Category: NFL (Page 1 of 7)


The great Lenny Dawson died last night at the age of 87. The Hall of Fame quarterback took the Kansas City Chiefs to two Super Bowls, beating the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, the last football game played by the old AFL. I’m wearing my Len Dawson #16 football jersey today. For at least a couple of reasons.

The Chiefs have always been my second favorite football team. Remember, they began life as the Dallas Texans of the rival American Football League, sharing the Cotton Bowl with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and competing with the Cowboys for fans and tickets and money. Both teams were so miserable during those early years, Texans owner Lamar Hunt once challenged Cowboys owner Clint Murchison to a head-to-head football game between the Texans and Cowboys, and “the winner gets to leave town.” Hunt did move his Texans to Kansas City where he renamed them the Chiefs and won a couple of AFL titles and, eventually, that Super Bowl with Dawson at quarterback. I’ve always felt a connection with the Chiefs because of their origins in my hometown. They’re from Dallas and I want them to succeed.

I’m also a huge fan of the old NFL Films and that Super Bowl IV in 1970 was the first time a head coach had been wired up for the championship game. Hank Stram stole the show with his one-liners and quips, most famously his exhortation to “Lenny” to “keep matriculating the ball down the field!”

That quote became the line that bonded me forever to a friend at the Legacy Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Chris Drake. Love the Drake. He called me Lenny or Leonard because, in his view, I was trying to move our church, trying to get us somewhere, trying to grow our faith outside our Sunday assemblies and grow our vision to include the Kingdom outside our walls. He could sense I had a passion and a plan. He could also sense that it would be tough at Legacy. So he encouraged me with “keep matriculating the ball down the field.” One yard at a time. One play at a time.

Drake called me Leonard all the time. Lenny. “Keep matriculating the ball down the field.” This is how he encouraged me when he knew things were rough. Continually. “Pump it in there, baby. Set ’em up for the 65 Toss Power Trap.” Constant encouragement. True friendship. “Work for it, wait for it, them drop it on ’em. One play at a time. One yard at a time.”

After a couple of setbacks with resistant elders and grumpy members, Drake told me he would be my Daryl Johnston. He would be my lead blocker, taking out anybody who got in my way. It made me slightly uncomfortable because I never knew how serious he was. He would text me after a particularly challenging sermon with “I’m turning the corner and looking for contact!” I never thought he would ever really physically take out one of our shepherds with a crack-back block in the west foyer. Would he? He signed his emails to me with “#48.” And kept me guessing.

He gave me this Len Dawson jersey as a Christmas gift a couple of years into our ministry at Legacy – that was thirteen years ago – and I still wear it every couple of months. We still text and email each other about the Cowboys and Rangers. We still go back and forth about church politics and Kingdom of God issues in the ‘comments’ section of this blog. He still signs his communications with me as “#48.” And he still calls me Leonard.

In a weird way, Drake helped me understand my role and solidify my identity as a preacher in God’s Church. It’s not an individual sport, it’s a team game. And not every play is a touchdown pass. It always takes a few short gains between the tackles before you can go deep. It takes dirty work in the trenches, down in the mud and the sweat of the real life of the Body of Christ, before you can run that sweep to the end zone.

Len Dawson died last night.

I’m reminded that he played in a different era and represents, in many ways, a different sport. Dawson was asked once how long halftime was back when he played and he replied, “About two cigarettes.” I’m reminded that success as a preacher in the Lord’s Church means keeping your eye on the big picture and just faithfully matriculating the ball down the field, one play at a time. And I’m reminded of Drake and the way he so intentionally went out of his way to encourage this brand new preacher so long ago.



The Chart is for Losers

Will 2020 never end?!? Tom Brady is going to be in the Super Bowl?!? Of course he is!!!

I’m disgusted by the results of yesterday’s NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. I’m sickened that Tom Brady can throw three interceptions in a conference title tilt and be hailed the next morning as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. Didn’t one of his Super Bowl wins come in a 13-3 score? Didn’t two others come via buzzer-beating field goals to make up for his turnovers? Didn’t he make it to his first Super Bowl a million years ago when the referees reversed his title-game-ending fumble with the “tuck rule?” Hasn’t every Brady Super Bowl season happened in the middle of a spy-gate or a deflate-game cheating scandal? It nauseates me.

I’m also dumbfounded by the head coaches of the two losing teams in yesterday’s conference championship games. May the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely, I’ll never understand what’s so hard about making a decision to just kick the extra point.

Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur goes for two at the end of the third quarter, fails to convert, and the Packers are chasing that missed point all the way to the end of the game. Instead of kicking the PAT and being down four, 28-24, LaFleur tries to make it a three-point game. When Aaron Rodgers’ pass is incomplete, Green Bay is down five points, 28-23, which, after a Tampa Bay field goal, turns into an eight-point deficit instead of seven. And that impacted LaFleur’s decision-making at the end of the game.

He told reporters last night, one of the reasons he kicked the field goal with 2:09 to play instead of going for the TD on fourth-and-goal from the Buccaneers eight-yard-line is that they needed the touchdown AND the two-point conversion to tie. They needed both. They weren’t going for the automatic tie with a touchdown there.

Well, whose fault is that?!?

Kick the extra point at the end of the third quarter and you only need a TD to tie there at the end.

An even more unbelievable meltdown, although not nearly as dramatic, was Bills coach Sean McDermott’s decision to go for two with about four minutes left in the game against the Chiefs. Down 23 points, Buffalo scores a touchdown to make it 38-21. A simple extra-point kick makes it 38-22, a two-score game. But for some still-unexplained reason, McDermott goes for two, resulting in the rare touchdown that KEEPS it a three-score game. Miraculously, the Bills recover an on-side kick, but they still need three scores, not two, to change the outcome. I thought only Mike McCarthy got away with stuff like this!

Bill Parcells once asked me if I had ever seen “the chart.” I was having a heated discussion with the then-Cowboys coach over just this kind of indefensible lunacy he had displayed during a Monday night game in Seattle and he was blaming “the chart.” You know, it’s that little index card coaches keep in their shirt pockets that tells them when to go for two and when to kick the extra point. Of course, you never hear about “the chart” until a coach makes a terrible decision that costs his team the game.

You always, no matter what, kick the extra point until you are mathematically down to your last possible possession. Always.

The chart is for losers. So is ESPN’s Win Probability Model. And anything else that’s used to defend any other practice.

Go Chiefs.


Positively Negative

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Pat Verbeek…

Mainly to assure my co-workers and appease a couple of our church elders, I submitted myself to a Covid-19 test yesterday. I came out positive for burning nostrils and watery eyes and negative for the coronavirus. Everybody around me can breathe a huge sigh of relief. While wearing a large mask.

The Houston Texans should have fired Bill O’Brien at least four years ago, long before he traded away Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins, and all those draft picks. The Texans have the highest payroll in the NFL this year and they have started out 0-4. Reminds me of another embarrassingly futile NFL team in Texas.

When a team begins a football season at 1-3, it has a 14% chance of making the playoffs. That statistic will probably be skewed a bit this year because the NFC East is led right now by a team with one win. The Cowboys might win this division with a 7-9 record. But they already have a 100% chance of extending their streak of consecutive seasons without winning a divisional playoff game to 25 years. They should design another commemorative patch. “Silver Substandard” or something like that.

Missions Month is my favorite season at Central.

I’ve added our middle daughter Valerie’s brand new blog, “The Kitchen Sink,” to my links on the bottom right hand side of this page. Valerie is the newly-married, newly-employed Youth Minister at the Contact Church in Tulsa. She just launched the blog over the weekend and just posted her first article about our (Christians) and her (personal) relationship between our citizenship in heaven and our national politics. You can click here to read it or scroll through the links on the right. Man, I really love this girl. I admire Valerie. I wish I had the same passion for the Kingdom when I was her age. I’m really blessed to be her dad. I’m very thankful to God.



Open Letter to Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Mr. Goodell,

First, allow me to thank you for working so hard to get the current football season underway. You and your league officials committed to doing whatever it takes to begin the NFL campaign on time and I am deeply grateful. Watching Tom Brady and Cam Newton in their new digs, cheering on Pat Mahomes and Andy Reid in their attempt to repeat, and being tortured in new and unthinkable ways by the Houston Texans is just the diversion millions of Americans and I need during the autumn of this terrible year.

I realize how busy you are; I hesitate to even write this letter. You have a tremendous amount on your plate: Covid-19 testing your athletes, policing your head coaches’ masks, socially-distancing your fans, and negotiating the ways your African American players are allowed to protest police brutality probably takes a lot of time and energy. But I cannot overlook the nightmare of events that unfolded on a glittery gridiron in my own state yesterday under your watch. I do not believe you are responsible for the catastrophe, but I do think you can do something about it.

Of course, I am referring to the Dallas Cowboys “win” over the Falcons yesterday at Jerry Wayne’s AT&T Stadium. Sir, you alone are able to address this so that something like it never happens again. I am requesting that you please take extreme, yet, under the circumstances, justifiable action against the parties involved.

Both the Cowboys and the Falcons made enough bad calls and dreadful decisions yesterday to lose a season’s worth of games. The Cowboys fumbled four times in the first quarter, botched two fake field goals in their own territory in the first half, trailed 20-0 before I finished my lunch, gave up points on six straight Atlanta possessions, and were down 29-10 at the break. Dallas was behind 39-24 with five minutes to play in the game. Atlanta had scored 39 points and had committed zero turnovers. NFL teams had an all-time record of 440-0 when scoring that many points and not turning the ball over. NFL teams had only lost six times in history when leading by 15-points with under five minutes to go.

On the Falcons side of things, coach Dan Quinn inexplicably called for a two-point conversion halfway through the second quarter with his team leading 26-7. Instead of kicking the automatic point and extending the Atlanta lead to 20, he tried for two, missed it, and their lead remained at 19. I said at the time to my lovely and patient wife who has endured a great deal of grumbling out of me for the past 24-hours, “I hope they lose by one point.”

I really didn’t. I wanted the Falcons to win. I hate everything the Dallas Cowboys stand for and wish for them to go 0-16 every year. For 59:54 of yesterday’s game, it looked like the Cowboys were attempting to honor their 1960 inaugural season by recreating the ten straight losses that marked those humble beginnings. And I was, understandably, ecstatic. But I’ve got a problem with coaches who don’t know when to go for two. I don’t know what makes it so hard, I don’t get what they don’t get. I admit, this is more like a borderline obsession for me. I once got into a pretty-heated argument with Bill Parcells over his inconsistent decision-making on two-point tries after a squeaky win in Seattle. He accused me of not knowing anything about the “chart.” I told him the “chart” was for losers. Dallas radio and Fox Sports Southwest had a three-day field-day with it. Not my proudest moment.

Back to the Cowboys yesterday. Somehow, someway,  Atlanta let the Cowboys back into the game. Dallas scored a touchdown with 4:57 to play to cut the lead to 39-30. All Dallas needed to do was kick the automatic extra point to make it an eight-point game. Then all the Cowboys would need is one more time with the ball to score a TD and convert the two-point try to tie the game. If they kick the point, it’s a one-possession game.

But Mike McCarthy went for two.

I understand no other teams were banging down his door to sign him when Jerry Wayne called. I did not realize that his one-season sabbatical was spent on his farm playing “Madden” in rookie mode.

McCarthy, who is evidently not a better coach than Jason Garrett, went for the two-point conversion and failed. It was the incredibly rare touchdown that KEPT it a two-possession game. Now the Cowboys need to get a stop, score a touchdown, get another stop, and score again to win the game. In under five minutes. Impossible. The game is over. Dak and Zeke and CeeDee are questioning everything they know about football and thought they knew about their new coach. Is this the guy who’s going to get us over the hump? Jerry’s in his owner’s box trying to find Lou Holtz’s cell phone number. Against the Rams last Sunday night, the Cowboys were trailing by three in the fourth quarter and, on fourth-and-three at the LA 11-yard-line, eschewed the game-tying field goal, threw a two-yard pass to Lamb, turned the ball over on downs, and lost by those three points. Now, this?

As bad as all that is, the Falcons found a way to make it seem insignificant.

The Cowboys did get the ball back and they did score a touchdown with 1:46 to play to pull to within three points, 39-36. If they had just kicked the extra point three minutes earlier, they would be trying a two-point conversion now to tie the game. But they’re down three. So they kick the PAT and gear up for the onside kick.

I am not telling you anything you don’t already know, Mr. Goodell, when I say you and the league have made it almost impossible for anybody to recover an onside kick. The desperation play was long-perceived as the most dangerous thing in football and your new rules regulating its execution have all but rendered it moot. No one is allowed to get a running start. The kicking team cannot load up a bunch of players on one side. They are forced to kick the ball to the other team, watch that team fall on it, and endure the final kneel-downs before the obligatory handshakes.

Unless you’re the Atlanta Falcons.

I fear I am unable to adequately describe what happened on that onside kick yesterday. I am certain you have seen it a zillion times as it is being played on a loop on every TV screen and phone in the western world. It’s being played and replayed and analyzed like the Zapruder film. Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein “watermeloned” the ball sideways so that it rolled toward the five Falcons players situated ten yards away. The ball was moving slower than Larry Allen on a Wichita Falls stairmaster. It was barely moving. Three or four Atlanta players surrounded the ball. But nobody grabbed it. Nobody fell on it. Nobody made a move. It’s like they were practicing social distancing. It’s like the football was pancreatic cancer; two Falcons actually jumped away from it.

It must be noted here, for those who might be reading this letter who have never seen a football game, that the Cowboys could not touch the ball until it traveled ten yards. Any of the Falcons can pick the ball up anywhere on the field, they are not required to wait for anything. If a Cowboy touches it before it goes ten yards, the play is over and the Falcons get the ball. But the Falcons are free to jump on it at any point, cover it up, and win the game. They don’t have to wait. But these five Atlanta players just watched from afar while the Cowboys’ C.J. Goodwin waited for it to travel the required distance and then pounced. By the time the Falcons realized what had happened, Goodwin had the ball cradled in his arms and the Falcons had become the first team in NFL history to score 39 points, have zero turnovers, and lose a game.

Apparently Dan Quinn had called for the Hands Team and not the Brains Team.

Greg the Leg kicked the 46-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired and the Cowboys had their second-largest come-from-behind win in franchise history.

When asked to explain why his players only curiously backed away and watched while the game-clinching kick awkwardly spun toward them, Quinn told reporters his special teams coaches and players “definitely know the rule.”  He claimed they work often on recovering onside kicks in practice, which, by the way, makes what happened yesterday worse, not better. “We’ve got to go capture it when the moment comes. We should make the aggressive move to go get it.”

That’s what lost the game for the Falcons. The meat-headed decision to go for two points with 4:57 to play when a PAT would have made it a one-possession game is what should have lost it for Dallas. McCarthy explained his thinking by telling reporters it’s “simple mathematics:”

“You’d rather know if it’s a two-score game at the earliest time instead of taking it all the way down to the end for a two-point try at the end. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been involved in on this particular situation. You go for two there just to make it clear, with a little over four minutes left, if we were going to be in a one-score game or a two-score game.”


Mr. Goodell, I know I’ve rambled a bit here, thank you for indulging me. This letter is a cathartic exercise as I work out my own issues. But surely you understand what’s happening as a result of this football travesty. McCarthy and his players are calling yesterday’s game a “building moment.” They say yesterday proved they can believe in each other as coaches and players. Cowboys fans are boasting in the comeback victory. They say this team has heart and talent and guts. The good Lord knows, Mr. Goodell, we have more than too many obnoxious Cowboys fans already.

More than that, I believe the integrity of the game and of your league may be at risk. When every major decision a coach makes in a football game is bad, and one of them egregiously harmful, he should not win that football game, especially if his owner is Jerry Wayne. Certainly, the Falcons deserve to lose – anyone who watches the footage of the onside kick will agree. But the Cowboys cannot enjoy the benefits — practically, emotionally, financially — of a “win” attained in such a dishonorable way.

I know what I am asking of you is unprecedented. But I believe we are in unprecedented times that call for unprecedented actions. I am calling on you to force both the Falcons and the Cowboys to forfeit yesterday’s game and to order both teams and their coaching staffs suspended for three weeks. It is a harsh sentence by any standards, but it is necessary in light of yesterday’s revolting display. Your courageous move can guarantee that the American public will never be subjected again to such a horrific exhibition of ineptitude. Coaches will think twice. Players will act on instinct. Owners and general managers will require IQ screenings for potential hires. And the “chart” will be tossed into the history bins with the leather helmets,  salt tablets, and Stickum.

It’s what is best for the game and for the good, hard-working, honest citizenry of this country who depend on the stability of an NFL that makes sense when nothing else in the world does. You can make a difference, Mr. Goodell.

Please call me if I can help you with a new name for the Redskins or moving the Raiders to Bismarck.

Your friend,


It Took a Pandemic

The Covid-19 crisis has forced all our churches into changes and adjustments. Some of these changes we don’t like and we’ll do away with them as soon as we’re able. Individually packaged communion kits and taped-off pews fall in this category. Other adjustments, we’re learning, are really beneficial for us as a faith community and will remain a part of our practice together long after this pandemic is past. These include the virtual Word & Prayer and the Central podcast. Some of the changes we’ve wanted to implement for a long, long time but, for a variety of reasons, we just haven’t been able. We’ve wanted another option for our “pew pad” system of checking church attendance. We’ve wanted to move our communion meal to after the sermon, instead of before. We’ve wanted to experiment with offering boxes around the worship center instead of passing collection plates. But we’ve never been able to make those moves until now. The pandemic has allowed us the opportunity to make the desired change. And it’s working really well.

The same thing is happening in sports. And it’s beyond wonderful.

Major League Baseball has been wanting to expand the Designated Hitter rule to the National League for more than 20-years. They’ve taken small steps toward this over the past two decades by combining the American League and National League offices and umpires into one entity. They’ve established interleague play as a normal part of every season. But the “purists” have never been allowed to jazz up the on-field product with a universal DH. Until now. When baseball gets going again on July 23, every game will be played with the DH. It’s being touted as a one-time, special-circumstances kind of experiment. But we’re all going to see that it’s so much better this way and it’ll stay forever.  When your team’s down two runs with two outs and you’ve got two on, you’ll be guaranteed your pitcher is not going to come to the plate.

Same thing with requiring all pitchers to face a minimum of three batters. No more bringing in a reliever to face just one single batter to get to the lefty to buy some time for the set-up man who’s a righty. No more waiting and waiting for the endless parade of relief pitchers to warm up to face one batter each. And putting the first batter on second base to start every half-inning in extra innings is a brilliant move. They’ve been doing this in the minor leagues forever. It’s like starting a team at the 25-yard-line in overtime of a college football game. It’s going to add so much excitement. There’s an element of sudden death now: one base hit scores a run.  That’s actually more sudden death than in football where you can see the overtime game-winning field goal coming for days.

There’s a similar thing happening in the NFL where fans and players for decades have been wanting to cut the number of preseason games from four or five each summer down to one or two. Well, now the NFL has cut the number to two for this season only and the players association is angling to get it down to zero. I believe they’ll get it to one or zero for this season so when they make it two preseason games in 2021, it’ll feel like a true compromise with football fans being the big winners. And it’ll stay.

Every last one of these rules changes has been proposed before. They’ve all been suggested, debated, and defeated. There have been lawsuits and documentaries and campaigning and polling and research. The owners and players just haven’t been able to pull the trigger for the sake of the games and the fans. They’ve never been able to get these common sense measures approved and in practice.

Until now. It took a pandemic.



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