Tuesday, December 26, 2006
My argument for keeping Chilly is that he needs the chance to prove he can adapt. I have not been impressed with Chilly whatsoever thus far, and can see Nato's point about there having been few if any signs of hope or progress in year 1 of the Chilly Regime. His "kick-ass" scheme, as he so eloquently called it a couple of days ago, has been anything but. Strib beat writer Kevin Seifert pondered a few days ago whether it's the players' fault for running and throwing short routes on 3rd down that don't produce 1st downs, or if it's "the scheme" that is telling them to do it (as he notes, 43 times this year, or 40% of 3rd downs, the Vikes have completed passes that have come up short of a 1st down)? After watching Jackson on Thursday night, I wonder if it's not the scheme after all. A kid with a CANNON and great mobility sat in the pocket all night doing his best Brad Johnson impression (the first long ball that Williamsons dropped not withstanding. What a throw!) by throwing short and playing it safe. It seems that Chilly's philosophy is to live another day by not taking many chances, yet that strategy has failed despite a very good defense.
These coaches, just like the players, have gigantic egos, so big it's a wonder they can fit them under their headsets. They believe supremely in their "system" or "scheme" or whatever it is, and they want to do things their way to prove just how great a coach they are. Well if you know anything about football, you know the best coaches and players are the ones who make adjustments on the fly. No matter how good your scheme is, other teams will make the proper adjustments to stop it. It appears that other teams early on realized that if you stop Chester Taylor and the Vikes running game, you stop the offense, and that's essentially what's happened.
Nato doesn't buy the idea that Childress can change because he hasn't bothered to change all year. Although I wouldn't disagree, I'd still like to see him run this thing with a competant QB AND/or some receivers who can catch. You get away with a mediocre QB or bad receivers in the NFL, but not both. THe O-line is also adjusting to a new way of blocking (I know zone blocking is different than regular blocking, but couldn't even begin to tell you how. I just know it is), and so I'd like to see them get a full year and another offseason learning how to run it. There's some player big decisions to be made for next season, like quarterback (is Jackson ready to start?), and wide receiver (draft a couple? sign a couple of more?), as well as cornerback on defense (Fred Smoot is as good as gone). Give Childress some upgrades at these positions, and then let's see how he does. If the only ass his offense is kicking is his own, then it's time to find somebody else.
I also worry about firing a coach after only a year because of what's happened in Washington. The Redskins went through like 19 coaches and were overhauling the roster every year. Result? Nothing very positive in that time. A coach in the NFL needs 2 years to get a full group of "his guys" in there to try and do what he wants. Again this is not an endorsement for Childress, because he's been disappointing at best this year, but he should get one more season to prove he can coach.
As for Troy Williamson, another year's not going to do him any good. 10 more years won't do him any good! Williamson wasn't thrown to much at South Carolina, and now we see why. As he showed on that first deep ball on Thursday night, it doesn't matter how fast he can run if he can't make the proper adjustments and catch the damn ball when it comes to him. You can teach a receiver things like how to run routes, how to read a zone and where to settle in, as well learning to catch the ball with your hands instead of trapping it against your body. But what Williamson can't do, which is find the ball and adjust to it and then catch it when it comes to you, can't be taught. You can either do it or you can't. Cut your losses and move on, because there's slower guys who be much more productive with the playing time he's been given...not necessarily on this year's squad, but hopefully there will be next year.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Brad Childress: a new offensive scheme for 2007 that involves scoring points, converting 3rd downs, and completing passes more than 5 yards downfield. I also hope it involves this discipline he speaks of, since the Vikes had another 10 penalities last night and continue to lead the league in that category.
Tavaris Jackson: some receivers that can actually catch.
Brett Favre: a speedy decision on whether he's coming back or not. This has no chance of happening since I'm sure Santa has a man-crush on him too, and just loves how much "fun" Brett has out there. "Look at him! Look at how much fun he's having! Look at the terrible throw! Look at that interception! He's just having so much dog-on fun out there! He just loves football! And I love Brett!!" Sorry, broke out into Favre-arian there. So yes we can expect him to drag the thing out all winter, spring, and summer to receive massive amounts of media adoration that he claims he doesn't care about, and then announce he's coming back. There are now officially two seasons in Packerland: football season and "Is Favre coming back?!?!?" season.
Packer Fans: A case of old mil and a vat of nacho cheese to get them through the roller coaster ride of the "Is Favre coming back?!?" season.
LaDanian Tomlinson: A Super Bowl, or at least a chance to play for one. I don't want to see a guy this good have a Barry Sanders-like career.
Terrell Owens: to lead the league in dropped passes and not even be the best receiver on his own team so that he won't be able to talk about how great he is. What's that? He DID lead the league in drops? And Terry Glenn's a better receiver? And he's STILL mentioned at least 700 times a night on Sportscenter?
Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor: get the dirty pictures or incriminating evidence of himself back from Kevin McHale so he can fire the Big Ostrich, and get a guy to run the Wolves that actually knows what he's doing. And somebody who doesn't mind putting in a 40 hour work week. Of course he'd actually have to be able to find McHale to fire him. McHale sees his office at Target Center about as often as Rueben Studdard sees his feet.
Kevin McHale: Since killing someone is still considered morally wrong, even if they've caused as much pain and anguish over the last decade as McHale has for Wolves fans, then I won't wish for that. Just a new non-basketball related job for McHale in 2007, like GM of the Minnesota Lynx.
Isiah Thomas: 10 more years running the Knicks. Please.
Francisco Liriano: a healthy left elbow.
Joe Mauer: for rudolf and the other reindeer to pin him down while Santa shaves off those $^%&*ing sideburns!!! Joe it's 2006! You're one of the best players in baseball and you look like an idiot! Sideburns went out with Dylan McKay in like 1996!
Joel Maturi: a letter of resignation.
Glen Mason: ditto.
Rick Majerus: job as new basketball coach at the U.
Lou Nanne: to take Maturi's spot as AD (seriously have you heard that guy lately on Barriero's show talking about the Gopher hoops coaching search? Who knew hockey players knew about other things besides hockey?!? Put Louie in charge! The man will get things done!).
My final wish is for you and yours to have a very Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
*There is literally no good natured banter in the office today about tonight's Viking/Packer tilt. Nobody is excited about this game like most years, or even as excited about the first match-up earlier this year. You've got two teams who have performed poorly all year, playing for a the glimmer of hope that a playoff spot might fall into their laps and bragging rights. It's hard to be excited. Actually, it's hard to be excited about much of anything sports-related in this town right now. Every team we claim is either mediocre, or full-on terrible.
*It's always fun to see how Sid is going to react when a local sports figure has been bad-mouthed in this town. Look, I don't think that Brad Johnson deserved to be booed on Sunday. He did not play poorly, but don't get me wrong, he certainly did not play well enough to win. Sid takes things a bit far in his defense of Johnson today.
"Johnson owns a Super Bowl ring, and when he retires he will go down in history as being one of the better quarterbacks to ever play in the league."
Two problems with that statement.
#1, what constitutes calling Johnson "one of the better quarterback to ever play in the league"? Better than what? And what makes him better? The fact that he's been a starter?
#2, the fact that Johnson has a Super Bowl ring does not make him immune to booing.
*I'm with Jeff, the Tarvaris Jackson era needed to start. I think everyone was ready to have the Brad Johnson experiment come to an end. At this point Brad Johnson is like an old, lucky pair of boxers: they're beat-up, there's a hole here and there, they've lost some elasticity, but you just can't bring yourself to let go of them. But one day you realize a new hole, one that might cause you to get your wedding-tackle caught in the zipper. Thankful that you haven't already lost your facilities, and certain that it's time to part with your old friend, you move on. Hopefully Tarvaris doesn't end up being like boxer-briefs.
*I was a little surprised last night when I heard Joe "Mr. Fun" Anderson talking on KFAN last night and saying that he believes that if Brad Childress' job isn't in jeopardy heading into the final two games, he believes it should be. I don't understand this. Mike Tice fell into a 9-7 record last year by beating a host of bad teams. The fact that Brad Childress is going to finish with a record below Tice's means nothing. He's a first year head coach whose quarterback is unable to create anything on his own in the way of offense. Chilly deserves at least another year to show that he is able to build upon what he has started.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I didn't like this deal for Denver, because I wondered how AI and Carmello could co-exist, and how there'd be enough shots for both, and with Miller gone, who would be getting these guys the ball? Then I read The Professor John Hollinger's Insider column on it (it's on ESPN.com but there's no point linking to it because if you don't have Insider you can't read it). Hollinger, with humor, insight, and other-worldly statistical analysis, has fast become my favorite NBA scribe, and he didn't let me down. In a nut-shell (insert Austin Powers joke here), here's why this should be a great trade for the Nuggets:
- They play at one of the fastest paces in the league (Phoenix, obviously, being the other), and other than Steve Nash, nobody likes to push the pace more than Iverson. He's a great fit for that system.
- Melo's leading the league in scoring, but it's not like he's taking every shot. Sure AI will take a few shots away from Melo, but he'll be taking most of the shots away from the departed Miller, and the might-as-well-be-gone 5'5 Earl Boykins, who's currently shooting 37% from the field. That's a big-time improvement for Denver.
- Denver's lowpost guys, Marcus Camby, Reggie Evans, and Nene, are all good defenders and rebounders, and, most importantly, don't need a lot of shots.
- Finally, coach George Karl is used to dealing with, um, head strong guards, like Gary Payton in Seattle or Sam Cassell in Milwaukee. Karl should figure out a way to keep everybody happy
Hollinger thinks the Nuggets are now a legit title contender. I scoffed at that too, but think about it: sure the Nuge will have problems containing Duncan, Stoudamire, or Dirk. But who the hell is going to guard Melo AND AI? The Nuggets now have 2 guys who are completely unguardable 1-on-1. If Carmelo and Iverson can put aside their egos a bit, this could work very, very well.
So what does this mean for the Wolves? Well for the front-office, it's probably time for them to put their heads back in the sand and keep believing that this is still a playoff team and they don't have to blow it up and start over. That's assinine, of course, because as Jer and I have been saying for well over a year now, this team's salary structure is so awful for the remainder of Garnett's contract, there's no way to add a good player through free agency. It's also going to be difficult through the draft when you're going to lose at least 1 #1 to the Clippers, and possibly also the one owed to the Celtics before Garnett's deal is up. And we just saw why it's going to be near impossible to improve the team through trades. The Wolves had the one guy in Randy Foye that Philly wanted most, but because of all the horrible contracts and lack of #1 picks, they couldn't get it done (Or as Steve Aschburner explains, it was because McHale thought Foye was too valuable to give up). Any way you slice it, this is the Wolves team you'll be looking at for the next 2 plus years, which means at best they're a 7 or 8 seed (which looks exceedingly doubtful now that the Wolves biggest division rival just got a helluva lot better), or at worse one of the 7 or 8 worst teams in the league.
Not getting Iverson means keeping KG is completely worthless, as well as senseless. They are NOT and will NOT be a championship contender as long as Garnett stays. That's the facts. If the front office continues to believe otherwise, they're only fooling themselves, and trying to fool the fans. I know nobody wants to see Garnett goes, but him staying means you're going to watch a mediocre-at-best team, and I would hope nobody wants to see that. I unfortunately believe Taylor and McHale are too gutless to pull the trigger on a KG deal at the deadline, so the only hope now is KG finally realizes that the goodship Timberwolf is sinking like the Titanic, and if he wants off before it goes completely under, it's up to him to demand a trade and get out. AI was the one shot the Wolves had at salvaging this, but now it's either deal The Franchise, or continue the long, slow, inevitable desent towards the bottom of the league.
Monday, December 18, 2006
- If I could have but one Christmas wish, I'd hope that Santa would beat BRad Childress over the head with his bag of toys, and have Rudolph repeatedly kick him in the jingle bells until he agrees that the Brad Johnson Era is officially over and the Tavaris Jackson Era has started. As the Strib reports, Chilly hasn't named a starter for Thursday's tilt with the Pack yet, but the fans choice, as well as the only logical one, would be for Jackson to make his first career start. Yes on the surface Johnson's numbers were decent yesterday, with a QB rating of 94.1, but anyone who watched the game knows how hollow those numbers are. Other than a great throw to Travis Taylor for the the Vikes opening TD, the offense was stagnant under Johnson all afternoon, and posed no serious threat. Is Jackson a better QB than Johnson right now? Probably not, but he can't be much worse. The other guys on offense certainly aren't responding much to Johnson's and Chilly's penchant for playing it safe and dumping it off time after time. I haven't seen a stat for "most 3rd down completions that come up well short of a first down" but if there were, Johnson would be leading the league. Souhan's column today was snarky and sarcastic, but I think he makes a good point near the end when he wonders if Jackson's going to be forced to make the same reads Johnson did and continue playing it safe. I don't condone throwing deep downfield every play, but it'd be nice to see the Vikes actually attempt to convert a 3rd down every now and then, you know, like the Jets did, where they throw the ball to a receiver who's beyond the 1st down marker instead of one who's 5 yards short of it. Jackson's not going to make this team a whole lot better, but he won't make them worse, and they need to figure out what kind of learning curve the kid's going to have heading into next year.
- If it's possible in today's world of 24 hour sports networks and the internet and blogosphere where EVERYTHING is overhyped and one good quarter from a guy warrants him being called "The Greatest" LaDanian Tomlinson is underappreciated. After 6 amazing years, I'm still not ready to talk about him as one of the greatest of all-time, but a few more years like this and he's definitely there. I can say, in watching him shred the Chiefs, that the guy makes moves and sees running lanes develop that nobody else sees, let alone gets to. He runs over people or around them, and is the best receiving back in the league, and is hands down the best player in the league. And yet his exposure is dwarfed by that of Terrell Owen's because Tomlinson is a good guy with a quiet demeanor who hands the ball to the ref after each of his 28 TD's this year. Tomlinson's a class act, and you can't possibly overhype that.
- STILL no AI trade, but it looks like the Wolves are still in the running as they possess the guy Philly wants most out of this, Villanova alum Randy Foye. AI coming to Minnesota would be the best thing to happen to the Wolves since KG was drafted, but I'm still doubtful McHale has the cahones to pull the trigger. Depending on who you want to believe, the Nuggets, Celtics, or Clippers are in the lead at any given moment.
- Brad Radke will officially retire tomorrow. In Twins history, he finishes 3rd all time in wins (148), 2nd in career starts (377), 3rd in strikeouts (1467), and in typical Radke fashion, first in home runs given up (326).
- Looks like the Little Engine That Could will try and find Radke's replacement in the rotation from in-house candidates, and the way the offseason has unfolded, I don't think you can blame them. The price for a free agent starting pitcher is ridiculous, and because of that, teams are asking for the moon if you want to trade for a pitcher. Looks like the LETC will slot Santana as the opening day starter (duh), with Carlos "Hi Ho" Silva, Boof Bonser, and Matt Garza filling the next 4 spots, leaving Scott Baker and Gopher alum Glen Perkins to fight for the 5th spot. There's definitely some question marks there but also some young talent, and with the strength of the Twins bullpen they should be able to get at least 4 reliable starts out of the 5 days.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Adding AI with Garnett, makes the Wolves an instant contender. Take a look at all of the teams around the league with two top 15 superstar players. Look at every single NBA Champion since 1990 and they all had two players that were within the top 15 or 20 players in the league that year. I'm serious look it up. Heat (Shaq & DWade), Lakers (Shaq & Kobe), Spurs (Duncan & Parker or Duncan & Robinson), Bulls (MJ & Scottie), Rockets (Hakeem & Clyde), Pistons (Thomas & Dumars/Chauncey & Wallace). I don't think it's out of line to go as far as to say that in the NBA, if you want a championship, you need to have two superstars.
The only other question is chemistry between AI & KG. You are talking about two guys in their early 30's, two guys who have been in the league over a decade, two guys who leave everything on the court every night, two guys who have neither won an NBA Championship, and two guys who want a ring more than anything. They've both had all of the individual recognition that they need, they are in the waning years of their careers and they want to end things on an upswing. KG has never had chemistry issues with anyone but Wally, and who wouldn't? As for AI, chemistry with his teammates has never been an issue; management maybe, but not with his teammates. In addition, AI would not be top of the totem pole in Minnesota, that's KG's spot. And that might just be enough for AI to keep his mouth shut, and show up for practice. "Practice? We talkin' 'bout practice? What are we talkin' 'bout? Practice? We talkin' 'bout practice." Yes, AI, I am talking about practice. Sorry, had to get that out of my system.
*On the Insight.com Bowl:
I'm curious if anyone knows what the over/under is for passing yards by the Red Raiders vs. the Gophers in the Insight Bowl? I would have to imagine it's somewhere in the 350 yard range. One of the best passing offenses in the nation against one of the worst passing defenses in the nation. Superb!
Monday, December 11, 2006
* After last night's New Orleans routing of Dallas in Big D, it's apparent that there IS no "Best Team in the NFC", so can we please stop touting a different team every week? You know who'll be the NFC's best team? Whoever plays in the Super Bowl. Who's that going to be? I have no idea, and anyone who tells you they do is lying. The Bears are still in great position to win homefield advantage, but with the way QB Rex Grossman has played, they're just as likely to be one-and-done. Dallas showed last night they've got major holes, the Seahawks lost to an Arizona team just playing out the string, and despite how good New Orleans looked last night, do you REALLY trust them yet as a contender? Me neither, but don't get me wrong, the Saints would be a very fun team to watch in the Super Bowl.
* In the AFC the Chargers...well maybe we need the same rule here too. I want to crown the Chargers as the AFC's best, but the AFC's Best Team should handle Kansas City next Sunday night. If the Chargers stumble, then what? Baltimore? Cincinnati? It's certainly not Indianapolis or Denver or New England after watching all of them get rolled yesterday. It SHOULD be San Diego, and I can't tell you how much I would enjoy a San Diego/New Orleans Super Bowl, but there's just no way to tell with so much parity from week to week.
* I have no such problem telling you who the best player in football is. If LaDanian Tomlinson doesn't win the MVP this year, they should just stop handing it out. He is that much better than everybody else right now.
* Len Pasquarelli is one of the best pro football writers alive, and I read his work whenever I can. However, his column this morning says that Indy's D will keep Peyton Manning from winning a Super Bowl this year makes me wonder if Manning is taking Favre's place as the new guy people will not blame no matter how they pla. Is it true about the Colts D? Absolutely. After giving up an astounding 375 rushing yards at 8.9 yards per carry to Jacksonville yesterday, it's obvious that no matter how good Manning and the COlts offense is, they are definitely not winning a Super Bowl with that defense. Hell I don't think they're winning a playoff game with that defense. As the Sports Guy has pointed out numerous times, this is definitely Indy's worst team in the last 4 or 5 years, and after getting blown out 44-17 on Sunday, there's no longer any doubt. However, is Mr. Pasquarelli forgetting that the reason Peyton Manning didn't get to a Super Bowl in years past was because of none other than Peyton Manning? Has Mr. Pasquarelli forgotten that Manning is the NFL's best regular season quarterback EVERY YEAR before he has his playoff meltdown? All the defense will do for Manning this year is deflect the blame for the Colts playoff shortcomings for a season. As I said, when did Manning become BRett Favre? When did he start being able to do no wrong no matter how poorly he plays in big games?
* In NBA matters, there's still a YUGE buzz in this town about the possibility of Allen Iverson coming to Minnesota. Although the possibilites seem slimmer by the day, as noted by Strib beat writer Steve Aschburner, the Wolves still do look to be in the running (despite reports in the Pioneer Press Saturday which quoted Wolves owner Glen Taylor saying dealing for Iverson would be too expensive, he's thankfully backed off those claims. This isn't baseball, this is the NBA, where you have to match contracts, so Iverson wouldn't be anymore expensive for the next 3 years than keeping his current roster together), and I guess we can't rule anything out until he's dealt. ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan reports that a deal could happen as soon as today or tomorrow, which makes you wonder, as Marc Stein does, why the Sixers are in such a rush to get rid of him? As Stein notes, the Indiana Pacers were in a similar situation last year with Ron Artest, but they sat him, took their time, and ended up getting Peja Stojakovic for him, which at the time was a much better return than anyone thought they'd get. Sixers GM Billy King's track record has been, well, McHale-esque thus far, and rushing into a trade for Iverson could speed up King's exit out of town. And all Sixers fans pause from beating themselves to death with a blunt object to rejoice.
Boston definitely has the best package to offer, but you've got to think the Sixers don't want to trade Iverson to their biggest rival. The next couple of days promise to be interesting.
Friday, December 08, 2006
GO GET AI!!!!!
Two reasons for my change of heart:
1) The Bulls can make the best offer for KG IF they were willing to include the Knicks #1 pick for the upcoming draft with Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, and PJ Brown's expiring contract.
HOWEVER I have no idea if that trade has ever been offered, and more over, if that trade ever will be offered. I believe KG would be the perfect fit in Chicago to make them a championship contender, and the Bulls package of pick and players would best available. But there's no guarantee the Bulls are going to offer those players and that pick. None.
2) As the City Pages interview with Wolves owner Glen Taylor a couple of weeks ago made perfectly clear, the Wolves will not deal KG unless he asks them to. And he's not going to. And Taylor doesn't want to be known as the guy who traded The Franchise. And McHale doesn't have the cahones to do it either. So if they're not going to blow it up and start over, you HAVE to go for the gusto, take a gamble and go for it. I feel like I've said this a million times, but with the way the team is currently constructed (they have the league's 3rd worst cap situation behind the Knicks and Sixers), they're not going to be able to add much talent for the remainder of Garnett's contract terms. This team as currently constructed is not a playoff contender. So if you're not a playoff team with Garnett you either deal him and start over or take a chance on Iverson.
TAKE THAT CHANCE!!!
Does AI make the Wolves a title contender? Probably not. But they'd be a playoff team, and they'd be feisty. Very feisty. And maybe, just maybe, with AI AND KG on board, next summer you could talk a wiley veteran into signing a Gary Payton-type cheap contract to get a chance for a ring to bolster the roster.
Pull out all the stops, push all your chips to the middle of the table, and go get Iverson.
What can they offer? Anybody not named KG. Seriously. Foye's going to be a nice player, Mike James is a decent guard and...seriously everybody but Garnett should be offered. I would really like to see them keep Craig Smith because it's been so long since the Wolves have had a decent low-post presence. But if it takes including Smith, you do it.
Iverson makes about $18.3 million, so if my calculations are right, the Wolves would have to offer close to $17 million or so in returning salary to get a deal done. Here's an idea of what they could offer (salaries, as always, courtesy of hoopshype:
Foye ($2.5 million), Ricky Davis ($6.4 million & only 2 years left), Mike James ($6.1 with the 15% "trade kicker" if he's traded), and Eddie Griffin ($2.7 & only 2 years left) get you close. And then if they wanted McCants ($1.7 million) or Smith (barely $500k) included, that would get you up the salaries needed. Oh and draft picks. Throw one or two of those in there too- well of course not including the ones already owed to the Clippers and Celtics.
Are you morgaging the future? You betcha!! If you stand pat, they go out with a wimper. Trade for AI and give them anybody not KG, and suddenly the Wolves are interesting and relevant and are alive again. Bring on Allen Iverson!!!