Sports

The Denver Broncos Need a Quarterback and an Offensive Line

Denver Broncos Trevor Siemian

(Photo Credit: The Denver Post)

Without substantial changes on the offensive line and at quarterback, the Denver Broncos will swiftly become a mediocre team. Compared to the team’s Super Bowl-winning performance last season, this season has been mediocre at best. Yes, since 2015 Denver’s defense has led the NFL in every significant statistical category; it’s the best defense in football. Unfortunately, the dearth of offensive production and efficiency resulted in a rather frustrating season, especially for Broncos’ fans. At this rate, John Elway might as well hire Tim Tebow to become the new starting quarterback and the Alabama Crimson Tide’s entire offensive line. Although the previous sentence proffered to elicit humor is absurd in many ways, it underscores the fact that John Elway must make moves that will produce better seasons in the future than this one.

After last night’s complete spanking delivered by the Kansas City Chiefs and last week’s 16 -3 loss to the New England Patriots, the Broncos demonstrated that they weren’t true Super Bowl contenders, even with an elite, record-setting defense.

How can a team possess an elite, record-setting defense and not be authentic Super Bowl contenders? Enter Trevor Siemian and the Denver offensive line. While many point to Siemian’s numbers not being too shabby, his current performance will never position the Broncos as real AFC and Super Bowl contenders.

Siemian could have performed much better had he been able to benefit from a quality offensive line, however. Let’s face it: Denver’s offensive line is horrible, and this atrocious offensive line is the single most important reason why the team had an average season, one where it will watch teams like the Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders play in the playoffs. Sitting at home on the couch watching these teams play should unsettle Denver and the team’s executive leadership.

Having said all of this, it’s not time for a massive panic in Denver. The team has an outstanding defense and some excellent skill players. What’s needed to win a Super Bowl is present, except on the offensive line and at quarterback. Make some quick and effective hires and trades and return to winning, Mr. Elway.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Don’t Count Arkansas out against LSU

Arkansas vs. LSU 2014

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas is a mighty tough place to play—even more so at night. Although the Hogs have yet to win an SEC game this season, they have been a tough out against every team they’ve faced, nearly defeating Texas A&M, Alabama, and Mississippi State. Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema has his team ahead of schedule and the team is so close to being something special. An SEC win can be the catalyst to propel the Hogs into being a truly elite football team. The Razorbacks are actually slightly favored in this game, and what an excellent way to end its losing streak against SEC opponents by defeating LSU, the Hogs’ greatest rival. This rivalry game is known as the Battle for the Golden Boot. When Arkansas and LSU play one another, throw out all of the records and statistics—only this game matters for the two teams. They simply don’t like one another.

Arkansas plays LSU at the right time: after LSU’s deflating overtime loss to Alabama. The Razorbacks have more hanging in the balance than LSU does: the team is trying to become bowl eligible. The Hogs must win two of the last three games to become bowl eligible. As long as the team performs well in the fourth quarter of each of the remaining games and demonstrates that it has learned how to close out games, the Hogs can legitimately win the final three games (all SEC games) on its schedule.

Both teams have similar styles. On offense, they both like to run the football—and run it often. Arkansas has the edge on offense. On defense, they’re both aggressive, although LSU has the edge on defense.

This game will ultimately come down to which team can perform the best in the passing game. Both teams can certainly benefit from improvement in the passing game. The LSU passing game will struggle against the Hogs because Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers will give LSU’s offensive line nightmares. When this game is over, the person who will have impacted the game the most will be Trey Flowers. He is a beast and will be playing in the NFL next season.

Arkansas will win 24-20.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson: Drawing the Line between Courts and Commissioners

English: Baltimore Ravens Training Camp August...

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As professional sports leagues and the athletes they employ garner a higher public profile, there have been increasing demands, from media, lawmakers and the public that they be held to a higher standard of conduct.  Athletes have come under greater scrutiny, both on and off the playing surface, with each instance of misbehavior sparking a greater outcry than the last.  However, is there a public good served by publicly vilifying athletes for off-the-field or off-the-court indiscretions?

Moreover, do professional sports leagues, like the NFL, have the competence or right to impose punishment on players in response to public outcry, either before the player has had his day in a court of law, or after the courts have decided not to pursue criminal charges?

Two recent cases of note involve former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Rice was arrested earlier this year for allegedly punching his then fiancee unconscious at an Atlantic City casino.  A New Jersey grand jury indicted Rice on a charge of aggravated assault, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.  The charge was later dropped when Rice agreed to enter court-supervised counseling, and he eventually married his fiancée, the alleged victim in the case.  Despite the decision of the courts, the media outcry continued, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded by levying a two-game suspension against Rice, just days before a TMZ video of the assault was made public.

Furthermore, as the betting would suggest, the video stoked further outrage, putting Goodell in the uncomfortable position of exacting harsh punishment on a player for non-football related offenses that a court of law deemed not severe enough to bring to trial.  Goodell dropped the hammer on Rice, suspending him indefinitely, while the Ravens terminated his contract, likely ending his NFL career.

In Peterson’s case, the 2012 NFL MVP was recently suspended by the Vikings following his indictment by a Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.  Peterson did not deny the allegations, explaining that he applied the same method of discipline on his son that had been applied to him as a boy. While it is understandable that the public is shocked by such actions, demands for the NFL to act where the courts have not place a burden on the NFL that it is simply not capable of carrying.  The NFL is a private enterprise that exists for the primary and legitimate purpose of making money.  It lacks the experience, competence, and mandate to exact justice fairly and in accordance with the law.

While fists have been shaken at the NFL’s perceived bumbling of the Rice case, a surprising modicum of outrage has been directed towards the New Jersey court that chose to drop the charges against Rice.

Adrian Peterson has received little to no benefit of doubt prior to getting his day in court.

NFL players have been arrested at a rate of approximately one per week in 2014, and we’ve witnessed no shortage of high-profile college football players who have faced charges that were conveniently made to disappear.  It’s a worrisome trend for every member of society, whether he or she is a football fan or not. However, such offenses are best addressed in court—where the accused player both answers to the law and is protected by it.  If the courts don’t punish a player for alleged offenses, the commissioner of the NFL cannot do it for them, no matter how vociferous the howls of media outrage become.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Arkansas Must Fire Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney

Arkansas Razorbacks Football

(Photo Credit: Whole Hogs Sports)

Although Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had some positive play-calling moments against Texas A&M, he’s not the appropriate fit for the power running game Bret Bielema is establishing at Arkansas.  During the first half of the Auburn loss, Jim Chaney also had some positive play-calling moments. Unfortunately, in losses to both Auburn and Texas A&M, Chaney has demonstrated he cannot stay committed to the power running game.  He seems to be more interested in moving the Arkansas offensive into more of a passing team.  While no one is expecting him to never call a pass play, it’s vital for Chaney to understand when to employ the passing game.  Arkansas isn’t built to be a passing offense with the current players the team has and with the players it has recruited.  Bret Bielema has intentionally recruited players for a physical power running game.  For Chaney to continue to neglect the running game, especially at crucial points in games, is an affront to Bielema’s leadership.

Yes, Brandon Allen has demonstrated he can provide Arkansas with a much needed passing game, but Chaney shouldn’t get carried away with the passing game as he has.  His play-calling has been quite questionable in games against Auburn, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M.  In the Auburn game, his failure to make a commitment to the running game resulted in Auburn defeating Arkansas in the second half.  On the last play in overtime against Texas A&M, the Texas A&M defense dared him to throw the ball by loading the box with 8 to 9 men, and he foolishly ran the ball and Alex Collins was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Bielema simply needs to transition to an offensive coordinator who will give Arkansas the best chance to win, and this offensive coordinator must be someone who is comfortable making a significant commitment to the power running game.  Although it defies conventional wisdom to transition to a new offensive coordinator at this point in the season, it wouldn’t be a difficult job to find a offensive coordinator who could quickly adjust to the key principles of the current offensive schemes Arkansas employs.  Bielema could even get more active in the offensive play-calling until the new coordinator makes the full adjustment to what he desires for him to do.

Arkansas has proven that it can compete with any of the elite teams in the nation, but it’s unfair for the players to continue to suffer from the poor play-calling of Jim Chaney.  The Razorbacks have a credible chance to finish well in the SEC and make it to a bowl game this year.  Right now, however, Jim Chaney is the enemy within who can prevent the team from having the kind of year its capable of experiencing; he’s already proven it.

If Chaney does not ameliorate his play-calling against Alabama this Saturday, then Bielema shouldn’t give him another chance to hinder the progress of the team.  With Arkansas squaring off against Alabama in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where it’s always a mighty tough place to play, one can only hope Chaney will not harm the team’s legitimate chance to defeat the Crimson Tide.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Bobby Portis: The Nation’s Most Underrated Freshman Basketball Player

Bobby Portis

(Photo Credit: SW Times)

ESPN listed Bobby Portis, Arkansas freshman sensation, as the 16th ranked recruit in the nation.  He leads Arkansas in scoring and rebounds with 13.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.  The 6’10 242 pound freshman has been named SEC Player of the Week 3 times.  Mike Anderson, Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, consistently plays 12 men every game.  Arkansas has a deep and balanced team.  Under Anderson, Arkansas has an aggressive defensive style of play.  The goal is to wear the opposing team down over the course of the game.  With this defense-first style of play, Portis has still been able to average 13.1 points a game and 6.6 rebounds.  Because the Razorbacks have so much talent and balance, they do not have a traditional “go-to” player.  Imagine the numbers Portis could achieve if Arkansas used him as its “go-to” player.

Arkansas has a 18-9 overall record and is 7-7 in SEC play and the team is winners of 5 of their last 6 games.  On Thursday, February 27, 2014 on ESPN, the Arkansas Razorbacks will face the #17 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena.  In the first meeting this year against the Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Razorbacks defeated them in a thrilling game.  Another win against the Wildcats and a highly favorable remaining regular season schedule should land the Razorbacks in the NCAA Division I Tournament.  Without Bobby Portis, however, the team would not have achieved its current record and boasted high quality wins against Kentucky, Minnesota and Clemson.

With what Bobby Portis has been able to accomplish this year as a freshman, why has he not received as much national attention as other freshmen have?  Is Bobby Portis the nation’s most underrated freshman basketball player?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

RG3 Sees a “Window” for Gay Athletes to Come Out

Robert Griffin III

(Photo Credit: Giant Life)

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) may have spent most of the summer rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee, but he grabbed headlines for comments off the field regarding gay athletes.  In an interview with GQ.com, Griffin III said he thought now was the time for gay football players to out.

RG3 stated, “If they’re looking for a window to just come out, I mean, now is the window.”

Some may be surprised to hear that from Griffin III, a devout Christian, who tight end Fred Davis dubbed “Black Jesus,” would come out in support of gay football players.  This isn’t the first piece of news regarding gay athletes in sports this year.  In April, Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete to come out as gay.

As athletes continue to come out in support of their gay colleagues, RG3’s statement is the latest sign that the sports world could see more openly gay participants.

Gay Players in the NFL

RG3 isn’t the first player to come out in support of gay NFL players.  Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo has been a highly visible defender of gay rights.  In April, he declared that a handful of NFL players were considering coming out as gay.  He stated, “There are up to four players being talked to right now, and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together.”

No NFL players have come out so far, but a unified announcement would be the biggest moment yet for gay athletes in sports.  After conducting a series of interviews with players, Outsports found that an overwhelming majority of players, including Griffin III, would support a gay teammate.

Kerry Rhodes Still Unemployed

After MediaTakeOut released photos of all-pro safety Kerry Rhodes displaying affection toward his assistant, rumors swirled that the former Arizona Cardinal would be one of the first gay NFL players to come out.  Rhodes quickly denied claims that he was gay, but the rumors remain.  The 31-year-old has yet to sign with an NFL team despite a stellar 2012 season in which he intercepted four passes and anchored a strong Cardinals’ secondary.  While it’s possible that Rhodes just isn’t in NFL shape, it stands to reason that NFL owners may be reluctant to bring a player who is associated with these rumors into their locker rooms.  If that’s the case, perhaps the NFL isn’t as forward-thinking a league as some believe.

RG3 in Hot Water?

This wasn’t the only off-the-field headline RG3 made over the summer.  Deadspin reported that the former Heisman winner may be embroiled in a sexting scandal.  Griffin III allegedly sent inappropriate pictures to a Virginia Commonwealth University student the day of his wedding. The story broke in June and nothing has come of it since, but further leaked texts could spell Favre-like doom for one of the most marketable players in the league.  RG3 has talent, charisma and a bright future.  Hopefully, Deadspin, which broke the Manti Te’o story and usually gets things right, got this one wrong.  Griffin III would rather be known for his stellar play and open-minded acceptance of people that aren’t like him.

These stories aren’t going away, but right now players are focused on the young season.  Fans are taking to opportunity to watch every game on multiple platforms, such as NFL cable packages, live webcasts and mobile streaming like the FiOS Verizon packages.  As NFL fans anticipate a great season from RG3 and the potential for gay players to come out, one thing is clear: it’s good to have football back.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Examining Self-perceptions and Behaviors of Successful Black Male College Student-Athletes

Black Male College Student Athletes(Photo Credit: Black Entertainment Television)

In “Diamonds in the Rough: Examining a Case of Successful Black Male Student Athletes in College Sport,” Bimper, Jr., Harrison, Jr. and Clark (2012) investigated the self-perceptions and behaviors that enabled 7 Black male student-athletes to experience academic and athletic success.  A case study was used as the research method, and Critical Race Theory (CRT) was employed as the theoretical framework.  From the findings in the study, the researchers concluded that helping Black male college student-athletes to evolve positive identities as student-athletes and the ability to experience rewarding academic achievement are crucial to their academic success.  The findings of this study revolved around three core themes: complex identities, community, and liberation.

Bimper, Jr. et al. (2012) express that Black male student-athletes are being recruited to predominantly White institutions (PWIs) for their athletic abilities, but many of these student-athletes are experiencing tremendous difficulty with meeting their academic challenges.  They note that recent graduation reports promulgated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) about 70 bowl-bound NCAA Division I football teams and NCAA Division I tournament-bound basketball teams reveal that the graduation rate of Black male student-athletes is significantly lower than their White counterparts.  In conducting this study, the authors explain that they want to improve knowledge about the distinctive experiences of Black male student-athletes who have been both academically and athletically successful in high-profile revenue-generations sports at PWIs of higher education.  The researchers also disclose that they concentrate their research on “the role in which race unfolds in the experiences and identity of Black male student athletes in this collegiate setting” (p. 108-109).  They assert that great differences in academic achievement between Black male student-athletes and their White counterparts indicate that issues associated with culture, identity, and social relationships could be important to the academic achievement of student-athletes.

Moreover, Bimper, Jr. et al. (2012) explain how pernicious racial stereotypes lead to decreases in Black male college student-athletes’ academic achievement.  Although all student-athletes have to combat “the dumb jock” stereotype, this stereotype becomes even more problematic for Black male student-athletes, considering they academically underperform all of their peers.  The researchers inform the reader that Black male student-athletes have to fight serious pressure to construct a strong athletic identity before they are given the proper space to develop a constructive academic identity.  The authors discussed how Black male student-athletes who participate in high-profile sports experience a level of alienation far greater than that of the general Black student population.

The lead researcher in this study is a Black male and former student-athlete who participated in multiple revenue-generating college sports.  The lead researcher also has experience working with diverse student-athletes.  To ensure trustworthiness, the lead researcher maintained “transparent memos and notes throughout the data collection and analysis, member checked data transcriptions, and collaborated in a peer review process to check biases and discern the accuracy of findings” (Bimper, Jr., et al., 2012, p. 112).

The participants in this study are 7 Black male student-athletes who attend a southwestern PWI on a full athletic scholarship.  The classification of these student-athletes range from sophomore to graduate student: 1 sophomore, 3 juniors, 2 seniors, and 1 graduate student.  The graduate student finished his undergraduate degree in 3 years and had completed work toward a master’s degree when the study was conducted.  Only one of the participants came from a two-parent home.  All of these Black male student-athletes came from low-income homes, and they all attended public K-12 schools prior to enrolling in college.  A purposeful sampling strategy was employed to recruit them for this study.  Specifically, criterion sampling was used to recruit them.  Bimper, Jr. and colleagues (2012) make clear that the reason why Black male college student-athletes at PWIs were sought after is these institutions have proved in the professional literature to be sites where Black male student-athletes experience the lowest academic achievement.  To be selected to participate in this study, the student-athlete would have to have made valuable athletic contributions to the team and be first or second on the depth chart.  Additionally, the student-athlete had to have at least a 3.0 GPA or received some academic award by the institution, NCAA or the athletic department.

The main method of data collection was semi-structured individual and focus group interviews.  The initial questions asked during the individual and focus group interviews are as follows: “(a) ‘Will you describe your experience as a student athlete at your university?’ (b) ‘How have your experiences as a student athlete influenced your perception of self?’ (c) ‘What do you think contributes to your success as a student athlete?’” (Bimper, Jr., 2012, p. 114).

As mentioned previously, three dominant themes emerged from the data collected: complex identities, community and liberation.  The dominant finding that pertains to the complex identities theme is the student-athletes contended that their identity as Black male student-athletes played an instrumental role in their lives, and they provided a counter-narrative to the prevalent thought of them being only athletes.  All participants were proud to identify themselves as being Black and were conscious of their peers and instructors’ perceptions of their racial identity.  Most of the student-athletes posited that toxic stereotypes about being Black and being an athlete are concatenated.  All participants articulated that Black male student-athletes have to confront challenges associated with their athletic and racial identity.

The community theme refers to the participants communicating their ability to “engage a supportive community” that is critical to their academic and athletic success.  One of the participants explained that too many of his teammates attempt to perform well academically on their own, but they struggle mightily.  For this participant, he did not find the language of the recruiters that he would be coming to a “family” environment to be true.  These student-athletes contend that it was their ability to find a supportive community within the institution and use the available resources offered by the institution and athletic department, especially the academic center in the athletic department, that greatly contributed to their academic success.  Some participants felt that the athletic department created a culture where they expected their student-athletes to graduate, but others believed that there was not a true commitment to their degree completion.  All, save one, participants were linked with tutors to work with outside of the athletic department.  The student-athletes found that networking was essential to their academic success, especially networking with Black professors on campus.  In their opinion, one of the fundamental reasons why many Black male student-athletes struggle academically is they fail to network with others on campus, especially Black professors.  These student-athletes communicated that they were able to overcome the pre-college expectations for them to come to college to simply try to become professional athletes.

Moreover, the theme of liberation that surfaced throughout the study refers to the participants becoming “self-empowered through education” (Bimper, Jr., 2012, p. 122).  The participants believe that it’s more important for them to be successful academically than athletically.  It is there hope that they can change perceptions about Black male student-athletes’ intellect by excelling academically.  They were deeply bothered about the negative perceptions on campus about their intellectual capabilities as student-athletes, especially as Black male student-athletes.

One disappointing aspect of this study is it does not offer any understanding of the academic preparation the student-athletes had prior to coming to college.  This study did not provide any understanding about where the participants’ strong self-determination emerged, and what helped them to not fall prey to simply coming to college to try to become professional athletes.  While this study has great potential for helping scholars to understand how to ameliorate the academic achievement of Black male student-athletes at PWIs, its failure to give insights into the pre-college academic and social preparation of the participants leaves many issues and questions unresolved.  Although it does explain that all of the student-athletes come from low-income homes, the reader is left without any understanding of how well the students performed academically in their K-12 experience.  It would have been helpful to learn more about their pre-college social lives and experiences.  Simply learning that the student-athletes come from low-income homes is not sufficient enough to provide essential background information about the pre-college factors that facilitate and militate against their college academic achievement.

The Black male student-athletes provided valuable insights about how important networking, especially with Black professors, was to their academic success.  It would have been helpful to learn specifically what those Black professors provided for them.  Future research should devote critical attention to how networking can aid in the academic success of Black male student-athletes and what can be done to mitigate barriers to Black male student-athletes being able to engage in networking.  Scholars need to investigate why many Black male student-athletes are not currently engaging in networking on-campus and off-campus.  The study offers promising insights about how academic support centers in athletic departments should adopt a culturally relevant pedagogical framework.  The study does not, however, give specific recommendations for accomplishing this.  Future research should provide specific recommendations for establishing a culturally relevant pedagogical framework in academic support centers in athletic departments, and examine the specific academic and social outcomes that result from implementing a culturally relevant pedagogical framework in these academic support centers in athletic departments.

Reference

Bimper, Jr. A.Y., Harrison, Jr., L., & Clark, L. (2012). Diamonds in the rough: Examining a case of successful Black male student athletes in college sport. Journal of Black Psychology, 39(2), 107-130.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison