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5thDown Podcast: Episode 4 – The Knights of Farnham

KB & Dubs turn their attention to the British American Football League and hear the remarkable story of the Farnham Knights, a team who were forced to cease operating in 2012. They speak to the head coach who has brought them back to the top division.

Plus, the guys read out your tweets and what you would call a Las Vegas franchise.

5thDown Podcast: Episode 3 – A Texan Tailgate

KB & Dubs speak to Bengals Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons about their visit to London and what makes a good coach. Also joining the show is former Bills WR Donald Jones III and the illness that shortened his promising career. Plus the guys talk Carson Wentz, Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and the CFL Draft.

5thDown Podcast: Episode 2 – Jubilant Jags

KB & Dubs chat to Hamish Shilliday, the competition winner who announced the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 6th round pick in front of the backdrop of Tower Bridge.

We talk Jags, our hopes for their 2016 season, and there’s some home-truths for Sam Bradford. And it’s not just the NFL on this show, we love all things gridiron and bring you news from the CFL which is now just 7 weeks away.

 

5th Down UK interviews… Nat Coombs

In the 1st of our series of interviews with UK NFL fans, we spoke to the host of talkSPORT 2’s all new All American Sports Show, and massive NFL fan, Nat Coombs.


How did you fall in love with Football?

As a kid, watching this remarkable technicolour sport on Channel 4, not understanding any of it, but knowing I completely loved it.

Who’s your team, and why?

The Miami Dolphins… because I’m a sucker for pain, and because as a kid they were all about the offense (Marino, Marx brothers) and always gallant, cavalier losers which appealed.

What is your favourite footballing memory?

So many – covering a game in New Orleans at the Superdome was incredible. The SuperBowls I’ve been involved with have been great for various reasons – and the Wembley games I’ve anchored have been a privilege. Looking out over the stadium and digesting that we’ve got regular season games, looking back and seeing say, Jim Kelly sitting 6 feet from me – pretty special.

Favourite of all time?

The 51-45 Jets/Fins game from the 80’s (O’Brien vs Marino) stands out. And I always remember Chad Johnson scoring, putting on the HOF jacket in celebration, as that was my first ever game.

Who is your favourite player of all time?

It has to be Marino, but I loved Jim Kelly too back in the day. Sucker for the flashy receivers so Carter, Marx brothers, TO, Johnson.

Defensively – the Giants front 7 that included Strahan & Osi (have to give my man props!) was great to watch, and the tape I see of the Bears ’85 Defense is stunning. Love for hardcore players too that give everything – like Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin & JJ Watt.

And your favourite player currently playing?

I think right now it’s AJ Green – electrifying and can’t wait till the Bengals come over to Wembley.

With the elite Quarterbacks either retiring or in their 30’s, who is the next superstar?

12 months ago I would have said Andrew Luck, but there’s an element of doubt. Wilson is arguably there. Cam has to be in the mix – he’ll bounce back.

What do you think has to happen for us to get a London franchise, and would it have to be an Eastern divisional team?

I think it would have to be a relocation as I can’t see the owners voting on adding expansion franchises. It would be very interesting to see how it would play out – because the appeal of say 6 regular season games with different teams if possibly as strong for most fans and of course much easier to action long term.

If we get a team in the UK, can you see UK universities starting up their own football programmes?

Many already have of course, though I doubt we’ll get a college circuit like in the US – mainly because of geography and tradition. Though more and more players will get a shot in the NFL, like Efe Obada has.

And finally, if a young Nat were to be drafted in the 2016 draft, what position would you play?

I had a bit of pace when I was younger, so a low round WR gamble – but these days, let’s just say I was made to be a backup QB!


Each week Nat Coombs and guests round up all the action from across the pond, from the NBA to NFL and MLS to NHL, plus everything in between on the talkSPORT 2’s all new All American Sports Show.

You can find the podcasts on talkSPORT & iTunes:

Stephen Tulloch praises his friend, Calvin Johnson

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Johnson in practice during the Lions’ visit to London in 2014

He was the fastest player in the NFL to reach 10,000 receiving yards and he owns the record for most receiving yards in a season.

Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, hung up his cleats this week. The 2007 second-overall pick called time on his career at the age of 30. He spent all of his nine years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

What makes Johnson’s achievements even more remarkable is that the Lions only reached the play-offs twice during his time in Detroit (2011 & 2014).

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Former Lions LB Stephen Tulloch spoke exclusively to 5thDownUK

We’ve been in touch with Johnson’s former team mate, LB Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch, who is currently a free agent, exclusively gave us this tribute for the wide receiver:

Over the past 5 years since I joined the Detroit Lions I gained a friendship with Calvin Johnson. Not only was he a great player but he was a great team mate as well. I’ve always been in awe of his constant professionalism on and off the field. He is the true definition of a humble superstar a superstar the game of football will miss.

UK fans missed out on seeing the star receiver in 2014’s last-gasp victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley because of injury, but he featured in 2015’s 45-10 drubbing by the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson had five receptions for 85 yards in that International Series game.

Some sceptics aren’t convinced that Megatron has retired for good. Whatever happens he will be a strong contender to be a first ballot hall of famer.

Key dates this spring

The season may be over, but the path to Super Bowl LI has already begun.

There’s plenty to look forward to this offseason:

Feb 16 – First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Feb 20 – NFL Regional Combines in Phoenix.

Feb 23-29 – NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Feb 27 – NFL Regional Combines in Baltimore.

Mar 1 – 9pm (GMT) deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Mar 5 – NFL Regional Combines in Minnesota.

Mar 9 – 9pm (GMT) free agency signings can be made.

Mar 12 – NFL Regional Combines in New Orleans.

Mar 20-23 – NFL Annual Meeting

Apr 22 – Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

Apr 28-30 – NFL Draft in Chicago

Cam Newton failed on the biggest stage

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Cam Newton looked a shadow of himself during Super Bowl 50

Cam Newton messed up on Sunday night.

National Football League’s most valuable player got it wrong on the biggest stage of all.

Was it over-confidence, or did the occasion just get to him? The warning signs were there as early as last Thursday.

When asked about why he wears socks with sandals he shot back with, “Why are you wearing jeans with shoes?”

Yes it was a silly question to ask, but the response was childish. Cam was immediately on the defensive; was the week starting to get to him?

He looked like he’d lost the game during the warm-up on the Levi’s Stadium field.

He stood on the turf launching balls with his headphones on, trying to mask his nerves by singing along to whatever music gets him pumped. He wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t nervous, Peyton Manning looked nervous and he’d been on this stage many times before.

But Cam brings a lot of bravado with him. He’s cocky, but that’s part of his make-up. He didn’t look his confident self during that warm-up and that confidence never entered the field of play.

During the game he held onto the ball too long when handing it off to Jonathan Stewart. On one occasion in the second quarter this caused a fumble. His passing was off. Throws overshot receivers and there was no accuracy in his execution.

Denver came to do a job on defense and they stepped up. They made this superstar quarterback throw the ball. They blitzed him and had the strength in the secondary to cover his receivers. Cam was pressured and simply could not deliver.

His performance wasn’t the worst QB performance in a Super Bowl, but the problem so many people have is with how he conducted himself.

He’s a bad loser, he said so himself. But, if you’re going to boast and dab and rub salt into the wounds of your opponents when you’re winning, then you should show a bit of grace in defeat.

“I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”

Everyone hates losing. Cam can show the world that he’s hurting, but this is professional sport. He should be a professional and accept defeat. He can moan all he wants away from the public eye, but he has a duty to the league that just labelled him their most valuable player, the team that pays his wages and to the fans that idolise him to show a bit of respect.

This is the guy who told everyone, “I’m a firm believer that if you don’t like me to do it (dab) then don’t let me in”. Denver didn’t let him in. They put him in his place and he didn’t like it. But, if you’re going to talk the talk then you have to walk the walk. Show a bit of respect. Congratulate the other team. Use the rhetoric, tell us that you’re hurting, but Denver played the better game. Don’t just sit there moping with your hood up and walk off stage.

Yes, everything is great when you’re winning. No one dresses sharper than Cam in those post-game press conferences, but for the Super Bowl he chose to wear his team hoodie with the hood up. Someone should have taken Cam to one side before he faced the media and told him to compose himself.

“Winning excuses everything,”

His coach played with one of the league’s most confident, gregarious quarterbacks, Jim McMahon. There were lots of similarities brought up between that 1985 Bears team and the 2015 Panthers team during the build-up to Sunday’s game.

Of all the coaches, you’d expect Ron Rivera to have the experience to pull his QB to one side and remind him of his duties as a professional.

Cam Newton once said, “I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.” Therefore, he should have calmed himself down before confronting the press and thought about how he was going to accept defeat. He should have set an example to the young admirers who look up to him as an icon; their superhero. Super Cam.

After all, this is the man who told the world, “I’ve said numerous times that I play to have a stage that people will listen to, and I pray to God that I do right by my influence.” What cuts most with the media is that he failed to follow his convictions. He had the biggest stage in the world on Sunday and he disgraced himself, his team and professional sport.

“Winning excuses everything,” is another Cam quote. Let’s hope he finds a formula that will win everyone over, even in the face of defeat.

Was Tomsula a 49ers stop gap?

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Jim Tomsula looks to the heavens during another 49ers defeat

Jim Tomsula was never going to last three years in the 49ers’ coach hot seat.

Last January San Francisco’s CEO, Jed York, unveiled the team’s former Defensive Line Coordinator to the world and declared that the new man at the helm of this once great franchise would be the teacher his players needed to help guide them towards that elusive sixth Super Bowl win.

Tomsula sat in that first press conference looking like a PE teacher suddenly thrust upon the media. His performance behind the microphone left many wondering if this teacher was ready to graduate to the big time.

He came across as a player’s manager. The team appeared to relish his coaching style. It was plain for all to see in their reaction to the opening 20-3 win over the Vikings in Week 1.

That was the only highlight in an otherwise abysmal season. At the same time as their coach was trying to find his feet, the team looked lost on the field. Too often they were seen looking to the sideline for answers and too often he was appeared gormless, looking toward the heavens for answers.

So it came as no surprise when the franchise announced they had terminated Tomsula’s contract just minutes after their 19-16 overtime win at home to the Rams. That result was their only divisional win of the season.

Tomsula had his challenges. You don’t lose the likes of Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Mike Iapati and Chris Borland in a single offseason and expect to challenge the NFL’s elite. But the fans expected more than the lacklustre performances they witnessed in 2015.

Jed York said on Monday that club won’t be appointing their new head coach from within. He told 49ers Faithful that he wants a leader.

It’s interesting that the owner has gone from wanting a teacher to head his troops to a leader. So, was Tomsula promoted to steady the ship through a difficult transitional period?

Was York holding out for the leader he desired, knowing that his leader would become available within a year or two? Is that why he stuck Jimmy in there until his man became available?

Is that man Sean Payton? The Saints boss is reportedly interested in the 49ers hot seat and offers that leadership their CEO craves.

He comes at a price with a second round pick being touted. His proven track record is worth more than what an unproven rookie would bring.

Payton has the attributes to move a talented squad of youngsters onto the next level in one of the most difficult divisions in the league.

There will be a lot of speculation in the coming weeks and whether Payton is indeed the man York has been longing for since Jim Harbaugh’s departure remains to be seen.

The Saints coach is the ace in a pack of contenders working their way through the coaching merry go round. He might be the hand Jed York has been wanting to play.

The Jets fail to take off

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It was a dramatic end to the 2015 regular season, and Jets fans have every right to feel blue this Monday.

A win in Buffalo would have secured their place in the play-offs, but former head coach, Rex Ryan, spoiled their party.

The Bills won 22-17 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. A hat-trick of fourth quarter interceptions from Ryan Fitzpatrick compounded defeat for the Jets. The irony is he set the team’s touchdown record in the same game.

That defeat opened the door for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

All that stood in Pittsburgh’s way was a sorry Cleveland Browns team whose quarterback, Johnny Manziel, didn’t bother turning up for.

Manziel’s tenure with the Browns looks over after he failed to show up on Sunday. He was sidelined by the NFL’s concussion protocol, but was scheduled to meet the team’s doctor. An appointment he missed.

That controversy only added to the discontent in Cleveland as the axe loomed over head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer. The pair were ultimately fired after the 28-12 defeat to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh head to Cincinnati late on Saturday night for their wild card game. If they win that one then the Steelers will head to Denver in the divisional round.

That’s because the old man of the NFL made dramatic return late last night. With the Broncos staring a 5th seed in the face, Peyton Manning stepped in and guided his team to a 27-20 win over the Chargers.

The result means the Broncos’ route to the Super Bowl will be through their house.

Manning’s introduction also opens the narrative for a fairytale ending to the legend’s career.

Here’s the wild card schedule:

Saturday

Chiefs @ Texans (9:35pm)

Sunday

Steelers @ Bengals (1:15am)

Seahawks @ Vikings (6:05pm)

Packers @ Redskins (9:40pm)