Does the NFL Really Need LA?

February 27, 2009

This is Industry, CA

The City Council of Industry, California, a town about 15 miles east of Los Angeles unanimously approved a proposal to build an $800 million football stadium with the intention of luring an NFL team back to the Los Angeles market. I can’t argue with a place deciding they want to build a stadium, they’ve done it in Kansas City with the Sprint Center that houses neither an NHL or NBA team (but hopes to). But LA has always been a weird place when it comes to pro sports.

Most people in LA are from somewhere else so a fan base is tougher to come by for a pro team. Sure, the Lakers and Dodgers usually draw well, but it’s not like the Clippers do or the Rams did when they were in LA. The city is very fair-weather when it comes to pro sports and if the Lakers or Dodgers suddenly became terrible, their attendance would surely suffer.

There are other issues as well, like the history of the Rams and Raiders. Neither of those experiments ultimately worked out especially well. The Raiders won a Super Bowl while in LA but mostly the two teams weren’t very good. They played at the iconic LA Coliseum but the teams wanted luxury boxes and other means of revenue not available in a 75-year old stadium. So building a new stadium would make sense in that regard but would bringing an existing team create an instant fan base? I doubt it.

Another issue with the LA sports scene, especially in regards to the Lakers, is the visibility of celebrities. At basketball games you can sit courtside and have your face on the jumbotron all game long. Ordinary people can also have the thrill of seeing Jack Nicholson or any number of celebs while at Staples Center. That just isn’t going to work in football. You’re more likely to see a celeb in a luxury box on tv than you ever would be actually attending the game. There’s just not the same closeness to the action that draws celebrities.

But all those other points are ancillary in comparison to the major reason a team doesn’t need to move to LA: the NFL has done better than ever since the teams moved from LA in the mid-90s. The growth of the league has been incredible since the Rams moved in 1994 and despite the current economic issues, shows not signs of slowing down. Teams like Buffalo and Minnesota that are linked to possibly be interested in relocating to LA really can’t expect to do any better than they already are, nor can the league expect huge revenue gains from such a move. To start, the Vikings and especially Bills are beloved in their current cities. But even if they did venture out to LA, why would thousands of people pay exorbitant prices at a brand new stadium to see the Los Angeles Vikings or the Los Angeles Bills? West coast fans have absolutely no connection with midwest or northeast teams, unless they grew up in those areas.

It just doesn’t make any sense for the NFL to sacrifice a team for the sake of returning to the second largest media market in the country. I just don’t see revenue being equalled in LA as compared to the long-time fans of existing franchises. The only possible exception to this is Jacksonville, but even there fans exist in large numbers in an area where there are no other professional sports franchises drawing attention away.

The Super Bowl – A Few Thoughts

February 2, 2009

one foot down

I’ll start with the refs and go on to each team.

The Refs – The refs were both pretty good and really bad during the Super Bowl. They did overturn a Roethlisberger “touchdown” that the Super Bowl 40 refs were too lame to do, so that was good. Also good that they reviewed James Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown return and since he landed on top of Larry Fitzgerald, appeared to get that right. Also also good that they reviewed Santonio Holmes’ game-winning touchdown and I understand that they didn’t have overwhelming evidence to overturn it. You’ll never convince me that his right foot didn’t land on his left foot and not the ground (see the photo above), meaning he only had one foot inbounds, but I can live with it. One other good call was reviewing the first Kurt Warner incomplete/fumble issue. Arm clearly going forward and they reversed the call on the field.

Now the bad: The roughing the passer penalty on Karlos Dansby. Just terrible. Al Michaels immediately called out the refs for the terrible call when he questioned whether it was fair to make a guy stop when the quarterback is scrambling. Also awful, the roughing the holder penalty on Adrian Wilson. What the hell was that? There was no mal-intent there. Thankfully both of those didn’t end up costing the Cardinals the game, but they were really bad. There was a bad defensive holding call in the secondary but I can’t remember who that was on, maybe Roderick Hood? Oh, and the worst of all was not reviewing Warner’s second incomplete/fumble issue. Again, arm clearly going forward and it should’ve been an incomplete pass. I doubt that would’ve saved the Cardinals as there were only five seconds left but they could’ve at least tried a hail mary instead of just having the Steelers quickly kneel down to rather undramatically end the game.

The Cardinals – For most of the game they looked like they didn’t belong on the field with the Steelers. If I’m not mistaken they broke the Super Bowl record for penalty yardage while committing dumb penalty after dumb penalty. Now, as you’ve read above, some of them were really bad calls, but still. This game I think exemplified the Cardinals entire season. There were really fantastic plays by the defense, like forcing a field goal twice (second time after Wilson’s holder penalty) on one drive, and there were total goofs like leaving Hines Ward wide open on the first play of the game or giving up that long pass to Holmes with about 45 seconds left. Can’t fault them on the game-winner, that was just a great pass/catch. Also, getting the safety in the fourth was huge, though they should’ve gotten the call the play before when Willie Parker was tackled in the end zone. The holding call was the right one, but it shouldn’t have come to that.

On offense they were at times explosive and fantastic and other times anemic. Fitzgerald didn’t get going until the fourth quarter, though it’s possible the Cardinals set it up that way. Boldin played well and so did Steve Breaston but there were several possessions where they just couldn’t do anything. The long touchdown to Fitzgerald with 2:40 left was a great play but kind of a lucky one. All in all they just couldn’t get the offense together for the whole game. If they had, they would’ve won the game.

The Steelers – Pretty good defensive effort throughout. Though they did give up a couple of pretty big pass plays. There was no question they were going to stop the run and for the most part, shut the Cardinals down on the ground. They did have some issues with the flats in the early quarters as John Madden so aptly pointed out, but they got over that by the second half. Harrison’s interception return was one of the luckiest plays I’ve ever seen but obviously a credit to him for running it all the way back. That was the real tide-turner. If the Cardinals score on that pass (would’ve been Boldin) it’s a completely different ballgame with Arizona ahead at half. But what the hell were the Steelers doing when Fitzgerald scored the long touchdown? In the end, the Steelers did just enough in the first half to keep the Cardinals from scoring enough to win the game.

Pittsburgh’s offense wasn’t all that great but they got the job done. Some really lucky plays by Roethlisberger saved the game for them and that was enough to get it done. Holmes obviously had a really good game, and he had to since Ward wasn’t able to do much. Of course, Holmes is lucky to have caught the final ball because if he hadn’t, he’d be the all-time goat in Steeler history after dropping the pass before. Basically this was what the Steelers did, try to run and generally fail, let Roethlisberger drop back but don’t block for him, Big Ben scrambles around and completes some improbable pass to Heath Miller or Holmes. That was the Steelers offense. And it was just enough, helped by seven points from the defense, to win the game.

Commercials – The commercials were lame. I mean, really lame. I actually don’t remember any of them and I didn’t have any booze at all. Nothing particularly funny, nothing memorable at all. I don’t know if the spots have become so expensive simply to acquire them that the cost to create something good or funny is too much? But this was the saddest year to date.

Atmosphere – The crowd, as far as I could tell on a 15″ tv was relatively evenly split between the teams. At least there were always big roars when something went in favor of the Cardinals, which I wasn’t really expecting. As far as watching the game, it was fantastic because I just sat at home and watched it. No drunk asshole Steeler fans that I would’ve run into at a bar and no one else to talk about anything but the game, as would’ve happened had I watched it with a group.

Excitement – this ranks as the second best Super Bowl I can remember watching. My first start-to-finish Super Bowl was Super Bowl 26 in January 1992 and the only one better than last night was the Rams-Titans game in January 2000. This game could’ve had a similar ending and surpassed that Super Bowl if the refs had let Warner attempt a hail mary on the last play. Maybe he gets sacked again or maybe he gets it to the endzone and Fitzgerald catches it. Or maybe Pittsburgh intercepts it to save the win, but either way, the way it ended was completely lame compared to the previous ten minutes’ excitement.

What Gives with the Super Bowl Logo?

January 29, 2009

logoPaul Lukas asked a good question on the Uni-Watch blog the other day about the Super Bowl logo being used this year. Why does it feature so much green and blue? The logo clashes pretty badly with the Cardinals‘ red uniforms and just looks kind of cheesy with the Steelers‘ (especially because they always have a chest patch, so adding a second one starts to look like NFL Europe). Which leads to a larger question, why isn’t the logo tailored to the two teams involved in the game instead of just being generic? Can you really say it would take more than the two weeks between championship games and the Super Bowl to color coordinate a logo to the appropriate teams?

In this vein, the New York Times put together a pretty cool slideshow of alternative logos made by different graphic designers from across the country. Some of them are really fantastic, like the one pictured above. Some of them are downright odd or have nothing to do with the Super Bowl. But either way, take a look and let me know which one you like best.

The AD Hall Super Bowl Pick

January 29, 2009


Ok, I know you’ve all been waiting to hear what I think about the Super Bowl.

Or maybe not. But too bad, you’re going to find out anyway. Here’s how I think it’ll play out:

1st quarter:
Steelers – Hines Ward TD catch from Ben Roethlisberger – 7-0 Pitt
Steelers – Jeff Reed FG – 10-0 Pitt

2nd quarter:
Cardinals – Larry Fitzgerald TD catch from Kurt Warner – 10-7 Pitt
Steelers – Jeff Reed FG – 13-7 Pitt
Cardinals – Steve Breaston TD catch from Kurt Warner – 14-13 Arz

3rd quarter:
Steelers – Gary Russell TD run – 20-14 Pitt
Steelers – Jeff Reed FG – 23-14 Pitt

4th quarter:
Cardinals – Neil Rackers FG – 23-17 Pitt
Steelers – Jeff Reed FG – 26-17 Pitt

So there you have it, 26-17 Pittsburgh over Arizona in Super Bowl 43. I think Hines Ward will win the MVP after catching a half-dozen balls and a touchdown after his leg injury in the AFC title game. I like the Pittsburgh defense to stifle completely the Arizona running game but I don’t see Kurt Warner having enough time to get off all of his usual throws and he’ll have two interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger will also have an interception and he won’t complete more than twelve passes but it’ll be enough.

This Isn’t Right

January 27, 2009

The main headline and story on several moments ago was a new study released showing the results of multiple concussions on now-deceased NFL players. The story also talks about still-living former players who have gone through depression, sleep depravation and other problems due to the traumatic injuries to their brains while playing in the NFL. Clearly this is a sports story.

It would stand to reason that a story that important and that explosive would reach the front headlines of every major sports website out there. One would think anyway: – sidebar headline – main story and two other headlines are about the Super Bowl (note: is operated by CNN) – no headline at all – main story is about the Super Bowl
CBS Sports Line – no headline at all – main story and four other headlines about the Super Bowl
Yahoo Sports – no headline at all – main story and six other headlines about the Super Bowl
Fox Sports – no headline at all – main story and one other headline about the Super Bowl
NBC Sports (who will be airing the Super Bowl) – no headline at all – main story and four other headlines about the Super Bowl

I’m not suggesting collusion but it’s shocking that this kind of story gets absolutely no coverage while there are multiple different stories about the Super Bowl on every single site. I’d be willing to bet that searches concerning gambling odds on everything from the final score to who will win the opening coin flip (can it really be anything other than 50/50?) are easier to find than this story.

I don’t know what it will take for people to take this subject seriously. I know that I probably had a handful of concussions while playing football and that was just through the high school level. The worst two hits I ever took were in practice and one of which was from a guy on my own side of the ball! Maybe if someone like Brett Favre were to die at 45 due to traumatic brain injuries it would shake up the NFL like when Kory Stringer died eight years ago. I hope it doesn’t come to that but it might be the only thing that could actually get the public’s attention.

The Worst Sports Week of the Year

January 23, 2009

This is it, right now. Sure there are some good college basketball games going on but with the NFL on its ridiculous week off, the NBA not even to its All-Star break and still in the early rounds of the Australian Open, nothing is really happening of major consequence.

The biggest culprit in this is clearly the NFL. I don’t remember exactly when they started it, maybe five years ago, but the two weeks between the league championship games and the Super Bowl is just awful. Next year they’re going to stick the Pro Bowl in this week and have it at the site of the Super Bowl (Miami again) to try and gain some interest both from fans and the players in the Pro Bowl. But I don’t know if that’ll really make any difference for the fans. More of the players are likely to attend but still, who cares about the Pro Bowl. And do teams really need two weeks to figure each other out? They’ve spent the whole season having one week or less to prepare for games, why the extra time. More often than not the teams come out rusty and out of sync, having only lightly practiced for two full weeks. It makes sense on the injury front, get as many healthy players for the most important game of the year. But really, it’s a killer for fans.

Anyway, I won’t make my Super Bowl prediction until next week. Might as well spend a few more days convincing myself of one side or the other. Maybe that’s what the extra week is for, giving more people more time to put wagers on the game. Since that is after all, the most influential part of the NFL anyway.

Steelers Will Return to Super Bowl

January 18, 2009


The Steelers battered Joe Flacco and the Ravens tonight and Troy Polamalu’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed Baltimore’s fate as Pittsburgh advances to another Super Bowl, 23-14. The Ravens were hanging in there and driving down the field toward what could have been a game-winning field goal before Polamalu picked Flacco off and weaved his way in for the final score.

Really, Pittsburgh looked like the better team throughout the game. There were a few bonehead plays that kept the score closer than it probably should’ve been with Limus Sweed’s horrible dropped touchdown pass leading the charge. But the Steelers were good enough on offense and tough enough on defense to stifle the Ravens for the third time this year. And they did most of it without Hines Ward who was hurt in the first quarter and did not return.

So now the match-up for Super Bowl XLIII is Arizona and Pittsburgh. There can’t be anyone in America who picked this game for the Super Bowl. I sure as shit didn’t. I’m ashamed that link is even still attached to this site. More analysis to come over the next two weeks.

Somehow, Cardinals are Going to the Super Bowl

January 18, 2009


Ten years before my dad was born the Chicago Cardinals won the NFL Championship. The next year they again reached the NFL title game but lost to the Eagles in a cold and snowy Comiskey Park in Chicago. And that was it, 1947/1948. Sixty years later the Cardinals franchise having moved to both St. Louis and Phoenix are now heading to their first Super Bowl and first title game since that 1948 season. The Cardinals last won their division in 1975 before this year and hadn’t reached the playoffs at all since 1998.

But today, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald connected for three first half touchdowns to put Arizona out to a huge 24-6 lead at halftime. The Eagles came back with several long touchdowns in the second half and took a 25-24 lead in the fourth quarter. Warner led the Cardinals on a seven-minute long drive and Tim Hightower scored the winning touchdown with just minutes left in the game. Arizona was the superior team in the first half, Philadelphia was the superior team in the second. But the Cardinals had just enough in the end to outlast the favored Eagles to advance to their first Super Bowl.

Either Baltimore or Pittsburgh will make for a really interesting match up as the Cardinals are so offensively focused while both AFC squads are primarily focused on defense. But regardless of the match up or outcome, we’ve all got to salute the Cardinals in such an improbable run.

NFL Picks – Conference Championships

January 16, 2009


The Divisional round of the NFL playoffs was much kinder to me than my 0-for in the Wild Card round. I still can’t believe that happened. Anyway, the only game I missed was having the Panthers over the Cardinals, which I think most folks had as well. If there was any other quarterback playing in that game it would’ve been a much different outcome.

Regardless, we sit now with three teams that were not really expected to be this far, the Cardinals, Eagles and Ravens. I like the chances of all four teams actually, I think the match-ups are pretty interesting. But since I can’t say I like every team, here’s what I think:

NFC Championship:
Philadelphia @ Arizona – Cardinals

AFC Championship:
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – Steelers

Mark Sanchez is No Dummy

January 15, 2009


I can promise right now that this will not turn into an NFL draft blog but I thought this was interesting. Mark Sanchez will be leaving Southern Cal for the NFL after his junior year. And why the hell not? No Tebow, no Bradford and no McCoy to contend with in early rounds. Only Matt Stafford will be in competition with Sanchez as the first quarterback to be selected and the reality is that with the cannon of an arm he has, Stafford was going to be ahead anyway. So Sanchez goes from being at best the fourth or fifth QB taken in this draft to probably the second. Smart move. Especially since there seems to be no way, outside of an undefeated season, for Southern Cal to be in the national title picture next year. With power teams coming back in the SEC and Big 12, the PAC 10 will be viewed as too soft (rightly or wrongly).

Anyway, like I said, there won’t be too much more on the NFL draft here but I thought it worth mentioning.

Easy on the Accolades

January 15, 2009

Over the past week or so the mainstream media has fallen in love with the idea that it’s cool to stay in college again now that Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow have all announced their intention to forgo the NFL draft for at least one more season. There have been dozens of articles circulating lauding these guys, Tebow and Bradford in particular (for obvious reasons), for their decision and suggesting, or at the very least wondering if it will start a new trend of guys sticking around. That coupled with Myron Rolle’s decision to fulfill his Rhodes Scholarship and spend a year at Oxford has set the sports media world on fire.

Well I hate to break it to you all but it’s not a trend. Tebow is not going because he has been advised that he wouldn’t be a particularly high draft pick this season. Colt McCoy, same thing. And Bradford was only a sophomore and he really wants to win a national title. Each of these guys had a committee put together to research draft possibilities and contact representatives from NFL teams. So it’s not that innocent and simple a decision and just wanting to stay in school. They all want to stay AT school, but that’s a big difference.

What’s getting a little bit lost in the shuffle is the fact that there are plenty of underclassmen declaring themselves eligible for the draft, including Texas Tech sophomore Michael Crabtree, the now likely top pick (it is the Lions after all). See if you recognize any of these names: Glen Coffee (Alabama), Josh Freeman (Kansas St.), Shonn Greene (Iowa), P.J. Hill (Wisconsin), Ricky Jean-Francois (LSU), LeSean McCoy (Pitt), Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Andre Smith (Alabama), Beanie Wells (Ohio State). Yeah, all of them or at least most of them were premier names in college football this season. And there are at least 31 more underclassmen in this draft. So I wouldn’t say that the trend is swinging toward staying in school. With a lot of non-qualifiers spending an extra year in prep school or guys getting redshirted, there are more sophomores coming out than ever, too.

It is safe to say that any kind words written on behalf of Myron Rolle are probably not enough to describe how great a move he’s making. We always hear the term student-athlete but Rolle was probably more heavy on the front end of that, despite his great talents on the field. He graduated early from high school and finished early at Florida State as well. He’s clearly brilliant and now we know his decision making abilities are just as strong. His story should be the focus of the staying in school articles, not the three quarterbacks.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see those three guys come back. It’s good for the game and obviously good for their respective schools. It’s amazing to have a returning Heisman winner come back to school for the second year in a row and it’s possible that either Bradford or Tebow could win the coveted second trophy. But even that sub-plot aside, I’m glad to see at least some guys stick around. I just wish the mainstream media would quit salivating over guys for doing the right thing. I know it happens rarely these days but let’s not anoint kids as saints because they’re the exception not the rule. The exception is to be a normal, reasonable person. To laud these guys for being good kids is overdoing it a little bit. It’s fine to recognize the good guys but just being a good guy should not be seen a extra special. Though I guess these days, sadly, it is the extreme exception.

Is Kurt Warner a Hall of Famer?

January 14, 2009


On the surface this question sounds ridiculous. Kurt Warner? The former Arena League and World League guy? He’s bounced around a bit, been a place holder for young quarterbacks, etc. But if you really think about his accomplishments, he measures up pretty well against some of the other high profile quarterbacks of this era.

Four-time Pro Bowler.
Two Super Bowl trips with the Rams.
Won a Super Bowl and was Super Bowl MVP.
Two-time NFL league MVP (1999, 2001).
Over 28,000 yards passing.
Career QB rating of 94.

What if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl this year? Three Super Bowl appearances with two different teams? I don’t know if anyone has ever done that before. There aren’t very many guys who have made three Super Bowls period (Montana, Brady, Bradshaw, Tarkenton, Elway, Aikman, Jim Kelly off the top of my head – that’s damn good company). He’ll finish his career with over 30,000 passing yards which would put him in the top-30 all-time and would put him within the company of Troy Aikman, Steve Young and Phil Simms, all HOFers. Not bad considering he was 27 before he even made it to the NFL.

I don’t know if I had a vote if I’d vote for him down the road. There are lots of qualified guys out there. But he could be the quarterback behind one of the greatest offensive teams in NFL history as well as the quarterback behind one of the great Cinderella stories in NFL history. That’s got to count for something, right?

Steelers Beat Chargers, Set Up Brawl with Ravens

January 11, 2009


In cold, snowy Pittsburgh the Steelers beat up on warm weather San Diego in a 35-24 in the AFC Divisional round. That means the second-seeded Steelers will host the sixth-seeded Ravens in the AFC Championship game next weekend for a spot in Super Bowl 43. It is forty-three, right?

Anyway, despite scoring on their very first drive on a long Phil Rivers-Bo Jackson touchdown pass, the Chargers really couldn’t get much of anything going until it was too late. Darren Sproles had a long touchdown reception with less than two minutes to play but the Chargers defense simply couldn’t contain Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.

This sets up what should be a brutal AFC Championship between two hard-hitting teams that genuinely hate each other. They’ve been trading barbs all year with talk of bounties dominating the discussions. As if the Tennessee-Baltimore game wasn’t punishing enough yesterday, next weekend’s game should be intense.

Ultimately I’m glad to see the Chargers out of the mix. I don’t care for the Steelers and really don’t like the Ravens but a team that finished 8-8 should not be in the Super Bowl so I’m glad San Diego won’t get that chance. It also now presents the possibility of an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl between the Eagles and Steelers. Or it could be the all-weird Super Bowl between the Cardinals and Ravens.

Cardinals to Host NFC Title Game

January 11, 2009


Those words have never before been spoken outside of Madden video games and I guess the dreams of Will Leitch. But it’s come true today as the Philadelphia Eagles knocked the New York Giants out of the playoffs at the Meadowlands, 23-11. Eli Manning and the Giants got inside the red zone five times but could only muster three field goals. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb and resurgent Eagles played extremely well in the swirling wind at Giants Stadium and did to the Giants what the Giants did to the Cowboys last year.

So amazingly, the Arizona Cardinals, defeaters of the hapless Carolina Panthers yesterday, will host the Eagles next weekend for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Arizona is one of just a few teams (Jacksonville, Houston, Cleveland) to never even reach a Super Bowl so there could be history made beyond the game simply involving, let alone being hosted by, the Cardinals.

Early lines have the Eagles favored by 2.5 but I’m sure that will change. The Cardinals were pretty good at home this season and definitely have some momentum. But then so do the Eagles who had to win on the last week of the season just to get in and then won road games at Minnesota and now New York. Weather will not be a factor which is definitely a huge boost for the Cardinals, as well as not having to travel back east again, where they struggled all year (until last night). Plus, the extra week off means Anquan Boldin might be back for the Cardinals.

NFL Coaching

January 11, 2009


There are just some guys who make better assistants and coordinators than head coaches. Norv Turner, despite his relative success over the past two years, is a perfect example. The reason I bring this up is that I saw Rod Marinelli, late of the Lions, has been hired by the Bears to be their defensive line coach. That’s great news, as far as I’m concerned. There’s no way Marinelli is as bad a coach as his 0-16 season would indicate, but there is a high chance that he’s just not cut out for the top job, at least at this point. But there is no question he’s a great defensive coach. For ten years, Marinelli was a defensive line coach and assistant head coach with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Clearly he was hired as head coach in Detroit based on those qualifications. So there should be no reason to expect him to be anything but great now that he’s dropping back down the ladder in Chicago.

The best example I can think of to prove this point is Cam Cameron. Last season, Cameron was hired to be the coach of the Miami Dolphins after a successful stint as San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator. Then he went 1-15 with the miserable Dolphins in 2007 and was immediately fired. Well the Baltimore Ravens picked Cameron up as their offensive coordinator when they brought in young head coach John Harbaugh to replace Brian Billick. Cameron has simply returned to his area of expertise and has guided Joe Flacco and the Ravens to the AFC Championship game (and who knows how much further?).

I can’t say I exactly feel bad for guys like Marinelli and Cameron because they do make a ton of money and they’re almost guaranteed to get spots with other organizations as soon as they’re fired. But to have the stigma of 0-16 or 1-15, that sucks. It’s a testament to those guys though that they’re willing to admit they’re just not cut out for the top job and are willing to go back to their position coaching or coordinating and resurrecting their careers.