Tag Archive | "Minnesota Vikings"

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Chapter 2: High Standards, Low Profile of Steve Bisciotti

Posted on 13 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“Steve (Bisciotti) is straightforward and that makes it easy. He’s not a prima donna. He’s direct. He’s upfront. If there’s something he doesn’t like, he tells you. If he feels strongly about something, he tells you. There’s no secret agenda. There’s nothing you have to discover. Steve is a great believer in direct communication and he runs the business that way.”

— Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass (March 2013)

 

IN MANY CITIES IN AMERICA the owners of sports franchises can still somehow stay or hide in the shadow of their local investment and create nary a stir when they enter a room. Being anonymous has its privileges and benefits, a thought Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti would certainly echo. But in Baltimore, where the owners of the local professional teams have been true newsmakers and iconoclasts for the better part of a half a century, owning the NFL franchise that a community treats like family or a personal treasure can be like carrying the collective weight of the civic mood on your shoulders.

Bisciotti did his best to remain a private citizen after taking over the Ravens from Arthur B. Modell in early 2004, but you can’t be invested in the most significant sports soap opera in the community and stand at the top of the pyramid making the most important decisions for the fan base without becoming a public figure of the highest order.

If you are a sports fan from Baltimore, Maryland, you have endured your fair share of abuse. In the 1970’s, the Baltimore Bullets were dragged down I-95 to the Washington suburbs by owner Abe Pollin, professional hockey went into hibernation with the Clippers and there were strong whispers of the Orioles going to D.C. to replace the departed Washington Senators. It got no better in the 1980’s. There was always the ominous and omnipresent shadow of Robert Irsay, the man who acquired the Baltimore Colts from Carroll Rosenbloom in a swap for the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 and later moved them to Indianapolis in a convoy of Mayflower moving trucks in the middle of a snowy, teary night for the Charm City on March 28, 1984 after a decade of tyranny and threats to the community of the inevitable move.

Since the turn of the century, both the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles fan bases’ have been tormented and tortured by disastrous moves on the field and big moves downward in the standings since the involvement of Daniel Snyder and Peter G. Angelos have fallen upon the I-95 corridor. These two have shined a bright light on what can go wrong when poor decisions are consistently being made from the top of the organization and how quickly decades of support for enduring brands can erode and deteriorate when fans and customers smell the stench of poor ownership.

The reality in the 21st century is that with the scarcity of teams available and the cost of buying a sports franchise for hundreds of millions of dollars, no one wants to pony up the kind of money to be an owner without having a strong desire to be heavily involved in strategy and a strong desire to win – whether it’s on the field or at the cash register. Many of these thrill seekers have lacked proper training, background and the feel for sports ownership especially with such a public light illuminating every decision that is made in real time on the internet. What sounds like fun in the beginning becomes an albatross and a public nuisance once it becomes apparent how specialized each league, sport and business is from an ownership standpoint.

It was no secret that Art Modell was struggling financially in Cleveland and those ghosts of burgeoning debt followed him east to Baltimore in 1996. By 1999, the NFL and his debtors with the banks demanded that he find a partner to buy the team and help him find the exit door with the class and dignity that his departure from Cleveland clearly lacked.

The same man who found Modell in Cleveland and brokered the deal for the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore in the Fall of 1995 was the same man who found a buyer four years later: local attorney and sports franchise expert John Moag. After Modell made the move to Baltimore, Moag became a trusted confidant and had all of the institutional knowledge that would be necessary to assist in finding a new owner for the Baltimore Ravens.

Moag knew Bisciotti and was privy to most of Modell’s financial struggles. The rest is history.

By any account, Steve Bisciotti is a sports nut. He’s long been a fiercely loyal University of Maryland supporter, close confidant of legendary Terps basketball head coach Gary Williams and a Ravens and Orioles season ticket holder at the time. At worst, he would’ve been a very educated sports radio talk show caller before he got involved in the purchase the Baltimore Ravens in 1999.

Bisciotti, born April 10, 1960 in Philadelphia, came to the Severna Park area of Anne Arundel County in 1961 when Bernard and Patricia Bisciotti moved from Philadelphia for Bernard’s new sales executive job. He was 8 years old when the Colts lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets. He was a huge Paul Blair fan during the heyday of the Earl Weaver-led Orioles in his adolescence. He journeyed with his friends up Richie Highway to Memorial Stadium in the 1970’s and loved the Bert Jones-era of the “Shake and Bake” Colts.

Bisciotti’s father died of leukemia when he was in elementary school leaving his sports-crazed widowed mother, who raised him by preaching faith, hard work, determination and manners. Nicknamed “Shots” by his college pals at Salisbury State, where he earned a Liberal Arts degree, Bisciotti became obsessed with making enough money by the age of 35 so that his wife and kids wouldn’t have to work if his father’s fate befell him. He had the early jobs of a kid who worked hard and learned the world: pumping gas, mowing lawns, and building piers in Anne Arundel County, where he graduated from Severna Park High School. He founded a staffing firm called Aerotek in his basement with $3,500 of seed money at age 23 during the Colts final season in Baltimore. He now owns a massive stake in Allegis

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Wacky finish…yes, referee aided…yes — but Ravens saved their season on Sunday

Posted on 08 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Championship teams figure out a way to win those games like the one the Ravens stole from the Vikings on Sunday in snowy Baltimore.

Bad teams like the Vikings – whose star player might have thrown in the towel in the 2nd quarter – produce all kinds of comical ways to lose in a 16-game season.  They’ll never author a laugher quite as side-splitting as the one they choked away on Sunday in a 29-26 loss to the Ravens.

The Ravens improved to 7-6 on the season and remained firmly in the AFC playoff race by pulling off a miracle — not once, but twice — at M&T Bank Stadium, getting great assistance from the referees along the way in one of those “better to be lucky than good” kind of outcomes.  The refs somehow upheld an early fumble by Minnesota that clearly wasn’t a fumble to anyone with eyes and then, on the game’s final drive, a pass interference penalty that was certainly ticky-tack went Baltimore’s way, paving a snowy path to the end zone with four ticks left on the clock.

It wasn’t just a miracle.  It was a season-saver, potentially.

If the Ravens somehow wiggle their way into post-season and then beat a team or two in January to earn a trip to the AFC title game, they’ll look back at the final minute of the game against the Vikings and say, “We were dead…the season was over…but we didn’t give up.  And something good happened.”

That something good was their $60 million quarterback, who refused to give in late in the 4th quarter when the Ravens looked all but cooked after a Minnesota TD put them up 12-7.

Flacco led the Ravens downfield late in the contest and connected with long-lost pal Dennis Pitta on a 1-yard TD throw that everyone ASSUMED would be good enough for the win.

But, the Vikings connected on a TD of their own, then Jacoby Jones ran the ensuing kick-off back while the Minnesota kicker played two-hand touch with him along the sidelines.

Over now, right?

Wrong.

Cordarrelle Patterson burned the entire Ravens defensive backfield with a catch and run that gave the visitors yet another lead.

Then, it was up to Flacco to earn his money.

And, he did.

Granted, the Ravens got a fairly soft pass interference call on an interception that would have sealed the game, but no one said the referees were flawless.

With four seconds left, the Super Bowl MVP found Marlon Brown in the end zone and the Ravens were winners.

Somehow.

They didn’t deserve it, honestly.

Anyone watching the game would admit they were vastly outplayed by the Vikings.

The Baltimore defense got shredded like cheese in the prep room at Chipotle in the final two minutes.

But, these games reveal a team’s character.

The Ravens have heart.  They showed that a few weeks back against Cincinnati and again on Thanksgiving night when the Steelers came to town and left with their feelings hurt.

The Vikings have nothing under the hood.  When you give up three touchdowns in the final two minutes of a football game, you’re a choker, plain and simple.

Speaking of “nothing under the hood”, I saw the replay about five times while I was in the press box and then again another ten times on the DVR when I got home from the game and I don’t see how Adrian Peterson got injured that seriously in the second quarter.  He looked a lot like an Italian soccer player rolling around on the ground and grabbing his leg.  I’m not saying he threw in the towel — but it might have been an underhanded toss, at the very least.  He looked disinterested all game, if you ask me.

It was lucky, no doubt.

Anyone who says it wasn’t isn’t really being honest with themselves.

But that Ravens win over the Vikings on Sunday showed why they’re a championship organization.

They’ll fight you until the end.

And if you can’t take their last punch, you’re losing.

 

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birk

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Birk among Ravens’ veterans not taking playoff run for granted

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Luke Jones

As a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ 1998 draft class that included the phenomenal wide receiver Randy Moss, Harvard center Matt Birk took winning for granted at the beginning of his career.

Playing in an explosive offense that included the likes of Moss, Cris Carter, Robert Smith, Randall Cunningham, and Daunte Culpepper, Birk made two trips to the NFC championship game in his first three seasons. However, the Vikings fell short of the Super Bowl in both 1998 and 2000 as Birk was just establishing himself as a six-time Pro Bowl center on the Minnesota offensive line.

There would be other opportunities, Birk thought at the time, but the 14-year veteran — his last three seasons spent with the Ravens — is still seeking another conference championship appearance, let alone his first trip to the Super Bowl.

“At that time, I probably didn’t know what it meant or just how precious is was, and I haven’t been back since,” Birk said. “We have this opportunity in front of us to be in the playoffs and be in the second round now. You certainly don’t take it for granted, and as you get closer to the end, it just becomes that much more precious.”

Much like linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, Birk feels the urgency to win this season with his football future unclear. His contract expires after the season, and he and his wife Adrianna have six children, including a boy born just a few weeks ago. Even if Birk wants to continue playing, it’s unclear whether the Ravens, or any other contending team, will want a 36-year-old center for the 2012 season.

Unlike those near misses in the infancy of his NFL career, Birk fully realizes this playoff run may be his last chance to win a championship.

Despite going largely unnoticed, Birk’s play has been commendable after starting the season on a concerning note. He missed the entire preseason after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out the bursa sac in his knee in early August. The procedure prompted the Ravens to sign five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode just days before the start of the regular season.

At the time, it appeared to be a question of when, not if, Gurode would supplant Birk as the Ravens’ starting center, but he made all 16 starts, remaining healthy other than a sprained shoulder suffered against the Cleveland Browns in Week 13. The good fortune allowed the veteran Gurode to serve as the team’s top reserve on the interior line, making five starts in place of injured left guard Ben Grubbs in the first half of the season.

Despite early-season struggles due to the late addition of veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie and the injury to Grubbs, the offensive line found its stride in the second half of the season, with Birk providing much-needed veteran leadership to complement the stellar interior play of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and Grubbs.

“From where we were a week before the start of the season, we’ve come a long way,” Birk said. “[We had] a couple pieces missing there during training camp, but I feel like we’ve gotten better as the season has gone on – certainly just the comfort level, chemistry, cohesion, whatever you want to call it.”

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rice

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.

 

As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.

 

It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.

 

It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.

 

If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.

 

In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).

 

The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.

 

Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.

 

One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 4: 4-1 (290 pts)    season: 11-9 (110 pts) 

 

Chargers -2 @ Jets 

 

Texans +3 @ Titans

 

Steelers -3.5 @ Cardinals

 

Packers -9 @. Vikings

 

Ravens -7.5 @ Jaguars

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 4: 3-2 (40 pts)    season: 8-10 (-150 pts)

 

Redskins +2.5 @ Panthers

 

Browns -3 vs. Seahawks

 

Broncos +1.5 @ Dolphins

 

Raiders -4.5 vs. Chiefs

 

Saints -14 vs. Colts

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 4: 1-1-1 (-2 pts)    season 8-8-2 (-16 pts)

 

Buccaneers +1 vs. Bears (in London)

 

Lions -3.5 vs. Falcons

 

Cowboys -12.5 vs. Rams

  

Last week Total: 8-4-1 (328 pts)     Season Total: 27-27-2 (-56 pts)

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Who's Feeling Lucky?

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Who’s Feeling Lucky?

Posted on 26 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

I have long held to the belief that any college player that we’re talking about as the likely #1 pick in the draft at this time of year or around whom we’re building a “sweepstakes” usually sees that esteem (and his draft status) drop substantially before we actually get to the draft. That said, very smart people are saying that Stanford’s Andrew Luck not only has all of the tools necessary to be a successful NFL QB, but also that he’ll be a top-10 NFL signal caller on the day that he is chosen.

With that in mind, here’s who could/should be feeling Luck”y” 3 weeks in to this NFL season.

 

Colts – (0-3) – It would seem like perfect synergy if the Colts, sans Manning, found their way somehow to the top pick in the draft and the chance to transition from one elite quarterback era to another. Certainly the chance to study for a season or two at the foot of a talent like Manning could give Luck a chance at an Aaron Rodgers-like level of preparation before actually being called on to play significant time. Surely too, Manning would rather the Colts spend a top pick on a player that could help him to win now, in the time that he has left. It’ll be interesting to see if Manning rushes back late season and piles up a couple of wins for the Colts as “Luck Insurance”. You can bet that the Colts are coming to grips with Manning’s eminent decline even if Manning himself is not, and a talent like Luck would be tough to pass on.

 

Dolphins – (0-3) – Compared to the potential Colts’ situation described above, and given the recent success of young NFL signal callers, Miami might be a more appealing situation for Luck himself. Taking his talents to South Beach would surely give Luck the chance to play sooner rather than later and would be a nice “booby prize” for Dolphins fans reduced at present to pining for Kyle Orton. The interesting part here is that although head coach Tony Sparano could certainly use a talent like Luck to jumpstart that offense, since Sparano himself is already squarely on the hot seat it seems unlikely he’d be around to enjoy the fruits of Luck’s labor if the Dolphins finish with the type of record that lands them a shot at Luck.

 

Vikings – (0-3) – The Vikings are off to a rough start under McNabb and look to be getting old in a hurry. While the team spent highly to bring in Christian Ponder this off-season it’s unlikely he’d be enough to compel them away from Luck if given a chance. Before long it may be Ponder who gets his shot and therefore gives the Vikings a better shot at positioning themselves for Luck as a result. It looks like the Vikings may be in need of a serious overhaul on both sides of the ball, and Luck would make a pretty nice cornerstone on which to begin.

 

Seahawks – (1-2) – Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll in the same division already projects to be a contentious situation. The Niners, given Harbaugh’s familiarity with Luck and their own QB situation with Alex Smith would seem to be the ideal landing spot for the toast of the draft. San Francisco’s 2-1 record so far though looks to be a severe roadblock to such a reunion. The Seahawks meanwhile may be the worst team in football (yesterday’s win notwithstanding) and are by no means married to current QB Tavaris Jackson. The chance to beat Harbaugh for the next decade or more with a QB of his own making might be too much for Carroll and the Seahawks to resist.

 

Broncos – (1-2) – Hey why not? The Broncos already have 2 first round QBs on their roster and neither is doing enough to win the job away from delightfully mediocre former 4th round pick Kyle Orton. The Broncos look like a team that will play their way out of this conversation as the season progresses, but you never know…Tim Tebow may still get his chance yet and might keep the Broncos “in the hunt” as a result.

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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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Purple Draank and Purple Kool-Aid Not Mixing Well

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Purple Draank and Purple Kool-Aid Not Mixing Well

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Ravens have built a reputation over time when it comes to the draft for finding value in players that other teams may question for reasons not altogether evident on the football field. Getting guys like Terrell Suggs though, because he ran a less than desirable 40 time at the combine and took some bad advice about putting on weight pre-draft, and getting Jimmy Smith a talent drawing favorable comparisons to Nnamdi Asomugha because of drug and character issues would seem to be two different types of propositions altogether.

The only real comparison between the approaches that landed the Ravens Suggs and now Smith in different drafts were the episodes of time mismanagement allowing teams to jump the line, a la the Vikings and Byron Leftwich in that same draft.

 

With Smith the talent, athleticism and potential are undeniable, the other side of that coin however is that the baggage, character questions and drug problems are equally undeniable. Whichever side of the coin ultimately decides Smith’s legacy will be determined over time, but for now it would seem that the time trusted mantra of Ravens fans, “In Oz We Trust” is being put to the test of late.

 

One has to at least wonder what Newsome is thinking, given the recent backdrop of Sergio Kindle and his ongoing situation. Perhaps Ozzie is trying to cheat the system by stealing talent to make one last run at Super Bowl glory before riding off into the sunset. Or perhaps the inability of the Harbaugh regime so far to develop talent drafted in the later rounds has led Newsome to look for easy answers, and players who can contribute without having to be coached up, even if with those players comes a certain amount of risk.

 

The Chris McAllister comparisons are bound to be plentiful with regard to Smith’s combination of size, football skills and attitude. In fairness though, while McAllister seemed to be a generally “bad guy”, with Smith comes the additional baggage of drug problems. We’re not talking about another kid who smoked a little weed here. Smith failed at least 3 drug tests that we know about, at least one of which involved misuse of codeine syrup, assault charges and other instances of what could generously be called repeated bad judgment, Something tells me that giving this kid a couple of million dollars and expecting him to fly right is a hopeful proposition at best. Again, these are just the things that we know about, unless Smith is simply a terrible deviant, it’s fair to guess that there have been countless other questionable incidents that either went unnoticed or were glossed over because of who Smith is.

 

Now it seems that Coach Harbaugh, who seemingly had no patience at all for McAllister’s antics just a couple of seasons ago, is not only willing to work with Smith, but apparently made an impassioned plea to get him. Has Harbaugh turned a new leaf in regard to his own patience? Is he going to be able to maintain credibility in the locker room if / when his star takes a stance contrary to the coach’s liking? There are lots of ways that I can see this thing ending, and most of them are unfortunately bad.

 

And with all due respect to the gravity of what I’m about to mention, I find the assertion that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are simply going to be able to keep this kid in line either laughable or insulting although I’m not sure which. First of all, how long are we counting on Reed and Lewis to remain here? Surely the Ravens envision a window of effectiveness for Smith that exceeds the career expectancy of both Lewis and Reed. And furthermore, and more importantly, what makes folks think it’s that simple? Obviously Sergio Kindle found ways to screw himself and the team long before Reed and Ray even had a chance to try and impart wisdom on him. Should we expect that Reed and Lewis are currently rushing to the side of this soon to be millionaire, prepared to hold his hand until he demonstrates that he doesn’t need it?

 

Back to the all due respect part…let’s not forget about the tragedy that befell Reed and his family as the Ravens season came to its conclusion in January. Reed’s brother lost his own life after a police chase attributable to criminal behavior, ultimately linkable to drug use. While the details of the background story are sketchy, drugs are serious…period. Hard drugs, like those that Smith has turned to already, require a lifelong commitment to steer clear of. If Reed (again with all due respect) couldn’t get through the grip of drugs and criminal behavior on his own brother then what makes anyone think he’ll be Smith’s saving grace? It’s simply not fair to ask or Reed, or Lewis or anyone other than those who knew all of the facts and made the pick anyway to take responsibility for Smith and his actions from here out…and Smith himself of course.

 

How much would you be willing to bet that the kid with abounding character questions, from the neighborhood that scared off college recruiters, and who saw fit to wear a Scarface T-shirt for his big, national TV moment, actually…really gets it? Would you bet your job? The jobs of your colleagues and subordinates? Your company’s success? (At least it was Tony in the white suit, at the height of his power and not Tony behind the desk and the pile of cocaine. Metaphor?)

 

If Smith has turned to hard fixes from the “Purple Draank” this early in life, we might draw from that certain conclusions, fairly or not. Maybe he’s just a knucklehead. Maybe he has deep emotional pains that drugs help to numb. Or maybe, and possibly worst from a football perspective, actual physical pain has led him to stronger and stronger solutions to make it go away.

 

This is not your father’s Purple Kool-Aid.

 

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The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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