This may shock a few people, but I don't think the Chargers hiring of Norv Tuner was a bad move at all. I know I bashed the Cowboys for attempting to hire Turner, but this is a totally different situation. First, Norv not only was the last offensive coordinator in San Diego prior to the recently departed Cam Cameron, but he was the one that actually installed the offense that the team still currently runs. Secondly, this team isn't in need of a new coach that will implement a new philosophy and mind frame. All they really need is a better signal caller. I think it's widely agreed that it wasn't talent on the field that held these boys back last season, it was their coach. And while Norv Turner may not have the regular season success that Marty Schottenheimer had (58-82-1 as head man in Washington and Oakland, but those teams blow anyway right?), or even any real post season success (1-1 in career) somethin' is tellin' me a lateral move like this to another experienced coach is just what the Chargers need. Besides, just because Norv hasn't had success at his two head coaching stops, doesn't mean he hasn't had coaching success. There was a certain Dallas dynasty in the early 90's that he had a rather prominent hand in (offensive coordinator) and his recent stint as 49ers OC can also be classified as a success. I mean come on, raise your hand if you honestly thought the 9ers offense was going to do anything this year after such a dismal display in 2005. You can justify it by saying Alex Smith got older and the team added weapons like Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, but to totally ignore Norv's impact would just be ignorant. That being said, it's not like I'm ready to hand the Lombardi trophy to the Bolts just because they now have Norv Turner as their head coach. But I like the move. Instead of bringing in some young gun, they decided to let a veteran basically guide this squad, Make no mistake, Norv is there to "not make the mistakes Marty did". But if he can't get a few post season wins in the next year or so, look for the Chargers front office to completely abandon this strategy and begin looking for someone to peg as the next new hot young coach. So, for the record, I can totally see why anyone would take issue with the Chargers hiring Norv Turner, but for the time being, I don't see it has all that bad of a move.
News and Notes
*The New England Patriots took an important step in their off season this week when they assigned the franchise tag to CB Asante Samuel. Now, since I've already been asked exactly what the franchise tag is about 55 times this week, I'm a gonna splain it to ya. When a player is franchised, they receive a one year, guaranteed contract worth the average of the top 5 salaried players at their position for that one season (or a 5% raise of their latest salary, whichever is more). Now, the key word there is "guaranteed". Most contracts in the NFL aren't guaranteed, meaning that when a player is released from a team, they stop getting paid unlike in the other major pro sports. That's the case for almost all NFL players, even stars like Brett Favre or Tom Brady. The franchise tag is used for two main reasons. First, is to prevent a player that you don't want to pay big money for a long term contract, which is the case with Samuel. The fact is, Asante would command much more per year on the open market than he will be getting paid by the Pats this season. The second reason to franchise a player is simply to protect your interests. The way this happens is three fold. Obviously they protect themselves by keeping a big name player for another season, but they also allow themselves a time table to work out a long term extension if that's their ultimate goal. Even more important though, is that if Samuel can work out a deal with another team while being franchised by the Patriots, New England will receive 2 first round picks from that team as compensation. So, essentially, the player gets screwed in the franchising experience. Sure they get one year guaranteed money, but what if they get hurt in that one season? SCREWED. But hey, I'm a Patriots fan first and foremost, so anything that helps them get the damn thing done is A-OK with me. Hope that explanation was helpful. And the next time someone asks me about franchising I'm simply going to respond with "Sucks you don't have the internet, you tool".
*When the most exciting part of NBA All-Star weekend was Charles Barkley kissing a 67 year old man on the lips, you know the event has lost almost all of its luster. If I were grading All-Star weekend, that sucker would be Velcroing his trapper keeper together for another shot at the 2nd grade. First off, the skills contest is bogus. I mean I guess I don't have a total beef with the actual contest itself, but why will LeBron and friends compete in that and not the freakin' dunk contest! That pisses me off. And don't even get me started on the dunk contest. I guess I can take some solace in the fact that Gerald Green won and Nasty Naked Nate Robinson didn't, but it was another snoozer. The best dunk of the whole contest by far was Gerald Green's first dunk attempt, and then the rest were mostly duds. I do, however, want to give props to Dwight Howard for at least attempting to add some excitement and showmanship to the festivities. But no matter how high he stuck that sticker on the backboard (pretty sure it was 12 feet 6 inches). the judges still seemed to be more impressed with Nate Robinson jumping to 10 feet. Just to recap though, a guy that is 5'8" jumped to 10 feet (difference of 4'2"), and a guy that's 6'11" jumped to 12'6" (difference of 5'7"), and the smaller guys feat was still more impressive? Guess that's about what you should expect from a league full of high schoolers that spend more time in strip clubs than gonorrhea. And don't even get me started on the All-Star game itself. Never has there been a sporting event where all you really needed to do was watch the SportsCenter highlights. Just one look at that game and you realize why so many true bball fans prefer the college game these days. And finally, you have the race between 44-year old retired NBA Hall of Famer Charles "the Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley, and 67-year old NBA referee Dick Bavetta. It was entertaining for sure, but I totally could have done without the two grown men kissing on the lips at the end. And still no confirmation that at that moment Tim Hardaway obtained an inadvertent erection while watching on his TV at home.
*I've said it before and I'll say it again. The only thing better than watching Tiger Woods win, is watching Phil Mickelson choke a win away. All Phil needed this weekend at the Nissan Open was a par on the final hole of the tourney to secure a win. Instead, Philly Cheese Steak bogeyed the final hole, and lost the tournament on the 3rd hole of a playoff to one of my favorite golfers (and friend of T-Woods) Charles Howell III. Anyone that has "the third" in their name gets props from me, and anyone that beats Phil is immediately moved right into my good graces. I wonder if Tiger told Howell some secret to getting Phil to collapse under pressure. Like maybe he told him to tell Phil he looked thin, but to then whisper something under his breath immediately after. When Phil says "what was that?", Howell would just dismiss it as nothing. But what he really would have said was "that fat ass looks like Jared from Subways bastard child with Riki Lake". And honestly, I don't even know where I came up with that one. How on earth is Riki Lake still registering in my conscience?
*This just in. Manny Ramirez is saying he won't show up on time for the start of Spring training....again. Better yet, it's not even that Manny came out and said he won't be in camp until March 1st, it's that Julian Tavarez said it for him! Personally, I could care less when Manny shows up. Hitter don't need the full six weeks of Spring training to round into shape, and everyone knows it. Now, I understand that there are people out there that think he's putting himself above the team and sending out the wrong message to his teammates by pulling this shit, but I also understand that the intense media coverage of the club makes all that seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. Manny's teammates know Manny. They know this is what he does. And they also know that he's going to hit .300+, mash 30 or more dingers and drive in 130+ runs. They also know that when it comes to hitting, nobody works harder all year round than Manny. Sure he might take a whizz in the monster from time to time, and cut off throws from center field, but that's just part of the Manny package. I don't want to overuse the "Manny Being Manny" cliche, but that's just what's goin' on. Leave the man alone. He'll make it to camp when he's good and ready, and that should be good enough.
*And a funny thing happened on February 2, 2004 that is still going on today. No, it's not the "Hollywood train" being run on Lindsay Lohan, or even the start Britney Spears mental meltdown. Nope, it was on Ground hog's day more than 3 years ago that tennis great Roger Federer moved into the #1 spot on the pro tour rankings. And since, he's yet to relinquish that position, a streak that has now reached 160 straight weeks. With that, Federer ties the record of Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors, who held the top spot from 1974-77. He might not be Tiger, and he might be Swiss, but damn is Federer good. And while this might not seem like a big sports story to most of you, I'm just using my little journalistic power here to expose you fools to somethin' other than the NFL for a few seconds. No need to thank me all at once for making you smarter, but sending me an e-card to express your gratefulness wouldn't kill you either.
*Finally, I'd like to mention that I would comment on the thrilling finish of the Daytona 500 if I either A) watched a single lap of the race or B) actually cared about NASCAR. If I want to see hicks driving their cars, I can hop on route 90 and have all I can bare in about 90 minutes. (note: I did hear a rumor that a guy crossed the finish line upside down and on fire though, and that actually sounds pretty damn cool)
Well, I guess it only took one week, and weak wins @ Boston College and at home against 17-9 Georgia Tech for the National media to insert the Duke sausage back into their mouths. Not only are the Devils back in the top 25 this week, but those two seemingly "decent" wins propelled them up nine spots from 26 to 17. The next time someone tells me there isn't a Duke bias in the National media better be ready to have me blow a snot rocket directly in their eye. Now, back to talking about teams that are actually good. Kansas moves back into the top spot this week thanks mostly in part to Florida getting spanked at Vanderbilt. I know, I know. I said teams don't fall in my poll just because they lose. But come on. Vanderbilt? Plus, remember when I said Kansas didn't have enough of an identity to be considered the team to beat? Well, I've changed my tune. Most of my change in heart can be due to the improved play of freshmen PG Sherron Collins. The "best Kansas guard since Kirk Hinrich" has been so solid at the point lately (14 ppg 4 apg 45% 3-pt in Big XII play), breaking pressure, driving to the hole and distributing the rock to all his talented teammates. Remember, no matter how talented your team, you;re going to need great guard play come tourney time. Now that they have that with Collins, the Jayhawks have officially again become my team to beat. Barring them losing an embarrassing game a la Florida, they should remain at the top from here on out. Here's how the rest of my top 10 is shakin' out these days...
College Hoops Top 101. Kansas (24-4) 2
2. North Carolina (23-4) 3
3. Florida (24-3) 1
4. Wisconsin (26-2) 4
5. Ohio St. (24-3) 5
6. Georgetown (20-5) 7
7. Memphis (23-3) 6
8. UCLA (23-3) 9
9. Nevada (24-2) 8
10. Southern Illinois (23-5) NR
just missed: Texas A&M, Washington St., Pittsburgh, Butler, Alabama
dropped: (10) Texas A&M
Duke humpers feel free to go here http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/rankingsindex
Texas Tech @ Texas
West Virginia @ Providence
Missouri St. @ Wichita St.
Boston College @ Virginia Tech
Texas A&M @ Oklahoma St.
Florida St. @ Maryland
Washington St. @ Oregon
Duke @ Clemson