Monday, March 28, 2011

Lockout steals excitement from NFL Draft

It’s difficult to get excited about the NFL Draft when you don’t know when the season is going to start.  I can’t get pumped up to think about who is going to get drafted with the Number 1 overall pick when training camp is not scheduled.  It is really anticlimactic for a young guy to make his dream a reality and not be able to talk to his new coaches and formally practice with his new teammates.

In some ways, it’s also premature.  The current impasse between the players and the teams about labor issues prohibits free agency and trading.  If not for the lockout, teams would be filling some of their gaps with veteran players and strategizing draft picks.  No one knows what the landscape of a team will be when the labor issues are resolved.  If the season doesn’t start until half way through the regular season, surely a rookie will not play.

For these reasons, I’m not excited to watch the upcoming draft.  Who cares if Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert is drafted first if we don’t get to see them play this fall?  Why bother watching them put on a hat when we may not even see them at training camp?  For the players, shaking Goodell’s hand and then starting their careers striking against him isn’t exactly a path to primetime.

Good thing for college football.  They may have a crazy way to determine their champion, but at least we know they are going to play this fall.

 Heels & Helmets®

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is here and so is college football

While the NFL is still battling on labor issues with its players, college programs started spring practice.  These practices symbolize that football is in full spring on college campuses.  Most programs culminate the spring training session of 15 practices with a big intra-squad scrimmage.  They are usually dubbed by the schools colors.  For example, Florida has the “Orange and Blue” game every spring.  At The University of Michigan, it is simply, “Michigan Spring Game.”

At some universities the scrimmage is just an open practice that allows students, alumni and fans to see the team run plays.  At the larger programs, it has become just as big as the first home game with all of the fanfare, tailgating and display of school pride that you see in the fall.  Last year, the Florida Gators attracted close to 51,000 fans to their scrimmage.  Ohio State packed over 65,000 fans in the Horseshoe to see them last spring.

These scrimmages provide a good snapshot at the team’s development as they transition from last season.  How is the new coach directing the team?  Are players buying into the new coach’s message?  How does the offense or defense look after losing several players to graduation and/or the NFL draft?  Who will be the starting quarterback?  These are some of the questions that fans look to get answers for watching the spring game.

A lot has happened since the BCS Championship game.  Here are a couple of spring games that I think are noteworthy.

1.     Auburn – The Tigers lost the foundation and strength of their offense to the NFL Draft.  How they will replace the speed, rushing yards and size of Cam Newton will be interesting.
2.     Nebraska – This will be the Cornhuskers first scrimmage as a member of the Big Ten.  They were the Big 12 North Champions last year, but everyone is curious to see how they will fare in the oldest football conference.
3.     Ohio State – With Terrelle Pryor and Head Coach Jim Tressel out for the first five games of the season, fans will want to see how the backups fill in.
4.     Michigan – After three years of being embarrassed on the gridiron, the wolverines have a “Michigan Man” back at the helm of the program.  Head Coach, Brady Hoke, has one mission - restore greatness back to college’s most winningest program.  He has been clear about his expectations to win Big Ten titles and beat Ohio State.  All eyes will be on Michigan Stadium on April 16 to see the strides that he is making.


 Heels & Helmets®

Monday, March 14, 2011

NFL’s sacrifice for Lent

The NFL and its club owners decided to give up professional football for Lent.  The NFL and the NFLPA did not reach an agreement and stopped negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  That means that right now football is dead. 

I am not fretting about it yet because we still have five months before the start of the pre-season.  However, if the players and owners do not resolve their issues soon and have a new contract, the season will not be the same.  Since the NFLPA has decertified and the NFL locked out the players, the teams and players cannot communicate.

Everything is on hold.  No free agency.  No conditioning.  No Organized Team Activities (OTA).  The only scheduled professional football event that will take place this spring if the lockout continues is the NFL Draft. 

If the labor negotiations are prolonged, the training and preparation that teams and players usually do during the off-season will not happen.  This will have a huge impact on teams, especially for clubs that have young players in skilled positions.   Teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams will not be able to work with their young quarterbacks.

Cleveland’s Colt McCoy and St. Louis’ Sam Bradford need to work with their coaches to be effective in their starting roles.  In Denver, Tim Tebow, will need more than informal workouts on his own to develop into being a starter.  Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has two years of experience leading the Lions, but he recently had shoulder surgery.  Rehabilitating privately is not the same as doing it with the team’s staff and equipment.  This will certainly have an effect on the team’s offensive plans.

Let’s hope that the sacrifice ends at Holy Saturday and the resurrection of professional football happens before the 2011 NFL Draft.  On second thought, it can happen sooner.  I don’t think that the “football gods” will be upset with the NFL for breaking Lent.  I think that they will be pleased to see the owners’ selfless act of forgoing an EXTRA $1 billion dollars to give the fans what they want.  After all, they are the people who made them billionaires.


 Heels & Helmets®

Monday, March 7, 2011

Free me from CBA talk, PLEASE!

For the last few weeks, professional football fans have been held hostage digitally by the news on the progress of the mediation between the NFL and NFLPA.

Free me!

Nothing has changed.  The owners still want more money and regular season games.  The players still want to see the books.   Well, I guess I should not say “nothing” because the sides are talking now (A LOT) and they did not for months.  This still is not enough to warrant the hostage.

Free me!

The hostage wouldn’t be so bad if both parties were not sworn to secrecy.  At least we would have some insight on the progress, the tension in the room, and the perspective from each side.  I am not asking for cameras, but a fiery remark from Jerry Jones would be satisfying.  Instead we have mundane “updates” telling us the same thing.  I can’t take it anymore.


Now that the CBA analysis is behind me, I will get to where our focus should be in March.  College “Pro Days.”  These are workouts at colleges that NFL personnel attend to continue their evaluation of players to prepare for the upcoming draft.  It is similar to the Combine, but not as vigorous.  Plus, players who were not invited to the Combine have a chance to make an impression on NFL Scouts.

Tomorrow, a couple of top quarterbacks will participate in their schools’ Pro Day.  Cam NewtonRyan Mallett (Arkansas) both will display their talent at their university.  Ryan did well at the Combine and demonstrated that he has a strong arm and is accurate.  This is an opportunity for him to build on that performance and show he can throw at the professional level.  Cam on the other hand was disappointing at the Combine.  Auburn’s Pro Day gives him chance to improve on passing drills and exhibit that he can handle the NFL. (Auburn) and

It feels sooo good to be liberated! 

Heels & Helmets®