Learn how to watch football

Football is our nation’s most watched, most celebrated, and most complex team sport. It combines cunning strategy and raw statistical analysis, motivation and desire, quick decisions and blazing speed, brute force and disguised misdirections, elegant moves and vicious hits. It’s simply an amazing game—but only when you understand what’s happening. Here’s a short guide to taking the first step towards learning what the game is all about. Continue reading Learn how to watch football

Complete listing of ASU players drafted into NFL

Here are the breakdowns of ASU players drafted by round since 1964. Until 2013, Arizona State had at least one player drafted into the NFL every year since 1964, one of the longest streaks in college football at the time.

Note: where the player was drafted by both the NFL and AFL, I chose the lowest round. Note, this tally and the listing below do not include free agent signings. Continue reading Complete listing of ASU players drafted into NFL

Congrats to Jerry Rice, the GOAT

Jerry Rice was not the most innately talented receiver to play in the NFL.

Not the fastest.

Not the tallest.

Not the strongest.

He wasn’t groomed at the finest college football program by the finest coaches.

But he did have an unending work ethic that allowed him to leave the game as the greatest receiver of all-time—and probably the best player of the modern era.

Sure, it helped that he had one of the greatest coaches, two of the all-time great quarterbacks, and starred on a team of stars. But that alone doesn’t produce a Jerry Rice.

Hard work, a commitment to excellence, and an uncanny ability to shine on the biggest of occasions does. Running the best routes, having the surest hands, being the quickest off the line, perfecting every movement and read—and managing to do it all at the highest levels for years and years and years—that’s what makes you a Jerry Rice.

Today, Rice was selected to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His inclusion on the first ballot was about the safest bet you could make. But it wasn’t a sure thing when he was drafted. That’s where the hard work came in.

Congrats, Jerry.

Roger Craig should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame

In the NFL news today was the list of finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There were some obvious selections, including Jerry Rice – whom I consider to be the greatest player in the modern era. I’m a huge Jerry Rice fan.

But there was another 49er on that list that I think doesn’t get the credit her deserves: Roger Craig. To this day, he stands as my favorite NFL player – even above Rice, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, and Steve Young. That’s probably because I love Craig’s style of game so much.

In recess and street football games as a kid, he was the guy I always wanted to be. The running back, with high knees that slowed the tackles (or two-hand touches, as the case usually was). The out-of-the-backfield receiver that no one wanted to cover. Don’t get me wrong, I loved playing quarterback too; but as one of the fastest kids at that age, it made more sense to get me the ball quickly and let me go.

Nostalgia aside, there’s a strong case for enshrining Craig in the Hall of Fame. He may not have been the Eric Dickerson or even Marcus Allen of his era, but what he did helped revolutionize the way the running back position is played and valued in an offense. His 1000/1000 season still holds as one of the greatest single season performances of all-time.

It’s time for a Roger Craig bust in Canton.

The best Super Bowl ever?

I’m shocked that I’m still hearing people discuss the Super Bowl as the best ever. I’m sorry, but there’s simply no way that you can say that – under nearly any measure.

A struggle of the best teams? Hardly. The Cardinals are one of the worst teams to ever make it to the big dance, if not the record-holder. In fact, the Cardinals wouldn’t have even made the playoffs if they hadn’t played in the worst division in football (not surprisingly, every other team in the NFC West has parted ways with last year’s coach). The Steelers were certainly a good team this year, but also weren’t as good as they’ve been in recent years either.

A showdown of Hall-of-Famers? Nope. While Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger may eventually end up there, they aren’t HOF material just yet (yes, some believe Warner belongs there, but he’s only been successful in special offensive systems and has had some pretty bad years, too – any one remember his Giants days). Nope, this game couldn’t hold a candle to the Montana vs Elway, Bradshaw vs Staubach, Montana vs Marino, Aikman vs Kelly, Elway vs Favre, the list goes on and on.

A showdown of head coaches?  Again, no. Tomlin and Whisenhunt are great young coaches, but they’ve hardly established themselves among the league’s best. I suspect that they will, but that’s not yet the case.

The biggest upset?  Well, certainly not – the better team, the Steelers, won the game…even if they had to do it in the last minute.  Besides, last year’s Giants, the 2001 Patriots or those pesky Jets of Super Bowl III might take issue.

The best finish?  Nope, not that either. There have been a bunch of very compelling finishes in Super Bowl history – whether that’s the 49ers winning drive over the Bengals, three last-minute winning field goals by the Patriots, the missed field goal that let the Giants sneak away with a win against the Bills, or the last second game-saving tackle by the Rams over the Titans. It was a great finish, sure, but it clearly isn’t unprecedented or unusual. And frankly, with today’s league parity, most of the recent Super Bowls have come down to the last drive.

Look at just about any measure – aside from viewership, which is mostly driven by factors unrelated to which teams are playing – and it’s pretty darn hard to make a case that this was the best Super Bowl ever. Let’s stop saying it was.

My take on the Super Bowl

A relative snoozer of a Super Bowl turned interesting in the last few minutes. And in the end, despite the Cinderella playoff run of the Cardinals, the better team won. Sucks for the state of Arizona and Cardinals fans, but that’s the cold hard truth. The fact is that the Cardinals didn’t really deserve to be in the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. They are only the second team ever to make it to the big game with seven, count them seven, losses. Coincidentally, the other 7-loss team – the ’79 Rams – also lost to the Steelers. [Side note: that makes me feel better about Pittsburgh taking home one more trophy than my beloved 49ers, since well, Pittsburgh also beat two teams that shouldn’t have been in the game.]

For a few minutes of the 4th quarter, it looked like Arizona might pull out the upset. But Ben Roethlisberger made a crazy throw to the corner of the end zone and Santonio Holmes made a great catch. Ben of course, shouldn’t have thrown it – Holmes was tripled covered and the running back was standing wide open at the 5 yard line with a great chance of scoring and just a few feet from the sideline where he could have stopped the clock. But, in true Big Ben fashion, he made the bad decision that, Favre-like, found its unlikely mark.

Congrats to the Steelers. And thanks for energizing the locals, Arizona. Oh, and go Niners!

My dilemma in rooting for a Super Bowl winner

Let me start by saying that I am in no way excited about this Super Bowl – and that’s not just because my 49ers are a long way from being involved.

What’s particularly annoying for me is that I’d prefer that neither team win the Super Bowl. In fact, I have good reasons to root against both. So while one of them will win, I’m stuck with half of frustrations coming true either way.

I know I’m expected to be rooting for the underdog Cardinals. After all, they are the home team. And I have rooted for the Cardinals in the past, partly because they are representing the state I love, but also because they’ve picked up some great ASU players in the past. But I’ve never been a fan of their owner Bill Bidwill, and I’d be happy if they picked up and left town. But what I really despise about the team is how they treated ASU just days after the state voted them a new stadium. See, after partaking in the generosity of ASU allowing them to use Sun Devil Stadium (a prerequisite for them landing in the desert to begin with), they turned around and sued the university for “limiting their ad revenue.” Mind you, this was because ASU had already had exclusive contracts with certain companies to place advertising around the stadium. The Cardinals thought that stunk, and even though they couldn’t sell out the stadium or get anyone excited about the damn team, they wanted ASU to help them make more money that they would in turn pocket instead of putting back into the team. That lawsuit forced ASU to waste a million dollars before a settlement was reached, and if the lawsuit would have been successful, it very well have forced the elimination of some sports. Unacceptable, Cardinals.

I’m also a bit peeved at the current state of the NFL, which rewards teams for getting hot at the right time. This has led to undeserving teams winning the Super Bowl, even when they are clearer an inferior team. The Cardinals are a perfect example of this, and no, they do not deserve to be in the playoffs at all, let alone in the Super Bowl. If the Cardinals win., they will have “stolen” a Super Bowl ring the way several teams in the past have.

At the same time, I don’t want the Steelers to win either. I like Mike Tomlin, and the team boasts a former ASU player as well (The Cardinals have one too, so that offsets this measurement). No, my main reason for not wanting the Steelers to win is that it would be their sixth Super Bowl trophy, breaking the record they currently hold with my 49ers. Though, it should be pointed out that my Niners are 5-0 in Super Bowls (and have the highest average margin of victory), while the Steelers have lost one.

So, after a week and a half of grumbling and thought, I’ve decided to root for the hometown Cardinals. My main motivation is to honor a couple of former ASU players, Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman, who helped set the stage for this victory. In addition, it would be great to add another championship to the state’s resume; right now, it’s a bit bare relying on the Diamondbacks lone World Series Championship.

It’s going to be tough rooting for the Cardinals, but I’ll do my best.