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NFL Unfiltered Week 1: Forget Football, the NFL Sells Hope

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Of the many frauds the National Football League perpetuates on its fans, perhaps the most impressive is the fact hope weaves its way into their consciousness each year.

It begins in March with free agency, a wasteland of has-beens and money-chasers looking to cash a big check. Acts of thievery worthy of our admiration. 

Then comes the NFL Draft, where over 250 men are chosen.  It matters little that the overwhelming majority of them won’t make a roster. What is Photo: USAToday.comimportant is the, dare I say, “Audacity of hope,” that the new cornerback stops opponents from converting so many third downs. Or maybe the new left tackle puts an end to the poor play of his team’s quarterback.  

Either way, Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher managed to sell hope to the pro football fans in the City of Angels, only to smash their dreams to pieces in one night in Santa Clara, California.  

Fisher, now in his 22nd year as an NFL head coach, has a 169-157 record. However, his teams have qualified for the playoffs in only six of the first twenty-one. And he has not coached a winning team in his last seven seasons.  

Still, this season represented the promise of a result different from Fisher’s usual mediocrity.  A glimmer of a possible playoff team in the second most populated city in the country.  

Instead, Rams fans saw as poor an opening day performance as any the league has ever seen, not including expansion teams.  

They were shutout, their supposedly stout defense allowed 28 first downs, and they lacked discipline—as is usually the case with Fisher-coached teams.  All while Fisher’s chosen quarterback watched from the sidelines in sweats, because apparently, he isn’t good enough to wear a uniform.  

During training camp, Fisher infamously cut a player (wide receiver Deon Long) after learning Long had a woman in his room.  And according to Fisher, that was “some 7-9 s**t!”  Really?  In 12 of Fisher’s 21 full seasons, his teams finished somewhere between 6-10 and 8-8, which makes him 7-9 personified.  

Tough talk and bold proclamations are not rewarded in the National Football League.  Acquiring talent and an attention to details are.  And based on the Rams’ play on Monday night, Fisher hasn’t done either, much like the bulk of his career.  

Predictably, the Rams are a national punchline but there is still hope they’ll finish 7-9.

 

THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 1

-I fully support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem and understand why he’s doing it, but cornrows is so 1996. It’s time for him to kneel before his barber.

-Any peaceful protest against injustice is a good thing, but is it any surprise a Russell Wilson lead team managed to do it in the least offensive and most vanilla way possible?Photo: Bleedinggreennation.com

-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looks like an NFL quarterback, but it is too soon to say Fisher or Cleveland’s Hue Jackson made a mistake in passing on him. The real mistake both those men made was deciding Case Keenum, Sean Mannion, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III were good enough. Both coaches must stand in front of 53 men, none of whom are blind or live in a bubble, and pretend they can still win without anything close to average play from the quarterback.  Good luck with that.  

-Speaking of RGIII, whether he is still an NFL starter is debatable. His frailty, however, is not. Fisher just got a contract extension, despite decisions worthy of firing.  But Jackson better win because you just know he convinced the general manager and owner the 2nd overall pick wasn’t necessary, because of his expertise and his ability to get the most out of quarterbacks. I suspect they would not have hired him otherwise.  

-Based on the ease with which Wentz and the Eagles got themselves in and out of the huddle, head coach Doug Pederson must have shortened the verbiage in the playbook. Having played for and coached under Andy Reid, why wouldn’t he?  

-Obviously, reputation matters in the NFL. That’s one of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys struggled to run the football against the New York Giants. But just as important as reputation, is a coach’s willingness to call aggressive plays. If head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t prove his willingness to feature wide receiver Dez Bryant, the Cowboys won’t win a game until quarterback Tony Romo returns.  

-The lack of thinking by so many players during games leads me to wonder if intelligence is as coveted an attribute as coaches and executives want us to believe.  

-The only question now is whether New England’s Bill Belichick gets a 1st round pick for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, or if he must settle for a 2nd.  

-Eagles fans aren’t interested in anything related to former head coach Chip Kelly except his failure, and rightfully so. But Kelly has made several tangible adjustments since his firing and deserves praise.  And speaking of Kelly, the 49ers represent the best offensive line and defense in his four years as a pro coach.    

-Miami’s first-year head coach Adam Gase might be the young wunderkind but he mishandled the clock at the end of the game like most coaches do.  

-I am not suggesting defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh stepped on Russell Wilson’s ankle intentionally, but he’s always in the middle of something, isn’t he?  He’s like the guy on the basketball court at the gym who doesn’t abide by the unwritten rules and has no regard for, or control of, his body.  

-If you pay close attention, NFL announcers and talking heads say really dumb things all the time. The latest example is the notion quarterback Cam Newton’s athleticism makes the need for a great offensive line unnecessary. 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

 

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Wentz photo: bleedinggreennation.com