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Friday, January 26, 2007

If It Wasn't Lit, You Must Acquit!

Let me just come out and say it. When Tom Brady threw that interception to Marlin Jackson to seal the Patriots fate in the AFC title game, it felt as if all of my internal organs puked inside my body. It's not just that the Pats lost in the playoffs (hell I had to go through that last year at Denver) , or even that they lost to the Colts (something they have now done in 3 straight), but it was the way in which they let this one slip away. We were all comfortable when they went up 21-3, but at least for this guy, that comfort lasted a little less than a whole quarter. You got the sense that when the Colts managed to cut the deficit to 2 scores before half, they had enough momentum to hang around. And hang around they did. Peyton Manning and friends marched up and down the field all throughout the second half, outscoring the Pats 32-13 and claiming their first AFC title under the current regime. And while it was Brady that fell short in the end, it was really the Pats vaunted defense that let them down. Whether in the air or on the ground, the Colts could do no wrong. I'm not going to relive it again, just suffice to say I wasn't happy watching it. I'll have a full recap of the Pats season and much of the work ahead of them this off season, but you'll have to wait for next week. For now, it's onto some other madness...

NFL News and Notes
*OK I lied. Back to some Patriot news. It seems no later than the final whistle that Pats fans have begun tripping over themselves trying to determine the future of free agent corner Asante Samuel. Well wonder no longer friends. No, that doesn't mean he;s close to a deal, it just means I've already taken all the guess work out of it and figured what he's going to do. Well, at least I've narrowed it down to two very likely scenarios. Scenario #1: Seeing as Samuel's play has more than likely priced him out of the Patriots thrifty price range, placing the franchise tag on him is the first viable option. For those of you not in the know (or those just wanting a refresher course), here is what franchising means. To "franchise" a player means that you give them a guaranteed one year deal worth either a) the average of the top 5 salaried players at their position for that season or b) 120% of their current salary, whichever happens to be more. In this case, it's the former for Asante. The only problem with the franchise tag, is that players hate it. While the loot is guaranteed for that year, there is no long term security. Good news for the Pats though, is that if Samuel decides to hold out after being franchised, New England can receive compensation for his departure. Scenario #2: Asante Samuel walks away from the New England Patriots and takes a multi-year multi-million dollar deal from somebody else. Fact is, there is at least one team out there with both the cap room and the need at DB that will offer the talented play maker a package close to the 7 years and $63 mil that Champ Bailey has with the Denver Broncos. So, say your goodbye's now Patriot fans, because unless things take a drastic turn, you've more than likely seen the last of Asante Samuel in a New England uniform. Although, I must have said that about a 6 times about Manny Ramirez, so for now let's just file this one under "wait and see". Lord knows we won't be getting any updates from the Hooded Menace and the boys at Gillette.

*Of course, just because my boys didn't make the big game, doesn't mean I'm not going to preview it. It just so happens that seeing as there is a week+ to go before the game is actually played, that preview won't be this week. Tune it next week for all the Super Bowl news. Hey, just because the NFL forces the extra week down your throat, doesn't mean I have to oblige and cover the damn thing for two weeks. Take that Nation Football League! That's what you get for paying the refs to get your man Peyton into the big game! (joking...no seriously I am)

*I know what you're thinkin'. I should apologize to Mikey Vick since he is no longer facing any charges in his incident with the "black particulate" found in his stash/fake water bottle. But you know, somehow I just don't feel like I accused him of anything he didn't do. You know why the charges were dropped? Because it was more than likely a bunch of resin and roach clip remnants in that bottle, and the authorities knew it wasn't worth their time and energy to even bother trying to prosecute. I mean it smelled like weed didn't it? That was in the original report wasn't it? What? All of a sudden it doesn't smell like weed anymore? Right, cuz that makes a ton of sense. Hey, if you want to believe that the toy cops at the airport made a mistake, then go right ahead. But this guy ain't buying it. Listen, I'm not saying Vick should be bound in shackles and thrown in a clock tower for the rest of eternity, but please don't lie to my face about this and tell me it didn't happen just because there are no charges! On the bright side, I guess it saves us from 24/7 Court TV coverage of the Michael Vick trial which would inevitably give us the line...."If it wasn't lit, you must acquit".

*Good news Pete Carroll. Just when you thought the Reggie Bush taking gifts in college scandal was all but over, Yahoo.com is reporting that tapes exist that would put the heat right back on the Heisman winner and his university. Apparently, there are tapes in which Bush, and his parents, are heard talking about and accepting cash in return for promises for future endorsements. This could be bad news for USC, but not so much for Bush. Sure, Reg might have to give back his Heisman trophy if it's found he took the loot, but the repercussions would be much worse for Petey and the boys in SoCal. Not only would the university face sanctions in the form of lost scholarships and fines, but they would more than likely be forced to forfeit all championships (both Pac 10 and National) and remove all notion of them from all on-campus monuments, recruiting tapes and game programs. Could be rough waters ahead for the country's model college program over the past half decade, and I can't say I'm surprised. I could get into the debate that college kids deserve to get paid, but I won't even, because this has nothing to do with that. Rules say, you can't take money, and Reggie (and I'm sure he's not alone) did just that. What's more puzzling to me though, is that Yahoo.com seems to be the only media outlet covering the story. When it broke that Bush's family was living in a house they didn't pay for, it was Yahoo! that was there first, and now this. Is it me, or does that seem a little odd? I can't decide whether to give the reporters there credit for working hard and digging up a story nobody can get, or despise them for needlessly trying to drag someones name through the mud. Better yet. Maybe this renegade reporting is uncovering a national media conspiracy that has let college boosters pay stars for years without any penalties! On second thought, it's way too early in the morning for me to be going Oliver Stone on ya..

2006-2007 Picks

Last Week: 0-2-0

Playoffs: 5-5-0

'06-'07 Season:
52-38-7 (.572)

*Only one game left, and I'm truly undecided on which way I'm leaning. Super Bowl's with two week layoffs usually aren't close, but who is gonna blow who out? I'll mull it over for a week or so and prolly change my mind 25 times in the last minute. It's a big one though, no not because it's the Super Bowl, but I'm right at .500 for the post season and this could push me over the top.

There have been a number of coaching changes in the NFL, and I gotta say I don't understand most of the hirings. But then again, what do I know? I mean, I understand that there aren't just great coaches with NFL experience lying around somewhere looking for work, but some of these choices really make me scratch my head. And I'm all for giving younger guys a shot, but some of these leaps of faith seem absurd to me. Just because Eric Mangina had one decent season after being a coordinator for less than a year, that means everyone needs to rush out and hire the youngest and most inexperienced young go-getter they can find? Doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me, but like I said, what do I know.

New NFL Head Coaches
Ken Wisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals was Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator
*Here's the first example of a hiring that I don't quite understand. While Wisenhunt has served his due in the league, what have any of his offensives in Pittsburgh done that's been so special? OK, so he drew up a couple of nice trick plays with Antwan Randle El, and it seemed like he was guiding Ben Rothelisberger along nicely, but that makes him deserving of his own job? Personally, I don't see how he even kept his own job in Pittsburgh this season. If I were Arizona, I would have gone out and signed the biggest defensive name I could have. That offensive talent in the desert should be good enough on it's own for the next 5 years or so barring they can get a few decent lineman. It's the D that's going to make or break them. Maybe they just subscribe to the theory that "Nobody beats the Whiz"? Well I'm pretty sure somebody can beat the Whiz, and it's going to be most of the offenses playing against him next season. Lucky for him he coaches in the NFC West. But make no mistake, expectations are no longer low in Tempe, and if he doesn't deliver he'll have to wait for Cowher to come out of retirement and hire his ass again.

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers was Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator
*When certain guys succeed, their staffs get raided for talent (i.e Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennell and Eric Mangini). Other times, when a coach succeeds, some of his coaching offspring from around the league are plucked. That's the deal with Tomlin. While he's only been D-coordinator for a season in Minnesota, he happens to be a member of the Tony Dungy coaching fraternity. Pretty big gamble, especially for a franchise that has only had 2 head coaches (Noll, Cowher) in like a million years. You know the Rooney family will give him time to succeed, and if they tolerated Cowher choking year after year in the playoffs, I'm sure Tomlin won't have too tough a time of providing them with the decent mediocrity they've grown used to in the Steel City.

Lane Kiffin, Oakland Radiers was USC Offensive Coordinator
*I may not have helped guide the merger between the NFL and the AFL, but at this point I'm fairly confident I could run a professional football team more successfully than Raiders owner Al Davis. And no, it's not because he looks like a constipated version of that freak that used to dance in the 6 Flags ads. (yea you thought that guy was out of your life didn't you?) He just hired a guy in Lane Kiffin that is younger than 9 of the current players on the Oakland roster. But this is Al's style. He likes to have a coach that he can control, a guy he can influence to make things the way Al really wants them. Funny thing is, this can only work out for Kiffin, not Oakland. Best case scenario is that Kiffin becomes such a hot young coach that he gets wooed away a la John Gruden. Worst case scenario is that Randy Moss and Warren Sapp haze their new coach until he either a) grows facial hair or b) loses so many games that Al has no choice but to yet again hire Art Shell. Seriously though, I get that owners want younger guys to relate to players in "today's NFL", but at what cost?

Kam Cameron, Miami Dolphins was San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator
*This is the perfect example of players getting a coach paid. I mean I'm sure Cameron works hard and knows the game very well, but don't sit there and tell me that LT, Gates, Rivers and Brees didn't get this guy his job. Those guys won't be able to help him in Miami, and don't think Wayne Huizenga won't be quick to toss him out on his ass if he can't deliver the Phins to the playoffs in the next 2 seasons. No small task, especially in a division where the Pats have things on lock, and the Jets and Bills have both taken massive strides over the past few seasons.

Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons was Louisville Head Coach
*Talk about waltzin' into a shit storm. No sooner is Petrino off the plane in the ATL when news hits about Mike Vick's magic water bottle. Not only that, but he has to deal with a fan base that is split between Vick and backup (and restricted free agent) Matt Schaub. Bobby has said he will open up the pre season with a battle for QB, but his job is tied to how well he can coach Michael Vick. His offense in Louisville was originally based around scrambling lefty Stefan Lefores, so he has experience with this type of player, but Vick is a totally different animal. Unless he can convince the Mike Vick Experience to hang in the pocket a little longer, then both he an Vick will probably be bolting Atlanta faster than Hawks season ticket holders.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator was Miami Dolphins QB Coach
*This is a strange one, even for the never ending melodrama that is the Dallas Cowboys. After Bill Parcells resigned, all the talk was that there were no big name candidates left to fill such a high profile position. So, instead of searching for the "next big thing" as far as assistants go, Jerry Jones has decided to hire back guys that have already been through Dallas. Garrett is the first in this line. He was a backup in Big D behind Troy Aikman, and has spent the last 2 seasons as the Dolphin QB coach. I think that last statement speaks as to why he should have been fired by Miami, and not hired at a higher position. Uh...I mean...Didn't he do a great job coaching Culpepper, Harrington and Miss Cleo Lemon? This thing will only get uglier if Jones decides to stop looking for a new head coach and decides to promote Garrett right away, before he calls a single game as the OC. Not to mention, it's just weird when teams bring in a coordinator before they hire a head coach. So bizarre...
And this my good people, is why I have the pimpest and most commonsensical poll in all the land. (Note: the following is just me being the man, not me being stubborn....yeah I know sometimes it's hard to differentiate) Last week I had the Kansas Jayhawks at #1, and after beating Missouri (12-6) on the road they lost @ a surging Texas Tech (15-5) on the road. They shouldn't be #1 anymore right? Wrong my simple minded friends. My poll is there to say who I think would win the NCAA tourney if it started today. And last time I checked, all the tourney games are played on a neural court right? Exactly. So while the Jayhawks lost by 5 (69-64) in Lubbock, I still think they have the best squad to make a run in March. So they stay at the top. Now that housekeeping is out of the way, it's on to some actual games. Marquette has quickly emerged as the top candidate for the "team the media wrote off entirely too early in the season" award. Sure they had a slip up to North Dakota St. at home, but they also have wins on the road against Duke, Louisville, UCONN and Pitt. Rather impressive road resume if you ask me. Add to that, 2 of their four losses have come to Wisconsin and @ Providence College. Not exactly inexcusable. Keep an eye on the Golden Eagles as they will probably be boosted too high in the polls rather soon, only to suffer another downfall that you and I will refer to as "normal Big East conference play". And what has happened to my poor Wichita St. Shockers? I was the first to curse the national polls for leaving them out of the top 25 despite their nice tourney run last year, and now I'll be the first to say WOW. While their early play vaulted them back into the mix with wins @ 'Cuse and @ LSU, they've only won 4 of their last 12, and currently sit 3 games back.....in the Missouri Valley Conference standings! I mean I know that conference is improved, but come on. Maybe Shocker head man Mark Turgeon is wishing he took one of those high profile job offers this off-season. Oh well, maybe they can turn it around it time to make a sweet run through the MVC tourney and march into the field of 64 again with a vengance. As for my top 10, while I said I'm keeping Kansas on top, with their loss the gap has closed considerably between them and Wisconsin/Florida, who are right on their heels. And if you're mad at me for not giving the Dukies any love, shut your mouth. They've lost twice at home (which they never do), and their "big wins" are against Gonzaga and Georgetown (who since have dropped from the top 25) and at home against Clemson (possibly the most overhyped team this side of Air Force). Talk to me in March after you've actually played some decent ACC teams, and beaten them....


College Hoops Top 10
1. Kansas (17-3) 1
2. Florida (18-2) 2
3. Wisconsin (20-1) 3
4. UCLA (18-1) 4
5. Ohio St. (17-3) 6
6. Pittsburgh (18-3) 5
7. North Carolina (18-2) 8
8. Nevada (18-2) 7
9. Memphis (16-3) NR
10. Butler (18-2) NR

just missed: Marquette, Oregon, Oklahoma St., Duke
dropped: (9) Oklahoma St., (10) Alabama



Nancy Drew Pens Final Notes

Word on the street, is that the long dreaded, and previously thought to be finished, signing of JD Drew has been completed. Despite agreeing in principle on a 5 year $70 million deal on December 5th, the two sides had yet to agree on a clause in the contract that would allow the Sox to opt out of guaranteed money in the later years in case Drew's right shoulder flares up, until now. At least all the drama over his signing is over, but I want to say this one more time for effect. WE ARE GROSSLY OVERPAYING FOR THIS INJURY PRONE WUS!! In what was considered a "good year" for Drew last season, here were his numbers. .283 20 HR 100 RBI. Let's compare that to the seasonal averages for the recently departed Trot Nixon: .278 22 HR 86 RBI. Nixon was making $7.5 mil a season in Beantown, and JD is making $14 mil. Theo claims he's paying for protection in the 5 hole for Manny and Big Papi. Well Theo, for your sake, I hope he provides more protection for them than he has for his body over the course of his career. Don't worry Sox fans. You may miss Trot Nixon's hustle and grit in the Fenway outfield, but you won't be able to shake the fact that you're pretty sure you still see a #7 playing well below his contract value and sitting out more than his fair share of games. I'm beginning to think Drew's parents dubbed him JD (despite his name being David Jonathan) because he frustrated them so much that they were constantly finding themselves having to take shots of JD just to stand his presence. Well, if I look at it that way, this may not be a bad signing yet! Everybody drink!!


Danny and Doc Make Push for Oden, Durant....

The Celtics are doing the best possible thing right now, losing. And just when I thought they would ruin their lottery chances by beating the equally as awful Atlanta Hawks, they actually managed to blow an 18 point lead and lose their 9th straight! I guess Danny and Doc have finally figured out what they're good at....losing! But look out boys, last time the C's tried to tank a season to land a franchise center in the draft, the balls bounced the wrong way, and Tim Duncan landed in San Antonio. But lottery chances aside, I just don't get all the optimism in this town lately about all the young players on this team. Sure it's great that these guys are finally getting playing time, and yea I like what I've been seeing out of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West, but those guys are just pieces. Even if the Celt's do manage to land Ohio St. center Greg Oden or Texas forward Kevin Durant in the draft, they will still be 3-4 years away from being a serious contender. And that's just in the Eastern Conference. Face it Celtic fans, this thing should have been blown up years ago (and no by "this thing" I don't mean Danny Ainge's house with his family inside), and the longer they wait, the longer it's going to take to rebuild....Again


No Joke, NHL Held All-Star Game this Week
I ask Again. If a game is held on a network that nobody can find, does it make a sound? And again, the answer is NO. Here's a free tip for my Eurotrash friends in the National Hockey League. When your sport is coming off a labor stoppage and needs a bump in publicity do not do any of the following when it comes to your All-Star game: 1) hold it in the middle of the week, 2) hold it in Dallas, Texas or 3) give it about as much publicity as the straight to DVD release of the latest "Ernest Goes To" movie. Or do all three of those things. What the heck...Maybe that's why it got fewer viewers than the "Dick in a Box" video on YouTube. Which is funny, because that's what they call it in hockey whenever someone from the Boston Bruins gets a penalty! Mullett sportin' fools...

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