Rookie Season Wrap-Up

The 2012 NFL season ended last Sunday for the Indianapolis Colts. We had high expectations for the team in the Playoffs, and obviously we were disappointed walking off the field after a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Playing the Ravens was an interesting match-up for our team for a few reasons:

1. Battling Brothers:

-Andrew Luck, Delano Howell, and I played under Jim Harbaugh for most of our college careers. Jim’s brother, John Harbaugh is the Head Coach of the Ravens.

-We also played with a wide receiver at Stanford named John Flacco. John’s brother, Joe Flacco is the starting QB for the Ravens.

2. Going back (to a former) “Home”

Coach Pagano was previously the Defensive Coordinator at the Ravens before becoming the Head Coach of the Colts.

3. Ray’s “Last Ride”

It was the last game of Ray Lewis. Regardless of your feeling toward Lewis as an individual, it still made for a very exciting football atmosphere.

4. The Baltimore Colts

The Indianapolis Colts were formerly the Baltimore Colts. The team moved abruptly, and for a long time Baltimore fans felt spurned. Until last year (coincidentally the team was the worst in the NFL at the time), the Ravens never recognized the Colts as the opposing team on the scoreboard. Rather, it was always shown as Indianapolis vs. Ravens.

 

GAME OVER

Just before kick-off we were informed that Coach Arians, our offensive coordinator, was in the hospital and the preliminary tests showed that he was doing well. Obviously, this can throw a team for a loop, but with all the other surprises along the way this year, we could not have been more prepared for a situation like this. In the end, it was not getting in the end zone at the end of drives that ended our season: missed plays on offense that we could/should have made.

At the end of the game, the Ravens put in Ray Lewis as a tailback in their victory formation. He proceeded to dance as the last seconds ticked off the clock, and the crowd loved it. Internally I was divided. The competitor inside me felt a little disrespected. The fan inside me watched in awe as Lewis commanded the eyes and cheers of every person in the stadium.

 

ODDS and ENDS

1. Congratulations to Tom Telesco for earning the General Manager position at the San Diego Chargers. They could not have hired a better guy. Does this mean that Coach Arians has the inside track for their head coaching position? Maybe. To be honest, I have no insider information whatsoever on the topic. I wish I did, it might dictate how much of the playbook I would be studying in the near future. I’ll be watching ESPN just like everybody else to learn of coaching changes in the NFL If Coach Arians wants to be a Head Coach, I hope he gets that opportunity. I think that he has proved that he can be successful.

2. College football teams should be on the field during the National Anthem. In high school… the teams are on the field. In the NFL… the teams are on the field. I don’t understand why college football teams are not out there with their hands over their hearts. Until told otherwise, I’ll blame the NCAA. Not paying players AND not letting them be on the field for the National Anthem?! Something must be done about this.

3. I haven’t decided whether or not I will watch football this weekend. Yes, it’s partially sour grapes, but it is also due to the fact that I’ve probably watched a few seasons worth of games already for my “job”. Believe it or not, it’s not as enjoyable to watch football games when you’re forced to watch (and you’re not on your couch in your underwear).

 

Chip Kelly in the NFL, Offseason Learning

CAN CHIP KELLY SUCCEED IN THE NFL? 

At this point I would say it is almost certain that the head coach of the Oregon Ducks will be moving on to an NFL team in the near future. The combination of many NFL head coaching vacancies, and his last foray into almost being an NFL coach, lead me to believe he will make the jump.

Kelly has been successful in his last two jobs (New Hampshire and Oregon), mostly due to the creative variations of the spread offense that he has helped develop throughout this time. In his transition to the NFL, I do not think that he can completely bring this scheme with him and be successful. Some aspects will work. Some will not. We saw the Ducks lose to a disciplined, and very talented (yes, I am biased. The statistics are not.) Stanford Cardinal team this year that dashed their hopes of another shot at the BCS title game (they lost to Auburn in the BCS Championship after the 2010 season). 

We’ve seen Robert Griffin III be successful using similar schemes this year in the NFL, so I’m not saying it can’t work. I just don’t think it will be as effective. Regardless, the best head coaches in the NFL understand that hiring bright coordinators, and motivating their team are key parts undertaken by the head coach (often more than play-calling or scheming for opponents, though they obviously have the power to give input if they desire). In this regard, I think Kelly can be successful. I have not seen him work on a daily basis, but I have been on teams that have lost to him (multiple times in fact). His teams are well prepared, and are especially tough after they make halftime adjustments (see 2010 Stanford @ Oregon).

There are many factors that will decide Kelly’s eventual success or lack thereof: the team that hires him, the talent level on the team, schemes, coaching hires, etc. I just hope I don’t have to watch him make defenses look as silly as he did in the college ranks.

SEMI-FOOTBALL RELATED

Believe it or not, there are things that I enjoy outside of football. They seem few and far between because of my time commitments to football, but in my first NFL offseason, I would like to do more of the following:

Read Books: I actually enjoy reading. However, I feel like my free time is better spent watching film or being proactive in the training/weight rooms during the season. When I do get a moment or two before going to sleep, I’m currently reading “The Talent Code”, a very interesting book about how talent is developed in anything from playing an instrument to playing on the pitch (for American readers who don’t have a quarterback who once lived in Europe and still loves soccer… a “pitch” is also known as a soccer field).

Read Tech Websites: I’m a nerd (I also happen to be a dork, but that’s less about my choice in blog reading, and more about my overall personality/sense of humor). For example, I was recently reading THIS (http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone) about how Ubuntu is now available for smartphones. Huh? Ubuntu is an operating system. Huh? Ok, think Microsoft Windows or Apple iOS. Still huh-ing? A Google search is probably your best bet at this point. If you don’t know what that means, hand the phone/computer back to your son or daughter, and they’ll help you out. Mom, if you’re reading this, click the big arrow pointing left to go back to Facebook. 😉 At some point I would really like to learn to code using computer languages. We’ll see if I have the time or patience for that…

Learn More Business Jargon: I’d like to run my own business someday when I am finished with football. I have basic knowledge of macro and microeconomics (despite my grades in the classes offered at Stanford), but want to better understand how to improve a company on a day-to-day basis. I actually applied to a program offered by the NFL to learn about Entrepreneurship and Business Management. My fingers are crossed that I’ll be accepted. Hopefully this desire will also cross over into my plan to read more books. Have a suggestion? I’d love to read about it in the comments or you can tell me via Twitter @CobyFleener.

Relax: Rookie year is tough. Not because the game is faster, or the hits are harder (both of which are true), but because from the start of your final season in college through your rookie year in the NFL, there are no breaks mentally or physically. Something extremely important is always looming in the near future: games that will be watched by scouts and impact your draft status, the NFL Combine, your pro day, the NFL Draft, Rookie Mini camps, OTAs, Camp, and FINALLY YOUR ROOKIE SEASON! Oh yeah, and the majority of that stuff occurs while you’re still trying to finish college! The “rookie wall” is basically mental fatigue; it makes it more understandable when you think about a rookie year being made up of two seasons combined.

Side Note: Apparently players used to play in both the NFL (during the Fall) and USFL (during the Spring). This was an impressive feat both mentally and physically.

ODDS and ENDS 

1. Congratulations to the Stanford Cardinal for winning the Rose Bowl. That’s three straight BCS games, and MORE IMPORTANTLY had an 84% Federal Graduation Rate (according to http://stanford.scout.com/2/1183346.html <<Read that if you’re wondering where your son should play college football).

2. This weeks practices have been on the turf fields (outdoors on Wednesday, indoors on Thursday) in preparation for playing in Baltimore. Despite being inside on Thursday, the opening of the large garage doors made it quite cold.

3. Driving in the snow for the first time in over five years has made me thankful my vehicle has 4 wheel drive! 

4. Playing in freezing weather makes me think that all NFL stadiums North of… Miami should have retractable roofs like Lucas Oil Stadium.

 

Shepherd Shopping Night

During walk-through on the Wednesday before our first game with the Houston Texans, I walked up to Andrew Luck and Drew Stanton, who were already discussing something. When I walked up, Stanton asked Luck, “Hey, did you invite Coby?” Andrew looked at me, then back to Drew and said, “No.” If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know that it’s quite awkward. I realized the nature of the situation, and proceeded to explain that we could just pretend that it didn’t happen, and I wouldn’t be offended for not being invited to whatever they were discussing. Stanton chuckled, and told me not to worry, and that they had been discussing a charity event they were both planning on attending. Thankfully there was no limit on the invites, so the awkwardness was quickly resolved.

On that Friday, I got to partake in a really cool experience. Many players showed up to a large department store, were paired up (I was paired up with Griff Whalen, a wide receiver from Stanford), given gift cards, and told to take some of the children that were there from Shepherd Community Center (which sounds like a pretty awesome program, and I plan on doing more research on in the future) and go shopping with them. Each kid was given a gift card and told they could get whatever they wanted within the budget.

My group, as most did, went straight to the electronics department in an effort to get there before certain items were sold out. Shopping with the kids was more fun than I expected.  My group got split up, so in an effort to find something for two girls in my group, I took them to the women’s section. I didn’t want them to go home empty handed, and didn’t know the rules as to whether or not they could take the remainder of their gift card home with them. I felt like an awkward salesman, outside of his department, and working on commission. I was suggesting anything I could pick up. Outside of my ineptitude in women’s clothing shopping, I was actually having fun.

It was amazing to see the things that the kids chose to use their gift cards on. The choices ranged from books, to movies, to shoes, and toys. It was amazing to watch these kids come back to the card with such a variety of things. One girl in particular was being very conscientious of the amount she was allotted, and had used all of the money to buy gifts for her family members. She didn’t have a single thing in the cart for herself! She knew that she wouldn’t have any money left for herself, and wasn’t worried about it. Fortunately, we were able to work it out where she got a little something for herself.

I’ve heard stories of this happening, and each time it would tug on my heartstrings to hear the kindness of the child. When I saw it up close, I couldn’t help but smile. It seems like this attitude of putting others first is being lost more and more these days. We whine and cry about the things we don’t have. I know I am guilty of this. I hope that I can have the mindset of that little girl more often, and put others first. Regardless of your religious preference, I think we can agree that the world would be a better place if we just treated people the way that we would want to be treated. I understand that there must be winners and losers in much of our world; heck every Sunday my paycheck depends on winning or losing. However, for a little girl who could have easily taken this opportunity to win something small for herself, she decided that it was more meaningful to let her family get the W. Kudos to her for that.

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(Some of the Colts players get introduced before the night of shopping)

ODDS and ENDS

            -With a win at Kansas City, the Indianapolis Colts are now playoff bound!

            -I have a mini list for the Pro Bowl:

                        1. Congrats to Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis for getting elected.

                        2. It would be an honor to be elected.

                        3. It’s amazing to me that Andrew Luck did not get elected.

                        4. Guys still want to get elected as the best amongst their peers.

                        5. Guys still want to go to Hawaii.

                        6. NOBODY wants to get injured in the game. Doesn’t help them individually or their team. Maybe they could make it into a skills competition or something?

            -Coach Pagano returned to practice this week with renewed energy and excitement. His time away has made for a lot of pent up coaching. I love having him on the practice field.

            -When Coach was gone, we broke every team huddle with, “1,2,3… Chuck!” Now that he is back, some guys have struggled getting back into being creative and coming up with their own breakdown. This has been a bit awkward when Chuck is in the huddle with us… he deserves every one of them though, so it’s not a big deal.