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Rattlers

 

What is it that the 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls, 1993-1996 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-current Golden State Warriors, 2011-current Arizona Rattlers and the New York Yankees have in common besides championships? They created a culture that breeds championships by rewarding not only performance on the playing surface, but also made it rewarding to be a part of that franchise as a whole.

“We have to have a commonality and purpose. We have to understand that each of us is dependent on the success of the others in the organization to reach the goals we’re trying to accomplish. It’s never an easy thing.” -Rick Welts, President and COO of the Golden State Warriors speaking about the importance of off court culture.

See the Warriors built a culture of accountability, oftentimes we see in pop culture and maybe on our own sports teams how just one players ego can completely destroy any hopes of a championship. Yes, in sports we reward the most valuable players, but if you really think about what TRULY makes those players valuable, a lot of times you realize that they are not selfish and they focus on building up their teammates to their level of play. Notice the difference between the 2015 and 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, they tanked in the 2015 finals following the famous “i’m the best player in the world” speech from Lebron. Then the following year, they began to realize everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, in turn causing them to perform the greatest comeback in NBA finals history.

Sports are not numbers games, one can not predict the champion based off of numbers and averages. Why? That is because sports are played by humans, not robots. Numbers show the past results, but not the future. Humans are able to adapt and change based on their given situations. One example of this, is a team that was run completely based off of numbers, did not win a championship. People may have seen the movie called, Moneyball. The film is about the 2002 Oakland A’s, a team that needed a way to start filling seats and rebuild after losing a few of their star players. So they turn to analytics which wins them the division. However, the team that actually ended up winning the world series that year? The Anaheim Angels. A team that did not rely 100 percent off of pure numbers and who truly understood that there was a human element to the game.

So, what sort of things are needed to actually create championship culture?

Jeff Janssen, owner of the Janssen Sports Leadership Foundation and someone who also has a Masters in sport psychology, studied all of the historic championship franchises in all sports found six components.

  1. Credible Leaders
    1. This does not only apply to coaches, it applies to everyone who holds a leadership role in an organization. From managers to the CEO, there needs to be someone who can move on and take credit when there is a mistake. It is terrible to have a leader that tries to push on failures to everyone but themselves. Bad leaders, create losing seasons.
  2. Clear and Compelling Vision
    1. Yes, every teams ultimate goal is to win a championship. This component is more about buying into a vision, for a case study, please look into the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
  3. Core Values
    1. There is an old song that talks about, “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Even in sports this rings true, in order to create culture, there must be non negotiable values.
  4. Standards of Behavior
    1.  Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski  stated, “A major part of becoming a team is the establishment and collective acceptance of your standards, based on your team’s makeup and centered on your unique goal. Once a group of individuals formulates and agrees to their standards, they become united, single-minded in purpose.”
  5. Aligned Systems
    1. Jeff Janssen writes, “Championship Cultures create several specific systems for selection, enculturation, execution, evaluation, recognition, correction, and succession. All of these various systems are developed, tweaked, and perfected over time to promote and support the Vision, Values, and Standards of your program on a daily basis. By developing and aligning your systems, you build a sustainable, self-perpetuating, virtuous cycle that ensures you get, develop, and keep the right kind of people and practices within your culture.”
  6. Committed and Unified Team Members
    1. This one should be self-explanatory, if someone does not buy into the vision? They will not perform to their full potential.

These six traits can be seen through any championship organization. Is it important to have good players? Yes, but numbers do not tell the whole story, and sometimes players who are terrible in the club house, can kill championship hopes without even playing one down.

 

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On Thursday the news broke that the Oakland Raiders had made their quarterback, Derek Carr, the highest-paid player in NFL history. The new deal is for five years and $125 million, a cool $25 million dollars per season. Carr will receive $40 million guaranteed at signing and $69 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal.

The deal is a huge leap of faith for the Raiders but they feel they finally have their franchise quarterback in the fold. Quarterback has been the most glaring weakness of this team for almost two decades. The last time they had anyone that could be considered franchise quarterback quality would have been the Rich Gannon years from 1999-2004.

Carr is coming off of a breakout season in 2016 in which Oakland went 12-4. In his three seasons as Raiders quarterback, Carr has a 22-26 win-loss record and is barely over a 2.5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Now the league will be watching to see if Clast season was a fluke or if he truly is ascending to the elite level of NFL quarterbacks. He is certainly paid as if he is elite. To their credit, the Raiders have built a championship-caliber defense. The offense is taking shape with Carr, standout wide receiver Amari Cooper, veteran wideout Michael Crabtree and blossoming tight end Clive Walford as an impressive assortment of weapons for Carr. Add the newest addition in legendary running back Marshawn Lynch to bolster the running attack and you have a scary unit, at least on paper.

While Carr is the richest player in the league at the moment, it won’t last long. Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are all in line for raises next offseason. Skill position players such as Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. will also be looking for mega-millions sooner than later.

What do you think? Was the the right move for the Raiders? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

 

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News out of the AFC West has seemed to dominate the NFL headlines this week. Part of it is due to the fact the league is at it’s quietest point of the entire year as this is the space in time between the end of OTA’s and the start of official training camp. Players and coaches are taking time away leaving only a light drizzle of news to satiate the football-hungry masses.

On Thursday, the Oakland Raiders announced the long-term deal of quarterback Derek Carr at 5-years/$125 million. Also on Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs announced they had extended Head Coach Andy Reid for five more years. (Terms undisclosed). Additionally, the Chiefs announced they had parted ways with General Manager John Dorsey.

In the opposite world that is Kansas City, the timing seems to be odd. The Chiefs are enjoying their best success in recent memory as they have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and won the AFC West last season with a 12-4 record. Their Wild Card round playoff win over the Houston Texans last season was their first playoff win in 22 seasons.

Why let the GM, who has been the architect of that success, go now? Usually the Head Coach is shown the door before the GM or they are let go simultaneously so the new GM isn’t stuck with a coach he doesn’t like.

Whether Dorsey was fired or whether it was a mutual decision seems to be dependent on who you ask but the answer will be evident if Dorsey accepts another front office position within the next season or two. Regardless, his stamp on the team will resonate for many seasons hence as the young players he’s drafted mature.

Eyes will be on the Chiefs to see if they can maintain their recent success without Dorsey and what will become of the Chiefs’ bold move to trade up (from slot 27 to 10) in the 2017 NFL Draft in order to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The end to quiet time could be coming to an end sooner than we think… Can the Chiefs maintain and stay at the top of the AFC West? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

Russell Wilson, Melvin Ingram

 

On Sunday, June 11, the Chargers locked up a clutch piece of their young up-and-coming defense in Melvin Ingram.

The former Gamecock signed a big four-year, $66 million deal, ending what could have been an annoying contractual standoff, and Chargers got it done far before the mid-July deadline.

As mentioned from the Chargers’ front office, both sides were eager to get a deal done and wasted no time agreeing on numbers. This proves to be very big for the Chargers because this means Melvin will be there for all of mini-camp and training camp.

On February 27 2017, the Chargers placed the always nagging Franchise Tag on Ingram, thinking it would take an extended amount of time to come to terms, but doing so in four months is extremely beneficial for both parties and to the chemistry of the defense.

Ingram was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft and was supposed to be a impact player right away. The South Carolina product had a slow rookie year and the next two seasons after that he only played in 13 games out of 32.

However, he bounced back his last two seasons, playing in all 32 games notching 18.5 sacks, 11 pass deflections and seven forced fumbles. He proved that, when on the field, he can play at a high level. He developed an early reputation his first couple of years as an “almost” player; almost getting sacks, almost affecting plays. But he has shown the past two seasons that he’s more than learned how to impact games and get to the quarterback more efficiently.

The drafting of Joey Bosa last year has helped him because teams must worry about not one explosive motor but now they must gameplan for two pass-rushing freaks of nature. The two didn’t get a chance to play together in all of the games cause of Bosa’s contract issues. During the 12 games the duo did play together in ’16, they combined for 18.5 sacks.

It is going to be really interesting to see how they fare with an entire offseason and season together. It seems they both complement each other well and, in that, their numbers will only get better. Ingram also was tied for 6th in the league with QB hurries (29) and producing a team-high 23 QB hits. That is pretty damn good for an “Almost player.”

The Bolts adding Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator means a switch from 3-4 to 4-3, meaning Ingram will have plenty of chances to knock opposing signal callers on their asses.

As a fan, we hate seeing big money contracts given out, especially because injuries can happen at any given time. But Ingram has earned it. Now, let’s see him terrorize offenses for a full 16 games, thus leading the team formerly located in America’s finest city back to the postseason dance.

One more thing: can we possibly get Melvin to make a theme song for the Chargers going forward? I, for one, think it would be extremely dope! Maybe we can all ask him on twitter and get it going?!

There is a link below to one on Melvin’s tracks:

 

 

 

Thanks for checking out my article. I appreciate all of y’all for doing so.

Charlie LaFurno

@CharlieMack29

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New York Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. plans on sitting out offseason training activities while waiting on a new contract. This season, Beckham is scheduled to make $1.8 million. The 12th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Beckham is finally able to talk money with the organization as he heads into his fourth season on the team. Under his current deal, he is the 64th highest paid receiver in football.

The problem for Beckham is the Giants have all the leverage in the situation. He is locked in to playing for $1.8 million this season. They will certainly pick up his fifth-year option since he was a first round pick. The fifth-year option will pay the average of the third though 25th players selected in his draft year (approximately $8.5 million). For the record, the wide receivers that fall into that category are Sammy Watkins (selected 4th), Mike Evans (7th) and Brandin Cooks (20th).

Beckham is, whether he likes it or not, locked in for the next two seasons at $10.3 million. Even after the next two seasons are over, the Giants could franchise tag their franchise player for two more seasons. The risk is having a player who is already at the top of the list when you think of NFL divas turning into a complete malcontent and disruption in the locker room.

In addition, players around the league will be watching this situation to see how the Giants’ front office conducts their business. For all the drama and hype Beckham brings, there is no question he is one of the first names you think of when you list the best wide receivers in the NFL today. If the Giants aren’t willing to pay a bona fide superstar what he’s worth, why would a free agent consider going there?

The only recourse Beckham has is to sacrifice his pocketbook. While reports indicate he will be present at mandatory training camp, if he is truly adamant in his desire to get a new long-term deal this year he must sit out indefinitely. The outcry from the fans and local media has worked in the past but what resonates more is when the absence affects wins and losses. If Beckham stays home after the season begins his absence will directly impact wins and losses. The more they lose, the more pressure the front office will feel to get him in house.

Despite his paltry NFL salary, Beckham won’t be hurting for money. He already is a well-known pitchman for Head & Shoulders, Foot Locker and Lenovo. In May, he signed a massive endorsement deal with Nike for five-years/$25 million with the potential to reach eight-years/$48 million if certain benchmarks are met.

In the end, the logical scenario if for the Giants to acquiesce and pay Beckham like the legitimate superstar he’s become. To draw out his big mulit-year payday will only hurt the franchise in the long- and short-term. Without a deal, Beckham will most likely feel extremely disrespected and that feeling is likely to manifest itself on the field.

To nickel-and-dime Beckham will reflect badly not only to potential free agents but to the players on the roster now. How will Sterling Shepherd feel when his time comes? How will the other leaders on the team feel when it is time to talk extension if the Beckham saga drags on for the next four seasons?

We all know how great a receiver Beckham is and so do the Giants. Keeping him on the cheap is good business until it hurts your business. The right thing to do (which is why it probably won’t happen) is to follow the iconic words of Teddy KGB from the movie Rounders and…

KGB

 

The Greg One

 

#OffseasonShenanigans

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On Thursday, the New England Patriots officially extended the contract of wide receiver Julian Edelman. The nine-year veteran received a two-year, $11 million dollar deal with $9 million in guarantees, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. This season was the last of his current contract. Edelman would’ve been a free agent next offseason and possibly could have been able to earn more money on the open market.

The Patriots are loading up at wide receiver for another Super Bowl run. Add Edelman, 31, to new addition Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola and Tom Brady will have no shortage of playmakers out wide. By the way, Rob Gronkowski is fully healthy and participating in all team workouts.

The Evil Empire of the NFL is only getting better….

 

The Greg One

 

#WhoCanStopThePatriots

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Earlier this offseason, the NFL decided to eliminate the middle roster cutdown from 90 players to 75 players. With only one mass cutdown from the 90-man roster to the 53-man squad that will kickoff the season, news of roster cuts will come fast and furious. Every year, players we thought would live on with their current teams get unexpectedly cut and this year is no different.

Last weekend, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin became the first big name player to get the June axe. Maclin had only finished the second season of the five-year/$55 million contract. The 29-year old Maclin is currently unsigned but has made visits to Buffalo and Batimore. So far, he hasn’t agreed to terms with either team.

Money is the key factor in Maclins’ case. How much will a team be willing to pay? This season, Maclin was set to make over $9 million with Kansas City and he may be looking for similar numbers. Last season he suffered from numerous injuries resulting in four games missed completely and a precipitous drop in stats from his first season in KC. His catches were halved (from 87 to 44), his yardage was halved (from 1,088 to 536) and touchdowns dropped 75% (from 8 to 2).

The New York Jets made news this week when they announced wide receiver Eric Decker would be traded or released. The move leaves the Jets receiving corps with no veteran presence as the longest-tenured Jets receiver award goes to Quincy Enunwa with a whopping two seasons of service.

Decker has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries. The Baltimore Ravens are again in the mix for Decker and reports indicate they are willing to work out a trade if Maclin opts to play elsewhere. Decker missed all but three games last season after going under the knife for two surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his hip and a torn rotator cuff.

While they were in the veteran cutting mood, the Jets also decided to cut locker room leader David Harris. The middle linebacker was the longest-tenured Jets player with ten seasons under his belt. He leaves New York as the second-most prolific tackler in Jets history with a whopping 1,260 tackles. He led the Jets in tackles for nine of his ten seasons in Kelly Green, including last season.

Harris also compiled 37 sacks, six interceptions, eleven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Originally drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Harris wants to keep playing but is considering retirement. The Jets will save over $13 million  in salary and cap space once Harris and Decker are off the payroll.

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens announced veteran tight end Dennis Pitta has been released. Per ESPN, Pitta is currently still hospitalized after suffering a dislocated hip during practice this past Friday. Per an injury waiver clause in Pitta’s most recent contract, the team does not owe him any more money. The hip injury is Pittas’ third since 2013.

These are the first pebbles to fall in what will soon become an avalanche of veteran free agent roster moves. Would you like to see any of these players on your favorite team? Who is next on the chopping block? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

#MakingMoves

 

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Finally, a rule change has come out of the NFL Owners meetings that we can all get behind. As of Tuesday, the league has removed the ‘no celebrations’ rule. With a few exceptions, players are allowed to once again celebrate their epic moments on the field with their best dance moves.

Not only can players do a choreographed bit, they can use the football as a prop and celebrate on the ground. Bring on breakdancing, moonwalking and the ‘Fun Bunch’ (for all the old school readers, google it millennials…) type of celebrations.

Gimme that.

Gimme ALL of that…

It’s about damn time!

Perhaps it’s a mea culpa for the idiocy of shortening overtime but it will be fun to watch and see what players come up with because you know they’re probably already rehearsing new moves as you read this. There were 29 celebration penalties last season. In the end, their attempt speed up the game by filtering emotion from the game only slowed the game down to a crawl, drawing the ire of teams and fans in the process.

It isn’t going to be a complete free-for-all, however. There are still a few restrictions. These celebrations must be done in a timely fashion such as not to interfere with the flow of the game. No overtly suggestive or sexual celebrations will be allowed. Looking at you Antonio Brown (twerking) and Marshawn Lynch (midair crotch-grabbing).  No celebrations can be directed at an opponent or a taunting penalty will ensue.

Oddly enough, this change in stance on celebrations may make the game better. What’s better to fire up a defense that has been sleepwalking through a game than seeing the other team dancing in their end zone? Any self-respecting defense will take that moneymaker-shaking as a personal affront and next series they would be more likely to play with their hair on fire, thus giving the fans a better game.

I love it! What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#ShakeYourGrooveThang

Goodell

On Tuesday, the NFL announced a rule change that has fans and players upset. In regards to the overtime period, there will now be five less minutes to determine the outcome. Overtime will now go from 15-minutes to a crisp 10-minutes. The league cited player-safety as the main reason with concerns in regards to teams playing on a short week.

The rule change presents more problems than it solves. For one, it tips the scales in favor of the team that gets the ball first. What’s to keep them from running a short pass, ground-and-pound offense and milking the clock? Team A has the ball for a 7-8-9-minute long drive and Team B gets the ball on the 25 (presuming a touchback) and has to two-minute drill (or less) to score?

This rule almost definitely will raise the number of ties in the league which will lead to more obscure tiebreaker rules coming into effect. There will be nothing worse than seeing your favorite team lose out on a playoff spot because of a technicality!

If player-safety is such a huge concern why not get rid of overtime altogether and say all games knotted at the end of the fourth quarter will be in the records as ties? Better yet, go to college football rules. Give both teams the ball from the 50-yard line. Each team gets a turn with the ball. If both teams score, next score wins. No ties, equal footing for both teams, crowd gets to see a definitive winner and there will be no ties!!

It’s crazy enough to work, which is why the league won’t do it…

I wouldn’t sweat this rule change for long. All it takes is the wrong team (and owner) getting screwed by the amended overtime to change the rule back to the way it is currently.

(Looking at you, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, Rooneys’ Maras’…)

What do you think of the rule change? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#DontF***WithOvertime

 

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The NFL lost a legend on Tuesday when former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was found dead in Orlando. Cause of death is unknown but Orlando Police see nothing suspicious. Gone way too soon, Kennedy was only 48.

A product of the University of Miami, Kennedy was the third overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. He played all of his 11 seasons in Seattle on a team that were regular cellar-dwellers. A wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive line, he was the best player on the team and his resume speaks to that fact.

*Five-time All-Pro selection

*Eight-time Pro Bowl selection

*NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.

*Member of NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990’s.

*Named into the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor and had his jersey number, 96, retired in 2000.

*Inducted into the Pro Football Hall-Of-Fame in 2012.

The Seattle Seahawks organization posted this tweet on Twitter on Tuesday:

Perhaps an even bigger contributor off the field, Kennedy was a pillar of the community in Seattle and great ambassador both for the Seahawks and the NFL. He will be missed.

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