Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jeff: Can Manning Win the Big One?

So apparently the Super Bowl is this weekend. Really? Already? I thought they were taking 2 months off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl just so we can build the proper amount of hype and build up. Two weeks of beating us over the head with the same stories or then finding new and even more meaningless stories to hit us with just isn't enough. Thank god there's a 9 hour pregame at least.

The only good thing about having 2 weeks until the Super Bowl has been the NFL Network running the "America's Game" series, which counts down the best 20 Super Bowl teams ever with 20 one hour shows. If you love football you have to find a way to watch this. NFL Films is as good as it gets for showing off its sport, and nobody else is close. The depth, the interviews, and of course all the film is just awesome. I don't even like or care about most of the teams they've shown, but to see it and learn about what made the Steelers or Cowboys of the '70's great has been interesting. I also understand now why Raider owner Al Davis still believes in "Just Win Baby" and throwing the deep ball and everything else because of his 1976 team. That was a crazy team (throughout the hour it also shows just how good a coach John Madden was), but it worked for them and won. The things that worked for that team won't work in today's NFL which explains why Davis shouldn't be making decisions for the Raiders anymore, but at least now I understand why he is the way he is.

The other thing the America's Game series gives is perspective, which is something that can be applied to Peyton Manning and the Colts. I've never been a big Peyton guy, believing that he's been showered with praise and adoration by anyone and everyone without having ever won a title in college or the pros. My belief was that he was the Alex Rodriguez of football, that he'd be the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time, but would never ever win the big game. The win against New England 3 months ago or 2 weeks ago or however long ago it was that they actually played a football game in the AFC Championship, was a big win for Manning, but it'll mean nothing if he doesn't win Sunday. However, after watching America's Game shows about the '76 Raiders and the '98 Broncos (also nice of them to show the Gary Anderson miss again vs the Falcons. Thanks for that kick in the unmentionables) I no longer believe he can't win the Big One. Maybe you didn;t know this either, but before the 1976 season, the Raiders had lost 6 AFC Championship games. 6! They were a team that had a tag that "couldn't win the big one". And of course the Broncos of the late '90's talked all about how Elway was hearing the same things Manning's hearing now about being a choker and never being able to come through when it counts. Then in the twilight of his career, an aging Elway wins two Super Bowls, which had much more to do with Terrell Davis and his supporting cast than his own play, and yet because of the Super Bowl win he's now looked at as one of the greatest ever (and rightfully so).

Manning could win this Sunday like Elway did and cement his place already as one of the all-time greats. Or he loses and continues in the Dan Marino class of "great but never won a Super Bowl." It's not fair, because Manning IS a great quarterback, but that's the expectations that come with the position. Oh and I also heard Manning complaining at media day about getting too much credit or too much blame for the Colts' success: um Peyton? When you're in every commercial on TV and are the face of not only your team but the league, you can't complain about media criticism and getting too much attention. If you don't like all the attention then do what Tom Brady did and stop doing commercials. Really it's that easy.

Having said that I hold no ill will towards Peyton and will gladly admit I was wrong about him if he wins. But that's still a BIG if.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jeremy: McHale Axes Another

The only difference between the Wolves firing Dwane Casey today, and the firing of Flip Saunders two seasons ago is that Casey has not completed two season as coach.
Outside of that Kevin McHale did today to Casey exactly what he did to Flip: McHale fired Dwane Casey because of McHale's lack of performance, not because of Casey's.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Dwane Casey is a great coach, because I don't know. What I'm saying is that Casey was given a crayon and some construction paper, and he was asked to re-create the Mona Lisa. Leonardo himself couldn't do that.
Jeff and I have literally been saying this for years, but it is Kevin McHale who should be shouldering the blame for the Wolves lack of wins on the court. It shouldn't be Dwane Casey taking the blame, and it certainly shouldn't have been Flip Saunders.
We could go on for pages and pages about all of the mistakes that McHale has made, but it all boils down to the fact that he has never given whoever the coach of the Wolves happens to be, the players in order to build a championship team. Let's face facts here, McHale got lucky with Spreewell and Cassell in 2004. The fact that he wasn't before able, and hasn't since been able, to build a proven winner on the floor, proves the fact that even a blind squirrel is going to find a nut every now and then. The cogs have simply never been there to make this team a championship caliber team.
I love Kevin Garnett. It's well-documented here. He's my favorite athlete of all time, and it's not even close. He embodies everything that can be good in a pro athlete off the court, and he's still top player in the NBA on the court. Having said that, it's time for KG to go.
I'm convinced, now more than ever, that when it comes to the Wolves, it's time to blow the whole damn thing up.
It's time to trade KG and get some young talent into the Target Center to surround Randy Foye & Rashad McCants because they are the future of this franchise.
It's time to can Kevin McHale and bring Freddie "The Mayor" Hoiberg off of the GM-bench and let him run the team.
It's time to allow KG to move on and win a ring someplace else, because Kevin McHale is absolutely, without question, unable to build a winner around him.
In the meantime, let's all hope that someday we can find a job like Kevin McHale has. One where you can squander your company's money and not get in trouble. One where you can consistently under-perform and still not find a pink-slip on your computer. One where you can mismanage to the point of making a mockery of your company and your industry, and still feel confident that you will have a paycheck on Friday.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jeff: Mini Rants

Yo. After today I'll be off the posting train for awhile. Starting middle of next week I'll be relying on good ol' dial-up internet (yes it still exists, and yes it's just as awful as you remember it) to surf this thing Al Gore invented called the interweb, but I'll continue posting. I wonder what posting from Canada's metric internet will be like? Will my words be worth 1.6 of the American words I've been using down here? Will I have to double every post and add 32? Will you be able to pick up my accent when I say "no doot aboot it eh!"? Well it's an adventure we'll all share together. Mmmmmmmm thanks adventure.

Ok so I've got about 46 things I want to talk about, but limited space and time to do so.

The voting process is ridiculous on so many levels, for both baseball and football. How do Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken not get 100% of the vote? Whichever baseball writers did NOT put these gentlemen on their ballots should be fired on the spot because they obviously know nothing about the game. And what about former Vikings guard Randall McDaniel? 12 STRAIGHT PRO BOWL SELECTIONS as well as being named one of the two best guards in the decade of the 1990's, and he's NOT EVEN ON THE FREAKING BALLOT? Seriously, how ridiculous is that? This isn't a popularity contest, it should be about the best players getting in. I know Randall will make it but the man was clearly one of THE best at his position his whole career, and should be in as soon as he's eligible. Why is he left off? Because the writers hold this place of honor for "first ballot hall-of-famers". Writers think it's a big deal whether he gets in his first year, or how much of that vote he gets. Does anybody else? Can you tell me how many votes Kirby Puckett got? What about Harmon Killebrew or Alan Paige? See nobody cares! The only thing we care about is whether they get in or not!

In all sports, we're way too sentimental about this. The Hall of Fame for any sport should be for the best of the best, not the pretty good, or was good for awhile, but the greats. This is why each team has a Hall-of-Fame or Ring of Honor or whatever you want to call it. Honor the guys that meant something to your franchise and fan base, like Andre Reed or Andre Tippett. Good players who meant a lot to the Bills and Pats respectively, but weren't ever the best players at their positions in the league. Leave the Hall of Fame for the truly greats.

Nevermind the double standard that we have between football and baseball. Nobody cares that Shawn Merriman was suspended for 4 games for using steroids, but everybody seems to care that Mark McGwire MAY HAVE used the same thing and now we're treating him like the worst human being on the planet. ESPN baseball scribe Buster Olney is bang-on in his belief that when it comes to Hall-of-Fame voting for this "Steriod Era" you either vote for everybody or nobody. Period. Although McGwire appears guilty of juicing up, we still have no hard evidence to prove it. Last I checked this is America, where you need actual evidence to prove somebody guilty. We have suspicion but no proof. Not only that, we have no idea how many of these guys were actually using. Yes we have the rumor mill of McGwire, Bonds, Sosa and others who we THINK used, but what about the leadoff hitters like Alex Sanchez or the relief pitchers like Juan Rincon who we KNOW used?!? If those guys are steriod users, then we truly have no idea who did or didn't, and you can't keep McGwire or Bonds out on suspicion, when some other players that are coming up for election very well could have been using too. If you're taking the high road, which is ridiculous in the first place BECAUSE STERIODS WEREN'T ILLEGAL IN BASEBALL AT THE TIME, then you can't vote for anybody because we'll never truly know who's a juicer. Otherwise, vote for the guys who look to be Hall-worthy and leave it at that.

Wow what a weekend, at least in the AFC. In the NFC, I'm hoping for a Chicago/New Orleans matchup next week, but you can't look at me with a straight face and tell me you believe that's going to happen. It's really a toss-up all the way around, and it's not because of how good these teams are, but because of how flawed. The AFC, on the other hand, has talent all over the place. Can Belichek and Brady knock out the superior Chargers, who have a terrible big-game coach and an inexperienced quarterback, as well as a solid D and the best player on the planet? Can Peyton Manning complete passes with both hands around his neck? Are the Ravens the best team in football? All intriguing questions that I can't wait to have answered.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jeff: Taking A Ride on the Coaching Carousel

Coaches are becoming as big a story as the teams or sports they coach, and money and loyalty are the two biggest reasons why. Nick Saban leaves the Miami Dolphins after just two seasons to sign an 8 year $38 million contract with Alabama. He was lambasted for not being honest about wanting the Bama job and for leaving the Fins high and dry after only two seasons. This only shows that both the media, and us the readers or watchers, can be very hypocritical.

Where was this venom the first 3 or 4 times Saban switched jobs? 1 year at Toledo, 4 years at Michigan State, 4 years at LSU (where he won a split National Title in 2003), then 2 years at Miami. Where were the loyalty questions then? Each time the man broke his contract to take a better position and a better paycheck. In any other profession, would this be questioned? Would he be called a traitor and worse for taking the opportunity for a better job? Would he be called a liar for not telling the media he was interested in the Bama job?

Puh-lease. I'm guessing all 6 of you that read us regularly have applied and accepted a new job while working at another place. Did you march into your bosses office and tell him or her that you in fact weren't going for lunch but instead to interview for another job? Of course not. If you played your cards right, I'm guessing your boss didn't know you were leaving until you gave your 2 weeks notice. So how can you expect Saban to give a straight answer to the media that would hurt his bargaining position? A "no comment" might as well be "I've already booked my plane ticket for Tuscaloosa." If it's anything but "I'm staying with the Dolphins for the rest of my freaking life" then everybody hammers him for looking around. West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez parlayed the open position with the Crimson Tide into a raise and bigger paycheck. That's just as shrewd as what Saban did, but because he stayed, it's no big deal.

Why is it that it's ok for guys to show no loyalty to smaller schools as they work their way up the coaching ladder, or for coordinators to break contracts (like the guy who takes the U job will do) to take a better opportunity, but it's not ok for Saban or Steve Spurrier or Larry Brown or any number of coaches who reach the Big Time to do the same? Considering his track record, if I were an AD, would I give a huge long GUARANTEED contract to Saban? Absolutely not. But then again if I were an NFL GM I wouldn't put TO on my team if he were paying me millions of dollars, and yet WHEN the Cowboys cut him, I will guarantee you someone else will take a chance on the guy. It's a free market system of supply and demand, and just because you don't like someone or how they handle their business, if someone's willing to pay a guy, or pay him more than his current employer, I just don't understand why he gets lambasted as a traitor or liar for doing something that 99.9% of us would do if given the same opportunity.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jeff: Manly Manliness

Mmmmm hmmmm. If you're in the Upper Midwest this weekend, or probably even if you're not, you're certain to feel a rumble of manliness wash over the plains, causing you to feel like you should be running free in the woods with an "epic" beard, a shotgun in one hand, and a beer in the other. This rumble will eminate from somewhere in the Northwoods this weekend as it's once again time for the Winter Man Weekend. I've already broken the 1st two rules of the Man Weekend (the first rule is: you don't talk about the Man Weekend with those not going. The 2nd rule is YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT THE MAN WEEKEND WITH THOSE NOT GOING), but I just thought I'd let you know that the howl of men and barbaric yops you hear cascading over the ridiculously unfrozen lakes and unsnow-covered trees will be ours.

While we're gone there will be NFL games. Is it entirely unmanly to not watch playoff football? Insolent fool! Not when you already know what's going to happen! The Chefs will run all over the Colts, the 6-2 Giants team that started the season will show up in Philly and upset the Eagles, the Seahawks, because of the best homefield advantage in football and because I hate the Cowbows, will end Dallas' season, and the Patriots will take care of business against the J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!

Your Golden Gopher athletic department continues its search for a new football and basketball coach. For more on the football coach, go to Jer's FireGlenMason site, which could now be renamed "Thank You For Firing GLen Mason". I don't know much about this whole thing, but I do know that Larry Coker is NOT the answer for Minnesota. The guy won at Miami with former coach Butch Davis' kids, and his control of the program and recruiting was slipping. They can do better. For perhaps for the first time in my life (and hopefully the last), I actually agree with Sid Hartman, who suggests the Gophers talk to former Wisconsin president Donna Shalala (who's now at Miami) and ask her how they went about building the Badger football program. Jer and I are apparently two of the few people in the State who believe that Gopher football should be as competitive as Wisconsin and Iowa every year. The Badgers program was just as sorry as Minnesota's before Shalala hired Barry Alvarez. With the right coach (i.e. one who actually believes he can win at The U, will make an honest attempt to recruit the homestate, and who will take responsibility for his mistakes rather than blaming everyone else) I believe it can happen. Hopefully administration does too.

Have a good weekend, even though it won't be as manly as mine.