Tuesday, 13 September 2016

2016 Week 1: Minnesota Vikings @ Tennessee Titans - Post-Game Thoughts

So it's that time again, football is back and we're all happier for it! But my Sunday evening was unceremoniously ruined by a catastrophic collapse by the Titans against the Vikings - that saw them go from 10 points up at the half to losing the game 25-16. Despite that terrible ending to the game, I thought I'd start back on the blog with a post about my overall thoughts of the game - and a specific insight into who I thought the Titans' MVP was in Week 1.

The first point I'd like to make is that I think this team is going in the right direction, Jon Robinson has put together the strongest roster that we have seen in some time, and he's not been afraid of cutting under-performing high draft picks. However, what we saw was a classic Titans collapse, the likes of which we have become accustomed to over the last few seasons. Mike Mularkey has a losing record as a head coach and Sunday's game was a perfect example of why that is the case. Don't get me wrong, the Vikings are a good football team - even with Hill at QB - that possess maybe the best defense in the entire NFL, but we should've won that game. Any time you go into the half with a double-digit lead you have to finish the game off - no ifs or buts.

But let's not overreact. I saw many butthurt comments on Titans Report after the game - many fans ripping into Marcus Mariota, which I find to be laughable. This is the first game of the season, and we know how 'important' they are based on the last couple of seasons. If this trend continues over 4-5 games then there is cause to panic, but let's stand back and have some perspective about this result and what it actually means for our season. It doesn't mean a whole lot, as long as the team can come together can cut out those turnovers going forward.


First Half 

In terms of the game, the first half was punctuated, I thought, by the success of our run game. It's nice to see two real powerful runners, who both have great vision and aren't afraid of contact, in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. We have missed runners like that since the days of Eddie George. Murray had early success, and I thought the offensive line blocked well for him with Ben Jones and Jack Conklin both showing up on tape. The only negative of the half in terms of the offense was the lack of ability to finish off the drive and generate points - we deserved at least 17pts at the half, perhaps more.

Image result for demarco murray titans
I thought Murray had a nice first half, but he has to sort out those fumbling issues.

Moreover, may I be the first to say that I may have underrated the Tajae Sharpe selection - and the Derrick Henry selection for that matter - in my post-draft analysis. Sharpe looks like a reliable target that could evolve into a legitimate number one receiver, despite the fact that he is effectively operating in that role already. He has everything you look for; strong hands, great route running, nice height, and a solid understanding with our starting QB. The only thing Sharpe doesn't have is burner speed. Make no mistake, however, the guy can run and I thought he had the beating of Trae Waynes all game - the coaching staff should've taken several deep shots on that match-up. We heard reporters talk about how improved Mariota's deep game was in off-season practices, let's see some evidence of that in the regular season.

In the first half, defensively, the team was stout and only gave up field goal opportunities. Jurrell Casey was his usual disruptive self, beating interior lineman at will with his speed - the Titans also seemed to be subbing him out of the game more often which appears to be a conscious decision by Mularkey - based on his post-game comments - to consolidate Casey's high motor. Indeed, the front 7 were pretty solid from top to bottom, Morgan was particularly good at getting in position on AP and making setting the edge effectively. What I would like to have seen, and this goes for the entire game, was more of a pass rush. Our front 7 is more than capable of generating pressure on the opposing QB, perhaps it was a conscious decision by LeBeau to hold back on the exotic zone blitzes so that they could be sure AP wouldn't run all over them. I'm not enamored by our secondary personnel, but they did a decent enough job in the first half. The multiple safety looks was particularly interesting, with Byard getting a lot of time on the field with the starting D.

Second Half

What can I say about the second half other than to quote Mularkey...it was "catastrophic". First of all, and this is a particular pet peeve of mine, you can not start off the half by giving away big yardage on special teams. Special teams are momentum shift-drivers, the number of NFL games I have watched where a big return or special teams tackle has swung the momentum is too many to count. It was just amateurish. The coaching staff knows how special Patterson at returning kicks so we should never have given him the chance.

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Mike Zimmer deserves most of the credit for the Viking's success, their defense could carry them to the playoffs.

But on to the 'actual' game (sorry special teamers). For whatever reason we just couldn't move the ball at all in the second half. I got the sense from Zimmer that he thought our offense was quite easy to stop once you can read the misdirection. I wouldn't be surprised if the defensive adjustments he made at half time was the major catalyst for changes in the levels of success that Titans offense had. Despite this, I thought the Titans shot themselves in the foot somewhat. They got away from the simple 'smashmouth' way of offense and incorporated far too much of the 'exotic' into their second half offensive gameplan. Mariota looked lost at times. I mean the interception was just horrible. We can talk about how Douglas should've secured the block and everything, but that ball should never have been thrown and Marcus knows it. But let's not get down on our QB, I thought he was solid in the first half and everyone can have a bad game - we're all human.

The fumbles pissed me off the most though. Secure the damn football. SECURE IT! This was the part of the collapse that annoyed me the most. DeMarco needs to work on this part of his game, because it can cost you a good number of games over the course of a season. Winning the turnover battle is key to winning football games.

Ultimately, the offensive collapse cost the Titans the game. There is nothing really extra to say in terms of what the defense did, it was a continuity of the first half performance. When your defense holds AP to 31 yards rushing, and the opposing offense to 9pts overall, then there is no excuse for the offense not winning you the game. The Titans should've won this game and they know it. But they should take heart in the fact that there were many positives to take away from this game, especially from the first half. My two lessons for next week would be; 1. Secure the football, and 2. Get Delanie Walker into the game early. 

In conclusion, the overall message that should come out of this game is, "Dont Panic! It's Week One." Let's as fans look at the positives that came out of the game and have some perspective in terms of the fact that we have 15 games left. 

MVP: Jack Conklin

I'm awarding my Titans Week One MVP this week to the rookie Right Tackle, Jack Conklin. Jack performed exceptionally well against, in my opinion, one of the strongest defensive fronts in the league. I know many felt a sense of disappointment with the draft pick several months ago, but Jon Robinson should feel partially vindicated for selecting him after this week one showing. PFF obviously saw the same things that I did because Conklin ended up with a grade of 75.9 from their 'experts'.

Image result for jack conklin titans
Let's hope Conklin is able to emulate 'Big Country' Stewart and be a reliable force on the right side for years to come.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tennessee Titans Draft Grades

After giving myself several days to digest the draft choices that the Titans made - as well as research some of the lesser-known selections - I believe it is the right time to release my initial 'draft grades' for the team's selections. While initial draft grades are usually a pointless task, and aren't the best way of judging a draft (we have to wait three years to do that accurately), it is fun to see if my initial assessments of the draft picks turn out to be correct. So, here goes:

1(8). Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St. - I like Conklin as a football player. I had him ranked 'tied 3rd' in my initial draft rankings. Over the NFL Combine process he separated himself from Taylor Decker and was fortunate enough for Laremy Tunsil to be a complete mess off-the-field. In terms of the pick I like the player and the fit. I think Conklin is the perfect player to be a Right Tackle in the Titans' system. What I dislike is the draft capital that the Titans gave up to get him (that 2017 2nd round pick is a killer). I think Conklin, based on his talent, was a top 15 player. Taking him at #8 is probably at the top end of his draft radius. I think JRob was right to be concerned about NYG taking Conklin and so the aggressive move to trade up isn't as bad as it initially seemed. Overall Grade: B

2(33). Kevin Dodd, OLB, Clemson - Dodd was very good value at the top of the second round. Many respected 'draft gurus' had him ranked in the teens - and that's about where I thought he would go. I thought Dodd might have been a better fit in a 4-3-wide scheme, but he has shown competency standing up in the Clemson scheme. He also fills a key need for the Titans. They have been longing for a competent #3 OLB to provide insurance for their injury-prone starters; Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Dodd was a one-year-wonder and that is certainly a cause for concern, but his tape last year merited this selection. Overall Grade: A-

2(43). Austin Johnson, NT, Penn St. - Probably the 'safest' pick of the Titans' draft. Johnson had many 1st round grades coming into the draft, and for good reason. He has the size, scheme versatility and play-style to fit nearly any scheme. He is probably a prototypical 'nose' in the Titans' scheme, with the ability to play 5-tech and rush the passer in nickel situations. The addition of Johnson should significantly improve the Titans' run defense. I think he will eventually beat out Al Woods in training camp and find himself at the top of the defensive line rotation alongside Jurrell Casey. Overall Grade: A

2(45). Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama - Henry is probably the pick I dislike the most in this draft. I don't think Henry is a bad player - I think he was the second best running back in the class - but I think he is poor value at #45. The positional value for a back-up running back is low. Perhaps if the Titans were drafting Henry to be their starter then the pick would be worthy of a bit more praise. But DeMarco Murray is on the roster already, and the insurance if he failed already existed in the form of the 2017 NFL Draft. Next year's draft will potentially contain three 'elite-level' running backs. I get that JRob and Mularkey are trying to run the ball and build a 'bully', but they wasted valuable draft capital on a player whose production I think they could've emulated with a 5th round pick. Overall Grade: C-

3(64). Kevin Byard, FS, Middle Tennessee - I like this pick, it addressed a need with a player that was highly productive in college. I think there are question marks surrounding Byard. When watching his tape he consistently takes bad angles vs. the run. But his pass coverage is phenomenal. He left college with 19 INTs which is a testament to his ball-skills. He was also considered a leader within his college team. I would've preferred someone like Vonn Bell or Sean Davis to fill this need, but Byard is an adequate selection that could prove to be a 'steal' if his pass defense can translate against better competition in the NFL. Overall Grade: B+

5(140). Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMass - Sharpe is a solid pick. He consistently catches the ball when it's thrown to him and has nice size for the position. He also has demonstrated the ability to play both inside and outside and showcased fluid route-running abilities. My issues with Sharpe is that he appears to have a low ceiling, doesn't create that much separation against 'lesser' talent and didn't test out well at the Senior Bowl. He is a solid gamble in the 5th round though and could develop into a nice target for Mariota. Overall Grade: C+

5(157). LeShaun Sims, CB, Southern Utah - I scratched my head a bit at this one. I didn't see any reason to trade up for Sims. There was still solid talent left at corner and a good one would've fallen to the 6th round most likely. Sims also didn't 'wow' me when I watched his tape. He looked pretty solid in press coverage and nice in run support. But he also consistently struggled to get off blocks against sub-par college guys. Weird pick. Overall Grade: C

6(193). Sebastian Tretola, G, Arkansas - Love this pick. A mauler of a guard who will fit the aggressive, power-scheme that the Titans will be running in 2016-17. He likely fell in the draft due to some concerns with his pass protection, but Mularkey's scheme (if last season is anything to go by) utilizes tight ends in protection often and so it is unlikely that Tretola will be isolated in pass protection. In terms of his run blocking, Tretola is mean and strong and will create big holes for Murray and Henry if given the opportunity. Overall Grade: A

7(222). Aaron Wallace, OLB, UCLA - Not much to say about this pick. Wallace is a solid pick because, at worst, he will help you on special teams. Has shown some twitch at the position and was the most productive linebacker at UCLA last season. Overall Grade: B+

7(253). Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Mississippi - I love this pick. Reed is a better player than Sims (who we traded up for in the 5th). He has lightening speed, was extremely productive in college and has the tenacity to support in the run defense. He will make the roster and compete to start at nickel early. Overall Grade: A+


A solid draft with some picks that I love and some picks that I hate. But there will be some solid contributors that come out of this draft. I don't see a lot of 'All-Pro' potential here, but I do see a lot of guys that will build the core of an NFL contender.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

2016 NFL Mock Draft - 2 Rounds

I thought I'd release a quick two round mock draft before the action starts tomorrow. These are based on projections and rumours and are not what I would do if I was the GM of one of these teams. Enjoy:


1. Rams - Jared Goff, QB, Cal
2. Eagles - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.
3. Chargers - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
4. Cowboys - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St.
5. Jaguars - Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
6. Ravens - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
7. 49ers - Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
8. Browns - DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
9. Buccaneers - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio St.
10. Giants - Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan St.
11. Bears - Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
12. Saints - Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
13. Dolphins - Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio St.
14. Raiders - Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
15. Titans - Shaq Lawson, OLB, Clemson
16. Lions - Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio St.
17. Falcons - Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
18. Colts - Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas St.
19. Bills - Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
20. Jets - Sheldon Rankins, DE, Louisville
21. Redskins - Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
22. Texans - Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
23. Vikings - LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
24. Bengals - Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
25. Steelers - William Jackson III, CB, Houston
26. Seahawks - Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M
27. Packers - Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
28. Chiefs - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
29. Cardinals - Emmanuel Ogbah, OLB, Oklahoma St.
30. Panthers - Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi St.
31. Broncos - Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech


1. Browns - Connor Cook, QB, Michigan St.
2. Titans - Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio St.
3. Cowboys - Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
4. Chargers - A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
5. Ravens - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio St.
6. 49ers - Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky
7. Jaguars - Keanu Neal, S, Florida
8. Buccaneers - Artie Burns, CB, Miami
9. Giants - Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt.
10. Bears - Le'Raven Clark, OL, Texas Tech
11. Dolphins - Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
12. Titans - Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
13. Raiders - Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
14. Titans - Karl Joseph, FS, West Virginia
15. Lions - Jaylon Smith, ILB, Notre Dame
16. Saints - Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
17. Colts - Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
18. Bills - Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
19. Falcons - Vonn Bell, S, Ohio St.
20. Jets - Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
21. Texans - Willie Henry, DL, Michigan
22. Redskins - Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida
23. Vikings - Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
24. Bengals - Su'a Cravens, S/LB, USC
25. Seahawks - Nick Martin, OL, Notre Dame
26. Packers - Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
27. Steelers - T.J. Green, FS, Clemson
28. Chiefs - Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise St.
29. Patriots - Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas 
30. Patriots - Sean Davis, CB, Maryland
31. Panthers - Darian Thompson, FS, Boise St.
32. Broncos - Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn St.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

HC Candidate Profile: Teryl Austin


Age: 50

Place of Birth: Sharon, Pennsylvania

First Coached in the NFL in 2003

NFL Coaching Tree: Mike Holmgren, Ken Whisenhunt, John Harbaugh, Jim Caldwell

NFL Record: N/A (no head coaching experience)

Summary - Austin is a popular candidate around the league, and has been for a couple of seasons now. No, it's not just to satisfy the Rooney Rule, Austin has a legitimate shot at landing a job this off-season. He's helped coach two teams to the Super Bowl - Seattle in '06 and Arizona in '09 - in both instances as defensive backs coach (not an easy position to have success with as Titans fans have seen this season). More recently at Detroit, he has been able to put together competent units. In 2015/16 Detroit ranked around the middle of the league - depending on measurement - in defense, which may not sound impressive, but after the atrocious start to the season it is a pretty solid accomplishment to have turned that unit around to such a great extent. The question of Austin's candidacy lies not within his defensive competency, but with who he would choose to be his offensive coordinator should he land a top job.

Pros - High competency in defense, especially the defensive back position. Seems to have the demeanor of a Head Coach. Is a player's coach but is also well-respect by all accounts. Is a hot-candidate. Runs an effective 4-3 system with lots of nickel usage, something a section of Titans fans have been clamoring for. Has been consistent with every team he has been with. Has always fielded good units in areas that he coached. Will likely be able to work well in traditional GM/HC separation of responsibilities.

Cons - No previous head coaching experience. Questions over his contacts within the game and if he could hire a good enough offensive coordinator or a quality staff as a whole. A rookie coach at 50 years old, is it too late? Only just recently been a defensive coordinator at the NFL level, questions over whether it's too quick a transition to be hired as a head coach. Mariota is the most important asset to the Titans, does he have a plan for him and the offensive knowledge to find someone to cater to MM and help him reach his full potential?

Conclusion - Teryl Austin isn't a perfect candidate, but I'm interested as long as he can effectively answer some key questions; What are your plans for Marcus? Can you build a good enough staff, particularly at offensive coordinator? Can you handle the extra responsibilities of being an NFL Head Coach? If he can effectively answer those questions then he'd be a finalist for me. He's considered the 'hot' rookie HC candidate for a reason and there's no reason to believe that he is just a token Rooney Rule interview. We'll see Titans fans, but don't rule out Austin just yet.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

THE_TITAN's 2016 NFL Draft RB Rankings

1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes - Elliott is the most explosive and best all-round running back in this draft class. He possesses long speed, power, good vision and a burst through the hole. There is really very little to dislike about him as a prospect. He occasionally could be more explosive when running underneath passing routes, but when thrown to him he demonstrates good hands when catching the ball. The only real 'weakness' that Elliott has is in pass protection where he needs to improve against the bull rush, but even in this category he is above average. Draft Ranking: Top 10

Ezekiel Elliott will make coaches salivate in the 2016 Draft.

2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide - Henry is a productive 'thumper', plain and simple. One of the most productive running backs in SEC history, the Heisman winner will have a lot of suitors in the draft. He's a powerful between the tackles runner that is able to wear teams out with his size, strength and powerful strides. On multiple occasions he was able to run an inordinate amount of times in one game that by the fourth quarter the defensive opposition couldn't handle him. He can also be relied on in pass protection. Concerns start to appear when you notice Henry's lack of burst, he's not a home run hitter and he does rely on his offensive line quite a bit on big games. While his vision is excellent, his feet aren't always able to keep up with his eyes. There are questions as to whether or not he can have significant production at the pro level behind a mediocre offensive line. 'Tread on the tires' should also be cause for concern, Henry ran the ball 566 times in college. Overall, though, Henry is a premier prospect. He's not going to catch many balls or hit many home runs but he will wear defenses out at the next level. Draft Ranking: 1st Round-2nd Round

3. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA Bruins - Perkins is a prospect that seems to be going under the radar in many draft circles. I have no idea why that is the case, he has been the most productive runner in the PAC-12 for quite some time now. Perkins is not a shifty back, but if you let him hit the hole and power through he will get your team a lot of yards. He has good vision, a nice frame and is a violent runner. Also looks decent in pass protection and is willing to get physical with his pass routes and in chipping opposing players. His hands are good enough to make him a three-down-back. The concern with Perkins is that he doesn't come from a pro-style system. He's also not a particularly special athlete despite his production. His lean frame might lead to some holes in his pass protection, that we have yet to see, be exposed. All in all, he is a starting back for someone, probably more likely in year two than in his rookie season. Draft Ranking: 2nd Round

4. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah Utes - Booker is a short, thick, compact and powerful workhorse back. He was a decisive and reliable runner for Utah. His lack of height enables him to get a low center of gravity, making him harder to tackle and pick out in traffic. He's a single-decision, downhill runner that will not make many plays on the edge but will pick up plenty of four yard and five yard gains through the middle. He's also a three-down-back with his ability to catch underneath passes. Booker's draft stock takes a hit with his lack of home-run speed and his lack of lateral quickness. He's seen a lot of action at Utah so teams will be concerned about whether there is too much tread on the tires. He's also a work-in-progress as a pass protector. Draft Ranking: 3rd Round

Booker is a solid prospect but has a limited ceiling. 

5. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas Razorbacks - Collins is a back that I only became aware of as the past season wore on and I watched more SEC football. Every time I caught Arkansas I thought to myself  "Who is this guy? I like him." and, after finally scouting him, my initial eyeball assessment looks to be right. He has a very thick frame and an explosive burst through the hole. His vision is very good in my opinion and he is also able to make people miss in the open field despite a lack of home-run speed. Collins is a physical runner with good production that projects to come into the NFL and challenge for a starting spot. Concerns lie with Collins' low ceiling. He is not much of a receiver which limits his third-down viability. Many have compared Collins' game to Isaiah Crowell and I would say that is a fair assessment but I think Collins will be a 1,000 yard runner at the next level (something which Crowell has yet to achieve). Draft Ranking: 3rd Round-4th Round

Tape References:

vs Oregon
vs Michigan
vs Virginia Tech
vs Wisconsin

vs Georgia
vs Florida
vs Ole Miss
vs Wisconsin

vs Virginia

vs Washington State

vs Samford
vs Texas A&M
vs Texas Tech

HC Candidate Profle: Doug Marrone


Age: 51

Place of Birth: Bronx, New York

First coached in the NFL in 2002

NFL coaching tree: Herm Edwards, Sean Payton, Gus Bradley

NFL record: 15-17 (.469) with the Buffalo Bills

Summary - Marrone was hired as the Bill's Head Coach in 2013 after an impressive tenure as the head coach of Syracuse in the NCAA. His presence was quickly felt within the franchise, in his second season he led the Bills to their first winning record in over a decade. He surprisingly decided to enact his opt-out clause after his second season to leave the Bills. Many thought this decision was motivated by his annoyance with personnel decisions and alienation from the front office in general. Over his career Marrone has mainly focused on the offensive line and tight ends and, as such, he favours power football.

Pros - As mentioned above, Marrone has had moderate to good success in his head coaching career. He has been said to have a good rapport with veteran players throughout his career. Many analysts consider Marrone a top head coaching candidate; Charlie Casserly went as far to say "Doug deserves to be a head coach in the NFL and I'd hire him in a minute". Marrone's background with the offensive line is sure to intrigue the Titans who have had issues at the position for a number of seasons.

Cons - Has never been a coach of a 'top' team. Questions over whether he can build a consistent playoff contender. His exit from Buffalo will leave a sour taste in the mouth and should dissuade potential suitors. There are questions over his patience with young players. Marcell Dareus criticised Marrone when stating "Things were tense. He was always anal and cared about stupid little things, micro-managed us". His ability to separate himself from front office and head coach duties is questionable. The Titans are looking for a 'traditional' seperation of power, Marrone will have to control his emotions if the front office make personnel decisions he disagrees with. Has now left two teams without significant warning leaving them in poor positions to replace him. Former players and coaching colleagues have criticized Marrone. Doesn't seem like a media-friendly figure.

Conclusion - No thank you. Marrone is an interesting candidate. He's the type of strong personality that I think would be more of a fit in the New York or Philadelphia markets. But when it comes down to it there are just too many concerns listed in the 'Cons' bracket to be comfortable with the hire. The Titans are a young team and, while they need direction, they also need a coach that players can connect to and universally respect. I don't think Marrone is that guy.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Early Retirements in the NFL, Should we be Worried?

The news this week that Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson was considering retirement sent shock waves around the NFL. But should we be so shocked? Early retirements have become more commonplace in the NFL as players are becoming more aware about the medical dangers involved with playing the game. Many fans will question the players 'love of the game' or the loss of potential earnings involved with such a lucrative sport. But the dangers of playing professional football are now become well understood. The release of recent blockbuster movie 'Concussion' will only make the general public and NFL players more cognizant of the potential impact that a life playing football can have on the body.The lucrative nature of the sport may also lead some players to early retirement, as well as the toxic effects of the media spotlight on individuals and families.

Players first started becoming truly aware of the extent to which football, and playing contact sports in general ,affects the human brain in 2002. The discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by Dr. Bennet Omalu finally gave a name to the disease that had affected so many professional athletes. The disease is defined as a "progressive degenerative disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma". From the definition itself, it's clear to see how this disease is inextricably linked to the sport of American football. The NFL in particular is defined by it's big hits, high speed collisions and short bursts of extreme contact. While I can't be sure that this element is involved in Megatron's exit motivations, it has led to prominent retirements from the NFL.

Chris Borland, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, was a recent player to retire whom cited medical concerns as the primary reason for his decision. In an interview with ESPN.com Borland stated "I just honestly want to do what's best for my health... From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk". There is no doubt that other players will come to the same conclusion as Borland over the coming years if the status quo prevails in safety procedures and a lack of a cure for CTE remains. While the NFL should be concerned by this, they can't change the potential outcomes without making tough decisions about the way the sport is played and that may be why they are so reluctant to move away from the status quo.

Image result for calvin johnson
Not so happy anymore? Megatron is considering early retirement.

However, it's not just medical concerns that are motivating early retirements. The lucrative nature of the business and the focused spotlight on the individual are also motivations for retirement. This element might have more to do with Megatron's recent thoughts about his future. Over his career Megatron has signed contracts worth over $100 million in guaranteed money. There is literally no financial incentive for him to consider playing beyond greed or the hunger for an even more lavish lifestyle. The sum of money he has earned would make him financially secure for several lifetimes at the very least. Playing football in Detroit, with limited to no success, would not be particularly enticing to many with that much money in the bank. It's possible that the daily rigors of NFL life and the stress on Megatron's body has led him to think that it's just not worth it any more. It's hard to argue the opposite. The lucrative nature of the NFL is maybe it's own enemy in this regard. Once a player makes a certain amount of money there is literally no reason to play beyond cementing a legacy, winning a championship or for the love of the game. It's just a fact that not every professional player will have those motivations.

Moreover, the retirement of Jake Locker - once a member of my beloved Titans - may be linked to the financial factor coupled with the desire for a 'normal' family life. The spotlight on NFL players can certainly be unbearable for particular individuals, especially quarterbacks, where the focus is even more concentrated. Locker talked about not having "the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living" as well as his hopes to spend more time with his family. You can not besmirch the man for his decision. Many of us would've made the same choice; a couple of million in the bank and just sit back and have fun with your family for the rest of your life. Maybe this area of early retirements will lead NFL scouting departments to place more value on a prospect's "love for the game" so that they're not investing in a person that will bolt after one contract.

Bringing this information together it's easy to be concerned about early retirements becoming more commonplace in the NFL. Whether it be for medical, financial or person reasons, we can not blame this phenomenon on the players. The NFL's lack of a substantial plan to combat CTE is clearly something that can be changed if a commissioner comes a long that is willing to make tough decisions to save the future of the sport - removing or significantly altering helmets seems to be an option coming to the fore recently. If the NFL opts to not make these hard choices then the future of the sport could be affected, with less parents willing to let their children play American Football, instead opting for 'softer' sports like basketball, baseball or soccer. In terms of financial and personal factors, the NFL is merely an victim of its own success here and there is little they could do to combat these retirements. But, in the end, as fans we should not be worried because there will always be individuals willing to step up and perform, who love the sport and are willing to put their bodies on the line for their team, their fans and their legacy.