Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jeremy: Weighing in on Tice

Back in October Sid Hartman told us "...One of these days, the critics will discover that the Vikings don't have talent, and their record is not the coaches' fault." At that time I said that saying that our horrible season, to that point of the year, had nothing to do with coaching was crazy. I still believe that.
Now here we are 2 1/2 months later, the Vikes are 8-7 after losing two in a row. Prior to that they reeled off 6 wins in a row and looked like a playoff contender in the NFC. Today we know the truth: after this week's Bears game the Vikes will be golfing.
Now that we know the season is just a scant 4 quarters away from being finished, it's time for everyone to weigh in on Coach Tice. Why would I be any different?
At best the Vikings are going to finish 9-7. Speaking in numbers only, this would be an improvement over last year's 8-8 record. But the NFC is a different place than it was last year. Last year 8-8 got you into the playoffs, this year it would have taken at least two more wins. We didn't get 'em.
So how do you evaluate a coach? Does Mike Tice deserve some credit for rallying the troops to a 6-game winning streak? Certainly. Does Tice deserve some criticism for the 2-5 start? Yes. So I believe that we next have to look at who we played, and how we fared to get a look at our coach.
Let's have a look at who the Vikings beat this year.
Of the Vikings 8 wins:
-only one has come against a team with a winning record, the NY Giants.
-only one has come against a playoff bound team, also the Giants.
-three of the teams have only won 5 games this season, the Lions, the Browns and the Rams.
-the other two teams have won only 3 games each this season, the Packers and the Saints.
-they beat Detroit and Green Bay each twice.
-the combined record and winning percentage of the teams the Vikings have beat this season (remember, the Vikes have beaten GB and Detroit twice each, so their records are only accounted for once): 31-59, .344.
Not exactly what you'd call beating great competition. The seven teams the Vikings have lost to have a combined record of 66-39, winning percentage .629, and only one Baltimore) has a losing record.
One way you can look at this is that the Vikings beat the teams they were supposed to beat most of the time. The other way you can look at it is that they could never win the important games.
Here's how I prefer to look at it: the same way that The Common Man, Dan Cole, on KFAN, describes himself... The best of the lousiest, and the lousiest of the best.
This team is average at best. They achieved what they were supposed against bad competition, and they underachieved against good competition.
So where does this leave us with Mike Tice? It's hard to say, but I believe the best of the lousiest and the lousiest of the best statement rings pretty true for the coach as well.
Many people would say that Tice is starting to come into his own as a coach. After four years, he's figuring out his place, he's figuring out how to lead his players and his coaches. In short, he's finally figuring out how to be a head coach.
But let's not forget, without Red McCombs, a horrible, penny-pinching owner, Mike Tice would not be an NFL head coach. I guarantee you that if Red could have found someone who would coach this team for less money than Tice agreed to, he would have done it. The fact is that Tice probably never should have been where he is now in the first place. Tice got trial-by-fire, on-the-job training as a head coach in the NFL, something that very few other head coaches will ever get.
It's hard for me to form an opinion on Mike Tice. On the one hand, I like his honesty, I like the take-charge attitude that he's beginning to show, and I like his moxy. What I am not sure that I like are his in-game calls, the bad clock management, and the play-calling that sometimes seems like it came from the Denny Green era.
I think that usually when an owner looks at his head coach and is deciding whether or not to keep him, the question they ask themselves first is: can this guy still lead my team in the direction I want it to go? But in the case of Mike Tice, I think that Zygi Wilf needs to look outside the organization before looking at Mike Tice. The first question he might be asking himself is not in regards to Mike Tice, but about who else is out there. Is there someone outside of the organization that can lead my team in the direction I want it to go, and do it better than Mike Tice can? It might not be "this isn't the guy for the job anymore", it might be more of a "is there someone else better for the job" question now.
Basically, I think it's time for the Vikings, and Zygi, to look at all of the candidates for head coach that will be available. Certainly Mike Tice should be one of those candidates, but he should not be considered the lead candidate. At the end of the season, when all of the available coaches are put together and you then figuratively throw Mike Tice into that group, who will emerge as the best coach for the Vikings?
I believe that Zygi will wait to see who is available before he makes a decision about Tice. If, after all of the available coaches are out there, he decides Mike Tice is the best man to lead the team to the future, then he will make a commitment to Tice. But if there is someone else out there who is better for his team, I believe that the Zyg will pull the trigger and bring in a new coach.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jeremy: Jeff had this to say...

After seeing the debacle against the Steelers last week, I emailed a question to Jeff. After watching the game last night against the Ravens the question seems as important as ever.

December 21, 2005
To: Jeffrick F. Chopin
Re: Help...
Dear Jeffrick,
As referenced in my last post, it has become painfully obvious, at
least to me, that the Vikings running game is severely inadequate to
compete with the better teams in the NFL. We need help.
Assuming a draft pick in the area of 10 to 16, an impact running back
through the draft is unlikely. We do not want Ontario Smith back (do
we?). Free agency is our best hope. Please formulate your opinion on
the likelihood of the Vikings landing one of the top free agent
running backs, or a second tier free agent running back. Should we
even bother hoping for this? Is Zygi the kind of owner who would make
a run at a premier free agent? Is there any hope?

This is why Jeff is amazing: In less than two hours I got an email back breaking down every aspect of the upcoming Vikings off-season:

Obviously running back isn't the only problem on offense, but we've got the talent in-house to improve everywhere else for 2006. The Daunte/BJ debate is just starting, but I think whichever guy is under center next year will be fine. The instability on the O-line has been the biggest problem, and getting Matt Birk back will do wonders to solidify it and stop the musical chairs approach we've seen this year (and getting a decent RT might not be a bad idea either). I think we've got plenty of capable guys at wideout, it's just a matter of Koren or Burleson stepping up to be the #1 guy, which I think both are capable of, and Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor finding some consistency, none of which seems all that outlandish to assume can happen (boy good thing we drafted Williamson, eh? That Moss trade was such a good idea).
We can finally call Michael Bennett a bust, and say with confidence both he and Moe Williams won't be back next year. That leaves us with three 4th round picks in Mewelde, Onterrio and Fason (who I have been thoroughly unimpressed with thus far), and if all we have are those three guys to start training camp with in August, I'm going to be very concerned. Yeah, we're both big Mewelde guys, but he's been injury-prone and attitude-prone, and as talented as he is, I don't think he has the potential to be anything more than a poor man's Brian Westbrook. Which is fine, but he's not the guy you want carrying the load. Potential and talent have never been questioned with Onterrio, but a guy who slipped to the 4th round because of pot, is given every opportunity in the world to succeed in Minnesota and STILL gets busted two more times with it, obviously doesn't get it and never will. It's not a matter of IF he'll get busted a third time, but when. Onterrio, you can a) be a Pro-Bowl player and make millions of dollars playing a game, or b) you can smoke dope and throw everything away. 99.9% of us take option a). Onterrio? When he's done hot-boxing the bathroom and munching on sour cream & onion chips he may get back to you with an answer. And Fason? Yeah nothing more than a 3rd stringer.
So that leaves us with the following:
Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James are the two big names, but neither will be available. The Colts will franchise Edge again this year, and I just don't see the Seahawks letting Alexander walk with all he's done this season. And even IF Shaun A is available, I'm not sure I"d want to give him the contract he'll want (I'll save my explanation for if he does become available). Thanks to www.theredzone.org (god forbid ESPN or NFL.com would list such a thing) I was able to peruse the potential free agent RB's for '06 and after the Big 2 it's pretty slim pickin's. Names that jump out are Ahman Green, DeShaun Foster, Jamal Lewis, Najeh Davenport, and Chester Taylor, none of whom get me very excited, unless you could get Lewis on the cheap.
Assuming the Vikes were to lose their last 2 games, and the Dolphins would win out, the Vikes could pick no higher than 15th. E!SPN draft guru Mel Kiper doesn't rank players until they declare for the draft, so he hasn't factored in Reggie Bush and a strong junior RB class yet. The only senior RB he has ranked in the 1st round is Memphis Sr. DeAngelo Williams, who will probably be a top 10 pick. Bush, his teammate Lendale White, and the U's Laurence Maroney are locks to declare, and if guys like Louisville Jr Michael Bush, and Scony's Brian Calhoun declare, there could be as many as 5 or 6 backs with 1st round grades. If you're the Vikes, and you're picking between 15-22, that means there's probably going to be a good RB available, and if Maroney, Williams, or White is there, I think you gotta take him. Or we could just take a back in the 4th round for the 4th year in a row.
The Daunte-for-Ricky rumor won't quiet down until Daunte has a new home, and this one certainly makes the most sense so far. Linnehan would love to get Daunte down there, and although Ricky would be a risk, he has more potential than anybody you could hope to get for Daunte from another team (also well worth the potential Onterrio/Ricky "Up In Smoke" tour around the league)
Personally, I'd look to the draft first, and if something doesn't work out there, then you look to free agency or trade. The Vikings never seem to make the conventional move, but I would hope running back will be a top priority in the offseason.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jeremy: Vikings quick thoughts

Yes, I know, I've been MIA for a little while here, I'm sorry, it's a busy time of year... LAY OFF ME, JEFF!!!
Okay, after watching the Vikings game on Sunday I've got some thoughts about the team that I'd like to out into the air...
*First, the defense gave another fine effort. It's hard to win football games when your offense only outscores the opponent's defense 3-2, and that's only if you call a field goal an offensive score. For our defense to give up only one touchdown and a total of 16 points to the Steelers is a nice effort. For our offense to score only 3 points (again, depending on your definition) and to give up two points on a safety is inexcusable. Is there still anyone out there who thinks that Brad Johnson is the reason for the 6 game winning streak?
*About Brad: a few weeks ago I said that the biggest difference between BJ and Daunte was that Johnson wasn't going to beat you by making mistakes. Well Sunday that theory went right out the window. Brad Johnson did on Sunday against the Steelers exactly what got Daunte into trouble during the first half of the season: when faced with playing from behind and leading an offense that was overmatched he tried to do too much. This is exactly the situation that we don't want to have Brad Johnson in. Brad is supposed to be the calm, cool and collected veteran leader that Daunte hasn't quite developed into yet. Brad Johnson does not have the physical skills to pull off the kind of plays he was trying to muster up on Sunday, and he doesn't have the physical stamina to withstand the onslaught of hits he was taking. Let's all hope the Brad Johnson we saw on Sunday is back on the shelf for the rest of the season.
*Now that I'm done bashing BJ... this isn't all his fault. The problem with the Vikings offense on Sunday was the same problem we've been seeing most of the season: lack of a consistent running game. The fact that Mike Tice is still rotating Bennett and Moore is beyond me. Look, it's well documented on this site by both Jeff and I that we are Mewelde Moore fans, but even if Mike Tice isn't, for the love of Ontario JUST PICK SOMEBODY. It may have been a moot point on Sunday because I don't know that we were going to be able to run up the middle OR outside against the Steelers, but being able to establish some kind of running game certainly would have helped, perhaps, neutralize some of the blitzing that we were facing.
*Looking forward, I agree with Jeff, it's probably a good idea that we draft a quarterback (By the way, I read this today on Pro Sports Daily: "There's talk in Minneapolis that Miami might discuss a trade with the Vikings about QB Daunte Culpepper, who likes Dolphins and ex-Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.") But in my opinion the most glaring deficiency on this offense is, again, the lack of a consistent running game. Look, the Vikings are going to be $22 million under the salary cap in the off-season. In my opinion very little of this money needs to be spent on defense. We absolutely MUST use this money to try to land a big-time running back. No more band-aids, no more fill-ins, no more rotation of mediocre backs. We need an every down, 20-carries/game but 35/game if you need it, carry-the-workload, big-time kind of back that is a threat both on the ground and receiving out of the backfield. There will be a few RB's available that could fit that roll, and we need to try to get in the sweepstakes for these guys and throw some serious dough at them. Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander will be at the top of everyone's list, but Jamal Lewis wouldn't be a bad addition either. DeShaun Foster (although I'm not prepared to say that he could fill this roll) might be an option as well.
In any case, hopefully we will get to know what it feels like to have an owner who is willing to spend to fill an already partially-talented team with more talent. Zygi... COME ON!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Jeff: Swan Song

Before last night, I hadn't bought into the whole "ooooooh Favre could retire at any time" train of thought. THe guy was still playing relatively well, and he's probably the most competitive guy in the league. I figured he'd give it a few more seasons, and play until he really felt like he couldn't contribute. After seeing the worst loss in Monday Night Football history, and one of the worst in Packers history, that time may be now. I thankfully didn't have to sit through the game last night, but I imagine that even John Madden, who's love for Favre borders on Brokeback Mountain proportions, might have been running out of nice things to say about the guy. I don't hate Brett Favre, but I've always hated that he gets a free pass from the media because he's won one freakin Super Bowl, and "he just has so much fun playing the game!!" As he throws his third dumb interception of a game, the announcers are still fighting over who can say the most nice things about him. I appreciate the fact he's competitive and has fun, but since the Super Bowl loss to the Broncos in '97, he has not played well in each season-ending playoff game since.

Although the Pack admittedly rank higher than the Vikes on both offense (17th to 24th) and defense (8th to 24th), I still don't think the Pack are a playoff team next year. Would they be better served to build around Rogers and get younger, or to keep hanging on to try and make Favre happy? Yes, they've been decimated by injuries at the skill positions, and in this age of parody, you'd like to think Favre could will a healthy team to the playoffs. Problem is, he's gotten the Pack to the playoffs with worse supporting casts than this one when the conference was much more competitive. He's already set a career-high for interceptions, and still has two games to play. Although the arm is still there, his decision-making looks to be as bad as its been since his early years. I have wondered that because he's so competitve that, like Michael Jordan, he'd hang on too long, and would want to prove his critics wrong. However, Larry Bird was as fiery as MJ was, and Bird left the game and never came back. Yes, he's still around the game of basketball with his front office job with the Pacers, but like Favre, he wants no part of the spotlight. As much as Favre cares about the game and his image, it's obvious the media won't let this year tarnish his gaudy image, and they'd give him a eulogy fitting of one of the best of all-time.

The past few seasons I believe Favre's retirement talk has been to take the spotlight off of friend Mike Sherman's horrible performances, but after last night I think there's some real substance to the idea this really could be it for him. Cheeseheads, it's not so bad. Sure you're losing the guy you worship, but hey at least you'll get Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart...wait, no, no you won't. Ok so no Favre and no Reggie and no Leinart next year, but hey you've got Aaron Rogers...ok maybe you want to have a couple more cases of Old Milwaukee to take your minds off of things.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Jeff: The Monday Musings

Anyone seen Jer? Anyone?

- Ok, pile it on, I deserve it; I said last week that me talking about the Vikes/Steelers game and thinking that actually maybe, sorta, kinda, perhaps the Vikes might have a shot at beating Pittsburgh would jinx them. Who's to say if it did, but I know the Vikes played their worst game in two months, since they were blown out by Carolina. But still, if you feel better by blaming me, then do so. Merry Christmas (anyone offended by me using the word "Christmas", well too bad)

- I think we knew before the Pittsburgh game that the Vikes were not Super Bowl contenders, and that IF we snuck into the playoffs anything other than that would be gravy. Well nothing's changed for me after the loss. The most encouraging thing for me yesterday was how well the Vikes defense played. Allowing 18 points to a decent offense, especially with the Vikes offense doing everything possible to give the ball away everytime they got it, has to be a sign of hope for the rest of the year and next: ladies, and gentlemen, we finally have a defense.

- Brad Johnson was terrible yesterday, but as I said last week, if you're counting on him to win, you're in trouble. At this stage in his career, he's excellent in managing games and making good decisions, but when he's forced to do too much, the results aren't good. But really, considering how many injuries and how much chaos there's been on offense, I don't think we're that far away from getting back to being the Super Bowl contender we thought we'd be when the year started. Stop laughing, I'm serious.

- Minnesota HAS to draft a QB in April. Doesn't have to be with the #1 pick, but they need to take a kid they think has starting potential down the road. One of the many blunders the front office has made has been not bothering to develop a young QB in case Daunte got hurt.

- Speaking of #11, word in the Startrib today is that he desires to play in '06 for a team that "wants him". Let the record show I've always been a Daunte supporter, and never understood the criticism he received before this year, but I just don't see how he's going to be in a purple uniform next year (unless it's in Baltimore). The guy took a ton of heat when he was an MVP-level peformer, and after a bad year both on and off the field, especially considering how well the team's played in his absence, I just don't see how he comes back. With all of his physical gifts, and I could be completely wrong here, but he seems to be pretty sensitive, and I just wonder how effective he'll be. I don't think he'll ever approach the guy he was if he stays, and with the knee injury he suffered, I wonder if he'll ever be the same no matter where he plays. However, he's a hard worker, so it won't be from lack of effort.

- Yeah it's probably too early to speculate on Daunte's future, especially with the question of how much he'll even play in '06 still lingering. However, I've heard some ridiculous speculation of being able to trade Daunte in a package for a high draft pick: dream on, people. Even IF the guy was fully healthy, no NFL team is going to give up a 1st round pick for a guy with a $100 million contract who played as poorly as he did. There's just no way. Compound that with the fact the guy suffered a horrendous knee injury which, using examples of RB's Willis McGahee and Edgerin James, usually takes two full seasons for a player to approach 100%, I wonder how interested anybody would be in dealing for him. Zygy's on record as saying he wants Daunte on the roster for '06, but I wonder how plauisble it is to keep a guy with a huge contract like that who could miss the beginning of the year, and may not be back to starter-quality until '07. He's owed a ton of money, but from what I understand, the Vikes could cut him without receiving a huge cap penalty because of the contract structure. Somebody smarter than I will talk about this sometime in the offseason, but my point is that we're not trading Daunte for anything; if you don't want him in Minnesota for '06 you're getting nothing in return.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jeff: Vikes Need to Park The Bus

I was talking with Jer yesterday about the Vikes big tilt with Pittsburgh Sunday. Both of us, and we're probably not alone in Vikings Nation, have been treating this winning streak like a no-hitter in progress: don't talk to the pitcher, or in this case, don't get too excited or talk too much about it for fear of being the jinx. This Sunday's game is no different, but I guess I'll risk the jinx and discuss it a little bit. If the Vikes get blown out, hey at least you know who to blame. I said earlier in the year I thought Pittsburgh would be the best team in the NFC, and I still believe they'd beat Seattle (also the Seahawks have had as much bad luck as the Vikes over the years, so despite their gaudy record and Shaun Alexander rushing for 413 TD's, I still don't trust them), especially with how they looked last week in manhandling the Bears (am I alone in saying that even if the Bears somehow got homefield I STILL wouldn't pick them to represent the NFC? Maybe it's me). Still, and here's where I get really nervous saying this, I think the Vikes have a pretty good chance on Sunday. Like the Steelers did last week vs Da Bears, getting an early lead will be critical for whoever wins Sunday.

First look at the Steelers: Even if Big Ben's thumb was 100%, I still would rather force him to beat me than dealing with Fast Willie Parker and The Bus all afternoon. Look, I like Roethlisberger, but I still think he's overhyped. Pittsburgh has ran more in the last two seasons than any other team in football. I'm not saying Big Ben is a bad QB, but he's certainly not a game changer either. He's attempted more than 25 passes in a game this season 5 times, and the Steelers lost 3 of them. In the two wins he had a modest 225 yds and 1 TD against San Diego, and went for just 177 with 2 TD's and a pick in an ugly win over Baltimore.

For the Vikes during their 6 game win streak, they have not trailed by more than a field goal. As Ron Burgandy would say "I'm not even mad- that's AMAZING!" They never trailed Detroit or the Giants, and were down 14-7 to the Pack at half, but 13 whole 2nd half points were enough to win. They pounded Cleveland, at Detroit they were down 3-0 for a grand total of 47 seconds before taming the Lions, and never trailed in the win over St Louis last week. There's a lot of factors contributing to the win streak, but the fact Minnesota has not had to overcome a 2nd half deficit (in the Green Bay game, Koren Robinson returned the opening kickoff of the 2nd half to tie it and they would not trail again) cannot be overlooked. Brad Johnson has been very, well, Big Ben-like in his ability to do just enough to win here, and personally, I'd like to keep it that way. How confident are you in BJ rallying the Vikings down more than a TD? I do not want to have that confidence tested against a team like the Steelers. NOt only is their defense outstanding as usual, but with the Bus, Fast Willie, and the forgotten Duce Staley, there's not a better team in the league at sitting on a lead and killing the clock. The Vikings have been good, as well as fortunate, and to beat the Steelers, that trend needs to continue.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jeff: Just When I Think I'm Out...

...they pull me right back in! Yeah so just as I'm about as uninterested in the T-Wolves as can be, ESPN.com basketball stat guru John Hollinger threw out this suggestion today: Wally Szerbiak for Ron-Ron Artest. Ladies and gentlemen: commence drooling!!!! Oh my good lord would Ron-Ron not be exactly what this team needs?!? We would rid ourselves of the most overrated athlete in the history of Minnesota sports (although Torri Hunter's a close 2nd), and get a guy who's just dying to win. We would have 2 of the best defensive players in the league, and finally an alpha-dog predator-type to go with KG, the first since Marbury left last century. This trade makes so much sense there's no way it'll happen (ok ok obviously because Kevin McHale is involved, there's no way it's happening, but even if we DID have a competent GM, still no way it happens). Indiana needs an outside shooter, the Wolves need an all-star; BINGO! Both teams get what they want and need. The Pacers are on record today saying they will try to accomodate Artest's trade wish. Two things playing in the Wolves favor here:

1) if they KNOW Indiana wants/has to trade him, you're suddenly looking at giving up less than face value for the guy. Granted, there'll be plenty of suitors for Artest, as crazy as he is, but if the Wolves would offer a guy like Wally (Indiana would have to throw something in to make the salaries work-- yes, One-Dimension-Wally makes significantly more than Artest), but that still may be an offer tempting enough to get it done.

2) the fact Wally is actually looking motivated (this happens every year because, you know, nobody really plays much D in the regular season), AND the fact the Wolves didn't make the playoffs last year which would have reminded everyone how totally useless Wally is when it really matters, puts hope in my heart that this would actually happen.

There's no truth to rumor, but I'll feel free to start it: heck, if somebody knows where McHale's golfing today, and you think there's somebody with him who actually knows how to answer a cell phone, give him a call, just in case. WE WANT RON-RON! WE WANT RON-RON!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Jeremy: Just read it

I don't normally like to do the normal "blogger" thing and point the folks who read this blog to reading something else, but in this case, I'll make an exception.
Chuck Klosterman is a writer for Spin Magazine, he has written three books, two of which I have read (and I personally like his writing style better than anyone who I have ever read) and he is apparently (and this doesn't make sense, but it's the truth) writing once a month for Page 2 on ESPN.com.
Chuck also happens to be from my birth state of North Dakota, he loves music and he loves sports, particularly basketball.
In his latest (second) submission to Page 2 he compares Phil Jackson's career with Wilt Chamberlin's playing career, and it is very much worth reading. I recommend checking it out.
"The Definition of A Great Man" by Chuck Klosterman

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jeff: So Tell Me Hank

It's been quite an offseason in baseball so far, with some pretty hefty names, and even heftier contracts being thrown around. I'll spare you the whining about my Mariners for what they have and (mostly) haven't done. Hey at least the Seattle brass is willing to spend some money, so even if they spend it poorly, that's better than what Twins fans go through most offseasons. I've said it before, and I'll say it again for all to hear: Terry Ryan is every bit as good a GM as Billy Beane in Oakland. Every year, while other teams are building their teams by throwing around money like they're spending at a 5-star restaurant, Ryan is forced by Tightwad Carl to try and build a contender with food stamps. The Twinks were able to put together 3 straight Central division pennant winners on breadcrumbs, but last year proved even with somebody as talented as Ryan, you can only build on the cheap for so long before it catches up with you.

Now, the Twins can't spend lavishly like other franchises, which is fine because I believe you need to build through a strong farm system like they have, as have other franchises like Cleveland, Oakland, and Atlanta. However, if the Twinks want to compete with the Sox and Tribe this year, they NEED to add two big bats, and they're going to have to use some of those vast resources on the farm to get them (having said that they should not deal JOhan Jr, aka Francsico Liriano for anybody. Ryan has made it known he's untouchable, and I whole-heartedly agree. But I think he needs to listen to offers for anybody else). One of those guys I think you absolutely have to have is Texas Rangers 3B Hank Blalock. At just 26, in three full seasons in the majors, the guy has AVERAGED .274/.338 OBP/.471 SLG, 30 HR, and 103 RBI. I don't have to tell Twins fans that those averages are better than the best season for anybody else on the current roster. Third base is a premier power position, and you can count on one hand the number of stud 3B in the league right now (Chavez, Wright, Blalock, Rolen, Ensberg and...that's about it).

According to La Velle E. Neal of the Strib today, the Twins could get him wihtout giving up Liriano, which to me is a no-brainer. The prospects the Twinks would give up in the deal could turn out to be great, but that's an unknown. We KNOW Blalock will be a solid clean-up hitter for the next decade because he's proven it at the major league level. This is a deal the Twins have to make.

If they can get Blalock, then you look at Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas to fill the DH void. Both guys are future hall-of-famers that are shells of their former selves. However, especially Piazza, they could both add some pop to a Twins lineup that desparately needs it from the 5-spot in the order. Adding Blalock and another bat at DH would greatly improve the Twins batting lineup, and would take immense pressure off of 1B Justin Morneau. I think Morneau will be a good power hitter in the major leagues, but last year, asking a kid in his first full season to anchor an order with no other power source was too tall of a task. Getting two good hitters this offseason means you can bump Justin down to 6th or 7th in the lineup and let him adjust to major league pitching. You also would finally provide some protection for Mauer in the 3-spot, making him an even better hitter than he already is. With newly aquired 2B Luis Castillo (a good trade for the Twins, by the way), and Shannon Stewart getting on base at the top of the order, suddenly you'd have Mauer, Blalock, Piazza, Morneau, and Hunter coming up to drive them in. That's infinitely scarier for opposing pitchers than what the Twins sent to the plate last year.

I don't condone "selling the farm" to win now, but to get a guy like Blalock, who not only plays a premium power position, but provides it as well, would serve the Twins well this season and for many more to come. If Carl's not willing to open the purse strings this offseason, Minnesota will get left behind by the Sox and Tribe, and there'll be nothing that Terry Ryan, as talented he is, can do about it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jeremy: A Proud Papa

I had thought I might write about fantasy football from time to time throughout the season. The problem with that little scenario is that my squad, even with Tomlinson, started out 0-7. That kind of start is certainly not conducive to making one feel like writing fantasy football.
I had felt pretty good about my team after the draft, I really thought I had a chance to compete. I had the best player in the league (Tomlinson), a top 3 wide receiver (Marvin Harrison) and a solid overall receiving core, and a top 4 quarterback (Trent Green). I felt good.
But the wheels fell off quickly.
At 0-4 I started to question my abilities as a fantasy football team owner.
At 0-5 I started to question if I would even bother playing fantasy football next year.
At 0-6 I started to question my manhood.
At 0-7 I gave up and I was convinced I might be the only person in history to go 0-13 on the season. I was giving thought to calling all of the players on my team and asking if we could put together a Vikings-style boat party for my fantasy squad, just so that I'd have something to talk about at the end of the season.
To add insult to injury, the Vikings were having a horrible season so I didn't even have anything to fall back on.
But suddenly, right around the time that the Vikings started their well-publicized turn-around, my fantasy team turned it around a bit too. After starting 0-7 I fired off two wins in a row. I still had a horrible record, and I still didn't feel good about my team, but at least my interest in my team was back.
After losing the next game my squad was able to eak out two more wins in a row. 4-8. After staring out 0-7 I felt good going into week 13. I was excited about the fact that I had a good chance at finishing up the season 5-1 in the final six games.
Unfortunately a tie-breaker in the last fantasy regular season game dropped me to 4-9 on the season. Pretty embarrassing.
Still, I have to say, I'm like a proud father today. My team showed grit, guts, and determination after a horrible start. The guys really showed a lot of heart.
I'm proud to say that the heart that my team showed has inspired me enough that I am not going to quit playing fantasy football. My already fragile ego has survived another hit.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Jeremy: A Happy Occasion

You knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. I'd like to say congratulations to the happy couple...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jeff: The Man, The Myth, The Moustache...

If the worst happens, and KG truly does get traded this offseason, I've already found my new favorite team: whichever one drafts Gonzaga senior forward Adam Morrison (unless it's the Lakers, Knicks or Spurs). I had a chance to watch the Gonzaga/Michigan State game with TheDan last week, and we were treated to an impressive display by both sides in a triple-OT 109-106 Zags win (undoubtedly three of the greatest tragedys of the 21 Century, in no particular order, are the NHL Lockout, Burger King getting rid of the Rodeo Burger, and the fact TheDan no longer has a website). I had never heard of State's Maurice Ager before that night, but I certainly won't forget him after he torched the Zags for 36, including a tough game-tying 3 at the end of regulation (Ager a 6'5 two guard, looks like he could be a solid pro. Ridiculous athlete, nice shooting touch and a helluva defender. Of course the NBA will draft some 7-3 Euro guy playing in the Lithuanian Wednesday night intramural league ahead of him). But the show-stopper was undoubtedly Morrison. A pre-season All-American, Morrison scored a career high 43 points in 52 minutes in the win. Not only that, the floppy-haired, striped-socked senior did it with the dirtiest mustache I have ever seen.

TheDan and I debated if he grew it that dirty and whispy on purpose, and eventually decided he HAD to be growing that on-purpose, knowing full-well he would look more like a guy you'd never leave your children alone with than an NBA lottery pick. His basketball idol growing up was a certain slow-footed 6-9 white guy with bad hair and mustache who used to wear the green and white of the Celtics while bombing 3's and taking over games. I believe the Sports Guy calls him the Basketball Jesus, but you can jsut call him Larry Legend. Comparing Morrison to Larry Bird, even with the stache, is unfair, and there are plenty who still doubt Morrison's game will translate to the NBA. Perhaps swayed by the power of the Stache, I disagreed, and after witnessing Morrison's performance, my mind has not changed.

TheDan, a basketball aficianado if I've ever met one, was quick to point out Morrison's, shall we say, lack of foot speed. Granted, he was being guarded most of the night by Ager, who's one of the better perimeter defenders in the land, but Morrison was making Rik Smits look agile at times. Still, just when TheDan would wonder aloud why Morrison wasn't taking over, he would bury a 25 ft three, or make an improbable, off-balance bank shot to put the Zags back ahead. It happened again and again, and by the time the game was over he had wrung up 43 on a VERY good Spartans team, not to mention, he did it shooting 50% from the field and from 3 (4-8), while adding 7 boards, 4 assists, and 2 steals. His season stats look almost as silly as his stache, averaging 25.3 pts, 7.3 reb, and 1.5 stls while shooting 48.7% FG, 81% FT, and 44.4% 3PT. Those aren't "3-point specialist" numbers on the next level, folks. That's the sign the kid can play a little.

I agree the Bird comparisons are far-fetched, and yeah he's going to be one of the slowest 3's in the NBA next year, but the man can shoot, can effectively get off his shot, rebounds, and can even pass a little too. OH, and he WANTS to take the big shot when it matters. He WANTS the ball with the game on the line. He plays every possession like it's his last. AND he has the dirtiest stash ever seen on a basketball floor since the mid-70's. What's not to love here? I believe that if Wally Sczerbiak can be an NBA player, why can't Morrison? I mean Wally and Stache are similar players really: both white, both 6'8, both with great shooting strokes. Of course Wally can't dribble, pass, defend, rebound, create, or shoot with a hand in his face, but he DID make the All-star team one year and he DOES have a $50 million contract that the Wolves couldn't give away. But hey, if a guy like that can make it in the NBA, why can't Morrison, who can do so much more? He could also single-handedly bring back the mustache as a fashion statement- unless you live in the Dakotas where it's never gone out of style.

TheDan believes Morrison should sponsor a stache trimmer that evenly removes 60% of a normal man's mustache so it can look just as whispy and dirty as Morrison's. Sign me up for one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jeremy: Welcome Mr. Millen

Hey everybody, please join me in saying congratulations, best of luck and welcome to the club. Please, let's give a warm welcome to the newest member of the Kevin McHale Scapegoaters Club... Matt Millen.
Matt joined the club on Monday after firing Steve Mariucci as the head coach of the Detroit Lions football club. This distinct honor, to be a member of this prestigious club, goes only to (ahem...) men who are so inept at their jobs, so clueless in their off-the-field negotiating, so hapless in how they draft talent for their teams, that in order to cover their behinds they fire very talented and capable coaches, in lieu, and for fear, of losing their own jobs.
It takes a special person to look at all of the factors around them, realize how horrible they are at their job, somehow think of a way to not point the finger at themselves, and instead turn around and fire the next person in charge.
Other members of the Scapegoaters Club (current president Kevin McHale), a firey group of folks never willing to take the blame for the problems which they have created and who come up with creative alternatives for laying blame include Mr. McHale himself, Art Modell, Ricky Williams, Red McCombs, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Latrell Spreewell, Norm Green, Glen Mason and every living member of the Pohlad family.
So welcome, Mr. Millen, we have no doubt that your ineptitude, creative scapegoating and subsequent spinning will continue for years to come and make you an active and honored member of the Scapegoaters! And remember, when in doubt, draft a wideout!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jeremy: Re: The Brad Johnson Era

Well, the Vikings are 4-0 during the current Brad Johnson Era. Please note that I did not say that Brad Johnson is 4-0 as the Vikings starter.
Look, BJ is doing a nice job leading the offense right now, and the coaches have certainly done a good job of tailoring the game plan to fit Johnson's strong points. For that the coaches deserve to be commended, and for the way that he is playing, Brad Johnson should be commended.
But this current streak (5-1 in the last 6 games) is not about Brad Johnson, and it's not about the offense. The offense woke up in the last game and a half, springing Mewelde Moore for 90 yards in the second half against the Pack and allowing BJ to throw three touchdowns to Marcus Robinson against the Browns. Still, even though the offense is beginning to come to life, this winning streak is not about them.
This is about the defense. This is about a defense that has improved incredibly. During the current 4-game winning streak, in comparison to the first 7 games, when the Vikings went 2-5, the defense is giving up 11.6 pts/game fewer, 67 yards/game fewer, 1.5 touchdowns/game fewer, and is taking the ball away from their opponents 2.5 times/game more often than during the first 7 games of the season. A staggering turnaround.
Through 4 full games Brad Johnson has an 85.0 quarterback rating, which is 13 points higher than what Daunte was able to amass during his starts, but still not exactly what you'd call Pro-Bowl numbers. The difference between what Duante wasn't able to do, and what BJ seems to be doing, has to do with decision making, and on a team that needs someone to tell them when to wipe their collective proverbial buttocks, Johnson is making all the difference in the world.
Brad Johnson is old, and he's not agile and he does not have a strong arm, but, having said that, he will not get you beat. He might not win the game for you, but he will not be the one that gets you beat, and that's what he's doing better than Daunte.
So, if Daunte was healthy today, and was cleared to play next week at Detroit, should he be the one to get the start? In my opinion, absolutely. You cannot take away how important it has been for Brad Johnson and the offense, that the defense has been dominating the last four games. And you cannot blame Daunte for how horrible the defense was playing in the first 7 games and how many bad positions he was put into. Now, did Daunte sometimes make those situations worse by forcing passes? Sure. But that doesn't mean he does not deserve the opportunity, as the leader of this team, to take the helm when everyone is clicking on cylinders.
Thankfully, we don't need to worry about that quarterback controversy this season. Brad Johnson is our man right now, and in no way is that sad.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jeff: Football quick hitters...

- Any questions about why Glen Mason is never going to get the Gophers to that next level? Anyone? What an awful showing Saturday. Just awful. Getting blown out in a game that could have gotten you into a New Year's Day bowl, I mean, aren't those the games you SHOULD show up for, especially knowing you don't play again for a month? Enjoy the Motor City Bowl, Glen.

- The complete opposite was Reggie Bush Saturday night. If you didn't see it, you've probably heard about it, and maybe heard too much about it. Trust me, the performance can not be overstated. Fresno's a legit team, and if they played in a major conference would have been ranked higher than 16. I am just in awe of Bush. His speed to the corner is like nothing I've seen since Bo Jackson. The long run down the sideline where he put the brakes on, let the guy blow by him, and then cut back to the opposite corner to score was one of the plays of the year. Forget about trading up to get Matt Leinert in April's draft: Bush is a once in a generation player. He'll be one of the best running backs AND best receivers from the moment he steps on the NFL gridiron next season. I did not see Gale Sayers play, but from those who have that's who they're comparing him to, which is really saying something. I see him as a faster version of Marshall Faulk, who in his prime was pretty much unstoppable.

- The NCAA needs to mandate that USC and Texas meets in the Rose Bowl. It has to happen.

- Ohio State has every right to be upset if they don't get into the BCS. Their only losses were to undefeated Texas and one-loss Penn State. They're so much better than Notre Dame, who's guaranteed to get in. I know Michigan State was playing much better when they beat Notre Dame, but that loss looks bad now, and Ohio State's schedule is tougher than ND's.


- The Indy/Cincy game yesterday was unreal. I didn't think the Bengals stood a chance. I felt the Bengals were overrated, since all of their wins were against sub-.500 teams (except for Chicago. more on the BEars in a second). Boy was I wrong. After the Colts scored on 5 straight possessions to open the game, I figured that was it. But Palmer and Johnson & Johnson and the rest came storming back. Against two of the best defenses in the league, it was so enjoyable to watch two incredible offenses march up and down the field.

- I was wrong about Peyton Manning, ok? I was wrong. I always had him pegged as football's Alex Rodriguez. The best player in the sport who folded when it really mattered, and who was more selfish than the media wants you to know. THe guy signed for the most money possible (Tom Brady signed for much less to give the Pats some cap flexibility), and before this season that had hampered the team's ability to build a defense. Although I still think he should have taken less (can you name the last Super Bowl winner with a quarterback with a monster contract? Can you? Answer at the end), I've been impressed with the way he's swallowed his pride this season. I wonder if after all the personal accolades he received last year, that still getting whooped in the playoffs again made him think he's willing to sacrifice it all to win? Teams this season for the most part are making the Colts beat them with Edgerrin James, and Manning has been happy to do it. You know it's killing a guy who's that competitive to hand the ball off as much as he has, but that style has not only made them a good regular season team, but I think they're the team to beat for the playoffs (if they get homefield, it's over. Print the championship t-shirts). Anyway, I don't hate Peyton Manning anymore. Plus the Mastercard commercials are hilarious.

- How tough is the AFC? Either Pittsburgh or San Diego, who would be HANDS DOWN the best teams in the NFC, may not make the playoffs. How incredible is that?

- Oh, and Chiefs fans, I hope you enjoyed yesterday's 45-17 win over Houston because that's probably the last one you'll get this season. KC's final 6 games look like this: home to New England and Denver, at Dallas and the Giants, and finally home to San Diego and Cincinnati. Is that even fair?

- Count me as #9,475,485 who didn't think the Bears were for real. THey absolutely manhandled a very good Carolina team yesterday. All the hype (and rightfully so) was centered on Julius Peppers and the Panther line, but man the Bears front four had Delhomme running for his life all day. Vikings fans, just so you know, THAT"S what a pass rush looks like-- and the Bears did it with just 4 guys all afternoon.

- trivia answer: Denver, with John Elway in 1999 (sorry to bring this up Vikes fans), was the last Super Bowl winner win with a big-money QB. Indy could be an aberation this year if they win, but I don't think their run will last long. There's no way they have enough cap room to keep that D in tact for more than a year or two. Just look at what happened to the Ravens after their Super Bowl win in 2001-- and they didn't have a QB or receiver taking up a huge chunk of their cap.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Jeff: Minnesota Nice

I've never met Minnesota Timberwolves VP Kevin McHale. I have nothing against him as a person. He's probably a nice guy, and as a matter of fact, I'm sure of it, because that's all I hear from anybody who knows him or deals with him. But Timberwolves fans, after this season we may lose Kevin Garnett. The greatest athlete in the history of Minnesota sports could very well ask to be traded because the organization, fans, and media are too "Minnesota Nice" to McHale, the guy whose most responsible for the team's current state. Where's Donald Trump when you need him? Garnett could leave this summer because none of the people around Kevin McHale have had the courage to tell him the two simple words he needs to hear: You're fired.

I like KFAN. I really do. But most of the on-air staff on that station fall all over themselves to heap praise and love on McHale whenever he's on the air or his name is mentioned. On the Sludge & Lake Show last night, I almost drove off the road because of something Sludge said. After my seething anger had subsided, I realized that what he had said was what so many people around the Wolves believe and accept, and I think that's why it made me so mad. A caller had stated that McHale doesn't get enough criticism from Minnesota media and basketball fans for the horrible decisions and non-decisions he's made the last 2 dozen years. Sludge's response was that (and I'm paraphrasing here) "He does get plenty of critisicm (really? from who?) and that yeah he's made a lot of bad moves. He hasn't had many draft picks work out, but you can say that about a lot of teams. Like (Michael) Jordan, a great player doesn't always mean he's going to be a great GM." Here's the part I'm not paraphrasing. This is an exact quote, and is what sent me off the handle:
"But he's such a nice guy."

(let me get a running start at this one...)


(...taking a moment to allow redness to leave my face, and for steam to cease from blowing out of my ears...)

Look, McHale's a good guy. I get it. A big hero for the Gophers, a real man's man on and off the basketball court. Old school, doesn't take any crap. One of Minnesota's finest, one of Minnesota's "our guys", a true "Minnesotan" in every sense of the word. Got it. But he's failed running the Wolves. I could fill pages (and Jer and I have in the past) and pages with the blunders the guy's made. Saying he's been a failure at putting a championship team together in Garnett's 11 years is not saying he's a bad guy: it's just saying he shouldn't be a GM. Timberwolves fans are some of the most passionate in the NBA. They care about this team as much or more than any fan base in the Association, and have been through as much or more adversity since the city was awarded a franchise. They DESERVE to cheer for a champion as much as Garnett deserves to be one.

Wolves fans, please, I beg you: stop being Minnesota nice. As much as you don't want to think about, realize losing Garnett is a real possibility here. In a pregame interview with TNT last night, Garnett was the most outspoken he's been on how McHale and owner Glen Taylor have mishandled the team around him. Garnett still answered in more of a "read between the lines" style than calling anyone out, but it's the latest sign that Garnett's patience with the organization is not only running thin, it's running out. Before it's too late Wolves fans, put aside "McHale the Minnesotan" and look at him as "McHale the GM". Realize we could have a GM that can actually makes a solid draft choice more than once or twice a decade, and a GM that actually KEEPS draft picks to make a solid choice. A guy who actually knows how to pick up the phone, and use some creativity to make a deal and get some guys around Garnett that he can win with. McHale got ripped off in the Cassell/Jaric deal by Elgin Baylor, the worse GM in any sport!! So what does that make McHale? For the last 10 seasons, Timberwolves fans have accepted exactly what this current group of players around KG is going to give you: good, but not good enough.

Please, before it's too late, before I have to throw up all over myself watching KG win a championship in another city, call out Kevin McHale. Demand he find a new job. Demand a new guy to run the team. If you don't, the only thing McHale's really doing is helping to pack Garnett's bags this offseason when he demands a trade to a team that cares about winning. And there would be nothing nice about that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jeremy: A T'Wolves Perspective

Once in awhile my job affords me some pretty cool opportunities. Last night I got the chance to attend Asian-American night at the Timberwolves game against the Houston Rockets and Yao Ming. Some thoughts...

*First, I have to give it up for the halftime entertainment. A small Asian woman riding a 10-foot tall unicycle while balancing a large white bowl on her head. She then would take more bowls, starting with one and working her way eventually up to five bowls, balance them on one of her legs and then throw her leg up sending all the bowls flying upward and all landing inside of each other on top of her head. Amazing stuff! Major props to the unicycle-riding-bowl-juggling-lady.

*Rashad McCants is smooth! This guy has the offensive talent to be a superstar in this league if he can keep his head on the right way. Lucky for him you don't have to be able to play a lick of defense (ahem, Troy Hudson) to be a good player in the NBA. I'm telling you if he keeps his head right, learns to play some D and continues to hone his offensive game he is going to be fantastic to watch.

*When the Wolves offense catches up to the defense we might be able to topple some good teams and be pretty scary heading into the playoffs, but until that happens .500 ball is probably about all we can hope for.
McCants could explode down the stretch, but he's nowhere near ready to be the main, or even one of the main, scoring threats. He seems to want to play one-on-one, and not always stay within the offense. Wally looked like he was on the verge of a big season, but he can't quite seem to find his shot. T-Hud (note: Thud) simply is NOT the consistently deadly offensive player that we saw in the playoffs two years ago. Marko Jaric seems like he might have some potential to score from the point, but right now he's doing a serviceable job of moving the ball around and that's about what we should expect from him. Trenton Hassell is a defensive guy and is just not built to play offense as well as he defends. Olowokandi at least seems to be giving us about a quarter and a half of good basketball per game, and he did a nice job of playing Yao last night, but at best he's probably going to be a 10-point a night guy, which might be okay if we could count on anyone else to score. This leaves The Man. Unfortunately KG is our only hope. Fortunately, it's KG, so we've got a chance for everyone to rally around and learn to run the offense through him and take advantage of the looks that they get, but until that happens... yep, .500 ball.

*Troy Hudson (who I will now forever call Thud) might possibly be the single worst defensive player in the entire NBA.

*Dwayne Casey definitely has not settled on anything that even resembles a normal rotation. Last night all 12 guys saw playing time and 10 of those guys saw over 10 minutes. That's a lot of rotating to do for a team that is still looking for an identity. I understand that he is trying to find the group of guys that play best together. I also understand that guys 4 through 12 probably all look pretty similar from a coaching standpoint as far as production and talent. But pretty soon Casey is going to need to settle on a starting 5 and on a 7-9 man rotation. Constantly changing the line-ups, the combinations and the number of minutes played will not allow players to get into a rhythm during the season, and without a solid flow, we're going to be looking at... you guessed it... .500 ball.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I think we've pretty much beaten to death the notion that the Vikes were lucky to beat the Giants Sunday. The only real debate was who was worse: the vikes offense or Eli Manning? But lucky or not, it still counts as a win, and in this season, which may go down as one of the strangest in team history, we'll take it. Somehow, someway, the team (4-5) is still in the hunt for the division title. This season has proven league wide there's no such thing as an "easy" game (just ask the Giants), but the Vikings schedule looks favorable from now until the end of the year meeting with the Norris-leading Bears (6-3).
Chicago, on the other hand, has to play four teams with winning records, plus the plucky Packers twice before the New YEar's Day game at the Metrodome. None of their games are considered even remotely easy, but with their tough defense and conservative offense, there's no reason to think the BEars can't continue rolling. THe Vikings need help from these good teams, and even from our hated neighbors the Packers.
But not this week. This is not just Packer week, but it's a Monday Night Packer week at that. This is one of those games where it's fun to be a football fan. "Throw out the records" is a cliche you'll hear far too often, but it's certainly true this season. As much as I hate to hear announcers fighting over who loves Favre more, you can't deny how dangerous this team is. During their win over Atlanta Sunday, I must have heard 537 different times how "this team hasn't quit", and it's true; they haven't. Nobody plays better on the Monday Night stage than Favre, and with 5th string running back Samkon Gado putting some punch back in the Packer running game (my favorite stat of this week: Gado's 3 TD's last week were more than Ahman Green's had in the last calendar year) there will be some fireworks at Lambeau. The Vikes will need to play better (espcially on O) to keep up with an inspired Packers bunch.

So for this week, I'm putting aside all talk about the Love Boat and Tice and Daunte and all the other debacles we're endured. For this week, I'm going to bask in the glow of one of football's best rivalries, of a prime-time stage, of a two-game winning streak in November, and the fact that we're still in the playoff hunt. Hopefully this will continue for a few more weeks to come.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Jeremy: Applause

I had to stand up and bring my Dorito-stained forearms together last night when I heard Donovan McNabb talk about how it's time to move on without T.O. on the Eagles.
It's one thing for owners, managers and even Andy Reid to stand up and publicly say that the Eagles are going on without Owens, but when the players start to do so, especially the team leader, everyone needs to take notice.
From the top of the organization on down to the players everyone in the Eagles corner has been unified on this Terrell Owens saga. To date not one person with a first-person knowledge of the situation has defended Owens' position. T.O.'s agent was is paid to defend him, so his opinion matters little in this situation. And Ralph Nader? Well, apparently this guy's got nothing better to do than attend Green Party Smoke-Ins and defend professional athletes who have overstepped their bounds.
"With him on the field, we do remarkable things. We could have set records. That was something that I looked forward to doing, winning Super Bowls together. But it just continued to go in the wrong direction." This is what McNabb had to say about the situation with T.O. Coming from a guy who has proven that he has the stuff to take a team to the Super Bowl and lead during high and low times, about a guy who has only proven time and time again that he cares more about himself and his bank account than any team, that's a telling statement by McNabb.
So, for what it's worth: I applaude the entire Philadelphia Eagles organization for assessing a bad situation, acting swiftly, and keeping a unified front from top to bottom.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Please direct your attention...

... to the sidebar at the right of your screen.
There you will notice a new link called "Fire Glen Mason."
Dedicated to our strong belief that, despite being a good football coach, Glen Mason is not the coach to take the Golden Gopher Football program to the next level, Fire Glen Mason is a new blog where we can all discuss, debate and commiserate.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jeff: Brad Johnson Era Begins Again

Allow me to paraphrase The Jer, Vikings fans:
"don't get too excited over yesterday's win. It was, after all, just the Lions."

The Leos hadn't won in Minnesota in 7 seasons before yesterday's game, and when Joey Harrington was announced as the starter, it didn't matter who the Vikes had at quarterback Sunday (as long as it wasn't Joey Harrington), 8 wins in a row in the Dome over the Motor City Kitties was a mortal lock. So to say this was a great win for the Vikings would be false. Regardless of the turmoil surrounding Winter Park, yesterday was a game they should have won, and for a change, they did. Brad Johnson looked like the same guy who played here the first time around, not like the washed-up 37 year-old who replaced Daunte last week against the Panthers. The Vikes offense looked crisp, Michael Bennett also made a resurgence, and low and behold, the defense played better too (and yes that is in direct correlation to a productive offense- and brutal Lions team).

The real tests are coming, however. The next two weeks will be the real litmus test of where this team is at, and what chance, if any, still remains of catching the Bears for first place. The Vikes will be at the Meadowlands this Sunday to face a Giants team that has demolished the Vikings their past few seasons. Following that, it's a Monday Nighter at Lambeau Field. There's no need to elaborate, but I will: injury woes continue for the Pack, to the point they may be pulling drunken cheeseheads out of the crowd to play receiver and tailback. But make no mistake, nobody plays better on Monday Night that Brett Favre, regardless of who he as around him.

Looking at the remaining schedule, the Vikes have a very winnable game at home vs Cleveland, at Detroit, home vs the Rams and then Pittsburgh, a Sunday Night game at Baltimore, and the season ends at home against the Bears. At 3-5, still 2 games behind Chicago (5-3), the Vikes need a heck of a run to make that last regular season game count, especially considering the BEars already won the first meeting. Realistically, you're going to need at least 8 wins and some help, which means winning a minimum of 5 of your last 8. What chance do the Vikes have? Sunday's game at Giants Stadium would be a tough one even if the Vikes were undefeated, so no shame if they lose out there. More important to me is HOW they lose, or how they play. In every loss this year, they've been blown right off the field. If that happens again against the G-Men you can really kiss the year goodbye. A solid showing keeps the hopes up for Green Bay and beyond. Besides NY and the Steelers, how many of the remaining opponents are you afraid of? Exactly. SO it's not entirely out of the question.

We at least know Brad Johnson won't be the reason the Vikes fall short. Yesterday he showed poise, command, and accuracy, none of them qualities embued by Daunte this season. Another comment made by The Jer yesterday, is that if Johnson continues to play well (i.e. continue to make good decisions and keep turnovers at a minimum) things get a LOT more difficult for Daunte whenever he returns next season. But I'll let him elaborate more on that if he wishes.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jeremy: Whitlock on Weis

Jason Whitlock wrote a great reaction to Charlie Weis' contract extension. He feels the move is a bit racially motivated, which I'm not sure I agree with, but some of his comments not related the the race card are dead on. Here's a few.

On Weis' success so far:
"Notre Dame has beaten a mediocre Michigan team, a Dave Wannstedt-coached Pittsburgh team that is .500 only because the Big East is terrible, the third- or fourth-best team in the Mountain West Conference (BYU), a bad Purdue squad, and a Washington club with one victory (vs. Idaho)....
Weis' greatest accomplishment so far is that he led Notre Dame to a close loss against USC."

On Weis finding success coaching players that Willingham recruited:
"Yes, Weis is doing a nice job working with the offensive talent Willingham recruited. But while Willingham inherited offensive personnel recruited to run the football, Weis inherited players recruited to operate in a pro-style passing offense.
Forgive me for not being shocked that Weis is getting points out of all that mature, experienced talent Willingham left behind."

On Notre Dame's concern about Weis being pursued by NFL teams:
"If the New York Giants or any other NFL team decides it wants Weis as its coach, there's no amount of money that is going to stand in the way of that getting done. Only Weis can stop that deal by saying he'd prefer to remain a college coach.
You think Weis is the only college coach the NFL has ever been interested in?"

On what the truth behind this extension is:
"This is a gigantic overreaction by a school administration that should know better. They watched Willingham experience early success and then struggle. Notre Dame has no clue whether Weis can recruit or sustain success...
Let's call this exactly what it is: greed and stupidity."

Jeremy: Weis is All-In

When I heard that Notre Dame extended Charlie Weis' contract through 2015 earlier this week the only thing that came to mind was: WHAT?
It's been less than a year since Notre Dame was accused of playing the race card in firing Ty Willingham before giving him a five-year chance to be a great coach for the storied program. They followed this up by hiring a white coach, which caused sentiments of "See? I told you so" from those playing the race card.
I never felt like it was a racial issue that Willingham got canned, but I did feel it was unfair to not give him the customary 5 years to try to build a program of players that he had recruited before giving him the boot for not upholding Notre Dame tradition.
For the record Charlie Weis is 5-2 in his first 7 games. After his first 7 games as Irish head coach what was Willingham's record? 7-0.
Is Weis' extension more evidence of old school racism at the top at Notre Dame? Is it evidence of racism at all? Is it motivated by money and a fear that Weis will depart for more money and the NFL?
I don't know the answer to any of those questions, and since I'm not an expert in this field, I don't have to. But personally I don't think the answers to any of those questions matters as much as the answer to this question: Is Weis a better coach than Willingham was? And the answer is that we simply do not know.
Going by wins/losses alone through the same number of games, the answer is no. But if you listen to the Notre Dame faithful Charlie Weis is the second coming of the Touchdown Jesus. In the words of Notre Dame's Athletic Director, Kevin White (ahem): "Charlie has clearly and impressively demonstrated the ability to take the Notre Dame program where we all want it to go." And where is that exactly? As per usual the Notre Dame higher-ups are keeping their reasoning close to the vest.
In my opinion a 10-year extension after just 7 games is absolutely ridiculous. Deciding that someone should be at the head of your program for the next 100+ games based soley on what they've done in only 7 games is not smart business.
It certainly seems to be that Weis is a nice fit for Notre Dame, and it certainly seems to be that Weis is a good college coach. And based on his start, I could see giving him a one or two year extension, as a good-will gesture for the Notre Dame wrinklies to say they are happy with his start, his attitude and his plan for the future.
But 10 years?
Notre Dame has long believed that the way they conduct their football operations is a bit above the cuff. Perhaps the unwritten rules don't apply to Notre Dame.
In a couple of years this contract extension is either going to look horrendously stupid or insightfully forward thinking. Only time will tell which is true, but one thing does seem obvious: the rules that applied to Ty Willingham do not seem to apply to Charlie Weis.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Jeff: The East Part Deux


7. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: I probably would have let Caron Butler play a season in DC before giving him a five-year extension. Will he feel he has to earn it every night, or be one of those guys who coasts through? To replace Larry Hughes, the Wiz need a full effort from both Butler and free agent signee Antonio Daniels. With Arenas and Jamison back, at least scoring won't be a problem, and maybe now gunner Jarvis Hayes will get a chance.

6. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: The Bucks stole Jamal McGloire from the Hornets, and suddenly this team goes from the brink of the playoffs to scary. They HAD to overpay for Redd, and he'll be a key, but the most important player in Brewland is TJ Ford. IF he regains his rookie season form, Ford's an all-star and the Bucks are suddenly making the Pistons and Pacers nervous. My favorite thing with this team is that we can finally begin the "Who was a worse pick?" debate between Bogut and Darko. Have fun with that one, and remember: there's really no wrong answer.

5. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I'm going to say Lebron has two more years before he starts averaging a triple-double. I don't think he can be better than MJ, but I'm willing to hear the argument. HUghes was a good get, and will flourish with open dunks and shots courtesy of LBJ, as will Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall (maybe the most underrated signing of the offseason), and just about everybody else. Big Z looks more like a Big Distraction to me, but if his feet stay on and he doesn't whine too much about touches, this could work. How good do you think Carlos Boozer's feeling about things right about now? I don't feel sorry for him either.


4. DETROIT PISTONS: They're the best team in the conference when it matters, but they coasted through the regular season last year and still made the Finals. Where's the incentive to not do the same this year? Flipnosis has never been a real rah-rah guy, and guys with this kind of track record for winning probably wouldn't listen even if he was. They won't have the best record, but they're still the team to beat come April.

3. INDIANA PACERS: This looks crazy, but hear me out: Ron-Ron will be playing like a house-afire this year, and that's bound to spread to the team. They're right there with the Pistons, but they all play in the toughest division in the league, and that's going to take its toll. It'll keep them from the best record, but anybody from the Central that makes it (at last check I have four of the five) will be playoff tested before the 2nd season even starts. Even more fun than the Darko/Bogut debate will be seeing Don Stern have to present Ron-Ron with both the Defensive Player of the Year award AND Comeback POY. And before you start saying nobody would vote for him for the latter, remember Jason Giambi won the same award in baseball this season- you know, his comeback from STEROID ABUSE.

2. NEW JERSEY NETS: They're a distant 4th in the East, but here's why they finish 2nd: Not only are they the best team in the league's worst division, they're BY FAR the best team in the league's worst division. Nobody in the Atlantic (yes the Raptors have Bosh but they also have absolutely nothing else) has a low-presence to exploit Collins, Krstic, and anything else NJ has in the middle. Kidd and Jefferson will have something to prove after being injured for big chunks of the last two years, and well Vince Carter doesn't have a heart or soul, but since he's getting paid and the guys he's playing with are fun, he's along for the ride. Will this be the year he finally drives the lane with authority, and uses all of his God-given talent? Um no. When it really matters, Vince makes the Vikings D look tough, but hey, if you need a wide open dunk or a fade-away 3, he's your guy. Second round exit coming.

1, MIAMI HEAT: There are no group of people on earth that have bigger egos than NBA players (ok maybe Tom Cruise, but that's about it). The better the player, the bigger the ego, and the bigger the ego, the more the player wants the ball when it matters. Portland and Dallas of a few years back, as well as the Karl Malone/GP Lakers proved this doesn't work. You CAN have too many good players on one team in basketball! In the regular season, talent generally wins, which is why the Heat, along with the fact the Southeast is pretty weak, will cruise to the league's best record. Everybody will play nicey-nice during the year, but when the playoffs begin, that's when the trouble starts. DWade and Shaq not only need the ball in crunchtime, but deserve it, because they've proven they can take over in the clutch. THe problem here are guys like JWill and Antoine Walker, have been selfish players their whole careers (and both are on their third teams, I might add). Why would they change now? What was wrong with keeping Eddie JOnes for one more season and then gaining cap space? Ohhhhhh Pat Riley, that's right. Looks like egos aren't just on the court in the NBA. Despite having the two best players in the league, the HEat won't even make the conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals.

Jeff: NBA East Preview Part I

Wasn’t it just a few years back when this was the worst conference in the history of professional sports? Well the balance has shifted back, with 3 real-deal title contenders, and a slew of teams on the rise. And of course, there’s Toronto and Atlanta to play some 70-65 games as a reminder of how bad it used to be.


15. TORONTO RAPTORS: Canada does a lot of things well: hockey, beer, hockey, comedians, and of course, hockey. Basketball? Not so much. Sure, the Great White North will turn out a good NBA player or two, like Steve Nash, or the invaluable bearded wonder Bill Wennington, but when basketball and hockey are going at the same time, well, Canadians are going to watch hockey. Especially when the Raptors are this terrible. Mr. Stern: contraction case #2.

14. ATLANTA HAWKS: If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it at least twice: is there a worse pro sports town than Atlanta? I don’t think so. They’ve been spoiled by the Braves winning 14 consecutive division titles, to the point that nobody shows up unless they make the World Series. The only reason they go to Falcons games is because of Vick, and honestly, how’d they get an NHL team? Or how do they still have the Hawks? The mystery remains, as do hordes of empty seats at Phillips Arena for Hawks games.

13. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: Getting the hometown kids in UNC Alums Raymond Felton and Sean May was a nice idea, but how do you pass on Danny Granger AND Gerald Green twice? Bernie Bickerstaff is taking his time, trying to building slowly but surely. Emeka Okafor starts year 1 of his 10 year all-star tour. The guys around him will work hard, and continue to slowly improve. Oh and they also wear a lot of orange, so, you know, if you’re into that, here’s the team for you.


12. ORLANDO MAGIC: Stevie Franchise-Killer plays his last season in Orlando. That’s 2 (not included Vancouver where he pouted his way out of town before playing a game) places he’s been run out of town. Can we stop calling him Franchise please? Unless he’s playing in Portland, Atlanta, or Toronto, where the teams there apparently enjoy disfunction, can we drop the nickname please? Dwight Howard deserves better than this. If their teams were better, you’d actually be able to find the Howard/Okafor battles on TV. Like the Vikes and Gophs, Grant Hill continues to find new ways to do the same old things, which is get hurt.

11. CHICAGO BULLS: Cutting ties with Eddy Curry was the right move, although it’ll hurt them in the short-term, i.e. this season. Mike Sweetney could be a nice player, but they’re still a guy short in the middle. Hinrich, Gordon, Dang, and that other Argentinian make for a lethal backcourt rotation. A small step back this year, but they’re close in Chicago, very close.

10. BOSTON CELTICS: This is assuming GM Danny Ainge does the right thing and trades Paul Pierce before the trade deadline. I like Pierce, and he’s been the heart and soul of that team, but he doesn’t fit in the rebuilding process, and he deserves another shot at a title. He’s got value, and could add a couple more pieces for the C’s. Harrington at times looked like a monster-in-the-making, last year, but with added pressure and added minutes, we’ll see how he handles a bigger load. T-minus 3 years and counting before Gerald Green takes off as the best player in the 2005 draft class. Like, the Bulls, they’re on the cusp.

9. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Here’s a team that REALLY needs to blow it up completely and start over. They’ve tried every combination of guys around AI, and nothing’s worked. They at least got the Andre Iguodala pick right, as he’s a star in the making. Nobody was a bigger fan of C-Webb back in his Fab 5 days than I was, and it’s been sad to watch him these last few years. Like Shawn Kemp before him, one of the best power forwards of our time never got to realize his full potential.

8. NEW YORK KNICKS: Like the Sixers, so many problems here and so many cap problems they can do little to stop it. However, as much hype as Larry Brown’s gotten, I’m a believer. His teams are always competitive and he’ll find a way with this undersized, underachieving bunch too. Eddy Curry will help on the one night a week he feels like it, and Marbury will continue to be Marbury. Having Nate Robinson here makes it difficult for me to hate the Knicks- difficult, but not impossible.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Jeremy: I'll Take a Pepto on the Rocks

Sitting in the very last row of the Metrodome on Saturday watching the Gophers get absolutely destroyed in the second half was a horrible feeling. When things looked bad in the first half my "friends" made fun of me as I stood with my shoulders crossed and a scowl on my face. For many of them this was their first Gopher football game and they didn't know my game watching habits. In the second half I sat calmly and cussed either out loud or under my breath as I pulled my hat down over my eyes.
How was I to know that the pain I was feeling in the pit of my stomach was just a precursor to what I would feel on Sunday afternoon during the Vikings game?
As Daunte scrambled on that fateful play I was thinking to myself "that looks like the old Daunte..." But when he went down, and I saw that his knee had taken a beating and he grabbed it ever so slightly, it didn't look like it could be season ending.
Of course maybe that was the homer in me, the biased Viking fan who always assumes the best. I couldn't have been more wrong, and today, that pain in my stomach feels a little bit like what a burning ulcer that is being taunted by a hangover and the stomach flu might feel like.
They say when it rains it pours, but how come nobody told us it was going to be unseasonably monsoon-like all season long in Viking land? I'm no weatherman, but I'm predicting the monsoon is only going to rage on. Might be time to board up the house, sandbag the perimeter and prepare for the worst.

Jeff: Daunte's Down & the Vikes Are Out

A team that we thought was going to be a Super Bowl contender in August, is looking like a team who will only be contending for the #1 pick heading into November. The last-second miracle win against Green Bay two weeks ago provided a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe, the Minnesota Vikings squad we had hoped to see would finally show up. The bloodbath in Carolina sank any of that talk. After getting demolished 38-14 by Steve Smith and the Panthers, the Vikings season is essentially lost, as is starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper was running for his life once again in the first half, and when he finally found some daylight he decided to take his frustrations out on Panther safety ... At the same time, corner Chris Gamble went low, just as you're taught. THe combination collision bent Culpepper's knee in an awkward way, and he slumpt to the turf. After being helped off, the worst is feared today for him, and the same can only be said for the entire organization as well.

Two things about that hit: One, it was NOT a cheap shot by Gamble, as a few morning radio hosts were trying to say. Gamble is AT LEAST 60 pounds lighter than Daunte, and as all corners are taught when tackling a much bigger man, go low below the knees. A man Gamble's size couldn't possibly tackle somebody like Daunte by going high. Hits like this happen all the time, and this one just happened to be at an unfortunate angle. Two, yes Daunte is 265 and moves like a gazelle, but that injury never happens if he slides like he's supposed to. Commentators today said it was just Daunte wanting to be competitive and win and get some extra yards. Look, I would assume the other 31 starting NFL QB's want to be competitive and win. They're not sliding because they care less, they're sliding because they care MORE. Even at Daunte's size, he's the one being hit, not the other way around, and by not sliding, he's leaving himself open to shots like he took. Especially when his knee was already a detriment to him all season, there's no excuse for him not sliding and avoiding further contact there.

So now the season rests on the shoulders of Brad Johnson, who looked nothing Sunday like the Super Bowl winner he was with Tampa five years ago. But even if we had the Brad of five years ago, it would matter little with this team. Nobody can seem to explain why the Vikings are a completely different team on the road, but neither their offense or defense has had a clue away from the Dome. $25 million down the drain on what was supposed to be a much improved defense. Steve Smith humiliated a once-confident Fred Smoot, and Jake Delhomme and Stephen Davis carved up everybody else. There was hope that after strong first-halves and second-half flops the last couple of seasons, that maybe this year will be the opposite. Sunday's loss showed both halves of the season will be woeful this year. Perhaps it's for the best: with no hope to cling to now, this should give owner Zygy Wilf all the reason he needs to completely overhaul the players, and organization, from top to bottom. This year has proven that this Vikings' ship has so many holes, it's a wonder it's stayed afloat as long as it has.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jeff: NBA Preview: Out West

I'm going to attempt to make this shorter than last year's. Of course I said that last year, and if you attempted to read it, well you know how that went.

15. New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Baton Rouge/Timbuktoo Hornets: They'll play most of their home games in Oklahoma City. Good thing the Okies or Sooners aren't on the schedule. I know there's a reason this team hasn't been contracted yet, but I'm forgetting. Please, Don Stern, do this before it's too late to save Chris Paul (who will be the best player from the '05 draft for the first 3 seasons) and JR Smith.

14. Portland JailBlazers: You know the end of the world is upon us when Joel Prysbilla is considered a quality NBA center. Yes THAT Joel Prysbilla. Yes the Vanilla Gorilla. Gopher fans, you may now collectively stare at the floor, shake your head, and mutter extremities under your breath. Trust me, it helps.

13. LA Clippers: What do the Clips, Arizona Cardinals, and Alex Rodriguez all have in common? None of them will ever win a championship. (As a Mariners fan, that feels great to say out loud. Honestly, as long as the Yankees have ARod -which is hopefully forever- they can put an all-star at every position and still not win the Series. Oh wait, they've already done that! And see? No title. Beautiful)

12. LA Lakers: I know, I know, I know, they have Kobe AND Phil. They also have a disgruntled Lamar Odom and absolutely nothing else...unless you're counting on Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, or Andrew Bynum to be a factor in the post? And did I mention Speedy Claxton's their point guard? See, I knew you'd come around. Also, Phil hasn't really "coached" a team since his first title run with MJ, and even if he started now it wouldn't matter.

6 teams; 3 playoff spots. You'd have as much luck throwing darts at them to figure out who's finishing where. I have no idea, but then again you already knew that.

11. Utah Jazz: They'll make the Sox/Astros series look entertaining by comparison. Speaking of which, with all sincerity, congratulations to the Chicago White Sox and their 12 real, die-hard fans. There are many baseball fans, like myself, who may never get to experience what you folks are feeling. With that said, can we stop pretending this win was as good for the city of Chicago as it would have been for the Cubs to win it? Please. If the Cubbies ever win a World Series, that city would be in absolute and total chaos. They wouldn't be able to hold the parade down Michigan Avenue for weeks because of the looting, rioting, partying, and group sex that would make even the Minnesota Vikings uncomfortable. Drunk college kids would be parading Harry Caray's corpse around town shouting "Cubs Win!" "Holy Cow!" and "It's a simple question! A baby could answer it!" like it was a Weekend at Bernie's movie. The Sox win over Houston may make them the #1 team in baseball this season, but it doesn't change the fact they'll always be a distant second in the Windy City.

10. Seattle Sonics: I compare this team to the Chicago Bears of a few years back. You know, the one that came out of nowhere to win 12 games? EVERYTHING went right for them. Well that was the Sonics last year. Like that Bears team, the Supes come back to earth. Getting rid of starting center Jerome James was a good idea. Letting coach Nate McMillan and top assistant Dwayne Casey walk? Not so much.

9. Phoenix Suns: Ok so let met get this straight: last season, this team's entire offense predicated on running the fast break, and Nash driving and dishing to either Amare or a wide-open guy for 3. And they played no defense whatsoever. This season, Amare's out for at least 3 months, and their two best 3-point shooters are gone. Oh, and they still can't play defense. Only my undying love- I mean respect- for fellow Canadian Steve Nash has them ranked this high.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves: You know those Adidas commercials of KG running on the beach in a Muhammed Ali sweatshirt? That's not a marketing gimmick. I think Adidas couldn't find him all summer, and somebody stumbled across him running 19 miles a day on the beach, and they just filmed it. Too bad they didn't show his training where he alternates Wally Scerbiak and Rick Rickert punching bags. Garnett will have his best season as a pro, carry this team on his back, and be the first guy to win MVP on an 8 seed. It's also probably his last year in a Wolves uniform, so enjoy it while you can.

7. Memphis Grizzlies: No allstars but good depth, and guys who know how to win. Plus Pau Gasol has a sweet Grizzly-Adams beard. Apparently he's trying to shed the "soft" label. Um, Pau? You're European. You'll always be soft. The beard won't change that. Also, can you put an "l" at the end of your first name please? That's always bothered me.

6. Golden State Warriors: Their season hinges on the hinges, screws, plates, and whatever else is holding Baron Davis together. IF Baron can stay healthy for an entire season the Warriors take the reigns from Phoenix as the most exciting team in the league to watch, and the scariest opponent for anyone to play. However, considering I don't believe Davis has had an injury-free season at any level, this is probably just wishful thinking.


5. Dallas Mavericks: As much fun as the Nash/Mike Finley/Dirk Nowitzki trio was to watch, they were not going to win a championship for Dallas. Through free agency and the amnesty clause, the Mavs are 2/3rds finished with their housecleaning. Mark Cuban needs to deal the Diggler now for as much as he can get, and build around someone else because the Dirk will not lead a team to the title. I had high hopes for him that maybe, just maybe, he'd be the first European to step-up when it mattered. Of course that was right before chewing out Jason Terry at the end of game 5 and then missing all 5 of his shots in OT. Maybe if he didn't shave his head every year things would be different, but I doubt it.

4. Houston Rockets: Probably the 2nd best team in the West with the addition of a real power forward and point guard, but because of the divisional format they'll have to settle for a 4 seed. But at least they'll host, giving T-Mac his best opportunity yet to break his 1st round playoff drought. And imagine if he plays all year like he did in the first round against Dallas last year? Yao Ming has had an entire summer off to rest up for the first time since the Great Wall of China was built. And you know what? He'll still never be an elite player. Never.

3. Sacramento Kings: Remember when this was the toughest division in decades? Now the Kings have half the team they used to, and yet they'll still get a home series. Bibby will be Bibby, and Brad Miller will continue to be the Esa Tikannen of the NBA (for non-hockey fans that's the guy every team hates with all-star skills). There's a reason Bonzi Wells is on his 3rd team in four years, and he'll have his annual meltdown before season's end.

2. Denver Nuggets: Nobody's happier about the division realignment than, as my friend Joel likes to call them, the "Nugents." Everyone, including myself, predicted this ascention last season, but this really should be the year. If they grab a clue by the trade deadline and deal Nene for a legitimate 2-guard, they could really challenge the Spurs. Melo was a new man under George Karl, and as we saw last year, as he goes, so go the Nuge. I still worry though that's he got too much Glenn Robinson in him. Extra points to Denver for the powder blues, being fun to watch, and, of course, for Earl Boykins.


1. San Antonio Spurs: The only people who would whine that Tony Parker, who has been the point guard on two Spurs Title teams, shatters the mold of "soft Europeans" would be Europeans themselves. So just in case there's any that are taking a break from hating Americans or watching soccer to read this, let me make this point: Derek Fischer and BJ Armstrong were also starting point guards on multiple title winners. When they eventually left for new teams, they were exposed for the below-average players that they were. If Parker's smart, which considering he's dating Eva Longoria I'd say he is, he will do whatever it takes to stay in a Spurs uniform as long as Tim Duncan does. Granted the PG play in the league has never been worse, but I'm baffled as to how Parker was able to drive through the lane at will last year. The only thing I can figure is that out of respect and awe, the rest of the league won't guard him as long as he's dating Eva.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jeff: What's the story?

Two sports stories today caught my attention, both because I can't believe they're getting any attention at all.

The first is Sheryl Swoopes has admitted to being gay. 99.999999% of people have two responses to that sentence: the first is "Who?" The second is "Who cares?"

The article contends that "Swoopes, 34, is the most recognizable athlete, male or female, to come out in a team sport." Um, WHAT?

First of all, the comment that Swoopes is the most "recognizable athlete to come out in a team sport" is ridiculous. Only the most die-hard of hoops fans, and women's hoops fans at that, know who Swoopes is. No matter how much ESPN and David Stern try to shove it down our throats THE WNBA IS NOT A MAJOR SPORT. NOBODY CARES. This is a good player from an obscure league. If this were Mia Hamm, Anna Kournikova, Michelle Wie, or one of the Williams sisters, THAT would be a recognizeable athlete. You ask 100 people who Sheryl Swoopes is, you'd be lucky to get 2 or 3 people that would know. You ask 100 people who Hamm, Wie, Venus, Serena, or Kournakova is, I would guess at least half the people, and possibly more, could tell you. Those are recognizeable athletes. Swoopes is not.

Second, I don't believe this opens the door of acceptance for both gay female AND male athletes. I really don't think there's much of a problem with the acceptance of lesbian athletes today. Much of the WNBA's fanbase comes from the gay and lesbian community already, so I think this helps a lesbian, not hurt them. And please don't make the argument that "well it hurts her endorsement opportunities with mainstream America." PLEASE. Gay or straight, she didn't have any to begin with. Furthermore, we've already had prominent female athletes in tennis, the most popular women's sport, come out. Billy Jean King and Maria Navratalova were two of the greatest in the history of the sport. I don't remember there being a real big deal made about this.

It certainly hasn't made mainstream America more comfortable with the idea of a gay man in a team sport. To think Swoopes coming out will change people's minds on that is naive at best. I'm not saying that attitude is right, but comparing Swoopes in the WNBA to a guy in one of the four major pro sports is like...well you know what there IS no comparison to that. Bottom line: GOod for Sheryl Swoopes, and I'm glad she feels better about things. I just don't care.

The second article is about long-time Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry making the comment that black players "can run very, very well." Here's the two comments he made:

'He said Air Force needed to recruit faster players. "We were looking at things, like you don't see many minority athletes in our program,"'

"It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me they run extremely well,"

I'm sorry, but why is this an issue? Race relations are far from perfect in this country, but what's the problem here? The man isn't saying that all African-Americans do is run well, or run fast and that all they are or can be as a race is good athletes. Not at all. The man is simply stating a fact. The two positions in football that speed, quickness, and agility are most vital to are running back and corner back. Look at the NFL: you don't even need one hand to count the number of white running backs AND defensive backs. You simply need one finger. BRad Hoover, who started last year as Carolina's fullback, was moved to tail back after four, count them, FOUR running backs on the team got hurt. He was the only white RB in the league I can even think of. And corners? Now that the vastly overrated Jason Sehorn is no longer prancing around the league, there are zero white corners. None. And if you watch D-1 football on Saturdays, the number of quality white starters at those positions is pretty similar.

IS this racist? Of course not. Do all african-americans run faster? Of course not. But the best players should play, regardless of race, and the sheer number of african-americans playing those positions (as well as wide receiver) show that. Please leave DeBerry alone. He's got enough to worry about with that program as it is.