Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tail That Wags the Dog

Last week Washington’s NFL team announced that its starting quarterback for the 2015 season will be Robert Griffin III. The announcement is not only curious but downright puzzling. There is no question as to the starter if we were talking about long proven quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Payton Manning or Drew Breeze. Or if the quarterback and the team had a good season it would be assumed Griffin would be the starter unless beaten out during training camp by an understudy, a drafted quarterback or a signed free agent. While Griffin entered the league with great promise with high expectations upon his shoulder, after a solid rookie year, Griffin is nowhere close to being a proven NFL quarterback.

During his rookie year he relied upon his scrambling abilities to get himself out of trouble again and again, and help generate wins. Once teams analyzed and adjusted to Griffin he started to struggle. Then when he got injured, the plan was to have him become a drop-back pocket quarterback like Brady, Manning and Breeze, and with some of Breeze’s ability to run out of trouble when necessary.

 I’m not a football expert but even I know that a quarterback is doomed in the NFL when that quarterback relies upon his own running abilities. In the NFL successful pocket quarterbacks not only need a good accurate passing arm, they must have the ability to in a split second read defenses and adjust to take advance of a different set of opportunities. While Griffin has great arm strength with above average accuracy, even I can see that his ability to read defenses, swiftly adjust and audible well into a new play is well underdeveloped.  He seems to have difficulty adjusting the NFL’s pace and the complexity of their defenses.


Some absolve Griffin by pointing to the offensive line or a poor receiver corps as the source of Washington’s struggles. In his second and third year, that was my perception too. I thought, “if only he had a stronger O-line and two strong receivers, he will become a solid quarterback” as expected coming out of college. Yes the O-line was and is not in the top half of the league but I’ve come to realize that that is not the heart of Griffin’s issues for a skilled quarterback who can make reads, adjust and quickly find receivers helps his O-line and receivers look stronger. With the same O-line and receivers playing, they seemed to look stronger when McCoy was the QB for a few games this past season.

At the end of the season seeing that no quarterback was performing much stronger than the other Gruden rightly noted that the starting quarterback position would be determined during training camp. And this is the way it should be when no quarterback has clearly outperformed.


Yet suddenly, without a snap and with training camp nearly six months away, Washington suddenly announces that underperforming Griffin is the starter. What gives? What gives is that the owner, Dan Snyder is again undercutting his coaching staff. Since arriving in Washington Griffin has had and continues to have access to the owner unlike any other player on the team. It has been reported on numerous occasions that Griffin has gone to Snyder, put forth his complaints and how he things should run which has resulted in Griffin’s plan superseding the coaching staff’s plans. No player should have such access and voice in running of the team, but Snyder has given Griffin such power…and that is part of Washington’s problems.

Griffin has chafed under both Shanahan and Gruden’s coaching. Griffin has disagreed again and again with his coaches. He feels he knows better than the coaching staff what is best for him and the team. During Shanahan’s tenure as coach, with Snyder’s knowledge and support, Griffin called for a meeting with the head coach and offensive coaching staff during which he stood at a white board listing off a long list of plays Griffin refused to run, calling them “unacceptable.” With Snyder accepting Griffin’s plan and feeling no support from the owner, no wonder Shanahan was looking forward to getting out of Washington, being fired, and taking Snyder’s money for the next several years.

When Gruden stated that the starting quarterback would be decided in training camp, Griffin was upset, which he openly expressed on ESPN and to Snyder that the lack of “organizational support” was the real issue. He noted that support is what makes a QB successful, not QB mechanics, not judgment, not intelligence, nor hours upon hours of film study and self-sacrificial leadership. According to Griffin, his failure was due to lack of commitment and support from the owner and coaches. His frail ego could not accept that he had to compete and win the position.

With millions being paid out annually, and to keep his “star” happy, Snyder had the team make the announcement; Griffin was going to be the QB. There will be no competition for the position. Griffin got his unconditional commitment from the owner. No matter what McCoy, Cousins, or some other QB in camp, may do, they cannot become the starter unless Griffin becomes injured. And what did Washington’s fans get?

An owner who by the consequences of his actions that is giving the fans team that will continue to fight hard to remain near 500. Snyder reminds me of what happened when George Steinbrenner took over ownership of the New York Yankees. The Yankees were a strong team, but ten years later they were struggling mainly because of how Steinbrenner kept medaling with the team.

Steinbrenner as a practical businessman came to the conclusion that he should not get involved in the day to day management and personnel issues of the team. When he let the team to the managers and coaches run their plans, the Yankees moved back towards being contenders year after year. Will Snyder change like Steinbrenner? Maybe, but it will not be soon.

Besides an interfering owner and mediocrity, what else did the Washington fans get? They got a real life ongoing soup opera playing out before them, albeit a costly one. The team will still have an untrained quarterback who is not teachable, overconfident and believes he knows more than the coaching staff. With coaches undermined the cycle the fans will have the firing of Gruden in a year or two. Regretfully with some of priciest tickets in the NFL fans will continue to fill the stadium as they dream that the glory days of yesteryear may soon return all the while filling the owner’s pockets with their money.

In short, the fans have a tail that is wagging the dog.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Vaccination Dust-up

Following an outbreak of measles traced back to visits to Disneyland and then comments made by President Obama encouraging parents to vaccinate their children a flash controversy erupted. Over the last decade a growing number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children against long conquered diseases.


The controversy increased further following by comments made pending GOP presidential contenders Senator Rand Paul and Governor Chris Christy a flash controversy has erupted over vaccinations of children. While neither gentleman said parents should not vaccinate their children, libertarian Paul said such vaccinations should not be mandatory. His view should not be a surprise for his consistent libertarian position is that government, particularly the federal government should not mandate personal conduct. As Christy more or less stated that the government should stay out of such affairs, that childhood vaccinations should be a matter left to parents. He implied that such vaccinations are not important, and that there is ground for concern and no vaccinations should not be required by government agencies, including schools. It appears to me that Christy’s comments were more off the cuff and a poor effort to pander to what he thought the Republican base wanted to hear. As a result Christy’s aid had to clarify what their boss really meant and to walk back some of what seemed to be implied in his position.


Christy was wrong about what the republican base believes on the matter. Polls indicate ( that one’s views is not linked to one’s political views as they are to one’s age. The older the person, the more likely they will see both the value in vaccinations and feel that vaccinations should be a requirement. Why is it more linked to age than one’s political tendencies? Two reasons, the first being the younger generation is more linked into the internet and the various “experts” and “stories” claiming that vaccinations are not safe and if parents vaccinate their child they are increasing the risk that their child will develop autism and other emotional maladies. While Rand Paul was unable to cite a credible incident his comments indicate that such is the case.


The second reason is that the younger generation have not experience with the a range of diseases. Those who are now 55 and older were the first generations to receive the vaccinations that eliminated diseases the quarantine families from the rest of the community. My parents’ generation well recall polio hospitals and how polio crippled people they knew. I still recall parental concerns and fear over how damaging rubella, typhoid, measles, the mumps, etc. could be upon their children. My children don’t fear those long conquered diseases. For then diseases are just names, not experiences encountered first hand or by observation.


My wife and I vaccinated our boys. Why? Because it is safe and we had some experiences with some of these diseases and had heard stories from our parents and grandparents about the diseases. Given their lack of experience, my children are susceptible to arguments against vaccinations that Evie and I view as both fallacious. I support the mandatory requirement as one's personal freedom has limits and required vaccinations to keep these dreaded diseases conquered is a reasonable expectation. Given the lack of experience, the number of unvaccinated children may well grow, and at some distant point, possibly 30-45 years from now, there will be sudden decline in unvaccinated children following a rash of wider spread and more frequent outbreaks of these ancient diseases.   


As an aside, I’m was really disturbed by a handful of politicians who have blamed the recent outbreak upon illegal aliens and their children saying they brought the disease into the country. What I find most interesting is that vaccination rate in the countries from which are pointing have a higher vaccination rate than the United States. The thought provoking and insightful Richard Cohen wrote, “Anti-Semitism does not need a reason. It only needs an excuse.” Racism only needs an excuse for it to pour forth in comment and deeds.