The Daily Lard 2-8-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Only a week after saying he'd be back with the Ravens in 2012, Ricky Williams announced his (second) retirement from the NFL yesterday; he attributed the decision to his own self-reflection after having received a text message from Bill Parcells which read, "Don't chase this thing too long. You can contribute in other ways."

The first time Williams retired was just days before the start of Dolphins training camp in 2004, when it was rumored he had had a third positive drug test and would be ineligible for the season anyway. After coming out of retirement in 2005 and playing that season for the Dolphins, Williams had another positive drug test and was suspended for the 2006 season, which he instead spent in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. Williams returned to the Dolphins the next year but suffered a season-ending injury during his first game back.

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Ten Worst Moves of 2011: #9 - The Duke takes on Twitter

(Note: This is the second in an Epic a mini ten-part series on the Worst Moves of 2011; We'll also be doing a ten-part mini on the Ten Best Moves of 2011.  If you want to see #10: Trading Jabar Gaffney, click here.)

Social media--it's all the rage.  Like a moth to a flame (or an illiterate with an eye piercing to a bag of K2), corporations are flinging themselves headlong into the space with little thought of the results of their actions.  The recent McDonald's Chicken McNuggets Twitter disaster is just one example.

The Denver Broncos' foray into social media, while not a meltdown of epic proportions, was certainly fraught with its share of missteps.  And that's why John Elway's venture into Twitter is #9 on our list of the Ten Worst Moves of 2011.

After the regime of Josh McDaniels, in which nothing was given, contact was limited to only one Napoleonic figure, and misinformation was as highly prized as the real McCoy, the Broncos felt like social media was an opportunity to reconnect with fans and present a kinder, gentler organization.  In fact, Jim Saccomano, Vice President of Kool-Aid Public Relations, tweeted in September of 2011: "Level of availability to press by coach Fox, John Elway, and personnel people unmatched in recent Denver seasons."

That sounds downright neighborly.  And you can hardly blame the Broncos. McDaniels might have been headed down the path of Scott Pioli for all we know, and with Brian Xanders so afraid to express his desire to draft Clay Matthews, he might have gone into a shell.

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The Daily Lard 2-7-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Mike Klis thinks veteran QBs won't shy away from Tebowmania because they all probably think/know they can beat Tim in a fair QB competition, and he puzzlingly posits that, "The only way the Broncos reach the Super Bowl within the next three years is if Tebow leads them." Three years, really?

According to Klis, Jack Del Rio has a two-year contract (not sure we knew that prior), and he suggests that even if Del Rio leaves after a year for another HC gig, perhaps a revolving door at DC won't be as big a deal under John Fox as it was with Shanny and McDaniels. I'll buy that.

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Ten things I learned from the Super Bowl

1. Giants fans were fooled by randomness.  The Giants had three fumbles - one was negated by penalty, and they recovered the other two.  As we all know, fumbling is not random, but fumble recovery is.  If any of those fumbles goes the other direction, the Patriots win this game.  History's winners write the narrative, however, so all you need to know is that Eli Manning is a winner and so is Tom Coughlin.  And technically, that's true.

2. Field position matters.  The starting field position for the Giants yesterday was 25-yard line.  The average for the Patriots was the 16-yard line.  That eight yards may not seem like a lot, and it is a small sample size, but from an Expected Points Value (EPV), it's meaningful.  The difference in EPV from the two numbers is 3.87 points alone in a game that ended 21-17.  No, it's not direct causation, just another way of saying where you start your drive matters--a lot.

3. Gunslingers are still important.  Watching Manning and Brady sling the ball all over the field in multiple wide receiver sets while progressing through two and three reads in the pocket was impressive, and it demonstrates again the importance of having a quarterback who can make like Devo--that is to say, whip it.  Did I mention Tim Tebow?   Do I have to?

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The Daily Lard 2-6-12

Welcome to the offseason, Broncos fans! For the second time in five seasons, the Giants took down the favored Patriots in the Super Bowl - this time 21-17 for their fourth SB title, all of which have come in the past 26 seasons. Eli Manning again earned SB MVP honors with a late fourth-quarter drive; it started with an exceptional throw and catch to Mario Manningham and ended with the Patriots intentionally allowing (ala the Packers in SB 32) Ahmad Bradshaw to score a TD he tried not to score. But momentum carried Bradshaw into the end zone, leaving Tom Brady and the Pats 57 seconds left to score a TD, and the game ended with a Hail Mary pass that ended up being a bit closer than anyone likely expected it to be.

The Manningham catch would easily be the longest play of the game, and arguably the most important one. From New England's perspective, the game turned just 20 seconds prior on a dropped pass by Wes Welker just outside the Giants 20-yard line. As Brian Burke details, there were few big plays and the game overall was rather unexciting for one with such a close result. This marks the NFC's third straight SB win, and the Giants are the first 9-7 team to take the title; the 2010 Packers, 1988 Niners, and 2007 Giants are the only 10-6 champs. 19 regular season wins in two SB-winning seasons - seven fewer than the '97-'98 Broncos tallied.

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Open Thread - Super Bowl 46

Enjoy the game, everyone! 

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The Daily Lard 2-5-12

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, Broncos fans! The NFL hosted their first ever awards show last night - Aaron Rodgers was named league MVP, Drew Brees took Offensive POY, Terrell Suggs the Defensive POY, Jim Harbaugh the Coach of the Year, and Matthew Stafford was named Comeback POY. Of course, Von Miller took DROY and Cam Newton was his offensive counterpart.

Meanwhile, six players were named to the Pro Football HOF yesterday: Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Curtis Martin and two AFC West stars - Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf. Did any of these players perform on a level different than that of Terrell Davis and Steve Atwater? I think not.

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Von Miller named Defensive Rookie of the Year

Von Miller's dominant season earned him the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year award in a vote that wasn't nearly as close as expected. Miller took 39 of the 50 votes, while Niners DE Aldon Smith received the other 11 votes. Drafted second overall out of Texas A&M, Miller was credited with 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles, four passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.

But Von wasn't just exceptional relative to his rookie status - PFF rated him the best linebacker in all of football. His 50.3 overall rating nearly doubled the next best 4-3 OLB (Daryl Smith, 27.6) and easily beat the second best overall linebacker (Cameron Wake, 43.4). PFF also credited Miller with 12 sacks, 19 QB hits, 29 pressures, and 41 stops to go with zero missed tackles.

Sometimes these writer voted awards are popularity contests (like the HOF votes which were just announced), but they got this one right. Congratulations, Von!

The Daily Lard 2-4-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Two more groups of ex-players have filed suit against the NFL regarding its handling of head injuries, including HOFer Leroy Kelly, former Broncos first-round pick Ashley Lelie and perhaps most interestingly, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. At some point, Baldinger is going to speak up about his experiences, and the NFL and their network are going to have a delicate situation on their hands.

In related news, the Sports Legacy Institute, which is led by Chris Nowinksi and collaborates with Boston University in studying the effects of CTE, is suggesting that the number of blows to the head suffered by youth football players be tracked. Says Nowinski:

We have to find a solution for the children, who are most at risk, and the guidelines will help us get there...We have to recognize the (physiological) differences. They're not little men, they're children.

We'll have to have the guts to put down a number on paper and say, 'This is a rational goal. This is what kids should be under.'

We're not anti-football. But we are pro-child.

Thurday's AP article which focused on players' injuries recalled for Times Op-Ed writer Joe Nocera an article written 36 years ago by Clark Booth - as Nocera tells it, that piece was the first to honestly address the long-term health consequences facing players. Former Cowboys TE Jean Fugett talks of crying when his own son accepted a football scholarship, and he suggests that tackle football not be played before high school.

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The Daily Lard 2-3-12

Happy Friday Broncos fans! Several notable ex-players who are suing the league for its handling of head injuries during their careers spoke to the AP about their experiences. Among them was former Broncos RB Tony Dorsett, who rightly thinks the league should provide retirement healthcare for players:

"Yeah, I understand you paid me to do this, but still yet, I put my life on the line for you, I put my health on the line," Dorsett says. "And yet when the time comes, you turn your back on me? That's not right. That's not the American way."

"They were hitting me, and I'd be squealing like a pig," Dorsett says, imitating the guttural sound. "It was so bad that the other team was telling our coaches, 'Get him out of the game.' You know that something's wrong then. And like a fool, I stayed as long as I could. They're going to our sideline, telling our coaches, 'Get him out of the game!' ... You know it's bad when the opposition feels sorry for you."

"The owners need to own up to it, own up to what the game does to human lives. There's a zillion football players in the same situation with their brains, their backs, their knees. Come on. They just need to own up to it, and do something about it. They've got money they can put in funds to take care of guys when they need to help," Dorsett says. "We need health insurance for life. Paid by the NFL. No question in my mind, we definitely need that."

"They use you up. No matter what the circumstances are, it's all about winning games, football games, regardless. And they don't care, because they figure, you know, 'We got, you know, replacement factories,' which are colleges. And there's going to be somebody else to eventually come along and fill that void," he says. "So they just put you out there, and feed you to the wolves. And if you make it through, fine. If you don't, that's fine.

Dorsett frames the NFL's reluctance to care for its ex-players as being un-American. But that's too narrow a point, for this is not about American values. It's about humanity.

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