Monday, December 29, 2014

MUSIC ROUNDUP: MY TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo Courtesy of XXLMag.com
     As the final days of 2014 are winding down, it's time to take a look back at the previous 12 months in the world of music. 2014 had some good moments and some bad moments in music, but every year there are always several albums that truly rise above the rest of the pack for each individual listener.

     So without further ado, here are my top ten favorite albums of 2014!

*Note: The albums picked and their respective rankings were based solely on my opinion. 

10.) Big KRIT- Cadillactica


     Big KRIT has been one of the best young rappers in the hip hop game for the last few years. He has a lot of charisma on the mic and is a great lyricist. And yet he faced a situation where fans and critics thought that his debut album, 2012’s Live From The Underground, wasn’t on par to some of his earlier mixtapes. But with his second album Cadillactica, Big KRIT has released not only his best musical project yet, but also one of the best hip hop projects of 2014. 
     Cadillactica is described as a world in Big KRIT’s mind and in that world comes great storytelling and artistic evolutions. In his collaboration with rapper Lupe Fiasco on 'Lost Generation’, Big KRIT uses incredible wordplay to detail the sentiment that people tend to desire more than they seem to and that young children can get involved into criminal activity in order to show off the quick money with their friends. Meanwhile in the song ‘Soul Food’, Big KRIT discusses how the newer generation has appeared to toss aside love in relationships, in favor of lust. 
     Big KRIT deserves to be a much more popular rapper than he is. But as we have learned over time with similar rappers, if you consistently make great music, then the commercial success will eventually follow. 

9.) U2- Songs Of Innocence

     The legendary Irish rock band created lots of controversy back in September when they released their new album, Songs Of Innocence, free to all Itunes users straight to their iPhones. What was originally a plan to give something new to their fans, U2 was criticized mercilessly by fans and critics alike for forcing their music down people’s throats and making money off of it through Apple. It’s a shame because Songs Of Innocence might be the best album that U2 has made in the last 10 to 15 years. 
     Thematically, it revisits the group members’ youth in Ireland and paying homage to their own musical inspirations. ‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)’ features punk-rock guitar riffs that channel lead singer’s Bono’s inspiration of one of his favorite bands, The Ramones.
     ‘Every Breaking Wave’ is a powerful song that combines Bon’s soaring vocals with tight instrumentation from guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. Like many of U2’s past albums, there are songs that are politically charged, including ‘Raised By Wolves’ and ‘Cedarwood Road’. 
     Let’s be clear, Songs Of Innocence is not in the same league as The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. But it features the band members of U2 at their most personal that they have been in a long time. If they can properly sell the next album they release, they should have a good chance of reclaiming a lot of the fans that they might have lost with this latest album rollout.

8.) Jhene Aiko- Souled Out

     R&B singer Jhene Aiko is the embodiment of a second-chance story. After being originally signed to Epic Records as a teenager, Aiko left the label in 2003 to further her education and raise her newlyborn child. But in 2011 through Def Jam records, Aiko began to make a comeback by releasing the stellar mixtape Sailing Souls and then an EP last year titled Sail Out. Sail Out was well-received by critics and featured her biggest hits yet, including ‘The Worst’ and ‘Bed Peace’ featuring rapper Childish Gambino. Souled Out builds upon the previous EP’s success and is arguably her best work to date. 
     Souled Out is a concept album, that according to Aiko, features the evolution of a woman’s heartbreak before eventually becoming enlightened. Aiko doesn’t have the greatest vocal range, but her soft voice does an incredible job at letting out the emotion through the words and stories that she is singing about. And the instrumentation contains a lot of hip hop based production combined with guitar-tinged synthesizers. 
     One song that we see this kind of instrumentation is ‘The Pressure’ where the laid-back, but also psychedlic production, is combined with the lyrical subject matter of Aiko stressing out as she is tying to finish the album. ‘To Love And Die’, featuring the hip hop group Coacine 80s, is filled with hypnotic synthesizers and hazy drum loops. Which works very well with the confessional subject matter of the lyrics. 
     It is no secret that R&B has been struggling in the commercial and critical marketplace. This has started to change with the evolution of indie R&B and with the emergence of singers like Miguel, Frank Ocean. But Jhene Aiko is the first female R&B singer in a while that has put an album together with cohesive material to make you listen and think. Aiko is ahead of her peers and had one of the best R&B albums of 2014.

7.) Logic- Under Pressure

     Under Pressure was the debut album for Maryland rapper Logic after four highly successful mixtapes that were a part of his infamous Young Sinatra series. It’s an album that is undeniably raw and personal, describing Logic’s difficult upbringing in his hometown of Gaithersburg, Maryland. And with no guest features on the album, we get to hear Logic’s story from front to back. 
     This album is dark as it tells the brutal events of his sister being raped in the song ‘Soul Food’, being surrounded by gang violence and criminal activity in ‘Gang Related’ and his addiction to nicotine in the aptly titled, ‘Nikki’. As a result, listeners are brought into Logic’s dark world and how that world affects his subconscious. There are upbeat braggadocio tracks on Under Pressure such as the bangers ‘Bounce’ and ‘Never Enough’, but it’s the more introspective songs that leave a lasting effect. 
     Logic does incorporate a lot of the lyricism, storytelling and emotional connection that we generally hear from star rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, but Logic’s story is unique in its own right to help him stand out on his own. 
     Under Pressure is a great debut that shows Logic willing to step away from radio trends and focus on making a hip hop album that could quite possibly be remembered for years to come.


6.) Eric Church- The Outsiders

     Country singer Eric Church could’ve easily replicated the formula that he had with his breakthrough 2011 album Chief. Instead he created an album in, The Outsiders, that is more adventurous and mixes different genres with one another throughout the entirety of the entire album. You can hear the obvious country and bluegrass tones, but there are at other points, metallic guitars and funked up bass lines. 
     The title track opens up with a snarl-rap from Church that leads into a southern rock stadium chorus and eventually somehow finishes as a progressive metal barnburner. ‘That’s Damn Rock and Roll’ completely takes away any country overtones and smashes it with straight up classic southern rock music. And in live performances where Church features Halestorm lead singer Lizzy Hale on vocals, the songs gets even more aggressive and epic. 
     Then you have your confessional songs, ranging from Church wishing the girl back in high school stayed in his life or traveling up to a racetrack with friends to experience one of the final moments of a carefree childhood, in ‘Give Me Back My Hometown’ and ‘Talladega’ respectively. 
     The Outsiders didn’t have the huge commercial singles that Chief had, even though I still think ‘Talladega’ will be the smash for The Outsiders that ‘Springsteen’ was for Chief, but it’s a more adventurous project that should be commended for pushing mainstream country out of its standard comfort zone. With all of the generic bro-country artists out there right now, it’s nice to see Eric Church getting the accolades that he deserves with The Outsiders.

5.) The Black Keys- Turn Blue

     It’s pretty remarkable to remember that Turn Blue is the Ohio band’s eighth album because The Black Keys really started gaining mainstream success and recognition in 2010 with their album, Brothers. And it’s even more surprising that after the garage rock and hook-laden songs that filled their 2011 Grammy winning album, El Camino, The Black Keys took their latest album in an entirely different direction. 
     Producer Danger Mouse returned for the Turn Blue sessions, but the vibe of this album is slower and honestly more melancholy. No surprise since the sessions for this album were happening in the midst of guitarist Dan Auerbach’s reportedly ugly divorce from his wife, which inspired a lot of Turn Blue
     This album is more psychedelic rock and soul based music. Turn Blue opens with an epic seven minute song called ‘Weight Of Love’ that contains a building guitar solo from Auerbach. ‘Fever’ contains a fantastic multi-layered vocal track to brighten up the chorus and yet also exposes the pain that Auerbach is singing with throughout the song. Drummer Patrick Carney delivers a wide variety of drumming patterns that range from the energetic ‘Gotta Get Away’ to the introspective ‘It’s Up To You Now’. 
     The Black Keys were another musical act that opted away from making radio singles and Turn Blue is better because of it. It is a record that is meant to be listened to from front to back and take you on a musical journey. It ultimately stands up very well with their more up-tempo albums Brothers and El Camino

4.) J.Cole- 2014 Forest Hills Drive

     Ever since releasing such spectacular mixtapes in the late 2000s ,that included The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights, North Carolina rapper J.Cole has always been unfairly put on an extremely high pedestal compared to many of his peers. Add that to being the first signee to Jay-Z’s music label, Roc Nation, and the expectations continued to rise.
     J.Cole’s first two albums, 2011’s Cole World: The Sideline Story and 2013’s Born Sinner were commercial hits that showcased J.Cole’s lyrcism and storytelling abilities. However, neither album has been viewed by critics as being on par with some of J.Cole’s earlier mixtapes. 
     The main criticism has been that J.Cole tends to play it safe on albums and that he has been chasing the radio for hits, which is a fair criticism if you’ve listened to ‘Work Out’, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, ‘Power Trip’, or ‘Crooked Smile’. With his third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, there is no sign of reaching for the radio and no featured guests. It is J.Cole telling stories of his early life at the album title’s home address. 
     One of J.Cole’s strengths is that he’s extremely relateable and it pops up again with a great song called ‘Wet Dreamz’ that tells the story of J.Cole trying to impress a girl by telling her that he is great at sex, even though he is actually a virgin. We later learn in the song that J.Cole is completely insecure about this fact only to find out that the girl he is trying to impress is also a virgin and doing the exact same thing back to him. 
     Then there are the songs that are critiques towards society including the aggressive ‘Fire Squad’ that displays the cultural appropriation that has steadily increased in hip hop and the lack of role models for young women in the aptly titled ‘No Role Modelz’. ‘Apparently’ is a song about regret for leaving his mother to deal with their foreclosed house while he was partying and trying to snag a record deal up in New York. 
     This is the most honest and direct album that J.Cole has ever made and not only is it his best yet, but it is one of the best hip hop albums that have been released this year. And it seems that fans agree since 2014 Forest Hills Drive has already sold over 500,000 copies and has been certified gold in just two weeks. J.Cole is officially a superstar and 2014 Forest Hills Drive could turn out to be the album we look back on and refer to as his classic.

3.) Young The Giant- Mind Over Matter

     Mind Over Matter marked a nearly four year gap from the California band’s self titled first album. And for young rock bands ,that lapse in time early in their careers is usually a large warning sign that signals trouble. Young the Giant’s debut album focused on rich harmonies, acoustic sounds and great vocals from lead singer Sameer Gadhia. Although, there were times where that album felt thin and introverted.  Don’t get me wrong, it had great songs like ‘My Body’ and ‘Apartment’, but I wanted to see Young The Giant build upon that debut and evolve instead of replicate their past success. 
     I’m very glad to say that Mind Over Matter did just that. The production improved with this album as the band got to experiment with synthesizers, strings and different guitar tones to go with their indie rock sound. ‘It’s About Time’ is a call to arms song that pleads for urgency and has a decidedly heavier tone that resembles something a band like Incubus would put out. 
     The song ‘Mind Over Matter’ displays killer melodies and fantastic vocals from Gadhia and ‘Daydreamer’ kicks up the distortion to another level to really bring that visceral edge that Young The Giant were at times lacking on their debut. ‘Firelight’ meanwhile uses a plucked guitar line that resembles songs from their first album, but adds atmospheric tones that help build the emotional impact from the lyrics. 
     Mind Over Matter is a fantastic second album from Young The Giant and proves that this could be one of rock’s biggest bands possibly in a few years.

2.) Beck- Morning Phase

     Singer-songwriter Beck has been one of the most eclectic voices in music for the last two decades. His ability to jump across different genres and innovate allows his music to sound better as the years go by. Back in February, he released his twelfth album, Morning Phase as a companion piece to his 2002 album Sea Change
     Morning Phase is a fantastic album as it continues the story of Sea Change with its incredible harmonies and emotional story telling, but this time having that lingering hope of optimism planted all throughout its songs.  Songs like ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Wave’ show the gentle nuances of Beck’s voice with the combination of plucking and strumming of multiple acoustic guitars. 
     Since it’s release, Morning Phase has garnered critical acclaim from almost all music and entertainment publications and has been nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Album of the Year. It’s so rewarding to witness for Beck, who produced great hits in the nineties including ‘Loser’, ‘Where It’s At’ and ‘Jack-Ass’, to still be making great meaningful music that could sound like it could be played in any era. 

1.) Isaiah Rashad- Cilvia Demo

     Admittedly, the first time that I heard of Tennessee rapper Isaiah Rashad was based off the news in 2013 that he had signed to heralded indie label Top Dawg Entertainment. Top Dawg Entertaiment (TDE) has quickly grown a reputation of being among one of the best labels in hip hop and sporting one of the best roster of rappers in recent memory. Kendrick Lamar, Schooldboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock were the original four members and have not only released outstanding individual projects, but great songs under the group collective, ‘Black Hippy’. 
     So when news leaked that Rashad signed with TDE, expectations understandably grew for his first project with the indie label. Cilvia Demo was originally planed to be a mixtape, but following the strategy of his labelmates, Rashad made the project an EP for purchase on iTunes. Needless to say, Rashad not only met expectations, but received universal acclaim from music critics. And Cilvia Demo became not only my favorite rap album of the year, over rap heavyweights like J.Cole. Big KRIT, and Schoolboy Q, but my favorite overall album of 2014. 
     This album is a coming of age story for Rashad who combines his Southern sound and swagger with introspective lyrics and haunting melodies. Cilvia Demo is not an album full of hype, but rather an album that is very calm and chill. ‘Ronnie Drake’, featuring TDE singer SZA, has Rashad focusing on race and the appropriately timed relationship between police officers and the black community. He also raps about how it’s easier to make money in hip hop by rapping about the stereotypical ‘money, drugs, and hoes’ instead of conscious subject matter. ‘Modest’ describes Rashad’s ultimate goal of staying humble in the rap game in order to preserve the longevity of his career. And ‘Soililoquy’ tells the story of Rashad’s father never providing for him and his family and him eventually leaving his hostile family living situation. 
     Ciliva Demo is an incredible first project for Rashad through TDE. And if it ends up being the career equivalent that Section.80 was for Kendrick Lamar, then we’re going to have even bigger things to look forward to for the best rap rookie in the game. 

Agree or disagree? Like or hate this list? Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite albums of 2014 were or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.








Thursday, December 18, 2014

BOSTON CELTICS TRADE RAJON RONDO TO THE DALLAS MAVERICKS

By: Connor Glowacki

Rondo, traded today to the
Dallas Mavericks, is in his 9th NBA season.
Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.
     After years of speculation, the struggling Boston Celtics have finally traded away star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks have agreed to send Rondo to Dallas for forward Brandan Wright, guards Jameer Nelson and Jai Crowder, a first round draft pick in 2015, and finally a second round pick in 2016.

     The 9-14 Boston Celtics have been struggling in the weak Eastern Conference this season and the decision to trade Rondo signals that Boston is officially in rebuilding mode, by filling their roster with younger players and multiple future draft picks.
     Many critics point that the trade today shows that the Celtics are willing to tank the rest of the season in order to build for the future under second year head coach Brad Stevens.
     As we have seen in previous seasons, however, NBA teams that decide to lose as many games as possible, don't always gets the top overall pick in the following year's draft class. But after seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder struggle for years and being able to acquire Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden with their high lottery draft picks, and most recently the Washington Wizards using recent top three draft picks on John Wall and Bradley Beal, teams are beginning to figure out that they have a better chance of eventually becoming contenders by tanking and grabbing the top college players in the draft.
Acquiring Rondo allows Dallas to make
one more championship run with star forward
Dirk Nowitzki
Photo Courtesy of ESPN.

     Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks have started the season on a very strong 19-8 record in an ultra-competitive Western Conference. During the offseason, Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki took a pay-cut in the hopes that the additional salary cap space would be able to lure top free agent stars to play alongside Nowitzki in Dallas.
     Despite striking out in trying to acquire LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, the Mavericks were able to sign forward Chandler Parsons and center Tyson Chandler to go with their premier core of Nowitzki and point guard Monta Ellis. Before the trade, Dallas was FIRST in the NBA in total offense (110.1 points per game).

     Rondo (8.3 PPG, 10.8 APG, 7.5 RPG) is going to be the point guard architect that Dallas desperately needed to become a championship contender. He'll be able to drive to the basket and kick out to Ellis (20.8 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Parsons (16.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG).
     A starting lineup of Rondo, Ellis, Parsons, Nowitzki, and Chandler could take this Mavericks offense to an entirely new level. It's clear that this trade proves that Dallas is in a win now mode to acquire another championship while Nowitzki is still on the roster.
Brandan Wright is the most likely player,
 from the trade,
to make an immediate impact
for the Boston Celtics this season.
Photo Courtesy of MavsWiki.com.

     For Boston, Nelson is a serviceable veteran point guard. But he has struggled to start out this season (7.3 PPG, 4.1 APG). Wright (8.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG) continues to show signs of being a potential starter in the NBA and Crowder is mainly a bench player at this stage of his career.

     Do you think trading for Rajon Rondo makes the Dallas Mavericks championship contenders this season? And will this trade help the Boston Celtics in becoming competitive again for the long term?
Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

MARCUS MARIOTA WINS 2014 HEISMAN TROPHY

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo Courtesy of columbian.com.
     In probably the least dramatic ceremony in recent years, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman trophy tonight (December 13th) in a landslide vote. Out of a maximum number of 2,787 points, Mariota received 2,534. He also received twice as many points as second place finisher, Wisconsin running back, Melvin Gordon and third place finisher, Alabama wide receiver, Amari Cooper.        
     2014 was an incredible season for Mariota as he led the nation in passer rating (186.2), was fifth in total offense (342.5 yards per game), threw for 38 touchdowns, ran for 15 touchdowns, and threw just two interceptions. And most importantly, he led Oregon to a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin Running Back Melvin Gordon
finished second in the final Heisman vote.
Photo Courtesy of Usatoday,com.
     Amazingly enough, Marcus Mariota didn't start for his high school team until his SENIOR year. He led Saint Louis high school in Honolulu to a state title that year. After three years as a starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, Mariota is now a Heisman winner and has his team in position to win a national championship. He has one more year remaining of his college eligibility, but is also eligible to enter the NFL draft at the end of the season.

     TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett finished fourth and fifth respectively in the final Heisman voting. Last year's winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, finished sixth in a season filled with additional personal controversy. Another notable quarterback, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott finished eighth.

Last year's Heisman Winner,
Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston,
finished sixth in this year's voting.
Photo Courtesy of lostlettermen.com.
    Do YOU believe that Marcus Mariota deserved to win this year's Heisman trophy? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

THE CURIOUS (AND SIMPLY EMBARRASSING) CASE OF THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS

By: Connor Glowacki

"On paper, Washington looks good at almost every position, but it will all come down to the health and on the field performance that Griffin demonstrates during this critical season."

-CKG, From the Sidelines. September 20, 2014.

Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post.
     Needless to say, I was VERY wrong in predicting that the Washington Redskins would finish the 2014 season with a 7-9 record. Redskins fans would love a 7-9 team now more than ever. Washington has been a complete and utter disaster this season and it's impossible to point at one individual as being the sole cause of the team's demise. They stand at 3-10 with three games to go, all against division rivals. During the Redskins five game losing streak, they have been outscored by their opponents 117 to 47.
   
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today.
     They have started three different quarterbacks throughout this arduous season. Robert Grffin III began the season as the starter after a disappointing 2013 season, but has played in only five games. After tearing his ACL at the end of his rookie season, Griffin has not been the same playmaker. This season he has thrown only two touchdowns compared to three interceptions and has a total QBR of 26.5.
     He has not been able to transition into being a pocket passer and in recent weeks has struggled to step into his throws and read different defensive coverages. In addition, he has reportedly been unwilling to run more read option style plays that allowed him to flourish during his spectacular rookie season. Although to be fair, he hasn't been able to regain the speed that made him one of the most powerful offensive weapons in 2012.
     It appears that first year head coach Jay Gruden has also given up on trying to transform Griffin into a pocket passer and has turned his attention to backup quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. However, that plan hasn't worked out either. Cousins lost each of his five starts this season and has thrown an alarmingly high nine interceptions in those games, most occurring in the second half of games. Add in two additional fumbles and he's been a turnover machine. McCoy led the Redskins to two of their three wins this season, but his numbers haven't been consisted. He most recently struggled in Washington's 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams where McCoy threw for just 199 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Redskins offensive tackle Trent WIlliams
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
     But let's take a look at the other positions that I admittedly believed Washington looked solid at on paper. The offensive line has been flat out terrible. Outside of maybe left tackle Trent Williams, the offensive line have been constantly pushed back by opposing defensive lines, given up numerous sacks, committed numerous holding penalties, and have failed to provide running lanes for talented running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr.
     Offensive guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester were last minute free agent signings this past offseason that don't look like they could start on any other team in the NFL. Offensive linemen Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton are consistently beat by opposing defensive ends, and rookie lineman Morgan Moses and Spencer Long have failed to break past their roles as unproductive backups.
     Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been a rare offensive threat for the Washington Redskins this season, but has failed to provide any support in blocking opposing defensive backs. Pierre Garcon rarely gets balls thrown his way any more and, along with Jackson, have expressed frustration at the quarterbacks. Tight end Jordan Reed has experienced similar problems to Jackson where he excels as a pass catcher, but struggles mightily in blocking schemes.
Redskins safety Ryan Clark
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.
     On the defensive side of the ball, losing starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a torn achilles early in the season was a terrible loss for the secondary. Cornerbacks Bashad Breeland and David Amerson have not been consistent enough covering top wide receivers and routinely get passed by for big first down gains. Safety Brandon Merriweather has rarely been healthy enough to play on the field, and Ryan Clark looks like he can't be anymore excited to retire after the season and join ESPN as an analyst.
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett
Photo Courtesy of Zimbio.com.
   


     Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett came into the season proclaiming that he was free from the proverbial shackles that former head coach Mike Shanahan placed on him and his defensive schemes. He was now free to call as many blitzes as he wanted to call. The front seven for Washington is decent at blitzing, but the linebackers have struggled mightily in dropping back in coverage to cover wide receivers and tight ends, and the defensive line doesn't create enough pressure to disrupt the opposing team's quarterback in the pocket.
     Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has posted 11.5 sacks this season and linebacker Keenan Robinson leads the Redskins with a team high 99 tackles. Outside of those two players, there has been little other production on defense. Linebacker Perry Riley and nose tackle Jarvis Jenkins have been big disappointments this season and players such as, Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen, have suffered from too many injuries to make a positive impact on the football field.
Redskins punter Tress Way.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
     In terms of the special teams unit, the Washington Redskins have once again been terrible in 2014. A horrific amount of penalties have been called against this group all season and Andre Roberts has averaged only 22.7 yards per kickoff return. That number sounds okay, but if Roberts merely knelt with the football in his endzone right when he caught the kickoff, the offense would instead start at the 25 yard line. By returning the football, he puts the offense in a worse starting field position.
    However, there have been some bright spots from the special teams this year and they include kicker Kai Forbath and rookie punter Tress Way. Even though Forbath can't send a kickoff to the opposing teams' endzone, which guarantees the opposing team a solid return, he has converted 19 of 22 field goals this season and 25 of 26 extra point attempts. Meanwhile, Way might actually be one of the best punters in the entire NFL. His punts have averaged out at over 48 yards and with the Redskins offense looking anemic this season, he has gotten 64 chances the punt the football and has made the most out of his chances.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.
Photo Courtesy of The Washington Times.
      If the issues on the field were the worst problem that the Washington Redskins had, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, it's NOT their worst problem. As the season began spiraling out of control, the relationships between Griffin and the rest of the players in the locker room also began to dissolve.
     After a loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Griffin told reporters that he wanted every player on the team, including himself, to take a look in the mirror and be better. He also told reporters that even the great quarterbacks in the NFL, like Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, can't be great if their teammates aren't playing great as well.
      In the NFL culture, the unspoken rule has always been that if you're the quarterback and you're not playing well, you take all of the blame. If you are playing well, you don't take the credit and instead pass it to the other players on the team. That sparked controversy as Jackson put up a picture on Instagram with the caption, "You can't do epic s---, with basic people." New leaks have come out in the media stating that Gruden has never believed in Griffin as his quarterback.
Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen
Photo Courtesy of CSNWashington.com.
     This now comes back to owner Daniel Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. They both raved about Griffin back in 2012 when he recently wrapped up his final season at Baylor University. While Shanahan expressed doubt and concern at the time about Griffin's realistic chances of success in a pro style offense, the Redskins ultimately decided to trade three straight first round picks and a few later round picks in order to move up and acquire Griffin with the number two overall pick.
     During the Redskins run to the playoffs in 2012, reports came out that Snyder exclusively hosted Griffin and his family to dinners at his private mansion. This continued into 2013 where Griffin's family was allowed into the locker room after games. Understandably so, this created friction amongst the other players on the team who openly questioned why Griffin was getting special treatment. And Snyder has done this with other star players during his tenure as the team owner.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder
Photo Courtesy of Forbes.
     There have also been several account of Snyder meddling in with team operations and player acquisitions. With Snyder's track record of acquiring free agents like quarterback Jeff George, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, and many others, Snyder has displayed a terrible track record of scouting players. Allen also has a terrible track record of scouting players both through free agency and in the draft in the five years that he has been the team's general manager. Out of the five drafts that he has been responsible for, the only successful draft picks that Allen can take credit for, include Trent Williams (2010), Ryan Kerrigan (2011), Alfred Morris (2012), and maybe Roy Helu Jr (2011).
Redskins rookie linebacker Trent Murphy.
Photo Courtesy of sfgate.com.
     Even if we look at the Redskins' 2014 draft class, you see very disappointing results and returns. Linebacker Trent Murphy, a second round pick, does show promise as he has posted 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Third round rookie offensive tackles Morgan Moses and Spencer Long have failed to break through as starters on the offensive line.
     Breeland, a fourth round pick, shows potential, but has not been consistent enough throughout the entire season to warrant a starting role going into next year. And finally, the only other player that was drafted and made the team was wide receiver Ryan Grant, drafted in the fifth round. Grant has posted five receptions for 57 yards this season.
     Snyder, Allen, Shanahan, Gruden and the entire scouting offices and player development offices for the Washington Redskins deserve a HUGE amount of criticism for this mess. There is a track record of missing, more often than not, on draft selections. And even worse, not seeing the draft selections develop into players that can start in the organization.

(Probably having reported 'Taco Tuesdays' during Training Camp isn't the best nutritional method to develop the best professional athletes for your team and your organization).
   

      With three games left, there seems to be an absence of hope in the Washington Redskins organization and worse among the Washington Redskins fan base. The team's last Super Bowl title was now over 23 years ago, back in 1991. Since Snyder became the team owner in 1999, the Redskins have made the playoffs just four times and have only made it out of the first round of those playoffs twice. Recently retired former Washington linebacker London Fletcher has publicly called out Haslett for being a terrible defensive coordinator back when he was playing for the Redskins. There are even rumors of Gruden trying to find a way out of his current contract so that he can go coach at the University of Michigan in 2015. There appears to be a new rumor or grumbling about the organization every single day.

     The Washington Redskins appear to be on their way to another last place finish in the NFC East. Sure, they might not be the WORST team in the NFL. But they certainly are the most embarrassing team. And with an organization that is filled with such rich history and proud moments, the last 15 to 20 years are beginning to kick the team's glory days further and further away.

Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy.
Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.
     So Washington Redskins fans, there is a strong likelihood that Griffin, Cousins and McCoy could all be back next year competing for the starting quarterback spot. There's also a strong chance that Gruden and Allen will be back fulfilling their roles. There is a strong likelihood that a rebuilding process could take years and the team will struggle in 2015.

    There are things that this team can do to turn their fortunes around, even if it's more in the long term than the short term. But that would take another post. So until free agency, I suggest this. Start supporting the Washington Wizards. They are 16-6, have some of the most exciting young players in the NBA John Wall and Bradley Beal, and are officially the best sports team in Washington D.C.

Any thoughts on the current state of the Washington Redskins? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Friday, December 5, 2014

BEYONCE, SAM SMITH LEAD GRAMMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

By: Connor Glowacki

Beyonce leads all female artists
with 47 career Grammy nominations.
Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone
     The nominations for the 2015 Grammys were unveiled on December 5th and R&B superstar Beyonce and British pop crooner Sam Smith lead the rest of the field with five nominations each. Smith, in particular, is nominated for both song and record of the year with his hit song, 'Stay With Me', as well as a nomination for best new artist. Meanwhile, Beyonce officially became the most nominated female artist ever with 47 career nominations
     Other winners in terms of nominations, include pop singers Taylor Swift, Sia, and Megan Trainor.

Check out the following list below of some of the key nominations:



SONG OF THE YEAR

Sam Smith had three top 10 songs in 2014.
'I'm Not The Only One', his collab with EDM act Disclosure
'Latch' and the Grammy nominated, 'Stay With Me'.
Photo Courtesy of Slate.com.
"All About That Bass" Megan Trainor
"Chandelier" Sia
"Shake It Off" Taylor Swift
"Stay With Me" Sam Smith
"Take Me To Church" Hozier

RECORD OF THE YEAR

"All About That Bass" Megan Trainor
"Chandelier" Sia
"Fancy" Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

"Shake It Off" Taylor Swift
"Stay With Me" Sam Smith

BEST NEW ARTIST

Alternative pop-rock band 'Bastille'.
Country Singer 'Brandy Clark'
Hip Hop Artist 'Iggy Azalea'
Indie Pop Band 'HAIM'
Pop Singer 'Sam Smith'

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
With four Top 10 hits in 2014,
including 'Problem', 'Break Free',
'Bang Bang' and 'Love Me Harder',
Grande's album 'My Everything' is nominated
for best pop vocal album.
Photo Courtesy of People Magazine.

"Bangerz" Miley Cytus
"Ghost Stories" Coldplay
"In The Lonely Hour" Sam Smith
"My Everything" Ariana Grande
"Prism" Katy Perry
"x" Ed Sheeran

BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM

"Beyonce" Beyonce
"GIRL" Pharrell Williams
"Mali Is" Mali Music
"Sail Out" Jhene Aiko
"X" Chris Brown

BEST RAP ALBUM

Kendrick Lamar's new single "i", rumored
for his next album, is nominated
for best rap song.
Photo Courtesy of radiofacts.com.
"Because The Internet" Childish Gambino
"Blacc Hollywood" Wiz Khalifa
"Oxymoron" Schoolboy Q
"Nobody's Smiling" Common
"The Marshall Mathers LP 2' Eminem
"The New Classic" Iggy Azalea

BEST RAP SONG

"Anaconda" Nicki Minaj
"Bound 2" Kanye West feat. Charlie Wilson
"i" Kendrick Lamar
"We Dem Boyz" Wiz Khalifa
"0 To 100/ The Catch Up" Drake


BEST ROCK ALBUM

"Hypnotic Eye" Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
"Morning Phase" Beck
The Black Keys previously won Grammys for
their 2011 album 'El Camino'
and their hit single 'Lonely Boy'.
Photo Courtesy of NPR.
"Ryan Adams" Ryan Adams
"Songs Of Innocence" U2
"Turn Blue" The Black Keys

BEST ROCK SONG

"Ain't It Fun" Paramore
"Blue Moon" Beck
"Fever" The Black Keys
"Gimme Something Good" Ryan Adams
"Lazaretto" Jack White

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Country singer Brandy Clark's critically
acclaimed album, '12 Stories'
is nominated for Best Country Album.
Photo Courtesy of Twitter.
"Platinum" Miranda Lambert
"Riser" Dierks Bentley
"The Outsiders" Eric Church
"The Way I'm Living" Lee Ann Womack
"12 Stories" Brandy Clark

BEST COUNTRY SONG

"American Kids" Kenny Chesney
"Automatic" Miranda Lambert
"Give Me Back My Hometown" Eric Church
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" Glen Campbell
"Meanwhile, Back At Mama's" Tim McGraw feat. Faith Hill




*Note: At the time of writing this post, the nominations for album of the year had NOT yet been announced.

What do you think of the nominations? Are there notable snubs of artists that should have been nominated? Leave a comment below of tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.