Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Andrew Hawkins: Courageous. Thoughtful. Inspiring

Cleveland Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins’ was another athlete who wore a shirt in support and demonstration that a change needs to take place in our country. Hawkins’ shirt was protesting the recent shooting of two unarmed Ohioans. He didn’t wear an “I can’t breathe” shirt like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and many other collegiate and professional athletes. Instead he wore a shirt that read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" on the front, and "The Real Battle for Ohio" on the back, but didn't address it on Sunday. Members of the Cleveland police department were upset about Hawkins shirt and demanded an apology.  Monday, Hawkins spoke for nearly 6 minutes uninterrupted about why he wore the shirt and described what his protest was about.
Many people in life jump on the bandwagon when it comes to being vocal about social issues and trends. Often people join the crowd in protest but don’t have a truly thoughtful reason why they are doing it. 

After listening to Hawkins’ comments I was impressed. He was courageous, thoughtful, and inspiring. We can all take a page out if his book.

In life you must know your why! What is your why? When you do things make sure that you know why you did it. Don’t just do things arbitrarily. It’s important to know why! If you don’t know why you did something you are destined to make the same mistake again. If you make a good choice then in life you need to know why so you know how to repeat it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NFL is Failing Adrian Peterson and its Bottom Line

You have a huge responsibility as an NFL player. You have a responsibility to yourself to take advantage of a great opportunity to give yourself a head start in life. You have a responsibility to family, friends, and fans who look up to you to be a good example and role model. You have a responsibility to the NFL to conduct yourself in a manner that always presents the league well.

Imagine this, you are a 20-23 year old male. You are a physical specimen. Faster, stronger, and (in many cases) worshiped you since you were a kid for your athletic prowess. Then, you have a financial windfall that often instantly makes you the person financially responsible for your family. It also enables you to have life’s greatest vices at your disposal on a daily basis. That is a lot to deal with for any man, let alone a very young man. While people are constantly telling you to “make good decisions”, every bad decision is at your fingertips and without education you may not know the difference. Forty year old men make bad decisions with financial windfalls, so how can a boy be taught to consistently make good decisions. What types of bad decisions did you make in your 20’s?

If the NFL is concerned about its players (and the investment that they are making into their players), it needs to dedicate some of its extensive resources to take responsibility to educate the VERY young men entering this league so that they grow into great men. This starts with mandatory, ongoing classes that extend and expand the Rookie Symposium throughout the season.  Specifically, these classes should educate the players on parenting, legal issues, domestic violence, interpersonal relationships, communication & conflict resolution, and substance abuse. Some of these issues were covered in the Rookie Symposium when I attended yet, but not to the extent necessary to inspire change. I’ve seen many players punished and teams lose valuable players because of decisions in these areas. There is a one or two hour “seminar” once or twice a year that focuses on, “Choices, Decisions, Consequences” and it is simply not enough… OBVIOUSLY.  While the intention of the seminar is great, it falls well short of the constant reinforcement necessary to make major breakthroughs that are sustainable.

Handing out long suspensions to players treats the symptom but does not address the real issues that are causing the problem. This does not mean that we excuse bad behavior. It means that giving players long suspensions cannot be the only recourse to resolving the problem. As players, many times our talent takes us places we are not mentally and emotionally prepared for. Many players come from socio-economically disadvantaged situations with no real financial education. Others were raised in unstable home environments without positive male figures in the home.

Don’t get me wrong… Adrian Peterson took things entirely too far with the discipline for his son. While his son may have required discipline, Adrian needed better tools and different options to offer that discipline. Long after his NFL career is over, he will still be a father and a long suspension from the NFL will have done NOTHING to educate him in these areas. I think that part has gotten lost in this whole saga. Peterson has stated that was raised with harsh discipline and an iron fist as many of us were. From his perspective, he probably believes that is what enabled him to become successful and the football player we all love. I’m sure Adrian Peterson loves his son just as all fathers do. He just did what he knew.  I think he just needs more options.

The NFL ruling that came down was expected but it's not the ruling from the arbitrator from the hearing on Monday. I believe that the letter was a PR move designed to protect the league but it is not the most effective method to making a real change.  As a father myself, I know that harsh punishments may serve as a deterrent that don’t address the root of the behavior.  If NFL players are going to be punished on the field for the decisions and behavior that they do OFF the field, then let’s set them up for success and provide them with the education, resources, and tools necessary to do this.  Players need to be coached to be great players on the field.  If the league wants these players to be great men off the field, they need to provide coaching in this area as well.  If they can be coached to be great on the field, I know they can be coached to be great off the field.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Steve Nash Journey to 'The Finish Line' Episode 1

Every professional athlete wants to leave the game on their own terms, but reality is no one ever gets to do that! Most athletes retire because their body gives out due injury, or diminished skills. Even Hall of Famers get traded, or pushed out the door at the end of their careers. Try to name a player who retired wasn't old and lost a step, could no longer play every night, or had a dispute with management. Either way, those are not your terms.

People do not see the work athletes go through to get back. But most importantly, they don't understand the mental and emotional struggle athletes go through when the lights are being turned out on your career. There are not enough accolades, records, or recognition that can soften the pain of the loss of your love.

Steve Nash knows the window is closing on his Hall of Fame career. If you want a little insight into what is really going on watch Episode 1 of 'The Finish Line'. Nash documents the struggle to get back on the court and see his career finish the way he wants it to.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Highest Bidder!: Coaches and Players Loyalty for Sale

While the USC faithful have been celebrating the firing of Lane Kiffin, few realize how many people are affected when the head ball coach gets his walking papers.

In my FIRST position meeting in Jacksonville, my tight end coach Alfredo Roberts introduced me to the NFL. He said, "When teams don't win in sports, two things happen, coaches get fired or players get fired. The coaches just got fired, so guess who is next if we don't play well.". In the world of college and professional sports everything boils down to two things, winning/losing and money. Good players are released or traded because they make too much. The NCAA continues to find additional revenue streams to make money from athlete's likeness. Coaches aren't fired because they have too many years and too much money left on their contract.

Ever wonder why coaches win and continue to ask for additional years to their contract? Head coaches typically have a guaranteed contracts, unless they get fired for "cause". FYI, losing is not "cause". You have to pull a Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) or Mike Rice (Rutgers) to get fired without pay. The head coach gets all the praise with wins, and all the blame when you lose. But, it is nice to be the head man because when you get fired with years left on your contract, you have a golden parachute. If I were a head coach, sign me through the 2025-26 season.
When coaches like Lane Kiffin, Norv Turner, Rick Neuheisel, or Lovie Smith don't live up to
expectations and are fired, they leave with some financial security. They often have assistant coaches who are doing a great job, but they typically get thrown out with the head coach. You could be the best tight end coach in the world, but when the head man goes, so do you.

Assistant coaches and their families are affected the most. Most assistants make peanuts compared to the head coaches salary.  Even when the head coach doesn't get fired, they often change assistants through the years (for various reasons). There is NO job security. Assistant coaches are typically journeyman until they get the job security of being the head coach. Most never achieve their dream, and are tied to finding job with the guys they have worked with in the past who get jobs. Their families are drug across country searching for stability and their dreams to come true. As much as assistant coaches love the game, they are no different than any other husband/father. They are using their particular set of skills to provide a comfortable, and stable life for their families. Since 1999, when I graduated high school, Alfredo has had a job every year because he is a GREAT tight end coach, but has made stops at Florida Atlantic, Jaguars, Browns, Buccaneers, and is currently at the Colts. He has a wife and kids, but the only roots he can put down are the roots on his coaching tree. Imagine every year, win or lose, not knowing if you will have a job. Imagine the stress it puts on your wife, children, friendships, and families to move from place to place for years, just hoping for the day you land the big job.

According to USA today, "The average major-college football assistant coach now earns roughly $200,000, a USA TODAY Sports analysis finds". The list of the top 124 college coaches 2012 salaries and their assistants totals is very interesting.

Next time you wonder why there is very little loyalty in sports, know why. If you were a coach would you be loyal to a program or team that will throw you out without notice? Or would you continue to look for the best available opportunities until you optimize your personal goals, and maximize your family's happiness?

A pro coach's dream career should look like this: Get a position as a quality control coach for an NFL team, do well and a position coaches job opens up on that staff, someone recognizes you as a young talent and you land a coordinator job, your offense/defense is tops in the league for 2 years, an owner takes a huge leap of faith and hires you NFL coaching job with not head coaching experience, win a bunch of games, win a Super Bowl, get a long term contract, get fired with 3 years left on your deal, ride off into the sunset and have fun being a grandpa, and hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.

A college coach's dream: Get a position coach job in college, someone recognizes you as a young talent and takes a huge risk on you as a coordinator, you have great success and land a head coaching job at a mid level division 1, beat some big teams and go to bowl games, get a job a big school who has been struggling, build the school into a powerhouse, get a NFL coaching job, win a Super Bowl, get a long term contract, get fired with 3 years left on your deal, ride off into the sunset and have fun being a grandpa, and hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.

Coaches have to look out for themselves and do what is best for their families. That type of system trickles down to the players. So when your favorite player changes team, just realize it is part of the cycle. Loyalty is sports is bought, and it usually only lasts until someone else has a bigger, better deal for you. Is your loyalty for sale?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chip Kelly New Eagles Head Coach: Biggest Winners and Losers

This morning it was announced and confirmed the Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly would be the new Philadelphia Eagles head coach. The news was very surprising being that he announced he was staying with the Ducks less than two weeks ago. Kelly is leaving Eugene, Oregon after piling up a very impressive 46-7 record in his 4 seasons as Oregon's head coach. He also led the Ducks to a record tying 4 consecutive BCS appearances. Kelly now inherits an Eagles team that is low on confidence and hope, but has an abundance of weapons. The Eagles team quit on their 2012 season. Philadelphia fans should be happy with the effort and execution they get from their team in the 2013 season. Expect a new high powered offense and a shift in power in the NFC East. Now to the important part. The biggest winners and losers of the Chip Kelly hire:

Nick Foles: Loser with Winning Potential

This is the obvious choice, but don't count Foles out just yet. With Vick out this season, Foles proved he can be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Chip Kelly is big on competition and playing the best player. So there could be an open quarterback competition, even with Vick's $15.5 million 2013 salary. If Foles ends up behind center except a Kelly to run a system very similar to that of Bill Belichick in New England. Before you say, "Yea, but Nick Foles is no Tom Brady", remember nobody could have imagined Brady would be good before Bledsoe got hurt.

Eagles offensive line: Loser... No place to go but up though

This much maligned group was mediocre at best this season. Michael Vick took the lions share of the blame for the Eagles terrible season. But when Foles got in and was running for his life just the same, it was evident the Eagles had a much bigger problem of their hands. Chip Kelly likes to his lineman to do more moving than usual so he needs lineman who are athletic and can run. So guys like King Dunlap, and Dennis Kelly could end up back on the bench or out the door.

Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants: Losers

This season the Giants and Cowboys did not have an answer for RGIII. With the success of the fast break offense in the NFL, it is safe to assume the innovator of the fast break offense will also be successful. Last offseason Bill Belichick spent time learning from Chip Kelly. Now we see a significant difference in the Patriots. When you add Kelly to the Eagles weapons, you end up with a problem for the NFC East. The Giants vaunted pass rush was pedestrian this season, and Eli was back to his mortal self. With the Redskins and Eagles poised to be much better, the immediate future is bleak. "America's Team" instantly fell to the fighting with the Giants for the 3rd spot in the NFC East. Expect some sort of reaction in free agency by Jerry Jones. Sorry Cowboys fans, but you will not make the playoffs or the Super Bowl next sea on either.

Jeremy Maclin/DeSean Jackson: Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

This could be the fastest wide receiver duo in the NFL. In 2010, you saw the Eagles wideouts as the most dynamic and duo in the NFL. The last 2 season these two guys have been like Ferrari's driving in New York rush hour traffic in winter time, worthless. Expect a resurgence of the big play in Philadelphia in 2013. No team in college football scored more points in less time than Chip Kelly's Ducks. The majority of the success was due to the ability to run the football. As soon as the Eagles can run the ball effectively again with McCoy, you will see the DeSean Jackson backpedaling into the end zone again.

Michael Vick: Winner... Maybe a loser though

Just when it looked like the Eagles would be giving Michael Vick his walking papers, Chip Kelly walks in the door. The Michael Vick era has been nothing short of a catastrophic disappointment since the ink dried on his $100 million deal. Based on the offense Chip Kelly ran at Oregon it would be very hard to imagine Vick not being an Eagle next season. Kelly's offense has featured a quarterback who can run the football. Barring a change in philosophy, who would be a better fit for his system than Vick? The biggest question is: Will Kelly be able to turn Vick into the player we expected to see after the 2010 season?

LeSean McCoy: Big Winner

McCoy is a scat back that catches well, but also run between the tackles. He followed up his All-Pro 1,300 yard, 17TD season with an 800 yard, 2TD campaign. Chip Kelly's running backs at Oregon have averaged over 1,600 yards per season. How big do you think the smile is on McCoy's face is right now? Expect McCoy to put up some Marshall Faulk like numbers over the next few season.

Oregon Ducks Moral: Loser... Temporarily

The Oregon Ducks Football program should remain intact as a national championship contender every year. However, nobody like uncertainty. Questions are arising amongst the Oregon faithful. Who will be the next head coach? Will the assistant coaches leave? Will our recruits decommit? Will we have a shot at the National Championship in 2013?

Although there is a lot of uncertainty around the Oregon program expect order to be restored pretty quickly. Many people were uncertain about Chip Kelly taking over for a very successful Mike Bellotti, but that worked out very well. The program has enjoyed a continued assent over the last 18 years, there is no reason to think things will change under the new head coach. The new head coach is expected to be offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, so there won't be a change in style of play.

Eagles Fans: Biggest Winner

After 2 years of disappointment, Philadelphia fans have hope. The team that was coined the "Dream Team" ended up more like the "Scream Team". Congratulations Eagles fans. You have a winner and an offensive juggernaut.

Friday, January 11, 2013

NFL Top 10 Wide Receivers of All-Time

All "Greatest of All-Time" lists are constantly a work in progress. There are players currently playing that might knock one of the great players off the list. These are the Top 10 Wide Receivers of all-time as of January 2013. The rankings are based on stats, clutch play, playoff performance, yards per catch, and era played. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Smith, Tim Brown, Art Monk, Larry Fitzgerald (if he ever gets another decent QB again), Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt, Andre Reed, Fred Biletnikoff. Two guys that really could/should be on this list are Charley Taylor and Paul Warfield. If you don't know who they are, "Google them" and look at their stats.

Next Up: Calvin "Megatron" Johnson- In 6 seasons Megatron has piled up 488 catches for 7836 yards with 54 TDs, and is clearly on pace to make it on this list. He is a one man wrecking crew that demands double and sometimes triple, yes Triple teams. This year, his 122 catch, 1964 yard effort broke Jerry Rice's single season yardage record. We are watching greatness unfold right before our eyes. I hope you appreciate it. You never know when it ends. i.e. Bo Jackson

10 Issac Bruce-  Bruce was one of the key members of "The Greatest Show on Turf. He had 8 consecutive 1000yd seasons. Some might argue Tory Holt should be here instead of Bruce but with career numbers of 1024 catches, 15,208 yards, and 91 TDs its hard to leave him off. Bruce was a champion in 1999, and has put together clutch great playoff performances.

9 Michael Irvin- The push off master, also known as "The Playmaker". He had 11 100yd recieving games in the 1995 season. If he had 38 more yds in '96 he would have had 8 consecutive seasons over 1000 yds. With only 750 catches and just under 12,000 yards with 65 TDs he looks like he could be excluded, but his career was cut short. Irvin also has multiple championships and was instrumental in all of them.

8 Terrell Owens- He had 20 catches one game!  He has career total of 1078 catches, 15,934 yards, has the 3rd most receiving TDs in NFL history with 153. He changed the body type owners, GMs, and coaches look for in wide receivers. He was a rare receiver who was physical enough to go over the middle, but fast enough to make big plays over the top. The door to Owens playing career has probably come to a close, but not because he is no longer physically able to play. Even at 39 years old he is faster, stronger, and in better condition than most of the WRs on current NFL rosters. Unfortunately, physically ability is not the only thing you get when T.O. is on your team.

7 Cris Carter- "All he does is catch touchdowns" He made tremendous changes in his off field life to become one of the Greats! 1101 catches, 13899 yards, 130 TDs. His yards per catch are not great but what he lacks in YPC he made up for in TDs and big catches. How this man is not in the Hall of  Fame is a sin and a shame. Throwing "CC" the ball was the definition of "money in the bank". A coach was asked how good Carter's hands were, he relied, "He can catch a beebee in a sand storm".

6 James Lofton- Lofton was part of one of the greatest offenses of all-time, the "K Gun" (Jim Kelly). You rarely find a receiver with over 500 catches and yards per catch north of 15.5. Not only is Lofton above that, he has a staggering 18.3 YPC to go along with 764 catches, 14004 yards, and 75TDs. If you are looking for a big play receiver, you don't have to look much further.

5 Marvin Harrison - In 2002 he caught an NFL record 143 catches in 1 season. No one has gotten any closer than 20 catches to his mark. Marvin amassed 1102 career catches, 14,580 yds, 128 TDs and combined with Peyton Manning to become one of the most deadly QB/WR combos ever. I had the unfortunate privilege of playing in the AFC South while this man was in his prime. I cannot count the precision routes, and spectacular efforts of getting two feet in bounds for catches I have seen up close and personal. I simply call him, "The Route Whisperer" because of his quiet, low key persona.

4 Lance Alworth- In his first full 6 years (78 games, there were shorter seasons in 60s-70s) he had 384 catches, 7,747 yards and 70 TDs so his avg 16 game season would be 79 catches 1589 yards 14.4 TDs with 20YPC. I have seen many highlights and some game film on Alworth, he was a matchup nightmare.

3 Steve Largent- In 14 seasons Largent had 819 catches, 13,089 yards, 100 TDs without an elite QB. He was definitely not your physically prototypical WR but you could not stop him from getting open and making catches. Largent was the original Wes Welker. The differences between the two are that Largent scored a LOT of TDs and didn't have an elite quarterback. These are the reasons he is so high on the list.

2. Randy Moss- "The Freak", he is too fast, too tall, and his ball skills are too good. He came in the league like a seasoned veteran catching an NFL rookie record 17 TDs in his innagural season. 982 catches 15,292 yards, 156 TDs. The scary part is these numbers are going to grow since he came out of retirement. In 2007 he caught an NFL record 23 TDs in 1 season. In his prime he could not be covered by one person. Whether it was Culpepper or Brady, 1 on 1 coverage meant throw it deep to Randy.  Moss was so dominant that a new term for a jump ball that is caught was coined, "Getting Moss'd".

1. Jerry Rice- G.O.A.T. Mr NFL record. He once had 13 consecutive games with a TD. He had 274 consecutive games with a catch. In 1995, he caught for 1848 yards. He finished his illustrious 20 year NFL career with 1,549 career receptions, 22,895 career yards, 197 TDs. Rice was the pillar of consistency with 17 seasons with 50 or more receptions. Not only is Jerry Rice the greatest wide receiver ever, he could be the Greatest player of all-time regardless of position.

This list has been carefully considered and strategically put together. Whether you agree or disagree, let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pushing Chip Kelly Out the Door: Open Letter to the "Anonymous Boosters"

I was scrolling through my twitter feed and could not believe my eyes when I saw this post in USA Today... 'Anonymous Oregon Boosters want Chip Kelly gone.

This could be one of the more troubling things I have EVER read about my Ducks. Everyone knows I bleed Oregon Ducks green and yellow... and black and gray... and white and carbon fiber and (of course) chrome. I hope I speak for all the Duck faithful when I say to these "anonymous boosters":   Get on board with the program AND CHIP KELLY or find another team to booster for! 

Have you forgotten where we came from?  We have won 3 of the last 4 PAC-12 titles and been to 4 consecutive BCS bowl games. Oregon was an afterthought in the world of powerhouses in college football. Oregon is now arguably the BIGGEST brand in the NCAA. But you want to get rid of the coach because he doesn't want to play golf with you or pretend to be your friend?  Get over yourself.  Chip Kelly is 45-7.  That's over 85%. Find a coach with a better record than that. While you're at it, find another coach who is revolutionizing the way college football is played.  I'll wait... You can't!!! I do understand that Chip can be short and keep things very close to the vest. That can be very frustrating at times but what do you want more?  A football coach building a powerhouse... or a politician?  You are the people that cause empires to fall and potential greatness to be ruined.  There will be a day Chip leaves and we will use our "next man up" attitude but what sense does it make to try and push him out the door now? This is absolutely absurd.

"Anonymous Boosters":  You are selfish, self serving, cowardice, and do NOT have the program's best interest at heart. You must be solely concerned with feeding your own ego and show off to your friends that you are friends with the coach. If you are going to make bold statements that could be damaging to the program, don't hide behind the shield of anonymity.  Stand behind the words you speak. Before you do, however, be sure to realize that we are in the thick of a recruiting battle for the nation's best players. As a recruit, the LAST thing you want to think is that the coach may leave. When I was being recruited from high school, the ONLY reason I did not go to Arizona is because I knew Coach Tomey would be fired. 

I LOVE the University of Oregon and I hang on every snap of the game whether we are up by 5 or 55.  You are a booster.  Deep down, you do love the program...  but you have clearly lost your way. I really hope you come to your senses and stop tearing down the program that so many people have spent 2 decades building. Let's get back on the same page.  Let's support our coach and commit to doing everything possible to win a National Championship. If you cannot do that...  on behalf of Oregon fans, players (past, present, & future), and alumni... We don't want Chip Kelly gone. We want YOU gone. #GoDucks


George Fredrick Wrighster, III
TE '99-'02