In 1996 the stars aligned for Emmitt Smith. Then 27 years old and among the NFL’s best running backs, Smith had just led the Dallas Cowboys to their second straight Super Bowl title and in return inked a record-setting eight-year deal. The package, worth a total of $63 million, converts to nearly $12 million a year in today’s dollars.
Like Smith then, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is among the top two or three at his position heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl. Like Smith, the 28-year-old is on the brink of leading his franchise to a second straight championship and has accumulated a career total of 2033 rushing attempts – 26 more than Smith had after winning the 1996 Super Bowl.
But don’t expect Lynch, who earned $6.5 million this season, to benefit from a similar windfall whether Seattle wins or loses the Super Bowl to slightly favored New England, according to betting odds in William Hill. Despite Lynch’s once in a generation talent, and despite his marketability skyrocketing through the surly, rogue attitude he’s adopted with the media, he’s on the wrong side of history.
At every level of football, teams rely on a lead running back far less to provide yards than even 15 years ago. While the NFL’s very best teams still boast potent ground games, they have increasingly divvied their carries between dual-threat quarterbacks and a host of younger, cheaper running backs. In terms of yard production, Super Bowl teams’ top running backs have played progressively smaller roles within their teams’ seasons since the late 1990s. The trend has played out in the big game itself, where a running back hasn’t won Super Bowl MVP since 1998.
NB – Total offensive yards from each of the past 70 Super Bowl teams’ entire seasons, not just their Super Bowl games. “Top” running back defined by the tailback or fullback with the most rushing yards during the season.
Seattle’s Super Bowl opponent has become an industry leader in the “running back by committee” approach. The New England Patriots in recent years have eschewed investing in a single running back in favor of giving big money to the likes of quarterback Tom Brady and defensive back Darrelle Revis. The Patriots have fielded three Super Bowl teams since 2004 and none of those teams has featured a running back with more than 840 yards on the year. This season, the Patriots have deployed a rotation of four running backs with none going over 412 rushing yards. The highest-paid Patriot running back, Shane Vereen, checks in around No. 30 on a team salary ranking.
Marshawn Lynch, of course, is an outlier in many ways. So far he’s bucked almost all trends involving declining productivity with marquee backs in their late 20s. Still, even through his success, we see seeds of another reason for the position’s demise.
Lynch has thrived, along with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, in a zone-read system that pressures opposing defenses to make split-second decisions on which gifted runner to target. The system has also been used with success at lower levels, and has been a factor in no running backs being taken in the last two NFL Draft first rounds. Some college coaches have been exploiting the surplus of college-ready passers and pass-catchers at the high school ranks to find athletes whom they can convert into tailbacks, then installing zone-read options or zone running games that often require “less-varied skillset from running backs and only average speed,” SI.com’s Robert Klemko wrote. “The NFL consequence? When teams look at running backs, they don’t know what they’re getting.”
“The devaluing of running backs has something to do with some of the offenses that are being run in college,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told Klemko. “There’s a big group that are part of the zone-read world, where maybe they’re not getting the ball in the backfield and handing it off to a guy and saying, ‘Watch what this dude can do.’ ”
Ok – I lied…
If only Arizonan Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn’t attended a Yankee school like Harvard, this concept would really fly.
Originally posted on The Big Lead:
San Antonio residents have been receiving mailed surveys asking about their interest and support if the Raiders played in San Antonio, according to a report from News Radio 1200 WOAI.
In July, reports emerged that Raiders owner Mark Davis had flown to San Antonio and met with civic leaders. The Raiders lease in Oakland expires after this season, and Davis refused to be a co-tenant with the 49ers in the new Levi’s Stadium.
The questions include asking what other sports teams the survey respondents have supported, and whether they would be interested in season tickets at various price points, and also “would you support the Raiders were they to move to San Antonio?”
WOAI is also reporting that the cost of the survey ($50,000) is being paid equally by the city of San Antonio and the Raiders.
Is this posturing? It’s a little late in the game to…
View original 45 more words
Few professional athletes have had as much success jumping from one franchise to the next as four-time Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal. For 11 consecutive years, playing for the likes of Tennessee, San Diego, New York, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, he blocked for a 1,000-yard running back. He might have been the greatest journeyman in NFL history.
While Neal’s career accomplishments put him in rarefied air, the diversity and number of his activities since retiring after the 2008 season place him in a class all his own. On Saturday night, thanks to the Clovis North High School Bronco Foundation’s fundraiser, he takes the next step in a five-year journey that grows more fantastic by the day.
Neal, as well as the San Diego Chargers [12-1 favorites to win the 2015 Super Bowl], are item No. 7 on a list of live auction items that have been lassoed up by the foundation and donors for Clovis North’s annual Stampede:
“7 Priceless Football Weekend for 4 with Lorenzo Neal and the San Diego Chargers: watch Saturday’s pre-game practice, tour the locker room. and take pictures with your favorite Chargers. Receive executive parking pass for Sunday, attend the Chargers’ executive tailgate with Lorenzo Neal, and then go into the game -November 23 vs. the Rams.”
The list of potential prizes for supporters of this central Californian school doesn’t end with the chance to chill with Neal, the opportunity the feel the fire of fantasy football stud and MVP candidate Phillip Rivers from but feet away, get half a side of Organic beef butchered to one’s specifications or a beer Kegerator. Thanks to generous sponsors such as California Industrial Rubber Company, Inc. and Fresno dermatologist Kathleen Behr, silent auction items like botox are on the table too. Dr. Behr has provided 50 units of the cosmetic toxin for the evening’s festivities.
So, how exactly did Neal find himself here? Was it divine providence, or mere caprice, that led him from paving paths for Adrian Murrell, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George and Corey Dillon to being sold at the Panoche Creek River Ranch off North Highway 41?
The power to unravel this koan is beyond me.
I do know this: “Low Daddy” has become an entrepreneurial Krakatoa whose powers may just be unfathomable. He has spewed more revenue-generating and philanthropic lava, in more directions, than most minds can grasp.
Poppycock, you say?
The 43-year-old’s unofficial c.v. since retiring says otherwise. In it, we get some standard retired-player coaches’ clinic type stuff here, and a lot of NFL broadcast and radio color commentary there, but it gets pretty non-predictable in a hurry.
In the last five years, Lorenzo has also been:
- Hanging with comedian Adam Corolla, talking door hinges, flipping properties and why serving time sometimes isn’t all that bad.
- Taking care of his 1971 and ’72 Cutlass Supremes
- Headlining an apparently short-lived reality TV show project called “2nd Shot at Glory,” packaged as “American Idol” meets “The Biggest Loser” meets America’s most beloved pastime… football.” The show was to involve Neal and at least three other former NFL players supervising the efforts of pro football prospects.
“Participants can be from every position in the NFL. Can you imagine a kicker winning? – the outrage, the pandemonium!,” we read on the show’s Web site. “Finally, you can have your 2nd Shot at Glory by competing against other men from all across America for money, glory and most importantly, the opportunity for a spot on an NFL roster.”
“The winner receives $500,000 cash prize and a guaranteed contract with a professional agent to negotiate their first contract.”
- Overseeing another apparently short-lived project called Fan Foods Inc., a grocery store with a not-sizzling Facebook presence.
- Getting the word out on breast cancer
- Providing for his children, including a daughter who has suffered seizures and speech delay
- Running a non-profit called Worldwide Athletes, LLC. Purpose = All about getting kids access to higher education.
- Helping students at Fresno High School set and achieve goals through his “Changing a Generation Foundation.”
- Charging up to $2,000 per hour – with occasional half-off discounts – to speak to kids in a motivational manner.
- Hawking a workout device called The Body Stretcher
- Wearing a CrossFit T-shirt at a CrossFit gym grand opening
- Endorsing the StreetStrider, said to be the world’s first indoor/outdoor elliptical cross trainer
- Being a professor at Football University
- Helping run an anti drunk-driving service called Safe Ride Solutions. “Basically, it’s like having a AAA card for partying,” Neal told Yahoo Sports. “You call an 800 number, and an off-duty police officer comes to you and drives you home in your own car, no questions asked. It’s totally confidential. When we pitched it to the NFL, they gave us their approval and told us it was OK to shop it to teams.”
- Crashing his truck into a pole after getting drunk on the Fourth of July. Nobody was hurt. “[He] just ran off the road, struck a pole,” officer Axel Reyes told KFSN-TV. “Nothing real major about it.”
It’s not any old NFL legend who has traveled to Japan and intentionally walked into the path of a human Mack truck, but Lorenzo Neal – in case you didn’t know – isn’t just any NFL legend.
During his career at Fresno State in the early 1990s, he was an All-Big West running back as well as an All-American wrestler. At one point he ranked No. 3 in the nation.
Naturally then, the sport of sumo wrestling intrigued Neal as collegian during a trip to Japan for a now-defunct football bowl. He wondered how his skills stacked up against those who outweighed him by 100-200 pounds. And then Neal went beyond wondering, as he recounted to Fox Sports journalist LaDainian Tomlinson:
I was wrapped in a fabric thong and spun around. (It was pretty interesting!) I was given a nice tug (on the loin cloth) before stepping into the ring and thought to myself, “OK, I don’t know if I want to be out here (for very) long.”
I went through three wrestlers and then faced the big boy, Akebono. (Akebono was the sumo champion at the time.) It wasn’t fun and it didn’t go well. Akebono hit me a couple of times in the throat, so I quickly jumped out of the ring and stated that I would stick to playing football.
Not a bad decision. After focusing on football and establishing himself as a premier fullback in his 17-year NFL career, Neal no longer competitively wrestles. But although he doesn’t hit the mat like he did back in the day, he still sometimes finds himself in unique positions.
To wit, the below email sent from California’s central valley, where so many Arkies and Okies migrated looking for a land of plenty amid the ravages of the Great Depression. Even today, parts of that land are still as fertile as any in the world. From it flows forth a cornucopia of fine foods, wines, services, cabo timeshares, Botox units and muscular former Chargers.
Item No. 7 below is proof:
Click on 53:44 mark of below podcast now. Ask questions later.
On Saturday, Brandon Allen completed 18 of 31 attempts for 175 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. In helping his unranked Hogs hang with No. 6 Auburn through the third quarter, the Arkansas quarterback played an even stronger game his numbers indicate. His receivers dropped a few easy ones, including a touchdown, and the interception came after his arm was hit as a result of a breakdown in protection, not bad decision making.
Overall, despite the Razorbacks’ defensive breakdowns in the second half of a 45-21 road loss, Hog fans can be excited about the progress Allen has shown bouncing back from an injury-riddled stretch in the middle of last season. His confidence was at an all-time high, his footwork and accuracy demonstrably improved.
Some of the credit here can go to Chris Weinke, the 2000 Heisman Trophy award winner who tutored Allen over the course of a few days earlier this summer in Florida. “I had a lot of problems with my balance in the pocket,” Allen told Razorback Nation. “Making a lot of off balanced throws and things that were hurting my accuracy. So we did a lot of balance work. A lot of bag work. A lot of foot drills.”
Weinke should also receive some credit for his name’s part in the one of the funniest sports skits you will hear in the latter part of this summer. The aural glory starts below, at the 53:19 mark of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast. The skit’s premise exhibits solid humor fundamentals by matching the normally humdrum world of sports award show introductions with an unexpectedly Seussian-cum-Clockwork-Orange type twist.
The outcome: the most imaginative concatenations of the names “Mookie Wilson,” “Melky Cabrera,” ” “Zack Greinke, “Mark Lemke,” and “Pokey Reese” I’ve heard.
But the “key” to making the conceit really work was balance. It was too baseball-heavy, and needed a well-known name from America’s most popular sport injected into this particular Greinke/Mookie/Melky/Lemke/Pokey milieu to push it to the next level.
So, thank you, Chris Weinke. From lovers of Hog football and comedic consonance everywhere.
(You’re pretty cool, too, Dokie Williams)
Next week, we’ll learn whether the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s proposal to ban the N word in the NFL passed. The rule, which would cost teams 15 yards per violation, will be taken under further review by NFL owners at their annual meeting in Florida starting Monday.
The name “Fritz Pollard” has been leveraged by a non-profit organization to push for a change that Fritz Pollard himself might have not supported.But there’s some evidence Pollard, who in the 1920s became the first black NFL quarterback and coach (as well as the first black to play in the Rose Bowl), was O.K. with the word when it was used in non-hateful ways or in artistic endeavors. This runs counter to the beliefs of current leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, who believe the word should be banned regardless where and how it’s used in the NFL work place. “We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room,” chairman John Wooten told CBS Sports. “Secretaries, PR people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere.”
Harry Carson, another Fritz Pollard Alliance leader, told SI.com that those who use the n-word as a sign of solidarity have “have no sense of history.” He added: “I find it very disheartening that in our society today we’re having a debate about the n-words being used as a term of endearment.”
Carson isn’t altogether accurate here. That’s why a closer look at the world in which Fritz Pollard lived is merited.
Nearly a century ago, a black Yale student used the N word in way that evokes how it’s used among many blacks today. The student, William Ashby, attended a Brown game at Yale to watch the much hyped Fritz Pollard play for the visiting Brown team. As the game got underway, Pollard – as usual – was pelted with racist taunts by the home side’s white fans. N words rained down on him. Opponents tried to maim him. But also, like usual, Pollard started dominating – and then a curious thing happened during one of his punt returns, according to Pollard’s biography. While Pollard ran, Yale students yelled “Catch that nigger. Kill that nigger” while Ashby – who was sitting with other African-Americans on the Brown side – jumped up and yelled “Run, nigger, run. Go, Fritz, go.”
This appears to be evidence – which I will bear out – that the word was not always used in a derogatory way at the beginning of the 20th century. It appears blacks sometimes used the word in a positive way among themselves, as happens now. I don’t have direct evidence of Pollard using the N word himself but have found a few facts that make it less likely he was troubled by blacks who used it. In 1933, he played a significant role in a movie as controversial in large segments of black culture then as Wooten’s proposal is now. The movie was “Emperor Jones,” a story about an ambitious Pullman porter based on a Eugene O’Neill play. It starred former NFL player Paul Robeson, a college friend of Pollard’s whom he served as a personal assistant and trainer. Pollard played a bit part on screen as a pianist.
The movie was controversial among many whites because it starred a black man. But it was divisive among many writers in black newspaper circles because it made extensive use of the N word, quoting verbatim from the O’Neill play. Black columnists encouraged readers to boycott the movie. If Pollard despised the casual use of the N word in entertainment, as Wooten does, I don’t think Pollard would have been involved with the project.