Joe Paterno an Easy Target in Penn State Mess

Joe Paterno an Easy Target in Penn State Mess

There is plenty of blame to go around at Penn State for what has unfolded in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case. Tim Curley deserves to lose his job as athletic director, and he will one way or another, even though the Board of Trustees granted a request for a temporary leave. Gary Schultz is somehow being allowed the same leave of absence and an escape back to retirement. These men should be fired, make no mistake about it.

Many have pointed a finger at Joe Paterno over the past 48 hours for his role in all of this. But why? Because he didn’t do enough?

Paterno was informed of possible sexual abuse of a child in 2002 by his former longtime defensive coordinator by a graduate assistant (who we now know to be former quarterback and current wide receivers coach Mike McQueary) and reported it to Curley the very next day, which is what the law requires him to do. At that time, legally, it is out of Paterno’s hands. Does that mean Paterno washed his hands of the situation? That is what some are expecting, and this is where the court of public opinion runs wild without merit in many ways.

As Paterno suggested in his statement, at this point it is best to allow the legal process to unfold so we can fill in the blanks of information. Many are just assuming that Paterno never did anything after bringing this up to Curley in 2002. We do not know this to be true, and to be fair we do not know it to not be true. We just do not have enough information to make a decision one way or the other.

So why is Paterno such a hot-button issue when there are so many more people that deserve the ire of the media, fans, and practically everybody else in such a heinous crime or series of crimes? It’s simple. Paterno is the figurehead. Paterno is the name everybody knows. Paterno’s role in all of this, as minor as it is, is what people will latch on to because it is the easiest, and laziest thing to do without taking in to account all of the facts of the grand jury presentment.

It is an incident like this that will grow all kinds of legs and run wild with those in the national media who see that Paterno’s name shows up in an attorney general’s report and although his name appears a small handful of times, making a story with Paterno in the headline will grab more attention nationally than some story about a former coach and a bumbling athletics director. It is sad, but painfully true.

This is not to say that Paterno is without fault. According to the law Paterno could have called the cops and should have called the police with the information of suspected sex abuse of a child. But let’s step back and attempt to place ourselves in his shoes for a minute.

Some of you may be smarter than me when it comes to the law, but before all of this information came out I will admit that I did not know I was legally required to report the sexual abuse of a child. Maybe you did and I am ignorant on this instance, but hear me out. I didn’t know it was the law, so who is to say Paterno didn’t know the law as well? Mind you, not knowing the law does not prevent one from breaking the law, but in this case Paterno followed the law as it was initially written.

Keep in mind that Paterno is a guy who has never tolerated much nonsense on his watch as far as the football program has been concerned. When Phil Taylor brandished a knife on a teammate inside the locker room, Paterno and his staff were quick to ensure he was removed from the team. Taylor transferred to Baylor after being kicked off the team. Austin Scott was kicked off the team following charges of suspected statutory rape (to be fair Scott had a history of violating team rules as well, but the timing seemed kind of odd), which were later dropped. Paterno is a guy who sits players for showing up late for practices and meetings and other team functions. Yet nobody will give him even the benefit of a doubt that he tried to do what he thought was right in this Sandusky situation?

Sandusky operated a football camp on Penn State’s campus as recently as 2009. This is not something Paterno would have had control over. Sandusky was around the football program in practices and on game days, but as hard as it may be to believe, Paterno had no authority over those appearances. Paterno could have voiced his opinions to the game day operations directors and facilities managers (and we don’t know if he did or didn’t), but the final decisions on whether or not Sandusky would be allowed to have the access he did after retirement would have been at the discretion of a higher authority than Paterno.

If it sounds like I’m making excuses for Paterno, well right now I suppose I am. If we eventually learn that Paterno avoided the situation just the same way Curley and Schultz buried it, then I take back all of this. But for right now everybody is playing the attack Joe card, so somebody has to play the Devil’s advocate.

The fact is Paterno is just a minor player in all of this. This is not a Paterno story because, believe it or not, some things at Penn State are larger than Joe Paterno. This is more about the secret life of a longtime Paterno assistant, the lack of action by the athletic director and head of the university police, with jurisdiction.

If this is how Paterno goes in to retirement it will be a shame for a number of reasons, but we will have to wait and see. Just remember that Paterno is only a minor character in all of this in State College. He is an easy target, but he should not be the big target.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”