Monday, November 12, 2007

NFL Notes

I know, football is incredibly boring to those who don't take an interest in it (few though you may be :), so I'll apologize ahead of time.

I'd heard that part of the reason the Dolphins were undefeated in the '72 season was that coach Don Shula himself helped at least influence who his team would play. A look at the stats over on the NFL site reveals that the Dolphins opponents had a combined record of 51-86-2. These stats are admittedly somewhat skewed since the Dolphins only had to play 14 games a season back then and eight of them were within their own division which apart from the Dolphins, looked pretty bad (the Jets had the best record of the bunch at 7-7, and only two of the other teams were over 500 at 8-6). As well, the Dolphins played no teams that made it to the playoffs.

Compare this to New England this season. The teams they play and will play have a combined record of 60-57 at this point in the season (a stat which is ironically skewed due to Miami's awful performance this year). New England will play/has played four teams which will win their divisions (PIT,IND,SD,DAL).

Not that the '72 Dolphins were bad (they did win the Super Bowl), but that they probably wouldn't have gone undefeated were it not for their schedule.

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For me there are three things that hang over the NFL ready to destroy it at any moment. I know the league is well aware of these issues too.

  1. Thug players. As I've said on many occasions, a more caring society would have had a public hanging for future hall of famer Ray Lewis for his part in this. To the new commish's credit, he has sought to rectify this situation by handing out much stiffer penalties, mostly in an effort to try and keep the NFL from going the way of the NHL which, a different points in its history, came to be viewed as a sport played by thugs, for thugs.
  2. Gambling. Anyone notice how Michael Vick admitted to all the horrid dog charges but was careful to point out that hey never gambled on the fights? There's a good reason for that. The NFL has a real wink-nudge relationship with the gambling community. The people who call games regularly point out the 'spread', something which the NFL makes no effort to squash. The theory (which is sound) is that if someone was given to gamble on x, they would probably gamble on y, where y might equal a game in which the player is playing. The NFL doesn't care too much about the dogs, but it's real sensitive to the gambling issue, there was a whole movie made about it as a matter of fact.
  3. Demographics. You don't have to wonder very hard as to why so many Viagra, antacid, and arthritis medicines are advertised during football games. It's still not as bad as the evening news which features Depends ads, and football games still have video game and computer ads, but it's still something the league is panicked about. Thus all the ads pandering to women, Hispanics and other people who will never watch it, as well as stupid stunts like that green version of the Sunday night football game. The last one is a good example because I had to turn it off, it's a struggle to attract new viewers without alienating the ones you already have.

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A large part of New England's success has been the superior coaching of Bill Belichick. The difference between them and everyone else was on display yet again yesterday as Cleveland's poor coaching led to bad play calling and the burning of two consecutive timeouts towards the end of the game in a failed effort to get a play overturned in their game against the Steelers. It's nothing against Cleveland, lots (most?) of the other teams make the same mistakes, but it's interesting that Bill Belichick's team is very rare with those types of miscues: playing smart is a priority. I used to be indifferent towards the Patriots, but I've picked up some of the local hatred directed towards Bill Belichick that originates from his time has the head coach of the Browns (to his credit, it appears that he coached the last playoff win for the Browns back in '94). Still, I'm envious that being smart is so elusive to the teams I that want to win.

I'm not a big football expert by any stretch (I'm not even sure what have the positions are), so it aggravates me all the more when coaches and players do something so stupid that even I'm picking up on it. Don't use two timeouts when you only have a minute and a half to drive for a score!

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Did you know that the NFL doesn't own the pro-football hall of fame? It's actually a seperate entity. I've heard it said that they have an uneasy alliance: the Hall is dependent on the NFL for players and appropriate licensing, while the NFL needs an independent agency to house it's hall of famers. I guess the baseball one is the same way, but baseball is old, and it's the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum so it's generically related to baseball in general whereas the football hall of fame is the Pro Football Hall of Fame which is probably why there's a completely seperate College Football Hall of Fame. I figure someday I'll go down there and see if they have a broom closet set aside for the USFL and XFL players as a token showing of independence.

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