Notable takeaways from the 2014 NFL draft

Teddy Bridgewater seems to the quarterback of the future for the Minnesota Vikings.

Teddy Bridgewater seems to the quarterback of the future for the Minnesota Vikings.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The National Football League (NFL) completed its amateur draft on Saturday, giving 256 young men an opportunity to live out their dream of playing professional football. While Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam have received the bulk of the recognition from this draft, there were a few other players that seem to be in a great position to make their General Managers look good. The Heisman finalists, in particular, did well.

Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks are widely regarded as the most important position in the NFL and there were a few that were drafted that seem to be in excellent positions to contribute to their teams.

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Teddy Bridgewater inspires hope for the Minnesota Vikings’ future.

Teddy Bridgewater – Bridgewater was selected 32nd overall with the last pick of the first round. The Vikings traded up to take a player that was rumored to go near the top of the draft. The Vikings plan to ease Bridgewater into the mix and he may not play this season. However, Bridgewater seems to be the quarterback in the best position for long-term success.

Derek Carr might be the first of the drafted quarterbacks to take the field this season.

Derek Carr might be the first of the drafted quarterbacks to take the field this season.

Derek Carr – Carr was drafted 36th overall by the Oakland Raiders and is not going to a team full of offensive talent. However, the Raiders do not have a great deal invested in incumbent starting quarterback Matt Schaub. The Raiders have focused on improving their defense so when Carr is eventually the starter, there can be a balanced team waiting for him.

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Tom Savage is not expected to make much of a difference to the Houston Texans this season.

Tom Savage – Savage was drafted in the 4th round by the Houston Texans but will not be expected to contribute to the team this season. The Texans will hope that they can develop Savage into the long-term starter to replace the turnover- prone Schaub from last season.

The 2014 Heisman finalists were heavily represented in this year's draft. (l - r)  Jordan Lynch, Johnny Manziel, Tre Mason, AJ McCarron, Andre Williams, and Jameis Winston. Winston was not eligible for the draft but is expected to be taken high next year.

The 2014 Heisman finalists were heavily represented in this year’s draft. (l – r) Jordan Lynch, Johnny Manziel, Tre Mason, AJ McCarron, Andre Williams, and Jameis Winston. Winston was not eligible for the draft but is expected to be taken high next year.

2014 Heisman Candidates

Five of the six 2014 Heisman candidates were eligible for this year’s draft and 4 of them were drafted. QB Jordan Lynch signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears.

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Tre Mason was drafted early in the 3rd round by the St. Louis Rams.

Tre Mason – Mason was drafted early in the 3rd round by the St. Louis Rams to be a backup running back. Mason had an exciting career as a running back and returner at Auburn and the Rams are hoping to be able to add depth to an important position in the Rams game plan.

Running back Andre Williams will have a chance to help the Giants this season if he proves himself during the offseason.

Running back Andre Williams, who boasts Jamaican heritage, will have a chance to help the Giants this season if he proves himself during the offseason.

Andre Williams – Williams was selected in the 4th round by the New York Giants. Williams is in the best position to contribute next season as there is less defined depth at running back for the Giants.

The Giants will hope that Williams can help provide some balance to their pass heavy offense.

Andre Williams transitions from Boston College to the New York Giants, trading in one big city for another.

Andre Williams transitions from Boston College to the New York Giants, trading in one big city for another.

Johnny Manziel – Manziel was selected 22nd by the Cleveland Browns. There are many questions as to whether Manziel’s improvisational style at quarterback will transition well to the NFL. The Browns have made it clear that they believe in Manziel, as their backup quarterback, for now.

AJ McCarron – McCarron was drafted in the 5th round by the Cincinnati Bengals to likely be a backup quarterback. The Bengals’ current starter Andy Dalton has shown improvement in the regular season but has yet to lead his team to a playoff victory. The Bengals are hoping McCarron’s collegiate playoff experience will be a benefit to their team.

Michael Sam

Michael Sam became the first openly gay player selected in the NFL draft. He is headed to the St. Louis Rams to join Heisman finalist Tre Mason.

Ground Breaking Event

Michael Sam, who declared his sexuality prior to the draft, became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL. He will join Mason as teammates.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

NFL coordinators need Rooney Rule too

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome at Super Bowl 47.

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome at Super Bowl 47.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

There are currently five minority head coaches in the National Football League (NFL): Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals), Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers), Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions), and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers). There are five minority general managers: Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders), Martin Mayhew (Detroit Lions), Rick Smith (Houston Texans), and Jerry Reese (New York Giants). There are 32 NFL teams so there is clearly need for better minority representation at the coaching, coordinator, general manager and ownership levels . Extending the Rooney Rule to address this under-representation, seems to be the only solution to change the status quo.

Current NFL AP Coach of the Year Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers.

Current NFL AP Coach of the Year Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers.

The  Rooney Rule, named after the chairman of the NFL diversity committee and Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was instituted to give minority candidates more chances in positions of power. The NFL hiring pool for head coaching positions generally comes from current or recent NFL coordinators. As the Associated Press recently reported, “The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of minority coaches and front-office, scouting and game-day NFL officials, wants the Rooney Rule expanded to apply to coordinators, assistant head coaches and club president positions.”

Mike Tomlin has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl 43.

Mike Tomlin has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl 43.

The challenge for minority candidates now is that most of they mainly come from the defensive side of the game. As the NFL continues to make rule changes to accentuate offense, defensive coaches are increasingly challenged to prove their worth in a league with continual rising scoring. This past season, NFL teams combined to score an average 23.4 points per game, the highest league average of all time. As offensive coaches continue to be rewarded, defensive coaches find themselves left behind and  having to constantly prove themselves, which is odd, since strong defense typically wins games as the Seattle Seahawks convincingly demonstrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl blowout.

Newly hired Detroit Lions head coach, Jim Caldwell, was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens last season.

Newly hired Detroit Lions head coach, Jim Caldwell, was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens last season.

The extension of the Rooney Rule to coordinator positions will allow for more diversity in coordinator positions on both offense and defense. Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports recently surmised, “offensive coordinators tend to get the call to be head coach, and the guys overseeing quarterbacks… tend to get [Offensive Coordinator] OC jobs.” Of the current minority head coaches, only Jim Caldwell has expertise on offense. His hiring this off-season was lauded as a positive step for minority candidates as the Lions were viewed as a desirable destination. Extending the Rooney Rule to coordinator positions will likely give more minority candidates a chance to show that their knowledge of offense is as strong as their accepted knowledge of defense. That should increase the ranks of minority coaches in the NFL, a change that is long overdue.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Revisiting NFL playoff predictions for insight, context, perspective

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By Charles Glover, Jr.

As the final week of the regular season for the National Football League(NFL) approaches this weekend, this writer will revisit predictions made about the playoff teams at the start of the season. Most of the playoff spots are currently unsettled coming into the final weekend, bringing greater excitement and interest in the season finale for NFL teams.

Peyton Manning has led the Denver Broncos to the best record (12 - 3) in the AFC so far.

Peyton Manning has led the Denver Broncos to the best record in the AFC so far.

In the American Football Conference (AFC), the four divisions have already been decided. The winners of those divisions are:

AFC West – Denver Broncos (12 – 3)

AFC East – New England Patriots (11 – 4)

AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals (10 – 5)

AFC South – Indianapolis Colts (10 – 5).

One of the two Wildcard playoff spots is going to the Kansas City Chiefs (11 – 4), while there are several teams vying for the final playoff opening in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins (8 – 7), Baltimore Ravens (8 – 7), San Diego Chargers (8 – 7), and Pittsburgh Steelers (7 – 8) all have different scenarios in which they can make the playoffs if they win their last game this season.

Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to the best record in the NFC so far.

Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to the best record in the NFC so far.

In the National Football Conference (NFC) only three teams have clinched a playoff birth and none of the divisions have been decided yet. The current division leaders at this time are:

NFC West – Seattle Seahawks (12 – 3)

NFC South – Carolina Panthers (11 – 4)

NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles (9 – 6)

NFC North – Chicago Bears (8 – 7).

Based on conference records, the three teams that have clinched playoff births are the Seahawks, Panthers, and the San Francisco 49ers (11 – 4). The New Orleans Saints (10 -5) or Arizona Cardinals (10 – 5) can clinch the final Wildcard position with a win this weekend. The NFC North division winner will be decided on Sunday afternoon when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers (7 – 7 – 1). The winner of that game makes the playoffs. The same applies to the winner of the NFC East division deciding game between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys (8 – 7) on Sunday night.

This writer was very wrong in predicting the Houston Texans (2 – 13) and Washington Redskins (3 – 12) would make the playoffs this season as they have the two most dreadful records in the NFL this season. However, there is still a chance that 10 out of the 12 predicted teams will make the postseason this year. The final playoff spot will be decided in the final game of the NFL regular season.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training specialist. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.

NFL and NCAAF face ongoing legal onslaught

NCAA President Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Professional and collegiate American football leagues are doing what they can to win lawsuits that threaten to further damage their image. The growing revenue generated by the NCAAF and NFL on a yearly basis has brought greater scrutiny to their decision-making process when it comes to dealing with public incidents. One of the greatest threats to the enormous popularity of American football is the litany of scandals involving money and large football governing institutions.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Shortly before the start of the 2013 season, the NFL reached a settlement of $765 million in a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was initiated by former NFL players alleging that the NFL withheld valuable medical information that led to serious post-career injuries for the players. The NCAA is in the midst of its own class-action suit led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The NCAA suit involves the assertion that the NCAA unfairly profited from selling the likeness of NCAA athletes after the eligibility of those athletes expired. The suit is joined by a group of former NCAA athletes who are challenging the right to be compensated for their likeness. The players also want to be compensated beyond their scholarships with a portion of the lucrative television revenue contracted by the various networks and the NCAA.

The outcry from the NFL settlement immediately pointed to the fact that the settlement did not force the NFL to admit any wrong-doing in addition to the settlement being  financially being exceptionally favorable to the NFL financially. This has not changed the perception, however, that the long-term effects of playing football are potentially serious despite many advances in protective gear and better medical advances. The ex-NFL players who were involved in the suit suffered from an array of serious injuries ranging from extreme depression to brain trauma. The argument over the long-term effects of head injuries has carried over to the current field of play where the penalties for plays where players target the head have become as punitive as they have ever been in the NFL.

Current Houston Texans running back admits to receiving additional financial benefits that were against the rules while attending the University of Tennessee.

Current Houston Texans running back admits to receiving additional financial benefits that were against the rules while attending the University of Tennessee.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson was recently fined an all-time NFL high $100,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit and Tennessee Titans safety was fined $42,000 for a similar play. The NFL is working hard to change the narrative of player safety from NFL negligence to player responsibility. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster openly admitted to taking money while playing at the University of Tennessee. This past Saturday players from different collegiate teams wore patches on their jerseys as a protest to the NCAA rules that prevent them from earning benefits using their own likeness or signature.

Former UCLA Bruins basketball player Ed O'Bannon heads a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA that has major financial implications for the NCAA and future NCAA athletes.

Former UCLA Bruins basketball player Ed O’Bannon leads a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA that has major financial implications for the NCAA and future NCAA athletes.

These developments combined with the money-related reports associated with football has changed the conversation when it comes to the popularity of these sports. The NCAA has received millions of dollars over the past several seasons in television contracts. Meanwhile, momentum grows for players to be better compensated for generating the interest that leads to those contracts. The NFL has earned billions of dollars over the last several years. The league is facing a groundswell of concern over the long-lasting effects of this violent game on its players. American football, in general, is facing a challenge that boxing and hockey have faced over previous decades: trying to balance the degree of violence in their sport while ensuring the continued safety and appeal of the game.