I Hate the NFL

I'm not sure if my headline is entirely accurate, but it's pretty damn close.  The NFL has become equal parts irritation and annoyance on days that don't start with "Sun."  And that's what this comes down to.  Today is Thursday and today I hate the NFL.  Tomorrow is Friday, and I will hate the NFL.  After that? Saturday.  And I'll hate the NFL on that day as well.

Then comes Sunday.  And for one day, when all there is are games and highlights, I will enjoy football again.  But then Monday will role around and the whole vicious cycle will start all over again.  So what is it that fills me with such vitriol?  Let's get started.

I hate Thursday Night Football

Thanksgiving football was fun and cheeky.  Everyone has off of work and nobody wants to talk to family anyways.  Even opening the season on a Thursday night has been a nice touch.  It is an attention grabbing event and the teams are well rested.

But the rest of the season all we get are poorly prepared, poorly rested and generally shitty football games.  There's nothing like having your team play a shitty game on a night when you'd rather just take a damn nap so you can get through your Friday and make it to the weekend.

Seriously nobody wants to watch football on Thursday nights.  I would rather do anything than give up four hours in the middle of the week.  You have one day. ONE DAY. And that's enough.  I fucking hate Thursday Night Football, just go away already.

I hate Roger Goodell
This Guy Sucks

This sums it up better than I can but I'm still going to give it a try.  Roger Goodell is a shitty commissioner and has done absolutely nothing to improve the league while continuing with a pattern of bad decisions that has left the league with a repeated number of black eyes. Let's throw a few of the headline grabbers out there:

18 Game Schedule
Replacement Refs
Criminal Owners
Player Discipline
The Ray Rice Fiasco
The Washington Redskins

Yea, he definitely deserves a vote of confidence from the billionaires that are his bosses continually give him.  Honestly, it's like Paul Tagliabue gave him a goose that laid golden eggs and he's slowly but surely bashing it's head against the ground, plucking it's feathers and getting ready to deep fry that sucker so he can eat it and leave it as a big pile of shit.  I hate Roger Goodell and what he's done to this league.

I hate the NFL Draft

Three days of this garbage?  Are you kidding me?  I'm supposed to give up three days in the middle of spring toward a damn draft?  No. Just No.  Here's the deal, the draft doesn't matter.  There is absolutely nothing entertaining about this event.  Hey, here's a bunch of people that most likely won't be as good as we want them to be except for all these guys we aren't really paying attention to that may end up being stars.

It's a crap shoot and the coverage is absolutely insufferable.  Well anything that involves Chris Berman is absolutely insufferable.  Amazing that Mel Kiper can make a career out of moderately accurately guessing where players will be drafted but is just godawful at predicting whether or not they'll be decent players.

I hate ESPN

Does this really fit with my 345 day a year hatred of the NFL.  Why yes, yes it does.  No news organization or media group (short of Peter King at Sports Illustrated) is more in bed with the NFL than ESPN.  The personalities that they trot out on a week to week basis to talk all things FOOTBALL make me want to stab myself in the ears.

It's this constant and unstoppable inundation of annoying information that first makes one associate "NFL" with "STFU."  I really, really, really hate ESPN.

I hate the Lack of Player Protection

You want to decrease head injuries?  How about meaningful punishments.  Helmet-to-helmet hit?  Four game minimum suspension EVERY TIME.  See how willing players are to take a shot at a player if it's going to cost them 25% of their salary every time they do it.  This game is dangerous enough as it is, if the league isn't properly punishing players for making it more dangerous how can you enact reasonable and lasting change?

I hate this complete and utter Lack of Player Protection.

I hate the Locker Room Mentality

I've had enough of the macho boys club.  Of a bunch of guys thinking that they can't move into the 21st century with the rest of us because they are MEN who play FOOTBALL.  I hate the Richie Incognitos and Chris Cullivers of the world.  And I hate that the NFL puts them in a position to have their bigotry and general shitty-ness a platform to spew the nonsense.

I hate the message that if you won't play through your injury then you are a pussy.  Man up, never mind the fact that you may be ruining your body and your mind for the rest of your life.  I hate the face that this locker room culture is viewed as acceptable and so little is being done to change it, in any sport.

But Most of All

I hate that the NFL has such potential to be a force for the positive and this is how they choose to exist in the world.  The league doesn't need to throw money at social issues, issues like domestic violence, at risk youth, bullying and the list goes on.

The NFL could make a difference by setting an example.  By leading the way and showing fans and kids how to not be awful people.  Instead we're left people like Ray Lewis, Greg Hardy and Jim Irsay to be shining stars for the most impactful league in the United States. And I hate that.


Revisiting 3rd and 3

After a few days of reflection, I'd like to delve a bit deeper into Rodgers error in judgement on 3rd and 3 in the third quarter.

That isn't to say he's off the hook.  It felt a bit like the Giants playoff game in 2007 to me, when Favre looked so cold that he would rather go home early than finish the game.  I remember thinking to myself, "If the yearly goal is to make the Super Bowl, and the Packers will have to play in Lambeau in January to get there, then I don't think Brett Favre can be our QB anymore."  Both Rodgers's and Favre's plays left me reevaluating who they were.

I'm not suggesting Rodgers is no longer capable of leading the Packers.  Far from it.   I simply believe that this is a play Rodgers should have made.  It's a play people have come to expect him to make, simply because he's been that good.  I'm still frustrated that he botched it, and I might argue he would be too, were he in my shoes.

We actually got an excellent example of this on Thursday night.  Consider the differences between the two offensive linemen who took the field on Thursday night as injury relief:  Corey Linsley and Derek Sherrod.

Linsley, a rookie playing his very first regular season NFL game on a huge stage, played a very good game, making one mistake while otherwise being invisible, a desired trait on the offensive line.   Sherrod, on the other hand, was embarrassed to the tune of recovering the fumble that he allowed in his own endzone for a safety.  But who drew the wrath of Rodgers on camera?  Linsley.


It's a difference of expectation.  Linsley had prepared all week for this game with the starters, and barring a personnel change, will be starting until week 9.  Sherrod, on the other hand, was a reserve unexpectedly jumping into a game against the defending Super Bowl champs.  Maybe Rodgers has a higher opinion of Linsley, maybe he just feels Linsley has more potential than Sherrod, but the bottom line is Rodgers demanded perfection from Linsley, and when he didn't deliver, he heard about it.  Rodgers had no such expectations for Sherrod, which might tell us something about Sherrod's future with the team.

So as Rodgers goes with Linsley, so do I with Rodgers, as should anyone else rooting for Green Bay.  If that's Scott Tolzien filling in due to injury and erring, I give him a pass .  But Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.  He holds the current record for highest career passer rating, preps for games with a relentless attention to detail, and year after year has proven his ability to make plays with his arm and his feet that very few at his position can mimic.  Most of the time he lives up to that standard, but on third and three at a pivotal moment in a nationally televised game, he fell short.  I don't think it's unfair to expect him to make that play, and I think he would agree.


Three and Out

Four quarters to win a game, four downs to get a first down. There are a lot of reasons the Packers lost Thursday night:  rushing defense, an injury to Bryan Bulaga, and poor play by the receivers.  But if I had to pick four key plays, here's how the Packers blew it on Thursday night in four downs.

First down:  Brad Jones drops an interception in the first quarter

Yes, Zach Miller made a nice defensive play on offense, but we're not that far removed from training camp, and that was a textbook tip drill.  Brad Jones, in a game this big, has GOT to catch that ball.  If Jones holds on to that interception, Mike Daniels never runs into the kicker, the Packers take over at midfield, and the Packers are in position to score first instead of the Seahawks.  This play could change the entire landscape of the game.

As a side note, I'm beyond done with Brad Jones.  Give me Jamari Lattimore.  Give me Sam Barrington.  Hell, bring back Nick Barnett, but if you're going to stick with the vanilla AJ Hawk in the middle, you need a wild card to pair him with.

Second down: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix drops an interception in the second quarter

This is a play the safety should make.  The Packers are only down 7 near the end of the second quarter, and if Ha Ha holds on to this ball and just goes down, the Packers likely get at minimum 3 points, and at best tie the game going into the half.  The dynamic of the game coming out of half time drastically changes with this pick.

There is a silver lining to this play, however.  We have a rookie here who was in position to make a play, as he was several times in this game.  Although we have a pretty small sample size, Ha Ha seems to have the proverbial "nose for the ball", which tells me that we likely have our replacement for the painfully average Morgan Burnett, perhaps as soon as midseason.  The secondary is suddenly a strength, which is encouraging.

Third down:  Aaron Rodgers throws the ball away in the third quarter

This one hurts the most.  Brad Jones is someone I have no faith in, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a rookie.  But Rodgers is our guy. The face of the franchise. He's molded his role on the team as a guy who unabashedly demands the most of his teammates and sets the tone with his play.  So when you're that guy, how do you throw the ball away on 3rd and 3 with enough real estate in front of you to get a first down with your legs?  That play concerned me more than anything tonight.  Perhaps there was a miscommunication between him and Nelson on the play, but they say winners want the ball in their hand with the game on the line, and I'd argue that the game was on the line here. I'm disappointed that Rodgers didn't tuck and run.

And if you're going to defend the decision, I'll say right now that I don't care if McCarthy doesn't like him running for first downs.  I can't remember who said it, but a coach once said (and I'm paraphrasing), "There are two types of players I can't win with:  those who never listen to me, and those who always listen to me."  That was a play where Rodgers should have ignored his coach.

Punt:  Brad Jones is called for holding in the fourth quater

Early in the drive Green Bay had Seattle stopped on third down on their own 24 yard line when the aforementioned Brad Jones commits a holding penalty to give Seattle an automatic first down.  By passing, the Seahawks seem to be trying to give the Packers a shot, but they can't capitalize.

If this stop is made, there's still an outside chance (however slim) at scoring twice and winning 30-29.  Instead, Russell Wilson directed a soul crushing 13 play, 80 yard drive, culminating with a TD pass on 4th and 1 from the GB 15 yard line.

Final score:  36-16.

0-1 to start the season.  This loss is far from a death knell, and even with injuries to Bryan Bulaga and Richard Rodgers, you have to like the Packers chances next week against the perennially hapless Jets. With that being said, after opening and closing the last two seasons with losses to the 49ers, it's hard not to wonder if the best case scenario this year is deja vu all over again, only with the Seahawks as the substitute.