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What the Skunk is Happening in Houston?

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This week, our sports have all been reduced to videogames. Everyone has different home rules but generally speaking, they have some sort of a Madden “skunk” rule when they play. The most common I’ve heard is some version of roughly 21 points.. Something like “if someone’s up by more than 21, it’s over” or “if someone goes up 21, the other guy has to score the next possession or it’s over.” We saw in the NFL playoffs, time and time again, why the NFL doesn’t function in the same way. The Chiefs beat “skunk” after “skunk” along their way to the Super Bowl, and perhaps no flip was bigger than being down 24-0 to Houston, then following it up with a 51-7 comeback to win 51-31. It was the first time in playoff history a team that won by 20+ was also down by 20+ at some point in the game.

To start the craziness of the NFL Off Season, the Houston Texans sought to make the biggest splash: Deandre Hopkins and a fourth round pick to Arizona for David Johnson, a second round pick, and a fourth round pick next year.

In an NFL off season that will likely see Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers change teams, the Hopkins move made the NFL world, cumulatively, scream “what the heck is going on in Houston?” After five days without professional sports, much of the world was happy to get to talk about something besides COVID-19 and the delay or cancellation of games… But no one saw one of the top players in the NFL changing teams so suddenly. The mood out of everyone was shock at both the exodus from Houston and the return.

Well, the mood from almost  everyone.

This is Head Coach and General Manager Bill O’Brien’s third acquisition of a runningback in ten months. Last fall, just before the season started, the Houston Texans swapped a third round pick for Duke Johnson, and sent a rotational offensive lineman to Kansas City for Carlos Hyde. The team also acquired OL Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills in exchange for a pair of first round picks, a second round pick, and a pair of back up practice squad players.

To say Bill O’Brien has come under fire in the hours following the Hopkins trade is kind. Texan insiders have cited a poor relationship between O’Brien and Hopkins as the cause for the split, but O’Brien has also notably had poor relationships with other front office folks as well. Which all begs the question… Why can’t the team just fire Bill O’Brien? Sure, he should’ve “skunked” the Super Bowl champs.. but then he got SKUNKED in the two and a half quarters that followed.

As a General Manager, O’Brien mortgaged the future for current success. He freely spent picks to build a 2019 roster that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. He brought in multiple runningbacks and wide receivers and just one starting offensive lineman, even after issues dealing with quarterback pressure a year ago. Further, Tunsil proved to have his own issues adjusting in Houston. Tunsil led the NFL in false start penalties, a mark of an uncomfortable offensive lineman.

To be fair, O’Brien did build the  team that, under his own guidance, was up 24-0 on the eventual Super Bowl Champion Chiefs. While the Chiefs proceeded to go on a 51-7 run in a little more than a half of football, there was that brief moment when it looked as if Bill O’Brien had created a masterpiece. Using multiple playmakers, and with a young dynamic quarterback, Houston appeared to be moving into modern football.

That team was built on how difficult it was to cover every offensive threat. Double team the first team All Pro Hopkins? Good luck on Will Fuller IV or Kenny Stills in one on one coverage. Take away all deep threats? Hyde and Johnson snag the ball well out of the backfield. Cover shallow parts of the field with Linebackers, and bail the safeties? Deshaun Watson is agile enough to run through all of the gaps left in the middle of the field himself. Truthfully, when everyone was healthy, it was an offense built to score in a multiplicity of ways, all of which are quick.

Now, Houston – or at least Bill O’Brien – has decided they needed to go in another direction. Instead of first team All Pro wideout Deandre Hopkins, who demands the double coverage that opens up everything, they’ve decided they need another runningback. David Johnson turns 29 next season and has seen his yards per game drop from 58.8 in 2018 to 26.5 in 2019. Johnson had an incredible season in 2016 with 77 yards per game and 16 rushing touchdowns, but hasn’t broken ten scores in any season since. History would point to runningback production going down after the age of 27. Frequently, the drop in production from age 27-30 is sudden. Whether it is the wear and tear of the position or the normal aging process or some combination, David Johnson will need to be some force outside of nature to not make Bill O’Brien look like Pepe le Pew.

Late Monday night, reports from Adam Schefter indicated Houston had come to a deal with wide receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb has been a great complimentary receiver, and showed glimpses that he still had it last season in Dallas. The problem with him as a Hopkins replacement is he doesn’t demand the same double team Hopkins did. He doesn’t bend the defense, doesn’t open up the other options. He can, however, be productive in a strong offense, if he has a number one. Fuller IV’s health leaves him in and out of the lineup, but could he be that guy? Kenny Stills was that guy in Miami, and their offense struggled… Could he be that guy now?

Instead, can Houston draft that guy?

The draft is deep with receiver talent… but the majority of picks Houston could’ve used were tossed away to build this roster. If anything, the Texans have to hope the right option to replace Hopkins is somehow available with the second round draft pick they got for him.

All of this bungled mess, and they were up on the champs 24-0, a quarter and a half into the game. Should’ve just called skunk.

All of this bungled mess, and a team that gave up a 51-7 run in two and a half quarters of a football game. They should’ve saved the embarrassment, and admitted the skunk.

At some point, the GM and Head Coach model has to be seen as a failure. The unilateral decision making proves difficult… being focused on the team as it currently stands can get you to go up 24-0, but selling away the future can make you do drastic things to figure out how to fix the 51-7.

Many took to social media to fact check the trade. Hopkins moving in the trade market is as big of a splash as there has been in the NFL trade market in some time… and, as many pointed out, it was a trade that isn’t even conceivable in the videogame world.

Petitions have been asking management to fire O’Brien for months. Well before the loss in the playoffs, many Houstonians wanted O’Brien fired for a last second loss to New Orleans. Houston had scored with 37 seconds left to take the lead… and lost as time expired.

And when I say petition, I really mean Houston Texans fans petitioned: https://www.change.org/p/houston-texans-houston-texans-fire-bill-o-brien

O’Brien had five winning seasons out of the six he’s been in Houston. He won the AFC South 4 times. He is certainly the coach they needed 6 seasons ago, and has helped build the team in his role as a general manager to a place that got them up 24-0.

But man, this trade? Hopkins for Johnson and a second?

That may be about to prove worse than losing 51-7. Generally someone calls “skunk” and makes you pass the controller in Madden, it’s to keep you from embarrassing yourself further. This trade isn’t even possible in Madden, and it’s hard to save yourself from an embarrassment in a videogame if there isn’t even the possibility of it.

Houston’s been skunked, if not worse. It’s time for the Texans to make Bill O’Brien to pass the sticks.

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Brady Does It Again, The 2020 NFL Season, The Season Like No Other by Scott Lewis

Yet another NFL season is in the books, and for the 7th time in 20 years (4th time in 7 years), Tom Brady is again on the top of the NFL’s Mt. Olympus. Scott dives into a wild NFL season.

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Yet another NFL season is in the books, and for the 7th time in 20 years (4th time in 7 years), Tom Brady is again on the top of the NFL’s Mt. Olympus. In his 21st season at the tender age of 43, Brady threw for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions with a 65.74 completion percentage per Pro Football Reference.

Brady’s year didn’t start the way people expected after leaving the New England Patriots last March after 20 seasons and six Super Bowls mainly because he wasn’t feeling Bill Belichick’s love. Brady stunned the world by signing with a team that hadn’t made the postseason since 2007 and posted a 7-9 season the year before, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs finished 11-5 (2nd in the NFC South) and headed into the 2020 postseason as a Wild Card with the 5th seed. There were questions about the team leading up to their first playoff game on the road against the Washington Football Team. We can debate whether a team that finished 7-9 should’ve been allowed in the playoffs.

Nonetheless, Brady was facing a new challenging path, and that’s having to play all conference playoff games on the road.

Playing playoff games on the road was a big task for a QB past his prime and a young team with little to no playoff experience, as we would soon learn, though, when you have the greatest of all-time leading your team, no mountain’s too big to climb. The Bucs would beat Washington 31-23 in a game that the score was closer than the game was before heading into a three-game gauntlet against three of the game’s greatest quarterbacks.

The Buccaneers headed into the Super Dome in New Orleans to take on the division rival Saints, who blew the doors off them in their two regular-season matchups. One of the old sayings in football is it’s hard to beat a division rival three times in one season, especially a team with the game’s greatest QB and a young and hungry defense that was licking their chops at the chance to end the career of Drew Brees.

Todd Bowles’s defense held Drew Brees to under 150 yards passing, forced him to throw three interceptions, and kept the playmaking, Alvin Kamara, under 100 yards rushing and out of the end zone. Brady would lead the offense with two touchdowns as the Bucs won 30-20 to advance to the NFC championship.

Waiting for the Bucs in the NFC Championship was the eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers & the number one seeded Green Bay Packers. The Packers finished the season 13-3 and had the league’s best offense, but none of that mattered that cold day at Lambeau Field. Tom Brady had an off game throwing three touchdowns and adding three interceptions, but the defense and questionable play-calling was the story.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur elected to go for a field goal as the clock ticked under five minutes left in the game and down 8 points. Going for the field goal instead of going for the tie with Aaron Rodgers on your team is like deciding to take an Uber when you have a Bentley in the driveway; it makes no sense. All Brady needed was the first down, and he was heading to his 10th Super Bowl in his career. After a holding call on the Packers’ Kevin King, the game was sealed with a Chris Godwin first down, setting up a matchup against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes, the old vs. the new, a matchup we haven’t witnessed since 2002 in the WWE where The Rock went head to head with the aging Hulk Hogan. Mahomes is the NFL’s young star, and in only four seasons, he has already thrown for 114 touchdowns, been a league MVP, won a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP.

Expectations were for Brady to pass the torch to an up and coming talent in Patrick Mahomes. Regrettably, for Mahomes and many people who can’t stand Tom Brady, this did not happen; it was nowhere close to happening as this game was a route from the start.

The Bucs defense showed out, Devin White and the gang held Mahomes to ZERO TOUCHDOWNS; you read that right, the league’s brightest young QB did not get into the end zone one time. Mahomes was under pressure all night as he was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. The Chiefs struggled as Tom Brady went 21/29 for 201 yards and threw three touchdowns. The Bucs would win 31-9 and win their 2nd Super Bowl in franchise history. Brady would get his 7th Super Bowl win and capture his 5th Super Bowl MVP.

Brady winning his 7th championship, as crazy as that is, was not the big story of this wild 2020 NFL season. Almost a year ago, COVID-19 changed everything, and all sports leagues stopped play. The NFL barely missed it as Super Bowl 54 wrapped up just the month before, and they had the longest time out of all the associations to come up with a Covid plan.

I was very skeptical of how this season would go considering the NFL plays in the fall/winter, how many people are on the teams, and the coaching staff. The NBA received praise for implementing the bubble that kept the league safe. The NFL could not rely on such accommodations to keep players and staff safe. Despite the fact, there was no real training camp, no preseason, and the NFL started their season mid-September with mainly no crowds and quarantine rules for all teams.

I felt this was a hazardous move, and I thought we would get tons of positive tests, and games wouldn’t take place, especially late in the season.

Woefully that’s what happened as teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Buffalo Bills dealt with positive tests and had to reschedule games. Hell, the Denver Broncos played a WHOLE ASS GAME with no quarterback available. Although all of this craziness happened, I feel the NFL handled this season the best way they could. As a die-hard football fan, I also didn’t have a problem with the multiple doubleheader games we got on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday through the middle part of that season.

Around Thanksgiving, the outbreaks started to slow down, and the league got through the playoffs with little to no issues. Even though many people, including myself, didn’t like the 20,000 people (half of the crowd was vaccinated) who were at Raymond Jones Stadium for the Super Bowl, this will be the future of sports. The NBA has already laid out a plan to start slowly inviting fans back to games, and I believe the 10-25% capacity is about to be the blueprint on how to get sports crowds back to normal.

The NFL gets a lot of shit & rightfully so, and despite the fact we don’t like their plan, they succeeded when it came to delivering the season like none other.

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Patrick Mahomes Signs Largest Contract in Sports History

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For the first time in the history of sports, an athlete has signed a contract worth half a billion dollars. That athlete is coming off the heels of winning his first Super Bowl MVP and hopes to have a long career of personal and team success ahead of him.

In his first two seasons playing in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes has won a league MVP and the Super Bowl. Now Mahomes has signed a 10-year contract extension worth $503 million.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the contract is a 10-year deal worth $45 million a year, which will pay Mahomes $450 million over that span. Assuming he stays healthy, Mahomes will be the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs through the 2031 season. If he does get hurt, there is still $140 million in injury guarantees.

Along with the $450 million, Mahomes has guarantee mechanisms in his contract (to account for the rising salary cap) that can take his contract up to $477 million. If those mechanisms aren’t met, Mahomes can opt out of the deal.

Finally, there are $25 million in incentives that Mahomes can reach, taking the total potential value of his new contract to $503 million.

At just 24 years old, Mahomes has quickly became regarded as the best quarterback in the NFL. He has now proven he can win and play well in the biggest moments, while producing gaudy statistics along the way.

There is truly no telling what the Chiefs will do over the next 12 years that they have Mahomes as the face of the franchise. It is clear though that they believe they have a dynasty on their hands and Mahomes will get paid handsomely through every minute of it.

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Patriots Dynasty Given New Life with Cam Newton Signing

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When Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the AFC East looked to be wide-open for the time in two decades. The New England Patriots were set to go into this season with unproven young quarterback Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer.

Then over the weekend, Bill Belichick once again reminded everyone why the Patriots have been atop the sport for so long, as his patience paid off and they landed a former MVP quarterback to replace the one that left them in free agency.

Cam Newton is coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him play just two games, leading to his eventual release by the Carolina Panthers this offseason. Still, he signs with the Patriots on a one-year deal which comes at incredible value for New England.

Newton was the league MVP in 2015, when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl after going 15-1 in the regular season. He has been one of the most elite dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL since arriving to league as the first overall pick back in 2011.

Across the first eight seasons of his career, Newton averaged 3,500 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 600 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns per season. Now due to the unprecedented circumstances of this offseason, he simply fell into New England’s laps.

The most money that Newton will make this season in $7.5 million if he hits all of his incentives. There also is not any provision in his contract that prohibits the Patriots from putting the franchise tag on him next year if Newton has a big year.

Essentially the Patriots landed, at worst, one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league on a minimum deal if he does not win the starting job. Assuming he is healthy, Newton is an affordable quarterback that can have a monster bounce-back year and lead the Patriots for the next few seasons.

Once again the New England Patriots have become the envy of all teams in the NFL. Only time will tell though if the dynasty truly can live one without Tom Brady.

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