Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NFL Wednesday Morning Thoughts: Week Ten

Romo Passes Torch

For months now, the debate has raged on over who should take the reigns as starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo or Dak Prescott? As divided as this country was during our most recent election, Jerry's World surely should have mirrored the chaos, even though it might not have shown. Even Mr. Jerry Jones himself has changed his thought process through the course of Dak's impressive 8-1 start. After stealing a win out of Pittsburgh last Sunday, the notorious and outspoken owner/general manager confirmed that Tony Romo would indeed ride the pine heading into this week's contest with the Baltimore Ravens.

Certainly not a easy process to swallow, Tony Romo had a choice to make: Put the team's best interest first, or stake your claim as the franchise's quarterback and make some serious noise behind the scenes. Extremely (this can't be emphasized enough) fortunate for the entire Cowboys organization, Tony decided to take the high road and not concede the starting position, yet allow the transition to truly happen. On Tuesday, Romo held a press conference and read from a letter he personally wrote, where he graciously accepted the circumstances and just wanted what was best for Dallas.

"He's earned the right to be our quarterback," Romo said. "As hard as that is for me to say, he's earned that right."

Surely as much as Romo has been thrashed by fans and media everywhere for his shortcomings on the field, this act of maturity and acceptance must be commended. How easy would it have been for a franchise quarterback to reject what was happening, and completely turn the mood gray, all while casting a negative shadow on his predecessor? Although we doubt this is the last time we'll see Romo play football, it is but a bitter taste to imagine him in another uniform. Put this man in the ring of honor already.

Steel Disappointing? Say Cheese!

Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Two of the league's most historic, successful franchises since the AFL-NFL merger in 1967. Fast forward to 2016, where both teams sit at 4-5 and their heads scratched furiously. Had you told someone both a Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger led team would combine for eight wins in ten weeks, they might have looked at you a bit odd. 

So what's to blame for the lack of success?

In the Steel City, inconsistency plays a major role in what has been a roller-coaster season for Pittsburgh thus far. The defense is still trying to find itself in terms of identity, and the secondary has been just as useful as (insert bad example here). Offensively, injuries and just bad play have haunted a unit that was thought to have the capability to average 30 points per game. The #FireMikeTomlin train has gathered much momentum after another handful of disappointing showings against inferior teams, however there's a history of stability that suggests Tomlin wont be packing any bags, anytime soon.

Travel up north to the frozen tundra, where Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood isn't so friendly. Sadly, it will take a little more than a "R-E-L-A-X" tweet to turn this ship around, something that couldn't be more evident after letting the Tennessee Titans hang a whopping 47 points on their defense. Many will point the finger to head coach (and Pittsburgh native, go figure) Mike McCarthy, whereas some would suggest the stockpile of injuries and lack of rushing attack have been the anchor of failure. While both the Steelers and Packers share similar stories, Green Bay is indeed more due for a change in it's coaching staff. 

The beauty of an NFL season is that every game truly counts, and both Green Bay and Pittsburgh are still within a game of the division lead. With seven weeks left in the regular season, there remains plenty of time and football to ultimately decide both of these teams fate, where the possibility of seeing these two play on the first Sunday of February could be just as probable as both of them watching the playoffs from home.  

Goff and Running

After being drafted number one overall and sitting for ten weeks, the time has finally come. Jared Goff will officially be the starting quarterback for the Rams when they take on Miami. The road up to this point has proved to be interesting, to say the least. To put things in perspective: All the other rookie quarterbacks were allowed outside to play, except poor Jared Goff, who was grounded by coach Jeff Fisher.

The past ten weeks have been combated with philosophical differences. What do you do with a fresh, young and inexperienced quarterback chosen to lead the NFL's new franchise in Los Angeles? Do you let him soak everything in and learn as much as he can before throwing him to the wolves? Or do you feel the pressure of putting your unprepared golden child in front of fans who have waited decades to see their team play?

Coach Fisher has experience in this very same situation before. Legendary quarterback Steve McNair was once in the same position as Jared Goff, Fisher had decided to let McNair sit, and as time would tell, the move would pay off. Given the circumstances, Fisher does have a work of history to defend his decision. However, these two scenarios are vastly different in many respects.

Even more so interesting is the current situation left to Goff. Here you have the Los Angeles Rams coming off a win and sitting in third place in the NFC West at 4-5, trailing the lead by two games with the possibility of a wild card spot is still in the minds of Rams personnel. Although Case Keenum wasn't exactly putting big numbers up every week, why wait until now? Reports surfaced that Goff looked everything of the part of number one pick during 7 on 7 drills, yet struggles when full practice comes around. Questions have already arose, asking simply: Will this transpire an overly-anxious quarterback?

Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of hindsight. Only Father Time knows the outcome of Jared Goff's NFL career, and I'm willing to bet he still won't reveal it to anybody, any time soon. So at 2:25 pm local time this Sunday, the Jared Goff era will officially start in Los Angeles, whether he's truly ready or not.

When Extra Points Became Extra

The extra point, or commonly known as the point-after try (PAT) was once as guaranteed in life as death and taxes. Those simple times are no more, thanks to the competition committee pushing the line of scrimmage for PAT to the 15 yard line. Ever since this move, all hell has broken loose in the world of kicking and two different cleats for each foot. What was once a for-sure point has now been jeopardized slightly, yet enough to sound some alarms. While the pandemic of kickers purely missing is one issue, a new topic of discussion has received notoriety.

Just ask any Saints fan, they'll tell you from first hand experience. A player jumping over the long snapper to block a kick. This act, which is just as questionable as what the true definition of a catch is, has become more and more popular among players trying to accomplish only what Olympic hurdlers were thought to do.

How the play works is simple. When attempting to snap the ball back to the holder on a field goal attempt or punt, the long snapper cannot have a defender lined up directly over him to ensure the safety of the long snapper. Well, when nobody is allowed to touch you, why would you put any effort away from snapping the ball and bringing your head up, which is precisely what every long snapper does: leave their head down when snapping. This creates a blind spot, an unguarded area so to say. For years, this act has gone by harmless. Harmless, until someone exposes the gap and leaps where he gets an absolute clean shot at blocking the kick.

Now, there are rules pertaining to this jump. The player who is attempting the jump may not have ANY contact with the long snapper or use any player as a source to propel him over the line. This has been a hard feat to accomplish for anybody on any team- yet teams are starting to actually practice this play, and as you can see at the end of the Saints-Broncos game, it can win or lose football games.

So as a special teams unit, how do you block this? Common thinking suggests some effort from both guards are needed to either block the jumper or make the play illegal by having the jumping defender touch them.

The bigger question can be found pointed towards the league itself: What are you going to do about this?

It's very likely that this play will be outlawed in the coming years by the league. There's just too much that could go wrong from a player safety standpoint, and is also almost an unfair advantage for players to go through unblocked and prevent a game winning field goal simply because they can jump over a long snapper who's bent down. Unfair? You make the call. But something will be done to either alter the rule, or change it all together.

Number of the Week: 8

This is the number of kicks missed this season by former Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh. Walsh missed four field goal attempts and four extra points before being released by the team on Tuesday.

Quote of the Week: 
"Probably one of the hardest I got hit in my career, for sure... (he's) like a missile." - New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski on the hit Earl Thomas delivered to him during Sunday Night Football. 

Tweet of the Week:

"Gronk, what's your favorite number?

I don't think I have one.

Donnie Druin is an award-winning writer from the Arizona Newspaper Association. Follow him on Twitter @DonnieDruin for all things football, or just to make fun of him for choosing Aaron Rodgers as his MVP earlier this season.

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