By DERON SNYDER
Once again, it’s time to check off some items on my “TIDU List” – Things I Don’t Understand:
*Why controversy always surrounds Washington’s NFL team.
It didn’t take long for GM Scot McCloughan to stamp his identity on the Skins, but old habits die hard. McCloughan has overhauled the roster in two years on the job; culture change isn’t quite as easy. That’s why after only two games we’re already hearing of complaints, whispers and innuendos in the locker room again, just like seasons past.
This town’s political dramas have nothing on the football team’s state of affairs.
*How New England built such an assembly line.
The Patriots are 2-0 without Tom Brady, beating a popular Super Bowl-pick (Arizona) and a pesky division foe (Miami). Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has excelled, completing 70 percent of his passes for 498 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. When he was injured in the first half on Sunday, New England didn’t miss a beat with rookie Jacoby Brissett.
The team might like deflated footballs, but it seems to own blow-up QBs.
*Why Bryce Harper’s shoulder is such a mystery.
By DERON SNYDER
There aren’t many instances when “soft” is viewed positively in the world of sports.
A soft touch on jump shots and fade routes is good. So are soft hands for catching hard passes and wicked grounders. There might be a few more examples but they escape me at the moment.
Overall though, soft often is used as insult. And in the minds of some observers, it applies to an entire generation of athletes.
Today’s players don’t care much for the old standards of treatment modeled by the likes of Bear Bryant, Bob Knight, Frank Kush and scores of less-famous coaches. Concepts such as abuse and mistreatment didn’t apply in a world and time before Twitter, Facebook and ESPN.
Back then, coach was king – doling out tough love and tough tactics designed to strengthen young people … if not break them first.
In that world, sensitivity is a dirty word and hurt feelings are maladies to be treated and cured. Anyone who can’t get with the program is deemed a wimp or worse. Proponents of this approach believe that dissent is based on political correctness and “sissyfication” that are ruining our country.
That’s the camp behind guys like Mike Lonergan. George Washington University fired him as men’s basketball coach last week, despite three consecutive 22-plus-win seasons, after looking into complaints from multiple players.
By DERON SNYDER
LANDOVER, Md. – As you would imagine, Washington cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman weren’t in great moods following Sunday’s 27-23 loss against Dallas game.
Breeland had spent the entire week at the center of a national debate after Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown basically torched him in the season opener. Pundits left and right wondered aloud why Breeland drew the assignment and not Norman, Washington’s $75 million corner. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry offered a simple rationale for using a right-left system opposed to a star-on-star alignment: He said flip-flopping would make life difficult for the other 10 defenders.
The defensive strategy remained intact as the Cowboys came to town … until late in the game. That’s when Norman started matching up with Dez Bryant – who finished the day with seven receptions for 102 yards – and Breeland went to the opposite side.
“I felt like I played pretty good to that point,” Breeland said. “We started switching in the fourth quarter. We never practiced it before as far as I’m concerned. But it’s easy for me. I can play all sides and the slot, too. I don’t have a preference. It’s just football.”
He answered every question and said all the right things, exhibiting the same admirable professionalism he displayed following Brown’s monster outing. But you know he’s not thrilled about being relegated to No. 2 cornerback just four days after Barry praised his coverage against Pittsburgh (results notwithstanding).
The emotion of the loss and the demotion in midstream left a bad taste in his mouth.
Norman was stewing for a different reason.
By DERON SNYDER
Raise your hand if you heard of the coracoid bone before this week.
I suspect I’m not alone in my ignorance regarding that segment of the human anatomy.
Now raise your hand if you’re surprised Robert Griffin III is the player who broke a bone you didn’t know existed.
Sadly, I suspect that’s most of us.
RG3’s incredible journey from star to star-crossed might have reached its painful end Sunday in Philadelphia. That would be a shame on several levels, including the fact he won’t be in uniform Oct. 2 when his Cleveland Browns visit FedEx Field.
We had the date circled on our calendars since the schedule was released, wondering which direction the story would take. Would Griffin return to Washington and find redemption after his unsightly decline and unceremonious departure? Or would he continue along the path that began Jan. 6, 2013, when his right knee buckled?
The expectations he engendered during that Rookie of the Year campaign were distant memories when he signed with Cleveland. Unfortunately, everything else about RG3 since he underwent a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of previous ACL reconstruction was all too familiar in Ohio.
Only the colors and logo were different.
By DERON SNYDER
LANDOVER, Md. – There’s nothing like the season-opening game at home, when last year’s memories are fresh and hopes for the new campaign are high. And when you’re trying to establish yourself as a bona fide contender, there’s no better way to kick things off than to host a Super Bowl-caliber team that enters your stadium as a road favorite.
Then the game starts and you realize you’re further away than you imagined. You see the difference between being close and being competitive, between almost and not quite. You can a painful, unwelcome reminder that a play here and a play there can separate 10-6 from 6-10 at season’s end.
Washington took a step toward the latter Monday night against Pittsburgh, wasting a fast start before the Steelers laid waste to them, 38-16. What began with so much promise ended with sheer despair.
If only Washington had cashed in on two early drives instead of settling for field goals and a 6-0 lead. If only Ryan Kerrigan had fell on the ball after his strip-sack of Ben Roethlisberger instead of trying to pick it up and run, giving it back on his own fumble. If only officials ruled that Antonio Brown actually caught a pass and was striped prior to the Steelers first touchdown, instead of ruling the bang-bang play incomplete.
If only Washington’s defense could buy a vowel (to spell STOP) or uncover a clue against a unit that amassed 435 yards without suspended stars, top halfback Le’Veon Bell and dangerous receiver Martavis Bryant.
But the Steelers had everything they needed with Roethlisberger under center, DeAngelo Williams in the backfield, Bryant out wide and a defense that embodied its head coach, Mike Tomlin, on the sideline. It was a recipe for the home team’s disaster.
By DERON SNYDER
To err is human and to forgive is divine.
But to reject correction is stupid.
I’m all for the human element in sports, where receivers drop passes, infielders boot grounders and point guards blow lay-ups. Those mistakes happen and they’re part of the game. Nothing can or should be done about that.
However, not all blunders are created equal. If the coach is guilty of poor clock management or the center hikes the ball over the punter’s head, that’s one thing. They’re actors with a stake in the competition, actively engaged in trying to win.
Conversely, officials are supposed to be neutral participants. They should follow doctors’ lead and operate under a Hippocratic Oath of sorts: “First, do no harm.” To the best of their ability, referees and umpires should ensure that their gaffes have little-to-no bearing on a game’s outcomes.
There was a point when we simply accepted the fact that officials’ miscues can have a major effect, arguably creating the difference between a win and a loss. But that was before the use of instant replay slowly grew in acceptance. Thankfully, the powers-that-be realized the foolishness in allowing certain bad calls to stand when there’s clear evidence of a slipup.
Replay has its limits and limitations, rightfully so. Games would last twice as long if everything was subject to review. And we don’t change results after the fact; the final score stands when the game ends, no matter what we see afterward in endless loops.
By DERON SNYDER
The upcoming NFL season at FedEx Field won’t be the last. But the clock is ticking and it’s likely to run out before Washington’s lease expires in 11 years.
Team owner Dan Snyder, recently appointed to the league’s Stadium Committee, has been counting the days and talking about a new venue since January. That’s when he hired an architect to design a new palace, replete with a moat, beach and slightly transparent wave-lake structure suitable for rappelling – as seen in artist renditions that appeared on “60 Minutes” and went viral in March.
It seems odd to raise the subject of relocation when moving day is scheduled for 2027. There’s no pressing need for designs now, as if change-of-address forms are imminent. The Los Angeles Rams’ new facility is expected to be ready in 2019 and the team just announced its construction company in July.
But Snyder knows there’s no such thing as being premature in prepping jurisdictions and politicians for another round of “Who wants to pay for my stadium?!” He’s fully aware that fellow NFL owners have done smashingly well over the last 10 years and he’s anxious for his turn at the trough.
The game works best when owners can threaten to take their team elsewhere unless locals agree to foot a large portion of the new stadium. Los Angeles was used for blackmail so often, the city should’ve charged for its services.
Zygi Wilf’s Minnesota Vikings begin play this season in U.S. Bank Stadium, a $1.1 billion jewel that cost taxpayers $498 million. That’s nothing compared to the handiwork of Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons; they secured the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, set to open next season, with $594 million in public funds.
Exceptions to the rule are rarer than NFL players who think Roger Goodell is underpaid. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is privately funding his stadium, estimated to be the world’s most expensive playpen at $2.6 billion. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross dug into his own pocket for a $350 million renovation job at Sun Life Stadium.
I imagine Kroenke and Ross received a stern talking-to about showing up their fellow billionaires – if the pair hasn’t been ostracized altogether.
By DERON SNYDER
The Carolina Panthers don’t want us to call Thursday night’s season opener a rematch and that seems like a reasonable request.
Not because Denver defeated Carolina in Super Bowl 50 and associating the new season with that loss would be too painful. Vindication won’t be won with a win in Week 1.
No, the reason to disconnect those results from whatever happens Thursday wears No. 13 for Denver. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2015 (the 250th player selected) and he’s the new starting quarterback, replacing future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.
His name is Trevor Siemian, also known as “Who?”
He’s the kind of QB who gives Kirk Cousins’ fans reason to fear that Washington’s front office views their guy as replaceable. If the defending Super Bowl champs can go from a legend under center to a guy without a single regular-season pass attempt, any team might feel comfortable rolling the dice with a great unknown.
We’ve seen this script before from defensive-minded teams. They just want a caretaker who won’t mess up things for the real difference-makers. Move the chains, avoid turnovers, manage field position, score a few points and let the defense take over from there.
Except the Broncos think Siemian can really play. He beat out eight-year veteran Mark Sanchez and prized No. 1 draft pick Paxton Lynch by exhibiting command of the offense, remarkable poise and a strong, accurate arm. He first impressed coaches and teammates during last season as the scout team QB, using that time to demonstrate his own ability while mimicking the likes of Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.
Now Siemian is one of them, a starting quarterback in the NFL.
By DERON SNYDER
Enjoying college sports at the highest level, at least for me, includes slight pangs of guilt and a tug at my conscience.
I try not to think about it too much, especially in the midst of thrillers like the University of Texas’ 50-47 double-overtime victory Saturday against Notre Dame, or unforeseen upsets like No. 3 Oklahoma going down against wanna-be Big 12 member Houston.
When the focus remains fixed on the ball and players between the white lines (or on the hardwood), it’s easy to view the action as mere fun and games, enjoyed by generation after generation of participants and spectators of all ages.
There are no conflicting emotions at the professional level. We understand that the NFL and NBA represent “big business,” whose sole reason for existence is to realize a profit. Pro leagues make games and Ford makes cars with the same intention – to make money as a result.
But the picture gets cloudy when the gaze shifts to campuses. I know the stated reasons for intercollegiate sports; they’re great for extracurricular activities, school spirit, marketing opportunities and alumni pride.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the staggering amounts of money involved – where it goes and where it comes from, who gets paid and who doesn’t – without raising nagging concerns about priorities and propriety.
By DERON SNYDER
Sometimes it’s hard to separate our true beliefs from our lip service.
One minute we encourage people to chase their dreams. The next minute we call them foolish and unrealistic.
On one hand, we say nothing beats failure but a try. On the other hand, we say don’t waste your time on the near-impossible.
One day we’re telling folks to believe in themselves and take chances. The next day they’re the objects of our derision.
Which is it for you? Do you applaud Tim Tebow for having the courage to potentially face plant on the diamond as he pursues a baseball career? Or do you ridicule him for thinking he can overcome an 11-year layoff and reach the big leagues?
From here, it seems like the laugh track is stuck in the on position.
But I’m clapping, even though with a gun to my head I’d bet my house that he fails.