In Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, there is a conversation that occurs early in the third film, The Return of the King, between the wizard Gandalf and Pippin the Hobbit. They have arrived at Minas Tirith, the last stronghold of man against the rising darkness of Mordor. After an eventful day, they stand at a balcony and look across the fields of Pelennor towards the dark mountains of Mordor. Pippin, restless and afraid, wonders why it is so unnaturally quiet. Gandalf, introspective and decidedly not full of assurances and hope, tells him that quiet is the “deep breath before the plunge.” Gandalf then delivers this line:
“The board is set. The pieces are moving.”
The message was clear: This was the quiet of armies amassing for battle. War was coming. It was at their doorstep. Everything was set and ready to go.
That is where every NFL team and every NFL fan finds themselves today. “The board is set. The pieces are moving.” These NFL teams are not fighting to save the world, but ever since the season ended on February 5, 2017, they have all been planning, strategizing, and positioning their rosters to improve and compete for a championship. (I say “every,” but there are always a few teams that go into the season knowing full well they have no chance at all. Take a moment to laugh derisively at their expense, unless of course you root for one of those teams. In that case…this just got awkward.)
While The Lord of the Rings line is foreboding and ominous, this time of year is one of optimism and hope for most NFL teams and their fans. Hope does indeed spring eternal in July. Training camps are just around the corner and the fans will finally get a chance to see what all their new free agency and draft toys look like. While many teams will come crashing back to earth quickly once the season begins, right now, everyone has a chance. The odds might be worse than Lloyd Christmas had with Mary Swanson, but any little bit of hope will do for most of us.
Frankly, most fans, myself included, have that goofy grin on our faces right now, even if the facts about our teams don’t back them up at all. Don’t stop believing kids!
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Colin?
I hate it when I am reading a sports’ article and the writer goes on a political tirade. If I wanted to read about hot-button, political issues, I would read political writers and websites. It drives me crazy and I will do my best to not get political in this column.
Now can we talk about the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick, and his never-ending crusade to destroy our country?
I do want to talk about Kaepernick, though. I hope I can do so without bringing in all the baggage that seems to dominate every single conversation about him. As I see it, there are only three reasons why he is not on an NFL team today, starting with the least likely.
1. Every single team/owner is in collusion to keep him out of the league because they are a rich, white guy club that hates everything he stands for.
Can we just take this one off the list right now? I’ve seen some writers argue that this is actually at play. Those writers need to get other jobs. I’ve heard radio commentators say the same thing. They need to do less talking and more thinking. Is it possible that some owners vehemently disagree with Kaepernick’s stand and don’t want to have anything to do with him? Absolutely. And that is their right as owners of a business. There are undoubtedly some owners that have no issue at all with Kaepernick’s views. They probably even agree with them. So why have they not signed him then? That leads us to reason number two.
2. Colin Kaepernick, the player, is not a good fit for many/most teams.
This is not to say that Kaepernick is a bad quarterback. He is not. He is talented and has had moments of brilliance in his career. The problem with Kaepernick is that his specific skill-set does not fit the role of the typical back-up quarterback in the NFL, which is exactly what he would be at this point. If he were to play in an offense that was built around his abilities, he could start and be successful, but you don’t tailor an offense to a back up QB. I imagine many NFL teams feel that bringing him in to camp to compete for a back up role is not worth their time. For more on that, see reason number three.
3. With a limited skill set, a controversial background, and the fact that most NFL teams want to avoid bad press, it makes perfect sense that no team has signed him yet.
It’s a risk/reward scenario and right now, Kaepernick is not worth the risk. That is not to say some team is not willing to take that risk at some point before the 2017 season begins. I will not be surprised at all if he gets picked up soon. But there is no collusion. There is no scandal. Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL team because he does not fit the role as a traditional and effective back up QB and he brings more baggage than what most NFL teams are willing to deal with. It’s that simple.
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
I’m late to the party on this but I figured since the NFL was so late to this party, it was only fitting. The league has finally adjusted and loosened their celebration rules. In typical, tone-deaf fashion, the NFL and Roger Goodell (fire him now) presented their new guidelines in a manner that suggested they had actually done something of great value – like cure cancer, figured out how to eliminate concussions, or solve the health care debate. Everyone else in the world read the new celebration rules and said, “…okay.” It was not revolutionary or groundbreaking. It was painfully obvious and average and many years too late. I guess that is an improvement though, as the NFL typically functions in the Upside Down of competence. (Completely incongruous Stranger Things mention because it’s awesome! New season arrives exclusively to Netflix on Halloween.)
When it made this announcement, the NFL and Goodell saw themselves like this:
When the rest of the world saw them like this:
I’ll keep this brief with only a few predictions for the 2017 season:
I fully expect the Titans to have a top 10 offense in 2017. If they don’t, something has gone terribly wrong.
I expect the secondary to struggle the first half of the season as they gel and learn to play together. This is a group that will have as many as three new starters from last season. That is a lot of turnover. Let’s hope the rest of the team can hold on and do enough to win games during that transition.
Marcus Mariota, if healthy, will be in the Pro Bowl and in serious consideration for MVP at the end of the season. I’ll have more on him in a future column. My man-crush is stronger than ever.
That’s it for today. I told you it would be brief.
Take us home Roger Goodell/David Brent: