You Got Served - Football and nutjobbery

Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to another edition of You Got Served.  I’m excited, aren’t you?  We have some football to discuss, as well as some deep exploration of my use of the word “nutjob” on Friday, which got some people upset.  Along with that, I’ll have some expanded thoughts about the Tebow media environment, and why I believe that my comment is justified.  Beyond that, it’s a surprise.  Buckle your chinstraps, because this is going to be a full-contact Tuesday.  Ready…. BEGIN!!!

1.  There was a lot of excellent analysis by TJ, Doug, and Doc on Saturday’s game, and I don’t really have a lot to add to it that hasn’t already been said.  I decided to take a run at putting together a 53-man roster, since we’re now heading into the fourth preseason game, and a lot of the bottom 45 guys on the roster are going to be trying to get off the cut list with a big play here or there, ala Shannon Sharpe’s story.

The list that I’ve compiled represents the 53 best players that I’ve seen this preseason, plus Demaryius Thomas, who’s going to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.  It includes certain assumptions about the numbers of players that the Broncos will keep at each position, which follow immediately here.

Position Number
QB 3
RB 4
FB 1
WR 5
TE 4
OL 8
DL 9
LB 6
DB 10
ST 3
Total 53

There is some flexibility there, especially at the WR, TE, OL, LB, and DB positions, based upon who plays special teams.  My specific Broncos roster, if I was picking it, follows in depth-chart form:

Position 1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team Other
QB Kyle Orton Tim Tebow Brady Quinn  
RB Knowshon Moreno Willis McGahee Lance Ball Jeremiah Johnson
FB Spencer Larsen      
WR Brandon Lloyd Eric Decker David Anderson Demaryius Thomas
WR Eddie Royal Matthew Willis    
TE Daniel Fells Julius Thomas Dante Rosario Virgil Green
LT Ryan Clady Chris Clark    
LG Zane Beadles Russ Hochstein    
C J.D. Walton Eric Olsen    
RG Chris Kuper      
RT Orlando Franklin      
         
LE Robert Ayers Derrick Harvey    
NT Brodrick Bunkley Kevin Vickerson    
DT Marcus Thomas Jeremy Jarmon Ty Warren  
RE Elvis Dumervil Jason Hunter    
SLB Von Miller Mario Haggan    
MLB Joe Mays Nate Irving    
WLB D.J. Williams Wesley Woodyard    
CB Champ Bailey Cassius Vaughn Syd'Quan Thompson  
CB Andre' Goodman Perrish Cox    
FS Rahim Moore David Bruton    
SS Brian Dawkins Kyle McCarthy Quinton Carter  
         
K Matt Prater      
P Britton Colquitt      
LS Lonie Paxton      

Some points of discussion:

a.  I consider Larsen, Willis, Anderson, Green, Haggan, Irving, Vaughn, Thompson, Cox, Bruton, McCarthy, and Carter to be the core special teams guys.  That’s 12 good athletes who can play in the kicking game, and I’m leaving out Decker, Woodyard, and Mays, who I expect to play a lot on offense and defense, but who have played significant snaps on teams before.  Trust me, there are plenty of good bodies available here.

b.  The last five guys who made it are (in order): Clark, Thompson, Rosario, Green, and Johnson.  The last cut was Mike Mohamed, who I just don’t think is as good a player as Haggan, and who can obviously be placed on the Practice Squad.  You don’t like to cut a draft pick and expose him to being claimed, but he’s a sixth-rounder, and sunk costs are irrelevant to the decisions we face today.

c.  I’m tentatively considering Ty Warren a keeper, but I think that if a quality DT gets cut by anybody else,  it may be a smarter move to put Warren on IR, and pick up that guy.

d.  I’d feel a lot better with a better swing Tackle than Chris Clark.  Chances are that one becomes available soon, and I hope the Broncos pick him up.

e.  My preferred return guys are Vaughn on kickoffs and Thompson on punts.  I’d really like to not see Eddie Royal or Eric Decker returning any kicks this season.

f.  Finally, today I’m celebrating - because the Broncos cut Nate Jones on Monday.  I thought he was the worst player on the 90-man roster during the preseason, and he gave me flashbacks to Calvin Lowry and Marquand Manuel.  I liked Braxton Kelley a lot against Dallas, but I didn’t see much from him in the next two games, so I’m not really surprised to see him go, although I think he showed the most of the players who were cut.

What do you think?  Am I cutting anybody who should be on the team?

2.  Speaking of kickoff returns, I think that all of the hand-wringing about the rule change is a bit misplaced.  I haven’t seen the Broncos do it, and they may prefer to be more conservative than this, but what several teams have been doing is having their return guy align 5-7 yards deep in the end zone, and if they can catch the ball at that depth, or even better, shallower than that with a running start, then they’re coaching their players to bring the ball out. 

If they get tackled at the 15, oh well; that’s not on the return guy, unless it happens so often that it’s clear that the guy has a lack of ability to make the strategy work, in which case, he wouldn’t have been good enough under the old rules anyway.  Coaches are still going to try to let their great players make plays, even if the math becomes a little riskier.

For what it’s worth, I think the more important rule change, vis-à-vis player safety, is the one that mandates that kickoff coverage players have to start with at least one foot on the yard line five yards behind the kickoff point, which will be the 30, except when there’s a penalty.  By mandating that coverage players don’t take a 10-15 yard running start, the NFL is going to do more to minimize injuries (by lessening the force of some of the initial hits, in an f=ma sense) than they are by moving the kickoff point to the 35.  Actually, I think that the right answer overall is to move kickoffs back to the 30, and make coverage players start on the 30 with no running start whatsoever.  I think that that strikes the best balance between safety and excitement.

3.  And then there’s the whole nutjob thing, which needs to be addressed in detail.  I’d like to tell you a story.  Whenever I publish an article on this site, I write it in Word, and then enter it and format it in our editor, and then I let Doug know that it’s posted, and ready for him to edit.  He doesn’t usually change much except for swapping in a hyphen here or there for one of my dozens of commas, or finding an incomplete sentence that I accidentally left while bouncing around, and editing the content.  Once it’s gone through Doug’s editing process, the post goes live, and then the fun starts.

Last Friday, coincidentally, I had a sentence that Doug thought might unintentionally be offensive to some people, and he suggested that we change it.  It had to do with my knowledge of cosmetics as a straight man, and let’s say that it had the potential to have been taken in a way that I didn’t mean for it to be taken.  I agreed with Doug’s proposed change, we changed it, and the article went live shortly thereafter.

There was no proposed change to my comment about fringe Christian nutjobs, because Doug, TJ, and I have all discussed the fact that we’re not really thrilled with the group of them who are purporting to be Broncos fans, while really just being Tebow zealots.  Make no mistake, there are a lot of these crazy people out there, and they are negatively affecting the team that we all root for, and the way that the media covers it.

Now, I’m not calling all religious people crazy; far from it, actually.  One of our consistently good commenters had an outstanding point on Friday:

5. Gristle McThornbody Aug 26, 2011 1:42 PM

“There are a lot of people out there….”

That’s a stretch, IMO.  From what I’ve seen/heard, everyone who I know who shares his faith (I’m one of them) doesn’t think he has some divine right to be the Broncos QB.  We see it as a cool, extra little “plus” if you will.  It’s a chance for him to get extra exposure as a positive role model for a change.

I don’t personally think that “a lot” is a stretch, but I agree to disagree, and otherwise, I couldn’t agree more that that’s how the majority of mainstream Christians probably think.  It’s a very reasonable thought and comment, and I compare it to the fact that I’m a Florida Gators fan who appreciates the fact that Tebow played a big part in winning two national championships for UF.  We all like to see somebody who is part of what we’re part of do well.  We can relate to them, and we’re happy for them.  There’s nothing in the world wrong with that.  (Sort of like white people relating to Peyton Hillis.)

There is a certain lunatic Christian fringe in this country, though, and I don’t ever want to treat my readers like they can’t handle that (or any other) truth.  Did you hear the one about the people that want to create an Atheist Registry, modeled on the various sex offender registries?  They want to gather information on atheists, and purported atheists, seemingly for the express purpose of harassing them.  How about the kind of domestic terrorists who assassinate abortion providers?  Not yet sold?  How about the horrible people from the Westboro Baptist Church who protest at the funerals of service members who were killed serving their country?  How about just the average everyday crazy people who willfully ignore science, and come up with their own theories in its place?  (Real-life example:  Acne is God’s way of making teenagers ugly so that they won’t have sex with each other.)

I’m not a Christian, but if I were, I certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with those kinds of crazy people.  I would actually want everybody to be aware of the distinction between mainstream Christians, who are often a force for good in the world, and the fringe ones whose actions and attitudes have the potential to cast aspersion upon everybody who calls themselves a Christian.

I am a believer in Tim Tebow the football player - and I have been very publicly for years - even well before the Broncos drafted him.  I mentioned this on Friday, but I personally don’t give a crap about Tebow’s religion.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think Tebow’s religious commentary or public behavior is out-of-bounds, and I saw no problem with the content of his Super Bowl ad, even though I don’t personally believe in any of the policy positions espoused by Focus on the Family, which (for other reasons), the Southern Poverty Law Center actually classifies as a hate group.

I am uncomfortable with the prevailing media notion that Tebow needs to have his game constantly shredded because he has much greater fan support and marketability than his NFL accomplishments warrant.  It’s true that he hasn’t earned all of the love that he gets yet, but that doesn’t make tearing him down, and not giving him a real opportunity to prove himself fair.  He hasn’t yet succeeded, but he hasn’t failed either.  He hasn’t had time to definitively do either thing, but what he has done has been much more positive than negative, and the narrative seems to be that it is the other way around.

The media backlash against Tebow is very cynical, because it’s quite transparently being driven by the fact that it elicits a huge backlash from Tebow’s legions of devoted fans.  The loudest members of those legions are the nutjobs that I was talking about.  The MSM rolls their eyes at those people, then they laugh at them for being such suckers, and they repeat the cycle - because they know that true believers don’t/can’t do anything but believe what they believe, and that most of them are conditioned to unendingly harass everybody else who doesn’t agree with them.  The fervor in the backlash from the most ardent fans doesn’t diminish at all, no matter how many times the cycle replays, and the rhetoric just stays high.  The website’s pageviews climb, and the average number of minutes spent watching ESPNEWS increases.

Do you want a practical example of how this stuff poisons the discussion?  I’m glad you asked.  Last Tuesday afternoon, there was a radio show on Sirius XM NFL Radio called The Afternoon Blitz.  It was hosted by the New York-based Adam Schein and the Michigan-based Jim Miller.  Miller (who was never as good a football player as Tebow is right now) apparently got into a little groove ripping Timmy - and right as he finished up, there was an earthquake in Virginia that shook Schein’s building in Manhattan, and actually also was felt as far as my office building in downtown Cleveland.  (I was working from home in Westlake, 15 miles west of downtown and didn’t feel it, but a lot of people I know did.)  Schein felt the quake while live on the air, and he eventually says “Mills, you rip Tim Tebow, and then there’s an earthquake.  Now we know the power of Tebow.”

That’s obviously a joke by Schein, but the fact that it’s even said reminds us that the appearance of religious nutjobbery is attached to the guy.  By the way, I didn’t hear that bit live; I actually caught it as a promo for the show a couple days later.  To Sirius, that’s a great moment in recent radio history.  To me, it’s sad; it tells me that this kid isn’t likely to ever be able to be evaluated or understood as just another football player, and that’s highly unfair to him.

Read this typical pile of stupid from Rick Reilly who says that all of the criticism isn’t because Tebow is Christian.  Of course it is, you idiot.  It’s not happening because the national media is anti-Christian, that's true; it’s happening because the media wants to inflame Christians, especially the zealots, because there’s money in it.  I don’t really care that Reilly is wrong, because that’s par for the course with him, but again, why is this part of the mainstream conversation about a football player?  These are guys with huge platforms putting it there; I’m a guy with a relatively small platform, to which this is all directly germane, and I'm reacting to it.

Think about it like this - just like a reasonable Christian who wants you to know that he’s nothing like those Westboro monsters, I want everybody to know that not everybody who believes in Tim Tebow is a crazy person.  There’s a really important distinction to be made, because it’s possible for sane people to be drowned out.  Frankly, in the 10-second soundbite-driven discourse of the current era, we often are.

I called myself “rational” in the comments on Friday, and some people objected to the notion that I could possibly self-identify that way, so let me explain.  What I mean by that is that I approach everything I do and everything I think about in a dynamic and analytical way.  Nothing whatsoever is permanently settled, and everything is subject to change, because on planet Earth things change all the time.  I believe that people believe what they tell me (meaning that I don’t think everybody is dishonest), but I’m always going to decide for myself.

Now, as to the specifics of Friday, I’m not going to even try to sugarcoat this; some of you just need to lighten up.  The fact that there are religious nutjobs who irrationally see Tebow as God’s Quarterback is not controversial in the least.  We all know that they exist, and being too polite (or politically correct) to mention them enables them to be crazy with impunity. In this case, it enables ESPN to exploit them - and by extension make being a Broncos fan, player, or coach more difficult.  (I’m not saying that that’s expressly their intention, but we’re collateral damage to their profit drive.)

The sentence that I wrote on Friday, if you read it in total, was obviously meant as a joke.

Picture a right-handed QB (yes, even you Tebow-as-the-second-coming-of-Christ nutjobs).

If you’ve ever read my writing, you should know that.  Unfortunately, though, some of you seem to have gotten so sensitive to every word I say (and I say thousands) that I’ve had to sometimes deal with a bunch of off-topic comments about a joking or offhand sentence here or there, which was not at all core to the point of the article.

You say I should stop insulting people; I say that you should stop being so easily insulted, especially on behalf of others, who you should probably let speak up for themselves.  These poor little oppressed nutjobs can’t protect themselves!  The horror!  By the way, the word nutjob, or variants thereof, is not some verboten term in sports commentary.  Just Monday, I read a column by ESPN.com’s Pat Forde (kind of a dumbass know-nothing Broncos fan, actually) who correctly called the guy who poisoned the trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner a wackjob.  I applaud Pat for not being afraid to call a spade a spade.

Here’s the bottom damn line.  You read me because I see, think, and speak truth to power about football, in a way that nobody else does.  Some of you struggle with reading me because I don’t (and can’t) turn that part of myself off when it comes to other topics, and it sometimes trickles into my narratives.  I’m not sorry about that.  It’s not for me to figure out how you can agree with me about football, and not about something else.  Frankly, I don’t care.  I’m in the saying what I think business, and not the agreeing or arguing business.  I’ll just tell you that it’s the same mind that’s coming to all of the answers that I come to.

I’ve intentionally toned down some of my rhetorical flourishes over the past year or so, partly because I’ve gotten older, but mostly because some people have proven not to be able to get the joke, and I eventually got tired of the “You’re so arrogant” nonsense.  That accusation hasn’t really stopped when I occasionally read comments made elsewhere about myself, because people seem to read what they want to read, regardless of what I write.  This self-censorship has frankly made doing this less fun for me than it used to be, but for now, at least, I’m tolerating that.

I’m not going one inch further with self-censorship than I already go, however.  Occasionally it will cost me a reader who I like personally, even though I don’t think I was ultimately talking about him.  Other times, it will get me patronizing and stupid comments from a reader who I decided a while ago isn’t worthy of my attention, so he hilariously speaks into the telephone like a guy who doesn’t realize that he’s dead to me, like Roger Van Zant in Heat.  And then, I’ll get some criticism from others who deliver it respectfully and who aren’t constantly bitching at me every time I write, and who may disagree with something specific that I said on a given day.  I don’t mind that kind at all.  In all cases, it will be what it will be.  I’m confident that I understand most of you; I’ll keep working at it where I don’t, and I hope all of you understand me. 

4.  Here are some young players from around the NFL who have stood out to me so far, with the caveat that I haven’t seen every team play.

Tyrod Taylor - QB Baltimore - I’ve been complimentary of Taylor in the past, and he’s making me look smart.  (I love it when players do that.)  Taylor isn’t too far off from his fellow Hokie Michael Vick in terms of talent, and he’s looked so good this preseason that the Ravens have already named him the primary backup to Joe Flacco as a sixth-round rookie.  Flacco had better be on his game, because Taylor is going to be a good starter in the NFL, whether it be in Baltimore or elsewhere after being sold off to some other team that has a QB need.

Dion Lewis - RB Philadelphia - This is a classic case of a guy who was a really good player in college but fell through the cracks on Draft day due to average measurables.  He looks really good on the field, and I think he’s a perfect complement to LeSean McCoy for the Eagles.

Greg Little - WR Cleveland - The Browns bought low on Little, because he missed his last season at North Carolina for disciplinary reasons. But he has the ability to be a #1 receiver, especially in a West Coast scheme.  The Browns are running the purest version of that scheme in the NFL, and I expect that Little will be the primary guy before midseason.

Eric Wood - C Buffalo - I think Wood has looked better at Center than he ever has at Guard.  It’s just a function of him being back at his natural position, along with the kind of growth that most young players experience.  I don’t think he’ll be a great Center, but he’s a quality starter there, and that makes him about the only one that Buffalo has up front.

Michael Bennett - DE Tampa Bay - Bennett is a third-year player who I’ve never noticed before, but who really jumped out at me in watching a bit of the Tampa-Miami game.  Bennett is apparently holding off Da’Quan Bowers at LDE, and Bowers has looked good as well.

Cedric McKinley - DE Minnesota - I like the way this guy hustles and can rush the passer inside and out.  He may not make the team, as I don’t know how else the rest of his performance has been, but he really flashed something to me against the Cowboys.

Akeem Ayers - OLB Tennessee - I think that Ayers is a poor man’s Kamerion Wimbley, as a Sam LB that can be used frequently as a blitzer.  Draftniks saw this guy strictly as a 3-4 player, but mostly those people lack the schematic knowledge to realize that a creative defensive coach can use good players in non-monolithic ways.

Joe Haden - CB Cleveland - I saw Haden in person 11 days ago against Detroit, and he did a really good job - especially when matched up against Calvin Johnson, who didn’t have a catch in the game.  This isn’t out of left field, since Haden was good as a rookie, but I think he’s got a big leap coming this year, and we’ll see him at the elite level.

Major Wright - FS Chicago - I’ve been a big fan of Wright since he was a freshman starter at Florida.  He was solid as a rookie last season for the Bears and continued to show that he has the kind of natural ability and instincts to fake it until he makes it.  I expect solid improvement in his sophomore NFL year, like I saw in his sophomore year of college.

5.  So, guess what time it is?  It’s time for my annual diatribe about why Fantasy Football sucks.  Yay!  This year, there’s a twist, because I actually agreed to play in a league.  It’s an IAOFM vs. MHR league, and I got convinced to help beat down Tim “The Self-Proclaimed Fantasy Expert” Lynch and his merry band of MHR dudes.  My team name is Self-Flagellation for the Homie Jesus. 

I know what you’re thinking; that name is so Ted.  Yes, yes it is, and I can’t even tell you the joke behind it without deeply hurting a delicate person.  I’ve turned over a new leaf, and I don’t hurt anybody’s feelings anymore.  You know what just occurred to me?  If it’s a new leaf, why would you turn it over?  Both sides would be new to you, so what’s the difference?  I don’t feel that great about using that axiom, all of a sudden.

So anyway, I spent no time at all preparing for this Draft on Sunday, and I still came away with a good team on paper.  I won’t bore you with the details, because I hate it when writers do that.  Here are some reasons why fantasy football sucks:

a.  It  values players and statistics which aren’t of particularly high value in real football.  People come to think that these players are better than they are.

b.  Everybody is working from the same information, from the same writers and talking heads, and it’s not actually any kind of indication of who is smart or knows football.  Who had good injury luck?  That’s pretty much the story.

c.  Fans now often care more about fantasy statistics than they do about outcomes of football games, which has essentially turned real football into a vehicle for a different game that people actually like more.  This has to scare the NFL like the Tea Party scares establishment Republicans; you’re happy for the participation and enthusiasm to a point, but there’s a real danger that what’s important to you gets away from you. 

d.  It’s engendered the rise of complete dorks like Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, and Michael Fabiano, and made it so that a fan of real football has to dodge or wade through their ridiculous drivel.  These guys must laugh every night while thinking of all the wedgies they got in high school.  I’M AN EXPERT, YOU JERKS!

e.  Speaking of those dorks, the name Fantasy Football has always disturbed me.  I don’t want to think about fantasies in regards to football.  I want to think about football in regards to football.  I certainly don’t want to participate in a group game with a lot of these Karabell-type people, where I have to hear them say the word Fantasy and wonder, for a split second, if this lame game really is their ultimate fantasy.

That’s all I have for today, friends.  I don’t suspect that I’ll have a huge article for Friday since I’d normally write it on Thursday night, and the game will be going on then, so I’ll be busy.  We’ll see if I can create something short between now and then.  Have a nice week.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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