Contenders and Pretenders!

It takes more than just good play to make you a contender in the NFL, you have to make the right decisions!

Right now in the NFL there are contenders and pretenders.  The contenders are teams that consistently play smart and aggressively.  The Patriots, the Saints, the Eagles and the Vikings are teams that come to mind.  You can always count on these teams on making the fewest mistakes, play smart and capitalizing on opportunities.  They don’t play with smoke and mirrors and don’t need trickery to win games.  Their play calling, both on offense and defense, is well designed and timely.  They seem to make the right calls at the most opportunistic times.  The contenders in the NFL today have balanced attacks on offense and aggressive style defenses.  Smart teams and smart coaches understand the meaning of, “take what they give you”, from an offensive perspective and,  “take away what they do best”, from a defensive perspective.  There is one other thing that separates the contenders from the pretenders, when the contenders smell blood in the water they take on the mind set of a feeding shark, they continue to attack!  That is the kind of mental make up a contender has.

Now for the pretenders, the Cowboys, Seahawks, Bills, Lions and the Chiefs!  First, injuries happen and when you loose a key player or two it can have a significant effect on a games outcome.  Second, those teams who are contenders also have injuries and manage find the next man up and keep things moving along.  Contenders also seem to find ways to win, even with new players.  You very seldom see drastic changes in their offensive or defensive production.  Teams who are pretenders just don’t do a good job with personnel changes.  Or sometimes it is just bad decisions on the coaches part.  This past week the Bills made a change at quarterback.  The Bills were sitting in the 6th wild card position and are contending for a playoff spot.  If this change at quarterback was an experiment in a science lab, it would have blown up the entire department.  That is how bad of a decision it was.  Five interceptions in the first half by the newly inserted quarterback.  Those five interceptions led to more than half the points scored by the Chargers and may have taken the Bills out of the playoff picture.  What were you thinking?  Not only was this a bad decision, but a really dumb decision!  Now the Chiefs, who are at the top of the pretender list, started the season 5 and 0, lose to a Giants team that was 1-8 and the 31st ranked defense in the league.  The Chiefs only scored 9 points and no touchdowns.  How does that happen?  By bad playing calling and poor execution on offense and really bad tackling on defense!  The Chiefs right now lead the AFC West, not because they are playing well but because the rest of the division is playing badly.   In the game against the Giants, the Chiefs used more trick plays than I have ever seen in an NFL game!  Two of the Chiefs three turnovers were on trick plays.  Those two turnovers led to Giants scores and a Chiefs loss.  Not what contenders do.  Andy,  you are better than that!

If you want to become a contender, do it the right way and get rid of bad play calling and poor personnel decisions.

The Outdoor Quarterback

How Important Are NFL Kickers and Punters?

NFL punters and kickers now play a more strategic role than at any time in league history.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the comment ” kickers aren’t athletes!”  Not true my friends.  I had the privilege of playing with, and holding for, up until this year, the only kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud.  Jan went to college on a skiing scholarship.  Ryan Succop from the Tennessee Titans played on his college golf team.  I know several punters who played other positions and other sports.  Hall of Fame punter, Ray Guy, was a defensive back at Southern Miss.

I will admit they aren’t the greatest tacklers on the team. I have seen many punters and kickers fail in their attempt to tackle a punt or kick off returner.  They always make the highlights on ESPN when that happens!  A bit embarrassing for the kickers and punters, but they are used to it and just roll with the punches.  But when one of them actually hits someone, the guys on the special teams go ballistic!

Punters are a lot like soccer players in that when they get hit you would have thought someone had cut their leg off with a dull knife.  But, shortly after the penalty is called, they get up and run off the field like nothing happened and you wonder, what acting school did he attended?

All kidding aside, punters today have a unique talent for kicking the ball and having it land inside the ten yard line.  Punters have become a real offensive weapon.  The Chiefs punter, Dustin Colquitt, is year in and year out the best in the NFL for punting the ball inside the 20 yard line.  By the way, he is and avid outdoorsman and golfer.

I have seen several games this year where the Punters were the best offensive weapon the team had and that the place kickers were the only reason the team won.  During the Monday night game just recently played between the Colts and Titans, Ryan Succop kicked 5 field goals in their win against Indy.  His 43 yard field goal set a new NFL record for consecutive kicks made inside of 50 yards, 47! 

Just ask the teams who have lost games because their kicker missed a last second field goal, or had a punter shank a punt and giving their opponents great field position.  What would they have given for a stud kicker or punter?  A lot!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Brady, Most Regular Season Wins, Super Bowl Wins, Playoff Wins and ETC….

I believe Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback to have ever played the game.

As a former quarterback who played in the NFL, I am always amazed when I watch Tom Brady play.  At 40 years old he still has one of the best arms in all of football.  I have always said his foot work, release point and overall fundamentals are better than anyone who has ever played the game.  He has Dan Marino’s quick release, Aaron Rogers arm strength with Payton Manning’s, Drew Brees’s and Joe Montana’s command of the game.  I could mention other quarterbacks to compare Tom’s abilities too, John Elway, Brent Farve, Warren Moon and Dan Fouts come to mind.  You would have to roll up all of their collective skills and successes to have one Tom Brady.

He now has the most regular season wins along with the most Super Bowl Wins, add to that the most playoff wins.  The list of his career achievements and where he stands with all time rankings, among NFL quarterbacks, is historic.

All of the quarterbacks I have mentioned are either in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or will be.  They all have had incredible careers in the National Football League.  When all is said and done and the dust is cleard, Tom Brady will be recognized as greatest quarterback to have ever played the game.

There is a short list of players I would stop what I was doing to watch play, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Gayle Sayers.  You can now add Tom Brady’s name to that list.

What makes all of this so amazing is that Tom is 40 years old!  If I were still playing, I would be studying Tom’s tapes and would try to duplicate his fundamentals.  Something all these young quarterbacks should be doing.  That’s my compliment to Tom.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt is a rising start in the NFL, if he keeps this up, someday the Hall of Fame maybe knocking at his door.

I played professional football for 9 years and had the opportunity to play against, or see in person, some of the greatest running backs that ever played the game; Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith to name a few.  Think about the players I left off that list.  Hall of Fame backs like OJ Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Let me tell you about a rookie running back who’s name is being mentioned and compared to all of these great HOF running backs, Kareem Hunt, running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the first three games of the 2017 NFL season, Kareem has tied or broken records for a running back, going as far back as the 1920’s!  I can say as an spectator and not as a former Chief, maybe with a little bias, that Kareem is the real deal and possesses the attributes of all of the previously mentioned running backs.  In addition to all those skills Kareem appears to have the leg strength of HOF players like Jim Brown, Larry Csonka and John Riggins, who were all known for their powerful running styles.

He is quick, fast and demonstrates great vision.  For his size he has incredible leg strength and balance, all characteristics of a great running back.  In college he had over 800 carries without a fumble, which is ironic because his first carry for the Chiefs, he fumbled.  That turnover must have lit a fire or turned on the light, because what he has done since is historic.  I am sure I am like many other fans of the NFL, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I am not putting him in the HOF yet, that is determined on your career accomplishments.  I am just saying barring any career ending type of injuries, he has all the abilities of every name I have mentioned, all who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not bad for a rookie!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Playing Two Preseason Games Is Enough.

Two preseason games is all that is needed, save the star players for when it counts.

Playing four preseason games in the NFL is two to many.  I see the NFL going to only two preseason games in the very near futures, how about next year!  There are too many injuries, too many players who would have never made the roster who are now on the injured reserve list, which means they are being paid, in many if not all the cases, for the year.  At a quick look of players placed on the injured reserve list for this season is 236.  If all these players were minimum salary players that would be at total of $106,200,000.  Many of these players would have never made a roster and several of those players listed are making well over the minimum of $450,000.

One solution is to expand training camp.  Because of the Collective Barging Agreement, there are limited full pad practices and contact which should limit the chances of season ending injuries.  What I see that comes from expanding training camps is ongoing conditioning opportunities.  There are always early training camp nicks, pulls and stains.  Two weeks of additional practice, conditioning and physical therapy should eliminate major injuries and allow players time to be ready for meaningful games.  One preseason game for your starters and veteran players is plenty, that’s all we get now basically, and one game to evaluate free agents, rookies and players who are boarder line.  Don’t forget, all the teams will have two additional weeks of video tape to evaluate players.

One of the major complaints I hear regarding preseason games from fans is spending money and not seeing the starters play.  That was very evident by the number of no shows for the Chiefs final preseason game.  Most of the season ticket holders I talked to about this agree.  They want to see starters play, even if it is only one game.  They also agreed that too many starters, league wide, are getting injured before the regular season begins, like Julian Edelman, Spencer Ware and Shane Ray.

So NFL, save everyone money, protect key players and let all the fans see a full compliment of starts in the regular season.

The NFL is the greatest show on TV, but only if the stars are playing!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Texas A&M Board of Regents Member, Shut Your Mouth and Go Away!

Texas A&M Board of Regents member steps out of bounds with his personal comments after the A&M loss to UCLA.

One of the most disgusting comments I have ever heard in all the years I have played or been involved in sports, which totals 60, was that of a member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents this past weekend following the Texas A&M game against UCLA.  He tweeted and put on face book that the head coach at A&M, Kevin Sumlin, “when the time comes my vote will be that Kevin Sumlin needs to GO”.  How did this guy get placed in such a prestigious position, oh I know, family money.  He should be removed immediately if not sooner!  I will promise you he was singing coach Sumlin praises for the first three and half quarters of that game.  His comments were unprofessional, adolescent and most of all damaging to stability of the Texas A&M football program.  His comments were something you would expect out of a student not an administrator.  He has done more damage and harm to the program than anything the coach did or didn’t do during the game.  Let’s not forget that the staring quarterback got hurt, fractured his ankle, and the backup quarterback completed only 3 of 17 passes.  I am not putting the blame on him either, it is extremely difficult to stand on the sidelines for nearly the entire game and then to come in, when obviously the momentum has totally changed, and have an immediate impact.

I personally played in a game in college where we scored 28 points in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter for a comeback win.  A lot of things happened for us to have won that game, turnovers, kick returns and big plays on offense.  So lets give a little credit to UCLA and their quarterback, Josh Rosen, possibly the number one pick in next years NFL Draft, for making some great plays.

So my comments to the Texas A&M Board of Regents member is to shut your mouth, go away and keep your opinions confined to the Board Room.

The Outdoor Quarterback

September Is The Best Month Of The Year

Arrowhead
Arrowhead

I have always felt September is the best month of the year for several reasons.  First, it’s the start of the NFL regular season.  College football also kicks off, no pun intended.  Second, the early archery seasons open around the country, which means archery elk to me.  Next, the start of fantasy football.  Even I can say that watching the NFL has become a lot more fun and entertaining because of fantasy football leagues.  Our draft is coming up soon and is always the best party of the year.

Fantasy Party
Fantasy Party

If you happen to live in a city that has a competitive major league baseball team, then a run at the playoffs is icing on the September cake!

Back to NFL football and the upcoming hunting season.  Hopes are high for every team, even the Cleveland Browns.  They have some young talented players who have already lived up to or exceeded expectations.  As excited as I am for the NFL season to start, I can’t wait to hear the first elk bugle in the woods, it is a adrenaline rush like no other!  The anticipation is similar to that of the opening kickoff to a new season, hopes are high.

Elk
Elk

There are the obvious players everyone will try and draft, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell if he ever signs his franchise tag contract, which he will.  The trick is to find players that earn points who are hidden gems.  Tyreek Hill last year would have been one of those players.  I think a player who seems to fly under the radar is Golden Tate of the Lions.  He may be one of the best number two receivers you can pick up.  Another player I would take a close look at is rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp from the LA Rams.  He not a number one, but I think will catch a lot of passes, he is a sleeper.  Another receiver, who has a new quarterback throwing to him, is Ted Ginn.  His new quarterback is Drew Brees.

So what makes September so special?  I shoot my bow everyday, get ready for my fantasy league, train for the first hunt of the fall, watch the Royals make a run at the playoffs and prepare for the start of the NFL season.  What is it they say?  “It just doesn’t get any better than this”.

The Outdoor Quarterback

NFL Left Tackles Are How Valuable?

Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith

How valuable do think left tackles are to starting NFL Quarterbacks? Just ask them!  The most valuable is what you will hear.  Over years of watching NFL games and analyzing quarterbacks, I have found that successful quarterbacks, statistically speaking, have one thing in common, experienced tackles both left and right.  It is those Quarterbacks, who are fortunate to have veterans at the tackle positions, extend their careers and realize great successes.  More and more teams are putting a premium on their tackles particularly the left side.  Most NFL Quarterbacks are right handed which makes the left tackle the protector of the quarterbacks blind side.  It is critical for quarterbacks to feel totally confident that their blind side is taken care of.  When you can play with confidence you can play with focus, great left tackles affords quarterbacks that luxury.

Next time you watch Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan play, focus in on their left tackles, watch how they move their feet, extend their arms, use their hands.  They have developed techniques essential to playing the tackle position at a very high level, a true blessing to the quarterbacks.  Just look at the number of tackles in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Several NFL starting tackles have been injured and are out for the season.  Pay attention to teams who will begin to struggle with their passing games because of the loss of their starting left tackles.  Really good left tackles are not just sitting around waiting for a phone call, they are already on a team.  The teams who won’t see much of a drop off in their passing game are teams who understand the importance to having depth at that position.  The Seattle Seahawks will be a team to watch, their starting left tackle, George Fant, is out for the season, and they are scrambling to find a replacement.

George Fant
George Fant

NFL Quarterback owe their careers to great offensive lines, but no one on that line is more important than the left tackle!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Make Your Western Hunts Fun, Get In Shape

cardio
cardio

For several years I have help guided elk hunters in northern New Mexico, around the Chama area.  I have found the majority of hunters I guide come from the mid-west or the eastern part of the country.  I have discovered many, if not most, of those hunters are not in good enough shape to really enjoy their hunts.  It is simply a lack of cardiovascular conditioning.walkingforcardio

I have experienced hunters being so out of breath that when the moment of truth came, they could not steady themselves to draw their bow or steady their rifle.  In most all of those cases the hunter never got a opportunity to shoot.  We have found that once an elk gets withing shooting range, either with a bow or rifle, you have around 11 to 15 seconds to make the shot.  Once you get in that range there is very little time to catch your breath, steady your rest or calm yourself down.  If you can eliminate a couple of those elements at the critical moment, you will increase your opportunity for success.

Getting yourself in really good shape, referring to your cardiovascular conditioning, you can take care of the heavy breathing interference.  If you can control that part then becoming steady to draw your bow, mount or shoulder your rifle becomes a none factor.  Calming yourself is a matter of focus.  If you are out of shape your focus and attention to details leading up to your shot no longer exists.  Everyone gets excited when a shooting scenario presents itself, it’s natural, it is those hunters who are in good physical condition and that can bring their emotions under control quicker, will experience success more often.

The conditioning philosophy is relevant in just about every sport.  When professional athletes get fatigued, their performances quickly declines.  The same will happen with hunters.  I know when quarterbacks throws come up short it is usually because their legs are tired.  You have seen it with major league pitchers, when they begin to loose command of their pitches, it is normally their legs that get tired not their arms.

Getting in shape for a western hunt requires that you must improve your cardiovascular condition.  Work your legs and your core.  Exercises to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance.  This year make your western hunt more enjoyable, get in shape!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

 

NFL’s First Year Quarterbacks

The newest crop of highly drafted quarterbacks appear more ready to play in the NFL than expected.

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes

This years crop of rookie quarterbacks entering the NFL appear to be more prepared to play now, at the NFL level, than expected.  The stage doesn’t look to big for any of them.  Some of the major reasons are, the teams who drafted these high profile quarterbacks, drafted quarterbacks who fit their current systems, or have the skill sets not only to fit in their systems and offensive philosophies, but have additional talents which will allow the teams and offensive coordinator’s (OC) to expand their current playbooks and strategies.   For those of you who might not understand, anytime you can cause a defensive coordinator’s (DC) to spend additional time game planning against a quarterback who can throw effectively out of the pocket as well as inside the pocket, and can create offense while extending plays with their scrambling abilities, become a DC’s nightmare.  It appears that Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer, the top four quarterbacks drafted in 2017, have all demonstrated they posses those skills.  In my opinion they all seem to be having some significant success operating their teams offenses.  I know it is only preseason, but as a former quarterback, what I have seen from each one of these quarterbacks are very high skill levels, maturity in their decision process, which is making good reads and throwing on time, protecting the ball and on the field leadership.  These attributes and skills demonstrated in the preseason games I have watched, are early signs of what should be expected by these young quarterbacks plus what the future might hold.  All of these skills are necessary to become a starting quarterback in the National Football League.

If these young quarterbacks can keep up this type of consistent play throughout the preseason, then all the teams who drafted them are looking at the future franchise quarterback for their organizations.  This doesn’t happen often in the NFL, having this many first year quarterbacks ready to step up and play.  Don’t get me wrong, they are not polished players like Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees or Alex Smith,

Tom Brady
Tom Brady

but they are in that mold.  There are several reasons why these young quarterbacks are having some early success. I think a major reason is the willingness of the head coaches and offensive coordinator’s to adjust their offensive schemes and philosophies to match to skill sets of their highly drafted quarterbacks.  This is a drastic change in how the NFL and teams have operated in the past.  Good for them and it is about time!

I look for this years group of drafted quarterbacks to be very successful, Whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The Outdoor Quarterback