Tuesday's Touchdowns and Turnovers: The Best and Worst of the NFL
As part of a regular feature here at Bleacher Report, every Tuesday we will take a look at the best and worst that the NFL has to offer.
During the lockout, we may have to look a little deeper and a little harder but there are still plenty of newsworthy items that impact the league and its players.
We're calling this column "Tuesday's Touchdowns and Turnovers" to represent both the positive and negative news in the NFL and in the game of football.
So often, the media seems to focus only on the negative and that's fine because it’s engrossing to a lot of people. But, this column hopes that you realize that there are good athletes both on and off the field, and perhaps just importantly not everything is good or bad, but fits into the great area in between.
Touchdown: James Harrison
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Touchdown: James Harrison.
Do I believe that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison sometimes crosses the line in tackling opposing players?
But is he absolutely spot on with his assessment that the latest tweaking of the rules to punish anyone who leaves their feet to hit a "defenseless player" doesn't make much sense?
Without a doubt.
According to profootballtalk.com, Harrison said on his personal blog, "I understand the intent behind making the rules, but in their attempt to make the game safer, they are actually clouding what is allowable."
He added, "Even the referees are confused. A close look will show you that the referees were calling things that were not even supposed to be called, and NOT calling things that were actually illegal.”
Look, the NFL game is so fast and furious that it has become impossible to expect the Zebras to rule on possession of a fumbled football in the end zone (2010 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins) never the less what constitutes a defenseless player.
My understanding of the new rules is that a defenseless player can take many forms.
For example, a defenseless player is a punter on a punt return, yet he can make the tackle.
Apparently, according to FOX Sports, a defenseless player is also "a player in the act or just after throwing a pass."
Harrison and I can both see what's coming next. You will have two hands touch a quarterback until he leaves the pocket, which should do defenses a lot of good as Michael Vick dashes by them while they wonder whether they can tackle him yet.
Mind you, I fully support increasing player safety. The way to do that is through better player equipment. I also fully support not leading with the crown of your helmet. But, when you continue to play with rules that aren't able to be enforced consistently to begin with you are just asking for trouble.
Kudos to Harrison for continuing to speak his mind for defenses and those concerned with the integrity of the game everywhere.
Turnover: Jim Tressel
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Teflon Tressel no more.
This might not seem like a big deal to the NFL, but the resignation of Ohio State's Jim Tressel is actually huge news for the professional ranks.
Just as when Urban Meyer quit Florida or Pete Carroll fled USC for the Seattle Seahawks the flow of a major pipeline for NFL talent has been reduced dramatically.
Just watch how many NFL prospects Ohio State turns out after the NCAA hits the university with harder sanctions than they put on USC. No longer will you see the endless parade of Buckeyes head to the professional ranks such as Santonio Holmes, A.J. Hawk, Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Jenkins, Cameron Heyward, Brian Hartline, Troy Smith, Nick Mangold, Ashton Youbouty, Ted Ginn, Beanie Wells, Maurice Clarett and the list has gone on and on.
Truth be told, Tressel probably lasted longer than other coaches that apparently committed less serious violations.
Let's debunk a few myths here as well.
Urban Meyer will not be the next coach of Ohio State. Why would a guy with significant health and family concerns want to take on a program that will have significant scholarship and bowl restrictions?
Answer: He won't. Same for Bob Stoops or any high profile coach that doesn't want to be hamstrung by the universities multiple past transgressions and the penalties that result from those mistakes.
Regardless, the effects of the Columbus nightmare are just starting to be felt and the legacy of "the vest" may be more of a mirage than that ridiculous pass interference penalty that was called against the University of Miami's Glen Sharpe giving Tressel his only national title while coach of the Buckeyes.
Touchdown: Davone Bess
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Miami Dolphins slot receiver Davone Bess represents the best of what players have to offer during the lockout.
Bess recently spent two weeks in Costa Rica, not sunning himself on vacation, but digging drainage ditches as part of volunteer efforts that will the people of Canitas, a small northern town, prepare for the rainy season.
(For more details about Bess, please read Omar Kelly's outstanding column in the Sun-Sentinel.)
What's remarkable about Bess is that after a mistake earlier in life that cost him dearly, and despite signing a nice lucrative contract extension last year, he has decided to give back to others in light of the second chance he was given.
Turnover: Jon Gruden
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Now onto to Jon Gruden, who is quickly rumored for any high profile job that suddenly opens, including the aforementioned Ohio State job.
You know for a guy that is supposedly so in demand some of his contemporaries don't seem to think much of him. In the book, Take your Eye off the Ball by the Jets former Director of Player Administration Pat Kirwan, he appears to call into question the complicated verbiage Gruden asks his quarterbacks to use. This could explain why Gruden hasn't developed a young quarterback successfully.
A far more significant criticism is recalled in the book, The Draft by Pete Williams. In discussing the career of long-time personnel guru Rich McKay, Gruden's lack of patience, long-term planning, dependence on veteran players, and his tolerance for character risks is cited.
Gruden is given credit as a motivator, but even that is tempered by the widely held notion that Tony Dungy laid the groundwork for Tampa Bay's single Super Bowl win which did happen under Gruden.
The bottom line seems to be that Gruden might be a talented coach but he quickly wears out his welcome wherever he goes.
This doesn't exactly seem like the best fit for an Ohio State university looking for consistency and a "straight and narrow" path and it might explain why combined with very high salary demands, Gruden has not yet left television.
Touchdown: Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman
Before there was anybody else that I read who covered football, there was Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman.
Whether it’s his legendary writing in Sports Illustrated or the bookThe Thinking Man's Guide to Football, Zimmerman always made understanding football easier for the rest of us.
Zimmerman is struggling to recover from spinal surgery, which set has set back his recovery from significant health issues including strokes over the last few years.
Here's offering a special prayer to ease his pain and spur his recovery.
A day after Memorial Day, it's all worth noting courtesy of profootballtalk.com that Zimmerman won All-Service honors with a Special Forces team he played on while stationed in the Army in Germany.
My best goes out to all our servicemen and women, both those who have passed on and those who continue to fight and serve.