PONTICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATES – NOVEMBER 29
By Leo Haggerty

SAD DAY FOR THE SHIELD

I was told that you are never to start a column with a question but this is the exception to that rule.  Did the National Football League make the right decision in allowing the Denver Broncos to play the New Orleans Saints without the benefit of what the league decided was a healthy quarterback for the Ponies?

This was due to the fact that QB Jeff Driskel tested positive during the week and the other three signal-callers (Drew Lock and Brett Rypien along with Blake Bortles) were deemed unable to play due to their close proximity to him which put them in the NFL contact tracing protocol.

So, the Ponies were forced to elevate former Wake Forest quarterback Kendall Hinton from the Denver practice squad, where he was a wide receiver, to start at QB with a day’s notice.  Hilton returned to the Broncos facility after practice on Saturday for extra reps as well as to study a set of 30 plays that he would run.

I would really like to tell you that there’s a happy ending to this scenario but there isn’t.  New Orleans rolled to a 31-3 trouncing of the Broncos in one of the most one-sided and non-competitive contests in NFL history.  In fact, the Vegas Money Line (which is what you have to bet to get $100 back if you took the favorite) had skyrocketed to $1,450 if you took the Saints and if you thought the Ponies would win you would get $880 for you $100 wager.  That’s as lopsided a spread as I have ever seen in my close to 60 years of following the NFL.

Hinton’s stat line was predictable for someone who had never lined up under center in an NFL contest.  He was 1-of-9 for 13 yards and 0TDs plus 2 INTs.

To add insult to injury,

Denver only ran 43 plays.  That added up to 112 yards of total offense with 100 of that on the ground.  The Broncos were a paltry 1-of-10 on third down and were only able to move the chains six times the entire tilt

I want to give the Saints credit here too.  New Orleans could have easily put 50 or more points on the board but HC Sean Peyton took his foot off the gas and didn’t rub the Broncos nose in the dirt.

That lead me back to my original query.  Should this game have been played?  Not no but hell, no.

Let’s just look at what has transpired before this game with another NFL franchise in a similar predicament, shall we.  You will quickly see a huge discrepancy in the NFL decision making process.

The Baltimore Ravens, scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in an AFC showdown Thanksgiving night, had their tilt moved to Sunday evening due to numerous outbreaks of Covid-19 among the Black Birds players and staff with one being QB Lamar Jackson.  With more positive coronavirus positive cases being reported, the NFL moved the contest again to 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

This precipitated another schedule change.  The Ravens, scheduled to host the Cowboys Thursday night, was rescheduled for Monday night December 7th at 5 p.m. if all goes well for the previous week’s game.

The dictate that came down from the NFL as it applies to the Ravens is a far cry from the decision the league made for the Broncos.  The game could have easily been moved to Tuesday as well so Denver could have at least been competitive with one or more of the quarterbacks available to play.

All this did was show the true colors of the NFL hierarchy.  First, there are certain teams that get preferential treatment because of their brand and/or their players. Does anyone think, if this situation had happened to the Packers or the Chiefs, that the game would have been played?  Not a snowball’s chance in you know where of that happening.

Second, and this is the one that is really going to give the league a bad rap, it just proves what most knowledgeable fans and media members had already surmised. The NFL is beholding to the television networks and will do whatever the TV executives tell the league to do.

All this did was show all the fans of pro football, vividly and without question, that the color of the NFL is green with a lot of dead presidents on it.  Forget about competitive balance when it comes to the almighty dollar.

We saw that currency always trumps everything when it comes to the NFL and that’s a sad thing. In my opinion, this is going to put a huge stain on The Shield that may be tough to remove.