Thinking Out Loud

December 15, 2018

With the college football season in the books, Bowling for Dollars getting underway, the NFL entering the home stretch, and much more, I felt I needed a break from the giant task of doing Bowl Game projections. So here are some thoughts weighing on the football side of my mind right now.

Almost a shame as to how many penalties are being called in the NFL these days. But many of them come from player frustration in trying to successfully complete their jobs, whether it be in pass protection, pass coverage or blocking on Special Teams play. I would suggest that given how many rules changes seem to be implemented each season, that a multifaceted approach be instituted in an attempt to “clean” things up.

1) Continue with the purge of older officials, who have trouble keeping up with the speed of today’s players. As an ‘old guy,’ I feel free to approach this age-related issue, and I will tell you that as a guy in his sixties, I cannot run, see, and remember the latest rules interpretation, as dictated almost weekly from the NFL Offices. Besides, with all the changes and additional new rules in place, the experience of older officials is often rendered irrelevant to today’s scenarios.
2) Let there be no penalties, which exceed ten yards, as a mark off. Penalties are intended to punish rule rule breaking, not be a death penalty for the offending team.
3) Let there be an official in the press box area at every game played, reviewing replays on an ongoing basis. If an egregious foul is spotted, stop play with a signal to the crew chief. Do NOT allow final say on replay and challenges to rest with the officials on the field who made the calls. You can’t convince me that they are not looking for a sign to uphold their own calls. If in doubt, have the upstairs official call in consultation from the League game center, back in NYC.
4) Give the officials the discretion to not throw their flag on an infraction that takes place more than, say, 20 yards from the action where the ball is. Don’t throw a flag for illegal blocking on the right sideline, when the play is clear across the field on the other sideline.

I am having a very hard time trying to figure out what is going on out in Raiders-land, other than perhaps the frightening concept that Mark Davis is now channeling the eccentricities of his late father AL. My initial reaction to some of the recent firings, releases, and trades of key team personnel, had been to accuse JON GRUDEN of some serious deflection, in saying that he doesn’t know why certain key guys are no longer Raiders. But recent news has it, that at least in the case of player transactions, Mr. Davis got his undies in a bundle over a contract offer rejection by a certain agent, and the response has been to clear the clubhouse of clients of said agent. Doesn’t seem to be a good strategy, long term, to me.

The in-season firing of REGGIE McKENZIE as the Raiders GM also looks like a poor decision. I am hearing that with conflicts developing over players, Reggie was instructed to dispose of them, in which he and Mr. Davis had some heated discussions.The end result was McKenzie telling DAVIS that there was no need to wait until the end of the season to fire him. So Davis did so, and Jon Gruden looked like a lost puppy trying to explain what is going on within that organization.
Gruden has $10 million reasons a year to put up with this craziness, but at the pace the younger DAVIS is yanking the strings of power, I’m not sure that Gruden may not be forced into considering the unlikely, and moving on.

Anybody seen Roger Goodell lately?

Always happy to see my projections come true, which included, of course, my vote for KYLER MURRAY/QB/Oklahoma winning the Heisman Trophy. As I explained to anyone who would listen to me, what impressed me so much about MURRAY’s performances this past season was the fact that the poor Sooners Defense, (and I am being kind), could stop almost no one. So in turn, the pressure was on MURRAY and his mates on Offense to score just about every time they got the ball, if they were to win games. That was a lot of pressure on Murray, almost on a weekly basis.

Now, for part two of my Murray saga, go to Training Camp with the A’s and begin your long and healthy career in baseball, Kyler. Guys who are less than 5’10, and weigh less than 190 lbs., just aren’t built for the NFL, despite great athleticism and leadership, and thank you for the thrill of being able to watch you in your one season of football greatness on the main stage.

Looks like it will be another boomer year for college football underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft. I think the over/under should be set right at an even 100. Before you assume your favorite college is safe from this issue for now, please remember that we are not just talking college juniors here. 3 years out of high school is the magic benchmark here, so don’t be surprised when some of your favorite players who are redshirt sophomores, (RSo), throw their hats into the NFL ring.

I might also add, that this year’s QB Draft Class does not measure up to recent years. There will NOT be 5 first round worthy QB’s for next April. There will NOT be two QB’s worthy of the top two picks in the next Draft. So keep your eyes peeled for Ohio State QB DWAYNE HASKINS, who is a RSo, to eventually throw his name into that declaration bin by the middle of January. Some agents are also very likely to bend the ear of the HERBERT family up in Oregon, that even though their older son Justin wants to play ball with his younger brother for the Ducks next season, this would be a great year to leave school and rank with HASKINS as the top two QB’s in the 2019 NFL Draft. Stay tuned folks.

In case you normally hold the CFL in high disregard, don’t be sleeping on the off-season journey of CALGARY QB BO LEVI MITCHELL, who just happened to lead his team to the CFL Grey Cup Championship last month. MITCHELL played collegiately at Eastern Washington, and is 28-years old. He stands 6’2 and weighs 200 lbs. He is without a contract for 2019 in the CFL, and his agent is on the phone with select NFL teams right now. It has been quite a while since a top CFL QB came south to finish his career, but a guy named JEFF GARCIA did alright for himself with the 49’ers and Browns some time ago. Money will be a big factor on where he plays next year, but the CFL is not in a position to fight financially over a quality QB with the NFL.
I, personally, can think of a handful of NFL teams who should have some interest, given their current QB situations. Like who? Thought you’d never ask. Try this list for starters: BRONCOS, JAGUARS, GIANTS, BUCS, & maybe the REDSKINS, based on recent reports that ALEX SMITH has had some serious post-surgery issues with his broken leg, including ongoing infection concerns.

Knowing that there is nothing that can be done that will please everyone who follows College Football, I would like to put my vote in for expanding the FBS Play-Offs to 8 teams. And within the parameters of that revised system, some teams are automatically slotted. Each of the Power 5 conferences would get one automatic bid, based on Conference Champions. Then one team from the Group of Five would get an automatic slot. That would leave 2 spots open from any/all FBS schools.
So to use this year as an example… ALABAMA/SEC, OKLAHOMA/BIG-12, CLEMSON/ACC, OHIO STATE/BIG-10, WASHINGTON/PAC-12 would all get automatic bids. Undefeated UCF would get the Group of Five slot. That would leave 2 spots open to chose between NOTRE DAME, MICHIGAN, GEORGIA, etc.
My biggest concern with this expansion plan is that it would add another game to an already growing football schedule for the best teams. For instance Alabama, if they went to the FBS Championship game. They already play a 12-game schedule, followed by the SEC Championship game. Then they would play in the final 8, the final 4 and the Championship game. My math says that would mean 16 games for them to win it all. I don’t like that wear and tear on the young men still growing and maturing in body in their under-21 years.
I would also contend that to keep the the schedule itself within reasonable time constraints the first round of eight would have to be played early in the Bowl season, then round two around New Years bowls, and the championship right after.

How about the scary thought for the NFL that the transient CHARGERS might end up with home field advantage for the entire AFC Play-Offs?! Think of the scrambling in the League Office to find a way for the road to the Super Bowl going through the Stub Hub Center, with its approximate 30,000 seats.
By the way, how you Chargers fans in San Diego starting to feel now about the many locals not wanting to raise money to help the Chargers get a new stadium and stay? What a sad irony if they end up in the AFC Championship game, up in L.A.
Ces’t la Vie!

Cheers everyone.