The NFL hasn’t exactly provided a wealth of positive stories over the past several days. From the alleged bullying saga in Miami, to health scares for both the Broncos and Dolphins head coaches, professional football has left us little to smile about as of late.
Leave it to original Houston Texans offensive lineman Chester Pitts to neutralize some of the negativity, as he and other current and former Texans players will drive senior citizens to the voting booth on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Literally.
Pitts, who retired from the NFL in 2011 and now works for local television station KPRC in Houston, is joining forces with the Harvest Community Center for the second consecutive year in helping the elderly members of his community to vote.
Last year’s event went so well that Pitts decided to do it again, and not just in light of the Houston mayoral race, the fact that the elderly are often an infringed voting group, or because it’s a mitzvah. But also, because old people are awesome.
"Seniors, you can learn so much from them and just being around them for the length of time we were, was an amazing experience," Pitts told PepperOnSports.com.
"Their gracious attitude told me this was something I had to keep doing."
Joining Pitts behind the wheel of several large passenger vans that will shuttle seniors from various community centers to the polls will be current Texans offensive linemen Duane Brown and Brandon Brooks, as well as former Texans defensive lineman Travis Johnson and former Houston Oilers receiver, Haywood Jeffries. Johnson also participated on election day last year.
Tuesday will be the Texans first day off since a demoralizing Sunday Night Football performance in which the team gave up a 21-3 first half lead over the Indianapolis Colts, ultimately losing at home, 27-24 and dropping their season record to 2-6. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field during halftime with a still unknown medical condition. It’s pretty cool that despite a trying season thus far, some of the Texans are willing to give up what little free time they have to help out strangers within the community.
"There is no responsibility for professional athletes to do this," Pitts told PepperOnSports.com.
"But as a professional athlete you are a role model and I believe you should always do what is right. Helping others, especially our seniors is always important and as long as I am able, I want to do just that."
Pitts says that as a media member, he has approached different players about helping out with the event in the locker room following Texans games. He hopes player involvement will increase each year.
(photos courtesy of Chester Pitts)
(Top photo, Pitts and Brown. Bottom photo, Brooks and Pitts)
Oh…my…lord. Peyton and Eli Manning go “Lonely Island Boys” on us and take to the streets of New Orleans in this EPIC music video.
The irony that a Manning brother not named Peyton is quarterbacking a Super Bowl game played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the “place that Peyton built,” is sad and complex. Even worse is the way in which both ownership and player have purposefully or perhaps inadvertently turned an uncomfortable situation into an unexpected public grudge match.
The elder Manning sat out the entire season after undergoing three neck surgeries in 19 months, leaving the Indianapolis Colts handicapped to the point of losing their first 13 games of the season and finishing the year with an unimaginably poor 14-2 record. Sure, the embarrassing 2011 season led to the Colts landing the No. 1 overall draft pick - Indy is likely to choose Stanford’s Andrew Luck, but Robert Griffin III could be a surprise choice - but at what cost? The 35-year-old Manning had started 227 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs) since joining the Colts in 1998, not to mention winning four league MVP awards, 11 Pro Bowl selections, being named AFC Player of the Year six times and taking the Colts to the big game twice, bringing home one Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP award to go with it.
But even a storied athletic career of this caliber can’t save Peyton Manning from the inevitable, “sorry buddy, it’s just business” spiel before getting kicked to the curb. Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay had to do some damage control after public comments made by the quarterback prompted Irsay to go on an odd rant where he took some nasty shots at Manning ( http://indy.st/yTQ0A4 ). The situation has put both parties in a bad spot and has created an “owner versus player” scenario, at least in the eyes of the public.
I think most people find themselves in one of two camps.
"So what if Peyton can’t play? He built this team, took them to Super Bowls, and he is one of the best to EVER play the game. Where is the loyalty? If he’s healthy enough, he should at least be given the chance to play again and the Colts can still draft Andrew Luck, but sit him, a la Aaron Rodgers holding the clip board in Green Bay during the final years of Brett Favre era."
"This is a business. At the end of the day, people own football teams to make money. It is better to cut Manning now, save the $28 million owed to him next season (and the rest of a 5-year contract extension worth around $90 million) and risk him somehow getting healthy and playing well for another team. Three surgeries in 19 months, on the neck of all places, and missing an entire season? You don’t need to be a doctor to know that doesn’t bode well for the aging star. Save the money, bring in Luck and perhaps a quality backup to help coach the kid up. Thanks for the memories Manning, but your time is up. It’s just business."
The problem with splitting into two sides over this issue is that both arguments are valid, making this predicament grey, as opposed to black or white. Part of being a good business owner is doing right by your employees. Sometimes it can potentially hurt the bottom line, but I believe in Karma. When you treat people well, others take notice and want to come work for you.
If Manning is healthy enough, I would love to see him play for the next few years and mentor Luck, or whomever the Colts select with the top draft pick in a few months from now. If he is healthy enough to play and refuses to mentor a quarterback taken as the top pick, well then that’s a shame and you have to trade him.
Should Manning truly be at the end of his career and be forced to retire due to his health, yes, the Colts need to give Peyton a token of their appreciation as a franchise. Should they decimate their roster or ability to sign good players in doing so? Of course not. But as an owner of a team that has been successful over the last decade, you find a way to compensate Manning with a sweet severance package.
Perhaps that parting gift comes in the form of a front office job, slice of ownership, or coaching position. Maybe Manning becomes a spokesperson/ambassador on behalf of the team, allowing a creative, smart and personality-driven guy like Peyton the freedom to talk football and community for a living. The Colts might even find themselves in a position where Manning takes another gig having nothing to do with the team, so they slip him some cash inside his “going-away” card.
Both owner and player owe it to each other to work together and meet in the middle. In an industry where little loyalty exists, it would be a shame to see what has been a familial and successful partnership fall by the wayside because of ego, hurt feelings or corporate greed. Whatever the particulars are at the time when a decision must be made, surely Irsay and Manning can come to a fair agreement using diplomacy, business-savvy and good, old fashioned humanity.
We can choose our picks for most disappointing team of 2011 once the NFL regular season wraps up Sunday, but I’ve already cast my unofficial ballot for the Minnesota Vikings.
Heading into the 2011 season free of Favre, Moss, Childress and any other drama from last season, the Vikings showed promise in signing Adrian Peterson to a contract extension, drafting a talented quarterback in Christian Ponder and signing Donovan McNabb, a proven veteran.
While the Vikings looked decent on paper, they were awful in reality, resulting in McNabb being cut, the misfortune of Peterson tearing his ACL and MCL in week 16 and a dreadful 3-12 record with one game against the Chicago Bears remaining on the schedule.
In his first full season as a head coach, Leslie Frazier said that he speak with the Wilf Ownership group every day and acknowledged that despite his team’s struggles, he expects to be back on the Vikings sideline next season.
Take a look at Frazier’s comments from Scout.com:
"I’ve got great bosses, and they’ve been very supportive. Write that. Very supportive. Even in the midst of … a 3-12 season. They’ve been very supportive, which I’m thankful for."
Laying it on a bit thick there, ‘eh Leslie?
"…they’ve been very supportive. Write that." Does that strike anybody else as odd? You can kiss your boss’ butt without actually directing the media to help you do so. But wait…it gets better!
"I haven’t been told I’m back for sure. It never has been an issue. I’m being completely honest with you," he said. "My job security has never been an issue other than when I’m talking to you guys (reporters). That’s the truth. We’re going to get this thing turned eventually. We’ll get it done."
Now I feel bad for our guy Leslie. He seems like a smart, genuine and nice person. I don’t think he should be fired after one bad year (yes, he went 3-3 as the Vikings interim coach last season after Brad Childress was fired, thus he inherited a hot mess), but going through a positive self-talk therapy session in the press looks pretty desperate.
I’m sure he’s right; Frazier’s job is probably safe but it looks like he needs more convincing of that than anyone else. Barring extenuating circumstances, I think most coaches should keep their job after one bad season. For example, I think Jim Caldwell should remain the Colts head coach . The team was successful under Caldwell after Tony Dungy left, but who knew Peyton Manning was the real offensive coordinator in Indianapolis? It’s not Caldwell’s fault that Manning was handed all the cards in the deck over a long period of time. With Manning, Luck, or whomever under center, Caldwell deserves another shot.
There is good news for Frazier though; Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said, “Leslie will definitely be back next year,” according to startribune.com. Surely that quote has made its way to Frazier since the article was published on Dec. 5, but it sounds like Wilf has yet to deliver the news to Frazier directly. Perhaps Vikings ownership should put Frazier’s mind at ease, officially, once and for all.
One would think Peyton Manning’s neck injury would make for true competition in the AFC South, a season in which any team would have a realistic shot to win the division. Ok, well, everyone except for the Colts, but surely, the Texans, Titans with Matt Hasselbeck and a talented Jaguars team with its core group still in tact after a few years would all be competitive, right??
Well, not in Jacksonville’s case, as the Jags are 3-8, prompting management to fire Jack Del Rio in his ninth season as the team’s head coach.
On a small scale, it’s pretty bad to lose to the Texans when Matt Leinart is starting an NFL game for the first time since 2008 before an injury forced TJ Yates (or CJ, as I mistakenly referred to him for most of Sunday, because I had no clue who he was), Houston’s third string rookie quarterback to beat you.
The Jags only made the playoffs twice during Del Rio’s tenure, as the team had an overall record of 69-73 in his nine-ish seasons.
I will remember Del Rio’s time in Jacksonville for a few reasons.
1. He seemed like a nice guy and appeared to be well-liked. In the two seasons I worked for the NFL Network, I listened to A LOT of Jaguars news conferences, typing thousands and thousands of Del Rio’s words, verbatim. He had a good sense of humor, which I very much appreciated while logging interviews in a dark edit bay, day in and day out.
2. The guy had cojones. First, he told the media (before the Jags players) he was starting then-rookie Byron Leftwich instead of veteran Mark Brunell in 2003. A few years later Del Rio gave the Jags QB carousel another spin when he cut Leftwich a few days before the 2007 season and named David Garrard starter. Just five days before the 2011 season, Del Rio Leftwiched Garrard, giving him the axe. Totally wacko.
3. My best memories from the Del Rio era came in 2007 when the coach was vindicated in his decision to cut Leftwich loose as Garrard and company had a magical season. Working for NFL Network at the time, watching the rags-to-riches story of Garrard unfold was wonderful: the Jags went 11-5 and in 12 games, Garrard threw only 3 interceptions, tying an NFL record. Garrard was known for smiling under any circumstance and his teammates adored him. The Jags beat the Steelers in a thriller in the AFC wildcard game before their improbable season of success came to an end, losing to an undefeated Patriots team in the divisional round. It sure was a fun ride though, no doubt about that.
So what’s next for the Jaguars? Who knows. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert needs some serious grooming as he has struggled this year. Maurice Jones-Drew is kicking butt and deserves better than a 3-8 record.
In Del Rio’s nine seasons, the Jaguars never won the AFC South, and defensive coordinator turned interim head coach Mel Tucker won’t have the chance to change that this season.
But who knew these facts would be secondary to the fact that the day in which Del Rio is fired, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver announces he has sold the team!
(Sound of a car slamming on the breaks….) … as I’m writing this blog, Weaver held a press conference announcing the sale of the team to Illinois businessman Shahid Kahn.
Meanwhile, the team is having trouble selling tickets for its Monday Night Football game against the Chargers in Jacksonville. The Jags are one of a handful of teams who are rumored have interest in relocating to Los Angeles once the city completes construction on a new stadium. Especially given the fact that Weaver has sold the team, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Jaguars ended up in L.A. in hopes of starting over and actually being able to sell tickets for a change.
To read more about the Jaguars ownership change, click here: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2011/11/jaguars-owner-wayne-weaver-agrees-to-sell-team-to-shahid-khan/1
If you read my last post, you know the Cleveland Browns had some problems en route to Indianapolis to face the Colts… the team plane got stuck in the mud. After more than three hours of troubleshooting, the guys are finally in the air. Here are some final tweets before take off.
@jordaNorwood: New plane! Guess they’re bout to take care Of us on here http://t.co/HOuCnZbl
@JoshCribbs16: We are now on a super small plane 3 to a ro, cranky, & irritated… Somebody gotta pay!!! Indy we coming 4u!
@jordaNorwood: Slow-clap going for take off. Holler at you all from Indy.
Gotta love the “Slow-clap” LOLOL. Yes, I actually laughed out loud when I read that one. Hopefully the guys have a safe and relaxing flight after that ordeal. By the way, many of the guys tweeted about the Mayweather/Ortiz fight as they waited around, and it seems like they all have their money on Money May. Fingers crossed that this little detour won’t jack up their schedule to the point where the guys won’t be able to watch the fight.
The Cleveland Browns are stuck in the mud. Literally. Thanks to various Browns players tweeting from the team plane, we’ve learned that the guys are having a tough time merely getting to Indianapolis to take on the Colts tomorrow at 1pm est.
Here’s the play-by-play, in chronological order, via twitter.
@C_Mitch18: Soooo this week our Plane is Stuck in the grass -_- #ReallyDude? http://t.co/iSevQlZY
@MoMass11: 3 weeks in a row RT @C_Mitch18: Soooo this week our Plane is Stuck in the grass
@JoshCribbs16: We’re stuck on the runway in Cleveland, hope we make it 2 Indy… Lets hope 4the best..(side note) any browns fans have an extra jumbo jet?
@joehaden23: Ding this is your captain speaking “we are stuck in mud” thank u! #what??
1 hour later…
@JoshCribbs16: They pulled us out the mud & now checking making sure we good 2go!! It’s all good guys are a lil nervous but we good!!
@jordaNorwood: Just woke up from a nap. I thought we landed… We haven’t taken off yet.
(watching Michigan St/Notre Dame on the plane…) @BigHomie4real: How the hell the ref didn’t see the dam holding!!
@C_Mitch18: DePlane…. AGAIN! -_- smh switching planes
@JoshCribbs16: I guess we’re getting off the plane headed to the terminal… We gonna be all standing on the turnpike with our thumbs out!! Lol
@C_Mitch18: When I was 14 I had a Huffy Bike with one pedal ….I could ride through Grass and all with no prob…and I Never got stuck 0_O #JustSayin
2 hours later…
usama_young28: Nap on hold… Gotta make sure this plane is right. I’ll b back. Gotta get my tools
ANNND SCENE. As if the Browns don’t have enough to deal with. But hey, at least the guys are safe and have a sense of humor about the situation.