Monday, February 08, 2016

Why the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl

Before the Super Bowl I wrote “I predict the game will be close into the third quarter and the Panthers will slowly pull away.” So I was wrong.

Ahh - but I was also right “Carolina's weakness they aren't built to come from behind, but I don't think Denver has the offense with a declining Manning to take a big lead.”

I was actually right on two counts.

ONE: The Manning led offense wasn’t good enough to rack up points on the Panthers D (which also had a great Super Bowl). Of Denver’s 24 points – 18 of them came from either defense of special teams (including that truly bizarre non-fair catch punt return). The offense got 6 points: 3 an impressive opening drive (where they got roughly A THIRD of their total game yardage) that netted a field goal…and three more on a momentum swinging drive after that Panther doinked a field goal (that drive was 28% of their yards – lots of fun stats when the offense is that bad). That was it – Manning was atrocious - so bad that late in the game the Broncos were running draws every third and long.

As an aside – that was a good Super Bowl. Don’t let the lack of scoring and turnover led you to make the error of the casual fan – we saw some great defensive play.

TWO: Carolina did not have the offense to come from behind. I had been saying this for a while, but Cam Newton is not a great passer.
If he is behind he isn’t good enough to throw the Panthers back into the game. It is isn’t helped by the weak WR corps he has to work with, but if you watched the game he was off target with many of his passes. Now Carolina wasn’t down by much for most of the game (and when they were late their offense totally fell apart), but their running game was not working for the whole game and they could not handle it. Part of it was Jonathan Stewart getting hurt which is being underestimated today, but mainly it was Denver selling out against the run and making the decision that if they were going to lose it would be against Cam’s arm. Admittedly their secondary is significantly better than the Panther’s WRs, but it also tells you how Wade Phillips evaluated Newton. I don’t recall the last time an NFL MVP completed less than 60% of his passes.

That said I do feel there is a little piling on of Cam in the aftermath. He is a good, but not top tier NFL QB. And I don’t blame him for his terse postgame interview. The man just lost the fucking Super Bowl!! Would I prefer my QB to step up to the mic and hold court? Yes, but I don’t blame the man who does not – doing that is going above. You might argue Cam is immature, which I think he might be – but you could also spin that it reflects his passion for the game and the hurt he feels. I have also heard that if he is so animated positively, then he has to step up in the bad times. Nope – that just means he can’t complain if someone else celebrates when he is getting beat (which the Panthers have done is years past, but I don’t remember Cam specifically doing so).

As for not diving for that fumble, well I guess I just don’t want to kick a man when he is down.

(Also Eli clearly hates his older brother).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The sport of making money

For many years the NFL told cities that if they made stadiums the league would not let their team leave. St. Louis apparently bought that, but 30 owners said nope. That is no surprise (although I am surprised because I thought the Rams owner Stan Kronke was unpopular with his peers) for all the love people have for sports they so rarely remember that the teams have owners for whom the team is a business. Does that make fandom somewhat irrational? To that question I would pose this response - in what ways is fandom not?

But let's move on to the more pure world of college athletics. The NCAA has avoided a much of the criticism about concussions, but that is mainly for two reasons 1) the NFL is a juicy target - both to sue and report on 2) NFL players have played longer and have more trauma. As a result the NCAA is not doing much to protect players. It turns out that if a college declares a player ineligible because of their concussion history that the NCAA does not prevent that player from just going to another school. If fact some colleges actively recruit guys other schools have put out to pasture. You can always find a doctor to tell you what you want and some players think colleges say too many concussions as way to ease a play they don't want anymore out the door.

Not the NCAA isn't a success at making bank. The salaries of the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences have QUINTUPLED in the last decade - from $541,000 to $2.58 million annually.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Coaching scramble

I wanted to give a run own of some of the coaching moves:

The biggest shock of the season was the Colts keeping Chuck Pagano. I have never particularly been much of a supporter of Colts owners Jim Irsay. He strikes me as honest and earnest guy trying hard to improve the Colts, but not the smoothest operator. He however made the right move. It was weird he let Pagano coach out his contract – coach could have left for any team this offseason – but the fact he and GM don’t get along is a terrible reason to fire a coach. Good coaches are hard to find, people don’t have to be best friends. And Pagano may be the more talented of the two anyway – he got a lot quite a few wins out a roster full of players who peaked 5-10 years ago. Sometimes it is the moves you don’t make. I would also like to take a moment to point out that somehow the Loins keeping Jim Caldwell and the Chargers keeping Mike McCoy wasn’t new, when Pagano is clearly a better coach. It speaks about expectations – there was a ton of coverage during the season about how Pagano was feuding with the GM and would be out.

One coach who is out (in a late firing) is the Bucs’ Lovie Smith. I am of two minds – he wasn’t given a fair chance and did pretty well this year. But I also feel the nine seasons he spent with the bears told us who he is and so that I can’t really call this a travesty.

Neither can I say that about the Giants firing Tom Coughlin after 12 (TWELVE!? I had not realized it had been that long) seasons – make no mistake he was forced out even if he officially resigned. Guys resigning don’t say they want to coach again. Coughlin was one of the few people who mellowed with age – in Jacksonville he was known primarily for being a hard ass, which covered up a fair amount of success. He won two titles in NYC, and exactly zero other playoff games. In fact in last seven year he made the playoffs only once – but won it all in 2011. Overall Coughlin was a great coach – at BC he knocked of #1 Notre Dame, the first time the Eagles ever beat the Irish – and will probably never get the credit he is due. That said this year he seriously mismanaged the clock and cost the G-Men several games and failed to pull Odell Beckham Jr. when he melted down against the Panthers. On the other hand Beckham’s explosive talent – and have a Manning at QB - hid the fact that the roster was simply not very good. That also hurt Jim Tomsula is his one year running the 49ers – 5 wins in a first season with that depleted roster doesn’t prove a guy can’t coach. Why hire him if you are going to flush him so quickly?

By the way – over 20% of the head coaching positions are currently open. If your team is one of that 20% hope your front office is smart enough to stay far far away from Chip Kelly. However there is another retread worth looking at – Bungles offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. In his only season as a head coach he got to .500 with an Al Davis picked roster, that is no mean feat. He was then fired by the new regime when Davis passed away.

I don’t know that I believe hiring a baseball analytics expert will be the long sought for magic bullet for the Cleveland Browns, but kudos to them for being willing to try something new (and face potential ridicule for it).

I spent my New Years at the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium – and I can say I have seen the future of football. Now you can’t do this everywhere, such as the heart of a city – but Gillette has a small mall attached to it. It is a real, if not huge mall, with food, clothing, other merchandize, a gym, a movie theatre, a salon, a bowling alley, a hotel, and the Patriots Hall of Fame. This is a great idea, because it gives people a way to spend their time (and from the Patriots perspective money) while waiting for traffic to ease out.

Finally your stat of the day. Joe Montana started 67% of the Kansas City Chiefs’ playoff wins over the last 45 years (2 out of 3).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

NFC Predictions

NFC East
1) *Cowboys. They were surprise last year. Don’t complain the Dez Bryant no-catch against the Packers, they got a gift call from the refs against the Lions the week before. They lost DeMarco Murray, but signed Darren McFadden to back up Joseph Randle. We shall see, they trade for RB Christian Michael of Seattle after the preseason. On defense – which Rod Marinelli amazing made functional with little talent - they added Greg Hardy at DE after Carolina cut him for hitting his girlfriend (have to love sports). He is suspended the first four games, but is only 27 and had 26 sacks the last two seasons he played. LB Sean Lee will be back from missing last season with injury. But they lost CB Olando Scandrick for the season (although not he was their #1 coverman). They have thrown in some of their picks from last year into starting roles on defense. TE Jason Witten is starting to slow down. They got a gift in adding OL La'el Collins as a rookie free agent. A first round talent he went undrafted after reports surfaced police wanted to talk him about the murder of his former girlfriend. He was cleared after the draft.

2) Giants. Last year they went 6-10 and the roster has not changed much. They overpaid Eli Manning (for his talent, not for the market as teams are desperate not lose QBs who have any talent so are overpaying guys everywhere – to be fair with no QB you have no chance) and had their franchise DE blow his finger off with a firework (from which he still has not recovered). They will get Victor Cruz back at WR to match with last year’s amazing rookie Odell Beckham Jr. They drafted a LT (well his is now with Will Beatty on the PUP anyway) and are using last year’s #2 pick as their starting center. They have had a rash of injuries at safety already.

3) Eagles. I predict Chip Kelly is out of the league in two years. I know he has his little system, but you need talent to win. Sam Bradford is just an ok QB in those rare moments he isn’t having knee surgery whereas Foles was a talent. Shady McCoy is great, whereas DeMarco Murray was great in a contract year behind a great OL after an injury plagued career. He is backed up by the also injury prone Ryan Mathews. After trading DeSean Jackson last year (1,100 yards and a 21 yard per catch average in Washington in ’14) and letting Jeremy Maclin walk this year (1,300 yards and 10 TDs coming off knee surgery) the receivers are Riley Cooper and Jordan Mathhews, who looked last year as a rookie – while playing with Foles, McCoy, and Maclin. For added measure he also cut G Evan Mathis who played in the last two Pro Bowls. On defense the Iggles blew up a so-so secondary and signed SF Walter Thurmond and CB Byron Maxell – both former 2nd tier members of the Seattle secondary. They wildly overpaid for Maxwell. And Kelly clearly is rubbing his players the wrong way judging from all the comments guys have made once they are gone – which can build up and make a team not play as hard.

4) Washington. Is there really any surprise? Despite all the interceptions Cousins may be more viable than RGIII after what this franchise has done to the QB they trade 3 first round picks and second to draft. My money says there will be Colt McCoy sighting at some point this year. This is largely the same team that went 4-12 last year – minus the talented but oft-injured OLB Brian Orakpo. Surprisingly for once Danny Boy did not go nuts in free agency, just picking up role players. The best would be run stuffer Terrance Knighton. They also took a flier on former All-Pro (but late hit prone) safety Dashon Goldson who was a free agency bust in Tampa. Maybe after watching last year’s “big” signing DT Jason Hatcher get 5 sacks he is starting to figure it out? Naaaaah. Would Jay Gruden be an NFL head coach if his brother had not been? I would say no. But give him credit for benching RGIII over Danny’s wishes. Fun fact: my preview last year started “The fact that people are calling for Kirk Cousins BEFORE the season has even started tells you this team is a mess. What a surprising change from normal. Overpaid for Jason Hatcher.” Damn I am good.

NFC South
1) *Saints. Last year we kept wait for N’awlins to take a weak division and they never did (their loan winning streak was just two games). Perhaps they will this year – but honestly I put them first by default after look at the rest of the division. They still have a great QB. Losing Jimmy Graham at TE hurts, but last year’s #1 pick WR Brandon Cooks looks good (he better, they all cut their #2 pick) and they needed the cap space. Mark Ingram finally look good last year – but I am not sure I believe he has truly arrived. But if pickup CJ Spiller can stay healthy they will have a great weapon in their backfield. They also added a good center in the Jimmy Graham trade and signed big CB Brandon Browner from New England. Plus eventually last year’s big free agent signing SF Jairus Byrd will be come back from the injury that knocked him out last year. That will give them a strong secondary, which is good because they cut their best pass rusher – Junior Galette – after a video of him hitting a girl with a belt in a fight on the beach showed up on the web. They do still have one solid DE in Cameron Jordan. They also lost a lot of quality guys, but not household names to free agency (but added some too).

2) Falcons. They didn’t have a running game last year and are relying on two unproven youngsters to help out Matty Ice. I still believe in him – his stats have stayed steady despite the team sucking the last two years. But other than the WRs (and possibly the LT what was their #1 pick last year) the talent around him simply is not there. On defense they have some playmakers in the secondary – including SF William Moore who should be much better known then he is. Otherwise the defense does little for me unless their #1 pick Vic Beasley Jr. rushes the passer as well as their front office expects.

3) Panthers. They won their division last year, but only went 7-8-1. They lost their best (only?) WR to an ACL in the preseason. You can’t assume RB Jonathan Stewart will stay healthy all year. Cam is a big name, but has never complete more than 61% of his passes in a season (59% career) – last year Derek Anderson completed 67% in his two starts. Simply put there is not a ton of talent on this offense. On defense they have good (and one great) LBs and a suspect passrush – which is not a good mix with the old secondary they are sporting.

4) Buccaneers. This season is really figuring out what they have their young guys – Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith. Those are 5 of their 11 on offense and were all drafted this year or last. Winston has the ability to be a quarterback, but I highly doubt the maturity. Evans is a good #2, poor #1. Seferian-Jenkins also has talent, but maturity issues. Marpet and Smith are lineman with physical skills, but aren’t very polished. There is no way all these guys pan out, but is some do the Tampa could be good…in a couple of years. The offense also has the talented, but aging Vincent Jackson and the unlikely hope that Doug Martin can regain his form from two years ago. Meanwhile on defense they have one great DT in Gerald McCoy...and other people. They do have a bunch of DBs who have been ok players for other teams – Major Wright, Sterling Moore, Tim Jennings, Mike Jenkins, Chris Conte, DJ Swearinger – so they have experience. But how many of them do you know? Several of them are former Bears who played under Lovie Smith in Chicago. As did DT Henry Melton, who made the Pro Bowl in Lovie’s last season and hasn’t done anything besides get hurt since.

NFC North
<1) *Packers. They were the best team in the division last year and did not lose much to free agency besides a few non-key defensive figures. But then in the pre-season their best WR, Jordy Nelson, blew out his knee. But last year’s second round pick has already has the look of a quality WR – remember the name Devante Adams. And with Randall Cobb resigned he won’t even have the pressure of being a #1 guy. With those two, Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy their offense should be able to withstand the loss of Nelson. On defense they have plenty of front seven talent and another player coming off a great rookie year in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

2) Lions. Let’s start by making this clear - Calvin Johnson is best WR in the NFL. He was hurt last year, but until I see evidence of an actual decline there is no reason to assume he won’t continue to be dominant. They were a playoff team last year – but lost many names – Reggie Bush, longtime center Dominic Raiola, and the starting DTs in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. They did trade for DT Haloti Ngata to mitigate that DL loss somewhat, but there is no denying they have less talent this year. But they still have a talented roster – not enough to surpass Green Bay, but possibly enough to make it as a wildcard again.

3) Bears. This team is just a hot mess. The history of “Da Bears” hides that this franchise has been largely dysfunctional since the Ditka era. Their QB is an unhappy enigma, they traded away the talented, if insane, Brandon Marshall, and then reached in the first round for WR Kevin White – who is hurt now anyway. They do still have WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Martellus Bennett so Cutler will have plenty of talented receiver to throw interceptions while trying to force a ball to. They also flushed several long time staples on defense – including CB Peanut Tillman and LB Lance Briggs – but in truth it was time. They signed WR Eddie Royal, who is better than you think if not so consistent, and a talented defensive lineman from the Ravens in Pernell McPhee – who they moved to OLB. This is always idiotic to me – when teams take quality defensive ends and then move them to linebacker because they love the 3-4. The Bears are doing this trice – as Jared Allen is also an OLB now, wasting the little bit of time has left, as is their sack leader last year Willie Young. Worse yet they are doing this on defense with generally marginal talent – so it is not as though they have some great 3-4 personal they are moving others for – no, they are moving their best guys out of position. Now I like new head coach John Fox and love their new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – but the best coaches adjust their systems to maximize the talent they have.

4) Vikings. I debated this team a lot. Despite Teddy Bridgewater’s creditable play last year as a rookie without many weapons after Adrian Peterson turned to be beating his kids - Greg Jennings!? – despite that I liked him coming out of college, despite the return of All-Day, despite the addition of Mike Wallace (bit of a malcontent and not a first tier #! WR), and despite that they went 7-9 in Mike Zimmer’s first year this just doesn’t have the feel of a team about to take a leap. Objectively they could – and I considered them as possibly being second in the division and making the wildcard, but sometimes you have to go with your gut. They just don’t have many players I would call just more than “good.” But I would not be stunned to see them finish December with 9-10 wins and in the postseason.

NFC West
1) *Rams. I have great respect for Jeff Fisher, although if you look at his record it isn’t that amazing. This team went 6-10 last year and lost no one. On defense the secondary is shaky (they did lose one of their better corners, EJ Gaines, to injury), but the front seven, especially the DL is underrated (that is what you get for being good on a bad team). All four starters were drafted in the first half of the first round. Aaron Donald made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Chris Long will be back after missing ten games with an injury. And they signed Nick Fairley to be a rotation guy. He was Suh’s sidekick in Detroit but he is no slouch. But their real improvement is on offense. I am amazed how little respect Nick Foles is receiving. Don’t say Chip Kelly made him good – the “genius” is 6-8 in games sans Foles. Yes, Kelly was good in college, but the team was before and after him - you may have notice the Ducks playing in the title game last year. Now Foles will not have great targets (TEs are better than WRs), but the Rams are doing everything they can to give him a powerful rushing attack. They spent the tenth overall pick on UGA RB Todd Gurley. They also carpet bombed their OL by talking linemen in the 2th, 3th, 4th, and 6th rounds – and this was after they took a tackle with their first pick in 2014. This does mean they are starting two rookies and a soph. And don’t forget they have sophomore back Tre Mason, last year’s third rounder, who ran up 765 yards in 12 games.

2) *Cardinals. Two years ago in HC Bruce Arians first year they went 10-6. Then last year using three QBs because of injuries and without their talented RB Andre Ellington down the stretch they went 11-5. This is a well-coached team on the rise. In the offseason they improved their OL and backup RB options. They have a solid WR corps with the emergence of rookie John Brown as a deep threat last year. On defense they lost the interior of the DL (as well as longtime leader Darnell Docket who was hurt all season) and a solid CB in Antonio Cromartie. But the biggest loss is the excellent Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles who is now the head man for the Jets. Bowles was brilliant at the use of blitz schemes to make his unit play better than the sum of its parts. I do worryt the defense won’t be it was, but they are a playoff team, possibly even the division winner.

3) *Seahawks. I say they decline and this is not simply motivated by hate – teams don’t stay good forever. Success means guys leave, or pine to leave. Byron Maxwell - #2 corner – got a huge contract from Philly (teams always overpay role players from winning teams). Cam Chancellor is holding out, Michael Bennett is talking about going back to Tampa. They overpaid Russell Wilson. On the other hand they traded for TE Jimmy Graham, who becomes their best receiving option by far the moment he walks through the door and Fred Jackson give them a great 1-2 RB punch. Finally I think the way they lost the Super Bowl will stick with them a bit – and dents their psyche as well as how other teams perceive them and Pete Carroll. Lose to the Pats and you seem less invincible.

4) 49ers – Ugh. A good coach was fired by our silver spoon owner. Following him out the door for various were DT Justin Smith, LB Patrick Willis, OLB Aldon Smith, T Anthony Davis, G Mike Iupati, budding stud LB Chris Borland, P Andy Lee, RB Frank Gore, DE Ray McDonald, CB Chris Culver, WR Michael Crabtree, CB Perrish Cox and most importantly defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. That is enough talent to base a team around. Replacing them is the incredibly motley crew of RB Reggie Bush (a change of pace type – let’s hope Carlos Hyde pans out), WR Torrey Smith (a speed deep threat with so-so hands – IF Kaepernick can get the ball to them accurately in the first place), T Erik Pears (a marginal talent Bills let go and the Niners brought in to be a backup until Anthony David suddenly retired), and CB Shareece Wright who saw get burned repeatedly in San Diego. There is literally NO WHERE they are better than they were on last year’s 8-8 squad, with the possible exception of ILB because stud Navarro Bowman is back from injury. Also our first round pick DL Arik Armstead out of Oregon – he of impressive size and combine numbers, but just 4 career sacks – is currently at the bottom of the depth chart and showed me little in preseason (but I have been wrong before – so cross your fingers). I do have some hope second year CB Keith Aker may burst onto the scene – well as much as you can on a team with a ceiling of 6 wins.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

American Football Conference Predictions

AFC East

1) *Patriots. They will not be a Super Bowl contender. For all the talk about Belichick being a genius and coaching up diamonds in the rough the truth is he need two top flight free agent corners – Revis and Browner – to make it last year and now both are gone. Brady should have been suspended anyway (not really - the NFL botched due process, but he did cheat).

2) *Dolphins. For the record this is less about the addition of Suh (who will improve the team if not make it $114 better) than it is about my expectations for the improvement of Tannehill at QB (who quietly had - 66% completions, 4,000 yards, more than 2-1 TD to INT ratio, and a 92% QB rating last year).

3) Bills. I see them about .500. Don’t have that much faith in Rex even though I know the D was good last year and the offense should be a little better.

4) Jets. I like Bowles, but not the talent on the roster – especially the offense. What does it say about a team if the starting QB being sucker punched in the locker room makes the offense better??

AFC South

1) *Colts. By default as this remains the Andrew Luck show (or if you prefer Andrew and the Luckettes). I am not impressed with adding Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole – this isn’t 2010. 1st round pick Phillip Dorsett may help, but most likely not in his already injury riddled rookie year.

2) TIE Jaguars and Texans. Surprised?

a. The Texans have a good RB in Foster (assuming he comes back from surgery soon), potential budding star DeAndre Hopkins at WR, and a fairly talented defense (JJ Watt is good, but the hype around him hides that there are some holes around him). But Brian Hoyer has proven himself to be a high effort guy suitable to being a backup QB who can fill in for a few games – but not a starter. I bet Mallet is starting by the end of the season. They might squeak into the playoffs – especially if Jadeveon Clowney is healthy.

b. You may not realize it, but Jaguars are a team up the upswing. Bortles should improve, the team is very young, but not untalented. I am not saying playoffs (in 2015 anyway), but I am saying their most wins in the last five years. It would have helped if their two biggest pickups (Julius Thomas and Dante Flowler) had not gotten hurt.

4) Titans. I like Ken Whisenhunt, but not Marcus Mariota transitioning from the Spread with unproven (to be kind) RBs and no WRs outside of Kendall Wright (who is no sure thing himself). This team was using that is left of Hakeem Nicks as a starting WR all preseason and then cut him. Not auspicious. If healthy, Brian Orakpo is a good pickup.

AFC North

1) *Steelers. I considered the Ravens quite a bit, the defense is not lock to be good (which I blame on talent, not the fired Dick LeBeau), and two of their top three offensive weapons are gone for most or all of September. But in the end I went with Pittsburgh because they have the better QB (Flacco is not elite and not at his level), a great WR, and Baltimore as NO weapons on offense.

2) Ravens. Speaking of no weapons – when I see a team trying to milk one last season out of Steve Smith (who is border line Hall of Famer) and hoping Justin Forsett can repeat the career year he had after six nondescript seasons I don’t jump on board. Their 1st round pick at WR was hurt all preseason as well.

3) Bengals. They have no shortage of weapons on offense and an impressive DL, but by this point I think Andy Dalton has gotten about as good as he ever will. If they stay healthy they might squeeze into the playoffs.

4) Browns. Wow – just wow. Where are you when Josh McNown brought in as your savior? Dwayne Bowe? Brian Hartline? Last year’s draft is already pretty clearly a bust.

AFC West

1) *Broncos. I know they lost some talent on offense, but they still have plenty and their RB situation is more settled now than it was a year ago. More importantly that defense is better than you realize – although power running teams will be able to hurt them.

2) *Chiefs. I debated a bit over this but here is the score 1) arguably the best RB in league 2) a coach who knows how to get to the playoffs (if not through them) and improved the team 3) QB who doesn’t make game losing mistakes (if not game winning plays). Did you know that Alex Smith hasn’t thrown more than 7 picks in the last four seasons? He has had 71 TDs in that span (45 games). 4) They improved at WR by signing Jeremy Maclin. 5) They get Eric Berry back from cancer to a defense that has some great pass rushers.

3) Chargers. Does adding Stevie Johnson as the third WR and Melvin Gordon at RB make them much better? I tend to doubt it, but they were 9-7 last year (actually have been within a game of .500 for 5 straight season), so if they make the playoffs we can’t call it a shock as they didn’t lose much in free agency.

4) Raiders. While they are still in their perennial 4th place, they do feel as though they are slowly inching better. Very slowly. Derek Carr throwing to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is an improvement over Terrelle Pryor (now a receiver on the Browns) throwing to Rod Steeter and Denarius Moore. Latavious Murray is totally unproven despite the hype. And I feel I should point out that gave $2+ million in signing bonuses and guaranteed money to Christian Ponder and Trent Richardson in free agency – and neither made the team.

Monday, July 06, 2015


My hockey team – the Washington Capitals – recently signed former LA Kings rightwinger Justin Williams as a free agent. Williams is an impressive 7-0 all time playing in game 7 of a playoff series.

He better bring all his mojo because the Capitals are 4-10 all time as a franchise in game 7s after this year’s postseason. Which is bad, but that is not terrible stat the Caps are most famous for.

28 times in NHL history a team has led a playoff series 3-1 after four games and gone on to lose the next three games and the series. 5 – yes FIVE – of those teams have been various renditions of the Caps. That is right: the Caps have almost a FIFTH of all the blow 3-1 series leads in NHL history.
Keep in mind there are only 30 FUCKING teams in the league. More remarkably the Caps have managed to NOT blow a 3-1 lead just TWO TIMES in their history. 2-5 is pretty horrendous.

Now is the point where you would expect me to say “why do I root for this team!?!” But I won’t be doing that today. I will start by readily establishing that professional team sports fandom is not particularly rational . I did not know Justin Williams that well at all before he signed in DC – all I am really doing at this point is rooting for the mercenaries who happen to be wearing the right colors at this moment in time.

But here is the reality: sports is ENTERTAINMENT - that is it. The Caps #1 rival is the Pittsburgh Penguins.* And you know what? I have a friend who is a Pens fan. Fans might yell at each other, but unless you a Raider fan or obscene amounts of alcohol are involved, fans allegiances aren’t taken overly seriously.

I can’t imagine what a girl could do as a sports fan to make me avoid a relationship (caveat – if she liked Michael Vick), but I can easily see not spending much time with one who had very different political values that me (although I do have friends with whom I disagree strongly and take pride in being able to be friends with them).

I may spend a considerable amounts of time with sports, but I get plenty of pleasure from them.

People may like to joke about me being an irrational male, but I am spending my time and money doing something I enjoy. Is that any different than catching a flick? Plus I have seen my teams (in football – lord knows not the Caps) win 5 titles in my life – once in person – and those are some great memories, much more than a reading a Harry Potter book.

[Incidentally this is a very similar argument to why I gamble. It is entertainment – if I play poker for three hours or I go to a broadway show I am getting the same amount of entertainment for a roughly comparable price – and I might come out with MORE money if I gamble].

I will also say for many years I debate with friends if was worse to root for a team that perennially stank out the joint or broke your heart with repeatedly playoff losses. After watching the San Francisco Forty-Niners of the aughts and then the tremulous Harbaugh era I can definitely say it is the later (although I do wish we had not gone to a Super Bowl over losing it and our 5-0 record). So thank you Washington Capitals – knowing about those SIX times you haven’t TOTALLY failed in your 32 year existence has given me plenty of good times.


Incidentally it is apparently grand to be from the land of 10,000 lakes. There are just team teams that have never lost a game 7 in the NBA and NHL**: the T-Wolves (1-0) and Wild (3-0). More historically: the Boston Celtics have the next best record at 21-8. Or to put it another way they are 43% more likely to win a game 7 than my guys on ice.

*Funny side note – the “rivalry” is so lopsided that the Pens would call the Philadelphia Flyers their rival.

**I could not find any MLB stats, butI did find that USC has most College World Series which I did not know so will pass on. The Trojans have rung the bell 12 times– twice as many as the second best UT Longhorns and LSU Tigers - and are 12-9 all time. Texas has the most appearances –but a Capsesque 6-29 record. Oh wait, that means they actually WON 6 titles – that is in no ways similar to my Caps. Sorry Texas, my bad.

Also I would like to once against remind Yankees fans that only one team has EVER blown a 3-0 series lead in baseball. You’re welcome – all the best!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

So many Bowl games

I’m a much bigger NFL than college football fan, but while I wanted a playoff for years – and definitely content the field needs to expand to 8 teams – I am not opposed to the large number of bowls. I’ve come to enjoy being able to expect most evenings during the holiday season there will be some game for me to flip on.
Now there are plenty of bowls I don’t watch, and when the schedule comes out I often have minimal interest in the early games –but I do find myself tuning to more games than I would have guessed. It isn’t the worst to see a team I don’t see often, or an small time program celebrating making some small bowl, or facing down a traditional power on an off year – you never know when you’ll see an exciting finish (notice I did not say great game).

All that now said – we are reaching critical mass for bowls. There were 38 (ignoring the title game) last year – next year there will be three new ones. That is 82 teams – that is an estimated 64% of all I-A programs. I would not bank on there being enough teams .500 better (there have not been an average of that many the last few years). Letting a team with a losing record into a bowl doesn’t appeal to anyone, but NBA fans got used to it. Fans will show up, ESPN will fill air time, money will be made. Also one of the new three is now Orlando THIRD bowl – and their stadium is crappy.

Incidentally 20 years ago there were only 18 bowls.


Did you know there is a Hall of Fame just for HBCU football players in Atlanta?

Also Deacon Jones and Jerry Rice apparently played for the same tiny college.