Wednesday, January 27, 2010
It's Wednesday morning and I've already begun gearing up for Coach K. See, Duke is coming to town to face Georgetown on Saturday afternoon and I will be in the house at Verizon Center, credentialed and everything, so I can pick the brain of one of the great leaders ever. Call me brainwashed, but I would believe Mike Krzyzewski if he told me he could walk on water. I would think to myself, "You know (because I love starting every thought with that phrase) it makes sense the guy is an immortal straight out of story of morals known as the Bible. How else could his hair remain so black, so straight, and so the same for three decades now?
But with my thoughts on Duke, I couldn't help but think about Corey Maggette. What ... you thought No. 1 Kentucky going down, Michigan almost pulling off the upset over Sparty, Kobe in D.C., the Caps seven-game winning streak, or even Super Bowl build-up was more interesting than Maggette's 18-point performance in a 96-93 loss to Sacramento?
Well, take a closer look at the box score. Maggette went 3-for-22 from the field to get those 18 points! I've been in attendance at more than 200 high school games, close to 100 college games, and played and watched countless hours of basketball during my life. I don't think I've ever heard of 3-for-22. Would have silently laughed if I saw it at a high school game I was covering, but would never expect it at the pro or college level. What's even more depressing/hilarious is Maggette was 0-for-17 through three quarters. I know the guy is notorious for being a chucker, but when you're like 0-for-10 or 0-for-14, usually there's a voice in your head that finally kicks in and says, 'Dude you're off, people are staring.' And if you're that person saying, "But Mark, he did get to the free throw line 16 times, made 13 of them, and grabbed 12 rebounds. That's a double-double. At least he's being aggressive," just take a look at his +/- rating. Maggette was -10, joining Andres Biedrins as the lone Warriors with a plus/minus lower than -1. The game continued a growing trend for Maggette, averaging lots of points in a losing effort. He's now -72 for this season, -148 in 2008-09, and -236 in 2007-08 with the Clippers.
And all this takes me back to the magical summer of 1999. That's when Maggette — who had just finished his freshman year as a sixth man on a Blue Devil team that lost to Khalid El-Amin, Richard Hamilton, and UConn in the NCAA Championship game in a certain somebody's domed atrocity in St. Petersburg, Fla — joined Elton Brand and William Avery in leaving Duke before graduating. As is well documented at this point, they were the first three players to ever leave Coach K and Duke early. As the story goes, Coach K only really thought Brand was ready to go pro and he was the only one who actually got his blessing.
What hasn't been well-chronicled is what has happened to all parties involved since all that early departure business went down more than a decade ago. As we all know Elton Brand has had a solid, though sometimes injury-riddled NBA career. Coach K was right about William Avery; he amounted to very little in the NBA and now plies his trade on teams with names like Galatasaray Café Crown and Trikala 2000 in places like Turkey, Ukraine, and Israel.
Then there's Maggette. What's often overlooked about Maggette's year-long stay in Durham is the fact that basically a year after he left, he admitted to taking $35,500 from his AAU coach (who has the totally non-shady name of Myron Piggie) while in high school, a pretty blatant violation of NCAA rules, no matter the intentions involved with the money. Coach K said two weeks after this came to light in 2000, that Duke should be punished if it were true.
They should have vacated that runner-up banner and maybe even gotten some probation, but Duke being Duke (even an apologist like me has to admit this), they didn't get any punishment. It's the type of supposed Coach K favoritism that made me a target growing up in Maryland country and has inspired many websites of this ilk.
But the resulting effect Corey Maggette has had on the Duke program since then is profound. Coach K is scared of another Maggette ruining his squeaky clean program, so he's mostly stayed out of the fray when it comes to one-and-doners since then. Quite frankly, though, his program really hasn't been the same. After making it to the Final Four eight times between 1986 and 1999, he's gone just twice since. It's true, extended excellence eventually turns into exceedingly difficult expectations.
What does this all mean? To be blunt, Corey Maggette has been paid tens of millions of dollars to accomplish very little on the basketball court. And yet, we may look back and wonder how a man so insignificant in a basketball sense permanently weakened one of the great basketball programs to emerge in the past 25 years. Writing that, I feel bad for the guy, though. It makes me wonder what life would be like if he had three more years with Coach K? My guess is he would have stopped shooting at around 0-for-10 last night.
Posted by Mark at 8:30 AM
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Actually it wasn't really the radio. I think it was more of a podcast. But last Saturday night I covered a high school basketball game between Montrose Christian (Kevin Durant's high school) and T.C. Williams (the "Remember the Titans" school). Montrose features a guy going to Duke (Josh Hairston), another dude who recently de-committed from Maryland and is now choosing between Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas (Terrence Ross, pictured above), and a sophomore who many are already projecting to be a one-and-done lottery pick type player once he graduates from high school (Justin Anderson).
Now they absolutely blew T.C. out of the gym — T.C., mind you, is one of the best public school backetball programs in the D.C. area — and I wrote a little about the game and what life has been like for Ross since he decided to re-open his recruitment. Due to the story, and the rampant speculation surrounding Ross, I was invited to be a guest on "Verbally Committed" a "prepcast" that is featured on the website of local sports talk station 106.7 The Fan.
You can download my segment by going here and perusing through the various guests they've had in recent weeks. I'm about the sixth segment from the top. Go have a listen and then come back here to read my short self-critique (and feel free to add to this critique in the comments section below):
So after giving it a listen myself, I had a few things that will undoubtedly gnaw away at me until I get my next chance to be on the radio again:
1) I wish I had written out some talking points. Silly me figured I would be able to wing it and say everything I wanted to. But of course, I forgot a cool little anecdote that I thought would bring some new information to the table in terms of Terrence Ross and where he might end up playing college ball. Nate James is a former Duke basketball player and is now an assistant coach there for Mike Kyryzewski. He also happened to play for Montrose Christian Coach Stu Vetter back in the days when he coached at St. John's Prospect Hall and I was a frequent attendee at his summer camps. Vetter even brought up James name during his postgame talk Saturday (though it was totally unrelated to Ross). My guess is Ross, James, and Vetter have all been talking in recent weeks. Of course, though, I didn't mention this on the air.
2) I think I said the phrase "you know" about 50 times. I've been told about my frequent "you knows" once or twice before, but, you know, I guess I haven't stopped yet.
3) I'm a little peeved at myself that I slighted the T.C. Williams guys a bit towards the beginning of the interview when I said Montrose's Justin Anderson made them look like "JV players." Yes, they really were overmatched from the moment they stepped on the floor, but the T.C. program has been so good to me over the past couple of years since I came back to D.C., especially last year when i was essentially their beat writer for the The Connection. I hope they don't hate me, because I really had no intention to demean them. Chalk it up to radio inexperience.
4) I can't believe I didn't pump Sports and Life Ramblings. I was debating in my head whether or not I should, but chickened out last second and just went with a plug for my stuff in the Express covering the Capitals and Georgetown.
Like I said above, add your own critique in the comments section below. Would love to hear your praise/insults/stuff I definitely need to work on.
Posted by Mark at 1:42 PM
Thursday, January 14, 2010
If you remember back before my long hiatus from blogging life, I found it hilarious that the Vancouver Olympics decided to make their torch look like a supersized joint. But as the Games approach closer and closer, I've found myself wondering if I'll even watch the stuff they show on network television.
Speed skating, figure skating, curling, and non-catastrophe skiing just don't really scream, "Stop watching college or pro basketball," to me. Although I would like to add two clarifications.
Ski-related crashes -- I'm talking, Herman Maier-style crashes -- are events in my mind. I just can't get enough of them. It's the only reason I watch the Winter X Games. I live for those highlights when it comes to the Winter Olympics. I enjoy these ski crashes almost as much as Gilbert Arenas likes pooping in people's shoes. In Arenas' head, there's no actual human behind his pranks. He lives in his own world, where everything can just be forgotten. So seeing the reaction of a perfect poop joke is hilarious.
I don't know these skiing guys that risk their lives, so I take enjoyment in the awesomeness of their crashes. I can't take my eyes off it. Hell, Herman Maier survived that Nagano crash. Long story short, ski crashes are on my to-do list next month.
Clarification No. 2 is that I find myself questioning whether I'll watch on network television, because most of the hockey will probably be on cable with all the fu fu ice skating taking up the primetime network slots. All the best hockey players in the world are gonna be there, and it's being held in Vancouver, which I think is going to create a frenzied atmosphere, especially for the big games. And now we Americans have someone to latch onto. Maybe you've heard about this already, but since David Backes of the St. Louis Blues was named to the American Olympic team, he's gotten in three fights with players named to the Canadian team. And it's all been relatively big names.
First Backes pummeled Chicago's Jonathon Toews on Jan. 3. Then he manhandled Corey Perry of Anaheim on Jan. 7. Tuesday, Rick Nash of Columbus suffered the wrath of American pride. He even tried, and failed, to have a dust up with Dany Heatley of the Sharks. Per the St. Louis Dispatch, here's some more stuff that sounds pretty awesome:
There's "no direct agenda there,” Backes said. "They just tend to be the guys that are in my way and creating some havoc around" ... After Backes fought Toews, Toews threw up twice in the penalty box.
So there ya go, two reasons to watch the Winter Olympics. Although, before I forget (or more like before I forget to pimp my own stuff), I'll also be on the look out for Keslie Tomlinson, a potential skeleton racer in this year's Olympics who I wrote a feature about at my old paper. She finds out in nine days if she made the team.
Posted by Mark at 9:00 PM
It's been a wild couple of days in the sports world with the Pete Carroll-Lane Kiffin switcheroo, the NFL playoffs looming, not to mention new revelations in the Gilbert Arenas and Tiger Woods stories ... what's that you haven't heard rumors that Tiger is currently in an Arizona rehab clinic for sex addiction and may also be donating a cargo plane and mobile hospital unit to the Haiti earthquake relief effort.
But lost in the shuffle was some history last night in the NBA (the above obscene picture aside). Dirk Nowitzki, better known as, well, Dirk Nowitzki (I wanted to call him the German Juggler but that just doesn't make much sense), eclipsed the 20,000-point mark with a third quarter jumper against the Lakers. I'll let Dime Magazine put his accomplishment into context:
There’s little argument that Dirk is the greatest Maverick of all-time as far as what he’s done with the franchise. He ranks No. 1 in career scoring, rebounding, field goals, threes, free throws, and is No. 2 in steals, blocks and points per game. He won the franchise’s only league MVP award, and guided Dallas to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance. The Mavs have made nine playoff appearances during Nowitzki’s carer, whereas in the previous 18-year period B.D. (Before Dirk), they made only six postseasons.
I never really thought of Dirk as a Hall of Famer before now, but looking at the statistics and just his overall impact on this generation, his jersey will probably hang in Springfield, Mass., one day. Tom Chambers and Mitch Richmond are the only 20,000 guys not currently playing that didn't get their names in the Hall. And frankly, there just aren't many 7-footers that can do the things Dirk can do and did throughout his 11-year career.
But what fascinated me about his accomplishment was something I heard on Sportscenter last night. Nowitzki is just the fourth non-American to get over the 20,000-point mark. The other three foreign born 20,000 guys are Hakeem Olajuwon (born in Nigeria), Patrick Ewing (born in Jamaica), and Dominique Wilkins (born in France). Maybe it's because of my skin color, but what stuck out to me was Nowitzki's status as the lone white guy on that list.
Call me curious, but I wanted to know if Nowitzki's status was a trend for all 20,000-point scorers. Is it one-fourth whites, three-fourths black dudes? I mean we all know African-Americans dominate the world of basketball these days, but maybe, just maybe, is this a way we can actually quantify that dominance. And don't call me racist, because we've all (white or black) been wanting to be able to determine this for eons Let's see...
Here's the complete list of 20,000 point guys (in order of how many points they have) as of today:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, Dominique Wilkins, John Havlicek, Alex English, Reggie Miller, Jerry West, Patrick Ewing, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Robert Parrish, Adrian Dantley, Elgin Baylor, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, Hal Greer, Walt Bellamy, Bob Petit, David Robinson, George Gervin, Mitch Richmond, Ray Allen, Tom Chambers, and Dirk Nowitzki.
So aside from the fact that I had to google Hal Greer to determine his skin color (yes, he's black and if you're interested, the only athlete in a Hall of Fame hailing from the great in bred state of West Virginia) and was shocked to see Gary Payton and Walt Bellamy on the list and George Mikan and Pete Maravich not on the list, that's 28 black dudes and six white dudes. That's 82.3 percent dominance. Glad that's settled.
And congratulations Dirk.
Posted by Mark at 3:15 PM
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Aside from the magical night in St. Louis when Mark McGwire hit a line drive of a bomb that gave him MLB's single-season homerun record, my lasting memory of that remarkable summer of 1998, when McGwire and Sammy Sosa embarked on a historic pursuit of Roger Maris's lasting accomplishment, happened in a car ride with my Dad in August of that year.
I was only 12 at the time, and I had gone to sleep away camp for two weeks right when the chase was hitting its stride. This was before I ever had a cell phone, and even before I lived and died by my internet connection when it concerned sports news. So when my Dad came to pick me up from camp, my first question as I got in the car was "What's going on with Sosa and McGwire? Are they on track to beat the record?"
I wasn't alone in being captivated by the whole thing, all of America embraced the dual pursuit of one of baseball's most cherished records. So when I first heard McGwire's statement yesterday, I exhaled a little bit, happy that this strange and sad saga might finally be reaching its conclusion. Tim Kurkijan of ESPN came on my screen and started talking about how while McGwire probably will never make it into the Hall of Fame, at least he can now get on with his life on the diamond, no longer forced into relative solitude as it concerns being in the public eye. All he had to do now, Kurkijan said, was one of those tell-all interviews where people who don't understand what was going through McGwire's head during his steroid-using days attempt to comprehend just what exactly he was thinking.
When I returned home from work late last night to watch McGwire's sit down with Costas, I flipped on ESPN first. There I saw several baseball types -- including Kurkijan -- up in arms over McGwire's insistence that steroids didn't help him hit any homeruns. All it did was keep him healthy so he could keep showing the masses his God-given homerun prowess, McGwire claimed. As a result, today, even more have weighed in, disgusted at McGwire's defiance.
They overlooked the fact that he's essentially been a hermit since retiring from baseball due to the dubious reputation he left behind, how he's constantly had to deal with the whispers because of his obviously unnatural growth as a physical specimen during his career and ridiculous appearance on Capital Hill five years ago. "I'm not here to talk about the past," became synonymous with being a coward. They found the tears during that Costas interview to be contrived, the regret merely a ploy to look better in front of the media. All that seems true when you read this New York Times piece about McGwire's media strategy for this somewhat unexpected tell all:
He did it all in one afternoon, starting with a statement that was distributed widely to the news media, and that came across the Associated Press wire at 3 p.m.
The A.P. followed quickly with a story that featured an interview with McGwire, who subsequently spoke to numerous other news media outlets — including USA Today and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk of ESPN (both by telephone, not on the air); KTRS Radio in St. Louis; and The New York Times, before talking to Bob Costas live at 7 p.m. Eastern on MLB Network.
The one-day plan — coordinated over the past month by Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary who runs a crisis-communications company, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who recently hired McGwire as their batting coach — contrasts with last year’s roll-out of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid admission.
If you don't remember, Rodriguez was forced into contrition after Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated somehow found out ARod was on a list of 100 supposed steroid users who had tested positive a few years back. He didn't really control his own news cycle and got really lucky when Peter Gammons trusted him at his word during an exclusive one-on-one rather than asking some necessary follow ups to some of Rodriguez's answers.
Well, now everyone not named Bob Costas are beginning to voice some of their own follow ups in response to McGwire's interview. How could he possibly believe steroids didn't help him? How in the world could he wait this long to finally expose himself? Why does he have those weird Norv Turner-esque blotches on his neck (okay maybe that's more my question, and apparently Brian Williams from NBC News had the same query).
Maybe I'm naive and going against the status quo of considering the sport of baseball as holier than thou, but can't we just give the guy a break and let him move on with his life? I don't understand why we can't just say 'Mark McGwire apologized, Jose Canseco was right, now let's get on with our lives.' No, instead we have to get our last punches in on a man who as a result of his mistakes will forever have his name tarnished, will never make the Hall of Fame, and was never going to be looked at the same whether he gave us an apology or not. Did Mark McGwire lie to us during that historic chase? Sure. Did he try to deflect blame during his tell-all interview? You bet. But he's not a criminal in my book. He was a man who played baseball during a time when players' judgments were clouded by a desire to perform at the highest level.
I'll leave you with this. Say you're a 31-year-old baseball player who had hit 49 homeruns as a rookie, averaged 34 bombs through the next five seasons, but had played a total of 74 games as a 30 and 31-year-old. Then you have some genie in a bottle or something approach you (genie in a bottle is my term for steroid dealer for some reason) and say, 'Hey I got this kind of, sort of illegal drug that MLB doesn't test for, will allow you to average nearly 58 homeruns a season over the next four years, break Roger Maris's homerun record, make more than double the amount of money during the final eight seasons of your career ($59.741 million) than you did the previous nine years, and never face any criminal charges if you tread carefully when people ask if you used them.'
Because that's Mark McGwire's story. Could you have said no to that proposition? I'm not sure I would have been able to, which is the actual dilemma being overlooked here. Were these guys during the steroids era morally wrong for cheating the game's history? Definitely. But would any normal human, presented with the same situation, do the same exact thing they chose to do? You can decide for yourself, but I think humans, money, and glory form an irresistable combination.
Posted by Mark at 3:00 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
What a week for someone working for the sports section at Washington, D.C.'s top newspaper. We had paparazzi style stalking of Mike Shanahan outside of lavish steakhouses and airports, the ongoing denigration of Gilbert Arenas from basketball blogging icon to gun toting criminal, and hell, Saturday, Georgetown and Connecticut might have played the best college basketball game of the season to date.
I wasn't really on the front lines for any of this (although I was in the house to watch UCONN and GTown), but for much of the week I was working in the office at the Post as everything developed. It was craziness, editors that usually work 9-5 schedules working through the night and me having very little time to do any blogging. What was I doing? Well, you can read a profile I did for the paper on UConn's Jerome Dyson as well as four stories about high school wrestling that be viewed here, here, here, and here. I would include the GTown and Capitals stories I did for the Express, but alas, their website is really messed up and you can only view the .pdf of the paper.
But through it all I got to see the side of the newspaper/media business that I hadn't really seen since my New York Sun days. That being the ideal of the scoop. See, in my opinion, The Post got its ass handed to it on the original reporting of both the Arenas and Shanahan stories. The New York Post's Peter Vescey broke the original report of a western shootout between Gilbert and Javaris Crittenton in the Wiz locker room. In Shanahan's case, it was Michigan Daily alum Adam Schefter driving the news cycle.
The first instinct is to criticize the Post for this, because well, they got beat on two of the biggest sport stories to happen in DC in recent memory. But here's what some people don't always realize. Do you really think Peter Vescey got his source for that story from the Wizards? Considering the NBA league offices are in New York City, I'm almost 100 percent positive it got leaked by someone up there. With Shanahan, I think it was generally overlooked that Schefter wrote Shanahan's book, "Think like a Champion", which came out in 1999, and that every time "sources" were telling him things about the situation, the most likely person giving him that info was Shanahan himself. Also overlooked in this story was the fact that Dan Snyder and the Skins hate the Washington Post's guts even though we give them double (and sometimes triple) the coverage of any other sports team in this town.
But like I said earlier, people were working their butts off in the office once these stories broke and I think my employer more than acquitted itself on both these stories in the days after news broke. First, in the Shanahan story, I think Les Carpenter's excellent feature that came out the day Shanahan was introduced as head coach really got to the crux of what could go wrong in this Redskins marriage. With it looking more and more like Snyder was talking with Shanahan throughout this season, therefore meaning Bruce Allen was handpicked by Shanahan to be general manager, I'm having second thoughts about Shanahan as the ultimate decision maker in this organization. Shanahan claims he won't use that final say power often, but his track record makes that seem highly unlikely. Because as we all know, the only person I can think of that has been able to successfully balance the roles of talent evaluator and coach has been Bill Parcells. Here's a look inside his brain:
While Shanahan's coaching prowess is widely proclaimed, he is not nearly as admired as a personnel executive. Much of the thinking is that Shanahan's lust for control and a constant belief that he was only a player or two away from the Super Bowl led him into questionable moves. ...
Shanahan often evaluated players by watching tapes of their highlights, a system employed by some in the league who believe that if you see a player at his best then he can be coached up to that ability. ...
But many league executives say the approach can become intoxicating to a coach who is confident in his ability to coach the player to that level and has the ultimate authority to choose that player. "He didn't listen to his scouts," said one NFL general manager, who asked not to be identified because he didn't want to publicly criticize another team executive.
Those three paragraphs should cause some red flags among devoted Skins fans. The problem this organization has had since Snyder took control was overrating their own players. They overpay players, who as a result of their bloated salaries, believe they're as good as they're being paid. For a coach to think a team that has gone 6-18 over the past season and a half is a player or two away would be damn near criminal in my book. Good thing we've got some new, sane minds over there at Redskins Park. Wait, what's that? An oh shit moment, courtesy of Bruce Allen during his presser announcing Jim Zorn's firing:
I'm saying that we need to find the passionate coach, a winning coach, that can come in and lead the men that were in this room earlier, because maybe some of our greatest improvements are our players that are already on the roster playing better."
Me and Bruce will have to agree to disagree on that one. I would gut the roster as soon as possible.
Moving on to Gilbert, it's been a tragic fall for a guy who I loved just a couple of years ago. Now personally, I'm not one of those that have just left the Gilbert wagon. My best guess is his days as a Wizard are probably over, especially since they've removed any semblance of him from Verizon Center. But I think this personification of Arenas as some kind of criminal by the national media overlooks some of the man's biggest character flaws.
He's a 28-year-old kid at heart, a troublesome kid, but a kid nonetheless. The real problem here is that he's 28 and not say, 13 or 14. Creating mischief when you're being paid hundreds of millions of dollars is just not a formula for success, and ultimately through all his antics, it's partly our own fault for disregarding some of his obvious faults (I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else). The Post's Mike Wise has been all over this story (and broke the whole Crittenton loading a weapon and chambering it thing) since he knows Gilbert about as well as any reporter out there, but it was Sally Jenkins who I thought wrote a brilliant column about this whole situation in Saturday's Post. Read the whole thing because it really does some great psychoanalyzing, but here's an excerpt that I think does this situation complete justice:
I don't claim to know Arenas. Like so many others, I've always enjoyed him from afar for his lightness of being. But looking backward, perhaps it was a sign of trouble. That lightness now looks like an empty vessel that he fills up with whatever version of a self pleases him in the moment, or that he finds expedient. This season alone, we have seen Strictly Business Gilbert and Vow of Silence Gilbert morph into Chattering Gilbert and Unstoppable Twittering Gilbert. He contradicts his own statements, one day he expresses regret for bad judgment and the next he's got nothing to be remorseful about. The emerging depiction is of a man with sharply veering moods, whose sense of self is highly unstable, and who has yet to adequately address or heal some inner divisions and fractures.
To me, Gilbert Arenas is that loveable troublemaker that you can't just punish even though deep down it's probably the best thing for him. Was he dumb to bring his guns into the Verizon Center? Absolutely. But it's all part of some complicated psychological issues that he's had for a long, long time. Problems that should have been addressed years ago, but because of his basketball talent and natural charisma, were swept under the rug and ignored at times. That being said, I really hope he finds a way to get back into the league (and if Latrell Sprewell got another shot, Gilbert most certainly will, too) because at his peak, Gilbert was spectacular to watch both on and off the floor. As we look back over time, I really believe he will be remembered as one of the revolutionary figures in the NBA post-Jordan, with the way he changed how athletes communicate with their fans.
Posted by Mark at 2:06 PM
Monday, January 04, 2010
So seeing as the news that Jim Zorn was fired during a 4am meeting with Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen and that Mike Shanahan subsequently appeared at Northern Virginia's Dulles International Airport and is expected to be announced as head coach Tuesday are already reported, I figured I should focus on some more surprising developments heading into the wild card weekend of the NFL postseason:
-First, I just wanted to comment on the meteoric fall of the Denver Broncos, or as I like to call them, the West Coast Redskins (or I guess Western time zone would be more appropriate errr Mountain time zone). Start out 6-0, get a bunch of cool little features on pregame shows, and then watch it circle down the drain amidst a 2-8 finish. Sounds familiar to me. Seriously, though, how does a team lose by 20 to a 3-win opponent with the playoffs on the line? I know Brandon Marshall got suspended, but against a moribund team like the Chiefs, you'd think that would light a fire not ignite a stink bomb. Oh yeah, and with Shanahan already in the DC area, cue the Marshall in burgundy and gold rumors.
-All this talk about the Jets cake walking into the playoffs is so valid it hurts. Did the Colts and Bengals rest their starters? Sure. Did the Jets win as a result? Absolutely. Did it keep the Houston Texans and Andre Johnson from making the playoffs? You're damn straight.
So for those thinking the Texans were gonna be the Arizona Cardinals of last year, with Johnson playing the role of Larry Fitzgerald, I would like to point this out. Yes, Fitzgerald was dynamite during the Cards' Super Bowl run, but to me, the reason Arizona went so far was the emergence of its defense and more specifically, its defensive line led by Darnell Dockett. Oh wait, Johnson is the best wide receiver in the league and Mario Williams not only has proven he should have been picked ahead of Reggie Bush, but is probably better than Darnell Dockett ... damn, the Texans could have been this year's Cardinals.
-Speaking of the Jets, I think their elite defense gives them a chance against anybody, especially a Cincinnati team that appears to be the weakest division winner in the NFL except for ...
-The Saints, who I think are going to be one and done when they face either Green Bay or Arizona next week.
-So it was T.O. or bust this year in Buffalo. BUST! (That was for you Graham, who if I recall correctly was anxiously awaiting the Trent Edwards era even though I constantly reminded him that nobody that wins one game his senior season at Stanford should be worth getting excited for).
-Here's what drives me nuts about the NFL. Jeff Fisher (Tennessee) and Jon Fox (Carolina) are currently the longest and third-longest tenured coaches in the NFL, respectively, as we close the 2009-10 season. Who knows if either gets fired (Fisher sounds like a no, Fox sounds like a probably no after the Panthers won five straight to end the season), but to me they're getting credit where credit just isn't due.
In Carolina, Fox finally benched Jake Delhomme after a merciful four INT performance against the Jets, and when he inserted Matt Moore into the lineup the very next week in a 17-6 win over Tampa Bay, lo and behold, the Panthers commenced their five-game win streak. Carolina's players deserve all sorts of credit for their showing, considering that the playoffs were a fantasy when they began this hot streak. I just don't get how the five consecutive wins would save Fox's job. If anything, I would can his ass for not putting Moore in there earlier, when the playoffs could have still been a possibility.
In Tennessee, Fisher did the same thing, although he had the sense to go from Kerry Collins to Vince Young while the Titans still had a faint hope of postseason glory. See, he waited until the Titans were 0-6, so that even when Vince Young played incredibly well and went 8-2 down the stretch (with losses to Indianapolis and San Diego), they still couldn't make the playoffs.
How are these considered good coaching jobs? The only reason these two teams didn't make the playoffs was the incompetency of their head coaches. I would fire both right now.
-Biggest disappointments of the NFL season (in no particular order): The Matt Hasselbeck to T.J. Houshmandzadeh connection, the Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe connection, Josh McDaniel the disciplinarian (would Belichick have benched his star wide receiver heading into a do or die game even if his head wasn't on straight?), James Harrison as the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year (winners of this award should at least be the MVP of their own defense, something Troy Polamalu proved Harrison wasn't this season), defensive guru Lovie Smith, Chris Long as a top 3 pick in the NFL Draft (nine sacks, 43 tackles, and 3-29 record in two seasons), and lastly, wide receiver Devin Hester.
There's so many more and I would love to hear some of yours. Comment away...
-And last, this is more for Redskins fans out there that are looking forward to owning the offseason once again (I'm already hearing rumors that Mike Zimmer, the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and a guy I wouldn't mind having as a head coach, is on the verge of becoming the defensive coordinator here). Just remember ... even if Dan Snyder somehow finds a way to bring the ashes of Johnny Cochran back to life, hires him to get O.J. Simpson out of jail, and then figures out a way to reverse time so that he has an in-his-prime Juice to split carries with Clinton Portis ... the Oakland Raiders won more games than the Washington Redskins this year.
Sad, but true.
Posted by Mark at 4:35 PM