The drama surrounding NFL football never ceases to amaze, partially because you’d never expect a kids’ game could be taken this seriously in the first place, but also because, by nature of the sport’s immense popularity, it all plays out with the kind of mass hysteria usually reserved for pop stars, Hollywood burn outs, and scandalous politicians.
However, just because the NFL spotlight is always shining doesn’t mean it catches every story in real time. For several notorious headlines from recent years, that’s a real shame.
Imagine how different this year’s New Orleans Saints season would be going, for example, if their infamous bounty scandal had been exposed when it first began, almost three full years ago, and not this past March.
Or what about the New England Patriots’ equally-infamous Spygate controversy, or the disastrous ending to the first act of Michael Vick’s tumultuous career? How much damage (both figuratively and literally, in Vick’s case) could have been prevented if only we’d have cracked those cases while they were happening and not after the fact?
With that thought in mind, it’s only natural to wonder what shocking, unpredictable controversies might be taking place in the NFL right now that we just don’t know about yet—not just because we football fans are as obsessive as your everyday Vanilla Ice stalker but because the sooner we sniff those time bombs out, the less unnecessary anguish we’ll all collectively suffer.
Is somebody breaking the rules? Living a lie? Making fools of us all?
Nobody knows for sure, of course, but if indeed they are, it sure would help explain several peculiar situations taking place in the league right now that otherwise just don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Honestly, how surprised would you really be to wake up tomorrow and find out that…
What’s Allegedly Happening: A 23-year-old rookie quarterback is winning game after game with the finesse of a polished veteran on a team that finished dead last in the league just one season ago.
What’s Probably Happening: Have you seen this guy?
More importantly, have you seen any quarterback ever play with this level of poise so early in his career?
The NFL sure hasn’t. That’s why “Andrew” already holds the rookie record for single game passing yardage, will soon break the rookie mark for single season passing yardage, and is right now preparing for the kind of playoff run that would have made you the laughing stock of an entire sports bar had you suggested it even two short months ago.
It’s certainly possible Andrew Luck really is just picking up the hardest position in all of sports like Forrest Gump took to ping pong and if he is, more power to him, but something seems a little fishy when a guy who’s only had a playbook for six months is already running two-minute drills better than some quarterbacks who’ve made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Is Andrew Luck an alien? A cyborg sent back from the future? An artificial life form Peyton Manning is remotely controlling through some secret Being John Malkovich-style mind portal? (They do play in separate time-zones now that Manning is a Denver Bronco, in case you hadn’t noticed).
Whatever this kid really is, any theory you can propose seems just as plausible as the notion that he’s already able to produce a playoff berth this insanely early in his career with a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding right now and has been playing with a substitute head coach for most of the season, and considering how competent the “23-year-old” has already proven to be in just three months’ time, if there is some dirty secret here we’ll probably never know.
The guy is just that good.
What’s Allegedly Happening: Eleven months after a suffering an injury that renders normal NFL players inactive for 10.8 months on average, a 27-year-old four-time All-Pro is leading the league in rushing and miraculously having the best season of his entire six-year career.
What’s Probably Happening: The whole thing was a sham!
When Peterson was asked about his primary career objective during his rookie season back in 2007, you know what he said?
“I want to be the best player to ever play this game.”
That was the what, and now we know the how.
The strategy Peterson has apparently adopted in order to make his case for G.O.A.T. is to prove he can overcome any obstacle he faces—be it a distracting quarterback, a clueless head coach, or even that hideous patch of roadkill he shared a locker room with from 2008 to 2010—and as inspiring as Peterson’s recovery from this so-called “major reconstructive knee surgery” may seem at first, there’s a good chance the whole thing was actually just a ploy to further convince the public that Adrian “All Day” Peterson is as unstoppable as they come.
You really think a guy who tore both his ACL and MCL could ever heal enough to do this, let alone to do it only nine months after surgery? Adrian Peterson didn’t just recover from this supposed injury, he stomped it out like a cigarette butt then got right back to work making professional football players look like amateurs again like the whole thing never even happened. Honestly, who suffers an injury of this magnitude then comes back from it better than they used to be? Since when is a recovery like that even scientifically possible?
It isn’t, or never has been until now, at least, and as tempting as it may be to just blindly accept this heartwarming saga at face value, we all know there’s something about this unthinkable comeback that seems just a little too good to be true.
It was a nice try, Mr. Peterson, but after pulling this stunt three times in college (while at Oklahoma, A.D. overcame injuries to his shoulder, ankle and collarbone and still came within 73 rushing yards of becoming the school’s all-time leader, despite only playing three seasons) you went to the well one too many times and, quite frankly, this time it’s almost like you didn’t even try to hide it.
One year after knee surgery and you’re already threatening to break the all-time single season rushing record?
Just how gullible do you think we are, exactly?
What’s Allegedly Happening: Marred by injuries and overwhelmed by the transition to a new coaching scheme, the Jaguars completely collapsed in 2012 and will likely end up posting the worst regular season record in franchise history when all is said and done.
What’s Probably Happening: This team wants a No. 1 pick and they want it bad.
Not that a team with Blaine Gabbert as its quarterback would’ve been much of a threat to begin with, but to perform as pitifully as Jacksonville has through 14 games this season you’d almost have to be trying.
The 2-12 Jaguars currently have the 31st ranked offense in the league, and in case you weren’t aware, that’s out of 32. Their defense? Well that’s also clocking in at a solid No. 31 and yes, that one’s out of 32 too. The Jaguars are averaging 16.1 first downs per game right now while giving up, on average, 23.5 per game. To put that in perspective, the Patriots, Broncos and Colts have all produced more than 16 first downs in every game they’ve played this year, while neither the Steelers, the Chiefs nor the Cowboys, on the other hand, have allowed more than 23 first downs in any game all season.
Granted, it’s not like anyone was penciling in the Jaguars for a Super Bowl appearance this season but this?
Something seems a little off about Jacksonville’s entire season and it’s easy to see why. Back in 1995 when the Jags debuted, the team was given the second overall pick of the draft, and not the first, because they received the top pick in the Expansion Draft earlier that year. The real No. 1 pick instead went to the other expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, and considering how Jacksonville is playing this season, this is presumably when a perpetual nightmare of bitter resentment first began.
The following year the Jags missed out on the No. 1 pick by one lousy game, and two years after that, No. 1 fell to their eventual division rival, the Indianapolis Colts, who of course used it to select quarterback Peyton Manning. Out of respect for Jaguars fans, we won’t dwell on how important that pick turned out to be, but we will say this: If you fell into a coma that day, just woke up, and are now wondering what the Jacksonville Jaguars have been up to for the last 14 years, you didn’t miss much.
And then there was the 2011 season or, as Jaguars fans probably remember it, the last straw. Manning was injured for the first time in his career, the Colts were finally vulnerable and the AFC South, for the first time ever, was officially up for grabs. How did that all play out, you ask? Right on cue, the Colts ended up being so bad they secured themselves another No. 1 pick and used it to draft Andrew Luck, the most promising quarterback prospect the league has seen since Manning himself.
That’s one remarkable streak of bad luck the Jaguars have experienced and, by the looks of things, they’re apparently not going to take it anymore. Is it just a coincidence Maurice Jones-Drew, the team’s star running back and most valuable player, has missed more games this season than in the rest of his career combined? Or that Justin Blackmon, by far the most gifted rookie wide receiver in the league right now whom the Jags drafted fifth overall last April, has been a complete non-factor in all but one game this season?
Let’s drop the charade already, Jacksonville. There’s no shame in admitting you want that top spot next year – several teams were accused of doing the exact same thing just last season, in fact – and given the terrible misfortune you’ve endured throughout your entire existence, we all agree you deserve it.
Just don’t go thinking that a No. 1 overall pick automatically ensures you’re getting someone like a Peyton Manning, or an Andrew Luck, for example.
Players like that only come around every so often.
What’s Allegedly Happening: The New York Giants may be inconsistent, but they play their best football when it matters most and that’s what’s made them such a dominant postseason force in recent years.
What’s Probably Happening: The Giants may have everyone fooled and, behind closed doors, they’re secretly raking in the dough.
How else do you explain why a team that won two Super Bowls in four years still struggles to even reach the postseason every year, unless they have some sort of ulterior motive? It just doesn’t add up.
In 2008, the 10-6 Giants beat the 16-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII even though they’d already lost to the Pats in the regular reason and even though they’d lost four of their last seven regular season games leading up to the playoffs (all home games), including a 41-17 beat down by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12 in which eventual Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw four interceptions.
Last year, the Giants pulled off an even more miraculous feat, becoming the first 9-7 team to ever win the Super Bowl and defeating in the process the AFC’s No. 1 seed—another Patriots squad arguably as good as the ’07 version that went 13-3 and produced the most total yards in New England’s entire 41-year history—plus the NFC’s No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 seeds.
What, are we supposed to believe New York just magically transforms into an elite gridiron powerhouse right when the postseason starts every year? Sure this is the age of parity where the ability to predict football games is quickly becoming a lost art, but come on.
Right now we’re only ten months removed from New York’s most recent Super Bowl title and guess what? The Giants are 8-6, caught smack dab in the middle of a grueling playoff race that’s sure to once again extend through the final week of the season, and already they’ve experienced losses as inexplicable as Sunday’s 34-0 no-show against the Atlanta Falcons and victories as uncharacteristic as Week 14’s 52-27 annihilation of the New Orleans Saints, the most points New York has scored in a single game since 1986. What else is new?
The only logical explanation for performing this erratically is that the Giants must not want anyone to have a clue how good they really are, and the only plausible motivation for attempting such a scheme, given the extraordinary risks involved, is profit.
How much will we find out the Giants cleared for tanking that Falcons game three years from now, when someone finally blows the whistle? Was it as much as when they beat the San Francisco 49ers 26-3 in Week 6 even though the Niners were six point favorites and have beaten two other teams this year that already have playoff spots secured?
Whatever the arrangement, the payoff had better be huge, because if you-know-who ever gets wind of a violation this severe, we might end up looking back at those outrageous bounty scandal punishments from last spring and thinking, “Wow, those guys got off easy!”
Who did we say beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII again? Wait, what’s that? Oh you say that game never even happened?
What’s Allegedly Happening: Purely in the interest of safety, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has regularly altered the NFL rulebook throughout his tenure and, coincidentally, nearly all of the changes he’s implemented just so happen to favor offenses over defenses.
What’s Probably Happening: Defense may win championships but offense is what sells. That’s why eight of the ten best-selling jerseys in the league right now are offensive players and that’s why you can’t watch TV for five minutes these days without hearing an NFL quarterback try and pitch you some new product or service.
Is that also why almost every significant rule change Roger Goodell has presided over during his six years in office has served to make those quarterbacks’ job easier than ever?
There’s no clear evidence Goodell’s decisions to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits or to emphasize protecting quarterbacks in the pocket were designed to inflate offensive production but if indeed they were, there was obviously an incentive to do so (better stats means bigger stars and, consequently, more money) and they were obviously highly effective whether intentional or not: Under Goodell’s watch passing offense has absolutely exploded with all-time records as historical as those for single season passing yards, single season touchdown passes and overall league-wide passing yards per game all being broken, some on multiple occasions.
So is it just a coincidence, then, that right when the conditions for a surge in offensive production become firmly set, Nike suddenly begins a five-year term as the NFL’s exclusive apparel provider and gladly pays almost ten times what Reebok used to for the same exact rights? That seems a tad bit generous, does it not? Even for a brand as profitable as the NFL?
Consider this: Of the ten best-selling jerseys referenced above, you know which one is No. 1 right now? It’s Robert Griffin, III, RG3, and his jersey is selling so well, in fact, that it’s already set the record for the most sold in a single fiscal year with three months still left to pad its total.
Now ask yourself: Would a rookie quarterback really be able to shine bright enough to develop that kind of following were it not for the rule changes we’ve witnessed in the last few years?
Or is it just another coincidence that those changes just so happened to help rookie quarterbacks succeed faster, the same way Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson broke out this season, and Cam Newton and Andy Dalton did last season, and pretty much no rookie quarterback before those guys ever has?
So there you have it. The dramatic improvement in quarterback play the NFL has experienced in recent seasons is a direct result of Goodell’s handiwork, and that improvement is itself directly responsible for the creation of a whole new cast of NFL superstars that, especially for new apparel-provider Nike, happen to be highly profitable.
It doesn’t take an awkward, claustrophobic sit-down with Jon Gruden to how figure out how those dots connect.
What’s Allegedly Happening: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is such a relentless jerk he’ll do whatever it takes to protect a win, even if that means risking his players’ safety, going for it on fourth down when he doesn’t need to or, in some cases, just flat out cheating. The guy just wants to win so badly he doesn’t care how he accomplishes it or, least of all, what anyone else thinks about it.
What’s Probably Happening: Could it be that Bill Belichick, the most reviled head coach in modern NFL history, has actually been a victim this entire time?
Let’s start in Week 1 of 2007, when Belichick was caught illegally filming the defensive signals of the New York Jets, even though the Pats would go on to post the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history later that year and the Jets would finish a miserable 4-12. The controversy that followed still taints the coach’s legacy to this day and, looking back, seems downright ludicrous given how much the three-time Super Bowl Champion risked in obtaining the footage for so precious little in return.
On the surface, the Spygate controversy paints Belichick as merely a greedy, immoral tyrant who strives to gain any advantage he can possibly can, fair or unfair. But could there be more to this story?
What if Belichick really thinks his team needs an unfair advantage to win or, at the very least, is so scared of other teams winning that he literally can’t control his actions?
That would explain not only why Bill felt it was necessary to spy on the lowly Jets in ‘07 but also why he habitually leaves his starters in during blowouts and is constantly accused of “running up the score.”
Later that same year, the Pats won three games by more than 30 points (in Week 8 they scored two fourth quarter touchdowns against the Washington Redskins while already up 38-0), they finished with the highest single season point differential in NFL history and in Week 17, while 15-0 with the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed already locked up, Belichick played his starters all 60 minutes against the New York Giants in a game that, at least in respect to the approaching postseason, was completely meaningless.
The Patriots’ 2010 season was notably similar in that Belichick again won three games by more than 30 points (in Week 13 that year Tom Brady was still throwing passes while up 45-3 against the Jets with under three minutes left in the game), 2011 saw the Pats score a fourth touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs while up 27-3 in Week 11 with only 64 seconds left to play and 2012, our current season, has so far been simply more of the same.
As of today, the Pats have yet again notched three victories of at least 30 points this season and in one of those contests, a 59-24 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11, we saw firsthand just how easily this “no mercy” strategy can totally backfire: After producing their eighth touchdown that day (on their way to tying the franchise record for single game scoring) with less than four minutes left and up by 34, Belichick watched in horror as his record-breaking All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski injured his arm blocking for the ensuing extra point, an injury substantial enough that Gronk has already missed four games so far and still has not been cleared to return.
Did Belichick just underestimate the potential for injury that exists anytime an NFL player takes the field? Or is the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach (until Philadelphia fires Andy Reid, that is) really such a prick that he considers rubbing in a lopsided victory a bigger priority than protecting his team’s best players?
Is it really any crazier to ponder those suggestions than it is to question whether maybe, just maybe, this guy—who makes more money than any coach in sports but still chooses to dress like a homeless person every game for no apparent reason, mind you—is secretly a paranoid sociopath who’d still be calling flea flickers and post routes even if his team were up by a hundred? Could it be those shocking Super Bowl losses New England suffered in ’08 and earlier this year only further fueled his dementia? Or that his dreams are forever haunted by that one epic comeback his team was on the losing end of six years ago this January?
Whatever is motivating this behavior, don’t expect it to change anytime soon, and even if it turns out there is no personality disorder cover-up taking place here, rest assured some new and disturbing twist to Belichick’s legacy will inevitably break at some point in the not-too-distant future either way.
If there’s one thing we know about Bill Belichick, after all, it’s that the man is a magnet for controversy, and considering it’s now been three whole months since the last time everyone’s favorite real-life Star Wars villain made headlines for his reckless behavior, it’s safe to assume another memorable misstep is just around the corner.