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Virtual Drafts and Computer Football

April 28, 2020 at 2:47 pm
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I had a few nice days watching the NFL Draft.   Both the Giants and Jets did quite well, I think.   Not many exciting skill players drafted for either team, admittedly, but they both picked up building blocks to fortify their offensive lines, which I think is key.  Games are won and lost in the trenches.  Of course, even though the talking heads have all been busy “grading” each team’s picks, no one will really know anything for a year or two.   The history of the draft is littered with sexy “can’t miss” college stars who totally flamed out in the NFL.  See Vernon Gholston, Blair Thomas, Eric Flowers.   The list is long.   So… proof, meet pudding, let’s wait and see.   But I am hopeful.

What was really fascinating this year was the format.  Instead of thousands of screaming fans gathered together in New York City or Chicago or (as planned this year) Las Vegas, and the draftees parading up on stage to get a hug from the commissioner and a jersey, the NFL went virtual.   But that was fascinating in its own way.   We got to see the homes of the coaches, players, and talking heads, from Kliff Kingsbury’s palatial digs to the commish in his basement man cave to the very modest apartments of some of the young men being drafted, we got to see their families, their pets, the pictures on their walls…

… and their bookcases.   For whatever reason, a lot of the commentators  sat in front of bookcases.   I could not help peering at the titles on their shelves, being a writer and all.   Alas, I failed to spot any copies of my own books on anyone’s shelves.  But Marshall Faulk seems to be a big fan of Harlan Coben, and on other shelves I spotted Edgar Allen Poe and Philip Roth.   A lot of football books too.   Many ex-players and coaches had ONLY football books visible behind them.   Which still trumped the guys who owned bookcases, but (seemingly) no books.   Just pictures, trophies, footballs.

I hear that next year, if COVID-19 is no longer a factor, the NFL may combine elements of this year’s draft with the traditional format.   That would be cool.  This was the most viewed draft in history.   Maybe because the country is desperate for SOMETHING sport-ish to watch.

I was impressed at how well the virtual draft worked.  Very few technical glitches… though the time lapses were noticeable from time to time, as commentators waited to make sure the previous speaker had finished.   This bodes well for the forthcoming virtual worldcon, I think… hope… pray.   It proved it can be done.   Of course, ESPN and the NFL channel have considerably more resources and expertise than fandom, but still…

It still remains to be seen whether we will actually have an NFL season this year.  Which puts me in mind of a story I wrote back in 1971, called “The Last Super Bowl.”   Eventually it saw print in GALLERY magazine, surrounded by naked Girls Next Door  (none of them actually lived next door to me, I should hasten to add).   Computer sports were still a dream back then (PONG would not appear in my local bar for several more years), but they were coming, so I donned my prognosticator’s hat and predicted that by the far future year of 2014 computerized football would have become so much more exciting than the real thing that actual football would go extinct.

Well, that didn’t happen.   Turns out we were wrong about the flying cars, the household robots, the cities on the moon, and a whole lot of other things as well.   Never mind about that, though.

Maybe this is the year that my predictions come true.   If the virus does not relent, and we have to cancel the 2020 NFL season… why not go with an ALL VIRTUAL season instead?  We know who is on each team, we know who they drafted, we can MADDENify the entire league and play out the schedule week-by-week on television, with SFX and animation.   MADDEN has the player stats.   The actual coaches can sit by their own computers and call the plays and the defenses.   The play-by-play announcer and the color guy can sit by their screens and do the commentary, just as if they were talking about a real game.  And we can all watch our favorite (virtual) teams.

Hey, the networks need something to televise, after all.   And all us hopeless football addicts need something to watch, besides reruns of SuperBowls past.   And maybe, if we go all computer, the Jets will finally get back to the SuperBowl.   I wrote “The Last Super Bowl” only two years after their last (and only) appearance, as it happens… and I put them in that bowl, against the Green Bay Packers.

 

Current Mood: mischievous mischievous

Hope Springs Eternal

April 22, 2020 at 2:52 pm
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… in the National Football League.   Even for beleaguered Giants and Jets fans, like yours truly.

The annual NFL Draft starts tomorrow, and I’ll be watching, as I do every year.   This will be a strangest draft since… well, forever.   In the past decade or so, ESPN and the NFL network have made the draft a huge televised event, with thousands of fans in attendance and top college players being flown in from all over the country to enjoy their moment of glory when their names are called.    Not this year.  Thanks to Covid-19, there will be no big party in Las Vegas, no green room crowded with hopefuls praying they won’t slide, no stars-of-tomorrow parading up on stage to get a jersey from Roger Goodell.  The teams will all be working from their own war rooms, or maybe virtually, and the players will be at home.

Considering that the draft began many decades ago with a bunch of guys sitting at card tables and shuffling index cards, maybe this is a throwback year.   When you stop to think of it, it is amazing that the NFL has made a huge televised extravaganza of a show where something significant happens every ten to fifteen minutes or so.

The Giants, courtesy of the truly dismal season they had last year, get to pick fourth.   If their season had only been a little MORE wretched, they might get to draft Chase Young out of Ohio State, who is widely regarded as the best player in the draft.  Alas, he will probably be snapped up by the Redskins, who pick second.   There is a lot of buzz about this year’s quarterbacks, but the G-Men got their new young signal caller last year when they picked Daniel Jones, so they won’t be playing that game… though their GM has stated that he is open to trading down if someone really wants to jump up to grab Tua or Herbert (Burrows will probably be gone with the first pick, to the Bengals).  If Big Blue stays put, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have them drafting the linebacker out of Clemson, Isaiah Simmons, a defensive stud.   Other mocks show them taking an offensive tackle instead, to protect Daniel Jones.   There are four good ones in this draft, it seems.   The ideal outcome, for me, would be for the Giants to grab Simmons with the fourth pick, and get one of those big tackles at the top of the second round… assuming one drops that far.   That may be too much to hope for, however.  And knowing the Giants, they are just as likely to go a different way entirely and surprise everyone, as they did last year.

The Jets pick eleventh, since they had a somewhat better (losing) season.   The mock drafts are all over the place for them.  Then again, by the time you reach eleven, all the mocks are worthless anyway.   All it takes is one team zigging when the “experts” have them zagging, and everything below that is up for grabs.   Myself, I think Gang Green should grab a wideout.   There a bunch of good ones coming out this year, and the Jets lost Robby Anderson, their best receiver, in free agency.  Sam Darnold needs someone to throw to.

Beyond the draft, though, the real question is whether or not we are going to have an NFL season at all in 2020.   Yes, training camp is months away, and the season openers even further out… but if the coronavirus is still raging unchecked by then, packing tens of thousands of fans into a stadium is a recipe for disaster.   As much as I love my NFL Sundays, I hope the NFL will do the prudent thing if the virus has not abated by then.   Life may be meaningless and full of pain for Jets and Giants fans, as I have asserted many a week these past few seasons after watching my teams lose and lose and lose… but it is still life.   And as Tyrion Lannister once said, life is full of possibilities.

((I am going to turn comments on for this one, but only for talk about the draft and the NFL season.   Off comment posts will be deleted)).

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

In the Fish Bowl

November 23, 2019 at 6:59 am
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A couple of months back I did a long Skype interview with NFL star Chris Long, a star with the Rams, Patriots, and Eagles.

It was a lot of fun, a long free-ranging talk about all sorts of things.

And now it’s up on YouTube, in five parts.   Check it out.

 

 

Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

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The Shame, the Shame

November 4, 2019 at 12:28 pm
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Watching Adam Gase coach the New York Jets makes me wonder where Rich Kotite is, now that we really need him.

There is no future for Gang Green with Gase coaching.

Lure Bill Parcells out of retirement.   Bring back Rex Ryan.   Get Jim Harbaugh out of Michigan.   Make a play for Lincoln Riley.  Please, please, please.   Anything, anyone.   I cannot bear the shame.

 

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Sic Transit Gloria Eli

September 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm
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This weekend’s NFL games were more agony.

The Jets are down to their third string quarterback.

And the Giants, as of this morning, are benching Eli Manning.

I hope the new kid quarterback does well.   But I must confess, it looks premature to me.   I would rather Daniel Jones sat on the bench for a year to learn, as Patrick Mahomes did in KC.

Yes, the G-men are 0-2 so far… but let me point out that they were also 0-2 in 2007, the year they upset the undefeated Patriots to win the SuperBowl.

But the die is cast now.

((Comments allowed, but ONLY on NFL)).

Current Mood: sad sad

sigh

September 8, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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A new season of NFL football has begun, and…

Life is meaningless and full of pain.

The Giants game went more or less as expected.   Saquon was incredible as ever, Eli played well, but OBJ was sorely missed and there was no defense.   Kid QB looked sharp when the game was over, but not sharp enough to be thrown to the wolves next week.   Eli should play.

The Jets collapse was inexcusable.   How the hell could management have let our Pro Bowl kicker walk?  If Sam Darnold is the new Namath, he sure didn’t look like it.

I think another long dark season looms ahead.

((Comments allowed, but ONLY on NFL football))

 

Current Mood: sad sad

Day One

April 26, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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Okay, the first day of the NFL Draft is in the books.   The Jets had one pick, the Giants had three.

Gang Green took Quinnen Williams, the monster Alabama defensive tackle, with the third pick overall.  Lots of analysts had ranked him as the best player in the entire draft, so he seems a good get.   Still… if it had been me, I would have taken Josh Allen, the edge rusher.   The Jets have not had an edge rusher worth his salt since… could the last one have been Mark Gastineau?  Surely not.  Maybe John Abraham.   The thing is, they need sacks and QB pressures.   And they already had a monster defensive tackle named Williams (Leonard).   Now they have two.   I hope it works out.   The main thing is to give Tom Brady nightmares, though, and I am not sure Quinnen will do that.   Time will tell.   Overall, though, a very solid pick.

The Giants, on the other hand…

Daniel Jones from Duke at number six?   Yes, they need a young quarterback to groom as Eli’s successor.   But Dwayne Haskins was right there.   Why not him?  I don’t follow college ball, but by every measurable Haskins is way better than Jones.   Jones threw 52 TDs in three years at Duke, Haskins threw 50 in one year at Ohio State.  Within fewer interceptions.   Against much tougher opposition.   Dave Gettleman must have seen something in Jones that no one else could see.   But even if you accept that, taking him at six seems insane.   He would have been there at 17.   Why not take Josh Allen or one of the other defensive studs at 6, and Jones at 17?   Makes much more sense.   Who else was going to nab him?  The Skins?   The Skins preferred Haskins, that was common knowledge.   Everyone in the world except the G-Men preferred Haskins, so far as I can see.

And then we got to number 17, the pick the Giants got for Odell.   What did they pick there?  A huge 342 pound defensive tackle out of Clemson.  Very very strong, they say.   Not going to get a lot of sacks, but terrific against the run.   Who does that sound like?   It sounds like Snacks Harrison to me.  Who the Giants cut in mid-season because… ahem… “all he did” was stop the run, he didn’t get sacks.   After his release, Big Blue spent the rest of the season getting gashed by runs right up the gut.   Had to fix that.   So to fill the Snacks hole, we draft Young Snacks.   All it cost us was a Hall of Fame receiver.

The Giants did trade up late in the round to get a third pick, which we used on a cornerback.   Supposedly the best CB prospect in the draft.   That was good.  They need good cornerbacks in the worst way.   Maybe this kid will help.

Neither the Giants nor  the Jets have a second round pick today.

Big Blue has a couple in the third round, and more later in the draft.   I hope Gettleman can find some gems.   Because right now, the team looks a lot weaker than the one that entered the 2018 season, and that squad finished 5-11.

((Comments permitted, but ONLY on NFL football and the draft))

Current Mood: depressed depressed

The Draft Is Coming

April 23, 2019 at 7:13 pm
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Last year’s regular season was a nightmare for both the Giants and Jets, and thus a double nightmare for yours truly, who suffered through twice as many defeats every Sunday.   But November’s woes are April’s thrills, since that means both New York teams are picking high in this year’s NFL draft.  Gang Green has the third overall pick, behind the Cardinals and the Niners.   Big Blue picks sixth… and also 17th, thanks to trading away Odell Beckham Junior.  That was still a terrible trade imo, the Giants did not get nearly enough for a player of Odell’s calibre… but at least they got something, and now at least we get to find out what.

First round is Thursday night, and I’ll be watching, as I always do.   I’ll be watching the whole thing, actually, but by the time we get down to the fifth and sixth and seventh rounds it is just a bunch of names I have never heard of flashing by, so it’s round one where all the excitement is.

The Jets got their quarterback of the future last year in Sam Darnold so the thought is that they go defense this year.   The key to that is the Arizona Cardinals, picking first.   Almost all the mocks have them taking quarterback Kyler Murray, a small, swift, scrambling signal caller who has been compared to Michael Vick and Baker Mayfield.   Mel Kiper says it is 99.99% certain the Cards take Murray, even though they still have Josh Rosen, the qb they traded up for in the first round last year.   If he’s right, that means the Jets at three will have their pick of the top-rated defensive talents. Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams are the names you hear most often.  If the Cards take Murray and the Niners take one of those three, the Jets will have their choice between the other two.   I just hope, if it comes to that, that they pick the right one.   We need the next Lawrence Taylor or the next Reggie White.  The danger is that instead you find yourself with the next Vernon Gholston.

The Jets could also trade down with some qb-hungry team, and regain some of the picks they had to give up last year to snag Darnold.   I wouldn’t mind that… so long as they don’t go TOO far down, and get a good package of picks for moving, not just something lame like a fifth rounder.   But all in all, I think I’d prefer that they stay at #3 and take Josh Allen.   If for no other reason than they are in the same division as the Buffalo Bills, who drafted a quarterback named Josh Allen last year.   We could have years of Josh Allen sacking Josh Allen to look forward to.

There’s even more suspense swirling around the New York Giants with their two first-round picks (and a high second, never forget).   The vast majority of talking heads out there have seemingly given up on Eli Manning (though the Giants themselves clearly haven’t), and are insisting that the G-Men draft a young quarterback as his successor.   The most likely choice is Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State, who grew up a Giants fan.   I will freely admit I do not follow college ball as I do the NFL. so I can’t claim any expertise… but Haskins does look mighty impressive from what I’ve seen of him leading up to the draft.   He is likely to be there at #6 — unless the Raiders, who are lurking in the weeds at #4, surprise everyone and grab him — but everything we are hearing out of Jersey suggests the Giants are going to go defense with that pick.   Haskins is not likely to last until #17, not with so many other quarterback hungry teams in between (the Dolphins, the Redskins, the Bengals)… but it could be that Dave Gettleman the Giants GM prefers one of the other quarterback prospects, and it is possible that either Drew Locke or Daniel Jones or both will still be there, and Gettleman could snag one of them.   Hell, it could even be that one of them will still be there at the top of round two, for the Giants to draft then.

If Big Blue does not take a quarterback at #6 OR #17, though, prepare for a bloodbath.

Only time will tell who is right.   The thing about the draft is, you never know.   The legendary 1983 draft, when six QBs were taken in round one, is proof of that.   Three of those players turned out to be Hall of Famers.   A couple were solid NFL starters with long careers, though they always labored in the shadow of the three guys who were better.   One was an out-and-out bust.   And then there was the year that Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf went one-two.  Some people insisted that Leaf was better.   Boy, were they wrong.

But that’s the fun of it.   You never know.

Myself, I am hoping that whoever the Giants draft, he spends the year on the bench.  Eli Manning is a class guy, and I’d love nothing better than for him to have a great season and lead the Giants to another SuperBowl, making all his detractors eat a big crow pie along the way.

((Comments permitted, but ONLY on the NFL and the draft.  Off topic comments will be deleted))

 

 

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

Kill Me Now

March 12, 2019 at 8:21 pm
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The Giants have traded Odell Beckham Junior to the Cleveland Browns.

They get a first (the 17th overall) and a third in this year’s draft, and a safety, Jabril Peppers.

The Giants are GOING FOR IT ALL, clearly.

Yes, they are.   During the season they traded their best run-stopper, Snacks Harrison.   Come to offseason, they let Landon Collins, an All Pro safety and the heart of their defense, walk for nothing.   Then they traded their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon.

And now they have traded OBJ.  Their best wideout, and one of the very best in the NFL.  I’ve been watching and rooting for the G-Men since “the Greatest Game Ever Played” in 1958.  Beckham was not only the best receiver on today’s Giants, but he was the best receiver this storied NFL franchise has EVER had in their long  history, and probably the best receiver they will ever have.   They are certainly not going to replace him with the 17th overall pick in the forthcoming draft.

Some of the talking heads on ESPN are suggesting the Giants might package the 6th and 17th first round picks to move up a few slots and take a QB to replace Eli Manning.   If they do, I feel sorry for that quarterback.   He’ll be playing for an awful team.

I don’t follow college football.   Is there some amazing talent coming out next year for the 2020 draft?  A new John Elway, a new Lawrence Taylor?

Because, like I said, it sure looks like the Giants are going for it all… they are going for the first overall pick in 2020.

No way that any team can replace its best wideout, its best pass rusher, its best safety, and its best run stuffer in one year, two years, three years.

I thought the last two seasons were rough for Giants fans.   Next year is going to make them look like the good old days.

Someone pinch me.  I am having a Big Blue nightmare.

 

 

Current Mood: sick sick

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Offseason

March 7, 2019 at 5:07 pm
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It is offseason for the NFL.  The combine is done, and free agency is about to open.

The Jets should be well positioned to be big players in free agency.   They have more than $100 million in salary cap space, more than any other team except the Indianapolis Colts.   They also have the third pick in April’s draft, which should allow them to add a monster edge rusher to the defense.   That is, assuming they pick the right one.   The last time they tried, they got Vernon Gholston.  Let’s hope they pick better this time.   They could also trade down to pick up more picks, but unless someone makes them an offer too good to refuse, I would rather they didn’t.

The Giants pick sixth, and all the mocks have them drafting Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, a quarterback to succeed Eli Manning.  Unless someone vaults ahead of them to snatch Haskins before he falls to Big Blue, which could happen.   But I am not in favor of the G-Men giving up a king’s ransom just to move up a few slots.   They have too many other needs.

And more needs every day, it seems.  They just let Landon Collins, their all-pro strong safety, leave as a free agent rather than using the franchise tag to keep him.   It’s inexplicable to me.   Jerry Reese, the former Giants GM, drafted a lot of busts during his tenure, the big reason he was let go… but Collins was one of the ones he got right.  He’s been a great player for the Giants, a key part of their defense.   Seems to me that you build around your best players, you don’t just let them walk, but maybe the Giants know something I don’t.   If they did not have the bucks to make Collins a long term deal, at least they could have franchised him and traded him.   Gotten something back, at least.   By letting him walk they get nothing… except the dubious pleasure of watching him excel for some other team next season.

This comes on the heels of two puzzling trades the Giants made during the season.   They traded Eli Apple, one of their starting cornerbacks, to the Saints for fourth and seventh round picks, and they traded Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison to the Lions for a fifth rounder.   Snacks was a huge presence in the middle of their D-line, one of the best run stoppers in the league.  Once he was gone, teams just started running up the gut on the Giants, gashing them again and again for solid gains.   It was painful to watch.   As for Apple, he was a first round draft choice, but he never lived up to that.   At best he was a good/ adequate cornerback; drafted that high, he should have been a great one.  So, okay, he was a disappointment.   But even so, he was better than the players who replaced him.   And now you have to wonder, can the Giants possibly find a cornerback in the 4th round as good as Apple?  Can they turn that fifth rounder into a defensive tackle as good as Snacks?  If not, they are going to get worse, not better.   And how are they going to replace Collins?

There are rumors out there that claim the Giants are shopping Odell Beckham Junior as well.   If that actually happens, it will prove that the G-Men are intent on getting rid of ALL their good players.   Maybe they really like some college kid coming out in 2020 and figure drafting sixth is not good enough.   Elsewise I really don’t understand what the hell they are doing.

I guess we’ll all know more in a few months, when free agency and the draft are done.

((Comments permitted, but ONLY on football.  Thanks.))

Current Mood: confused confused