Takeaways from Last Week – July 1
Obviously the big news of last week surrounds New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was indeed arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Personally, I’m already tired of the story. But I can’t blame the media for doing their job. I noted on twitter that the media’s coverage of this has annoyed me, with the minute-by-minute updates about every little thing. I compared it to the coverage of Vick when he was arrested, which I recalled was extensive but not to the level that Hernandez’s case is now. And then I realized that it had everything to do with social media. Twitter was only in its fledgling stage back in the summer of 2007, with estimates that in April of 2007 (when Vick story first broke) there were about 50,000 active weekly users. Twitter just announced a few months ago, that figure was over 200 million. That’s 4,000 times as many tweets being sent out over a six-year period of growth.
My problem with it stems from watching shows like Law & Order. They arrest a character and then the next scene is typically the trial. There is a long gap between those events, typically months and/or years in our justice system yet producers and writers know that makes for poor television. We’re in the midst of that with Hernandez. When he goes to trial, then maybe I’ll care about the daily developments. But until then, I could do without eight different sportswriters blogging about every minute detail of his bond, bail, cars getting impounded, etc.
One of the issues the NFL faces in light of this series of events is their image issue. You have a lot of blowhards in the media suggesting that the league has a crime/gang/violence problem. The league doesn’t have any of that. Hernandez and the players that have had recent run-ins with the law (e.g. Ausar Walcott, Josh Brent, Adam Jones, Joe Lefeged) literally represent about 1% of the players in the National Football League currently. The reality is that every year in the time between minicamps and OTAs in June and when camps open in late July, some players will get into trouble. Face it, you have twenty somethings with disposable income having a month off work, and it’s going to lead to some of them getting into trouble. It would be no different than if you handed out 6 and 7-figured salaries to any group of men between the ages of 21 and 30. And I’d probably bet you that non-athletes would be far more troublesome in said situation.
The issue of course is that this year, you happen to have one of those players charged with murder. And it’s not just anybody. It’s one of the best players on one of the best teams in the league. So it becomes a very big blip on people’s radar screens, probably bigger than it deserves. Not to suggest that the murder of Odin Lloyd is not a big deal. But I certainly don’t believe this is an issue that is suddenly systemic of the NFL as a whole.
What will be interesting is to see how Roger Goodell and the league handles this issue. They are going to find a way to “protect the shield” as the perception of the league is largely negative at this point in time. Goodell is essentially the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. And corporations like that don’t liken any publicity is good publicity. I don’t know what actions they’ll take, but I’m certain some are forthcoming.
Falcons linebacker Brian Banks appeared on Rich Eisen’s podcast last week, and went into some greater detail about the events that led to his incarceration and subsequently his exoneration . I think it’s an excellent listen for any and all Falcon fans, and it’s certainly something that I think even non-football fans can get behind.
Banks was already a player that I was rooting for as I’ve known his story dating back over a year now. But I think it was hearing some of the more personal touches on Eisen’s podcast and listening to how the events of his life have affected his own outlook on things just made it a bit more personal for myself. And it is now at a point where he has to make the team as far as I’m concerned. As mentioned on my own podcast two weeks ago, I think his chances are fairly good since he really is only fighting for a special teams role. His most formidable competition is Robert James, who has played in 18 career games over five seasons and has already been cut by the team three times.
I thought it was interesting that Banks mentioned the Falcons were interested in him last August after a tryout, but opted not to sign him because it wasn’t going to give him enough time to get up to speed on defense before the season started, but also because they didn’t want to deal with the media distraction that came with signing him. I just thought that was interesting given how much media distractions have been on the tip of people’s tongues particularly in regards to the New England Patriots and signing Tim Tebow and now the Hernandez issue. Even someone like Banks, who would bring a high level of positive media scrutiny is seen as a negative.
The NFL’s Top 100 rankings were finished last Thursday night. It was never something I put a ton of stock into, but now I think it’s reaching Pro Bowl status in my book as being mostly hollow. I think Grantland’s Bill Barnwell does a good job breaking down why it’s so flawed.
For me two examples stick out. Firstly, Matt Ryan’s ranking. I actually have no problem with Ryan being 17th on the list. But the fact that he was unranked last year makes little sense. There were 13 quarterbacks ranked on the 2012 list, including Peyton Manning (who did not play) and Tim Tebow.
The other issue is that Jacoby Jones was on this year’s list at 88th. I think it was because of his return skills and the fact that he was on the Super Bowl champions. Jones was the third receiver for the Ravens, catching 30 passes. But his 1,920 all-purpose yards ranked 6th in the league and he did return a league-high 3 kicks to the house as a returner.
But Randall Cobb led the league in all-purpose yards with 2,342. He did take a punt to the house, and also caught 80 passes this year, leading the Packers in receptions and yards.
I like Jacoby Jones. But he’s essentially Harry Douglas with much better return (and dancing) skills. And I also probably would be considered a HD defender more often than not, but he doesn’t belong anywhere near the Top 100 players in the league. But you could however convince me that the best receiver on the Packers who also happens to be among the best returners in the league does deserve to be up there.
Darius Reynaud actually was the league’s most productive returner last year, pacing the league with 1,650 combined return yards ahead of Jones (1,508) and Cobb (1,256). Like Jones, Reynaud also scored 3 touchdowns on returns as well. But he didn’t play on the Super Bowl champs, so I guess his accomplishments don’t deserve recognition.
I also think Barnwell’s point about the lack of offensive linemen on the list is a major flaw. Of the twenty two players that line up on a football field on any given play, 22.7% of them are offensive linemen. But only six blockers made the Top 100. There were twelve running backs on the list. And outside the realm of fantasy football, there isn’t a person out there that would take Alfred Morris, Maurice Jones-Drew, or Chris Johnson on their team ahead of blockers like Nick Mangold, Mike Iupati, Andrew Whitworth, Jahri Evans, and Ryan Clady. The fact that three rookie running backs made the list is ridiculous. Morris, Doug Martin, and Trent Richardson are good players, but there’s no reason for them to be put on the list ahead of elite blockers that have been elite blockers for multiple seasons. Especially when you consider that the players should be the one group of individuals that appreciate offensive linemen more than normal.
I stopped paying attention and voting for the Pro Bowl several years ago. And I think I’ll now add the NFL’s Top 100 to the list as things worthy of ignoring moving forward.