Jameis Winston Shouts Vulgar Phrase, Sports Media Loses Its Mind

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On Tuesday, reigning Heisman rophy winner Jameis Winston stood on  Florida State University table and screamed “Fuck her right in the pussy!”.

Students, either finding it amusing or kind of weird, took to Twitter and tweeted about it, as you do when the star quarterback does a thing. Deadspin collected those tweets and posted them.

Then all hell broke loose.

One wonders how much play this would get in the pre “We get our news from Twitter” days. One wonders if it’d be news at all. But alas, here we stand, with Winston suspended for a half vs. Clemson on Saturday, and every hot take artist tripping all over themselves to make a statement.

It doesn’t help that this is happening at a time wherein the NFL keeps tripping head first into controversy over domestic violence and the way it views women. And Winston was investigated for sexual assault, though never charged, and under dubious circumstances.

Winston has been involved in a slew of other incidents that seem small in relation to that. He was questioned but never charged in an incident involving a BB gun and broken windows. He was issued a civil citation for stealing soda at Burger King, using ketchup cups and a water cup. After winning the Heisman, he was caught stealing crab legs. And now he’s been suspended for shouting something obscene on campus.

There is a large gap between the first alleged crime, and the second group of blunders. One is what seems to be, at the very least, a crime that, on some level, was covered up.

The second is the kind of stuff that any douchey, immature, naive 20 year-old would do if they were the BMOC.

Mel Kiper has made a big deal of the fact that he lowered Winston from number 3 on his 2014 big board to number 25. In Kiper’s mind, Winston is lucky he didn’t fall off the board altogether. Kiper crowed about Winston having six “incidents”, and how dropping him on the board was to be a “wake-up call”. He was a surefire first rounder before, but now there was no doubt you take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota first overall, while Winston would be lucky to be drafted at all, especially in the NFL’s cuurent climate.

These shots were enough to echo off the halls of Bristol, which is treating this as a huge news story.

Let’s just break this down, piece by piece.

1.) Who the hell has a big board in September? The season isn’t a month old. Most NFL scouts aren’t even assembling a board. They haven’t been to Staples to even buy the board.

2.) Winston was at number 3 on his board, despite a sexual assault conviction. Kiper was bubbling with righteous indignation over this latest “incident”.

But one of these things isn’t like the other. If Winston was number 3 on Mel Kiper’s board even with his sexual assault accusation front and center, it suggests that either Kiper weighs shouting an internet meme more heavily than that of sexual assault, or that he simply didn’t care until now, when there was a need to be outraged at something other than the NFL.

3.) Any team that decided to not draft Jameis Winston because Mel Kiper —who, I’ll remind you, has never played football, nor been an NFL scout, personnel person, or even secretary — dropped him on his board, in September, should be fired. Like, yesterday.

Here’s the bottom line. Jameis Winston is a monstrously talented athlete, in the prime of his life. He’s also 20, and immature. Just like every kid his age. He has, quite literally, cognitively, not grown up yet. Name a 20 year-old that you don’t hate. If you met yourself when you were 20, you’d hate yourself too.

That doesn’t excuse what he did. It was stupid. It was vulgar. It was immature, unnecessary, unbecoming of him as a man and as a football player. He does have a lot of growing up to do before he moves onto the NFL.

But so did Peyton Manning. So do many people, not just athletes, who are Winston’s age.

In today’s uber-connected culture, everyone is held to a higher standard. Athletes like Winston and Johnny Manziel may be held to the highest of those standards. But moreover, the current sports media loves to build a lovable hero, and them quickly turn then heel and tear them down.

So many sports personalities pretend that athletes are always supposed to be perfect angels. Especially after what has transpired in the NFL the last few weeks. But it seems unfair to ding Winston for the transgressions of a league he’s not involved in.

“How could he not know, ESPECIALLY NOW, with everything going on in the NFL, that he can’t do this? How could any team trust him as the face of the franchise? Now he HAS to stay in school!”

The first thing goes back to the fact that he’s 20. You’d love for Winston to show maturity, but it’s pretty clear that no, Winston wasn’t thinking about his draft stock.

Nor should he be. If Winston is already eyeballing the NFL at age 20 to the point of stifling himself in hopes to get drafted in 2015, that’s a bigger red flag than shouting an obscenity. It means he’s already checking out on this Florida State team.

Even so, Winston had publicly stated he wants to get his degree and stay in school. It may be lip service, but until he declares, it seems foolish to knock him for not doing enough to impress the NFL.

When Winston does come out, the NFL will have to heavily vet the sexual assault allegations, and make the determination whether or not to draft him. That much is true, and serious.

Any team that weighs the indiscretions of youth with the seriousness as that sexual assault allegation is being silly at worse, and probing for more reasons to not draft him.

But the draft is far away. Perhaps farther away than 2015. Let’s let Winston play, and let’s not allow shouting a vulgar phrase to overshadow the actual serious crime that may have happened.

The media will make a story out of anything. Unfortunately, sometimes the bigger stories get buried to fill more airtime.

UPDATE: Winston’s suspension has been changed from a half, to a full game.

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Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings, and Crimes of Ignorance

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UPDATE:The Minnesota Vikings placed Adrian Peterson on the “exempt/comissioner’s permission” list at 1:52 this morning. Given what it took to get the Vikings to move on this issue, I feel like this post is still relevant.

I almost ran my mother over once.
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Minnesota Vikings Reinstate Adrian Peterson, Because Taking a Stand Doesn’t Matter

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On Friday, the Minnesota Vikings deactivated running back Adrian Peterson after he was indicted for child abuse on his four year old son. It quickly became evident that this wasn’t a case of stern parenting, but actual abuse, as welts remained on the body of Peterson’s son, broke the skin, left welts on the young man’s scrotum, amongst other things.

The move was largely applauded by just about everyone, and Peterson was called out by numerous members of the media, notably ESPN analyst Cris Carter, in an impassioned segemt on Sunday NFL Countdown. Just as there should be zero tolerance on domestic violence, there should be on child abuse.

On Sunday, the Vikings were blown out by the Patriots, 30-7. Back up running back Matt Asiata gained only 36 yards on 13 carries.

On Monday, Adrian Peterson was reinstated by the Vikings.

Call me cynical (because I am), but one can’t help but wonder if these two things are connected.

If you want to know why the NFL is in the crosshairs of every sane and decent person, this is why. This is clearly a football decision taking precedent of an issue of basic human decency. Ray McDonald is still playing after throwing around his pregnant wife. Why? Football decision. Greg Hardy was found guilty and is still likely to play before his November jury trial to appeal. Football decisions.

No coach wants to lose to do the right thing. For all the talk coaches sell about the next man up needing to be ready, and how they have great depth, and how they’ll be fine without a star player. But they still protect them and coddle them and insulate them and put the team above doing what’s right.

The Vikings can talk all they want about “due process”, but they didn’t care about “due process” when they suspended DB Chris Cook for 4 games in 2011. In 2013, A.J Jefferson was arrested for domestic abuse. They cut him an hour later. “Due process” has a definition in the NFL; “We’re covering our asses until someone makes the tough decisions for us. In the meantime we need to win games.”

No one can look at the photos of Adrian Peterson’s son and conclude anything but abuse. But by relying on “due process”, the Vikings can hold off and taking a stand for at least a year. And then they can wait and hope that the impotent office of the Commissioner can still do their dirty work. Which, with precedent and all, is a bit like expecting the Doctor to show in the TARDIS and take you away from this world we live in which domestic and child abusers get off light because winning is more important than integrity.

Don’t insult our intelligence, Minnesota. You got your butts kicked, your offense sputtered, and you made a football decision that standing against child abuse wasn’t worth your win-loss record.

You’re no better than the 49ers, Panthers, Ravens, or the Commissioner’s office. Considering how low those organizations are, that’s saying something.

The NFL’s Independent Investigation is Already a Complete Farce.

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As someone who has had to sit through their fair share on terrible excuses for public relation moves, nothing about the NFL’s move to hire an “outside investigator” to find out just how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell screwed up so badly is surprising. This is basically damage control 101. Now the NFL will get the benefit of the doubt while dragging out this investigation just long enough for games to start and for us to maybe forget that Goodell is an abject failure at his job.

Don’t let them do that. This whole thing is already a farce.

Just for example; why would an “independent” investigation from outside the NFL need oversight by the NFL? Doesn’t that already represent a conflict of interest?

Which is to say nothing of the fact that Dan Rooney and John Mara are old NFL money. How can John Mara be appointed to oversee anything? He’s already said he doesn’t think Goodell should be fired, which is a giant red flag in itself. Dan Rooney’s father Art personally called Roger Goodell to tell him he’d been elected commissioner. That suggests a level of closeness that makes any oversight he provides look slightly biased.

And there’s the fact that the “independent” investigator they hired is Robert Mueller. Not only is this the same Robert Mueller who accused an innocent man of being responsible for some anthrax attacks, and then didn’t clear his name for two years (as you do), but also works for WilmerHale, who has, among other things, represented Daniel Snyder, represented the NFL in it’s negotiations with DirecTV over, and had several of it’s members actually join NFL teams.

Yeah, independent investigation. Sure.

Can we skip to the part where Roger Goodell is exonerated of any wrongdoing and we all shake our heads in anger?

Or maybe we can all get loud enough that the NFL will have to abruptly change course again and hire someone else to actually do this thing so we can actually find out what happened?

Roger Goodell is the Worst Commissioner Ever, and It Doesn’t Matter

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But you already knew that. There is no doubt that Roger Goodell is the worst commissioner of anything ever. Sure, there are a lot of terrible commissioners in sports. But few manage to be this bad, for this many reasons, all at once. Roger has the kind of gift that comes with years of not doing anything and then being shoved into a role full of power you have no idea how to wield.
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Robert Griffin III, “Pocket Passers”, and the Changing Definition of Mobility

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For someone like Robert Griffin III, people’s expectations for him must be confusing.

You can see it in the way he plays. On Sunday, Griffin played an average game. On paper his starline looked solid; 27-39 for 267 yards with no picks, a decent passer rating. Off paper, his day was pedestrian at best; he did some good, some bad. But he looked better than he did in preseason and had a couple splash plays taken away by goofy mistakes that weren’t his fault.

But you wouldn’t know that by the coverage of his game. Griffin didn’t have a great day, but it was far less worrying than some would have you believe. After his 2012 season, people expect a certain level of play from Griffin.

Andbutso, Griffin is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The entire off-season, he was drilled for needing to be a “pocket passer”, to have to stay in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly and not take so many risks and quit running so damn much because QBs win from the pocket.

The RGIII you saw Sunday was the RGIII he thinks a select group of fans and media analyst want him to be. Stay in the pocket, don’t run, get the ball out. Griffin can be too easily influenced by outside noise at times.

So naturally when he tries to be what some people want him to be, suddenly the script flips and those same people wonder why he doesn’t take off anymore. Why isn’t he more elusive? Has he lost a step? Has Jay Gruden lost confidence in him?

The lesson Griffin has to learn is to tune out the noise from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and who are using talking points about what a quarterback should be that are quickly going out of date.

In football, people talk about two kinds of quarterbacks; “pocket passers”, and “mobile/running/athletic QBs”.  Everyone in football talks about the need for quarterbacks to stay in the pocket, to deliver the ball from the pocket, the mythical pocket that holds only good things.

Runners are supposed to be undisciplined. Mobility is supposed to be a gift and a curse. The only way to win in from the pocket. No running/mobile/athletic quarterback has won a Super Bowl. That’s the story, the narrative that drives anyone who actually watches football. The reality of pocket passers is far more gray.

Ryan Mallett, for example, is a classic example of a classic “pocket passer”. Tall. Huge arm. Moderately accurate. Smart.

But whenever Mallett has gotten a chance to showcase his talents in an actual game, he stumbles. He never looks like the guy who inspires trade talks all off-season, or like he’d be a particularly effective starter. He got flat out beat by a rookie this year.

Why? Because Mallett, the “pocket passer”, can’t play in a muddy pocket. Give him a clean pocket and time to throw, and he’s good. Force him to move off the spot, and he has cement feet. He can’t adjust his throwing platform or adjust his throwing mechanics to compensate for movement.

The same goes for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. With a clean pocket he looks every bit the role of the franchise quarterback, but if you muddy the pocket and get pressure on him, his mechanics go to crud and he gets inaccurate and he doesn’t look like someone who only committed four turnovers last season. We saw that on Sunday, when Foles lost two fumbles and threw a picm, as the Eagles try to repair what may have been the best line in football last year.

None of the elite quarterbacks in football are truly “pocket passers”. Most of the good ones aren’t that. What they are great at is maneuvering within the pocket. Manipulating the pocket and not getting frazzled. In today’s NFL, mobility is a necessity, not a hindrance.

That mobility and “running” seem to be used interchangeably is half the problem. For example; I think Philip Rivers is a mobile quarterback. Not because he’ll ever bust one for 80 yards, but because he manipulates the pocket and finds throwing lanes, he can throw from different platforms. He has a knack for alluding pressure, even though he’s not super athletic.

Another mobile quarterback would be someone life Aaron Rodgers. It’s funny, given how one of the concerns on Rodgers coming out of college was his lack of athleticism. But, like Rivers –better than Rivers by a mile — Rodgers manipulates the pocket. He can get outside it and make plays, but in the pocket, his ability to work in confined spaces and complete passes from different platforms is incredible. He’s the NFL’s best for a reason. Andrew Luck is mobile, and his pocket awareness is insane for a guy so young.

Mobility is not the same as the ability to run. The two ideas need to be separated and put in opposite corners. And even then, running hasn’t been someone like Griffin’s problem.

The equation on Griffin trends to go “Griffin gets hurts on run plays, he didn’t like running read-option, so he must become a pocket passer.”

The equation should be “Griffin doesn’t run smart, and he doesn’t like running read-option a lot, and therefore he has to run smarter, and his coaches have to call smarter run plays for him.”

The first issue is obvious; Griffin runs recklessly. He runs with wild abandon. 3/4’s of the fanbase went nuts when he actually 1.) slid, and 2.) did so without looking like an injured deer. But too often, he runs to contact. He cuts back inside, he dives headfirst, he tries to lower his throwing shoulder on a linebacker.

The solution isn’t that he should stop running. His legs are a dynamic, explosive part of any offense. Several times, head coach Jay Gruden made mention of times when Griffin could’ve run, but didn’t.

He’s trying to be a “pocket passer”, but you can be an efficient quarterback from the pocket and still take advantage of running lanes when necessary. This is the mental hurdle Griffin has to get over. It’s not about being one or the other. It’s about being smart. Sliding, getting out of bounds, realizing sometimes that ten yards is enough, and that he wears #10 and not #46.

Schematically, if Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay want to get him comfortable running the read-option again, changing the way it’s run would be a start. Under Kyle Shanahan, the read-option was typically run from either base personnel, or condensed two-tight end sets.

This meant that often, the defense stayed with their base personnel grouping, putting more linebackers on the field. Having bigger bodies on defense meant less big runs and more big hits.

Contrast that with how the 49ers and Seahawks run it; from spread formations, usually 3-4 receiver sets. This forces teams to either play nickel or dime coverage, pulling linebackers off the field and replacing them with corners. Kap and Wilson typically have bigger lanes and less bodies, and if Kaepernick gets one on one with a safety, he’s typically gone. That’s the whole point, and that kind of thinking may be able to coax a hesitant RGIII to accept a little more read-option in the gameplan.

Every week will be another step in the process for Griffin. The key will be him finding that balance between being a pocket passer and knowing when to run, and tuning out the outside noise from those who want him to be someone he isn’t.