GM John Elway’s grade? In-com-plete!

How do you tell an NFL legend that his services as the general manager of your football team aren’t needed anymore?

With the Denver Broncos sitting at 6-9 and finishing 2018 with a second straight losing record, the first person likely to lose his job will be the second year head coach, Vance Joseph.  With his 2017 record of 5-11, it is inevitable that Joseph needs to hit the road.

What about the team’s general manager, though?  Doesn’t he hire the head coach?  Doesn’t he make the big decisions about the player draft and acquisitions for the franchise? 

The answer to both questions is “Yes”.

In the case of the Denver Broncos, the 58-year old general manager is Denver’s Hall-of-Fame quarterback, John Elway.  That is the same John Elway who finally won two Super Bowls in Denver during the final two years of his stellar NFL career in 1997 and 1998.

Elway was hired by the Broncos in 2011 to become the team’s general manager.  The Denver Broncos had spent the prior five seasons without making the NFL playoffs. 

The first season with Elway at the helm was highlighted by quarterback Tim Tebow’s amazing late-season performance and playoff run.  Elway, however, never felt comfortable with Tebow as a long-term solution at quarterback. 

He ultimately traded Tebow to the New York Jets and worked a deal to sign future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning away from the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.

That one move made Elway look like a genius.  Manning led the Broncos back into the playoffs and to another Super Bowl victory in 2015.

After Manning retired, though, Denver has started to lapse toward mediocrity.  After firing former coach John Fox the year before the Super Bowl victory, Elway brought in his former Broncos teammate, Gary Kubiak, to become head coach.  Kubiak coached Denver for two seasons before stepping down for health reasons.

Elway selected a former Kubiak assistant coach, Vance Joseph, to become Denver’s next head coach two seasons ago.  Joseph’s teams have produced sub-500 seasons in both years at the helm in Denver.

The ownership of the Denver Broncos has been involved with a family battle for control in the past few years.  Longtime owner, Pat Bowlen, relinquished control of the team several years ago after developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

The team has been operated by team President, Joe Ellis, for several years.  Bowlen’s daughter, Beth, recently has been trying to assert control over her family’s team.  That battle is nothing short of a circus.

Meanwhile, the Broncos fortunes are sinking while local hero, John Elway, continues to make suspect choices for coaches and players.

As one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks, Denver fans have believed that Elway’s choices for quarterback should be the one “safe” choice given his knowledge of the position. 

However, the Broncos quarterback draft picks under Elway have been absolutely dreadful. 

In 2012, Brock Osweiler was a second round draft choice.

In 2013, the Broncos took Zak Dysert in the seventh round.

In 2015, Denver selected Trevor Simien in the seventh round.

In 2016, Paxton Lynch was taken by Denver in the first round.

In 2017, the Broncos selected Chad Kelley in the seventh round.

None of those former draft picks are playing for Denver on 2018. 

In addition, Elway is the one who signed quarterback, Case Keenum, to a two year $36 million contract beginning this season.  Keenum, a very talented college quarterback from the University of Houston, had bounced around the league for most of his six seasons.   

The Broncos’ lackluster record in 2018 with Keenum at the helm isn’t going to help John Elway’s case for keeping his own job.

The love affair of Denver Broncos fans with their hero, John Elway, is now on very rocky ground following another dismal season in 2018. 

Many of Elway’s fans (me included) would like to see ol’ #7 ride off into the Colorado sunset aboard Broncos mascot “Thunder” before this beloved team legend is involuntarily sent packing.

Hi Ho, Thunder (and Elway)!  Away!

Welcome to the Drew Brees’ Record Store!

The NFL’s New Orleans Saints are 8-1 after Sunday’s blowout 51-14 win at Cincinnati.

A few days earlier, one of the national sports media companies (starts with a C and ends with “BS”, ha ha), had their weekly fantasy football writer suggest that the NFL quarterback “Bust of the Week” would be New Orleans quarterback, Drew Brees.

Since good ol’ reliable #9 is my fantasy quarterback, I read the article with a suspicious eye.  The writer said that Brees generally doesn’t play as well outside (sometimes true), and the Saints dynamic duo of running backs (Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram) could carry the load as Brees might be tempted to give his arm a rest after a record-setting start to his 18th season in the NFL.

In the immortal words of ESPN’s GameDay legend, Lee Corso, “NOT so fast, Mr. Fantasy Football Writer!”

Drew Brees is the driver of the supercharged Saints offensive machine, and the Maestro was conducting his orchestra with amazing efficiency again on Sunday in Cincy.  Brees completed 22 of 25 pass attempts (88%) for 265 yards, three touchdowns via the pass, one via a quarterback sneak, and no interceptions.

Brees and “Bravo” go hand in hand this season when observing what this wily 39-year old conductor is doing.

The Saints quarterback is averaging nearly 300 yards of passing this season, has a 77% completion percentage for the year, and a quarterback rating of 123.8.

After leading the New Orleans Saints to their lone Super Bowl (a victory in 2009), Drew Brees and the Saints are trying to earn a chance to play their playoff games in front of their adoring fans in the extremely loud Superdome.

Along the way, the humble and easily likable Brees is setting NFL records nearly every week this season.

In September, Drew Brees broke Brett Favre’s record for most completed passes in an NFL career (6,300).

In October, Brees then eclipsed the NFL’s all-time passing yardage mark from Peyton Manning and now has over 72,000 yards (that’s about 41 miles!).

On Sunday, Drew Brees “passed” (ha ha) Favre and moved into second place in the NFL’s career touchdown list (now at 509).  Look out Peyton!  The Saints passing machine is now just thirty touchdowns behind your all-time record of 539.

Though the records obviously mean a lot to a talented leader like Drew Brees, it seems to me that he is motivated more than ever to get another Super Bowl ring with this team of talented players.

The Drew Brees Record Store is quite busy this season.  If the Saints keep winning, long time Saints favorite, “Who Dat Say They Gonna Beat Them Saints?”, could be replaced at the top of the charts in the Crescent City in February with yet another Drew Brees record.

Two Dat?!!!

Eli’s coming – soon – to another NFL team

The Manning family is unique in NFL history.  Quarterback Archie Manning came out of Ole Miss and became a legend with the New Orleans Saints.  His son, Peyton Manning, became one of the NFL’s greatest players prior to retiring three seasons ago after earning his second Super Bowl ring as a member of the Denver Broncos.

Peyton’s younger brother, Eli Manning, broke many of the quarterback records set by his Dad at Ole Miss.  Like his brother, Peyton, Eli Manning was the first overall pick in the NFL draft and, since late 2004, has been the starting quarterback for the New York Giants.   With two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies to his name, Eli Manning has enjoyed a great deal of success in his fourteen years at the helm of G-men.

He has also been incredibly inconsistent for many of those years, too.  For as good as he has been during the Giants’ two Super Bowl seasons, Eli Manning has been less than stellar for many of his years in the Big Apple.

For those old enough to remember the song, Eli Manning’s quarterback play over the years reminds me of the Jerry Reed tune, “When you’re hot, you’re hot!

The past few years and, especially in 2018, Eli Manning’s play has not been very hot.

While there is no question that the Giants’ awful offensive line has been rather offensive the past few years, Manning’s willingness to dink and dunk short passes to running backs and receivers rather than stretch the defenses downfield is making the team much easier to defend.

Not unlike brother Peyton Manning toward the end of his career, Eli Manning’s penchant to making short passes allows opposing defenses to bring their players closer to the line of scrimmage.  If a defense doesn’t respect the quarterback’s ability to complete passes downfield, the defenders will bring more blitzes and apply more pressure and force the quarterback to get rid of the ball even faster to avoid being sacked.

Ironically, the 37-year old Eli Manning’s NFL quarterback rating in 2018 (#20 out of 35 listed QB’s) is statistically better than the past few years primarily due to the number of screen passes being tossed to running backs or short pass completions to tight ends and receivers of less than ten yards.

For New York Giants fans, the only rating that matters is the team’s 1-5 record of the G-Men and that the team has now gone just 4-18 since the start of the 2017 season.

The team sacked the head coach (Ben McAdoo) before the end of 2017.  Using the second pick in this spring’s 2018 NFL draft, the Giants took the best running back in the draft (Saquon Barkley) with hopes that Eli Manning’s quarterback play would improve again with more help in the backfield.

After Thursday night’s embarrassing 34-13 nationally televised home loss to rival Philadelphia, the locals have seen enough.

It would not surprise me if the New York Giants sack their 14-year starting quarterback soon and try to cut a deal to send Eli Manning somewhere else for a future draft pick.  Jacksonville has long been rumored to be a likely destination which could use an experienced quarterback for a championship run.

With the howls in New York City calling for his benching, Eli Manning and his family should be ready for a do-over soon, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUMBLE! ESPN’s Monday Night mistakes continue

While most of us are focusing on our NCAA March Madness picks or watching to see if we can get a Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson duel in The Masters in a few weeks, ESPN is digging out from under yet another set of self-inflicted blunders.

Just in the last month or so, the fast-falling sports giant has lost its president (John Skipper – who resigned to seek treatment for substance abuse).  He had been with the network since 1997 and as president since 2012.  Under his leadership, ESPN has gone from Disney’s darling (a reliable cash cow) to a source of great financial concern as cable systems have been dumping ESPN’s high priced offerings in droves over the past several years.

ESPN’s on-camera product has been suffering as well.  As of last Friday, the network has lost both sides of their nightly 6PM spotlight sports program.  First, the controversial female lead, Jamelle Hill, was sent to the bench after alienating many sports viewers for her political opinions during a sports-themed show.  Last week, her former co-anchor Michael Smith asked to be reassigned, too.  Based on the ratings of their show, it is doubtful that many viewers will miss them.

Can it get worse for ESPN?  The past few weeks, you may have heard the rumblings that the network’s NFL Monday Night Football broadcast was seeking to fill the analyst shoes of former NFL head coach, Jon Gruden, with another football legend.  Word has it that ESPN dangled $10 million/year under the nose of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to come on-board to spend a few months per year of providing color commentary and analysis for the network.

Today, the reports are that Manning has rejected the ESPN offer and is still contemplating other options (including rival Fox Sports).  There is no doubt that Peyton Manning would have attracted a number of curious fans upon his debut into the broadcasting booth.  On the other hand, it was also quite a risky move for Disney’s ESPN brand as, heretofore, Manning’s most famous broadcast phrases have included, “Omaha, Omaha” and “Nationwide is on your side”.

In what may be the best move that ESPN has made recently, the current play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, Sean McDonough, has been sent to the bench and reassigned to college football coverage.  I found the skills of McDonough to be a poor fit in such a high profile job.  Though his primary responsibility was to be the set-up man for Jon Gruden’s antics, McDonough’s lack of enthusiasm in the booth made for a boring product when the game itself was lacking.  The loss of the talented Mike Tirico from the ESPN play-by-play chair on Monday Night Football in 2015 as he bolted to NBC has proven to be another significant loss of talent.

Dear ESPN – I have a great idea which you can have for free.  Pick your choice of a new play-by-play person for Monday Night Football and then announce a competition for the job of analyst by rotating a group of guest co-hosts for the upcoming NFL season.  Tell fans that they will help to choose their top three analysts for the permanent job, and then negotiate a deal with one of them going forward.

This would entice fans to watch as former players, coaches, and others sit in the other chair.  Can you imagine the weekly buzz?  For example, how many people would watch someone like University of Miami defensive lineman Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, help to call a ballgame for Monday Night Football?

With all of the free weekly publicity, ESPN would probably get a bump in ratings while saving most of the $10 mm it would have spent on “Pay-a-ton” Manning next fall.

ESPN has some fundamental choices to make.  By injecting more fun and less politics into their sports coverage, I believe they would see a return of more sports fans, too.

 

 

 

Nobody wants to coach football at Tennessee? I have a Volunteer in mind!

Another day, another turn-down for the University of Tennessee as they try to fill their vacant football head coaching position.  Today’s spurn was courtesy of the current head coach at North Carolina State University.  Dave “Not-your-household-name” Doeren was the latest to say “No, thanks” to Rocky Top in their search to replace Butch Jones (who was, justifiably, fired as the once-proud Vols posted a school-worst 0-8 SEC record this season).  Doeren wasn’t exactly Mr. Wizard at N.C. State with a pedestrian 33-30 record in his five seasons in the ACC.

He joins Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Duke University football coach (and former Tennessee offensive coordinator) David Cutcliffe in the “Thanks for getting me more money from my current school, UT!” game being played.

It makes you wonder, “Why WOULDN’T someone want to coach football at Tennessee?”  Sure, the orange and white checkerboard end zones are a bit garish.  And, yes, that bright orange Tennessee uniform color may be the toughest on the eyes in college football.  Maybe the Tennessee Volunteers marching band, which has a great tradition and solid sound, could learn a few more tunes other than “Rocky Top”, too.

Maybe it’s the money?  Former head football coach, Butch Jones, received an estimated $4 million per year (not bad!), and he’ll even grab another $6 to 9 million after he was sent home this season.  I’ll take that, wouldn’t you?

It seems to me that there is just one name that is conspicuously missing from the University of Tennessee head football coaching list.  He is a football legend in Tennessee and the most popular athletics figure to ever wear the orange.  None other than…

Peyton Manning!  This job is set-up perfectly for the retired two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.  He has played coy with the “No, I’m flattered, but not now” banter, but things have turned a bit embarrassing for Volunteer Nation with all of these relative no-names turning their noses up at the job in Knoxville.  It’s time to put down the Papa John’s Pizza, Peyton, and save your Alma Mater!

Who better than Peyton Manning, who set numerous school and SEC passing records while at Tennessee in the 1990’s, to rescue the Vols from the brink and lead them back to SEC relevance?  Seriously, what recruit and his family wouldn’t want to have a home visit from an NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback?

Need some assistant coaches?  Here are a few thoughts for the new Peyton Manning era at Tennessee:

Offensive Coordinator – Eli Manning.  The New York Giants have placed their own two-time Super Bowl winner on the bench.  He should retire and have fun coaching college ball with his big brother, don’t you think?  Every college offensive player would benefit from a daily tutelage from the Manning brothers.

Defensive Coordinator – John Chavis.  Chavis was a UT defensive coaching standout for Philip Fulmer while a young quarterback named Peyton Manning led the Vols offense.  After Fulmer was sacked, Chavis took his stellar defenses to LSU (Les Miles) and Texas A&M (Kevin Sumlin).  Since Sumlin was just fired last Sunday by A&M, Chavis would be a popular hire back in Knoxville and would be a trusted hand for rookie coach, Peyton Manning.

Special Teams – Anyone named Colquitt.  Four different punters named Colquitt (Craig, Jimmy, Dustin, and Britton) have kicked for the Volunteers over the years, and the Colquitt kids then combined for a total of 18 years playing in the NFL.

It’s time.  It would be exceedingly fun.  And everyone in the SEC and around the country would take notice that a sleeping orange giant had been awakened again at Tennessee!