Tag Archives: Florida State

Keeping Maclin, McCoy, Improving Secondary a Priority for Kelly

12 Jan

By Chris Murray
For The Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that Chip Kelly has assumed control of all the Eagles personnel decisions, the burden on him to win a championship has been increased exponentially.

Now the last time an Eagles head coach had that much control over the players he could bring in, do you remember the results?

Yes, it was four trips to the NFC title game including a Super Bowl appearance, a team that consistently stayed under the salary cap, a bizarre disregard for certain positions on defense and at the receiver position (except for one year with Terrell Owens) , a front-office power struggle, and a city without an NFL championship since 1960.

Under Andy Reid as head coach and head personnel guy, the Eagles were good, but were always a couple of pieces away from being a great team that could win a Super Bowl.

First and foremost, Kelly is going to have to find a general manager or player personnel guy that can find the players that he can trust that’s going to fit the profile he wants for his team.
It’s the NFL’s equivalent of a guy in charge of recruiting at the collegiate level; something Kelly has experience with during his days at Oregon.

Kelly will be in charge of the draft, trades and bringing in free agents while Howie Roseman, who was promoted to vice president for football operations, will responsible for signing the checks.

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie hopes that Kelly and Roseman can be on one accord unlike Reid and former team vice president Joe Banner. If there were a Salary Cap Bowl the Eagles would have been the greatest of all-time. On the field, the Eagles were a very good team, but couldn’t get over that championship hump.

The first priority for Kelly as “the man” will be to re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and restructuring LeSean McCoy’s contract.

Since he is now in charge of personnel decisions, suffice it to say he will be involved in making sure those guys stay in Philly.

Kelly would like to accomplish what New England’s Bill Belichick has accomplished as the man in charge of personnel with three Super Bowls. Seattle’s Pete Carroll who also has say-so over the players he chooses, has the Lombardi trophy on his mantle as well.

Fans are hoping that Kelly, unlike his predecessor, will bring in guys who are going to make a real impact on the defensive side of the ball. In the draft and in free agency, defense should be a major priority.

Instead of bringing in projects like former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith, Kelly needs to sign guys who are ready to make an impact now—whether it’s in the draft or free agency.

The Eagles need to get better in the secondary. Both cornerback Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen are going to be free agents. I don’t think Kelly is going to move heaven and earth to get those guys back nor should he do so.

Not since Brian Dawkins or even Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown have the Eagles had a secondary that covered anybody and put a hard hit on an opposing receiver.

At the collegiate level , some of the highly –touted stars include Michigan State’s redshirt junior corner Trae Waynes who played a lot of press coverage in the Spartans highly-touted defense the last two seasons, especially playing alongside Darquez Dennard, who had a solid rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFLDraftScout.com rated Waynes the No 1 cornerback in the country and is expected to be taken in the first round. If he’s available, the Eagles should draft him.

Before his season-ending knee injury, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpr-Olomu was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Ekpr-Olomu was so proficient as a cover corner that opposing quarterbacks rarely threw in his area. He had nine passes defended and two interceptions.

Because of the injury, Ekpr-Olomu’s stock will probably fall, but don’t be surprised if ends up with the Eagles because of Kelly’s affinity for former Oregon players.

Florida State has two good prospects at the cornerback P.J. Williams (74 tackles, one interception) and Ron Darby, who didn’t have an interception this last year, but the scouts seemed to like his speed at the cornerback position.

Top collegiate possibilities at the safety position are Alabama’s Landon Collins (6-0, 222) who has a reputation for being a heady, but physical safety, something the Eagles haven’t had in quite some time and Louisville’s Gerod Hollimon, a playmaking safety, something else the Birds haven’t had in a while.

In 2014, Hollimon had 14 interceptions by himself, more than the entire Eagles secondary this past season.

But if you don’t like the college guys, the 2015 free agent class in the secondary. The pickings at the safety position are slim. On some lists, New England’s Devin McCourty, who is considered a playmaker and has played at the cornerback position before switching to safety.  He had a huge interception in last Saturday’s playoff against Baltimore and allowed just one pass for 17 yards. He had 68 tackles and two interceptions during the regular season.

At the cornerback position, New England’s Darelle Revis is the top cornerback out there. Seattle’s Byron Maxwell, who had 39 tackles and two interceptions playing along side Richard Sherman, will be in the free agent market.  The question is will it be worth it for the birds to spend a lot of money for that position?

Kelly, Roseman and Lurie will all have to be on the same page—Easier said than done if you believe all the rumors of an apparent between Roseman and Kelly.

Like All 20-Somethings, FSU’s Jameis Winston Needs a Little Guidance

24 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jameis Winston has won a Heisman Trophy and led his team to a national championship, but has been involved in some highly publicized incidents. Photo courtesy of ABCNews.com.

Jameis Winston has won a Heisman Trophy and led his team to a national championship, but has been involved in some highly publicized incidents. Photo courtesy of ABCNews.com.

PHILADELPHIA-I’m going to start my column on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with a memory from my days as a 20-something student at Morgan State University, so bear with me.

Like a lot of college students, I mixed various extra-curricular activities such as working as a sports anchor at Morgan’s radio station WEAA, maintaining a part-time job, hitting the parties and checking out the ladies along with my classes. In other words, I was your basic college student.

While I had good grades, I also had a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to turn in assignments and get ready for tests.

It caught up to me one day in my Political Science class. I had to make a presentation and after two minutes of fumbling through a poorly prepared speech, my instructor, Professor Grant, decided that he’d had enough. He told me to sit down, chastised my presentation as an “abysmal failure” in front of all my classmates and left me feeling kind of embarrassed for the rest of the class period.

After class, Professor Grant took me and a friend out to lunch. He said that he expected more of me and that being unprepared on the job or in graduate school would lead to my feeling a whole lot worse than it did that day.

To his credit, Professor Grant allowed me to re-do the presentation. But even if he hadn’t, I couldn’t get mad at him because he was right. When he took me to the woodshed in public, it was something that my hard-headed self needed to have happen. It also lit a fire under me and made me remember to stay on top of things in all aspects of my life.

Now I admit that I didn’t have as much going for me as Winston, who has a Heisman Trophy and a national championship under his belt and led the No. 2 ranked Seminoles to a comeback win over Notre Dame last Saturday.

But I’ve been 20. I’ve been hardheaded. I’ve come real close to blowing it. And I’m hoping that Winston’s Professor Grant is on the way because if he doesn’t, things could get ugly.

While Winston has spent a lot of time on the sports pages, which is good, he’s also spent some time in the news section, which isn’t. Between an accusation of sexual assault for which he was never charged, shoplifting $32.00 worth of crab legs, yelling out obscenities in the Student Union, and an accusation of signing and selling autographs–a big no-no for the NCAA–Winston is getting a lot of the kind of attention that a skittish National Football League already reeling from the domestic violence and child abuse incidents of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice doesn’t want.

In fact, it’s attention that’s already impacting his draft status. NFL Draft pundits say Winston’s draft stock is falling because while his talent is first-round, his character is third or possibly fourth. When you play quarterback in the NFL you are the face of the franchise and the owners don’t like risking millions of dollars if you have a tendency to get in trouble.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who like Winston is from Bessemer, Alabama, tried to talk to him in the same emphatic way a parent would before the crab leg incident and didn’t mince words with the young man.

“I really don’t know who is giving this young man guidance. I have communicated with him and I just talked to him like I was his dad. The things that you need to do.,” Jackson said in SBNation. “Normally, I don’t like giving people advice if I haven’t been down that road myself. But if I give you advice on something that I know more about than you by just falling out of bed in the morning, if you can’t take that advice and learn from it, then I’ve got nothing else to do with the situation. You’re on your own.”

Jackson received some shade from Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and more than a few people on Facebook and Twitter because they felt Jackson was butting in unnecessarily or he was being too exacting on the kid.

But I’m not mad at Jackson for trying to be Winston’s Professor Grant. The purpose of ruffling Winston’s 20-something feathers a little bit to make him a better person and a better man. We need more “old heads” like Jackson to get into the face of kids like Winston to let them know that they still have a lot to learn about life.

Winston is on that athletic conveyer belt that New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden refers to in his book, “Forty-Million Dollar Slaves,” where sometimes the indiscretions and shortcomings of ball players are overlooked because of their athletic prowess.

That often times leads to trouble that athlete can’t always get themselves out of because no one dared to say, “No” or You can’t do this or that. We were all foolish 20-somethings once on some level and there was an older person—an uncle, aunt, cousin, or some other mentor to light a fire under our rear ends to make us better people.

I have seen far too many talented young people, especially young African-American males, with the world in front of them make too many bad decisions that ended up costing them their careers and even their lives.

I covered the story of the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, who had no history of getting into trouble, but made one bad decision, using cocaine, that cost him his life.

It was one of the toughest stories I’ve had to cover in my journalistic career because it didn’t have to happen.

While many scoff at the whole idea of a “village” being needed to raise a child, I believe it’s true. I don’t know Winston personally, but I get the impression that at his core he’s a good kid in need of some guidance. His problem is one of maturity more than anything else.

I just hope that he finds someone who is strong enough to tell him the truth and help him grow as a man.

I hope he finds his Professor Grant.

FBS Should Have a 16-Team Playoff to Determine the National Championship

20 Dec
Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

PHILADELPHIA—A couple of years ago, I wrote a column for this blog about the need for the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS—aka  Division I-A) to have a 16-team playoff.

https://thechrismurrayreport.org/2009/12/24/once-and-for-all-there-needs-to-be-a-playoff-in-fbs-div-1-a/#comments

The automatic bids would go out to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences. Six at-large bids would go out to the highest ranked non-conference champions, according to the final Bowl Championship Series poll of the regular season.

The opening-round and quarterfinal games might be played at the home of the highest seeded team or at the existing bowl sites. Semifinal and championship games would be played at the major BCS bowl sites on a rotating basis.

As a disclaimer, I am probably not the only one who has come up with this idea and so I am not seeking a patent. If you got a better plan, put it out there.

To accommodate final exams for the student-athletes, I would start the first-round games a week before Christmas. Most universities are either finished or close to finishing up exams by that point in December.

The playoffs, even if there’s a two-week delay between the semifinals and the championship game would end by mid-January—when most students would be coming back from the winter break.

Meanwhile, if your team doesn’t make the playoffs and has a good season, they can still go to a postseason bowl game. It would be the football equivalent of college basketball’s National Invitation Tournament—which is kind of what we have now in college football with the plethora of bowl games.

Even with next year’s four-team playoff on the horizon for next year, I still believe there needs to be a 16-team playoff.  On one hand, I think the four-team playoff is a step in the right direction because sooner or later it’s going to expand to eight and then to 16. It may take a few years, but it will get there eventually.

If there is an expanded playoff, it will no doubt make tons of money for those institutions—some of which should go to the student athletes putting their bodies on the line to play in those games.  In other words, they should pay the athletes in the revenue producing sports just on general principle, but that’s another column.

Bracketology College Football Style

So what if he we had a 16-team playoff THIS year? As we said earlier, your automatic bids would go to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences.  The at-large teams would be the six highest ranked non-conference champions in the final regular-season BCS poll.

According to the final 2013 BCS rankings, the six highest ranked teams without a conference championship are: No. 3 Alabama; No. 7 Ohio State; No. 8 Missouri; No.9 South Carolina; No. 10 Oregon and No. 11 Oklahoma.

In the round of the 16, ACC champion and No. 1 seed Florida State would play No.16  Louisiana-LaFayette, champions of the Sun Belt (UL-L had the same record as Arkansas State but beat them head-to-head).

FSU would beat Louisiana LaFayette and in the quarterfinals they would face the winner of eight-seed Missouri versus No. 9 seed South Carolina—I would pick Missouri to win that game.

An intriguing matchup in the first round would be Big-10 title-holder and No. 4 Michigan State and the nation’s best defense versus No. 13-seed and Mountain West standard bearer Fresno State, with their high-powered offense. If you believe defense wins championships, Spartans would probably win.

That would be a dangerous matchup for Michigan State with the way the Bulldogs can put points on the board.

The 5-12 matchup would be a tough fight. Pac-12 champ Stanford as the No. 5 seed versus American Athletic Conference champion and No. 12-seed University of Central Florida would be a heck of a contest. It’s another game that could go either way. Stanford would be the more physical team, in my opinion, and  would probably win.

In the quarterfinals—Florida State would overwhelm Mizzou while No. 4 Michigan State toughs out a physical contest with Stanford to face FSU in the semifinals. The Seminoles would beat the Spartans to get to the title game.

On the other end of the bracket, SEC champion and No. 2 seed Auburn would easily defeat No. 15- seed and Mid-America Conference champion Bowling Green.  In a game that could probably go either way, No. 7 Ohio State would probably be upset by No. 10 Oregon. Since both of these teams are lacking in defense, this is a pick-‘em game.

Meanwhile, No. 3 Alabama would easily run over No. 14 seed and Conference USA champ Rice.  Big 12 champion and No. 6-seed Baylor would beat No. 11-seed Oklahoma—another one of those games that could go either way.

In the quarterfinals, Oregon versus Auburn would be a game of whoever has the ball last wins since neither team is really that great on defense. The Tigers would beat a Ducks team that wasn’t all that sure of itself at the end of the season.  The Crimson Tide would rough up the Bears and would beat Auburn or Oregon to get to the national title game.

In the national championship, I believe that Florida State and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston would be slightly better than Alabama. The Seminoles would take home the trophy.

I know some of the big conferences would complain about the idea of having to share the wealth with the smaller conferences. Even worse, I can almost hear the bigger conferences saying their fourth and fifth team is better than the champion of the Mountain West.

Every so often, we have teams from small conferences beating the big boys from the so-called bigger conferences. What harm is it to give those kids a fair shot at the title by including them in football’s big dance? Are big conferences afraid that a team from the MAC or the Sun Belt might upset an SEC team or an ACC squad?

I don’t know if this plan is perfect, it’s not.  Whatever plan or scheme they come up with, I hope it’s fair to the student athletes and their well-being, gives all FBS schools a chance to participate without big conference bias and gives those smaller to mid-level programs that one shot to slay Goliath on a big stage.