Posted on: October 28, 2010 3:09 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2010 12:00 am

Football, please stay on the ground

Well, this is the end of filming practice from above isn't it? Right now. Better yet, five minutes ago.

It has to be the end. There is no reasonable explanation for this antiquated tradition that led to the death of Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan on Wednesday. Notre Dame did it because everyone else did it. Those essentially were ND AD Jack Swarbrick's words at Thursday's news conference.

And that begs the obvious question, why?

Why put a human (or two) up in what amounts to an unstable cherry picker to film a football practice? For decades now, teams have put the value of having an end-zone shot of a scrimmage above that of a human life. What, for a better camera angle?

Someone, at some point had to question it over the years. And I'm guessing those someones were shot down by football tradition. The same tradition that tells us that the NFL can't possibly go on unless defenders can play as wild and wreckless as they want.

Yeah, that tradition. Reading blogger Adam Jacobi's interview with an anonymous video assistant turned my stomach. When a thunderstorm forced the assistant's metal lift to come down, Jacobi reported the assistant said coaches "were not pleased" and "requested" that the video guys get back up in the air as soon as possible.

The mentality these days is that if you don't put a human 100 feet in the air with a camera, you can't possibly win. It must be impossible to evaluate a team just by, you know, watching them at field level.

If 100 feet is good, then why isn't 200 feet better? OSHA is investigating at Notre Dame. I'm sure they will find negligence somewhere. That's what we want out of cases like this. The wind was blowing in gusts up to 50 mph. Sullivan put out some chilling tweets while up in the air, finally tweeting, "Holy ----," 45 minutes before the tower came tumbling down.

But this has to be about more than Notre Dame. This has to lead to the elimination of the filming from these towers. Nationwide. Now. The NFL and American Football Coaches Association have to take the lead even if the NCAA doesn't.

It just seems silly that another person is put at risk by going up in these things, wind or no wind. I've been caught in students bum-rushing fields at the conclusion of games the past two weeks. Why was it allowed? No matter how many trespassers were arrested (Missouri) or how many were told to stay off the field (Wisconsin), it was tacitly approved.

Why? It was tradition. Schools could end these episodes tomorrow if they wanted to. Hire more security. Ring the field with police on horses. But that costs money and maybe the home team is gambling that it will lose and won't have to worry about it.

This case is simpler, and more tragic. Declan Sullivan should be the last casualty sacrificed at the altar of tradition.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: AFCA, NCAA, NFL, Notre Dame
Posted on: October 20, 2010 12:41 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2010 12:42 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

Rutgers' Eric LeGrand lays in a hospital bed this week. Paralyzed, maybe, for a lengthy period. Meanwhile, I hear talking heads arguing about outlawing NFL head shots and their effect on the "quality" of NFL play.

Seems to be a disconnect here.

These are actually otherwise intelligent human beings worried about how the NFL will "look" if it is reduced to arm tackling. Trust me, it will look fine, great even. The argument against enforcing NFL rules against headshots harkens back to the age-old arguments about reducing the number of college scholarships in football. Coaches back then also warned that the "quality" of play would be impacted. Their credibility was shot over the last two decades when the college game has become better and more popular than ever. Seems that the game has survived with less than 100 scholarships per team.

Let's worry, more realistically, about the survival of LeGrand and those like him. The Rutgers junior had bad tackling form against Army. The result was paralysis. LeGrand wasn't trying to show off or send a message or intimidate. He made a mistake. During the same week that he continues to lay motionless in that hospital bed, there is a national argument about sending those messages and intimidating in the NFL.

Someone needs to get LeGrand's situation into the argument. Maybe James Harrison needs to pay a visit to the hospital and see how he feels afterward. We are to believe that the league will be neutered if it cannot express itself physically. Do you really want to intimidate that bad? Do you really want another Eric LeGrand?

The resounding answer -- whether spoken or unspoken -- by hundreds of aggressive males in their 20s in the NFL is yes. You cannot separate one question from the other. You cannot dispute the indisputable. The size of the field remains the same. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. A lot of them don't think about such things as Darryl Stingley's tragic life after the Raiders' Jack Tatum targeted him. They rail against the league trying to reign in the likes of Harrison, the Steelers linebacker, who took out two Browns Sunday then said, "I try to hurt people."

The statement mocks not only the rules but LeGrand. It's clear now that there is a generation of players who have been raised to use their heads as a weapon. Never mind that they are putting their bodies as well as their opponents' bodies at risk. They are acting like punks. They are turning a grand game into a street fight. A punk head-butts. A football player tackles. A punk dances over the prone body of a receiver. A football player makes the stick, high fives his teammates and heads back to the huddle.

No, but this is the NFL where television, the traditional media and the players themselves glorify a corner of the league where a sick culture resides.

College football long ago tried to legislate the punk factor out of the game. Next year points will be taken off the board if an offensive player taunts during a scoring play. College rules are more inclusive in trying to eliminate head shots. I have no problem with the "targeting" rule that puts the issue up to an official's discretion. A flag can be thrown not only for a head shot but if a player is in vulnerable position.

Maybe that wouldn't have stopped LeGrand. As mentioned, the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder was guilty of nothing more than bad tackling form. Meanwhile, there is a generation of players being raised to inflict damage, not just do their jobs as defenders. If they're not punks, they do punk things on the football field. That has to be stopped.

What's wrong if the NFL is reduced to a league of arm tacklers? It's the same argument the college coaches had 20 years ago. My counter-argument was: It doesn't matter who many scholarships there are. If you suited up 22 chimps in Nebraska and Oklahoma uniforms would still pay to watch.

If the NFL was cleaned up and everyone was playing by the same rules, you think it would matter at the turnstile? They're still the best football players in the world. The more of them around, the better for everyone. Ask Eric LeGrand. He won't be one of them.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: April 28, 2009 12:01 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2009 4:06 pm

Mike Leach's rich NFL quarterback history

There's a reason for the NFL draft. There are millions of dollars spent on evaluation, scouting, the combine etc.

What's the old saying? If you can play, the NFL will find you.

The NFL didn't find Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell. We're talking about a league that has put shoulder pads on everyone from former track stars to Australians to Sage Rosenfels. There are not many athletes who can play who the league misses. That's why Mike Leach looks dumb -- again.

Leach went a little nuts on Monday. Doyel went a little Leach on Tuesday wondering why Harrell didn't get drafted. Whatever. Now I'm here to tell you why Harrell isn't the only one who was "overlooked" (see below).

The Mouth That Bored (Leach, not Doyel) blasted the NFL, Texas A&M, the Cleveland Browns and anyone else who was close Monday for dissing his quarterback. The nation's leading passer was not drafted while Texas A&M back up Stephen McGee was taken by Dallas.

"I'm happy for Stephen McGee," Leach told the Dallas Morning News. "The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did."


"The truth of the matter is that the NFL drafts quarterbacks notoriously bad," Leach added, "That's indisputable."

That's interesting, Mike, since you just shot down your own argument. Had Harrell been drafted would that have made him part of the "notoriously bad" NFL drafting practices? For a coach whose program hasn't had much of a draft history, it's hard to take Leach seriously. Until receiver Michael Crabtree was taken in the first round on Saturday, Texas Tech hadn't had a player taken higher than the fourth round under Leach.

If the NFL doesn't know talent, then the NFL might make the argument that Mike Leach doesn't know how to produce talent. There are only four currently active players drafted from Texas Tech in the NFL since the 2003 draft, according to NFL.com. Four out of 11 drafted. None of them are quarterbacks. Oh, and did I mention that for the first time during his stay in Lubbock, Leach did not have a player drafted in 2008.

Yeah, sure, must be the NFL's fault.

This isn't the first time Leach has overshadowed his shotgun by shooting off his mouth. During the offseason he also ripped the NFL for downgrading Harrell for playing in the gun. Harrell will get his chance. He is going to camp with the Browns, the coach of which Leach also ripped for allegedly badmouthing Crabtree. So which is it, Mike? Is Eric Mangini brilliant for taking Harrell or not so much for criticizing your receiver?

Leach continues to do his players a disservice. Tell me one way that Texas Tech players are helped by their coach's rant. Leach already hides his stars from the media. I'm not going to say his restrictive media policies keep his players from getting drafted. I'll just go back to a quote from Wake Forest linebacker Stanley Arnoux that I used in Monday's story.

"He brought scouts in," Arnoux said of teammate Aaron Curry, the fourth-player taken. "When the NFL teams turned on film, all the rest of us guys flashed across the screen making some big plays, too."  

Then I'll just sit back and let Leach make the case against himself.

"Michael Crabtree has been more successful as a receiver than that guy has as a coach," Leach said of Mangini.

"Michael isn't a diva. He's too shy to be like that. My definition of a diva is someone who's loud and self-absorbed. Michael is the furthest thing from loud that I've seen."

Loud and self-absorbed? Look in the mirror, coach.  


Category: NCAAF
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