By Hamish Girvan
The 2021 version of NFL kicks off this Friday NZ time with the traditional first game always being last season’s Super Bowl champions hosting an opponent. This year the Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers face America’s team – The Dallas Cowboys.
Up until the season start the off season has been dominated by those individuals who play in one of the highest paid positions in global sports – the quarterback
The main media story has been dominated by last season’s MVP, the Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rogers. Rogers quite publicly stated he was not happy with some of the back office management and some of the personnel decisions on the team and started indicating he may not come back to the team. Eventually returning for pre-season training his first media conference went about naming players who had been released against his view, that in hindsight were mistakes for the overall team success in his eyes, and also how he wanted to be involved in decisions in terms of signing or trading players in the future. Not many sports stars have been this brutally raw or honest in front of the media against their employers. Whether Rogers stays past this season in Green Bay will no doubt form next season’s off season speculation.
There are a number of other quarterback storylines hitting the headlines.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected the unanimous no.1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence, a college superstar from Clemson as their offensive leader in this year’s draft. The step up from college to the pro level can be daunting and it’s too early to say if Lawrence will be a success yet. Playing for a team that will overachieve if they get any more than 5 wins this season will be tough however being coached by rookie NFL head coach Urban Meyer, whose success at college level cannot be overlooked, will provide the scrutiny that he probably doesn’t need at this stage of his career. Prediction 5 wins.
In terms of player comebacks, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who unfortunately broke his ankle in the early stages of last season, will be another player whose season could go either way. Dynamic in the 2019 season big things were expected however his injury and the signing a bumper contract has only led to more talk of “how good is he actually?”. Unfortunately, an injury setback already (in his shoulder) is not the start of season preparation Dak needs. His Dallas Cowboys teams are continually given high profile media attention and Cowboy fans have the highest of expectations compared to most other teams – however they usually under deliver. The traditional pre season series Hard Knocks featured the Cowboys this year. See it for yourself and decide how good they will perform. Prediction – a 5 win season.
At the other end of the scale are to quarterbacks whose upside is starting to become undone by their own personal actions.
The Houston Texans Quarterback, Deshaun Watson, has publicly declare he no longer wishes to remain with the team however with 22 lawsuits of sexual assault and misconduct during various massage sessions he had it’s hard to see any other team wanting him. His erratic participation in pre-season training also does not help. The Definition of dumpster fire in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence.” Step up the Houston Texans – Prediction 4 wins
At the other end of the field is the Indianapolis Colts – a proud franchise that looked as though this could be the season they kicked on from reaching the playoffs last season. Trading for Carson Wentz, who was selected 2nd in the 2016 NFL draft, from the Philadelphia Eagles, has had his share of injury heartbreak however his “personal” decision not be vaccinated against Covid-19 may place his team at risk during the season with the strict Covid-19 protocols the league have put in place. The Colts have had one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated players in the NFL and with a very fluid situation of players risking being close contacts of others with Covid, there could be some consequences if any games have to be forfeited due to any outbreak within a team. This is a team sport at the end of the day. Prediction 7 wins.
There is also speculation that New England Patriots Quarterback Cam Newton was released for a similar non vaccination stance, however the organisations team line was around his form in practice and in pre season being the reason for his departure. It seems as though the real reason is being carefully masked (excuse the pun). Rookie Mac Jones will be under centre for the team from New England and with one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, Bill Belichick, running the show you’d have some faith he knows what he’s doing. Prediction – 10 wins.
Just remember – there are only 64 Quarterbacks suiting up each weekend in the NFL (32 will start weekly – some will never throw a pass all season) so with that number so low of course they will get some media airtime during the season. It’s not an easy position to slot into.
The NFL in New Zealand, outside of a NFL Gamepass subscription, can be seen on Spark Sport, who will stream 3 live games every Monday plus game highlights and analysis pieces and also ESPN who broadcast the traditional Sunday and Monday Night Football games (Monday PM and Tuesday PM NZ time) and other live games on a Monday morning.
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