Baltimore is Built-For-More: Defending NFL Defenses

Image result for baltimore ravens defense

By Ben Kelley

December 2, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

If you’ve ever played EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2005, then you might remember the video game’s selling point: the hit-stick. The “hit-stick” was a new feature that allowed you to force a heavy hit onto a ball-carrier by flicking the right stick of a video game controller. EA Sports had a simple reason for introducing the concept: in Madden NFL 2004, users were having trouble with stopping the electric dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, and players needed a defensive counter. That counter would become the “hit-stick” (“Top 25 features in Madden,” 2013).

Ray Lewis, a former inside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 2005. With Lewis and the hit-stick headlining the game, Madden NFL 2005 took on a defensive approach to virtual football gaming.

It’s now 2019, and quarterback turnover has become a common theme throughout the current NFL season. As the league approaches the fourteenth week of regular-season competition, eighty-six quarterbacks have attempted at least one pass during a game. Of those eighty-six quarterbacks, only sixteen have started twelve games this season. Out of those sixteen, only nine have winning records as starters (“NFL passing,” 2019). Five of those quarterbacks play for a team with a top-six defense in points allowed; four of those starters have a defense ranked in the top-four in points allowed (“NFL opposition & defensive statistics,” 2019).

One team with consistent quarterback play and a top defensive unit is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens currently have the sixth-best defense and have compiled ten wins and only two losses. Their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has statistically lit up the league this season. Jackson has thrown for 2,532 yards with a pass-completion percentage of 66.5%, with twenty-five passing touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2019 (“NFL passing,” 2019). In addition, Jackson has rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns this season (for comparison, Jackson is currently ranked eighth in rushing yards in the NFL) (“NFL rushing,” 2019).

Sports media has taken note of Lamar’s play in 2019. Sean Wagner-McGough (2019) of CBS Sports claims “Jackson is our MVP after 12 weeks” (para 2). Zach Frydenlaud (2019) of Complex not only thinks that Jackson has the MVP award wrapped up, but that Jackson “is the future of the league at QB” (para 6).

However, Baltimore’s defense deserves a share of the credit. Baltimore’s defense is currently ranked sixth in points allowed, and they’ve caused nineteen turnovers in 2019. Only New England, San Francisco, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Chicago sit ahead of the Ravens in points allowed, and each of these teams has a winning record. Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Dallas each sit behind Baltimore in points allowed, and each of those teams are at .500 or above. As a whole, the top nine defenses in points allowed all have a record at .500 or higher.

New England and San Francisco each own a record of 10-2, yet their quarterbacks are not playing at the highest of levels. Tom Brady currently holds the 21st best quarterback rating, and Jimmy Garoppolo holds the 10th best quarterback rating (“NFL passing,” 2019). Tennessee is on their second quarterback of the season, and they’re 7-5. Chicago’s quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, has a rating of 84.4 for 24th place, yet the Bears have a record of 6-5 (“NFL passing,” 2019). Pittsburgh is now relying on their third quarterback this season, yet the Steelers sit at seven wins and five losses.

While scrambling dual-threat quarterbacks may appear to be the future of the NFL, strong defensive play is making its case to be labeled as “the future of the NFL.” Each of the top nine defenses in points allowed this season have kept their teams in playoff contention, despite below-average quarterback play or turnover at the position. It’s as if we’re living in the world of Madden NFL 2005, and the “hit-stick” has made its appearance.

References

2019 NFL opposition & defensive statistics. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/opp.htm

2019 NFL passing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/passing.htm

2019 NFL rushing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/rushing.htm#rushing_and_receiving::rush_yds

2019 NFL standings & team stats. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/

Frydenlaud, Z. (2019, November 25). Lamar Jackson is not only the NFL MVP but the future of the league. Complex. Retrieved from https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/11/lamar-jackson-mvp-and-future

Top 25 features in Madden NFL history. (2013, August 2). EA Sports. Retrieved from https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2013/madden-football-history

Wagner-McGough, S. (2019, December 1). NFL MVP race, week 13: Lamar Jackson begins to pull away from Russell Wilson, Stephon Gilmore makes his debut. CBS Sports. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-mvp-race-week-13-lamar-jackson-begins-to-pull-away-from-russell-wilson-stephon-gilmore-makes-his-debut/

Myles Garrett fight overshadows rivalry victory for Cleveland Browns, leads to indefinite suspension

By Pershelle Rohrer

December 1, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-7 in the week 11 Thursday Night Football matchup on November 14. Baker Mayfield threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one in the victory, giving the Browns a record of 4-6 and putting them back in the playoff race. Cleveland’s win over Pittsburgh (5-5) should have been something to celebrate, as it was just their fourth win over their division rival in the past ten years (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019). However, a fight that broke out in the last eight seconds of the game overshadowed anything positive that happened in the Browns’ second straight win.

On the second to last snap of the game, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett brought down Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph well after Rudolph had completed a pass. Rudolph attempted to remove Garrett’s helmet, kicking him while they were still on the ground. Garrett then tore off Rudolph’s helmet and hit him on the top of the head with it when Rudolph followed him to retrieve it, causing the benches to clear. Garrett was ejected along with teammate Larry Ogunjobi, who shoved Rudolph to the ground just after the helmet incident, and Maurkice Pouncey, who then punched and kicked Garrett in retaliation. 

The NFL issued suspensions to all three ejected players. Garrett was suspended indefinitely with a minimum ban for the remainder of the season, Pouncey was given a three-game ban, and Ogunjobi sat out one week. All three players appealed their suspensions, and Pouncey’s was reduced to two games as a result, according to ESPN (“Myles Garrett’s indefinite,” 2019). Rudolph received a $50,000 fine for his actions, and both teams were fined $250,000 each.

Garrett was immediately criticized by the media, fans, and players alike. Troy Aikman, current Fox commentator and former NFL player, called Garrett’s actions “barbaric” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 11). Reggie Bush (2019) tweeted that it “might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field!”

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said the incident would become “a soap opera on the outside much like the media has portrayed us to be for the whole season” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 13). The Browns have faced growing pains with a revamped roster in their first season under head coach Freddie Kitchens. The win against the Steelers was their second straight, but losing Garrett for the season could potentially hurt the Browns’ playoff chances as the defense has to make up for the loss of their star defender. 

Following the game, the media took turns speculating about the length of Garrett’s suspension. Many reporters and players called for a season-long ban, some suggesting that the suspension should go into the 2020 season as well. 

Prior to Garrett’s penalty, the longest suspension for a single on-field action was five games, awarded to Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in 2006 for ripping Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode’s helmet off and stomping on his face (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). 

Garrett’s indefinite suspension makes a statement to the rest of the NFL, especially since Rudolph recently came off a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas in week 5 that knocked the quarterback unconscious (Seifert, 2019).

Garrett will have to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before his reinstatement (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). By holding out one of the league’s stars for the rest of the season and potentially part of the next, the NFL is showing its decreased tolerance for fighting and the need to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.

The media calling for the lengthy suspension of Myles Garrett put pressure on the NFL to act. By issuing the longest suspension for a single on-field act in league history and later upholding the indefinite ban, the NFL demonstrates its power to discipline players for unsportsmanlike conduct, which it hopes to reduce in the future.

The Browns and Steelers met again on December 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

References

Browns, Steelers brawl at end of Cleveland’s 21-7 win. (2019, November 14). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/recap?gameId=401128044

JForsett. (2019, November 15). I wouldn’t be surprised if Garrett misses the rest of this season and half of next. It’s an ugly situation, Mason could have suffered a life altering injury. Football is an emotional sport but that was something different. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jforsett/status/1195215451657318400?s=21

JuiceCheck44. (2019, November 14). Myles Garrett should not be allowed to play another snap this season [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/juicecheck44/status/1195202767494598656?s=21

LRiddickESPN. (2019, November 14). Suspend him for the rest of the season. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/lriddickespn/status/1195200614382346241?s=21

Myles Garrett’s indefinite ban upheld; Maurkice Pouncey now suspended 2 games. (2019, November 21). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28131395/myles-garrett-indefinite-ban-upheld-maurkice-pouncey-now-suspended-2-games

Pryor, B. (2019, November 23). NFL fines Steelers QB Mason Rudolph $50,000 for role in fight. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28146654/nfl-fines-steelers-qb-mason-rudolph-50000-role-fight

ReggieBush. (2019, November 14). In all my life of football that might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field! They about to suspend Myles Garrett for 30 years! People getting stomped out, that was a hood fight! Hate to see that in our game that’s not what pro football is about! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/reggiebush/status/1195202558643490816?s=21

Seifert, K. (2019, November 15). Myles Garrett suspension for Steelers-Browns fight: Why he deserves record punishment for helmet swing. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28083617/myles-garrett-suspension-steelers-browns-fight-why-deserves-record-punishment-helmet-swing

Trotter, J., & Pryor, B. (2019, November 15). Browns’ Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely; Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey gets 3-game ban. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28087446/browns-myles-garrett-suspended-indefinitely-steelers-maurkice-pouncey-gets-3-game-ban

The Patriots Need to Protect Their Jewel(ian)

Image result for julian edelman injury

By Ben Kelley

November 25, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

The New England Patriots are desperate to get some sort of offensive consistency. Despite quarterback Tom Brady’s undisputed ability to throw the football, the Patriots have struggled to get players who can catch the football. The instability has meant that there’s a different set of receivers available to Brady each week, and the instability is seemingly growing.

At the beginning of the season, the Patriots lined up former Pro-Bowlers Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and Julian Edelman at the wide receiver position. By Halloween, Brown and Gordon were cut, Thomas was traded, Mohamed Sanu was acquired from the Atlanta Falcons, and two undrafted rookie receivers – Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski – were being thrust onto the field. Receiver Philip Dorsett has offered consistency; however, he’s currently nursing a concussion while Sanu faces an ankle injury (Mason, 2019). Olszewski’s season has ended due to injury, and rookie N’Keal Harry was recently thrown into the mix (Cox, 2019). In short, only one wide receiver has been available to Brady each week – Julian Edelman. Edelman has capitalized on the opportunity, with 112 targets, 76 receptions, 809 receiving yards, 4 touchdown catches, one touchdown pass, and 15 passing yards in twelve games (“Julian Edelman,” 2019).

Antonio Brown, on the other hand, has only played one game in 2019. (“Antonio Brown,” 2019). His season has been engulfed with drama-infused antics – including sexual assault charges. The NFL swiftly hit Brown with an investigation, and after his release from New England, NFL teams have avoided signing Brown. However, Brown is showing optimism that the investigation is siding in his favor. On November 19th, Brown posted an apology on social media to the Patriots organization for the drama he brought to the team. By November 21st, rumors started swirling that the Patriots are doing their due diligence on Brown, with the team possibly exploring bringing back a much-needed familiar face (Williams, 2019).

Brown’s possible return is already being labeled as the answer to Tom Brady’s growing frustrations with the offensive struggles. Against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Patriots had to rely on field goals, a trick pass from Edelman, and a stout defense to win the game with a  score of 17-10. After the game, Brady kept his press conference short and concise, with the media claiming that the addition of generational talent Antonio Brown would clearly help ease Brady’s frustrations (Brinson, 2019). However, the possible addition of Brown should not be looked at as a move for the sake of Tom Brady. It should be viewed as an addition for the sake of Julian Edelman.

Edelman arguably needs Brown more than Brady does. Edelman is currently on pace for around 100 receptions this season, and at 33 years old, he needs some relief (“Julian Edelman,” 2019). Aside from Edelman’s heavy workload this year, he was also nursing a minor shoulder injury ahead of the Patriot’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys (Mason, 2019). If Edelman suffers a more serious injury, the Patriots would be forced to get creative with moving the ball down the field at a time when the team already struggles with doing so. A deep playoff run without Edelman’s skill set or experience would certainly hurt the Patriots and possibly frustrate Brady even further. Adding in Antonio Brown would help relieve the pressure being put on Edelman and give the Patriots – and the defenses they face – a second receiver to focus on.   

References

Antonio Brown. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BrowAn04.htm

Brinson, Will. (2019, November 19). Antonio Brown rumors: Everyone thinks WR coming back to Patriots after Brown apologizes to Robert Kraft. CBS Sports. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/antonio-brown-rumors-everyone-thinks-wr-coming-back-to-patriots-after-brown-apologizes-to-robert-kraft/

Cox, Z. (2019, November 19). NFL rumors: Patriots plan to place Gunner Olszewski on IR to add Isaiah Wynn. NESN. Retrieved from https://nesn.com/2019/11/nfl-rumors-patriots-expected-to-place-gunner-olszewski-on-ir-to-add-isaiah-wynn/

Julian Edelman. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/E/EdelJu00.htm

Mason, C. (2019, November 20). Julian Edelman returns to injury report, Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu didn’t participate in New England Patriots practice. Mass Live. Retrieved from https://www.masslive.com/patriots/2019/11/julian-edelman-returns-to-injury-report-phillip-dorsett-and-mohamed-sanu-didnt-participate-in-new-england-patriots-practice.html

Williams, C. (2019, November 21). Report: Patriots have “kicked the tires” on Antonio Brown. Pro Football Talk. Retrieved from https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/21/report-patriots-have-kicked-the-tires-on-antonio-brown/

Setting the World on Fier

By Griffin Olah

November 21, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

Since baseball’s inception, teams have looked for a leg up over their opposition. Whether that is the development of signs from coaches, the shift or stealing signs, it is expected and even encouraged that teams innovate new ways to win. The Astros, however, have taken it to a new level. Earlier this month, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers dropped a bomb on the unsuspecting baseball world: the World Series winning team in 2017 cheated.

In 2017, reports came out that the Boston Red Sox were using an unapproved Apple Watch in the dugout. Naturally, that revelation turned to thoughts of cheating, and the opponent did nothing to dismiss those. The New York Yankees, arch rivals of the Red Sox tossed in accusations that the Sox were stealing signs from their catcher. The MLB launched an investigation into the team, and found them guilty of cheating. On September 15, 2017, Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Red Sox for their scandal and created a new discipline protocol to deter future teams (Davidoff, 2019).

At the same time, however, a far larger scheme was underway, which can now implicate 3 different MLB managers. In Houston, the Astros had a few veteran additions off to a slow start. It was then that a slumping addition who is yet to be named and a team official concocted the plan: they were going to electronically steal signs. Throughout the season, the Astros perfected the system: using a camera placed in center field to pick up the signs from the catcher, sending it to a laptop in the tunnel, where a staff member banged on a trash can to signal the coming pitch to batters (Passan, 2019). 

Fast forward to today, where the Astros are almost a certifiable dynasty. They’ve been to the past 3 World Series, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy only in 2017. Mike Fiers, a pitcher on that World Series team had just given an interview to The Athletic where he detailed how the Astros stole signs during all home games at Minute Maid Park in 2017. The baseball world exploded, shrapnel strewn all across the baseball landscape. Did the Astros cheat their way to a championship? Who ran this whole operation? Was Alex Cora, former bench coach and current Red Sox manager, involved? What about former Astros DH turned Mets manager Carlos Beltran? Information was at a premium, and nobody could pay the price.

The media, of course, jumped at the bomb Fiers threw into the world. Every major sports news outlet was looking into the Astros allegations, and the MLB opened another investigation almost immediately. Some sources tried to prove or disprove the allegations. Most, however, either ignored, or misused statistical evidence. One ESPN article cited the Astros success on the road, both in win-loss records and batting lines (Schoenfield, 2019). While these are good surface-level stats, they don’t tell the full story. Home and away splits can illustrate the differences between the Astros’ play in Minute Maid Park and away from it, but sign stealing won’t show up as a large impact on traditional stats. If one was to look at isolated power (ISO) and strikeout rate (K%), the numbers would tell a different story. Stealing signs is going to give the hitter an upper hand, that part is undebatable, but that advantage may not be evident in hits. ISO is simplified to slugging percentage minus batting average, which shows the player’s raw power (Slowinski, 2010). The MLB average ISO is .140, with higher values showing that players are hitting the ball harder for more extra bases and home runs (Slowinski, 2010). The Astros in 2017 paced baseball with a .196 ISO as a team, .56 higher than average (“Major League Team,” 2019). The Astros also bested the league in K%, which shows the percent of at-bats where batters struck out, with 17.3%, which was only 1.2% lower than the second place Indians (“Major League Team,” 2019).

Most articles, however, strayed away from making judgements. They simply relayed the information and waited to learn more before going after the Astros’ rings. Some, however, made sure to point to the Astros’ checkered past. During the 2018, reports from Cleveland and Boston of a uniformed Astros employee recording the dugouts made the MLB first investigate the Houston franchise (Passan, 2019). This came along with allegations from that same year of Astros players clapping signals to tell the batter what the coming pitch was ( Passan, 2019). While the past of the Astros is important, constant reminders and retelling can sway opinions. If the narrative that the Astros are cheaters is pushed by the media, an investigation into the allegations can become difficult. Fans make up their notions of what happened, and those fan ideals can destroy a franchise.

While gathering information is vital in the process, making sure it is properly relayed is important. Statistics are among the few ways, along with video, to show the Astros have stolen signs. If their numbers are drastically higher, which some advanced stats like ISO show, then maybe there is creedence to Fiers’s claims. Those numbers, however, have to be given and shared with the public, as opposed to selective stats like batting average that can paint an incomplete and biased picture of the problem. The media has done a good job overall so far in their coverage of the Astros, but as always, some things could be better. It just so happens that with advanced sign stealing techniques, advanced and traditional stats could be the problem

References

Davidoff, K. (2019, November 21). Rob Manfred: Statement puts Astros in ‘serious’ sign-stealing trouble. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/11/21/rob-manfred-the-statement-that-puts-astros-in-serious-sign-stealing-trouble/

Major League Team Statistics. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2017&month=0&season1=2017&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2017-01-01&enddate=2017-12-31&sort=4,a

Passan, J. (2019, November 12). Ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers: Team stole signs with camera. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066522/ex-astros-pitcher-mike-fiers-team-stole-signs-camera

Schoenfield, D. (2019, November 12). What you need to know amid Astros sign-stealing accusations. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066847/what-need-know-amid-astros-sign-stealing-accusations

Slowinski, S. (2010, February 15). ISO | Sabermetrics Library. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://library.fangraphs.com/offense/iso/

Ridin’ Dirty

By Brody Hickle

November 21, 2019

Brody Hickle grew up in Bluffton, Ohio and now studies Sport Management at Bowling Green State University. The third-year undergraduate student minors in General Business. His primary sport interests are hockey and football.

Remember when Ty Cobb used to sharpen his spikes? Remember the Detroit Bad Boys? If you look up the definition of a dirty player in the NFL, you may find a picture of Vontaze Burfict, an NFL linebacker who now plays for the Oakland Raiders. He was suspended early in the 2019 season when the Raiders took on the Indianapolis Colts. His suspension was due to an illegal helmet-to-helmet contact with the Colts’ tight end, Jack Doyle. As he ran to the locker room, he grinned arrogantly to the crowd. Throughout his career, Vontaze Burfict has been fined over 20 times due to illegal hits. His most infamous illegal play came during a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he connected with Antonio Brown’s helmet, in a game that the Bengals lost. With all this said, many in the media question if Burfict should still be in the NFL.

Along with being fined, Vontaze has faced several suspensions. CBS NFL sports declares him one of the most penalized defenders in NFL history. CBS provided a case where Burfict was still with the Bengals, and they were playing the Kansas City Chiefs during the second week of preseason (Brinson, 2017). Will Brinson tweeted out a video that showed this hit as a typical example of what Burfict has done in the past, and continues to do. If you aren’t familiar with Burfict, here is an example:

With this hit, according to the NFL, you can see that it was clearly a dirty play that warranted a suspension. But, ten years earlier, this hit would have been legal. So, do you think he’s only doing his job, or is he playing dirty?

An earlier article brought up the point that his career was in serious jeopardy, but it was not because of his fines/suspensions (Gaydos, 2015). Although FOX news brought up the illegal hits he made, they also pointed out that he had seven concussions. Plus, he may have had concussions in high school. Perhaps this could be a reason he wants to hurt people on the field. FOX provided the following video in which Vontaze suffered a brutal concussion, and then smacked his trainer who was simply doing his job (Gaydos, 2015).

To return to the most recent case where he hit Doyle, Gutierrez (2019) mentions that Burfict may just be getting singled out in the NFL when it comes to his dirty hits. We all know that there are players out there who want to hit hard. Occasionally, some in the media believe that any athlete once in awhile will lay a dirty hit, but Smith (2019) cites Vontaze Burfict’s agent, who suggests that “the NFL is treating Burfict differently from other players” (para. 2). Gutierrez (2019) also mentions that Derek Carr told the media that Vontaze was heartbroken, because he thought his career was over. Is he being overlooked and singled out? The video below provides evidence that Burfict was clearly targeting Doyle, and he even laughed after getting ejected.

With all this said, many in the media suggest that Burfict is the dirtiest player in the entire NFL. Personally, I agree with the media. I have read about ‘dirty’ linebackers, but I think Vontaze Burfict may be one of the dirtiest ever. Perhaps he does not fear what others think, because he continues to do it. After the perspective that the media provides, it seems that they believe that his career may be coming to an end within these next few years. Will Burfict continue with his ways, or will he prove them wrong?

Brinson W. (2017, August 28). Vontaze Burfict suspension: Here’s the hit and why it is under new NFL rule. CBS SPORTS – NFL. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/vontaze-burfict-suspension-heres-the-hit-and-why-its-illegal-under-new-nfl-rule/

Gaydos R. (2015, December 27). Controversial – NFL Linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s career reportedly in jeopardy due to sseventh concussion. Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/sports/controversial-nfl-linebackers-career-reportedly-in-jeapardy-due-seventh-concussion

Gutierrez, P. (2019, October 2). Derek Carr: Vontaze Burfict’s ‘heart is broken,’ QB says ban isn’t fair. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27750699/derek-carr-vontaze-burfict-heart-broken-suspension

Smith, M.D. (2019, October 6). Agent says NFL singled out Vontaze Burfict for unfair punishment. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/agent-says-nfl-singled-out-vontaze-burfict-for-unfair-punishment/ar-AAIm2wV  

 

The Miami Dolphins’ Approach to Team Building

By Ben Kelley

November 18, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

Is there an approach to team-building synonymous with the 2016-2017 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 Detroit Lions? One might say ‘tanking’ and point to the historic amount of losses each team endured as part of a master plan to acquire higher draft picks. Higher draft picks usually equate to better players to choose from in the draft, and better players usually mean a championship squad. In 2008, the Lions would lose all sixteen of their games and were awarded with the first overall draft pick. The Browns used the same plan in 2016 and 2017, winning one game in two years and getting two first overall picks during that span.

With the 2019 Miami Dolphins showing an inability to remain competitive paired with a willingness to trade away talented players, sports media have pointed to the Dolphins as the most recent example of a team willing to ‘tank’ for future talent. One article makes no haste in proclaiming the tank: “The Dolphins organization is not trying to be a contender in 2019. Its goal all year has been to load up on cap space and draft picks in lieu of wins.” (Stites, 2019, para 3). Another article stresses the importance of a Dolphins’ loss to another winless team, the Washington Redskins: “We’re not going through this suffering to not get the first spot [of the 2020 NFL Draft]. Are we all in agreement that this loss must happen?” (Noa, 2019, para 2).

However, sports media is mislabeling the Dolphins intentions. The team is not trying to lose for the sake of draft picks – the Dolphins are trying to follow a blueprint that is not necessarily ‘tanking’ to build their championship core.

First, look no further than Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores. Flores’ resume includes four championship-winning seasons as a coach for the New England Patriots, including the 2018-2019 season where he served as the defensive play-caller (Brian Flores, 2019). With his success in New England, Flores knows what kind of a team is needed to win, and he will most likely try to implement New England’s winning culture in Miami.

Second, Miami currently has a young core of players, including cornerback Xavien Howard and quarterback Josh Rosen. Howard, who made the 2018 Pro Bowl as a Dolphin, was recently extended to the 2024 season on a $76.5 million contract (Stites, 2019). Rosen, a first-round pick in 2018, was acquired via trade before the season for a 2019 second-round draft pick (Stites, 2019). If the Dolphins are trying to throw their own games, then why would the team spend big money and draft capital for a Pro-Bowl cornerback and potential franchise quarterback?

While the Dolphins’ 2019 season looks like a classic example of tanking, the team is not aiming to lose as many games as possible. The team is making calculated decisions to build a championship team – and is giving out big contracts and trading draft assets to do so. The team’s young core of players has already won two games this season and could win a few more before the end of the season.

References

Brian Flores. (2019). Miami Dolphins. Retrieved from https://www.miamidolphins.com/team/coaches-roster/brian-flores

Noa, K. (2019, October 10). Quite possibly the most important game for the 2019 Dolphins. The Phinsider. Retrieved from https://www.thephinsider.com/2019/10/10/20908650/quite-possibly-the-most-important-game-for-the-2019-dolphins

Stites, A. (2019, September 29). How the Dolphins are tanking the 2019 season, in 3 steps. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2019/9/15/20861089/miami-dolphins-tanking-2019-draft-picks-cap-space


Igniting MLB’s Cold War: The Coming Battles on Labor

By Griffin Olah

November 12, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Last winter, the hot stove sat cold. Top of the line free agents like Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel waited and waited as minor signings and under-the-radar trades filled the feeds of baseball news. It stayed like that until March, when Machado and Harper both signed an excess of $300 million and a surprise Mike Trout extension broke the bank at $430 million. In a span of a few weeks, the hot stove heated back up to its former glory, then fell cold once again, leaving talented players like Keuchel and Kimbrel unemployed into the regular season.

Naturally, talk turned towards owner collusion and tanking. And that led to the biggest problem facing Major League Baseball in the coming years: Labor Strike.

The current CBA for the MLB is set to expire in 2021, and negotiations have been nearly nonexistent so far. Not since 1994 have players sat out of regular season baseball action, and the threat is imminent. After the last offseason, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is closely watching the market for this coming offseason. After small changes done by owners -such as a luxury tax, a cap on international free-agent spending and the proposal to cut down the number of minor league teams- they now have a plethora of excuses to answer why they don’t want to give away massive free-agent payouts. The MLBPA, however, is ready for a fight.

That fight might have already started. On November 5th, Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopolous, on a conference call, divulged that he was already in contact with 27 other teams and knows what their free agent goals and trade targets are (Nightengale, 2019). As soon as this went public, sirens went off at the MLBPA offices. Here, a current GM is possibly admitting to collusion on the part of owners. The next day, MLBPA Chief Tony Clark announced the MLBPA would be investigating Anthopolous’s statement. (Nightengale, 2019). Following Clark’s announcement, Anthopolous “walked back his words, saying he misspoke, didn’t discuss free agents or the free-agent market, and that he apologized for the confusion” (Passan, 2019, para. 12). 

Like any situation regarding the complicated labor structure of an industry, this is just the start of an incredibly complex issue. The media, however, seems to be in agreement: the owners are greedy and just looking to keep their own money. Some point to the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays, with the league’s lowest payroll, made the playoffs, or that St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said that owning a team in baseball isn’t as profitable as many people think while his team, that he bought in 1995 for $150 million, is now valued at $2.1 billion (Stephen, 2019). These proponents of players’ rights believe that the owners make enough money to share it with the players they employ and have no right to suppress the market as they have the past two offseasons. It’s understandable that not every team is in a market like Los Angeles or New York or Boston where money comes rolling in from TV deals, sponsorships, and other sources, but teams like the Cardinals have the money. They can afford to bump the luxury tax line and flirt with crossing it. This makes the fact that Red Sox owner John Henry wants his team to slash payroll even more egregious (Shaikin, 2019). If a team that historically pays out the top salaries in the league wants to cut payroll to save money, maybe something is amiss among the owners.

In a complex issue, however, there are two sides, and one is not recognized. What about the owners and the teams’ perspective? Do all the players agree with Tony Clark coming after the people that write their checks? Sure, there will always be a vocal section of dissenters for any topic, but do they represent the ideas of all the players? The media only focuses on what’s wrong with the owners and why they need to change. Instead, how can the system be fixed? Yes, the trend of increasing revenue and decreasing salaries is concerning to anyone on the players’ side, but in the age of superstar mega-contracts like Harper, Machado, and Trout, can teams afford to pay anyone else? Owners are not the only ones in the wrong in this situation, and that needs to be recognized by the media and the MLBPA in order to create a CBA that can help everyone in the game, not just the owners or the players.

References

Nightengale, B. (2019, November 6). MLBPA launches investigation into Braves GM Alex Anthopolous after free agency comments. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/11/06/mlb-alex-anthopoulos-free-agents-mlbpa/2513159001/

Passan, J. (2019, November 7). Union chief’s rebuke of GM heats up baseball’s cold war over free agency. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28025583/union-chief-rebuke-gm-heats-baseball-cold-war-free-agency

Shaikin, B. (2019, October 19). MLB’s next collective bargaining agreement could reward younger players sooner. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2019-10-19/mlbs-next-collective-bargaining-agreement-reward-younger-players-sooner

Stephen, E. (2019, November 7). Tony Clark’s statement on collusion was a necessary stand against MLB. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2019/11/7/20953616/tony-clark-mlbpa-statement-collusion-mlb-labor-war