Media and sports franchises make for strange bedfellows

Dan Snyder - Credit: Jim Wallace (Smithsonian Institution)

Many sports fans are familiar with the relationship between the Yankees and its television network, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports network, or YES for short. In fact, many of the newer generation of sports owner dreams of one day operating his or her own media outlet. This is mainly an economic exercise in that a media outlet enables them to more fully capitalize off of the value of their sports franchise, while creating new revenue streams in the form of media advertising dollars.

The Yankees have used their media outlet – and the fact that they are in the largest media market – to generate a significant amount of revenue that they can invest back into the sports franchise, in the form of player and coaches salaries for example. It is also important to note that Major League Baseball does not have the same hard salary cap as the other major sports, and teams like the Yankees can spend more than other teams. But I digress.

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NFL Week 13: Struggling Redskins search for a win in New Meadowlands Stadium

Can Donovan McNabb lead the Redskins to a much needed win? (Photo: AP Photo)

The struggling Washington Redskins (5-6) travel to the New Meadowlands Stadium to take on the New York Giants (7-4), who are currently tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. The game, which is scheduled for 1 PM on Fox (WTTG), could be moved to a 4 PM start based on the NFL’s flexible scheduling policy. In addition to television, the game can also be heard on the Redskins radio outlets – ESPN Radio WTEM 980 AM, WWXX 94.3 FM and WWXT 92.7 FM.

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The makings of a two-headed monster

During this year’s draft, I was a bit puzzled when the Steelers selected Matt Spaeth in the third round of the draft.  They all ready had a very good starter in Heath Miller, who doesn’t get much respect in the league, but has made a number of big plays in his young career.  It made more sense once it was known that Aryans, the Steelers offensive coordinator, planned on using a lot of two tight end sets.  Historically, the tight end in Pittsburgh has been a glorified tackle, used more as a blocker then as a pass catcher.  But with the change in offensive philosophy, beginning two years ago and evolving further with Aryans, the tight end is becoming an important position.  After two games, it is crystal clear why they drafted Spaeth.  He makes for a big target at 6’7”, has great hands and has a knack for getting open in the endzone.  Currently the Steelers have two former Mackey winners – an award given to the best tight end in college football – and as these two continue to develop, they could become the best tight end tandem in the NFL.  And combining them with Hines Ward and the Steelers young receiving corps, it gives Big Ben plenty of passing options.

Have the Redskins finally turned the corner?

For the second straight game the Redskins have been able to win a close one. What appears to be most impressive is that they have done this while loosing two of their starting offensive linemen, while remaining very productive on offense. The fact that Campbell did not get killed against the typically tough Eagles’ blitz is a testament to how well the backups turned starters played. The coaching staff, showing their trust in Wade and Fabini, continued to let Campbell take shots deep. Maybe even more impressive than that is the strength of Campell’s arm. We often here about a quarterback with a strong arm – particularly leading up to the draft – but seeing how far Campbell throw the ball on a number of occasions and how effortlessly it came out is truly impressive. Once he learns some touch he will be incredible.

 

On the negative side, the defense which played well overall gave up a little too much yardage to Westbrook. In their defense, Westbrook had an incredible game – no doubt in part because he was playing in front of his home town fans – for much of the game his quickness seemed to be on a different level. On a number of occasions, he made some of the quickest Skins defenders grasping at the air. But, as the Monday Night Crew pointed out, it will be interesting to see if he can hold up under that type of workload for a full season.

 

It was also a little disappointing that the stone hands in the Redskins defensive backfield is a little contagious right now. Once they get better at catching the ball, or getting more take-a-ways in general, that defense has the opportunity to be special. One has to love the young core of the defense with nearly all of them making big plays when it counted most, accented by the big hit that Landry made on 4th down to end a potential game tying drive by the Eagles.

 

Prior to the season, a number of local sports media were talking about how bad the Skins “could be” this season. Based on last season, and some of the questions with the team that did not appear to be answered, it is not hard to understand why they would believe that. It is a long season, and a number of teams have started undefeated only to crash and burn later in the season. None of us knows how this season will finish for he Skins, but through 2 games they have been entertaining to watch and have provided us fans with reasons to be optimistic.

Redskins Recap: Redskins 16 Dolphins 13

How much we take from the Skins game today is a bit unclear.  What’s most important is that they won a very hard fought game against a team with a very good defense – at least based on past performance – and an offense that has the potential to be better than last year.  One game does not give a good indication of how a team will play over an entire season, but there were plenty of encouraging signs.  Here were a few things that I was impressed with:

  • Jason Campbell through a bad interception at the beginning of the game (and two overall), came back to make some big completions in a very tight game.
  • It was refreshing to see the Skins throw the ball down the field, which will continue to make things easier for the running game, and vice versa.  How nice it is to have a QB who can actually throw it further than 7 yards.
    Samuels played very well considering that he did not play during the pre-season.  He and Kendall look like they are going to prove to be a great combination on the left side of the line.
  • Stephon Heyer continues to prove critics wrong.  Called in to play due to Jansen’s possible season-ending injury and switching back to his natural RT position, the UFA played a great game.  While it has been pointed out that some (unnamed) scouts believe that he is not yet ready for the NFL, in a game in which the final score counted, he played well enough not to stand out.  If you have watched enough football and/or played it you know that an offensive lineman normally only stands out when they give up a negative play.
  • It appears that Clinton did not need to play in the pre-season after all!  And with him and Betts combining for over 140 yards rushing that production will only make Campbell’s job throwing the ball that much easier.
  • And while the defense gave up a little more yards then they would have probably liked, given that they were put in some short-field situations, they actually continued the type of play that they have demonstrated during the pre-season.  They gave up some yards in the passing game, but were able to hold the Dolphins to 13 points.

Moss, and many of his colleagues in the NFL, dropped way too many passes today.  (It was amazing to see the number of dropped passes today.  At times it was as if we were watching the first pre-season game.)  The biggest drop was by the Smoot-mobile, who had nothing but open field in front of him near the end of regulation.  Thankfully that drop did not come back to cost the team.  Speaking of Smoot, while he had a fairly good overall game, I’m sure others were surprised that he started over Springs.  Correct me if I am wrong, but Springs was clearly the starter following pre-season, but was only brought into the game during nickel situations????  What was this about?

Skins sign Randall Godfrey and release Lemar Marshall

Sometimes an unforeseen circumstance can set a number of wheels in motion.  I wonder if the signing of Randall Godfrey and the release of Lemar Marshall would have happened if Marcus Washington hadn’t been injured.  I also wonder if this signing gives some indication to how highly they regard other individuals.

 

With Marcus being injured, potentially for a while, the Skins would benefit from someone experienced that could play both inside and outside LB.  Enter Randall Godfrey who has played for Gregg Williams before – arguably played his best football under Gregg Williams.  Godfrey has mostly played ILB but has shown the ability to play OLB as well.  To make room for Godfrey, the Skins cut Marshall, which makes me believe that they made this move, in part because they feel comfortable with the progress that H.B. Blades has made during the pre-season.  Plus once Washington is healthy you can also plug Godfrey in as a backup MLB.

Carol Maloney and Trevor Matich got carried away

I was listening to the Feldman & Maloney show on Sportstalk980, when I heard some of the most ridiculous statements that I have heard in a very long time. First let me put out my disclaimer – I was born and raised a Steelers fan, but I have followed (and grown to love) the Redskins for the last 11 years. So I am pointing out that I have divided loyalties. It made watching the game on Saturday very difficult, I didn’t know who to cheer for. But I digress.

 

Carol Maloney said that she felt Brett Keisel’s hit on Jason Campbell was a cheap shot and he should have been ejected from the game. She went on to point out that she believed that it was Keisel’s, if not the Steelers, intention to hurt Campbell. I was amazed at what I was hearing. She continued by pointing out Kimo von Oelhoffen’s hit on Carson Palmer during the 2005 playoffs as proof that the Steelers have some sort of history with injuring opposing team’s Quarterbacks.

 

First let me point out that there is little that the two plays have in common except that both players (Kimo and Brett) have very high motors and play until the whistle is blown. When Kimo hit Palmer, he was being blocked just before he made contact with Palmer’s lower legs. Brett quickly got around Heyer but then stumbled in the backfield, lunged as he was going down and made contact with Campbell’s thigh. It was unfortunate that Jason got injured during the play, but it was not an intentional act. It was amazing how quiet FedEx Field got during the injury timeout. (BTW I and others could not believe that they never showed the replay on the stadium screens.)

 

But beyond Maloney’s rant – which she is entitled to – however misinformed it is. I was completely shocked that Trevor Matich, a former NFL player, would agree with her opinion. Trevor went on to state that Keisel was not stumbling, that he could have absolutely controlled his body – during flight – that he could have just put his arm out. I could not believe I was hearing a former NFL player. He then went on to say that if he were coaching the Redskins defense that he would have sent everyone after Rothlisberger. Since Campbell got injured, on a dirty play, then he would have made sure that Big Ben was sidelined for the rest of the year. The only person on the show who seemed to have a sensible opinion on the matter was Andy Pollen who was sitting in for Feldman.

 

Keisel and Campbell

 

Those of us who have watched football for any length of time and/or played it at any meaningful level know that it is a dangerous sport and that at any moment you can get injured. Thankfully it appears that Jason’s injury is not serious. My point to Maloney or Matich would have been – show me evidence that this was intentional? Furthermore, what would the Steelers have gotten out of this “intentional cheap shot?” What would they have to gain? The last I checked the Redskins are in the NFC and the Steelers play in the AFC. The Steelers would gain nothing from intentionally injuring Campbell. I could follow the logic IF it were the Cowboys and the Redskins in a pre-season game. Then you could make the argument that the Cowboys would gain something from Campbell being injured.

 

As part of Matich’s argument he points out that a penalty was called on the play for hitting the QB during a pass below the waist. A flag in and of itself does not make a play dirty. Hell, there are times when cheap shots are not caught by the refs by his line of logic does that mean those plays were legal? What I find interesting in the replay is that the flag does not actually come in to the picture until after Cooley has caught the pass, turned up field and gets tackled. Now, I am not pointing out that it wasn’t a penalty, by the letter of the rule it was. And on the replay I have you can not see where the Umpire is in relation to the play, so maybe he through it much earlier and it took a while for it to make it into view of the camera. But I am pointing out that it appeared as if it took him a while to decide that was a low tackle – but at least he did get the call right. But consider that it appeared that there was some indecision on the part of the Umpire but clearly he did not think that it was a dirty play or he would have ejected him from the game.

 

After watching the play in person and countless times on Tivo, I can only conclude that Maloney and Matich’s comments were completely baseless and a touch reckless. It is okay to be a bit upset with the fact that the starting Quarterback got injured during a meaningless game, but unless you have clear proof that someone intended to injury him, don’t go on record claiming that they did. I have seen plenty of cheap shots over the years, and I do not put that play in that category. Unfortunate yes, cheap shot no!