensive dropoff in production and wins.  The ’96 Steelers barely made the playoffs and were run out of town in New England when they got there, thanks to Curtis Martin’s 166 yards rushing, losing 28-3.  The 97 & 2000 Panthers didn’t make the playoffs. The 98 49ers were scored upon heavily even though they made the divisional round of the playoffs.  Even then they needed Steve Young’s miracle throw to T.O. to beat the Packers to get there.

So if the greatest defensive player in NFL history is Lawrence Taylor, rightfully so, who finished with 132 sacks in his career, where does that put Kevin Greene and his 160?? Happened in the same era, so that can’t be argued.  Quite simply he belongs.

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you, Kevin Greene.

EPILOGUE:  I am getting the greatest kick out of watching the growth of Clay Matthews III.  Its like watching some weird Frankenstein thats part Clay Matthews the father (Browns) and Kevin Greene.  The style of play and to watch them interact.  I was fortunate enough to be on the Ravens sideline pregame and front row seats behind the Baltimore Ravens bench when they played the Arizona Cardinals in 2003.

I watched how Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis interacted and see much the same in Greene and Matthews.  When the television mic caught Greene conveying to Matthews during the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XLV that it was time for him to put his imprint on the game.  Then to watch him force the Mendenhall fumble two plays later gave me goosebumps.  To watch him so in tune with his protege’ is cool and can’t wait to watch their encore.

Greene and protege’ Clay Matthews III

Postscript August 10, 2016: Fast forward 5 years and here we are a couple days removed from Kevin’s enshrinement into The Pro Football Hall of Fame. I had the great opportunity to be there at both the Gold Jacket Ceremony and The Enshrinement as his guest. For the small role I had in advocating his candidacy may have been the sole reason for Taylor Blitz Times in the first place. It was an honor to do it and I am grateful to Kevin and his wife Tara for inviting me.

kev.ticketHowever they set a football fanatic on the unsuspecting city of Canton. I had the chance to meet with former teammates and coaches that have known him over his football life. His coaches from high school all the way through to the NFL. I jumped in and made sure to get down into where the fans were and wound up becoming the 1st person to pay for his authenticated by the Pro Football Hall of Fame autograph.

chancellor.kevTo watch him receive his Gold Jacket was an emotional moment as a big time fan. To hear his impassioned speech gave credence to all that I knew and heard over the last few days from his Auburn, Rams, and Steelers’ teammates, his father at the airport with Coach Vermeil, his high school freshman coach Nick Petrillo, to meeting Lamar Lathon at the after party who was recalling this very article with Thurman Thomas.

It was great to see Kevin take his rightful place and become one of the giants of the game and one of it’s great ambassadors. It’s been an unbelievable 5 year ride as you’ve taken your place as one of pro football’s immortals. Congratulations Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Greene!!

kev.bust.pngAs for that ticket… he signed a white Steelers #91 Greene jersey. The whereabouts of the ticket?? I gave it to Kevin who put it in his Hall of Fame Gold Jacket interior pocket… mission accomplished!

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SUPER BOWL XIV RUNNER UP 1979 LOS ANGELES RAMS

If you ever wanted to look up the definition of unfulfilled promise, look up the 1970’s Los Angeles Rams. From 1973-1979 the Rams had won 6  straight NFC West titles. Of all the teams that dominated their respective divisions, the Rams couldn’t duplicate their regular season when the playoffs began.

14conf2Los Angeles had ruled their division with a great suffocating defense and a solid running game. However they never had a top flight quarterback to push themselves over the top. From an aged John Hadl to James Harris to Ron Jaworski and finally settling on Pat Haden, the pedestrian quarterbacking failed them in the postseason repeatedly. They lost defensive battles with the Minnesota Vikings but it was against the Dallas Cowboys the worst losses were afflicted.

In ’75 the 12-2 Rams were gearing up for an NFC Championship against the Minnesota Vikings. No one expected the wild card 10-4 Dallas Cowboys to upset them with The Hail Mary. Los Angeles had finished on a 6 game winning streak, which included a 10-3 win over the defending and eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers.

sbxiv2Once Pittsburgh vanquished the Raiders over in the AFC Title Game, all they had to do was beat the “lucky to be there” Cowboys for the NFC and punch their ticket to Super Bowl X. Staubach sliced them up with a 37-7 defeat at home. They lost in an epic rout where their great defense let them down. It was a defense that had only given up 3 touchdowns in their last 30 quarters and held 5 of those 6 opponents to less than 10 points per game.

After two more losses to the Vikings in ’76 and ’77 Head Coach Chuck Knox moved on to coach the Bills. Defensive Coordinator Ray Malavasi was promoted and the reigns of the offense were placed in Pat Haden’s hands as the full time starter. The consensus was he could gain experience in time to win it all within the next couple years with an aging but still formidable defense.

The 1978 season saw the Rams go 12-4 and become the first team to earn homefield throughout the playoffs. They had the #1 defense which registered wins in regular season games against the Steelers 13-10, and 27-14 over Dallas. Back in the NFC Championship, they hosted the defending champion Cowboys and were shut out 28-0. Dallas wrecked another trip to the big game and it seemed the window had closed for the Rams.

super-bowl-logo-1979A tumultuous off-season ensued, concluding with the drowning death of Owner Carroll Rosenbloom. Then the controversial ownership transfer to his wife Georgia and not his son Steve.

The tumult in the front office mimicked what was happening on the field once the season began. The defense was a step slow as the team began 5-6 and the playoffs were in jeopardy. They had just lost 4 of those last 5 and had given up 29.25 points in those including a 30-6 loss to the hated Cowboys. Now they lost starting QB Pat Haden for the year. Where was this group headed??

They turned to flashy 3rd year runner Wendell Tyler as they eased backup QB Vince Ferragamo into the lineup. Tyler got the hot hand rushing for 520 of his 1,109 yards on the season in the final 5 weeks. Ferragamo finished with less than 50% completion rate and threw 5TDs to 10 interceptions. So these unlikely players were going to lead the 9-7 Rams into the playoffs.

Most had buried the Rams as a team that didn’t have heart. The Dallas Cowboys had ripped it out in 2 championship games already. Dating back to the ’78 NFC Championship Game, they were 0-2 with a combined losing score of 58-6. So now with Vince Ferragamo and Wendell Tyler (new ’79 midseason starters) they were supposed to go to Dallas and win in the divisional round??

After sending Dallas home 21-19 in Roger Staubach’s last game and the 9-0 NFC Championship win over Tampa, the Rams fought tooth and nail with Pittsburgh out in Pasadena. Inspired by Jack Youngblood who was playing with a lower leg fracture from the Cowboy game on, the Rams exhibited all the toughness, heart, and desire they hadn’t shown in their previous playoff years.

Falling to Pittsburgh 31-19 in Super Bowl XIV kept the Rams from final glory. However they set the precedent that a team can get hot right as the playoffs near and ride that momentum to the Super Bowl. Even in that game, the lead changed hands 6 times as they wouldn’t give in to the established champion Steelers. Only a late game interception by an inexperienced Ferragamo kept the game from a 7th.

A truly Herculean effort that just came up short.

Dedicated to the memories of Ray Malavasi, Jack Faulkner, Carroll Rosenbloom & Bud Carson.

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Legends of The Fall: Eric Dickerson

If you traveled back to the 1980’s in the NFL, Eric Dickerson was described as a running back from the future. Everything from his upright running style to the way he wore so much in the way of protective equipment. He had the speed of a sprinter yet at 6’3 220 lbs he could run over small defensive backs who came up to support the run. Now that we’re 30 years removed from his rookie year of 1983 there is only one player The Chancellor thinks is the 2nd coming of Dickerson. It’s Adrian Peterson.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher  that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson's single season record with 2,105 yards.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson’s single season record with 2,105 yards.

One of the greatest open field sprinters in NFL history, Dickerson was a threat to break it the distance every time he touched the football. What made him great was his sprinter’s speed in the open field with his size. He’d break into the open field and cornerbacks tried to take angles on him and couldn’t run him down. Only Peterson can be compared to him for how far above the rest of the running backs they competed against.

In 1983, you have to remember the Rams wanted to shake up their offense. You had the great quarterback class of 1983 and the bright star from SMU. The Rams had a 1,000 yard rusher in Wendell Tyler but saw a more explosive runner in Dickerson. It was interesting because we hadn’t seen Dickerson carry the total load since he alternated series with Craig James while in college. With the Rams desperate to catch the 49ers, who had risen to power in the NFC West, they took Dickerson.

The clear understanding was he would pay immediate dividends over the quarterbacks who would take 4 to 5 years  to develop. At least that was the NFL’s thinking of QB development at the time. Dickerson took the National Football League by storm rushing for 1,808 yards and 18 TDs as he powered the 9-7 Rams to a wildcard playoff entry. The Rams had missed the playoffs the previous two years and were energized by their rookie rushing champion. He was the first to do so since Earl Campbell and second to do so since Jim Brown in 1957. They were a run oriented team with spartan quarterbacking and Dickerson still got his yards. Going into 1984 most pundits weren’t predicting a sophomore slump but a possible run to the record books. Dickerson delivered in grand style.

Although the 2,000 yard season has been achieved several times in the 29 years since Dickerson’s magical 1984, his was the most appreciated because teams saw it coming but couldn’t stop it from happening. Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson were both coming off knee reconstructions when they accomplished theirs. He was a sight to behold and led the league in rushing in 3 of his first 4 seasons. Each of which with over 1,800 yards which is amazing. No runner in league history can touch that. The only reason he didn’t do it four straight times was his holdout in a contract dispute before the 1985 season.

Without training camp that year he had a slow start and finished with only 1,234 yards. Marcus Allen led the league in rushing that year with 1,759 yards. Yet he hit his stride as the playoffs loomed. In the divisional round he torched the Dallas Cowboys with a National Football League playoff record 248 yard performance. That 20-0 win sent the Rams to Soldier Field where they lost to the Bears 24-0 in the NFC Championship Game.

However if you’re keeping score, after three years he held league records for most yards rushing as a rookie, most yards in a season, and most ever in a playoff game. Aside from a Super Bowl, the biggest fight he had was with the front office. Yet nothing prepared us for his being traded to the Indianapolis Colts at the beginning of the 1987 season.

For all he had accomplished in Los Angeles it was his 1987 and 1988 seasons that cemented Dickerson as a greatest ever runner. The argument when a player is accomplishing these feats is what fuels it?? Is it the offensive line or the running back?? You just heard that Charles White, in Dickerson’s absence, won the 1987 rushing title with 1,347 yards rushing. Dickerson was second with 1,288. The ’88 year saw him reclaim the rushing title with 1,659 yards and 14 TDs where back in LA, White only gained 328. More importantly he had legitimized the Colts as a franchise in Indianapolis.

Before his arrival in ’86, the Colts were 12-36 in their previous three years in Indianapolis. In fact HBO’s Inside The NFL was there to chronicle if they were going to join the ’76 Bucs as the second winless team after an 0-13 start. They acquire Dickerson and he powers them to the 1987 playoffs with a 9-6 record.  His ability to control the ball allowed what was a laughingstock of a defense in ’86 to be the league’s 2nd toughest to score upon at only 15.9 points per game. Ladies and gentlemen that is tilting the field.

The only record he didn’t have at this point of his NFL career was the late Walter Payton’s 275 yards in an individual game. You can blame the Denver Broncos for that. During what was probably the most electrifying game of his career, the Broncos couldn’t keep pace on the scoreboard and eventually he was pulled in a 55-23 blowout. Thanks John Elway. Personally I pulled for Denver to keep scoring so he’d stay on the field for a chance at the record. No such luck….take a look

One of the unique aspects of that game against Denver:  Had the Colts beat the Cleveland Browns in the ’87 AFC Divisional Playoff, this would have been the AFC Championship Game the year before. Dickerson would go on to rush for 13,289 yards 90 touchdowns while catching 281 passes for 2,137 yards and another 6 scores. As the game seems to be phasing out the dominant rusher, he starred as the league took to the air.

He was the equivalent of the great quarterback class of 1983 and captured the imagination of NFL fans everywhere. Although I compare him to Adrian Peterson, no other runner ever truly looked like him. If I could splice some film side by side, the person that looked most like him when they ran was Deion Sanders. He ran with an effortless gazelle like stride and when he broke into the open field it was curtains. You weren’t catching him. Well unless you’re Darrell Green.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

What would he have accomplished had he completed his career in Los Angeles?? Would he have gone past Walter Payton for the all time NFL rushing champion had he stayed?? Would the Colts franchise have moved again without his arrival?? What would he have rushed for had he not spent time off the field fighting for a higher salary?? He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Ironically when the Colts and Rams were involved in another trade of a Hall of Fame running back in Marshall Faulk.

Eric Dickerson was a one of a kind talent. At his best he was an unstoppable force. Sure his career left us with many questions but at his best none put fear in modern defenses like he did.

A last look back at his 1986 season:

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The Chancellor’s Take on Tributes At NFL Games

The NFL is built on the backs of great players who have made this game into an American institution. Great players have come and gone and their exploits were usually passed down generation to generation by fathers to sons, uncles to nephews, and every combination of sons and daughters you can think of.  Newspapers and word of mouth were how legends were built as the NFL emerged from the 1940’s on. That’s until television began to take over as the major story teller of the modern game. However in the last decade even television lost it’s soul for passing down stories that newspaper and families failed to miss.

Raven GM Ozzie Newsome addressing Ray Lewis during his "ring of honor" ceremony earlier this year.

Raven GM Ozzie Newsome addressing Ray Lewis during his “ring of honor” ceremony earlier this year.

Yet if you make it to an NFL game during the early portion of the season, you may run into an onfield tribute to a player or championship team from years gone by. However television execs don’t think the television audience should see it. That has to be the attitude taken as we didn’t get to see any of Ray Lewis’ tribute a month ago. Instead, we had to hear talking heads at the half talk about a game we had already spent an hour and a half watching. Seriously??

To not watch Ray Lewis tribute was glaring but wasn’t the worst example of this. That happened on Thursday Night to start week 4. The St. Louis Rams were playing the San Francisco 49ers and hosting alumni of over 5 decades of excellence. Including former players who played their careers back in Los Angeles. Men like “Jaguar” Jon Arnett.

The legendary Jon Arnett along with current Ram coach Jeff Fisher, former players Les Josephson, and Roger Brown.

The legendary Jon Arnett along with current Ram coach Jeff Fisher, former players Les Josephson, and Roger Brown.

If you asked who is  Jon Arnett, you’re exactly who would have benefited from the game broadcast including the tribute to all the former Ram players. What made this painful is this was NFL Network that was broadcasting the game and not Fox, CBS, or ESPN. The NFL Network commentators would make mention when the camera would catch a former Ram on the sideline.  But only when it was an Eric Dickerson, or a Greatest Show on Turf player from the early 2000s. I can’t believe the NFL’s own network would miss that opportunity to be the catalyst to start some of those father /son stories of the men that shaped the league.

Some of the Ram alumni on the sideline during the Rams v. 49ers in week 4.

Some of the Ram alumni on the sideline during the Rams v. 49ers in week 4.

As the NFL has gone more corporate, it hasn’t cared about the players who built the league and fight for their benefits later in life. Yet these are proud men whose accomplishments and contributions shouldn’t be swept into the dustbin of history. How do we know this??

Well let’s take you back to the turn of the century. No, not 1900, I’m talking about 2000. Twice on Monday Night Football we were offered retirement ceremonies for both Dan Marino, and John Elway. ABC allowed the viewer to enjoy what fans in Joe Robbie, and Mile High Stadium were able to witness. How many stories were told those nights to young football players around the country?? How many of today’s NFL players had fathers, uncles, or grandparents, share stories of Elway and Marino on those nights??

An all purpose threat for the Los Angeles Rams and later the Chicago Bears, Arnett was a 5 time Pro Bowler. Worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Arnett has been a friend to Taylor Blitz Times since it's inception. I call him "Captain Cutback" and he was right behind Frank Gifford in the lineage of great USC tailbacks.

An all purpose threat for the Los Angeles Rams and later the Chicago Bears, Arnett was a 5 time Pro Bowler. Worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Arnett has been a friend to Taylor Blitz Times since it’s inception. I call him “Captain Cutback” and he was right behind Frank Gifford in the lineage of great USC tailbacks.

ABC did this again before the 2001 season when Terrell Davis had his retirement ceremony live before a televised audience. Before that we had Phil Simms throw a pass to Lawrence Taylor during his retirement ceremony in 1995. Also on Monday Night. it was understood what it meant to share the games history and aid in story telling that inspired the next generation of football players. Now even the NFL’s own network doesn’t even recognize this.

They robbed some little boy or girl of watching the pregame / halftime ceremony of former Ram players and ask: “Dad, who is that guy in the white jersey?? You know #26 right there??”  just before his father could answer, his uncle or grandfather would walk in with a beer and a bowl of chips and respond “That’s Jaguar John Arnett…and you should have seen him play. He was the most elusive….

If the networks won’t stop and offer something more rewarding than studio analysis of a game we have watched for nearly 2 hours. To hell with it, Taylor Blitz Times will do it.  Shut up and let us see the ceremonies in the stadium…please.

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Hell Hath No Empathy Like An NFL City Scorned

Alright NFL fans, answer this question:  Who was the first NFL team to play in Chicago?? The city where George Halas, long thought of as the NFL’s founder had his team?? Yup that’s right The Arizona Cardinals when they were the Chicago Cardinals and the Bears were in Decatur Illinois. You missed that?? Well the Bears were the Decatur Staleys back then. What made us think of it was joining the Facebook group Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams and it made our CEO ponder: Why isn’t there a group asking to bring back the Cleveland Rams?? or the St Louis “football” Cardinals??

Bring Back The Rams. Booster Clubs still exist.

Bring Back The Rams. Booster Clubs still exist.

Its crazy when you find out you’re the rebound boyfriend or girlfriend, but that’s the scorn left in the wake. You weren’t the original love nor were you the person once love blossomed anew. You’re just the one without. Its happened to NFL cities and it’s ironic that St Louis and Los Angeles both sat in this cauldron of long forgotten feelings.

For once upon a time, the Chicago Cardinals battled with the Bears, who moved in from Decatur in 1920 for the hearts of the city of broad shoulders. George Halas and the Bears won that particular battle and the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960. Then the Bidwell’s moved the franchise again in 1987 to the city of Phoenix.

Before the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis there were fans there that missed their football team. Yet the internet wasn’t in full bloom nor was there a mass media outlet to show this missing sign of support, but it existed. Otherwise why would Georgia Frontiere move the Rams there before the 1995 season??

Then you had the Cleveland Rams who never dominated the landscape of the NFL, have a powerhouse of a team in the Cleveland Browns playing in the rival All American Football Conference. A precursor to the American Football League. This was the late 1940’s when America had just returned home triumphant in the second world war and began to enjoy pro football as entertainment that would soon rival baseball. How do we know this?? The ink hadn’t dried on the Potsdam Declaration ending WWII when the AAFC was formed in 1946. In four short years the Browns dominated and won all four championships before the league folded and were absorbed into the NFL along with the 49ers and Baltimore Colts in 1950.

Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham tries to avoid a Ram defende in the 1950 NFL Title Game.

Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham tries to avoid a Ram defende in the 1950 NFL Title Game.

In another round of “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” the Rams decided to move to Los Angeles knowing they couldn’t compete with the champion Browns for the hearts of Cleveland. The only time a team left Cleveland and Art Modell wasn’t to blame…yet we digress. Ironically in that first season of both teams playing in the NFL, they played each other for the NFL Championship in 1950. One of the greatest games in NFL history.  It would be assumed that old Ram fans became Browns fans in Cleveland

The forgotten aspect of both situations in St Louis and Los Angeles is they were not the first city these teams played in. They were the rebound fling and Angelinos are pining for the Rams to come back west. Yet where was all this support when the Rams were in Anaheim?? In 1994 the Rams hosted the Los Angeles Raiders, in the last year both teams were in Southern California, their game drew 60 K but 2 weeks later drew a home crowd of only 34,000. Yet like a scorned love those fans wish for their lost team to come back to them and forget how little support was shown when the relationship existed.

Art Modell being presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XXXV.

Art Modell being presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XXXV.

St Louis had their pining for the departed Cardinals filled after just 8 years when the Rams moved east for the 1995 season. In 44 years in Los Angeles, the Rams won only 1 NFL championship in 1951, yet only made St Louis fans wait just 4 years before The Greatest Show on Turf took the title in 1999. Those fans in Los Angeles were the first to watch their former team win a Super Bowl championship in a new city. The following year it was Cleveland’s turn as they watched the Baltimore Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. Former Browns fans watched with horror as the late Art Modell hoisted the Lombardi Trophy just 5 years after moving to Baltimore.

Here is the real issue… The NFL thrives as an entity because of the revenue generated from television more than it does from the gate. The gate is important but a team is nothing more than a company and if the gate isn’t there, it will seek greener pastures. The teams split that gate 65/35 for the home and away teams. The personal seat licenses (PSL) and luxury boxes are the revenues that a team can keep to themselves. Hence we saw the boom in new stadiums from the mid 1990’s on. The other revenue streams a team can keep to themselves are the stadium naming rights, parking, and concessions. If the team can’t draw fans to the stadium, they will fall behind their competition when it comes to financial competitive balance. You do want your team to sign that free agent tackle next year…right??

At one time it was thought the NFL needed Los Angeles, with the nation’s #2 television market, to have a team. Our CEO contended then as he does now that it doesn’t. We just kicked off our 18th NFL season without a team in Los Angeles and it doesn’t seem to bother Vance Lockett who is watching games on NFL Sunday Ticket in Columbus, Ohio. Yet to the attending fan cheering for their team living where they have the chance to go to the actual games. Go when you can. The rules are set up to get you to the stadium in the first place.  In a direct television market, NFL city with a team, you are only guaranteed to be able to watch the road games in a particular season. Any concurrent broadcast of another game on the other network, Fox or CBS, will not be shown because you belong to that team. Hence a week ago The Chancellor of Football was stuck watching the Cardinals face the Lions instead of the Manning Bowl in New York… So instead of the 3 free broadcast games you only get 2 before the Sunday night game.

You only get to see the home games in those NFL cities if the game is sold out. This is when you hear of the “blackout being lifted” in television jargon. They’re figuring is: Why watch it on television when you can go down and pay your way to see the game?” So while our CEO (in Columbus, Ohio at the time) was able to watch and record the 1992 Wild Card Game, where Buffalo came from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in the greatest comeback in NFL history, people that lived 3 blocks from Ralph Wilson Stadium did not. The game wasn’t a sell out.

Just like those forlorn fans that pine for teams that once were in Cleveland, Los Angeles, St Louis, Houston, and especially Jacksonville for that matter: Get to the stadium and go watch a game! If that team gets down financially and decides to leave, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. Ask those Houston Oiler fans or even the Rams fans pictured about the despair that replaces the cheers once the team plays elsewhere. Los Angeles is nothing more than a bargaining chip for NFL teams to leverage their present cities and our CEO doubts the NFL ever returns there. Los Angeles is an overpopulated aging decaying city that is destined to feel old.

Along with the fact there is no space and it would be cost prohibitive to build a new stadium, people in Los Angeles are front runner fans that won’t support a non winner. After the 1994 game when BOTH Los Angeles teams played and drew 65 K, the Rams attracted less than 60 K in the 2 remaining games combined. This is before we even talk about the travel restraints thanks to overcrowded freeways. Corporations know better than to take those risks and that’s what NFL teams are…corporations.

Even the Chancellor of Football moved the Taylor Blitz Times headquarters out of congested Southern California to the beautiful clean open area of Glendale, Arizona. Why take the financial risk of moving to Los Angeles, when you can get between 10-15 million in the nation’s #2 television market to purchase NFL Sunday Ticket anyway?? You’d have more of a chance moving the Los Angeles Dodgers back to Brooklyn…oops we forgot those first reasons are exactly why the Dodgers left Brooklyn 56 years ago. See?? We’ve been here before.

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