The Ben & Faris KaepGate Football is Back Extravaganza

Ben and Faris were so inspired by Kevin Durant's Rick James tattoo, they got some fresh ink of their own. Ben went with a portrait of David Schwimmer on his chest and the words, “I'll be there for you.” Yikes. Faris got a sketch of Ryan Lochte on his left bicep. When asked why, he responded, “My boy's not done yet.” Disturbing. 
 
Here are their thoughts on the upcoming NFL season. 
 
Does it bother you that Colin Kaepernick won’t stand for the national anthem?
 
Faris Tanyos: No.
 
Ben, did you know a poll a couple years ago found that 11 percent of Americans thought it was OK to fudge their taxes? That's about one in 10. That means that in an NFL stadium on any given Sunday, there are thousands of fans with their hands over their hearts who haven’t paid their fair share.
 
This year’s tax gap -- the total uncollected tax revenue – is estimated at $600 billion. Kaepernick took a controversial stance under the brightest of public spotlights. Millions of Americans are cheating in the dark to pilfer a couple extra bucks for their In-N-Out runs. Which is more damaging to our country? Should we round up all those folks and have a chat about Kaepernick’s patriotism? 
 
There’s a phrase that encapsulates all this quite nicely. I think it goes…the pot calling the kettle...
 
When Muhammad Ali passed, the tributes lauded his bravery in openly defying the Vietnam draft. At the time, he was vilified for it. He lost millions of dollars and a considerable chunk of his prime. But the years have been kind to him. Maybe it has something to do with how unpopular the Vietnam War was. What if Ali had refused the draft during World War II? What would his legacy be then?
 
Kaepernick’s biggest sin here is simply being Kaepernick. He doesn’t have the stature or charisma of Ali in the same way that Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf wasn’t Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley. Did Kaepernick have ulterior intentions? Did he stage this because he was at risk of being cut by the 49ers?
 
Regardless his motives, this was the most effective protest by an American athlete this century. Just like Ali, the years will be kind to Kaepernick. His simple, peaceful action sparked a national watercooler debate that the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts donned by LeBron & Co. couldn’t. For that, he should be commended. 
 
And kudos to the Santa Clara police union for reaffirming Kaepernick’s argument. Apparently, when you call 911 in Santa Clara, you first have to answer a quick questionnaire to assure you’re on the same ideological page as the police before dispatchers send over a cruiser. Totally routine.
 
Ben Higgins: No, but…
 
Anyone who is personally bothered by Kaepernick’s peaceful protest needs to take a closer look at what it means to be an American.
 
That being said, I strongly disagree with his method. Kaepernick believes his country isn’t perfect and there are serious issues that need to be addressed. Guess what? So does everyone else. The issues may differ greatly, but everyone has something to believe in and an area where they think America should be doing better.
 
What if people who support statehood for Puerto Rico refused to stand for the anthem? Isn't that a serious issue? Don’t forget the water in Flint, Mich. Serious too. Better sit down for that also. Maybe everyone who thinks taxes are too high should sit for the anthem too. Before long, in a stadium with 60,000 people, only about eight will still be standing.
 
Kaepernick isn’t sacrificing anything for his beliefs by sitting down. In fact, he’s getting a little extra rest before the game. Sure, he’s inviting scorn from many Americans. But he’s also getting heaps of praise and sales of his jersey have skyrocketed to No. 1 in the NFL. That’s not a protest. That’s marketing.
 
I applaud Kaepernick for caring about issues beyond playing football and having fun. I applaud him for pledging to donate $1 million to battle inequity and injustice. I’d just like to see him care from the standing position.
 
What’s one wild prediction for the upcoming season?
 
Ben: Sam Bradford will make the Pro Bowl as he leads the Minnesota Vikings back into the playoffs. 
 
Everyone has been piling on Bradford this past week after a desperate Minnesota Vikings team gave up 1st and 4th round draft picks to pry him away from the Philadelphia Eagles. OK, maybe “pry” is the wrong word.
Still, I think there are a few reasons why Bradford may surprise some people. He’s never going to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL…but the Vikings don’t need a top-10 quarterback. They’ve got a very good team ready to win now (that’s why they were so desperate to quickly replace Teddy Bridgewater).
 
After missing the entire 2014 season, Bradford was able to get a lot of playing time under his belt last season in Philadelphia. While he wasn’t good enough to carry a mediocre Eagles team to the playoffs, he wasn’t as bad as you might think. The Eagles went 7-7 in the 14 games Bradford started while getting blown out by the Bucs and Lions in the two games Mark Sanchez started.
 
Put him on a better team like the Vikings, and I can easily see Bradford leading his team to double-digit wins in 2016. And since almost half of the quarterbacks in the NFL end up making the Pro Bowl by the time the bigger stars drop out for various excuses, Sam Bradford will end up in the NFL’s All-Star Game – which, in typical Bradford bad luck, will be played in Orlando instead of Honolulu this season.
 
Faris: Ben, do you remember when the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer in 2011?
 
Let’s reminisce. The Raiders gifted a 1st and 2nd rounder to the Bengals for Palmer after Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone. In his one-and-a-half seasons in Oakland, Palmer posted a stellar 8-16 record.
 
It was like one of those commercials where the wife in some charming, nonexistent Vermont village comes out into her snowy driveway to find a giant bow on the roof of a brand spanking new Lexus and realizes that her husband just cheated on her.
 
The Bengals turned those two picks into Giovani “The Italian Stallion” Bernard and Dre Kirkpatrick. No, not the guy from NSYNC (I know where your mind’s at, Ben), but an effective starting corner. Both are still an integral part of the mighty Bengals of Cincinnati.
 
The lesson: Don’t mortgage your future for a middling QB who’s past his prime.
 
But I digress. My wild prediction: For the first time in eight seasons, the Patriots won’t make the playoffs. 
 
The Pats are matched against the two toughest divisions in football: the AFC North and NFC West. That means rough-and-tumble slugfests against the Seahawks, Bengals, Steelers, Cards and Ravens. Dang Gena.
 
The AFC East is considerably better; the Jets, Bills and Dolphins are no longer gimmes. The Pats just lost DE Rob Ninkovich for four games and RB Dion Lewis for at least the first half of the season. Bundle that with a Jimmy Garoppolo four-game special and a 39-year-old Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick could find himself having flashbacks to Matt Cassel.
 
An aside: Cassel got more mileage from single '08 season than Seal got out of Kiss from a Rose. He sucked it dry. Did you know Cassel is still in the NFL, Ben? It’s true. He’s backing up Marcus Mariota in Tennessee! WHAT?
 
While we’re here, there’s a line in Kiss from a Rose that has always baffled me: “Love remained a drug that's the high and not the pill.”
 
What does that mean?
 
I bet Matt Cassel knows. I bet he does.
 
There were a slew of unnecessary injuries last week. Should the NFL change its preseason format?
 
Faris: The NFL shouldn’t change the format; it should obliterate it. 
 
Preseason games are nothing more than tedious scrimmages, but with a very bored audience. The teams already scrum against each other during their training camps. Coaches don't need cameras, commentators and commercial breaks to evaluate talent. 
 
The preseason isn’t to blame for the plethora of injuries to the likes of Bridgewater, Tony Romo, Branden Oliver and Benjamin Watson. There’s no way to mitigate the risk of football except by shortening the regular season to 13 games and cancelling those ridiculous offseason OTAs to ensure players don't risk overuse injuries. 
 
My solution to the preseason dilemma lies with Hard Knocks, the greatest reality television show of all time. Hard Knocks is compelling, captivating and educational because the drama is grounded in a realism that is inimitable. Players are fighting for their livelihoods. I learned more about football from watching a single episode of Hard Knocks than I ever will watching a meaningless preseason game listening to Joe Buck rave about his Cowboys. 
 
The league should scrap the preseason. In its place, behind-the-scenes cameras on every NFL squad during training camp. Each team would get its own 5-episode Hard Knocks style treatment. Who wouldn’t want a front-row seat to the inner workings of their team: the day-to-day operations, coaching decisions, player struggles?
 
People could purchase the series as a standalone item or bundle it with NFL Game Pass. Either way, it’s gold, Jerry, gold.
 
So Ben, what’s wrong with my idea?
 
Ben: So you think the NFL preseason is never gonna survive, unless…we get a little crazy? 
 
You’re nuts if you think the preseason is going to be replaced by America’s Got Football Talent.
 
Did you know the preseason used to be six games long? Just be glad we’re out of those dark ages. My solution is more elegant, and hopefully, it will appeal to both owners and players.
 
Reduce the preseason to three games, and add a 17th game to the regular season. In addition, veteran players with more than three years in the league can only play in one of the three preseason games. The other two will be exclusively for the youngest players on the roster who need the experience. So instead of up to 20 games each year, most veteran players will only be on the field for 18 games every season, saving some wear and tear on the body.
 
As for that 17th game…it’s a concession from players to owners who really want an 18-game regular season. In exchange for that extra regular season game, and big money, Roger Goodell gives up his disciplinary powers to an independent committee.
 
Each team in the NFL will play one neutral-site game per season -- a total of 16 neutral-site games per year. London can continue to host a few, and the NFL can continue to expand worldwide with games in Berlin, Mexico City, Vancouver…wherever it wants to go. And they don’t have to rip any home games away from teams and fans to do it.
 
A 10News poll shows support for the convadium running at under 40 percent. What do you think will happen if Measure C fails in November?
 
Ben: The Chargers still have Los Angeles in their back pocket as a failsafe option. Move to Inglewood, and immediately become a new punch line for every stand-up comic trying to get a laugh at The Improv.
 
It’s been well-reported that Dean Spanos and Stan Kroenke aren’t the best of friends. As the story goes, Dean originally went to Stan with the idea for an Inglewood stadium. Stan said he wasn’t interested -- and then he bought up the land and moved ahead with the plan without Dean.
 
I’ve heard rumors that the relationship between Spanos and Kroenke is even worse than most people know. It would take a catastrophic failure in San Diego for Dean to even consider the option of becoming the Jack Tripper to Kroenke’s Mr. Furley. 
 
So even if Measure C fails (as it almost certainly will), I think the Chargers will go back to the drawing board for a new stadium plan – either in downtown or Mission Valley. Still, if you want the Chargers to stay, a strong “yes” vote – even one that falls short of a two-thirds majority -- could force San Diego’s politicians to engage in more meaningful discussion with the team in 2017.
 
It might be the best hope for a long-term stadium solution in San Diego.
 
Faris: I was hoping you’d go with Spanos as the Hank Kingsley to Kroenke’s Larry Sanders. Or Spanos as the Pete Campbell to Kroenke’s Don Draper. Or, even better, Spanos as the King Joffrey to Kroenke’s Tywin Lannister.
 
But I can’t fault you for taking the Three’s Company route, well…because…drum roll…I’ve never seen Three’s Company (gasp!). I’m sorry, Ben, I’ve let you down. Disown me. I’ll understand.
 
But then again, you’ll never disown me as bitterly as Mr. Spanos is about to disown America’s Finest City this January.
 
I already spelled out here why Measure C is fraught with disaster; the financial numbers are beyond suspect. But there’s no need to tread well-worn ground. The Chargers will be lucky if it gets a 33 percent approval rating.
 
Spanos knows it’s over. That’s why he penned this desperate letter last month. He’s headed up the 5, where a beautiful new home awaits him in 2019. In exchange, Spanos won’t have any stadium debt and he’ll pocket a percentage of the revenue stream from game days, personal seat licenses, naming rights, sponsorships and non-football events. Every time Beyoncé comes to town, Spanos gets paid. When Manchester United swings by for its summer tour. Spanos gets paid. He’ll be living inside a Mase music video circa 1998. 
 
And all this for the low, low relocation fee of $550 million over 10 years. Fiscally, it’s an absolute no-brainer.
 
Who cares if the Chargers take the mantle as the new Clippers of LA? Who cares if Spanos and Kroenke don't like each other? Neither did David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. And they've made it work for 10 seasons and counting. Why? Money. It's the ultimate equalizer. Besides, once they sign on that dotted line, Spanos and Kroenke never have to lay eyes on one another again, except if they accidentally rent adjoining beach houses in Malibu. That’ll be awkward. 
 
Spanos has spent 15 years locked in a no-win battle. In November, San Diegans won’t be rejecting a city-sanctioned plan. They’ll be rejecting a proposal Spanos crafted himself. That is the final straw.
 
If Spanos sticks around San Diego, he’ll become Wooderson in Dazed and Confused. Or that guy we all knew in college on the eight-year plan who was a little too old to be showing up at house parties.
 
At least one team has gone from worst to first in the NFL in 12 of the past 13 seasons. What needs to happen for the Chargers to be that team in the AFC West this season?
 
Faris: Fire Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco. 
 
The Chargers’ problems stem from their front office. Their top picks the last two seasons, Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa, were head scratchers. For mysterious reasons they ignored their desperate need for solid offensive linemen to protect their $83.5 million investment, Philip Rivers.
 
McCoy might be the second-worst coach in professional football, ahead only of Jim Caldwell, and just barely. He gets confused during timeouts. He has no feel for crunch time. He makes strange in-game personnel decisions. Here are a few choice errors from last season:
 
– Week 1 against the Lions: down 21-10 on the opening drive of the second half and facing a 4th and 1 on Detroit's seven-yard line, McCoy opted for a 25-yard field goal.
 
– Week 4 against the Browns: McCoy called two, that’s right, TWO, timeouts on the Browns final drive of the first half, extending the clock enough to get the Browns into range for a tying field goal.
 
– Week 7 against Oakland. McCoy benches Melvin Gordon for the entire first half of a must-win game. With the game out of reach, McCoy trots Gordon out for the second half.
 
McCoy has gone 22-26 with a very talented roster. Almost his entire coaching staff was fired this offseason, but he was retained for the same reason Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was: Spanos didn’t want to bring in a new coach with the team moving to Los Angeles. What’s ironic is that the Chargers might have to hold onto McCoy AGAIN next summer for the same reason.
 
Their inept front office was solely responsible for driving Bosa into the longest rookie holdout since Michael Crabtree in 2009. During the height of said holdout, those same execs thought it would be a grand idea to take antagonistic potshots at him through the media. 
 
If the Chargers want to convince San Diegans to invest millions in a new stadium, should they really be advertising how petty and incompetent they are?
 
Ben: They have to find a way to at least split their six divisional games. The Chargers went 0-6 vs. AFC West opponents last season, and that’s a season-killer.
 
Outside of the division, the Chargers have a last place schedule in 2016 that includes games against the Browns, Dolphins, Jags, Bucs and Titans. If the Chargers simply win their home games in the AFC West, a 10-6 or even 11-5 season isn’t out the question. That just might be enough to go from last place to first place in a division where no one is expected to run away from the pack.
 
As for your thoughts on McCoy and Telesco…you make some strong arguments.
 
You know I’m no fan of McCoy -- I thought he should have been fired with about a month left in the season last year. But I have to give him a lot of credit for bringing back Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator.
 
When you think about it, it’s really a no-win situation for McCoy. If the Chargers bounce back in 2016, Whiz will get most of the credit. If the Chargers struggle again, McCoy will still take the blame.
 
Bringing Whisenhunt back, though, was the best thing for the Chargers. When he ran the offense in 2013, the Chargers were less talented than they are now and still managed to sneak into the playoffs and beat your Bengals, who remain winless in the postseason under Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. That’s gotta sting.
 
I’ll let you defend your Bengals in the next question. What’s that? This is the end of the column? Sorry about that, Faris.
 
– Follow Ben Higgins on Twitter @BenHigginsSD
– Follow Faris Tanyos on Twittter @OnlyFairchild
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