Saturday, September 17, 2011

McCoy Starting, Ash Helping, Gilbert Sitting

Disclaimer: I agree with the quarterback switch.

This week Mack Brown announced what most fans wanted, Garrett Gilbert will not be starting for Texas against UCLA. The fans hammered, and rightfully so, Gilbert with boos last Saturday against BYU, and added insult to Gilbert's demotion when they cheered Ash & McCoy. Obviously, Mack Brown and the coaching staff aren't going to let the fans decide things because that would be just bad. Gilbert won the quarterback battle and I'm sure Brown wanted to show enough confidence in him to let him ride out the bad times and hoped he succeeded. However, Brown, Harsin & Applewhite knew they had Ash & McCoy in their back pocket. With those 2 playing, it allows the Longhorns to open up the playbook and execute the trickery everyone loves.

Gilbert has been through 3 different offenses in his 3 years in Austin. He's had no running game, wide receivers have been hit or miss and the offensive line is shaky. I heard a stat on ESPN Austin radio that surprised me. They charted the offensive plays against BYU and found that Gilbert had 1 play with Malcom Brown in the backfield while the Ash/McCoy combo had 10+. The reason Malcom Brown is starting today against UCLA is because he is the best running back on the team. If you don't give your quarterback the best players on the field, it will be hard to win. Gilbert isn't Tom Brady, who just plugs in random guys into the offense and still wins. For all the talent UT recruits, the wide receivers haven't really showed for it. Jaxon Shipley has played just like his brother and that was expected and surprising. Marquise Goodwin didn't plan on playing this season so he could focus track and field but he's returned and made his way to the top of the depth chart. I'm not discounting Goodwin & Shipley's contributions, but what does it say about the other WRs? How have they been surpassed by the freshman Shipley, and Goodwin, who hasn't had time to learn the new offense and wasn't even expected to play?

So today against UCLA, the new quarterback duo will start and fans expect everything to be peachy. We are talking about sophomore and freshman quarterbacks starting on the road, at the massive Rose Bowl, against a BCS school, against a team that beat Texas on the road last year. What happens if the combo begins to fail? Does Brown go back to Gilbert and if so, how long does it take? How does Gilbert perform in his 2nd life? Remember, it was the national championship game at the Rose Bowl where Gilbert wow'd the national audience when Colt McCoy went out with an injury. It would be a weird full circle if he were to replace Case McCoy. How do the fans react if Gilbert succeeds? With an awkward acceptance.

Things will not be easy for the young duo but let's not hype up UCLA to be better than they are. They have their own quarterback issues and have talent elsewhere that really hasn't played as well as they should. If UCLA isn't good then that Rose Bowl doesn't look as intimidating when there are empty seats in the stadium. Texas' defense is very legit this year and that linebacker crew is beastly. Beastly enough to stop the UCLA's running game that gashed the Longhorns last year. I predict an easy and exciting Texas win (don't hold me to it though). \m/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Like a Snapback, Football is Back!

I have many thoughts from the first NFL weekend of the year but here are my quick hits on some of the games...

Packers-Saints: That lockout clearly slowed down nobody. Offensively, everyone looked like they were in mid-season form, except for Saints' coach Sean Payton. He called a play action in the 3rd quarter resulting in a turnover on downs. The better call would of been to run it up the middle which was the call made at the end of the game to potentially force OT. The last play of the game should of been a play action. Oh well, it's game 1 and there is plenty of room to make up for that loss. Side note, Green Bay rookie, Randall Cobb, is the first person born in the 90s to play, and eventually score, in a NFL game!!

Eagles-Rams: The so called "dream team" has work to do on the offensive line. They can't count on Vick to mask the line's issues all season long. Towards the end of the season, his body will begin to wear down and the lack of offensive execution will be noticed. Good thing they signed Vince Young to replicate his abilities.

Colts-Texans: For the Texans, just look at this game as a 5th preseason game. Take nothing away from this game. For the Colts, I understand not having Manning can affect the play-calling on both offense and defense. His presence apparently resonates optimism, no matter the score. It changes the way some players play or how coaches coach BUT he isn't physically on the field playing defense or special teams. The defense was man handled by the Texans. The Colts have been playing relatively the same Houston offense for the last 4 or so years. There is no real reason to allow 34 points in the first half.

Check back later this week for my post on the Manning situation.

Bills-Chiefs: Ryan! Fitzpatrick! I told a few people to watch out for the Harvard QB. This is his offense (not to extent of Manning though) and he will make plays with the "weapons" he has. The Bills' offensive line finally showed up to play a NFL game for the first time in a decade. The unit looked cohesive and actually protected their QB. They played surprisingly well against Kansas City's decent front 7 - Derrick Johnson, Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey and others. Running back Fred Jackson even had 100+ rushing yards.

Lions-Bucs: For all those years of watching the terrible Lions play on Thanksgiving Day, football fans will finally be rewarded this year provided the Lions are healthy. On November 24th, in Detroit, the Lions host the Packers. Sure the Lions lack the depth and talent of the Packer but, somehow, it will be a hell of game.

Panthers-Cardinals: Cam Newton will be a star in this league and he will have games like Sunday during his rookie season but let's cool the expectations after week 1. I'm a fan of him and I will root for him but unless he rocks the Super Bowl winning Packers, his star might lose some bulbs next Sunday. Overshadowed by Newton's record setting performance was the Cardinals' new quarterback, Kevin Kolb. Albeit it was against the Panthers, he threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. The NFC West is always open so keep your eye on Kolb and the Cardinals.

Cowboys-Jets: I don't want to bash Romo because everyone is already calling for his head but how many times can you make mistakes to cost your team the game? Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it doesn't all fall on Romo's shoulders. He wasn't the one who allowed a blocked punt for a TD; the entire line let Joe McKnight stroll into the backfield to block the punt. Late in the game, the Jets finally opened up the vertical playbook and let Sanchez fire away against the Cowboys' hurt and limited secondary. Why it took till the 4th quarter for the Jets to attack Dallas' biggest weakness is beyond me. Maybe the Cowboys shouldn't have been in this game at all but the fact they were says something about the coaching and the talent on the field. This game gave no indication of how the rest of Dallas' season will go but we do know it will be well covered by the media.

Lastly on the Cowboys, did you catch Dez Bryant's post game interview? The way he defended Romo sounded a lot like Terrell Owens. And why does he shake his head from left to right like he is subliminally telling us he doesn't believe a word he is saying. Check the video around the 4:45 mark.

Should be another exciting season!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Longhorn - Aggies Rivalry Dead?

Texas A&M University today officially notified the Big 12 Conference that the institution will submit an application to join another athletic conference. Should this application be accepted, Texas A&M will end its membership in the Big 12 Conference effective June 30, 2012 A&M Leaves Big XII Statement

And with those words, all the talk about A&M leaving for the SEC becomes a near reality. For the school's best interest, the Aggies have decided to go play in another conference. Best interest?!? You know what would of been in their best interest, if the Aggies, in the last 15 years, managed to be the big time school they strive to be in the SEC. Rarely, did they make noise in the 2 major sports, football and baskebtall. Only 1 Big 12 Championship in 1998 and at 5-15, A&M has the worst record in Big 12 basketball tourney play. However, this year, the women's basketball team brought home A&M's first championship in a major sport since the 1930s. The football team has its highest pre-season ranking. The basketball team has posted 6 straight 20+ win seasons and advanced to the 2nd round of the national tournament the last 5 years. The school's rising athletic program would of brought plenty of interest when the Aggies challenged the likes of OU and Texas in football or Kansas in basketball. Staying would of been in your best interest. So why leave now?

The reasons are many and repeated like a broken record - to get out of UT's shadow, play better schools in the SEC, hate the Longhorn Network, can't get enough money, blah, blah, blah.

Clearly, a lot has to do with the Texas Longhorns and some blame should be put on them for what will eventually be the end of a long state rivalry. When Texas agreed to be part of the Longhorn network, I'm pretty sure they didn't think the breakdown and potential rebuild of the Big 12 was going to happen. Regardless, UT has unofficially said they are looking at other schools to fill the Aggies' spot on Thanksgiving night. That action alone justifies what A&M is silently saying. UT is already assuming they will get the Thanksgiving night game. Maybe college football fans want to see A&M versus Alabama or LSU. Unfortunately for the Aggies, UT's new best friend, ESPN, has the rights to the that game. The Aggies make one slow step forward and hit another roadblock.

Forget A&M and think of what Texas rivalry is already gone - Nebraska. They are a football school with a rich history, Heisman trophy winners and national championships! Sounds like the Longhorns' love rival, the Sooners. A&M and UT have a football rivalry dating back to 1894. Being the state's 2 oldest public schools, the growing alumni and fan base makes the rivalry increasingly special. Rivalries are created based on a history. They can't be built overnight. Playing a storied program like Notre Dame doesn't make me dislike the FIghting Irish immediately but annoying school pride, underdog victories and fight songs directed at UT does. By the way, Aggies, you're going to have to change that.

No longer will we have the entire nation's interest in a primetime match-up as big as the state of Texas. No longer will we have the days when UT walks into Kyle Field undefeated hoping to jump one of its last hurdles towards the BCS National Championship Game. No matter how good or bad of a season A&M is having, ruining Texas' chances is a trophy in itself. At the same time, Longhorns prayed to every godly spirit they could think of to not let them be on the wrong side of an upset and come out unharmed. Speaking of harm, can you imagine the rowdy crowds at every A&M football game this year? Oklahoma State, Texas & Missouri pay visits to College Station while the Aggies travel to Lubbock and Norman. From what I hear the latter 2 are not friendly places. But neither are Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Finals Thoughts

Questions and notes about this year’s finals. Here we go…

Home court: the Heat have home court advantage. Unlike every other series, the Final’s format is 2-3-2 meaning the Mavs will get to play 3 straight home games. This could be huge if Dallas can steal a game in Miami before coming home. Miami will have problems playing in front the loud, energized Dallas crowd.

Only reason the Heat have home court is because they have a better record by one game. In the final game of the season, the Heat benched their big 3 and still beat the Raptors by 18. HUGE!

Matchups: Who guards who is going to make or break the series.

Will LeBron guard Dirk towards the end of the game? How aggressive will both of them be on the other? Can LeBron afford the fouls? Will James be too tired to close games?

Can Haslem repeat his defense from 2006 on this year’s Dirk? Is Haslem in good enough shape after his injury.

Who checks Wade – Barera, Kidd, Terry, Peja, Stevenson?

Coaching: The coaching edge probably goes to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs. He has consistently coached or been on a coaching staff of winning teams. In addition, the Mavs have an on court coach in Jason Kidd and a very veteran team.

Carlisle’s main coaching focus will be on defense. How do they defend the big 3? In the 2 (early) season victories over the Heat, they went to the zone quite a few times. Since the last win in December, Miami is clearly a different team. Passing beats a zone and good passing requires trust and chemistry which the Heat have developed over the year.

At what point does Erik Spoelstra begin to receive his coaching credit? He just coached a team that beat the Celtics and the Bulls. That’s no easy task even if you have the world of talent. Everyone thought the Heat would not gel quickly enough and not make it to this point, only to have Pat Riley take over. However, Spoelstra has managed the stars and it appears him and James are working fine together. When things are going great, the players are applauded. When things are not going well, fans want Spoelstra's head off. It will be interesting to see how the players talk about Spoelstra if the Heat win.

Spoelstra will have to deal with keeping the Heat players focused and making sure they play their game. They can’t get caught up in the hype, pressure, 2006 and the other non-basketball related talk.

Officiating: Mark Cuban’s mouth will stay closed until LeBron’s traveling gets too much to handle. After the 2006 finals, Dirk told Cuban to keep his mouth shut because it is distracting. Cuban has been pretty quiet this year because he knows his team actually has a chance. But if the refs are making the series unfair, don’t bet against Cuban to start talking. He wants this team to win real bad.

Dirk’s post game press conference: Why does Dirk always hold the mic to answer his questions? Is he too tall to lean forward? He should just leave it on the table like everybody else, it just looks awkward.

American Airlines: both teams play in an arena sponsored by American Airlines. Aside from overexposed commercials, what can we expect from AA? Each game is worth about 10-11 million dollars in advertising for the airline. They only paid $42 million to name the Miami’s arena for 20 years. How will the fans/consumers be rewarded? Some suggestions – bags fly free for the summer, give fans free flight + ticket packages so they can attend every game or discounted ticket prices for everybody to Miami.

Bold Statement: If the Heat win, LeBron’s Finals MVP trophy speech will be “Look at me now”

Prediction: Miami in 7
Game 1 - Miami
Game 2 -Dallas
Game 3 - Dallas
Game 4 – Miami
Game 5 - Dallas
Game 6 - Miami
Game 7- Miami

National Pride

Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment in the US Constitution and allows for an individual to voice, through various mediums, their thoughts on a wide range of issues from public policy to judging a famed actress’ dress.

One of those mediums is Twitter, the social networking and micro blogging service.

With the recent news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter to tell us how he really feels. Late Monday evening, Mendenhall tweeted: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..." In addition, he added, "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."

I’m not necessarily agreeing with his comments but I also don’t think it requires the Pittsburgh Steelers organization to release a statement as a response. This shouldn’t be a story at all but here I am writing about it. There are thousands of people out in Twitter world who had similar feelings.

Mendenhall is a star running back in the NFL and what he does is publicized more than the average person. So because of this he has to be more careful when he tweets than me? At the risk of misrepresenting his sport, employer and coworkers, he has to limit what he says?

The 1st Amendment gives him the right to say pretty much what he wants to. Granted not everything that can be said is always safe to say but Mendenhall gave his opinion on a recent news story. His views are shared by a minority but still expressed by others in a public forum such as CNN, FOX News and other TV networks as well as printed media. They voice similar opinions without the ridicule because it’s part of their job.

As a society do we expect Mendenhall’s comments not to have any value or depth because he is just a football player? Mendenhall is a person with a unique perspective on the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Of all organizations, the first class Steelers, owned by Dan Rooney (US Ambassador to Ireland and the driving force behind the “Rooney Rule”) should understand the diversity within its team. Those players share the same ideas when on the gridiron but outside the stadium they are individuals.

Let’s be real about this, Mendenhall is in the minority but his thoughts cause a healthy debate. I follow a few athletes on Twitter and I’ve read much worse. If people were really offended by Mendenhall’s comments they should look at other athletes who would have various race, political and gay rights groups calling the league.