Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Problem of Excessive Sheltering

Writer's note: This is a revised version of the Al-Huda article I published earlier this month.

My sister who is currently in her final year at Al-Huda school would currently be preparing for MIST, an interscholastic tournament between (mostly) Muslim high schoolers. Last year's competition in D.C. had some 600 competitors. I participated in MIST 8 times during high school. I wrote a piece on it after my last tournament, you can read it here if you want to get a better idea of the tournament.

Al-Huda is electing not to participate in this year's tournament, and is specifically prohibiting all students from participating under any other team, citing their code of conduct which states that all extra-curricular activities must be properly aligned with the values of the school and the values of Islam. They are threating the students with suspensions and expulsions if they try to bypass the ban by making their own team with a different name.

Let’s take a look for a moment at what is conflicting with Islamic and Al-Hudian values. The “gender-mixing” is obviously offender number one. For many Al-Huda students this is probably the first time they are put into a situation where they have to interact with the opposite gender without direct supervision. The big issue is that at MIST there are instances of people hooking up, now in my 4 years of competing I've never personally seen it happen but I'm pretty in confident it has. This is, of course, completely unacceptable in Islam but it’s also the extreme. People also tend to have an issue with how "friendly" guys and girls get at this competition. This guy-girl interaction is, in my opinion, the main reason that Al-Huda has decided to not only withdraw, but ban its students from competing. MIST has acknowledged the issue from the beginning and does what it possibly can to stop it when they see it by deducting points and telling people to separate and move along if they aren’t with a coach.

Another potential conflict is the musical performances they have during award ceremonies. Lyrically there isn’t a problem, all of the performers from Native Deen to Quadir Lateef have never said anything but Islamically appropriate material. The issue is the instruments they use and how it’s prohibited. I know there’s some debate about this subject but I’m not knowledgeable enough to go into issues of fiqh. I will say this however, almost everyone listens to music to some extent be it in movies, television or on their own Spotify and iTunes accounts. There is something magical about the way music affects the human person which is why it is so mainstream in every culture, so much so that MIST even has a nasheed competition. But when it comes to Islamically appropriate music that isn’t Quran the performances at MIST are the way to go. I believe Al-Huda handled this appropriately, I forget when this was but during a Native Deen performance Al-Huda students walked out of the award ceremony to peacefully protest the music. They explained to the kids why they were doing it and avoided the problem without robbing them of the rest of the beneficial experience.

There might be some other issues I’m not aware of but these are the two main issues
that Al-Huda has been vocal about. I doubt anything else would motivate them to ban the competition outright but what I’m about to say will cover those issues as well.

This decision is, in a word, dangerous. Al-Huda tries too hard to shelter its students from the outside world. From my years as a student I was made to believe that the outside world is cruel and that public school and college teachers won't care about me like the teachers at Al-Huda do. I was told about how all this haraam (Islamically prohibited) stuff is out there and I need to shield myself from it. For all the talk of the outside world Al-Huda did nothing to prepare me for HOW to deal with it.

Al-Huda is a very “orthodox” school in that they separate each grade by gender starting from kindergarten. With all the sexualization in American culture it’s necessary to instill a strong Islamic foundation in kids. This part Al-Huda does well, to an extent. You learn what’s right and what’s wrong. You read Quran and you learn hadith that tell you what to do and what not to do. What you don’t learn is how to live in the world around you.

Let’s just say, for the purpose of argument, Al-Huda’s concerns are valid and that MIST doesn’t align with Islamic principles. I’m not saying that this is the case at all, but let’s just assume.

The world in general doesn’t align with Al-Huda’s or Islamic principles in general. This is a fact and it’s true in America, it’s true in Canada, it’s true in Saudi and it’s true for the vast majority of the world. Sheltering, essentially telling young adults with impressionable minds that they aren’t allowed to go to or do X because it’s bad, is okay if there are no benefits. Ignoring legal principles, Al-Huda should be allowed to ban its students from going to bars and clubs. These places have absolutely no benefit for all the immorality they offer.

Thankfully, the majority of institutions in the world aren’t of the unsavory nightclub variety. Public school, college, the work place and the mall are all examples of places where we have to learn to live in the culture of our land while maintaining our religious foundation. Excessive sheltering however, impairs the students’ ability to perform this delicate balancing act.

Indulge me in this imaginary world where you don’t need a license to drive. Imagine a mother who is scared of letting her child drive a car. She doesn’t let him drive, doesn’t even teach him how to theoretically drive for fear of him doing it. She has the best intentions and is only worried about her son’s safety. So this continues until the son is 25, out of college and needs to drive 45 minutes through downtown Manhattan to get to work tomorrow. He steps into a car for the first time and gets into a 4 person accident before he makes it out of his driveway. The mother’s concerns were legitimate but she should’ve taught him how to safely operate the car while she still had the chance. The child suffers exactly what the mother tried to protect her from and the child suffered all those years of not enjoying the perks that come with driving. It’s in this way excessive sheltering is a ‘lose-lose’ situation. Imagine the animosity that kid had towards his mom the entire time; helicopter parenting or schooling is simply a proven method of accomplishing nothing. You can replace driving with inappropriate relationships, premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, anything really and it still holds.

Instead of trying to address the problem(s) they've simply cut it off. It seems oddly hypocritical to boast about their 9 consecutive MIST championships and then suddenly banning it for being un-Islamic. What kind of message does this send to students? We don't agree with these one or two aspects of the event and hence we are not allowing anybody to compete. And I can almost guarantee 99% if not 100% of Al-Huda's competitors were not involved in the small minority that use MIST as a marriage proving ground. This is not how to effectively address problems. What better place to learn how to handle interactions in an un-Islamic sexualized country than inside an Islamic school taught by educated teachers who go through the struggle everyday of their own lives. What should you do if a woman tries to shake your hand? Can you look her in the eye? What if she smiles at me? Am I going to hell for that? These are all questions I had as I  jwent from a tiny, secluded private school to a giant, co-ed public high school. I can't begin to tell people how awkward I was my first year as I had to learn all this stuff on my own. This is stuff Al-Huda should be addressing head-on, as opposed to shutting the dialogue down via an email to parents.

If nothing else the email to parents should've made them aware of the problem and encouraged them to discuss it with their children. Because if it isn't addressed now and simply brushed under the rug then the kids with the tendency to do whatever it is Al-Huda is trying to prevent will simply do so in bigger force when they get the chance. Be it in an unsupervised competition outside of MIST or whenever these high schoolers go off to college.

And let's be clear, it's not like MIST is some sacrilegious strip club where Muslim kids go to do nasty haraam stuff.

MIST is single-handedly the best thing that happened for Muslim youth in the D.C. area. The organizers are unpaid college students who have their own lives, classes, exams and jobs outside of MIST and yet dedicate insane amounts of time to create this amazing environment for their younger peers to flourish and grow.

MIST builds leadership, creativity, speaking and many other important skills that you don't necessarily cultivate in a traditional learning environment. Many people develop their talents through MIST. I became a better public speaker and debater, my sister became a better film-maker and photographer to the point where she opened her own business. Through the competitions and workshops these kids not only hone their creativity and other skills but have fun in a relatively wholesome environment (being a college student I can tell you first hand that MIST is NOTHING compared what these kids are going to see when they graduate) while learning more about their religion through the competition, speakers and workshops. And they build brother/sisterhood with their teams throughout the months of prepping and at the competition. Then those who excelled get to push themselves against the best of the best at Nationals where every region comes into compete. This experience is like nothing else. I feel so sorry for all those students who won't be able to experience the absolutely amazing journey that is MIST.


The bottom line is that this needs to be a lesson for people who hold the incredible responsibility of developing our Muslim youth that completely shutting off anything that can be remotely un-Islamic is doing more harm than good. Teaching is always better than hiding. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Why Al-Huda's Decision to Ban MIST is Wrong

My sister who is currently in her final year at Al-Huda school would currently be preparing for MIST, an interscholastic tournament between (mostly) Muslim high schoolers. Last year's competition had some 600 competitors. I participated in MIST 8 times during high school. I wrote a piece on it after my last tournament, you can read it here if you want to get a better idea of the tournament.

Al-Huda School has dominated the regional tournament since its inception in the D.C. area. Everyone's goal was to upset them but nobody ever did. Eleanor Roosevelt (my team) came close in my final two years but missed them by a few points.

Al-Huda is electing not to participate in this year's tournament, and is specifically prohibiting all students from participating under any other team, citing their code of conduct which states that all extra curricular activities must be properly aligned with the values of the school and the values of Islam. Now it is my understanding that this decision is based on the "gender mixing" that happens at MIST, as this is the only thing that could potentially not comply with their values. If this is false, I'd love to hear an alternate explanation.

I've spent grades 1-6 and 8 at Al-Huda and what I'm speaking to comes from that experience, along with having a mother who teaches there and three siblings who are going there right  now. This decision is, in a word, asinine. Al-Huda tries too hard to shelter it's students from the outside world. From my years as a student I was made to believe that outside world is cruel, that public school and college teachers won't care about me like the teachers at Al-Huda do. I was told about how all this haraam (Islamically prohibited) stuff is out there and I need to shield myself from it. For all the talk of the outside world Al-Huda did nothing to prepare me for HOW to deal with it.

There are technically two schools at Al-Huda. Two sets of each grade. One for the boys and one for the girls. This separation starts at kindergarten. And I think at the beginning, it's fine. With all the sexual images in mainstream culture today, be it television, billboards, a Disney movie or whatever there is no need to further this while a child is young. It's extremely key for kids to have a sound Islamic foundation that a full time Islamic school can offer. That's not to say that children who go to public schools are somehow "corrupted" just that in my opinion it's better for them in the beginning. This helicopter schooling can only go on for so long, however.

Eventually students are going to go to public school and college and they'll be ill-prepared with how to smoothly handle the transition. The big issue is that at MIST there are instances of people hooking up, now in my 4 years I've never personally seen it happen but I'm pretty in confident it has. This would be the extreme I guess, people also tend to have an issue with how "friendly" guys and girls get at this competition. This guy-girl interaction is the reason that Al-Huda has decided to not only withdraw, but ban its students from competing. MIST has acknowledged the issue from the beginning and does what it possibly can to stop it when they see it.

Instead of trying to address the problem of teaching these children how to interact properly with the opposite gender they've simply cut it off. What kind of message does this send to students? We don't agree with this one aspect of the event and hence we are not allowing anybody to compete. And I can almost guarantee 99% if not 100% of Al-Huda's competitors were not involved in the small minority that use MIST as a marriage proving ground. This is not how we address problems. What better place to learn how to handle interactions in an un-Islamic sexualized country than inside an Islamic school taught by educated teachers who go through the struggle everyday of their own lives. What should you do if a woman tries to shake your hand? Can you look her in the eye? What if she smiles at me? Am I going to hell for that? These are all questions I had as I went from tiny, secluded private school to a giant, co-ed public high school. I can't begin to tell how awkward I was my first year as I had to learn all this stuff on my own. This is stuff Al-Huda should be addressing head-on, as opposed to shutting the dialogue down via an email to parents.

If nothing else the email to parents should've made them aware of the problem and encouraged them to discuss it with their children. Because if it isn't addressed now and simply brushed under the rug then the kids with the tendency to do whatever it is Al-Huda is trying to prevent will simply do so in bigger force when they get the chance. Be it in an unsupervised competition outside of MIST or whenever these high schoolers go off to college.

And let's be clear, it's not like MIST is some sacrilegious strip club where Muslim kids go to do nasty haraam stuff.

MIST is single-handedly the best thing that happened for Muslim youth in the D.C. area. It builds leadership, and many other important skills that you don't necessarily cultivate in a traditional learning environment. Many people develop their talents through MIST. I became a better public speaker and debater, my sister became a better film-maker and photographer to the point where she opened her own business. And through the competitions and workshops these kids not only hone their creativity and other skills but have fun in a relatively wholesome environment (being a college student I can tell you first hand that MIST is NOTHING compared what these kids are going to see when they graduate) while learning more about their religion through the competition, speakers and workshops. And they build brother/sisterhood with their teams throughout the months of prepping and at the competition. Then those who excelled get to push themselves against the best of the best at Nationals where every region comes into compete. This experience is like nothing else. I feel so sorry for all those students who won't be able to experience the absolutely amazing journey that is MIST.




Sunday, December 28, 2014

Basic Car Maintenance for the Non-Car Person

Any car nut knows that upgrades, detailing and mods come second to actual maintenance. Cars are serious investment for any person or family, and taking care of it should be a priority. Today I'm going to outline some basic steps anybody who owns a car should take to ensure they're protecting their investment.

1. Engine Oil
The engine is the powerhouse of your car and also the most expensive part. It's also the easiest to take care of. The first step is to change your engine oil regularly. Follow your owners manual's recommended change interval and use the proper oil for the car. Your manual should say something like change it every 3500 miles with 5W-30. The most important thing is that the oil you use is API certified and of the correct viscosity. I could write an entire article on oil but for the purposes of changing your oil the viscosity (5W-30 or whatever your manual says) is the most important. Conventional, Synthetic, Synthetic-Blends are all sufficient and interchangeable if you want to go to a different type of oil for the next change.

The other thing is that in between oil changes you should check your oil level regularly. Check your engine when it's cold, so first thing in the morning before you take it out for a drive. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, put it back in and check it and make sure the oil level is between the full and low marks and you're fine. Running your engine without oil is a surefire way to kill your car, so check your oil twice a month and make sure you're topped off.

2. Transmission Fluid
I'm assuming most you guys drive automatics. If you're one of the lucky people with a stick just change your gear oil according to interval in the owners manual. Nothing to check really. Check your owners manual on how to properly check your transmission fluid, there is a dipstick but there are differences on how you check it. But when you check it you still want the fluid to be between the low and fill marks. You also want to put a little fluid on your finger and make sure it's still relatively red. If it's brown or black that's a sign of neglect and you need to change it out.

Tranmission fluid needs to be changed less frequently but still needs to be changed as a maintenance item. Again this varies with your manufacturer so check your owner's manual. Usually it's like a 15k or 30k interval.

3. All Other Fluids
The other fluids you should be checking the same time you check your transmission and engine oil are your engine coolant, power steering fluid and brake fluid. You check these by finding the reservoir that they sit in, usually all these have markings of  MAX and MIN. If you can't see it then use some soap and water and just clean it off with a rag. Usually all you're checking for is to see if they're at an appropriate level. If they are low that's probably indicative of a leak. If they are low, just top them off until they're at the right level. In a pinch you can usually use transmission fluid as power steering fluid.

4. Routine Scheduled Maintenance
Follow the maintenance schedule outlined in your owner's manual. If you're due for spark plugs and an air filter, get them changed. If you're due for a timing belt, get it changed. It's that simple, the people who have cars that never give them problems are the ones who follow what the manufacturer says.

5. Tire Pressure
This is an easy one. Buy a cheapo $20 air compressor or a nice $90 jump starter that can jump start your car without the need for another car. These usually come with a built in air compressor and usb port to charge your stuff in a pinch. And get a tire pressure gauge while you're at it. Keep both in your car. With the car stone cold, ideally first thing in the morning. Check your tire pressure and make sure they're all inflated to the proper spec in your owner's manual. This not only helps your tire wear evenly but also helps your fuel economy. I also rotate my tires every two oil changes to help them wear evenly and make them last longer.

6. Ignoring Problems
Don't do it. If your check engine light comes on, get it checked. If your car is making a noise, get it checked. If you see a leak after you park your car, get it checked. Don't ignore problems just because your car still runs, you're probably running components way past their life-cycle. This is how people end up on the side of road with smoke coming out of their hood.

Sometimes it might seem like you're spending money on nothing when you pay for maintenance when your car is still running fine but remember that maintenance is always cheaper than paying for a new engine or paying for an accident caused a separated ball joint. It's always worth it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Understanding The Ferguson Decision

Darren Wilson wasn't indicted in the shooting of Mike Brown, a 17 year old unarmed black teenager. Unless you literally live under you rock you've seen the public outrage over the decision, be it the riots in Ferguson, or public rants on social media. Before anybody tries to justify the ruling by the grand jury in the case I want explain the legal aspect of it. Once you understand you simply cannot justify not indicting Officer Wilson.

An indictment is not a trial, an indictment is formally charging someone with a crime. It's a standard procedure before every criminal trial to make sure that the court system doesn't waste its time with a case that doesn't have any backing. How does the jury make this determination? They weigh the evidence presented against a standard of proof.

In a criminal trial, the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." It is by far the most difficult standard of proof to meet. Basically, if after hearing all the testimony and evidence, a reasonable person would doubt that the defendant committed the crime then the defendant should be exonerated. A more lax standard is the "preponderance of the evidence." This is used in civil trials and means that the evidence must be more likely than not, a far cry from beyond a reasonable doubt. To put it another way if 51% of the evidence says you're guilty, then you're guilty. Now ladies and gentlemen there is an even lower standard of proof that I'm sure you've heard before: probable cause.

Probable cause is one of the lowest standards of proof, second only to reasonable suspicion. All you need is a reasonable basis to believe a crime MAY have been committed. So to give you an idea, an empty beer can in the passenger seat of a car, is probable cause for an officer to search you on suspicions of a DUI. It is NOT enough to convict you of the crime, but enough to meet probable cause.

Can you guess which standard of proof is required to issue an indictment? Yup, it's probable cause. Now let's apply that to the Brown case. Let's look at the facts for a minute and see if we have probable cause, not to convict Wilson, but simply to see if we should bother finding out what happened that day.

  • Brown was unarmed
  • Brown was shot six times
  • Brown was 17 years old
  • Brown is dead
  • Officer Wilson suffered no serious injuries


Do these facts make you believe that maybe, just maybe, Mike Brown's killing wasn't justified self-defense? If so then we have met the burden of probable cause, Wilson should have been indicted and the trial should have moved forward. Ask any attorney how blatantly absurd it is for a person not be indicted after putting 6 bullets into a kid and you'll see why everybody is so outraged.

It would be one thing if Wilson wasn't convicted after a trial, then you could make the argument that the evidence wasn't there for a conviction under "beyond a reasonable doubt" but that didn't happen. He was let off scott-free without any effort to find out what happened, and that's the worst part of this. The system proves time and time again that black people's lives are worth less than a white person's. No supposed petty-crime deserves being executed without a trial, yet Darren Wilson is free, and a lot richer because he killed a young black boy.

I'm not even going to get into riot aspect of it except by saying all my Maryland readers should remember in 2002 when Maryland won the national championship how much destruction was caused by drunk rioters over a college basketball game. And yet people want to complain about rioting when the justice system let's a murderer walk free without a trial? If you're complaining about the riots then you just don't get it. There's no other way to put it. Maybe it'll take another 50-100 years but right now, post-racial America is nothing but a child's fantasy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Football, Sportswriters and The Stock Market

Stop me if you've heard this one before. X player plays well. Y analyst writes how he's the next incarnation of Jesus. Next week X player doesn't play well. Y analyst writes about how he's worse than Ryan Leaf.

The NFL is unique in terms of sports leagues. If a team loses a game in the NBA, NHL or MLB it's not the end of time. They still have a bagillion more games to play and fluke wins and losses don't usually play a huge factor in their final regular season record. There's only 16 weeks of football and every single game counts. That's why football fans go nuts on Sundays and sports media have so much to say after every single game.

We've seen the Kirk Cousins hype. He played two good games early on in the season and people we're quick to say he's a better quarterback than RG3, that the Redskins are saved and that RG3's career is over. He's now sitting behind RG3 and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.

More recently, as I spend most of football season in Pennsylvania, I saw last week's Eagles game. Quarterback Nick Foles, who led Philadelphia to a solid 5-2 record this year after finishing last season with 27 TDs and only 2 interceptions. Foles has been getting beaten up in recent weeks and went out of the game with a broken clavicle in the first quarter after throwing a touchdown and a pick-6 to keep the score even at 7-7. Enter disgraced ex-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. He comes and throws a slighty underthrown bomb to Jeremy Maclin for a 74 yard gain on his first play. He finished with two touchdown passes and two interceptions and, more importantly, an Eagles win.

"Sports analysts", even the "good" ones on NFL.com started writing about how Mark Sanchez is reviving his career and how the Jets ruined him. Some say that he's the replacement for Nick Foles and that he's going to lead the Eagles even after Foles is healthy. After 3 quarters of football people want to dethrone the most consistent quarterback Philadelphia has had since Donovan McNabb for a proven turnover machine that even the New York Jets didn't want. For those who forget, Geno Smith has a better career completion percentage than Sanchez, add-in the facts that Sanchez left New York with more turnovers than scores and the fact that he's from USC and you see why these so-called analysts are really quick to jump the gun.

Let's turn now to the news. You ever hear people freaking out on the news because the Dow fell by 7 points or the S&P 500 is down 5 points? Do you know why most investors don't really care? Because they aren't in the stock market for a single day. Regardless of any single day's gains and losses (even the 08 crash took more than an single day) investors are pretty sure that over the long run they will end up with some positive growth. The smart people realize that anything can happen in a single sitting and that they need to observe a stock or fund for an extended period of time before making extreme judgments on it.

Sportswriters and fans are like the people who get extremely upset or happy after watching the day's stock market activity. Too reactive and too stupid to see the big picture. Is anyone questioning Tom Brady's job security now? No. And someone call in me in about 5 weeks after we see what Mark Sanchez's career renaissance looks like. I'm betting nobody will want to see him under-center next season.

The NFL is an extremely complicated sport. Game-planning and learning offenses and defenses are so much more complicated than any other sport. Players need time to develop their mental abilities to catch up to their physical capabilities. Receivers need to know when to break-off their routes and sit in a zone and what their quarterback is expecting of them on every route. The quarterback needs to be able to the read the defense pre-snap, make adjustments and then see what his options are when the play starts. This isn't something that happens overnight. Experience is necessary to become a solid NFL player. Russell Wilson & Andrew Luck are exceptions to the rule but their play is getting even better than their phenomenal rookie seasons with some NFL experience under their belt. Teams, coaches and players take time to develop and a smart fan never reads too much into any single game or even a single season. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'll Still Take Kirk Cousins Over Colt McCoy

After two turnovers in the first half Jay Gruden told Colt McCoy he was going to get some playing time today. McCoy played the entire 2nd half and with the team down by one point, lead the team down the field for the game winning field goal. I'm going to tell you why I still want Kirk Cousins to start against Dallas.

I was present at the game today, sitting up high in the nosebleeds at FedEx Field. When you watch a football game on television you don't see any passing plays develop. You can't see the defensive backs and you can't see the wide receivers. When Kirk Cousins lost the fumble he was in the pocket waiting for something to develop and not a single receiver broke open in the 5 seconds he had to throw. Not excusing him completely as he shouldn't have fumbled but if the receivers did their job then Cousins wouldn't have gotten sacked on the play. What I saw on the field today was not a failure of the quarterback to move the offense, but a failure in the play calling and offense as a whole.

Both of Cousins' turnovers were in situations where he had time to throw, but nobody was open. The interception was a classic Cousins throw, dead accurate into the hands of a linebacker. That one proved to be the nail in his coffin and he was benched shortly thereafter. He made a couple nice throws, one under duress to Niles Paul to start off the game and a deep throw on third down to DeSean Jackson. He moved the ball but was never able to score a touchdown in the redzone. He finished 10/16 for 139 with no scores and two turnovers.

Enter Colt McCoy, steps in and throws a 70 yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon. Electrifying, some would say. But that touchdown was 99% Garcon. He ran a simple 6ish yard hitch route and McCoy delivered the ball on time. Any high school quarterback could've make that throw. He didn't even go through a progression, he just started down Garcon and threw the hitch on time. If that exact play is called with Cousins I guarantee Garcon still catches a 70 yard touchdown. Gruden's play calling simplified when McCoy started throwing. A vast majority of his 11 completions were to wide open receivers on really simple routes. Take away the 70 yard touchdown -which only traveled 6 yards in the air- and McCoy's average completion comes out to 5.8 yards. Gruden simplified his play calling and that allowed McCoy to move the ball on the game winning drive.

I'm not saying that Gruden's offense is too complicated or that Cousins couldn't handle it, but rather when the receivers consistently aren't getting open on a consistent basis there's some blame on the coaches as well. Most of the time Gruden would isolate a receiver and have him beat the corner by running a simple timing route. High percentage pass plays make the quarterback more comfortable and get a couple yards. If you get really lucky like McCoy did then they turn into 70 yard touchdowns. This might be why Cousins is 2-1 coming off the bench unprepared but 1-7 as a starter.

The one thing McCoy had over Cousins was evident on three separate plays that didn't work out. People didn't get open so on two occasions McCoy tucked it and ran, and on another he ran away from some pass rushers and threw the ball away. No bone headed turnovers and methodical short passing was enough to win this football game. Could Cousins have led the team back in the 2nd half, absolutely. Would he have thrown an 'accurate interception' on that final drive? Possibly, and that 'possibly' is why Gruden benched Kirk.

I stand by what I said before. Cousins has shown flashes of being an upper echelon quarterback, he just needs to stop turning the ball over. It's a mental hurdle that can get better with experience. He definitely won't be getting over the hump sitting on the bench watching Colt McCoy throw 5 yard out routes. There will be no Superbowl in 2014 for the Washington Redskins and until RG3 is fully healthy I'd rather see Cousins play. Experience will help him get better and the offense is more potent with Cousins at the helm. McCoy had 24 games with Cleveland as the starter before he was written-off. Cousins has 8 scattered games across 3 seasons as the #2 quarterback living in Robert Griffin III's shadow. Give him a fair shot before labeling him as a career backup.

Keep in mind that during this game and the past 3 games where the offense has slowed down, Cousins has gotten zero help from his running game. It's hard enough to play quarterback when you learned the offense as a 2nd stringer during the off-season. That difficulty is significantly amplified when you become a one dimensional offense. The offensive line is decent at pass protection but horrendous at getting a push in the running game. That needs to change before the quarterback does.


Other notes:

  • As injury riddled as our defense is they've been playing winnable football over the past few weeks. Holding Seattle and Arizona and only folding after giving the offense plenty of chances to get ahead. 
  • Bashaud Breeland is getting better every week and is giving great production for a 4th round draft pick. Our two starting corners are young, physical and good tacklers. A bright spot on a poor team if you will. 
  • Tress Way is one a hell of a punter, consistently boots it far and keeps it inside the 20 when he can. 
  • This game should've been a rout but when you can't run the ball your offense isn't going to score points. I don't blame Gruden for not giving Morris carries, the line just isn't powerful enough to create running lanes.
  • It's Dallas week and while the Cowboys are looking like one of the top teams in the NFL, it's important to note that when the Redskins and Cowboys play it doesn't matter where either team stands. Anything can happen. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

To the Morons Who Want Colt McCoy to Start

Kirk Cousins had a bad day last Sunday, failing to sustain drives and throwing 3 4th quarter interceptions to put the dagger in what was easily a winnable game. Because most NFL fans are short sighted and stupid to apply a hair of logic to a situation I have to write this article to say this: if you believe Colt McCoy is the answer at quarterback until RG3 gets back you are an idiot. Plain and simple.

If the Cleveland Browns, a franchise just as inept as Washington has been over the past decade, releases you after 3 years you are not starting quarterback material. He hasn't played a full season of NFL football in the five years he's been in the league. The most was 13 games in 2011 where he threw for 14 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Not only is McCoy skilled at turning the ball over, he's also been historically terrible at actually generating points. In terms of third string quarterbacks, he's pretty good. Maybe he could come off the bench one day and win you a game, but he isn't a starter. He's had a chance to prove it and he lost it. Both McCoy and Cousins have a good relationship with interceptions and fumbles but at least Cousins also flirts with touchdowns here and there.

Kirk Cousins has shown that he isn't clutch. Aside from the Ravens and Browns game in 2012 Cousins has simply been unable to get the job done. He went 0-3 as a starter in 2013 and he's 0-4 as a starter this year. He puts up gaudy passing numbers but always accompanies them with something that makes us question whether he's really that good. Against Philadelphia he threw a key interception and when he had a chance to redeem himself he threw three straight incompletions to end the game. Against the Giants he destroyed any chance of a comeback with 5 turnovers. Against Seattle he played okay but couldn't move the ball on several chances given to him by the defense. Against Arizona he had a total meltdown with 3 fourth quarter interceptions to end the game.

In my expert opinion as an ex-junior varsity-benchwarmer-quarterback Cousins lacks the mental focus to be a winner. There are three mental elements required to be a successful quarterback:
1. The complete understanding of the offense to where you aren't thinking but rather naturally reacting to what you get from the defense.
2. The ability to shake-off a bad play and throw like it never happened.
3. The ability to ignore high pressure situations and play as if it's any other drive.

In my opinion Cousins has number 1 but lacks either 2, 3 or possibly both. When he messes up he compounds it 100 times more instead of moving on. The "damn I just let my team down with an interception" feeling stays in his mind well after he throws an interception and messes with his ability to naturally read and react to the defense. This results in some pretty ugly looking interceptions at the worst possible times. This has never been a problem with RG3.

This is a fix-able problem and it only gets fixed with experience. He shows great potential, especially for a 4th round pick. With 10 touchdowns in only 5 games he'd be on pace for 32 in a full season, which would be good for #4 in the NFL last year. He needs to get over the mental hurdles and once he does that he will easily be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Unlike McCoy, Cousins actually shows some ability as a upper-level quarterback who can move the ball well.

Quarterbacks used to develop for years before being thrust into starting duty. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton & 2012 RG3 are all exceptional athletes who've raised expectations to unreal levels. Alex Smith was a late bloomer and there's nothing saying Cousins won't figure out how to shake off the bad plays. Will he? I have no idea but I sure hope he does. Until then however, he should still be the undisputed starter until RG3 comes back.