Cleveland Browns Front Office Dumpster Fire

The fire burns ...
The fire burns …

The sky is falling in the Cleveland sports universe, as it tends to around this time every year. While the the Cavaliers’ struggle is noteworthy, my mind lingers on the Cleveland Browns Front Office dumpster fire, as Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains departed the Cleveland Browns offensive coaching staff.

For those unfamiliar, Kyle Shanahan was the Browns’ Offensive Coordinator and Dowell Loggains the Quarterbacks Coach, each in their first years in those roles with the team. Both were tasked with getting Hoyer up and running with his offense while also acclimating Johnny Manziel to the NFL game. To outsiders who watched the Browns play this year, both Shanahan and Loggains failed as the quarterbacks were so poor for half the season that the offense could not get first downs, let alone put points on the board.

I can’t argue with this, the Browns quarterbacks were shambles this year and completely held the offense, and team as a whole, back. Since the season ended, there have been multiple reports from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports about organizational instability between the Browns front office and coaching staffs (to read one example click here). While they make for interesting reading, it’s important to keep in mind Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan’s history in the NFL and with Jason La Canfora (they’re very close, in fact La Canfora was a Redskins beat writer before getting his national work with CBS), when reading these articles.

Based on La Canfora’s articles, Shanahan’s departure for the Atlanta Falcons and how Kyle is viewed throughout the league as a highly regarded offensive mind, I wonder if Shanahan was getting input/criticism from owner Jimmy Haslam and/or general manager Ray Farmer on playing Johnny Manziel at quarterback sooner than later during the season. I don’t place much stock in the “texting the sidelines about play calling” story personally, but this would certainly fall under the same argument of front office interfering with Shanahan’s duties.

With all of the finger pointing, and eventual departures, it seems a lot of Browns fans have forgotten how productive the offense was at the start of the season. While Brian Hoyer is not a “franchise” quarterback who’s going to win games single-handedly, when he had a healthy offensive line and productive running game, he was a competent quarterback who led the Browns to a 7-4 record through 11 games. After Alex Mack was injured, the offense sputtered and seemed to lose a lot of momentum they initially built. As soon as Mack went down and the schedule got more difficult, the offense quickly deteriorated putting up more than 10 points twice in the last 5 games.

For me, this shows a lack of organizational competency, if Shanahan was hired to run the offense and is trusted throughout the league to do so, why is the Browns owner and front office telling him how to do his job? If you think I’m being naive in this thought, don’t take my word for it, read Bernie Kosar’s thoughts on the matter in this interview from December. Essentially, Kyle Shanahan failed as offensive coordinator because he had no chance the second he started. He was doomed by the Browns Front Office dumpster fire of indecision and leadership when he signed on. In his new role as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, he walks into a fairly stable organization (replacing head coach Mike Smith, but retaining Thomas Dimitroff and the front office structure) and, far more importantly an above-average quarterback in Matt Ryan. It will be interesting to see if Shanahan retains the movement he’s typically required of his quarterbacks of the past in place for Matty Ice moving forward, but I think the Atlanta offense will experience a slight resurgence next year.

Loggains, on the other hand, I have no beef with being fired. While the Browns Front Office dumpster fire can engulf and torch the flame of any promising coach, they do understand the need for consistency and respect. When Loggains told his story of texting with Johnny Manziel on draft night, leading to Jimmy Haslam (and not GM Ray Farmer) demanding the team draft Manziel, he effectively was submitting his resignation. No front office worth their weight in salt would allow a coach to publicly denounce their scouts and draft process and retain him for the next year.

I take solace in at least some organizational continuity for the Browns leading into next year, with Farmer, head coach Pettine and defensive coordinator O’Neil returning. That said, it was clear their goal was to retain all of their coaches heading into the offseason, despite Shanahan having other plans. Pettine has to decide if he will roll the dice at offensive coordinator with someone he hasn’t worked with before (like Kyle Shanahan last year) or if he’ll lean towards someone he’s fought in the trenches with before. I’m optimistic that retaining several coaches and having the same defensive system in place is a baby step for the organization in the right direction. One day, the Browns Front Office dumpster fire may even fully extinguish, but don’t hold your breath …

What are your thoughts on the Browns offseason so far? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn and thanks for reading!

(The image was taken from Flickr’s Free Use photos, posted by user Luca Bove and available here: Fire.)

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Samuel Adams’ Place in Craft Beer

Earlier this week, Boston Magazine published an article on the current status of the beer industry, with Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company (who owns and makes Samuel Adams, in addition to other alcohol products) squarely in the cross-hairs.

The article takes a number of different directions and I’d strongly recommend checking it out if you’re into beer, but I want to focus on their perception of the role Jim plays as the face of Samuel Adams and why it is hurting them in the craft beer movement. Through Sam’s commercials and events, Jim has essentially become their de facto mascot. Like any strong-minded entrepreneur and Chairman of a large company, Jim seems very proud of building Boston Beer and particularly proud of the beer Samuel Adams produces and sells. Jim is the reason Samuel Adams’ place in craft beer historically has been at the top of industry.

Where I see the potential problem is this quote from the article, with a quote from Jim (emphasis mine):

“’I don’t want to make something if everyone else is doing it,’ Koch says. It’s not just business: He personally doesn’t enjoy many of the flavors in IPAs that today’s consumers celebrate, dismissing them as “catty” in nature. ‘I am probably outside the mainstream on that. We don’t release a beer unless I like it.‘”

When taking into consideration the above and considering that IPA’s are the most popular beers nationally and one of the primary reasons for the recent explosion in craft beer sales, this seems like lunacy. Essentially, because Jim Koch doesn’t like IPA’s, Samuel Adams, who many consider to be the pioneers of American craft beer, only sells a few relatively tame IPA’s. None of these IPA’s are nearly the hop-heavy offerings that competitors like Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Stone or even local competitor Harpoon sell. By not having an offering in the type of beer most see as synonymous with modern craft beer, Samuel Adams is almost intentionally marketing themselves away from the craft beer market.

I’ve never met Jim Koch, but I have consumed a good portion of his beer. While I said the Sam IPA’s are relatively tame, I do enjoy the Rebel and Latitude 48 offerings. But, I’d be very surprised if the majority of his employees and brewers share his perspective on IPA’s. Living in Boston and starting to appreciate better beer in the last 5+ years, I have noticed fewer bars carrying Sam’s beers on tap, while the numbers of IPA’s available on tap rise. Nothing in the article will cause me to drink less Samuel Adams, but it has gotten me thinking about their future in the beer industry. While I think millennial beer drinkers are not nearly as temperamental as portrayed in the article (more to come on that), I do wonder if Jim’s behavior and reputation will cause young drinkers who pay close attention to the industry will be less likely to grab a Sam’s the next time they’re buying beer.

Will the article affect your thoughts on Samuel Adams’ place in craft beer moving forward? If so, will that affect your drinking habits? Thanks for reading, share your feedback in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn.

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My English Secret

Being a sports fan, I’m always curious to hear about a new league, competition or sport to follow. During the summer of 2006, when I was in the middle of college and waiting tables at a sports bar (briefly), I got very into the World Cup. Having not been exposed to high-level professional soccer before, it was mesmerizing to watch the different strategies and approaches each team took in looking to lift one of sport’s oldest trophies.

During the tournament, I started to get a sense for the type of play I enjoyed. I’ll always remember watching Zinedine Zidane’s masterful ability to control the ball and keep it away from 2, 3 and sometimes 4 players at a time. But, what I particularly enjoyed was something I’ve since learned was called “tika-taka” and the style of play from Spain’s national team.

As a result of dipping my toes into soccer’s water, I wanted to pick a team and start following more closely. Unfortunately, in 2006, it was very hard to follow European soccer in Oxford Ohio, as nobody on the local cable showed any European league games. However, ESPN did carry the Champions League at this point, and that became my go-to source for following the players I was introduced to in the World Cup, and quickly became how I started whittling down the options to pick a club to support. After making a few somewhat arbitrary criteria selections (English team, so I could understand most of the players, wanting a team that qualifies for the Champions League regularly so I could follow year to year and hoping for a team that played attractive football like France and Spain’s that I enjoyed in the World Cup) I finally landed on selecting Arsenal Football Club. In 2006, they qualified for the Champions League for more than 10 seasons in a row.

Bedhead photo of my getting my Arsenal photos last year, go gunners!
Bedhead photo of my getting my Arsenal gloves last year, go gunners!

Since this somewhat random selection, my fandom for soccer and for Arsenal have grown leaps and bounds. As I learned more about the English Premier League, Arsenal’s home league and the highest level of English football, I became more obsessed. Where in college I was content to watch only the Champions League, once I started following the club more closely, I found out about illegal online streams of live matches and was waking up early on my weekends to watch.

The main reason I ended up selecting Arsenal, in addition to their consistent Champions League qualification, was Cesc Fabregas, their best player at the time I started following them and a member of the 2006 Spanish World Cup team. While he didn’t play much as a 19 year old, he caught my attention a few times and I was interested to learn, as my fandom grew, that he became the captain of Arsenal at the young age of 21. Cesc was a great, albeit brief, Arsenal captain before returning for several years to his hometown team, Barcelona FC. Unfortunately, last summer Barcelona decided to sell Cesc and Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s manager, passed on their buy-back clause and let Cesc be sold to English rivals Chelsea. I still root for Arsenal, but it has been torture watching Cesc play in that hideous blue kit (what soccer players call a jersey) all season.

This is another thing Arsenal is known for that I have come to love: the club historically fosters, coaches up and plays its young talent early in their careers. Fabregas got his Arsenal debut at age 16, so did my current favorite player Jack Wilshere. Unfortunately, playing players at such a young age occasionally leads to players wanting to move to bigger clubs for more money earlier in their careers as well, which made following the team difficult for a few years as they lost some of their best players (like Cesc). The loss of these great players make Arsenal’s continued qualification for the Champions League every year all the more impressive, as they have to place in the top 3 or 4 of the Premier League to qualify for the next season (qualification also delivers the club a sum of more than 20 million Euro, so it’s quite important to keep making it every year for the club’s planning).

The last few years, I barely miss an Arsenal match, even with them competing in the Premier League, Champions League, Capital One Cup and FA Cup each of the past few years. Last year, I could count on my hand the number of matches I missed (with a few being viewed on tape delay due to work and other obligations) and so far this year I’ve missed only 1 match so far. I’ll be talking more about Arsenal moving forward, so wanted to do a bit of an introduction to how I found them.

Did I do a good job keeping my English secret; did you have any idea I was an EPL/soccer fan? Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts/feedback/gripes in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn.

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Site Update

Hey there loyal readers – if you’re reading this you’ll notice I recently updated the site, hope you like it!

I thought this would make the functionality of the site easier to leverage, a summary of changes:

  • The orange section will house the content, new blogs, etc.
  • The blue section is full of widgets with links to former posts, a rundown of recent tweets (would love a follow @chrswlsn if you’re not already) and frequent topic links.

One of my goals this year is to post more regularly, I know I’ve sung that tune before, I’m going to make it stick in 2015. Thanks for reading!

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6 Thoughts on the Cavs Loss to the Spurs

I had a chance to watch the Cavs take on the Spurs last night on DVR. It was a great regular season NBA game, particularly for this early in the season. Now that this Cavs team is starting to take shape, here are my takeaways from the game:

1 – Bold move by Blatt to keep Lebron in with 3 fouls in the 2nd quarter, but I liked it. Even better, he did it smartly, hiding Lebron on defense first in man against Curtis Joseph and then in a zone. Lebron rewarded him with a few buckets down the stretch of the quarter.

2 – It seemed like Love was forcing some shots early in the 3rd and again in the 4th. I think he will eventually be one of the Cavs most important players, but he just doesn’t seem to fit in the flow of the offense consistently yet. I also saw my first “you stole my rebound” scowl from Love to Varejao tonight, here’s hoping we don’t see another for a few weeks.

3 – Interesting to see Joe Harris, Dion and Kyrie (and then later Cherry instead of Kyrie) playing together in the same lineup. I think was mostly due to the Spurs having a number of small-ish wings, and Blatt has been mixing his lineups heavily, but something to watch for moving forward. (Kyrie subbed for Cherry but staying with Harris and Dion to start the 4th.)

4 – Speaking of Joe Harris, he was very disciplined in his rotations on defense and does a great job of knowing his role on offense. He stays around the 3 point line, takes open shots, and introduced a few shot fake dribble drives to create for teammates tonight. If he continues to play like this, as Waiting for Next Year and others have reported, he will be starting soon.

5 – What a night for Anderson Varejao, scoring 23 points, hauling in 11 boards and generally being everywhere on the floor. The play where he outhustled the whole Spurs team down the floor perfectly sums up his night, the only way it could have been better is if he made the layup for the and-1 instead of just 2 foul shots.

6 – Kyrie and Lebron both were able to get to their spots tonight and create for themselves and their teammates. The Spurs play a level of team basketball the Cavs likely won’t be able to achieve in their first year together, the’ve played together for a decade in some cases, but the talent and ability to create for others of two players like Lebron and Kyrie together give the Cavs a chance against the best of the league any night. Unfortunately, they fell one possession short tonight, but fortunately it’s still November and they have plenty of time to build chemistry.

Bonus, Non Basketball – I love DVR, watched the whole game tonight in less than an hour and a half after playing in a game of my own (and losing) delayed my start.

What did you see last night that I didn’t? Disagree with any of my thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @chrswlsn on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

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Browns Week 11 Thoughts

The Browns Week 11 loss was another example of the team setting high expectations with recent performances, only to disappoint fans by being dominated by a team with a losing record. As angry as the game made me, I was too frustrated to write a fully fleshed out column, but hope you’ll enjoy my Browns Week 10 thoughts below:

  • What a great 35 yard scamper by Crowell to lead the game off. After the strong running performance against the Bengals, this should bode well for the Browns ability to run the game against the tough Texans front 7. Unfortunately, as we know, the Texans dominated the line of scrimmage shortly after the Crow busted this long run.
  • On the running backs, I’m in favor of some form of rotation, but I think the “1 runner per series or until he’s tired” is not the most effective way to structure this. On one hand, it gives each back time to get in a rhythm and flow of the game. On the other hand, it also gives the defense an opportunity to get used to each back’s skill set and the type of plays the Browns run for each (for example, the fast pitch outs to Crowell don’t seem to be as featured for Tate or West). I think the Browns offensive coaches would be better served rotating the backs throughout the game.
  • The time for the Mitchell Schwartz at RT experiment to end has come and gone. Yes, JJ Watt is probably the best defensive player in the league. Unfortunately, even with frequent help, Schwartz was unable to keep him out of the backfield. RT should be one of, if not the biggest, draft priority for the Browns in 2015.
  • The offensive line as a whole was quite poor yesterday. In PFF ratings, Bitonio put up above average performances in pass and run blocking, Joe Thomas was rated above average in pass coverage (I heartily enjoyed him pancaking Watt and then just sitting on him), but the rest of the line graded out average in pass blocking (seems generous) and very negatively in run blocking with McDonald at -2.2.
  • With the line’s poor play, it should come as no surprise that yesterday was Brian Hoyer’s worst performance for the Browns this year, with a -5.6 grade from PFF. Hoyer struggled to get the ball out quickly and anytime he held onto the ball he was seemingly running for his life from the Texans front 7.
  • The biggest strength for the Browns coming into the season was believed to be the defensive line. While they’ve had several injuries (losing Sheard during the game yesterday didn’t help), this unit has not performed up to their billing, as another struggling offense came into Cleveland and ran all over the Browns front 7.
  • The injury to Karlos Dansby has the potential to derail the defense’ progress so far this season. The difference when he was in the game versus when he was not was huge and I’m sure the defensive coaches are hoping for a speedy recovery from his reportedly sprained MCL. I had the same injury in high school and it took me 3-4 weeks to come back (though I was never close to the physical shape of an NFL player).
  • It was nice to go a week without seeing shots of Manziel on the sidelines (also surprising, given Hoyer’s poor play). But, any respite we had from that media storyline was completely forgotten after the announcer’s constant verbal fellating of Watt as the single reason Houston won.
  • Ultimately, this game came down to match ups and Bill O’Brien’s ability to exploit the match ups that favored his team while covering up the ones that didn’t. This is the 2nd time this year Pettine has been out coached by a coach with a lesser talented team. Something to watch through the rest of the season, as I do think Pettine and his staff have showed promise with their thorough dominations of division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

How did you feel after the game yesterday? Disagree with any of the above? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn and thanks for reading!

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Cavs 2014-2015 Predictions

This was originally scheduled to be posted last week, but due to some technical difficulties and my being unavailable in Canada, it was delayed until today. I wrote all of the answers (questions submitted by guys @ TheDiehardNerd), and have not edited it, before the tip off against the Knicks last week. Presented in Q&A format, here they are:

Q – What will be the Cavs biggest obstacle this season?

A – Building chemistry quickly. The Cavs certainly have the talent to win the Eastern Conference, but they will most likely face the Chicago Bulls, most of whom have been playing together for 4-5 years, in the playoffs eventually as they hope to make the Finals. This isn’t only referring to new players James, Love, Miller, etc. but also to the young players who haven’t experienced success or played at the level their new teammates can and will play at this year.

Q – Can the Cavs “Big 3″ coexist, and if so quickly enough to go deep in the playoffs?

A – Yes, Lebron is probably the best passer in the league, and Kyrie doesn’t fall much further behind. Kevin Love is probably in the top 5 of basketball IQ among big men in the league (Duncan, KG, who else? post in the comments). I’m not sure you could find three better prototypes to play together, though I’m sure there will be some struggles along the way I expect the offense to be prolific.

Q – Player other than LeBron to have the biggest impact?

A – Kevin Love. I’ve loved his game since his freshman year at UCLA and cannot wait to watch a full season of full court outlet passes, sideways leaping box outs and beautifully fundamental post moves from the Cavs new #0.
Q – How many wins will the Cavs have this year?

A – 65

Q – What seed, if any, do you predict the Cavs will be in the playoffs?

A – #2 behind Chicago.

Q – Do you think anyone on the current roster will be traded this year? If so, for what type of player?

A – I hope it doesn’t happen but wouldn’t be surprised if Waiters or Thompson are dealt for some rim protection or another wing shooter/defender.

Q – Do you think some of the veterans brought in (Marion, Miller, etc.) taking away minutes from the younger players (Waiters, Delladova, Harris, etc.) will hurt the Cavs in the long run?

A – Not at all, when you have Lebron James on your team, the focus should be on winning now. Of course the Cavs want to keep an eye on the future, but they can and probably do have title aspirations this year.

Q – Are the Cavs truly a “deep” enough team? They have a great 9 man rotation but injuries to KI, Andy, or Miller and Miller and Marion’s age are concerns.

A – Age and frontcourt depth should definitely be concerns with only Love, Varejao, Thompson, Haywood and James (though not ideal) capable of playing 4 or 5.

Q – How do the parts of the Cavs Big 3 stack up to those of the Celtics, the Heat, and others? Can they be the best?

A – I can’t put them in front of the 80’s Celtics or Lakers yet, because they still haven’t won a single title. I would absolutely take the Cavs 3 over Lebron with Wade and Bosh. I do think they could be one of the best trios of all time, but they’ll need to win multiple titles before entering that conversation.

What are your thoughts on the Cavs after their first 2 games? Are any of my predictions way off? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn. I’d like a few back at this point, but we’ll see how the rest of the season unfolds. Thanks for reading.

 

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Roger Goodell is a Distraction

Over the last few weeks I, like many football fans, have wondered “how does Roger Goodell still have a job?” As Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti prepares for another NFL press conference to talk about the Ray Rice scandal this afternoon, this question seems to be coming up more frequently by the day. Where the NBA and Adam Silver got well out in front of the Donald Sterling scandal, gathering information and making one, strong unified decision, the NFL continues to make itself look incompetent, arrogant and reactionary.

I’ll do my best to avoid getting too deeply into the details of any of these situations, as they’ve been widely dissected in the sports media (Deadspin has been killing the coverage and would encourage you to read their Ray Rice and Roger Goodell tagged articles to catch up if you’re behind). Ultimately, whether it’s Ray Rice beating his wife, Adrian Peterson beating his kid or the Wylf’s being found guilty of racketeering; the scandal is almost irrelevant when it comes to Roger Goodell’s continued employment. Why you may ask?

The answer is that Roger Goodell’s very existence as commissioner is designed for him to be a distraction. While football distracts us from the terrible nature of the NFL and the men who run it on Sundays (though they try to take over more of the week each year), someone must take up that job the other 6 days of the week, let alone the 7 day weeks during the offseason. While Roger Goodell speaks like he cares about how fans view the NFL, the only people he ultimately answers to are the 32 owners of the league’s teams.

The league’s ownership, including Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti (defended Ray Rice and asked for lenient punishment from Goodell because Rice was “a good guy”), Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (systematically defrauded client’s out of millions at his privately owned trucking company), Minnesota owners the Wylf’s (found guilty of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and guilty of civil racketeering in New Jersey) or Colt’s owner Jim Irsay (found with $29,000 and hundreds of illegal prescription pills) is thrilled to have Goodell as their fall guy. The above are only a small sampling of the injustices league ownership has gotten away with, without much noise from NFL reporters, the league office or most fans. Why is it whenever the owners are the ones behaving poorly, it is underreported?

When the NFL’s commissioner is the bad guy, it’s easy for fans to hate the league but love their team. I can’t count how many times recently I’ve thought “I hate the NFL right now but still love football.” AND my team’s owner should be in federal prison! (Thanks Jimmy).

Some might say the plan of having a commissioner as the fall guy is short sighted after the last few weeks of PR nightmares for the league. While I don’t know any NFL owners (sorry, need to work on my net worth), I imagine their reaction to that would be 2 fold. First, their ratings haven’t taken any noticeable hits. Privately, and most importantly, they would tell you, that Roger continues to deliver massive revenue growth year over year and has kept the NFL as tax exempt. Goodell publicly stated as recently as last year that by 2020 the league would be a $20 billion dollar business. The NFL’s tax exempt status is another thorn in my side, but it’s a larger issue worthy of its own post.

So, if the owners are happy with Goodell, what is left for us, the fans, to do? How can we show the league that we’re not okay with players beating their wives and kids, or owners accumulating their vast fortunes with which to buy teams through illegal or unethical means should be accepted?

Effective at the start of this month, I vowed that I wouldn’t spend a dime on NFL merchandise until Roger Goodell is fired or otherwise removed from office. This may not sound like a big deal, but I have more than 5 Cleveland Browns t-shirts, 3 jerseys (thanks Richardson and Winslow!), as well as multiple hats and sweatshirts. As the year approached, I considered buying a Mingo or Haden jersey to give myself a defensive player in the rotation. But, ultimately my conscience won’t allow me to pull the trigger. If the only reason Roger Goodell is still in office is because of his revenue growth abilities, I’m going to do my best (within reason, I can’t give up my football Sundays) to not contribute to the NFL’s revenue growth.

How do you feel about Roger Goodell? Are the NFL owners happy with the job he’s doing? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrswlsn.

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Fantasy Football Power Rankings

For my work fantasy league I write up Power Rankings every week, if you’re interested in how our league is playing out, I’ll be posting the Power Rankings every week (teams listed by team name, names hidden to protect my co-workers, my team is “Julio Jones and Me”):

East

1 – CF Luncheon Wagon – if you’ve ever been called “Matty Ice” you had a good Week 1 of the fantasy season, with nobody better exhibiting it than the East Division’s top ranked team in this year’s inaugural Power Rankings. Matt’s team put up 122 in their Week 1 win and with Peyton Manning and Le’Veon Bell looking strong, Matt’s team is looking like a bonafide contender at the start of the year.

2 – Julio Jones and Me – Putting up the biggest score league-wide this week, Julio Jones and Me come in #2 in the Power Rankings. With a fluky performance from K Matt Bryant (18 points), along with their own Matty Ice putting up 30 at QB; the PR’s are unsure if this team should be taken seriously, but 128 points in one week was too much to drop lower than 2.

3 – #Bennetting – Showing that his team name is purely ironic, delivered a beatdown to Justin to the tune of 50 points. High draft picks of Calvin Johnson and Julius Thomas paid off great dividends in Week 1, putting up 56 points combined (Blaine Gabbert’s entire team put up 57).

4 – The Meta Hipsters – The Meta Hipsters’ Week 1 takedown of the Freshmakers was a statement game in their manager’s 2nd year playing fantasy. Strong performances from Luck, Forte and AJ Green carried them to victory, despite starting two players with 0 points (known in some circles as pulling a Montross).

5 – Team Sanidas – The highest ranking rookie in the East Division belongs to Team Sanidas. Putting up 101 points in the first week is a strong performance, they just unfortunately ran into the buzz saw that is the CF Luncheon Wagon. The Alshon Jeffrey injury didn’t help, nor did a poor showing from Victor Cruz. Expect Team Sanidas to put up more than 9 total points from WR’s moving forward while they compete for the playoffs. I’ll like their chances much more once they create an original team name and embrace the full fun of fantasy football (how’s that for alliteration?).

6 – Team Pupp n Suggs – Team Pupp n Suggs, while having the best name in the East, failed to show up this week. While Julio Jones and Me got a fluky performance from Matt Bryant and his 18 points, Pupp n Suggs didn’t have a single player outscore his opponent’s kicker, firmly proving he did not deserve the sweet taste of victory this week.

7 – The Freshmakers – The lower half of the Power Rankings are familiar territory for the Freshmakers. Coach “loves his team” but love is not enough to put crooked numbers in the win column. Leaving 30 points from DeAndre Hopkins and Chris Ivory did not help the Freshmakers, but even with those players starting victory was not in the cards for them this week.

8 – Blaine Gabbert – The rookie manager will need to step his game up if he’s to be taken seriously this year as right now, most uberVU Fantasy veterans have circled him in their schedules as an easy W. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Blaine Gabbert didn’t exactly tear up the league when playing and Justin has modeled his team after the 1st round bust. That said, it’s safe to say that Aaron Rodgers and Jamaal Charles will combine for more than 11 points most weeks and the Power Rankings will be watching Blaine Gabbert for improved performances to come.

West

1 – Boston Brawlers – Last year’s champion didn’t skip a beat with their opening performance of the year, riding another strong Peyton Manning performance to victory. Vernon Davis’ multiple TD performance was a nice surprise for the Boston Brawlers in the league’s first week. The West will need to work hard to dethrone the champ as his team is deep with Peyton, AJ Green, Dez Bryant and Vernon Davis all looking primed to have strong years, and the high mark for the league in Week 1 bench points at 83.

2 – Team Tyk – Carrying the torch for the rookies in both divisions is Team Tyk, pulling off Week 1’s closest victory with a 103-102 win over Team Benny C. Team Tyk was powered by the Detroit duo of Stafford and Johnson combining for 57 points. However, injuries and slow starts for Tyk’s RB’s may spell issues if Megatron and Stafford have a down week.

3 – Team Ayotte – What Team Ayotte lacks in name originality, they more than make up for in dominance on the field, demolishing team Jake by 27 to start the season. The RB tandem of Bell and Forte led the way with a combined 40 points, but a strong overall performance carried Ayotte to victory. 64 bench points show that this team is no fluke and will be a factor in the playoff race later this year.

4 – Viva Katalinas – Despite drafting without their expert magazine, Team Katalinas kicked off the season on a high note. Any week you can win with 2 points from your 1st draft pick is one to appreciate, and high scores from Luck, Gio Bernard, Antonio Brown and Gronk powered the Katalinas to victory. Benching a 30 point Matt Ryan start didn’t hurt them at all, and they may want to capitalize on their QB depth by trading for more depth.

5 – Team Benny C – Team Benny C got the short end of the Week 1 draw as they’d be 1-0 if they’d played anyone but Team Tyk, Team Ayotte or the Boston Brawlers. That said, look for Benny C to start racking up W’s in the near future as he squad looks solid from top to bottom. Benny C even surpassed Team Ayotte with 75 bench points this week, which he surely could have used to take down Team Tyk this week. Will he have the gall to start Sproles or Bell over Bush next week? Will Tony Romo find a way to pull Benny C down despite rarely, and possibly never, seeing the field? Only time will tell.

6 – Team Running – Team Running had a week of peaks and valleys, with high scores from Julius Thomas and Marshawn Lynch and nothing but disappointment from the rest of the starting lineup. Leaving double digit scorers Jennings, Maclin, Williams and Ivory hurt team Running; in fact, if those 3 of those players had started Team Running could have won by 3 points. The Fantasy Gods smile upon those with unique names, perhaps that was the ultimate cause of Team Running’s benching of needed points.

7 – Every Team has a Smith on It – Every Team has a Smith on It are facing tough times with the recent cutting/suspension of Ray Rice, Cam Newton’s rib problems, Andre Ellington’s foot issues and Jordan Cameron’s re-injury of his shoulder the team is in a state of disarray. Can Manager Smith and team leaders McCoy and Murray help to rally the troops and correct things or is Every Team has a Smith on It doomed for a season destined for failure like the St. Louis Rams.

8 – Team Knightridder – Team Knightridder had an unfortunate start to the year with Tate and Lacy leaving their games early due to injury. After that early stumble, Team Knightridder struggled to catch up from behind. Julio Jones’ fumble on his way to the end zone didn’t help, but when you lose by 46 points, there are lots of plays that can be pointed to as contributing to the loss. Rotating in healthy RB’s, along with the possible reinstatement of Wes Welker, should help Team Knightridder perform better in Week 2.

Thanks for reading! If you liked it, let me know in the comments or on twitter @chrswlsn.

 

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Lebron James and My Sports Heart

Before I start this post, I want to explain that, while I love sports, I understand they have their place in society. Sports are not life and death in most situations; they provide an outlet from “real” life.

With that qualifier, 4 years ago, Lebron James broke my sports heart when he “took his talents to south beach” (can we retire that expression now?). Basketball has always been my favorite sport, probably because it was my best, but before Lebron entered the league I never had a favorite NBA team. The NBA under David Stern catered to its stars, and I always found it more fun to root for players than teams growing up. When Lebron joined the Cavs, after following his high school career, I jumped headfirst into being a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

I’ll always remember Lebron destroying the Pistons’ dynasty (the weekend of my cousin’s wedding) or the game winning 3 against the Magic in the playoffs (watched in my brothers’ apartment in Harlem, filled with Cavs fans). The first Cavs games I went to were in Cleveland near the end of Lebron’s time there, and the electricity of the Q and the city those nights are embedded in my memory. Living in Boston the last 5+ years, I can say that the only similar energy around a sporting event I can compare to a Cavs regular season game with Lebron would be when one of the local Boston teams is making a playoff run.

Then, just as it appeared Lebron was reaching the height of his powers, he had The Decision special and crapped all over Cleveland, Cavaliers fans and the state of Ohio as a whole. Looking back, I can now say that Lebron broke my sports heart. I didn’t know how to deal with it, it made me irrational (though I managed to avoid burning it, I did give away my only Lebron gear at the time) and made watching my favorite sport difficult. It wasn’t as real as ending a romantic relationship, but it was the sports equivalent.

Lebron’s time with the Heat made my fandom for the Cavs only grow. I’ve been to multiple games in Boston wearing my Varejao jersey to the Garden, even though it was only last year that I had hope that the Cavaliers would pull out a win or keep things competitive. Even more than rooting for Cleveland, I rooted against Miami with all my heart. Seeing them lose the first year in the Finals to Dallas gave me hope that maybe the “Basketball Gods” (if they exist) would punish Lebron for his public departure from Cleveland.

With all of the baggage and history, I was really unsure about the prospect of Lebron returning to Cleveland. Of course, as a basketball fan, I want the best basketball player playing for the team I root for. But, with how things went last time, I was very skeptical about how Lebron would approach it and if I’d be able to root for him again, or if I’d have to focus on rooting for the Cavs regardless of who plays for them.

Lebron’s letter resolved all of the issues I had with him and his departure from Cleveland. He owned his actions, took responsibility for them, said he would have done things different while still making the same decision, which I respect. He talked about making peace with Dan Gilbert and how excited he is to play with the Cavaliers young talented players. More than anything, his thoughts on his connection with Northeast Ohio rang true.

I cannot wait to see Lebron dunking in a Cavaliers uniform again!
I cannot wait to see Lebron dunking in a Cavaliers uniform again!

As I prepare to root for Lebron again, I do so from a more mature perspective, similar to the growth in Lebron since his last time suiting up for the Cavs. I know I’ll root for the Cavs moving forward, Lebron or no Lebron. I’m stoked the best player in the league is playing in Cleveland again, I hope the Cavs hang on to Wiggins and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

What are your thoughts on Lebron’s career and his return to Cleveland? Post in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @chrswlsn; thanks for reading.

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