Monday, February 27, 2006

You Can't Make This Up

Very few happenings in life are both shocking and completely predictable, but one such moment happened today. Roger Clemens, who got special permission from Major League Baseball to pitch a simulated game to Astros minor leaguers in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, faced off against his oldest son, Koby. On the very first pitch after they removed the screen in front of the Rocket, Koby takes him deep. Now, you know what would happen if that were any other hitter facing off against Roger, but would he do it to his own son? Absolutely! Koby's next time up, he faced some immediate chin music.

Of course, Koby knew it was coming and shrugged it off when asked about it, but you've got to wonder how the dinnertime conversation at the Clemens household is going to go tonight. Come to think of it, what is a day like in Rocket's pad? Does an unauthorized channel change send a coaster whizzing past one's ear? Do his poker buddies have to worry about flying chips if they should happen to have a full boat? And God forbid someone from questioning the man's grilling prowess as he's trying to cut into his steak!

Do Your Job, Mike Patrick!

Saturday was a rarity for me, as living in the midwest I almost never get a chance to see a Temple University basketball game. Of course, since they played the media darlings from Duke this past weekend, they were allowed to be seen outside of the East Coast. I must say, I was rather pleased with the way my alma mater played, despite the fact that they came up short by 8 points. They probably needed that game to have any at-large hopes for the tournament, and they played with the sense of urgency that such a situation demands. I also don't want to take anything away from Duke, who has a bunch of very good players who played in a manner that reflected their Hall of Fame head coach, Mike Krzyzewski. The only part of the game that I really had a problem with was the play-by-play, regrettably suppplied by ESPN's Mike Patrick.

Patrick's "analysis", simply put, is the reason that I sometimes watch sporting events with the mute button on. His job is to tell me what is happening on the court at any given time, and nothing more. I do not need to know what his position is on the "Duke conspiracy" that college basketball fans sometimes suspects the existence of. I certainly don't think that ESPN was too thrilled when he brought up the alleged conspiracy in the middle of a game that, between Temple's NCAA dreams, Mardy Collins's individual brilliance in a game his team had to have and J.J. Redick's quest for the all-time ACC scoring record (although, in my opinion, that was a bit overplayed as well), prompted plenty of other things to talk about.

I personally think that the color commentator for the game, Len Elmore, deserves a raise for talking Patrick down from his sermonizing and minimizing the damage to his colleague's credibility. As an N.C. State alum, Elmore has a lot more reason to be passionate about the topic than does Patrick, but Elmore simply stated in conciliatory tones that it may sometimes seem as if Duke gets all of the calls because they sometimes get breaks at crucial moments in games (my individual viewpoint is much the same, by the way). He acknowledged the fans' perceptions without being accusatory, which seems like pretty good journalism to me. That's more than I can say for Patrick, who made plain to me what I had suspected for years, that his head is firmly shoved up Krzyzewski's rear end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Isiah Strikes Again

Knicks GM Isiah Thomas is nothing if not consistent. If it's a day that ends in "y", then he's thinking about pulling the trigger on another ill-advised deal. He acted on his impulses again today by trading Penny Hardaway's expiring contract and coach Larry Brown's favorite doghouse resident, Trevor Ariza, to Orlando for Stevie Franchise. It's a typical Isiah move, adding salary and questionable character to his team while sacrificing its future, both in youth and cap flexibility. The league's 2nd highest-paid starting backcourt now resides in New York, in the personages of Francis and Stephon Marbury. Whaaaat? If creating internal headaches won basketball games, the Knicks would have about 70 wins right now (yes, I know they've only played 52 games). As it is, they're just going to have to settle for leading the league in wasted money. On the other hand, the Knicks are certainly worth watching just to see how many 8 second violations Francis and Marbury cause by fighting over who gets to bring the ball up the court.

Orlando, meanwhile, has been nearly as active as have the Knicks (although not nearly as shortsighted). They've built up plenty of cap room for the anticipated 2007 free agent bonanza, more than any other team, in fact. Plus, Darko and Ariza can now start their own "Why does Larry hate me?" support group! It's a win-win situation!

Tags and Cuts

The league that doesn't know the meaning of the word "offseason" is at it again. Some of the first franchise tag and cap casualty news of 2006 is starting to trickle in from around the NFL. Here are the highlights:

1. San Diego will neither franchise nor transition tag Drew Brees, meaning that the former Pro Bowl QB will be shopping for a new home unless he can come to terms with the Chargers by March 3.

2. The Jets are in full panic mode trying to make up their $26 million salary cap excess, cutting such players as CB Ty Law,QB Jay Fiedler,OT Jason Fabini, and FB Jerald Sowell. They're also still trying to get QB Chad Pennington to change the bulk of his base salary to incentives, and are likely to cut him if he won't. Even the player the Jets have chosen to place the franchise tag on, DE John Abraham, is likely to be moved at or near the draft as the Jets get set for a full-blown rebuilding project.

3. Buffalo has named CB Nate Clements their franchise player, no doubt trying to avoid a repeat of when Antoine Winfield fled to the Vikings two years ago.

Many more moves are sure to come as roster bonuses start to come due and teams try to make room under the cap for the new crop of draft picks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who's Your Hoosier Pick?

Eric had an excellent idea! As a follow-up to the Mike Davis resignation, let's give our two cents on who will be the next head basketball coach at Indiana University. Here are your choices:

1. Steve Alford
2. Tom Crean
3. Thad Motta
4. Bob Huggins
5. Other (name the right other coach for 5 more points!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So Long Darko



Well let me be the first to say, so long Darko. Your tenacity, talent, and contributions will be missed. Oh wait, you never had any of those. The "Darko Experiment" has finally come to an end. What was the Pistons' organization thinking in 2003 when they selected Mr. Milicic 2nd overall. To think, we could have drafted Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade, but we took an 18 year-old that no one had ever heard of. Oh well, you live and learn.

Is it me or does there seem to be a lot of emphasis being placed on finding the Michael Jordan of Europe? It seems that over the past few years, NBA teams are determined to keep searching for hidden talent in Europe and bring those players to the NBA to be the next hot topic. Don't get me wrong, I am all for diversity in the NBA or any league for that matter. However, I think it is going a little to far. A 2 year-old could have made a better draft selection with the 2nd overall pick. Unfortunately though, the NBA is more of a business these days doing whatever it takes to draw attention to itself. I have accepted the fact that the days of "team" play are over for the most part, with the exception of a couple teams (Spurs, Pistons). On the other hand though, I am still having difficulty in understanding why NBA teams continue to bring in kids straight out of highschool (I believe there is a new rule against highschoolers entering the draft, finally) or foreigners just to draw media attention. Did the Pistons honestly feel that Darko Milicic would be a superstar? How much time did they invest in scouting this kid and really, how does one know if an 18 year-old is NBA material? If the Pistons had the first overall pick in 2003, would they still have drafted Darko or did they believe he was comparable to the likes of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade? I really believe that there was some front office politics to draft Darko as a marketing tool.

It is disappointing that NBA teams are willing to sacrifice bringing actual talent into the league for the chance to be the next marketing genius. Thus, my lack of interest in the NBA has diminished and shows no signs of being revived.

Anyways, I wish you good luck in Orlando Darko. Hopefully your career doesn't take a turn for the worst (sarcasm) like a former Piston who was traded to the Magic (Grant "I am my own Achilles" Hill).

Dealing Daunte?

The Minnesota Vikings have reportedly put Daunte Culpepper on the trading block. What's going to happen with the once-franchise quarterback of the fighting Norsemen? Why don't you tell me? You'll get 3 SG points for making a pick, and 7 more if you're right. If you guess "Other" and tell me the right team, you can pick up 5 more points. Here are the choices for Daunte's destination in 2006:

1. Minnesota
2. Baltimore
3. Oakland
4. Miami
5. Other

5K Challenge

Anyone out there looking for an excuse to get in shape? Well, my brother Kevin has proposed a challenge involving 5K races and has asked me to let all of you know about it. Basically, the deal is that you get points for bettering your time relative to recent races you've run, with bonuses for winning age group awards or the race or setting a personal record. If you're interested in participating, let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me at lnmsports@gmail.com.

NASCAR Fantasy League

Our NASCAR fantasy league is about to get under way, so as a courtesy to those league members who read this blog regularly, I thought I'd post some info about the draft. The time schedule's going to be pretty tight, since we're trying to get the Daytona 500 results in. Fortunately, there are only 6 fantasy team owners and 4 drivers per team, so it shouldn't take too long. The draft is going to be over email, and it starts right now. Here is the order:

1. Ahamed
2. Steve
3. Kirk
4. Eric
5. Vern
6. Tom

Here's the plan: tonight, Steve or I will forward an email to everyone in the league about how to sign up for your team. You'll want to sign up tonight and keep up with the draft so that we can enter in our auction picks on Friday. The "auction" will start as soon as the last team has signed up for the league, however, it won't have any official bearing on who gets what player. Instead, we will use the results from our email draft, and bid $1 on each player we pick in the draft (note: no real money is used in this step). Then, we will be able to set our lineups on Saturday in anticipation for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. This is a tough time schedule, but if everyone stays on their email, we can get this done. If it's going to be tough for some reason to check your email repeatedly in the next day or two, you can email your phone number to lnmsports@gmail.com, and I'll call you when it's your turn. Email any questions to that address as well.

Steve also wanted to know if anyone's interested in putting $10 on your team and having a winner-take-all prize pool. Email me at the above address to let me know if you're interested. Good luck!

Lame Duck Hoosier

Mike Davis is resigning as head coach of Indiana University Basketball, effective at the end of the 2005-06 season. My initial thought on this was how much I feel for a man who seems to be one of the good guys in the game for having to deal with the increasing expectations of antsy boosters and a rabid fan base. The fact of the matter is, the rules of what he needed to accomplish basically changed a little less than halfway through his tenure. Brought in as Bob Knight's replacement a few months before the 2000-01 season, his job at that time was simply to put a good face on Indiana Basketball. He was viewed as the saint that would slowly restore dignity to a program wracked with the bad behavior of the boorish Knight. Then, something happened that changed all of that: the Hoosiers went on that magical, unexpected run through the NCAA tournament (I'm still bitter about how that ruined my bracket that year, by the way...).

After that, the expectations of Davis became the same as they are for every other Division I coach: compete at the highest level, and advance in the NCAA tournament. Suddenly, they didn't care how good of a guy he was, as long as he won. It's true that his teams haven't in fact produced results on the court, including the last two seasons in which they failed to even make the NCAA tournament and this season where they've lost 6 of 7 to fall dangerously close to the wrong side of the bubble. How much of that is due to the fact that Indiana fans, spoiled by the success of Knight's teams, placed more and more pressure on Davis to repeat his 2002 tournament success? I'd say it's at least a factor.

Then again, was Davis's choir boy image ever really that important to begin with? People around IU Basketball said it was in September 2000, and maybe they even believed it. However, the bottom line is that no one cared about how much of a jerk Knight was until his teams started missing the Sweet 16 year after year. He could toss all the chairs he wanted as long as he advanced in the NCAAs. It was the same situation with Davis. Sure, it looked good to the rest of the nation to hire a coach that wouldn't get his hands anywhere near his players' throats, but just like any other basketball power, a cage mentor's success at IU is measured solely in wins, losses, and NCAA tournament banners. That's not exactly earth-shattering news, but it certainly paints a different picture of the Davis hire than then-Indiana A.D. Myles Brand tried to offer 6 years ago.

I'd like to see Davis land on his feet somewhere soon, because like I said he seems to be a quality human being. He has also shown he can take a team to the upper echelon under the right circumstances. I don't think given the way the last few seasons have gone, plus his obvious frustration with IU's powerful boosters, that he'll land a major job. What he might be able to do with great success, though, is follow in the footsteps of another coach that was maligned by a powerful fan base. Matt Doherty is having a great year at Florida Atlantic after being drummed out of Chapel Hill. I think that a mild-mannered coach such as Davis wouldn't have a problem swallowing his ego enough to take a lower-profile job. In fact, given his obvious exasperation with the powers that be at IU, he may even prefer it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Random Thoughts

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Here's what I've missed:

1. Art Shell is the new/old Head Coach of the Raiders. After tooting my own horn with the Krivsky hiring as Reds GM last week, I must mention that I dropped the ball in picking Whisenhunt for this position. Good coach, eminently qualified, and his rep's never been higher, but it was precisely for those reasons that he didn't want to take over in coaching's black hole. Good for Shell, though; he never should have been fired in the first place. Even Al Davis says so, and he never admits a mistake.

2. The whole Wayne Gretzky gambling thing is a non-story, a point emphasized by the fact that his wiretapped conversation that has him asking what can be done to keep his wife safe is now known to have taken place the day investigators broke the news to him. I hope to never hear anything else about this again, but I know better.

3. Michelle Kwan now realizes that she is not physically able to compete at an Olympic-worthy level. I guess I can buy the whole "too much respect for the Games to compete at less than 100%" angle, but doesn't this just underscore why she should have had to compete at the U.S. Trials in the first place?

4. Bode Miller disappointed in his first event in Torino, and later reports surfaced that he was out drinking heavily the night before. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (full disclosure: I'm a huge Lance Armstrong fan)

5. There was some good stuff coming from the Olympics for Americans, however. You had to like the way Shaun White got choked up after winning gold in the halfpipe. And how is it physically possible to do some of the stuff those guys were pulling off? Count me as part of the populace that does not discount X Games-type events as insignificant due to their fledgling status as Olympic events. Those people are athletes, pure and simple.

6. Sammy Sosa is now leaning towards retirement. The response around baseball: a resounding yawn. On the plus side, if he goes through with it, it'll give him more time to learn that confounding English language.

There's one more note to pass along. One of our Sports Guru competitors has proposed starting a NASCAR fantasy league. We'll need at least 4 more people to get it off the ground, though, so if you're interested, please let me know.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Millen Makes Mike Martz Coordinator

It's finally official: Mike Martz has taken over the Detroit Lions' Offensive Coordinator position. This rectifies a major flaw in the Lions' previous coaching regime under Steve Mariucci: should Head Coach Rod Marinelli need to move out of his role for any reason, the Lions will have a head coach-in-waiting with a surname beginning with the letter "M". This will allow General Manager Matt Millen to carry on his "M&M" management relationship he has had with every Lions coach (Marty Morninwheg, Mariucci, and now Marinelli) except for 2005 interim coach Dick Jauron. Mike Martz even has 2 "M" names! Bonus!

In honor of the Mad Scientist's monumental return to coaching, I'm asking all of you to design a play just crazy enough to work in his twisted mind. You get 1 point for any entry, with an additional point if the running the play itself does not cause any penalties to be called. If Mike Martz actually makes your play a reality, you get 20 total points, and if the Lions march into the endzone on that play, you'll get 100. There are several caveats:

1. We're talking about trick plays here, people. Don't try to submit an off-tackle counter play or a hail mary. I'm not counting it.
2. You need to involve descriptions of what at least 5 of the 11 players are doing.
3. The more outlandish the better. For each time the football changes hands beyond the first, you'll get that amount multiplied by your points. Therefore, a play where the ball changes hands 4 times gets 3 times the amount of points they'd get under the paragraph above.
4. Each player can only be counted for one change of hands in #3, and the quarterback-center exchange cannot count towards that total, although both players are eligible for a later change of hands.
5. Let's try not to be too similar with our plays, but duplication of some elements of other submitted plays is allowed.

To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, here's my play, which is called "Fumblerooski Flea Flicker Double-Reverse Jumbo Pass":

The Lions come out in a singleback 3-WR set with two wide left, a tight end and slot receiver right. The running back is offset to the left, and the quarterback is under center. The right tackle is lined up as an eligible receiver. Before the snap, the slot right receiver motions to the outside. The center snaps the ball and the QB immediately fumbles under the center's legs, but continues dropping back as if nothing has happened and fakes a pitch to the running back, who is faking a sweep to the right. All receivers, the tight end, and the offensive line hold blocks at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line moves the pocket back and to the right, and the left guard picks up the ball and flips it back to the running back, who immediately runs to the left. At this time, the quarterback moves to the right and the right slot receiver moves back and to the left. Also, the right tackle releases his block to the tight end and begins running a 20-yard corner route. The running back hands off to the quarterback, who hands off to the right slot receiver. This receiver then makes a pass downfield to the right tackle, who has been left wide open by the defense, which was focused on the chaos going on in the offensive backfield. Touchdown!

You don't have to get quite as descriptive as that, but it is encouraged. And yes, I plan on designing this play to put in my Madden 2007 playbook should I purchase the game.

Good luck!

Number of "M" words used in this post (which will be a staple of any post involving the Lions): 38

Reds GM Decision

The Reds have finally chosen their general manager. After initially interviewing 8 candidates, they pared it down to two, Twins Assistant GM Wayne Krivsky and an in-house special advisor, Jim Beattie. Then, Krivsky came in and blew owner Bob Castellini away with his preparedness and got the job. He now replaces Dan O'Brien, the man he lost out to in the Reds' last GM search. Though he shares the same passionate desire to make immediate progress in reversing the Reds' 5-year streak of losing seasons as his new boss, it will be difficult. The Reds' payroll is not expected to rise this year, and with Spring Training just a few weeks away, the roster is largely set.

Still, this move inspires optimism at least in the heart of this Reds fan, since as I mentioned in picking Krivsky in the January 30 Mindreader contest, he is coming from an organization in the Twins that knows how to win in a smaller market. After last year's Eric Milton debacle, I swore that I would wait to see results on the field before getting too excited about anything Cincinnati does in the offseason. However, I can't help eagerly anticipating what Krivsky is going to do in the coming years. He already knows the Reds organization, since that was one of the teams he routinely scouted while with the Twins. He also is aware of the team's heritage as the Big Red Machine, and is adamant in saying he thinks the Reds can get back to that kind of stature in the baseball world. Knowledge plus determination equals success much more often than not, so I really think this hire will do a lot to get the Reds out of baseball obscurity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Trader Isiah

With the NFL season now complete, it's time to turn our attention more fully to basketball. Specifically, let's look at the New York Knicks, a franchise that personifies getting low performances from big budgets. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we a couple of years ago look to the 2006 or 2007 offseason as the time when the Knicks would finally be rescued from salary cap hell? Instead, the most clueless GM in all of sports, Isiah Thomas insists on trading an expiring contract for a financial albatross just about every month or so. The latest case-in-point is the recent trade of Antonio Davis to Toronto for Jalen Rose, a 1st-round pick that originally belonged to Denver and some cash.

I find the timing of this trade and the principals involved to be equally curious. It happened just two days after New York coach Larry Brown mentioned that Davis was his liaison with the team. In addition, Jalen Rose was repeatedly benched by Brown when the two were in Indiana together because Rose's attitude and style of play didn't match up with Brown's "Right Way." So, to recap, Isiah traded the player charged with keeping the peace between a stubborn, old-school coach and a group of young, impatient players for a guy that has a history of clashing with said coach. In addition, this team chemistry suicide attempt is going to cost them an extra $34 million next year (Rose's $17M salary plus a corresponding increase to New York's already large luxury tax).

With moves like this, I'm now 100% convinced that Isiah is trying to sabotage Larry Brown. In fact, at this point I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were just a ploy for Thomas to get back into coaching. Let's recap what has happened: Isiah hired one of the best coaches in the league, a man noted for his ability to turn around losing teams quickly. The problem was, this team's best players are young (we all know how much Brown hates playing rookies) or have a history of clashing with the coach (Stephon Marbury mostly rode the pine in the last Olympics, which Brown coached), so the team started to struggle. The Knicks began to squabble amongst themselves, but fortunately, Brown had Antonio Davis to act as a go-between for him and the team, which kept the tension as low as possible. Of course, the next step in Isiah's plan was to get rid of that buffer so that the Knicks would go into a total freefall. The extra stroke of mad genius was then to find a player that Isiah knew Larry would hate to have. Enter Jalen Rose, whose offensive-mindedness and me-first attitude were already known Brown repellant. This scenario could very well end with Brown resigning in disgust sometime in the next few weeks in an attempt to start his next job search, something Brown is famous for getting a head start on. If that were to happen, I wouldn't be surprised to see Isiah "reluctantly" take over interim head coaching duties, knowing that it would give him the inside track to take over the job full-time next season. I also don't think it's impossible that Thomas is looking for a situation similar to what Gregg Popovich had several years back, when he left his GM post to try to coach the team he put together and prove it could win. The one problem with that is this: Isiah Thomas is the only person in Western civilization that doesn't know that Isiah Thomas can't coach. Still, he may be just delusional enough to believe this could work.

One caveat before Isiah decides to start looking to run into me in a back alley in suburban Detroit to beat the crap out of me (Don't know what I'm talking about? Check this out.): I do not really believe that the above motivations for the actions of you and your team are anything more than a collection of circumstantial evidence weaved together into a fictional story designed to entertain my readers. I'm sure you have a completely logical explanation for all of the moves you've made. So, please, I don't want there to "be a problem" with us, OK, Isiah? Pretty please?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bowl Weekend in Detroit

Being in town for the Super Bowl was pretty nice. Gauri and I picked up some very fun and lasting memories. Here are the highlights:

Thursday night: The Pepsi Smash concert was pretty enjoyable, although the lines we had to deal with both getting into the place and at the concession stands were obnoxious and harbingers of things to come. The line outside was so long that I had time to run into the Subway that was right there when we got in line and polish off an entire combo meal before we made it halfway through. The line for concessions then caused me to miss the entire set by Train (though not completely; I could still hear them). I was in there, however, for all of the Goo Goo Dolls, Nickelback and Kanye West. Some general impressions:

1. Johnny from the Goo Goo Dolls isn't aging all that well, and there's a 99.9853% chance he was high that night. They performed competently, but didn't blow me away.
2. Nickelback's performance, on the other hand, was outstanding! It was high-energy from start to finish, and they really acknowledged and enjoyed the crowd. They also get bonus points in my book for being the only band to use pyrotechnics.
3. Kanye West was a little spotty in places. Half of his time, he wasn't even on stage, letting one of his backup singers take over for part of it, then this woman who I had never heard of before. And then, half the time he was out there he didn't even do his own stuff. He did finish strong, though.

Friday night: We went to the NFL Experience, where I embarassed myself by taking part in drills that are supposed to approximate NFL training drills. Then, we headed over to Motown Winter Blast and walked around for a little bit. The only notable thing about the evening, though, is that the line for the shuttle bus back out to the suburbs stretched about 3 blocks, forcing us to wait 45 minutes to take a taxi instead.

Saturday night: Nothing builds camraderie among total strangers like waiting outside in the snow for 3 hours trying to get into a party/concert. We had a particularly nice conversation with a rather tall 34-year-old factory worker, who later helped Gauri get one of the T-shirts that a local radio station was throwing into the crowd. Why were we out there freezing our butts off for so long to begin with, you ask? Well, that's what it took to get in; about half the people who had tickets to the Bud Bowl didn't even make it inside.

It was a great time, though. They had a couple of breakdancers who were really phenomenal. We ran into them after their performance and told them how great they did. They were grateful, but said that they actually had to curtail what they normally do because the surface was so slick with beer. Yep, it was the Bud Bowl, so not surprisingly beer was absolutely everywhere. Another highlight was when the announcer and the singer from the "Real Men of Genius" commercials got on stage and started riffing about Detroit. Finally, after a long wait, the band got on stage. We were supposed to see 3 Doors Down, but one of their members broke his hand this week. Instead, the Bud Bowl organizers asked Staind cancel a gig in Maine to fly out here. Gauri and I had staked out a spot just a few rows back from the stage, so we were right in the middle of it all. It was so much fun; you could tell they appreciated getting to perform there, and they really got the place rocking! I'd post some pictures, but they didn't want cameras inside, so we couldn't take any pictures.

So, that was my crazy weekend at the Super Bowl. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was worn out from all the partying, so we just stayed in and watched the game. Nonetheless, the experiences from the previous 3 days will stay with me for the rest of my life. Wish you could've been here.

Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Overall, Super Bowl XL was a pretty well-played game, which I guess is all you can ask. I'm a little disappointed in the outcome, but I can live with it. Aside from the Seahawks' last drive, I can't think of any particular point where they could blantantly obviously done things a lot better. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team because they were better than you that day.

With that said, what was up with that 2-minute drill? For an "expert" play caller like Mike Holmgren, that was pathetic. I know part of it was the execution, which is on the guys on the field, and Pittsburgh was playing pretty tight D, but by no means when you're down 11 and past the 2 minute warning should you be throwing 6 yard dump-off passes over the middle to your fullback. I also didn't like that he didn't kick the field goal after he got into scoring range, but instead ran 3 plays that did nothing but eat clock. The whole idea of a 2-minute drill is to elongate the game so that you give your team as many opportunities to stay in it as possible, and that's pretty much the opposite of what actually happened. I hope that poor clock management and shoddy play calling at the end of the game aren't becoming a Super Bowl trends, because in the last two years such things have slightly tarnished a couple of pretty good games.

And your Super Bowl MVP is...Hines Ward? Aside from his catching the TD on the reverse option pass, I can't remember any other play he was involved in. I know they had to pick someone, and no one else is really obvious to me. All I'm saying is, that was the quietest 5 catches for 123 yards that I can remember since, well, T.O.'s 9-catch, 117-yard game in last year's Super Bowl. The only differences are, of course, a TD and a win, which I guess are two somewhat important things. Still, if I had to pick someone, I think it would have been Ike Taylor, whose interception in the third quarter was really what got the Steelers on the path to victory. I personally think it would have been appropriate to have a defensive player be the MVP, considering how little offense we saw last night from both teams. Pittsburgh went on to win despite not registering a single first down in the entire first quarter, for crying out loud! Then again, when there aren't many obvious candidates for something like this, usually a big name will get it. Roethlisberger was mediocre while Ward had over 100 yards and a TD, so there you go.

Did anybody see Joey Porter at all last night? Nope, me neither. Ol' Motormouth had absolutely zero impact on the Super Bowl. I hope he remembers this the next time he decides to talk about whatever manufactured motivation he's using for his next game.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Unwanted Edge

So, apparently, Colts GM Bill Polian does not consider re-signing franchise RB Edgerrin James to be a "priority," preferring instead to focus on Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney. I find this to be about as intelligent as slashing one's own tires right before embarking on a cross-country road trip. The Edge is coming off of a year in which he rushed for over 1500 yards with 13 TDs. Even more important is that the Colts' increased reliance on James was one of the biggest reasons behind the defensive improvement that was directly responsible in my mind for Indy's status as the last undefeated team of 2005.

If you don't believe me, just think back to the 2004 quick-strike version of the Colts' offense, which on many occasions left their undersized defense too beaten up from all that time on the field to put up much of a fight. With Edge as the workhorse, however, suddenly the offense got a lot more support from the other side of the ball and many of those 45-42 shootouts turned into 31-10 laughers. Plus, aside from missing just over half of 2001 with an ACL tear (a freak injury that could happen to anyone at any time on a football field), he has been quite durable, missing only 6 out of a possible 96 games in his other 6 NFL seasons. Let's also not forget that he is only turning 28 during next preseason, so it's not as if he's ancient. After all, a 32-year-old Jerome Bettis just missed a 1,000 yard season last year, and he takes a lot more hits with his running style than the quicker and more athletic Edge.

If Polian's worried that Edge might run down in the latter stages of a long-term contract, he should just put language in the contract to protect his team. For instance, the Colts could guarantee the first two years of the contract to give Edge a little security, then make it so that future years are only guaranteed if he reaches certain performance objectives in, say, number of carries or yards per carry. If he doesn't reach those goals, make it a team option as to whether or not Indy picks up the next year on the deal. It's not that hard; they just need to be a little creative. Besides, it's not as if NFL teams always honor long-term contracts they have their players sign anyway.

Besides, what's keeping them from re-signing Edge? Fellow free agent Reggie Wayne I can understand a little bit. Sure, he's the #2 WR, but Marvin Harrison showed a few signs of slowing down in 2005, and he'll be 34 when the next season starts, so he's not getting any younger. Wayne, by contrast, is entering the prime of his career and probably is a better down-the-field threat than Harrison. Dwight Freeney is also a very important player, but there's a rather large problem with making him a priority over Edge for the 2006 offseason: he's already under for another season, and Edge is not. I realize that Freeney is a vital part of the defense, and that they can't afford to lose him to free agency a year from now. I think it's a good idea to start negotiating with him before next season starts, but not before they re-up with James.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, as I mentioned earlier, having a clock-eater like Edge on your side makes your defense, especially a guy like Freeney who relies on speed bursts play after play, much better. Also, Indianapolis has a lot of components necessary for a championship club. Their time is now, and they can't afford to take a chance on settling for a lessor back in free agency or further down their depth chart, or turning over the RB position to an unproven rookie. This group has too much at stake to be jettisoning a big piece of the puzzle like Edge. Take care of James first, then Freeney, then focus on winning that elusive title. Even if it's really just about the money, simply being a part of a Super Bowl winner can do wonders for one's bank account. Just ask the no-name Patriots O-linemen from the Visa commercials.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Quick Hits (2-2-06)

Some assorted thoughts from this week in football:

1. Isn't it amazing how often athletes in any sport get to a big game, are told approximately 23,486 times not to say something that might end up on the other team's bulletin board, and some schlup still manages to piss off the other team? The fact that it was a relatively minor player such as Jerramy Stevens amuses me even further. On the flip side, if this is what Joey Porter as a Pro Bowl LB needs to get himself up for the Super Bowl, of all things, that's kind of sad.

2. Donovan McNabb, I and the rest of sports fandom recognize you were dumped on by Terrell Owens, J. Whyatt Mondesire, Rush Limbaugh, et. al. over the last couple of years. It is indeed sad when a classy athlete such as yourself gets treated like dirt. Still, one of the things I have admired about you through all of this is the fact that you just went about your business and always took the high road. I still think you're classy, but I question why you would now talk publicly about the divisiveness in the 2005 Eagles locker room when your whole approach to the T.O. saga for months was "If you have a problem with me, come talk to me, not the media." I know you didn't name names, but I fail to see what good can come from a team's QB noting that no one came to his defense in an inter-team squabble.

3. Interesting column from Jason Whitlock on ESPN.com regarding what Brett Favre really meant during that interview a couple weeks ago. I never would have thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense. Check it out.

4. A lot of fellow Buckeye fans read this blog, so I will mention that it looks like we ended up somewhere around the top 10 on signing day, with a reported good incoming class of LBs. We needed that.

OK, there are your talking points. Discuss.