January 14, 2013
NFL Conference Championships set: The NFL’s conference championship games are set. The San Francisco 49ers will face the Atlanta Falcons while the New England Patriots square off against the Baltimore Ravens. You could make plenty of good cases for each to win the Super Bowl at this point, but in picks sure to go wrong, my guess is that we’ll see the Niners take on the Patriots in the big game. San Francisco may have unlocked a hidden gem with the scrambling of Colin Kaepernick who set an NFL postseason record for a quarterback, rushing for more than 181 yards. You can bet that the Falcons will play more zone coverage in the hopes of limiting his scrambling, but Kaepernick has also proven to be a serviceable passer and should be able to make enough plays to lead the way. In the AFC, I give you two words: Tom Brady.
No. 1 Duke ‘upset’ by North Carolina State: Duke suffered their first loss of the season when they fell to North Carolina State over the weekend. Whenever the top team in the nation loses, it’s a big deal. But while it may technically be an upset, losing to a top 20 team on the road is hardly a once-in-a-lifetime thing. With so much parity in college sports these days, any side can come out on top on any given night – particularly when both teams are good. The bigger story in all of this isn’t that Duke lost – rather, it’s the emergence of the Wolfpack. North Carolina State had two losses entering the game to Michigan and Oklahoma State. The Wolverines are a top five squad and the Cowboys are a quality team as well. After the win against Duke, more people should be paying attention to NC State.
No players inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame: For only the second time in 40 years, no player was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were tainted by the steroid issue and based on past voting trends, it wasn’t a surprise they didn’t receive the necessary 75%. But for guys not generally linked to the steroid controversy such as Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, the news had to be a bit disappointing. Biggio had more than 3,000 career hits and Piazza was perhaps the best offensive catcher of all time, slugging 427 home runs and batting over .300. I understand the statement that some voters want to make against alleged steroid users, but to punish other players in the same era isn’t right. But in the end, Biggio and Piazza should eventually get in, so there’s still time to right the wrong.
Brian Kelly returns to Notre Dame: After being manhandled by the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier last week in the BCS National Championship game, the Fighting Irish got some good news when head coach Brian Kelly spurned the NFL and decided to remain at Notre Dame. Kelly reportedly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but chose to stay in the college ranks. Things couldn’t have worked out better for Notre Dame. They were soundly defeated by Alabama in the title game, but Kelly has the Irish on the right track. Notre Dame won eight games in 2010 and 2011 and this past year, had an undefeated regular season. There’s no reason to think the program will be slowing down anytime soon under Kelly.
Greg Oden hoping to come back to NBA: Sidelined by injuries, Greg Oden hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2010-11 season. He’s only played in 82 career games since he was drafted as the top overall pick in 2007. Heck, Oden hasn’t merely been bitten by the injury bug, he’s been eaten alive by it. But word is that he wants back in the league and teams are already lining up to give him a look. That may sound comical, but in reality, they should be. Signing the once-promising big man to a deal around the NBA minimum wouldn’t be the biggest risk in the world and it could even pay off handsomely. Why not take a flyer on a 24-year old seven footer with potential through the roof? And just as important is that while Oden hasn’t been a great player, he’s been serviceable when healthy, averaging nearly a double double with 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. If he stays on the court, there’s no reason to think he can’t significantly contribute.
April 25, 2012
The 2012 NFL draft is now just hours away, and a handful of teams are set to hit the jackpot this season.
Some of the teams that will have success in this year’s draft had a lackluster 2011 campaign but hit a home run in free agency to set themselves up nicely for the April 26 draft. Others had a phenomenal 2011 season and are afforded the luxury of a draft full of options and calculated risks.
Fans following these teams will have big smiles on their faces along with high expectations for the upcoming season.
The St. Louis Rams Have Already Had Success by Trading Down in the 2012 Draft
The St. Louis Rams have done nothing but cultivate a winning franchise this offseason.
Despite a 2-14 2011 season, the Rams made an intelligent decision by hiring new head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher brings a proven track record, winning attitude and an automatic jump start to the stumbling franchise.
He also helped lure free-agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan to the team, who gives the Rams defense an identity.
Now the Rams turn to the draft, where they’ve already swapped the No. 2 pick with the Washington Redskins for the No. 6 pick. In doing so, the Rams also picked up another second-round pick this season.
That means the Rams will have three picks within the top 40—not bad for a franchise looking to turn things around.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fans Should Be Ecstatic
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans should be more than happy right now thanks to the franchise making a splash in the offseason.
With the signings of offensive lineman Carl Nicks, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and cornerback Eric Wright, the Bucs drastically improved in free agency. This allows the team to draft players without depending on them to make an instant impact in 2012.
With the No. 5 overall selection and six picks in total, the Bucs have the opportunity to return to their winning ways of 2010, when they finished 10-6.
Certainly fans will expect the Bucs’ first-round pick to make a good first impression, but the pressure on that player is radically reduced by the teams’ free-agent signings.
Although 2011 was a season to forget, 2012 should be one to remember for the Buccaneers.
With a Strong Draft the Kansas City Chiefs Will Be a Playoff Team in 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs were decimated by injuries in 2011 but will be playoff contenders in 2012.
With the signings of Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston in free agency, the Chiefs set themselves up for a prominent draft. The team has eight picks in total and can afford to draft the best available player with its first three picks.
The Chiefs will look like a completely new squad in 2012, so fans should be pumped.
The Philadelphia Eagles Have Plenty to Look Forward to in the 2012 Draft
With nine picks in the 2012 Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are bound to get better.
After a 2011 season where nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance was expected, success in 2012 is a must for the franchise and it all begins with the draft.
The Eagles have five picks in the first four rounds, including two second-round selections. With these picks the Eagles will likely look to improve with a big wide receiver and an offensive lineman.
Eagles’ fans should be excited for 2012 as they look to erase the disappointment of 2011.
The Cincinnati Bengals Will Continue to Make a Statement with the 2012 Draft
The Cincinnati Bengals are setting themselves up for success for years to come.
Not only did they make the playoffs in 2011, but they now have nine draft picks in 2012. These picks include No. 17 and No. 21 of the first round. And with these picks coming so close together, the Bengals can draft a combination of needs, like an offensive lineman and a running back.
The Bengals franchise will solidify itself as a contender with a dynamite draft in 2012.
The Green Bay Packers Will Do Nothing but Improve with 12 Draft Picks in 2012
Although the Green Bay Packers didn’t finish with the championship belt in 2011, they won 15 games in the regular season.
Just when NFC North opponents didn’t need the Packers to continuously improve, the Packers have 12 draft picks in 2012. Even better for the Packers, six of those picks are within the first four rounds of the draft.
This gives the Packers plenty of chances to make another run at the Super Bowl next season—watch out!
March 20, 2012
Now that Peyton Manning has made his decision, one question remains….what happens to Tim Tebow? Indications are the Broncos will try to trade him, but will they be able to find someone to bring the circus to town for a guy that ranks 34th in completion percentage in a league with 32 starting quarterbacks? I believe a deal gets done before April’s draft. Here are 7 possible landing spots for Tebowmania.
This is the obvious choice because Tebow is from Jacksonville. They could certainly use something to get the fans excited and this would do it. Shahid Khan has said that he would’ve drafted Tebow if he owned the team a year earlier so he could make it happen to try and fill the seats for a franchise that has had trouble doing so. The problem is the Jags used a 2011 first-round pick on Blaine Gabbert and just signed free agent Chad Henne.
How desperate are the Dolphins? Their attempts to make a splash by landing a big name have failed several times recently and they could really be feeling the heat after not only missing out on Manning, but getting passed over by Matt Flynn who went to Seattle. Maybe the Dolphins resort to bringing in someone who won’t have the choice to turn them down.
Do the Patriots need a quarterback? No. But the offensive coordinator is the same man who moved up in the draft to pick Tebow, and Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to try something other coaches wouldn’t even think of. Maybe Tebow spends a couple years learning from Brady instead of Manning.
Sure the Broncos plan to trade Tebow but they are going to have to find someone to take him. Denver likely has a short window with Manning to try and win the Super Bowl so they would love to get some assets in return but there may not be another team willing to make the deal Denver wants. Then again, maybe all they want is for the circus to leave town.
The Browns tried to move up to draft a quarterback but were beaten out by Washington. Tebow would generate more buzz than Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace for a team that has been an after-thought in the AFC North during the last few years. And there is always a chance John Elway will feel sorry for Cleveland fans after what he did to the Browns as a player and give them the most popular player in the league.
You never know. We all thought the Eagles were set to head into the future with Kevin Kolb and now he is in Arizona and Michael Vick and Vince Young are in Philly. Andy Reid must have a clause in his contract that requires him to bring in every controversial quarterback he can get his hands on. May as well have another lefty to come in when Vick gets hurt.
What? You don’t think Tebow should be the face of Raider Nation? Maybe he is the guy who can get this franchise heading in the right direction. The Raiders have always been a team that likes to throw the ball deep. When Tebow throws, he likes to throw deep….even when the receiver has run a short or medium route. Dennis Allen, new head coach of the Raiders, was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator last year and could buy into Tebowmania.
November 4, 2011
Was Drew Brees on the football field Sunday? Didn’t feel like it. Honestly, I’m not that surprised the Rams beat the Saints. There are no actual facts to back up this theory, but sometimes teams that blow up offensively one week don’t perform the next game. It happens in football, basketball, and baseball. Whether the team grows overconfident in their abilities and slacks off, is tired from the week before, or something else, I don’t know. It just seems to happen more often than it should.
Brandon Pettigrew was a disappointment, too. I had high expectations for him last week, and the entire season, but he just hasn’t performed. If you can’t capitalize in that high powered offense when the opposing secondary is focusing on Calvin Johnson, you’re not worth a starting spot on a fantasy team.
Detroit’s defense had a good game, though, thanks to Tebow performing like many of us expected. He’s a good guy, and you want him to win based on personality alone, but I’m worried he’s not a pro caliber quarterback.
Adrian Peterson performed, well, too, as he always does. But he didn’t blow the roof off, like you’d expect. Part of the problem was the Vikings went down early to the Panthers and had to throw more than they’d like. Still, Christian Ponder used a lot of check-down passes to Peterson, recording a TD on that end, too.
Not a bad week overall… on to Week 9 picks.
Forte has been tearing it up this year, and will certainly be paid in the offseason (unless the Bears slap the Franchise Tag on him). Sunday he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who I see as playing strong the rest of the season after they had the bye to get situated.
The Eagles defense shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, but their offensive “forte” is the passing game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie patrolling the secondary off of a bye, it’s easy to see why the Cowboys offense stalled.
The Bears “forte,” though, is Forte. The Eagles’ frontline has not performed well this season. Look for the Bears to feed their workhorse back (and potentially Marion Barber if he plays) plenty.
There’s also a good chance Jay Cutler throws a few picks, but that’s always on the table.
Arian Foster / Ben Tate
I presume Foster will get the bulk of the carries now that he’s healthy, but you never know, so I include Tate here. The Browns have had a tough time stopping the run this year, as the secondary is responsible for keeping them in games. There’s a good chance both these guys score Sunday in Houston, and a decent chance the Texans eclipse 30 points.
I’m going to continue to pick on Tebow here, and say that Oakland will have a solid defensive game. Despite losing Asomugha in the offseason, the defense remains the strong suit of the team. Their defensive line is strong and will surely pressure Tebow like Detroit’s big line did last week.
Staying in the same game, I’ll now pick on Carson Palmer. I’ll dismiss his three interception performance two weeks ago – he was only with the team for a few days, and had spent the entire season throwing to high school kids until he was traded from Cincinnati. But Palmer has not been the top tier quarterback he once was since he blew out his knee in the playoffs.
Last year he had a fairly solid fantasy season and qualified as a top ten quarterback. But I find it hard to believe, even with a bye week to catch up, that he’ll be able to hit the ground running for the Raiders. They’ll likely feed Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and limit Palmer’s impact. If Tebow manages to work some of his intangible magic and jump to a significant lead, and Palmer’s forced to perform, look for pick city.
November 2, 2011
(Editor’s note: One lucky reader will WIN an autographed Fran Tarkenton Fathead! Just leave a comment–along with a legit email address–on this article for your chance. We’ll randomly select a winner at the end of the week. Good luck!)
In the past decade, athletic quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb have gotten a lot of press, but before any of them, there was Fran Tarkenton. In the 1960s and 1970s, Tarkenton was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances over his career, and he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, yardage, and touchdowns. We recently had a chance to catch up to Fran to ask him about a variety of topics including Tim Tebow, Monday Night Football, and his new fantasy football website FantasyFran.com.
Fathead Blog: Many younger fans aren’t familiar with the AFL, but you were drafted in both the NFL Draft and the AFL Draft in 1961. Can you explain a bit how that happened and how you ended up signing with the Vikings instead of going to the AFL?
Fran Tarkenton: There were two separate drafts for the two leagues, and you had to choose which league you were going to play in. I was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, an expansion franchise, in the NFL, and the Boston Patriots in the AFL draft. Minnesota offered me a $12,500 salary with a $3,500 bonus, while the Patriots offered me $15,000 with a $5,000 bonus. But I chose the Vikings because I had to prove to myself that I could make it in the big league. The NFL was certainly considered the dominant league at that time.
Fathead Blog: Soon after that, you played your first game. Most rookie quarterbacks struggle miserably, but you came out and threw four touchdown passes in your initial contest. We’re seeing a bit of that type of success with Cam Newton this season. How were you able to drastically shorten the adjustment period and become a contributor immediately? What’s the key to succeeding early on as a rookie quarterback?
Fran Tarkenton: I had a coach who was a former quarterback himself in Norm Van Brocklin (who still holds the single game passing yardage record, and had won the NFL Championship with the Eagles as a player the year before). He was a brilliant offensive mind, and I learned from him. I listened to him, and I worked hard, and I used my brain. I learned and came to understand what I was supposed to be doing, and that helped me succeed right out of the gate.
Fathead Blog: You were one of the first scrambling quarterbacks to have major success in the league. As the years have gone on, we’ve seen quite a few others – Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Steve Young, to name a few. Since you retired, who’s been the best you’ve seen?
Fran Tarkenton: Michael Vick by far. He’s an athletic freak. The way he can just take off and run is amazing, and there’s nobody else really like him. Never in a million years would I expect the fastest player on the field in an NFL game to be a quarterback, but he is. When I scrambled, it was mainly to buy time to throw the ball downfield. Vick recently set the new record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and he’s only 31, because he’s able to pull the ball down and just take off.
Fathead Blog: Along those lines, Broncos’ QB Tim Tebow has been one of the most polarizing players in the league since he was drafted. Have you watched him play? Do you have any thoughts on him yet or is it still too early to tell in your opinion?
Fran Tarkenton: I think Tim Tebow was a great college quarterback. But I’m not sure that he’ll be able to make it in the NFL. From what I’ve seen from his first few games, his ability to throw the ball is very questionable. Now that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed. He can prove me wrong and improve on his passing skills. He has all the other intangible things that you want from a quarterback, and I know he’s an incredibly hard worker. He’ll do everything he can to succeed, and I’m very curious to watch his career and see if he can do it.
Fathead Blog: Even as a great scrambler, you still were an incredible passer. Your 47,003 yards still rank 6th all-time. After you had some success it was probably easy to sell the idea of being a mobile quarterback, but was it ever difficult trying to convince coaches and other football personnel that it was possible to succeed with your style of play early in your career?
Fran Tarkenton: All coaches want their quarterbacks to be able to make plays, put points on the board, and make first downs. Those are the measuring sticks. From the first game that I played, I was able to do that, and it’s like anything else: if you produce, you can play, but if you don’t they’ll get rid of you. My style of play drove the establishment nuts at the time, but the results were undeniable. The standard mold for a quarterback at the time was a big guy with a big arm who delivered the ball from the pocket. The scouting report on me was that I was small but slow, which, needless to say, didn’t fit the prototype. But football has always been measured by results, and people eventually learned to accept my style of play.
Fathead Blog: You once played in 71 consecutive games, spanning several seasons. It’s hard to do that at any position, but to do it as a quarterback is even more remarkable, in my opinion, because defenders are trying to knock them out of the game on every single passing play. What do you remember about that streak? Do you recall any of the injuries you played through to keep that streak going?
Fran Tarkenton: I only missed 5 games my entire career because of injury. That was because I broke my leg against the Bengals in 1976. The other games I missed were because in the early years, we were so far out of the race that late in the season they would put in my backups to get them some playing time. I was able to avoid injury because I never took direct hits outside of the pocket. When I scrambled and ran, I had to learn to avoid big hits, because I got hit a lot early in my career playing for an expansion team. You have to avoid those hits to stay on the field, and I managed to avoid most of the big shots that knock players out of the game.
Fathead Blog: As a former Monday Night commentator, I’m curious about what you think of the current product. It’s obviously a different situation since the average consumer has hundreds of channels to pick from, but the broadcasting crew has changed so much over the years with guys like Dennis Miller, Tony Kornheiser, and Rush Limbaugh having come and gone fairly recently. It’s hard to build up a brand when the key personnel change so frequency. What are your thoughts on the show as it’s evolved over the years?
Fran Tarkenton: I think Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, and Mike Tirico are great. This particular team has been together for a few years now, and I expect this team to stay together for a few more years. They work well together. It’s nice to have stability. Technology has changed so much, and the finished product is so much more polished and professional than when I was a part of Monday Night Football. They’re able to do things now that we couldn’t dream of doing then!
Fathead Blog: After retiring, you’ve had a number of successful ventures. Many athletes throw their names behind things, but you’ve been actively involved in those companies, including the recently launched fantasy football site, FantasyFran.com. Was going into business something you actively had your eye on as a player or did that desire come later?
Fran Tarkenton: I didn’t wait until after I’d retired from football to go into business. I was starting up and running businesses the whole time I played. I actually got my first license to sell life insurance in 1959 for the Franklin Life Insurance Company. During my career, I did everything from life insurance to starting fast food chains to an industrial janitorial cleaning service!
Currently, I’m running a wide range of businesses, but my main focus is working with small business entrepreneurs and insurance professionals to make sure that they have all the tools they need to succeed. If anyone is interested in seeing what I have been up to, they can visit www.FranTarkenton.com. FantasyFran.com is something we started doing for fun, because of how much I still love and watch football. We then realized that there was no place on the web for fantasy football players to get advice from people who’d been on the arena themselves! All the former players on the networks only give game analysis, not fantasy football. It’s something unique I could do, and have a lot of fun doing it! For 18 years, football was my profession, and it’s been my hobby ever since then. My outlook on the games and the players is one that I think is unique among all the voices out there.