I Wanted to be a Sportswriter (and now I am…sort of)

I set two goals for myself for this year, one was related to starting and maintaining my own podcast, the other was to do a better job keeping up things here on my site.

Technically, I’ve done both things, as the podcast exists, although it’s been longer than I’d like since an episode has dropped; and the site, well, the front page isn’t as full of new posts as I’d like.

I’ll blame both on the work I’m doing for Niner Noise, where the writing is in-depth and therefore requiring of a great deal of attention, and work I’ve been doing toward the launching of the new Niner Noise Podcast, the first episode of which should be released later this week.

On many levels, this is the very thing I always wanted, as I noted elsewhere before, because the job I dreamed of as a kid looked a little something like this:

Screen shot 2015-01-05 at 9.26.26 AM-2

Once I got into high school, I realized I was better with my voice, and that turned into sports radio, which gave way to writing during the end of high school and into college, and before I knew it, writing was the focus of my education and my career in many ways.

Still, reading student papers and giving revision feedback wasn’t fully what I had in mind, but there’s mostly been time to find other ways to flex the writing muscles, whether that was through my creative writing MFA, my own poetry and creative non-fiction, or this website.

The Niner Noise opportunity came along, and even though I’m volunteering my time, I really do enjoy the writing, and I think that’s because it taps into something that I always wanted to do. I’m not getting rich or famous from it, although I did have one of my pieces featured on the Bleacher Report feed not too long ago, but it is fun to be able to engage with something I love already (in this case, my favorite football team) and then to be able to spend time writing and talking about the team and its current and long term direction.

Who knows if there will be opportunities to do more with this down the road, but honestly that’s less the point, although it would be nice to try my hand at doing this for a living instead of just as a hobby.

For the time being, it’s a nice way to balance my life into not being exclusively either work or family (not as if there’s anything wrong with either of those things), providing me a way to channel my writing and creative energy into something that I enjoy doing (and, in most cases, am doing already).

Keep on the lookout for more from my via Niner Noise, and I’ll post a link to the Niner Noise Podcast once it goes live.

 

Hope When Hope is Lost

For the record, right up front, this is a sports post.

Okay, now that’s clear, we can soldier on.

I wrote a few months back about my long-suffering San Francisco 49ers fandom and how thrilled I was that after many years of being awful–with a short, pseudo-dominate period  tucked in between–it looked liked my beloved football team was on the right track, mostly due to the presence of head coach Kyle Shanahan and his savant-level offensive mind and newly minted QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who for a brief moment was the highest paid player in pro football.

Then this happened:

Image result for jimmy garoppolo knee injury gif

As the Niners were mounting a drive to possibly pull themselves within a score of the scorching hot Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo tried to make something happen to help his team win the game. But instead of getting out-of-bounds, saving a timeout and taking what he could get, the 49ers franchise QB fancied himself a running back (which, by the way, never sign $137 million dollar contracts), tried to make a cut on Chiefs DB Steven Nelson and, well, you can see what happened. The quarterback collapsed in a heap, and not only did the Niners not score (although a TD on the next play by C.J. Beathard was negated by a non-existent Offensive Pass Interference call), but the season was, for all intents and purposes, over before the third game even finished. This, combined with the loss of newly signed RB Jerrick McKinnon at the end of practice before the season opener and a host of other smaller injuries, has left the Niners a shell of their potential, as they lack the depth in key areas–especially quarterback–to continue their upward trajectory.

While the beginning of the season–a gauntlet that included away games at Minnesota, Kansas City and the Chargers, along with a tough trip to Green Bay on Monday Night and the Rams at home–was always going to be tough, regardless of who was quarterbacking, the loss of Garoppolo has certainly turned winnable games against the Chargers, Packers and Cardinals (twice) into either end-to-end defeats or demoralizing late-game collapses. So a team that might have had wild card playoff aspirations is now the mathematical favorite for the overall number one pick in next spring’s draft. Yesterday’s loss, a 18-15 sad-fest at Arizona, which featured a 5-3 halftime score and some of the most absolutely abysmal attempts at football I’ve ever watched (and yes, I watched every minute of the game, including the final drive, where Larry Fitzgerald once again stabbed the Niners in the heart). At this point, the top pick in the draft, even if it is edge rusher extraordinaire Nick Bosa, is little consolation; losing this often and in this manner is getting old.

You see, while there is a sort of badge of honor worn by fans of bad teams (sorry Browns fans), after a lot of losing, that honor fades into something more like disgruntled fanbases, and, in the case of the 49ers and their relatively new home in Santa Clara, fans giving up on the team altogether (although some of that may have to do with being far away from San Francisco, extreme ticket prices and a whole half of the stadium that is significantly hotter than the other). For a franchise that is among the most successful in NFL history (5 Super Bowl titles, tied for second most in league history with the Cowboys and Patriots), this is difficult to swallow, especially from the opposite end of the country, where the team being bad means it’s harder to watch games and team merchandise is only available through online resources.

Still we Niners fans are reminded that this is a process, and that season was likely to be a roller coaster ride, even with Garoppolo and McKinnon in the backfield. To make matters worse, the defense has been sloppy, with second year players regressing or not living up to draft position on every level (Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster and Akhello Witherspoon) and unable to generate much in the way of a consistent pass rush from the edge. And even though it has played well as a unit in spurts, even in the team’s only win, they allowed a certain victory to nearly fall apart late in the game. And outside of Sunday’s game, every team has scored 24 or more points, leading to their averaging the 5th most allowed points through the halfway point of the season at 29.5 and the second most overall points, just one fewer than the Cincinnati Bengals. Garoppolo might have been able to mask some of that, yes, and it’s unlikely he would have turned the ball over quite as often as Beathard has (17 total this year, including 5 in the week 5 loss to Arizona, pretty much accounting for all of the Cardinals points), and also likely that a stronger offensive unit would help the defense stay off the field and play from behind less, but the defense is showing it wasn’t quite there yet. But the rebuild is definitely stalled by the two majors injuries, and Shanahan and his staff aren’t quite up for working with the poor depth the team possess, usually the last thing to get shored up when a team gets gutted like the Niners did last off-season.

Yet hope is not lost. Every week I’ve gotten an email from SB Nation asking me questions about the NFL, and every week the survey ends with the same question: “How confident are you with the direction of the franchise at the moment?” This is a loaded question, but one I’ve always answered the same since before the season started: confident. Yes, the team is 1-7 with a Thursday night date with the Oakland Raiders, a long week and then Monday Night Football against the New York Giants–both at home–coming up, and yes, both of those teams are just as bad, if not worse on the field than the 49ers right now. But I say confident because I know this wasn’t the plan for this year, and that with another off-season to build the defense and depth at various positions, and with a rejuvenated starting QB and RB tandem back on the field for 2019, the franchise is still in good hands to turn this putridity around sooner rather than later. The 2018 season has been a disappoint, and at this point it’s looking like the team won’t even get back to the 6-10 record they posted last year, but overall I remain hopeful for the future and that eventually this front office and coaching staff will put all the pieces to get the team into contention and (hopefully) remain there for many years to come.

NFL Draft and 49ers Strategy

The NFL draft starts a week from yesterday, and it’s been months since the Philadelphia Eagles shocked the league, winning Super Bowl 52 over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with back up QB Nick Foles at the helm, 41-33. Those two things combined mean one thing: we’ve seen oodles of draft takes, mock drafts and breaking news reports about which teams like which players and what such and such team will do with such and such pick, and at this point, the draft can’t get here any faster. While I had originally intended to create my own mock draft and analyze it in this space, two things are true: a) I’m not all that versed in college football, so my analyses would be surface-level and mostly repeats of what I’d heard others say and b) as noted, I’m all mock drafted out.

Furthermore, my main methods for draft intelligence comes via online games like First-Pick and FanSpeak, and they are unpredictable at best, fully wrong at worst (while still being remarkably fun). So while I’ve continued to play these games, essentially they brought me to the conclusion that I should be a little more general in my thoughts. Instead of my mock draft, I’ll explain generally what I think my beloved San Francisco 49ers, namely GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan, should do with the picks they have at their disposal for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Round 1, Pick 9

There are a lot of directions the 49ers could go here, especially if the QB rush is as heavy or heavier than expected. From there, you have to take into account both need, fit and positional value. While a player like Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson would be great in terms of need and fit, there’s a both a high likelihood that Nelson is gone by 9, and I’d argue that with Jimmy Garappolo’s quick release, guard isn’t as high on the need list as most people think, at least not enough to grab someone else who isn’t Nelson here. All the controversy surrounding last year’s first round pick Reuben Foster has many thinking that a sideline-to-sideline LB like Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds would make sense, but there’s a question of it this is too early to fix that issue when there are two larger problems: pass rush and outside pass defense.

This leaves the Niners with two options, so far as I’m concerned: Boston College EDGE rusher Harold Landry or Ohio State CB Denzel Ward. Each has his issues–Landry wasn’t as productive last year as he was the year before and Ward is a little undersized–but each presents the team with a huge upside, and one that would immediately improve the squad. The cornerback class in this draft is quite deep, however, while the edge class is decidedly not, so all things being equal, Landry is the way I’d go here.

Now that said, I’ve got one alternative idea here, and that’s trading down. Let’s say only three quarterbacks go in the top 8, leaving names like maybe Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, or Lamar Jackson available for teams at nine. It’s possible one of those teams, like Arizona, Buffalo or even the AFC champion Patriots could be interested in moving up to grab a QB they like. The Cardinals are at 15, and would like need to swap picks with the 49ers, as well as throwing in a 2nd rounder (47th overall) and maybe another pick, either this year or next, to get to 9. Buffalo already moved up to 12 from 21, but still have 22, and the pairing up 12 and 22 might work to get them to 9, and I quite like this trade (although I’d like to see an early in there, and the Bills only have a pick three spots before San Francisco). But my favorite might be the option that New England might be able to throw in there: either both their first round picks (23 and 31) or the 23rd and 43rd, with the possible inclusion of a 3rd/4th rounder in there to sweeten the pot, since the Patriots are coming a long way to get to nine. The best part of this trade is that it means the 49ers will have ended up getting Jimmy G for nothing, all so the Patriots can get another back-up QB/future starter. The downside to trading with New England is that it likely takes an edge rusher off the table, save for UTSA’s Marcus Davenport, but it certainly puts that position in flux until next year, whereas trading with the Bills might mean Landry is still there four picks later, making the switch very similar to the swindle John Lynch pulled on the Bears last year, moving back from two to three and getting the guy he wanted anyway.

Round 2, Pick 59

If predicting a first round pick is difficult, then choosing players after that first round is close to impossible. The Niners’ pick is late in round 2 (there are only five selections after theirs), making it even harder. It becomes even more difficult when you factor in potential trades like the ones I suggested above or others involving non-49ers teams. That said, this is the spot I’d choose to address the OG position if players are available–in my draft games, a name that came up often was Nevada OG Austin Corbett, who is projected to hang around into round 2, making him a good prospect for the Niners.

Most ideally, however, would be for the great depth at cornerback to have an impact on players, allowing certain talented CB prospects to fall to the 49ers late in the second. To that end, I’ve got my sights on Colorado CB Isiah Oliver, former teammate to current 49er Akhello Witherspoon, who has all the measurables to be a good fit in DC Robert Salah’s scheme. He could then learn from new Niner Richard Sherman and then become the second starter next to Witherspoon beyond that. In this scenario, the 49ers will have shored up their pass defense in the first two rounds, leaving things pretty open in the mid-to-late rounds.

Round 3, Picks 70 & 74

The Niners have two picks in quick order in the third, so I’ll handle them together, since the proximity of the picks allows them to do a lot of things here. For arguments’ sake, let’s say they’ve selected Landry and Corbett so far, leaving CB a pretty high need, as well as possible additions at WR, TE and RB, as well as considering linebackers to fill Foster’s hole and longer term answers at OT, with LT Joe Staley getting older and RT Trent Brown’s future up in the air.

The 49ers did work out Humboldt State OT Alex Cappa during pre-draft visits, but this might be too early for a player who might be a project over the next year or so. If he’s still there in round 4-5, though, he might be a good fit. This might be a good space to select a RB who can impact the passing game, like Oregon’s Royce Freeman or Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, or maybe a WR like Colorado State’s Michael Gallup or Memphis’ Anthony Miller, but either way, I think it’s high time to get some skill players for Shanahan’s offense. It doesn’t have to be in both spots, either, so they could be RB/WR at 70 and take a tackle or cornerback at 74. They should definitely take advantage of these two picks so close together, and make sure they get two quality, immediate impact players.

Round 4, Pick 128

Selection 128 overall is pretty deep into round 4, so I have an inkling that Lynch will have moved around to get closer to the front. For this pick I have one hope: CB Quenton Meeks out of Stanford. As was mentioned with Oliver, ideally Meeks doesn’t have to play at one of the outside corner spots right away, but instead can contribute on special teams and learn from Sherman, also a former Cardinal, and a player whom Meeks is often compared to physically. Meeks’ scheme-ideal size and high upside as a cover corner make him an ideal mid-round guy for the 49ers.

Round 5, Pick 143

Round 6, Pick 184

Round 7, Picks 227 & 240

If everything holds pat, the Niners will be more than halfway through their draft picks at this point, with four left. Rounds 5-7 are where things get interesting, so I’ll take them together. While the Niners got a great amount of production from their two 5th rounders last year–TE George Kittle (146) and WR Trent Taylor (177)–that is pretty rare. Even rarer for 6th and 7th round picks, although they did get solid snaps from DT DJ Jones (198), and great play from S Adrian Colbert (229). So ideally the 49ers are looking to stockpile at loaded positions in the draft–like CB–or are looking to add someone who is freaky good at one thing and maybe not so much at others. Take, for example, Devron Davis, cousin of former 49ers’ TE Vernon Davis, who would have a high upside because of his size, but could use some grooming for the next level. Another example is Florida State WR Auden Tate, who is freaky large (6-5, 225) and could be a red zone threat for the 49ers, or even taking a flyer on UNI WR Daurice Fountain, who excelled at the Shrine Game earlier this year. Whatever the position–be it cornerback, linebacker or offensive skill position–these players should be ones who can fill a specific role or have a high ceiling. Hopefully they’ll pan out. It’s those types of picks that set good teams apart from Super Bowl caliber squads.

Jimmy GQ

I should warn you, this is going to be a pretty gushy blog post. I’ll give you a moment to decide if you care enough to continue reading.

 

There, now you’ve been warned.

So it should be clear by now that the San Francisco 49ers are my favorite football team, and that I feel a certain amount of emotional attachment to them and their ability to be good at football/win games. Logically I understand it makes no sense, but I get sad and angry when they are bad/lose, and feel happy and excited when they are good/win; close games make me nervous, bad calls cause me to scream at people who can’t hear me. Such is the life of a sports fan (see, too: reactions to Everton football matches and Hornets basketball games).

I noted recently that the Niners have had an up and down last few years (mostly, let’s be honest, down), and the beginning of last season, while providing some reason for optimism with the hires of new GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, didn’t really help ease the aggravation. On Halloween night everything changed.

It was the last few hours before the NFL trade deadline and my phone buzzed: “49ers have traded for Patriots back up QB Jimmy Garoppolo.” Say what? This was the guy that Patriots coach Bill Belichick had recently said was pretty much untouchable, and now, it appeared, he was a 49er, essentially tabling all the “will the Niners sign Kurt Cousins?” and etc questions for the upcoming off-season; and, most importantly, allowing the team an opportunity to have what it had not had since, well, Steve Young (who’s last full season was in 1998) or, if I’m stretching it, Jeff Garcia (who was only 8-15 over his last two seasons in San Francisco, 2002-2003) or possibly Alex Smith (who was only really good for the Niners for his last two seasons, with a combined record of 19-5-1, after winning only 19 games in the previous five seasons) or the ghost of Colin Kaepernick (who won 25 games in 2 1/2 seasons and then three in his final 16). So it’s been a while since consistency existed at the quarterback position for the 49ers.

Other fun QB stats. In Smith’s rookie season, he was one of four QBs to start at least two games, including Cody Pickett, Ken Dorsey and Tim Rattay; Smith still won the most games. In 2007, it was four QBs again–Smith, 35-year-old Trent Dilfer (6 starts, 7 total games), Shaun Hill (2 starts, 3 total games) and 35-year-old Chris Weinke (1 start, 2 total games) for a 5-win squad. And don’t forget the 2008 season, where Smith missed the entire year with an injury and Hill and J.T. O’Sullivan combined for 8 starts a piece and won a total of 7 games. And finally there was 2010, the Singletary season, where the out of his depth head coach waffled back and forth between Alex and Troy Smith, and even tossed David Carr out for 13 pass attempts on his way to getting fired 15 games into the season. So yes, Garoppolo’s presence in red and gold was a welcome sight.

Yesterday afternoon, the 49er interrupted the bonanza of another trade deadline–this time it was for the NBA–with more big QB news: they had locked in Garoppolo long-term, to the tune of 5 years for $137.5 million (the exact terms are still not available as of this writing). For those of us who have been waiting for an answer at quarterback–and had been fooled into thinking the solution had come in the form of Kaepernick just a few years ago–this was music to our ears. Obviously given the sudden cliff-dive of Kaepernick’s play after he received his contract extension (the team was 8-8 in the season that followed, and coach Jim Harbaugh resigned, leading to the organization’s current predicament, not all of that was Kap’s fault, and some of the facts are likely untrue), there is some trepidation; but generally speaking, it’s all smiles in 49er Land and the optimism seems to extend beyond the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara.

Despite the team finishing just 6-10 last season, there are many pundits touting the Niners as one of the top 10-15 teams in the league, with a large number of those experts predicting the team will be able to compete not only for the NFC West title, but also make some noise in the playoffs. The argument is sound enough. Last year’s NFCW leaders were the Los Angeles Rams, who finished 4-12 in 2016 before hiring a new coach and turning around to win 11 last season. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles came off a mediocre 7-9 rookie year for QB Carson Wentz before skyrocketing to 13-3, the number one seed in the NFC and eventually winning the whole thing (albeit under back up QB Nick Foles). The Jacksonville Jaguars were 3-13 in 2016, but shored up their defense in the off-season to help them make a dramatic turn around to 10 wins and a spot in the AFC Championship game. And that’s just from this past season.

The NFL has enough parity for there to be a worst-to-first story on an almost yearly basis. In fact, since 2003, this has happened every season except 2014, and in both 2005 and 2006, three of the league’s eight divisions saw it happen. Of the now 22 teams who have accomplished that feat in that time period, two–including the Eagles–went on to win the Super Bowl (the Saints in 2009 were the other). It isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it seems like the Niners are going to at least be competitive again, with a look to keep that up for years to come. And it’s mostly because of this guy:

Garoppolo-Signing-CP

Obviously Jimmy GQ, as is his now Niners Nation official nickname, won’t do it on his own. But he has one skill that leads me to believe he, unlike those flash-in-the-pans who came before him in recent years, can sustain his excellence for years to come: he makes the players around him better. No disrespect to Brian Hoyer or C.J. Beathard, but they just didn’t do that for the rest of the roster last year, and it showed with the 1-10 record they posted together before Garoppolo was inserted into the line up against the Bears. Like the man he sat behind for 3+ years in New England, one Mr. Tom Brady, Garoppolo has shown he can make a lot out of nothing (see: the porous interior offensive line suddenly looking competent during the 5-0 run). The roster can still improve around him, and the team still has plenty of cap space and draft capital to make that happen during this off-season.

In short, having this QB means the most important position in sports is solidified for at least the next five–and hopefully many more–years. If the front office is smart with how it uses its assets and money, they can remain competitive for as long as Jimmy G is there. Maybe in 2036 we’ll be looking back at that long run and how jealous the rest of the league was that the Niners have it all figured out.

That would be the best.

Super Bowl LII and Fandom

This is a pretty easy statement to make, but Sunday night’s Super Bowl LII match up between the eventual champions Philadelphia Eagles and perennial contending New England Patriots was one of the top 5 Super Bowls I’ve ever watched live. Top on the list is the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XXIX demolition of the San Diego Chargers, to date the only Niners championship I can recalling having seen with my own eyes, followed closely by this year’s game, Super Bowl LI and the magical comeback, the Saints win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and the gripping ending of XLIII the year before, with the Steelers’ last second victory via a Santonio Holmes sideline toe-tapper (for the record, the only SB loss in 49ers history comes in at #6, only because they lost; it would be #2 otherwise). I’ve watched a fair amount of football in my life, but as far as the intensity and entertainment factor goes, watching Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl win after so many people thought the team’s year was over after Carson Wentz went down with an injury in mid-December is difficult to beat.

The thrilling nature of the game started from drive #1, when Philly marched down the field, only to be stopped just short of pay dirt and settling for a chip shot field goal from rookie kicker Jake Elliott, a feat which New England’s offense quickly matched (by the by, this was the first time a Tom Brady-led Patriots offense had EVER scored in the first quarter of the Super Bowl). The offenses really never sputtered at any point in the game from there on out, as the two teams combined for the most yardage in any NFL game ever with 1,151 total yards; a defensive struggle it was not. The game featured only one punt (by Philly’s Donnie Jones for 41 yards at the end of the first quarter), four 100+ yard receivers, featured the 1st and 5th most passing yards by a QB in a single game, included passes thrown by four different players and overall saw the two teams combine to tie 12 and break 17 Super Bowl records. So yes, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say this was one of the best Super Bowl–nay, one of the best football games–I’ve ever seen.

Still this game was wildly divisive, mostly because of the presence of the Patriots, who have now been to a NFL record 10 Super Bowls as a franchise, including eight featuring the dynamic duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They’ve been to three out of the last four, winning two of those, after having won three of four to start the dynasty back in 2002, 2004 and 2005 (they didn’t make the game in 2003). This 18 year run of being in contention–combined with a few scandals during the period–has led to the team becoming the NFL’s Public Enemy No.1 for most of the time that the Brady/Belichick pairing has been in place. I have a friend–a supposed diehard Steelers fan–who openly cheers against Tom Brady at the smallest opportunity, and even texted another friend “Fly Eagles Fly” after the game was over. I enjoyed watching the Eagles win, but mostly because a) overcame the adversity of losing their star QB and won it all anyway and b) they front office has shown how important team building is in today’s NFL (something I hope John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were paying attention to). But the enjoyment was not in any way related to a dislike for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick or the Patriots organization; furthermore, I think anyone who does base their cheering interest solely because of the team’s previous success is just jealous.

I will admit that I have had two instances where I cheered for one team because of a certain dislike or disdain for the opposition: Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX, both featuring the Seattle Seahawks. To me, this is the one caveat in the “I hate the Patriots” rule I’m going to suggest here: if the Pats are your teams’ rivals, then all bets are off. This is why I was the only person at the party I attended to watch the Pats/Seachickens game that was rooting for the AFC squad to take home the title, and why I cheered when the rest of the room groaned the second Russell Wilson’s pass ended up in Malcolm Butler’s hands instead of Ricardo Lockette’s. The year before, I watched as Seattle’s storied defense trounced the most prolific offense in NFL history, turning Peyton Manning into some third-rate QB en route to a 43-8 drubbing. The 12’s became even more insufferable than they had been before (with apologies to all my friends who are decent Seahawks fans). What I’m saying is this: I understand disliking a team, a fan base and really enjoying watching them not win games, especially championships.

Beyond that requirement, I think it’s pretty obvious to me what everyone else feels here in regards to the Patriots: it’s jealousy. It’s hard to really make an argument that they’re boring (all of their Super Bowl appearances have produced highly watchable, often exciting games, including several that game down to the final minutes or seconds of the game and the only overtime session in Super Bowl history), unless repeated success is boring. The thing is, you’d never make that argument anywhere else. Imagine someone saying “Oh man, my favorite band made another great, innovative album. How boring!” Is that even a thought people have? But when it comes to sports, one team being really good all the time gets that label. It’s mind-boggling to me.

I will say this: I know I’m jealous. My team was awful from 2003-2010, winning a total of 46 games in eight years, before experiencing a mini-renaissance during the Jim Harbaugh era where they went to three straight NFC Championship games and the aforementioned Super Bowl loss. Starting in 2014–Harbaugh’s last year–the struggle began again, with just 21 wins over four seasons, eight of which came in 2014; and while things are looking up, to call the 15 years since Steven Mariucci left tumultuous wouldn’t really be an understatement. So to be blunt, I’d be ecstatic if you told me that Lynch, Shanahan and Jimmy GQ were on their way to being contenders year in and year out until 2036, and would win several Super Bowls along the way. And I wouldn’t even care if  the rest of the football world thought we were boring or hated us.

I’m not trying to insinuate that you aren’t allowed to have your own feelings about the teams you root for and those you root against. I just feel like the general feeling of loathing felt toward the Patriots is misguided and petty. If you want to be excited about the Eagles win on Sunday, that’s great, I’m right there with you, in large part because of the narrative surrounding the victory, but it isn’t in any way connected to any negative emotions I have regarding the Patriots. Sunday night I was just a football fan looking for a good game of football. In that regard, I got more than I expected, and it was thrilling to watch.