Hard Knocks with the Cleveland Browns Episode 2 Teaser

Make sure to set your DVRs to record the next episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns. Preseason Game 1 action, Corey Coleman gets traded, and I assume, much more.

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Despite Mayfield’s Success, Browns Need To Stay The Course

The 2018 NFL offseason continues to feel like a collection of firsts for the current era Browns. I say current because for our older fandom brethren, it probably just feels like a very, very long time. Top 20 Starting QB in the NFL currently (Tyrod Taylor), an elite offensive weapon not only pleased to come to Cleveland but continues to embody everything any fan would ever want from a top flight talent wearing your teams colors (Jarvis Landry). An entire position group (DBs) completely revamped in one offseason. A defensive identity, if not a complete team identity taking shape. Oh, and I cannot forget one of the top 5 WRs in the game when he’s playing, Josh Gordon (don’t start with me on Josh Gordon, I defend him stronger than most people defend their own children).  Who all with credibility believe will rejoin the team very soon and have zero playing status implications. All in one offseason. So, it really should come as no surprise that John Dorsey’s shiny new golden boy, Baker Mayfield, went out and had maybe the best QB debut in a Browns uniform this analyst can remember in some time. Definitely the best in this ‘current era’.

Let’s recap this QB fiasco going back to 1999. Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Peterson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan.

Of this list, you can count on one hand the number of quarterbacks that were even good enough at their respective times with the Browns where any other team would have had any interest much less coveted said player. At the time, like it or not, Tim Couch was a top prospect.  Had Cleveland not taken him at 1, someone would’ve in the top 10. There was some interest surrounding Weeden entering the draft but with understandable reservations. Jeff Garcia and Trent Dilfer were notable names way past their prime (assuming Dilfer ever had a prime). Most of the rest were retreads or complete pipe dreams. Don’t kid yourselves, fan hopefuls like Kelly Holcomb, Charlie Frye, Colt McCoy, Derek Anderson, and Brian Hoyer were the best of bad options.  No Defensive Coordinator lost any sleep game-planning against most in not all of these quarterbacks. Naturally, when the next “golden boy” steps on the practice field, does everything right, says everything right, and looks like an NFL starter in his first game action, it is understandable that fans would be excited to see him start in the regular season sooner rather than later. However, we’ve been down this road before.

Video Courtesy of NFL.com

The most important factor to consider is need.  Does Mayfield ‘need’ to play?  In 1999, in the face of poor roster building, the team had no choice but to play Tim Couch. Refer to the list above and you’ll see a pattern.  Except for forcing Quinn to sit in favor of Derek Anderson (a move I was very much against and voiced my displeasure with at the facility in Berea with Anderson’s wife within earshot-a story for another day), any time this team has had a high pick, high-profile QB they have pushed him before he was ready. Baker Mayfield may just be the exception to the rule. He might actually be ready right now, but why risk it?  This team is finally in a position to not NEED to push their young future franchise QB.  It is a luxury this team needs to take advantage of.

Consider the Aaron Rodgers path.  And no, I’m not saying Baker Mayfield is Aaron Rodgers.  Once Rodgers took over in Green Bay, after sitting behind Favre for 3 years, it was obvious that he was far more ready to start than most of us thought. He hit the ground running (so to speak) and there were no shortage of opinions that he was likely ready long before he got his shot. The same very well could be true here.  There is a possibility that Baker Mayfield could start the 2018 season and be fine. Win a few games, invigorate the fan base, and begin the turnaround as the face of the franchise.  That is possible, but we know what the other side of the coin looks like.  What if he’s not as ready as he can be?

There is value for a prospect who can do the physical part of playing QB to sit back and learn the non physical stuff from the position of a backup. Tyrod may not be Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Peyton Manning, but there absolutely is value in learning the ‘how’ from a guy like Tyrod.  How to approach meetings, how to prepare, how much time to put in, how to engage teammates, what buttons to push to get the most out of his teammates. There is more to playing the NFL QB position that simply knowing how to spin it. If the overwhelming consensus is that Baker is ready to play now, that’s only part of the equation.  And while this Cleveland Browns organization/regime has a top 20 starting QB in the NFL right now, there is literally no reason to force the Baker issue. It literally comes down to one basic notion, “Why start him if you don’t have to?”  The answer is simple.  You don’t.

Tyrod Taylor is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season. He along with Jarvis Landry seem to be the leaders spearheading the actual change in culture with this team.  Understand that about 1/3 of the NFL teams are likely paying close attention to what Tyrod is doing, saying and most importantly how he fairs in the win/loss column. Tyrod’s attention is with this team, but he has to know that he’s also auditioning for what will likely be his biggest and last contract with another team elsewhere in 2019.  As fans we should all but welcome him as the starter and hope that things go exactly the way they seem they might.  This would open up a beautiful transition into 2019.  If all goes well in my opinion, Baker Mayfield would only play due to injury, garbage time, or gadget play scenarios in 2018.

There’s a saying that playing football is a job but playing QB is a lifestyle.  To be the QB the fans will want Baker to be, he will have to learn what its like to be one of those elite guys. First in last out, eat/sleep/breathe football, know your assignments and everyone else’s, etc. There was a moment in last week’s Hard Knocks when Hue asked Baker what time he comes in to start his day.  He apparently comes in somewhat early, but nowhere near the 5 am that Tyrod does.  Hue took that opportunity to hint at the idea that there is more to playing QB than just doing what is expected.  Just another example of something he can learn from Tyrod. If done right, Baker sits 2018 and starts 2019 as the starter, getting all of the first team reps, leading the team on the field and off, and would likely have the presence of a 5+ year vet in year 2.  Or as originally stated, follow a similar path to that of Aaron Rodgers. Waiting one year instead of 3.

Video Courtesy of FOX Sports

The fact of the matter is quite simply that there is no data, no stats, no analysis that would suggest that Baker gives the team a better chance to win than Tyrod Taylor. There just isn’t. If anything, there is data to suggest that the 8 year vet who has seen a thing or two is much more likely to adjust properly to the changing nuances from week to week over the rookie.  And that is something that Baker can learn from Tyrod along the way as opposed to Baker learning those things the hard way and possibly losing winnable games when he could just learn that stuff from the sidelines and in meeting rooms.

When time comes where Baker is just flat-out better than Tyrod across the board, the team will have no choice but to make a change, but that time is not the 2018 training camp/preseason.  There is no reason to force Baker.  I love the kid, I’m on board with him as the franchise QB going forward, but this team has a unique opportunity where ability to start and need to start have not intersected yet.  Let this play out.  If Baker sits even most of the season, I assure you, he will be the better for it.  Fans, let’s be honest, in your most objective thinking possible, do you actually believe the decision on who starts at QB will make or break a Super Bowl season THIS YEAR?  If you said yes, you either aren’t paying attention or struggle with the concept of objectivity. 0 wins to 2 is progress. 0 to 4 is great progress. 0 to 7 through 9 wins is incredible. 10-12 wins is unprecedented. Going from 0 wins to Super Bowl Champion is delusional.  I love the enthusiasm from the players, but its delusional.  So let the kid sit.  Let Tyrod do what he does.  Maybe they win 5 games, maybe they win 9, but if they stay the course, hold Baker back…then, unleash him on the 2019 offseason after he’s had time to learn how to be an NFL starter, then year 2 (2019) becomes a very realistic possibility for playoffs and beyond.  Remember, the goal is to build for long running sustained success, not just a great 2018.

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Jarvis Landry, the Hero That Was Promised


Sports teams are like our children. You cheer their successes harder than most would. You feel more despair in their failures than they do. You scold their poor behavior or performance.  You will always see them as better than most normal observers ever would. You are more likely to forgive or look past certain things. Believe in their potential harder than anyone else.  But sometimes, your team isn’t doing everything it can.  Sometimes your team (top to bottom) isn’t a good representation of the city it represents. Sometimes your team needs a stern kick in the ass. Sometimes your team needs to be reminded of what causes lost games and lost seasons. And in those situations, you hope you have someone on that team that will identify that and get in his teammates face about it.

-That shit is over with here
-Because you don’t want to practice, because you’re a bitch
-That shit ain’t happenin’ here
-I can’t take a day off because I can’t get great that way
-All that weak shit don’t live here no more
-That shit is weakness and it’s contagious as fuck

Words of a leader.  The kind of words that pull a bad franchise out of the darkness

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Like It Or Not: Browns Are The Story of the 2018 Season

Not since the 1980s has the Cleveland Browns been this much in the forefront of the NFL’s national media, and for good reason. While I am a card carrying member of the Cleveland Browns fandom, I can objectively state that for the better part of 30 years with few exceptions, the Cleveland Browns have been the NFL’s Bad News Bears. As someone who lived through most of the heartache, its not at all surprising. I can still remember a time when having one Pro Bowler or finishing with at least 7 wins was considered a successful season. During those years, I remember thinking that all it would take to move from cellar dweller to contender was one person of significance to say yes to Cleveland. Not a retread. Not a has been.  An active real player within NFL circles. One guy to turn the tide that says, yes coming to Cleveland is a good idea. Once one comes, the rest will follow.

Enter John Dorsey. On the heels of an attempt to adapt analytics as a core criteria for player acquisition, Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslem did a complete 180 and brought in a GM that is an old school football guy to make football decisions. It didn’t take long for John to endear himself to the Cleveland faithful.  On a day when he didn’t need to ‘do’ anything, John Dorsey was introduced to the team, made his rounds and decided to release Kenny Britt before ending his first day of employment with the Browns. Kenny Britt was brought in by the analytics group after losing Terrelle Pryor to Washington.  The idea being that analytics wise, Britt was almost as productive as Pryor was the year before. Analytics are also to blame for not retaining Pryor as their production model deemed Pryor not worth the additional million he was looking for contract wise.  With one look at the situation, the real football guy-John Dorsey concluded, that Britt wasn’t worth the paper his contract was printed on and promptly released him. A move that more than 90% of Browns fans would say they agreed with. Trimming the fat for local Browns fans is one thing, but on one remarkable day, John Dorsey would change the mindset in and around the building if not the entire league…with two individual moves.

Now if this was any other year, what I’m saying would sound familiar. If the repetitive nature of a broken record could be familiar. If I told you six months ago that the Browns made a big move, your likely retort would be something about them signing some has been.  Name chasing.  Insert Jeff Garcia, Jake Delhomme reference here. Instead, John Dorsey not only checked off boxes of need but did so with established, respected, producers in the NFL during their perceived prime.  In a matter of hours, John Dorsey traded for Tyrod Taylor, an efficient QB with a winning record that just last season took the similarly inept Bills to the playoffs. A couple hours later, as if Tyrod Taylor wasn’t enough, John Dorsey inked another deal.  Dorsey traded (essentially) a 4th rd pick to the Dolphins for Jarvis Landry.  The most productive WR not named Antonio Brown in recent memory. 4 years in, well over 400 receptions. Jarvis brings an attitude, a swagger that had been missing since the days of the original Dawg Pound. Following that big day, Dorsey also secured Carlos Hyde, a name very familiar to football fans of Ohio. The former Ohio St Buckeye brings the ability to run north and south and get tough yards that seemed to elude RBs on this team not named Duke Johnson. Within a couple weeks Jarvis Landry had organized an off the books workout session with 6 players that expected to be major contributors to the 2018 Browns season.

John Dorsey on the same day as pulling in the future Starting QB and future WR2, he was also able to convince Green Bay to take on DeShone Kizer and his league leading 22 interceptions (a staggering 1:2 TD:INT ratio, not the more acceptable 2:1 ratio you hope for with a rookie) for Damarius Randle, a productive DB who Green Bay admittedly had playing out of position. Now all of a sudden going into the draft, the holes begin to look smaller or at least less in total number. The position the entire world assumed Cleveland would HAVE TO take at 1 seemed less and less necessary with Tyrod Taylor in the mix. Until now, everyone simply assumed that they would need to draft a QB and he very likely would need to play sooner rather than later. This was no longer the case. They still would need to draft a QB they deemed to be their future, but he no longer had the added pressure of playing.  Anyone familiar with this team, I’m speaking specifically of their fans, knows that anytime this team rushes a QB they fail miserably. Looking at the draft, they would need to add a QB.  They should add a RB, possibly a compliment to Hyde with the potential to be a lone featured back in time.  Receiver was a need but not as urgent as it was in February. With Joe Thomas retiring, the big ‘woe is me’ take was that they had to address the LT position in the first 50 picks.  I was never sold on that because you can’t replace arguably the greatest LT of all time in the very next draft which by the way, might end up being the worst OT draft in recent memory. If you aren’t improving the position, don’t make the pick.  Now all of a sudden, the landscape of need had changed. People were talking about Saquon Barkley at 1?  Bradley Chubb at 4? Trade back scenarios that would have rendered 3 or 4 first round picks but none in the top 5.  The options seemed limitless.  In the end John Dorsey did what he thought was best at the top.

To be completely forthright with you, I was absolutely pissed by the time Denver was on the clock at pick 5.  Couple things in my defense. 1) Most Cleveland fans want one thing from their QB at this point.  To be productive and thus, not be a bust.  So like many others across the country I fell in love with Sam Darnold’s high ceiling high floor talk. I still see a lot in Darnold I like.  I think at the very minimum, I think he could end up being the best QB the Jets have drafted since Chad Pennington, for whatever that’s worth. My thought on QB was to pick Darnold or Mayfield (to not pick Rosen unless he slid into the 20s and to not to take Lamar Jackson at either top 5 picks) and to hope that Bradley Chubb fell to 5. Like so many, I accepted that they were going to go QB at 1 whether I thought it was necessary or not, then take the best player available regardless of position at 4. I had Baker Mayfield as my #2 QB entering the draft but had my reservations. My dream would’ve been for Saquon Barkley to fall to 4. Darnold/Barkley.  I wanted two corners out of this draft but not with either of the first 2 picks. Whether it was from the success of the Legion of Boom or just the fear of getting burned, I wanted no part of a short corner. My definition of ‘short corner’ being anyone under 6’0. So when the Browns drafted Baker Mayfield I was a little miffed, but ok with it. When Barkley went off the board at 2, I was reeling.  What are they going to do now? Well fingers and toes crossed that the Jets don’t take Chubb. Jets take Darnold predictably.  Now we can breathe easy.  Chubb is the best player available, this is a no brainer.  I was hosting an NFL Draft show live when the Commissioner approached the podium for the 4th time that day. When he read the card and the first name started with “D”, I was at a complete loss.  In that split second I thought, the only D name I have any interest in first round wise was Derwin James and this is WAY TOO early for him. Denzel Ward?!?!  He wasn’t even on my radar because I said no to short corners. When the name clicked in my brain, I didn’t say a word, stood up and walked the f out of the studio.  I literally stranded my own show, because like most people these picks were not anything I had fleshed out as a real possibility.

I called a colleague and friend of the brand, Rick Morris basically just to bitch. Now I am a 4th generation Browns fan, 3rd generation Ohio St Buckeye fan.  Yet, here I am speaking to another Ohio St fan about just how pissed I was that they did exactly what I didn’t want them to. Alas, let your routines calm you.  I’m not afflicted with OCD or anything, but I do have very OCD like compulsions during the draft.  After round one no matter what I inundate myself with press conferences and national media coverage post round. By the end of the night, I had begun to understand the Denzel Ward pick. As a glutton of exposure that I am, I also started watching “Behind Baker” a documentary crew follows Baker Mayfield throughout the draft process.  Fox is currently running a show that uses a lot of that documentary’s video footage called “All the Way Up”.  If you have any interest from die hard fan to train wreck intrigue, I urge you to watch either one.  I was sold on Baker the man within the first episode.  And if you’re familiar with Baker the man, you know that Baker the player is not likely to fail.

Now here’s the irony (I hope to not invoke the irony police, i.e. Mr. Teeple), the next four rounds of the draft was almost a greatest hits of guys I was very intrigued by throughout the process. I though Corbitt was a bit of a reach but the Browns had success with guys from Nevada (J. Bitonio). Nick Chubb (the RB not the DE) was an absolute dream.  I butted heads with my fellow draftniks and analysts who were singing the praises of Sony Michel and Derrius Guice. As far as I was concerned, the RB position went Saquon Barkley 1, Nick Chubb 2.  Chad Thomas was a guy not many looked at.  Maybe he felt like a tweener (too light to play 4-3 DT not an elite pass rusher to play DE) or maybe some were scared off by the fact that he was an accomplished producer in the Hip Hop world.  Either way, I saw a young very poor man’s Fletcher Cox that just needs to be developed. Then John Dorsey did something that in hindsight was as predictable as the sweatshirt he wears.  What is common in most if not all Dorsey drafts? He waits until the round value and the upside of a certain player with questionable background merged.  At the top of the 4th round, Dorsey sent in a card with a name most people took off their board completely.  Antonio Calloway. Like Tyreek Hill and Marcus Peters before him, Dorsey took a calculated risk drafting Calloway. Without the off the field issues, most in NFL circles believe that Calloway would have been the consensus #1 WR in this draft. Considering Dorsey’s track record drafting troubled players, I was over the moon for that pick. This leaves us with Genard Avery.  A smaller LB that most never saw play out of Memphis. My favorite game I watched of him was against UCLA and the media darling Josh Rosen. Avery flies around and seems to find a way to disrupt virtually every play. By the waning minutes of that game, Rosen looked physically and mentally spent. The draft didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, but once  I came around to the understanding behind Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward I began touting this draft as a complete success.

Before the draft even began, Dorsey had quietly cut and signed a large number of players. Trimming the fat and countering it with better football players. Donald Stevenson being the only one I was expressly  against as I watched a lot of Broncos games last year.  So much movement in fact that we started the draft with even more picks than we initially knew of.  All in all, there are 3 practical phases of this roster.  Established NFL producer, nice young prospect with upside, and a developmental tier.  In previous years the Browns were almost always missing that first one. This 0-16 team that started the season starting DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, Corey Coleman, a decent offensive line and would play most of the season without most of their best players, now can claim a roster that has Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb, Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Calloway, a re-arranged offensive line (sans Joe Thomas), Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert (lead the league in tackles), Christian Kirksey and a completely revamped secondary.   Yeah, I’m feeling pretty confident about ’18.  This time of year everyone has an opinion on predictions, up to and including most improved.  Now normally MIT is designated for a 2-4 win team that doubles their win total. I am not bashful about saying that on paper, this Browns team looks like a 7+ win team.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. I mentioned him in passing earlier.  Josh Motherfing Gordon.  Put simply, I believe in talent. Josh Gordon, when right and active is at WORST, a top 5 WR in the NFL.  PERIOD.  And here’s the kicker…! It was revealed that Josh Gordon has played every game of football in his entire life short of 2017 ‘not sober’.  So there is a notion that we’ve never seen Josh Gordon truly ‘right’.  We have no idea how good he actually could be until we see him ball out while not only sober, but been sober for some time. In 5 games, catching balls from the most inaccurate QB in the NFL last year, Gordon pulled in 18 receptions for 335 yds for an 18 yds/catch average. Not to mention that whole ‘talent’ thing.  In 14 games in, catching passes from Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, and Jason Campbell (seriously, that’s like saying the NFL equivelent of saying he caught passes from Huey, Dewey, and Louis) to the tune of 87 receptions, 1600 yds, 9 tds for an average of 19 yds/reception.  You can literally count on one hand the number of receivers who have ever done that in the history of football, and I’m not even counting the 498 yds combined in two games back to back. While Gordon has not been that good since, once a player shows they can do it once, the talent dictates that it can happen again.  Combine that idea with the pictures on Flash’ Instagram account.  He has spent this offseason becoming the football gods’ inspiration when they invented the Wide Receiver. 6’3, pushing 240, 4.4 speed and improving hands. Josh Gordon has the talent.  And as he revealed early in 2017 he did all of that ‘not sober’.  What do you think the outcome will be when he’s been sober for some time, had the time to sculpt his body into the most perfectly created receiver frame, has the complete support of his organization and has a top 20 starting QB in the NFL for the first time in his career?  I hate to be so matter of fact about it, but…do not talk to me about his track record, number of violations, addict history, or that he has lost your trust.  Memo to fans specifically Browns fans, do not bring that s up around me.  This is a completely different situation and if you can’t see that then you’re not paying attention. If you’re not paying attention, I have no time for your negativity. I would challenge anyone not related to Josh Gordon to go toe to toe with me on where their devotion and support of Gordon ranks.  I would call myself the unofficial Josh Gordon fan club President if that wouldn’t seem overtly arrogant. I support him unconditionally unlike most fans who only support him while he’s active and in camp.  So memo to most fans/readers.  Don’t f*** with me on Josh Gordon.  When he starts the season week 1 and gets to week 8 while being productive, I fully expect the team to sign him to a top 5 WR extension (somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 mil per) and hopefully before the Giants extend Beckham, just the thought of Beckham’s extension scares me.

As we work through week 1 of training camp and enter week 2, I reiterate that like it or not, the Cleveland Browns will be the story of the 2018 season.  Not because they will be yet again the laughing stock of the NFL, but because 2018 will be the year most fans of most team will remember as the year the Cleveland Browns stood up and said “no more”.  The apathy and losing traditions stop today.  The league has been put on notice. Before you start freaking out that I’m putting the cart before the horse, there are some nuanced differences.  Browns fans have always said this was our year.  Ever since Byner’s fumble and Elway’s drive, Browns fans have always gone into every season claiming that this is the year we turn it around. Except in most cases, we are talking about pinning all of our hopes on names like Dennis Northcutt, Charlie Frye, Lee Suggs and a stable of names that now aren’t even footnotes in the annuls of the NFL timeline . Now this team has real talent.  And while they are preseason 28-30 out of 32 teams, every intelligent football fan knows that there aren’t 27 teams with better talent on the roster.

Now in the second week in August, we Browns fans, we NFL fans turn our sites to HBO’s Hard Knocks. There is no open QB competition.  No Josh Gordon (for what seem like obvious non substance abuse reasons) for the start of camp, but make no mistake about it.  This team is not your Daddy’s Browns and Hard Knocks should be required viewing for anyone who considers themselves a football fan.  The quiet before the storm.  Times, they are uh changin’.  Will you be one of the surprised fans or one of the ones that ‘saw this coming’.  The offseason, the draft, free agency, training camp have all been about the Browns. Do you really think the rest of the season isn’t going to follow suit? Just remember you saw it here first, if you didn’t already see it somewhere else previously.  The Browns will be the story of the 2018 NFL season. Unlike Jarvis Landry, I’m not willing to proclaim playoffs, but I do expect this team to still be in the playoff hunt in the latter third of the season.  A remarkable spot from where they were when Corey Coleman drops a sure fire first down and likely go ahead scoring opportunity in the final minutes against Pittsburgh in the last game of the season.  Good luck to your team (unless you are a fan of the Steelers, Ravens, or Patriots), but make no mistake about it, The Browns are coming. Like it or not.

 

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GRIDIRON AND HARDWOOD Take Center Stage


Did You Miss Us While We Were Gone?

After a well deserved four-year hiatus, PRO HOOPS CENTRAL, is coming back with an expanded and exciting new format. Under my old friend and colleague Jason Jones’ guidance, we introduce to you the debut of GRIDIRON AND HARDWOOD POWERED BY PRO HOOPS CENTRAL. In the coming weeks and months G&H, will become your one-stop-shop, for all your NFL and NBA information.

Jason and company will keep you up to date with all the latest comings and goings on the field and the floor, but will also delve into hard-hitting issues that take place behind the scenes. Jason, has been a diehard fan of the NBA and NFL, since childhood, and has reported on both sports for over 15-years, on the radio and in print. Never shy about expressing his opinion, Jason will share his unique perspective on the games he loves.

As every true sports fan realizes, the results on the field and the floor are just one aspect of the NFL and NBA universes. These pages will be filled with commentary on hiring’s and firings, trades and free agent acquisitions. We have seen players from both the Association and the NFL, taking on social issues for the first time in decades, pleasing some fans and outraging others. You will see these issues taken on by a variety of writers, each with their own thoughts on the issues of the day, spanning the spectrum of opinion.

Readers will also recognize some familiar names in the coming weeks, including yours truly. We might even be able to talk Our Old Pal New York Vinnie, out of retirement, to the delight of some and consternation of others. Love him or hate him, New York Vinnie always leaves a mark and courts controversy on a regular basis.

We will also be asking for feedback from our readers, let us know the issues that truly matter to you. Although this site’s main target audience will consist of hard-core fans of football and basketball, we also hope to appeal to the more casual sports fans.

As training camps get underway in the NFL, we are anxiously anticipating the start of the 2018 campaign, and the stories that unfold between now and February. The Association will feature an Eastern Conference lacking LeBron James, for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.

Are the Eagles and Patriots be the teams to beat in the upcoming season, or will some young hungry franchise capture the nation’s imagination? Can teams such as the Cleveland Browns, finally find their way out of the primordial ooze they’ve been mired in, since the city acquired an expansion team in 1999? Optimism abounds in late summer each year in Cleveland, will the best fans in the NFL finally get rewarded for their loyalty?

LBJ taking his services to the Staples Center, will radically alter the dynamic in the East, with Boston and Philadelphia, leading the charge to become the new kings of the mountain. Can the Golden State Warriors, once again make it back to “The Show,” for their fifth straight appearance, or will the Houston Rockets get past the team from the Bay Area, and give Chris Paul and James Harden, their chance to grab the brass ring?

What ever happens between right now and late June, 2019, we hope to educate, entertain, and inform our readers. Welcome aboard for the ride!

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Silver’s Decision A Total Victory For The Good Guys

Back in 2010, former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said that the team his club shared the arena with the Los Angeles Clippers, had Bad Karma. Jackson whom recently was named team president for the New York Knicks, is most likely pleased for the Association that the source of that Bad Karma had a lifetime ban from the NBA imposed on him this week. With a bold and decisive move NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the good guys an unmitigated victory, barring Clippers team owner Donald Sterling from all contact with his team and the Association.

He also asked the NBA Board Of Governors to force Sterling to sell his franchise, which requires three-quarters of the remaining team owners to vote in favor of the measure. Frankly, I would be surprised if any of the other team owners vote to support Sterling, lest they look like they supported the racist filth that emerged from the longtime owner’s mouth.

This was a pure win for good over evil, without any concessions or compromises. The Association has historically been far ahead of the curve on the subject of racial relations in professional sports. It was the NBA, that present the first all Black starting lineup, had a Black head coach back in the sixties as Bill Russell led his team to back to back NBA Championships. Basketball Hall Of Fame member Michael Jordan is the majority owner of the franchise in Charlotte.

The rookie Commissioner, knew that the statements made by Sterling were the complete opposite of the Association’s philosophy and as soon as they verified that it was the Clippers team owner on the leaked audio-tape, he made the right decision without hesitation.

It is highly probable that future generations will hail the move made by Silver on Tuesday  as a landmark decision. There may not have been a total victory of good over evil, since Jackie Robinson broke the color-line in MLB in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

If you still have any doubts over whether Donald Sterling deserved the punishment he received, “ESPN.com” reported on Friday that the Clippers’ owner told a reporter that he wished he had paid off his former mistress V. Stiviano off, so she would not have released the tape. That tells you all you really need to know.

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Bans Sterling For Life From Association

Rookie NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took a hard and decisive stance Tuesday afternoon, banning Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling from any association with the NBA for the rest of his life effective immediately. Silver barred the longtime Clippers owner from any contact with the team or the Association, including attending games. The Commissioner also stated that he will recommend to the NBA Board Of Governors, that Sterling be forced to sell the team.

Silver told reporters at a press conference an investigation that the Association  completed an investigation  and concluded that the voice on the audio-tape with V. Stiviano, that was reported on Friday night was  the voice of Sterling. The Commissioner labeled the remarks as hateful and completely contrary to the views of the NBA.

The Board Of Governors can force Sterling to sell the franchise if three-quarters of the other team owners approve the measure. Silver told a reporter that the team-owners he has spoken with approve of the decision.

Los Angeles will be playing Tuesday night at the Staples Center as they host the Golden State Warriors in game five of their first-round NBA Playoff series, currently knotted up at 2-2. The fans and players reactions should give the Clippers a good shot at redeeming themselves after an unfocused performance in game four on Sunday.

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Sterling’s Alleged Remarks Tarnish Clippers And The NBA

The Los Angeles Clippers, should be loving life right about now. After years of being “The Other Team” that plays at the Staples Center, they are competing in the NBA Playoffs while the Lakers went home after a disappointing regular season. Their squad has evolved from a roster of has-beens, never-weres and wannabes, into a team that is chock-full of talent.

Last summer the team hired one of the première head-coaches in the Association, as they lured former Boston Celtics bench-boss Doc Rivers to the left coast. Rivers led the Celtics to the NBA Championship in 2008 and the team hoped that he could not only lead the club to their first appearance in the Finals, but to finally claim their first Larry O’Brien Trophy.

With the Clippers leading their first round series by a 2-1 margin against the Golden State Warriors, the action on the hardwood took a backseat last Friday as celebrity gossip website “TMZ.com” reported they possessed an audio-tape of a conversation between team owner Donald Sterling and former girlfriend V. Stiviano. The website reports that Sterling chided the woman over an Instagram photo of her and former Lakers star Magic Johnson. He also reportedly beseeched her not to appear publicly with Black men, or bring them to Clippers games.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the alleged racist comments attributed to Sterling, is the fact that so many people seem to be surprised that they emanated from this man.  Anybody who has followed the Association long enough, are well aware of the reputation that Sterling has acquired over the years, as a man who is not particularly fond of people of color. There have been accusations of racist behavior in his dealings with the team as well as other business transactions.

This is a man who paid out $2.73 million in November of 2010, to get off the hook with the government for refusing to rent apartments to minorities and families with children. This is the man who was fortunate enough to get a non-guilty verdict when former team executive Elgin Baylor sued him for racial discrimination a few years ago. Baylor is one of the classiest men ever to play in the Association and he played in an era when racial animosity directed towards Black players was common place. For a man such as Baylor to file that lawsuit, speaks volumes about the way Sterling treated him despite losing the suit.

The controversy surfaced at the worst possible time for the team with game four of their series against the Warriors being held Sunday in the Bay Area. “ESPN.com” reported that the players and coach held a 45-minute meeting to deal with the issue, which included conversation by the players about possibly boycotting the game. Realizing that a boycott would only be harming themselves, the players showed their displeasure by wearing, black socks, while some players sported back armbands and black ribbons on their jerseys.

It would be nice to report that the squad from the “City Of Angels” rose to the occasion and took a 3-1 lead in their series. Instead Golden State came out of the gates on fire in the first quarter, taking a 39-24 lead at the end of the period which they never relinquished. The series heads back to the Staples Center in Tuesday, knotted up at 2-2.

Although the team’s focus is on the short-term fallout, the long-term ramifications could alter the Clippers radically in the next few months. Can Sterling effectively run an NBA franchise, after these allegations have come forth? Doc Rivers could become a casualty if Sterling retains control, as it would be incredibly tough for the owner to convince his coach that the two men can work effectively together.

This is going to be a baptism by fire for rookie NBA Communication Adam Silver, as he determines what direction the Association can take in this situation. There are various options that are out there, including the family retaining ownership of the franchise while Sterling steps away completely from the franchise. There has already been reported interest from prospective buyers of the club, which might be the best direction for the team; making a clean break from the past.

Although the Clippers franchise has evolved over the last few years, if the allegations are true it is definitive proof that the team owner has not. There is no place for that attitude in our society. It certainly can’t be accepted by the Association.

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Larry Legend Rolls The Dice In Turner/Granger Trade

There has yet be a player since the Association formed, who possessed more competitive drive than Larry Bird. While the “Basketball Hall Of Fame” forward had incredible talent on the hardwood, his never surrender mindset was a huge factor to him leading the Boston Celtics to three NBA championships. Bird ripped his team in the 1984 NBA Finals for not showing adequate toughness against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics captain either touched a nerve or inspired his teammates, but the “Green Team” defeated their long-time rivals in that series and got Larry Legend his second Championship ring.

Although he hung up his sneakers for good after the 1992 Olympics, Bird still has that same fire in the belly as the Team President of the Indiana Pacers. He displayed some of that drive on Thursday afternoon, as he traded a player he called “my favorite,” longtime Pacers star Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers for swingman Evan Turner. Although the Indiana exec hated to part with Granger, Bird believes that Turner gives his team a better shot at defeating the Miami Heat and have a chance to win their first NBA Title.

Indy Star.com” reported that the Pacers completed a trade before the NBA trade deadline kicked in on Thursday, that sent Granger and a second round Draft pick in 2015, to the Sixers for Turner and big man Lavoy Allen. That was the final move of the season for Philadelphia, a team that has held a “Going Out Of Business, Everything Must Go” attitude for the last month. The 76ers have basically gutted their club intent on starting from scratch at the conclusion of the current campaign.

The Sixers reportedly reached out to Indiana on Thursday with the trade proposal, a move that the Team President admitted caught him by surprise. Bird told reporters “I didn’t think there was going to be anything there, that we’re really looking for, but when this came up and caught our attention, and we thought maybe we should do it. Try to stabilize that second unit. Obviously, Lavoy Allen’s another big body that can play and Evan Turner; I like guys who can play multiple positions. You can talk all you want about how he can’t hit an outside shot, can’t do this. I always look at the positive side of it. I think he’s a kid who can come in right away and help us.”

Bird also revealed his personal feelings about Granger to the media. The Pacers executive said “It’s just a tough deal. Danny’s always been my favorite. I understand the disappointment. A lot of people say that I’ve been trying to trade him for a year and I haven’t been doing that. I even told Danny that. I did tell him if a great opportunity arises, you can’t say you’ll never trade somebody.”

Unfortunately, injuries have gotten the best of the former All-Star throughout the last couple of seasons. Granger was coming off the bench for his club and his numbers were far below his career averages, in 29 games he put up only 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists per contest. That is a huge contrast that the numbers that Turner has produced in what has been his best campaign in the Association. The swingman has been a starter all season for Philadelphia and has averaged 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. That’s a lot of fire-power coming from the man who anchors a team’s second unit.

On paper the deal looks great for Indiana, but that does not always translate into good chemistry in the locker room. Danny Granger was a team leader and a mentor for Indiana, giving Evan Turner big shoes to fill.

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Could Hawes Help Cavaliers Make The Playoffs This Spring?

The Cleveland Cavaliers informed the rest of the Association, that they have yet to give up on making the Post Season this spring, completing a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers just prior to the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon. The “Cleveland Plain Dealer” has reported that Cavaliers interim General Manager David Griffin acquired Sixers center Spencer Hawes, in return for veteran forward Earl Clark, backup center Henry Sims and two future NBA second round Draft picks. Although acquiring Hawes, most likely will not set Cleveland fan’s hearts aflutter; they filled a position of need with a player that should be up to the task.

The new Cleveland pivot-man is a multi-dimensional player, a true seven-footer who knows his way around the basket, but also is quite comfortable taking an outside shot. The 25-year-old big man has held his own so far in this campaign, as he has averaged 13.0, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his 53 games for Philadelphia. If he can keep up those numbers in his new home, it would greatly elevate the club’s chances of making the Playoffs in April.

Perhaps the best aspect of this eleventh hour transaction, is that Cleveland did not lose any core players in the deal. Clark did a nice job as a forward off the bench, while Sims showed very little during his infrequent time on the hardwood. It is similar to the deal that brought starting forward Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls earlier in the campaign; low risk which could reap some pretty high rewards.

Although Anderson Varejao has earned tons of respect manning the center position over the last few seasons, his lack of size and strength leads to frequent stints on the injured list. This move gives Cleveland the luxury of playing Varejao off the bench as a backup center; making him far more effective against the lesser competition he would face. The Cavaliers could also allow him to play more minutes at his natural position in the four slot.

This move will not cause Cavaliers fans to set off fireworks in Public Square, however it could turn out to be the difference between heading home after 82-games, or making their first Post Season appearance since 2010.

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