A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

Photo by Bleacher Report

I am an apologist; we all are. If I burn my signature dish and order takeout (happens more than you think), I try to justify the cost of restaurant food as “a nice change of pace” or “supporting the struggling service industry during a pandemic.” I’m not saying these things facetiously; they are honest sentiments, but I am using them to mask my brooding frustration with myself for ruining the original plan.

In order to maintain an even keel or status quo, a decision is made to make an excuse or give reason to something that is occurring that will cause a shift in the comfortable norm. This is an innate survival trait for most people, but to some, their mere awareness of a constantly shifting fulcrum is used actionably to counterbalance the narrative. This, in turn, can alter the perception of negativity by that person or a group of people. What the hell does that mean? Basically, a person in a position of influence can manipulate a situation to suit their (or their company’s) best interest, especially if the norm is shifting away from favorability.

The franchise owners in the National Football League are billionaires. Without throwing down the obvious race ace in their hand, the influence of these individuals and groups that own NFL teams is immense. Many of them also own good portions of the major city they call home. Everyone knowing your name and business in a small town is small potatoes, compared to that extrapolated over a metropolis with hundreds of thousands to millions of residents. We, as normal non-billionaires, would surely opt-out of the seedy and shady underbelly of that world. Here is where race comes in: that world runs on a system. That system hums along like a diesel generator that gets daily maintenance from a team of expert mechanics. The mechanics have lived by the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” for centuries. It now translates to “Any change is a threat.”

I make excuses all the time for my Dallas Cowboys. My fandom has been torn down and rebuilt with masking tape and Popsicle sticks repeatedly for the last 25 years, each time seemingly with less care and skill than the last. Jerry Jones is known for a lot of things, but I will highlight his propensity to “give second chances.” Jones also holds the gavel over certain ownership privileges when it comes to collective bargaining, almost as a pseudo-commissioner. Jerry operates on both ends of the conversation masterfully and seems impervious to the backlash from either side. Jerry Jones is the face of the system and thus knows how to work it in his favor. He wields as much power as an owner as anyone, but seems to always endear himself with black players who might have otherwise been victimized by a system that is designed to mercilessly cull athletes with “question marks” or “character concerns.”

The system is inarguably racist. Fortunately, for many NFL teams, change has been embraced in the name of progress and improvement. In a league whose employees are 75 percent people of color, we are seeing the gears of progress slowly churn in the right direction. However, every 10 years we are reminded of the distance still to go when the owners and NFL Player Association union negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations between white billionaires and mostly black millionaires are an almost-perfect microcosm of race relations in the United States. Racial innuendos have even been uttered to the press by NFL brass. The same old inflammatory rhetoric to dehumanize and delegitimize minority groups even trickles down to the NFL draft process, mostly at the quarterback position.

Dak Prescott was an exemplary college quarterback and was obviously raised to be a fine young man, who carries himself with integrity and class. Prescott also has developed into a Pro-Bowl caliber player and ultimately earned a large contract extension. He is, however, far from the only example of a black quarterback whose draft stock (and earning power) was deflated immensely between taking his final snap at Mississippi State and his name being called in the fourth round in 2016. There was no evidence on tape to suggest he couldn’t read defenses, make quick decisions, throw accurately into tight windows, or grasp a pro-style offense operating under center. Each of these scarlet letters floated in from the ether, via anonymous scouts or attention-seeking “draft analysts.” Any and all micro-aggressions that can be applied to a black quarterback were predictably clamped to Dak in 2016, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017, Lamar Jackson in 2018, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins in 2019, and Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love in 2020. Kyler Murray’s selection by Arizona at number one overall was the only example of these listed quarterbacks whose rookie signing bonus was not adversely affected by the rhetoric surrounding him as a prospect. This has been shown to be mostly due to the chasm of talent between him and the rest of that quarterback class. He also fit into new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense like a glove. The extreme example of my point is the case of Lamar Jackson, who despite posting prolific passing numbers at Louisville, was pressured to change positions to “better utilize his skillset (athleticism).”

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With time, the universe is expanding and horizons are broadening. Offensive coaching gurus are all the rage. They are adapting schemes around their talent, instead of vice-versa. Quarterbacks with the ability to run the football, regardless of race, are cherished like never before for their propensity to stress the defense and extend plays beyond the pocket. The days of labeling just the white quarterbacks as “cerebral” or “a field general” are dwindling. There will come a time in the near future when the rumors will stop swirling around only black quarterbacks about work ethic, study habits, and effort. Eventually, the men who run the system will stop apologizing, making excuses, or outright ignoring deficiencies and character flaws in white quarterbacks, while illuminating lesser blemishes elsewhere. Someday, football will look back and feel sorry for the missed opportunities to be better…earlier. It took a Brian Billick to trust Randall Cunningham, Dick Vermeil to empower Mike Vick, and Andy Reid to elevate Donovan McNabb and then Mahomes for the football world to change perspective. Hopefully, tomorrow brings permanence to the steps we are taking right now.

The Hands That Hold the Trophy & Hand Size Matters

The Hands That Hold the Trophy & Hand Size Matters

Photo Credit: NFL
The species homo sapiens translates to “wise humans.” We are descendants of homo erectus, homo ergaster, and finally homo heisenburgensis. As the greatest, most intelligent of the Great Apes, we have developed utilitarian expertise with our frontal appendages. Anything to do with basic survival, such as blunt fists to dominate rivals, tactile dexterity to sign lucrative contracts, and on to clasping objects like food, tools, and leather spheroids with our opposable thumbs. We, as existential beings, have a keen perception of disparities in size and quantity, as it applies to mating behavior, assigning roles within a tribe, and especially in selecting leadership for the survival of the tribe.

Our hands tell a story if you wholeheartedly assume truth in the work of palm readers and clairvoyants. The callouses, lines, and type of daily moisturizer can indicate someone’s work ethic, age, and marital status, so who is to say that something as rudimentary as thumb-to-pinky length cannot absolutely determine someone’s potential success on a synthetic field wearing spandex? I submit that an arbitrary threshold of half-centimeters should function as no less than a tiebreaker to determine someone’s professional worth.

A male gladiator with grandiose aspirations in the National Football League as a quarterback or wide receiver shall be vaulted to prominence and high regard if his hands, measured from distal phalanges one to five, tip to tip, are greater than or equal to 23.5 centimeters and, if not, ostracized and ridiculed as inferior. Of course, there are bound to be a few outliers and exceptions, but the gray area has no place in this mathematical world. It would take otherworldly ability in all other areas of concern to overcome such a pivotal deficiency as hand size. Large hands aid in performance in inclement conditions, by offering the athlete more surface area tension to maintain possession of the precious Faberge Egg that is the football. Turnover of possession is the leading cause of turnover in the workplace, which can be costly to the health of the tribe.

Photo Credit: Steve Helber | AP
In summation, my hypothesis is that hand size is even more vital and value-bearing than current evaluators are willing to admit publicly. As a fantasy football analyst, I have not yet been led into peril by adding appropriate weight to this metric. NFL franchises should heed my advice and prosper or ignore elite talents like Joe Flacco and Hakeem Nicks at their own demise. If you need me, I’ll be in the bathroom with a pencil and tape measure (installing a medicine cabinet).
Photo Credit: NFL

Hand Size Matters

But Not Really

By: Scott “Stacks” Simpson

Each year the brain trust that is the fantasy football analytics community randomly narrows its evaluation lense to obsess over some trivial aspect of the NFL Draft evaluation process, I don’t know, like “hand size” for instance. They spend hours in their mom’s basement pouring over their Google Sheets looking for that one piece of fantasy football data that will suddenly unlock the keys to fantasy success. 69,000 hours later they emerge victoriously, theory in hand! Now all their new theory needs is a name, a few slick “Thread Tweets” and bam, “The Fantasy Football Hand Size Metrics Data Matters Because I Created This Colorful Speardsheet Theory” is ready to get Tweeted out. Just a second. I’m having a little trouble fitting this all into one Tweet. Might have to, yeah, I’m gonna need more characters. Dammit!!

Here’s what I think. Hand size, shmand shize. Who actually thinks that “hand size matters” in professional football? Hahahaha! Let me just catch my breath real quick. Hahahaha! No, I’m fine. Really. They obviously don’t matter in the least. If you don’t believe me just ask Diontae Johnson. Pretty sure he has “Keebler Elf” hands and he still caught 88 passes and only dropped 16. Not sure how many other math majors are out here, but even using that new convoluted math, 88 > 16.

Mark Sanchez perfectly executes a textbook “ Butt Fumble” that was subsequently returned for a touchdown by the Patriots.
Photo Credit: ESPN via YouTube
Not fully convinced yet? OKAY. Whatever. Did you know that Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez has monster 26.67-centimeter hands?! We are talking 10.5 inches of pressure-pointing football gripping hand power. Some good those horse hooves did him though when it came to, you know, holding onto the football. You might say, “Scott. You are overreacting. It’s not like he was second in the WHOLE NFL in 2012 with 14 fumbles…Oh wait he was. Interesting.”

And who can forget the quarterback with the largest hands of all time, 28.58 centimeters to be exact, the perennial all-pro…I mean… one-time pro-bowler…hmm…starting quarterback…scratch that…back-up…well, barely a backup…only played in four career NFL games…Jim Druckenmiller…who completed 21 of 52 (40%) career passes with one touchdown and four interceptions. Should I keep going? I think I will.

I know you all wasted a late-round flyer on the 49er’s 4th round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, WR DeAndre Smelter, and his mammoth 27.94-centimeter mitts? That’s DeAndre Smelter. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. DeAndre Smelter. He has one career catch for 23 yards. DeAndre…with a ‘De’…and then an ‘Andre’…just like D’Andre Swift but with an ‘e’ after the… never mind, you get the gist.

Photo Credit: American Football International

Time to end this silly little debate once and for all. The greatest wide receiver of all time, no questions asked, Jerry “Tiny Hands” Rice’s hands measured in at a mere 24 centimeters. Those are practically children’s hands compared to the other freaks on this list. I’m surprised he even made an NFL roster, let alone set the all-time NFL record for receptions and receiving yards given how important hand size is in determining an NFL player’s future success. Welp looks like it’s back to the mom’s basement to give that ole hand size theory a rewrite.

The Free Agency Inner Monologues

The Free Agency Inner Monologues

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson | USA TODAY Sports

Bill Bellichick (Probably): I’m the smartest man alive. Tom still needs to get one more ring to catch me in the jewelry contest. Is Jarrett Stidham still looking at me? Ugh, he is just so terrible. Maybe if I don’t look over there, he will go away. Cam is just as handsome as Tom and Jimmy, AND more fashionable. Siri, remind me to get more baby oil for Jonnu’s abs. I bet Hunter Henry is self-conscious about his breath when meeting new people. I don’t know how to tell Bob that I need to stay wound tight and I don’t want massage coupons for Christmas. I’m sorry I got the wrong dog food, Nike, but did you have to bring Van Noy back? Are we on to Cincinnati, or onto Cincinnati? That kid with acne pushing carts at Costco has such a great attitude…I wonder if he can catch a slightly deflated football? Agholor can catch these millions falling from our burning building. We would have pursued Fuller if he didn’t get caught. Alexa, how much do ventriloquists make? Googling Tom Brady’s son’s age…

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski | USA TODAY Sports
Mike Mayock: (Definitely): This shirt looks great on me. I did run 17 miles before 6 AM, so there’s that. I’m gonna text a picture of it to Jon. Knock on wood if you think Jon will like it. He did. Rube. Maybe I’ll show it to my Soul Cycle group on Facebook. Posted. Can’t believe all the (expletive) moaning the media made over me signing Kenyan Drake. Don’t they know dual backs are gonna be the future of the NFL? Guess they failed to notice what Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt did last year when they dominated the league? And we beat them 16 to 6! They couldn’t do anything on the ground. Suckers became one-dimensional and we shut them down. Rubes. Now Jon’s texting me a picture of his shirt. He’s wearing the same shirt. Dammit! “Mandy! Bring me a new shirt!!” Just saw that Chet Gresham gave us a (expletive) terrible free agency grade. What kind of name is “Chet” anyway? What does he think he’s friends with the Hardy’s Boys or something. Now those were good clean wholesome books. Books a man could enjoy after a morning of church with the family and then refresh his thirst with sparkling pink lemonade. But not with too much sugar. And how dare he say that “The Raiders have done a number on their offensive line this offseason.” People act like Rodney Hudson, Richie Incognito, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown are the WHOLE LINE. So annoying that no one but Jon fully understands my vision for this team. Rubes. The whole lot of them.
Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast | St. Louis Post-Disptach
Ryan Pace: (Most Definitely): I was so close to ‘Cooking with Russ’ and now I’m ‘Down to Dalton.’ This isn’t good. (Throws bronze Bear paperweight across his office). Do you think people noticed? I already (expletive) traded up for Mitch instead of drafting Mahomes and now the Russell Wilson deal gets woodchippered. And now Kyle Fuller bolts to the Broncos. Unbelievable. (Peeks through office shades.) Do they know I’m only 42-54 over the last 6 seasons? (Catches a glimpse of himself in the full-length double-paned mirror, he smiles and runs his fingers through his hair.) Does it make me look smarter or dumber when I squint? I think smarter. But, I just can’t tell. Squint. No squint. Squint. Maybe if I just purse my lips together and furrow my brow at the same time. Yeah, that’s the Blue Steel look daddy needs. You are Ryan (expletive) Pace, the General Manager for the Historic Chicago Bear franchise and never EVER let anyone forget it. (Closing the shades he turns and walks to his desk, accidentally stubbing his shoe on the Bears paperweight on the floor). (Multiple expletives)!! Now how am I going to successfully sell Andy Dalton to the fan base? ‘Andy Dalton is the future of the franchise.’ That didn’t sound right. ‘Andy Dalton has a future with this franchise.’ Hmmm. ‘Andy Dalton is a member of our franchise.’ Nailed it…
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media
David Gettleman (Probably): Can you believe these people? First, they’re screaming at me with torches and pitchforks and now they’re calling me GettleGod because I gave a bunch of money to guys who barely play half of their team’s games. I liked it better in Carolina because they really didn’t pay attention when I cut the whole team after blowing all the cap space on brittle players the year before. Here’s hoping the NY media will be their usual understanding self when I do the same thing. I have no idea how we are going to keep Saquon here, so I hope they don’t ask. I hope the fans don’t mind that our only good player we can keep next year is Leonard Williams. Kenny Golladay’s hip can predict rain in the forecast, John Ross was hoping that the NFL was just running straight for 40 yards in Spanx, and Adoree Jackson is Ross on defense. I only signed Rudolph so the Eagles wouldn’t offer Golladay as much because they didn’t think we could afford him. Jokes on them, I never learned how to do math. Don’t get me started on my main guy, Dimes. His mom must not have warned him about running with his shoes untied. His dad must have skipped the poker lesson about not looking completely bewildered at all times. He also didn’t play pickup football because he holds the ball like a Fabergé egg. The media is honing in on the Yankees and Knicks while I piss away the 2022 cap, and the fans just like to see big names and dollar signs. I’ll do it my way no matter what anyone is reporting. Anyway, we might just still be alright in our trash division and I can get another extension out of the Mara family if we can win more than four games this year. God, I love this country!