RG3, Jay Gruden saga takes another unexpected twist

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GriffenTake5By DERON SNYDER

Here we go. Quiet on the set.

“Take 5! Robert Griffin III, Washington’s would-be franchise QB … action!”

Or is this Take 6? It’s hard to keep count.

In any case, RG3 has resumed his star role for Washington’s final two games this season, which presumably will end the dramatic portion of 2014 (the competitive portion never began).

He has been battered in the public eye as much as in the pocket, bringing both beatings upon himself in some measure. But with Colt McCoy being placed on the injured reserve list, Griffin has a prime opportunity to win back support with a strong showing against Philadelphia on Saturday and Dallas on Dec. 28.

We can only hope his psyche hasn’t suffered the same damage as his body.

“God has blessed me with a lot of mental toughness to be able to deal with all this stuff,” Griffin said during his news conference on Tuesday. “Just having the right people around me, the right people to talk to, it’s been very, very helpful going through this process. So I am in a great place mentally. I just want to play football.”

Unfortunately, he has neither played enough football nor played it well enough to inspire confidence. The two remaining games won’t provide conclusive proof one way or another. They just represent the next take.

Take 2 was abysmal, when he returned from major knee surgery and led Washington to a 3-10 record in 2013 before Mike Shanahan shut him down. (If Shanahan had made that decision at halftime of the playoff game against Seattle … never mind).

Everything was supposed to be rosy for Take 3. The new director, coach Jay Gruden, was hired to remake RG3 into the leading man who caused folks to swoon in 2012.

But the magic was missing through all the rehearsal games and the season premiere at Houston. There was a brief spark the following week, against Jacksonville, but his left ankle was dislocated early in the second quarter and he missed the next six games.

Gruden’s preference for the understudies became apparent during that time. Griffin might have been done for the season, but Kirk Cousins hung his head and threw away his shot, while McCoy lacked time to perhaps strengthen his grip on the role.

Otherwise, Griffin’s next scene might have occurred in a different uniform.

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Saunders could flip out wondering what could’ve been with Wizards

FlipSaundersBy DERON SNYDER

The Wizards have flipped the script on the NBA.

But the transformation occurred way too late to help Flip.

Minnesota coach Flip Saunders will hardly recognize what he sees when the Timberwolves hit the court Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

The home team will be among the league’s best, overall and in sending off visitors with defeats. The crowd will be engaged and energized, helping to create a true advantage for the hosts. The media will be positive and optimistic, speculating about the Wizards’ chances this season and over the next several years.

No one can blame Saunders for soaking it all in and wondering: “What if?”

The situation is nothing like it was three years ago when he coached the Wizards and was fired after a 2-15 start. He had gone 49-114 in two seasons with Washington and the franchise was headed toward another abysmal record (20-46) in the lockout-shortened campaign.

Saunders landed what he thought was a pretty good situation in 2009, signing to coach a Wizards team just one season removed from four consecutive playoff appearances. But his hopes for a successful stint in D.C. ended on Jan. 6, 2010, when NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely for bringing guns into the Wizards locker room.

That incident prompted the breakup of the Wizards’ core, as Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler were jettisoned. The team entered The Knucklehead Era, with Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young becoming the principal characters/culprits.

We all know how that worked out.

Saunders couldn’t survive the bad hand he was dealt and the dealer didn’t improve until Saunders was gone. That’s when president Ernie Grunfeld demolished the run-down roster he constructed and – shockingly – engineered an effective rebuild. He surrounded John Wall with Bradley Beal, Nene, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster and other players who helped the Wizards reach the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

After spending time as an ESPN analyst, Saunders has returned to the team that gave him his first NBA head coach job. Except for also being Minnesota’s president of basketball operations, he finds himself in a situation similar to the one he left in Washington: His team is 5-18 entering Tuesday’s game.

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No other big-time rivalry, college or pro, is quite like Army-Navy

army-navy-footballBy DERON SNYDER

BALTIMORE – In a major way, the 115th rendition of Army-Navy was like the first 114 meetings, because it was more than just a game.

On the field, though, it resembled the previous 13 contests in the only way that matters; Navy extended it series-record win streak Saturday with a 17-10 victory.

The outcome at MT&T Stadium disappointed the Black Knights and their followers, who must endure another year of ribbing from the Midshipmen family. Army hasn’t had the last word since it capped Navy’s 0-10 season in 2001, one month before George W. Bush was sworn in as president.

But an event earlier that year – hijacked jetliners crashing in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania – reminded us that the Army-Navy rivalry is unparalleled in all of sports. Its beats anything that college offers, in addition to Yankees-Red Sox, Lakers-Celtics, Cowboys-Washington or you name it.

It’s easy to become jaded watching Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Texas and other noted football clashes each year. Even if you believe those athletes are inadequately compensated for their time and trouble, you know they’re enjoying at least some fruit from a million-dollar industry. You also know they’re free to pursue whatever they chose when their college days end.

That’s not the case with players in the Army-Navy series, who have five-year military commitments awaiting after graduation. The solemn nature of their pledge is drummed in when the Corps of Cadets and the Brigade of Midshipmen, dressed in their gray and blue uniforms, respectively, march onto the field during pre-game ceremonies.

If you don’t feel a surge of emotion watching those young men and women representing their service academies and their country with pride, then something is wrong with your wiring.

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THE LOWE DOWN: Could You be King?

African KingsCould you be King?

If the world needed you, would the kids eat or starve because they trusted you?

If the mothers and daughters depended on you, put their faith in you, said they’d never ever stray from you?

Could you be King?

If the sons tossed hollow points for you, would you steer them through, tell them they didn’t have to torch for you?

Could you be King?

Would you make every second, moment, hour or day your last, build up from your past?

Would you show them which shadow to cast, as they play in the sun and wait patiently for your Kingdom to come?

Can you be King?

Will you settle for anything, fake talk about  wings and rings, or will you “Lift Every Voice and Sing?”

Can you be King?

The answer is yours my friend. Will you rise again or continue to feed poison to the massses as they live in sin?

WILL YOU BE KING?

 

– Warren Jay Lowe

 

 

Lowe_Warren2A native of Lackawanna, N.Y., outside of Buffalo, Lowe is a former public school teacher who was forced into retirement due to injuries sustained on the job during a student’s blindside attack. Now a freelance writer, he’s battling life-threatening heart failure while waiting for a transplant. Those who wish to assist – either monetarily or with encouraging words – may visit his page on Help HOPE Live. He can be reached at wllowe@yahoo.com.

Thankfully, LeBron, D-Rose and others are willing to address racism

LeBron can't bretheBy DERON SNYDER

A series of recent public service announcements about domestic violence and sexual assault features celebrities as well as current and former NFL players.

Other athletes and celebrities – such as Lance Armstrong, Drew Brees and Jim Kelly – have been outspoken advocates for funding and research in the fight against chronic diseases.

I don’t recall any complaints about stars using their platforms for those causes.

But that’s not the case when players raise their hands in “Don’t Shoot” fashion or wear T-shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe.” In those instances, critics argue that athletes should shut up and play.

Let me get this straight: It’s perfectly fine for players to take stands on certain issues and illnesses, as long it’s not the issue and illness of racism?

Sorry, but that reasoning fails the sniff test. Thankfully, some athletes are no longer willing to hold their nose and look away.

Nearly a half-century has passed since U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists on the medal stand during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The gesture was dubbed a Black Power salute, but the men said it was a call for human rights reform everywhere.

They were suspended from the U.S. team, banned from the Olympic Village and roundly criticized.

Few black athletes since then have been willing to speak out on rights – human and/or civil – with notable exceptions such as Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe. But there’s been a shift lately and here’s hoping its permanent.

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UAB’s decision to end football program could cause ripple effect

UABfootballBy DERON SNYDER

It takes a lot to make grown men cry.

Like losing their college football team.

On Sunday, teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision awaited the announcement of postseason pairings. But fans, coaches and players at the University of Alabama-Birmingham remained in mourning over their recently-departed program, killed last week by school president Ray Watts.

One final indignity was ahead: Bowl-eligible for the first time in a decade, the Blazers were left at home, going 0-for-38 in possible invites. The team has played its last game, compiling a 6-6 record in its 19th and final season.

Watts claims he had his reasons – 20 million of them. But there’s also cause to question UAB’s suitability as a case study for mid-majors weighing football’s costs.

UAB and the University of Alabama share a board of trustees, and that governing body leans heavily toward the Crimson Tide’s interests. Alabama has made life miserable for its little sibling ever since the latter decided to start a football program. One trustee in particular, Paul “Little Bear” Bryant Jr., son of the legendary coach, is thought to carry a grudge that his father had against UAB.

The board in 2011 killed UAB’s proposal for a 30,000-seat, on-campus stadium. Five years earlier, trustees nixed a deal for UAB to hire Jimbo Fisher, who’s currently shooting for back-to-back national titles with Florida State.

So it’s understandable why the Alabama Media Group wrote in an editorial, “We don’t trust the process that ended UAB football.” Making a call on the decision is too difficult given the circumstances and a lack of transparency from Watts.

However, regardless of the route UAB took, the destination undoubtedly will be considered by other schools facing financial challenges.

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Clock ticking on Jay Gruden but how much time remains?

GrudenColtBy DERON SNYDER

Jay Gruden faced a gargantuan task when he accepted the job as head coach of Washington’s NFL team in January.

The franchise has been mired in less-than-mediocrity for the better part of two decades and changing such a culture isn’t a snap. The undertaking has been more difficult that Gruden imagined.

We don’t know yet if it’s too much for him to handle. But we know he has firsthand experience with organizations that consistently fielded the type of atrocious football that is commonplace in Washington.

The latest example of D.C.’s ineptitude might be the most thorough yet, Sunday’s 24-0 spanking courtesy of the St. Louis Rams, dropping Gruden to 3-10 in his rookie season as an NFL head coach.

“Obviously, before the season started we had high hopes,” Gruden said after his team’s fifth consecutive loss. “Things happened to us and now we are where we are.”

Destined for its 14th non-winning record in 18 years, Washington is where Cincinnati used to reside. The Bengals posted 14 consecutive non-winning seasons between 1991-2004. But they turned things around under coach Marvin Lewis, who has led them to winning records in five of the last six seasons.

Gruden caught the tail end of that resurgence, serving as Lewis’ offensive coordinator for three years – making the playoffs each time – before accepting Dan Snyder’s offer.

That’s not even the best example of fortuitous timing on Gruden’s part.

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THE LOWE DOWN: Through the Comfort of Chaos

IMG_0325

Engulfed in my madness

     While keeping a straight face
 
No jurisdiction, over this occupied space
 
     Through the comfort of chaos
 
I continue to win
 
     Hollow victories on the outside
 
Mass destruction within
 
     My good friend dysfunction, steady by my side
 
The truth, a constant reject, by my bodyguard, PRIDE
 
     With each erratic moment, comfort builds and stocks supplies
 
Surviving constant nightmares, the sources of new lies
 
     As I evolve in the chaos, my comfort grows stronger
 
But chaos is chaos, and the days just get longer
 
     I see the exit door, just ahead to the right
 
But chaos is comfort, so I alter my sight
 
     I see the exit door, just ahead to the right
 
But through this chaos is comfort so I gracefully accept my plight…
 
     NOT, to be continued!
 
– Warren Jay Lowe

 

 

Lowe_Warren2A native of Lackawanna, N.Y., outside of Buffalo, Lowe is a former public school teacher who was forced into retirement due to injuries sustained on the job during a student’s blindside attack. Now a freelance writer, he’s battling life-threatening heart failure while waiting for a transplant. Those who wish to assist – either monetarily or with encouraging words – may visit his page on Help HOPE Live. He can be reached at wllowe@yahoo.com.

Washington’s troubles run far deeper than starting quarterback

DanSnyderBy DERON SNYDER

Benching Robert Griffin III didn’t work, at least not in terms of beating Indianapolis.

Can Jay Gruden bench the entire secondary? Can he demote defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and promote any assistant not named Raheem Morris? Hired for his know-how on offense, can Gruden find anyone to play or coach competently on the other side of the ball?

If he’s counting on help from the front office, it’s unlikely to arrive. But he has enough to worry about as is.

President and general manager Bruce Allen has gotten very little right in Washington; who’s to say he didn’t whiff on Gruden hire, too?

Like a jalopy that should be junked but remains on the road, different parts of this team keep breaking down. Changing the starter might’ve led to a smooth ride against Indy if not for the massive leaks that sprung up and allowed Andrew Luck to disassemble the secondary in a 49-27 rout.

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Wizards have opening in DMV sports scene as NFL team wallows

paulpierceBy DERON SNYDER

The Washington Wizards would never wish misfortune upon their football counterparts. But the D.C. hoopsters certainly don’t mind reaping benefits in a market that’s weary of gridiron futility – and weary of dissecting it, digesting it and discussing it.

While Dan Snyder’s team continues to resemble a steaming pile of mess, the Wizards are off to their best start since President Nixon resigned. Even the specter of a prolonged absence from injury-plagued Nene can’t dampen spirits at Verizon Center, where the Atlanta Hawks visit for a road game Tuesday night.

The place was electric Friday night during the Wizards’ last contest there, when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were thumped in convincing fashion. A capacity crowd delighted in the 91-78 blowout as the Cavs trailed for the final 38 minutes. The victory was a nice bounce back following Washington’s first home loss two days earlier.

Knocking off the league’s most-hyped team was sweet.

But beating Milwaukee in Milwaukee on Saturday night was like eating vegetables: not as enjoyable but more important.

The Bucks represented a classic trap for the Wizards, who were at risk of being emotionally hung over after Friday’s nationally televised statement game. When Milwaukee opened a 15-point lead in the second quarter, it appeared Washington might waste an opportunity to secure back-to-back wins that real contenders devour.

Before the team flew to Milwaukee, Paul Pierce warned his mates about the pitfall that awaited. He also did something about it once the Wizards teetered on the edge, pulling them away by scoring 14 of his team-high (and season-high) 25 points in the second half.

“He’s ‘The Truth’ for a reason,” guard John Wall told reporters afterward. “It’s great to have a guy like that to take the pressure off you at times. He’s been in that situation multiple times, making big shots and big plays. He made big shots for us and that’s what we needed.”

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