Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Memory of Michael Kirby Alvarado

Depending on the version of the bible you open, the translation will always be worded differently. But the essence of the message is widely recognized and understood. Jesus said "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" [Matthew 19:19].

On Thursday, November 21, 2013, my next-door neighbor Michael Kirby Alvarado, 25, was taken from this world by a senseless act of violence. Michael [Mike] has left behind a countless number of family and friends who he made a great impact on.

A great athlete from childhood, Mike was a standout football player at Gaithersburg High School. His play for the team earned him a scholarship to William & Mary to play football for the Tribe. Mike never finished school, but his focus and his dreams stayed ahead on big and positive things.

If you have ever had a conversation with Mike, you know he is a tremendously caring and intelligent soul, with an incredible gift to communicate--not just talk, but listen--and he never forgot the things you told him. Mike made an impact in his time here on Earth, and has left his mark on all who had the honor to borrow a moment of his time.

I first met Mike a number of years ago as children. He lived right here in Newport, and my aunt used to watch my brother and I after school right up the hill. I was far from the closest person to Mike, but whenever I saw him, even if it was brief, we spoke. I went to every school from elementary to high with Mike, so we always saw each other.

My family moved to Newport a few years ago, and our fathers spoke often. Mike's father wouldn't let a conversation pass without talking about his children, especially Mike. He was proud of Mike no matter what was going on in his life, and bragged about his son's football. Our fathers never hesitated to ask about the other's kids. Mike and my father grew close as well. I can recall a number of times Mike was right there on my front porch chatting with my father about everything from football to cars that didn't belong in our parking lot. Mike often yelled up to say hi or ask me to come outside and just chat for a minute. His hospitality is truly admirable.

What always stood out to me about Mike was that he was never too busy to stop and acknowledge you. I have walked outside to get in my car and passed Mike while he was on the phone or talking to a friend and he would stop mid sentence to give a quick handshake or point over and ask "Aye, what's good with you?" You couldn't just let it slide when Mike asked you a question, because you knew he absolutely had to hear an answer from you. He never meant it as disrespect to the people he was talking to, just solely as respect to the person he was inquiring about, because he cared. His heart was pure and full of love for everyone. On Mother's Day, Michael knew all too well about appreciating motherhood. Mike lost his mother when he was a child, and on Mother's Day, he walked up to my front porch and gave my mom a hug and told her, "Happy Mother's Day moms!" This gesture was small to Mike, but huge at the same time, and it left an impression with my mother who is forever grateful of his incredible act of consideration, caring, and kindness.



Life does not come without trials, and we all know that. Mike had his share of bad days, but those days do not reflect on the amazing man that Mike had grown to become. While his days at college ended, his focus on music started. His commitment to motivation grew tenfold, and Mike just wanted to touch the hearts and minds of people. His giving nature was never turned off. Just this past summer, I watched Mike teaching his nephew how to improve on the basketball court. His charisma was apparent, he had his nephew's undivided attention. His teaching paid off immediately, as his nephew showed right away that he understood every word Mike said to him. Mike loved his friends, but he unquestionably loved his family.

I hope everyone who is affected by this finds comfort in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come. Mike surely would not want anyone to suffer, and would look to console everyone. I'm thankful to have known Mike, and I hope I am able to carry on the kindness, consideration, and respect he always showed me and my family, not just as neighbors, but as friends, and as people. I hope all who Mike treated with such love and compassion are able to do the same, because he made many lives better, and we can make many more better just the same. For all it is worth, I love you and hope to see you later, Michael. Thank you for being you.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts on Redskins vs. Vikings

Disappointing. Infuriating.

The Washington Redskins are a mess. A total mess. It was Denver 2.0, but it was against the Minnesota Vikings who entered the game 1-7, although arguably a better 1-7 than they really were. But they were missing 4 key offensive starters--the scene was set for the Redskins to have a good day and walk away with a win. It was time for the offense to prove they could play two good games in a row, and for the defense to prove they could hang with an offense that didn't feature major weapons at WR.

The big concern was Adrian Peterson, who had the bulk of the Vikings' success in the first half, but didn't really manage to do much. The Redskins' offense was rolling with Alfred Morris getting major chunks of yards. Robert Griffin III was hitting Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, and Leonard Hankerson for good gains. He tried to hit Logan Paulsen once early for a dropped TD, and hit Paulsen for another TD. His TD pass to Reed was all brilliance, as he pump faked to draw the defender away and buy Reed space, and the communication between the two to hit the middle of the field at the goal line was spectacular as Rob made an unbelievable throw while getting drilled. The TD to Garcon was a thing of beauty; Garcon sold a crosser, stepped back when he recognized zone and Rob hit him for a "screen" and Garcon had a clear path to the endzone with blockers out in front. The Redskins had 3 big drives for TD's of 78, 79, and 80 yards. They also had a field goal to enter the half with a 27-14 lead. This was the offense everyone has been waiting to see.

Coming out of the half, and the team completely unraveled. You can see some honest critique from the Comcast SportsNet post-game crew here. Charley Casserly had some interesting thoughts, and Trevor Matich broke down the Vikings scheme with something I want to drive home here.

The Redskins had run Robert Griffin to the outside in the first half a number of times. The Vikings accepted those runs as they were keying in on Alfred Morris in the Read Option. Alfred Morris was getting big gains with huge blocks from Darrel Young and Trent Williams creating a crease for Alfred to cut back into as the Vikings DE's were playing aggressively up the field to keep RGIII in the pocket. In the second half, the Vikings were every bit as willing to let Alfred beat them through the middle and play the pass, hoping to take away the post route RGIII was hitting Garcon on the entire first half. The problem? The Redskins weren't dialing up runs. Especially not up the middle. The few runs I remember before the final drive were stretch zones to the outside where the aggressiveness of the ends caused the interior O-Line to collapse to the powerful Kevin Williams and Alf had to pick up 1 or 2 yards into the arms of the backside end or a linebacker. These weren't 1-on-1's that Alf was going to win with consistency as his focus was on the one-cut and getting upfield with patience. Instead of attacking with quickness and power into the crease the defense was willing to give up. But those were only a few plays. Kyle Shanahan opted to pass, pass, and pass. The problem was, he was dropping RGIII back into the pocket against two aggressive ends powering 8 or 9 yards into the backfield to keep Robert in that pocket, forcing him to step up. Only problem for the Redskins was, time and again, Robert was stepping up into the body of Kevin Williams, who was beating double teams by Will Montgomery and either guard (usually Chris Chester) right through them. There was a play where three men met Robert in the pocket at the same time for a sack. One of those men was an unblocked rusher. Another? Kevin Williams beating that Montgomery/Chester double team. Yes... a defensive tackle beat a double team and reached the QB at the same exact time as an unblocked rusher. Inexcusable.

Kyle was obviously trying to counter punch the Vikings. The only problem is, the Vikings didn't change anything about their scheme from the first to second half. They were doing the same thing trying to pin Rob inside and challenging the Redskins to beat them in that crease with Alf. Kyle didn't accept that challenge, he took the bait and bit. The Vikings got the Redskins offense off the field because Kyle Shanahan wasn't willing to stick with what he had working for him and taking what the defense gave him.

That led to the Vikings attacking through the air on playaction passes when 8 in the box were fighting Peterson. Ponder dropped some passes in over the backers and right into the hands of a WR or TE who was running in front of the secondary who was playing deep in a sort of prevent-style defense. It wasn't that it was horrible scheming by Haslett. It was working... but the pressure wasn't hitting the QB and the secondary wasn't able to bite up and pick off a poorly thrown pass as happened by Meriweather in the first half. The defense surrendered points, and the offense couldn't get anything going because Kyle Shanahan was outcoached.

I told people on Twitter after Kyle "accepted the blame" for the Denver loss, that I didn't buy it and he would go right back to the same old BS. He gave us a game against the Chargers where he did... okay. But he came right back here against the Vikings with a 13-point lead at halftime and he crumbled. He went right back to who he is. One man last night stopped Alfred Morris, and it was Kyle Shanahan. If the only way to get Kyle out of here is to get rid of Mike Shanahan, I am all for it--but I am more keen on keeping Mike Shanahan here on an extension with HIS team and no cap penalty for a couple seasons. The kid will not get a head coaching job going forward off of this year unless he miraculously turns us around in these last seven games like he did in 2012, so there's no reason to believe he deserves to call plays for us. His mystique is gone.

Yes, the players lost battles last night. The players made dumb mistakes on penalties. Niles Paul cost us one huge delay of game because he spent 8 seconds waiting for the snap and not focusing on the QB and going into the hand-signal motion that his teammates were even trying to cue him to (a mistake I don't think Fred Davis would have made). Perry Riley's personal foul was one of the most disappointing moments of the night. I won't even go into how bad the officiating was, but it was.

There is no reason to believe this team can rattle off 7 wins. Robert Griffin III, over the last 2 games, is playing his best football of the season. He looks like he is on form. It helps that receivers seem willing to put it all on the line for him right now. The offense is/was rolling when they're playing to their strengths.

As Kyle Shanahan put it after the Denver game: "You don't want to be over-obsessed with tendencies and not put best players in the best position to succeed." I said it then, and I will say it now - coming from him? BULLSHIT!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sean Taylor Trial Offers Closure

We're very nearing 6 years since the passing of Sean Taylor. The trial has been delayed over and over again. Five men were arrested and charged in relation to the murder, all five pointing fingers. Yesterday, Monday, November 4, 2013, the allegedly admitted trigger-puller was found guilty of 2nd-degree murder. He faces up to life in prison. I will not post his name because he does not deserve the kindness.

The details of the trial painted a grim picture of what took place inside the house that night. It painted an even darker picture of how the entire event was planned. An early questioning of Taylor's then-girlfriend painted the narrative that because Taylor kept a lot of cash in the house, that somehow his client was less guilty of murder; almost justifying death if the robbery is planned out perfectly and the cash is actually there to be stolen. But you have to make obscene arguments in murder cases. We know this. We can't be shocked by it. Yet it's still disheartening.

While there are surely sighs from Taylor's family, friends, and fans, this is not closure. There still stand three who will go to trial for their role in the events of that night. They all took bargains to fingerpoint at the murderer. There are surely going to be details uncovered by the roles of the other three that will add more to the narrative of that night and the crime scene will look different even then.

I was nothing more than a fan of Sean Taylor, from his days as a Miami Hurricane all the way through his final day as a Washington Redskin. Like many, he was my favorite player on the team. Like many, I didn't know much about him off of the football field. What I did know is what Sean talked about... making the fans scream and roar was what he wanted every single week, by making plays to help his football team. Football was Sean's life, according to his father. Little tidbits like that show you just how close Sean Taylor was to the fanbase. It's as if the only Sean that he could be was a football player. The fans were and are forever connected to Sean Taylor. We didn't know him off of the field, but Sean wanted to be known for what he did on the field.

On the field, we lost one of the greatest potential players in franchise history, and perhaps in league history. There had never been a safety with the size, speed, and range of Sean Taylor. One of the most intimidating hitters to ever step on the field, perhaps pound for pound one of the most violent hitters. A young man growing into his own both on and off the field, Sean was starting to put the pieces together and do everything right. Then, just like that, it was all gone. Taken from him. Taken from his family. From his friends. From his coaches and teammates. From his fans.

The shooter is found guilty. One other from that night already serving a lengthy sentence for his role in another crime. The other three, like the rest of us, still waiting. Sean Taylor still is not resting peacefully, but he is remembered favorably among many. His daughter will never grow to be held by her father, or hear advice directly from his own mouth. The lone detail about this entire case that brings comfort to anyone? Sean Taylor died a hero, protecting his loved ones, and sacrificing his own life to ensure his daughter did not lose hers. That is the closure.

A hero.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thoughts on Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Unbelievably, terribly disgusting.

The Washington Redskins went into halftime tied at 7 against the Denver Broncos, the lowest point total the Broncos have posted in the first half all season. The defense was playing very well, while the offense was doing just enough to not get us in serious trouble.

Enter the second half, and the Redskins get up 21-7 off of outstanding defense and capitalizing. Alfred Morris was running hard.

And then the Broncos mount a comeback, and build a lead, and rattle off point after point on their way to a 45-21 victory. The worst part about it was the absolute collapse of the PLAYCALLING, not all the PLAYING.

Yeah, RGIII was off, badly. You counter that by giving him a few screens to THE RUNNING BACK to find his rhythm and help keep the defense honest by not sending insane blitzes up the middle. Rob had plenty of opportunities to take off or hit a man deep (missed pass to Morgan and Garcon who was open on his way to the endzone). Will Montgomery had his worst game as a Redskin from my viewpoint. Perhaps the guards let him down, but I saw a whole lot of Will making critical mistakes with the snap, and getting demolished by the interior rush.

We weren't fooled by going up 21-7. Our team matched up perfectly today with the Broncos. But Kyle Shanahan continues to call the dumbest game of his life on 2nd & medium and 3rd & short. Why on Earth was Kyle calling some of the pass plays he called on 2nd and medium after Alf got some good yards and we were running their defense into the mud? Why was Kyle refusing the run on first down when up 21-7? Or 21-14? Or when the game was tied at 21-21 when he threw three straight times? Where are all of these 2-man routes coming from against coverage that was clearly locking us down all day? Yeah, Rob can make some better throws, he can take off from time to time when he had obvious opportunities, or he can make plays with his body language to help get his receivers a step or more to get open, but Kyle needs to call plays based, 1.) on what the defense is giving him and 2.) what the players on the field are accomplishing. If Rob is off, take the pressure off of him. If he's getting hit in the face by the blitz, call the zone-read keeper so he can bounce it outside. Call the halfback leak screen. This was the worst coached game I've seen in a while out of Kyle Shanahan. But the worst call of all that I saw from Kyle today, was 1st & 10 down by 7, Kyle calls that ridiculous pitch play to Alfred which loses yards. SIDEBAR: Kyle said earlier this year that the read option was not being called as much because defenses were taking it away (no, Rob just couldn't run effectively enough at the time, but I dig what you were saying). Well, the pitch has not worked more than twice this season, and both times, Alf had to make a phenomenal play in order to gain a few hard-earned yards. If the pitch is that ineffective, why has it not been taken away? This call was the only one worse than 3rd & 1 putting Rob in the Pistol for the HB dive and Will snapping it way too early.

Jim Haslett? He called as good a game as we could have asked up until the team went up 21-7. The first score after that came after Hall's return, so it was understandable that the defense may have been a little fatigued. However, Haslett resorted to the zone and calling off the hounds. CALLING OFF THE HOUNDS! How many times over the years from every defender, coordinator, and coach have we heard that a defense playing with a lead pins their ears back and gets after the QB? Where was that in the entire second half after going up 21-7? I didn't see it. Nobody did. In fact, Haslett got ripped apart for going to the zone. He got content with what he did up until that point, and then punked out. No, the offense wasn't helping. Rob's costly throws and the line's shitty blocking got us beat... but I haven't seen coordinators this uncoordinated since we went searching for an observer & playcaller in the bingo halls.

Mike Shanahan will take blame because his staff is a reflection of him. His players are a reflection of him. But it should be clear to everyone that Mike isn't the one calling these plays... his son and that idiot Haslett are two of the worst playcallers I have seen since Zorn... and both show the potential to be damn-near masterful at it, so there's absolutely no excuse for the debacle of this afternoon.

We had the Broncos on the ropes... and we let them rope-a-dope us. We got beat by getting soft and conservative. Instead of putting our foot on their throats, we took our foot off the gas pedal and we got passed, and lapped, in one of the most embarrassing losses we've suffered.

And then? Sav Rocca. With the worst punt I've seen out of him as a Redskin. I'm fed up of the old guy. Thanks for the good years you gave us. Last season and all of this season have been terrible. It's time you get out of the Burgundy and Gold and call it a career.

Players of the Game:

DeAngelo Hall: I've not seen a guy play this inspired since Fletcher finished last season with a string of games with huge, clutch INT's and turnovers. DeAngelo Hall is playing his best football of his career right now, and unfortunately it's all for nothing except what should be a well-deserved trip to the new Pro Bowl format.

David Amerson: I didn't think he'd perform so well against Eric Decker who was coming off of a career game last week against the Colts. Amerson impressed and made a number of solid plays.

Alfred Morris: I can't let Kyle going away from him or the result of this game take away from his play today. He ran hard and fought for every little yard.

Hard to give any more credit. Safeties didn't do anything too stupid but didn't really do anything extremely exceptional. I'm sick. I need to see the All-22... but I'm definitely not happy about the playcalling and I'm sure the tape will verify that feeling for me even more than it will prove it was just sloppy play.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Second Constitutional Convention

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit
of Happiness."

It was upon this idea, this singular principle that We the People of these United States made our stand against the British Empire and declared our independence. It was upon this principle that the Founding Fathers established the supreme law of our land and laid the foundation for our future. And it is upon this principle that We the People must now stand upon that foundation and erect a nation greater than anything the Founding Fathers could have envisioned.

The United States Constitution, the supreme law of our land, was conceived as a living document dynamic enough to account for and adapt to change, yet static enough to provide stability. The concept itself was genius and the execution, for that time, virtually flawless. It is a magnificent construct and its impact on the world at large has been incalculable. But as is the case with human beings and our limited knowledge, the truths of yesterday become the falsehoods of today and the certainties of yesteryear devolve into present-day ambiguities. For the past two hundred twenty-five years, United States citizens have lived, flourished, died and given way to new generations under this constitution. As we have progressed, we have borne witness to the evolution and growth of our public consciousness, all reflected in amendments to the Constitution. But as we move deeper into the twenty-first century, we have also borne witness to the devolution of the public intellect. As we have attempted to legislate humaneness into our mindsets by legally recognizing the humanity in beings of differing complexion, sexual orientation, age and even gender, we have grown lax as thinkers, as doers and as innovators. That is not to say we are at fault for trying to humanize our culture and society, but rather that we have lost sight of why the social matters we fight each other over even matter.

From the dawn of humankind to the end of the twentieth century, we burgeoned and blossomed as a result of a keen intellect, a genius for innovation that elevated our species to the status of the globe's most dominant apex predator. But the wisdom to properly, effectively and humanely utilize that genius and status did not come hand in hand with that growth. We have advanced our technological powers to ungodly levels, but continue in our pattern of intellectual misstep after misstep, none the wiser for all our forefathers mistakes. And now, as we near the precipice of humankind's greatest peak, we appear even more hellbent to err and fail, barreling at top speed toward the edge, dooming ourselves for a headfirst plunge off of that cliff into darkness.

There are projections that suggest our planet has enough resources to comfortably house ten billion human beings. The total human population on Earth is estimated to be at about seven billion. Of those seven billion, nearly four billion live in abject poverty. Of the three billion persons not living in abject poverty, only a few hundred million, a population once archaically referred to as the "First World", live in reasonable comfort. And while those few hundred million only make up about five percent of the human population, they annually consume a quarter of the world's total resources. In short, five percent of human beings enjoy having all their basic needs, and then some, met, while nearly sixty percent live in squalor. Suffice it to say, the economic disparity in the world is unfathomably enormous. And even more egregious than the size of the disparity is the reality that we as a species possess the means by which said disparity could be eradicated. We possess the technology and the resources to satisfy the basic needs of all human beings, but as a result of greed, humankind across the world suffers and will continue to suffer. Men and women suffer, children and old folk suffer, souls of every complexion and craniofacial build suffer, souls of every sexual orientation and physical constitution suffer. But in the wake of varying modes of persecution, we came to believe that the struggles different humans face are wholly separate and completely independent of one another. No. This is an illusion. Though each struggle is of different origin and circumstance, the truth of it is that humankind as a whole has been languishing in this hell of inequity. It is because of this inequity that the war we wage for social freedom as individuals and individual groups is all for naught. Man is, at present, far too greedy for any legal advance on these matters to truly make a difference in men's souls - hence why racism, sexism, ageism and the like are all still alive and well. As long as there is greed, as long as men desire for, tax and keep more than they could ever actually need, there can be no free and fair society.

But make no mistake - this is not a mere indictment of greed. That would be pointless, as greed is as natural to us now as say hunger, thirst or lust. Questions of how much is enough have plagued us since we settled down and became an agricultural species. But these questions only persist because we are, by nature, doomed to need. And as fears of being denied our needs escalated into ambition, greed was born - fathered then mothered by need. Alleviating need would probably fail to eradicate greed, much in the same way that one could not hope to put a rabid dog down by putting its' parents down. But our purpose is not to attempt to change or solve the riddles of human nature with legislation, that is beyond the reach of any set of laws or legalisms. Our purpose is to defend the right of human beings to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to answer humankind's most basic needs and to provide for the growth and maturation of our species. And at present, our Constitution does not fully guarantee nor protect those needs. It does not provide for basic human needs: sanitary food, clean water, adequate shelter, weather appropriate clothing, sanitation, education and healthcare. Food and water that will not have deleterious effects on our health must be a given. Clothing and shelter to protect us from the elements are as necessary to life as the first two. Sanitation and healthcare must also be provided for, as the first four will be all for naught in the wake of unhealthily dirty living conditions and disease. Education, once it is revolutionized to serve as a sincere means of personal development rather than as an agent of human commoditization, must be included in the general welfare through to undergraduate levels, with graduate levels being, at the very least, provided for. These things are all unarguably essential to life in this modern society. As such, it must be made illegal for a single one of these needs to be left unmet and the government must be held accountable.

After our lives, our liberty too is at stake. Many of the guidelines set in place to govern political behavior were arbitrarily chosen and ambiguously worded, leaving room for the current day socioeconomic developments that have obstructed and irreversibly impaired the democratic process. Women are not properly represented or protected, the executive branch is overburdened, affluent corporations have too powerful an influence over government and government at large is not properly checked by the People it is meant to serve. If a power is existent in government, the collective body of representatives for the community, it must first have been existent in the individuals said government is meant to protect. For if the government should have powers that are not legally possessed by individuals, it has power over the citizenry, which it must not. The government is servant of the People, vicar of the People. It is not a tool by which wealthy men may impose their will on the People for the purpose of personal gain. It is a tool by which human beings must answer and then protect the immediate needs of humankind at large.

Given that the former two, life and liberty, are left unprotected, it is a given that the last is as well: a person cannot know or find happiness if their lives are eternally entrenched in the misery of merely surviving. And if the usurpation of these inalienable rights was enough for the colonies to wage war against the British Empire, it must also be enough for us. Where the Founding Fathers once stood against the British Empire, We the People must now stand against ourselves and the prejudices that sully our souls, obstruct our growth as a community and blind our judgement as human beings. Where our Continentals and ragtag militiamen once stood against British soldiers, We the People must now rise against the political corruption that destroys the democratic principles upon which our Republic was meant to stand. Where our American forefathers once fought to realize a dream of freedom from religious and monarchical persecution, We the People must now fight to realize the dream of a world freed of economic and prejudicial oppression. Though they may appear Hobbesian in tone, these words merely speak to the idea that the best of human beings is yet to come. And as the foremost political power on this Earth, We the People of these United States must lay the groundwork for future generations of human beings, even if doing so means abolishing the forms to which we have become accustomed.

It will be suggested that the Constitution be amended rather than totally overhauled. But we are at a crossroads. Despite the fact that government is meant to serve the public, it is able to and does act independent of the public will, something that has proved and continues to prove detrimental to the public. So not only would any effort on the public's part to petition for amendment be fruitless, the fact is that any amendment penned and ratified by the powers we seek to reform would fail to suffice. Faced with a crisis the likes of which our species has never known, the impoverishment and starvation of billions of men, women and little children, now is not the time for the uncertainty. Now is the time for clarity of purpose. Now is not the time for apathy nor fear. Now is the time for humanity. Now is not the time for standing pat and shortsightedly protecting Self while the world around us collapses. Now is the time for We the People to act with vision, to understand that elevating society beyond mere survival requires us to act together, as a whole, in Union. Now is the time for We the People to reconstruct the supreme law of our land so that it can wholly and more accurately provide for the security of all the People of the United States, which in turn will allow for America to revitalize the world.

It must begin with the People and end with the People, there is no other way.

-------------------------

May love ever possess you, may peace come into your life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Washington Redskins Fall to Green Bay Packers

It was eerily similar to Monday Night Football's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. TheWashington Redskins offense was wildly ineffective and crumbled early. The defense was on the field too much, fatigued, and incapable of tackling. The special teams unit shot itself in the foot over and over again. By the time anything looked right, it was too late in the game to make any difference. The Redskins fell to 0-2 to start the season and there are nothing but questions.

Kyle Shanahan's playcalling didn't come under much fire last week by us, but it seems pretty apparent now that we should focus a bit on the coordinator. Robert Griffin III looked a little more accurate and a little quicker when he went mobile, but the playcalling was very conservative and the Green Bay Packers took advantage of every opportunity. Kyle let drive after drive pass where the Packers were blitzing on 3rd down no matter the distance, and it wasn't until a 2nd and obscenely long play late in the game that he called a screen to halfback Alfred Morris to counter the pressure. There were a ton of WR screens and RGIII will take flack for a few of those plays even though Clay Matthews showed patience and committed to batting the pass instead of letting RGIII get it off cleanly. Sure, Rob might have been able to run in one or two of those situations, but the Packers were content keeping two linebackers in the middle of the field and hitting whatever came through the middle. There were slants galore, and the Packers did everything they could to play physical and take the quick pass away from the Redskins.

Alfred Morris eventually broke off a couple of long runs on course to rush for over 100 yards in the game, but his performance was inconsistent and didn't help change the outcome of the game. Alf again struggled to find running lanes or bounce it outside when the edge was available. He committed too early to many cuts and ran into defenders. He didn't finish his runs by making defenders pay for trying to tackle him.

RGIII's interception today goes on his stat-sheet, but Joshua Morgan should take all the blame. The pass was right at Morgan's chin level, and hit Morgan directly in the hands but bounced straight up and overhead for the interception. Receivers dropped a lot of catchable passes, but Griffin also failed to lead his receivers into receptions at times. He also missed a few open targets at times as he got shaky in the pocket and didn't manage to escape the pocket. Robert also had a few opportunities to move the pocket outside with his legs, or step up inside, but he stayed where the pressure was and forced himself to make difficult passes. Griffin's arm is strong enough to do these things sometimes, but his mind is clearly not all there yet coming back from his knee injury.

Many fans expected it would take time for RGIII to work back into the offense. Fans didn't want to rush him back, but a lot of people are suggesting the Redskins should have gone against doctor's orders and played him in the preseason. Some people want to see him benched in favor of Cousins until Rob is clearly 100% mentally and physically, but these are the same people saying that in-game action is the only thing that will get Griffin ready to play. You literally cannot have it both ways. Again, the problem may very well be Kyle Shanahan's seeming refusal to spread in the first half, which could not only open things up for Morris, but allow receivers to show defenses you have to respect them early.

I was very impressed, however, with the effort of Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger, particularly on a WR screen to Pierre Garcon. Garcon caught the football and took off downfield - following two 300 lb. monsters as they surged full-speed towards the safeties. It didn't spring Garcon for a TD, as his patience to remain behind the two behemoth blockers slowed him up enough for the defense to make a play, but two linemen that big showing off that kind of athleticism and willingness to make a play downfield for their team says a lot about their effort.

The line has not been that impressive, however. Montgomery has appeared slow on snaps several times, and I twice noticed yesterday that the entire offense was moving before Montgomery was getting the snap off, or so it appeared. He also got flagged for a low block which did not help the offense get things going. The right side, again, hasn't been run to much... part of me wonders if this has to do with allowing Rob to turn smoothly back to his natural side to show he doesn't have the ball instead of turning into his blind side with his right leg toward the defense. But if the coaches aren't trusting the run to the right side, could there be reasons with the linemen, or is Morris to blame?

On defense, I'm not confident in the tackling ability of almost anyone. I'm seeing guys flying around and throwing their body at people, but the only wrap up tackles I have seen are from Orakpo, Kerrigan, and David Amerson. I also can't figure out what happened to Haslett's refocusing on the gang-tackle strip. DeAngelo Hall seems to be the only guy getting the memo about stripping at the ball, but he's doing it when ball carriers aren't being gang tackled, and the receivers are breaking off another 3-6 yards every play because of it. I don't believe Hall has looked anywhere near as bad in coverage as a lot of fans still want to believe, but just because he's not playing that horrible doesn't mean he isn't playing bad. I do believe a lot of the defense's struggles come from not being able to sit on the sideline for an extended period of time, as they've been on the field for more drives than almost any other defense. But another major problem is that there is no communication between the corners and the safeties, a problem which plagued as last year, and Bacarri Rambo's development doesn't help those matters because he's still learning how to play the professional game, not just how to react to his assignment and communicate. Once the game becomes instinctive for Rambo, he will undoubtedly become a very solid pro in the NFL, but that will take time, and we need better execution from everyone to help make his transition easier.

To focus a little more on Rambo, I emplore you to have some patience, Redskins Nation. Rambo is a very talented football player, who really does learn well. Yes, the missed tackles, poor angles, and blown assignments are severely frustrating, but I do want to remind you that the late Sean Taylor did his fair share of that in his rookie season as well (a rookie season in which he became a starter a few games later than Rambo). Free Safety is one of the most difficult positions in football just based on the proximity of the player every play. It's even more difficult in the league now with the emphasis on the passing attack. For a rookie to come in as a day-one starter at the position is really incredible. You just have to believe the kid will get better, and give him the chance. Yes, he needs to know he is not doing his job right, but we do not need to talk about getting rid of him already.

Speaking of the Safety position, Meriweather has two regular season starts with the Washington Redskins, and both went pretty much the same way. A big, energetic play got the defense fired up, and then he's out for the game. The league will be investigating both the hit Meriweather placed on Packers' rookie RB Eddie Lacy, as well as the hit he tried to deliver on RB James Starks. One has to believe Redskins coaches are not pleased with Meriweather at this point.

While we're on the subject of possible penalties, perhaps we can focus on arguably the worst special teams units this team has ever fielded. There have been too many drives starting in Washington's own 10-yard line, and several times in both the Eagles game, and 4 times we counted yesterday, where special teams negated a return outside of the opponent's redzone with stupid penalties. Perhaps the most egregious and upsetting was Niles Paul slapping a Packers' player after a return. Replays showed that Paul was dragged down by his collar, but Mike Shanahan has emphasized to this team many times that retaliating with penalties will get you in trouble, not the other team. The only way a division, conference, or league champion retaliates on the field is by playing good football, winning the field position battle, and scoring points to help your team possibly win the game. Making Robert drive 90+ yards every single drive is not the answer to our problems, it may actually be the cause.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez

Everyone who just tuned in to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez fight just witnessed a boxing clinic as Floyd Mayweather dominated the 23-year-old Mexican.

Mayweather was fast and agile, moving as well and as quickly in the boxing ring as he expects of himself and as we've come to known. Mayweather looked quicker even than he did in his last 3 fights, which, at 36, is as amazing as his record of 45-0-0.

But before I get into Floyd v Canelo, I want to highlight the bout between Danny Garcia (c) v Lucas Matthysse. Fans witnessed the maturing of Danny Garcia as a boxer, as he fought behind his jab for 12 round and mechanically attacked Matthysse's body for most of the fight. However, an early shot to Matthysse's eye caused serious swelling, inhibiting the favored challenger. Matthysse tried to stay in the fight, even managing to rock Garcia a few times down the stretch, but his power wasn't behind his punches as he was clearly having trouble watching his target.

Matthysse was favored prior to this fight to go to battle with Floyd Mayweather pending a Money victory, but Matthysse couldn't get the job done. Could Garcia be the man to challenge Floyd next?

Whoever is facing Floyd has real tough competition. The Pound-for-Pound king entered the fight with determination. In possibly the best shape of his career, Floyd attacked early and often, leading the offensive most of the fight. Floyd's defense threw Canelo off as punch after punch grazed or missed Floyd completely. Anytime Canelo landed anything of note, Floyd made sure to counter to last punch of Canelo's combo to negate the pace.

Floyd displayed fresh footwork well into the 11th round. He ate a mean right hook against the ropes. He received a number of body shots which were rendered ineffective due to Floyd's ability to shift his weight and roll with the punch. A flustered, frustrated Canelo couldn't muster any offense of note. Floyd was too fresh by the end of the fight for Canelo to throw a punch of worth. Floyd famously danced his way around the ring in the 12th, the tactic of a man confident he has won the fight and can defend a desperation flurry.

Fans also witnessed a comical draw card from one of the ringside judges. Comical because it was a draw, and comical because even the casual fan knew Floyd won at least 9 rounds to 3. I myself had Floyd the victor of 10 rounds to 2 (118-110) after giving Canelo the benefit of the doubt for his activity in the 3rd round.

But being active and being effective are not the same thing. Floyd was both active and effective, and Canelo wasn't able to hit Floyd for most of the fight. For Floyd to make this fight look as easy as he did says an awful lot about how dominant Floyd is, because Canelo is no pushover. The matchup favored Floyd from the get-go, but as the fight carried on, it became even more apparent that Floyd Mayweather is in a class of his own in the boxing world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Several Standouts in Washington Redskins Loss to Philadelphia Eagles

The Washington Redskins lost an ugly game last night. They started to make strides in the second half, but it was too little – too late as they failed to do enough to regain the lead. There was a lot of sloppy play on both sides of the football, but in a loss, some of the better performances are getting overlooked.

Special Teams:

There was only one guy who stood out for me on the unit, and he didn’t really excel outside of one area last night. Kai Forbath on kickoffs was a different player than last year. In 2012, Forbath couldn’t kick the football across the goal line if he had a backwind helping him. Last night, he drilled the football to the back of the endzone to pin returners deep and forced consistent touchbacks. His missed field goal was a real upset for a guy who has been so good at hitting 3-pointers so far here in Washington. The only positive to take away from that field goal was that it was a 45+ yarder that was coasting even with the top of the upright when it crossed the back of the endzone. If we extrapolate that kick, it may have been good from 60+ yards out.

On offense, three players really stood out last night above the rest for playing well. Those guys are:

Roy Helu, Jr.: A lot of people were ready to give up on the oft-injured Helu. I’ve been outspoken in my support of the kid and believed cutting his workload would make him exceptionally more effective. But Helu exceeded even my expectations of his talent last night as he proved to be a very good pass-protection back. Helu picked up blitzes and bailed at least twice on his routes to stay in the pocket and provide support when a lineman was beaten. Helu didn’t get many handoffs (a byproduct of the large lead the Eagles built) but the few occasions that he carried the rock, he showed patience while still maintaining an edge with his speed and burst.

Jordan Reed: This kid has done nothing in game situations besides play well. Jordan Reed’s biggest question mark coming into the league was his ability to block. His injury also led coaches to question whether he could pick up the offense in time and perform at a level high enough to earn playing time. Well, he has certainly learned enough to play in the offense: he runs very solid routes and shows a good knowledge of how to play vs. the defense (a byproduct of his experience at QB). What Reed also does very well? Block. I’ll even go as far as to say that Jordan Reed is one of the better blockers on this team. Last night he played football and had fun on the field, and his attempted hurdle/dive to get extra yards showed he has heart and is willing to put it all on the line for his team, even when the team is down by a lot.

Leonard Hankerson: I had Hank as an honorable mention on my list on Twitter, but it’s hard to discredit his performance. The only reason I knocked him is because I want to see Hank’s awareness of the field grow. He loses himself at times on the sideline (something he didn’t do in college, at all). He still loses a little effort when he’s short of the 1st down marker, which is something he should take a page from Santana Moss’s playbook to improve on. But Hank showed a determination last night to catch the football before he turned upfield. He also scored twice, the second TD in the back of the endzone on a long ball thrown perfectly by Robert Griffin III.

On defense, four players really stood out. I wanted to add Rambo for his ability to bring down the ball-carrier when he didn’t get shook out of his cleats, but he got shook out of his cleats a lot, and bit up hard on some of the run fakes.. But these are mistakes rookie safeties make; even the late Sean Taylor made his share of playaction bites and took himself out of the play. It happens. Rambo will learn from this game and I’m sure he will make this list several times this season.

Ryan Kerrigan: We all know Kerrigan has a high motor, and he plays his ass off in front of the home crowd at FedEx Field. He showed up last night before leaving the game late with concussion-like symptoms. Kerrigan got consistent pressure on Vick, got a notch in the sack column, got his hands up at the line to force ugly throws from Vick, and batted a lateral pass to force a fumble which DeAngelo Hall eventually scooped up and carried into the endzone for a TD. Kerrigan also helped free up other rushers when the Eagles committed more attention to him.

Perry Riley: Riley was one of those other rushers. Used in multiple blitz packages up the middle and on the edge, Riley really made his name known last night. There was a fire, intensity, and motor we haven’t seen out of Perry before, and if it carries over, we’ll be saying his name for a lot of years… that is, if he earns the contract it looks like he’s playing for here in Washington.

Brian Orakpo: Coming back from a torn pectoral (twice), many fans wanted to know what to expect from Orakpo. Would he be as strong? Would he play with the same intensity? Rak was lined up over Jason Peters almost the entire game, and while the numbers don’t exactly reflect him putting up stats, Rak helped by grabbing the attention of the Eagles and helping make Ryan & Perry’s job a lot easier on the opposite side. In the run game, Rak missed one tackle which stands out (Shady hit a massive spin move on him in the box), but I thought he set the edge very well for the majority of the game against Peters; his teammates just didn’t consistently close the gaps in the inside when Rak helped free those lanes.

And your overall player of the game for the Redskins this week:


David Amerson: I don’t think he played a perfect game, but he damn sure didn’t do anything noticeably bad. His name wasn’t mentioned outside of when he was batting passes or making tackles. He wasn’t a major contributor in stopping the run, but the Eagles ran a lot to the right or up the middle, which meant Amerson wasn’t really the guy to attack. He had one big tipped pass which could have been an interception, but he didn’t let his man get past him with the ball. For a rookie who had concerns with his tendency to peak into the backfield and bite on fakes, Amerson showed poise and patience in sticking with his man or on his assignment in loose zones and he wasn’t targeted much because of his committal to his duties.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Comic Character Football

I was asked to come up with a full 11 offense and defense football team comprised of comic book heroes and villains. I guess if I do it here, I can give some proper explanation for why each individual is where they are. I'm running the offense with a fullback, tight end, and two wide receivers... I'm running a 3-4 defense.


Offense:

Quarterback - Bullseye. I can't think of anyone more accurate in comics than Bullseye. Deathstroke, Deadshot and Deadpool would have made a little sense, but Bullseye is just the guy for the job!

Running Back - Green Lantern. Here's a guy with heart and no fear, knows how to take his time and when to attack...

Fullback - The Juggernaut. I can't think of anyone better suited than the unstoppable force to clear a lane for the RB.

LT - Thing. He's a rock, but he has some agility so he can slide and protect the blindside.

LG - Bizarro. LG has to be a guy who can maul people, and I can't think of many better suited than Kal-el's imperfect clone.

C - Hulk. There are a lot of characters who could fit the role of the center, but when you want someone to give you that push, Hulk is your choice.

RG - Thanos. Gotta put a real monster in at guard on the to help destroy the edge on the run.

RT - Bane. He's the best comic character to attack on the run and compliment The Juggernaut to lead the running back.

TE - Iron Man. The strength of the suit and the ability to provide a safety blanket for the QB makes Iron Man the best choice.

WR1 - Flash. You need some speed at WR and you might as well get the fastest out there.

WR2 - Captain America. Someone who plays with some finesse but also not afraid to get chippy and fight for extra yards.



Defense:

LE - Thor. You need muscle at the position and someone who can eat up some blockers. Thor gives you strength and size to help push the line of scrimmage backwards.

NT - Darkseid. The most destructive force in all of comics has no better place to fit than right at the most important position on the defense.

RE - Beast. You aren't going to find anyone better suited than Thor except for Beast, to help maul the O-Line and help free up the LB's.

LOLB - Wolverine. Who better to rush from the outside and chase down the QB than Logan?

ILB1 - Sinestro. He's a man who knows what courage AND fear can both accomplish. With HIS courage and ability to sense fear, Sinestro is the ideal middleman for the defense.

ILB2 - Luke Cage. There needs to be someone with heart and grit to help run the defense and clog up the holes. Luke Cage is willing to take on anyone that steps in his path, making him an easy selection at ILB.

ROLB - Atrocitus. This is an unstoppable force willing to take out ANYONE in his path to accomplish his goal to destroy.

LCB - Scarecrow. You need the WR to fear coming onto your island and the QB needs to fear throwing to your island.

FS - Superman. Nobody better to serve as the last line of defense than Kal-el.

SS - Batman. You need someone who can play the box, hit, and play with smarts.

RCB - Spiderman. There's no way you get torched down the field, so you put someone who can adjust to subtle movements in to contest the speedy receivers.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Washington Redskins 2013-14 Season Outlook - Offense

We're only a few short weeks away from the start of the 2013-14 NFL season, and here at Don't Laugh, People, that means all the reason to get excited!

For myself and Enigma, the excitement is all about the Washington Redskins, hence the title of this blog post. So what about the Redskins themselves is there to get excited about???

Robert Griffin III

I shouldn't have to bring up the talking points about his injury or his return. All I have to talk about is his passer rating of > 100, his minimal turnovers as a rookie, his Rookie of the Year award, and his physical abilities which are for all intents and purposes, unmatched. RG3 is the perfect weapon in today's NFL, and his decision making is already well-noted when teams already knew they were going to have to try their damnedest to account for him. Now he will, presumably, focus more on passing the football... and make great decisions as he has shown the ability to do already. But what will make Robert even more effective...?

Offensive Gameplan and Playcalling

We're already seeing a number of teams adding both the read option and the pistol into their offense. But those teams will be working with less out of those offenses than the Redskins will. While teams will be more prepared in their defensive gameplan for many looks, the Redskins have the advantage of being one-step ahead of the rest of the league, and can add wrinkles other teams cannot account for yet. Sure, a lot of the pistol and read option will be largely the same and dependent upon execution, but the threat of adding a play or two to the mix that teams don't have on tape from last year will be what really pushes the Redskins ahead this season. But the gameplan will be even more fluid and threatening because of...

Alfred Morris

Morris, the sensational running back for the Redskins who, in his rookie year set the team rushing yards record previously held by Clinton Portis, and performed league-wide as a top 2 back in most major categories--yards included--will really be able to help the offense this year if he is able to stay healthy and consistently produce on the ground as he did last season. Morris probably won't see as many touches as last year, which should be good for everyone as that would mean Morris takes less damage to his own body, there are more threats out of the backfield in the rotation, and the team can utilize more threats from the option and triple option. But the playbook opens up because Morris is a threat when running the football, and teams absolutely have to account for his presence on the field. This will open the outside for threats like...

Pierre Garcon and the Wide Receivers

Pierre Garcon's impact on the team last year was noted. When he was on the field, all of the wide receivers performed at a higher level, comfortable in their roles. When Garcon was out, defenses could key in on their responsibilities. Garcon is a threat because he doesn't let a play die easily. He is always moving and trying to find the soft spot in the defense when the route is eliminated by the defense and Griffin has to scramble. He's a feisty competitor as well, and is not afraid to get physical with or without the football in his hands. This intensity draws more attention from defenses and opens the field up. It doesn't hurt Garcon or the offense that Pierre is among one of the fastest threats at receiver in the league, either. But Garcon isn't the only threat. Josh Morgan is now completely healthy and has a year in this system and wants to prove he's not some castaway, but a real threat to make plays. Santana Moss sees limited targets and touches, but that is helping his durability and he is catching the football at times when he can turn the completion into points, which he did last year with the most receiving touchdowns on the team. But perhaps more importantly than wide receivers, are...

Fred Davis and the Tight Ends

Fred Davis exited the season early last year with a torn achilles. Prior to his injury, Davis looked very comfortable in the offense and as though it suited his strengths. There was talk last offseason about Griffin and Davis not getting along, but it was apparent on a deep throw to the sideline in New Orleans that Griffin and Davis liked, respected, and communicated well with each other. Davis' injury did not necessarily destroy the team as some might have thought. The run game actually got more powerful, and the passing attack actually opened up more (considering Garcon returned just after Davis' injury). Niles Paul didn't step up and become a major threat, rather, Logan Paulsen showed coaches, teammates, fans, and opponents that he could be a real-deal threat on this team. Countless times we witnessed Logan put his body on the line and extend for a tough catch and keep plays alive by continuing to run when everything broke down. Davis is miles ahead of our other TE's, so his return should make the Redskins even more explosive and open things up for Garcon, but there is depth and the freedom to keep guys fresh and even use them in new roles.

Kendrick Lamar

...spazzed out. It wasn't the greatest shit ever spit, the hardest shit ever spit, or the cleanest shit ever spit... but for this era and this generation of babies who "rap" ... K.Dot said some shit that hit...

...and on another rapper's song!



That other rapper is eternally known as "???" because we've now never heard of 'em.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fuck School Pt. I

I'm in a foul fucking mood right now!

The American Education system, and the entire Financial Aid process, is fucking retarded.

Why is it, that all of my information is on file with my school and all of the Federal Government agencies I'm using for Financial Aid, but I have to submit and re-submit the same information on every single form that they already have on file?

If I have to log into these things with my Social Security Number, which had to be approved for my sign-up/registration process, why must I submit form after form with the same information!?!?!?

Nevermind that the "Twatty fucking cunts" - Ricky Gervais... who work in the Financial Aid office at school don't know a single fucking thing about anything you need to ask them. They're clearly not deserving of the fraction of the tuition money I pay that goes into their fucking paychecks/financial aid credit.

And why is it that everytime I submit a form that says it is approved, it gets flagged saying that I need to re-submit it or that it is not complete when the first time I did the shit, it took 20 minutes to load at the end of the form and say it has been approved!?

And everytime I submit the one fucking form they say they need in order to complete the process, another step or form pops up afterward that is required.

And apparently I need to do a Literacy Session about financial aid; but the dates listed on this fucking form were for May (clearly well ahead of the date for when most people register for summer classes where a lot of people take their introductory courses or their first courses to acclimate to the campus) so I'm shit out of luck for a fucking Session I "need" to attend that I don't actually NEED to attend... there is an Entrance Interview for the Financial Aid which is supposed to cover/explain EVERYTHING you need to address with your Financial Aid/loan disbursements. The only dumb shit that isn't addressed by the Student Loans forms is the actual process the school itself takes, which is all behind the scenes after you submit the federal loan request form.

If you want to fix this stupid fucking nation, you fix the stupid fucking unnecessary steps people have to take to file for Financial Aid... AID THEM, DON'T ADD MORE DUMB SHIT TO THEIR FUCKING PLATE!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Rebuttal to Jason Reid's Article about John Wall

Washington Wizards should think about John Wall’s ink before signing him to a max deal - The Washington Post

The above link is a post written by Jason Reid of the Washington Post. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that the content, the visibility, and the meaning of John Walls tattoos are not at all debated by Jason Reid, as he clearly stated in response to someone on Twitter. Nevermind that Jason Reid does talk about the location of said tattoos.

Jason Reid argues that John Wall getting tattoos after publicly speaking about not having tattoos in order to protect "his image for marketing reasons." Specifically, Reid had this to say:
Posing shirtless recently for an Instagram photo, Wall revealed several tattoos. Wall’s interest in body art is surprising, considering he previously said he did not have tattoos because of concerns over his image for marketing reasons. Many NBA players do have tattoos, and Wall isn’t breaking new ground in sharing his ink with fans through social media.
Reid is suggesting that because Wall's opinion seems to have changed, that he is an unsure decision maker both on and off of the court. What Reid fails to realize, is that he is reading into something that just is not there. Reid says it himself in his own summary--which I have to assume is credible--of Wall's comments regarding tattoos before. "[H]e did not have tattoos because of concerns over his image for marketing reasons." Nowhere in that summary does it suggest Wall was anti-tattoos or that he did not want them. All that can be taken from that suggestion is that Wall was worried that if he did get tattoos, that he may be perceived differently by the marketing base and therefore may not be able to sign on for endorsements in order to help accrue a strong, financial support outside of his basketball contract.

And Wall had every reason to feel that way about getting tattoos. There is a strong prejudice against tattoos in the United States and around the world, for that matter. I know all too well of this extreme two-sided debate from the comments of a post right here on Don't Laugh, People. There are cases where companies and corporations stress their intentions to remain clear of displaying body modifications in order to attract peoples of all walks of life. We are, after all, still in the midst of body modification--tattoos specifically--being representative of gang affiliation. People wear clothes to conceal their body art in professional settings. Tattoos have been proven to be a distraction if on the face of a person, therefore not promoting a productive working environment or relationship between the business and customers/partners/potential partners.

But Wall's "change of attitude" is not a "flip-flopping" of belief, value, or attitudes. Jason Reid goes on to cite examples of players in the league who are highly marketable and have tattoos displayed. The players Jason Reid refers to are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose.
Tattoos didn’t stop Miami’s LeBron James from becoming the league’s top corporate pitchman. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant has intricate body art and makes millions in endorsements. Chicago’s Derrick Rose is “all tatted up,” as the kids say these days, and he rakes in big bucks from his corporate partners. What’s the difference between those guys and Wall? Well, everything. 
James, Durant and Rose, in that order, are considered the best players in the game. In his first three seasons, Wall didn’t appear in an all-star game, didn’t participate in the playoffs or lead the Wizards to so much as a .500 record. James and Rose never tried to sell mass-appeal images to the public. They just let their play do the talking.
Reid argues that these players are among the best in the league, therefore obviously the most marketable. However, underlying in Reid's argument, is the insinuation that these players are allowed to market their tattoos because of how good they have proven to be. Reid may not say it explicitly, and he may even try to refute it, but of the responses I have read to his article so far, that is the unanimous interpretation of that segment.

I should not have to explain why there is a problem with that logic, but for the sake of being fair and constructive, I will explain. LeBron James had tattoos visible before he entered the NBA. Likewise, Derrick Rose had ink on his arms for the world to see before he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. In fact, both of those guys had question marks about their talents at such a young age but were granted endorsements early on. Yes, we had an idea that LeBron was going to be one of the most talented players in the world when he was drafted, but for certain, nobody could be sure. John Wall had more college experience than LeBron James did when he entered the league, so for all anyone is concerned, Wall was a little more prepared out of the gates than LeBron James was, with a high ceiling and a lot of raw, natural talent. So why is Wall considered so unproven by Jason Reid but LeBron's early years held in such high regard?

Reid is ignoring--especially by citing examples of the best players in the league--that maybe Wall has always wanted to get tattoos, but did not think it was lucrative. Upon seeing the best in the NBA with tattoos and big endorsement deals, Wall found examples at the opposite end of the spectrum of what he thought was acceptable practice in acquiring endorsement deals and presenting himself as a leader to a basketball team. In fact, Wall's realization is actually refreshing, because he discovered a side that he was not sure of and he embraced that side, showing he is capable of change and adaptation, two traits which ultimately breed contenders and champions in any profession, especially sports.

Reid also failed to make a point in the following passage:
Like Durant, Wall has strategically put tattoos on parts of his body that might not be visible when he’s in uniform. But if he wanted to keep the ink to himself, why the photos on Instagram?
Firstly, where does Jason Reid get this information that John Wall wanted to keep the ink to himself? Based on the false idea that he was against tattoos? Furthermore, comparing keeping tattoos private to Durant? Kevin Durant has posted his tattoos numerous times on his Instagram, and embraces his ink with pride.

Jason Reid's skewed and flawed logic falls drastically short of the desired mark, and clearly should have consulted with editors before posting his ridiculous opinion piece that the Washington Post should be ashamed to have published under their name.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Responding to Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s Argument Against "Redskins"

I was reading this article, Leonard Pitts Jr.: No justifying ‘Redskins’ as mascot | Wichita Eagle, and was honestly intrigued by the language Mr. Pitts used in his opposition to "Redskins."

Mr. Pitts uses some sorely developed points, many of which I have already offered rebuttal for when presented with them from other parties. But for the sake of honest counter-argument, here we go.

Does that seem logical? If so, then perhaps you can understand my impatience with people who insist on defending the Washington, D.C., football team whose nickname is a racial slur.
The latest is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He recently responded to a letter from members of the House Congressional Native American Caucus questioning the appropriateness of the name “Redskins.” That name, wrote Goodell, “is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” The team took the name in 1933, he noted, to honor then-coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, who was reputedly (it is a matter of historical dispute) an American Indian.
“Neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group,” he wrote. In other words, we have changed the meaning. It no longer means what it has always meant.
First of all, the nickname is not a racial slur, and the arguments Mr. Pitts eventually goes on to make about the use of the word as a racial slur are unfounded and unsupported in any fashion.

Secondly, Mr. Pitts incorrectly paraphrases Mr. Goodell and implies that Goodell was saying "we have changed the meaning." Nowhere in Goodell's letter or the statement presented does Goodell say "we have changed the meaning." In fact, Goodell says it has "[n]ever meant to denigrate Native Americans."

She has found empirical proof that those names and imagery lead to lowered self-esteem and sense of community worth among American Indian kids. They also damage aspirations and heighten anxiety and depression.
In other words, seeing their people reduced to mascots is toxic to Indian children. And if the names and images in general are damaging, how much more harmful is “Redskins”?
So what Mr. Pitts is suggesting is that Stephanie Fryberg has evidence that the term "Redskins" is offensive to "American Indian kids." I disagree, empirically, with this notion, as there are studies upon studies done by major research groups who have found many Native Americans look at the name with endearment and pride. But for the sake of the argument, we can--you know--ignore those.

Mr. Pitts says "if the names and images in general are damaging" that "Redskins" must be "more harmful." Well, if I'm not mistaken, "Redskins" is one of the mascots, and thus, would have been involved in the same study. This study, I'm assuming, focused on the multitude of nicknames and mascots linked with Native Americans, so did not take into account each individual name's effect on the "American Indian kids." If this is the case, the entire study is skewed and the data is unreliable in argument for any one nickname, "Redskins" included.

But as we look deeper at this segment from Mr. Pitts' article, we see that Mr. Pitts uses the phrase "American Indian." If Mr. Pitts was half the journalist he wished to be, he would have done his research and found that "Indian" is one of the words included in Stephanie Fryberg's "empirical proof." The term "American Indian" is every bit as offensive as Mr. Pitts believes "Redskins" to be. "American Indian" denotes that the people's heritage traces back to the country India. This is proven inaccurate, and has been a topic of debate for some time now. In fact, the term "Indian" was applied to Natives by the European settlers who saw the Natives as people who looked like they came from the country "India" and visually--and incorrectly--identified them as Indians. What Mr. Pitts fails to realize is that he has insulted an entire group, while trying to defend said group. This offensive language and thought-process from Mr. Pitts is enough to discredit his entire argument, but for the sake of having some fun here, I will continue.

That name, after all, was never neutral, but was, rather, a hateful epithet hurled by people who were stealing from and committing genocide against those they saw as savage and subhuman.
Mr. Pitts throws out unfounded arguments here. It is the same nonsensical "evidence" distributed in case after case against the Washington Redskins. There is no evidence, that anyone ever "hurled" this "hateful epithet" while "stealing from and committing genocide" against Native Americans.

While I have your attention on the subject, there is never, and has never been evidence provided by anyone that "Redskins" was ever used in a hurtful, hateful, or racist fashion. Argument after argument has been used, and stricken, because of lack of evidence. The only thing anyone ever suggests is to go to a reservation and call those people a "Redskin" to their face if you want proof that it offends them. Do you realize you could offend a homosexual male by calling him "gay" with an incentive or a tone? Using any term as a name is never respectful, but to use the term simply as an identifier, as the Washington Redskins do, is not offensive:

...Mr. Pitts, however, is. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Change the World

Before I begin, I know there will be a lot of people who read this post and feel like they just wasted their time. I know there will be others who read it and maybe it stirs some emotion, but they then will ultimately revert. But some, maybe one or two, hopefully as many of you who do read this, will take up the challenge to change.

For as long as I can remember interacting with @AllanGraye, we have talked about changing this planet. Of course, our focus is to start small with a community online, or at home in our immediate location, or with family and friends, and eventually on a county-wide to state-wide to nation-wide level. Ultimately, we want to change the globe as a whole.

Freedom is the goal. Apathy is the enemy.

And to be free is to be free of coercion. Is this coercion I speak of an illusion? In a sense, yes - there is no gun to our heads forcing us to act in a certain way. But we are certainly conditioned to behave a certain way by unwritten social norms, laws, schooling and instilled familial or cultural values. To be freed of the coercion those social constructs impose, we must arm ourselves and our progeny with the tools of logical reasoning and critical thinking. We must mold beings capable of sound reasoning, beings capable of rationalizing when it is sensible to build upon accepted norms, or think beyond them. When freed of internalized social coercion, we can begin to grow toward freeing ourselves of government. Our goal, then, is to establish a truly free society where humanity exists as it should, as student of divine Nature, God, as master of Self, Love, and defender of life, Wholeness. Thus, our work is not to eradicate the cultures and customs of the world, but expand our knowledge of them and refine our own. Our work is not to destroy the law, but to renovate it in such a way that the behavior it is meant to encourage becomes unspoken custom. Our work is not to eliminate education, but to retool the system by which it is administered, so that people are more capable of understanding the supreme value of Self within the context of the absolute necessity of interdependence. We can change, and through our evolution will come the growth of the world.

The problem with telling people to change things is their unwillingness to change. We as humans are so content with what we know that we are terrified to explore uncharted territory. But change is not a bad thing, especially when the goodness of humanity is the goal.

In fact, change must be recognized in that fashion, as not evil, for it is in contentment that the greatest villain of our times lies: Apathy. That sense within us that there is no need to change, no need to act, no need to do, no need to care. It is from that emptiness that we allow social constructs to warp our perceptions to the point where we come to perceive any innocuous and negligible difference between us as a foul and detestable deviance. In truth, there are no significant differences between you and I, save the few nuances in thought that make you, you, and me, me. Be you man or woman, "black" or "white", "dark skinned" or "light skinned", "gay" or "straight", Christian or Muslim, it still stands that at our cores, we all hunger, thirst, lust, crave safety of being and desire for companionship, camaraderie and community. And at present, we do not respect nor care about those needs in the people beyond and even in our immediate lives - and this must change. And it can.

Look at Gay Rights. Look at Women's Rights. Look at Civil Rights. Look at the American Revolution. Revolution... ahh. There's a term that carries such a negative stigma that it has almost become a pejorative. But revolutions are good. Revolutions are necessary. Revolutions are inevitable--or so I used to think.

It turns out, people are so terrified of the word "revolution" and the change that comes of it that we cannot actually revolt. People automatically assume a revolution is a violent upheaval or a deadly overthrow. The fact of the matter is, we can revolt peacefully. Yes, actions are louder than words, but the pen is mightier than the sword. Basically, if you can write a speech in the midst of conflict and deliver it with the sort of passion that both demands and commands respect, you can change the world.

...change the world?

...

...Change the world.

Having read to this point, you may still disregard these words, thinking this post to be yet another list of complaints by typical whiners - men who perceive disunity, recognize wrongs, but do nothing but talk. But the difference here is significant: these are not grievances. These are the enraged snarls of caged warriors, distraught over the suffering in their world and hellbent on change. This is no complaint, this is a warning - we, by any means necessary, will stand against the evils that endanger, harm and destroy our fellow man and our world. That may call violent imagery to mind, but no. What we speak of is acting in concert to free ourselves, meaning all men, women and children, from our self-imposed shackles. What we mean here is speaking with conviction to instill faith in one another. The world is ripe for change... And it's waiting on you.

Is it in you to follow an idea so vast and so broad that it will synchronously fall upon the people in the light of the sun and in the darkness of the shadow that same sun casts? Do what you know is right and change the world.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why "Redskins" Shouldn't Be Changed

I'm fairly certain anyone who even slightly follows the NFL knows of the "controversy" over the Washington Redskins' name. If you haven't, here's the brief of it. "Redskin" is supposedly a pejorative used to disparage the Native Americans. The United States Congress is even pressuring Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the name on the grounds that "Redskin" is equally offensive and more deeply rooted in offensiveness than "nigger." The term "Redskin" is apparently one of the most offensive terms in all of mankind's history.

Well, I'm writing to tell you, that it is not. And this will be a choppy rant that won't be as organized or professional as I wish it would be.

"Redskin" was not used to disparage anyone until movies ran with the term. Those movies also do not predate the use of the term for the NFL team. The term is so unused in it's offensiveness towards Natives, that there is absolutely no recording of the term "Redskin" in any manner of offensiveness on the planet Earth. The only "recording" we have is recent interviews where Natives claim they were passed in cars and called "filthy Redskin" or "dirty Redskin" or "stupid Redskin." In absolutely none of these phrases is the term "Redskin" the offensive term, it is the adjective ahead of "Redskin" which is the offender.

"Redskin" was used to define the color of skin of the Native Americans. They were also called Indian for this exact reason... they looked very similar to peoples from the country of India due to the color of their skin. We identify people by their skin color. This opens the door for racism, sure, but we generally see before we get to know a person. We will always be a visual species, and that comes with the mistake of identifying by color.

But "Redskin" isn't used in a derogatory fashion. The only people who speak poorly of the Redskins are fans of other teams, who also hear the same insults hurled at them. The Washington Redskins are a storied and proud franchise who have always represented Natives with respect. I grew up proud to celebrate the Natives, of which I share blood in my own ancestry.

The fact that there is no actual evidence to support the claim that "Redskin" is an offensive term. One very important piece of information I use in regards to support this claim is Sitting Bull's quote referring to his own skin as red. It was their own identifier.

Many use some flawed idea that "red skins" was used to describe the scalps of Natives taken for coin. This is false, unsupported, and not held up in any legal discussion. The scalps of Natives were taken, but they were not referred to as "red skins."

There are far more atrocious representations in the NFL than "Redskins." Names which are factually negative and honor disgusting acts throughout the American history. Such names include Cowboys, Raiders, Buccaneers, Vikings, Bills, and Chiefs.

The first name I want to select from that list is the Buffalo Bills, named after Buffalo Bill, a man who, in fact, collected the scalps of Natives for reward.

The Raiders and Buccaneers represent pirates. In fact, the Buccaneers celebrate the pirate idea in their stadium well beyond the uniform, logo, and name. I shouldn't even have to tell you why pirates were horrible people.

The Vikings fall very much into the same category as pirates. They were pillagers, rapists, and murderers who terrorized much of the Northern hemisphere.

The Chiefs are offensive because they honor only the highest of each tribe. Not every Native was a chief, nor could most of them be a chief. It's always better to honor the whole group opposed to individuals.

The Cowboys are by far the most offensively-named team in all of the NFL. Nevermind the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry, let us just focus on what it means to be a cowboy. "The Cowboys" were a group of outlaws, most famously, the gang that got into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This group of outlaws were thieves, murderers, rapists, and robbers. The Cowboys also retrieved Native scalps (and Mexican scalps) to redeem for their pardon for various crimes.

But good ol' Jerry Jones has never been asked to change his team's name...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

STOP BLEMISHING HUMANITY


So this Tweet just so happened to scroll down my timeline, and I'm very pissed off anyways, so I'ma take this opportunity to say "FUCK EVERYONE!" Yes, even you, the fuckhead reading this!




SO!? SO THE FUCK WHAT! Smoking pot makes you a violent, dangerous individual!? Marijuana is that bad? Since when? I've never even been talked to in a negative way by someone under the influence of marijuana. Sure, there are people who use it to calm their nerves before going to kill someone... at least, that's how it was portrayed in the movie Menace II Society.

And a picture of a gun? SO!? SO THE FUCK WHAT! I've texted pictures of dogs to friends... doesn't mean I have a dog or that it's my dog.

The media is a bunch of fucking pussies! P-U-S-S-I-E-S! And the investigators who uncovered this information and thought leaking it to the media in order to portray Trayvon Martin as some dangerous menace to society... is a dumbshit cunt.

I'm so tired of these spins put on everything. I'm sick and fucking tired of the media whipping anything into a frenzy. CNN, you're a bunch of fucking jokes for taking this shit and trying to use it against this dead kid, who was DEFENDING HIMSELF FROM A PREDATOR! A FUCKING PREDATOR! WHO DIDN'T LISTEN WHEN A POLICE OPERATOR TOLD HIM TO STAY IN HIS FUCKING CAR AND NOT PURSUE THE YOUNG BLACK MALE! A PREDATOR WHO PURSUED ANYWAYS AND GOT PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY A FRIGHTENED CHILD! A PREDATOR WHO TRIED TO GRAB THE GUN FROM HIS WAIST TO KILL THIS KID AND GOT HIS NOSE BROKEN FOR HIS RETARDED EFFORTS!

People are off their fucking rocker nowadays. I try... I REALLY TRY to have hope in humanity. The reality is, you can't have any. None whatsoever. When I look at any of you with skepticism in my eye... I'm not judging you based on ethnicity, age, sex... none of that. Some normal looking sick fucks do sick fucking things all the time. I'm not going to be the victim of one of those sick fucking things because I was too confident in someone else. As the great Stone Cold Steve Austin used to say, "DON'T TRUST ANYONE!" And I don't. Fuck all of you!



Sidebar, apologies to the family members who read this in shock by some of the language. You all know I'm more composed than this. But everyone has a tipping point, and this was mine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013-14 NFL Predictions

Okay, I was going to wait and do this after the NBA finals, but I just do not care to hold off as I'm positive the Miami Heat are gonna walk about 4 games to 2 over the San Antonio Spurs. But enough about that.




These are simply best-case scenarios (+/- 2 games) for each team. I'm not going through each and every schedule and predicting winners of each game and coming away with a results pool. Injuries and bad calls will dictate several games this season as they do each season. Some injuries may even make a team or two better as they find their diamond in the rough (see the 49ers with Smith/Kaepernick). This is just my, "this is how good I imagine this team COULD be"... records won't add up within division/conference.




AFC

AFC East:

New England Patriots - This is their division. They run this. Without or without Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady is confident in his arm. They have improved their defense and will be in their second year in the 4-3, so more comfortable with their responsibilities on that side of the ball. Record: 13-3.

Miami Dolphins - I like this young team. I like adding Mike Wallace to the mix for Tannehill's strong arm. The second-year QB is a really good player too. Defensively, I think they have some questions, but they're definitely able to keep pace with other teams in the NFL. Record: 10-6.

New York Jets - Geno Smith is a good athlete. I don't see him being much more than a good quarterback. They also don't have many weapons on offense around him to make things easy on the team. Needless to say, this isn't Mark Sanchez's team anymore. And on defense, I think they're going to really struggle to shut down the high-powered offenses in New England and Miami. Record: 7-9.

Buffalo Bills - What is there to like about this team? Not the QB. Not the RB situation with the injuries that have been occurring. Not WR. Not O-Line. Not the defense. I think we have a team who will be competing for the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Record: 3-13.

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals - I like the Bengals. Young team with a lot of upside. Still not in the best position overall, but Dalton/Green are growing together, and are doing a very good job of performing so far. I'm most interested in how the run game advances this season to help control the tempo of the game. With their growth and the decline of other teams in the division, they can take the division. Record: 12-4.

Baltimore Ravens - Yeah, they lost a LOT. And Flacco may be the anti-Peyton Manning (bad in the regular season, great in the playoffs). And they don't have Ed Reed or Ray Lewis for the first time in years. But they still have some hungry beasts on that defense and offensively, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith are still there to change the entire game. They will give Cincinnati a run for their money. Record: 11-5.

Pittsburgh Steelers - Losing Mike Wallace is going to hurt. Pittsburgh doesn't have an awesome WR to help Ben out. The run game is no longer a threat. Defensively, they haven't been Blitzburgh in quite a few years. Maybe James Harrison really did retire when he said that was an option after all of the fines. Polamalu can't stay healthy. This is a team on the decline and may cost Mike Tomlin his job. Record: 6-10.

Cleveland Browns - I said last year if they had some reliable receivers, they could have made Weeden look like a good QB. There were three games I can recall off the top of my head where receivers dropped wide-open, game winning TD's in the closing moments of the game. THREE. That could have etched Weeden into a better class. But I don't expect so much without any threatening WR's. Record: 6-10.

AFC South:

Houston Texans - This is still their division, for at least one more year. Foster is still a machine. The WR's should be healthy (and younger with more size). They still have a very good defense who should return to full health. Texans fans have a lot to be excited about. Record: 11-5.

Indianapolis Colts - One of the things the Texans can't be excited about, is the threat the Colts pose. This is a very underrated team, in my opinion. Luck will be much improved this year. They have a pretty good defense and adding a hitter in LaRon Landry can help a lot. I think they can make a run. Record: 10-6.

Tennessee Titans - If they can't run behind this revamped line, CJ2K might need to pack his bags and hope he can find the fire to prove himself again. I don't like much about their passing offense. Defensively, they can do a lot better than they did in 2012. It's all about MAKING the play this year. Record: 8-8.

Jacksonville Jaguars - I don't know what it is, but I actually liked Chad Henne running this offense. But they're still hoping Blaine Gabbert can be Tom Brady. I don't see that happening. Doesn't help at all to have the problems of Justin Blackmon. They don't have a bad team of athletes, but they've got questionable character and unsure performance. Maybe they'll compete for a top 3 pick. Record: 4-12.

AFC West:

Denver Broncos - This is their division, because they're the only great team in this division, right now. Peyton Manning proved to everyone last year that he still has it. He said he didn't feel anywhere near 100% to start the season, or finish it, but was still one of the most efficient and successful QB's of 2012. Now? He says he feels much better. Critics were proved wrong when he threw deep on both sides of the field. Defensively, they really need to play the pass better. But the offense can outscore anyone. Record: 14-2.

Oakland Raiders - What? Did I really just do this? Yes. Yes I did. Matt Flynn may even lose his starting job to a rookie... something that ended up being a blessing for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. But he may start. But I can see Tyler Wilson being successful. Or Terrell Pryor. Still like Oakland's defense, especially with Charles Woodson back in the silver and black (great nod to make it feel like it is a special place). Health and QB can prove to be the difference for this team. Record: 10-6.

Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs have a new QB who can distribute the football when he is protected. They have a run game. They have a WR. They have an O-Line. They have a decent enough defense. They have Andy Reid, who (take out the last two seasons) is one of the most successful coaches in the league. I expect them to push some teams to the limit. Record: 9-7.

San Diego Chargers - A lot of new faces out there. Philip Rivers (as I've maintained since he was drafted) is overrated and is every bit of what the media loves to accuse Tony Romo of being. They don't have a run game. There isn't a frightening WR in San Diego anymore. I don't like their defense one bit. Record: 5-11.




NFC

NFC East:

Washington Redskins - No, this division has not had a repeat champion in a while. This team DID get on a hot streak to end 2012. QB Robert Griffin III is questionable to start the season. But the Redskins can win a few of their first 4 games with backup QB Kirk Cousins. Alfred Morris is consistent and had one of his best games without RGIII. There are more weapons and more speed on this offense. Defensively, Orakpo is returning to help take pressure off Kerrigan, who will also keep some pressure off of Orakpo, opening the pass rush up. DB is improved (and played pretty well during the winning stretch last year). Record: 11-5.

Dallas Cowboys - Tony Romo is underrated. Dez Bryant is really good. The health of the running backs will be key to their success on offense. Defensively, a lot of players are returning from injury. A move to the 4-3 suits their players' strengths in Monte Kiffin's scheme. They have really good depth at LB and DE. Dallas will be in it come week 17, where the division will probably be decided again. Record: 11-5.

New York Giants - Eli Manning has to prove he can play without two star WR's and make some plays with just one. He has to not force passes to Victor Cruz when he loses confidence in his other WR's. The run game needs to succeed, which means these young backs have to prove they can play with minimal mistakes. Defensively, JPP needs to be everything he was two years ago, and nothing like he was in 2012. Justin Tuck can't have another bad year, or else Mara will never hear the end of "we should have kept Osi." DB is a huge question mark. Record: 8-8.

Philadelphia Eagles - New coach, new scheme, new focus on fast-pace, question marks at QB. Offensively, we don't know what the Eagles will look like. Running the football a lot may not be a huge option as Jackson/Maclin aren't the best blockers on the outside. Defensively... well, first year in a 3-4 following a few seasons of the wide-non...err...9. I think this season is a feeling-out process for coach Kelly. Record: 5-11.

NFC North:

Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers is going to have a chip on his shoulder this year. They have a younger, faster group at WR. They want to run the football more than they have in the past few seasons. Defensively they have some reason to believe they will improve. This is still the team to beat in the NFC in my eyes. Record: 13-3.

Chicago Bears - They could be really bad this year... but I'm of the belief they will be really good this year. I still really like Cutler/Marshall, and if the other WR's can stay healthy, Cutler can achieve some great things. Run game needs to be a focus this season though, which means the RB's need to stay healthy. Forte in 16 games could be one of the best backs in the entire league. Defensively, they could grow without Urlacher's physical deficiencies. Record: 10-6.

Minnesota Vikings - I'm not ready to give up on Ponder yet. Having a veteran WR who has won something can help him a lot. Peterson is an X-Men and if his goal is 2,500 yards rushing, I don't imagine a single defense wants to try and stop him from doing it. Defensively, Minnesota has always been pretty solid. Young DB's have a little experience now. Record: 10-6.

Detroit Lions - Are they better than their record last year? I don't know. Calvin Johnson is the best WR in the NFL right now, like it or not. Stafford distributes the ball pretty well, and Megatron managed to do the unthinkable. Don't like their run game... even if they're healthy. Defensively, Fairley's suggestion that he and Suh are the best DT tandem may be fair, but the rest of that defense doesn't play like they're anchored by the best DT tandem. They really have to step up this year. Record: 7-9.

NFC South:

New Orleans Saints - They're making a return to the top of the division this season with the return of head coach Sean Payton. Drew Brees is just far more comfortable with his head coach on the sideline and not at home watching on TV. I don't expect this offense to stall at all. Defensively, they can be as good as they want to be if they play up to their talents. That's easier said than done though. But they can outscore almost everyone in the NFL. Record: 12-4.

Atlanta Falcons - I still think Matt Ryan is overrated. I don't think Stephen Jackson is any better than Mike Turner was last season at this point. Maybe he is, and maybe that helps mask Ryan's weaknesses. WR is possibly the best group in the entire league. Defensively, they're worse than they were last year, and that was a pretty bad group. I don't have high expectations there. Record: 9-7.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - They made some nice additions on defense. Getting Revis, even if he isn't exactly like he was before the injury, is still a major pickup that will greatly help their horrible pass defense from last year. Doug Martin and the WR's are pretty damn good weapons at the disposal of Freeman, who needs to show out this season and not fall apart like 2012. Record: 8-8.

Carolina Panthers - This isn't a team I'm really seeing improving. I don't like their situation at RB. Their WR's still aren't frighting. Cam Newton is literally the only weapon I see on this offense. Defensively, they're just as frightening as they were last year......... not very. Record: 7-9.

NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers - Even if they don't have Michael Crabtree, I still think this team is terrifying to any opponents. The defense is solid all around and regardless of the first half of the Super Bowl, they can bully any offense in the NFL. Offensively, they've got the tools to run more if Crabtree cannot return at all, and they still have some options at WR with the zone-read option to keep defenses honest. Record: 11-5.

Arizona Cardinals - I don't care what you think of Palmer following his days in Oakland. They just need a QB who can get Fitzgerald involved, and Palmer's one of those guys who can do that. It helps a whole lot that they have another big target across from Fitz... a guy I believe can be one of the best in the NFL in a few years, and Palmer may just jumpstart his push to get there. Defense needs to step up and bully people like they started to do last year. Record: 9-7.

Seattle Seahawks - They're a good team, no matter how you look at it. But they're also a troublesome team off-the-field, and sometimes that really hurts talent when the league starts observing a little more closely. I don't really like their group at WR, but Lynch is one of the best backs in the league and will go off again this year. Defense is big, fast, and strong, and they will push people around all year. Record: 9-7.

St. Louis Rams - Bradford has some weapons at his disposal, but still no proven name that strikes fear in the heart of opposing defenses. Austin could become that guy, but that's a big if in my book. The group at RB isn't as intimidating as many, but they've got a good blend and backs usually succeed with coach Fisher regardless. Defensively, I like the talent they have, but they still have to learn to play as an entire unit. Record: 7-9.