Coaching Carousel

Photo by Eric Tompkins on Unsplash

Why is it that at the end of every professional sports season in the US there is the inevitable turning on of the coaching carousel? A carousel where the animals never change and it is the same handful of people who are riding around and around to be picked.

Are there no other candidates available, anywhere, ever?

It reminds me of my time spent in the late 1990s invested in running a subscription website for American soap operas. They had the same exact thing but on a larger scale. Writers, actors, directors were all on the carousel moving from show to show to show hashing out the same stuff over and over. But apparently there were no other people to choose from out of a plant of almost seven billion.

I realize that coaching a professional sport is a specialized job, but there are many, many sports coaches not just the anointed few. Surely, there are other people who can coach an NFL team besides Ron Rivera or Mike McCarthy. Or in the NBA there must be someone other than Tyronn Lue or or Stan Van Gundy. But apparently they are the only ones riding the carousel at the moment.

Baseball is surely the worst when it comes to the coaching carousel. Because baseball managers are given jobs over and over and over even when they are older or possibly on suspension.

Just in the last few weeks, the Detroit Tigers hired AJ Hinch. You know, the Astros sign-stealing previously suspended cheater (manager). Cheating is no longer a disqualification apparently.

The next carousel rider to hop off into a job is Tony La Russa. He last coached a baseball team in 2011 and is 76 years old. For the love of baseball, is there NO ONE else in the world who can coach a team?

The Red Sox will be taking on a new manager also for 2021 and if I had a million dollars I would bet it will be Alex Cora. Their former manager and also previously suspended sign-stealing cheater (manager).

Baseball is filled with many things, some wonderful and some not so wonderful. One of the not so wonderful is that teams are owned for decades by the same owners and those owners put in place people to serve as crony’s or if you will yes men. And these crony’s have things that tie them to the same group of coaches over and over and over because the crony’s also ride a carousel of yes men that go from team to team.

Baseball also lives by the devil you know statement. They go with what is known. With who has managed teams before and for how long. With who has won titles and divisions and gotten into the playoffs, even if they cheated to do it.

Diversity at the top of management in baseball rarely happens. Diversity of color or diversity of it not being the same people over and over. But baseball is hardly the only player of the coaching carousel.

All US professional sports do it. You will see the same handful of men ride around and around until someone picks them and they get another opportunity. There are no new new ideas and no new talent. Just the same old animals with fading and chipped paint and nothing new to offer.

The NFL Rona Ride

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

Every day of the NFL season, fans, players, team personnel, and sports analysts wait for the latest announcements of the effects of coronarvirus on the week’s upcoming games. It is like a carnival ride that you cannot get off of and you just keep riding hoping your team will not be the next affected.

Unfortunately, the virus has not to my knowledge booked a one way ticket to another planet, so it is not going anywhere regardless of precautions. You can wear all the masks, do all the distance, not go out amongst other people, but when you eventually do, the virus will still be here on this planet.

Escaping infection completely is just not possible. Mitigating is somewhat possible. Mitigating without micromanagement of individuals and their movements and interactions is possible, see NBA bubble, but for the NFL it is apparently not a viable option.

While I understand that there are far more people to consider with NFL teams, I do not think it is impossible to have at least SOME controls over interactions of personnel outside of the team. And I am unsure where the real pushback lies. Is it from the teams, the players, the players union?

If you could reduce exposure and reduce the risk of becoming ill and also postponing or at some point not even playing games, would you not want to do it?

Each team has facilities where they practice and train during the week before games. Is it not possible that they could house players together at a local hotel during the week limiting their access to outside sources of infection? It is not possible that food could be either brought in or cooked on the site of this hotel? Is it not possible that everyone with the teams and those working in the hotel could be tested daily? Is it not possible that contact with hotel personnel could be extremely limited?

Maybe it is not possible, but I have yet to read or hear a convincing enough argument as to why this could not work.

Most teams have their own planes or at least the ability to charter their own aircraft for transport to game stadiums. Are there not ways to rent out all or most of hotels where they play games and implement at least most of the above standards?

The way to actually minimize your risk of coronavirus is to actively limit your exposure to possibly infected persons.

I understand that it is a hardship, a very big hardship to be separated from your family, friends, and the things you enjoy doing for long periods of time. I understand that it affects many aspects of a person’s life and emotional state of being. But there are ways to minimize exposure and infection, and they require sacrifice.

But the NFL may be of the mindset that they can manage these outbreaks by postponing games, shifting schedules, testing and retesting to identify false positives, and hoping that players and personnel do not get severely ill and they just carry on. They just push through knowing that this is how things are going to be the entire season.

And maybe the NFL is of the mindset that some games may not get played and that the season may extend into March of 2021.

It really comes down to those two choices. Either you micromanage exposure with some sort of bubble like atmosphere or you accept the inevitable infections, false positives, postponements, cancellations, risk of serious illnesses, and a possibly longer season. If you accept the second choice, then whining about it does not accomplish anything. You accepted this is the way things are, deal with it.

The fans also have to live with it if it is the second choice of just dealing with the inevitable. Crying about it will not make anything different. This is the way it is in the coronavirus 2020 NFL season and as the virus is not leaving this is the way.

Too Good To Be This Bad

Photo by Nathan Gonthier on Unsplash

The Atlanta Falcons are too good to be this bad. Players with the stats and talent they have cannot be the reason they continually play well part of a game and not the rest of it. The are only two other explanations, the Monstars from Space Jam come at halftime to take their brains out OR it is the coaching/play calling.

Matt Ryan is a prolific passer. He is also a prolific touchdown passer. He does not do either of these things from the flat of his back therefore his offensive line must be more than just serviceable.

Ryan has been in the top 10 of quarterbacks for the last 10 seasons for passing yards. Ten years of being in the top 10. He currently ranks 6th out of active quarterbacks and 9th all time with 51,909 yards. He has been in the top 10 for passing touchdowns for eight seasons and ranks number seven for active quarterbacks and 11 for all time.

Julio Jones is currently number 1 in receiving yards per game for both active and all time receivers. He has had seven seasons in the top ten for receiving yards, six seasons for receiving yards per game in the top 10, and give seasons in the top 10 for receptions.

Todd Gurley has three seasons in the top 10 for rushing yards. Four seasons in the top 10 for rushing touchdowns. Three seasons in the top 10 for rushing yards per game.

They have now added Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst who are performing well above average.

The defense is not abysmal either. Or at least they are not for half of a game.

I know that injuries played a part in the loss to the Cowboys. Tak McKinley, Kaleb McGary, and Ricardo Allen all suffered injuries during the game with McGary’s looking to be the worst of the three.

But that does not explain how in the first half, the team is going like wildfire, forcing fumbles and recovering them, moving the ball down the field with ease, and putting up 20 points in short order.

And in the second half, none of that exists and to top it all off, nobody seems able to fall down onto an onside kick. They just needed to fall down.

If your team is suffering that many mental lapses, you might want to look into some CAT scans. More likely, it is the coaching and play calling that for some inexplicable reason changes to more conservative play if the team has a lead.

It is quite obvious and history has proven that no lead is safe with the Falcons coaching staff. The team must play all out all the time. Thinking that the other team is not going to fight back is ludicrous.

Arthur Blank continues to ride with Dan Quinn as head coach. With all this talent on this team, there has to be accountability found somewhere. The numbers do not show that it is a player problem. It is a mindset problem coming from the coaching staff that a lead does not require you to continue playing as if you were losing. Something Bill Belichik practices like a religion.

The Atlanta Falcons are far too good a team to be playing this bad and if they do not want to continue losing, someone has to be held accountable and changes have to be made. Or they can continue to be the meme of the week.

Too Much Baseball

Photo by Jose Morales on Unsplash

Three words I thought I would never hear myself say….too much baseball. I am thrilled that baseball found a way to be played this year, but after seeing the upcoming playoff schedule and rumors of Commissioner Manfred wanting to keep expanded playoffs, here we are.

I barely get to watch baseball with my work scheduled as it is. I try to watch some on weekends but even that is getting less and less. So I keep up through highlights, articles, and social media. I do keep up with the stat lines pretty religiously as that is one my core enjoyments of the game. But watching every day, that went away when I went back to work outside my home in 2011.

Now I get that this year things are different. Games have to be played differently, scheduled differently. I get that there have been postponements and cancellations due to Covid. I get that building in extra time in a bubble setting to allow for such things is necessary….this year. But going forward, no.

Commissioner Manfred has been cited as stating that people like a lot of the changes that have happened to baseball this year because of Covid guidelines/restrictions. And allegedly, he thinks that people like the expanded number of teams in the playoffs which obviously must translate to people liking the expanded weeks of playoff games.

What people exactly would this be?

Not this person. I imagine these “people” are the owners who if expanded teams and expanded weeks of playoffs translate to expanded television revenues would pocket a nice extra chunk of millions or is it billions. I am sure “those people” are quite excited about the prospect of expansion playoffs.

This year that is being managed in the bubble so games are played in temperate zones where early snow, freeze, ice, etc. are not a big concern. But if you do this in a “regular” baseball year where teams in Boston or other more northerly locations could be in the playoffs, games up to Halloween or even, November (the horror) would be subject to all sorts of weather issues.

Are we to play these expanded playoffs in settings that the league designates every year to avoid weather issues? One day, hopefully, we will be able to go back to the baseball field and watch games, and if my team is in the playoffs I want to watch them play at their home field, not some barn structure in Texas.

Major League Baseball has already all but killed the minor league and rookie league teams in many areas of the country. Now they want people to watch expanded playoffs on television of their team playing in a different state. And have to withstand teams that are not that great clogging up the progress of their team and risking injury over expanded playing time. I don’t think so, but making money always outweighs the fans interests.

As for me, expanded teams and playing until Halloween or beyond is just too much baseball.

The Fantasy Football Gods Smiled On Me

Photo by Timothé Lejeune on Unsplash

After our league’s fantasy football draft, I felt certain that my season was going to be a rough one. My team did not appear to be that great.

When the matchup lines came out, my belief that I was going to suffer great losses. I was projected to lose by almost 30 points in week 1.

I posted in the league chat that unless the fantasy football gods smiled on me, I was doomed to a loss of embarrassing proportions.

Miraculously, on opening night of the nothing like normal 2020 NFL season, the football gods smiled. As if rays of glitter were being sprinkled on my lowly fantasy team, in that one game my team amassed almost 80 points and I have a more than good chance of winning in week 1.

I had the really awful middle of the pack pick in the snake draft. Every other pick there were 10 picks between me and my next pick. Every player I had on in my queue was snapped up by one of my league mates. And I had to settle for someone else who was just not as good.

Near the end of the draft, I was left looking for a couple of extra players and looked at the running backs to find Clyde Edwards-Helaire rookie running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. I was not exactly overjoyed that he was the choice. Unproven in the NFL playing on a team with a quarterback who runs around constantly and a team with superstar wide receivers.

Even though Andy Reid has a long standing track record of utilizing running backs and turning them into stars in the league LeSean McCoy, Kareem Hunt being just two of them. But you never know with a rookie what may happen so it is always a risk.

Nevertheless, my options were severely limited and I drafted him and I even left him in the starting line up. With my team, it was not as if I had another really better option.

Welcome to NFL 2020 on Thursday night, and Kansas City running the ball. The rookie running back had 25 carries for 128 yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He was exciting, fast, and earned me almost 20 points for the game.

Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and David Johnson all amassed 19 plus points each. And Deshaun did that with an abysmal offensive line performance.

My opponent this week has not had a single player play. He has Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, DeAndre Hopkins, and George Kittle as his top line players. The line is now showing me losing by 3 points projected. I have Saquon Barkley, Davante Adams, Rob Gronkowski, the Steelers defense, and Justin Tucker yet to play.

Do I have a chance to win? I do now thanks to the great debut of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. It remains to be seen how he is utilized going forward, but some sports “talking heads” have said that he could be best player in fantasy football this year.

Fantasy football gods willing, I for one hope it is true.

Write With Us!!

Front Office Blogs is seeking contributors to write about sports, all sports, any sport.

All submissions will be actively marketed/promoted on Instagram and Twitter.

Unfortunately, these are currently UNPAID writing opportunities, but possible shared monetization is a future goal.

If you love sports, love writing about sports, have something to say about sports, please join us!

Send a sample of your sports writing to deborah1803 at gmail dot com.

NFL 2020

NFL

The NFL season is quickly approaching and as of this writing, they intend to play. How that will look and how it will all sort itself out is very much an unknown at this point in time.

As colleges all across the US decide whether or not to play fall sports, the NFL marches on. Many college conferences have decided against playing, however, there are three who have stated they will forge ahead, the ACC, SEC, and Big 12. The NFL is also forging ahead with some changes.

There are some guidelines for training camps and all pre-season games have been canceled. The NFL regular season will now start on Thursday, September 10 with the Texans at the Chiefs.

The NFL is conducting daily Covid19 tests and will continue to do so at least through September 5, possibly even doing it ongoing throughout the season. As of Tuesday, August 11, these were the positive percentages for the league: 109,075 tests thru Tuesday: 0.46% positive overall, 0.81% players. The league has stated that there is no personnel with severe illness to this point.

The NFL is not conducting training camp in a bubble environment like the NBA. They are proceeding pretty much as Major League Baseball has done with things “close to normal”.

We have seen in MLB that positive tests have resulted in postponed and rescheduled games or series so that a period of quarantine and re-testing until negative can occur. This has not halted the season and baseball continues to be played. However, person to person contact is much less in baseball than it is in football.

A friend pointed out the other day to me that while football is very much a contact sport, the contact is for minimal time periods each time, a matter of seconds, not minutes. While I agree this is the case, it is still many minutes over a game repeatedly with the same people.

An NFL game with commercial breaks lasts approximately three to four hours. You are with the same group of players getting right up in all of their body parts repeatedly over that time span with lots of heavy breathing, coughing, etc. I think it is far more likely NFL players could transmit Covid19 to each other than MLB players, but that remains to be seen.

Right now, we are in the unknown spaces that we often live in during this pandemic. Will this work? Can we get through an entire season of play? How will players and their families/friends be affected by positive cases? What are the long term effects of Covid19 even with mild symptoms on athletes?

It is the unknowns that cause us to question and yes, worry.

I love the NFL season. I look forward to it every year. Cheering on my favorite team and players and playing fantasy football with friends and family. But what will this season look like and what might the cost be? No one knows.

Just as with everything else this year, it is one day at a time, one moment at a time, an ever-fluid situation with almost nothing that is truly and completely known. And so, I guess, we just stay in the now and keep hope alive.

Do you think there will be a full NFL season? What are your thoughts on professional football in 2020? Share with me in the comments.

10 Reasons To Watch The XFL

xfl

The new incarnation of the XFL got off to a rousing start this past weekend. I was a bit skeptical after having gone through the first round of the XFL and the most recent demise of the AAF.

It turns out that the revamped XFL is highly entertaining and a great way to continue feeding the football appetite during the off season. Here are just some of the reasons why you should give the XFL a try if you haven’t already.

1) Quicker pace of the game. The play clock is 25 seconds, which is a little more than half of what it is in the NFL. Plays have to be relayed in and run in very quick fashion. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn’t, but it provides a much faster pace for the viewers.

2) Listening in on everything during the game. Viewers get to hear the coaches calling plays, discussing strategy, talking to players on the sidelines and then the color commentators (Greg Olsen for one) breaking down the play calls. Fantastic! Some players are mic’d up, which is also great. The conversations between referees, between play reviewers, is all just fascinating to listen to.

3) Jerry Glanville. That just does not require further explanation for NFL fans and especially so for Atlanta NFL fans.

4) NFL players who are looking for another shot or to prove something to themselves. Matt McGloin looked great yesterday. Sammy Coates, Cardale Jones, Josh Johnson, Cameron-Artis Payne are others who spent time in the NFL and now hope to either get back there or at least show they can still play at a high level.

5) Redemption stories. Players who have stories and experiences from the past that were not great, but now they are trying to find a path back to doing what they love. Second chance stories are always interesting and sometimes even compelling.

6) Kickoffs. The kickoffs in the XFL are quite different from the NFL and almost always offer something exciting. The teams line up right across from one another and the return man is in the backfield. The players do not run full speed at each other and the return man has an opportunity for big yard returns.

7) No extra point kicks. The extra points are divided into three choices. Teams can get a single point from the 2 yard line, 2 points from the 5 yard line, or 3 points from the 10 yard line. It can allow teams to try and catch up if they are behind.

8) X-Box Controller Review. The person doing the review of plays in the booth uses an x-box controller to review the plays. According to my gaming son, the controller really allows great control of review of video and it’s cool looking.

9) Female referees. The XFL employs seven female officials including replay and will have at least one female referee on each officiating crew. I was thrilled to see them in the games I watched this weekend.

10) Sideline Interviews. Seriously, this is one of the BEST things I have seen in a long time. Immediate interviews with players after great plays and after terrible ones. The interactions are amazing and must see TV. Interviews on the sidelines with coaches during the game offer great insight into the game play. Such a great addition for the viewers.

These are just 10 reasons to watch the new XFL. There are certainly more. Give it a try this weekend. Games are on Saturday and Sunday and the schedule is HERE Believe me, you won’t be sorry.

Super Bowl LIV MVP Snub

mvp

Patrick Mahomes is now the anointed face of the NFL. Much of this recognition is well deserved and has been well documented by other writers. This is not that article.

Super Bowl LIV was a lot of things. At times exciting and at other times mediocre. The Chiefs were able to do what they generally do, which is come from behind in exciting fashion. It seems that the Super Bowl MVP was handed out for that reason and of course to support the face of the NFL.

However, someone else should have won the MVP award.

That someone else is Damien Williams. His performance was what won the Chiefs the game. He was the stand out player on the field. His stats alone should have won him MVP, never mind that he was also performing in catching balls out of the backfield and turning them into yards after catch when there were no other real throwing lanes for receivers and Mahomes passing was less than stellar.

Damien Williams had 17 carries rushing for 104 yards and 1 touchdown. His average run was 6.1 yards. He also had 4 receptions for 29 yards and another touchdown. As previously mentioned, he was catching these passes out of the backfield with no real throwing lanes open and shaky passing from Mahomes. His go ahead touchdown was the catalyst that lit the Chiefs comeback fire completely.

Mahomes on the other hand was 26/42 passing for just 286 yards with 2 passing touchdowns 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles, and 4 sacks. His QBR was 61.6 and his rating was 78.1. He ran for 29 yards and 1 touchdown. Not exactly stellar numbers. But he is the face of the NFL.

Even Damien Williams 49ers counterpart Raheem Mostert stated that he should have won MVP. Many others feel he should have won as well. But that is not how it turned out.

Patrick Mahomes will receive a lot of accolades for being the youngest QB to win the Super Bowl MVP and maybe it is a reward for bringing the Chiefs back from elimination time after time this year. But Damien Williams performance should not be overlooked or forgotten.

Mahomes may have been the MVP of the overall season but Williams should have been MVP of this game.