Saturday, August 25, 2012

If the Yankees did what the Dodgers did, they'd get criticized

I applaud what the Dodgers are doing.  They are trying to win now.  That was made clear after landing Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins, and Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies.  But no, they wouldn't stop there.  They made yet another splash trade with the Boston Red Sox.  You can't really blame the Dodgers.  They are going all in.  Similar to how the Angels are going all in with the signing of Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and trading for Zack Greinke.

There is nothing wrong with going for it all, even if it requires spending money or taking on a lot of money.  This is what brings me to my point.  Had the New York Yankees did what the Dodgers did this season, they'd be getting criticized to no end.  Some would even go as far as bringing up "baseball needs a salary cap" discussions again.  The fact of the matter is, even though the Yanks have had one of the highest payrolls in baseball in the last decade, it has only translated to one World Series title.  So what is this notion that the Yanks just buy titles?  That argument has always been a complete fallacy.  It sounds like sour grapes to me.

Those high payrolls may translate to many playoff appearances, but it isn't buying World Series titles.  Besides that, the Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, etc. have gotten off clean in the past few years.  They've all assembled rosters with high payrolls, and there hasn't bee much criticism about it.  Yet, when the Yankees pay CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira 20 million dollars a year, tantrums ensue.  Where I come from, that is called hypocrisy, my friends.  I can understand that the Yankees are not a likeable team, but that doesn't mean all objectivity and logicality should fly out the window when it comes to criticizing them.

If you want to criticize them, criticize them for having a high payroll and only winning one World Series title in the last decade.  Don't criticize them because they choose to spend an exorbitant amount of money on putting a winning product on the field.  Every team does it when they have the assets.  Just see the Dodgers, Phillies, and Angels.  The difference is, the Yankees' organization always has these type of assets because they are a cash cow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why is USC ranked #1? The AP Top 25 is terrible.

Am I missing something here?  Is this 2005?  Why on earth is this condom garbage ranked #1?  The Pac-12 is a garbage conference.  How many more times does an SEC school have to win the BCS title?  And people say the SEC is overrated?  What is this crap with USC?  So because Barkley is coming back, this team deserves to be #1 in the AP poll?  Who exactly did they beat last year besides Oregon?  And they nearly coughed up a 24-point lead in the game.  They were lucky that a missed chip shot FG kept it from going into OT.  

Their schedule was an absolute joke last year and they only beat one great team.  That one great team just so happens to be the team that got clownstomped by LSU.  There's no denying USC is a good football team, and Matt Barkley gives them a shot to compete for a national title, but #1 is going too far.  Alabama and LSU didn't lose that many players for USC to make up the difference in talent.  USC's defense is nowhere near that of Bama or LSU, and Barkley would have a tough time putting up points against either of those defenses.  Conversely, LSU or Bama would have no problem scoring on USC's defense.  That is a ludicrous ranking and speaking of ludicrous rankings.  

What is the deal with Arkansas' ranking?  Keep in mind, the Hogs lost virtually nobody, just as USC did, yet USC jumps all the way past the likes of Bama and LSU, and Arkansas falls all the way down to 10?  Ridiculous.  Sure, USC gets top recruits, but so does Bama and LSU, yet they can jump ahead of them, yet Arkansas falls to 10. Why is South Carolina and Florida St. ranked ahead of Arkansas?  I can understand losing Petrino might hurt Arkansas, but it's basically still the same offense and same team that finished #5 last season.  And they get Knile Davis back, a Heisman caliber RB.  How many more times does Arkansas have to beat South Carolina in order to get ranked ahead of them in the preseason polls?  I may be exaggerating a little, but I can't recall the last time South Carolina has beat Arkansas.  It has to be three-to-five years at least, yet every year SC is ahead of them in preseason polls.  And Florida St. completely blows in a crappy conference.  They shouldn't even be in the top 10.  I guess the AP didn't learn their lesson from last season for overrating Florida St..

Don't get me started on Georgia.  They must be paying someone under the table, because I can't recall another team that has been more overrated and has come up laughably short as much as Georgia.  #6?  Is this some kind of inside joke?  They made the SEC championship by virtually beating nobody.  Let's just not forget that they actually lost to South Carolina.  Why they made the SEC championship game and got embarrassed?  Because they didn't face Arkansas, LSU, or Alabama in the season, who were all the top 3 teams in the country at one point.  South Carolina at least had to face one of them, that was what did them.  Georgia didn't face any of them.  Georgia made the SEC championship game because they got lucky and their division was a joke.  To make matters even worse, Georgia choked a three possession lead to a garbage Michigan St. Spartans team.  Way to represent the SEC.  Yet this team is ranked #6 in the preseason polls ahead of Arkansas, and South Carolina to boot.  What a laughable joke.  The AP does it once again.

I also love the disrespect that Urban Meyer is getting.  All he does is turn teams around and Ohio St. is ranked this low.  Yet, as I mentioned, the likes of Florida St. and Georgia are in the top 10.  This #18 ranking is hilarious for Ohio St., and it's typical of the AP.  They get these rankings wrong every single year.  There's so much hypocrisy and stupidity put into these rankings.  I can't recall the last time they've been actually right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Defining Clutch: NFL Quarterbacks Edition

In my inaugural Defining Clutch series, I will highlight the quarterback position in the National Football League.  I will breakdown what I think of the words "clutch" and "choker."

How do we define clutch?  Is there really such a thing as a "choker?"  How do we differentiate between who is a clutch QB and who is a choker?  Is Dan Marino a choker because he never won a Super Bowl?  Is Joe Montana the most clutch QB of all-time because he has three Super Bowl MVPs?  If a QB leads his team to 30+ points, but he loses the game because he threw an interception down by seven points or less, is he a choker?  Let's keep in mind that he led the team to 30+ points.  Do we just forget what he did up until the point, or do we only highlight the interception?  Was it his only interception of the game?  Did they only need a FG to tie the game?  Could they have won the game with a TD?  These are all questions that you have to ask.

Quite often, I think "clutch" is thrown around too loosely as well as "choker."  I believe that if you are an elite QB, more often than not, you will play great in the playoffs.  You'll rarely have really bad playoff games or games where you come up short.  If you are a great QB, you'll have some great playoff games, but you'll have more playoff games where you come up short than you would than if you were an elite QB.

If you are an average QB, more often than not, you'll play average in the playoffs.  Every so often, you might have a really good playoff game, but more often than not, you are average in the playoffs.  I believe you are who you are.  I don't think there is any type of magical potion that can make a person "clutch."  I also don't believe a player that is labeled a "choker" can never be "clutch."  Now I do believe that there are just some QBs who rise to the occasion more than others.  But more often than not, I believe how a QB plays in the playoffs is a reflection of the type of QB he is.

I want to use an example to prove my point.  Ben Roethlisberger has the reputation of being supremely "clutch."  Believe it or not, I've seen quite a few Steeler fans who seem to think Big Ben is more "clutch" than Peyton Manning.  Here is where I prove that theory wrong.  I believe Big Ben is a great QB, but not an elite QB like some people think.  Because he's a great QB, he's gonna have great playoff games, and some bad ones.  More bad ones than elite QBs have, and less great games than elite QBs have.  Big Ben has this reputation of being clutch.  Of course, it's hard to argue with the fact that he's 10-4 in the playoffs, and 3-1 in conference championship games.  But did you know he's had six really bad playoff games?  I'll give him a pass for his rookie season, but he played pretty horrible against Seattle in the SB, against the Jets two years ago in the AFC championship game, against Jacksonville in 2008, and against Green Bay in the Super Bowl.  He won two of those games and lost two of those games.

He's had four outstanding playoff games, two good playoff games, and two solid ones.  When you look at that body of work, this really proves my theory true.  I believe Big Ben is a great QB.  He can have really good or great playoff games, but he can also put up quite a few stinkers.  Now I will admit that Big Ben does rise to the occasion more so than other great QBs such as Philips Rivers and Tony Romo.  But what I want to know is can you definitively say that Big Ben is more "clutch" than Peyton Manning because he has more rings?  Rings are what matters the most for the QB position, but Big Ben has had his share of bad playoff games.  More so than Peyton.

Frankly, Peyton Manning was just not an elite quarterback in his first few playoff games.  Like Ben, I'll give him a pass for his rookie season.  For as much as Peyton is criticized for being a choker, he's only had two or three really bad playoff games.  Conversely, he's had six outstanding playoff games, and the other ones he was good in.

Peyton is absolutely not a "choker."  He's "clutch" if anything.  He's been at least good in 15 playoff games.  And I'm counting his SB run.  Statistically, Peyton wasn't great in his SB run, but he was better than his numbers indicated.  For instance, take into account he was facing the #1 defense in football on the road at Baltimore in cold conditions in the Divisional.  He routinely led the Colts down the field for FGs.  Obviously the Colts' defense was lights out and largely responsible for that win, but Peyton more than played his part in that win.  I thought that game was one of Peyton's most brilliant games despite what he was up against.  That was one of the best defenses of all-time he was facing.

He did throw the back-breaking pick six in the SB against the Saints, but that was not a game you can say he was bad in or "choked."  You can't just look at that game in a vacuum.  Without Peyton, the Colts are likely not in the game.  This notion that Peyton is a "choker" is hilarious to me.  If anything, Peyton is typically Peyton in the playoffs.  There is not some huge drop off from the regular season to the playoffs.  A QB rating just under 95 in the season and a little over 88 in the playoffs.  That's not some huge drop off considering playoff play is much more intense than in the season.  Single game elimination makes playoff games a much tougher environment than regular season games I'd say.

So what is this notion that Big Ben is more "clutch" than Peyton?  Peyton typically plays like an elite QB in the playoffs.  Big Ben typically plays like a great QB.  And this is not to mention what Big Ben has had around him and what Peyton has had around him.  I won't play the what if game, but there's no doubt that Big Ben has had better teams around him than Peyton.  Yet Peyton is usually elite in playoff games, and with a better supporting cast, he probably has more than one ring.  

You are who you are.  But quite often, how good you are doesn't matter in the playoffs.  Sometimes luck can play a huge factor.

Let's take a look at this video for a second:

That is the great Tom Brady of course in the controversial tuck game.  Let's not delve into whether or not the call was legitimate.  Let's look at the critical mistake Brady made.  With a blitzer coming from his strong side, he makes a rookie mistake and gets blindsided on his strong side.  Understand?  No QB should ever take the hit that Brady took on his strong side that caused a fumble.  If that happens on his blindside, that is understandable, but that should never happen coming from your strong side.  If you look closer, you can see that Brady never even noticed Woodson was coming.  That is a game-killing mistake.  Brady was bailed out by one of the more controversial calls in NFL history.  That's an example of sometimes how it's better to be lucky than good.  That also goes to show how one play can be the difference between having a "clutch" legacy or having a "choker" legacy.  

I believe in that season and playoffs, Brady was just a slightly above average QB, and it showed on that play.  Luckily for him, that didn't stain his legacy.  Had that been ruled a fumble, Brady would have been seen as a huge choker, because a high school QB can even recognize the blitz there on that play. Brady was just a little bit above average that year and it shows that just because a QB is average or a little above it like Brady was, that doesn't mean they can't play well in the playoffs and advance far in the playoffs.

For instance, let's look at Mark Sanchez.  He has great playoff numbers despite the fact that he's average for the majority of the season.  If Mark Sanchez can rise to the occasion when it matters most, then any QB can.  But is Mark Sanchez really that clutch because he has good playoff stats?  No.  Those numbers will even out at some point, and you will start to see more of the real Mark Sanchez in the playoffs.  You are who you are.  That is unless Mark Sanchez transforms into an elite QB down the road like Tom Brady did.  I don't believe there is something that changes you that much in the playoffs.  There is more pressure, and some QBs handle it better than others.

Enough of this labeling.  I've come to the conclusion that you are who you are.  If you are usually elite in the season, more often than not, you'll play that way in the playoffs and bad playoff games will be few and far in between.  If you are usually great in the season, more often than not, you'll be good in the playoffs, but more susceptible to bad playoff games than elite QBs.  If you are average, more often than not, you'll be average in the playoffs, and you'll be more susceptible to bad playoff games than good ones.  The law of averages takes care of everything.  

There are so many ridiculous perceptions out there as well.  Far too often, people look at QBs in a vacuum rather than looking at the intricacies of their situation.  Here's one of my favorites:  "Rivers is a failure and will never win anything." 

Let's just not forget that the best team Rivers had, he was just a mere rookie.  In no other year have the Chargers put a team on the field that could win enough playoff games to win a SB.  Ever since Rivers has become an elite QB he has never had teams good enough to win Super Bowls.  Far too often, observers don't realize that winning Super Bowls is a franchise sport.  It's not the easiest thing to do.

Is it just a coincidence that when Brady was not an elite QB, he won three Super Bowls, and since he's been an elite QB, he's won none?   He's lost two Super Bowls while being the favorites in both.  That tells me that winning a SB is a franchise accomplishment, and also that Brady's supporting cast isn't as great as it was when he was winning Super Bowls.  QBs absolutely have the most control over where their team goes, but it's still a franchise accomplishment.  It's hard work and 100% dedication from 53 men on the field and the guys behind the scenes such as the owner, the front office, the trainers, and so forth.

Rivers just simply hasn't had enough good teams.  The Chargers themselves haven't been a highly successful franchise.  I think it would be more fair to call the franchise a failure rather than Rivers, because they haven't won anything.  And that's dating back to long before Rivers was the QB.  So maybe Rivers doesn't ever win anything, but it won't be because of him.  The Chargers have never won anything.  Let's be fair to Rivers here.  Has he come up short?  Of course.  But the Chargers wouldn't be where they are now without Rivers.

Here's another one of my favorites, "Romo is a choker and will never win anything."  Has Romo come up short?  Absolutely.  But is all of that his fault?  Should we ignore how bad of a GM Jerry Jones has been since the Jimmy Johnson era?  Should we ignore that Bill Parcells left too soon and never had the opportunity to coach up Romo?  That really hurt Romo's progress when Parcells left.  You know who took over for Parcells?  Wade Phillips.  That's right.  The Cowboys were supposed to win a SB with a coach who's been in the league for decades and never has won a playoff game as a head coach?  He's supposed to win with that?  Was the Giants' playoff game loss really a surprise?  Many people blame Romo and Witten for that Mexico fiasco.  But has anybody once blamed the head coach?  

Let's be fair to Romo.  The Phillips Cowboys were poorly coached in that playoff game, and Wade should have never let Romo and Witten go to Mexico.  He should have had them 100% focused on football.  Was it really surprising that Romo had immaturity issues when he had Wade Phillips as coach?  The most hilarious thing to me is Romo's December record criticism.  I guess people ignore that the Cowboys were horrible in December long before Romo got there.  Perhaps the Cowboys December woes is a reflection on management and poor conditioning?  Anybody ever think of that?  The fumbled snap was absolutely hilarious, and there is no excuse in the world for that.  But that fumbled snap has somehow became all that Romo is known for.  Because of that fumbled snap, he can't erase that unfair "choker" label.

Romo deserves criticism, and so does Rivers, because they both have come up short.  Romo more so than Rivers.  However, neither of them have been in the best position to advance in the playoffs.  They've both had poor coaching, and inconsistent defenses.  They both are part of franchises that have been pretty bad for over decades.  Especially Rivers.  The Chargers  have never won anything.  The Cowboys have won 5 titles, but one playoff win in 15 years isn't exactly good at all.  The Cowboys have been on the down slope for almost 20 years.  So let's be a little bit more fair to Romo and Rivers.

Matt Ryan is also getting this type of criticism.  The Falcons have been really good since Ryan came along, but I'll say the same thing for Ryan that I said for Romo and Rivers.  The Falcons have never really put a playoff team on the field that could advance in the playoffs.  Their defense has never been good enough for a playoff setting.  They have the offense, but they've never had the defense to win many playoff games.

In the regular season, offense probably means more than defense, but in the playoffs, defense matters the most.  Games are closer, and yards are hard to come by offensively.  That makes playing great defense in the playoffs even more important.  The Falcons just haven't had that.  That was evident in every single playoff loss with Ryan.

Enough of the senseless bashing of players.  Winning championships is a franchise accomplishment.  There's a reason why Dan Marino and Dan Fouts have no rings.  Some of it was because of them, but most of it was because, more often than not, they weren't put in position to win.  I don't believe in labeling QBs "clutch" or "choker."  Some QBs rise to the occasion more than others, but that doesn't make them supremely more clutch than others who have the "choker" label.  Every team can't win Super Bowls, and far too many QBs without rings get bashed.  There are 31 failures every year.  It's not a surprise that only a handful of QBs in the league have rings.  Those just happen to also be the best ran franchises.  When you label "clutch" and "choker," start with the franchises first, not the QBs.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How does Bynum land Dwight?

A question that has boggled my mind for the last week.  When you look at the trade as a whole, it makes you wonder why Orlando would do this when there were so many great offers on the table.  They would have been better off if they had taken Houston's, Brooklyn's, or even Atlanta's offers.  But no.  They take neither of those offers.  Heck, they don't even take Andrew Bynum or Iguodala.  They take back Arron Afflalo and Moe Harkless?  What?  

Okay there is so much beef I have with the trade in itself, but when you look at who became the biggest title contenders after this trade, it's obviously the Los Angeles Lakers.  Someone please enlighten me.  How does Andrew Bynum alone land Dwight?  It seemed like just a year ago there were talks of Pau and Bynum landing Dwight.  When the smoke clears, the Lakers only have to give up Bynum to get Dwight?

Bynum is not a bad player by any means.  He's a legitimate building block and an All-Star center, but he's not better than Dwight, period.  Bynum has been overrated by the media, the Lakers, and the Lakers' fan base for years.  Seems like it has finally paid off, and they sold him sky high.  Can't fault the Lakers for this.  The Lakers just know how to get it done.  But more to the point.  I already had my doubts about Bynum as is, and Kareem made me feel even better about my opinion on Bynum with his latest comments:

Jabbar said of the trade that brought Howard to town and sent Bynum to Philly was "nothing short of a coup."  Jabbar said Howard will thrive without changing "his game that much" and that he's "is very committed to playing and winning. Andrew has been up and down on that issue. There are times he wants to play, do a great job and he goes out and does it. Then there are other times where it seems like he's not focused."
Jabbar worked with Bynum for a few years after the Lakers drafted the 7-footer in the first round of the 2005 draft.  "When I first started working with him, he was eager to learn," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He appreciated me shortening the learning curve. Once he figured he did everything he wanted to do in terms of learning, he didn't want me to bother him constantly going over the fundamentals."

My sentiments exactly Kareem.  To add to that, Bynum is not in Dwight's area code as a defender.  Bynum's lateral movement is slow, and he has slow feet.  He can't properly rotate on pick and rolls as a big man should.  He lets the ball handler come to him in the lane instead of going to the ball handler to contest.  He is a big reason why the Lakers' pick and roll defense was poor and couldn't stop point guard penetration in the last few seasons.  Bynum has to become better at rotating defensively.   

Conversely, Dwight Howard is the best big man pick and roll defender in the NBA.  He contests as many shots as he can.  He shows on pick and rolls well, and has the speed to recover and get back to the paint defensively.  He has great lateral movement, and can get back defensively.  Dwight can also run the floor.  Something that has often been a problem for Bynum.

If that wasn't enough to convince you that Bynum landing Dwight is laughable, Dwight has anchored some of the best defenses in the NBA year in and year out.  Aside from Dwight's first two years in the league, his team's defensive rating has at least been sixth in all of basketball.  Largely because of Dwight.  Keep in mind, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson were constant starters during his tenure there.  Not exactly defensive specialists.  So we have a player that can anchor a team surrounded by mediocre defensive players to some of the best defensive teams in the NBA seemingly on his own.  

We have Bynum, who is all hype and upside versus a proven Defensive Player of the Year winner who anchors elite defenses despite being surrounded by mediocre defenders.  Where Bynum has the advantage is offense.  Even that's not by much.  Bynum panics when he's double teamed, and he doesn't draw as many fouls as Dwight does in the paint.  Overall, Dwight is just as effective offensively as Bynum, and is world's better defensively.

If that also wasn't enough to convince you that Bynum landing Dwight is a joke, let's take a look at each players' career statistics:
Andrew Bynum's

Dwight Howard's
This can land Dwight?  There is no doubt that I can't absolutely stand Dwight.  I like Bynum a lot more than I like Dwight, but even I can admit that Bynum is not in Dwight's area code.  Seriously, how does Bynum get Dwight?  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Cowboys' starters in preseason opener

Quite a boring game to say the least, but I'm a hardcore football fan, and I love my Dallas Cowboys, so I watched every minute of the game anyway.  I came out a little impressed, given the shutout, but there were
 obviously some problems.


For starters, Carter made a huge mistake on the screen play to McFadden that resulted in a big gain.  He was on the wrong side of the field and should have been watching the RB.  With his speed, it's no doubt in my mind he could have kept that from gaining more than four yards had he made the right play.

On the big McFadden run, Sean Lee didn't attack the line of scrimmage like we are accustomed to seeing him attack.  Played very Bradie James-like on the play, and because of that, it led to a bigger gain than it should have been.  When he looks at the tape, he's gonna wish he had that play back.  I expect him to fix that.  On the interception by Palmer, it was only a two-man route, and it appeared as if McFadden was gonna run a delayed route, but the men up front got a great push up the middle despite the max protection and forced Palmer to throw it before he wanted to.  Palmer probably should have held back and had just taken the sack instead.  Not really a smart throw. 

On the first offensive possession, it started out pretty brutal, in large part due to David Arkin.  He got completely pushed back after the snap and that blew the play up.  I think the rest of the line did a pretty darn good job not getting pushed back, but one guy ruined the play.  That goes to show how vital every single offensive lineman is.  If one screws up, the entire play screws up.  All it takes is one.  That's why chemistry on the offensive line is so underrated and often overlooked.  Oh, and the center position is the most important position on the offensive line other than LT.  If your center gets pushed back as he snaps the ball, forget about the rest of the play.

The play to Dez was a beautiful back shoulder throw, and hopefully a sign of things to come.  On the next play, the hand off to Murray for no gain, I think this was on Murray.  There was a pretty good hole to run through but he didn't hit it hard enough and fast enough.  He danced a little too much, and that allowed Oakland's front enough time to recover.  Looked too much like Felix Jones on the play.  Don't wanna see a lot of that from Murray.  Hit that hole harder.  Dockery also could have done a better job of sealing his man off.

On the next play, Romo had a nice pocket to throw from and overthrew Cole Beasley.  Some of that was Romo's fault and some of that was Beasley's fault.  Beasley has to do a better job of running routes.  He turned his head back too soon looking for the ball.  When you are looking for the ball, you lose your top speed.  Has to do a better job of that.  And Romo still overthrew him.  I think that was a good no-call on the contact.

The false start call on Dockery was a little touchy.  I've seen the replay many times and in slow motion and it appeared to me that Dockery moved as soon as the ball was snapped.  That was a really tough call.  I guess those officials can see in slow motion.  To cap off the drive, the screen pass was dropped by Felix, even though it probably wouldn't have gotten much anyway.

I'd like to point out that Tyron Smith played absolutely brilliant on this drive and in the game.  I don't think Tony Romo is gonna have to worry about his blindside too often this year.  I think that will help him as a QB.  Far too often in the past few years Romo has really had to worry about his blindside, and it's caused him to be more panicky in the pocket.  With Smith over there, I don't think Romo will have to worry as much anymore, and that could mean a big season for Romo.  Should lead to many more throws down the field.

The next defensive possession got off to a good start with Ware making a good play.  A three-yard gain is still too many yards for my liking though.  On the next play, I noticed the Cowboys were in a 4-3 set with Connor, Lee, and Carter all on the field.  Yet neither one of them attacked the line of scrimmage, but that had something to do with it being a draw play.  But I still thought the reaction time was too slow, but it was interesting to see them in a 4-3 set.  Ware probably would have made the play if he wasn't held, and it was called as such.  Pushed the Raiders back 10 yards. 

On the next play, I'm gonna chalk that up as vanilla coverage.  No way Bruce Carter allows Richard Gordon to get that open in a regular season game.  And Carr was playing way off of his man as well.  Ryan loves his corners to play closer to the line of scrimmage.  No way is that completion so easy for Palmer in a regular season game.  Now the defense on this 3rd and 4 is more like what I expect in the season.  The corners were in press coverage and Carter played his zone well.  Carter has a lot of range and that's gonna help this defense, especially in pass coverage.  Palmer had nowhere to go with the football and it resulted in a short run gain for him.  Almost was a sack.

The next play is inexcusable.  The one thing you can not do after your defense makes a stop and it's less than 5 yards for a first down, is run into the kicker.  So the Raiders get a new set of downs.  On 1st and 10, I'm gonna chalk this one up to vanilla coverage as well.  Guys seemed to be just playing zones and there was no blitz whatsoever.  On the next play, Palmer got another clean pocket to throw from, and the coverage was a little suspect.  Jacoby Ford drops the pass.  Carr was beaten, but then again, Carr was once again playing far back, and not pressing Ford.  I don't think Ford gets into that route as easily in a regular season game, and Carr didn't seem to be paying that much attention to him.  You also can't assume that Ford would have caught that pass either because Church was ready to nail him.  Church is the hardest hitter in the secondary by a good margin, and even if Ford caught it, he could have fumbled it or it fell incomplete due to a big hit.  On the next play, Jacoby Ford drops another one.  And this is one he should have caught more so than the the drop on the previous play.  C.J. Wilson didn't have bad coverage, but you can't let the guy get in front of you like that, and if you do, you need to get in on him and bat that ball down.  I wonder how open Ford would have been with Claiborne covering him.  Now, on the next punt on the same drive, they called offsides.  This was a flat out bad call.  Nobody was offsides on that play.  A phantom call.  A new set of downs again. 

So with the Raiders getting the ball back again, Palmer is out, and Leinart is in.  The first-team except Church leaves the game.  I'd like to point out that Barry Church laid a big hit on 3rd down to force a third 4th down on the same drive.  I thought the Cowboys did a good job of  stopping the Raiders despite the two penalties extending the drives.  Even though he's not a starter, I'd just like to say that Tyrone Crawford is a very big dude.  Never saw him in a Cowboy uniform before last night, but I have to say, the guy is huge.

So when the offense finally gets the ball back, the drive starts with a QB pressure, thanks in large part to Doug Free.  He was absolutely terrible on this play.  He ruined what possibly could have been a great play.  Everyone else did an outstanding job.  All it takes is one.  Romo did a good job in avoiding the sack but it still resulted in a two-yard loss from Witten.  The next play was all David Arkin.  Completely whiffed.  Absolutely unacceptable.  Romo gets sacked.  A center absolutely can not make these mistakes.  When a mistake like that is made by the center, not even Romo can avoid a sack there.  This drive was completely ruined by high school type pass blocking. 

Okay so the 2nd team defense has another possession where the Raiders drive down the field and misses a FG.  The first-team offense comes out for one more possession.  On the first play, Felix Jones proves true of my criticism of him.  I have always been critical of Felix's vision, and that's in large part the reason why the running game struggled in the past.  This play had good blocking all the way through and Felix runs into the wrong lane, when he had a huge cutback lane with nothing but open space.  Felix ran right into where his offensive line was instead of going to the open area of the field.  A play that gained only one yard when realistically with a cutback and one nice juke move, could have been about 15 yards.  The next play, Romo had a great pocket to throw from and great protection and wasted the down with a throw away.  It was unfortunate because Felix was wide open for a nice check down, and had plenty of room to get positive yardage.  These are the type of plays that don't show up on the stat sheet, and Romo gets too much of a free pass for making these type of mistakes.  Many times during games, Romo just doesn't make the right read or the necessary check down plays.  These are often the type of plays he makes in big games.  Most of the criticism on Romo isn't fair, but some of it is very fair.  He doesn't have a knack for making the right decisions in key moments of games.

On the next play, another Romo error.  It was a completed pass, but it was behind Witten.  When you have to reach behind you to catch the ball, it slows you down(and Witten is slow enough as it is), and because Witten had to slow down, it allowed the defenders the split second needed to recover.  If that ball is placed in the right place, Witten catches it in stride and has a better chance of getting that extra yard.  The NFL is a fast sport, and split seconds mean more than you think it does.  A split second can be the difference between a positive play and a negative play.  And besides that, a simple check down to Felix on the previous play would have ensured this play would've been a first down.  Like I said, these things don't show up on the stat sheet.  This drive went three and out simply because Felix hit the wrong hole as usual, and Romo threw downs away, as usual.  I'm kind of nitpicking the completion to Witten, but the play before was inexcusable.  Felix was wide open for three or four yards.  And after this drive, that wrapped everything up.

Final Thoughts

Tyron Smith looks like he's ready to be an All-Pro tackle, and I don't really wanna imagine how much worse the offensive line would be if(god forbid) he got seriously hurt.  The kid is a stud and I don't think Romo will have to worry about his blindside much at all.  It's probably the first time in Romo's career that he doesn't have to worry about his blindside.  Let's pray he stays healthy.

Barry Church played solid, and looks like he could be a decent safety so far.  I'm not worried about Brandon Carr.  He will be a stud.  I thought the ILB play was about average, but it will get better.  Lee is better than how he played, and I know he's probably a little disappointed in himself.  Bruce Carter moves his feet really well and has great recovery speed.  He's gonna really help this defense if he starts to get it.  Thought Romo played below average.  Free played below average.  Murray was average.  Arkin played like a back up center is supposed to play.  Dez looked good.  Ware was Ware.  Butler looked good.  Albright looked like a monster.  He was everywhere.  Again, Tyrone Crawford is freaking huge.  My goodness.  I hope he becomes a stud.  Just looking at him is intimidating alone.  Scandrick looked better.  It looks like drafting Claiborne and signing Carr has lit a fire under him.  He is playing with purpose, and he had outstanding coverage on the Palmer interception.  Hopefully when Jenkins comes back, he plays with the same type of purpose.

Starter Grades

Offensive Line- Tyron Smith was the biggest bright spot, and Dockery and Bernadeau didn't look bad either.  Free and Arkin lowered the grade.  C

Defensive Line- Got nice push on some plays and on others Palmer had a clean pocket.  Ware saved their grade.  B

Linebackers- Lee and Carter looked a little tentative on some plays, but both looked good in coverage.  C+

Wide Receivers- Dez looked good and the unit looked solid overall without Miles.  I like Cole Beasley.  Think he could be mentored into a decent WR.  B

Tight Ends- Witten nuff said.  B+

Secondary- Nice play by Sensabaugh, Church, and Scandrick.  Didn't see enough of Carr, but when he was on the field, Palmer didn't test him much. A

Special Teams- Not as bad as what those two penalty extending drives indicated.  Played sound coverage, and Bailey made the game-winning FG.  B+

Quarterbacks- Nobody really stood out.  D

Running Backs- D+

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why has Dwight Howard become so awful?

Seriously, is Dwight Howard purposely trying to become the most hated player in the NBA? I think he has managed to surpass LeBron James. For as much backlash as LeBron has received for his "Decision," that wasn't nearly as bad as this Dwightmare. LeBron wasn't purposely trying to hold the franchise hostage. LeBron didn't get his coach fired. LeBron didn't get his GM fired. LeBron didn't sign an "opt-in" clause to stay in Cleveland. He wasn't saying he didn't want to play for this city, or that city, or whatever. He never asked to be traded. He played out his contract like he was supposed to and had every right to go where he wanted. He didn't exactly handle it that well with "The Decision," but he had every right to leave Cleveland. The media blew his free agency out of proportion. He certainly wasn't doing or saying anything to antagonize the sports world. Not like Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard has transformed from one of the most respected and likeable players in the NBA into one of the most hated and disliked NBA players all in just a one year span. I don't know how something as egregious as that is even possible, but he managed to do it. Why has Dwight become so awful? Did I seriously just read that Howard couldn't make his annual basketball day camp for children, and instead, sent someone else to take his place? Really? Wow, this dude is seriously awful. I can't believe that Dwight has become this way. I don't know why Howard has changed so much. I guess you can die and be a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

To put things in perspective here, through it all, is Dwight Howard really even all that good? I mean, he's one of the best defensive players in the NBA no question, and that is largely the reason I have him in my top-10, but is he really even all that despite being considered the "best center" in the NBA? He has many flaws. His post game is still laughable even after seemingly working on it for years and years. His back-to-the-basket game is not as smooth as say, Pau Gasol's. He is an absolutely terrible passer, and often doesn't even look to pass. While his defense in the paint is impressive, one-on-one, guys can take him because he isn't as great of a one-on-one defender as he is when he roams in the paint defensively. No point in talking about his FT shooting. That's an absolute joke. And his turnovers may be even worse. There is absolutely no excuse for a center to have such a terrible assists:turnover ratio like Dwight does.

The best centers in the past were adept passers and weren't nearly as turnover prone as Dwight. Yeah, "best center in the NBA," but he's a big fish in a small pond. I mean, if you put Janet Reno and Rosie O'Donnell in the same room, Rosie O'Donnell is the prettiest girl in the room. Dwight isn't that special because he's the "best center" in the game. It's really a thin position. I just don't think Dwight Howard is all that great like say, LeBron James or Kevin Durant, to be causing so much controversy, and putting negative attention on himself. He's simply not that good. In many ways, he's an awful basketball player who just happens to be blessed with unreal athleticism and before last season, durability. While many claim Howard is a franchise player, he really isn't. He's a complimentary player at best who's being treated like a franchise player at this point. You can't run an efficient offense through him, and he doesn't make his teammates better on both sides of the ball. Until he develops a better post game, becomes an adept passer while cutting down on his silly turnovers, becomes a better FT shooter, and is mentally ready to win championships, Howard will never be a franchise player.

I'm sorry, but I'm not convinced that you want to win when you are so adamant about joining a team that hasn't won a championship since Disco was popular. And that wasn't even a legitimate NBA championship. Yeah, Dwight, you really aren't this good to be treating Orlando so badly. You may feel disrespected with what Orlando has done to you, but you should be honored that Orlando gave you the opportunity that they did. They built a good team around you that suited you and masked your limitations, and that still wasn't enough. I hope you are enjoying yourself this offseason watching LeBron James lead his team to a championship and on pace to lead USA to another gold medal, because that is something you will never ever do in a span of three months.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What The Dallas Cowboys Must Do

It's time to man up.  If the Cowboys are tired of all the jokes.  Tired of all the laughter.  Tired of coming up short.  Then it's about time they do something about it.  Frankly, they have been one of the laughingstocks of the league for a decade and a half now.  It's time to put up or shut up.  It's time to stop making excuses for Romo.  It's time for Jerry to stop over hyping a team that has done nothing but come up short.  It's time for Jerry to shut up, period.  It's time for Romo to stop talking about leadership and actually be a leader.  There is a lot of talking coming out of Valley Ranch, but not enough doing.  That's getting old.  Time to come up with some new material.  And you also don't realize how tired I am of hearing about the 90s Cowboys.  Everyone wants to get nostalgic about the 90s Cowboys.  They want to say what this current Cowboy team needs to do to get on that level.  They want to say Murray could be the next Emmitt.  Seemingly everyone wants to find some kind of correlation with this team to the 90s Cowboys.  We get it.  Those teams dominated.  But this is not the 90s.  There's actually a salary cap now, and more rules to abide by.  This team sure as heck isn't the 90s Cowboys.  Not anywhere near it.  So, I would like it if I didn't hear anymore about the 90s Cowboys.  Let's talk about the recent Cowboy teams.  The teams that have done nothing but come up short.  The teams who rarely win big games late in the season.  The teams who find a way to lose games in such laughable fashion that you can't help but associate "choke" with the Dallas Cowboys.  Yes, the media blows out of proportion Romo's December record, but the Cowboys don't ever do anything to shut the critics up.  How do they expect the criticism to stop if they keep on proving the naysayers right?  If the Cowboys want to shut up the critics, make the playoffs, and advance further than just the Division Round some time again in our lifetime, then these things must happen.

Tony Romo Must Improve

Enough with the excuses.  Cowboy fans always want to compare Romo to Eli.  Yes, Eli has been more lucky than Romo.  That goes without saying, but Eli makes the big time throws under pressure.  Romo doesn't.  All Eli has is two rings.  All Romo has is excuses.  Plain and simple.  He has to improve.  Enough about how he needs a top defense, a better offensive line, and a better running game.  Romo himself needs to get better as well.  Don't let the stats fool you.  Romo was not as good as his QB rating suggested last season.  His QB rating suggested that he was an elite QB last season, and that just doesn't fly with me.  Elite QBs make their offensive line better.  Elite QBs don't make the type of bone-headed mistakes that cost the Cowboys in a couple of games last season.  Elite QBs don't throw the ball five yards past the line of scrimmage in the biggest game of the season.  Elite QBs don't panic and take unnecessary sacks.  Romo's stats looked great, but there is room for more improvement.  Supporters want to say Romo's offensive line was bad.  He had virtually no running game.  Yada yada.  Some of those things are true, but Romo could have simply done more.  There were plays he missed on such as missing an open Dez Bryant at the beginning of the game in the season finale for rights to the NFC East crown.  He hits that, that's possibly a 7-0 lead right there, and nothing is more important than jumping out to an early lead on the road, in a hostile environment.   I know, Romo does need more help.  Playing for arguably the most annoying owner in sports is not an easy thing to do. Especially considering this owner does not stop running his mouth to the media.  But he has to overcome it.  Eli overcomes playing in a huge market.  Romo has to do the same.  The elite QBs overcome.  The elite QBs make their receivers look better.  The elite QBs make their offensive line look better.  The elite QBs are true leaders.  If the Cowboys want to win a SB, Romo must become an elite QB.

Secondary Must Improve Dramatically

Carr and Claiborne look to improve an atrocious secondary
Considering the Cowboys had the worst defense in Cowboy history just two seasons ago, last year would seem like a substantial improvement.  But it wasn't.  Not nearly close.  You could make the case that it was just as bad as it was two years ago in the grand scheme of things, given the secondary cost them multiple games in the 4th quarter.  Yes, Romo must improve, but he does need some type of help.  If you can't hold a 12-point lead with five minutes to go, that is on the secondary, not Romo.  The acquisitions of Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne seems like the Cowboys went about it the right way to improve their defense this offseason.  Not only that, dropping Bradie James and Keith Brooking like a bad habit should improve their pass coverage as well.  But hey, it only took five years though.  Did it seriously take Jerry "Mr. Football" Jones this long to realize that an upgrade at secondary was needed?  I think we've seen enough of Mike "Too Scared To Tackle" Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, who gets repeatedly gets burnt like he stayed outside in the sun too long in the slot.  Newman and Brooking's release came two years too late.  Bradie James' release came about four years too late.  Seriously, how was this guy ever a starter in the National Football League?  He may have averaged over 100 tackles a season, but how many of those weren't after the ball carrier got five yards down the field?  How this guy was ever a defensive captain, let alone an NFL starter is a mystery to me.  But better late than never though, right Jerry?

If you want to stop the Eagles, the Giants, and maybe even the Redskins, you better be sure you have some corners that can cover.  I think after two games of Eli last year, the Cowboys had enough of it.  But I guess the other times that Eli lit up their secondary apparently wasn't enough to convince Mr. Football that an upgrade at secondary was needed.  Yawn...  Covering the other team's WRs is something the Cowboys have to get better at if they want to make any noise in the NFC East and shut up critics.  And I'm not just talking about stopping teams on 3rd down either.  I'm talking about forcing turnovers.  I'm talking about game-changing defensive plays.  More returns for TDs.  And it needs to be someone other than Sean Lee.  Safety is still a concern because Gerald Sensabaugh is just not a good football player and I don't understand why he got such a ridiculous contract extension.  Mr. Football loves to hold on to players much longer than they should be held on to.  Only you-know-who knows who will start opposite of Sensabaugh.  Whoever it is, hopefully he is a much better player than Sensabaugh.  Despite the limitations at safety, the secondary should still be much improved with Carr and Claiborne.  After surrendering so many leads in the 4th quarter last year in large part because of the secondary, improving this aspect of the team dramatically could have a gargantuan impact on this team's success. 

Anthony Spencer Must Become a Great Player

I'm gonna let you guys in on a little secret.  You know that guy, Anthony Spencer?  The guy who was taken #26 overall by the Dallas Cowboys five years ago in the draft?  The guy who plays opposite to arguably the best pass rusher in football who routinely gets double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed?  These are things you already knew, right?  So why is this dude so awful?  Okay, maybe awful was going too far, but he's come up short on some lofty expectations.  Excuses are made for him constantly.  Even heading into this season, many are expecting him to have a big season because of a supposedly upgraded secondary on paper.   So, poor secondary play was his excuse for not generating more sacks or pressure?  Why didn't it stop Ware?  Oh that's right, because he's just flat out good.  But Spencer plays opposite to him and rarely sees double teams.  Playing opposite to Ware should afford you all the opportunity you need to accumulate a good amount of sacks or at least have some type of impact on the game.  Spencer just doesn't make enough plays despite being given every opportunity to do so.  So why is an upgraded secondary supposedly gonna make him so much better?  I don't expect it to happen, but it has to happen, period.  He must become great.  If you want to beat the Packers, the Saints, the Giants, and even the Pats, you need not just one dominant pass rusher, you need two, and maybe even three like the Giants.  Spencer has to flat out become great.  But don't expect it to happen though.  He has never shown me anything but the ability to be mediocre-to-average, and you have to wonder why the Cowboys didn't just let him go altogether this past offseason instead of tagging him.

Jason Garrett Must Improve In-game Management

Jason Garrett is more than likely the smartest person at Valley Ranch.  That includes coaches, players, front office, beat writers, janitors, stadium maintenance, whatever.  Yet in a few games last year, you could argue that Jason Garrett transformed into the NFL head coaching version of Javale  Mcgee.  Icing your own kicker?  Suffice it to say, that was an incredibly laughable week in the media after that blunder.  In-game management must improve and to be honest, I'm confident that he can improve.  Hiring Bill Callahan was a good thing, and Jason Garrett is just a smart guy.  He's still learning how to coach, and I'm willing to give him a free pass for his blunder.  However, I won't give him a free pass for cutting Gurode unannounced when this team desperately needed a rock at center.  I understand him wanting to bring accountability and a no-nonsense attitude to this team, but that was a move that shouldn't have been made.  And they are still paying for it today.  A makeshift offensive line is just not gonna cut it in the NFC East and he had better hope that hiring Bill Callahan saves his butt. 

Find a Punter

Might not seem like much, but it's pretty darn important if you ask me.  They might have made a huge mistake in letting Mat McBriar go to the Eagles.  They better make up for it by finding a legitimate punter.  They better hope Chris Jones becomes pretty good.  NFC East games usually come down to field position and turnovers.  You might want to give yourself a chance to win the field position battle by having a great punter.  The punter might be the most overlooked position in the game to the average fan.  Trust me, players  know the value of a great punter.  Just ask Peyton Manning.  If a punter is good enough, and if your defense is good enough, it can make all the difference in the world.  If you want to beat the best QBs in the league, sometimes that average-sized guy, that's usually kicking footballs standing 10-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, is the guy that can help you get it done.

Overlook and Overcome All That is Jerry Jones

Easier said than done.  It's hard just ignoring the average owner in the NFL.  Let alone an owner who is as annoying, as ostentatious, and as brash as Jerry Jones.  The moment Jerry says anything in the media, not a single Cowboy player or coach should address it when asked.  Ignore it, focus 100% on football, and move on.  Bill Parcells knew all too well what Jerry was about.  Which is why Bill Parcells wouldn't even allow him near the team that often.  And probably the biggest reason why he retired.  From the headache of dealing with Terrell Owens and Jerry Jones, it's a surprise Bill Parcells didn't have a nervous breakdown.  To avoid the headache, Jason Garrett must continue to make his little quips to the media and not really address Jerry's comments.  I absolutely love the way Jason Garrett handles any questions from the media involving Jerry.  Hopefully he has his team doing the same thing.  Focusing 100% on football and away from distractions.  This team definitely has to focus.  If the Cowboys are gonna win anything any time soon, it will be in spite of Jerry, not because of him.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jerry Jones needs to shut up

Somebody has to say it, so I'll say it.  Just shut up.  We get it, you own the team.  You get to do and say whatever you want, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything or say whatever you want.  The only thing you should be doing is rooting for the team every week, signing checks, and discussing contracts with the players.  I've been a Cowboy fan for over 20 years, and I'm from and live in Arkansas.  Even I'm tired of the nonsense.  Jerry is a well-respected man here in Arkansas.  I respect him for managing to keep the Cowboys a marketable team.  I respect his business acumen.  I respect him as a person, and I don't personally hate him. I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything here. I'm speaking from the heart.  Jerry is a good person, and I know he means well, but enough is enough.  There is entirely too much braggadocio going on for someone who's team has one playoff win in 15 seasons.  Not only that, I don't understand why he has to talk to the media as much as he does.  Can you think of another owner that is so vocal about his team week in and week out like Jerry Jones?  I don't have that much of a problem with his recent shot at the Giants.  The context in which it was said was fine with me.  It was blown out of proportion.  But it's the other things.  Talking about the window closing, and his comments regarding not speaking to Dez.  Little things like that.  And those are not the only things Jerry says.  Every week, it's something.  He's always talking to the media.  Heck, he even has his own radio show.  Jerry, y u no shut the hell up?  Does any other owner do this?  Does any other owner talk this much to the media?  Seriously?  The best thing Jerry Jones could do for this Cowboy team is to shut the hell up.  It is because of Jerry that there is added pressure to the Cowboys.  It is because of Jerry that they have these unrealistic expectations that they've come up short on which has led to the team becoming a laughingstock.  Maybe Jerry Jones shouldn't open his mouth to the media.  Not only that, maybe he shouldn't have so much say-so in the front office.  Whenever Jerry has been the GM without Bill Parcells or Jimmie Johnson, his teams have come up short, period.  The stats do not lie:

Jerry Jones w/o Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells:

Record Win percentage Playoff Wins Championships
120-104 .535 6 1

Jerry Jones w/ Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells:

Record Win percentage Playoff Wins Championships
78-66 .541 7 2

As you can see, the numbers don't lie.  Keep this in mind.  That's more playoff wins, and championships in five fewer years.  The 1994 Cowboys and the 1995 Cowboys can be largely attributed to Jimmy Johnson.  After he left, Switzer was left with a great squad, and succeeded largely because of what Jimmy built.  After a few years under Switzer, the talent started to seriously decline.  That's not all Switzer's fault, but you have to wonder where the Cowboys would have been had Jerry and Jimmy never got into it.  The Cowboys would soon fall into an annual streak of irrelevancy until Parcells took over.  When Parcells took over, he was taking over a team that had just finished 5-11 for three seasons in a row.  He immediately began to turn that team around and would make them somewhat relevant again. 

You can see in the tables that with only nine seasons of Jimmy and Parcells running things, they had a combined better winning percentage, more playoff wins and championships.  Now I have to mention that Parcells didn't have any playoff wins, but he turned around a franchise that was in disarray, and provided the Cowboys with both Ware and Romo to build around.  Without him, the Cowboys don't have much of a foundation to build on today.  He brought back accountability within the locker room and gave the Cowboys a fighting chance to get themselves back on the map.  If you take away the first two seasons after Jimmy and Parcells left, Jerry's record stands at an abysmal 74-86.  That's a .462 winning percentage and only two playoff wins.  This is the record I judge Jerry mostly by, because most of those playoff wins and lone championship in the above table w/o JJ and BP are largely because of what JJ and BP left him.

So with all that said, it seems to me like the Cowboys would be better off if Jerry wasn't running everything.  If Jerry wasn't running his mouth to the media.  If Jerry wasn't giving the team speeches and hosting pep rallies.  If Jerry would just stay the hell out of every aspect of the Dallas Cowboys' personnel decisions.  But that is asking too much.  He will likely never do it, so as Cowboy fans, we have to accept it.  We all know the best way for Jerry Jones to help the Cowboys is to shut up, and stay behind the scenes like an owner is supposed to do.  This is a players league, not an owners league.