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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ready for the "Super" Bowl?

Well, it's been said many times these past week and a half that this Superbowl, even though it's "XL", may not be all that gorgeous to look at from the outside. Not the game, necessarily, but the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Seattle Seahawks doesn't bring instant comparisons to the Cowboys/Niners/Steelers matchups that were so juicy from the onset.

No real superstars, minus the "Jerome Bettis Goes Home" tiresome story. "Big Ben" blah blah blah. I liked the joke that Hasselback should get a deal with a Rogaine commercial. But, all that aside, everyone from Vegas to the entire Southern U.S. isn't sure if anyone cares about this one. True, there are tons of Steeler fans out there, but how many Seahawk fans live outside of the Seattle Metro Area?

As far as who I think will win, I'd put my money big on the Steelers. They look unstoppable. Sure, the Seahawks have won 13 of their last 14 games. But against who? Sure, they took revenge on the Redskins and beat the Panthers (which the Bears couldn't do), but is that more impressive than taking out Peyton Manning and the Colts (at full strength), the vaunted Denver Broncos defense at Mile High or even the grudge match with the Bengals in Cincy? No. Sure, the Seahawks have a great coach, but so does Pittsburgh. I just can't look at this game without seeing the Steelers coming out on top. Especially when I saw the team all wearing Jerome's ND uniform coming off the plane. Nice. Although I'd be inclined to go with Big Ben as MVP if/when the Steelers win (even though that means I agree with Sean Salisbury, which makes me slightly ill).

But, that's why they play the game. Right? The last team who took out three teams on the road didn't fare too well (46-10 Patriots loss to Ditka's/Buddy's Bears). It's safe to say that these Seahawks aren't the '85 Bears. Will they be glad to have finally gotten there, or will Seattle finish the job? Will the Steelers finally give Bill Cowher his SuperBowl ring? It's been ten years since he's been there. What other team, in this day of quick firing of the coaches, would allow a coach to even stay around that long?

Well, enough of the hype already. I'm ready for some football.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Packers Hire McCarthy

Less than 6 hours ago I wrote that I expected the Packers to announce the hiring of Jim Bates by the end of the day. The end of the day has come but Bates is not the guy. It's 49ers offensive coordinator, Mike McCarthy.

I have no intention of apologizing for being wrong. I'm wrong all the time. If I apologized for every single time I made an incorrect predicition, we would be hear all day. I'd probably have to start another website devoted to nothing but apologies. But don't be looking for imsorry.blogspot.com any time in the near future.

Back to the issue at hand. I can't pass full judgement of the hiring until we find out if Bates will be back as the defensive coordinator. One of the big reasons I was so supportive of Bates as head coach was the fear of losing him to another team if we didn't hire him. Should that not happen, I think this signing gives the Packers the best of both worlds, Bates working wonders with the defense and an offensive minded head coach to work with Aaron Rodgers.

That appears to be one of McCarthy's main qualifications for this particular job. He's regarded around the league as one of the best offensive minds and is particular strong in the area of grooming quarterbacks. His pupils of note include: Favre, Hasselbeck, Brooks, Bulger, and most recently Alex Smith. It should also be noted that he's a West Coast offense guy. This is the system Green Bay has used since Holmgren came aboard. With Favre not wanting to learn a new system, I'd say this increases the chances of him coming back for another season. Whether you think he's lost it or not is a moot point. The fact is that the majority of Packer fans, including yours truly, welcome him back with open arms.

Again, I can't say how much I like or dislike this deal until the rest of the coaching staff is in place. I am feeling very optimistic though. Welcome to Green Bay, Mike. May you be more like Holmgren than Sherman.

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Jim Bates Gets His Interview

It's been 8 joyous days since the Packers announced the firing of Mike Sherman. In those 8 days it seems as though Ted Thompson has interviewed or planned to interview a dozen candidates.

Brad Childress
Ray Rhodes
Maurice Carthon
Ron Rivera
Wade Phillips
Russ Grimm
Sean Payton
Tim Lewis
Mike McCarthy

And last but not least, Jim Bates. Rumors are flying that Bates interviewed very well this morning and was offered the head coaching job. Rumors are rumors, so take it for what it's worth. But if they are true, I for one would be a very happy camper.

I was thrilled when Bates came to Green Bay a year ago for two reasons. One, I figured he could take a terrible defense and make it respectable without adding any new talent. Mission One accomplished. I also felt very strongly that he was brought in not only to revamp the defense in 2005, but to also take over head coaching duties from Sherman in 2006 and beyond. So not only do I think he would be the best candidate to coach this team, his hiring would also make my prediction true. If only I could pick the games as well as I can pick the coaches I would be a wealthier man.

I'm not going to waste my time doing a full write up on Bates' qualifications until something becomes official. But I do expect to hear by the end of the day that he will be the new Packers head coach. (fingers crossed)

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Buzz from Houston

I don't want to call Houstonians reactionary after watching Vince Young's outstanding Rose Bowl performance, but I have no better word to describe them. So here it is, in typical Jime Rome fashion where he says he doesn't want to say something and then immediately follows that by saying what he didn't want to say, HOUSTONIANS ARE REACTIONARY!

I spent quite a bit of time in Houston over Christmas. The buzz around town, in the paper, and on talk radio was the Bush Bowl. Texan fans couldn't wait to lose to San Fran and draft their savior, Reggie Bush. There was no other option. To even think of another option was blasphemous. To suggest trading the pick or drafting a lineman meant you were a traitor, or even worse, one of those scumbags from Dallas.

Reggie Bush was to be the next Marshall Faulk, Gayle Sayers, and Barry Sanders all rolled into one. He was going to be that extra weapon David Carr needed to finally make him a legitimate pro signal caller. Things were looking up. Houston lost to San Fran. Reggie Bush was theirs. I would even guess that a few people personalized #5 Texans jerseys with the name Bush on the back. Now, if the reactionary Texan fans get their new wish, those jerseys will be useless.

After Vince Young's Rose Bowl performance, the buzz around H-Town has changed. Bush is no longer the only option. He's no longer the savior this young franchise so desperately needed. That title belongs Vince Young now. The sentiment, however wrong, is understandable. VY grew up in Houston and will eventually be inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame for his record setting numbers at Madison High. From there he went to UT, the state's oldest and biggest university. In 3 years he wowed Longhorn fans with his athleticism before bringing the National Championship back to Texas for the first time in over 30 years. And now the Texans, a team that needs a face for its franchise, has the number one pick. It just makes sense. It fits. End of discussion, right?

Wrong. I'm no Texans fan so I could care less who they take with the top pick. All I want is for Vince Young to go somewher in the top 4, pushing another player down for the Packers to choose from. Whether it's Houston, New Orleans, Tennessee, or New York that drafts him makes no difference to me. For the record, I think it will be the Titans, with the Saints picking Leinart. I still believe the Texans will take Bush or trade the pick, no matter what their fan base is calling for them to do. To me Vince Young is too much of a risk.

I'm not one to nitpick about his release like many others do. Coaches can correct that kind of stuff and at 6'5" it may not be much of an issue anyways. I do have other concerns about how his game translates to the next level. The first is that he's never run anything close to a sophisticated pro style offense. Much of his time in college was spent running the option read out of the shotgun.

Vince supporters argue that his athletecism will allow him to adjust and still be successful at the next level. While he is an exceptional athlete, he's certainly not something the NFL has never seen before. Compare his physical tools to Mike Vick. Who's faster, VY or Vick? Mike Vick. Who's quicker? Mike Vick. Who's got the stronger arm? Mike Vick. In looking at pure physical tools, not only is he inferior to Mike Vick, but I'm not so sure he's a better athlete than Matt Jones. Much of the athletecism debate comes down to your opinion of how good Mike Vick is, but even if you think he's amazing you shouldn't expect Vince Young to be at his level.

The comparisons to Vick mostly come from Vince's style of play. He's not a scrambling QB; he's a running QB. Steve Young and John Elway were scramblers. They were guys who ran only when they had to. Vick and VY's game depends on their ability to run. That eagerness to run in the NFL means more injuries and shorter careers. A guy can't throw the ball 25 times a game and run it another 15 times without needing a bodybag. Not in this this league they can't. Vick is only five years into his pro career and is already showing signs of slowing down.

2004- 902 rushing yards/ 7.5 ypc/ 10 rushes of 20+ yds
2005- 597 rushing yards/ 5.9 ypc/ 5 rushes of 20+ yds

Sure, Vince will still be an effective runner on the next level, but not as much as he was in college. Very seldom will he be able to take over games with his feet alone. He couldn't do it against AJ Hawk's Buckeyes or a pathetic A&M defense. Well, newsflash Vince. The NFL is full of AJ Hawks. He's going to have to throw the ball. That's what I don't think he can do.

People talk about his improvement as a passer and the improvement is there, but he's nowhere near the level he needs to be at to be successful in the pros. His completion percentage is wildly misleading. Anyone who's seen more than a couple Longhorn games know the vast majority of his passes are flares in the backfield or 5-10 curls into the soft spot of a zone. He has no ability, let alone consistency, to throw the ball down the field. I'm not so sure he can zip the out routes either, especially to the left side.

And as for the arguement that Vince will put butts in the seats, great. The Texans have sold out every single home game they've ever had and will continue to do so as long as they start winning. I'm not sure what seats they are talking about that need to be filled. By the way, I hear this guy Bush is pretty fun to watch too. May not be true. Just what I heard.

In the end, the Texans will do the right thing. The fans will get mad and boo like they live in Philly. Bush will be awesome and Young will be average. The fans will forgive. As for now though, Houstonians need to ask themselves just one question. Do you want Vince Young in Houston because you're a Texans fan or because you're a Longhorns fan?

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2006 NFL Divisional Playoffs

Go Bears.

I'm just throwing that out there, right off the bat. I am a Chicago Bears fan. Been so since youth. Damn Cubs, Bears and Bulls have engrained themselves into my brain. Oh yeah, boo hoo. Lot's of Bulls wins there. Yeah, that's nice, but the Cubs futility easily balances that out. Don't ya think?

Anyway, back to the Bears. I want them to beat the Carolina Panthers. No matter what I try to do to analyze the game without prejudice, it just ain't happenin' folks. So, Bears Win. That's my Final Answer.

OK. On to the other three games which I may or may not be able to look at impartially. Let's stay in the NFC. The worst name in all of sports, the Washington Redskins, up against the hidden away Seattle Seahawks. I'm not convinced the Seahawks played all that hard a schedule, but it's hard to ignore Shawn Alexander, the NFL's leading rusher. The Redskins defense is ranked 13th. Hmm... However, the 'skins held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 75 yards rushing in the Wild Card game. What would trouble me for Washington is the 120 total yards the offense put together last week. Ouch. 25 yards rushing? For the team? What kind of outfit does that sort of effort deserve, Clinton? Anyway, I think this is going to be a tough game in the trenches with the Seahawks coming out on top. My buddy Manoli would be PO'd I just said that. Oh well. I'm just predicting not proclaiming.

Alright. AFC, here I come. Again, being a Bears fan, I admittedly haven't watched too many AFC games this season. I mean, if were in the Houston Texans viewing area, how many AFC games would you watch? On Saturday night it's the New England Patriots up against the Denver Broncos. It's tough to go with Woody Paige here and it's even tougher to not go with Tom Brady and the winners of three of the last four Super Bowls. Am I crazy? Well, yes, but that's beside the point. I just think the Broncos' #2 defense will stop the Pat's running game, therefore forcing the ball into the hands of one... Tom... Brady... oh... Hey, maybe I am wrong here. Hold on. It's in Denver. Who cares. I think I've just waffled on this one. I've convinced myself it's Patriots on to the AFC Championship game.

But who will they play? The early game on Sunday brings us the Pittsburgh Steelers going into the dome-de-dome-dome of the Indianapolis Colts. Bring the earplugs. Man, this should be a great game. Fine-tuned offense of Peyton Manning (#3 overall in the NFL) up against the smash-mouth, hard-nosed defense of the Steelers (#4 overall in the NFL). Let's bring it on. In Indy, on turf, can you really deny Peyton, Edgerrin and Marvin? Well, the Colts do give up over 110 yards a game on the ground. Yikes. If they can outscore 'em, and if the Colts D plays inspired, it'll happen. But will that happen? I say yes. Then again, I'm an idiot.

There ya go. Colts v. Pat's in the AFC final and Bears and Seahawks in the NFC. It's the word of Graham. Which is worth, like, 89 cents in Ecuador. Or is it Burma? Anyway, that's the deal. Dig?


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Monday, January 02, 2006

Sherman Fired

Na na na na, Na na na na-Hey Hey Hey-Goodbye! That along with "Oh Happy Day" have been on repeat inside my head all day long.

This is one of those rare posts that make me so excited I actually put on a tuxedo just to write it. The man who I feel is most responsible for putting through this disasterous 4-12 season was fired this morning. Mike Sherman can torture me no more.

I've stated for quite some time that despite Mike Sherman's record as a head coach, he was one of the worst in the league. He inherited a Super Bowl contending team and turned it into a 4-12 team in 5 seasons. His drafts have left the team depleted of any real talent and most of his free agent signings and contract extensions have hogtied the team financially until this offseason. I could give you exhibit A-Z if needed, but somehow I don't imagine anyone trying to argue my logic. Ok, I have to do it anyways-if only just for fun. Here we go:

Cletidus Hunt, Joe Johnson, Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas, BJ Sander(3rd round), Jamal Reynolds, Marques Anderson, Kenny Peterson, Earl Little, Adrian Klemm, R-Kal Trulack, Robert Ferguson, Donnell Washington, James Lee

I could go on but there's no need to add insult to injury. The point is that the guy has eye for talent. Last year the oragnization stripped him of his general manager duties allowing him to focus only on coaching. It didn't help a bit.

Sherman failed to prepare his team week in and week out. The play calling was atrocious and the team played with very little enthusiasm for much of the season. Simply put, Sherman has been in over his head from the get go.

Awhile back I started an unofficial poll asking which of the Mike's would get fired first. Technically, Mike Tice won just as I predicted. But considering Sherman and Martz were both fired within 18 hours of Sherman, I think we can consider it a 3-way tie.

Sherman's firing leaves the Packers with two important questions. Who will be the next head coach and how will this effect Favre's decision for next year? I'll get into those two subject's in a later post. For now I'll just cherish this latest news. MIke can finally catch up on his sleep.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

NFL Roundup-Week 17

It seems that every year the football season goes by quicker and quicker. I feel like just yesterday I cracked open a beer at noon on Sunday to welcome in the best time of the year. I have to say this was the best football season for me for no other reason than that I never had to work a single Sunday. I could also say it might have been the worst in quite some time due to the Packers forgettable 4-12 record. I guess I could desribe it best with one word, bittersweet.

At the very least, the Packers atrocious season has made the NFL draft a little more interesting for me. The top of the draft looks like this:

New Orleans
New York Jets
Green Bay

The 6th and 7th pick will be decided by a coin flip between San Francisco and Oakland. San Fran may have dropped from the 3rd pick to the 7th pick by winning (or losing, I don't even know anymore) against the Texans this afternoon. Meanwhile, Houston secured the rights to draft Reggie Bush. I'm not so sure he's the definite guy though. With Dom Davis at RB and the worst O-line in recent history, I'm not so sure that D'Brickshaw Ferguson wouldn't be a better choice.

Texans fans and the Houston Chronicle won't hear it though. I spent almost 2 weeks in Houston over the holidays and the front page of nearly all the sports sections was always about Reggie Bush and the Texans current draft status. With all that hype, it's going to be tough for the organization to disappoint its fan base.

When we first started this blog I wrote about how big of a loser Maurice Clarrett was after being cut by the Broncos. The fact that he is currently a fugitive accused of sticking up a couple at gunpoint does nothing but reinforce my logic. I can't recall a person falling from on-top-of-the-world status to complete-zero status so quickly since Shawn Kemp.

No surprise to anyone that Dick Vermiel cried at the postgame news conference. I've always been a fan of Vermiel because of that sentimentality that he displays. It's refreshing to see such a good family man who genuinly cares about the people around him in football. I guess Tony Dungy could be classified the same way, making the death of his son that much more tragic. Unfortunatly, I have to say Mike Sherman belongs in this class as well, though he's lacking one other label the previous two men have: Good Football Coach. Please fire Mike Sherman.

It didn't take long for Mike Tice to get the boot. I've shared my opinion that he was a disaster since day one before. Finally I can wake up in the morning not completly baffled that this man was a NFL head coach. I guess now I will just substitute that thought with the constant wondering of whether or not Brett Favre will return for one more year. There was such an eerie feeling at the end of that game. Yesterday I would have put the odds of him coming back at 70/30. Now it's only 50/50. I've always hoped that he would announce before the season that it would be his last. That would give fans in Green Bay and other cities he plays in to celebrate his great career for 16 weeks. Seeing Bears and Vikings fans give Favre a standing ovation in his last game in Soldier Field and the Metrodome would be a touching sight. And I have no doubt in my heart that they would.

For what it's worth, Larry Johnson has solidified himself as the number 2 pick in next year's fantasy drafts. 1,750 yards and 21 touchdowns after only starting 10 games? Ridiculous. Not that anyone cares, but I would be remise not to mention that I won the Fantasy Super Bowl in 2 of my 4 leagues. In the other 2, I finished 3rd and 6th, although the 6th place finish was fue to bad luck. I finished the season 1st in total points but didn't make the playoffs.

Does anyone else have a hard time believing that Jerome Bettis is number 5 on the all-time rushing list? I know he was a great back, but #5? I dread the day someone tries to argue that he's the 5th best running back of all-time based on that information. I get the feeling that someone dumb enough to believe that will also be very difficult to argue with. But if this was indeed Jerome's last game then I wish him well. He was a very good RB and a class act who stepped out of the starting role graciously. People of his caliber deserve all the accolaides they get.

Time to get ready for the playoffs.

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