Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rick Cleveland: The game is a'changing

So much about professional football has changed and evolved since this writer first began to watch in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

For one thing, holding is seemingly legal now for offensive linemen but not for defensive backs. And that has led to the game becoming pass first, run second rather than vice versa. The old saying was that when you throw the football, three things can happen and two of them are bad. But when offensive linemen can hold and defensive backs can't, it is much less likely for those bad things to happen.

Vince Lombardi's championship Packers teams pounded you and pounded you on the ground. The teams that win the Lombardi Trophy these days are more likely to throw the ball over you.

The 51st Super Bowl will feature two of the game's best throwers, Tom Brady of New England and Matt Ryan of Atlanta. Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns in the Falcons' NFC Championship Game conquest of Green Bay. Brady threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots' pasting of Pittsburgh.

Contrast that with this: Winning quarterback Bart Starr threw the ball just 24 times and gained 228 yards passing in the first Super Bowl way back when. Ryan and Brady likely will throw the ball that many times each before halftime of the upcoming Super Bowl.

What struck this writer in Sunday's championship game was the evolution of the pro football pass receiver over the last half century. All players at all positions are bigger than they were back then but wide receivers may have changed the most.

It really struck home in the third quarter of the NFC game when Atlanta's Julio Jones caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 73-yard touchdown. First, he manhandled a defensive back at the line of scrimmage, then he caught the ball and shed a would-be tackler, almost as if brushing away a pesky gnat. Then, a few yards later, he stiff-armed a safety to the ground. And then he raced down the sidelines, faster than anyone else, for a touchdown.

Now then, here's the deal: Jones is listed at 6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds. He looks like he might be 6-4 and 240. He has muscles on top of muscles. He's bigger and stronger than the guys who cover him. He is also faster.

John Mackey of the Baltimore Colts was the prototypical tight end of 1960s. He was big and strong and fast. He was also 6-2 and weighed 224. I know because I looked it up. That's about the average size of a wide receiver these days.

Your typical wide receiver 50 years ago was more like Harold Jackson, of Hattiesburg and Jackson State – and what a splendid player he was. He caught passes for more than 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns in his so-highly productive career. Harold, or Sunny as he was called, was 5-10 and weighed 175 pounds after a really big meal.

Julio Jones would seemingly make two of Harold Jackson. And Jones is hardly alone in bringing height and muscle to the position in the modern game. Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 218), Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236), Anquan Bolden (6-1, 223), Andre Johnson (6-3, 226), Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230) and Saints rookie Michael Thomas (6-3, 210) are just a few of the guys who combine speed, muscle and leaping ability in this new generation of receivers. Remember, defensive backs are not allowed to touch them after they are five yards past the line of scrimmage. It's impossible really.

This modern breed of receiver makes cornerback the most difficult position in pro football. Safety isn't a walk in the park either because safeties usually hit these super-sized receivers after they have reached full speed. That can't be fun. It's like tackling a speeding truck.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

Trump touted his federal hiring freeze much to the joy of ultra right followers. However, he didn't mention that the freeze doesn't apply to political appointments. Looks like the swamp will be restocked.

Anonymous said...

Dims so upset these days they can't even post their comments under the right topic.

Anonymous said...

Like all professional sports football has sought the dollars from those people who don't really understand or like the game. Those people know one thing...scoring. They like the home run, the dunk, the 3 pointer, anything that results in an exciting score. So the owners changed the rules. It didn't help that the owners making the most money (see Cowboys) championed the philosophy of selling the game to masses no matter what. The other owners took notice and now the game is just a scoring fest. The NFL rules the roost so high schools and colleges have followed suit. The trend will continue until the games become so watered down and uncompetitive that fans start to desert for some other sport offering better bang for the buck. (See MMA vs boxing)

Anonymous said...

@11:01am I'm already tired of the JFP crowd's whining about Trump. Not sure how I'll be able to deal with it over the next 8 years.

Anonymous said...

11:25. You are correct. The rules restricting what is a legal tackle vs. spearing, vs. all the other options is already taking place. Just like at the Black Bears up North. They gave up tackling this year altogether just so they could be ahead of the game when it is all ruled to be illegal and result in penalties.

Anonymous said...

9:18 is right.
Trump legalized holding in the NFL.
Trump mandated the NFL receivers to be bigger than safetys.
Trump disenfranchised cornerbacks so they have the most difficult jobs of all defensive players.
Tom Brady's and the New England Patriots domination of the NFL over the past 15 years is clearly the result of Donald Trumps oppressive policies over the last five days.

Vote for Hillary in 2020 so everyone can get a trophy!

Anonymous said...

the next 8 years.

HA! I saw what you did there!!!! Nice dig.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS