Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rooney Rule revisited

The Superbowl is less than a week away. The Arizona Cardinals shocked the world with their improbable run to the big game. The Steelers make their seventh appearance second only to the Dallas Cowboys in regards to the amount of Superbowl trips. Pro football has taken a different approach to ensuring that the NFL is commited to diversity at all levels.

Corporations that embrace the ideal of diversity have put themselves in a better position to compete in today's global economy. Pete Rosell was a visionary who knew that a multicultural television audience could push his vision of the Superbowl to new heights. Forty three years later his bold vision has paid dividends to the NFL as a business and has made the league a player in today's global economy.

How does the sentiment of diversity breakdown to the little people who actually make this league tick. College football's struggle to provide fair opportunities to minorities in the coaching and administrative arena have been well documented. 2007 saw two African American leading their teams in the battle for coaching and team immortality.

This year is a more intriguing spectacle considering that these two head coaches have indirectly crossed paths. When Bill Cowher steeped down following the Steeler's Superbowl victory, it seemed as though Ken Whisenhunt was the right man for the job. He was the offensive coordinator and rightfully so gained a lot of attention after the great job he had done.

The Rooney's brought in another young upstart candidate in Mike Tomlin, who in some respects may have reminded them of the chance they took on another unproven guy in Bill Cowher. Cowher was also in his early 30's and presented a persona that exemplified talent, leadership and the uncanny ability to get results.

The Bill Cowhers and Jon Gruden's of the world raised eyebrows but not to the extent that Tomlin's hire may have. The world is used to young white guys being bright, articulate and full of youthful ideas, oozing with possibilities because of their percieved talent. The Mike Tomlin's of the world have had to take the path of Tony Dungy who was hired as a defensive backs coach for the University of Minnesota. (Dungy's alma mater where he played Quarterback)

The legendary Chuck Knoll lured Dungy back to the NFL in 1981. Tomlin had multiple stops in college before landing in the NFL. It is not by coincidence that he ended up working for the Rooney's. The rule famously named after the trailblazing owner was received with mixed emotions among NFL executives, players, media and fans alike.

The consensus among most was that the "best candidate" should get the job. Of course on the surface that sounds great and has an element of truth to it but that wasn't the case for the hiring practices of the NFL. The crux of the arguement is that someone as bright as Ken Whisenhunt would get passed over for a minority candidate "less qualified".

Fair arguement on the surface until one considers all of the Dave Campos and Marty Mornhinweg's of the world. Chris Rock once said that the true litmus test for racial equality was when a minority can suck just like the white guys. The poetic justice for this years Superbowl is that we have seen the Rooney Rule come full circle and no one has really said very much about it.

This is one of the rare times where this dicey issue has a credible example for both sides of the arguement. Quite frankly, it shows how incredibly complex it is to find the right candidate. How would you like it if you were an executive for the Detroit Lions or Kansas City Chiefs? Mike Tomlin's immediate success may have been the catalyst for Tampa Bay's hiring Raheem Morris.

Jim Caldwell's hiring last week probably has prompted rumblings of "reverse discrimination" considering that Caldwell is black and that a formal interviewing process didn't occur. This sentiment is unfortunate but is on par with the harsh reality of some who believe that the "silent majority" have been far in developing minority coaches.

The San Francisco 49er organization under the ownership of the Debartlo family joins the Rooney's as one of the few that helped to give minority coaches like Dennis Green and Ray Rhodes an opportunity to develop. Ray Rhodes was the head coach for one year at Green Bay after successful stints as a defensive coordinator while Denny Green has stints as a head coach in Minnesota and Arizona.

Besides these two organizations which franchises can say that they were truly on board with the development of minority coaches? The Cardinals got their man and its safe to say that they wouldn't have gotten to the superbowl without the leadership of Whisenhunt. It was Ken that made the hard decision to bench Matt Leinart in favor of the veteran Kurt Warner.

Tomlin has also shown he belongs by continuing the winning tradition of the Steelers by installing a no nonsense approach to execution on the football field. He has put to bed (for now) that the Rooney Rule doesn't work. Whisenhunt as equally contributed to this idea as well. Let us hope that the sports world continues to evolve as society increasingly becomes more diverse. The game on Sunday is a positive step in that very direction. It has also become a shining example for why this rule is so important to the overall success of pro football.

Monday, January 19, 2009

History, in the Making !!!

The date is January 19th, 2009 ... History is set to be made ... On one count, you have the impending Inauguration of America's 1st African American President ... On another count, you have the potential for the 2nd African American, NFL Coach (Mike Tomlin) to lead his team to a Super Bowl Victory. If Tomlin and company can't lead Pittsburgh to it's 2nd NFL Championship (in 4 seasons) then that means that Kurt Warner will become the 1st QB, in NFL History, to lead 2 different teams to Super Bowl Championships (The Rams and Cardinals). Either way, my fellow Americans, History is set to be made ...

As a fan, of the NFL , you have to appreciate the road each team has taken to Tampa. In the Steeler's of Pittsburgh you have a team that embodies the calm and cool of it's unflappable leader (Mike Tomlin) . In the impropable Cardinal's of Arizona you have a team that looked like they backed into the Playoffs, while led by former Steeler Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. This Super Bowl will be compelling, if only because of the 2 paths taken, by both teams, to get here. The Steelers, with their bruising style of play and impressive record, may be favored to win this vaunted contest, despite the edge the uncanny Card's of 'Zona may possess (with Coach Whisenhunt being so familiar with the "Blitz"-burgh Defense). In this matchup you have a high powered offense (Arizona) versus a punishing defense (Pittsburgh). It features two QBs, that have been here before and won the "BIG Game", and Two Head Coaches, in their Second Years, in the "BIG Game" for the 1st time in their careers ... This should make for a very interesting 2 weeks, leading up to the Championship ...

We have witnessed the emergence of the NFL's "NEXT BIG STAR", in Larry Fitzgerald (a rare combination of size, finesse, physical toughness, and ball awareness) and the growing Legend of "BIG" Ben Roethlisberger, who has the chance to join the Immortal ranks of Troy Aikman and Tom Brady, if he's able to win his 2nd Championship in only his 5th year in the NFL. You have the "upstart" Cardinals, who have rallied behind a cast-off QB, most believe is "Canton bound", against a Steeler's team favored by MANY to make it to Tampa and win the Championship. Neither team is without it's own contraversy, whether it's Arizona with it's "resting"of Edgerrin James, or Pittsburgh with some crying for their battered signal caller (# 7) to take a week or two off in favor of the "fresh legged", rocket armed, Byron Leftwich ... All Kurt has done (at age 37) is cement his Hall of Fame legacy with another season of "lofty" stats, while BIG Ben has been viewed, by some, as the MVP of the 09' season (sorry Peyton). History is set to be made ...

I can remember when some scoffed at the notion of Mike Tomlin replacing long time Steeler Coach, Bill Cowher. How dare the Rooneys even consider this former Dungy defensive assistant that played Receiver in college ? This "young", "wet behind the ears" Coach, that was NEVER a head coach on ANY other level, has a chance to make his mark on a game we weren't even allowed to compete in, decades ago ? All Tomlin stands to do is follow the legacy of his mentor (Tony Dungy) that followed the legacy of Jackie Robinson, who carved a path left by the footprints of the late, Great, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ... My fellow Americans, we are watching "History in the Making" ... Take notes and enjoy

Friday, January 16, 2009

Time Warner

Did you know that Kurt Warner was undrafted agent that attended Green Bay's training camp in 94 but he was released before the regular season? Had anyone heard of him before this time? Maybe, maybe not. Remember the time when Kurt Warner played for the Iowa Barnstomers and he led them to the Arena Bowl in back to back seasons. A time when Arena Football was looked at as a D-League organization but it has produced a player like Kurt Warner. Did anyone really believe that Kurt Warner could be the man to take their team to playloffs and win? I think not. Let's go back in time.

Kurt Warner was drafted in 98 by the St Louis Rams. He was the back up quarterback for Trent Green. Trent was slated to be the future of the Rams and alot of expectations were casted upon the shoulders of Trent. He was hurt in the 99 preseason game and all the hopes and dreams of Rams seemed to have ended in one quarter. In comes the unknown, undrafted second string quarterback (who no one really never heard of) to carry the Rams through the 99 season. With the support of Marshall Faulk, Issac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Harim, and Ricky Proehl, Warner threw for 4,353 yards, 41 touchdowns and had a completion rate of 65.1%. It was simply amazing. The high-powered offensed was deemed the name of The Greatest Show on Turf. This team scored 500 points in the first three seasons with Warner. In his first three starts, he threw for three touchdowns. The only other person to do this in his first two seasons as a starter was Dan Marino. Warner went on to led the St. Louis Rams to 13-3 record. The Rams was the NFC West Division Champions. Beating teams like San Francisco 49ers that had been the NFC West Division Champions 12 out the 13 previous seasons. The Rams had lost 17 out of the 18 meetings with the Niners. Warner restored hope for Rams by leading them to two consecutive victories over the Niners that 99 season.

In the playloffs, he led the Rams to the Superbowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans. He threw for two TDs and a Superbowl record of 414 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown to Issac Bruce with just over two minutes to play. Warner also set and Superbowl record by attempting 45 passes without an interception. He was awarded Superbowl MVP and also MVP of the NFL. He was one of six players to accomplish this in the same year. He joined the likes of Bart Starr 1966), Terry Bradshaw (1978), Joe Montana (1989), Emmitt Smith (1993) and Steve Young (1994).

The next two seasons, Warner accomplished what many would have never dreamed that he would. He managed to take the team back to the Superbowl in the 2001. The Rams lost to the New England Patriot 20-17. It was painful loss but we were proud of the accomplishment the Rams had made. Warner recorded 365 yards in that loss. The 2002-2003 season was not a good time for Kurt Warner, after throwing seven interceptions to one td. He entered the season with a 103.4 passing rating but it dimished to 67.4 passer rating. The powers that be were soon becoming impatient with Warner. His time had ended in St Louis and he was released.
In 2004, Warner was signed by the New York Giants. He inked a two year deal. He was there for one season after he didn't live up to the expectations of the organization or the city. Would this spell the end of Warner's time in the NFL? No, he managed to inked another deal. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals. Things started out mediocre (2005-2007) but Arizona stucked with the QB that had took a team to the two Superbowls in three years. Warner would eventually returned back to the form of a winning quarterback.

The 2008 season proved to be one of Kurt Warner's finest. He threw for 4583 yards, 30 TDs, and completion rate of 96.9%. Simply amazing yet again. His team won the NFC West Division beating his former team, St. Louis Rams. Like those 99 Rams, the Cardinals have some explosive players like Larry Fitzgerald and Edgerin James who looks to be rising from the ashes. Can Kurt Warner will his team to the Superbowl just like he did for the Rams? His team has won two games. One more game to go. Can he do it? Many believe that he will but others don't. Will he be classified as one of the best quarterbacks or one of the best comeback quarterbacks? Either way it goes, we'll see in time. Good luck, Captian Kurt. Thanks for the memory.

Ram's Eye View

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dear Tennessee Titans "Fans"

Some Titans fans (the operative word being some) expected a drastic turnaround considering what Ben Roethlisberger accomplished in his first year as a starter. Most Titans fans forgot that Big Ben had a heck of a lot of support from the running game driven by the Bus and an emerging "fast" Willie Parker.

Playing for a hall of fame coach in Bill Cowher certainly helped. A stud defense led by Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu isn't a bad deal either. An above average receiving corp led by Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward can't hurt the case for a rookie QB leading his team to a 15-1 record. Today's NFL doesn't believe in bringing young Quarterbacks along slowly.

Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan have added there own flavor to the growing sense of false expectations of "fans" and GM's alike. This expectation is causing the likes of Tim Tebow, Terrelle Pryor and Pat White(Pat White did just that) to ponder staying in school all four years. Alex Smith and maybe even Vince Young may become the poster boys of why NFL execs should pass on mobile Quarterbacks.

The 10-6 season of 07 left us all with some valid questions about the inept offensive performance that cost us a playoff game in San Diego. It ultimately got Norm Chow fired and the lynch mob of VY haters started gathering. Maybe the meeting was called at draft day like it was when Philly drafted Donovan Mcnabb.

Don't remember? Let me refresh your memory about how the Eagles fans wanted Rickey Williams!! I can see why they would want a cross dressing,(Remember the sports illustrated cover with Ditka?) dope smoking and soft spoken superstar. That was definitely the right blueprint for getting Philly out of the cellar of the NFC East. Shows you how much we "sports fans" and analyst really know. Looks like Donovan had the last laugh. (Hopefully he laughs harder February 1st)

Vince finished the 07 season with nearly 2600 yards and 9 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions. In a phone call to 104.5 the zone, my assessment of Young's passing yards in comparison to Kerry's 2600 yards were dismissed as "ridiculous". Not so fast Mr. Mark Howard!!

Sure Kerry took better care of the football than Vince but that isn't the only reason why the Titans overachieved this season. Furthermore objective journalist like yourself normally defend every aspect of a players performance for better or for worse. Kerry's touchdown passes rank near the bottom for Quarterbacks that started at least 10 games. The emergence of key defensive players had a lot to do with us winning. Courtland Finnegan could start for any secondary in the league. Mike Griffin is back at his natural position.

The D-line led by Haynesworth and Vandenbosh kept our defense ranked in the top five all year.Guys like Dave Ball and Tony Brown filled in nicely for Vandenbosh and Haynesworth causing many to question whether or not the Titans would let Haynesworth walk come free agency.'s Paul Kuharsky said during the preseason that we should evaluate Vince's performance in six weeks to gauge his progress against the former offensive regime of Norm Chow.

Thanks to Vince that never happened. Apparently he refused to go back into the game which opened the door for Kerry to appear as some savior ascending down from heaven. A brilliant call from "dinger" opened up the field for Bo Scaife and helped to seal the victory. The guy completed two passes at the end of the game and all of sudden the second coming happened at LP field.(Vince got the same treatment after replacing Kerry in 06 after the 0-5 start)

WE all know the series of events. Coach Fisher did the right thing by protecting an obviously unstable young man. (it appears at the time) He named Kerry the starter indefinitely. Kerry did a great job executing the game plan from week to week. He looked better than the guy who had failed at New Orleans. (To his credit not many have done well there)

He was a calming influence in the media frenzy surrounding the questions around Vince Young but to demand that he start is pretty pompous thing. He's probably closer to an old man than he is a to a Kurt Warner clone. In case you didn't know, the real Kurt has just led his team to an improbable run to the NFC championship game. Jeff Fisher has every right to play both sides because he has to be prepared to move forward either way. That's his job. He's dead on with charging Vince to prove his worth and desire in the off season by staying put in Nashville.

If Young meets his coach's approval then bet on Jeff announcing during the start of training camp that a "competition" with all three guys will take place. Obviously some "fans" think Young is done.

Apparently those who swear by Vince being a bust will never admit that he was done in their eyes on the day he was drafted. Some of these same people will never admit that they thought that Cutler or Leinart would be the end to the dual threat or "Running Quarterback". Most think there's another Peyton Manning just waiting to be cloned here in Tennessee. If you want stellar regular season play and marginal playoff success then by my guest.

Most think that we can win in this league year in and year out with one real offensive threat. (Chris Johnson) Some even think after this playoff loss that we have a good receiving corp. Apparently blind optimism is alive and well here in music city. Some Nashvillians and even most in local media think that Kerry is a better option long term. Darren McFarland of the afternoon show on 104.5 the zone suggested that our Quarterback situation resembled the Arizona Cardinals.

Not hardly. Kurt Warner is far and away better than all three Quarterbacks on our roster. A hobbled Anquan Boldin is still better than any receiver we have on our team.

Titans "fans" embody the true meaning of the word fanatical. Fanatics are rarely analytical in their approach to love the teams that they root for. Most times we have irrational expectations causing us to scream for knee jerk decisions that ultimately turn franchises into the Oakland Raiders. Have you seen those guys lately? Jerry Jones and Al Davis are up for Craziest owner of the year award.

Even some of our local media have views that are more fanatical than analytical. I love our local media but sometimes they cross that fine line of fan and analyst. Spare me the fact that Peter King wrote an article that validates some of our biases. I respect his journalistic chops but he does not walk on water.

All of us can be proven wrong. Kerry Collins returning next season doesn't guarantee the Titans a Superbowl birth. They need to have an impeccable draft and sign some free agent talent on offense to compliment Chris Johnson. It is highly unlikely we will catch lightning in a bottle twice. Look for Vince to be the scapegoat if he ever starts again. It seems inevitable given the track record of how we treated some of our past titans. Jeff Fisher's system though steady hasn't produced a Superbowl win. It produces division championships and AFC championships but not necessarily the ultimate prize.

If we as Titans fans can live with that then so be it....