Category Archives: NFL

Dude’s Top 10: No. 5 – The Isaiah Crowell Interview


This series focuses on my favorite posts of all time. Lest I be labeled as overly arrogant, please note: 1. This was new DYC Editor-in-Chief Chad Floyd’s idea. 2. These are my “favorite” posts not my “best” posts. I don’t have “best” posts, because that would imply that I had better posts and good posts to begin with. For the rest of the Dude’s Top 10 Countdown, click here.

In March of 2014 I interviewed exiled Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell for a feature piece on Bleacher Report. The article was the most-read thing I’ve ever written and I was appreciative of the exposure that a site like B/R could provide.

That being said, the published article didn’t necessarily say everything I wanted it to. I added some thoughts about my time with Isaiah on this site. But, I’ve never published my un-edited takes on the afternoon. The full initial draft, which was altered for length and at times content by the B/R editorial staff, is below.

The general summary: this guy was misunderstood, he has matured and he’s ready for the NFL. I’m not saying I’m a prophet but Crow did score eight touchdowns as an undrafted rookie last season. Only seven NFL running backs scored more often on the ground and five of those guys registered exactly one more touchdown than Crowell.

Here is the full text of my Isaiah Crowell profile.


 

For an NFL draft prospect, time is of the essence.

Shaving a few hundredths of a second off a 40-yard dash can vault a player up draft boards league wide.  Conversely, a lone misstep on the clock-sensitive three cone drill or shuttle run could be the difference between being drafted and hoping for a rookie contract as a free agent.

On the first Saturday in March, time is at a premium for former Georgia and Alabama State running back Isaiah Crowell.  While he’s in Atlanta to celebrate and be honored as a Black College All-American, there’s still a lot of work to be done.  And there’s precious little time with which to do it.

Crowell spends the early portion of the afternoon signing autographs at Midtown’s Loews Hotel.  He’s not shaking hands and posing for photos with fans.  He’s signing miniature placards that will soon adorn trading cards.  He’s signing hundreds of them.  “That was a small batch,” he explains later, much to the surprise of anyone who’s never had a memorabilia endorsement deal.

While those surrounding him—his publicist, a witness from the memorabilia company, a few curious lingerers —laugh and carry on, Isaiah is focused as he scribbles his insignia time and time again.  He’s not on the field or in the weight room, but he’s already on the clock.

“Do I have time to grab a drink real fast?” Isaiah panders as he transitions from the autograph session to an interview.  After receiving the desired response he disappears into a corridor of the hotel, presumably into an elevator and up to his room.

A few minutes later he resurfaces, bottle of water in hand.  He apologizes profusely for the delay, but he’s right on time.

 

Football Forever

“Actually when I was younger I played AAU basketball,” Isaiah volunteers as he begins talking about the early stage of his athletic career.  “And I ran track.  But football was always my favorite sport.  Yes sir.”

The only thing more constant than the sirs and ma’ams is his cheery facial expression.  Crowell smiles as he reminisces, but that’s not unique in and of itself.  To the contrary, he barely loses his half-toothy grin during the course of the afternoon.  Whether signing his name, exchanging words with others in the lobby of the Loews or fielding questions, the smile is omnipresent.  And yet, one topic consistently elevates his smirk from a faint glow to an optimistic glimmer. Football.

Given his natural acumen both between tackles and out in space, his passion is understandable. But it’s nothing new.

Crowell confesses to being “a little bit” scared of the larger competition he faced when he arrived at George Washington Carver High School in Columbus, Ga. as a freshman.  Nonetheless, that 2007 campaign had a lasting impact on him and his view of the sport.  Playing alongside the likes of Jarmon Fortson (a Florida State commit in 2008), DeRon Furr (Auburn in 2008) and Jarvis Jones (USC in 2009, before transferring to Georgia) made football more than a game.

“I saw the colleges coming through the school all the time to talk to those guys and make offers.  And I decided I wanted that to be me.”

A few short years later, it was Crowell as he committed to play football at the University of Georgia.

“Running out on that field for the first time was like a dream come true,” Isaiah says when speaking of his first game as a Bulldog, a 35-21 loss to Boise State at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in 2011.  “I couldn’t even imagine it.  I’d been wanting to go to Georgia for a long time, I’d always been a Georgia fan so it was amazing.”

For the most part, Crowell presents himself in the present and he speaks of the future.  Despite this forward-thinking nature, he remembers that short-lived dream of a freshman season as if it was yesterday.  And as he reflects on the premature conclusion to his career in Athens, he speaks with a clarity that is the byproduct of equal parts understanding and pain.

“It was childish,” he says curtly.

Neither words nor emotions are minced.

“I never thought about giving up football, though.  That was always going to be there.”

 

The Loving Family

“My mom and my dad, they are married,” Crowell insists with an air that borders on defiant.  He takes this stance, arguably his firmest of the entire conversation, with conviction as if to preemptively diminish any attacks on his kin.  Further, he speaks glowingly of his family members as if to distance them from his transgressions—both real and perceived.

“Both my parents were real hard working.  My dad owned a truck and does lawn work.  My mom is the manager of an assisted living facility.”

Crowell describes his family as loving and goes so far as to say that he speaks with his siblings regularly.  “I’m the youngest.  I’ve always been the baby.  They say I was spoiled,” he jokes.  “But we’re still real close.  I talk to my brothers and sister everyday.”

Sharing the bad news of his June 2012 weapons arrest was difficult for Isaiah, but telling his parents and his three brothers and one sister wasn’t the hard part.

“The worst part was telling my grandma, actually,” Isaiah offers with a feigned laugh to hide still-present remorse.  He continues:

I talk to her about everything.  She’s always telling me, probably like everybody else’s grandmother, ‘Stay out of trouble.  And don’t do this and don’t do that.’  And my arrest was actually at like three in the morning on her birthday.  So I had to go that night to have dinner with her for her birthday and it was right after I got out of jail.  She didn’t get on me too hard.  She got on me, but she told me to move forward and keep pressing on to the next thing.

Family, as it turns out, was also a deciding factor in his next move.

 

The Challenge of Reduced Competition

Coach Richt and I talked in person right after I got out of jail.  I wanted stay at Georgia and wanted him to keep me on the team initially.  But he didn’t just release me.  He said it was going to be a mutual decision.  He felt like I needed to start somewhere new and start somewhere fresh, and he wanted me to have a better career.  He really didn’t want me being a distraction because the case was still going to be pending, that was the main thing.  But it was actually a mutual decision that I’d be better continuing my career elsewhere.  I don’t have regrets about choosing Georgia, though.  Those were some of the best days of my life.

After the separation from Georgia, Crowell was in need of a new direction.  He could transfer to another FBS program and redshirt, or he could pursue immediate playing time at a lower division.

Alabama State was the first program to call.  Family ties prompted Crowell to answer.

“My uncle lives there in Montgomery.  He actually went to Alabama State.   And my mom was very comfortable with me being there, and one of my teammates from high school went there.  And it’s close to home, that’s really why I went.”

Although he returned to the playing field quickly, the reduced competition offered by the FCS program presented its fair share of challenges to Crowell.  Keenly aware of both his seemingly squandered opportunity and his finite end goal, he committed to pushing himself individually beyond what was required by the Hornets football program.

“Really I pushed myself because knowing I was at Alabama State I was going to have to work harder than somebody playing at Georgia or one of the big schools.  I wanted to be ranked as high and looked at as one of the best even though I was at Alabama State.”

That preparation has paid dividends as he’s reintroduced himself to some of the most elite prospects in this year’s draft.

Leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine, Crowell spent his days training at EXOS outside of Pensacola, Fla. alongside such notables as Jadeveon Clowney, Jarvis Landry and Aaron Murray, Crowell’s former teammate at Georgia.

Kevin Conner, the CEO and President of Universal Sports & Entertainment Management, decided returning Crowell to the highly competitive atmosphere afforded by EXOS was a top priority after landing him as a client.

Isaiah’s talent pedigree has not changed.  He’s still the same guy who was a 5-star recruit and an All-American in high school.  He’s the same guy who was the best freshman in the SEC in 2011.  He needed to be back surrounded by that caliber of athlete and be held accountable indirectly by the competition.  And it worked.  We heard from his coaches and trainers that he embraced the challenges and really emerged as a leader in addition to improving during his time there.

Although the majority of the drills—80% by Crowell’s estimate—are geared more toward testing well at the combine and pro days and less toward actual improvement as a football player, Isaiah found a level of comfort in the EXOS environment.

“When I started training it felt different because I hadn’t been around that talent in a couple years.  But I felt back at home.”

 

Does He Belong?

His improvements during the training—most notably added size and strength without a loss of speed—should serve him well at the next level, and Isaiah is hoping scouts take notice of the gains he’s already seen.

Crowell says that if he were running a draft war room, he’d select himself in the second round.  Based on what’s been seen on and off the field, he thinks that’s where he belongs.

If isolated, his stance on this topic makes for one hell of a soundbite.  After all, no major mock draft has him being selected so highly.

Within the broader context of the conversation, however, the assessment is surprisingly accurate—even if somewhat forgiving.

Over the course of 60 minutes in the Loews Hotel, Isaiah Crowell is multifaceted.  He’s contrite when speaking of the past.  He’s humble when speaking of the present.  He’s optimistic and determined when speaking of the future.  He’s gracious, accommodating and light-hearted throughout.

At no point does he seem anything but composed, calculated and professional.  Some of that may be the interview coaching of his agent, publicists and other consultants.  But Crowell has either mastered the art of long-form monologues to an Oscar-winning degree, or he’s genuinely self-aware.

“I’ve been working with athletes like Isaiah for over 30 years,” Ken Herock offers over the phone on a drizzly Atlanta Monday.  “I can tell right away if a guy is leading me on or just trying to say the right things.  That’s not the case with Isaiah.”

Crowell’s generally stable demeanor makes his second-round self-assessment all the more intriguing.  Again, no major draft expert has him slated so high.  But the NFL draft is driven disproportionately by two factors: potential and momentum.

SEC football fans have seen prolonged glimpses of Crowell’s potential.  In his second collegiate game, Crowell went against Clowney (also a freshman in 2011) and the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Georgia lost a 45-42 nail-biter at home, but Crowell accounted for 158 yards of offense and two touchdowns on just 18 touches. He ran the ball sixteen times, and was not stopped behind the line of scrimmage once.

Following the loss, Isaiah Crowell—not Jadeveon Clowney—was SEC Freshman of the Week according to the Associated Press.  The AP also tabbed Crowell with the SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

While few (if any) would make an argument for drafting Crowell over Clowney, a physical freak with a better track record in the nation’s toughest college football conference, it’s hard to dispute that Crowell has second (or even first) round potential.  He’s already shown it.

Robert Brown, Crowell’s agent at Universal, is quick to point out that his client has already caught the eye of NFL scouts with his natural ability.  “We polled just about every NFL team, “ Brown insists. “And unequivocally they say that Isaiah has the talent—size, speed, strength, everything—to be a starter at the NFL level.  Some say he could start on day one.”

Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Writer, Matt Miller sees the same potential:

Crowell has all the natural talent in the world. He’s powerfully built with the legs needed to drive through would-be tacklers and pick up positive yardage. With his combination of size and speed, Crowell definitely fits the model of a franchise running back. In years-past, he would have been a 20-carry bell-cow featured in a pro-style offense.

As for momentum, Crowell is doing all he can to create a buzz.  He performed well at the NFL Scouting Combine where he showed off a new, bulked-up physique at 224 pounds, but he believes he can do better.

“I think I can run a 4.3, but I know I’ve got 4.4 speed,” Crowell offers when asked how he felt about his measurables.  “I think I did good, but I could have been better,” he says of a performance in which he ran a 4.57 (official) 40-yard dash, jumped 38 inches on the vertical and bench pressed 23 reps of 225 pounds.

Unfortunately, rainy and cold conditions kept Crowell from improving on his 40 time on Tuesday.  Crowell told BamaStateSports.com, “If it wasn’t raining I would have run it again, but with it raining I didn’t think it would help me out to run it again.”

 

Crunch Time

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Crowell met formally with three teams, the Cleveland Browns, the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders.  He chatted more casually with several others.

“They didn’t ask me anything too crazy,” he says with a laugh.  “They asked questions about my arrest and just wanted to know what happened.  But I told them what went on and the situation.  They didn’t dwell on it.”

Crowell is hopeful for further conversations with more teams as such dialogues offer an opportunity to get past his biggest remaining hurdle: separating perception from reality.  And though that may seem like an uphill battle, his newly broadened shoulders and diligently crafted responses seem up for the task.

Paradoxically, he’s aided by the fact that the public’s presuppositions about his character are so thoroughly flawed that they can be exposed as false even after a superficial scan.

As a freshman at Georgia, Crowell caught grief from fans for nursing injuries.  He contends he tried to play through a number of injuries that would have left others in street clothes.  He bruised his ribs in the first quarter against South Carolina in week two, but stayed in the game and fought valiantly.  Against Ole Miss he fractured his wrist in the middle of another SEC Freshman of the Week performance.  He tore ligaments in his ankle against Kentucky but was dressed out two weeks later for the SEC Championship.

While he’s completely healthy now and has no lingering concerns whatsoever, it’s evident that fans’ chiding takes on his efforts bothered him.  “I used to come off the field for real reasons, you know.  I wasn’t taking myself out.  That part was frustrating,” he admits.  “Because I really was hurt and was trying to play. That was frustrating more than anything.”

Outside the lines, Crowell developed a reputation as a troubled young man instigating drama within the team.  In reality, his freshman year was plagued by inner turmoil as he dealt with the death of two loved ones, his nephew and a close friend.  Simultaneously he came to grips with news that he was going to be a father.

Crowell notes that these challenges weren’t lost on the Georgia coaching staff, particularly running backs coach (and his lead recruiter per 247Sports) Bryan McClendon.  “I really couldn’t focus on football.  He could always see it on my face,” Isaiah recalls.  “He’d always talk to me after the meetings and stuff and just ask, ‘What’s wrong?  What’s going on?’ And we’d go talk for 30 minutes just about what was going on with me.”

“I would never want people to label me as a hot-head or trouble maker,” Crowell states seriously as his smile abruptly but briefly disappears.  “That’s not me.  My fuse was shorter then because of other things.  I didn’t want it to be like that, but that’s how I was because of what I was going through.”

Crowell was continually portrayed as self-centered during his brief career at Georgia.  Now, when asked about his 2011 season, he immediately deflects away from himself and toward the collective effort of the team.

Really a lot of people didn’t expect us to do that well just because of the season before.  The coaches were telling us to ignore the noise and stick together and play football.  And we lost the first two games so that didn’t help us at all.  But we stuck together and went through and we had a good season.  I think it was a good year overall.

It’s only after more pointed questions and further prodding that the alleged egomaniac begins to talk about his personal accomplishments.

Even social media created a false version of Isaiah Crowell that must be corrected.  The popular “Fake Isaiah Crowell” Twitter account peaked in popularity among Georgia fans two years ago but remains at the forefront for Dawg fans when speaking of Crowell.  Prior to the interview, Ashley Kerns of Kerns Marketing & Management, who works closely with Isiaiah and other draft prospects, acknowledged the parody account preemptively, saying, “He’s nothing like that Twitter account.  He’s very genuine and mild mannered.  That thing couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Then there’s the incident of June 2012, when Isiah Crowell was arrested and brought up on felony charges for possessing a weapon in a school zone and possessing a weapon with an altered ID mark as well as a misdemeanor for possession of a concealed weapon.

Even that, Ken Herock suggests, should be a non-factor when evaluating Crowell’s draft stock.

Herock, who played professionally before becoming a personnel exec with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers, is well-versed in reading players and their accompanying situations.  Currently advising upwards of 80 potential draftees per year on an independent basis, Herock sees no limiting factor in Crowell’s past.

You say ‘off-the field issues,’ and I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Because I’m talking about a guy who was arrested two years ago for something and had all the charges dropped and expunged from his record.  He has no criminal record and has not been in any trouble over the past two years.  He’s had to live with that for two years but it’s behind him and he’s better for it.  A lot of guys do stuff like that when they get to the NFL.  He’s already learned from his mistakes.

 

A Better Isaiah Crowell

“Marshawn Lynch is a guy I look up to.  The first person never brings him down.  He runs hard and is hard to bring down, that’s why I want to be like him.”

Crowell perks up once again as the conversation transitions back to the game he loves.  Yet there’s a broader, metaphorical truth to the Marshawn Lynch comparison which transcends football.

Right now, Crowell is trying to prove to everyone that an early misstep away from the field won’t unravel the NFL dream he’s been weaving since childhood.  Off the field—whether in interviews, meetings or in the community— Isaiah is striving to display the same fortitude Lynch shows on the field.  He’s aiming to demonstrate that can’t be taken down the first time.

Isaiah, who exudes an aura of maturity—or at the very least hunger, seems every bit on the right path.  A time-tested formula of personal growth and relational support is leading him ever closer to an NFL career.

His troubles, overstated as they may have been, have not hardened him, but rather refined him.  And family continues to serve as motivation.

“I’m a father now so everything has changed.  Everything I’m doing isn’t just for me.  It’s for my son now.  That motivates me, because I don’t want to let him down,” Crowell expresses with a chilling degree of contentment that does not typify the average 21-year old father in search of a way to provide for his family.

So when Isaiah says, “I’m happy with where I am.  This is where I’m supposed to be,” the significance surpasses the cliché.

On one hand, it’s clear that Crowell is appreciative of the opportunity.  Even his weekend at the Loews Hotel honoring gridiron legends of historically black colleges, signing autographs for unknown collectors and speaking with the media is worth relishing.

On the other, an overriding appreciation for his path—unorthodox as it may have been—is not lost on him.

“At Georgia I was kind of childish.  I feel like if I’d stayed there and got to the NFL I wouldn’t be as mature as I am now.  I think the arrest and everything grounded me and made me humble.”

All the ups and downs, his time at Georgia and his trek to Alabama State have created a better Isaiah Crowell.

With a pause that is far more introspective than scripted, he concludes, “Right now I have the work ethic to play at the NFL, I’m not going to let anything block my dream.  I’m not the same person I used to be.”

At this time, that’s all Isaiah Crowell wants to prove.

 

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

 

For the rest of the Dude’s Top 10 Countdown, click here.

Dude You Podcast: Return of the Mack(s)


That’s right, the podcast is back and better than ever.

Which is to say, still not great.

But, we are 100% back with a new and improved 100% reliable recording schedule, just in time for SEC Media Days, and picking through the ruins of DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks.

Listen on Spreaker.

Listen on iTunes.

Be sure to subscribe, and leave five-star reviews to hear your words on air.

Email us at tips@dudeyoucrazy.net.

Love this? Hate it? Think I’m an idiot? Don’t just curse at me under your breath, head to theDude You Podcast iTunes page, and leave a 5-star review to make sure I know it, and have your voice heard on the air. Follow me at @dpalm66.

Dawgs Draft in Review: How the Class of 2015 Fits in the NFL


Another draft has come and gone, and Georgia continued to keep its strong NFL pipeline open. The Dawgs ranked #13 in draft player quality, a pretty solid ranking considering its one elite prospect has a torn ACL. The full list is here, and you’ll get a laugh at Florida ranking #4 due to the strength of its….offense…?…having six players drafted. WHO SAID WILL MUSCHAMP CAN’T COACH?!?

Todd Gurley, Rams (1st round, 10th overall): Obviously, most of the strength of this Georgia class lies in the monster RB Todd Gurley. The first first-round running back selected since 2012, Gurley’s landing spot is less than ideal. The Rams are weak on the offensive line (though strong behind Greg Robinson and Roger Saffold on the left side), and have a complete dearth of playmakers on the outside as long as Tavon Austin demonstrates a lack of receiving skills. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), the Rams play in the NFC West with strong defenses in Seattle and Arizona. Perhaps he can eat in two games against a depleted 49ers team, but who knows?

Former Auburn back Tre Mason had a pretty nice second half to his rookie season last year, but Gurley should have no problem supplanting him as the featured back. Fantasy ripoff Zac Stacy, though?

In case you missed it, Stacy’s response to the Gurley pick was swift, as he tweeted (and deleted) “YIKES”, followed by a trade request, which the Rams granted for a 7th-round pick.

FIT: D+. Gurley is going to be asked to be the workhorse here, and his career will likely be shortened by Jeff Fisher giving him the Eddie George treatment.

Chris Conley, Chiefs (3rd round, 76th overall): From a pure opportunity standpoint, Conley couldn’t have landed in a better situation. The Chiefs let Dwayne Bowe walk this offseason, and their receivers accounted for ZERO touchdowns last year. With their signing of deep threat Jeremy Maclin, there should be ample space to operate underneath for the combine wonder.

Additionally, Conley immediately becomes KC’s tallest receiver, as 6’3 journeyman Armon Binns and his 27 career catches are likely not to stick on the roster.

FIT: A-. WR was likely KC’s biggest need going into the draft, and Conley joins a 7th-rounder from Northern Illinois as new targets for Alex Smith. Only Smith’s inability to get the ball downfield keeps this from being a home run for Conley.

Ramik Wilson, Chiefs (4th round, 118th overall): The first three Georgia draftees will play their football in Missouri, which is just…odd. SEC country indeed, I suppose.

Ramik has a good chance to stick as a 3-4 inside ‘backer (where he played for his most productive Georgia year), as the Chiefs are a little light there. Derrick Johnson is a stud, and Josh Mauga had 103 tackles in his first year with the team. Depth is a major concern here, and the team’s run defense was not-so-good last year. Wilson should get a shot to move right into a reserve role and join the starting 11 if Johnson’s injury issues persist.

The fear here is that some are listing him as an outside linebacker, where he would be well behind former Dawg (and 2014 sack leader) Justin Houston, as well as aging edge rusher Tamba Hali and last year’s second-round pick, Dee Ford.

FIT: A if he stays inside, F if they see him as an edge guy. We grew to know and love Wilson as an inside ‘backer.

If he can protect the middle of the field like the following GIF (B.S. penalties aside), Wilson will be just fine.

Damian Swann, Saints (5th round, 167th overall): Again, depends on where the team sees him playing. With Keenan Lewis and former Patriot Brandon Browner entrenched as the starting corners, the versatility Swann demonstrated in one year under Jeremy Pruitt is essential to his staying power.

If he is indeed a corner in the Saints’ D, Swann will also be competing with former Florida State corner P.J. Williams, a third-round pick who many mocks saw as a late first-rounder.

Rotoworld lists Swann as a free safety, where he’s clearly behind Jarius Byrd. Career starter Kenny Phillips was signed this offseason for depth as well, but he’s been completely unable to stay healthy.

FIT: C-. Swann’s best hope for a roster spot here is as a special teamer and sub package corner. While that’s all you can really expect as a fifth rounder, the Saints have invested heavily in their secondary over the past two years. On the other hand, 81.3% of 5th rounders at least play their rookie years with the team who drafts them, so he should be in NOLA for special teams and depth in year one.

Amarlo Herrera, Colts (6th round, 207th overall): ‘Marlo is a prototypical run stuffing, old school middle linebacker who may have missed his NFL calling by 10-15 years, but he has a good chance to stick for his first few years. The Colts have been awful against the run in recent years, and a division with Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee means that he’s playing almost half of his schedule against teams that aren’t exactly capable of chucking all over the field and exploiting his weakness as a pass defender.

D’Quell Jackson (140 tackles) and Jerrell Freeman (93) are Indy’s inside incumbents (alliteration!). Freeman is on a 1-year RFA deal, and Jackson is entering his 9th year in the league. From a depth perspective, Herrera should be able to find some time on the field.

FIT: A-. There aren’t many better fits for one of my all-time favorites.

Among the undrafted Dawgs, C David “Boss” Andrews to New England is good, because (spoiler alert) Bill Belichick tends to get the most out of all of his players, one way or another. Ray Drew is a Dolphin, Toby Johnson a Titan, and Corey Moore a Texan.

On balance, one feels for Gurley. The rest of the Dawgs’ draftees ended up in very good situations to display their talents.

 

The Officially Official DYC Super Bowl Preview


Here we are again; the inevitable end of the football season, and the inevitable begin of counting down to the next football season. Make no mistake – this is America’s Game now, and waiting for more football is the second most popular sport. The NFL has had the PR season from hell, and ratings haven’t budged. As a nation, we get outraged over the audacity of the League to lie to us on multiple fronts…during the week. Come Sunday? A collective voice rings out across the land, echoing from all 50 states:

“GIVE US OUR FOOTBALL.”

And give us football they shall. The most dominant 15 year run in the salary cap era vs. an emerging defensive dynasty is a helluva storyline the NFL has handed us. We’re going to go over what happens when each team has the ball, some friends of the blog are gonna make some picks, and we’re gonna have some fun. I’ll be checking in Sunday with all your prop betting needs, but I want to do more. I want to help you win even more money with a prop in this blog, so this next one’s on me. Four straight years I’ve won this bet, and it’s the first prop I find when the line comes out.

National anthem over/under.

This year, we’ve got Idina Menzel singing the anthem, and Wikipedia says she’s a Broadway singer who used to be married to Taye Diggs. Sure, her ex-husband doesn’t matter at all, but this was literally the only name I recognized on her Wikipedia page. The line this year is a logical 2:01, which means that someone is paying attention to the money I’ve been winning. It’s safe to assume that she’s not going for the record (Alicai Keys , 2:36), but she want’s to be respectable. Toss in the fact that they’re in Glendale with good conditions, and I get the feeling she’ll want to show off. Bang the over.

(Blah blah I’ve overthought this blah blah crippling gambling addiction. Grow up.)

I’ve been made aware that Ms. Menzel sings the Frozen song. As a 29-year old man with no children, I remain blissfully under informed about this movie or song. Back to the blog!

I have no rooting interest in this game, as both teams are generally unlikable. Except for these two guys.

Get them a sitcom, a buddy cop movie, or an advice column ASAP.

On to the Super Bowl. FWIW, I reserve the right to Chad Ford any pick that I get wrong going forward. Didn’t know that was an option until now, to be honest. Next year, when I’m retroactively perfect against the spread, thank Chad Ford.

NEW ENGLAND @ SEATTLE

When We Last Saw New England: They were murder-death-killing the Colts by a billion points, which everyone has conveniently forgotten about in the face of BALLGHAZI. A couple of quick points about this non-scandal: 1. Every quarterback adjusts inflation to their own liking, and if you believe every other quarterback is within the acceptable parameters all the time, you’re crazy. 2. We’ve seen grown men on television nearly cry over deflated ball, impassioned calls for justice from owners, and the swift moving machine of the NFL collect video and statements and commission reports. But they never saw the Ray Rice video. Right.

Moving on so the Shield doesn’t shut down this blog, the Patriots played basically their dream game against the Colts. Passing at will, they were able to even activate their heretofore optional running game, all stemming from the abilities of their monster tight end to affect the defense. The Pats pass to set up the run, and early success downfield against the Seahawks will allow them to control the clock. Gronkowski’s presence on the field will force adjustments out of this Seattle defense, and New England’s ability to utilize him to occupy the safeties in the passing game will decide their offensive success.

Defensively, I don’t feel great about this Patriot side. They are going against a multifaceted offense with a front that has generated a grand total of ZERO sacks in the playoffs thus far. And you know what? Russell Wilson is TONS more mobile than Flacco or Luck. Then again, the defense has stepped up when they needed to (twin comebacks in the same game against Baltimore). Plus, who’s really betting against the bad guys?

When We Last Saw Seattle: Seattle was finding a way to win (copyright every coach ever) in overtime against the Packers. Russell Wilson looked super pedestrian (or concussed!) for the majority of the game, but cleared out the cobwebs in time to scratch and claw his way back to another Super Bowl. Take away that Matthews hit and subsequent crappy quarterback play, and the Seattle offense looked the same way it has all year; dominant running game setting up big plays downfield. No team has really thrown a wrench in this plan since Seattle’s last loss before Thanksgiving, and that kind of consistency is rare these days. Every team since Week 12 knew this was their plan, and could do absolutely nothing to stop it. Also – #WheelRoutes. They’re coming.

The Patriot offense appears to match up on paper well with this Seahawks Voltron-esque defense. Chancellor and Thomas will have their attentions focused on the middle of the field with the propensity of Brady to look for both his tight ends and his running backs when the outside receivers are taken away, and trust me: Maxwell and Sherman will help take the outside away. The Patriots offensive line has gotten exponentially better over the course of the season, but the Seattle front four is a unique challenge that they need to be ready for. Old timey land baron Pete Carroll says they won’t be.

pete carroll

THE PICK: I’ve got my opinion, but I turned to friends of the blog for their opinions because hey, the more the merrier.

Kriss (owner/operator of Movie Trailer Reviews, tolerates me ruining his podcast once a week, @insanityreport) – “I’ll take the Seahawks but only because I don’t want to get fined.”

Leonard (owner L. Brothers Media, viewer of life through Tar Heel blue lenses, @LBrothersMedia) – “Seattle. I just hope to see Skittles flying and Marshawn trolling in the post game interviews.”

Chad Floyd (writer at DudeYouCrazy.net, former intern, @Chad_Floyd) – “Seahawks. Thank you, Patriots, for again making a mockery of Super Bowl week and providing our mainstream media with extreme #HOTSPORTSTAKES. I hope you burn in hell.”

Brandi Mills (writer at The Big Spur , Google Hangouts beard gang member, @brandicmills) – “34-23 Seahawks.”

I then asked Brandi to elaborate for the blog. So what happened next is my fault.

“To the window
(/•_•)/
to the wall
\(•_•\)
Till the air drips out my balls

I’m so ashamed”

Michael Felder (lead college football writer at Bleacher Report, drinker of beer(s), @InTheBleachers) – “I don’t know about lines but gimme the Seahawks for sure. Love #AllRussellWilsonEverything & the LOB is going to put the paws on the Pats.”

Rodimus Prime (host of the award-winning podcast The Black Guy Who Tips, better at podcasting than us, @rodimusprime) – “ I say the Seahawks win by 16. Black quarterback power and a dominant defense will expose Tom Brady’s spaghetti arm for what it is!”

Andrew Hall (site runner at DudeYouCrazy.net, mid-podcast vanisher, @DudeYouCrazy) – “Picking last huh? Taking the Patriots because if I’m right, I get to beat more people than if I take the Seahawks. That’s what we call fading the public. Old gambling secret.”

Partially because I’m a lover of defense at heart, and mostly because betting with Andrew is always a horrible idea, I’ve made my decision.

Seattle (+1) over New England

Get drunk, make deflation jokes during Katy Perry’s halftime show, and enjoy the game.

Oh, and buy Lipitor. Just in case they really are giving out money. DudeYouCrazy – Not for sale, but we’re taking payments.

CUE THE PATRIOTS’ MUSIC!

Love this? Hate it? Think I’m an idiot? Don’t just curse at me under your breath, head to the Dude You Podcast iTunes page, and leave a 5-star review to make sure I know it, and have your voice heard on the air. Follow me at @dpalm66.

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FOOTBALL: Cardale Jones + NFL Championship Weekend Picks


Yesterday, Cardale Jones (he of the three starts and the national title and the amazing tweet) announced in a high school gym that he’d be returning to THE Ohio State University for another season of MeyerBall. Unlike what these festering wounds on the face of sports journalism would have you believe, he is not the first player to announce that he’s staying with an event. Hell, he’s not even the first Urban Meyer quarterback to do it. Remember Tim Tebow, walking journalist wet dream and weirdo evolution denier? He did this in The Swamp, and you’ve got a problem with a kid doing it in a high school gym?

Having dismissed problems with the delivery of this announcement, I’m of two minds of the actual announcement itself. On the one hand, it’s always a good thing when kid makes his education paramount, and that should be applauded. I personally made my college choice based on post-graduate opportunity (and now I’m writing for you people. Ball dropped, past Daniel), so maybe I should support this return to school. Hell, this kid said he wasn’t here to play school, and now he sees the value of education. On the other hand…

He wasn’t just handed a lottery ticket, he was handed an actual CHECK. People got mad about the ‘not here to play school’ tweet, but his scholarship says FOOTBALL, and this was the best situation he could have hoped for. Three games equals small sample size, but you want to tell me NO TEAM would take a flier on this kid? The only thing scouts love more than proven commodities is a prospect with a limitless upside that they can sell to their bosses. “Strike while the iron is hot” is the well-worn saying, not “Let hot irons cool, and hope they heat up again via a similar unforeseeable, unprecedented series of events”.

Why come back? J.T. is going to be the starter, since he’s Urban’s recruit and Cardale isn’t. Which means he’s going to spend ANOTHER year on the bench learning Meyer’s offense for free, as opposed to learning an NFL offense and getting paid to do so. He’s going to be a 23-year-old back up on a VERY good football team who will be hoping all this goodwill he’s gained through his play has a 1 year shelf life. Good luck with that.

On to this weekend’s games. As always, home team in bold:

Green Bay at Seattle

When We Last Saw Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers carried his team past America’s Team the Cowboys on a leg and half. Much has been made of the Dez Bryant catch/non-catch, but what no one is talking about is that even if Dallas had scored, they had yet to demonstrate an actual ability to stop and/or slow down the Green Bay hydra offense. Let’s say Dallas scores there; anyone want to bet against Rodgers in crunch time on a big stage? That’s what I thought.

Week 1 saw the defending champs take the Packers out behind the woodshed, and that was with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. I think he’ll be better in regards to attacking the secondary, but this is a Seattle team in full Spurs playoff ass-kicking mode. Eddie Lacy has taken more of the load down the Packers’ stretch run which should help tire out the Seattle defense, but Rodgers’ health and willingness to challenge the secondary will make the difference in this game.

When We Last Saw Seattle: Kam Chancellor and company were reminding the Panthers front office that they really need to build their skill positions more thoroughly to make their team more competitive. The Seattle octopus defense was in full display, slowly chocking the life out of Carolina over the course of a few hours. Offensively, Russell Wilson did Russell Wilson things, and the coaches were able to hold Marshawn to 17 touches, presumably so he can do things like this against Green Bay:

Lost in the domination that was the Seattle win last week, Carolina did put up a fight and more than few numbers. Cam Newton completed 23 of 36 passes and two touchdowns, and Green Bay is better offensively in every way to Carolina. A lot of the effect of the octopus plays out via intimidation, and it appears Rodgers has passed the point of being able to be shook.

THE PICK: Let’s not bury the lede: the Seattle defense is like Devestator, and is appropriately terrifying for opposing offenses. Especially on the biggest stages. Especially IN Seattle. But this Green Bay offense is the perfect storm; there’s no way to cue on a single receiver, they have a punishing running back who is an effective receiver in the passing game, and the offensive line does a great job against a 4-man rush. Seattle wins, but the smart play is that Green Bay is going to cover. This is going to be the best game of the weekend, and I can’t wait.

Packers (+7.5) over Seahawks

Indianapolis at New England

When We Last Saw Indianapolis: The Colts were presiding over the funeral pyre for Peyton Manning, and getting John Fox fired in Denver. I watched this game, I’m staring at the stats as I type this, and it still makes no sense to me. Luck turned in a very Luck-ian performance (not great, but with high points), ending up completing 63% of his passes for 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Adding in a running game that could be generously called anemic, and…nope. Still makes no sense.

Logical or not, this Colts team spent the year beating up on the AFC South (congrats on winning your division by having a quarterback!), and now they’re in the AFC Title game. There’s much to be said about Andrew Luck vanquishing the quarterback standard bearers of the AFC on his way to a Super Bowl. Sounds like a great story. But, that’s a real tall order.

When We Last Saw New England: Baltimore and New England met again, and again produced another instant classic, where the Pats erased two 14-point deficits to take the win. This time, it took New England pulling out all the stops; getting a touchdown pass from Julian Edelman, and exploiting a loophole to confuse the Baltimore defense as to who was a legal receiver. If you ain’t Belicheatin’, you ain’t tryin’!

The biggest variable for the Patriots this year has been the health of Rob Gronkowski, as their entire offense seems to hinge on that giant meathead’s ability. He clocked in last week at 7 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, so it’s safe to assume he’s feeling fine. If this were some other team, their lack of a running attack would worry me and any other logical observer of football. Since it’s the Patriots, I’ll assume this is the logical evolution of football, and I’m just behind.

THE PICK: Last week, these two teams ran the ball for a combined 41 times, with neither team breaking a hundred yards. I don’t know what game these two are playing, but I bet it’s built on a passing attack and being super watchable and entertaining. Points are going to come in bunches, and I’ve learned about betting against Tom Brady.

Patriots (-7) over Colts

Love this? Hate it? Think I’m an idiot? Don’t just curse at me under your breath, head to the Dude You Podcast iTunes page, and leave a 5-star review to make sure I know it, and have your voice heard on the air.

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