Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Managers Corner VERY NSFW

PLEASE listen to this in a place where sensitive ears will not hear it. It is actually from a radio program, and this guy added some silly animations to it.

Except for the "brought to you by stuff", this is 100% real. Weaver did this kind of crap all the time.

The Master of the Toss - NSFW

I grew up watching this guy, but as a kid I never understood why my parents always got seats in the upper deck or the bleachers. Now I know, it was to stay out of earshot.

I have to admire the umpire's ability to play it off, even as he is egging him on. Listen to the "Hall of Fame" rant.

Also, I am pretty sure that once he got rung up, Earl was just playing to the crowd by going back and forth like that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A few random things...

1. T.O., or, Here We Go Again...

I hate to even mention the guy, because to me it just validates his B.S., but this needs to be commented on. By now I am sure that you have heard what happened (I am not the source for breaking news). But just to recap...

On the opening series of the Cowboys' 38-28 victory, while Owens and Hall jawed at each other as they left the field following a sack of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, the controversial wide receiver spit at Hall, he confirmed during a postgame interview on the NFL Network.

The incident was not detected by game officials and there was no penalty. Hall said that, as he ran to the sideline, he told the officials Owens had spit on him, but was apprised that no one had seen it.

On his postgame television appearance, Owens said the incident was precipitated because Hall "kept bugging me and getting in my face." He also claimed he apologized to Hall following the game.

Hall was adamant on Sunday that Owens offered no apology. And he noted that the incident occurred on just the sixth play of the game.

"I mean, how much could I have gotten under his skin in just six plays?" Hall said. "Were we talking to each other? Yeah, that's part of my game, and everybody knows that. But after a couple plays, I slapped him on the butt, and just said something like, 'I'm going to be on you all night. This is how it's going to be.' And that was it.

"People make me out to be the bad guy all the time. Look, I play the game hard, but I play the game fair, all right? I'm not the guy out there doing cheap stuff. Like I said [Saturday] night, after what [Owens] did, I lost all respect for the guy."

That is from an article by Len Pasquerelli at ESPN. And as I type this, I get breaking news from the TV (yup, SportsCenter) that Owens has been fined $35,000 but NOT fined (sometimes I am an exception to my own rules).

Now that we are all on the same page, let us get to my problem with this. Owens was bothered because Hall kept bugging him and getting in his face? You will have to forgive me if I take a moment to try and shake my brain back out of the stare of incredulity that it is now mired in. OWENS WAS PISSED OFF BECAUSE OF TRASH TALKING?!?!? One of the kings of showboating and trashtalking got so worked up by someone else that it took all of 6 plays for him to do one of the most base acts an athlete can do? The man who all but called Jeff Garcia gay and then called out Donovan McNabb's toughness? The man who made a spectacle of himself by posing on the star at midfield of Texas Stadium while playing for the 49'ers? TWICE IN THE SAME GAME? The man who made the NFL void a valid trade to Baltimore, then scored a touchdown against the Ravens in a game and mocked Ray Lewis' pregame dance? THAT Terrell Owens couldn't handle a little trash talking? Excuse me T.O., but the kettle is on line 1 for you. Hey jackass, if you can't walk the walk, don't talk the talk. As far as I am concerned he is no longer an entity to be dealt with, and after any and all commentary on this topic is exhausted in the comments section, he will not be talked about again. He just isn't worth it.

I have said before that I am not a fan of trash talking. I never have been. I have always subscribed to the "old school" philosophy that you let your play on the field do the talking. But be that as it may, the practice of trash talking has become the norm instead of the exception for the NFL. I am a big enough fan of the sport that I look past it and try to enjoy the play itself, and to focus on the players who are above that crap. That is why I am such a big fan of LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees and Todd Heap. Just shut up and play.

One final thing about T.O. There is a quote of his that I think is rather apropos..."If it walks like a rat and talks like a rat..."

2. Carmelo Anthony is an Idiot...

Not 3 days ago Carmelo was here in Baltimore celebrating the opening of a brand new youth center that he donated 1.5 million dollars of his own money to build. And now he has been given a 15 game suspension for his part in the melee (I don't think it qualifies as a brawl. Only scenes from Road House qualify as brawls) at Madison Square Garden the other night. He finally gets everyone to forget about his appearance in the "Stop Snitching" video, and then he pulls THIS bone headed move.

I really want to think that he is just making bad choices. He definitely seems like an honest, caring young man. But when he does crap like this it just pisses me off. If you haven't seen the video, look at THIS. At around 40-45 seconds you will see Anthony throw a punch right about in the middle of the screen. Carmelo, PLEASE, for your sake, and for the sake of the NBA (which needs you to be the star that you can be), get your head on right before you end up ruining what you have the ability to create, and that is a positive role model for all of us. I am not talking about black and white, I am not talking about the youth of Denver or Baltimore, I am talking about the community, of sports fans who want to take their children to watch amazing people with God given gifts display their talents. You are better than this and it is time to start acting like it.

3. Why I Love and Hate the NFL Sometimes...

Tonight the Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts are playing. Now anyone who knows me knows that I have no love for either franchise. I respect players on both teams, but the franchises themselves, well, one plays in the division of my home team and I always want those teams to lose and the other one broke my heart over 20 years ago and I have (and will) never forgive them for it. However, this game has serious playoff implications for my team, and that makes me have to look at that and actually root for one of the teams. Because I want my team to have at least a 1st round bye even if they can't have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, I have to root for Cincinnati to win. Of course, I can root like hell for them to lose the next two weeks, but it hurts me to have to root for them tonight. This is the pain that the NFL causes me.

But it pales compared to what the NFL has done to my memories and my history. And that is the video that they have released about the Indianapolis Colts. It includes players like Unitas, Berry, Marchetti, Mackey, Donovan, and Moore just to name a few. The last time I checked those players didn't play in Indianapolis. If the DVD was the history of the Colts, I would be okay with it. But how dare they put out anything about the history of the Indianapolis Colts and include the players from the Baltimore era? It gives me another reason (like I needed one) to root for my team to win it all this year, just to rub it in the face of the family that owned the team when they left and still own it today. Irsay is still a cussword to my family.

Even with that, I still am addicted to their product. DAMITALL!

I am going to wrap this up for now, but be ready for my playoff predictions once the teams are finally set. Time to put my typed words where my mouth is.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Maybe it IS time to put skirts on them.

Mayhap you have seen the clip of Vince Young about to be sacked late in the 4th quarter of the Giants-Titans game yesterday. If you have, any commentary that was provided by the random talking heads surely marvelled at the abilities of Young to escape that sure sack and keep the drive alive. But if you look at the actual clip, you will be able to see that it isn't the case at all. As of right now, I cannot find the video to post, but I am assuming that if you are enough of a sports nut to be reading this little thing, you have seen it.

So the Giants player that had Vince dead to rights was rookie Mathias Kiwanuka. He had his arms wrapped around him and was beginning to drive him back. Then he let go. WHY WOULD HE LET GO?!?!? I will tell you why. No one has come out and said this, but I cannot fathom any other reason why this would happen. You would be hard pressed to convince me that there is another reason, even though no one involved will ever admit it.

He let him go because the NFL has made protecting the quarterback such a high priority that defensive players are becoming so frightened of getting hit with a roughing the passer penalty that they can't be effective any more. It was 4th and 10, and roughing the passer is 15 yards. A rookie is always fighting just to stick around long enough to show he belongs (unless he is a top 15-20 pick. After that, there isn't a lot of slack, even for 1st rounders). Kiwanuka was so scared of making that fatal "rookie mistake" that he made a fatal rookie mistake.

I know that quarterbacks and kickers need to be protected more than other players. They make themselves more vulnerable to being hurt, just because of the position that they play. If you didn't protect your punter, then someone could come flying in while his leg is still in the air during the follow through, and break the guy in half (and I am not exaggerating by all that much). And the QB needs to be looking at the entire field, so he cannot focus all of his time and energy into the 5-7 300lb+ men who are barreling down on him like he is the last of the all you can eat riblets at Applebees. I am okay with the slide rule (for all the good it did Trent Green), I am okay with the no intentional grounding when outside of the pocket (which usually means that he is running for his very life), even though it costs my team more than a lot of others, since the Ravens' defense is built around getting pressure on the quarterback using a variety of schemes and stunts.I think hits at and below the knees should be illegal for everyone (that does not mean you cannot "shoestring tackle" people, but barrelling in and heading for the knees is an A-HOLE move, and that goes for offensive linemen "blocking" too. Are you listening Denver Broncos? I'm talking to you, you cheap shot artists). But it seems to me that the protecting of the QB has become too much of a focus in the game, and it is making it near impossible to use pressure to affect the outcome of the game. No matter HOW much danger they put themselves in, QB's ARE football players (the jury is still out on kickers, punters are closer to football players than kickers, but that is still one hell of a bell curve). NFL QB's have been playing the position and the sport long enough to know that football is a violent sport, and that they are going to get hit. They are the ones who decided that they wanted to play the position in the first place. Now they have to be able to accept the pounding.

Am I out of line thinking like this? Am I wrong in saying that quarterbacks are being mollycoddled to an embarassing degree now? Is anyone else wondering what Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Fran Tarkenton could do with the rules the way they are now? Speak up sports fans of America. Let your voice be read!

Also, I am officially accepting topics you would like discussed. Be they sports topics or a topic that is related to or could affect sports, ask me and I will try my best to answer them.


Friday, November 24, 2006

I know, it is week 11 and the first half of the season ended 2 weeks ago. Hell, 6 teams are preparing for week 12 already, but situations beyond my control have forced me to severely curtail my blogging. However, I am back, and as the NFL prepares for the stretch run, it is time to look at the BSR Power Rankings (patent pending)...

32. Detroit Lions
Their best player (RB Kevin Jones) missed the game on Thanksgiving and could be out even longer with an ankle injury. Kon Kitna is a class act, and I respect him as a human being. But at this point, he should be nothing more than a backup/mentor for a young QB, like he was for Carson Palmer in Cincy. Mike Williams (he of the tried to declare early for the draft and wound up being a top 10 pick the following year) got his 1st catch yesterday. For 7 yards. I have heard rumors that he is thinking of retiring after the season. If the Lions try to trade him, it will be for a 5th to 6th round pick at best, unless they just release him outright. All I know is that I want an executive position in a Ford owned company. If nothing else has been proved by the Matt Millen Era in Detroit, it is that you don't have to be even marginally talented at your job to work for them. Floor workers can be maid off at the drop of a hat, but the exec's? I would take THAT golden parachute ANYTIME.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Now Simeon Rice is out for the season as well as Chris Simms, and there is talk that Rice is done with the Bucs as of the end of the year. Jon Gruden makes it clear that he is not putting out feelers to see if any other team is looking for a head coach so that he can escape this sinking ship with the rest of the rats? Sounds to me like someone was protesting too much. Are there any other pirate-themed teams he can jump to? Maybe in Division 1-AA? Chucky's number might be up. Heh, up-Chucky. That's kinda funny.

30. Oakland Raiders
Somebody, ANYBODY, please check Art Shell and see if he has a pulse. It is almost as if (nerd alert) he is pulling a Dr. Strange and his astral self is leaving his body during the game and just flitting about in whatever city the Raiders are playing in that week. Anyone who can show me video of him blinking on the sidelines will win a prize. Just autonomic response baby!

29. Arizona Cardinals
Who the hell is teaching that offensive line how to block, Harry Swayne? Yes, before you ask, I am still a little bit bitter about that guy. But seriously, how does Dennis Green (I can't call anyone Denny. I can't type Denny without craving a Moons over My Hammy, and I am on a diet) expect to win when his QB and running game are running around like Pac Man and there are no power pellets in sight? It might be time for Green to get into broadcasting for a while. But no matter who the coach is after the season, getting some quality beef on that O-Line had better be priority number 1 this off season.

28. Cleveland Browns
I still like Romeo Crennel. And I still like Braylon Edwards. But he needs to learn that you cannot call yourself better than the team that just beat you. Your team blew a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter against a team that was THIS CLOSE to giving up on the season. No, you are not better than them. At least not on THAT day (I am officially naming that particular phenomenon the "T.J. Whosyourmama Law").

27. Houston Texans
Gary Kubiak might just be a good coach. But allowing ANY kind of possible QB controversy between David Carr and Sage Rosenfels was stupid. I don't care how well he ended the rumors, he should have never allowed them to start.

26. Washington Redskins
Joe Gibbs is not the answer here. It reminds me of when Earl Weaver tried to come back to he O's after he retired to his tomato plants in sunny Florida. His heart isn't in it, and the game is not the same game he coached. Go back to NASCAR Joe (of course, since I am NOT a Redskins fan, I would be fine if he stayed and kept this team floundering for another few years).

25. Tennessee Titans
Vince Young needs at least another 2 years, and as long as WMMLG (Wal Mart Manager Looking Guy) is the coach, I will not expect them to do well.

24. Buffalo Bills
J.P. Losman is not the answer there. Maybe a trade for Byron Leftwich would be in order. I understand that there is a good chance he would be available sometime in early January. They will go nowhere until they get a QB who can play.

23. Green Bay Packers
I am glad to see Brett Favre having fun again. And I DO believe that he has earned the right to decide when he is done. But I really hope this season is it, whether he passes Dan Marino for career TD passes or not. I REALLY don't want to see him ending like Willie Mays playing out the string with the Mets, or like Brooks Robinson did in 78 with the Orioles. I like him too much to want to see him like that.

22. Saint Louis Rams
That blip on the Richter scale in the midwest? That was all of the people jumping off of the Rams' bandwagon. There may have been some carryover from the same thing happening in Denver.

21. New Orleans Saints
I do not know if Drew Brees will be able to hold up for the rest of the season with the way he has been flinging the ball around on that recently repaired shoulder. They have Deuce AND Reggie Bush, and yet he is throwing for 500+ yards in a game that was tied going into the 4th quarter? In the words of Jimmy Johnson, "Duh-umb". And the defense is just not ready to go to the next leverl. But I still say that 2007 they make the playoffs, possibly win a game there. And if they address the defensive needs to my satisfaction, they will be my pick to win the NFC South next year.

20. Minnesota Vikings
When do the pitchers and catchers report again? Team needs an overhaul, and I want to see what Brad Childress can do with a decent offense to go woth that run defense. And the run defense is even more impressive when you look at their pass defense and the fact that teams are trying to grind out the clock on them by the middle of the 3rd quarter pretty much every game.

19. Atlanta Falcons
Jim Mora Sr. is right. Unless you are playing Madden, Vick is not the answer at QB. The only real success that they had was when they were running the option, and Mr. Easterbrook pointed out much better than I could that it is basically a high school offense. You know what they say about pride goeth-ing... (is goeth-ing even within the vicinity of being a word? It matters not here)

18. New York Giants
Tiki has officially become a distraction. I didn't want to jump on the side of those who have been calling it that, but it is true. It isn't like Kareem and Ripken announcing their retirement halfway through their lasst seasons. Everyone was expecting the announcement from them sooner or later. Tiki shocked everyone. If nothing else, he should have gone to the coaches and FO first, and then maybe made a private announcement to the team. For someone with such blatant broadcasting and entertainment aspirations, he sure didn't play THAT card right. He is an adult and can do whatever he wants with his life. And I am pretty sure he has enough money put away to let him rest for a while before moving on. But he definitely could have handled that better. Add to that the annual Manning Meltdown (Eli, being younger, begins melting down BEFORE the playoffs. Peyton waits until January in order not to steal the spotlight) and it will be mediocrity from New York even if they DO make the playoffs this year.

17. Philadelphia Eagles
This is all about McNabb being out. I just cannot see Feely OR Garcia taking them anywhere but the front half to front third of the 1st round of the 2007 Draft. Philadelphia fans will continue to suffer, drink, accost and basically be the little Satan's minions that they have been. Sorry guys.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers
What is the over/under on Cowher packing up his office after the last game? I am saying two weeks. He needs about 2 years off, and then a fresh start on a new team. Noll, Landry and Shula are the exception, not the rule.

15. Denver Broncos
Jake Plummer was doomed right after the 11th pick of the past draft. I like to think he knew that. He is a team player, he just won't be playing on this team anymore. Jay Cutler T minus 5...4...

14. San Francisco 49'ers
Frank Gore needs to learn the joys of whatever legal alternative there is for Stickum and Coach Nolan needs to allow him to get the tough yards in the red zone. But Alex Smith is getting noticably better as the weeks go by, and that is without Vernon Davis, who could return as early as this Sunday against Seattle. 5-5 and definitely in the playoff hunt in the weak NFC. This is another one of those teams that looks to be a solid contender in the next year or two. Also, on a personal note, Nolan looked sharp in the suit. I like it, and I hope other coaches (are you listening Andy Reid and Bill Bellichek?) follow suit (no pun intended).

13. New York Jets
I was not that surprised by the Jets-Pats game a couple of weeks ago. The Jets just don't have the personnel to compete on a weekly basis yet. But as long as they keep that O-Line intact and add a few more impact players, I think they could unseat the Pats from the AFC East perch as early as next year. Believe me, it is not easy for a Baltimore native to say that. But they are closer than you think (unless you agree with me, in which case they ARE as close as you think).

12. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeckyll and Hyde in ugly uniforms. And is it just me or is Matt Jones quickly turning into a paler version of Randy Moss, only without the career statistics to back him up?

11. Miami Dolphins
Finishing strong in the 2nd half of the season again. Not enough to do anything more than make people over-rank them again next year (and possibly this year. They are 12th by attrition here). Also, can we officially end the Culpepper-is-a-good-QB crap now? The Joey Harrington Era is upon us. Bask in its mediocrity!

10. Cincinatti Bengals
Too little too late. They will be contenders again next year. Palmer finally looks like he isn't afraid every time a defender gets within 5 yards of his knees, and Chad Johnson has stopped talking (at least as much as he is able to) and started playing. Even so, the team is not focused on the game, and that falls on the shoulders of Marvin Lewis. Get 'em in line coach. Otherwise, we will gladly take you back in a year or two when Rex Ryan leaves to become a head coach and we need a new Defensive Coordinator. Who says you can't go home again?

9. Seattle Seahawks
Injuries have pushed them down here. But does anyone want to play a rested and refreshed Shawn Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck in December? I don't care where the games are being played.

8. Dallas Cowboys
Romo might just be the real deal. And if so, the Cowboys are another team that will cause nightmares in January. Now if T.O. can learn how to hold on the damn ball (maybe Keyshaun can right another book?).

7. Kansas City Chiefs
Trent Green is back. Larry Johnson is starting to run like he was at the end of last year (although I see a Jamal Anderson like career for him if he keeps averaging close to 400 carries a season like he is now). Now tied for 2nd in the division (and holding the tiebreaker), and knocking on the door should San Diego falter. if they make the playoffs, they could make some noise. They are built to be able to win on the road.

6. New England Patriots
Note to Robert Kraft and the FO...SPEND SOME OF THAT DAMN MONEY!!!! You have one of the highest ticket prices in the league and plenty of cap space. Personally, I have no problem with the Pats not being the dynasty for a while, but why waste the prime years of Brady and Lawrence Maroney (who is going to be a beast next year once they make him the featured back. Sorry Corey Dillon, but it is time to move on). Get Brady some real receivers and get the defense some help (and while you are at it, you might want to write a couple of extra checks for Troy Brown. It is not often that a team's all time leading reveiver will go over and play defense. The fact that he has done it repeatedly, and done a solid job, is more reason to give him an extra nice Christmas bonus. Pay the man!).

5. Carolina Panthers
If they can put together a whole game (like a certain team that is about to be mentioned), they can fulfill 99% of the world's predictions and go to the Super Bowl. But can they do that?

4. Baltimore Ravens
And can the Ravens? It is obvious now that Billick made the right move inserting himself into the Off. Coord. position. The Ravens are finally playing some decent offense, and Jamal Lewis is showing signs of being the back he was, if not 3 years ago, maybe 4 or 5 when he was good but not magical. The O-line is finally starting to play decently. But that secondary still scares the crap out of me. They could win it all or lose in the 1st round. They are too all over the place to slot, but 8-2 with a 3 game lead in the division puts them in the top 5.

3. Chicago Bears
The cream of the NFC (right now). But can they beat the cream of the AFC? We will start finding out on Sunday.

2. Indianapolis Colts
Tough choice not making them number 1, what with the best record in the NFL and probable home field advantage through the playoffs (is there anyone besides me who can't hear or read the word "playoffs" without hearing Jim Mora Sr.'s voice in their head? "Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? Diddly-poo!"). But I really think that if they played right now that the Chargers would beat them, even without Shawn Merriman. And that leads me to...

1. San Diego Chargers
LT. That is enough to get them top 10. Phillip Rivers (even if he doesn't know how to get the ball to Antonio Gates, which has just KILLED my fantasy team) puts them top 5. That defense, with a rested Shawn Merriman (4 weeks of no contact to heal up any lingering injuries, 4 weeks of pent up aggression to take out on opposing teams. Scary) puts them top 2. However, the defense has shown signs of weakness (yes the comebacks the last 2 weeks were impressive. But it should not have come to that). Honestly, at this point it is a three team race for the AFC crown, and the NFC champs (either Chicago, Seattle, or Carolina) will have to hope that whatever team emerges from the AFC has been so beat up by the playoff fight that they are weakened enough for to be beaten. Of course, people were saying the same thing about the NL during the baseball playoffs. If a team can start peaking in the next week or two (Ravens in 2000, Steelers last year), they will run aeay with it. If I had to pick it right now, I would say Seattle and San Diego. San Diego wins 38-24. That is why they are the top team.

There you have it. Next rankings will be only playoff teams. If I am feeling saucy, I will make my playoff predictions all the way through to the Super Bowl. Then 3 weeks later I will make a new Super Bowl prediction once both teams are eliminated by the second round.

At least I am honest.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Early Hot Stove Thoughts.

I know the league championship series are just ending and it will be a while before anything remotely interesting really happens in the baseball free agent market, but I want to get this out there now, because I hope the FO sees this and heeds the wisdom. Yes, I think that much of myself.

This is only regarding the Baltimore Orioles. I am (as stated before) a self professed homer and care a great deal about "my" home teams. The Orioles have payroll flexibility and (according to the owner and FO) money to spend and plans to spend it. The problem is that the free agent pool is not overly impressive. And the Orioles have some major holes to fill. The bullpen is a big concern, but that is the case for too many teams. I am by no means belittling the need for a quality bullpen, even if I do think that pitchers are a little too coddled there is nothing that can be done about that now as it starts in the minor leagues. It is ingrained to treat pitchers with kid gloves (yet they teach 12 year olds how to throw curveballs when their underdeveloped elbows clearly are not designed to handle it. Look here and here for just two examples of this). But since the bullpen is an almost universal concern, at least in MLB, I am not going to focus much on it.

That leaves the Left Fielder/1st Baseman/#1 Starting Pitcher holes. It is pretty standard. The Orioles need a big bat in the middle of the line-up (really two), and a #1 pitcher at the front of the rotation. So what do they do?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee are probably not coming to Baltimore. Soriano is going to at east TRY to get a team to sign him as a 2nd baseman (even if left field is a much better fit for him), and both of them are going to go to a "contender" (I hate the automatic exclusion of 2/3 of the teams in any given sport). The Orioles will have to overpay, and make it almost impossible to walk away from in order to sign either one of them (and there is a decent to good chance that even that won't even make them come here). That leaves David Newhan, who was, if not a big bat, a good catalyst for the offense when he was healthy. With him and Brian Roberts setting the table (and with Corey Patterson at the bottom of the order doing the same after the 1st at bat), Miguel Tejada and Gibbons and Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez (PLEASE sign a decent backup catcher and PLAY HIM) will be able to drive in some runs. For 1st base, I want them to commit Jay Gibbons there, and to re-sign Kevin Millar. I love Jeff Conine, but Millar is a better fit with the team and the attitude that the team needs. And when he was given regular play time he produced. So really, it is a battle of attrition in regards to position players. So what is left? Pitching. And I know EXACTLY who the Orioles need to sign.

Mike Mussina

I know that I am not the first to suggest that he should be brought back. Unlike some of the others, I have a reason besides sentiment and "sticking it to the Yankees" (look how well that worked out the last time we tried to sign someone just to beat the Yankees to the punch. Albert Belle anyone?). I'll tell you in 2 words why the Orioles need to go after and sign Mike Mussina. Rick. Sutcliffe.

In 1993 the Orioles were playing their first season at Camden Yards. They had some good young players and some solid veterans. In the rotation they had 3 young arms they thought very highly of. They were Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald, and Arthur Rhodes. Jamie Moyer was around, but he wasn't thought of (by anyone in baseball) as anything more than a 3rd or 4th starter, and Fernando Valenzuela, who was another stopgap who was (if we are being brutally honest) signed more for name recognition than skills. But Rick Sutcliffe, he was brought in, more than anything else, to teach those young arms how to become pitchers. In the case of one of the three, it worked. Mussina was a good arm, but under the tutelage of Sutcliffe, he became a good pitcher. I know that 1 out of 3 doesn't sound like too much, but of the other two, one was a fireballer who threw the ball so straight that it might as well have been rolled down a pipe (McDonald), and the other one didn't have any real success until he was turned into a relief pitcher (Rhodes, who I am willing to bet would give a lot of credit to Sutcliffe too). If you look at those 3 arms, 2 were possibly viable major league starters, and of those 2, 1 made it and is a legitimate 1 or 2 in pretty much ANY rotation.

Now look at the 2006 Orioles starters. Erik Bedard already on his way to being a 2, and could be a 1 with the right guidance. Kris Benson is that tantalizing arm that has never reached its potential, but if he did, wow. Daniel Cabrera could be Johann Santana good if he harnessed his stuff. His Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn/Grandmama glasses seemed to give him a helping hand. A full offseason and spring training with Leo Mazzone will be helpful. Being able to sit next to a guy with 240 wins (239 to be precise) and ask him questions in the moment of the game would be invaluable. Adam Loewen is another big arm that could be a legitimate staff ace. Put Hayden Penn in the bullpen and let him learn from Mussina too. Look at this 5 man rotation...

Mussina (R)
Bedard (L)

And as for Mussina, it would be a chance to give back to the sport, and also, he could be the next Maddux. With his control and Mazzone's philosophy, he could win 22-24 games with a sub 3.00 ERA. Sound too lofty? Not to me. It really is win win for everyone.

I guess what I am saying is that even if the team HAS money, it doesn't need to spend it all right away. I look at how NBA teams will add bad contracts on purpose, just because they know that in 2 years there are 2 or 3 players that they could add that would make them contenders. Basically they are spending money in order to have money when it is worth it. They might have a good player under contract for 4 years, but the player they need is available in 2 years. Baseball doesn't work that way, but the analogy does work in the sense that it is okay to look 2 years ahead. I speak for myself, but I think I have the voice of the masses when I say that this town will tolerate a plan that needs more than one year to complete. We have tolerated 9 years of floundering. Just show us that you HAVE a plan and we will go with it. And here is my plan. Sign Mussina, sign him ASAP. Let him start working with the pitchers in the offseason. Overpay him if you have to. I am willing to bet that adding Mussina to the rotation is enough to lead the Orioles to .500, and once they are .500, the team is showing improvement. Once the team is showing improvement it will be easier to get the marquee free agent bat. It is building step by step.

My fear is that the FO and/or the owner (he who shan't be named) cannot see the forest for the trees. Nine straight losing seasons cannot be corrected in one off season. It is impossible. In that regards, this isn't the NBA. Baseball starts twice as many players and requires a much deeper bench, just due to the length of the season and the grinder that it puts the players through. So let this be an impassioned plea to the powers that be to think this through and make sound decisions. As fans, we have more than earned it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Good Cop/Bad Cop: NFL Style

Dennis Green has benched Kurt Warner in favor of Matt Leinart. Can't say I disagree with that move. But it was in the story I read about Leinart's first day of practice as the #1 guy that something caught my eye.

If you want to read the story, click HERE.

Let me begin by saying that I am not sold on the gifts of Dennis Green as a coach. In 8 of the 11 full seasons that he has been an NFL head coach, he has winning seasons in 8 of them (he left the Vikings part way through the 2001 season and this season is not completed, so those two are not counted towards this total). Of course, all of those winning seasons came in Minnesota. So the jury is still out on Green, at least until he leads another team to the playoffs.

But in the article, Green called out the offensive line. If you have watched any of their games, you would see that he isn't wrong. Warner made plenty of mistakes, but the line didn't help him in letting him go through his decision making process before fumbling or throwing that interception. Be that as it may, he ridiculed the line in public. And I quote...

He [Leinart] will operate behind a suspect offensive line that drew a public berating by Green this week. On his weekly radio show, the coach said it was time for the line to "stop whining" and work harder.

And as it says in the article, Leinart did as he was expected to do and defended the line...

"I think they're going to be fine," Leinart said. "I think we just need leadership out there and hopefully I can come in there and just kind of bring a spark. Those guys have talent. We've struggled as an offense, and that's on everybody. That's not just on those guys. I know that they're going to be fine. I have faith in them, and I think they have faith in me. And I think we're going to see that this Sunday."

Good cop/bad cop. Green is Sipowicz, and Leinart is Simone/Clark/Sorenson/Kelly/and so on...

Leinart is a cocky S.O.B. That isn't necessarily bad, especially in a QB, and it isn't like he doesn't have a resume, even if it is all college. 37-2 and two national championships is nothing to sneeze at on ANY level. To paraphrase Crash Davis, that's a career no matter WHERE you played. And if you look at USC's schedule, I don't see a whole bunch of 1-AA squads. The East Coast bias means that the PAC-10 does not get the recognition that it deserves, but he was playing a pretty tough schedule. I have said previously that I think Jay Cutler is going to be a good NFL QB. I think Leinart will be too. Really, he could be better than Carson Palmer (his predecessor at USC) before all is said and done. And I like that he stayed after practice yesterday to get in some extra work with Edgerrin James. James will be his best friend and will probably be as if not more instrumental in making or breaking Leinart as an NFL QB than anyone else. Just look at who he has played with, and know that Edge will be Leinart's safety valve and check down on a lot of pass plays as well as running the ball to make he defense keep honest and not just bring the house with blitzes and have the safeties roaming the field looking to pick off desperation floaters.

I am not sure how the Chiefs defense is going to affect his grand entrance. Currently they have the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL, but I have trouble believing those stats. They have had their bye, so their isn't as much data to work with. One of their games was against the San Francisco 49'ers, a game in which they lost their star tight end and their #1 running back on the SAME PLAY the week before. Yes they are #2 overall, but the history of the Chiefs over the last few years (25, 31, and 29 the last three years says 2 is not going to last, since they made no significant changes in staff or players from last year). So it comes down to Leinart getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and making sure James gets his touches, and to see if good cop/bad cop makes the line go from bad block to good block.*

*I sincerely apologize for that awful twisting of words. It sounded so much wittier in my head, and I don't have time to think of something better.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Is it too soon to drink the Kool-Aid? Am I allowed to run upstairs, put on my track suit and Nike's and wait for the mothership to take me to Miami for that magical February weekend?

Can I believe it when I see ANYONE mention Bart Scott for consideration for NFL MVP? Is it possible for me to say "okay, this is real"?

Yes my team is 4-0, and I am beginning to feel like this could be a great year. Of course there is another 4-0 team in the conference, and another in the other conference. All 3 cannot win the Super Bowl. I know that. What I don't know is if a team that started 4-0 has ever missed the playoffs. They would have to go 4-8 the rest of the season to realistically miss the playoffs. Even 5-7 doesn't seem likely. And after 2 straight years of disappointments (especially last year), hope is a wonderful thing. I just don't want to hope for too much too soon. And it is getting harder and harder to not get my hopes up.

It doesn't help that the Ravens are getting more and more national play. Sure, they were home 'dogs last week, but given the track record of the two teams, I understood. I also understood that the team used that to motivate. I think the whole "They Don't Respect Us!!!!!" thing is overdone and really holds no weight. Especially in regards to the Vegas line. Ego has nothing to do with it. There is no regard for the talent or ability of any team in the line. The line is one thing and one thing only, and that is what will make more people pick the team that is going to lose than the team that is going to win. And it isn't about the professional gamblers opinion of the team. It is about the rubes who bet with their hearts or just because they happened to read Bill Simmons' latest rating system (Rule 6...THERE IS NOOOOO RULE 6!) to beat the spread. But yes, they were underdogs last week. Now they are (at the time that I am typing this) 3.5 point underdogs for Monday night, and there are people playing the respect card again (local radio personality Anita Marks was trying to push that yesterday. Chuck Evans, former NFL'er, was quick to shoot it down). The team they are playing is coming off a bye, which came after a win. They are rested and in a positive frame of mind. They are (as mentioned before) one of the only teams that can truly claim a home field advantage. The Ravens lost their starting left guard and may lose their return man. It is not going to be an easy game. And to be honest, they have only beaten one team that they can legitimately brag about beating (in the last 20 or so games) so the spread is fair, since the team they are playing has been to the playoffs the last 3 years.

I guess there really is no answer to this. But I will say this. If the Ravens DO win Monday night, I am in all likelihood going to get out the pitcher and a packet of "powder".

Monday, October 02, 2006

My 1/4 of the way into the season NFL Power Rankings...

I put almost no stock in any ranking before at LEAST a quarter of the season is passed. Pre-season rankings are more reflective of past performance and potential, and for the first few weeks things are shaking out and teams are forging identities. This is not to say that these will hold true (for instance the 4-0 record of the Colts, Ravens, and Bears. History suggests that they are playoff bound, but nothing is certain. Just ask the 2003 Vikings, 2000 Jets, or the 1999 Patriots about that), but I think that by this point you can have a general idea of how teams are going to do, barring major injuries or massive brain farts that can ruin seasons. So without further ado, my NFL Power Rankings...

...One further ado. I always see these lists from first to worst. Just like when Entertainment Weekly publishes their latest "50 Greatest (insert list name here) of All Time" and they start with a big splash page of number one and work their way down the list. Well I subscribe to the Casey Kasem school of lists. I want to hear #40 before I hear #1. It builds the suspense. Once I know that you have Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds ranked #1 & 2 respectively, what do I care what #37 is? So I will be counting UP.

32. Oakland Raiders
Not much that can be said about this team, especially coming off a bye and playing a team that was demoralized the week before by letting a division foe come to their house and beat them in the final 3 minutes. And playing at home. Art Shell was a bad coach last time and he is no better now. Yes he had a winning career record, but his Raiders' teams should have won at LEAST one Super Bowl with the talent they had. If you don't believe me, look at THIS and tell me how you have a QB with 19 TD's to 9 INT's and both Marcus Allen AND Bo Jackson in the backfield (with Napolleon McCallum backing them up) and you lose to the 6-10 Green Bay Packers at HOME? I can understand losing to the Chiefs in KC, but to lose to THEM at home too?

31. Tennessee Titans
Going to the rookie QB in game 4 means you have said that this season is over and you are looking at it as one long training camp for next year. This pick is as much about the rest of the season as it is about now. Will Vince Young be a good NFL QB? I don't know yet. But either way it won't be this year.

30. Houston Texans
Their offensive numbers are tricky. A lot of those stats making David Carr the #1 QB have come in garbage time. They barely beat the Dolphins (more on them in a moment) and haven't been in a game prior to that this season. Let the "Houston was forced to pass on Reggie Bush for the sake of New Orleans" hysteria get some momentum and this could easily turn into a distraction filled 2-14 season. How many head coaching jobs did Kubiak turn down? And why did he decide that THIS was the one to take, with a team in the same division as the Colts and the Jaguars? I am beginning to doubt that "Genius" tag they pulled from Billick's neck to anoint him with.

29. Miami Dolphins
Culpepper is NOT a good NFL quarterback. He never was. His numbers were monstrously inflated by playing with Randy Moss and Chris Carter (ESPECIALLY Chris Carter), and the amount of abuse he put himself through as a running quarterback built like a linebacker (and watch him prove it when he takes another stupid hit instead of throwing the ball away or sliding) have made him even LESS effective. The Joey Harrington Era of Miami football should begin in about 3-4 weeks tops.

28. San Francisco 49ers
I think people were expecting too much from Vernon Davis to start the season, and while they are building a good team and have a decent coach, they are at least 2-3 years from being serious contenders at this point. With that said, keep an eye on their backfield, and if they can get a couple of decent defensive players they could start to make some serious noise. Give them some time and see what happens.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Was last year an anomaly, or is it this year? Or (more likely), is Chris Simms just the latest to wow everybody until teams figure him out. How many pitchers have come up from the minors midway to late in the season and blown away a good team, followed that with a strong half season in the bigs where maybe they were starting to get a little beat up on near the end of the season, but everyone attributed it to fatigue because he had never pitched that many innings before and it must have caught up with him, and then next season he is penciled into the starting rotation only to be sent back to the minors by June to get his mechanics worked out or whatever the rationale is...Basically, is Chris Simms just another Bruce Chen?

26. Detroit Lions
This hurts a little, as I had high hopes for them coming into the season (but they are a perfect example of why I wait at least 4 weeks before doing this). The defense is the real problem here, but everyone already knows that. To me the thing that really pulls them down is the impatience on offense, although that is something that I think Jon Kitna will help correct. Kevin Jones is still not waiting for his blocks to develop before crashing into the line (when he does, you get those 35 yard TD runs like he had yesterday), and the receivers are not running the routes as precisely as they need to in Mike Martz's offense. I expect them to end up around 6-10 to 7-9 be an improvement over last year, but not as much of an improvement over what they have the potential to be.

25. Green Bay Packers
They are getting it done with smoke and mirrors. Against teams with mediocre to bad defenses they have a shot (or at least they did before Ahman Green got hurt again). But that is about it. And no, I am not getting into the Favre Debates here (Debates capitalized on purpose)

24. Kansas City Chiefs
Anyone who expected Larry Johnson to go for 2000 yards this year while wearing a big target on his back (a back that lost both tackles that were protecting it) and an quickly aging Tony Gonzalez offering relief from 7-8 in the box was fooling themselves. Losing Trent Green hurt, but not that much. This team's window for winning closed before Herm Edwards ever got there, and he isn't a good enough coach to open it back up. It will be a year or two to get the dead cap space cleared up and to (maybe) get some defense in there. Yes, defense is a recurring theme. The 1999 St. Louis Rams were the worst thing to happen to football in the last 20 years, except of course for Paul Tagliabue, who was in a class by himself.

23. Cleveland Browns
I like Romeo Crennel. I think he is going to be one hell of a coach. I like Braylon Edwards. I like the talent of Kellen Winslow (read into THAT what you will), and in a somewhat maverick stance, I really like Charlie Frye. If he survives the pummelling he is receiving, he will wind up as a Pro Bowl QB. He has the intangibles that I cannot put into words (hence "intangible") to be a winner in the NFL. He has the leadership, and he has the command and respect of his teammates. I thought he handles himself well in the Winslow 2006 version of "Just Give Me the Damn Ball". Watch this team.

22. Arizona Cardinals
The same principals that applied to the Titans apply here. The reason they are ranked so much higher is that the Cardinals have some real weapons on offense, unlike the Titans. Now it is just a matter of Leinart getting the weapons the ball. And if Edge is truly as much of a team player as he seems to be (read the ESPN the Magazine article about him if you just read that last sentence and almost swallowed your tongue) this will be when he proves it. Did you know that right now Edge ranks 5th ALL TIME for average rushing yards per game, minimum 50 starts? Yup, he does. Let's see where he ranks at the end of the season.

21. Buffalo Bills
J.P. Losman might just be a serviceable QB. And with Willis McGahee in the backfield, serviceable is all you need. This is another team worth keeping your eye on towards the end of the season and into next year.

20. New York Jets
I am not convinced that this team is ready to take the next step. The loss to the Colts on Sunday shows a lack of focus, especially on defense. The Jets could go either way right now. If I was a gambling man, I would not go near them.

19. Saint Louis Rams
A 3-1 team ranked in the bottom half of the league? Lost to the 49ers, should have lost to the Cardinals, yesterday was a shooting match where they happened to have the last bullet. They either need to stop being a Martz team and commit to the run or admit that they are still a gun and run (in that order) and just hope the defense gets enough of a breather during timeouts to not die on the field.

18. Minnesota Vikings
Brad Johnson is not a solution at QB. Filling in for an injured Culpepper (whose contract makes him a starter by default), yes. Being your starting QB in 2006, no. They traded for Brooks Bollinger and gave him a 2 year extension. It is time to see if he can handle being the man, and if he learned anything from his tenure with the Jets (since Herm Edwards was his coach, I wouldn't count on it).

17. New Orleans Saints
I have them higher than they probably should be, but I think that the coach is going to be good and that they are going to ride this wave of emotion to a total of 8-10 wins this year. The sentamentalist in me hopes they are really real, but the pragmatist in me says that Drew Brees will lead this team to the playoffs. In 2007.

16. Dallas Cowboys
The win against the Titans in Vince Young's first start shouldn't even count. As long as they have the human statue under center, they will be at the mercy of any team that knows how to disguise and effectively use the blitz. That is more teams than the Cowboys can ignore.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Until Roethlisberger can prove that he isn't gun shy from the accident, I am going to consider him damaged goods. And if your QB is damaged goods, it doesn't matter how good your receivers and TE are. And if your QB is damaged goods, you need the second coming of Jim Brown to win consistently. And Willie Parker is no Jim Brown.

14. New York Giants
I am as unconvinced of them as I am of the Jets, but I think Eli Manning is slightly (and yes I mean slightly) better than Chad Pennington, and only because of injury history. Pennington is probably a better overall QB if he can keep his rotator cuff together for an entire season. Plus, the Giants have Tiki Barber, who can hurt you as a rusher AND a receiver. No, I am not enamored with Jeremy Shockey. Show me what he has accomplished and maybe you can change my mind. But I don't think you can back it up.

13. Atlanta Falcons
You heard it here first, if the Falcons keep running the option, Vick will not last the season. To me, not having Vick under center is good for your team, because as I have said before, as a quarterback, Michael Vick is an excellent runner. The problem is going to be when a rusty Schaub comes in and tries to throw to receivers and tight ends that have seen nearly enough balls thrown their way. Like dropping a guy with a 103 degree fever in a tub of ice water, the team is going to go into shock.

12. Philadelphia Eagles
How long can this team survive with an injury prone Brian Westbrook at halfback and a group of (basically) journeyman receivers. Now the defense is banged up too? Donovan McNabb is a good quarterback, but he is not that good. This team will win more games than they should, and that is why they are ranked this high.

11. Carolina Panthers
The complete inaptitude during Steve Smith's absence means one thing: they are too reliant on him, and without him they don't think that they can win. They could, but they don't believe in themselves. I think John Fox needs to make some Stone Soup, Panther's style. And tell Steve Smith that he has the day off when he does it.

10. New England Patriots
I don't want to hear anything about Tom Brady's body language. Yes, they got him to sign for less and then didn't keep his favorite players. Yes, it seems that they started reading their own reviews when it comes to player evaluation and the ability to pluck the cherries from trees that others see as bare. But Brady's performance against Cincinatti showed what he can do when he is properly motivated. Ben Watson is a decent to good tight end, Corey Dillon isn't done yet, and Laurence Maroney is going to be a beast by midseason. They will probably win their division again this year. But don't expect to see them in the Super Bowl until they start spending some money on some players to complement what they already have.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars
The loss to the Colts after the Monday Night Bloodbath against the Steelers was understandable, and they played good enough to win against Indianapolis. They also played good enough to win against Washington. They lost both games. They do not know how to finish off teams, and more to the point, I don't think they really know how to win. The talent they have keeps them this high, but don't be surprised to see hem in the middle to lower third of the pack by midseason.

8. Denver Broncos
This team (along with the Seattle Seahawks) has the only real "home field advantage" in football. It all but guarantees them .500 every season. And if Plummer and Walker can get on the same page, the Chargers might be "the best team not in the playoffs" for 2 years in a row.

7. Washington Redskins
It looks like Brunell and company are starting to get a grasp on Al Saunders' playbook. Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, and Brandon Lloyd (who I think is a damn good receiver) all on the same page makes the Redskins the team to beat in the NFC East, and a dangerous team in the playoffs.

6. Cincinatti Bengals
They were exposed by the Patriots. Don't think that every team they will be facing won't be watching that tape. This team has too many off field distractions, it is impossible to tune them all out. They have too many playmaking players who are bringing too much baggage to be effective. This is another team that could easily implode.

5. San Diego Chargers
Martyball. Doesn't. Work. I don't care if you DO have the best RB in the game in your backfield, if you don't use all your weapons to beat a team, you are beating yourself. And while we are on the subject, why wasn't LT on the field during that 4th quarter series that eventually caused the Chargers to give up the safety and the game? According to reports (second story down), LT said it was his decision to let Michael Turner be out there. Since when does a player decide who is and isn't playing, especially at a critial juncture like that?

4. Baltimore Ravens
Anyone in their right minds would take winning ugly over losing pretty, but might it be possible for the Ravens to NOT bring the ugliest girl to the prom every week? This is another case of a defense needing to hold he fort for another few weeks while the offense learns how to play together. Why have the Ravens been so good in the 2 minute drill the last two weeks? Because McNair is just playing from instinct and not trying to figure out what play is called. Until "8 Jet Right Double Waggle Blue Tango Option Cover 9" registers in his head without having to watch the film in his head to remember who does what (I don't know if that is an actual play from the Ravens' playbook, but if it isn't it SHOULD BE), the offense is going to struggle, especially when they are playing a front 7 like the Chargers have. Jamal only had 34 yards on 15 carries? I am surprised he got that much, and that is not a slam on him. It is praise for the skills and talent of the Chargers defensive front. If (and yes it is a big if) the Ravens can get untracked on offense, they will be one of the teams to beat in the NFL. If not, they will be a yo-yo, causing more heart palpitations in the Baltimore area than Blaze Starr did in her heyday.

3. Seattle Seahawks
Without Alexander, this team is good. With him, they are the NFC representative in the Super Bowl again this year. That is all there is to it. And on a side note, if I was the coach/GM/owner of the Seahawks and I heard that my star running back and reigning league MVP was going to do a commercial that makes fun of him being injured, I would find a way to stop it, even if it meant going all Jack Bauer on him. Superstitious or not, you don't tempt fate like that. It is like the old SNL bit where John Belushi talked about outliving his costars. You just don't do it.

2. Indianapolis Colts
This is a team that can win ugly in style, and they just know that they are never out of a game. That kind of confidence can go a long way. If Joseph Addai turns into the back everyone thinks he can be, the Colts might finally have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. There is only one problem. That would mean that they would face...

1. Chicago Bears
Yes, I know that I said that the Seahawks are the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, and yes, I know that Alexander is only supposed to be out 3-4 weeks. But I don't think he heals up all the way until the offseason, and that means I don't know if anyone can really stop the Bears, especially with Rex Grossman looking as good as he does. Their defense is devastating, they have two top quality running backs, a good receiver and a good quarterback. Oh yeah, they have a really good coach too. Lovie Smith is one of the best coaches working right now in ANY sport. As of right now, they re my pick to win it all.

So there you have it. Wait about 4 more weeks and we will see what has changed (if anything). What do you think America, am I right or am I completely off my rocker?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

There was a question on one of those "pop up" links on today. One of the ones where you have to be a registered user to weigh in. This one was sponsored by Miller Lite. There were in fact 4 questions to choose from, each with its own forum to "make your voice heard!". But there was one in particular that I almost opined on there before deciding to make it a post on here. That is "Which team has been more impressive through the first two weeks, the Baltimore Ravens or the San Diego Chargers?" And here is my answer. The Ravens.

Let me expand that answer for you (otherwise this would be a short, boring post).

The only real similarity between the 2 teams is that they replaced quarterbacks during the off season. Now on this point they did go in two completely different directions. The Ravens benched a young quarterback that they thought highly enough of to draft in the first round, but who hadn't lived up to expectations (Kyle Boller) and replaced him with a proven veteran, if maybe one that is a little past his prime (Steve McNair). Questions on how much of an upgrade this really is will have to be addressed at another time (I know I keep promising a Boller post. I will get to it, I promise). The Chargers, on the other hand, let a veteran QB (Drew Brees) who had led them to the playoffs in 2004 (where kicking kept them from going deeper into those playoffs) and to a winning record in 2005, showing that the 2004 success was no fluke (a lot of teams with a bad record one season can have a good following season. 2000 and 2001 Chicago Bears anyone?)go and in his place are now starting a highly thought of young quarterback (Phillip rivers). The proof that a team is turning (or has turned) a corner is in the season after THAT, when they have to play a much tougher non-conference schedule (see 2002 Chicago Bears). By posting a winning record in 2005, the Chargers showed that they were for real, even WITH Marty Schottenheimer as their coach (the fact that I could spell "Schottenheimer" without having to check it first- I just did check it- is a little frightening). I am also not going to get into a detailed discussion on the merits of"Martyball". I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to find the "there's a gleam" video. It is on NFL Films at least three times per week (union regulations). On the off chance that you have not seen this clip, find it and see it, as it will show you the "master motivator" at work. Anyway, Drew Brees forced the Chargers to keep their #4 in the 1st round pick on the bench for 2 years with his play, but when Brees got injured it made the decision to switch QB's relatively easy. And by now you should know that Phillip Rivers was no slouch. I am in Maryland, and I watched that young man play the Terps. He is GOOD. Look at his career stats (North Carolina State 2000-2003):

13,484 yards (3rd all time in NCAA)
13,582 total yards (2nd all time in NCAA)
34-17 record as starter among NCAA-record 51 career starts
95 touchdown passes (tied for 5th all time in NCAA)
MVP of four bowl games, including 2004 Senior Bowl
set school and Atlantic Coast Conference career records for:
passing attempts (1,710)
completions (1,147)
touchdowns responsible for (112)
300-yard passing games (18)
400-yard passing games (7)
Seventh quarterback in NCAA history and first in ACC history with three 3,000-yard seasons... Second-team All-America by NFL Draft Report as senior... 2003 ACC Player of Year and first-team All-ACC after leading NCAA in completion percentage (.720) and passer rating (170.5)... Ranked second nationally in passing yards (4,491) and total offense per game (353.9) ... MVP of 2003 Tangerine Bowl after career-high 475 yards and school-record-tying five touchdowns in 56-26 win over Kansas... Second-team All-ACC as junior... Received Award of Distinction from Columbus Touchdown Club... Co-recipient of Governor's Award as team MVP... MVP of 2002 Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame... CNN/Sports Illustrated National Player of Week after five-touchdown game against Navy in junior year. Honorable mention all-conference as sophomore ... ACC Rookie of Year and Academic All-ACC choice in 2000... Newcomer of Year by ABC Sports and Freshman of Year by Football News and Columbus Touchdown Club... MVP of 2000 Micron PC Bowl... ACC Player of Week once, ACC Offensive Back of Week twice and league-record ACC Rookie of Week eight times during career.

It is safe to say he doesn't suck. And he sat for two years learning the playbook and learning the game. He held the clipboard and never complained. He has earned his chance to start.

So who do I give the edge to QB wise? Right now I would have to go with McNair, because he has a history of winning. But the margin isn't by a whole hell of a lot.

Now let's look at the rest of the teams...
RB - Ladanian Tomlinson vs. Jamal Lewis
Edge: Tomlinson

With the exception of 2003, when he ran for 2,066 yards, when would anyone pick Jamal Lewis over LaDanian Tomlinson. Maybe even not that year. I am a fan of the Ravens, and I am a big fan of Jamal Lewis. I think he is a great back. But Tomlinson is better.

WR - Keenan McCardell & Eric Parker vs. Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton
Edge: Mason and Clayton

It is hard to believe, given the press that the Ravens offense gets (and justifiably so), but I would take Mason and Clayton over McCardell and Parker any day.

TE - Antonio Gates vs. Todd Heap
Edge: Push

I know Gates is a great TE (if you remember from an earlier post, I have him on my fantasy team, and I picked the first TE off the board, so I could have had Heap if I wanted him. My reason for picking Gates was the points system in the league), but I don't think he is better than Heap.

DEF - Chargers vs. Ravens
Edge: Ravens

The defenses are hard to compare, just because San Diego is a 3-4 base while Baltimore is a 4-3 base. So I go to the litmus test of if I needed a defense to stop another team on 4th and 1, game on the line, who would I pick? If given the choice of the Chargers and the Ravens, I am picking the Ravens. I think the majority of you would too.

Okay, now we have all of that out of the way. The teams are very similar, which makes discussing who is more surprising a valid debate. I did give four of five "edges" to Baltimore, but not by enough of a margin to give either team a distinct advantage or disadvantage. And when the present is a wash, you look at the past. First the past two years. The Ravens went 9-7 in 2004 and missed the playoffs. In 2005 they went 6-10 and didn't even sniff the postseason. The Chargers went 12-4 in 2004 and won the AFC West. In 2005 they went 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. From that standpoint the Ravens being 2-0 should be more surprising than the Chargers. So let us look at recent history. The Chargers have wins against the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans. Neither team did anything last year nor are they expected to contend this year. The Ravens have wins against the Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Raiders are a commom opponent that neither team had any real problem with. Tampa Bay went 11-5 and won their division in 2005 (but to be fair, they were 5-11 in 2004, so that record was arguably inflated against lesser opponents. But even with that, who was expected to have a better season, Tampa Bay or Tennessee?).

So both somewhat recent and very recent history trended towards the Chargers having a playoff worthy season and the Ravens having a realistic shot at 8-8. So, to me, there is no debate as to which team is more surprising. Now as to which team is BETTER, well, we will get the first real answer to that on Sunday October 1st at 1pm.

Now I really need to get back to work. They are "paying" me after all.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How fantasy football ruins the game.

I have helped friends with fantasy football leagues, but until this year I have never participated myself. After turning down countless reproaches, I joined some friends of mine in a league. I cannot say that I considered it a passing fad, but I can honestly say that I never expected it to be as big as it is, to the point that it is all but impossible for me to ignore. It is the definition of the elephant in the room. DON'T LOOK!

One week in, and I am already beginning to regret my decision. I have always been a fanatic for pro football. I like to root for teams, rarely if ever do I root for specific players on a team. I have always rroted for the Baltimore teams, from the Colts to the Stars to the Stallions to the Ravens. Pictures of me as a tot in my Baltimore Colts pajamas and opening my Christmas presents of a Colts helmet lamp and Colts parka etc., I was raised in football. In a very real way, the Colts leaving deprived my father and me of the one thing we probably could have talked about during those "difficult" years.

Now I am in the unenviable position of rooting for Edgerrin James to have a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, but also to root for the Seattle Seahawks to shut down the Arizona offense, as I "drafted" BOTH James and the Seahawks defense. Last week I was supposed to root for Joey Galloway to have a good game against "my" Ravens, and when he was held without receptions (and therefore scored me no points, contributing to my last place finish in week 1) I was supposed to be upset. I wasn't. To tell you the truth, I completely forgot that I "had" Galloway and was worried about nothing more than the Ravens getting the shut-out, making myself late for work to watch the end of the game.

I made some changes on my "team" this week, and we will see what happens during the course of the season. I will not quit mid-season, just because I don't quit halfway through something. But unless the beauty of this thing makes itself apparent to me, I will not be there next year.

Just so you know (on the off chance that you care), here is who I am starting this week:

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Edgerrin James
RB: Corey Dillon
WR: Joey Galloway
WR: Troy Brown
TE: Antonio Gates
W/R: DeShaun Foster
K: Josh Brown
DEF: Seattle

Last week, I started all the same players except for Eddie Kennison in the W/R, Kevin Brown in the Corey Dillon RB spot, Nate Burleson in the Troy Brown spot, and Mike Vanderjagt as the K. I tried to make some last minute adjustments, but the internet was down at home and I couldn't get on to make some switches. Now let's see how this works for Week 2.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sports Fans and Entitlement.

There was a story on the AP wire recently. For those of you who are unaware of what happened in Charlotte NC during a recent preseason game, here are the details...

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Good, the Carolina Panthers fan who dresses up as "Catman" at home games, will receive a new pickup truck from Fox Sports after an on-air practical joke during a preseason game went awry.

During the second half of the Aug. 24 game between the Panthers and Miami Dolphins, Fox Sports announcers Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston started billing a car giveaway as a reason for fans to stay tuned after the teams' starters left the game.

"Now all you fans out there, you might be thinking, 'Well, the starting units are out, we might change the channel.' We're going to do something special to try and keep you here tonight. We're giving a car away tonight," Johnston told viewers.

With 1:56 remaining, the telecast went to a shot of sideline reporter Tony Siragusa standing in front of the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Good, who was sitting in a front-row end zone seat wearing an electric blue wig and black-and-blue cape.

"The car is coming in right now," Siragusa said. "Here it comes. Beautiful. It's white. It's a Porsche."

He then handed a toy car to Good.

Good says he believed the toy was a token of the real car he was to receive and expressed excitement and joy. That turned to anger after Good, who counsels troubled youths, found out it had all been a joke.

A Charlotte Observer sports columnist took up Good's cause, writing a front-page column in Wednesday's newspaper that resulted in outraged fans e-mailing Fox Sports.

That led Fox Sports chairman David Hill to announce he would personally give Good the keys to a new Ford F-150 pickup.

"I'm coming to Charlotte Friday to apologize to Mr. Good for a joke that went terribly, terribly wrong," Hill said.

Hill said there would be punishments at Fox Sports over the incident, but said none of the announcers involved will be taken off the air.

"I take the reputation of Fox Sports very seriously and I don't want it to be sullied," he said.

Good expressed excitement at the turn his story had taken.

"I'm so surprised and so happy," he told The Observer. "I thought all I was going to get was an apology."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

Now as a fan, I feel I am entitled to certain things. I am allowed to cheer as loudly as I please as long as my cheers are not offensive to those around me. In other words, what I say in a bar while watching the game might not be appropriate for the left field bleachers, and I need to acknowledge that. Also, I am allowed to boo as loudly as I please, and the same restrictions apply. I am allowed to refer to the team as "us" and "we". I can say things like "We need to win this game". No I am not a player or coach. But as long as I am buying tickets and/or merchandise either representing the team or from sponsors of the team, I am contributing to the fiscal survival of the team. I am an investor of both money and emotion, and I consider myself a part of that organization because of that. And my boss be damned, I am allowed to occasionally surf or to get updates on my team or any other issue that is keeping me from concentrating on my tasks at hand. Especially if they are playing an afternoon getaway game and I work in a cubicle in the basement of a building and cannot get the play by play any other way than with the streaming internet feed. If these things are not actually rights protected by the Constitution, they damn well should be.

What I do NOT have the right to is to think that because of a joke made on the air that I fell for that I am entitled to restitution because of my embarrassment. If I am a large man (I would consider 6'4" and 340 lbs as big. If anyone of that stature and girth takes offense, my sincere apologies) who dresses up in an electric blue fright wig and a cape (obviously a plea to be on camera, however fleetingly, so as to impress friends/family/ego) and is in fact singled out on camera and fall for what is really an old joke (who didn't have this done to them for their 16th birthday, or know someone who had it done to them by a family member or friend. My Dad was famous for this one). If the fact that Tony Siragusa was giving the actual prize away didn't make it click, I have no sympathy for Mr. Good for being so unaware of the budgets for locally broadcast preseason games. And then whining about it and getting a bunch of other people who have no sense of humor to write letters until the "guilty party" gives up and gives him his "real prize" just to shut him up, well that smacks of spoiled child syndrome. Technically, he was given exactly what was promised. As long as the toy car was new, it fits all the criteria of what they said was being given away.

"Good says he believed the toy was a token of the real car he was to receive and expressed excitement and joy. That turned to anger after Good, who counsels troubled youths, found out it had all been a joke."

So he believed that the toy was a token of the real thing. That makes him gullible and more than a little naive. It does not make him to be owed a car by the perpetrators of the joke.

And on a quick side note, what does his profession have to do with what he either believed to be true or what happened? I hate it when things like that are dropped in, trying to manipulate sympathies. If he had been employed as a day trader would he have deserved the "real" prize less? More? If he can afford season tickets and multi-colored capes, he should be able to afford a serviceable vehicle. If not, he may have to sacrifice his career as a tights wearing "SUPERFAN" and settle for TV coverage (maybe splurge of NFL Sunday Ticket if he must) and get himself that truck. I work helping special needs patients get the dental care they need. Is someone going to pay my mortgage for me? And if so, would they please contact me as soon as possible? I'd like to know if I can start allocating that money someplace more deserving, like PSL's and overpriced cups of beer at my local taxpayer funded stadium.

Now there will be "punishment" for the offense? David Hill takes the reputation of Fox Sports "very seriously" and will not tolerate its image being "sullied"? Amazing. This is the same organization that employed (or still employs) Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Glanville, and he says he takes the reputation of Fox Sports seriously? With all due respect to the men for their playing/coaching careers, but Chris Collinsworth, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw were NOT on the air because of their analytical ability. Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo making fat and bald jokes were definitely entertaining, but were in no way an attempt to win any awards that Edward R. Murrow would have been jockeying for. We won't even get into the journalism brought to the table by Jillian Barberie. The only "serious" broadcaster was James Brown, and he was more like a supervisor at the playground than anything else. So Mr. Hill, how about we don't take that particular route. If you just come out and say that you are doing damage control and that the cost of buying this random yahoo a truck is less than the cost of spinning it to your advantage, we will all be better off.

Really, what sums it all up for me is the statement by Mr. Good that he thought he was only going to get an apology, but now he is happy. Of course you are happy, you are being given a brand new truck for being a whiny little (rhymes with "witch").

I do think that teams owe the fans a lot more than they give them. For the amount of gouging that the fans put up with on a regular basis, the teams should be doing a lot more for the community and should be a lot more accessible. But no one is owed what Mr. Good felt HE was owed, and there is no way he should have received what he is being given. So a hearty "boo" to Mr. Good for taking a harmless joke WAY too seriously, and a bigger "boo" to Mr. Hall and Fox Sports for caving. And I will boo as loud as I want, because it is my Constitutional right.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ashley Lelie follow-up...

It is official. Lelie has agreed to pay the Denver Broncos a grand total in the realm of of $982,000. It breaks down like this:

23 days skipped in training camp at $14,000 per day for a subtotal of $322,000.
1/5 of his $3.3 million signing bonus (he originally signed for 6 years, but because he reached certain incentive clauses in his contract the 6th year was voided) which comes out at $660,000.


His contract calls for him to be paid $600,000 for 2006 (he could have made $700,00, but he decided to pass up on the $100,000 bonus he would have received for joining the team in "voluntary" workouts, deciding to stay at home and work out there), which means that he is going to have to pay Denver $382,000, and that is AFTER he signs over his paychecks.

If you remember, he was holding out because he felt he deserved to be classified (and of course PAID) like a #1 receiver. As I said before, the numbers don't show he deserves either of those things. But I do think he would have had a better shot at MAKING them in the next year or two if he had stayed with the team that has a quarterback who knows how to be a passer instead of a thrower (with a 1st round pick rookie QB who will be, in my humble opinion, a star in the NFL within a few years) and two receivers who are either a 12 year veteran who won't be playing a whole lot longer or a receiver who is coming back from MAJOR reconstructive knee surgery. Now he is in a pool of receivers who are at best non-descript (how many of you drafted Brian Finneran, Michael Jenkins, Adam Jennings, Roddy White, or Kevin Youngblood to be on YOUR fantasy team this year?) and with an inaccurate quarterback who has the greatest value in Franchise Mode of Madden '07. Lelie was never a huge fan of going over the middle (questions about his toughness abound), and now he is going to be required to do so MORE often if for no other reason than to help clear out a space for Alge Crumpler, who is probably the best receiver on their roster. I am expecting more than a few "alligator arm" catches (or lack thereof) this year.

Right now I am making an open plea to the Denver Broncos to use this money for a good cause. If there is nothing local that really catches the eyes of the front office, may I suggest a donation to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, a charity that helps abused children in NFL cities and has a goal of building a Courage House in every city that has an NFL team. Seeing how Denver is currently lacking such a Courage House, a donation of just under $1 million dollars could go a long way to breaking ground on one.

Just to be clear, there are currently 17 Courage Houses. They are located in the following places...

New York
Saint Louis
San Francisco

There are 32 NFL teams. That means that 15 cities have no Courage House. Denver can make amends for that here.

Sorry if I got on my soapbox there. It just seems like one of the best ways to use money from a self centered, egotistical sap is to use it to build a place that is the antithesis of "me first". And please, if you are reading this, take a moment to check out the website ( the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation ) and see what you can do to help.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It might wind up being a long year for Baltimore Ravens fans.

I was just perusing the local sports page when I saw this quote from Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis (courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)...

"To harp on anything that deals with preseason, that means nothing at the end of the day, you're wasting your time and energy...Let's kick the ball off in Tampa and cut out everything else."

does that bother anyone else as much as it bothers me? I have never been a big believer in the ability of sports teams (or anyone else for that matter) to "turn it on" when it counted after turning it off to save energy or to stave off injury. The 2005-06 Detroit Pistons are just the latest example of how that just doesn't work, and in the "any given Sunday" world of the NFL (where even the 2005 San Francisco 49'ers won 4 games and were in a dog fight for the top overall pick until the end of the season) it is even less applicable. All of this is amplified by the fact that Baltimore ended the 2005 season with a record of 6-10 (which included an emphatic one point win over the 2-14 Houston Texans and a season ending loss to the Cleveland Browns - who lost to those Texans earlier in the season, emphasizing my point - and that means that the Ravens don't exactly have a leg to stand on in regards to cutting everything else out).

I will admit that as a local guy I bought into the hype that was the healthy returns of Lewis and Ed Reed into the same defense (Lewis missed 10 games in 2005, Reed 6, and there was not a lot of overlap between the two being on the inactive list), the return to form of a hungry (and no longer troubled by jail and injury) Jamal Lewis, and of course the arrival of Steve McNair to both lead the offense, keep the defenses honest in respect to the passing game (opening up the running game), and to mentor Kyle Boller, giving him what he should have had from Day 1, a chance to watch and learn from a veteran (like McNair and Carson Palmer and Eli Manning did. There are very few Peyton Manninng out there that can be thrown to the wolves like that and thrive). And the opening drive of the 1st preseason game did not lower any of the expectations around here, as McNair drove the 1st team offense straight down the field to a touchdown (that may have been the worst thing that could have happened, judging from the reaction around Baltimore and the malaise stemming from the next two preseason games and the offenses lack of production).

The Ravens have one of those excellent "on paper" teams, with few glaring weaknesses (but the glarers are doozies. Like both lines. Can't win when the lines are falling apart, even though they never get the credit they deserve when the teams ARE winning. Sorry if I sound bitter but as a former offensive and defensive lineman -small high school- I am bitter about that). In theory they should do well this year as long as the offense gels into a cohesive unit. But the first game of the season is against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had a better defense last year than the Ravens, and a better offense too. They have a good young running back in Carnell Williams and a smart young QB with a great pedigree in Chris Simms (who is in a contract year. I expect big things from him and rue that I couldn't get him as my 2nd QB in my fantasy draft), not to mention Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway (and the "all natural" David Boston) as receivers. They are NOT going to be a pushover. And don't let the line fool you. Sure Tampa is only a 3 point favorite (at the time I am writing this) and the game is in Tampa (as a rule you adjust 3 points for home field advantage. Technically this game is "Pick'em". Remember, Vegas doesn't pick who they think is going to win, they try and make money off the people who think they know who is going to win. The line is merely a reflection of the choices of the gamblers and it really means nothing towards the outcome of the game), but this is a playoff team last year who should have won the game against the Washington Redskins (Tampa Bay held Washington to 120 total yards of offense but turnovers were the difference maker and they lost 17-10) and should be just as good if not better this year. Suffice to say, it will NOT be an easy game (no matter WHAT the locals think).

The Baltimore Ravens have always played their best when they had a chip on their shoulders and a bit of swagger to their step. However, it has been a good long while since they have had the RIGHT to have that swagger, and until you earn it, you shouldn't use it. I think back to the (now infamous, at least in Nashville) clip of Brian Billick holding up the Sports Illustrated in the visitors locker room after the Ravens had just defeated the Tennessee Titans in the regular season, handing them their first ever loss in Adelphia Stadium/Coliseum/Arena/et al (by the way, I have never understood the uproar over the Titans' PR staff showing that clip on the Jumbotron before the playoff game between he teams in 2000). At that time, the Titans were defending AFC champs, the two teams were in the same division, and they had some well fought, heated battles recently. I know the crowd didn't need any help in getting riled up, but if I had any kind of bulletin board material I would use it too. In case you don't remember what I am talking about, after the regular season game Billick stood in the middle of the locker room holding a copy of the newest Sports Illustrated with Tennessee on the cover, proclaiming them to be the best team in the NFL. Billick told the team this and then said "Maybe that's true. But not today.", and the team erupted in cheers. And honestly, I really don't see that as being all that controversial. McAllister saying that Eddie George "folded like a baby" when he played against the Ravens' defense was prime bulletin board material. The drama over Billick's comments seemed manufactured to me. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, that is the last time Baltimore had any right to claim to be cock of the walk. Walk the walk first boys. That is the rule, otherwise you are a bunch of jerks (and that is the most polite way of saying what people would- and DO- call them).

I remain wishful of a good season, and would like nothing more than a Super Bowl. I realize that those hopes are more than a little pie in the sky for lack of a better phrase, but that is what being a fan is all about. I had the same hopes before the 2000 season with even less to back them up, and look how that turned out. But no matter how much I will wish for it to happen, I have become a little less hopeful that it WILL happen, and a little more resigned that it won't.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another Terrell Owens rant.

Yes I know that all of this coverage, even the coverage that might not be read by a single person besides myself right now, feeds his massive ego and encourages his boorish behavior. Well in this case I cannot help myself.

I am sure you are aware of Owens being fined $9500 by the Cowboys for missing a meeting (and in what isn't mentioned as much in the coverage, a scheduled rehabilitation session for his "injured" hamstring). This is the latest in a long line of controversy that Owens has stirred up, from implying that (his then teammate) QB Jeff Garcia is gay (and if you have ever seen pictures of his one time and possibly still girlfriend Heather Kozar, well, if that is gay then I am the biggest queer in the world) to showboating on the star at midfield of the Dallas Cowboys (while a member of the San Francisco 49'ers) to his completely destroying the Philadelphia Eagles last year, he is a hurricane of flinging crap. And this is without even covering in any detail his end zone celebrations (Sharpie/pompoms/etc.). So why am I bringing all of this up now? Because I kept thinking about what would have happened if he had been forced to honor the trade to the Baltimore Ravens in 2004. And more to the point, the history of Owens and his performance.

I don't know if you remember one of the reasons why Owens balked at playing for the Ravens. The real reason is because he felt he should have been a free agent even though his agent at the time did not file the paperwork necessary to void the final 3 years of his contract. He had all but agreed to a rich contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and now he was stuck playing for less. He also said that he didn't want to play with Kyle Boller (I will have to sound off on Boller at some point). But among all the reasons either bandied about by Owens and the teams or the real reason (money), there was one that got some airplay, but was eventually relegated to the back burner and all but disappeared as soon as the Ravens and 49'ers rescinded the trade and Baltimore sent Owens to the Eagles (where Owens signed that new contract and then one year later help out because the contract wasn't fair to him and the work he had done. We'll come back to that). It seems that when Owens and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome met, Newsome said that both he and Owens were "two black guys from Alabama" and that "Sometimes you just have to slap a black man". Ignoring the racial aspect of the statements (not easy, but necessary. I am not black, but I think the old adage of being able to pick on your own applies here as it does in PC comedy clubs across the nation. For a wonderful examination of that concept, go pick up George Carlin's "Classic Gold", a double CD with three total comedy albums from Carlin. It will change the way you look at a lot of things), let's look at that second sentence.

"Sometimes you have to slap"

Now let's look at Owens' history. When he came up with the 49'ers, who did he have across from him? Jerry Rice, one of his biggest childhood idols. It is hard to argue that he is NOT the greatest receiver in NFL history (although I have always held to the thought that if you gave the old school offenses the protection offered by the rules now along with the modern training and rehabilitation equipment that they would have set records that would still be standing. And I know that offensive and defensive schemes are much more complicated now, but for all the substitutions and packages in the world, football is still at the core 11 guys being on the same page, reading each other and their opponents. And nothing about that changes whether you are in a Cover 2 or a modified West Coast Offense with an emphasis on the H-Back). Jerry Rice kept Owens in line. So did the 49'ers QB at the time, a guy named Steve Young. No matter how much hubris a player has, no one would have the guts to question the Alpha Dogs that Rice and Young were at that time. And Owens pretty much kept in line and produced. Once Rice and Young were gone, it didn't take long for Owens to undermine Garcia and 49'ers head coach Steve Marriucci and make himself the sole focus of the team, and THAT was when the drama really started.

So he forces the trade, and forces it to the team that he wanted. And he got the contract that he wanted. And that first year he stayed pretty much controversy free (minor skirmishes/riling the other teams, not chipping at the foundation of his own. That would come soon enough). But in the middle of the season he got injured. A broken leg and a severely sprained ankle. And he pushes himself HARD to rehab it and get himself ready for the postseason. And the Eagles make it back to the NFC Championship game, where for the previous 3 years they have lost. He doesn't play, but the Eagles win the game and make it to the Super Bowl. Owens declares that he will play, no matter what the doctors (who said he was several weeks away from being fully recovered) said. He did play in the game, and ended up with 9 receptions for 122 yards (the fact that the Patriots' secondary was giving him plenty of space and concentrating on the receivers who could actually run with if not pass them is ignored when many look at that stat. Why focus on the guy with good hands but only one leg?). Everything looks good, right? Just wait.

In the offseason, Owens fires his agent and hires Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus is the "super agent" known for squeezing blood from rocks. HE and his baseball counterpart Scott Boras are so reviled by the respective clubs that teams have been known to avoid drafting/signing a free agent that is represented by them. Talk about fulfilling a stereotype. Anyway, next thing you know he is holding out and asking for more money because he has already outperformed his contract that was just negotiated one year previous and is now, according to Owens and Rosenhaus, obsolete. And THIS is where he makes it even worse. He starts questioning Donovan McNabb, his quarterback and (just one year ago) his best friend. The kind of quarterback he has always wanted to play for. Now he is saying that the team would be better off with Brett Favre as the QB. And now he is questioning McNabb's heart and desire and conditioning and leadership (or as he put it "I'm not the one who got tired in the Super Bowl").

This becomes the crux of my argument as to the real meaning of what Ozzie Newsome was saying. McNabb does respond, but he doesn't do enough to shoot Owens down. He doesn't establish that he is the Alpha Male on the Eagles, even though there is no question that he is. And if there is no question that why should he? Because if he doesn't then questions start to pop up. When the Alpha Male of the pack is challenged, he responds by attacking. If he wins he is still the Alpha Male. If he doesn't, then his time is done. Either way, there is no confusion among the pack. By not challenging Owens and slapping him back into place (Newsome?), he opened the door for Owens to divide the team. And he did.

The whole time, the Eagles handled the Owens situation as well as they possibly could. They did not, nor will they negotiate with a player who is holding out. They made no exceptions with Owens. They suspended him for the maximum allowed by the NFL for his conduct, and proclaimed they would deactivate him as soon as the suspension was over. Two days later Owens issued a public apology. They slapped him down. And even though Owens did apologize, it was obvious hat it was not sincere and the Eagles' organization knew that if they allowed him to return it would make things worse. They had decided to back McNabb, and they would not be swayed. It was the correct decision. McNabb's only real fault in the whole boondoggle was not speaking up enough. He is a quiet leader, one who commands respect. He thought that it would carry over no matter what, but there are times that you need to voice your thoughts when you are a leader. Without audible dissent to the challenges that Owens laid in front of the team, the team became unsure of who to rally around and lost its way. I do not expect that to happen this year, and anyone who has written off the Eagles is making a huge mistake. Soon will be my prediction column, and you will see what I mean.

Now Owens is in Dallas. Drew Bledsoe is his QB, and Bledsoe will get in the ear and (more importantly) in the face of anyone who questions his leadership. He is a decent to good QB. He is a great leader. Owens' coach is now Bill Parcells. There is no one who can challenge his track record, being one of very few coaches to lead 2 different teams to a Super Bowl (anyone besides him and Don Shula? If so, I cannot think of him), and he led another team to the AFC Championship game. He is in charge. Will they slap him down? Yes. Has anyone seen or heard his reaction to the fine? He immediately apologized, claiming that he, like everybody else in the world has done once or twice in their lives, overslept. He wanted to make sure that everyone knew that he was NOT challenging any authority nor was he trying to garner publicity. He almost sounded scared. Almost.

Parcells took it one step further. Owens has missed the bulk of the preseason and almost all of training camp with his hamstring injury. Parcells has said that until he can see him on the field and gauge his ability and figure out how to work him into the offense, Owens will not start, including in the regular season opener. Owens responded that there was 10 years of film to watch that could be used to figure it out. Parcells said no way. You show me on the practice field. Slap.

The most telling line was where Owens was describing the relationship between himself and Parcells. Owens said that it isn't where it need to be, but that it is a process. Then he said THIS...

"It's obviously a work in progress. At this point, there is no tension between us."

Does it sound like he is expecting trouble down the road? I know I am, and I cannot wait to see how Parcells slaps him.

The whole thing makes me wonder what would have happened if the trade to Baltimore had been upheld. Is Boller any kind of substitute for McNabb? Not even close at this point (as I said, I will sound of on Boller in the future, but I will say right now that I am not convinced that the kid is a waste or a failure). But on a team with Ray Lewis, would Owens have been slapped down? I am willing to bet YES. And with a coach who had won a Super Bowl in Brian Billick (I never got into the Andy Reid aspect of Owens' career in Philly. To me, he didn't do enough to stop Owens, but I felt like he was taking his cues from McNabb on that and letting the guy he has chosen as the team leader lead the team. If he had stepped in, it would have further undermined McNabb. But I don't think Billick would have let it get that far without doing some slapping of his own. And since, unlike McNabb, Ray Lewis is on the other side of the ball from Owens, it wouldn't have been undermining for him to act), Owens would have been kept in line, I think. It is all conjecture, we'll never know what would have happened. But I like to think that it would have been a lot different if Ozzie Newsome's words had been put into practice. There is more to them than meets the eye, and they seem to be more correct than anyone wanted (or still wants) to admit.