The Dragons Fell Apart In The Second Half, Lost To The Renegades

As expected, with another week to rest his injured ankle, Brandon Silvers played better against Dallas than he did against Tampa. Also as expected, he still wasn’t all that great, and the Dragons blew an opportunity to improve to 2-1, in a 24-12 defeat.

Silvers threw for 204 yards on 62% passing, but there was yet another baffling interception, and he looked as incompetent as they get in the second half, as the Dragons were shut out for the final two quarters. Multiple people have said – on broadcasts and such – that Silvers has a “strong arm”, but I think that’s just a thing people say about you if you play the quarterback position. Saying Silvers has a strong arm is a lie, and therefore a totally meaningless phrase, because there has been zero evidence of that in the three games I’ve seen him play. On at least two different occasions in this game alone, he had guys WIDE OPEN for big gains, and if he had the arm strength to throw those balls on a line, the Dragons would’ve scored considerably more than what they managed. And that’s not even factoring in the two failed two-point conversions. It looked like we ran the same play both times, and it looked like he threw it to the same spot on the field, both with the same result: the ball getting there late and batted away by the defender.

Maybe since Silvers seems to THINK he has a strong arm, everyone just goes along with it because they want the XFL to succeed (and the only way to do that is if the quarterback play isn’t totally inept). I mean, every time he tries to load up for a deep ball, it looks like he REALLY has to jump-skip into it and give it all he’s got. There’s nothing smooth or fluid about him at all. He does nothing well, and a lot of things poorly, and I fucking KNEW we’d be here sooner or later. Jim Zorn, WHAT ARE WE DOING?! You’ve got a readymade leader and gamer in B.J. Daniels at your disposal, who – if nothing else – should be able to scare enough defenders with his legs to move the ball. Even if he isn’t the most accurate passer, I mean, what have you seen from Silvers that leads you to believe accuracy is anything he even remotely possesses? I would expect Daniels to probably struggle early in games, but come alive in the fourth quarter once he’s properly warmed up and in the flow of the game. And, at this point, I think that’s going to be significant if you want to see the Dragons actually win games (and vastly more important if you want to see the Dragons play exciting, fun, watchable football games).

What I’m most disappointed in, after three games, is how the Dragons are totally incapable of relying on their running game. Hard to blame defenses from loading the box and daring Silvers to beat them deep. But, too many times you see the Dragons’ running backs get totally stuffed on first or second down, putting them in a spot where they NEED competent quarterback play, and they’re just not getting it done. The offensive line is what it is – I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about that (this was always going to be a situation where the defensive lines – throughout the league – were vastly superior to their counterparts, given how few pro-style offenses you see in college) – but the Dragons’ running backs look TOO small, and TOO slow. I don’t mind small if you’re speedy, but these are all guys who look like they peaked in high school and never really grew into their adult bodies.

As for the Dragons’ defense, once again, no notes. Great job! They were tuckered out in the second half as things got away from this team, but that’s mostly thanks to the offense repeatedly shitting the G.D. bed. This unit is still generating turnovers at a fantastic clip, and playing the consummate bend/don’t break type of style we’re accustomed to around these parts (with another GREAT goalline stand to prevent a TD).

Credit where it’s due, getting back to Silvers: his two TD passes were pretty great, especially that first one to Austin Proehl with, like, three guys in his face. It was perfectly timed, perfectly thrown, and I think that’s what this team was expecting MORE of when they named Silvers their starter. But, he’s not playing this way nearly enough. The vast majority of the time, he’s playing timid, he’s chucking the ball straight into the turf, and those check-down passes seem to be his first, second, and third reads.

That was a game the Dragons should’ve won. This is a defense that – while it won’t carry us – is a viable squad that can keep us in every game. But, we need SOMETHING consistent out of the offense, and we’re simply not getting it, based almost exclusively on shoddy quarterback play.

In looking around the XFL, a lot of shake-ups around the league! Here’s your Seattle Sports Hell XFL Power Rankings as we head into Week 4!

  1. Houston Roughnecks, 3-0
  2. D.C. Defenders, 2-1
  3. St. Louis BattleHawks, 2-1
  4. Dallas Renegades, 2-1
  5. Los Angeles Wildcats, 1-2
  6. Seattle Dragons, 1-2
  7. New York Guardians, 1-2
  8. Tampa Bay Vipers, 0-3

The Roughnecks are 3-0 and their offense has looked GREAT for three straight weeks. Trouble is, their defense appears to really stink. But, as the only team that has reliably put up points in every game thus far, that’s a huge leg-up over the rest of the league. If they can get their defense to settle down even a little bit, they might run away with it (at the very least, I expect them to play in the championship game). If nothing else, bet the OVER in every Houston game and watch your winnings pile up!

D.C. lost their first game, getting drubbed by the Wildcats in L.A. I’m going to chalk this one up to a bad game by the Defenders and not worry about it. They had to go all the way across the country, and the Wildcats have proven to have at least a semi-competent offense, so it’s not totally shocking.

St. Louis is 2-1, with their only defeat a narrow loss in Houston. They’ve played tough and found ways to prevail in the clutch. This week, they absolutely dismantled the Guardians at home, and they look like one of the three challengers for the XFL championship. A lot of football yet to go, but don’t sleep on the BattleHawks.

Dallas, L.A., and Seattle all seem to be in that next tier down. I wouldn’t rule out the Renegades totally, but I also wasn’t super impressed with them (in spite of having Landry Jones as their QB). Jones looks over-paid and OVER-RATED (he also looks like he doesn’t come close to giving a shit, that this is an easy paycheck on his way back to being a backup in the NFL; the cheesiest job where you never really have to play). I’ll be curious to see if L.A. can parlay this victory into a nice little streak.

The Dragons, of course, look like they’re trending down to that bottom tier with the Guardians and Vipers, who look totally inept (New York & Seattle both have just one win each, over the winless Vipers, so that explains that). I’d expect the Dragons will stay down in the bottom two or three as long as Silvers keeps being Silvers.

Is Being A Fair-Weather Fan A Bad Thing?

I think it was on this week’s Brock & Salk podcast where they were talking about the XFL in Seattle, and whether the awesome turnout for the game last week is meaningful or not. Were they there because they’re hardcore football fans who can’t get enough? Or, were they there because it’s a new shiny thing, and if the Dragons start losing a bunch of games, the novelty will wear off and we’ll see dismal attendance numbers?

Which got me to thinking: who in their right mind would go watch the Dragons in person if they were fucking terrible?

But, you always see people at games, regardless of how bad the team is! Even when the Mariners were losing 90+ games last year, you’d still see people in the stands on a 40-degree rainy Tuesday night in May. I think those people would tell you: it’s not about how good or bad they are, it’s about supporting the team. Which I find difficult to understand. Like, we owe them for all the good times we used to have? We honestly don’t owe them anything! We pay for the stadia, we pay for tickets, we pay for concessions, we pay for souvenirs, we pay for the cable that pays for the channel that they broadcast on (if they broadcast on cable; sometimes the team even owns the channel – Mariners – and it’s like we’re paying them directly again!). I think the least they can do is put out a compelling product to watch and spend our money on.

To which someone might argue: if we don’t support the team financially, they might decide to relocate the club. Which, yeah, owners are fuckheads. But, I would counter that it’s easier said than done. Building leases go for decades and they’re hard to get out of (though, as the Sonics proved, not impossible). Besides that, teams always find a way to make money one way or another. Obviously, the best way to make money is to win, but you can cut corners and make creative advertising deals and all sorts of things.

The point is: don’t feel bad about the bottom line of sports teams. You support them your way, and I’ll support them my way.

Which way that is, obviously, depends on the sport. I’ll watch every Seahawks game, no matter how terrible they are, because there’s only 16 per regular season (for now). But, for the Mariners, it’s going to be pretty infrequent in 2020, for instance. First, I need to have the ability (I can’t be asleep, getting ready for the next work day). Second, I need to have nothing else better to do (which, usually … no I don’t have much else better to do). Third, ideally there will be an urgent reason to watch (like if a highly-touted prospect is making his debut, or if there looks to be a fun matchup lined up). That’s really just to watch the game from the opening pitch. Usually, my go-to is to watch something else, follow along with the action on Twitter, and turn it to the game when it looks like the game is getting good.

There are 162 regular season games. If they’re losing nearly 2/3 of them, that’s a lot of disappointment to suffer in a 6-month span! I can’t, in good conscience, put myself through that.

With Husky Basketball, now, WOOF. My family and I watched the game last Saturday on mute on our little TV while the boxing match was going on the big TV, but otherwise I can’t even be bothered. It’s been the same fucking story since conference play started: play well, hang in there, then fuck it all up in the last five minutes. Why would I pay to go see that live when I’ve seen that fucking show a million times already?

See, we’re told it’s bad to be a fair-weather fan, but you know what I like? Fair weather! You want to go sit out in the rain for three hours getting dumped on, shivering and huddling together for warmth? I want to go out in the sunshine! Little bit of cloud cover, nice cool breeze, the birds are chirping. 70 degrees (and honestly, that might even be too warm). Fair Weather Steven, that’s what all my friends always call me! I have zero other untoward nicknames.

I think these hardcore fans like to feel better about themselves, so they denigrate us fair-weather fans as if it’s a bad thing to have other interests. I mean, shit, I have a whole blog devoted to the Seattle sports scene – so I’d say I’m fanlier than most – but go fuck yourself if you think I’m paying to go to a game to watch a bunch of losers … unless it’s with my friends, a few tallboys of Coors Banquet, and in the sole exercise of mocking those losers we’re there to watch.

If you’re taking it much more seriously than that, then congratulations, you’re the king of the fans. Here’s your crown, it’s made of bobblehead dolls and t-shirts fresh from the cannon.

Of course, I say that, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood screaming in Husky Stadium while another team is just ramming it down our fucking throats. That’s the thing about sports fandom, it makes no sense. There’s no rhyme or reason. I can belittle the Dragons, the Mariners, and even the Husky basketball team; but when it comes to Husky football, I’m entirely fucking humorless. The fact that I went to ANY game in 2008, let alone multiple games, should confirm that I’m – if nothing else – king of the hypocrites.

My crown is made of empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles and torn up Amazon boxes.

The New NFL CBA Looks To Bring A Lot Of Change

Obviously, nothing has been agreed to yet, so we won’t know the full extent of the changes until it’s been ratified, but word started leaking out yesterday, and I really only have thoughts about two things (so far): the 17-game schedule, and the new playoff format.

The additional regular season game would come at the expense of one of the pre-season games, which is fine. Whatever. I think the NFL is great with 16 regular season games; one more won’t kill me. With injuries the way they are as it is, I feel like the NFL should drastically consider expanding rosters a bit. Move from 53 players to maybe 60, and CERTAINLY increase the number of active players on gamedays from 45 to whatever the entire roster is. It’s ridiculous that we still have healthy-scratches in the NFL. But, obviously, no one is crying for the loss of a pre-season game. The fourth one is entirely worthless; NFL teams make the bulk of their roster decisions in practice/training camp anyway.

The headline to this story, however, is expanding the NFL Playoffs from 12 teams to 14 (from 6 per conference to 7).

Ever since the NFL went to 4 divisions, I’ve had a strong dislike for the way the playoffs have shaken out. It seems unfair – with 16 teams in a conference – to only have 2 wild card teams. Almost every year, you see an inferior division winner hosting a Wild Card game over a superior non-division winner (who had the simple misfortune of being in the same 4-team division as one of the Top 2 seeds in the conference).

Well, unfortunately, the divisional format isn’t changing anytime soon. But, it looks like we’ll be getting an extra Wild Card team, which could be fun.

What I like the most is reducing the BYE teams from two to one. It even further strengthens the importance of getting that top seed, while at the same time making the Divisional Round that much more exciting. Before, the BYE teams always held such a significant advantage by not having to play in the previous round; now the 2-seed will have to play both weeks (assuming they win the first one), making it far more likely that a lower seed goes in there and prevails in the Divisional Round.

This also takes care of eliminating a 7-seed that’s clearly better than the 4th-best division winner. I don’t think it happens all that often, but it does sometimes. Letting those teams participate is worth suffering a few years where an 8-8 team squeaks in. Even if you’re concerned about diluting the playoff pool with .500 teams, they SHOULD be easily dispatched by whoever ends up with the 2-seed anyway; and if they somehow win, then all the more exciting, right? If nothing else, with the 2-seed losing its BYE privilages, they deserve the occasional 8-8 cannon fodder as an easy path to the second round.

I think whatever outrage we’re seeing is from the simple fact that the NFL is changing, and a lot of people hate change. I get it! I tend to hate change myself, but we get used to it as time goes on. And then we forget we were ever mad about it in the first place.

I remember how furious I was when the Seahawks were moved to the NFC West; it turned out to be the very best thing that could’ve happened to this team (probably; who knows, maybe we would’ve won more than the one Super Bowl had they shipped the Chargers off to the NFC, but I like our reality either way).

The point is, I’m going to at least give it a chance. Of course, if they counter the 17-game regular season with two BYE weeks per team – thereby making my Fantasy Football life even more of a fucking never-ending misery pile than it already is – I might lose my God damn mind.

Greg Olsen Signs With The Seahawks

It’s Olsen, not Olson; maybe this year I’ll finally have it down cold.

I would rarely call Tight End a huge need for any team, but if it ever were, I’d say the Seahawks benefit more than most by having a quality group at the position. Or, at least we seem to suffer the most when our TE room is awful.

I’ve liked what the Seahawks have done at the spot in recent years. Will Dissly is elite, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. I’ve always liked Luke Willson as a solid #2 guy, and I thought he proved he still has the chops last year, coming in off the streets to help out. Jacob Hollister was a revelation, and ended the season as our #3 pass-catching target. I mean, that’s not ideal, obviously, but he was up to the task! Even Ed Dickson, when he was able to play, brought a lot to the table; but he’s done. It’s over. He had a good run.

On its face, the signing of Olsen seems to be as a Dickson replacement. He’ll be 35 years old this season, and really we’re talking about a 1-year deal for $7 million ($5.5 of which is guaranteed). Between that and the savings we’ll generate by cutting Dickson, this is as low-risk of a move as they come in the NFL.

Greg Olsen – at one time – was in the Top 2 or 3 tight ends in the entire NFL. We obviously remember him from his 9 seasons with the Panthers, and while his production has started to slow down in recent years, he still played in 14 games in 2019, on a VERY bad Carolina team. 52 receptions for 597 yards would fit quite nicely in this Seahawks offense.

While he’s a Dickson replacement, he’s also Dissly insurance. If you figure Hollister will be back as this team’s #3 tight end (primarily in passing situations, one would expect), you still need a quality blocker to throw into our jumbo packages (especially with George Fant all but gone from the team). We might not ever be able to count on Dissly to make it a full NFL season, so having someone like Olsen is a godsend.

But, Olsen is in his own battle, with Father Time, so how much can we count on him? He only made it 7 games in 2017 (foot injury) and 9 games in 2018 (same foot, new injury); and I think the games he missed in 2019 were due to a concussion? I refuse to find out. I guess the hope is that two potentially injury-prone tight ends will equal one fully-healthy tight end across the entire season. Like a couple of codependent junkies just trying to make it through this crazy thing we call life!

As I said (I think), I like the signing. It’s one year, he’s not breaking the bank, he still has something in the tank (it would appear), and every little bit helps. You can’t have too many weapons. You can have too many divas, you can have too many conflicting personalities in a locker room, but you can’t have too many complementary pieces whose goal is to score points, win football games, and ultimately get this team back to the Super Bowl.

Greg Olsen just wants to win. He’s not here to take over the offense (a la Jimmy Graham); he knows he fills a role – a very valuable role for this team – and I think he can be a great safety valve for Wilson on 3rd Downs, and when he’s scrambling out of the pocket.

I also believe the Seahawks would probably be wise to invest in the position for the future. Draft someone, have him learn under Olsen, and if Dissly proves he’ll never be able to stay healthy, then we can let him go when his rookie deal expires.

I would also mention that this doesn’t cost the Seahawks a comp pick for 2021, but I don’t think that’s going to matter. I think the Seahawks are going to be really active in outside free agency this year, so it’s doubtful we end up with any comp picks next year anyway.

The Seattle Dragons Get Their First Victory In Seattle Dragons History

The Seattle Dragons hosted the Tampa Bay Vipers and came away with a 17-9 victory.

It was ugly for the entire first half, and most of the game, but the Dragons were able to make some plays in the third quarter to put it away. Brandon Silvers is still a mixed bag, to put it nicely. He gave up his second pick-six in consecutive games, while only completing 39% of his passes for all of 91 yards, 68 of which came when Keenan Reynolds broke free down the middle of the field for a touchdown to pull the contest to 9-6.

The defense, however, was pretty stout throughout. We had four sacks and three picks, including one with the Vipers backed up near their own goalline for an easy defensive TD. That and the 2-point conversion put us up for good at 14-9, with a late field goal to add insult to injury.

The Seattle crowd was predictably into it, pushing attendance to nearly 30,000. It’s cool to see some of that crossover with Seahawks fans, and the XFL’s faith in this market being rewarded accordingly.

You could argue the weather was crappy, and thus the reason for most of our offensive miscues. But, Silvers has to be better, plain and simple, or else we need to put B.J. Daniels in charge. I mean, the more Silvers sucks, the more the fans are going to call for a change!

On the Tampa side of things, I’d seriously consider going with their own backup quarterback, who looked way more mobile. Running quarterbacks should be eating this league for breakfast; if I were in charge of a team I wouldn’t even consider a guy unless he had wheels to escape the pocket and run for large chunks of yardage down field.

Like last week, I didn’t watch much of the other action around the league, but I’ll say this much: the Defenders look like the clear frontrunners on both sides of the ball. If sports betting were legal, I would’ve put whatever equity we’ve got left on the Taylor Family Farm on them to win it all. Feels like a no-brainer.

As a quick aside, here’s the Seattle Sports Hell Official XFL Power Rankings:

  1. D.C. Defenders
  2. Houston Roughnecks
  3. St. Louis Battlehawks
  4. Dallas Renegades
  5. Seattle Dragons
  6. New York Guardians
  7. Los Angeles Wildcats
  8. Tampa Bay Vipers

I don’t know how playoff seeding is gonna work, but if it’s possible, give me D.C. vs. Houston in the finals. I think everyone in the 3-6 range are pretty even. L.A. and Tampa look pretty bad so far (admittedly after only 2 games).

I can’t wait to get to Reno next month and put all my money on this league. Without knowing the line of the Renegades/Wildcats matchup, it looks like maybe 3/4 games went under again, for the second week in a row. I’m sure the oddsmakers will have it sorted out by next month, but it’s definitely something to watch.

The Wheels Have Fallen The Fuck Off Of Husky Basketball

They’ve fallen off, gone careening down the road behind them, causing a multiple-car pile-up complete with Michael Bay-esque demolition derby-style flips, numerous Wilhelm screams, and panoramic explosions. Body parts are strewn about the massacre site; a man with one arm and no legs is dragging his half-dead corpse to his beloved wife whose torso was sliced by the shattered windshield as she was propelled forward fifty feet, yet another casualty of someone too good to wear her seatbelt …

You see it every damn day. WHEN WILL THESE PEOPLE LEARN?!?!

At one point this season, the Huskies were in the Top 20 in all of college basketball. At one point, they were 10-2 and not only a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but looking to maybe get a slot in one of the top 4 seeds. Their head coach, Mike Hopkins, was 2 for 2 in Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, and by all rights was a frontrunner to go 3 for 3.

The Huskies are now 12-13 (2-10 in conference play, EASILY last place) and are on a 7-game losing streak. And I know that each game is different, but pretty much you can tie all of this to Quade Green being deemed academically ineligible, which would’ve sounded FUCKING INSANE if you’d broached it at the time. But, it’s truly undeniable!

This team is following the same pattern with each and every loss: play streaky through the first 3/4 of the game, but ultimately hang in there; then completely fucking fall apart at the end. Shooting goes in the tank. They can’t get the ball consistently into the post for Isaiah Stewart to do his thing, and every time someone has found a way to step up and completely shit the bed. Jaden McDaniels was a longtime whipping boy, but he certainly played well last night off the bench. But, it’s everyone. The guards either aren’t good enough or aren’t ready for this much responsibility – Hopkins’ early-season rotations and red shirt decisions are making more and more sense in retrospect – and the team collectively just looks defeated. The most damning thing is no one can really create a shot for himself when it’s crunch time; there’s no leader to take control.

The Huskies are desperately in need of Jaylen Nowell right about now.

And yet, I mean shit, there’s SO MUCH TALENT on this team. I know it’s crazy, and we’ll all be lamenting the fact that they couldn’t even crack the N.I.T. when it’s all said and done, but through all the fucking travesties that have piled up for this team, I could STILL see a scenario where – even if they lose out in the regular season – they find a way to get hot in the Pac-12 Tournament and manage to steal one of the most improbable NCAA berths of all time.

Has a last place regular season conference team ever made the NCAA Tournament?

A quick Google search pulled this up, and it’s everything I expected. The Huskies would almost certainly be the first last place team from a major conference to do it. Which is just the most Pac-12 thing ever imagined.

Look, the chances are slim to none and slim was decapitated by that massacre I wrote about at the top. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

How Many 2020 Mariners Can I Name Off The Top Of My Head, With Just A Minimal Amount Of Coffee Inside Me?

I listen to this podcast called Threedom, which features three of my favorite podcast comedians sitting around and bullshitting for an hour. And, last week I listened to the episode where Lauren was trying to list off as many different characters and whatnot as she could from the Star Wars franchise, having never (at the time) seen the movies. Essentially just going off of what pop culture has referenced that’s seeped into her subconscious. I thought that was a lot of fun, especially because I have my own blind spots; I’d be curious to see how many characters I could pull from something like the Harry Potter series, for instance. There’s Harry, of course. Hermione. The red-headed freak. Snape? Snope? Voldemort, for sure. From there, it’s all a jumble of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, so let’s move on.

I’m stealing this idea to see how many players from the 2020 Mariners I can name, without cheating. You’re bound to see a few guys from the minors in this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve said it before, but in 2019 I checked out on the Seattle Mariners. Part of that had to do with my work schedule – waking up at 4am, going to bed by 8pm, not wanting to be thoroughly irritated right before it’s time to sleep – but most of that had to do with the Mariners being just awful. I’ve put up with a lot of bad baseball in my 20-something years of following this team, but I refuse to lose sleep over them! Especially when the object isn’t to win games, but see the young guys develop.

Well, that carries over into 2020. In fact, the team might actually lose a lot MORE games than they did last year (and 94 losses is quite a lot on its own). So, suffice it to say, it’s going to be difficult to get any interest ramped up for this team.

So, without further ado, here is the (pitiful) list of pitchers that I know based on memory alone:

  • Marco Gonzales
  • Yusei Kikuchi
  • Justus Sheffield
  • Erik … Samsonite? Swanson!
  • Julio Rodriguez
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Brandon … Brennan?
  • Festa?
  • Taijuan Walker!

That’s really all I got. And honestly, I don’t even feel like a bad fan! I think Rodriguez and Festa are minor leaguers, but I was close (except Rodriguez is actually an outfielder, so I was WAY OFF). The only one I probably should’ve remembered was Sam Tuivailala, as he’s been around a little bit and was a pretty significant return in one of those damn trades we made with the Cardinals.

Here’s all the catchers I know:

  • Tom Murphy

And that’s it. Do the M’s even HAVE a backup catcher in the Major Leagues? We’ll find out this spring.

Outfield:

  • Mitch Haniger (injured list)
  • Kyle Lewis
  • Mallex Smith
  • Braden … Bishop?
  • Jarred Kelenic

Kelenic is obviously in the minors, but I nailed the rest! I mean, yeah, I also missed a couple, but I got the big names.

Infield:

  • Evan White
  • Kyle Seager
  • J.P. Crawford
  • Dee Gordon
  • Daniel Vogelbach
  • Shed Long

I almost forgot Shed Long! I knew he had a short name, and almost biffed it, but it fell out of my brain at the last second. Considering the rest of the 40-man roster is filled with potential backups and minor leaguers, I feel good about my effort here. Shame I forgot Austin Nola (who, I guess, can also play backup catcher?!), but what can you do?

That’s 21 guys. Honestly, better than I would’ve expected. Thankfully, with Pitchers & Catchers just reporting this week, I’ll have plenty of time to learn about everyone else.

Did I say “thankfully”? I meant Dreadfully.

I Like The Proposed MLB Playoff Changes

I doubt they’ll happen, but that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, change simply for the sake of change is a good thing for baseball. Shit is BORING! Especially when your favorite team is the Mariners and they suck EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. YEAR.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t love everything about the proposed changes. But, I can understand why the league would want something like having teams choose their opponents: it makes for excellent sports radio and print fodder. ESPN would have, like, a whole hour of non-football-related content to devote to this!

While that part feels gimmicky, I’m almost always for expanding playoff teams, particularly in a game like baseball. If they wanted to shake things up for the better, they’d take away about 20 games from the regular season on top of this, but as has been said repeatedly since the dawn of man: that’s never happening. Owners will never willingly give up the revenue from those lost games (even though the games that remain would have increased significance, particularly since you’d be pulling from the lowest-attended days of the week – likely Mondays or Tuesdays).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 162-game seasons are a bear! You’re never making it through unscathed, and even if you do make it to the finish line, you’re so banged up and tired that it hardly seems fair to not at least guarantee teams one day off a week!

Again, neither here nor there.

The Wild Card system as we have it now is a joke. Reducing a full season’s worth of games for two teams in each league to a loser-goes-home match is as pitiful as it gets. If MLB does nothing else, they at least need to make the Wild Card a 3-game series (like they’re proposing here). I also like having the bottom two division winners involved in the fracas, because too many teams (I’m looking at you, A.L. Central) get to coast on inferior inter-divisional opponents only to slide right into the Divisional Series. No, the top team gets a BYE, and the rest of you should be fighting for your lives in a 3-game Wild Card round. Letting them host all three games feels like overkill a little bit (they should do a 1 & 2 series where the first game for the higher-seeded team is on the road, before hosting the final two), but beggars can’t be choosers.

Also, the fact that long-time baseball writers and old, stodgy fans hate this proposal means it can only be GOOD for the sport in the long run. They need to do more to generate interest in younger fans and the masses at large, besides belittling someone like Mike Trout for not making himself a bigger presence in media campaigns. Let the man hit; it’s the league’s job to generate popularity for its sport!

The Seattle Dragons Lost Their Opener, The XFL Looked Okay

I’ll admit it, I slept in on Saturday and missed the first hour or so of the action. But, the Dragons hung tough! They were in it for about three quarters, then the back-breaking pick-six really ended any threat.

I thought Brandon Silvers looked okay. For what it’s worth, I didn’t love the offensive scheme – it seemed to lack much of a deep play aspect – and I thought the play-calling was suspect. For the life of me, I don’t know why we kept going for 1 on the point(s) after touchdowns, when it’s nearly impossible to run in those situations, from the 2-yard line. The defense is just going to run blitz and let the quarterback try to beat them one-on-one. I would be passing for every PAT and I’d be going for 3 every single time. I’m sure the analytics nerds would be with me on this one; but these are re-tread NFL, CFL, and college coaches who couldn’t find work anywhere else, so I’m sure anything even REMOTELY analytical is going out the window.

The only other XFL action I saw was the end of the Dallas/St. Louis game on Sunday. That game was a snooze, and the other two games were complete blowouts, so I don’t know if we have a real good handle on which teams are the best. I’d venture to guess that D.C. is pretty high up there, based on their quarterback play and their defense.

If we can figure out over the course of the next month which defenses are elite, we’ll figure out how to bet in this new ecosystem. D.C. looks like they have a strong defense. Seattle looks better than expected (if you expected them to be in last place). Tampa looks atrocious apparently (and a lot worse than expected).

For what it’s worth, it looks like only one game hit the OVER. I think a lot of prognosticators were expecting teams to go for 2 or 3 more on those PATs; and, you know, I think they expected defenses to be truly terrible when you factored in all the rule changes.

Speaking of which, I liked most of what the XFL had to offer in that department. I liked the new kickoffs. I like all the punt rules (really anything that encourages teams to go for it on 4th down more often). I generally like the PAT offerings, but I would say if you’re going to give them the option of going for 1, put it at the 1 yard line (and keep everything else the same). That way you could FEASIBLY expect a team to actually run it in.

I won’t say the weekend was a disaster for the XFL, but it was very far from a triumph. It sounds like the ratings and attendance numbers were okay, but as I said before, I would expect those to drop as the season goes on. This weekend was all about the novelty and the possibility of watching a trainwreck. Now that we know it’s not really a trainwreck – but just kind of okay – most football fans will be able to throw up their hands and say, “It was what we thought it was.”

As for the broadcast, it was a little much. I sort of liked hearing the play calls come in, and having the announcers explain what it all means. But, even when they heard the play come in, the announcers didn’t seem to have a great success rate actually predicting the play. Also, I mean, it’s gotta be pretty easy to have someone on the opposing team watching the game on TV and relaying it to the defensive coaches, right? If you’re allowed to be in the ear of players all the way through the snap … I dunno. If you’re worried about the integrity of XFL games, I guess you’ve got some life choices to make sooner or later.

I didn’t care one bit for the sideline interviews during the game. I don’t care what the players think, and they really have very little to say anyway. 1 out of 10 times you might get a thoughtful or interesting answer, and that’s just not a great ratio. And, what was with the sideline reporters just standing there and holding their mics out when the players posed and celebrated after a big play? It’s awkward, man! Give it a rest!

What the XFL needs is the offenses to pick it up in a significant way. I keep coming back to that thought, to which my counter is: if football fans only watched for the offense, why wasn’t the Arena Football League a bigger success? I can’t answer that. I really enjoyed the Arena league! I thought it was fun and exciting and different-enough to feel more like a basketball game played with footballs. But, I do believe you need defense to be successful in this environment. You just need something that’s not a 15-9 slugfest, or a 23-3 rout.

The Seattle/D.C. game was probably the best of the bunch. If we can just open up the playbook a TAD, I think they’ll do an okay job of holding down a decent percentage of viewers from week one.

Seattle hosts Tampa this week. Tampa is favored by 2 to 3 points, depending on where you look. Tampa was one of the heavy pre-season favorites, so they might still be riding on that gravy train. I just can’t see how a team that only scored 3 points is going to fly all the way to Seattle and put up much of a fight. But, they’re the experts and I’m not, so while I’ll defer to them, I think I’d bet at least 25% of the Taylor Family Farm on Seattle to cover.

Are You Ready For Some XFL?!

When I first heard that the XFL was coming back (my fingers keep wanting to type XLF, which sounds like the 2020 reboot of ALF, starring his derelict, estranged son he didn’t know about until later in life), of course I immediately dismissed it. The XFL was dumb in 2001, and surely it would be dumb now!

Then, when I heard Seattle was getting one of the inaugural eight teams, I don’t know if there’s a word to describe my feelings, so I just came up with one: bewildertained. I’m bewildered that this is happening in the first place, but I’m thoroughly entertained that the Seattle Dragons are a thing, and that I get to write about them on a weekly basis for the next however many weeks!

The XFL figures to be the most bewildertaining thing in my life through the end of April!

I’m also loving the fact that the Dragons might be legitimately the worst team in the league (at least, in the eyes of Vegas, as we head into the start of the season on Saturday). Of course we finally get included in something everyone’s going to take seriously for a while, and OF COURSE we’re going to be the laughingstock of it all!

Here’s what I know about the Seattle Dragons:

  1. I know Jim Zorn is the head coach. He had a 12-20 record with the Redskins over two seasons. We never could be sure if that’s because he’s bad at coaching, or if that team is bad at everything, but why can’t it be both?
  2. I know that Mike Riley is the offensive coordinator, and that every time he’s left Oregon State, he’s fallen on his ass, so that doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
  3. I know someone named Brandon Silvers is the quarterback. He was at Troy in college, then played one season in the Alliance of American Football. He played some, but ultimately never distinguished himself against the likes of Johnny Manziel, Christian Hackenberg, and Zach Mettenberger.
  4. I know that B.J. Daniels is the backup quarterback, he’s only 30 years old, and will almost certainly be starting for this team by week 3.
  5. I know that Kasen Williams is the big draw, and that there’s a non-zero number of Seahawks fans who wish he was still with the team.
  6. I know other ex-Seahawks are also on the team, like Keenan Reynolds, Isaiah Battle, and Mohammed Seisay (among others, probably). Don’t remember those guys? I DON’T BLAME YOU!

That’s about all of the Seattle Dragons Wikipedia page I care to go through.

I don’t totally understand why Seattle has a team, other than to pad out the western half of the United States. Granted, Seahawks fans are pretty fervent, and Sounders fans are maniacal about their team, but the Seahawks are 40+ years old, and there was already a solid base of soccer fans in the area when the MLS came to town. I feel like, while Seattle certainly has an influx of young, intelligent professionals (exactly the type of people you want to cater to if you’re a new business), if the product is terrible and/or boring, I could easily see this market fizzle out in a hurry.

You can certainly be bad and entertaining, and that’s obviously what the XFL is doing with all their rule changes (quicker pace, shorter play clock, encouraging kickoff/punt returns as well as going for it on 4th downs), but other than having the stadium in place, Seattle seems like a terrible spot for this. Why wouldn’t you go after smaller markets with the potential for a stronger attachment? Seattle has sports up the wazoo. Los Angeles has even more. If I were running the XFL, I would’ve planted the bulk of the league east of the Mississippi, and probably wouldn’t have ventured any further west than Texas.

I think they got it right with the two teams in Texas, as well as St. Louis, D.C., and Tampa. I think you have to have one in Atlanta or New Orleans, one in Pittsburgh, and shit man, why not Green Bay? Or Milwaukee or something. Hit the old-school football towns. Even if you go with Chicago, you’re going to get devoted Chicagoans to buy in early and often!

I think most football fans will avoid it altogether. Bigger football fans will tune in the first week or two, but I fully expect the ratings to fall off in a big way by week 3, regardless of how good or bad the product is. I just don’t think there’s a market for second-rate football in the springtime. We have 32 NFL teams, each with 53-man rosters and 10-man practice squads. That’s over 2,000 players, not counting guys on IR and the proverbial Ghost Rosters out there, who aren’t signed, stay in shape, and join up with a team in need as injuries mount. The XFL is essentially made up of those Ghost Rosters. In other words: the football players not good enough to crack the Top 2,000 in America.

We’re probably heading in the right direction, but I think at some point the NFL has to relax its standards on having players stay in college for two years and allow high school players go directly to the pros. I also think that instead of an XFL, the NFL should just set up a minor league system a la baseball, and not allow any of those high school players into the NFL proper until they’ve played 2 years in the minor league system they’ve set up (or college, if that’s their choice). This way, the players who want to get paid CAN get paid, and the players who want to go to college can do that instead.

Why is this so difficult?

Anyway, I’m ready for the Seattle Dragons to STINK, and I’m ready to watch them stink every single week. I’ll be watching, if for nothing else, than to bone up on who to bet AGAINST when I go to Reno in mid-March. Here’s a hint: their team colors are navy, green, and orange, and they’re THE FUCKING DRAGONS!

What is this, the football league from Any Given Sunday?