The Goose, On The Field or Sidelines, Will Always Be A Part of NFL History

In a football world that is sometimes devoid of personality, the Goose always stood out.

Tony Siragusa – who sadly passed away at the age of 55 on Wednesday – always managed to come across as larger than life even in a sport full of larger-than-life body types. Known in the locker rooms as a prankster with his own unique sense of humor, the Goose parlayed his football career into a broadcast role in a move that just fit him as a human being.

Siragusa first found his way into the league after going undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 1990. He played for seven seasons in Indianapolis with the Colts, gaining a reputation for his run-stuffing ability. This was a time when backs like Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis were tearing up the league, a time before spread offenses and limited defensive back contact meant that teams became more likely to go to the air. If you didn’t have the ability to stop the run, you couldn’t win football games.

Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

It was in Baltimore where Siragusa became a household name. The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder played the role of a giant brick wall as the 2000 Ravens won the first Vince Lombardi trophy in franchise history thanks to a competent offense and a historic defense.

As loud as he was off the field – and the New Jersey native with the Italian-American heritage could certainly be that – he was underappreciated on it. Siragusa never once made it to the Pro Bowl, mainly because his 22 sacks in 12 seasons meant that he wasn’t flashy enough with the voters.

What he was, however, was a 3-4 nose tackle that the Ravens could build an entire defense around. The likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were better players because Siragusa occupied two or three blockers on every play. This allowed his more heralded teammates to slice into the backfield and make impact plays because there was simply no one left to lay a block on them.

Because of the Goose.

It was the HBO series Hard Knocks where Siragusa really became a star. The documentary allowed viewers into the heart of an NFL team for the very first time and Siragusa was an absolute natural. Fans got to see a player working as hard as anyone on a day-to-day basis who was also a generous, giving teammate who acted as a team unifier and mentor. His size and personality made him stand out and you can argue that without Siragusa around then Hard Knocks would not have become the iconic property in the HBO library that it has.

Knee injuries could have derailed Siragusa’s career many times. His undrafted free agent status was only because of an ACL tear at Pitt that ruined his stock. Having a massive body with unpredictable knees in the middle of the trenches given the contact in that part of the field is not something that general managers enjoy. Siragusa was not to be denied his own NFL shot, however, and along with all the other great traits of the man was his perseverance and determination to be the best player he could be.

A post-playing career gig as a sideline reporter with Fox lasted until 2015 – Siragusa retired in 2002 – but his media career is much more varied than that one job. He appeared in The Sopranos, as a Russian mobster in 2002’s 25th Hour, and fronted a show called Man Caves on the DIY network. He even had the guts to appear in an ad campaign for Depend for Men because of his concern for men with prostate cancer.

Siragusa was the type of player that fans of a certain age will always hold fond memories of and his place in Baltimore and NFL history is secure.

Article by Premier Players Steve Wright

Gronkowski announces retirement again but is 3x the charm?

Rob Gronkowski announced his second NFL retirement on Tuesday, June 21. Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be hoping that this premier player ends his newest retirement as quickly as his fellow future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady did earlier this offseason.

Brady – who had his meme game going strong on Twitter soon after the announcement was made – has already tempted Gronk out of retirement once before. It was Brady who made the call to his all-time favorite pass catcher after arriving in Tamp Bay, pulling Gronkowski back to the NFL after the pair had dominated the AFC in New England.

If this is a true retirement, however, what is the legacy of this premier player?

Simply put, he is one of the greatest ever players at his position in NFL history.

The 33-year-old has spent his career as a walking matchup problem. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is perhaps the greatest red zone threat to ever play in the NFL. This would seem to track given that he has the most touchdowns of anyone since 2020 and that his 92 receiving touchdowns are the third most in history by a tight end.

To back up the ‘best ever’ conversation, Gronk scored those 92 touchdowns in far fewer games than the two tight ends ahead of him on the list. Tony Gonzalez had 111 touchdowns in 270 games, Antonio Gates – the all-time leader at the position – finished with 116 touchdowns in 236 games. Gronk has taken just 143 contests to reach his mark of 92 (93 if you count his rushing TD in 2011).

Continuing at that pace, Gronk would have had 150+ touchdowns if he had played as many games as Gates.

It is hard to separate Gronkowski from Brady. The duo trail only Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison when it comes to the most touchdown passes thrown by a quarterback to a single receiver (or in this case tight end). It is not even like the duo has been slowing down in recent years as they combined for 13 touchdowns in their two seasons in Tampa Bay. That is just one less touchdown than Gronkowski scored in his last three seasons in New England.

Gronkowski’s greatest year was his second in the league in 2011. He was basically unplayable for most of the season as he was in his athletic pomp before little injuries and the wear and tear of NFL life started to wear him down. That season – along with the already mentioned rushing touchdown on the only carry of his entire career – Gronkowski caught 17 touchdowns and had over 1,300 yards receiving. It is the greatest single season by a tight end in the history of the NFL.

The odds of a Gronk return depend entirely on how the Bucs start out in 2022. Missing training camp means nothing to a veteran who has seen it all before and honestly, works better as Gronk is the type of player to keep himself in good shape regardless. If the Bucs start 3-7 or 4-6, don’t expect to see him. If, however, they are at 7-3 or so and look set for another deep playoff run then don’t be shocked in the slightest to see him back at Ray Jay as we hit November.



Father’s Day Is Everyday For These Pro Sports Dads/Sons

There are many great father/son duos all over the sporting map. They always say that having good genes is important if you have designs on becoming a professional athlete and it is hard to get much better genes than having a dad who was a pro himself.

In a slightly belated nod to fathers everywhere, here is a look at some of the best father/son sporting combos we have seen to date.

NBA – Dell/Steph/Seth Curry

Attempting to not give in to the newness of this choice but it is hard to argue against the Dell/Steph/Seth Curry combination being the best father/son/son combo the NBA has ever seen.

Steph Curry continues to write his legacy as a premier player and one of the top point guards in the history of the game. Dell was a better player than anyone remembers and a key sixth man who at one point was the holder of a bunch of major all-time records for the Charlotte Hornets.

The addition of Seth is a bonus – Dell/Steph would win this regardless – but he transitioned from an afterthought into a solid knockdown shooter over the course of his career in the league.

NFL – Archie/Peyton/Eli Manning

The Long and Matthews’ clans get a nod here, but the legacy of the First Family of football pushes them over the edge.

The crazy thing about the Manning family is that patriarch Archie threw for over 23,000 yards with a couple of Pro Bowls yet he is comfortable as the least decorated of the three. Eli has a couple of Super Bowl wins and over 57,000 yards passing – he was also the kryptonite for Tom Brady – while Peyton was a 14-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl winner, and his five MVP awards rank him behind probably only Brady as the best quarterback of all-time.

Watch for Archie’s grandson (and Peyton/Eli’s nephew) Arch to eventually continue this legacy.

MLB – Bobby/Barry Bonds

The MLB is probably the greatest legacy sport of them all. The league is filled with duos that have both been stars and the Bobby and Barry Bonds just pip the Griffeys and the Fielders for me.

Barry took the league by storm, initially as a player that could hit for average and pop while being an outstanding runner and base stealer. However, Barry became one of the more polarizing figures in the entire sporting world as his career progressed through the steroid years, with his 762 home runs and 162.8 WAR being only part of his legacy.

This is a shame in many ways because father Bobby was another outstanding multi-tool player. He was a three-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove award winner as a star of the league for 14 years.

Soccer – Frank Lampard Sr./Frank Jr.

It is weird that in a sport as big as soccer there has been no father/son duo to completely steal the show at the international level. The closest is probably the two Franks, with one being a one-club legend and the other one of the greatest attacking midfielders of all time.

Frank Sr. played over 500 games for West Ham United, mainly as a left-back. His career spanned from 1967 to 1984 and he was still an effective player when he retired. Frank Jr. started at West Ham before making a controversial move to bitter rivals Chelsea. It was the right move, though, with Lampard Jr. becoming one of the most decorated players in the history of the club, an international stalwart for England, and going down as one of the greatest Premier League players of all time.

Premier Players article by Steve Wright

Curry Completes Championship Season With MVP Award

It is hard to believe that there are still people out there questioning the greatness of Golden State Warriors’ premier player Steph Curry. These are not just quiet voices either as a couple of them are some of the most prominent voices on various sports media platforms. It feels like there are some people out there just unwilling to accept greatness, to push their own agenda of misinformation to criticize a player who now has four rings with a single franchise.

Not that Steph Curry cares one little bit.

This playoff run was an important one for Curry. Had he slipped into retirement with three rings then you feel that history would have been kind to him. Curry, though, is the type of player who wants his legacy to be in the now. To do that he knew he had to lead his Warriors over the Boston Celtics this June and be front and center in the NBA Title win.

I would say that winning a first NBA Finals MVP award would class as being a key cog in the victory.

Curry is something of an enigma. Off the court, he is a player that shirks the limelight. In many ways he is more akin to a superstar like Lionel Messi, a player who just wants to get on with – and excel – at his job without the baggage that comes with being one of the best players on the planet. Curry appears to be selfless, kind, and modest off of the court and away from basketball.

However, as soon as he crosses that line onto the court, Curry is a different animal. His brother Seth described Steph as a “Psycho.” He went on to say, “Every time he steps out on the floor, he knows that there’s never been anybody better than him on any floor he’s been on.”

One mark of a true great is their ability to bounce back and shake off a poor performance. Curry was held without a three-pointer in Game 5 of the finals. There are players who would have found Game 6 a struggle, changing what they did as a player and fading into the background. Instead, Curry took over as he went for 34 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. The Warriors were down early, but Curry muscled up and led the comeback that had him signaling for a ring – in a nod to the haters – in the middle of the third quarter.

The studies around sports psychology are fascinating and the attitude of Curry matches that of players like Jordan and Bird. Basketball is arguably the professional team sport where one player can make the biggest difference. To be that player you simply have to have some kind of arrogance, cutthroat demeanor with how you play and how you handle yourself.

Kobe had it. Kareem had it. Steph Curry certainly has it, and as a premier player in history – with a story that is not yet fully written – Curry will keep challenging those names as he moves up the list of best-ever to play the game of basketball.

Article by Premier Players Steve Wright

Is Ryan The Right Man At The Right Time Again?

Sometimes in sports, even the best-laid plans can fall apart.

That is exactly what happened to the Atlanta Falcons when star quarterback Michael Vick got caught up in a scandal entirely of his own making. The franchise needed stability and leadership and they found both with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft when they took a gamble on a tall, skinny, intelligent kid out of Boston College named Matt Ryan.

Ryan was seen by most as the best quarterback prospect in the draft – the next QB off the board was Joe Flacco at No. 18 – but this premier player was far from a lock to be the Falcons’ choice. Atlanta won a coin toss against the Raiders for the No. 3 pick and after Jake and Chris Long went off the board it was widely assumed that running back Darren McFadden would be their choice. McFadden was pro-ready and had been a monster in the SEC at Arkansas, but the Falcons brass knew they needed a potential cornerstone to build around.

They got exactly that in Matty Ice.

This premier player spent 14 seasons in Atlanta. He started from day one, turning a team that went 4-12 in 2007 into a squad that made the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 2008. Ryan was named rookie of the year as he passed for over 3,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ryan was the right man at the right time for Atlanta. A player that has made others better his entire career with the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Calvin Ridley excelling with his quarterback play.

Ryan’s best year in Atlanta was in 2016. That year he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year and NFL MVP. He passed for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns (to seven picks) with a 69.9% completion percentage. These are all career-high marks. The Falcons finished 11-5 that season and made it all the way to Super Bowl LI. This game will likely be Ryan’s biggest career regret after the premier player pushed the Falcons to a 28-3 lead halfway through the third quarter before the New England Patriots staged the most ridiculous of comebacks to win 34-28 in overtime.

The Falcons finished 10-6 in 2017, but that Super Bowl loss is something that Ryan and the team never seem to have recovered from fully. After four seasons with losing records, Ryan is taking his almost 60,000 yards passing and 367 career touchdowns with his to Indianapolis to look for a late-career rejuvenation and another Super Bowl run.

The Colts need Ryan may be more than he needs them. This is the team’s fifth quarterback change in as many years and last year their marriage with Carson Wentz just didn’t work. This is a young offensive set of playmakers outside of Ryan and the leadership skills he honed in his early years in that tough Atlanta environment have been on full display already during the offseason.

More than that, though, Ryan needs to be a playmaker.  Early questions over his arm strength seem to have disappeared as he has been seen making all the throws. His adaptability after 14 seasons in one city was also questioned, but Matty Ice doesn’t just have that nickname because of his play on the field. This is a player ready to attack the NFL – in a division with one bad team (Texans) and one hard to get a read on (Jaguars) – so it would take a brave man to bet against Ryan pushing his Colts into the playoff picture in 2022.

Article by Premier Players Steve Wright


Fans Spending On Live Sports Experiences Surge

People love to watch their premier players at live sporting events.  However, the world is much more expensive now than a year ago. As a result, people are changing their spending habits and not necessarily how you might think.

Spending on consumer goods is way down, but spending on experiences is way up. People saw the world shut down into a place where experiences that had been easy to pass over as “we will do it next time” suddenly didn’t have a foreseeable next time. This means that the demand for live sports – for those premier players that make it easy to take your mind off of money worries or general anxiety for a few hours – is surging.

Sports economics professors saw this coming. According to Dennis Coates, a sports economics guru from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, sports are typically “unresponsive to price changes.” He went on to note how regardless of “good times, bad times, high prices – it doesn’t change consumers’ behavior.”

In the last pre-pandemic, pre-inflation year, the average price for an NFL ticket was $258 in 2019, and those exact tickets were $307 after the release of the league schedule this season. Tickets are expensive, but so are items at the sporting event where the premier players are strutting their stuff. The price of one single beer at the PGA Championship – admittedly a high-end event in a world of high-end events – was $18 earlier this week. Fans want to add to their experience, and after paying $X for a ticket, they are more than willing to buy one beer for the price of a 12-pack at a grocery store.

People are definitely taking the work hard, play hard approach when it comes to sporting events. One NBA fan talked of paying $1,200 for three tickets to the NBA playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. The general theory is that a fan can always make more money – even if that means picking up a side hustle – but experiences are everything. Fans want to be part of a winning culture, part of a crowd after so long while crowds were nowhere to be seen. As a result, they will pay what could be seen as over the odds for those experiences.

This is a trend reflected outside the world of premier players and sporting events as well. Travel – both domestically and internationally – is up massively on pre-pandemic levels. We live in a world where people want to experience everything they can – often in families or with a group – and other things are being put on the back burner to make such experiences possible.

The best advice given by one fan was, “work to live, don’t live to work.” The Memorial Day weekend has gone, and the unofficial start of summer is here. Fans don’t have to flock to MLB stadiums to get a fan experience that will stay in the money (but you could). Finding a fun minor league baseball, local indoor soccer, or even a rec ultimate Frisbee league will still make for a fun and relaxed summer evening.

Finding ways to attend sporting events will lift your mood, and it will give you a zest for life that some of us may have lost during the last couple of years.

Article by Premier Players Steve Wright