Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vikings Off-Season Report: WR's

What Happened in 2005: One word for 2005 Vikings was inconsistency. The entire offensive unit struggled, often a result of constantly changing lineups due to injuries. The effects show in the receiving stats. No receiver had more than Travis Taylor’s 604 yards. Nine receivers had more than 20 receptions, but no more than TE Jermaine Wiggins’ 69. Even with the Randy Moss trade, the receiver talent appeared healthy. Injuries kept Kevin Burleson from matching his breakout 2004, Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson, originally cast as compliments were forced to become number one targets, and rookie Troy Williamson progressed slowly. Marcus Robinson did emerge as a red zone target for Brad Johnson. Free Agent pickup Koren Robinson provided a deep threat, but took a while to integrate into the offense.

Obviously the lack of running game, Brad Johnson’s fondness of the short game and a porous line all contributed to the receiving corps’ poor numbers.

Where they stand now: Koren Robinson is a free agent, and one of the Vikings’ top off season priorities. He is the most talented receiver, runs well after the catch and obviously made the Pro Bowl as a returner. Historically wide receivers figure things out in the second year, good news for Williamson. His explosiveness was evident when he got the ball, but often struggled with routes and also was demoted after faking an injury. It is the explosiveness that makes him attractive. The Vikings should try to mimic how the Panthers use Steve Smith, giving Williamson touches on screens, end-arounds and deep balls.

Expect Burleson, a restricted free agent, to rise closer to his 2004 form. Even without the injuries Burleson seemed to get lost in the shuffle last year and couldn’t jell with Culpepper or Johnson. If everyone is healthy Taylor and Marcus Robinson combine as an above average fourth receiver.

The Vikings also have prospects Chris Jones and Kelvin Kight in NFL Europe. Barring miraculous improvement, both are doubtful to see many passes in NFL America.

The Plan: The Vikings will almost certainly resign Koren Robinson, who likely ends up a starter. The team is pretty much set on the personnel, with the possible exception of a return specialist. With new coach Brad Childress installing a West Coast offense, there will be a learning curve, especially for Williamson.

Unless something goes wrong and Koren isn’t resigned, don’t expect much movement in the offseason.

Previous Vikings Off-Season Reports: QB RB

Twins "nab" Ruben

Holy cow Terry! I talked bad about you for months and then you go and do that thing you do. Just when we all thought you were "done", you go and blow our minds with this move. I take it all back Terry...well...I guess...no I don't take it back. Sorry Terry.

Needless to say Ruben has put on some pounds over the years. The source of those pounds is yet to be determined, although those pesky injury problems could be a sign of something more sinister than Biggie Sized Fries and Taco Bell breakfast (It's sooo good, trust me). But if he can hit L.A. Weight Loss and get healthy, I can see him being a nice pinch hitting option. His strike out numbers are far less than those that LeCroy put up. I think the "he's been there before" thing is a little overblown and I wonder how much that played into the signing, but the fact is that this team is seriously short on veterans and why not give it a shot. Still, I think even when looking for left-handed hitters there would have been a few better options (Erubial Durazo, Scott Hatteberg immediately come to mind). But then again we're talking about the Twins here and when you can "make a deal" for a minor league contract, it's a no-brainer.

His comments in the paper are a little more about "I need a job.", than about being honest. It's not the move that's going to turn the tide, but it's a safe move, that COULD yield some okay numbers. But hey, Rock Raines Jr.? Now we're talking. Any time we can add decendents of players who appeared in RBI Baseball, I'm all for it. Now if Al Pedrique Jr. could just hurry up and sign we'd be set.

Monday, January 30, 2006

This game is too hype, and not in an MC Hammer way

The Hype leading up to the Super Bowl is too much to take. Every writer and analyst attempts to break down every nook and cranny and usually takes things too far. The game will not come down to punting, and rarely special teams at all. The problem is there is rarely enough to talk about each day, so the same stories, clichés and terrible jokes get recycled. If I could avoid the sports pages this week and watch the game on mute I would. If you are able, here is a preview of the stuff you will fortunately ignore.

Before the Game:
-Jokes about how old the Rolling Stones are
-“Wardrobe Malfunction”
-Jerome “The Bus” Bettis is from Detroit
-The Bus’ parents have never missed a game
-Bad puns for XL
-Lame jokes about the city of Detroit and burned-down buildings
-Lamer jokes about a Bus and the Motor City
-The Seahawks say “we have been disrespected”
-The Steelers say “it’s us against the world”
-Jokes about Bill Cowher’s big chin
-The Seahawks are playing in their first Super Bowl
-Steelers owner Dan Rooney is the greatest man in football, nay the United States.
-A lame tie-in to Hines Ward and Heinz Field

During the Game

-The game’s first penalty will be dismissed as nerves.
-Chris Berman will invent more bad nicknames.

-Cross-promoting ABC shows like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy.
-Al Michaels will tell a story about what Seahawks DE Bryce Fisher was like in High School.
-Matt Hasselbeck used to back up Brett Favre
-Mike Holmgren used to coach Brett Favre
-Brett Favre might retire, or not.
-John Madden has applied to adopt Brett Favre (this is just speculation)
-Big Ben Roethlisberger is the second youngest QB in Super Bowl History
-Promo’s for the Pro Bowl on ABC. At which Madden will mention he doesn’t fly and cant’ go, because Hawaii is an island and busses can’t drive to Hawaii.
-Troy Polamalu is everywhere and Madden will circle each quadrant he occupies.
-Lofa Tatupu’s dad is Mosie, who played for the Patriots in the ’86 Super Bowl. Which segues to…
-…The ’86 Patriots were also the last team to win three playoff games on the road, until the Steelers.
-Obligatory shot of Freddie Prinz Jr, star of ABC’s hit sitcom Freddie.
-Obligatory interview with Jerry Rice, star of ABC’s hit show Dancing with the Stars.

This is in no way a comprehensive list, considering anything goes in the next week as long as it is prefaced with Super Bowl.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Need for Speedos and a Good Lawyer

The Week in Review was not intended to be a rundown of athletes and arrests. That is what BadJocks is for. However when there are greater forces of stupidity and lunacy at work you just have to roll with it. This week is virtual Who’s Who of Athletic Belligerence, minus Tonya Harding and Darryl Strawberry. Besides, it's this or in-depth analysis of the Australian Open.

-JR takes woman for a Rider: Isaiah ”JR” Rider is the king of infamy and dubious scandals. From his course load at UNLV (dealing with PMS and 12th grade English) to running an illegal cell phone ring to smoking marijuana out of a pop can on the side of the freeway or simply parking illegally in Atlanta Thrashers hockey coach Bob Hartley’s reserved parking spot, he constantly finds new ways to garner negative attention. This week he was arrested for kidnapping. Many athletes have had threats or have been kidnapped, but I can not think of another athlete that has personally been on this side of the kidnapping process. No word if he had monetary demands or just wanted the company.

-Honey, I’m going golfing will you be here when I get back?-In the case of John Daly, the answer is no. Daly’s fourth wife Sherrie Miller-Daly reported to jail while Daly played in the Buick Open. Miller-Daly was convicted of operating a gambling and drug ring. John Daly supposedly had no knowledge of the activities.

-Two Challenger’s to Rider’s Throne: Sean Taylor-After being ejected from a Redskin’s playoff game for spitting on a foe, Taylor is now facing a maximum sentence of 46 years for three weapons assault charges from last summer. Did someone say weapons charges? Brother Michael defended Marcus Vick this week saying, “"He didn't do anything wrong. The world will all know when the truth come out." How often do we hear this? Rasheed Wallace said these exact words after his drug arrest. Michael the truth is Marcus has both on and off field problems, two involving teenaged victims.

Bode Miller can’t keep his mouth shut- You can see the US Ski coaches trying to keep Miller under wraps, “OK Bode, we survived the drunk skiing thing, only two weeks until Torino, all you have to do is not talk.” His latest blunder is accusing Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong of taking drugs. What is possibly gained from this?

-It can't all be bad news: Olympic Luger (as opposed to professional superstar luger) Georg Hackl has a photo collage on NBC Sports.com. For some reason he poses in a Speedo, a toga and on a porch swing. Nothing scandalous, but certainly perplexing. Who's er, excited for Torino now?

Kevin McHale and his unraveling sweater of ineptitude

But Mike, you forgot to mention the TWO conditional second round picks we got as well!

You couldn't be more right. Yet another inept move from McHale that leaves us hanging out to dry in the winds of mediocrity.

I like Wally a lot. I understand that the game is a business and Wally's stock has never been higher since he's averaged over 20 points a game and showed that his injury problems seem to have disappeared. But the thing about this move is that it's a move of necessity rather than one of opportunity.

When you look at how poorly McHale has run this team, it should come to no surprise that this team is in desperate needs to shake things up. How many players did this team miss out on by pulling the Joe Smith debacle. How many wrong players has McHale chosen when he did have draft picks (Ndudi over Josh Howard comes to mind immediately).

Instead of holding on to our first round picks, something this team has been without for years, and has suffered miserably because of it, we've chosen to put our hopes in a glut of second round picks and castoffs from a mediocre team. If you know anything about the NBA, you know the difference between a 1st and 2nd round pick his huge. Probably the NFL equivalent of a 1st rounder and a 6th round draft pick.

I guess I don't look at this trade as something that makes us worse, but like Mike says, it doesn't make us better. We'll probably have a first round pick next year, as I don't see us making the playoffs this year without a remarkable turnaround. But that means (if I understand the way it works), we give away our '07 first rounder from the Jaric deal, and then the '08 would be the one from this most recent deal.

There's so much to dissect and analyze, but I think the end result of any discussion needs to include showing Mr. McHale the door at season's end. His year to year handshake deal with Taylor is one of the more absurd things I've heard of in sports. When the guy in charge of building this team and making sure it has every piece it needs to win, why would we wait for a guy to decide if wants to make a commitment to the team or if he wants to go fishing. If we're trying to build a solid foundation for championship run with KG, we need to start fresh.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

For the Love of Hibbing!

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The insanity of Wolves GM Kevin McHale is beyond even Susan Powter's control. Thursday night McHale sent Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olawokandi, Dwayne Jones and a future first round pick to Boston for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, and Justin Reed.

The Celtics get an All-Star small forward, an underachieving center with an expiring contract, and an NBDL power forward. The Wolves take back a problematic shooting guard, an underachieving center with a four year contract, an underachieving point guard plus an NBDL power forward. The Celtics also get a conditional first round pick, which considering the Wolves' current lot will be a lottery pick for the next few years. Plus, none of the players Celtics GM Danny Ainge unloaded are in the team's future plans. Minnesota's draft pick would have been in the Wolve's future plans. Unfortunately McHale is allergic to first round draft picks and doesn't see the oppurtunity they present.

It should be noted that the Wovles did acquire a 2nd round pick for Tskistishvili, who was signed 40 games ago as a free agent. That in itself shows the directionless methods of McHale. Sign a questionable talent, then trade him in less than a season.

Two seasons removed from the Western Conference Finals, the Wolves now have only four players left that played in the playoffs: Kevin Garnett, Trenton Hassell, Mark Madsen and Fred Hoiberg (Troy Hudson was on the team but was injured).

Three years ago the Wolves signed Davis to an offer sheet, only to see it matched by Cleveland. At that time Davis was signed for the intent of being a third scoring option. Now Davis, with a 13.0 points per game career average , must assume the second scoring option for the Timberwolves. When I was in seventh grade I had a crush on a girl named Steph. She was on my brain for nearly three years. Eventually I realized it was time to move on and gave up the pursuit. Apparently Kevin McHale hasn't gotten over his crush as easily.

"Through this trade, we've become a much more athletic team," Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said in a statement. "With Ricky Davis, we've added one of the more talented shooting guards in the NBA -- both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Plus, with Davis and Trenton Hassell together on the court, we'll have a great defensive presence at the 2-3 positions."

Notice McHale doesn't say they're a better team, just more athletic. Hey, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a great athlete too. And here are some more talented shooting guards in the NBA: Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobli, Rip Hamilton, Dwayne Wade, Tracy McGrady, Michael Redd, are all better off the top of my head. You know who else is a better shooting guard than Davis? Wally's new teammate Paul Pierce!

Here's Ainge's quote, "
"We are ecstatic to acquire a player of Wally Szczerbiak's quality." Translation: Finally, someone besides me gets ripped off in a trade.

There isn't enough time to delve into McHale's pathetic history of errors. It is almost as if McHale is admitting failure. But before he goes, at least he finally wooed his prize Ricky Davis. Not to mention three other forgettable players.

I swear I had nothing to do with this...

...but remember last week in my article about Souhan when I wrote that I was hoping Dat Nguyen would coach when he retires? We're half way there baby!!!

I didn't realize how good his numbers were during his career. I just remember his days at A&M when he was by far the shortest guy on the field and still ate everyone for lunch.

Hi, I'm Frank Thomas, and I make less than Mike Redmond.

Yeah, I know, we've probably beat this topic into the ground, but when you see things like this happen, I just can't help myself. It's stuff like this that makes me increasingly frustrated with the way Twins conduct their business.

It's obvious Thomas is not the hitter he once was, nor is his health and durability even close to where it was in his prime. But to me, you HAVE to take a chance on a player that has the potential to easily be a 30 HR/100 RBI guy. And at $500,000? I understand why teams would pass on him. Most teams have either stretched themselves so thin this offseason in their acquisitions by over-paying for their FAs or they already have the DH spot filled confidently. I guess I don't see any real difference between Rondell White and Thomas. Both have struggled with injuries, but Thomas has put up far superior numbers in his career. Why settle for the lesser of two wild cards? We're looking to get nothing more than HRs and RBIs from this guy, why not spend less money or make one more addition, on what could yield something this town hasn't seen in almost 20 years: a 30 homerun hitter. Why not? Because this organization continues to stick with it's usual MO. The problem with that is that instead having to dish out $10+ million for a guy that "might be", the A's snatched up the guy for a "who cares" price. And another one bites the dust...

Words that should Leave Sports Lexicon: Consummate

Consummate: The Kings and Pacers finally consummated their trade of Peja Stojakovic and Ron Artest.

This was used on a sports update on the radio. The word, while technically a correct use, paints an unnecessary picture. Does anyone really want to associate Peja, Larry Bird and consummating in the same image?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Was Scoop Jackson the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz?

Here is Scoop Jackson’s latest offering for ESPN.com. Per usual, it is rambling, contradictory, and poorly written. This episode has Scoop Jackson asking at what point Kobe Bryant lost his mind thus enabling him to score bushels of points. If you can determine the theme you are smarter than me. Here are some snippets:

Or was it before that? The game before that Dallas game. The game that he said made him sick. The one the Lakers lost. When they scored only 74 points against Houston on Dec. 18. Kobe was scoring 31.3 points per game, trailing Iverson, who was averaging 33.4 at the time, and there was little discussion of a scoring race.
There is always little discussion of a scoring race. Never in 20+ years as an NBA fan has a scoring race captured my imagination or excitement. Nor do I recall anyone hyping up a close scoring race. Has Kevin Harlan ever screamed, “If Jordan is held scoreless in his last three games, Dominique Wilkins can win the scoring race with three 50 point games.” Maybe the problem is both Kobe and Scoop seem to think a scoring title is more important than an NBA title.

Maybe that's when that something else entered his body. Taking it over. Linda Blairing it.
Now Scoop is inventing verbs. Here’s one: Scoop Jacksoning it. It is synonymous with holding your breath, writing as much nonsense as possible with zero proof, fact or intelligence, then exhale, hit spell checker and turn in copy to your editor.

Was it after he sprained his wrist in the game against LeBron in the first quarter, then made himself hit the final eight points to win the game?
Inside Kobe’s head: All right mister Bryant, we are NOT going home until you make these last eight points. Do you understand me!

To pinpoint the time is essential to understanding why Kobe Bryant is doing what he is doing. In order to get a grasp, to get some type of comprehension of what is really going on, we need to know when -- when! -- did Kobe get so heated at the world that he decided to take his frustrations out on the game of basketball? Because until we get to that point, we may not appreciate exactly what it is he's really doing. Until we discover that day, none of us are going to truly understand what this vengeance of his is all about.
This is Scoop’s whole point. Why is it essential? Because it helps us better understand Kobe’s psyche? Nearly all of the stories about Bryant’s 81 points are of amazement and tribute. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points and I have no idea about his motives. It is still impressive. This argument is stupid. It’s like asking at what point did Tom Hanks start acting well? Was it before Bosom Buddies or after Philadelphia?

Even in the arrogance of a 9-for-33 night in San Antonio on Nov. 29, when Bryant belligerently said his "missed shots provided shot opportunities for his teammates off the offensive boards," you could sense in Bernie Mac-ology that "something different was goings on."
I think what Scoop means is even when Kobe was being selfish and not scoring, he could still play better. As for the Bernie Mac-ology, I’m clueless. Is this supposed to get his point across more clearly? Nice quote from Kobe too.

For better or worse, richer or broke, wins or losses, it made you want to pay attention to what may happen next in the book of Kobe. And this is what Jerry Buss had in mind when he made the decision to keep No. 8. It wasn't about winning games or getting another ring or embarrassing Shaq or Phil. From a business standpoint, all Buss wanted to do was make the Lakers relevant, make us want to pay attention to everything that happened inside the Staples Center, make us never want to miss a game.
Absolutely false! That is giving Jerry Buss way too much credit. When the Lakers were three-peating, the Staples Center was full and the Lakers were the NBA’s main event. Now the Lakers have Kobe and eleven also-rans. This is not a foolproof plan for success, in the NBA or business. And once again, Scoop Jackson can apparently look deep inside another man’s brain and interpret his thoughts. Inside Jerry Buss’ brain:” I could make a run at a fourth title, but rings be damned I’d rather watch Kobe as a solo act.” Sadly this may be true.

Scoop then babbles for over nine paragraphs (it’s hard to qualify Scoop’s paragraphs when he writes a sentence, hits return and says the same thing again) on how Kobe wants the world to hate him. I fully expected Scoop to next proclaim his steadfast love for Bryant despite all the haters. In all the meandering blather, Scoop’s point, the crux of his argument, is that he thinks Kobe is mad and his punishment on all of humanity is to average 45 points per game in January.

Trust me, Kobe doesn't see the Mavs, the Kings or the Raptors when he's out there anymore. He sees that black cloud that's on "Lost." He sees the F.A.M.E. tattoo on Iverson's back that stands for "F--- All My Enemies." He sees the anti-Kobe. That's why he's doing things no one has ever seen before.
Prefacing something with “Trust Me”, typically means you can verify this. Yet there are zero quotes from Kobe in the article or even anything alluding to a specific statement from Bryant. Scoop has obviously researched Allen Iverson’s back tattoo, highly irrelevant to this story. And who is Scoop referring to when he says "He sees the Anti-Kobe"? Iverson, Kobe, Pau Gasol, Dominic Monaghan?

Now the call to action….

So what are you going to do now?
Are you going to miss another Lakers game this season? Is "k-o-b-e b-r-y-a-n-t" going to be highlighted on your TiVo menu listing?
No. What he did was historic and that’s great. But single-game records are such a fluke. The chance that Kobe will go 9-33 seems greater than getting 81 again. And 9-33 is dreadful to watch.

Over the last 10 games he's averaged 45.5. For the season, he's at 35.9. As ri-dope-ulous as that is, it's still less than the 37.1 Jordan averaged in 1987.
But even in that season, was Jordan this spectacular? Did Jordan have us on flat-screen lockdown like this? Rearranging our schedules, canceling vacations, thanking a higher power than David Stern that we don't have to chose between Kobe and the Super Bowl this year. Knowing that on any given February he may make history … again.
Microsoft Word does not recognize ri-dope-ulous and neither do I. I didn’t see Jordan play everyday, but in 1987 Jordan was 23 and at the height of his athletic ability, leading me to believe he was pretty unbelievable to watch. It was the year he won the slam dunk contest with the free-throw line dunk. An argument about who is more spectacular is a bit pointless and inconclusive. Keep in mind Jordan also averaged 37 points over a whole season; Kobe has been ri-dope-ulous, spazztacular and pimpcredible for one month.

If Scoop is trying to convince us that Kobe is a great player, who is he arguing with? It’s hard to take anymore so I will leave you with Google’s quote of the day:

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it is true.- Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Vikings Off-season Report: RB's

What Happened in 2005: Injuries, suspensions and inconsistency again forced the Vikings to use a backfield by committee. Mewelde Moore, Michael Bennett, Ciatrick Fason and Moe Williams combined for a total of 1467 rushing yards, 26th best in the NFL. That total was behind five running backs’ individual totals. Moore led the team with 662 yards, but traded playing time and nagging injuries with Bennett. The rookie Fason scored 4 goal line touchdowns, but was misused as a short yardage back.

Where they stand now: After an inconsistent career the free agent Bennett is not expected back, while Moe Williams will probably retire due to injuries. Onterrio Smith will rejoin the team after a year long drug suspension to compete with Moore and Fason for playing time. Smith is the closest thing to a feature back, but still not a cinch to start. The trouble is keeping all three is redundant. All are the same size, no one has true big play skills and susceptible to nagging injuries.

The Plan: Bennett and Williams will move on, and considering Smith’s repeated off-field problems, he might join them. The Vikings drafted a running back the last three years and that will continue again this year. With a decent pool of backs, it makes sense to use a first or second rounder on a potential feature back. Deangelo Williams, Lawrence Maroney or LenDale White should be available at 17. All three have a better chance to excel as a starter than the current lot. It still is valuable to keep good depth at such an injury prone position, especially with Moore’s receiving skills. Moore would fit into Moe Williams’ 3rd down role nicely, especially in the West Coast offense that requires RB’s to catch the ball.

Another need that gets overlooked is a short yardage back. This does not necessarily require a big, bruising back, but often is just a back that hits a hole quickly and can surge for the needed yardage. Leroy Hoard and Moe Williams weren’t big, but were effective due to their running style. Fason takes too long to hit a hole, and failed many more times than he succeeded. Whether this means Jimmy Kleinsasser is used as a fullback more, or a true goal line back is found, it is worth exploring. If they choose to draft someone, an interesting pick may be former Cretin and Notre Dame back Rashon Powers-Neal. He's listed as a fullback, but is truly a short yardage back.

The other way to address the need is a more expensive and short term solution, but is more of a sure thing. Ahman Green, Chester Taylor, DeShaun Foster, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis, Shaun Alexander, Ron Dayne and Najeh Davenport all will be free agents. Obviously some will resign, but James and Alexander were on the trading block last year.

Outlook: Since Robert Smith retired the Vikings have one season (Bennett in 2002) with a 1,000 yard rusher. With the quarterback position unknown, a consistent and effective running game is even more critical. A better running back is a start, but the offense must do a better job establishing the run. The Vikings were fifth worst in total attempts, despite a decent 3.9 yards per carry. Regardless of how pass-happy a team is, a solid running game is still a prerequisite for the Super Bowl.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Two Jakes, Two big dumps and other observations.

-It was a bad weekend for Jakes. Plummer and Delhomme combined for 5 interceptions and 2 fumbles and just looked awful. Even with time to throw, Delhomme was flat, mistiming several throws. Plummer had no running game, and therefore had no playaction threat. As a drop-back passer he was pretty subpar.

-Obvious note of the week: Troy Polamalu is great. The screen where Polamalu fought through a block and still wrapped up Mike Anderson to prevent a first down was huge. Instead of a first down and certain big gain, the Broncos had to punt. At that point it was only 10-0 and the Broncos were driving.

-Ditto for Lofa Tatupu. Nick Goings may be eating through a straw this week.

-John Fox is a good coach, but Carolina looked completely lost. It is up to the players to get motivated, but the game plan was a complete opposite of the last two weeks: Only one deep pass in the first half (a completion), not enough pressure on Hasselbeck and a failure to protect Delhomme.

-Seahawks Tackle Walter Jones might be the best tackle in football. In pass protection he is effortless and never off balance. I wish the Fox announcers would have focused on him more.

-Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are the best announcing duo in the NFL. Both are knowledgeable without forcing it and they don’t get cute. And when a good point is made they don’t dwell on it like many other announcers.

-ABC will cover the Super Bowl this year. Beginning at 2;30 eastern pregame will run for nearly four hours. According to ABC’s schedule online, that would be longer than the game itself.

-Non Playoffs Thoughts: The Bills are hiring Dick Jauron. 35-46 record with the Bears, plus 1-4 as interim coach with Detroit and he will get a third chance? It’s more mediocrity from the Bills…Does Al Davis care to join the rest of the league and hire a coach? Or at least interview someone legitimate besides James Lofton?... Daunte Culpepper wants a raise or be traded. Seven months ago he was a trendy pick for MVP. Now 180 degrees later it is questionable if he plays for the Vikings again. It’s amazing how much power complaining wields.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Joe Buck can Write as Poorly as he Talks

Here is something from the Sporting News (I couldn’t find it online). Joe Buck occasionally writes columns on his thoughts. Once he wrote about Eli Manning and what a ladies man he could be in New York. This time he writes about the word amazing. Joe Buck doesn’t intend for this to be a serious column, but that doesn’t mean it has to be poorly written or make horrendous points.

Do you know what is amazing? Not much. At least, that’s the way it should be. The very word amazing should describe something spectacular and awe-inspiring. Instead it has lost all of its juice because everyone from actors to food critics had put that word in sentences to which it just does not belong.
Nice lead. Nothing hooks readers like a rhetorical question. Buck is presenting the word amazing like it is an epidemic.

Amazing should not be used to describe the salad bar at Sizzler or turtle cheesecake.
Amazing is for technicolor dreamcoats, not the new Mitsubishi Galant.
Seriously, who goes to Sizzler, let alone raves about the food? Apparently nothing gets Joe’s goat more than medium-priced Steak hyperbole. The Galant is the car equivalent of the Sizzler.

The word should be saved for something truly incredible or inexplicable-like Pauly Shore’s career.
Are you kidding me? That’s the wittiest analogy he has? By Joe’s definition, it is also amazing that people, including Fox executives, think Joe Buck is a number one analyst.

Walking on the moon? Amazing. Geena Davis’ dress for the People’s Choice Awards? Not Amazing. Unless the dress is on Angelina Jolie.
Read this paragraph again and picture Joe Buck elbowing you in the side. That Jolie is smoking hot right…right? He begins his argument by trying to take the high road and then can’t help himself.

How about the job John Fox has done in Carolina? That he never is mentioned in the Coach of the Year conversations is amaz-hard to believe.
Yes Fox is a good coach and rather underrated, what is your point? Also notice the nice “psyche” bit. He almost said amazing.

Amazing was the way the White Sox dominated the postseason and won the World Series. Their starting pitching was amazing.
Actually Joe, since it was the lowest rated World Series ever, I’ll have to take your word for it (all right that was cheap).

It made me feel like I was watching the Yankee’s rotation in the 1950’s or the Orioles in 1969. It was a throwback series, all right. Way back to a time when the word amazing meant something.
Dear Joe, you were born in 1969! You can remember seeing the Yankees and O’s as well as I remember the Big Red Machine.

Amazing is the way the Mets have spent money this offseason to try to get better than the Yankees. I believe they have. They now have a lights out closer and a slugging first baseman. Even if they stop right now, they are the team to beat in the NL.
This column has the shape of an amoeba. Buck gets an idea relevant or not, adds amazing or not amazing, and then wedges it onto the page. Wasn’t Buck’s original thesis that amazing is not regular? The Mets do the same thing every offseason. Sign aging stars to large contracts and neglecting pitching. Further, as long as Carlos Zambrano is their third starter (he is) and the Braves are in the East (they are), the Mets probably won’t win the division, let alone match the Yankees.

Amazing was the way in which the Rose Bowl lived up to the hype. These megaevents often become a never-ending flow of propaganda that makes us eager to watch the game-or to throw up.
Propaganda, something Fox sports wouldn’t dare pushing on its loyal viewers. I would categorize vomit as a disgusting act. Something else Joe Buck is an apparent expert on.

This one came through, so much so that the television ratings for the game were like they used to be when The Cosby Show ruled TV and I wore Zubaz pants.
More witty irreverence from Buck. Just make your point without the pop culture. By the way, Zubaz reached their height in 1991, when Buck was already a professional broadcaster. What in the world are you doing wearing Zubaz?

I am not trying to scare you off the word. I am just saying be judicious. I cringed when I saw Reese Witherspoon on Oprah describing her experience acting alongside Joaquin Phoenix as “amazing”. That set me off.
Now I'm amazingly mad, says Joe. Seriously, there are a lot of things on Oprah that would set me off, but I don’t watch it. If it weren’t for Troy Aikman, a lot of people would do the same to Buck. Mercifully it ends soon.

Walk the Line was awesome, though. Gosh, I love that word.
Walk the Line wasn’t amazing or awesome, it was mediocre. Golly gee, I hate your writing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jim Souhan: the white Scoop Jackson

He's done it again my friends. He's managed to take an opinion piece and turn it into a story filled with missing facts and half-truths, because he's writing for the lowest common denominator and apparently he thinks no one is actually going to give it a thought. Well if no one else is going to, than I guess that leaves us. You can read the article here. I don't really see any other way to do this, than to go bit by bit (Fire Joe Morgan style), but it's simple and easy, so here you go:

(Souhan's comments in italics)

The NFL takes pride in its "Rooney Rule," the requirement that teams with head coaching vacancies interview a minority candidate.

Jim is starting off with a bang. Except it's not really a bang, or a boom, or even a crash. This is more like a whispery fart from underneath the covers at 3 in the morning.

The NFL, most certainly does not "take pride" in the Rooney Rule. It's embarrassing. It's disgraceful that it even has to exist. If the NFL took pride in such a rule, they'd talk about it all the time. They'd have a link to it on their home page. "Look! See what were doing?". Nope, none of that.

If you subtract the Herm Edwards transaction, in which he left the Jets for the Chiefs, there were nine NFL head coaching jobs available this month.

Why subtract it? Omitting the fact that a head coach, who happens to be black, wanted to leave his awful team and was immediately in talks to replace another, sounds fishy to me. Herm Edwards was the only guy KC ever wanted and I don't think they even interviewed anyone else. So basically by glossing over this one, you don't have to acknowledge the fact that it would go against the point you're trying to make.

Six teams have hired white assistant coaches with no previous NFL head coaching experience. One (Houston) is about to hire a white assistant coach with no previous NFL head coaching experience. One (Buffalo) might hire a white guy who does have NFL head coaching experience. And one (Al Davis' Oakland) will hire anyone desperate enough to take orders from Davis, which limits the coaching search to seeing-eye dogs, manservants and Ed McMahon.

First, just let me say I can't stand using the term "black head coach" or "white assistant coach", boy I don't know about you guys but I think Mike is one of the best damn white sports blog writers around. But for the sake of clarity I guess we'll need to go with it.

So Jim, can you name me any, and I mean ANY black coaches with previous head coaching experience in the NFL who are currently unemployed? I can't think of a one besides Art Shell and I don't think he's leaving that Executive job with the NFL anytime soon.

The Texans are basically waiting for Gary Kubiak's season to be over to name him their head coach. Kubiak has consistently been one of the top offensive-minded coaches for the last 10 years. He won two Super Bowls in 97 and 98 and plain and simple, he makes Quarterbacks better (see Jake Plummer) Gee, do you think the Texans need someone like that? I can see Jim Caldwell being a possible good fit here but since Kubiak is from Houston, and Caldwell hasn't been a coordinator, I'd say this is going to happen.

Buffalo's situation is just flat out a mystery. Hire octogenarian, Marv Levy. Force Mularky to fire most of his assistants (something he refused to do, and resigned because of it). So they're looking at a white guy who does have coaching experience in Dom Capers. Again that lack of black coaches with previous NFL head coaching experience rears it's ugly head, but why acknowledge that problem when it's so easy to pawn this off as another slight against black coaches. Sidenote: Capers is flat out the wrong guy for a head coaching job. With only one winning season in the last 10 years, you have to be able to find a more qualified candidate.

Jim, decides to get his Def Comedy Jam on with that Al Davis line. And again I say: Art Shell. Davis is a hard-ass, who wants a hard-ass as a coach. He won't discriminate either, Shell is the proof. The fact that he hired Shell, as the first black head coach in the modern era says something. It doesn't say that Al hasn't succumbed to the crazies from all those gold chains, but it does say you're looking in the wrong place.

This year's class of coaching hires is in danger of becoming the Average White Band, just when we thought the coaching fraternity had a chance to become a Rainbow Coalition.

I expect this from Scoop, but you Jim? And honestly, it wouldn't be a rainbow as much as it would be simply a smattering of black and white. Here's hoping Dat Nguyen gets his coach on when he retires!

The nine teams with openings met the requirements of the Rooney Rule and interviewed minority candidates.

Of course they did, everyone saw what happened to the Lions when they didn't.

Those men will be reduced to tokens if all of the coaches who are hired turn out to be white.

And thus the problem with the Rooney Rule. I normally don't agree with a lot Gene Upshaw has to say, but his response (about half way down the page) to the Rooney Rule is common sense. Of course it turns them into tokens if all they're being interviewed for is to comply with the rule. But where then does it leave room for the times when the "black coach" simply wasn't the right guy for the job? That's the problem created by the Rooney Rule and the ridiculousness that accompanies it. Even the players know that it's a silly notion.

And if that, indeed, becomes the case, then we will find ourselves in Phase 3 of NFL minority-hiring trends.

Phase 1 was the bad ol' days, when minorities weren't considered candidates, much less coveted leaders. This lasted as long as the Paleolithic Era, and can be remembered as similarly primitive.

Considering that Phase 1 lasted, according to Jim, around 2.5 million years, I'd say we've made some progress in Phases 2 and 3. (Note to Jim: I get that you don't actually mean that Phase 1 was "as long as the Paleolithic Era", but could you try to put a little more thought into your writing? I know Sid makes fun of you, but when you write things like this you sound like a 6th grader.)

Phase 2 occurred in recent years, leading to this season, when Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith -- half of the NFL's black head coaches -- became coach of the year candidates. (The other three black coaches are Edwards, who has made the playoffs; Dennis Green, who has twice qualified for the NFC title game; and Romeo Crennel, a renowned former defensive coordinator.)

All good coaches, but let's not forget Dungy and Green have been head coaches for a great while longer than just the last few years. Both Lewis and Smith are products of Dungy's system and Crennel got his well-deserved chance after coaching under Belichick for a few years.

Phase 3? That could be occurring this winter, as NFL teams carefully interview minority candidates, nod their heads approvingly, then rush out to hire the white guy with the biggest jaw. (Or, in the Vikings' case, the biggest mustache.)

I think Jim lost it when he started to think about Phase 3. At least he didn't start talking about Childress' mousta...

I just have to know Jim, what proof do you have of this? Please tell me you've got the smoking gun and you're gonna show us all just how bleeped we are now that we're in Phase 3.

You would think the track records of the current black coaches would prompt NFL owners to strongly consider minority candidates. Apparently, the Cover-2 defense and West Coast offense are NFL trends to admire, but hiring a minority as head coach is something you applaud only when others do it.

Okay, maybe you're just ramping up to it. I know, you can't just drop the bomb on us right away.

In any case I'm still perplexed by this line of reasoning. Using this method in hiring is about as asinine as it gets. Can you imagine this same method used in the tech industry. "Well those Asians have performed pretty well in the past..." You don't hire someone because of their skin color. You hire them because they're the right fit for your team, and not because it's a cool trend. I'm not sure who exactly he's referring to when he says "you applaud". Do you have names Jim? That would be a story if you had names of owners or executives you new to do that.

Take the St. Louis Rams. They will hire Scott Linehan, the former Vikings offensive coordinator, over Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who is Latino.

Linehan vs. Rivera: Doesn't that look like a tossup, or perhaps a matchup slightly favoring Rivera, who ran the Bears' fearsome defense this season?

Linehan is relatively inexperienced. He's talented, promising and a good guy. Which is the way you hear Rivera described.

Not when you look at that Rams defense it's not. Running a defense like the Cover-2 requires a nice chunk of talent on that side of the ball, something that the Rams have very little of and something the Bears have put together piece by piece for the last 5 or so years through free agency and the draft. Do you honestly think Rivera could step in and make that defense as good as the Bears? On the other hand Linehan, while granted not as experienced as I'd like him to be, took a Miami team who was nearly dead last in the NFL offensively to a respectable 16th, with an extremely inconsistent QB. Look at that Rams team. Have they ever been known as a stifling defensive squad? Doesn't Linehan's passing game seem like a pretty decent fit? So, if this argument is a toss up, why then are you finding fault in the Ram's choosing Linehan? I can see if it was a drastic difference, but it's not, and therefore not a good argument.

Take the Vikings. They broke land speed records in hiring Brad Childress, who appears competent but has never been a head coach. Compare his resume to that of, say, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis or Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, and it's hard to distinguish one from another

Jim, you're not doing a very good job of showing me why these guys are BETTER candidates than the ones that were hired. You're only telling me what I already know, that they're black.

Take the Packers. They hired someone named Mike McCarthy, whose claim to fame was running the so-called offense of the San Francisco 49ers, and developing No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith into the worst quarterback since Marty Domres.

Lewis, Caldwell and Rivera got passed over for this guy?

Admittedly, this is tricky stuff. We all know that if nine teams hire new coaches, at least a couple should, considering the number of black players and assistant coaches in the league, be minorities. But it's tough to say which team is making a mistake.

I have no idea if Childress will be better than Caldwell, or if Linehan will be better than Rivera.

Okay, now we're talking Jim. The Packers hired a guy to make Favre happy and guy that Ted Thompson (GM) can put in a gimp suit and have his way with. I would think Rivera would be a nice choice here, but Brett makes the calls these days and for the Packers it's more about appeasement than it is about building for the future.

It is tricky. Picking a head coach can be a very complex task. But if you can't say which team is making a mistake (and you're assuming they'd be making a mistake by not hiring one of the minority candidates correct?), than you're argument just isn't that strong, in fact it's not really an argument at all. You're basically saying, "Who knows?", and you'd be exactly right.

Each team, in its own vacuum, can justify its hire. And each team, by virtue of the price of NFL franchises and the highly competitive nature of the league, must be allowed to operate without micro-managing interference from the league.

But c'mon, all you NFL bosses, let's get real. If Lions GM Matt Millen, the Inspector Clouseau of sports executives, hires a low-profile white assistant, can it really be a great idea?

I'll wrap this up here. This is where Jim takes an absolute nose-dive and completely throws away anything credible he'd already written. By comparing how all NFL bosses work to how Matt Millen works, he accomplishes nothing more than taking another cheap shot (deservedly or not) at the NFL's most infamous GM. But I guess if you're the type the enjoys lazy writing that doesn't present facts, but rather half-assed attempts at finger pointing, you just may have found that line to be funny.

The bottom line is that for years the coaching situation in the NFL was marred with racism, both subtle and overt (we all remember Phase 1 right?). I applaud the NFL for stepping in, albeit under pressure, to help the league take the next step in it's evolutionary process. While I don't think the Rooney Rule does much to help the cause, I do think the other instruments put into place will help immensely. The coaching intern program is helping former players find an inroads to jobs after they are finished playing. The diversity committee, while responsible for the Rooney Rule, still can be a valuable tool to help the NFL and its teams continue to break the barriers that it has faced for far too long. The numbers will continue to grow as long as there are head coaches dedicated to developing and mentoring younger coaches along.

We can either choose to point out the history or we can acknowledge the history and look forward and see that things ARE getting better, and that we ARE making progress. Perhaps it's not as fast as some would like, and that's okay to think. But, I know that things like this don't change overnight, and for now, as long as we are moving forward, I think that's a big step in and of itself.

This Sunday is Bigger than Troy Polamalu's Hair

Three weeks ago many NFL fans looked forward to a Colts-Patriots rematch and an intriguing Bears’ defense versus Seahawks’ offense matchup. There was even talk of an Eli and Peyton Manning Super Bowl. Then when the playoffs actually took place all hopes, wishes and media speculation got washed away. What is left are four teams all capable of winning it all. Considering the Super Bowl, even when the score is close, is rarely a good game, this is the weekend that football fans truly appreciate. The last team to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl was the 1985 Patriots led by Tony Eason. Both Pittsburgh and Carolina have a chance at that this year.

Pittsburgh at Denver
If not for a lot of key injuries the Steelers might have cruised all season. Instead they had to win their last four games just to qualify for the playoffs. Now they look like a serious Super Bowl team. The defense is playing very well and QB Ben Roethlisberger is emerging as one of the best in the league.

Denver by contrast has cruised most of the year. Anyone who lines up in the Broncos backfield is a 100yard threat. The difference this year is Jake Plummer. He is not going to win a shootout, but takes care of the ball and makes good decisions. The result last week was Denver’s first playoff win since John Elway retired.

Both teams are so similar in style that the slight differences will factor heavily. Roethlisberger is the better quarterback, and has shown he can win a game throwing 30 times. This is the 6th AFC Championship for the Bill Cowher’s Steelers, but the second on the road. Perhaps avoiding their expectant fans is what the team needs to advance to Detroit. If the Broncos can keep the game close they will have a chance in the fourth quarter.

Bottom line: Pittsburgh is hot right now and has more talent. Steelers win 17-13.

Carolina at Seattle
The Panthers’ game plan is simple and obvious: Get the ball to Steve Smith. No one has stopped him yet. Smith has 22 catches in two playoff games, while the other Panthers have caught 17 passes total. The fact that Smith is the only receiving threat makes it even more astonishing that he gets open. QB Jake Delhomme deserves credit as well for playing smart and avoiding turnovers. The pass rush is affected by DE Julius Peppers’ bad shoulder. They have played well on defense but have not faced an experienced quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck.

The Seahawks escaped last week thanks to a stout defense and WR Darrell Jackson. Shaun Alexander will return from his concussion, to give the Seahawks a home run threat in the backfield. The chief problem last week against the Redskins was special teams, giving the ball away twice. Seattle has the NFL’s best record, the MVP and home field advantage and still nearly lost to a Washington team with next to nothing on offense. Seattle will need to get a pass rush on Delhomme, establish Alexander and Hasselbeck must avoid stupid throws. If this happens Seattle can win.

Bottom Line: The Panthers are rolling and John Fox will outcoach Mike Holmgren. Carolina 31-24.

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLB attempts to ban fantasy baseball: Nerds return to Dungeons & Dragons

A fantasy baseball company is suing Major League baseball because of baseball’s efforts to block fantasy baseball companies from using official stats like batting average and Home runs. MLB insists that they own the intellectual property rights to these stats. Isn’t this like trying to copyright basic math? Using average or percentage as a measure of success is one of the most universal statistics anywhere. The idea is as ridiculous as premium content on a sports website…never mind.

The only reason why MLB cares is because of the profits made from fantasy sports. It is a multi-million dollar industry and once again MLB in its greedy, legalistic splendor wants its share. If only they realized that fantasy sports is what draws many people to the sport.

The ramifications of this decision could be huge. Will media and fantasy websites need to use ambiguous descriptions for stats? Derek Jeter is on pace to have a hits divided by at bats percentage (HDBABP for short) of .400. Or will speakeasy words be used to represent the taboo statistics? Barry Bonds just hit his 716th widget, placing him second all-time behind Henry Aaron’s 744 career widgets.

What’s next on this statistical slippery slope? Promiscuous Junior High boys can no longer say they made it to second base? RBI baseball deemed illegal due to its enterprising title?

Most pressing, what happens for fantasy guy? Everyone knows who he is. The one that doesn’t know the score of games, couldn’t tell David Ortiz from David Eckstein, but can rattle of both players’ OPS for the last 5 years. The guy that makes more daily trades than a Merrill Lynch investor and sees no problem with cheering for both the pitcher and opposing hitter in a game. If the MLB is successful in owning numbers and makes cheap fantasy sports impossible, where does fantasy guy go?

Mike has nothing against people that play fantasy sports other than their habit of playing fantasy sports. Mike is a nerd in his own right.

Vikings Off-season Report: QB's

What happened in 2005: Daunte Culpepper entered the year saying he was a Jedi, that the game was becoming easier. After a record setting 2004 and a strong preseason, it made sense for Culpepper to expect a big season. Instead Daunte’s season was a nightmare from game 1. His 12 interceptions in seven games totaled more than all of 2004, the team started 2-5, and Daunte never looked comfortable. His season ended early in week 8 with a gruesome knee injury at Carolina. Many factors on and off the field contributed to the struggles, but the fact is Culpepper had his worst season since 2002.

Brad Johnson stepped in and won six straight games to lift the Vikings to a winning record and at least give the team hope. The 14-year veteran was accurate, protected the ball and led several game winning drives during the fourth quarter.

Where they stand now: Culpepper and Johnson are both signed to multi-year deals, but both are questionable for next year. Culpepper tore three knee ligaments and rehab is estimated to take a 12-18 months, meaning he would not be ready until mid-season. Culpepper disputes this timetable and says he will be ready by training camp. Even if Culpepper is running by August, it is doubtful he will be 100%. With the challenge of learning Brad Childress’ offense, he will need all the possible reps.

Johnson meanwhile says he wants to be a starter, here or elsewhere. Minnesota would seem a good fit; Johnson’s accuracy is his strength and he has experience with the West Coast offense. The problem is he will be 38 this fall. Considering his lack of mobility and the Vikings’ shaky line, durability will be a question mark.

Third string QB Shaun Hill is a free agent and hasn’t thrown an NFL pass.

The Plan: The Vikings still believe Culpepper is a franchise player. For a franchise QB, he faces plenty of questions. He has to learn a new offense, establish repoire with a new staff, show he is healthy, plus erase the idea that he can’t lead a team. The Vikings should not count on Daunte being fully ready by September and will need a reliable backup.

Johnson’s plans or belief he is a starter will have a large effect on the Vikings’ plans. If he leaves, they will need someone that can be a stopgap starter and maybe more importantly know the finer points of the short passing game that Childress will install. An intriguing fit? Tampa Bay’s Brian Griese, played decently for the Bucs before injuries handed his job to Chris Simms.

With Hill most likely gone, the Vikings should also spend a lower draft pick on a quarterback. The team hasn’t drafted a quarterback since Culpepper, instead relying on veteran castoffs and free agent rookies. It is time to draft and groom a young passer and legitimate NFL prospect.

If Culpepper can be healthy he should succeed with Childress. He is more accurate than people give him credit for, is hard to bring The answers probably will not come for Culpepper or the Vikings until September and beyond, but they can at least try to be prepared.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'll Trade you Artest for Hudson and a Tazer to be named later

If speculation is true, the Minnesota Timberwolves are interested in acquiring Ron Artest from the Pacers. There are many combinations of players involved, including Wally Szczerbiak, Trenton Hassell, Michael Olawokandi, and Rashad McCants. The first question has to be do the Wolves need Artest?

Artest is attractive primarily because he is underpaid for an All-Star. He is also a defensive stopper that can still score 20-25 points a night. These traits apparently outweigh his history of poor decisions and short temper. This is the guy that requested time off to finishing producing an R&B CD, and then weeks later ensured his time off by attacking a fan in Detroit. (The CD sold 1,200 copies in the first two weeks, ouch)

Talent, especially cheap talent, always gets more leeway from coaches and GM’s. Ego tells an executive that they can create success where others failed. In some cases this works out, like Rasheed Wallace in Detroit. Typically any success is a short term solution. The value Artest brings to a team is comparable to Terrell Owens in Philadelphia. The Eagles finally made the Super Bowl thanks in part to a motivated and focused Owens. As soon as the honeymoon ended, the Eagles had to hit the eject button.

The only deal that makes sense for the Pacers would include Szczerbiak. Wally has returned to All-Star form and his salary is much higher than the TruWarrior Artest (his words not mine). So for the salaries to match up would mean the Wolves take back dead salaries like Austin Croshere or Scott Pollard.

Trading McCants would be a mistake, basically giving up on their lottery pick. Trenton Hassell would make sense by trading defense for defense, but the Wolves would still need to include someone else. I doubt the Pacers would welcome Olawokandi, and Indianapolis’ club Tiki Bob’s would surely not.

So there really is no workable option I can see. The greater problem with the Timberwolves is they are a borderline playoff team, let alone title contender. Even if they had a workable trade, it wouldn’t make sense. The best this team can hope for is to make the playoffs. Artest won’t improve on this destiny, but could easily damage it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tampa 2 Defense Cures Cancer, says "Erectile Dysfunction YOU'RE NEXT"

It's hard to say anything of substance about the hires made by the Purple this week. If any Joe-Q Rube says they think they got the right guy, they're morons. If you know anything about Darrell Bevell beyond his resume gleaned from the radio or print, your last name is Bevell or you have coached in the NFL. You can't really take too much from his time in Green Bay because for the last however many years he's had to "coach" a player who more and more looks like a guy who's running that organization. (witness today's hiring of former Packer coach and Favre crony and leader of that high-powered San Fran Offense, Mike McCarthy.) It sounds more and more like it's going to be a quasi-mentoring set-up with Childress taking the reigns and grooming "The Bev" for greatness.

I'm very curious to see how the offensive side of the ball is going to function next year. With Childress, you get someone who helped McNabb develop into the player he is today, while Bevell is sort of a wild card in terms of what he brings to the table. At least when the season starts we'll know absolutely for sure who will be calling the plays for our squad, as this seems to be the only issue they're addressing in their conversations with the media. It seems like they don't want to even look down the road the led Tice to things like the Randy Ratio.

On the other side of the ball I guess there's a little more to run with. I'm waiting for my Grandma (an amazingly loyal fan of the Purple) to call me and want to break down the Tampa 2. You couldn't watch TV, read the newspapers, or go online this week without reading "Tampa 2" or "Tomlin 2". Churches started taking down their catchy messages about God and prayer and started replacing them with "The Bev and the Tomlin 2, our second favorite trinity". Tomlin took over an already decent defensive backfield and made it even better. More importantly he's coached under the tutelage of two of the best defensive coaches this league has seen in the last 10 years in Dungy and Kiffin. I guess from this point we just need to wait and see. Questions have been raised already if the Vikings have the personnel to use this "Holy Grail" of defenses. My thoughts are that if they want to even think about running the Tampa-style version they're gonna need a serious upgrade at middle-linebacker. Someone who can run and cover receivers downfield, something that Cowart is just too slow to do. I haven't done any digging to see who might be available via free agency next year, but I think after the O-line (tackle and guard), this needs to be aquisition #3. If Tomlin can get his players to buy in to his system, I think he will, this defense with a couple small additions can be at least a top half of the league unit.

We'll stay tuned to further hirings in the days and weeks to come. It looks like as of now, the Vikes will have their entire staff hired before most teams find their new head coach. I don't think any other hirings will garner our attention, although if they land Delta Burke as the O-line coach I may have a rant to mix in at some point.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How does this guy have a job?

It's early January and ESPN.com is already discussing seedings for the college basketball tourney. Apparently "Bracketologist" Joe Lunardi gets paid to give his expert opinion on who will get what seed. Somewhere an ESPN editor said, "we need someone to tell people if Iowa will be a seven seed in the Oakland bracket." Worse, there is someone out there that feels compelled to check this thing in January. It's just one more reason why ESPN is too full of themselves.

Most teams that get off to fast starts do so by beating Canisius and Coastal Carolina, the equivalent of the Glen Mason plan in football. Conference play has barely started so there is no way to tell if Tennessee is for real(probably not, unless they have their women playing). Even after the brackets are officially announced in March, they often are worthless. So why are they trying to predict them now?

How does Lundardi the Wizard choose his brackets anyway? On a quick glance It sure looks like he takes the AP poll and then fills in the bracket, a task easily achieved by anyone able to count to 64. He may have a better way to do it and more analysis (as if we need it), but since you have to be an Insider to access it, it's hard to say. And hard to care.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

1989: The Berlin Wall Fell and this Guy Shaved

With all of the talk of Classic Mustaches and Ragnar's beard lately, it is only responsible journalism to point out that there is a World Beard and Moustache Championships. Not surprisingly Germany is a facial hair powerhouse, taking 14 of 17 Gold medals. No word on female events.
Start growing scruff now because it would be embarrassing not to be in Anchorage 2009. The Czech Republic team has recruited me for the Freestyle Stache Event(artificial styling aids permitted).

Friday, January 06, 2006

At Ease: Vikings hire Major Dad as Head Coach

Really he's more Simon and Simon era Gerald McRaney than Major Dad, but I think it fits quite nicely.

As far as the hire goes, like I said yesterday it doesn't make me jubilant by any means, but I think it's good. His offenses have never cracked the top ten (at least I don't think they have) in the NFL, but yet the Eagles made it to two NFC championships and helped McNabb really develop into a more poised QB. Beyond that, the rest is just sort of second-hand insider knowledge. So the question is really are you buyin' what they're sellin'. Almost everyone in the media seems to think it was a good move. Although Souhan chimes in with another one of his overly-critical, tunnel-vision articles about how it was "too fast". Jim even resorted to a cheap shot about Tice's weight. Seriously, is this guy the worst writer in town? His takes are consistently off-base and to one extreme or another. What would've happened if they didn't sign Childress? You know he was gonna get interviews with at least a couple other desperate teams. If we decide to not hire him and wait to interview more candidates and he gets snatched up, what then Jim? You know he would've written an article lambasting the "Zyginator"(seriously who told you this stuff was funny?) If they interviewed Childress and really liked him, and you trust the sources you've used to gather information on potential candidates, then why not hire him so quickly. This isn't like hiring a new sales guy, this is a seriously time sensitive endeavor and the Vikes showed that they weren't about to waste any time going after their guy. If this was their only focus, I would have some objections, but they inlcuded Bud Grant in the hiring process among others. Why is it concluded that because the head coach position was filled so quickly, it means that the hiring process was conducted poorly. I think if you know what you're doing you can make it happen as fast as it did.

I was thinking more about Major Dad and his potential staff that he may bring a long and I thought I might offer some suggestions for him, seeing that he's gonna need to do that in the next week or so. Here's what I came up with:

Defensive and Offensive Coodinators: My Two Dads

One is the free-wheeling, loosey-goosey type. The other is the anal-retentive disciplinarian. How great a combination do they make on the sideline. And with Dick Butkus' influence, they've got some serious NFL coaching cred to bring to the table

Special Teams Coach: Coach Graham T. Lubbock from Just the Ten of Us

What can you say, when you've dealt with Special Teams ineptness for many years who better to run the unit than this guy. And when you're only working with 10, it seems like a perfect fit for this Vikings squad.

Special Assistant Coach: Parker Lewis

Every team needs an ace in the hole. A guy that brings a winning edge to a team...and look good doing it. The word around the league is that this guy can't lose, so why wouldn't you add him to your staff.

That's all I got for now if you can think of any other crucial staff members feel free to add them.

Update: Childress just dropped a "hot lava" bomb in his press conference. It's official, any guy who use the phrase "hot lava" in his everyday vernacular gets my vote of confidence for head coach!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

This Week's Sign that Jim Rome has Zero Perspective and other thoughts

-Thomas Hearns was arrested for allegedly hitting his 13 year old son. Jim Rome's attempt at a hilarious take was that the boy had it coming for trying to stand up to a seven-time heavyweight champ. In Rome's words the junior Hearns should have gone to a neutral corner rather than duking it out with a WBC champ. Ahh, child abuse and the comedy it yields.
-Buffalo's Youth Movement: In a sport where coaches and GM's work 60-80 hours a week, the Bills have hired former coach Marv Levy as VP of football operations in hopes of turning around the franchise. The Hall of Fame coach is 80 years old. That's right 80. If I'm a GM I shy away from anyone alive during the Calvin Coolidge era. However Levy did build a winner 15 years ago and still has lots of connections. Here's guessing Don Beebe and Thurman Thomas are on speed dial.
A-Rod changes his mind, hurts the feelings of Dominicans. Everyone will sleep better tonight knowing that Alex Rodriguez announced he will indeed play for the US in the World Baseball (First Annual Manufactured) Classic. Last week the MVP said he wouldn't play because he couldn't decide between the US or Dominican Republic teams for fear of hurting the other country's feelings. Rodriguez' parents are from the DR, that is Alex's only connection, he's lived in Miami or New York almost his whole life. And he wonders why people think he's soft?
-The Reason Notre Dame Lost a Lot in the 90's: Former Irish coach Bob Davie started the radio broadcast for the Rose Bowl this way: "This is gametime, when everything extra like records, hype and coaching all go out the window."

Who Should the Vikings Hire?

With 25% percent of the NFL looking for head coaches, there is urgency for the Vikings to find a new coach. Despite the urgency it is still critical to find the right guy. The early candidates are all current assistants, including Vikes defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. It is difficult to tell how good an assistant coach truly is besides popular opinion. For example Eagles' offensive coordinator Brad Childress is a popular choice to be hired somewhere this off-season. Philly had an above average offense the past few years, but Andy Reid calls the plays, making it tough to gauge Childress' skills.

It is also hard to tell what direction Minnesota's owners want to go, but to me there are a few key things to look for. The biggest thing is communication skills with the front office, coaching staff and players. Every aspect of a head coach's job requires communication: talent evaluation, drafting, coordinating game plans, game day decisions, to motivating players and building good chemistry. Almost every NFL coach is going to work 16 hour days, but if the communication is poor or egos get in the way it will not work.

Another trait for an ideal coach would be a mix of flexibility and faith in his plan. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try things, but in the same breath not panicking when things struggle. Bill Belicheck may be the ultimate model of this balancing act. After winning his third Super Bowl, he went to the Navy to study Navy's running game in hopes of gleaning knowledge he could apply to the Patriots. The coach of an NFL dynasty that is still looking for new tricks at a bottom rung college program. The converse of this is Belicheck's system in New England. He has let go of Pro Bowlers like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Damien Woody, and Terry Glenn because he knew that his team was bigger than stars. It's doubtful the Vikings will find someone of Belicheck's caliber, but it's still a good example of what a good coach looks like.

In the Vikings' case I think it is also vital that they find someone without ties to previous regimes. Mike Tice was on Dennis Green's staff and many things carried over good and bad. Each team has their own culture and how things are done, and sometimes I think things can get overlooked or go unchallenged. With Red McCombs gone, it is time for a complete break. I hope Ted Cottrell gets a head coaching job (Jets?), he is long overdue, but in this case an outsider might be needed.