Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

The National Football League has a timeless proven theory that stable, strong-armed passers with leadership will grace an organization with Super Bowls. Unfortunately, that theory is easier spoken than executed.

One of “The League’s” most historic franchises is struggling, to say the least, in executing a plan they wrote. Back in the 1980s Bill Walsh designed a heavy passing game with Hall of Fame quarterbacks at the helm. Joe Montana and Steve Young helped San Francisco’s finest win titles in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994.

Since Young placed his helmet in his locker for the last time, the quarterback play in Candlestick Park has been dreadful to present day.

Jeff Garcia was the most successful of the signal-callers in the Bay Area, but even he struggled to win playoff games.  Garcia led to Tim Rattay in the gun. Then came Ken Dorsey, Alex Smith , Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, Hill—again, Alex Smith—again, and finally Troy Smith.

Alex Smith was drafted as the next great San Francisco 49er gunslinger. With the revolving door of team leaders has been far from executing the plan of developing prosperous quarterbacks to be crowned Super Bowl champions.

The first good move was made in the offseason by hiring former Stanford coach and Pro Bowl quarterback, Jim Harbaugh. As a former player, Harbaugh knew what it took to be successful in the professional ranks. Although he never raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy, his desire as a coach has not wavered since he hung up the pads.

Thus far in the preseason, the 49ers have still struggled at the quarterback position. There are plenty of areas on the gridiron where less than stellar players can avoid the spotlight, but when a quarterback struggles, the entire stadium witnesses the rough day at the office.

Alex Smith has gotten the nod from Harbaugh at a 17th or maybe even an 18th opportunity at owning the starting position for San Francisco. In three preseason games, Smith has yet to pass for a touchdown, while tossing two interceptions and conceding four sacks.

His career numbers look relatively similar, drawing relentless concern from the Niners faithful. Anticipating another collapse by Smith, Harbaugh opted to draft Colin Kaepernick, a 6-foot-4, 230 pound mobile and “heady” quarterback with mobility.

Steve Young had plenty of success with mobility, and a better than above average arm in the 90’s. Kaepernick is a taller, right-handed “poor man’s” version of Young.

Kaepernick has looked comfortable in two preseason games, including a 6-for-8 passing performance against the Oakland Raiders. On the rookie’s two offensive possessions, both drives ended with touchdowns.

That might look like a solid indication on what the future holds for the former Nevada star, but the preseason can be deceiving. As of this moment, Kaepernick looks to be the more superior, and polished, passer in the 49ers crop.

If Smith picks another injury—which over his seven year career as been predictable—Kaepernick will get a shot at the starting job.

Hopefully injuries don’t become a problem, because Jim Harbaugh might be the next best option under center. He is only ten years removed from his last plays in the NFL.

And in the end, who knows the offense better than the Head Coach?

Published on August 29, 2011 

“Kris Francis On Sports”

Homegrown talent moving throughout the ranks is tough to find on the West Coast. Try and think of your favorite state, their high school stars moving on to the college within the borders and then earning acclaim as professionals, all in the same market. It is difficult to name a handful, especially within the last decade.

Dating back, Marcus Allen comes to mind, although a San Diego native, he still erupted at USC and drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders. Seattle Seahawk fans call Warren Moon their own, but even he is not a homegrown Apple state native. If John Elway became a 49er or ironically enough, a Raider, perhaps that would be a story for the ages.

As we know, history is written for a reason, and Elway wrote his chapter in excellent form.

For the fans, watching homegrown talent rise through the ranks as preps, than wear their university’s colors and finally wear the badge as ultimate competitors in the NFL within state borders is a rarity.

Drafting players from in-state colleges is not unique, but finding the trifecta within your border is a dime a dozen.

Arizona fans have that right in front of their eyes. Todd Heap has returned to the valley of the sun, and the fans already love it. With nearly 13,000 fans in Flagstaff for Arizona Cardinals training camp, the chant of “Heap” echoed through the woods.

Heap is not Jake “The Snake” Plummer or Pat Tillman, but with each catch, the former Sun Devil and Mesa Mountain View High School stud knew he was home. Smiling from ear to ear, the fans extended their arms, and vocal chords, to reciprocate.

With Kevin Kolb arriving from Philadelphia to revive the Cardinals passing game, Todd Heap will have an impact on both the passing game and ground game. But, that is nothing new with Heap.

After helping Mesa Mountain View win the first back-to-back Arizona state championships in football, he later became known as the “Golden Retriever” by Sun Devil fans.

His alias fit him very well. The combination of Heap’s blonde hair, Velcro hands and keen sense of the overall play, he shattered the previous ASU records for the tight end position. After all, Heap’s first catch was of the one-handed variety for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies.

Two seasons later, Heap was a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree and a first round draft pick with a year of eligibility remaining. Ten seasons after first suiting up with the Baltimore Ravens, the All-Pro tight end has ditched the purple and black for the red birds’ sleek look.

And the colors of Heap’s home state suit him well. Perhaps, it was a match made in heaven, or simply nature coming full circle.

It is always a player’s desire to perform at the highest level in front of the greatest fans a player could know: “the homers”.

Heap had the attention of maroon and gold supporters from day one in Tempe. He was a hometown hero before he left for the east cost, and fans surely have not forgotten.

Many athletes in today’s game go for the clearest path to their NFL payday. Sometimes that includes venturing off to college campuses and football programs that seem foreign in these parts, or others tryto earn their stripes at another historic institution outside of state lines.

Either way, players want to play on the grandest of stages with the biggest spotlight shinning down on them. Todd Heap proved stardom could be achieved within city limits. Heap’s style proved that it is not where you play, but how you produce.

With Heap’s return to the desert, perhaps a new generation of athletes will witness his actions both as a football player and a community member in Phoenix.

Published on August 11, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

As one of the few football fans that actually attended a professional football game in Los Angeles, the talk of a professional team is enticing. Yet, no physical stadium is present for a team to call home.

Getting excited for a possibility is unwise. Honestly, how long has there been “discussion” and rumors about an organization leaving their current city for the idea of playing under Hollywood’s bright lights?

Let’s just say, none of us have enough fingers and toes to count. Nonetheless, the fans in Southern California are starving for professional football.

USC has been hit with sanctions, as their home attendance has scaled back. Across town, UCLA is lucky to draw 50,000 fans against any of their opponents, not nicknamed the Trojans.

Mediocre to slightly interesting college football is nice, but Los Angeles was built off of entertainment. Professional football in Los Angeles would nourish the empty stomachs of millions.

Heck, fans in Los Angeles would even take the Rams back if they came knocking again. Obviously, having the return of the Raiders would be ideal. However, the only one who knows what Raiders owner Al Davis will do is the man himself.

Still, the obstacle in place is an actual, physical structure called a stadium.

Due to the downward spiraling economy in the state of California, the professional football stadiums, and college for that matter, are outdated, rundown, and unsuitable for NFL standards.

All three professional football teams in the “Golden State” are in desperate need of either major renovations or an entirely new complex. Luckily, the San Francisco 49ers will be travelling a short drive down Interstate-5 to Santa Clara in 2012.

That leaves the options wide open for the aforementioned Raiders, who are continually looking to escape Oakland Coliseum, and the San Diego Chargers currently occupying Qualcomm Stadium.

Fans in L.A. would welcome either club to town in a heartbeat. Many fans in Southern California are already Raider or Charger fans. The transition would be seamless.

Although, fans in San Diego might be just a little bitter about losing their beloved “Bolts”.

The worst scenario would include the Jacksonville Jaguars picking up and leaving Florida, or looking up and seeing the Vikings purple uniforms. But even then, fans wouldn’t mind. Remember, the natives need feeding.

City Council in Los Angeles need to find a way to build the newest establishment in the country’s best restaurant chain: the NFL.

Build it, and they will come.

Published on July 25, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

The National Football League has been in “lockout” mode since March 11th at 11:59pm. Once the collective bargaining agreement expired, and a new agreement was not reached, it has been “doomsday” for fans, players and owners alike.

And, that will be the last mention of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) from me. As a fan, it is easy to understand that none of us care about the deal. Collectively, each team’s fan base wants football.

The details are details. In fact, the details are in the neighborhood of $9 Billion. So, it is a little bit more than crossing the Ts and dotting the Is.

Since the lockout began, players have been unable to receive the proper treatment to rehabilitate serious injuries, communicate with new staff members, and even enter their respective team’s facility.

We all love the game. No one wants to see a daily update of no football, minimal communication and disgruntled millionaires banter.

At some point an agreement will be made. That day will be a mini-holiday for all the fans that have been holding their breath since March 11th. The gamblers will soon have their bet back. The tailgate savvy fan will once again roll out the Kingsford charcoal and ice chest filled with adult beverages.

More importantly, the players will be able to play the game they love, once again. But until that day, don’t mention the words “collective bargaining agreement,” please!

Published on July 10, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

Every athlete who plays a sport wants their desired jersey number. From elementary school all the way through college, a favorite number is worn. NFL athletes are still kids. These kids are grown up, and still want their number!

Cam Newton, the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, wants his desired No. 2 jersey number. Newton sported No. 2 at Auburn. His image, playmaking ability, and Heisman Trophy winning form was all in that number.

Now, Newton is a “new kid on the block.” He does not deserve any preferential treatment. Even though Newton will be receiving a fat paycheck as soon as the lockout ends, his production in college does not carry over to “The League”.

Sure, the Carolina Panthers were the worst team in the NFL last season, but nothing should be handed to Newton.

We have all seen the top draft picks in years past crash and burn, like Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russel and even the Panthers’ Chris Weinke.

Just those three names alone had short careers on the NFL gridiron. So, before Newton starts asking, or forcing, players to switch uniform numbers, he should prove his worth on the field first.

After all, this is not college football anymore. Each player in the league gets paid for their production. Newton might have received “kickbacks” in college for his performances on Saturday, but even the Carolina Panthers Jimmy Clausen is far more deserving of jersey No. 2.

Heck, Clausen sported the digs all last season, and he does not intend on passing the torch along to Newton. Perhaps, Newton can fork over some of his signing bonus as a gift to Clausen in exchange for the desired No.2.

If Newton was smart, he would welcome No.1 as his new number of choice. He was the first overall pick and the new face of the franchise in Carolina. Clausen is nothing more than a second-round pick, right? Newton should one-up the Notre Dame product but being the ultimate “topper”.

Number 1 always looks good on a playmaker scoring touchdowns. Just ask Warren Moon how it feels to play as “numero uno”.

Published on May 21, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

First, let me lay out the facts for you. I am a Caucasian male, who has never seen a million dollars in my short time on this earth. On the other hand, my only experiences with this country’s slavery practices resort back to U.S. History textbooks and academic articles.

I do know that hard work is rewarded, at least in the National Football League. Perhaps the Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, holds the perception that he is not properly compensated for his tireless work.

After all, Peterson had the temerity to voice his opinion on the current state of the league, and commented on the ongoing dispute between owners and players.

Peterson stated, “It’s modern-day slavery, you know?”

Now, as I pointed out earlier, I do not know what a million dollars feels like, but Adrian Peterson does. In fact, Peterson is due to make $10.72 million in 2011.

That is one year of football, worth over 10 million bucks.

Granted, these continuous labor negotiations are in place to divide up a “revenue pie” worth upwards of $9 billion. However, if my U.S. History serves me correct, slaves wanted a taste of the pie, a taste of the “good life,” and equal rights.

Peterson is, and has lived the good life. Sure, there was plenty of hard work, countless hours, and energy invested into achieving his success, but at least Peterson has been able to achieve that level of success.

To compare Peterson’s life to those who worked tirelessly, each and every day, until their lives passed by is completely and utterly elementary.  It is unfortunate that many members of our country never even had a chance to succeed in the real world under those hardships.

For us as fans, we experience the good life each weekend watching our favorite teams and players, play the game we love. Sometimes we gawk at certain players’ salary, but this is the country’s most watched sport. The stars are going to be paid accordingly.

Right now, the players want to be paid a “fair wage”. Currently, the league minimum is $285,000. That number is still much, much larger than what the average American citizen earns before taxes.

Last season, the 32-NFL teams averaged $235 million coming into their hands. And to think, the upcoming football season is in “jeopardy”.

Obviously, both sides want a fair share. No one wants to be labeled as “modern-day slaves”.

Clearly, sports and off-the-wall, heat of the moment references to sour topics, should be limited. Honestly, it never ends well for anyone involved.

Whether or not, Peterson wanted to make a comparison between the treatment of NFL players and that of slaves, no matter what, Peterson should be respectful of the past.

Nothing good ever comes from references to dreadful historical happenings. It also doesn’t help when the person vocalizing his displeasure is one of the top ten highest paid players in the league.

And in the end, Peterson plays a game to earn his eight-figure annual salary. The same game that honored A.P. by featuring him on the cover of Electronic Arts’ most popular game, Madden NFL.

Perhaps, Adrian Peterson’s daily life is not all it’s cracked up to be.

 

Published on March 16, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

“Some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties.” When discussing the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, those words lean closer to uninspiring, rather than encouraging.

After seven consecutive days of mediated discussions, a resolution, still, seems out of sight. Keep in mind, last week two labor meetings were abruptly ended due to members on both sides walking out of discussions.

Perhaps this is my optimism, but I doubt the 2011-12 NFL season is in doubt. However, this scenario has played out in the past with the NFL, and no one should doubt the owners’ willingness to lockout.

Remember the 1987 NFL season was shortened due to a players’ strike. Sure, it was only one game missed, but a great deal of “replacement players” were featured instead of household names and fan favorites throughout the season.

Right now, the owners sporting snazzy, high-priced suits on Sundays, instead of shoulder pads and helmets, are threatening to put a work stoppage in place. Whether the owners have that right, or not, currently the suits hold the leverage over the players.

If the upcoming NFL season is played as scheduled or a labor stoppage is revealed to be imminent, the owners receive all the money involved in network TV deals. The players on the other hand, will receive absolutely nothing if an agreement is not made.

Now, you can understand why labor meetings have been ended and dismissed in a blink of an eye.

It is absolutely incredible that the two sides can’t agree on how to split up a pie worth $9 billion in annual revenue.  Yes, $9 billion.

However, key issues proposed by the owners, such as, expanding the regular season to 18-games, while also lowering player salaries, including a rookie wage scale, has left the NFL Players Association befuddled.

To ask the players to earn less money, while adding more games to their workload is incredibly contradictory. Following a 2010 season that stressed player safety, the NFL office hit players harder than ever in their checkbooks with six-figure fines, an agreement between both parties on this issue is far fetched.

Lost in these closed-door meetings are the fans. Each and every Sunday, these hardworking, victory-hungry, die-hard fanatics will be left without a home for the fall and winter.

The current NFL collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3, 2011. That date is rapidly approaching. Although, no games are in jeopardy, yet, any discussion of football, or “game planning preparation” between players, coaches, and administrative officials will cease when that date arrives.

Could you even imagine no NFL season? After more people tuned in to watch the NFL’s product last year than ever before, a threat to lockout the season appears sophomoric, at best.

But just like any deal involving money, it gets complicated. Now, just throw in the fact that one side gets paid, no matter what.

It is clear that the owners have the power of these discussions. The question is how will they exert their power, and to what extent?

All the reports, right now, indicate minimal progress. In a results driven world, and sport entirely dependent on the on-field results, the fans of America’s favorite game want to see results, too.

Eventually, some results, or resolutions to these disputes will be solved. But just like anyone, I won’t believe it, until I see it.

Published on February 23, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”