Frank Helps You Think It All Out
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
Those who accuse NASCAR of merely being one thousand left turns were handed some powerful ammunition Sunday as the Nextel Cup put several million men asleep as surely as an overdose of Lunesta. I was trying to watch- really trying- wondering if anyone else thought this “show” was horrid.
I need not have worried- as NASCAR is getting whacked everywhere today. I am abridging the witty David Poole:
• Well, it was a pretty fast race.And he’s right. NASCAR has got a problem. You take the current aero-package, couple it with all these unbanked cookie-cutter racetracks, and you have all the excitement of three hours of follow the leader coupled with the tension of fuel mileage runs. The cars now are so even, the tires feature so little let up, that no one can make up or lose significant track position. So we parade rather than race. Seriously, I don’t think Jeff Gordon passed anyone all day- and he ended up fifth or something. People just blew up or ran out of gas or changed tires in the pits faster- and suddenly there he was.
• Southern California sports fans are famous for arriving late and leaving early. Apparently, large numbers of fans passed each other in the parking lots as they did both Sunday. Lord knows there weren't very many of them actually using their seats in the grandstands.
• You know, after the first 400 miles of this race you couldn't help but wonder whether the right question was not why more fans don't show up here, but why anybody shows up at all.
And the empty seats were not a surprise either. Only a fool would sit through that. NASCAR now finds itself with like ten-twelve race dates that simply aren’t entertaining in their current format: Poco-doze, New Hampshire, Michigan, Phoenix and yes- Indianapolis.
Some of this is their own fault. For example, they simply have to cut all races on unbanked tracks to 400 miles. Five hundered miles at Pocono, Michigan and California is inhuman. They did it at Delaware- and miracle of miracles- people had to race rather than simply “make laps” in the first half and then just drive around with a heart full of hope waiting for other guys to blow up. And while I don’t for a minute believe NASCAR is throwing debris cautions for any reason other than participant safety- the fact remains that participant safety cautions are getting totally out of hand. There was one yesterday for a “glove”. Next week it’ll be because Jimmie Johnson has something in his eye.
It all goes back to being no longer able to race back to the caution. Sorting out these scoring loops and rousting some lucky fool around back to the lead lap requires NASCAR to basically be trapped forever with this mandatory three lap caution nonsense. At the big tracks, it takes forever for these guys to crawl 6-8 miles. Put two, of heaven forbid, three in a row and you can almost hear an audible click as America changes the channel. Save the blinking yellow lights for real emergencies and feel free to freeze the field then- but for more “routine cautions” let them race back to the flag- and turn these debris cautions and such into a quick, closed pit, one-lap tidying exercise. It also would increase green flag stops- which again are more interesting.
With the exception of the green-white-checker rule, NASCAR has spent the past few years taking steps that inadvertently increased caution laps. Now they need to look at rules increasing racing.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Jerald And A Jet
With the Olympics sucking all the oxygen out of the sports’ landscape, this shapes up to be a boring weekend for anyone who doesn't swoon over the crowning of an Ice Princess. Like most things in life, ladies' figure skating is just more interesting when the American girl wins. The race in California doesn’t interest me. NASCAR like to moan that their sport isn’t just driving around in circles- but these ten or so events on multi-purpose 1.5 mile or more ovals really are just driving around and around. It isn’t as boring as the two summer races at Pocono or tedious as New Hampshire- but it is close. Bring on Martinsville!
So we left with the closing ceremonies- where the torch is literally passed to Canada for the 2010 Games- entitled: Come Play With Us. I dunno about that- that slogan sounds like a rallying call for deviants. I also dislike the fact that Canada contribution is being billed as a "fun and edgy night". Canada is a lot of things; but it is not edgy. I am not sure it is really fun either. How about “staid, with orderly queues?”
He said he hopes his appearance at the closing ceremony will paint Vancouver as a city that has a high quality of life and a commitment to a social agenda with progressive and open-minded citizens.
"I believe that when the world arrives in 2010, they will find the world is already [in Vancouver]," he said.
"We are one of the most diverse, multicultural cities in the world."
Obviously, the organizing committee is assuming the Grits will be back in power by then.
Apparently however, there will be a segment where the nations of the world will be invited to come together as one- but only to boo the hegemonistic USA. A panel of reporters from the Toronto Star and Edmonton Sun will also be available to castigate Canada's hockey team.
In Tulane news, Jerald Sowell was released by the Jets after a nice nine year run. Jerald was no great shakes as a pro- but hung around because he was a team first guy, solid on the specials, and was satisfied to be the seventh, or eighth, or ninth offensive option each Sunday- particularly later in his career catching some balls here and there. There is a role in pro-football for a guy who can contribute inexpensively at the bottom of the roster- and Jerald Sowell was a poster child for this sort of player.
He is really an odd player. Candidly, he never could do anything in Our League when handed the football. But after being in the League for six years, like all of a sudden he became a pretty decent pass receiver- 92 receptions in a two year span versus 25 catches or so in his first six years altogether. He totals tailed off last year: Pennington was hurt (true), but the Jets still threw it a lot (playing from behind) and there was a lot of garbage time (for Sowell to play). His career might be over. Frankly, he is a running back you simply can never hand the ball to- and that is a big strike against any pro skill position player.
Plus, the cap makes paying the veteran minimum for a ten year pro problematic for a lot of teams. What does Sowell give you on said 40th roster spot that a minimum salaried rookie doesn’t? A little savvy, a catch here and there? Even an extra 200 yards of offense? You know, probably not 200. I’m just not sure it is enough to justify filling that roster spot with Sowell at twice the money (or more) over a younger player with upside & potential longevity. At the least it is not a lay-up.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
At Least We're Not Canada Tonight
At least we are not Canada tonight, which is burning. By all accounts. See what you get for throwing the Grits out. Paul Martin would have delivered. If you think US Hockey has problems, at least you don't have to begin your list with "Team potentially a bunch of choking mice."
The Americans did not achieve much in Turin either- but not much was expected. On paper, the US team looked pretty average up front, on the blue line and in the nets- and a little soft in the last few roster spots: Mike Knuble? Some of the defensemen? And ultimately, they did little to modify that assessment. Outside of Gionta, Rolston and Modano, they never got scoring up front- particularly on the power play. Keith Tkachuk (zero goals, a minus five!) and Brian Rafalski (minus three- needed more from him) had bad tournaments. Outside of Rafalski, the defense corps was a little stronger than anticipated- and Mathieu Schneider had some big points today. Perhaps most importantly, they played six games in Italy- and never got one superb start in goal. A chastised national program turns its eyes toward Miller for 2010.
Now, I can do without Mike Modano resurrecting some of those real good feelings we all left Nagano with. His classy post game comments were very classy: "You'd think USA Hockey would be a well-oiled machine, but it's not," he said. "Basically we were on our own for hotels, tickets, flights, stuff like that. Normally we wouldn't have to worry about stuff like that." I guess that is why he was benched late today. He was worried about how he was going to get home. If that was not bad enough, the general manager, a tearful Don Waddell, put a weak weepy face on what was really not a bad effort. For crying out loud, Derian Hatcher knocked out two of Teemu Selanne's teeth. Isn't that as good as a silver medal?
Frankly, not one of their four losses were bad. All were by a single marker. Only the opening tie with Latvia was disappointing- and they had excuses for that one. The Finns are simply having a great tournament- particularly in their own end. Regardless, the United States scored more goals than Finland had given up for the entire tournament- and was in it until the siren- despite absolutely killing themselves with penalties.
So this wasn’t a disgrace like Nagano. Put Mike Richter and a pair of wingers who can carry and move the puck on this national team, and they have as good a chance to win this as anyone.
Ultimately, in the end, the United States needed great goaltending- the kind that could make two, three goals stand up night after night- and they didn’t get it. And just as clearly, the United States lacked enough coherent firepower to score in bunches. Only Russia, so far, seems to have enough forwards going well enough to score north of three every time out. So it ends as forecasted: a gritty group that tried, a step below the best teams- but not horrid.
Monday, February 20, 2006
I Did Nothing Sunday
I guess it could have been a worse weekend. I mean, Jeff Gordon could have won the Daytona 500 and the Americans could have put the languid Latvia-level effort out there again against Sweden. But as I am quickly coming to join the “haters” of Jimmie Johnson and the United States lost again, it was not a pleasant day of television here.
Everyone is talking about how “even” this tournament is- how hard it is to pick a winner. Canada is losing to Switzerland. The USA can’t handle Latvia. But I watched a lot of hockey last week- and this competitive surge is more the circumstances of the tournament- than the fact that Switzerland and the Swedish Elite league, for instance, has closed the competitive gap with the NHL.
The conditions of this tournament puts an unbelievable premium on playing from ahead. Every team, outside of the real bottom-feeders, can put a competent goalie and three-four solid NHL-level defensemen out there. Get up a goal- and then just like the “real” NHL, you depend on those five proficient guys to sit back and protect it. Your NHL defensemen collect the puck and competently pitch it out for twenty minutes- and you rely on your adept goalie to stop the stoppable shots. Everyone else just stays out of the box and first plays puck support in their own end- and suddenly the small Slovakia or Swiss edge becomes a problem.
The larger ice surface doesn’t help offense when the team you are playing is in this sort of shell. If this tournament were in North America, Canada and the USA would throw the puck in the corners and behind the net, and steamroll these Swiss defensemen. In this game, even if you win the puck out of the corners- who cares? You are so far from the net- you still have to carry it or make a good pass. Boundary play is much less important- and good NHL wingers excel first and foremost at boundary play. Here it is all puck possession: win face-offs, move the puck through the zones, team play. Mind you, NHL players can do this stuff- but the talent gap is much smaller than the size and strength gap- and this is where not playing together much hurts- particularly again when playing form behind.
As to the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson blasted the “haters” during his post-race press conference. And I’m sitting there thinking that almost every time this guy wins someone on his team is suspended, fined or disciplined for deliberate cheating. You can’t take this win away from Johnson for anything he did yesterday- but his victory with his “team leader” Chad Knaus sitting home for cheating wasn’t courageous. It is a dishonor. Something has to be done about this race team- and if Knaus is caught again- park them. That’ll get Lowe’s attention anyway.
The race itself was lots of fun. I know the drivers hate the plate- but it is the greatest thing going. Okay, Daytona and Talladega are not races anymore. They are shows. And I don’t want to watch “shows” every weekend. But they sure are fun the few times a year they put the plate on- watching the field pinwheel out of the turns three-wide and nine-deep time and time again.
Outside of a little anti-Stewart bias, RaceChick points out in succinct terms what you need to know about each competitor’s day- so I’ll send you there. Her point on Dale Jr. is a particularly good one- not pointed out by the NBC announcers all day. Plate racing is about who will go with you- and outside of Tony Stewart and Truex, Junior does not have many friends at the plate tracks:
Junior no longer has that many friends on the race track. One that comes to mind immediately is Elliot Sadler. Geez Candyman, you played my Junior there at the end. I'm sure y'all would've made something happen together.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Make it Stop
Today is one of the great days on the sports calendar- as the Daytona 500 rolls off mid-afternoon. The event is only marred by the fact that it is so very hard to believe that it has been five years since Dale Earnhardt laid his life down in Turn Four, protecting his friend’s and his son’s one-two finish.
There has been enough ink spilled on “the legacy of Dale Earnhardt”- I have no urge to add to it. But after this really strange week of mixed American performance and behavior at the Olympics, you come to appreciate a guy, like Dale Sr., who showed up every week- and I mean every week- with a fire to win and team-first mentality.
Lindsey Jacobellis. Okay, a fink- we all agree on that. Look, I am the first person to stand up and say confidently that “I don’t care much for following women’s sports in general. I care less about winter sports ‘invented’ to boost rating and increase the American haul of medals.” But, you know, if it really was to Lindsey, “just a race”- then cede your spot to someone who will- you know- “try”? As Jay Greenberg writes in your NY Post this morning:
...snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, who hot-dogged the finish of the cross, fell, and blew the gold, did not do her best at all before managing to compound her arrogance by calling it "just a race."You know, every nation carries its own cross, right? Some perception- fair or not. And you look at Bode Miller acting like a fool, Lindsey showboating, Johnny Weir almost reduced to tears about missing a bus and Shani Davis just looking spiteful all the time- and you wonder if these athletes have any clue about just how nice it would be to get through one of these things without the whole world watching an American act rude or petulant in a foreign place?
It was just a race in which citizens and corporations funded her to represent her country, which she did even more poorly than figure skater Johnny Weir.
It used to be the American team went out and defied Hitler or the Red Army. Now they can’t read bus schedules or win without acting like they need to also provide a highlight for Sportscenter? I blame Bryant Gumbel myself.
So, I can’t tell you how refreshing it would be to see Jacobellis’ national federation- what a group that has got to be, right?- simply excuse Lindsey from ever having to wonder whether she’ll wear USA on her baggy boarding pants again. Ms. Jacobellis- you’re not worth it- we’ve decided to go another way and go with someone who not only cares but also will put herself out. You’re excused from the semi-relevance in American life you’ve achieved and the millions of dollars that goes with it.
I admit though, it will be a joy to see her Visa commercial about her superior focus promptly removed from circulation. She's just not that hot too.
The hockey was thrilling again yesterday. The US lost to a Slovakia team that features few solid NHL players- which puts the tie with Latvia is a more positive light. I can't believe I just wrote that; but it is what we've been reduced to. Unfortunately for the Americans, the quality NHL talent the Slovaks do dress is on the blue line: Zdeno Chara (definitely a world class player), Lubomir Visnovsky (leads NHL defensemen in points) and Andrej Meszaros (great +/- player). Playing constantly ahead, the Slovaks used their solid goaltending and a tidy defense end to engineer their victory. The American goaltending, again, was diffident- not bad, but not indicative of the elite player a Big Six nation should have manning the nets in a prestige tournament.
Why not give Esche a look? I know he's been hurt. But he's taken a flawed team within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals- so you know at the very least these bright lights won't faze him. And the selection process that left the best American goalie going, Ryan Miller, at home needs some reworking post-tournament.
Canada was humbled by the Swiss- but you know, it happens. Canada kind of went through the motions a lot yesterday- certainly, they took a multitude of retarded penalties at bad times. Neither the USA nor Canada are dead exactly. The USA probably wins any tie-breaker with Latvia- but probably needs a point somewhere in the next two outings to force it. Canada is Canada; they are the favorite until they are down to goals in an elimination spot. And since Pool B, opposite Canada, features four pretty similar teams likely to advance: Sweden, Slovakia, Russia and the USA- the Canadiens probably don’t care much where the finish the preliminary round-robin.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Up from Horrid
There are always silver linings to anything if you look for them. For example, you might look at Team USA’s dispationate and bloodless defeat of Khazikistan as a day too late. But you could also look at it as powerful evidence that team USA might be mediocre and disinterested- but at least they aren’t horrid.
That is why that although I am pretty convinced that the Phillies might as well mail in 80-82 for the season, I am not devoid of cheery thought. As the Philadelphia Daily News reminds us, Joe Kerrigan- as Homer would put it, the “Gamblor” of Phillies’ pitching- is no longer around to hammer even worse fundamentals & odd ideas into the staff:
Myers, whose delivery never was as fluid as Floyd's, found himself bound up by mechanical mind games in 2004, an inconsistent season in which he compiled a 5.52 ERA. He blamed former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan's dissections and his own implementation of the suggestions. He generally abandoned those suggestions last season, and lowered his ERA to 3.72.
Apparently, Kerrigan's involvement with Floyd might have similarly affected Floyd.
"I trace it to when [Floyd] first came to big-league camp 2 years ago," Arbuckle said. "You could almost see the wheels grinding in his head. His basic delivery was always pretty solid. He has to let his natural ability flow."
Did any potentially high quality, high investment pitcher get better under Kerrigan? The two highest quality arms the organization employed- Padilla and Millwood- got bad, and worse, hurt. Randy Wolf- a guy crying out for good coaching as to approach and health- got neither. Brett Myers hated the guy- and almost immediately became a really great prospect the instant the guy left. To me, there is no doubt Kerrigan is the most overrated “coach” to pass through Philly in my lifetime. This guy parlayed a short stint on “talk television” where he successfully ripped poor pitchers into a never ending license to ruin potentially good ones.
Good to see Darren Daulton making good use of his time out of jail too. I kind of hope he is right about the rapture- as I could use the break. The Mayan calendar is a nice touch too- particularly coming for a guy who probably can’t explain the difference between a solar and lunar calendar.
But there's more to it than peace and harmony. Daulton is convinced that the day of reckoning is coming soon. Specifically, on Dec. 21, 2012, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, the chosen will simply vanish from this plane of existence.
"That will be the end of this dispensation," he said. "I really don't know how to explain it. I don't know what words to use so people won't think I'm goofy. But by Dec. 21, 2012 [the last day recorded on the Mayan calendar], people will have a pretty good idea. It's all about consciousness and love. We have the ability to create whatever we want. We're all made of energy."
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Latvia! Turino! Chelios!
I think- when this Olympic hockey tournament is over- we will all look back at this imminently forgettable3-3 tie with Latvia as emblematic of the 2006 USA team.
I mean, it isn’t exactly a bad tie. Latvia carries shorter odds to win the tournament than the USA at William Hill in the UK. This is not a great USA team- and they managed to claw out a point despite being down a goal entering the third period. Latvia has played together for weeks- and looked it. The United States was ragged- particularly in its own end- indicative of a team that just practiced once.
But it wasn’t a satisfying tie either. The US blew an early two goal lead- mainly by being ill-disciplined on the blue line. For a team that can’t skate at a world class level, Latvia had an awful lot of odd-man rushes. They took a bunch of lazy penalties. And of course, Latvia is not a member of the “Big Six”- a group the United States is a member of- so no result short of a win is going to be rewarding.
Ultimately, this game brought into distinct focus all the things that make this a weak American team. For example, John Grahame did not play all that badly. He made nineteen stops. But you like to think your top national goalie is an elite player- frankly able to hold Latvia to under three goals when facing twenty or shots. And the Americans can’t roll lines of pure offensive firepower (like Canada) or a real elite singular offensive player (like Jagr) out there to compensate for the lack to team play. Consequently, a guy like Irbe can play a decent game between the pipes and make the United States feel lucky to get three markers.
The USA was able to steal some championships and success in the last generation of players due to the presence of an elite goalie (Mike Richter) and the fact they had eight-ten elite forwards that could punish a team that was prone to playing its worst in the biggest spots (Canada) or that lacked similar depth upfront (the Czechs and Russians).
Frankly, you can’t win this tournament getting off the bus with a handful of world class players, a defense where Chris Chelios is one of the better players and Grahame as your stopper. They ought to make the medal round- but then they are looking at an ugly first round game that they probably can’t win at this point.
Monday, February 13, 2006
2006 Tulane- a Rough Road To Glory
Some good news spiraled out of the deep American south this weekend- and I am not simply talking about Jeff Gordon wrecking out of the Budweiser Shootout due to his own negligence. I am talking college football- as the Tulane Green Wave announced its brutal schedule for 2006:
Sept. 9 @ Houston
Sept. 16 @ Mississippi State
Sept. 23 @ Louisiana State
Sept. 30 SMU
Oct. 7 Rice
Oct. 14 @ UTEP
Oct. 21 @ Auburn
Oct. 28 Army
Nov. 4 @ Marshall
Nov. 11 Southern Miss
Nov. 18 Central Florida
Nov. 25 @ Tulsa
Clearly, the out of conference slate, featuring three road SEC games, is beyond difficult for a program like Tulane. The Tulane community realized that playing road games against big programs like Auburn for checks was in the post-Katrina future. Unfortunately, Tulane owed Mississippi State a road date as well- and this is the year Tulane travels to Tiger Stadium in the home and home arrangement.
But, in a sense, Tulane actually catches kind of break with this SEC set-up. The Wave isn’t beating Auburn or Louisiana State anywhere- and if we’ve learned anything the past two years, Mississippi State is a clear step better than Tulane. And even if the Wave is in a position to steal it, I am not sure Tulane gets all that much playing the Bulldogs in the Dome (lots of Mississippi State fans) versus the road (not exactly the prototypical SEC intimidation-style facility).
Now, the Wave opens on the road- in order to give them one more month to get the Louisiana Superdome in some kind of order. It is kind of a tough break- probably means the Green Wave opens with three games they are a score-plus ‘dog- before they get home with a more manageable game. But, again, while the first two are very hard- they are not impossible- and feature opponents that have little reason to be “up” for Tulane. Steal one- and they could be .500 heading into the tricky second half.
To me, the salvation of the schedule is that it sort of innoculates the Wave against utter disaster- a gut-wrenching one-two win campaign. Getting Rice, SMU and Army to New Orleans- three teams that categorically do not win on the road much- well, it is hard to imagine the Wave cannot get two. I doubt Tulane will be good enough to sweep them- but I also cannot see the Wave being bad enough to lose two at home to that mess.
You can’t tell until spring of course, but it feels like three-four wins to me. The two above- plus a few chances to steal a game here and there. I really can’t see how you can put the Wave near six unless they can get one of the first two road games- and that seems problematic to me.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Twenty to One
Some of the big casinos put out their lines for the 2007 Super Bowl- topped by Indianapolis at 4:1. The Eagles are one of a bunch of teams "tied for ninth" at 20:1. So, as any Eagles' fan can confirm, there is work to be done here- as the Eagles have rejoined the pack. And with the Super Bowl over, this seems as good a chance as any to jot down what I think the Eagles need to do this off-season.
Let's begin with the defense.
Line: The only thing that was better about this Eagles' team from last year was the play upfront against the run. Consequently, the press seems to believe the tackles are fine- but they need help at defensive end.
I disagree with that. If I had my choice- stop the run or rush the passer- well, I don't really don't care that much about stopping the run. I don't think it matters. In this era of the salary cap, I don't want to spend money or draft picks plugging the run. Just be cheap & adequate.
I want to rush the passer. And the Eagles still get that from the ends- but zero, nothing, zip from any of the tackles. The loss of Corey Simon didn't hurt the run defense- if anything, his replacements were better against the run than Simion was. But even though he did not feature gaudy sack totals, Simon could push the pocket back. People were not simply free to double-team the ends- particularly in early pass-friendly down & distance situations.
The Eagles got no or an inconsistent rush inside all year- and the pass defense has sagged from great to okay as a result. My first pick would be an athletic tackle who can get upfield.
Linebacker: Clearly the outside backers, at best, are adequate. Probabyly worse. I guess you could argue for an upgrade here. But I really, really hate spending money and high-picks for linebackers too. Still, with the plethora of quality of TEs and backs who can catch it in the NFC East division, you could argue that needs to change- that Philadelphia has gotta have one 'backer who can really cover people suiting up outside.
But you are not going to convince me that quality linebackers are the deepest position League wide. The League is littered with inexpensive 'backers who can play competently. Seriously, name one team that really, really has problems- outside of injuries- at 'backer? Or lose because their 'backers aren't good?
Defensive back: Best unit on the team. Young. depth. Low priority for fix.
Punter: A total disaster. Worse- the alternative (last year's punter) is not healthy and has really only one good year in three- albeit a real good one. A real worry. There will be auditions people!
Quaterback: Have to get a real back-up. Okay, Coach Reid missed totally with McMahon. #5 is one of a handful of franchise qbs in the League. He ain't Manning or Brady- but he's in the next tier for sure.
Running Back: I am probably the only person in Philadelphia that is not enamored with Westbrook. Look, he does many good things- and can torment defenses. But he also forces you- because he realistically can't handle 20+ touches week after week- to have a quality second back- which the Eagles catagorically do not have. The Eagles' second back is an important player- and they probably have to commit more money and talent to that spot than a lot of teams need to. I have no clue if Moats can really play or not- but if he can't.... They need to make a move here- and spend some money. The current FBs are fine- but this is a low impact position really.
Line: Tough. I like Andrews a lot. He's a pro-Bowl alternate in what was his real "rookie" year- and if it wasn't such a reputational thing he'd be on the team. Pencil him in at Guard. I don't know if the other two new guys playing inside now will be better than Hicks and Fraley- but Hicks stinks and Fraley is terrible- so I am not adverse to taking that chance. But is unrealistic to expect Jackson and Clarke to both pan out. Jackson will be fine I imagine. Center is the most "unimportant" position in pro-football. A lot of guys who play there are undrafted for example. So I imagine he's your 2006 starter. But aside from Andrews, this is not a strength pending some sort of miracle. It is the weakest part of the team.
They are higher on the tackle Herremans than any of the other "new guys" playing. Can he play? I dunno- he was definitely up-and-down. He is not the first rookie LT to look a little overwhelemed. But he's going probably to play there next year- as I can't believe both Thomas and Runyan are coming back. But tackle is not a strength- and probably is a problem next year as well. This line is going to be a mixture of too old and too young- with only Andrews an above-average player. It isn't an easy fix.
WR: A mess. I am not sure if there is a number two on the roster- let alone a #1. They are clearly going to throw money at someone- a proven #2 style NFL vet to pair with Brown - here. But there are sooo many problems here- that this, like the line, is not a one year fix. They'll be at best okay here again next year- at best running a solid #2 and an improving Brown out there every Sunday. Westbrook's prowess at a WR really helps of course. They might be okay if some things fall right- but it isn't a strength.
1. Need a DT (fixable)
2. Need a outside LB (fixable- but lower priority)
3. Need a total WR overhaul (problematic- they need a bunch- and I can't see how they get an inpact player in here and worse, I don't believe in the young guys)
4. Need some O line depth. Too many young guys to expect they all pan out. If I had to guess, from right to left: Runyan (probably can be re-signed affordably), Andrews, Jackson, Hicks or Jackson (training camp battle), Herremans (with a vet FA behind him in case of disaster). I'm actually confident this'll work out- but not in 2006- and this will be the nice surprise of the team in 2007. They seem to believe in these guys, and they've been groomd the right way.
5. Back up qb
7. A TE who can block. LJ can catch it- but adds zero otherwise.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Some quick notes
There is a nice article on ESPN covering the Tulane Green Wave on National Signing Day. Take a moment and visit here.
And yet more good news rolls out of New Orleans. Could it be? Three in a row for the Wave?
You have to give Tulane some credit. They hung in after a rough start. Now they’ve squared their mark in League play at 4-4: fifth place out of twelve.
Not counting the tournament- they got seven left. I can't see how they lose to Loyola- or how they beat UAB (on the road) or Memphis. So that is four "games".
Be hard to get three of those four. UCF is okay/decent and an away game. The other three; Tulane (right now) is probably the better team. But I am not sure they are good enough to run the slate: 3-0?
To get four probably then means winning at UCF or sweeping the last three- not likely. I guess since they only need to do one or the other- it is a little hopeful. Regardless, 3-4 ought to get them a first round draw in the C-USA tournament they ought to win (when was the last time you could say that?) and avoid Memphis in the second (a puncher's chance?)
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Super Bowl Pick
After the tone and nature of this week’s Super Bowl coverage, I almost feel like I need to couch my Super Bowl pick in terms of a mental problem. Like, “Hi. I’m Frank- and I like Seattle plus four.” On a related note, the Wheelhouse has a laugh-out-loud post up about the chore the Super Bowl has become.
This isn’t like last year’s pick- where I thought Philadelphia was a lay up with the points. You can make a very cognizant argument for Pittsburgh here. But I lean toward Seattle for a few reasons.
A lot of it is that I have a lot of anti-Pittsburgh karma going. I doubt the Steelers- and doubt leads to fear.
First, I think there is a lot of bias toward the AFC: the AFC is better than the NFC, the top three/four teams in the AFC would win every division in the NFC. Maybe. Definitely in 2004. And probably early in 2005. But our League is not like college. Teams move around “ability-wise” quite readily. A college team in the top echelon half way through a season is usually there at the end. In the NFL, the top echelon seems more fluid- even month to month.
For instance, it is hard to argue that the Steelers are not one of the top five teams in the NFL. Conversely, it was probably equally impossible at Thanksgiving to argue they were a potentially great team. The Steelers have had a super run here- but I wonder how much of it is they played well at the right time- when Indianapolis and Denver and New England did not? And that the reason the Steelers are here is they stayed righted, while the top teams in the AFC regressed a bit. Or, to put it another way, at Thanksgiving it looked like it would take a great team to knock off the great Colts. But in January, it looked like a bunch of 10-win, 11-win teams sorting themselves out?
Consequently, I sort of think the Steelers are a good team playing well- rather than the great AFC team we thought would emerge. Can they ring the bell yet again amidst the circus of the Supe? I know I’d rather be Seattle- having played twice in Seattle in the past month (a similar analogy is a huge part of why the Eagles hung around with the Patriots last year)- rather than the grueling circuitous trip the Steelers have managed. Fresh is big.
I was reading the Wildcat in the paper yesterday- who is picking against the Steelers because he doubts they can duplicate their success “playing against type as a pass-first, run second entity”. I sort of agree- but I am less afraid they can’t, rather than they won’t.
To me, it is no surprise the Steelers got good on offense when they noticeably moved away from the running game. Once Roethlisberger demonstrated competence, it only left points on the board to make Willie Parker (I mean, good player, but come on) and Bettis (I think he is obviously not the player he was) the focal point. I am not going to rehash my bias against rushing the football- but the Steelers became elite right around the minute they became a passing team. Hmm…
I don’t know if the Steelers have internalized that- and would not be surprised if they wasted a few first half possessions “trying to establish the run”. This wouldn’t be the first time Cowher has mis-prepared in a big spot. I know Holmgren won’t. He’ll have Hasselbeck and that real nice collection of receivers torturing Pittsburgh indifferent corners from the get-go. Alexander will keep their nickel off the field and move the clock- shortening the game a little- keeping this contest in one-score territory.
Lastly, a good rule of thumb in handicapping is that if you would not be surprised if a team won- and you are getting a score-plus, take the points. So I am. I’ll take Seattle- and the four points.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Welcome to Tulane
For universities all around the country, yesterday was a day of great hope and promise. It was National Signing Day! A day where young men around the country- quick-of-foot, with marvelous size, and capable of a violent mentality for three hours every Saturday between the white lines- commit to play football in the nation’s spectator palaces.
For the most part. The next group, the not-so-quick, the bulky rather than massive... well, they get to go to Tulane.
The entire class is here and immediately below. The overall quality is what we're used to at Tulane. Way too many kids who had mostly offers from I-AA schools- or Louisiana-Monroe & places like that. And seriously, way too many who had considered Temple? There are like ten! What is that about?
Still, there are two upsides. One, if you don’t get quality- get quantity and get quantity that can stay in school for five years. Chris Scelfo is bringing a ton of bodies in here- and hopefully some will pan out. Tulane can’t afford to lose the players that do pan out to circumstances that can be controlled. And academics are first on that list. Accordingly, this is a big class- and seems packed with kids who seem to be able to handle the work required in the classroom.
Second, one of the two true blue chip recruits is a quarterback. I’ve gone on about Kevin Moore before- but by all accounts he attracted sniffs from better football places than Tulane: Arizona, UTEP. So, by all accounts he is a quality prospect. Due to the tremendous demands placed on quarterbacks at Tulane running this offense, and the corresponding huge upside & downside associated with each quarterback selection, you have to give any recruiting class at Tulane with a solid quarterback prospect at least a “C”.
Lastly, Andre Anderson seems to have the pedigree to be able to play a little too- and stealing him away from UCF is a nice plus.
The Class (from the Times-Picayune):
QB Kevin Moore, Marcus, Flower Mound, Texas, 6-5, 220 -- A three-year starter at the Class 5A school. Completed 183 of 304 passes for 2,007 yards (61.9 percent), with 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions as a senior. An early commitment who picked Tulane last April instead of Wyoming, Arizona and UTEP. Has a 3.0 GPA and 4.9 speed.
QB D'Metres Hill, Cedar Grove, Ellenwood, Ga., 6-1, 175 -- Elusive player with 4.4 speed. Visited Alabama A&M and had interest from Kansas State and Temple. Played wide receiver as a junior before switching to quarterback. As a senior, he completed 88 of 155 passes (57 percent) in 10 games for 1,468 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions. He rushed for 688 yards on 90 carries and scored four touchdowns. Runs the 200 and 400 meters in track. Academically qualified.
RB Andre Anderson, Stephenson, Stone Mountain, Ga., 6-0, 195 -- Rushed for 1,26 yards and 15 touchdowns on 272 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry and 130.4 yards per game. All-county selection. Previously committed to Central Florida; he also visited Georgia Tech and considered Stanford, Memphis and Louisville. He was rated among the state's Top 75 in the preseason by Rivals. An honor student.
RB Kevin Ivey, Crescent City, 5-10, 170 -- All-Metro and All-State selection who played running back, defensive back and also returned kicks. In five regular-season games, he rushed for 741 yards and nine touchdowns on 28 carries, an average of 26.5 yards per carry. Caught 23 passes for 449 yards and three touchdowns, an average of 18.6 yards per reception. He had 68 tackles and three interceptions. Also considered Louisiana-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana. Academically qualified.
WR Alan Mitchell, Cedar Grove, Ellenwood, Ga., 6-4, 175 -- A three-year starter with 4.5 speed. Had 38 receptions for 667 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, averaging 17.5 yards per reception. Had interest from Western Michigan, Temple and East Carolina. High jumps 6 feet 5 inches and runs 48.0 for 400 meters at the Class 4A school. All-county selection. Plays basketball. Academically qualified.
WR Casey Robottom, St. Charles, 5-10, 175 -- Played wide receiver and returned kicks for the Class 2A finalists. Was selected All-State as a return specialist after amassing more than 2,100 all-purpose yards. Visited Princeton and also considered Brown, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State. All-State in baseball and all-district in basketball. Caught 41 passes in 14 games for 645 yards and seven touchdowns, an average of 15.7 yards per reception. A straight-A student with a 26 on the ACT.
OT Peter Hendrickson, Jesuit, Tampa, Fla., 6-8, 265 -- Played one year of football at the Class 3A school that was 9-2 this past season. Visited Louisville, and Delaware and had interest from James Madison and South Florida. An honor student.
OT Nick Landry, Westbrook, Beaumont, Texas, 6-5, 265 -- Two-year starter. Visited Louisiana Tech and Tulane and had some interest from Oklahoma State. All-district selection. Played for Coach Craig Stump, a Tulane assistant coach from 1989 to '91. Plays basketball. Class 5A team was 8-2 and reached the third round of the state playoffs. Has 5.0 speed and a 3.0 GPA.
DE Markus James, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, 6-3, 235 - Had 120 tackles, 15 sacks and two interceptions. Also played tight end. He is from Bethel High in Hampton, Va., the alma mater of Allen Iverson. Considered Kansas State, Temple and Rhode Island. Has 4.61 speed and a 3.0 GPA.
DT Oscar Ponce de Leon, John Curtis, 6-3, 295 -- Class 4A All-State and an All-Metro selection who had 91 tackles and 12 sacks in 12 games for the Class 2A state champion. Has 5.0 speed. Visited Louisiana-Monroe and canceled visits to Louisiana Tech, Ohio and Southern Illinois. First Curtis player to sign with Tulane since 1999. Academically qualified.
LB Logan Kelly, Cypress Creek, Houston, 6-2, 235 -- Was a finalist for the Houston Touchdown Club Defensive Player of the Year award. All-district defensive end as a sophomore. Three-year starter. As a senior, he had 116 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions and two blocked punts for an 8-4 Class 5A team. Considered Northwestern and Air Force. Starts at first base in baseball. Has 4.6 speed and a 4.0 GPA.
LB Adam Kwentua, University, Baton Rouge, 6-3, 235 -- All-Metro Baton Rouge selection as a senior. Had 42 solo tackles, 43 assists, 12 tackles for losses and four sacks; caught 10 passes as a tight end. Is a converted defensive tackle who once weighed 260 pounds. Visited Air Force, Navy and Louisiana Tech. Academically qualified.
LB Jeremy McKinney, Clear Lake, Houston, 6-1, 215 -- Had 105 tackles, 17 tackles for losses, two interceptions and he caused four turnovers as a senior. Two-year letterman. Played three game at fullback as a junior. Clear Lake was a state finalist his junior season. All-district as a senior. Academically qualified.
LB Josh Mitzel, Keller, Texas, 6-0, 240 -- Stocky and strong. Had 118 tackles as a senior and 120 tackles as a junior at the Class 5A school outside of Fort Worth. Picked Tulane instead of Washington State, Texas State and Stephen F. Austin. All-district and academic All-State. An honor student.
LB Cody Sparks, Bridge City, Texas, 6-4, 215 -- A four-sport athlete who will wind up with 12 letters. Starter in basketball and baseball and a hurdler in track. Played linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver. Also considered Air Force, Arkansas State and Stephen F. Austin. As a senior at the Class 3A school that was 9-2, he had 88 tackles, 4 sacks and three interceptions. Has 4.6 speed and a 4.0 GPA.
LB Troy Wilson, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, 6-3, 235 -- Had 55 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions in 11 games at the Virginia prep school that had 12 linebackers on its roster. Fork Union played junior-varsity college teams such as Virginia Tech and West Virginia. He is from Glouster, Va. Considered South Dakota State and Norfolk State. Has 4.68 speed and a 2.7 GPA.
CB Shannon Davis, Benjamin Mays, Atlanta, 6-0, 170 -- Had 46 tackles and six interceptions as a senior. Was second in the state track meet in the 400 meters. Returned kicks and also played wide receiver. Averaged 42 yards on four kickoff returns, including one for a touchdown. Had a scoring run, a scoring reception and a punt return score. Academically qualified.
CB Alex Wacha, Clements, Sugarland, Texas, 5-11, 180 -- Had 80 tackles and five interceptions for the Class 5A team that was 7-4 and reached the postseason for the first time since 1999. A three-year starter, he visited SMU, Louisiana Tech and Utah and had interest from Stephen F. Austin. All-district selection as a senior. As a running back, wide receiver and kick returner, he scored 16 touchdowns. Has 4.4 speed and a 4.0 GPA.
DB Travis Burks, McDonough, Union Grove, Ga., 6-0, 190 -- Has 4.58 speed. Visited Ball State and Middle Tennessee State and had interest from Maryland and Southern Mississippi. Three-year starter at wide receiver and cornerback. Had five interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. McDonough is a Class 5A school south of Atlanta that was 9-3. Academically qualified.
DB Chinoso Echebelem, Duncanville, Texas, 6-1, 190 -- A safety who started for two seasons and also played as a sophomore. Has 4.5 speed for the Class 5A school located south of Dallas. Also considered Duke, Vanderbilt and Texas-El Paso. Has a 3.86 GPA.
P-PK Ross Thevenot, St. Louis, Lake Charles, 5-11, 170 -- All-State at both positions. Made seven of nine field-goal attempts, including a long of 42 yards. Hit all 17 extra-point attempts and put 25 of 27 kickoffs into the end zone. Punted for an average of 47.1 yards. Picked the Wave instead of SMU. Also received interest from Texas-El Paso, Colorado and Michigan State. Named to an All-American soccer team. Academically qualified.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
This blog does not do politics- but it does love GIs.
This reprehensible cartoon ran in the Washington Post on January 29, 2006.
Here is the outstanding and poignant response from the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"As the Joint Chiefs, it is rare that we all put our hand to one letter, but we cannot let this reprehensible cartoon go unanswered."
You can register your disgust here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything, And I Mean Everything, Is For Sale
This horror show was announced in Louisville today:
Churchill Downs racetrack today announced that Yum! Brands Inc., the world's largest restaurant company and parent of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W Restaurants will become the historic first-ever presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Derby.
This year's 132nd renewal of America's greatest horse race on Saturday, May 6, will be referred to as "the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands." The Kentucky Derby, which holds the distinction of being America's oldest continuously held sporting event, has been run without interruption at Churchill Downs since the track's first race meet in 1875.
It would have been no big deal- until I saw the promotional poster: "Presented by Yum! brands"
Heavens. How bad is that?