Vindication

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John Elway

When John Elway was named as the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations in 2011, he brought with him the same passion that he displayed throughout his playing career. Elway was the first overall pick of the 1983 National Football League Draft by the Baltimore Colts, but he would immediately force a trade to the Broncos. In Denver, Elway would win a pair of Super Bowl Titles and become one of the most prolific quarterbacks that that the game has ever seen. Elway was a winner as helped the Broncos make five Super Bowl appearances as a player. After Elway’s playing career, he became the co-owner of the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League in 2003. And by the Crush’s third year, they became champions of the AFL.

In 2011, Elway took over a Broncos team that was coming off of their worst season since 1982. Elway’s first order of business was to hire a head coach that could return to Broncos to prominence. Elway hired John Fox who was coming off of a nine-year stint as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers to lead the Broncos. In 2011, “Tebowmania” took over the Rocky Mountains as quarterback Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the AFC West Title and a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Game.

But Elway knew that Tebow wasn’t his long-term answer at quarterback for the Broncos and he got a reprieve that off-season when the Indianapolis Colts decided to move on from quarterback Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning

In 2012, Manning would become the most sought after free agent in National Football League history as a bevy of teams were lining up for his services, but he would ultimately be swayed by Elway and the Broncos.

Business would immediately pick up for the Broncos with Manning as their starting quarterback. The Broncos would go 13-3 in 2012 which was their best regular season mark since 2005. The Broncos would win the AFC West, but they would be eliminated at home by the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Broncos would win the AFC Championship in 2013, but in Super Bowl they would get destroyed by the Seattle Seahawks 43-8. The Broncos would rebound in 2014 to go 12-4 in en route to winning the AFC West. However after another divisional round loss; this time to the Colts, Elway decided to make wholesale changes.

Gary Kubiak

In a surprising move last January, Elway fired Fox as the head coach of the Broncos and replaced him with former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. Aside from being the head coach of the Texans, Kubiak was Elway’s backup quarterback for the majority of his National Football League career. The Broncos would still run the 3-4 defensive scheme that they did in 2014, but they would have an old, but familiar face leading the charge.

Wade Phillips

From 1989-1992, Wade Phillips was the Broncos defensive coordinator along with being the team’s head coach from 1993-1994. Phillips would also have stints as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys. But whereas Phillips is 82-61 an a head coach in the National Football League, he is only 1-5 in the playoffs which has been his undoing. However, Phillips is a tremendous defensive coordinator as he has had stints with the Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Bills, and Houston Texans in that capacity. Elway brought Phillips back to Denver and he oversaw one of the best defenses in National Football League history this past season. And the construction of that championship Broncos defense began when Elway started calling the shots in 2011.

Von Miller

Elway and the Broncos went into the 2011 National Football League Draft owning the second overall pick which they used on outside linebacker Von Miller. Although that the Broncos were running a 4-3 defensive scheme at the time, and Miller was more suited to be an outside linebacker in the 3-4, his skill set as an edge rusher was too much to pass up on. Elway made the right move by selecting Miller as his 11.5 sacks in 2011 saw him named as the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. In 2011, the Broncos would also make another sharp decision when they signed an undrafted free agent at cornerback by the name of Chris Harris Jr. And very quietly Harris has emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

But as this championship was beginning to take shape, the Broncos were still missing some components. After losing Super Bowl 48 to the Seahawks, Elway got busy in free agency by signing defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib, and strong safety T.J. Ward. Ware is one of the best pass rushers of this era and he would be huge as far as being a bookend end rusher with Miller. Talib is one of the best cover corners of this era, while Ward plays the strong safety position with angry disposition. And the Broncos only needed a defensive guru like Phillips to make it all come together.

The Broncos finished the 2015 National Football League season with the top defense. The Broncos defense became the first defensive unit since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles to lead the league in yards allowed, and points allowed while having the top run and pass units as only the Steelers scored 30 points on them this season.

All season long the Broncos brought pressure from every possible angle on opposing offenses and the end result became a defensive unit that reminded the folks in the Rocky Mountains of the famed “Orange Crush” defense of the 1970′s with the likes of Tom Jackson, Randy Grandishar, and Lyle Alzado. The new “Orange Crush” was on full display in the playoffs where they shut down some of the top offenses in the NFL in the Steelers, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers to the point that some people are beginning to compare this Denver defense to that of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. But Elway’s biggest move might have been getting Manning to buy in to what he was selling.

After being eliminated last January in the playoffs, it appeared that Manning was done in the National Football League. And this sentiment was echoed further on November 22 when Kubiak benched Manning after throwing 5 interceptions in a 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Manning’s benching occurred in the same game that he became the National Football League’s all-time leading passer, but many people including myself thought that he was finished. However with Brock Osweiler as the Broncos starting quarterback, the team’s offense was stagnant at best, and in Week 17, Kubiak decided to go back to Manning.

Kubiak would stick with Manning in the postseason as well, and although that the physical skills of this 39-year old quarterback are not what they once were, the brain still sharp which is what the Broncos needed. In a short period of time, Elway and Kubiak convinced one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League in Manning that he would be better served as a “game manager”. Once upon a time Elway checked his ego at the door when former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan decided to run the football more which led to the Broncos first two Super Bowl Championships. And it was once again on display for the Broncos; this time with Manning.

When the Broncos arrived in Northern California for Super Bowl 50, all of the talk was about this being Manning’s potential last hurrah in the National Football League while this defense would have their hands full with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. And whether that the Broncos made that public or not, they appeared to have used that as their rallying cry.

From the start of Super Bowl 50, Denver’s defense introduced Newton to a brand of physical football that he is not familiar with. Led by Miller who was the Super Bowl MVP with 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, the Broncos defense was all over Newton like a cheap suit for 60 minutes. The punishment that was handed out by the Broncos defense led to 15 points for their team which was the difference in the game as Denver defeated Carolina by a score of 24-10 to win Super Bowl 50 which in part was due to Manning checking his ego at the door and buying in to what Elway sold him on which was team football.

Like Manning, Elway is one of the best quarterbacks to have ever played in the National Football League. Elway has been on both sides of the coin as he has won and lost Super Bowls. And as the Broncos lost in epic fashion in the Super Bowl with Elway under center, it was due to the fact that he tried to do too much by himself as Denver was not the better team in any of those games.

The Broncos were clearly not the best team two years ago at the Super Bowl when they were walloped by the Seahawks which is something that Elway sought out to remedy. But it was the Broncos who were the dominant team this past Sunday against the Panthers. Elway has the Midas touch as anything that he touches indeed touches turns to gold. And whereas Manning will more than likely ride off into the sunset now as a two-time Super Bowl Champion, Elway has also cemented his legacy as he built a winner in just five short years.

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2016 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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1. Tennessee Titans-Laremy Tunsil-Offensive Tackle-Ole Miss

The Titans appear to have their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota and they need to protect his blindside.

Jared Goff

2. Cleveland Browns-Jared Goff-Quarterback-California

It wouldn’t be a National Football League season without the Cleveland Browns starting over with a new general manager, head coach, and of course, a quarterback.

3. San Diego Chargers-Ronnie Stanley-Offensive Tackle-Notre Dame

The Chargers still appear to be committed to Philip Rivers as their starting quarterback which means that they may want to protect him.

4. Dallas Cowboys-A’Shawn Robinson-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

If not A’Shawn Robinson, the Cowboys could go with Joey Bosa here, but the bottom line is that they need help on their defensive line.

Jalen Ramsey

5. Jacksonville Jaguars-Jalen Ramsey-Cornerback-Florida State

It’s been awhile since the Jaguars have had themselves a shutdown corner.

6. Baltimore Ravens-Laquon Treadwell-Wide Recieiver-Ole Miss

The Ravens did use a first-round pick last year on a wide receiver in Breshad Perriman, but Laquon Treadwell is too good to pass on.

7. San Francisco 49ers-Myles Jack-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

The 49ers could go in several directions with this pick, but new head coach Chip Kelly covets athletic players.

8. Miami Dolphins-Vernon Hargraves-Cornerback-Florida

With wide receivers such as Sammy Watkins, Brandon Marshall, and Julian Edelman all calling the AFC East home, the Dolphins must solidify their secondary.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Taylor Decker-Offensive Tackle-Ohio State

The Buccaneers are looking to build around their young quarterback in Jameis Winston which means that is time for them to work on the offensive line in Tampa.

Joey Bosa

10. New York Giants-Joey Bosa-Defensive End-Ohio State

If Joey Bosa falls this far, the Giants won’t pass him up as they are desperate for pass rushers.

11. Chicago Bears-Andrew Billings-Defensive Tackle-Baylor

Bears head coach John Fox is looking to make his team tougher in the trenches.

Shaq Lawson

12. New Orleans Saints-Shaq Lawson-Defensive End-Clemson

The only way for the Saints to have a shot in the NFC South is to get more pressure from their defensive line.

13. Philadelphia Eagles-Paxton Lynch-Quarterback-Memphis

With the Chip Kelly experiment over in Philadelphia, new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is looking to get back to the basics which includes him finding a franchise quarterback that he can develop.

14. Oakland Raiders-Jack Conklin-Offensive Tackle-Michigan State

Don’t look now, but the Raiders are picking later than they normally would while also drafting talent.

15. Los Angeles Rams-Carson Wentz-Quarterback-North Dakota State

The Rams will have a new city to play in for 2016; so why not get a young quarterback that can lead them into the future on the field?

Jonathan Bullard

16. Detroit Lions-Jonathan Bullard-Defensive End-Florida

In a division with Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jay Cutler, the Lions cannot have enough pass rushers.

17. Atlanta Falcons-DeForest Buckner-Defensive End-Oregon

Last year it was Vic Beasley, and this time DeForest Buckner could be the guy that helps the Falcons to improve their front seven in 2016.

18. Indianapolis Colts-Shon Coleman-Offensive Tackle-Auburn

2015 was a nightmare for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as he was injured which means that it is time to beef up the protection in front of him.

19. Buffalo Bills-Mackensie Alexander-Cornerback-Clemson

Rex Ryan is searching for the next Darrelle Revis, and he’ll take a chance on Mackensie Alexander.

20. New York Jets-Leonard Floyd-Outisde Linebacker-Georgia

The Jets have a ton of free agents and they need to get younger and more athletic at linebacker.

21. Washington Redskins-Eli Apple-Cornerback-Ohio State

If the playoffs showed us anything, it is that the Redskins need help in their secondary.

Connor Cook

22. Houston Texans-Connor Cook-Quarterback-Michigan State

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t appear to be committed long term to Brian Hoyer at quarterback which means that Connor Cook could sneak in the back door.

23. Minnesota Vikings- Darron Lee-Outside Linebacker-Ohio State

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer loves defense and he finds another play maker here.

Robert Nkemdiche

24. Cincinnati Bengals-Robert Nkemdiche-Defensive Tackle-Ole Miss

If Robert Nkemdiche falls to the Bengals here, he might be the steal of the first round.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers-Germain Ifedi-Offensive Tackle-Texas A&M

With a veteran quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers must protect him.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Emmanuel Ogbah-Defensive End-Oklahoma State

The rich get richer as the Seahawks will get another freak of nature on the defensive side of the football.

27. Green Bay Packers-Reggie Ragland-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

The Packers need an upgrade at the inside linebacker position in order to allow Clay Matthews to be utilized more at outside linebacker.

28. Kansas City Chiefs-Jason Spriggs-Offensive Tackle-Indiana

The Chiefs are expected to be hit hard in free agency; especially on their offensive line.

29. Arizona Cardinals-Jarran Reed-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians loves physical play makers and he gets one here late in the first round.

Ezekiel Elliot

30. Carolina Panthers-Ezekiel Elliot-Running Back-Ohio State

The Panthers need to upgrade the passing game, but Ezekiel Elliot is too talented to pass up.

31. Denver Broncos-Derrick Henry-Running Back-Alabama

The Broncos love to run the football with their zone-blocking scheme, but when Derrick Henry gets a head of steam, look out.

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No Direction

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Throughout the 48 years that the Phoenix Suns have been an NBA franchise, they have been a constant tease to their fan base. In the Suns second year of existence, they made the playoffs only to miss out on the postseason in each of the next five years. In 1976, the Suns won the Western Conference Championship to advance to the NBA Finals where the experience of the Boston Celtics was too much for them. From 1978-1985, the Suns would make the playoffs each season, but this was an era in the Western Conference that was dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Seattle Supersonics. For the entire decade of the 1990′s, the Suns would make the playoffs, but they were never able to attain that elusive NBA Championship. With Mike D’Antoni as the Suns head coach in the mid-2000′s, Phoenix had a wide open brand of basketball which was highlighted by point guard Steve Nash being named as the NBA’s MVP in two consecutive years. However the Suns struggled on the defensive end of the floor which hurt them against teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks in the postseason. And little did the Suns know that when they lost the 2010 Western Conference Finals to the Lakers what would be in store for them.

Since 2010, the Suns have only had one winning season while failing to make the postseason. Overall the Suns have not been the same team since longtime owner Jerry Colangelo sold the team in 2004 and his son Bryan resigned as the team’s general manager in 2006. Since then the Suns have gone through four general managers, and six head coaches while this team has been kept together with spit and glue.

Jeff Hornacek

The bottom fell out for the Suns last month when Jeff Hornacek was fired as their head coach after beginning this NBA season with a record of 14-35. Hornacek was in his third season in Phoenix, and he had never been given a talented roster to work with even though he overachieved in his first season when he went 48-34. The Suns have also missed on some of their first round picks in the NBA Draft while they’ve been unable to lure any big-time players in free agency to the desert.

One of the biggest things that has hurt the Suns recently is that they have concentrated on obtaining perimeter players while also failing to land an impact player in the NBA Draft. And the result has been a team that has been completely forgotten about in the Western Conference. As a team, the Suns are near the bottom of most statistical categories in the NBA at both ends of the floor while they don’t have one player that is in the top 20 of any major individual category which is a pretty good indication as to why their record is as bad as it currently is.

Ryan McDonough

It’s obvious that the Suns need a complete overhaul and team owner Robert Sarver should think about starting over. Ryan McDonough is in his third year as the Suns general manager and he is the one that gave Hornacek this subpar team to work which means that he deserves as much blame if not more than the now exiled head coach. The Suns need a general manager that knows how to evaluate talent instead of simply picking a player that is the best player in the NBA Draft. For right now the Suns should also stay away from the temptation of spending big in free agency. Last summer saw McDonough sign free agent center Tyson Chandler to a four-year deal that is worth $52 million. And that is a large amount of money to give to a player such as Chandler who is 33-years of age that has averaged just 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during his NBA career. The Suns are also contractually locked in with points guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight for the next few years. Bledsoe and Knight are the Suns two leading scorers this season, but it would be prudent for Phoenix to trade one of the players being that they basically do the same thing on the court. The Suns also have a disgruntled power forward on their hands in Markieff Morris who has not been a happy camper ever since his twin brother Marcus was traded by the team to the Detroit Pistons last summer. Morris no longer wants to be with the Suns, but the team won’t trade him, and all that it is doing is becoming a huge distraction and headache to everyone that is involved. At this point the best thing for the Suns to do is simply cut their losses and move on which would a be a win-win for both parties.

Earl Watson

With the dismissal of Hornacek, former NBA player Earl Watson is now the Suns interim head coach. This is Watson’s first go round in the NBA as a head coach and I expect the Suns to give him the rest of the season to show what he can do. But like the general manager’s seat, the Suns appear to need a new direction at the coaching position as well. Former NBA head coaches in Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau are expected to be hot commodities this summer and the Suns should at least put out a feeler to gauge the interest of one of these men.

Some NBA teams have become enamored with the “small ball” effect after watching the Golden State Warriors win it all last June. But what has helped the Warriors is the fact that their point guard Steph Curry, along with shooting guard Klay Thompson are two of the best scorers in the NBA, while they also possess one of the best overall teams in the league. Like many other teams, the Suns don’t have that luxury, thus their reliance on Bledsoe and Knight to carry them is not having the same positive effect. The game of basketball is still won on the interior which is something that the Suns have lacked for a very long time. And in Phoenix, it is time go back to the drawing board because what the Suns are currently doing isn’t working.

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Super Bowl 50 Pick

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Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are hopeful that they are just 60 football minutes away from their biggest football accomplishment.

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Don’t Forget About Us

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With the National Football League set to embark on its 50th edition of the Super Bowl this Sunday, you know that the league will be going all out to pay homage to the players and coaches that helped to make the big game what it is. But what about the leagues that helped to make the NFL the colassal monster that it currently is? In 1959, the American Football League was formed after businessmen such as Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams failed to land NFL franchises. And 23 years later, it would be United States Football League that would push the NFL. However neither the AFL nor USFL currently exist, but their mark is etched all over the NFL and the aspect of the Super Bowl.

The American Football League began play in 1960 as a 10-team league. For the most part, AFL owners, coaches, and players alike were people who were overlooked by the National Football League as guys who could not cut it in their league. But what ensued over the next decade was what amounted to as being professional football’s version of the Civil War. At first the NFL didn’t take the AFL serious due to the fact that they thought of themselves as the gold standard. The NFL focused more on the blood, sweat, and tears that came with running the football consistently. For the players in the NFL, it was almost like being in the military as they could only have short hair, no facial hair, and their last names were not on the back of their jerseys. The AFL would provide fans with a more wide open variety brand of football that included more downfield passing, players who had their names on the back of their jerseys, and more importantly, an opportunity for them to express themselves with long hair and facial hair which was becoming the norm in the 1960′s.

Aside from the changes on the field, the American Football League pushed the National Football League for the top collegiate talent as it was a free-for-all in order to sign players. Quarterback Joe Namath was just one of many players that was drafted by both leagues. Coming out of the University of Alabama, Namath was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL, and the New York Jets of the AFL. However Namath chose the Jets and thus the legend of “Broadway Joe” was born. The battle for top-tier talent was wearing on both leagues as team owners were in the process of losing money due to the large sums of cash that they were shelling out to sign players. And in 1966, a treaty was signed by both leagues when they agreed to merge by 1970.

Leading up to the merger, a championship game was created to showcase the winner of each league. Initially the game would be referred to as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game with the first edition taking place on January 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum between the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League. During the 1960′s, the Packers were the gold standard of professional football as they won five NFL Titles and most people didn’t believe that the Chiefs deserved to be on the same field as them. The Packers would easily dispatch of the Chiefs 35-10, and the Oakland Raiders 33-14 a year later in the second edition of the title game that simply made the NFL supporters say “I told you so”.

But the title game would begin to become the true spectacle that it has evolved into during the third edition of the contest. By this time Hunt was the owner of the Chiefs and in a letter to National Football League commissioner Pete Rozzelle, he joked that the game should be referred to as the Super Bowl after watching his kids play with a “super ball”. The name would stick and the game would find some life on January 12, 1969 when the Jets took on the Baltimore Colts.

Joe Namath

The Colts were the overwhelming champions of the National Football League as they finished with a regular season record of 13-1. After watching the Colts dominance that season, and what the Packers had done in the two previous editions of the Super Bowl, the Jets came in as an 18-point underdog. But the Jets had Namath under center and after hearing all week about how good that the Colts were, he guaranteed a New York victory. Namath was 17-for-28 passing in the contest for 208 yards, but it was the Jets defense that would shine the brightest as they forced five turnovers by the Colts.

An underlying story heading into Super Bowl III was the Jets were coached by Weeb Ewbank who was fired as the Colts head coach in 1963. The Colts were still running the same zone defense that Ewbank had designed which led to Namath picking them apart with ease. And when Namath ran off of the field that night at Miami’s Orange Bowl, he was greeted by some players from other American Football League teams as they were finally gaining some respect.

Super Bowl IV would take place in New Orleans, Louisiana between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chiefs. At first the Minnesota franchise appeared to be bound for the American Football League, but at the last minute, the National Football League swooped in to procure the franchise. This was something that wasn’t lost on the mind of AFL owners. The Chiefs also used their experience in the first Super Bowl to their advantage. Chiefs head coach Hank Stram would devise an offensive game that kept the Vikings defense off balance all day as Kansas City cruised to the 23-7 victory.

Aside from winning the Super Bowl, the Chiefs were the final champion of the American Football League as both leagues would merge in the following season. And aside from the final tally between both leagues being tied at two in the first four editions of the Super Bowl, the AFL had gained respectability while also changing how the game was played and viewed.

As the National Football League continued to evolve, it wasn’t without its faults as players sought more money and compensation. This was highlighted by work stoppages in both 1974 and 1982 with the second one costing the league seven regular season games per team. The issues between the NFL and the players was the perfect opening for the United States Football League. Unlike the American Football League, the USFL didn’t compete with the NFL in the fall as they instead opted to have their season during the spring and summer. In 1983, the USFL made its debut as a 12-team league. And like the AFL before them, the USFL left no stone unturned in order to procudre the top college talent.

Herschel Walker

The United States Football League signed college players such as quarterback Steve Young, defensive end Reggie White, and running back Herschel Walker who was fresh off of winning the Heisman Trophy in 1982. The USFL also succeeded in luring players from the National Football League such as Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe who were not happy with the compensation that they were receiving from playing football. The presence of the USFL also forced the NFL to pay their players more money due to the competition of another league. An example of this was in 1983 when New York Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor was given a $1 million interest-free loan from New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump. Trump’s vision was that Taylor would jump ship to the USFL by 1988. At first Taylor agreed to the deal, but a little bit later he would have second thoughts. Taylor would return the money to Trump while he received a new contract from the Giants which would not have been the case if it were not for Trump and the USFL.

As expected, the United States Football League was struggling financially as team owners were expecting to take a loss in the first few years of operations. The hope for the USFL was to secure a lucrative television deaI that would procure the league’s long-term financial success. But led by Trump, all of the owners were not on the same page. Trump led the charge as the USFL attempted to fight the National Football League in federal court over antitrust laws claiming that the NFL had a monopoly. In the end the USFL won in court, but they were only awarded $3.23 which all but ended the league.

In the end, the United States Football League was only around for five years, but their legacy can still be seen in the game of football. The USFL introduced the two-point conversion along coaches challenge flags. And the USFL put franchises in cities that the National Football League didn’t inhabit such as Memphis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, and the State of Arizona. The USFL Dispersment Draft would see a ton of talented players find their way to NFL rosters with some of them such as Young, White, offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman, and quarterback Jim Kelly finding their way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As we look back on 50 years of the Super Bowl, the game has truly evolved as it is indeed at the forefront of the National Football League which is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. When the Super Bowl was created, the NFL only had 16 teams; now there are 32. There weren’t any prime time games while the championship game was in mid-January. Now there are regular season games on Monday and Thursday nights, along with a full tilt on Sunday that begins at 1PM Eastern and typically ends around midnight on the East Coast. The Super Bowl has become such a spectacle that some people feel that the day after the big game should be a national holiday. There is a media blitz every year along with the international draw that it has become as the NFL has actually pondered having the Super Bowl in London. The big game can even captivate the person that is not even the casual football fan due to things such as the Super Bowl halftime show as Grammy Award winning artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and N’Sync are a few of the numerous artists that have headlined the big game.

But at the end of the day, the National Football League typically only changes their thought process when their hand is forced. It was forced in the 1960′s by the American Football League, and again in the 1980′s by the United States Football League. Sandwiched in between the AFL and the USFL was the efforts of the World Football League on the mid-1970′s which didn’t have a big impact on the game of football, but it did become another outlet for players to be compensated. And from that first coin toss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum more than 50 years ago, the game has never been the same as the league, players, fans, and the entire planet for that matter have and never will be the same again.

 

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Does He Really Want To Leave?

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Kevin Durant

Although that Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant currently has a net worth of $80 million, he is set to cash in this summer. Durant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and he’ll headline this year’s class of free agents in the NBA. In nine years with Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise, Durant has averaged 27.3 points per game while leading the NBA in scoring on four separate occasions. Durant is also a seven-time NBA All-Star along while being named as the league’s MVP in 2014. Durant is one of the best scorers that the NBA has ever seen, and even though that he’ll be able to decide which NBA city that he is going to call home next season, should he really give strong consideration into leaving Oklahoma City?

The Thunder have finished each of the last five NBA seasons with a winning record which was highlighted by a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012. The combination of Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook has put Oklahoma City on the map and when these two dynamic play makers are healthy, the Thunder are a tough team to contend with.

In 2013, the Thunder finished with the best record in the Western Conference and they appeared to be on a collision course with the Miami Heat for a rematch in the NBA Finals, until Westbrook suffered a knee injury in the postseason. Durant could not do it all by himself and the Thunder were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Last year the Thunder were ravaged by injuries all season long which was highlighted by Durant being limited to just 27 games due to a foot injury. The Thunder still managed to win 45 games, but they fell one victory shy of making the playoffs which resulted in head coach Scott Brooks being fired.

To replace Brooks, the Thunder hired Billy Donovan who had spent the last 19 years as the head basketball coach of the University of Florida where he led the school to four Final Four appearances and a pair of national titles. Donovan was brought in due to his ability to work with different personalities along with the fact that his offensive system predicates ball movement. Led by Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have one of the deepest teams in the NBA this season as they can put stress on any opponent.

Through 49 games, the Thunder are 36-13 as they are benefiting from playing in the porous Northwest Division where they are the only team there that currently has a winning record. The Thunder have the third best record in the Western Conference and they’ve flown under the radar a bit due to the strong seasons that both the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are currently enjoying. And as good as the Warriors and Spurs are, it is not that far fetched to believe that the Thunder could defeat one of these teams in a seven-game playoff series to advance to the NBA Finals; which again raises the notion of why Durant would want to leave Oklahoma City?

Durant is going to get paid wherever he plays at next season, but the Thunder have the ability to offer him more money than any other NBA team. Durant will be 28-years of age and he’s getting to the point of his NBA career where he wants to win a title, and right now the Thunder give him the best option as far as making that happen.

Durant is only one of three current Thunder players that are not under contract for next season, and with the NBA’s salary cap set to expand due to a new television deal, Oklahoma City is set up to contend for the coming years.

With the Thunder, Durant knows that he doesn’t have to carry the team by himself as Westbrook continues to evolve into one of the better point guards in the NBA. Aside from Westbrook, the Thunder have a legitimate low-post scoring option in center Enes Kanter while power forward Serge Ibaka is one of the better shot blockers in the NBA. Thunder general manager Sam Presti is one of the best cap guys in the NBA while also consistently putting a contender on the floor in Oklahoma City.

This summer will see Durant faced with the allure of playing in a bigger market such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Chicago, or Washington D.C., but he would theoretically be starting over as he would need to get adjusted to a new team, and a new city. Relocating to a bigger market would be great for the Durant brand being that he is one of the top athletes currently signed to Nike, but a new NBA team doesn’t necessarily bring immediate success.

In 2010, small forward LeBron James famously announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. There James would team with fellow NBA All-Stars in shooting guard Dwyane Wade and power forward Chris Bosh as they were looking to win championships together. The Heat would make the NBA Finals in 2011, but they would fall to the Dallas Mavericks before claiming the title a year later against Durant and the Thunder.

Durant and Westbrook are on the same page and the Thunder franchise will be more than willing to give both of them whatever they want in order to remain in Oklahoma City. But right now it is Durant that holds all of the cards as his decision this summer could potentially shape the landscape of at least 10 NBA teams for next season.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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