The Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers (even after the game against the Saints this past week), are probably the two best defenses in the NFL, with the statistics to prove it. Carolina has allowed a grand total of 14.46 points per game, and Seattle has allowed 15.78 points. One of the amazing things about these numbers, is how different both defenses play the game. Carolina is built on a pass rush and stuffing the run. The Seahawks are built on the best secondary in the NFL. Luke Keuchly is establishing himself, for the Panthers, as one of the best young linebackers in football. Richard Sherman, for Seattle, may be the best corner back in the NFL. It's exciting to watch teams play defense the way these two have, not to mention the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, just to name a few, but we are instead inundated with stories about offense and quarterbacks.
All week, I have heard story after story about the Redskins electing to make Robert Griffin III inactive for the remainder of the season. They have broken down the decision, questioned the intelligence (and motives) of the coach and front office, discussed the effect it may have on Griffin's psyche, debated the causes for Griffin's regression from last season, and generally "beat a dead horse," for a full week. Griffin is the quarterback for a 3-10 team, that is every bit of that record. They don't play defense very well, the running game hasn't been as effective as it was last year, Griffin hasn't been very good in, or out, of the pocket, and they have been one of the worst teams in the NFL. There is an overwhelming tendency to focus on stories about players and teams that I like to refer to as, media darlings. As an East Coast team, which also resides in the capital of the United States, the Redskins fit the bill. The media also made a huge deal about Griffin's performance last season, comparing him to some of the best to ever play, on a consistent basis. On Thursday night, during the pregame for the Broncos-Chargers game, at least five minutes (which is a lot in TV time) was dedicated to, although it seemed to be significantly more, talking about the Washington Redskins quarterback situation, specifically Robert Griffin. Where does Robert Griffin fit into a pregame discussion about the Denver Broncos playing the San Diego Chargers? Your guess is as good as mine, but I do know it annoyed me so much, I turned on MLB Network every time I heard the story come up again. With the copious amount of stories that exist in the NFL, for that matter on the Washington Redskins specifically, there is no good reason to focus so much on a quarterback that was moved to the bench.
There have been numerous issues with referees, not just bad pass interference calls or anything as mundane and simple, but unacceptable and blatant disregard of the rules. There are teams, such as the Cincinnati Bengals, being overlooked, even though they have a legitimate chance at taking the number two seed from New England. The race for the sixth seed in the AFC, is going to come down to the wire, no matter who ends up taking the spot. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, after playoff seasons a year ago, came into 2013 with high expectations, and have not only failed at meeting those expectations, they have both had abysmal seasons on offense and defense. Defensive players, including the aforementioned Luke Keuchly and Richard Sherman, and also guys like Justin Houston and Earl Thomas, are adapting to, and taking advantage of, the pass-happy game the NFL has turned into, while overcoming some serious disadvantages in rule enforcement. Teams that are perennially bad, are just as interesting as teams that are perennially good. It isn't easy to be constantly bad in this NFL, but there many teams, such as the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, that have been the stepping stones of the league for many years, and the analysis of why is just as interesting as the analysis of teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Many of these stories are overlooked by the majority of sports networks, and websites, because they have driven the focus towards specific players and teams, with special attention paid to the position that has been dubbed "all-important," the quarterback.
We had constant coverage of the Aaron Hernandez case, and the Jonathan Martin bullying "saga," but the players who play the game, and live life, the right way, get a five-minute package once in awhile... If they're lucky. Rules within the game, have put defensive players at a disadvantage, before talent even becomes relevant. The major networks hold the technology and capability to cover this game in all of its glory, but they instead slant their analysis for an agenda, and saturate their coverage with repetitive stories. Instead of spending the majority of the time they have, on a 24-hour television station, talking about the majority of players, they spend most of their time talking about the same players over and over again, while the rest of the players are all but invisible.
I have heard multiple "experts" say that Russell Wilson and Cam Newton are having "MVP-type seasons." I cringe when I hear this, not because I believe Wilson and Newton are bad quarterbacks, they are both very good young quarterbacks, with bright futures ahead, but their respective teams, are winning on the back of the defense. Even if you work off of the misguided notion that the quarterback is responsible for everything the offense does, neither player is the most valuable to his team. Both teams have strong running games, which helps keep their strong defenses well-rested, and it makes passing the ball easier. In today's NFL, scoring 16 points is almost considered to be easy. Two touchdowns, or three field goals and a touchdown, will win a game in which you only need 16 points. A great defense, makes it much easier to be a successful offense. If a player isn't even the Most Valuable Player, for his own team... How can he possibly be considered the Most Valuable Player of the entire NFL? It doesn't make sense. There are 53 players on every team, and there are 22 starters for every game each team plays, there are no individuals, that are solely responsible for the success, or lack of success, a team may have in a game or season.
Football is a beautiful sport, it's also a brutal sport, but much of the beauty exists in the brutality. Football is a simple sport, with complex strategies designed to determine a winner. There are rules being put in place, which not only change the sport, but hurt the sport, and these things aren't covered, or talked about beyond a brief mention. Is it possible that people really would prefer to see stories about big market teams and players? Maybe, but if that is the case, I'd like to understand why. Why is it so difficult to cover football in a manner that teaches, rather than influences? Why are individuals considered more interesting, and important, than the entire team?