Monthly Archives: September 2013
NFL “Defenseless” Rules Shift Offense; Punish Defense
The NFL has long been a runner’s league. The long list of legendary names of Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Larry Csonka, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Terrell Davis, and many others set the offensive schemes as run first. It also set the defensive schemes to stop the run and make the offense one-dimensional. That was the plan, until recently. NFL rules have made the middle of the field more of a green zone than a kill zone. Receivers used to know that going over the middle meant having some part of their body, usually their head and chest, devastated by a lurking defender who launched in a precisely timed maneuver to try to separate man and football. Today, the “defenseless receiver” has the officials at the ready to throw a flag if they perceive a wide receiver was hit during a defenseless time during the catch. The NFL officials define a defenseless receiver as, a player in a defenseless posture when attempting to catch a pass. The 2013 NFL rule book states it is a Personal Foul if:
“if a player illegally launches into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player (1) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body.”
These flags are being thrown often and at critical times in football games, including week one of the NFL season. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ CB Dashon Goldson was flagged and fined for a hit on the New York Jets receiver Jeff Cumberland in the 2nd quarter of Sunday’s game. The hit sent Cumberland to the locker room for a mandatory concussion evaluation, but he returned in the 4th quarter. The issue most NFL fans have is that Goldson clearly lowered his shoulder and struck the chest of Cumberland. The impact did appear to force Cumberland’s head downward, striking Goldson’s helmet and the flag was thrown. A critical penalty, which was equally as controversial, unless you’re a Jets fan, was Bucs’ safety Mark Barron’s hit on Jet Jeremy Kerley. An unnecessary roughness flag was thrown on 3rd and 21 to go as QB Geno Smith tossed a pass over the middle to Kerley. Two Buccaneers closed on Kerley and Barron arrived to finish the tackle. Barron was flagged for a hit on a defenseless player. An interview with Barron with the Tampa Bay Times had Barron saying, “I hate that it happened, and I’m going to hate to see the letter (from the league) that comes with it, but that’s just me playing ball, and that’s the only way I know how to play,” Barron said. “It’s hard. You’re running at a guy and this guy starts to fall and you’re already taking off and aiming where you want to go and he falls and the target changes.” The blow to Kerley knocked his helmet off and sent him to the locker room with Cumberland to be evaluated for a concussion. Kerley returned to the game, but was held out of practice Monday for a concussion.
The flags on Goldson and Barron were overshadowed by the final 15-yard penalty on Lavonte David, who shoved the Jets QB out-of-bounds and was flagged for the third personal foul in the game. More importantly, the penalty moved the Jets into field goal range with seven seconds remaining for Nick Foles who drilled a 48-yard field goal to put the Jets in the win column.
The NFL has been very vocal about the concern for concussions occurring in the league and the officials protecting players that they consider defenseless. While defenders are still trying to adjust and get acclimated to the new rules, offensive coordinators around the league are making the necessary adjustments to manipulate the new focus of officials to their advantage. Wide receivers are now going over the middle for a risk/ reward of either making a catch against a hesitant defender or take a hit and watch the yellow flags fly. There were 15 wide receivers on opening week that had 100+ receiving performances, including a 208 yard total by new 49er Anquan Boldin. Comparing that total to last season, in week one there were only ten receivers with 100+ yards and Reggie Wayne led the group with a 135-yard outing. Combine that with the lack of 100-yard rushers in week one there seems to be a significant shift to the middle of the field to take advantage of the new rules. Last season, there were an average of seven rushers a week that eclipsed the 100-yard mark. In week one, two rushers, LeSean McCoy (184 yards) and Shane Vereen (101 yards) eclipsed the mark. For wide receivers, only one averaged 100+ yards in 2012, which was Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (122.8 receiving yards per game). In 2013, it appears there could be as many a five.
The NFL had an extremely unsuccessful attempt at rule changes in the name of safety in 1983 with the “in the grasp” rule.The rule was that the referee can blow the whistle if the quarterback is in the grasp of the defender, to “protect the quarterback.” It reared its ugly head in a division matchup between the Eagles and the Giants in Giants Stadium. The Eagles led 17-13 late in the game. On fourth down, Giants quarterback Scott Brunner broke loose from an Eagle defender and ran for a first down. But then the announcers stated that it was whistled dead because of a new rule, and it was ruled a sack. Giants were again victimized by the rule against the Chargers. QB Brunner took the snap and stepped up in the pocket to avoid the outside rush. The Chargers’ left end dove back and grabbed Brunner’s right ankle as Brunner stood tall and completed the pass for a first down. The fans made enough noise that the NFL had to alter the rule in 1991 to include language where the quarterback was being “held up” and momentum had stopped. It prevented cheap shots by defenders. The new defenseless rules have all the earmarks the “in the grasp” rules had, rule enforced to protect players, fan disenchantment, negative effect on overall sport, and a one-sided cause/ effect. The in-the-grasp rules clearly benefited defenses. The new defenseless rules clearly benefit the offense. In addition, the new defenseless and helmet-to-helmet rules are forcing player lower and the devastating outcome has been evident in the amount of ACL/ MCL injuries. Even players are outspoken about the effects of defenders taking out knees and being encouraged by the NFL. Rookie Tobais Palmer told Yahoo Sports he’d rather get hit high because “it’s a bigger target on your body. As a wide receiver, you need your legs.”
So the question has to be raised, is this new safety focus good for the game of football? Football fans around the world chimed in on blogs and online articles. The majority are not in favor of the new rules and believe defenses are being unfairly softened in the name of protecting the athlete. Football has always been a violent game. Is the NFL diminishing the value of the sport to the detriment of the fans who love to hear the crack of the pads? For the opening game between the Ravens and the Broncos on Thursday, the viewership was up 5% over last year’s game, according to NBC Sports. As the season goes on and the personal fouls increase on seemingly routine strikes on wide receivers, it will be worth watching the viewership numbers to see if the drop due to frustrated fans who want to see their “old” football back.
Name that Owl: History of Live Mascots
Live Mascots have a tendency to draw a lot of attention, whether it is being in awe of Auburn’s Golden Eagle gliding around Jordan-Hare stadium as fans yell, “War Eagle,” or thunderous applause of the Sooner Schooner, pulled by impressive white horses named, Boomer and Sooner as Oklahoma takes the field. Kennesaw State has introduced Owl fans to its latest addition to the mascot family. A relative in the Great-Horned Owl family that will serve as KSU’s live mascot. The owl mascot is scheduled to be introduced at the Flight Night event on October 19th in the Convocation Center, but there is one detail that has to be addressed before the owl is introduced, naming of the owl. Now, at a glance this may seem like an easy task, but the name of the KSU owl is going to be very important. It is a name that should have legacy potential. Lets take a look at some of the live mascots around college sports to see their impact.
First, we have to start with the first ever live mascot, Handsome Dan. The Yale Bulldogs mascot dates back to 1889. According to the legend, Andrew B. Graves, a Yale student and staff on the football team, saw a bulldog sitting in front of a blacksmith shop. Graves purchased the bulldog and named him “Handsome Dan.” Dan soon made appearances at sporting events with Graves and was adopted by the students as the Yale mascot. Handsome Dan’s tradition of lumbering across the field became legendary. According to Wikipedia, One newspaper reported: “He was a big white bulldog, with one of the greatest faces a dog of that breed (English) ever carried.” Dan’s name lived up to the billing as he won first prize at the Westminster Dog Show. Handsome Dan made is impact on the students at Yale and he lives on in Yale traditions. Several of the Handsome Dan mascots have been preserved and stuffed and placed around the Yale campus as eternal watch dogs. Dan I sits in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium and Dan II guards the Yale Visitor’s Center.
One of the most unusual live mascots in college is the Arkansas Razorbacks live Russian boar named Tusk. Theses mascots weigh upwards of 475 lbs and is one of five live mascots in the SEC (UGA from Georgia, Smokey from Tennessee, War Eagle from Auburn, Sir Big Spur from South Carolina, and Tusk). But Arkansas was not always known as the Razorbacks. In fact, their head football coach, Hugo Bezdek, brought the nickname to the team in 1909 when he introduced the term to Arkansas fans after a 5-0 start to the season. According to hogwired.com, Coach Bezdek met cheering fans at the train station amd gave an impromptu speech, citing, we played “like a wild band of razorback hogs,” after a 16-0 victory over LSU. The term razorback took hold and the following season the students voted to change the mascot from the previous Cardinals to the Razorbacks. A live animal didn’t make its presence until 1960. Several of the live mascots for Arkansas caused a stir off the field while serving as mascot. Big Red III had to be shot by a local farmer after it ravaged the country side and Ragnar killed a coyote, a 450-pound domestic pig and seven rattlesnakes according to hogwired.com.
Kennesaw State Athletic Director Vaughn Williams will know the next mascot very well as he spent more than six years with him at UConn. The Connecticut mascot was a white and black husky that is named for Jonathan Trumbull, the first state governor of Connecticut (each subsequent Husky has been all white). Jonathan was introduced in 1935, but went unnamed until 1936. The students named the mascot after a contest brought a live husky mascot to campus. Unfortunately, Jonathan had a rough start. The contest to name him had concluded and the day before the name was announced the unnamed mascot was struck and killed by a car. But the pup originally tabbed to be the first Jonathan had equally attractive cousins and he would become known as Jonanthan II. J-II became a fan favorite when in September 1936 he chased Brown University’s live bear mascot up into a tree. UConn faithful will tell you that the bear refused to leave the tree until rescued by firefighters. Through the years and Jonathans, none became more passionate for UConn athletics than Jonathan IV, who bit Handsome Dan on their first meeting and used to growl at opposing players when they scored in basketball. The Huskies live mascot has represented the team well for more than 78 years and was honored with a bronze statue in the Storrs campus.
The Louisiana State University tiger mascot is next on the list of live mascots. The tiger known simply as Mike was brought to the campus by Athletic Director trainer Chellis “Mike” Chambers in 1934 after raising the $750 needed to adopt him. Mike served as the LSU mascot for more than twenty years, before his death in 1956. There have been five additional Mike mascots for LSU with Mike VI currently prowling the sidelines at LSU games after being introduce in 2007. There has only been one known incident where Mike escaped his cage. Mike IV had the chain on his cage cut and he roamed out into the middle of North Stadium Drive. He eventually played punch-out with a tree before being tranquilized and returning to his crate.
The bears known as “Lady” and “Joy” are the next live mascots featured. Lady and Joy call Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Lady and Joy are nicknames for these two beasts. Joy the larger of the two bears by 10 lbs (Joy weighs 280 lbs). The Baylor Bear tradition of live mascots dates back to December 14, 1914, the students of Baylor voted to have a bear represent the University as mascot. Among the other mascots considered were buffalo, eagle, antelope, bookworm, and bear. The bear won by little more than half of the 406 votes cast. Since then more than 50 North American Black Bears have called Baylor home. The first live bear didn’t come to campus until 1917. All of the bears are named with the prefix of “Judge,” and are usually named after the wives of the university presidents. “Lady” is formally name Judge Sue Sloan, after the wife of the twelfth president of Baylor University, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. Lady’s nickname comes from Mrs. Sloan serving as the First Lady of Baylor. “Joy” is named Judge Joy Reynolds, wife of the eleventh President of Baylor University, Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds. Both are American Black Bears and were brought to sporting events on leashes to mingle among the fans, until recently. The bears were labeled as “potentially harmful,” by the Department of Agriculture, which required them to be kept away from public events.
Kennesaw State is getting a live owl mascot and will be only one of three universities with an owl as a mascot to have an actual live owl. Florida Atlantic (Burrowing Owl) has used a trained owl to fly around the stadium for football and fly to center court for basketball games. Temple just received their live owl this past spring and it is scheduled to make its first appearance September 7, versus Houston Cougars. The live owl for Kennesaw State will be a welcome addition to the tradition that is being built at Kennesaw State and the students will have a chance to name the new owl in a contest hosted by the athletic department. The naming contest will begin on Sept. 25 and fans will have the opportunity to submit their favorite name by filling out a form on the athletics website or through twitter.
2013 NFL Predictions
The 2013 NFL season is here! Like most football fans this is the greatest time of the year. The weather is cooling, the fall festivals are looming and football is booming! I am not one who predicts the future all the way through to the Super Bowl. There are just too many things that can happen to make an accurate prediction. But here at McCrearyBroadcasting we will try our hand at the week-by-week predictions. So, here we go.
Denver Broncos (-8.5)
Baltimore is coming of a Super Bowl victory without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense and sent Anquan Boldin packing. So this is a very different Ravens squad. Torrey Smith will have to step into a primary role at WR and Baltimore is scrambling to find a replacement for Dennis Pitta at TE. This makes the champs fresh meat for AFC favorite Denver Broncos. Even without Von Miller at LB, Denver has its leader in Peyton Manning and a team primed for a deep playoff run. Ronnie Hillman will need to make some noise at RB and look for Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas to repeat targets for Manning. Defensively, Miller is out, but a fine LB in Wesley Woodard is still lurking. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the best DB in the NFL and with Champ Bailey on the other side, the Broncos will be tough to beat. Denver doesn’t cover, but gets the win, 28-24.
New England Patriots (-10.5)
Ok, I would like to say that I give Buffalo a chance in this once, but I don’t, so I won’t. New England covers the spread. Patriots 38 Bills 10.
Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)
The Seahawks and Panthers is an intriguing matchup. Seahawks had an 11-5 season, but didn’t win the NFC West. Russell Wilson was named the Pepsi Max NFL Rookie of the Year and Sports Illustrated Offensive Rookie of the Year. The question is will he have the often chattered “Sophomore Slump?” The ‘Hawks did add Percy Harvin to the receiving corps, but not much else. The Panthers finished 7-9 and the Cam Newton project rolls on with even more hype after throwing for 3,869 yards and 19 touchdowns. The rushing was there also as Newton traveled 741 yards, but frustrated Panther fans with 10 fumbles. A pick’em kind of game. Panthers escape with a win over Seattle. Panthers 24 Seahawks 20.
Chicago Bears (-3)
The line is three on this game, but it feels very different. The Bengals are a popular pick to win the AFC North after back-to-back playoff appearances. The big question is QB Dalton, Andy. Will Dalton stay healthy and make good decisions while in the pocket? Another Pick ‘Em, but Bengals win on the road. Bengals 27 Bears 13.
Cleveland Browns (PK)
A true “Pick” in the betting world means this game between the Dolphins and the Browns may be good. The last time the Dolphins made the playoffs was 2008. But the Browns have averaged only 5.2 wins per season in the last 14 years. Add in the awkward situation with the Browns new owner Jimmy Haslam (his house was raided by the FBI in April) this should be a breeze win for Miami. But hold the phone, what the hell did Miami do to the lovable dolphin with the little football helmet on their logo. The new Miami Dolphins logo is terrible and for that reason. Brown pick up a win and demoralize the new look Dolphins. Browns 17 Dolphins 13.
Detroit Lions (-4.5)
An old school match-up of the NFL Black & Blue Division. Vikings and Lions is a classic NFL game that will two of the most talented players in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Vikings, both play in Detroit. Calvin Johnson and Suh, Ndamukong. The Lions put on a show and hold the Vikings to a field goal. Lions 31 Vikings 3.
Indianapolis Colts (9.5)
Colts cover the spread….Colts 34 Raiders 10
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5)
Could Andy Reid be the coach that the Chiefs have been looking for? No one can replace Hank Stram, but Reid just might come close. A new beginning for Reid and his new QB Alex Smith. And, you have to be happy for DeWayne Bowe who finally gets a chance to be on a winning club. As for the Jaguars…their helmets are ugly and they lose. Chiefs 21 Jaguars 13.
New Orleans Saints (-3)
The premier match-up of the week occurs in New Orleans as part of the NFC South’s brutal conference play. The Falcons are now considered one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and now Steven Jackson make up a potent Falcons offense. For New Orleans, HC Sean Peyton is back and he will bring some serious swag. Saints 31 Falcons 30.