Friday, January 16, 2015

The Only Reaction You Should Have...To Hiring Rex Ryan

~ Anthony Constantino

The Buffalo Bills have hired the 18th head coach in team history heading into what you could argue is the most important offseason in almost two decades. The hiring of Rex Ryan has been met with mixed reviews. Some find his boisterous, brash, and larger than life personality to be just what the team needs. Those people would say he brings a players' coach mentality and a bravado or confidence that will take this team to heights that were simply impossible under former coach Doug Marrone. Others will contend that he is a proven failure as he has a losing record in his career as a head coach. This group will tell you Ryan is a hopeless retread and his bagful of promises and his guarantee talk will wear down team morale and hinder long term success.

I'm not going to tell you either side is right or wrong. However, both sides are missing the big picture.

Any Bills fan can tell you exactly how long it has been since the team has made the playoffs. This number burns in the back of every fan's mind... 15 seasons. Most fans begin, end, and circle around this number in every conversation they have relating to their team. They all know this is the longest drought in the league, and they won't let anyone forget it either.

My message addresses those fans directly. Every fan who has lived through the pain and anguish over these past 15 seasons.

Now remember all the coaches that have come and gone in that time: Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Perry Fewell, Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone. They all have something in common. None were sought after. None of these coaches were a hot commodity of any kind. No bright minds or bold personalities and never a coach that chose the Bills over some other team of high profile.

The Rex Ryan hire changes that. Today. I'd tell you Ryan has more credentials than any of the coaches that have come before him since Marv Levy. He took a Mark Sanchez led team to two AFC Championship games. His defenses are always top notch. He demands a maximum effort from his players; and they give it to him. Rex Ryan chose Buffalo over Atlanta and San Francisco.   

What that has done is change the game. The Bills are coming. Not the kind of coming that is polite filler by an ESPN anchor to avoid saying, "Bills fans, I'm sorry but your team is a tire fire." The Bills are coming. They are on the map and the Ryan hire validates that. A high profile coach with an impressive track record has picked the "lowly" Buffalo Bills over other teams that are just as ready to win a championship. Atlanta has a far superior offense to Buffalo from a talent standpoint. San Francisco has a comparable defense and a better QB than Buffalo as of today.

Rex chose Buffalo. That is all you need to know.

Now the real question is what can Greg Roman (who has also seen some great heights as an offensive coordinator) do with the cast of talent he has inherited with the Bills. He has no quarterback and don't try to tell me otherwise. Until that is resolved this team will not play in the playoffs. However Rex says the Bills are going, so get ready.

I don't doubt he will take this team to the postseason. In the event that he doesn't, just remember how far this team has come. Realize what the hiring of Rex Ryan truly means. Recognize your team is relevant again. Fly your flag.

Friday, December 5, 2014

BCS Banished, Playoff Pandemonium Ensues

~Anthony Constantino

Before I tear up the current college football playoff concept, I would like to take a moment to appreciate the fact that we have entered a new era. College football fans can all take a huge sigh of relief knowing that the BCS system has been abandoned. We are one step closer to proper representation in the college football bowl subdivision (FBS). Now that we have that out of the way, I must say the selection committee has no chance of getting it right this season.

We all hope that the four best teams are selected for the upcoming playoff, but this already presents a problem; there are five "power conferences". These conferences are the ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12, Big 12, and the SEC. How exactly is this a fair system when one of the major conferences cannot be represented? It can't be. Watching the regular season unfold, a case can be made that some conferences might deserve multiple representatives in the playoff. The selection committee has already exhibited favoritism and judging teams on different criteria.

Florida State is the defending champion of the college football world. They are the only undefeated team left in the nation. Over the course of the season the selection committee has steadily dropped them from the first to fourth, where they currently stand. Although the Seminoles have had their struggles this season they have beat every team they faced, and no other team can say that. The committee has decided to penalize FSU for not winning in an impressive fashion. This is not supposed to be taken into account, according to the criteria.

Here is the criteria teams are supposed to be based on:
1. Winning your conference championship
2. Strength of schedule
3. Head to head competition
4. Comparative outcome of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
5. Key injuries that affected performance or may affect postseason performance

The next blunder the committee has made regards the top two Big 12 teams in their rankings. Texas Christian University (TCU) and Baylor are two one loss teams. TCU is ranked third and Baylor is outside the dance sitting at six. Essentially, Baylor needs some serious help to get into the inaugural playoff. I would contend that this shouldn't be the case. I'm not a fan of using game scenarios to make a point, I feel this one is somewhat relevant. TCU and Baylor played head to head this season, which is an important criteria. Baylor erased a 21 point deficit in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter en route to a victory over TCU. For those who aren't familiar, both teams are in the Big 12 and have a nearly identical schedule. There is no conference championship game for their conference. Therefore the next most important criteria should be the head to head result. Yet we find Baylor three spots behind TCU, and out in the cold for a national championship opportunity.

Some might say I should cut this committee some slack, since it is the first year college football has a playoff system in place. People might speak to the idea that we should all withhold judgment and see how this first season plays out. I cannot agree. I see no purpose for outlining criteria, only to veer away from it with your selections. The mission statement for this committee is first and foremost to choose the four best teams. A common coach cliché is that you can only play who is on your schedule. Florida State and Baylor have done so, and are being disrespected and judged under a different set of rules.

On Sunday afternoon, the playoff bracket will be set. Controversy is unavoidable at this point. I will point out three teams that are in essence linchpins in the college football world this weekend. Those teams are #16 Missouri, #8 Arizona, and #6 Baylor. These three teams can send shockwaves through the FBS one last time before bowl season begins.

Missouri faces top ranked Alabama for the SEC Championship. Missouri will be a decisive underdog to Alabama, but the Tigers have one of the best defensive lines in the nation. That game should not be a walkover for the perennial powerhouse Crimson Tide.

Arizona has a date with the second ranked Oregon Ducks for the Pac 12 Championship. I highlight this game because Arizona beat Oregon in Oregon, handing the Ducks their only loss of the season. If the Wildcats pull off the upset, the committee will have to question whether or not Arizona deserves to be among the four best teams. The Wildcats are the highest ranked two loss team.

Lastly, Baylor has one more chance to make a case for their inclusion in the playoff. For some odd reason, they are sixth in the ranking. They play a home game against #9 Kansas State in their regular season finale. Apparently the Baylor Bears need to win by a large margin to get the attention of committee members. Even that may not be enough to save them, as they are already ranked behind a team they beat.

This season will forever be remembered as the first to have a college football playoff. We can only hope the selection committee makes as few mistakes as possible, so that this season is remembered for the right reasons.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Oakland Raiders Did Something Right

I can't remember the last time I spoke, wrote, or thought those words. My best guess is that Jerry Rice was adorning the silver and black the last time I believed in the Raiders. That was more than a decade ago. Since then they have had seven top 10 draft picks in the last 12 seasons. You would not have guessed that by looking at their roster. Oakland has been among the most inefficient teams you will find since becoming AFC champions in 2002. The draft picks and player signings have been atrocious. There has been little or no continuity in the front office as well. Consequently the organization has been recycling coaching staffs in hope to strike gold, which just hasn't worked out.

However, I'm ready to say they have finally succeeded in making a proper organizational decision, and I'm pulling for them. Now I'm not about to sign on some website and buy a hat or a car flag, but I will keep an eye on them from a safe distance.

This offseason the Raiders decided to sign some faded talent to their team, in an effort to rekindle their fires and reap those benefits. This came in the form of Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew. Say what you will about these two veterans, but I feel as though trying to get anymore production from them is like trying to draw blood from a rock. Someone in the front office had the foresight to draft a quarterback, and I applaud that person. However that's not the decision I'm praising. The real praise has yet to come.

As well all know, coaching stints in the NFL have become shorter and shorter. If a staff gets 4 years with a team today, they have overstayed their welcome or they have won some games in January. The Raiders have elected to start that quarterback they drafted in the second round after he outplayed Schaub in the preseason. The Oakland Raiders get it. They recognize that if there is no respectable incumbent quarterback, the rookie deserves the start. Find out what the unknown is and see if you stumbled upon a franchise player. We know Matt Schaub is not the guy, just ask the Houston Texans.

The Raiders watched what Seattle did with Russell Wilson. Seattle signed Matt Flynn and drafted Wilson in the same offseason. Wilson outplayed Flynn in the preseason and the Seahawks rewarded him. Wilson helped bring them a Super Bowl ring.

Three quarterbacks were taken in the first round this year (Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles). These men all outplayed an unproven incumbent starter. The Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, and Jacksonville Jaguars have all decided to bench the rookies. That is doing a major disservice to each team. For all intents and purposes, we know these three teams aren't playoff bound. We also know those unproven incumbents are not the long term answer. Why take the first round talent out of the huddle?

We have heard this phrase all too often from coaches, "Nothing is more valuable to a young player than live, in game reps." By taking Manziel, Bridgewater, and Bortles off the field these teams are essentially wasting time. If you are drafting a quarterback in the first round, you more than likely need him to play. These teams are a quarterback away from being in a playoff conversation. If the rookies stay on the bench, those teams will stay irrelevant.

I'm not going to say the Raiders made a commitment to excellence in starting Derek Carr, but they made a commitment to the future. I can respect a franchise that invests in the future.     

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Built/Bought Fallacy

~Anthony Constantino

Above is a billboard placed in San Antonio ahead of this year's NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. The advertisement is meant to poke fun at the Heat "Big Three" coming together via free agency in 2010, and in subsequent years adding veteran players to round out the roster. The billboard juxtaposed the Heat approach against the Spurs process as a team that was "built" through drafting and re-signing those players long term, rather than signing big name free agents in the offseason. These are two different strategies that have netted tremendous success for both organizations. That much is undeniable.
However, that billboards harkens back to an argument we hear from fans of every sport year after year. Fans of small market teams, teams who don't win championships, or just teams who miss out on the top free agents each year are certain to recite this mantra in some form. Here's how it sounds: 
"The _____ aren't that great of an organization they just buy their championships. If my team had that kind of money we would be winning too!"
Sound familiar? Let's face it sports fans, we all have that friend or collection of friends who have used this argument to try and feel better about their team's shortcomings. It is easy to understand why these people fall prey to this school of thought. These dejected fans feel as though the deck is stacked against their favorite team and this is an excuse they can use to find solace. Well if you know the Chief Operating Officer of the "Built vs. Bought" coalition or you subscribe to this fallacy, I'm directing this article at you.
There are a few concepts fans need to be made aware of that utilize the argument of buying championships as an tactical advantage rather than a mandatory business practice. The first concept being that every player in every professional sport makes money. Nobody plays for free. So pretending your team was built rather than bought is nonsense because every player is picking up a paycheck, and a hefty one at that. Regardless of where your team finished, ownership paid for tat result. When a team like the Spurs elects to re-sign a player such as Tim Duncan or Tony Parker they are essentially paying them not to become a free agent. So those men were re-signed and chose not to exercise their free agent right which was collectively bargained by the owners and the player's association years ago. Looks like the Spurs were bought too. 
The second concept I'd like to make fans aware of is the massive revenue stream all teams experience. You don't need to be a genius to recognize that professional sports in this country are big business. Most owners, if not all, are taking in profits hand over fist. If they weren't making so much money you wouldn't see someone like Donald Sterling feverishly trying to maintain ownership of his franchise after he was removed as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Furthermore, you wouldn't see millionaires placing bids on his team as if they are at the OTB for the Kentucky Derby. Even if a team is struggling and/or poorly managed, the owners will still generate a profit. Especially when we add revenue sharing to the mix.
Revenue sharing takes certain segments of revenue and divides it evenly amongst the teams. In short, that means the most successful organizations are obligated to help out the floundering ones. Revenue sharing exists in all four of our major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) in some capacity, with the NHL being the last to implement such a policy in 2013. This dispels any disdain fans might have about a financial discrepancy-- all owners have money. Whether they choose to spend it on the franchise or not is their own choice. A choice some fans cannot wrap their head around. This neatly introduces the third concept novice fans might have missed.
Anybody who has succeeded in business will tell you that in order to make money you must spend money. So when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox choose to spend truckloads of cash every offseason you shouldn't downgrade them. Those teams do everything they can to try and win championships. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics try to exhaust all options to win each and every year. Those owners care about winning more than money, because winning creates more money, and they know that. When an owner elects to spend less on and give less to the franchise, realize it's a business decision. Every owner is a millionaire who is profiting. Let's not forget this team isn't their only source of income either. These owners made money doing something else, and are probably still making money off of it.        
We love sports because of the competition. It gives us all a chance to measure up. Your team against mine and let's see who wins. Can your team take home the title? We can't get enough of it. So look at this from a different perspective. When you play a sport/game of any kind, you are playing to win. As a player in that contest you are trying to do all that you can within the rules to win right? (Well, in the case of Monopoly you may grab an extra 500 dollar bill or try and slip past Boardwalk but that's another story.) When fans speak negatively about a team that does everything it can to win, remember this example. Why wouldn't you root for a team that does all it can to win? Isn't that how we run our own lives? I'm fairly confident we don't wake up and say, "I'd love to lose at poker night with the guys." or, "You know, I'd be thrilled if I could lose my tennis match this afternoon." or "I'm really hoping I don't get that promotion I've been working towards." That isn't how we think, so it is silly to defend owners who act that way. We can't ignore the entertainment sports provides and I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy the ride. However, the purpose is to compete for a chance to be the best. That is why sports fans watch their teams each and every year.
These concepts soundly defeat the argument of built vs. bought. Those people who contend that teams buy championships have a point. Every franchise buys their championships. Every franchise also pays for wherever they finish amongst their competitors.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Truth About John Football

~Anthony Constantino

From the start of his playing days at Texas A&M, Manziel developed a cult following. He was easily the most exciting football player in college football, because not even he knew what he was going to do from snap to snap. The only thing that was certain with Manziel, was unpredictability. He mastered the art of improvisation at the quarterback position, making the game more of a magic show. He dazzled with a flair that could rival Houdini. Manziel created masterpieces amongst chaos, breaking the record for total offense in a season in the storied Southeastern Conference (SEC). Game after game Manziel racked up yards and touchdowns galore in what became a Heisman Trophy campaign. Johnny Football was on top of the college football world, becoming the first player to win the Heisman trophy as a freshman. Manziel did what had never been done.

Fast forward to the end of his sophomore season. Manziel decided to declare for the NFL Draft. NFL scouts and analysts begin to dissect every down Johnny Football played as an Aggie. Much like myself, they saw a heavily flawed quarterback who has tremendous athletic ability with very little use of fundamentals. He is an unfinished and unpolished player, thus increasing the risk in drafting him to be your franchise quarterback.

Johnny Manziel is a puzzle more than he is anything else right now. No one is quite certain how exactly to put him together, or how to break him down. For one, who exactly can you compare him to? Is he Michael Vick or RGIII? No, he isn't nearly as fast. Is he Ben Roethlisberger? Absolutely not, he is far too small in stature to draw that comparison. What about Andrew Luck? Wrong again, Manziel will never have the arm that Luck has. Even so, Manziel does possess some of the best assets each of these NFL quarterbacks have. Manziel remains a giant question mark or a humongous wild card, depending on your opinion of Johnny Football.

However Manziel is Johnny Football, not just another QB who isn't ready for the moment. He's more like Clark Kent heading for a phone booth. Manziel seems poised and ready for the bright lights. He attracts fans and is highly marketable. This leads people to believe he has the "it" factor; a false intangible that makes people think he can do more than the game film shows. Some scouts throw out my favorite useless buzzword next; upside. Manziel is flawed but he has tremendous upside. I've always been of the mindset that upside doesn't win games, but it will help you sleep at night. I'm all for players improving and realizing their full potential, but I'd never bet the farm on it. That is unless I work for a team that is starved for a superstar, desperate to sell tickets, and clamoring to be relevant again. Enter the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns are one of the most unspectacular organizations in professional sports. The sun rises and sets each year on an NFL season, and the Browns haven't moved from the spot they are standing in. No casual sports conversation includes the phrase, "You know, this year you really need to look out for Cleveland. The Browns have something going on over there!" The team has been an NFL afterthought for more years than I care to count. One common denominator that could explain their struggles is poor quarterback play over a long period of time.

In a rare moment of brilliance or another in the long line of mental lapses, the Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Football. Immediately season tickets are being snatched up in Cleveland and Manziel hasn't even put his 2014 NFL Draft cap on his head. At this moment one thought dawned on me...

For the past 4 months there have been hundreds of esteemed sports journalists, beat writers, NFL scouts, and so on, crushing Johnny Manziel and proclaiming that he is the next big disappointment whose game cannot translate to the NFL. What if they're wrong? It wouldn't be the first time they were wrong about a player. What if the naysayers are all Johnny Football needs as motivation to become the savior of the Browns? Few things are as powerful as a coalition of naysayers. In my own life I've been motivated by people telling me I can't.

The truth is Johnny Football cannot exist in the NFL. He needs to mature, and learn a lot about football of the highest order. He'll need to slide and run out of bounds to avoid taking punishment. He'll need to minimize high risk decisions and take what defenses give him on more plays. His footwork will need to improve greatly in the pocket. But mostly, just let the kid grow up a little. I've come full circle on Manziel and now I believe in the player he could become. Johnny Football will succeed the day that he starts saying, "Call me John."  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Debunking The Quarterback Myth

~Anthony Constantino

It has often been said that the hardest job in all of professional sports is playing quarterback in the National Football League. I tend to agree with this take for a number of reasons. A quarterback at the pinnacle of his craft harnesses a tremendous amount of responsibility. Quick decision making, consistent accuracy, and playing under duress are all requisite skills for QBs. These qualities are part in parcel what make quarterbacking so challenging. And I haven't even mentioned the emphasis we place on success; quarterbacks are largely (often times unfairly) judged on winning. This brings me to the quarterback myth: In the NFL you must have an elite quarterback in order to win.

Now in my mind, there are very few elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Most people who follow the NFL closely will list these names as the best of the best at QB: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. That's it. These are the men who have carried the NFL torch over the last 5-10 years, and some of them longer. Others will argue for Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and now Russell Wilson. None of these men deserve that distinction, and they have 6 Super Bowl wins combined. Ironically, my list of elite QBs has the same number of Super Bowls wins to their credit. These eight men account for 12 of the last 13 Super Bowl wins.

If you believe the myth that an elite quarterback is the only recipe for success, why is it that the most common list of elite QBs wins less than half of the last 13 Super Bowls? Even if someone chooses to argue that all of these men are elite quarterbacks, that accounts for 25% of the league having an elite Quarterback. I can't remember any year that NFL analysts have been able to list 8 legitimate Super Bowl contending teams, and 12 teams make up a playoff field. Nobody was calling Eli Manning elite before his two championship runs.

The elite players are at the top of their game over a long period of time, especially at quarterback. These players win regardless of the surrounding circumstances, and often times will their team to a postseason berth. There is no secret as to why the Indianapolis Colts went 2-14 the year after Peyton Manning left town. The New England Patriots missed the playoffs without Tom Brady in 2008. The New Orleans Saints organization was a "tire fire" before Drew Brees signed with the team in 2006. These players are the elite, and nobody can question that.

Even though it is easy to draw a line between the top shelf quarterbacks and the second tier, this serves as proof that elite quarterbacks are not the only way to win Super Bowls. They give teams a great chance to compete, but that is it. Tom Brady lost twice to Eli Manning on Super Bowl Sunday, but no one will tell you Eli is a better player. Football is a team sport, and Eli has two Super Bowl rings because of it.

The last thing we all must consider is how the game has changed. More and more quarterbacks are able to succeed as the rules have catered to the offensive side of the ball. Defense is being legislated out of the game. Defenders can't make contact with receivers down the field. Defenders can't touch quarterbacks unless they scramble down field. Defenders don't receive the benefit of the doubt under any circumstances. What results is fearless offenses that can manipulate those rules to put up big time statistics.

It is my opinion that the new, high scoring NFL has created a problem. That problem is that eventually the "toughest position in sports" will  become so easy that anyone can do it. These gaudy numbers you see from Matthew Stafford, Phillip Rivers, and Cam Newton prove that any team has a chance. In today's NFL any team can win it all, because every team can score 30 points in a given game.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 Takeaways From Week 1

~Anthony Constantino

Now that an enormously entertaining week has been completed everyone is probably ready to write off certain teams, and raise the Lombardi trophy for others. We all have a tendency to speak in extremes, and sports talk is no different. Here are 10 proclamations I'm comfortable making after Week 1:

1) The Jaguars are the worst team in pro football. This team can start planning to draft whoever they desire next May at the NFL draft; they are already on the clock. Their team is probably good enough to stay in several games this season, but I sense that the losing culture has not been adjusted by head coach Gus Bradley and his new staff. 28-2 against the Chiefs at home? I don't care how good Kansas City might be, that is unacceptable.

2) The Patriots will not have the best offense in the NFL. The Buffalo Bills new look defense didn't have a great game against Brady's bunch, but they did hold New England to 23 points. That is a feat only four teams accomplished all of last season (the Pats still won two of those games). I know that Rob Gronkowski will add a valuable dimension to the offense, but so do opposing defenses. I might be falling into the trap of underselling another no name group of playmakers in Foxboro only to be proven wrong, but Kenbrell Thompkins? Shane Vereen? Josh Boyce? Really?

3) Peyton Manning wants his record back. The Denver Broncos lit up the night sky on Thursday night to kick the season off. Manning provided the opening night fireworks by throwing seven touchdown passes against the Baltimore Ravens, tying an NFL record. If Manning averages three TD passes over the next 15 games (that's it?!) the record for single season passing touchdowns would be his again.

4) Ndamukong Suh needs to go to his room. The Detroit Lions' 2nd overall pick from 2010 cannot stop playing dirty. After teammate DeAndre Levy intercepted a gem of a pass thrown by Vikings' QB Christian Ponder, Levy was off to the races with what was sure to be six points for Detroit. That is, until Ndamukong went rogue on Vikings' offensive lineman John Sullivan's knee, nullifying the defensive touchdown. Suh was subsequently fined 100,000 dollars for the incident. If Suh wants to play tough and physical, nobody will criticize him for that. However Lions' coaches, players, and fans alike must be getting awfully tired of seeing their high priced defensive tackle racking up fine after fine after suspension for dirty plays. The NFL will continue to collect money from his paychecks as this behavior persists.

5) The Saints missed Sean Payton badly. Saints head coach Sean Payton returned to the sideline to coach his team again after his year long suspension for "bounty-gate". Nobody was happier to see him than Drew Brees. Payton, a master play-caller, has always had a great connection with his quarterback. The always seem to see the game the same way and Payton makes Brees better. This in turn makes the Saints offense better, and opposing defenses quiver.

6) There was a Philip Rivers sighting! The San Diego quarterback threw for four touchdown passes on Monday Night Football this week. He hadn't done that since Week 8 in the 2011 season. Rivers also had just one turnover, which is a refreshing departure from what he had been doing lately. The quarterback was responsible for 49 turnovers over the past two seasons.

7) NFL players don't know where the sideline is. In multiple games this weekend, players were flagged for hitting other players out of bounds. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall tackled Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson almost 5 yards clear of the out of bounds line, causing a scuffle between the two players. The penalty came on a drive that gave the Eagles their second touchdown, and a 12 point lead. In a different game, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews launched himself into 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick after the San Francisco QB was well out of bounds. This resulted in a penalty that helped to give the 49ers another chance to score, and the Niners took full advantage by scoring a touchdown. The most egregious error came in the Buccaneers/Jets game. Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker LaVonte David gave a late hit to New York Jets' quarterback Geno Smith. The Jets in return gave Tampa Bay their first loss of the season by nailing a 48 yard field goal with only second remaining. These are professionals that should really consider paying attention to rules, and the dimensions of the fields they play on.

8) Chip Kelly is changing the game. There's an old adage that reads, "work smarter, not harder". Chip Kelly wants to have the best of both worlds. His offense is the fastest thing I've ever seen on a football field. In his debut as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach, his offense ran a play every 23 seconds. That is a blistering pace by NFL standards. There was no huddling, no audibles, and no time wasted. Michael Vick looked right at home in the most up tempo offense in the NFL. The Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half, the most in a half of NFL football since 1998. Midway through the first quarter, the Washington Redskins' defense looked as if the game had already went into overtime. Exhausted, they were hunched over with hands on their hips and I suspect more than one injury was faked to decelerate the sheer speed of Kelly's fastbreak offense. This could be the way of the NFL moving forward, after the Eagles had so much success on Monday night.

9) Don't sleep on the Carolina Panthers. I know they lost. I know it's the first week. It doesn't help that Carolina is in a tough division either. Carolina did just hold the Seahawks to 12 points in a game. This team averaged more than 25 points last season. Sure Seattle had 9 penalties against them. I will tell you this much, the Panthers defense should not be taken lightly. Their three linebackers (Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Jon Beason) are as good as any in the game. Charles Johnson is a stud at defensive end, and their secondary isn't a pushover either. Cam Newton's offense may be "challenged", or maybe they just aren't very good. If Cam Newton cuts down his mistakes and develops into more of the game breaker we saw at Auburn, this team could make some noise this year.

10) Review everything. I was alright with each coach getting a pair of challenges to use during a game (with the possibility of accruing a third). I was even willing to accept reviews coming from upstairs inside each two minute warning. Now it seems like every other drive something is being reviewed. I feel as though I'm watching college basketball, where nobody knows how to work time clocks, shot clocks, flagrant fouls, or the little televisions to see if a player's foot was on the line or the ball was still in hand. Anyway the point I'm making is why give coaches the red flag if you are going to review everything already? How many times do we hear "the previous play is under review" in an NFL game these days? I am all about having replay available to help referees because people make mistakes. However I don't think we need to spend more time reviewing plays than actually playing the game. Maybe there should be a chair umpire like we see in tennis that watches a television and gets the best vantage point on every replay. That chair umpire could overrule the officials on the field when mistakes are made. I am not sure that is a good solution, but nobody wants to pay money to sit and listen to stadium music while the head official is under a cloak watching replays.