There are quite a few things ruining the game of football these days. What are they? I’m glad you asked.
I know you’re waiting for me to bring up this ignorant new crack down on hard hits, but we will get to that in time my friend, in time. The downward spiral of the NFL has been coming for quite some time and not many saw it coming. Unfortunately for us fans things will get ugly before they get any better. Let’s get started with the biggest thing, in my opinion, destroying the sport of football.
Athletes vs. Football Players
There is an ever growing trend in football to go based off numbers and numbers alone. Owners and coaches see a guy blaze a 40 yard dash time of 4.2 seconds and they ignore the fact that he has been investigated for murder and been arrested 3+ times for possession of illegal narcotics. Let’s be realistic, I’m sure we could all find 30 examples to justify this argument, but to save your time and my fingers, we will go with the most glaring example.
April 2001, all eyes are glued to ESPN watching and waiting to see the results of the electric Michael Vick’s NFL combine run. Some said Michael Vick could throw the ball 70 yards or longer. Sure, Vick had a 38 in the vertical jump and some very impressive numbers, but no one cares. They all want to see one thing. Vick lines up behind the white line, lined up in his 3 point stance and every room watching the combine on TV goes silent. Vick does not disappoint as he blazes to a 4.33 40 yard time. A QB that runs a 4.33? That is a wide receiver and a cornerback time, not a QB. Michael Vick has all the intangibles. Vick can throw the ball deep, he can throw on the run and if there is no one open he will torch the defense with his legs. The team that drafts him will win it all for sure, most likely several times right?
Vick went on to do some incredibly athletic things. He set the single season rushing record for a quarterback, he embarrassed defenses with his legs, and he was a human highlight reel. Problem is there is only one thing you never have and never will see in a Michael Vick highlight reel, Mike Vick taking a single snap in a Super Bowl. We all know where the story goes from there. Dog fighting, prison time, shunned by the franchise that viewed him as an NFL God, release from prison, signed by a new team and still fighting to prove he is worth a damn in the NFL.
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum; One of the most embarrassing NFL Combines in recent memory, Tom Brady. Brady posted an embarrassing 40 yard time of 5.23. 5.23 seconds? There are linemen that torch that. He’s going to be a flop. Brady was too small, too skinny and too slow. All Brady has done was go on to win a few Super Bowls and break a couple meaningless records like most touchdowns in a single season. All he did was lead one of the most improbable Super Bowl wins against the Rams and eventually lead one of the most feared single season offenses in recent history.
We, as an NFL, are putting a premium on the wrong things. We look at numbers and measurements like the 40 time, vertical height and win loss records in college. Alex Smith had a phenomenal career at Utah, but who did they play? Vick ran a 4.33 40 time, but can a running QB win? Anyone who has watched football or researched into players before their time will come to one conclusion, you cannot measure the intangibles that it takes to be successful in this league. Pacman Jones, Michael Vick, the list goes on and on of players that are athletic freaks, but don’t have the intangibles to play football. Peyton Manning is possibly the least athletic player to ever be drafted into the NFL. Manning is easily the most dominant player since he has been drafted. Donovan McNabb, Warren Moon, Joe Montana. If you were to line up and compete with them in track and field, none of those names would frighten you. Put them in a football uniform and you’re done before the whistle blows. Jerry Rice could not outrun half of the NFL, but on several occasions embarrassed the great Deion Sanders (honestly no sarcasm there, much respect for Deion). I’ll say it again, you CAN’T measure what it takes to win in this league with tests. Stop denying us true football players for athletes that can’t play football.
The ESPN highlight reel.
The creation of ESPN has lead to billions of sports nuts to be able to follow even the most unwatched sports, kudos to ESPN for that. I will however curse ESPN for the rest of my days for how they have ruined sports with the highlight reel. Before the highlight reel, what would an NFL player have done when they see a fumble? Look around, gauge whether it’s smarter to simply jump on the ball or if it’s safe to attempt to recover for a touchdown, and then act accordingly. Now? Every moron in an NFL uniform wants to make the highlight reel, so no matter how unsafe everyone tries to be a hero. Has it led to some amazing plays? Absolutely. Just as often, if not more often, we witness someone bumble the ball out of bounds, or attempt to pick it up and it ends up in the other teams hands.
How about 2009, Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers? The great Dre’ Bly (all sarcasm intended) makes a BEAUTIFUL interception against Matt Ryan. Bly then proceeds to put his hand behind his head and proceeds do the Deion high step. No problem right? Absolutely no problem, if you’re about to score. Bly still had 70 yards to go and was surrounded by Falcons players. Needless to say, Dez White tackled Bly, forced a fumble and the Falcons went on to win the game. A game that had Bly just returned the ball as far as he could the Niners would have won that game. The highlight reel far too often costs teams the game, thanks ESPN.
Crackdown on hard hits.
I’m going to make this fairly short and sweet because this atrocious topic doesn’t deserve the time or effort. I have supported Roger Goodell through most of his ventures. This, I cannot and will not agree with him on. Football is a violent sport, it’s half the appeal of the sport. Any moron that disagrees is stupid or lying. There are too many intangibles to football you can’t control. It’s a violent sport. It is very easy to lead with your shoulder and because of the angle and force of the impact there is helmet to helmet contact. Are there dirty players? Sure. Problem is, these new rules are also punishing the players making clean hits. There is little difference in taking a shot to the head by a helmet versus a shoulder pad if it’s coming from a 6’5” 250lb line backer. Period. Let’s just go ahead and change NFL uniforms so they are pink in color and come with skirts and not pants.
How about we enforce the rules on the field that we already have? The reason for all these injuries is not the rules, it’s the fact that the penalty flags are glued into the referees pants. Every time I watch an NFL game I see late hits on QBs, QBs being slammed to the turf well after he has thrown the ball, players being decked when they have no involvement with the play, facemasks, cut blocks, horse collar tackles, clipping/blocks in the back and blatantly intentional helmet to helmet hits.
The rules are not the problem, it’s the lack of enforcement that is the issue. Stop the dirty players and we WILL see less injuries.
I am a firm believer in the fact that there needs to be a change in the salary structure in the NFL. No doubt athletes are overpaid. It’s the nature of sports. The issue I hold is with rookie contracts. Being a Niners fan, I’m embarrassed whenever I see Michael Crabtree step onto the field. The day that a 20 year old can hold a billion dollar NFL franchise hostage until they pay him the money he DEMANDS, all while he has not stepped foot onto an NFL field, is the day the end of the sport is soon to come. Speaking of stepping foot, did I mention while Crabtree was demanding his money he had a boot on his foot because he had broken his ankle and missed a ton of the final year of his college career? Pathetic. The day the 49ers caved and gave Crabtree his contract, my 49ers fan-hood died a little that day. I strongly considered selling all my Niners gear and finding another team. You’re going to let some 20 year old punk jerk you around? What has Crabtree gotten use since? Has he lead the league in receiving? Does anyone mention his name? I’ll tell you what he has gotten us, a lack of confidence in a coach. There is no way the players still buy into Singletary’s no none sense, team first, tough attitude when the franchise caves into a rookie. I was embarrassed to be a Niners fan that day. More so than when we went 2-14, more than our playoff drought since 2002. We showed no guts and no heart and we deserve our current struggles.
Roger Goodell, if you truly wish to fix what’s wrong with the NFL, FIX THESE THINGS! These are what is leading to the downfall of the sport.