Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Playing Differently

Jay Cutler has been ripped apart for not playing hurt in the second half of the NFC championship game. Current and former players basically told him to suck it up and play on the hurt knee, later determined a MCL sprain. The fraternity of players may have not been watching the same game I did because Cutler did try to play hurt. He came out in the 3rd quarter, tried to plant his foot and throw and ended up completely missing the target.

Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the first players to attack Cutler. MJD's argument was he played the entire season hurt, reportedly his left knee was "bone-on-bone". Well, you actually missed the last 2 games of the season as Charles Barkley pointed out today. The Jaguars were still in playoff position before Jones-Drew sat out and Jacksonville finished 8-8. So Maurice, you know exactly how physically and mentally hurt Cutler must of been that he couldn't help the Bears reach the Super Bowl. Jones-Drew had the benefit of receiving treatment on a week to week basis while Cutler had to be treated in about 30 minutes. I would put big money on the fact that Jones-Drew's treatment included some sort of pain medication, most notably a cortisone shot.

(As I am writing this, MJD is retweeting all the hate tweets he is receiving. Yes, some of the tweets are wrong but looks like a call for attention)
I guess death threats towards me and my family isn't head line news... http://twitter.com/#!/jones_drew32

Too bad for Cutler, he cannot receive a cortisone shot because he is a Type 1 Diabetic. A cortisone shot would of elevated his blood sugar levels. If his blood sugar level was too high he could of experienced tiredness, dry mouth or blurry vision - all attributes you don't want your quarterback to have. Though, otherwise healthy, Cutler risks his health more than other players do. Cutler studies NFL defenses while having to worrying every morning and night about his blood sugar level. He risks overshooting his insulin and causing oxygen flow to his brain to decline. Cutler's deameanor or lack of enthusiam may need to be altered but never question the guy's toughness. It's immature for another player to tell Jay Cutler to "man up" when they haven't walked a day in his shoes.

Side note: The attacks by the fraternity of players on Cutler displays a disorganized players' union at the same time they are supposed to be working on a new labor deal with the owners. Enjoy the Pro Bowl as much as the Super Bowl because you may not see football for a while. Hello UFL (http://www.ufl-football.com/) and fantasy college football!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hook 'em Horns Network

Everything is bigger in Texas and the Longhorns TV contract with ESPN gives no reason to think otherwise. The contract runs for 20 years for a grand total of $250 million. That gives the University of Texas about 10 - 12 million dollars a year just for having an elite sports program. University President, William Powers, says the money will be split between athletics and academics. There probably aren't many, if any, schools where the athletics program shares its money with non-athletic programs. When UT raised Mack Brown's annual salary to $5 million, some were in uproar because they argued the money could be better used for academics. However, the contract is purely funded from revenue earned from Longhorn athletics. Now, the new channel, primarily for sports, will help fund academic initiatives and professor salaries. The channel will not only show sports but other UT events such as guest lecturers, commencements and cultural activities around the city of Austin. Overall, a great deal for the university.

On the flip side of this deal is ESPN going into unchartered water. The deal is unprecedented, the contract is Alex Rodriguez type money and a huge risk for ESPN. They will pour millions of dollars in production costs for one school. They already have plans to setup a studio in DKR stadium. It's an absurd amount of money considering they were bidding against themselves. They'll obviously make their money as long as cable and satellite providers pick up the channel but ESPN has attached itself to the hip to UT. 

  • God forbid, but what happens if there are major recruiting violations in Austin, Texas is given the death penalty and doesn't recover for another 20 years? ESPN will have to consider this deal a sunk cost (provided there are no special clauses to opt out). 
  • How will ESPN anchors, writers, possible poll voters and other personalities perceive Texas from now on? Any hint of bias towards Texas will cause many to believe they have to because of the investment they have in the school.
  • Is one football game and a handful of basketball games enough for people to watch this channel? I like my pre game coverage as much as the next guy but I won't be sitting around on a Friday night to get a preview of Saturday. 

Although, there is one area ESPN may have struck gold. Part of this deal that has gone rather quietly is that it calls for ESPN to create an online site covering high school sports in Texas. A hidden benefactor in the deal is Texas high school football. There is NOTHING in the country like high school football in Texas. ESPN already shows select football games from around the country. You are probably thinking who watches high school football. The show and movie Friday Night Lights provides the best example of the sports popularity. College scouts will enjoy the ease of following their potential recruits online. Viewership will vary based on what schools and players are playing but those in Texas know high school quarterbacks like they know NFL quarterbacks. Heck, high school football in Austin is covered just as much as UT football. ESPN doesn't need the world to watch the new network or follow the online content to generate revenue but untapping the potential of high school football in Texas will be golden...actually, burnt orange. \m/

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blake Griffin is the next...

I know its not an apples to oranges comparison but take a look at Blake Griffin's stats from his sophomore year at OU and his rookie season so far.
OU (08-09) - 22 points/game, 14 rebounds/game in 33 minutes
LAC (10-11) - 22 points/game, 13 rebounds/game in 37 minutes
Usually, you would see a drop off given the lack of talent in college and the nature of a NBA game but Griffin has adjusted well.

Blake Griffin is taking the league by storm. He is easily the Rookie of the Year. He deserves to be in the All Star Game. And most importantly he is making the long time lowly Clippers better. His winning play and attitude is rubbing off on his teammates and making them believe they can win. They aren't a sure bet to make the playoffs but they're beating teams like the Lakers and Heat. Griffin made no excuses (with no reason to have one) about his play because he sat out all of last year due to a broken kneecap. His near 13 rebounds a game is a testament of his "take no plays off" attitude. The day Kobe is no longer employed by the Lakers, Blake Griffin will become the biggest star in LA. He will be the reason there is another championship parade in LA but this time hosted by the Clippers.

Now that Griffin has officially captured the league's attention, the comparisons are starting to come. Is he a smaller Shaq? A quieter Garnett? New age Shawn Kemp? Second coming of Tim Duncan or Barkley? I have no statistical evidence or clear cut analysis but I see Griffin as another Hakeem Olajuwon.

  • Olajuwon's quick feet made him too agile for most centers to defend him. Griffin's athleticism causes even this generation's most athletic players to look lost.
  • Olajuwon was pretty feisty in his early years as he got into some tussles on the court, talked back to referees and earned many technicals before becoming a devout Muslim. His undisciplined intensity was moved to his play and it did him wonders. Similarly, Griffin was taught early to let your play do your talking. So when teams try to undercut him or beat him off the block, Griffin just dunks all over them.
At one point after retirement, Olajuwon was asked if the league was too guard-oriented and if traditional big guys were becoming less important. His response easily describes Blake Griffin...

 For a big man who is just big, maybe. But not if you play with speed, with agility. It will always be a big man's game if the big man plays the right way. On defense, the big man can rebound and block shots. On offense, he draws double-teams and creates opportunities. He can add so much, make it easier for the entire team.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rooney Rule Fail

Today, Jason Garrett was announced as the new Cowboys' coach. Before he could get officially hired, the Cowboys had to satisfy the Rooney Rule. The rule states teams must interview minority candidates to ensure they are considered for high-level coaching opportunities. To satisfy the rule, Jerry Jones interviewed current Cowboys WR coach, Ray Sherman who is African-American. In theory, if Ray Sherman is thought so highly to be considered head coach of the Cowboys, he should be considered for the offensive coordinator position previously held by Garrett. But what will happen is that Sherman will just go back to his WR position without any promotion even though he is "qualified" to be head coach. Sherman is a legit coach in the league, a former offesnive coordinator and has been able to handle the diva filled WR position.

Clearly the Rooney rule is not perfect but the above mentioned practice of it is a fault of the employer. In this case, that would be Jerry Jones. He is using Ray Sherman because he is the token minority coach on the staff. I understand this is the easy way to do things but if you're Sherman can you sacrifice being used for the good of the team? How does Jerry Jones even sleep at night?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not So Spinning Coaching Carousel

Why didn't your favorite failing NFL team fire their respective coach? Well, its rather simple....money talks!

The NFL is potentially not going to happen in 2011 and owners don't want to fire a coach, hire a big name coach, pay him the big bucks while he watches TV during the 2011 season. Might as well keep the cheaper option if that coach is going to do nothing. So Coughlin, Kubiak and Del Rio get to finish out their contracts with an ultimatum to do better next year (if there is one). Some owners like Al Davis and Stephen Ross (Dolphins) aren't as money conscious. Dolphins' coach Tony Sporano still has his job but Ross is searching just in case a better option is willing to coach his team. Even with a relatively good year, the Raiders let Tom Cable go likely cause of personality issues. And we know, Al Davis isn't afraid to commit to a stupid financial decision.

Likewise, Vikings are keeping Leslie Frazier as head coach because he is cheaper and safer considering what may happen next year. Even the biggest spender, Jerry Jones, will most likely hire Jason Garrett instead of making a big splash.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Part II - AFC

Who will be visiting Dallas from the AFC? Below is each team's outlook.

New York Jets: If Rex Ryan believes they are the best team ever then so do I. Sometimes they play worse than they are and sometimes play better than they are. They have the talent at all the skill positions and had the last 17 weeks to gel in those new players. Mark Sanchez does his best when the spotlight is the brightest and last year took the team to the AFC championship game. Their wild card opponent - the Colts. A defensive Jets team versus the offensive smarts of Manning. Jets could lose in round 1 or win the Super Bowl. Its a cointoss on what this team does.

Indianapolis Colts: Two words - Peyton. Manning. As long as he is playing, the Colts always have a shot at the Super Bowl. Even with their injuries, they managed to win their last 4 and the AFC South. Former backups and now starters could be all on the same page with Manning just in time for the playoffs. Even Joseph Addai is back. Hopefully, veteran defensive linebacker Gary Brackett isn't suspended for an illegal hit on Sunday. It is his 3rd offense this season. Super Bowl chances are high.

Kansas City Chiefs: Well nobody thinks they can win so that's motivation in itself, right? They put up a stinker on Sunday versus the Raiders but hard to believe they don't come out stronger in the playoffs with a loud home crowd. Nice balance on offense and Matt Cassell is proving he is worth the money even if he is a product of the system. The defense (and the team in general) is young so they are prone to mental lapses. Their inexperience will hurt them. During the season, they beat who they should have and lost to better teams. Against the Ravens, I predict a loss.

Baltimore Ravens: A late Christmas gift, the Ravens get to play the Chiefs instead of the Colts. Defense isn't what it used to be in the early 2000s but still a force to be reckoned with as long as Ray Lewis is playing. Their defense has been run on this year Lewis will have them ready. Ray Rice has been playing well, Joe Flacco is throwing well and the receiving corps is stacked (Boldin, Mason, Houshmandzadeh & Stallworth). Overall, the team is experienced and well coached. They've played their last 5 playoff games on the road going 3-2. They will play well but they have to beat great teams (Pats and Steelers) to get to the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers: They quietly go about their business winning games like they're supposed to. Nobody is talking about how Big Ben was suspended the first 4 games. They just talk about his toughness with every hit he takes. Troy Polamalu changes how teams throw the ball against the Steelers. If he can take away the passing game single handedly, then the front 7 easily takes care of any running game. Steelers are talented, well coached, experienced and determined. Troy and Ben are a little bit banged up but that won't slow them down. Only one real obstacle - Tom Brady and the Pats. Other than that, the Super Bowl could be theirs for the taking.

New England Patriots: We may be seeing Tom Brady at his finest. He has made the best case for MVP. Clearly, the odds maker think the Pats at 13-10 make the best case for a championship. All the Pats do is score, create turnover and win. They beat all the teams in the playoffs from the AFC except the Chiefs who they did not play. Everyday, Tom Brady sounds more and more like his stoic coach in order to keep the younger Pats focused who could be their only weakness.

See You In Dallas: Part 1 - NFC

Doesn't matter how well (or poorly) you played during the season, your new record is 0-0....and that's what the Seattle Seahawks are telling everyone. The other 11 teams are going to keep doing what they did the last 17 weeks to win a few more in a row. So which team has the best shot at winning Super Bowl XLV? First, the outlook on the NFC teams (in no particular order).
(FYI...XLV is 45 since nobody knows roman numerals anymore)

Seattle Seahawks: They have home field advantage in round 1 against the defending champs. Seattle's 12th man is loud and crazy and Seattle is a relatively far destination to travel to...and that's all they have going for them. An upset would be fun to watch and beating the Saints at home could provide a boost going forward, the problem is beating the Saints. Don't book your ticket to Dallas, Seahawk fans.

New Orleans Saints: Defending champs usually don't make the playoffs the next year so Saints have already one-up'd previous Super Bowl winners. The nucleus from last year's team is still intact and Brees can keep the team focused. They had some injuries in the season finale including to their best defensive player, Malcolm Jenkins. If I were a Saints' fan, I would be excited about a potential 9 hour road trip to Dallas. Who Dat!?

Philadelphia Eagles: Has the magic run out? Have teams figured out how to slow down Mike Vick? Vick will face the strong 3-4 Packers' defense in the first round which means lots of blitzes and moving around. Is Vick even healthy to move? Two things you need to win in the playoffs - running game and defense. Not the Eagles' specialties. They're a pass happy team and have a struggling secondary giving up bigs plays. Maybe Vick is motivated by the fact he could face the Falcons in Atlanta for the NFC crown. Wouldn't expect to see Philly after week 1 of the playoffs

Green Bay Packers: They'll have to pass more than they like to with no strong running game but nothing different than all year. Rodgers and his receiving crew isn't a bad bunch. Rodgers can put up numbers that keeps his team in the game but now would be a good time to win a playoff game. Clay Matthews by himself should scare offenses. Packers' 3-4 defense executes well and may give the team the momentum it needs to get to Dallas. They were a pretty pick in the preseason before all the injuries and could make some noise but not the safest bet to reach the big game. 

Chicago Bears: Live and die by their defense. The offense is hit or miss. If they are on, they put up points but playoff games are not won on 'ifs'. If teams kick to Devin Hester, he is likely scoring 6 points. Again 'ifs' don't win playoff games. Something about this team, especially their D, tells me it could make a run like they did to reach Super Bowl 41. Realistically, they won't win a game.

Atlanta Falcons: Number 1 seed and home field advantage. By now, we all know how Matt Ryan is unbelievable at home. Career record at home 19-2. Could Ryan be the second coming of Peyton Manning? (We'll wait on the answer to that). Falcons have been clicking all year long and do not turn the ball over or commit penalties. They do nothing flashy, just fundamental football. Only major flaw appears to be the defensive secondary as it was shaky at times. Hey, no team is perfect. Could be visiting Dallas in February but will need to beat the Saints in the NFC championship game.