Michael Sam made his preseason debut Friday night for the St. Louis Rams. He finished with one tackle.
So what are his chances of making a team already stacked on the defensive line? About what you'd expect.
Via USA Today ...
"I think he's going to struggle against the run. But he does have a little juice off the edge."
"He's a chase player right now. He's too stiff to play inside. He's got straight-line speed. I don't think he has very good quickness. It's a bit surprising he played left end because he's not that strong."
"He does fly around a little bit. He's a good hustle player. I just wonder if that's enough. He's a stiff dude. But if you can run and hustle, you give yourself a chance."
While Sam was the co-defensive player of the year in the best conference in college football last year, he padded his sack total in the front-end of non-conference opponents.
One thing we know for sure: he won't be replacing Robert Quinn or Chris Long in the starting lineup if he makes the 53-man roster.
Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bill Guarnere, pictured above, a hero of the 101st Airborne immortalized in "Band of Brothers" (as played by actor Frank John Hughes) died over the weekend, on March 8, 2014. News of his death is just breaking nationally. Here's a Cold, Hard Football Facts tribute, with a look back at a CHFF classic that originally ran in March 2009.)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have about three interests in life: football, beer and World War II.
So we were excited when the History Channel just played its "Band of Brothers" marathon this weekend for like the umpteenth time. And, for like the umpteenth time, we spent all weekend watching it, despite the fact the well-worn "Band of Brothers" box set sits proudly in the cardboard-box world headquarters, and apparently oblivious to the fact that there was some sort of basketball tournament going on at the same time.
Hey, it's not much of an existence ... but at least it's ours.
So, while watching, we started thinking, what are the 10 best scenes from this mind-blowing epic history about Easy Co. of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, from the legendary 101st Airborne?
There are probably 100 scenes we could have included, and if you asked us tomorrow, the list would probably be different. But here's a look at our Top 10 scenes from "Band of Brothers" as of today.
(Episode No. 3, "Carentan")
Blithe is painted as a coward in the TV series, though the books by Ambrose ("Band of Brothers") and company commander Dick Winters ("Beyond Band of Brothers") are a bit kinder. Spiers, meanwhile, is the baddest-ass mo-fo in the entire 101st Airborne.
The two make for one of the most chilling scenes in the series: Spiers comes upon Blithe in the dark of night, as the corporal is cowering in a foxhole outside Carentan, awaiting a German attack. Blithe admits to Spiers that he hid in a ditch on D-Day because he was too scared to fight.
Spiers tells Blithe that "we're all scared" and then bends down to tell Blithe the real reason he hid in that ditch. The short, chilling monologue offers insight into the nihilism that many soldiers had to adopt to survive psychologically:
"We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there's still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier's supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends upon it."
(Episode No. 10, "Points")
The series concludes with the Easy Co. survivors playing baseball in Austria at the end of the war, as Winters recounts what the men did later in life. Some of their stories are pretty amazing. (Lynn "Buck" Compton, for example, became the California prosecutor who convicted Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan.)
The episode (like each before it) then fades out with the actual survivors of Easy Company, now old men, recounting their own stories of the war – in this case of life after the war. Lipton and Winters are the last to speak.
Lipton recites the famous St. Crispin's Day passage from Shakespeare's "Henry V" before the Battle of Agincourt, the speech that spawned the name of the series:
From this day to the ending of the world,
We in it shall be remembered;
We few, we lucky few, we band of brothers;
For he who today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother
And then, in the beautiful and sad final scene of the series, Winters recounts a letter he shared later in life with Mike Ranney, one of the men of Easy.
"I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said no. But I served with a company of heroes."
Grown men don't cry ... except at the end of "Band of Brothers."
(Episode No. 3, "Carentan")
The most poignant scenes in "Band of Brothers" are not those of the battles. The most poignant scenes are the clever ways in which the producers try to remind the viewers of the human cost of the war.
This is one of those scenes: Easy had returned to England after three weeks of combat in France. Before shipping out again, Malarkey heads to the local village laundry to pick up his clothes.
The English woman at the laundry has a bunch of extra bundles so she says, "You couldn't be a dear and help me with a few others, could you?"
Malarkey stares blankly at the woman as she reads off the names of the men who have yet to pick up their laundry. It's the names of all the men who were killed or wounded in Normandy. You get the impression the woman knows this, too. But she's gotta do something with all the laundry.
It would have been a long list if she read all the names: In three weeks in Normandy in June 1944, Easy lost 65 men – about half the company.
(Episode No. 2, "Day of Days")
For many, this is the most memorable scene in the series. Just hours after dropping into Normandy, and in the first combat action for just about every man involved, Easy is ordered to take out an emplacement of four German 105s that are lobbing shells on the soldiers who are landing down on Utah Beach.
Under the cool, clear-thinking leadership of Winters (pictured), they destroy all four guns, with the loss of just one man killed. The assault was a pivotal moment in the development of Easy: it established Winters as a brilliant leader and tactician and earned him the respect of every man in the company, as you find out in the next scene, when they return to Ste. Marie du Mont and ponder what just happened on this incredible "Day of Days."
Everything Easy did later in the war was a result of their success in this attack.
At the end of the episode, you learn that Easy's movements at Brecourt Manor on D-Day are still taught today at West Point, as a textbook example of an assault on a fixed position. There's also a movement afoot to this day to get Congress to give Winters the Medal of Honor for his actions at Brecourt.
(Episode No. 7, "The Breaking Point")
Badass Spiers is best known among the men for the rumors that he gunned down a group of German prisoners on D-Day after handing them cigarettes.
The rumors – never confirmed – grow over the course of the war. His legend is confirmed during Easy Co.'s effort to take the Belgian town Foy under ineffective company commander Dike, who cracks up during the attack. Spiers, commander of Dog Co., is sent into relieve Dike and instantly gains control of the situation, ordering men into position and then racing, completely exposed to a hail of enemy fire, to connect with I Company on the side of the town.
As Spiers races through rifle and artillery fire, the incredible scene is narrated in a near-whisper by a disbelieving Lipton:
"At first the Germans didn't shoot at him. At first they couldn't believe what they were seeing. But that wasn't the really astounding part. The astounding part was that, after he hooked up with I Company, he came back."
That was one ballsy ass mo-fo.
(Episode No. 5, "Crossroads")
The phrase "follow me" is one of the recurring themes of "Band of Brothers" (both the book and the series), never more so than when Winters and an Easy Co. patrol come across an outpost of German soldiers near a dike in Holland.
Winters, with his typical cool tactical command, spearheads the assault, as usual. He races to the top of the dike, and coldly guns down a young German soldier at nearly point-blank range. (The face of the soldier will later haunt him, especially when he attempts some R&R in Paris.) Then, completely exposed to the enemy, he guns down about a half dozen other Germans.
The rest of the patrol finally reaches the dike with Winters and they proceed to destroy two companies of SS in one of the most gruesome scenes of the series. Winters, who was immediately promoted to battalion executive officer in the wake of the attack, once again proved his incredible leadership skills and his naked bravery.
As one of his comrades said at the start of the episode, "I don't know how he survived."
(Episode No. 9, "Why We Fight")
Easy comes across the miserable Landsberg concentration camp near the war's end, a place inhabited by piles of dead bodies and walking skeletons. It's only here that they became aware of Hitler's "Final Solution" when they realize that the prisoners are all Juden – Jews.
They rush to feed the starving prisoners, but are ordered by an Army physician not to give out the food, because the emaciated people will eat themselves to death. They need to put the prisoners back in the camp until they can get proper food and medical care.
One soldier is ordered to give the news to the prisoners – Liebgott, the German-speaking Jew.
He initially refuses, but then obeys the orders – only to break down after telling the distraught, famished prisoners, his fellow Jews, that they need to get back behind the fences of the stinking death camp until more help arrives.
(Episode No. 1, "Currahee"/Episode No. 2, "Day of Days")
There's a moment at the end of Episode 1 in which the troopers suddenly realize that they're no longer ordinary men (or even boys), when they realize that they are now invaders – small pieces of the largest and most amazing military force ever assembled.
The faces and moods of everybody involved suddenly changes, especially as the troopers climb into the C-47s and slowly lift off into huge formations in the sky, while soldiers on the ground stare solemnly at the planes, the enormity of the situation and the moment in history hitting everybody, including the viewer. It's on. Boy is it f*ckin' on.
The scope of the invasion is best represented at the very end of Episode 1, when you see Winters sitting in the jump door of his C-47, on the flight to Normandy. One single invader who's part of an epic quest to liberate an entire continent from genocidal tyranny.
The camera then begins to pan back from this one man, and you start to see what Winters must have seen if he actually sat in the jump door that night: aircraft and invasion ships stretching across sky and sea as far as the eyes can see. It's an amazing show of force, the likes of which mankind has never produced before or since, and Winters saw it all from the jump door.
The episode ends right there, but the scene picks up right where it left off in Episode No. 2. Only this time as the planes cross over the continental coast, greeted suddenly by anti-aircraft fire, explosions, fiery planes and death, these ordinary men instantly thrown into war.
(Episode No. 7, "The Breaking Point")
A nun's choir sings beautiful medieval songs by candlelight as the men of Easy sit in church pews in a small Belgian town. It's their first night indoors after a month spent living in foxholes in Bastogne at the depths of winter, and then taking over several small villages around Bastogne, suffering great losses every step of the way.
As the worn, disheveled troopers sit quietly and listen, lost in their own thoughts amid the flickering candlelight, the men who were killed and wounded in Bastogne slowly fade from the screen like ghosts, while Lipton tallies the human toll: 82 of the 145 men Easy had heading into Bastogne were killed or wounded. Only 63 remain.
The scene ends with a quiet conversation between Lipton and the new company commander, Spiers, the object of so many rumors. Spiers says Roman general Terseus was probably dogged by rumors that he lopped off the heads of a couple centurions, a tacit recognition of the stories that he had gunned down the German prisoners on D-Day.
Lipton wonders why Spiers doesn't put an end to the rumors. He replies:
"Maybe that’s because Terseus knew there was some value to the men believing he was the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in the whole Roman legion."
(Episode No. 5, "Crossroads")
Wow, this is powerful stuff. The series reaches its climax in Bastogne (in Episodes 6 and 7). But the stage is set at the end of the perfectly named fifth episode, "Crossroads."
On a bitterly cold December night, the under-equipped, under-dressed 101st Airborne is hastily trucked to the front to defend the vital Belgian crossroads town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
As the paratroopers head in, dazed soldiers and walking wounded from a shattered infantry division are retreating, warning of the slaughter they just witnessed during the surprise German attack.
The paratroopers strip the defeated Americans of any ammunition, while one armored division lieutenant tells Winters that German tanks are about to cut off the last road out and that they'll soon be surrounded.
"We're paratroopers," replies Winters. "We're supposed to be surrounded."
Then the line of paratroopers begins walking, slowly and stoically, into the forbidding woods ahead, their path marked by large fires of diesel fuel they lit to keep warm.
Winters stares at the men, the light of the fires flickering across his face and in his eyes, and a look of quiet pride briefly crosses his face. He slowly turns and joins the column that appears to be walking into certain death – and into what turns out to be the darkest, deadliest days of the war.
They look so bad-ass and you just think that these were the ballsiest mo-fos you've ever seen, and thank God they were on your side.
Brett Favre was a recurring, revolving guest on NFL Network's Super Bowl pre-game coverage.
He is well on his way to playing the role of Richard Kimble w/ a beard. Congrats.
You Find This Man! #FavreBeard.
The Taste of the NFL Saturday night in Brooklyn had a huge silent auction of football memorabilia, including a framed display of tickets from all 48 Super Bowls.
You can unearth quite a bit of history about the game just from those tickets. For example, the first three games were simply called the AFL-NFL world championship game.
It was only in the fourth meeting, after Broadway Joe Namath and the AFL's N.Y. Jets shocked the NFL's mighty Baltimore Colts, that the game earned the title of Super Bowl.
Roman numerals first appeared a year later, in Super Bowl V, at the end of the 1970 season (Baltimore over Dallas).
By the way, the face value ticket in the first world championship game was $10. The face value here in Super Bowl XLVIII is a cool $1,500.
by Pat Imig
Cold Hard Football Facts Respecter Of Elders (@patrickimig)
Peyton Manning enters Super Bowl XLVIII at the twilight age (in NFL terms) of 37. He is one of eight quarterbacks in NFL history to start at quarterback for his team in the Super Bowl beyond the age of 35.
Interestingly, four of those eight are in the Hall of Fame already, while one (Jim Plunkett) is often debated for Canton consideration, another will be debated (Warner) and the active one will be enshrined when it's all said and done (Manning).
The list of over-35 quarterbacks to start in the Super Bowl and how they fared:
JOHNNY UNITAS, SUPER BOWL V (AGE 37) - W, 16-13
The Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in what has become known as the "Stupor Bowl". The game was marred by 11 turnovers, seven of which were committed by Baltimore, representing the most turnovers ever by a Super Bowl winning team. In addition to committing four turnovers, Dallas produced 10 penalties for 133 yards.
Super Bowl V is the only Super Bowl in history to award the game MVP to a member of the losing team. Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley earned the honor after intercepting two passes and sacking Johnny U. Howley refused to accept the award because his team lost.
FRAN TARKENTON, SUPER BOWL XI (AGE 36) - L, 32-14
Tarkenton completed 17/35 passes for 205 yards, one TD and two INT's. His second interception was returned 75 yards by Oakland's Willie Brown for a touchdown.
He was replaced by backup Bob Lee, which is arguably the best backup name in the history of backup quarterbacks. At least when Jim Kelly lost Super Bowls, he had Frank Reich to fall back on.
ROGER STAUBACH, SUPER BOWL XIII (AGE 36) - L, 35-31
Captain America Roger Staubach completed 17/30 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and four carries for 37 yards. His lone interception, however, led to seven points for the Steelers and a 21-14 halftime lead, a lead the team would never relinquish. Pittsburgh won 35-31.
JIM PLUNKETT, SUPER BOWL XVIII (AGE 36) - W, 38-9
The game remembered most for Marcus Allen's dazzling 74-yard touchdown run, immortalized by John Facenda's line, "Here comes Marcus Allen, running with the night," ended with a 38-9 Oakland victory. Jim Plunkett completed an Alex Smith-esque 16/25 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and zero picks.
JOHN ELWAY, SUPER BOWL XXXII, SUPER BOWL XXXIII (AGE 37, 38) - W, 31-24; W, 34-19
Elway did the helicopter spin on his game-winning touchdown run against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, but he only completed 12/22 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He produced through the air much better a year later against Atlanta, completing 18/29 for 336 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, both games resulted in victory for Elway and the Broncos. We hear Terrell Davis gets migraines just thinking about these games.
RICH GANNON, SUPER BOWL XXXVII (AGE 37) - L, 48-21
At age 37, Rich Gannon entered Super Bowl 37 with an MVP for the regular season awaiting him. But it didn't save him from a catastrophic performance in the biggest game of the season. Gannon threw five interceptions - three of which were returned for touchdowns. Oakland would lose 48-21 in the Chucky Bowl.
KURT WARNER, SUPER BOWL XLIII (AGE 37) - L, 27-23
One of the most prolific postseason passers in NFL history, Kurt Warner worked another miracle in 2008, leading the Arizona Cardinals to the NFC Championship.
Even with a pick-six thrown to Steelers linebacker James Harrison just before halftime, Warner completed 31/43 passes for 377 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception. Warner also lost a fumble, so he isn't free of criticism beyond the pick-six. Pittsburgh would defeat Arizona 27-23.
PEYTON MANNING, SUPER BOWL XLVIII (AGE 37) - ???
It's up to Peyton Manning to break the 4-4 gridlock for old the warhorse quarterbacks at the Super Bowl.
If he fails, he will fall from No. 5 on the all time QB list to No. 48. That's old warhorse sarcasm.
by Pat Imig
Cold Hard Football Facts Questionable Character (@patrickimig)
1. Richard Sherman: "What is your feeling on the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?"
2. Pete Carroll: "What kind of gum do you chew?"
3. John Fox: "What kind of gum do you chew? Have you ever dislocated your jaw from chewing too hard?"
4. Julius Thomas: "Why isn't your nickname Orange Julius?"
5. Peyton Manning: "Do you really drive a Buick?"
6. Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton: "Has Chris Christie tried to eat you or demanded you sit in a crock pot for eight hours?"
7. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: "Is there a double standard for fat jokes?"
8. Roger Goodell: "So, why is the NFL registered as a non-profit again?"
9. Percy Harvin: "How many fingers am I holding up? Who is the current President of the United States?"
10. John Fox: "What was it like preparing for the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXV as D Coordinator Super Bowl XXXVIII as Head Coach) knowing your starting quarterbacks were Kerry Collins and Jake Delhomme?"
11. Richard Sherman: "Do you think Skip Bayless is better at life than anyone?"
12. John Elway: "What do you think of Peyton Manning's brother, demanding a trade by the team he was drafted? Pampered prima donna, no?"
13. Marshawn Lynch: "Is beast-mode more dangerous and demeaning than thug-mode?"
14. Montee Ball: "You just dropped the microphone, want me to pick that up?"
15. Demaryius Thomas: "Do you ever spell your first name wrong?"
16. Earl Thomas: "Do you think Pete Carroll could break the same rules at Texas as he did at USC?"
17. Knowshon Moreno: "Renee Fleming will the National Anthem this Sunday … are you already tearing up?"
18. Russell Wilson: "Why are you so boringly perfect?"
19. Von Miller: "Does the weed affect you differently now that it's legal?"
20. Chris Berman: "Why are you soliciting interviews from the media?"
by Pat Imig
Cold Hard Football Facts Bastion of Football Freedom (@patrickimig)
It's the week of the biggest sporting event on the American sports calendar. While the football purists have to sift through longer TV timeouts and halftime shows featuring poppy musicians, the eyes and ears of the country will be tuned to the television on Sunday afternoon.
America's game has become an American celebration. Here are eight reasons American football is better than the American government. Put another way, here are reasons our brand of football is more "American" than our brand of government.
1. REAL PATRIOTISM
It's nice to see genuine patriotism and love of country from real people who are grateful for the blessings they have. The National Anthem is a great way to start American football.
Contrast that to the corporate suits and ties who convene for state of the union addresses and primary elections where everyone opposes one another, only to sleep in bed together when the lights are off. The joke appears to be on us … I'll take the football players thank you.
2. THE NFL ACTUALLY FOLLOWS ITS RULEBOOK
If the leaders of the country followed The Constitution the way Roger Goodell and NFL officials adhere to every nook, cranny and nuance of the NFL rulebook, there would be a lot more clarity in our every day lives, and a lot more respect for the people who hold office.
3. OFFICIAL REVIEWS TAKE MINUTES, NOT DAYS, WEEKS OR MONTHS
As much as it might pain fans to sit through a few-minute delay to ensure the play on the field was a fumble, it beats going to the DMV, among other things.
4. DEAD PEOPLE DON'T VOTE FOR AWARDS, PRO BOWL OR HALL OF FAME BALLOTS
Only people with a beating heart have a say in the Pro Bowl rosters. And when it comes to awards and inductions to Canton, Ohio, there are no dead writers contributing.
5. CRITICISM OF LEAGUE WON'T RESULT IN AUDITS OR SPYING (YET)
There's no targeting of fans who hoot and holler about tailgate regulations at the Super Bowl; likewise for those who want the game to return to a more physical, old-school style. A devout fan can even blast his own team's players and coaches if he or she feels like it with no fear of persecution. All opinions are protected under the umbrella of The League.
Boehner and Biden would be a lot more tolerable at those State of the Union Addresses with some U.S. cheerleaders decked in American flag colors.
7. FANS CAN MAKE MONEY OFF THE PLAYERS & TEAMS; GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS MAKE MONEY OFF FANS
Fantasy football and gambling is a serious money-maker (and money-loser). And while fans indirectly provide income for the players and teams by packing stadiums and purchasing jerseys and TV packages, it's by choice.
That's a lot better than the taxpaying citizen funding those lavish vacations and expensive travel taken by the First Familiy and their peers.
The only time these two points intersect is when the tax payer has to help fund a new stadium.
8. FOOTBALL FLYOVERS
The Flyover doesn't take place at inaugurations or other political celebrations. It does at the Super Bowl and kickoff weekends.
God Bless America.
Holy Crap. The shirts are blinding. Stare at Team Sanders' pregame polos long enough and you'll think you're looking at a Mario Paint sketch.
This has Deion Sanders written all over it.
Longtime New England Patriots assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia announced last week that he’s retiring, after a legendary career on NFL sidelines that spanned 32 seasons. He turns 66 on February 14.
Scarnecchia spent 30 of his 32 NFL seasons as a Patriots assistant, starting in 1982 under Ron Meyer, and surviving five additional coaching administrations.
His career included the best and worst of the organization’s history (Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick). Scarnecchia was the offensive line assistant for the Indianapolis Colts in 1989 and 1990.
He was on the sideline for all seven of New England's Super Bowl appearances (1985, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011).
Scarnecchia served as New England’s offensive line coach since 1999, a period during which he built it into the best and most consistent front five in the NFL – as measured by the Cold, Hard Football Facts Offensive Hog Index Index, one of our favorite Quality Stats.
We do not have Offensive Hog Index data dating back to 1999. We have it only from 2004, our debut season.
But over that 10-season period (2004-13), Scarnecchia’s offensive line was consistently the best in football, based upon annual average rank on the Offensive Hog Index.
NFL'S BEST OFFENSIVE LINES, BASED UPON OFFENSIVE HOG INDEX (2004-13)
Folks say football games are won in the trenches. So perhaps it's no coincidence that the Patriots produced 13 more wins than any other team in football during this period of Offensive Hog dominance, an average of more than one win per season better than any other team in football.
Scarnecchia's Offensive Hogs powered record offense
The Patriots in this decade also became the first an only franchise in pro football history to score 500 points four different seasons: 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Only 10 other teams have topped 500 points in a season once, and only three others have done it in multiple seasons:
- Denver Broncos (1998, 2013)
- New Orleans Saints (2009, 2011)
- St. Louis Rams (1999, 2000, 2001)
Our Offensive Hog Index tends to show bias toward teams with great quarterbacks, because it credits units that help passers keep down their mistakes. So it's no surprise to see at the top of the list teams largely led over this period by Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Still, the OHI also takes into account sack percentage, running ability and proficiency keeping drives alive.
And over this period, no Offensive Hogs in football were better and more consistent than Scarnecchia's unit in New England.
In fact, the Patriots topped the indicator twice and finished in the Top 10 of the Offensive Hog Index in nine of the last 10 years. The only exception was 2005, when the team went just 10-6, New England's worst record of the past decade.
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