Entries in NFL (6)


Gruden 'a little depressed' by his Raiders 


ALAMEDA, Calif.-Monday, Monday. A song from the 1960s A day on which Jon Gruden would give us his take from the ESPN booth. He analyzed; he chuckled. He had the best of all possible worlds.

Now Gruden has returned to coaching, coming back to the Oakland Raiders. Now, at this Monday, there are no chuckles. Now there are only losses and heartache.


"I really haven't thought about much," was his comment, when asked about giving up a home game so the Raiders on Sunday could play in London. "Obviously I'm a little depressed today."


It's hard to think of Gruden as depressed.  He was always so upbeat, so buoyant, so eager to make everyone watching him or listening to him appreciate the nuances of football, to grasp what separates one player from another, one team from another.


But the Raiders, Jon Gruden's Raiders, are 1-4, and have a game overseas against the Seattle Seahawks, who may be 2-3 but played well against the unbeaten Rams-or at least better than the Raiders did against the Chargers.


You can sympathize with Gruden, whose quarterback seems to be regressing and whose former best defensive player is on the Chicago Bears.  Or you can shrug and point out no one forced Jon to leave his happy ESPN home. All this pain, this little depression, is self-inflicted.


Gruden understands where he is, even if he doesn't quite understand how he got there. Derek Carr throwing an interception on first and goal from the Chargers one? What, are you crazy?


The Raiders trailed, 20-3, at the time (They would lose, 26-10). The play wasn't decisive. It was disheartening. It was what has happened to the Raiders, a mistake when they could not afford one.


When he was broadcasting, everything went right for Gruden. A slip-up, say calling the wrong first name, was correctable with an apology. But you can't apologize when the decision is to throw on first and yard and the ball is picked off-and you have Marshawn Lynch willing and able and showing disdain for the call by tearing off his helmet.


You only can try to explain, which on this Monday is what Gruden did.


"I don't want to see anybody get upset," said Gruden, certainly including himself. "I want everybody to be happy. It won't be the last pass I call on first and goal either. I think it's best to throw down there."


Uh, Jon, that Super Bowl, XLIX, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a pass from the one, and it was intercepted by New England? Remember?  Marshawn Lynch was ignored on that play too. Fortunately this wasn't quite as important.


"I regret it was intercepted," said a self-effacing Gruden. "Turns out to be a terrible call. But we were down 20-3. Melvin Ingram is their middle linebacker in a jam front, and I wanted to throw a play-action pass on the one-foot line. My opinion is it shouldn't have been intercepted."


OK. He still sounds like the ESPN analyst with that remark.


"We shouldn't do that," Gruden confirmed. "But we did. Lynch is frustrated. (Gruden) threw my visor and my headset. So I think we have a lot in common."


Throwing equipment is permitted. Throwing away a chance to score is not. Coaches as players are imperfect. If you listen to a coaching headset during a game, there is anger and obscenities. The situation seems chaotic. And there's no director back in the production truck offering advice.


Gruden was asked if five games into his return to coaching the job is taking a toll on him. The answer wasn't necessarily the whole truth and nothing but.  Nobody's going to concede, "Hey, I shouldn't have taken the job," after only a few weeks.


"No, I just don't like to lose," was Gruden's response. "I think we have work to do. There's not enough time in the day to do it. I'm depressed. I'm tired. I want to win. I want to do better. We have to get back to work here."


What they really to do in Jon Gruden's first year back is have some success. It's a tough business Jon. But you knew that, didn't you?



Harry Edwards: ‘NFL owners own the franchise, they don’t own the players’

By Art Spander

So there are people in the NFL hierarchy who confuse praying with protesting. But of course. In the modern world, it’s perception that counts, instead of actuality.

Get off your knees, guys, or Papa John’s sales will never rebound.

The league deals with the actual game, banning certain tactics on kicks, wedge blocking or running starts by the kicking team, with the idea of improving safety.

Then it turns to political football, trying to placate the demands of a one-time wannabe NFL owner named Donald Trump

Trump is president of the United States. He wishes he were commissioner of the NFL, which on Sundays from September to February may be a more important position, if not a more enviable one.

Yes, the commish, Roger Goodell, earns something around $40 million a year, but many of his employers are deeper-pocketed, short-sighted individuals more worried about first downs than the First Amendment.

That particular item states that Congress will make no law prohibiting free speech or press or the right of people to assemble peaceably. Presumably that includes those in uniform on the sidelines.

But because Trump contends that certain maneuvers, such as kneeling during the National Anthem, displease him, and because the owners are his wealthy pals, the league recently voted that players either must stand during the anthem or stay hidden, in the locker room.

Not very intelligent, says our old friend Harry Edwards, the Cal professor emeritus in sociology who helped lead the revolt of the black athlete in the 1960s.

“Some of the owners, including Jerry Jones (of the Cowboys), are confused,” said Edwards. “They own the franchise. They don’t own the players.”

And the players, in a league that is mostly African-American, have taken it upon themselves to use their status to call attention to what they feel are injustices against blacks in America.   

Colin Kaepernick, then with the 49ers, took a stand by not standing for the Star Spangled Banner. Other players followed, Trump screamed and the owners caved, in a typically incongruous manner.

Either you stand or you stay out of sight.  

“We want to honor the flag,” Edwards said, speaking for the protestors. “We just want to show we’re better than the 147 black men being shot down.”

Edwards doesn’t blame Goodell, who he says is more observer — ever try to tell a billionaire anything? — than director. Some in charge are wiser than others. When Bill Walsh coached the 49ers to their championships, he brought in Edwards to ease problems, racial or otherwise, between players and management.

Edwards looks at the NBA as a league far ahead of the NFL. “The Warriors,” he said, “that’s the way to run a team.”

The Warriors, certainly, made it clear after winning the 2017 NBA title that they didn’t want to go to the White House and meet Trump. Now it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, as Super Bowl champions, who made it clear that they similarly did not feel comfortable visiting with the president.

Trump then withdrew the invitation.

“They disagree with their President,” said Trump of his dis-invite to the Eagles, “because he insists they proudly stand for the national anthem.”

After that, Trump added a tweet: “Honoring America, no escaping to Locker Rooms.” 

Interestingly, no Eagles player last season went to his knees during the anthem. And receiver Torrey Smith, denying that the Philly players wouldn’t show at the White House, tweeted: “So many lies. Here are the facts. No one refused to go simply because Trump insists folks stand for the anthem.”

The players, he said, countering a misconception, are not anti-military. They are just opposed to those who restrict their rights and ignore law enforcement brutality.

“The league handled the issues very poorly,” said Edwards. “To players, little things matter where the differences among teams is so slim. One player stays in the locker room, another doesn’t — that could split a team.

“Athletes now have a bigger stage than ever.”

And more to say from that stage.


RealClearSports: Sports: People on Court, Not in Court

By Art Spander

On the front sports page of Thursday's USA Today, three headlines: "NBA Suspends Heat's Haslem for Game 6,'' "The Problem of Slow Play'' and "Players Sue NFL, Claim Collusion Over Cap."

This is the toy department of life?

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2012


RealClearSports: I Told You So: NFL Back in Business

By Art Spander

The New York tabloids gave it that, "This is the most miraculous thing ever,'' approach, but, hey, understatement is not their style.

"Christmas in July,'' was the headline fromon the Daily News. Be interesting to see their assessment of Christmas in December.

Look. I don't want to say I told you, but ...

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011

RealClearSports: Guaranteed: There Will Be an NFL Season

By Art Spander

So that's settled. There will be an NFL season. Guaranteed.

What, you were worried, unhinged by the rhetoric? It's going the way it was supposed to go, to the 11th hour, to the edge. A long-ago Secretary of State named John Foster Dulles described the tactic as brinksmanship.

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011