Sunday, January 31, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 11-15

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#11-DON'T TRAIL BY DOUBLE DIGITS: Teams that are facing a double-digit deficit are 1-38. A couple things are interesting about that stat. First, the only team to come back from a 10-point deficit and win is the 1987 Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII. The Skins trailed 10-0 before scoring the next 42 points. That makes that Super Bowl the only one where both teams faced a double digit deficit. Also, it is quite amazing that 38 of 43 Super Bowls have seen one team go up by at least 10 at some point in the game.

#12-SOME MORE STATITUDE: Here is another piece of trivia for you. There has been at least one successful field goal in 41 of 43 Super Bowls. Teams that have been shut out for one half (either the first or second) are a combined 1-18. The lone winner was those 1972 Dolphins who went scoreless in the second half of Super Bowl VII.

#13-CAN WE GET A PUNT RETURN? There has never been a punt returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. However, there have been three blocked punts that have been returned for scores.

#14-THE FIVE WORST SUPER BOWLS: 1-Super Bowl V: This one was nicknamed the "Blunder Bowl" for good reason. There were 11 turnovers in the game with the Colts ... who won ... committing seven of them. The Dallas Cowboys were called for 10 penalties. This game sucked so bad that the MVP award was given to Chuck Howley ... of the losing Cowboys (the only time the Super Bowl MVP played for the losing team). Sure, Jim O'Brien kicked the game winning field goal at the end of the game ... but even that was set up by a turnover.

2-Super Bowl XII: Dallas was in yet another sloppy game. Good thing that the Broncos were sloppier (Denver turned the ball over eight times ... and completed just eight passes). Denver QB Craig Morton was horrible -- he completed just four of 15 passes for 39 yards and four interceptions. Yikes! There was also lingering questions about the IRS checking into his tax returns. Both teams combined for 20 penalties.

3-Super Bowl XL: It was a ho-hum game that's only excitement came on an Antwaan Randle-El touchdown pass to Hines Ward. That's pretty all the Steelers had: three big plays that ended up with TDs (the above play, a Willie Parker 75-yd TD run and an awkward pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Ward). Seattle shot themselves in the foot with bad penalties, bad red zone efficiency and turnovers. The game is one of the most controversial as many people felt that the Seahawks had a lot of bad calls go against them. Big Ben's QB rating is the lowest by any Super Bowl winning quarterback.

4-Super Bowl XX: The Bears dominated and we all loved seeing the Fridge plop into the endzone. Still, this looked like an exhibition game against a local high school team than a Super Bowl. Chicago dominated this game with their defense and made Pats QB Tony Eason look foolish (he is the only starting QB to not complete a pass). There have been several blowouts in Super Bowl history, but this is the only one where the losing team looked like it had no business being there. The saddest thing is that Walter Payton didn't get a shot at running in a TD. Jim McMahon snuck in a TD twice and the Fridge got a shot ... but not Walter. A shame.

5-Super Bowl VII: The one where the Dolphins completed the perfect season? A dud. Miami is the only team to be shut out for an entire half and still win the game. The Phins got out to a 14-0 lead before halftime and hung on for the win. If not for that botched field goal attempt (where Miami kicker Garo Yepremian's "pass" was picked off by Mike Bass and returned for a TD), the Redskins would've been the only team shut out in Super Bowl history. That score, with 2:07 left in the game, is the longest it has taken for a Super Bowl team to score.

#15-SUPER BOWL MVP'S IN CANTON: Winners of 20 Super Bowl MVP awards have gone on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You have Bart Starr (twice), Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Larry Csonka, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Fred Biletnikoff, Randy White, Terry Bradshaw (twice), Joe Montana (three times), John Riggins, Marcus Allen, Troy Aikman, Steve Young and John Elway. Other winners, like Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ray Lewis can look forward to seeing their busts in Canton one day (that hikes the number up to 26). Granted, not all winners of the Super Bowl MVP award go on to anything much. Guys like Larry Brown, Harvey Martin, Dexter Jackson, Desmond Howard, Mark Rypien, Deion Branch and Jake Scott have also won the award and the Hall is no where in their future.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Duh, Kurt Warner Is a Hall of Famer

There's a lot of discussion about if Kurt Warner is a Hall of Famer or not. I don't see any kind of debate. He is!

How does this grab ya? He owns the three best passing games in Super Bowl history and owns the Super Bowl record for passing yards in a career. He did that in three games and not the four that guys like Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly and Tom Brady ... or the five that John Elway played in.

That ain't the only records he owns. His 2009 postseason successes with the Arizona Cardinals was historic. He threw for more yards and TDs than anyone in any postseason. He has the highest completion percentage in NFL playoff history. He has the highest rate of 300+ yard games (minimum 100 games). Only player ever to throw for at least 14,000 yards with two different franchises ... and he joins only Fran Tarkenton as a QB to pass for at least 100 TDs with two different teams. He's in a tie with Steve Young and Rich Gannon for most consecutive games passing for at least 300 yards (that's six straight games).

He owns the highest passing yard average in Monday Night Football history. He's also the only QB to pass for at least 40 TDs and go on to win the Super Bowl.

Oh, yeah. He has won one Super Bowl and been to two more. He's only the second QB to start a Super Bowl for two different franchises. He has two MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP award. I haven't even began to talk about the fact that this cat came out of nowhere to do all of this.

Sure, you can come back with the fact that the middle part of his career was garbage. You are right. But his first three full seasons and last three full seasons were as good as it gets.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Pro Bowl Is Horrific

Roger Goodell came out of to tell us that moving the NFL's Pro Bowl to the week prior to the Super Bowl has been a success. What?

I thought it was a bad idea when they announced the change (it used to be the week after the Super Bowl in Honolulu) but I was willing to give it a chance. Chance over. It sucks, it's a horrible idea and it needs to be put out of its misery.

There are three parts of rancid about this game:

No. 1 - The Pro Bowl itself is moronic. Because of the change, none of the Super Bowl participant's all stars will play in the game. And you know that usually the two teams left standing have quite a few Pro Bowlers on their roster that this really tugs at the game. So those umpteen players are replaced by alternates or second guesses. Well, maybe third guesses since several other All-Pros are deciding to take the game off and rest, party or get some surgery done. Then you get stuck with David Garrard and Vince Young as AFC quarterbacks.

It's a joke.

The Pro Bowl has run its course. This is one thing that the NFL should do as the college game does: name the All-Pro teams and leave it at that. I know they already have their "All-NFL Team", but let the players, fans and coaches vote on their All-Stars and honor them before or at halftime of the Super Bowl.

No. 2 - The players don't like it. It's obvious when nobody wants to play in it. Let's count the ways you are screwing with the players. First, they lose out on the trip to Hawaii, which is one of the top perks of being a Pro Bowler. Second, they lose out on that week of fun at the Super Bowl site. Most players, like the media, ascend to the site of the Super Bowl to bask in the glory, pitch their endorsements, make cameos at various events and just getting their name and face out there. Sure, that won't be too damaged by the Pro Bowl, but those players lose a weekend of fun to "prepare" for the game.

No. 3 - No fan likes it. Sorry, but when you have to change the rules of your game for your All-Star battle, it is lame. You don't see baseball saying "you can't pitch too fast" or "you can't steal a base", do you? You don't see basketball saying "you cannot foul", "you can't try to block any shots" or "you can't shoot threes", do you? Yet football limits what the offense and defense can do in the name of safety. Hmmm. Shouldn't this tell you that the game is pointless?

I don't watch it. I used to watch some of it as a kid just to see my Redskins who were in the game play. Now, I can't tell you the last time I sat and watched the game. It's horrible, boring and pointless. Despite my disdain for this rule change, at least the MLB game has home-field advantage in the World Series on the line. The NBA is nearly perfect ... except that I wish that the fans and coaches vote on the players to be there ... and the top two vote getters meet at half court before the game and pick players. Imagine Kobe and LeBron getting to draft a team right there.

Sorry. Another game, another time.

The NFL can't have any of that, especially since football is the ultimate TEAM game. You can't just stick 11 guys on defense together or expect an offensive line made up of guys from five different teams to work well together. It's stupid.

Pull the plug!!!

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 16-20

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#16-LIST OF SUPER BOWL NO-NAMES: Below are guys that made their names in the Super Bowl. Some of these guys were pretty good NFLers before their breakout games ... some we haven't heard of before or since ... but performing well on the biggest of stages makes them legends.

Doug Williams (Redskins): It wasn't that Williams was a no-name as much as things really didn't pan out for him. Dude really came off the scrap heap. Williams did nothing much of note in his first years at Tampa Bay or in his USFL stint. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs (who coached Doug in Tampa) gave him a shot in 1986 to back up Jay Schroeder. In '87, Schroeder had some shoulder issues late in the season and Williams did a good job taking over. So much so that there was a QB controversy. Williams got the nod and the rest is history.What Williams did in the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl XXII is nothing short of remarkable. He was 9-of-11 for 228 yards and 4 TDs. Again, that was just in the 2nd quarter! Williams would win the game's MVP and become the first (and only, so far) black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Timmy Smith (Redskins): If Doug Williams didn't win the MVP, Smith would have. Smith rushed for 204 yards (still a Super Bowl record) and two TDs. Coming into the game, Smith had rushed for just 129 yards that season. His career lasted just 15 games after the Super Bowl.

Max McGee (Packers): McGee is famous for his pre-Super Bowl I partying. With Boyd Dowler injured early in the game, a hung-over McGee would step in and catch the first TD pass in Super Bowl history. He would go on to catch seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs ... three more receptions than he had all season long.

Jeff Hostetler (Giants): People forget that Phil Simms didn't start the G-men's second Super Bowl title. Simms hurt his ankle late in the season and Hoss took it the rest of the way. He had the least amount of playing time of any QB to start a Super Bowl. He held up well, throwing for 222 yds and a TD.

Dan Bunz (49ers): The linebacker was instrumental in the greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history, stuffing the Bengals four times with goal to go. The defining play was Bunz' tackle on a swing pass to Charles Alexander on third down (he was also in on the stop on fourth down).

Larry Brown (Cowboys): The running joke after Super Bowl XXX was that Brown was the Steelers' Neil O'Donnell's favorite target. Too bad he played for the other team. Brown picked off two O'Donnell throws ... his final game with Dallas. He used the MVP award to get a nice fat contract with the Raiders and did nothing much of note after the fact.

Dwight Smith (Buccaneers): If Brown won an MVP award for picking off two passes ... why didn't Smith win won for taking two picks back for TDs? He was a nickelback used a lot in a game where (a) Oakland's offensive attack warranted it and (b) the Raiders were so far behind that they had to take chances. Why ....

Dexter Jackson (Buccaneers): ... because Smith's second TD came in the closing seconds after the ballots had already been counted. Jackson had picked off two passes himself (none that went for TDs) that were momentum changers. And Jackson wouldn't have won the award either if not for fan voting taking place in the game (Simeon Rice was the press' pick).

Percy Howard (Cowboys): Never heard of him? Well, Howard came into Super Bowl X and caught a 34-yd touchdown pass from Roger Staubach. That was the only reception he had in his entire career.

Don Beebe (Bills): Beebe has been on six Super Bowl teams ... but will be remembered most for running down Leon Lett and stripping the ball right before crossing the endzone in Super Bowl XXVII.

#17-RELOCATING TO TITLES: The Colts (Baltimore/Indianapolis) are one of two teams to win a Super Bowl in two different cities. The other team is the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. The St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams have been to Super Bowls from two different cities.

#18-SUPER BOWL NEWBIES: As you know, New Orleans is making its first Super Bowl appearance. This is the 8th Super Bowl in the last 12 years to feature a team making its debut in the big game. Those teams are the Saints (44), Cardinals (43), Seahawks (40), Panthers (38), Buccaneers (37), Ravens (35), Titans (34) and Falcons (33). Those newbies are 2-5 in the Super Bowl and none have been back since.

#19-THEY KNOW ALL ABOUT MIAMI: This won't be the Colts or Saints first trip to Miami this year. Both played the Dolphins in Miami this season. In Week 2, the Colts beat the Phins, 27-23, despite having the ball for less than 15 minutes of game time. In Week 7, the Saints came calling. Miami jumped out to a 24-3 lead and put New Orleans' perfect record in jeopardy. That's when Brees and the Saints got hot and scored 43 of the game's final 53 points and got the 46-34 victory.

#20-ALTERNATE VIEWING: Not everyone is a Super Bowl fan and some people would just rather watch anything else than football. For those people (hey, Honey!), here is a quick guide to watch various channels are putting up against the big game.

ABCFAM: The Sound of Music
ANIMAL: Puppy Bowl VI
TRU TV: Cops (marathon)
ESPNCLASSIC: UNC vs Duke, 1995
GSN: High Stakes Poker
MSNBC: To Catch a Predator (marathon)
MTV: Teen Mom (marathon)
STARZ: Paul Blart: Mall Cop ... followed by Step Brothers
TBS: Titanic
TV LAND: Home Improvement (marathon)
HALLMARK: I Love Lucy (marathon)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 21-25

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#21-WEARING WHITE IS THE KEY: Since the Indianapolis Colts are designated the home team, they will be wearing their home blue jerseys for the Super Bowl. That means the Saints will go with their white jerseys. In fact, the team that has worn white uniforms has won the last five Super Bowls (Steelers, Giants, Colts, Steelers, Patriots). Indy is trying to become the first team to win a Super Bowl while wearing a blue uniform since the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

#22-THINGS NON FOOTBALL FANS CAN SAY TO BLEND IN: Look, I know that there are people in America that will be attending Super Bowl parties because ... well, they love to party. Some won't know who's playing in the game until they get there. I've also come to find that there are actually guys out there that get dragged to Super Bowl parties because of their women (that's sad). Don't worry. So the diehards around the party who actually care about the game won't think you're a wuss, I'm here to help.

Here are a few vague quotes that you can use so you fit in among the football fans. You don't have to engage in a conversation with these, just drop these in from time to time the rest of us don't make fun of you once you leave. Just print this out, study it and you will at look somewhat less wimpish around the real men at the Super Bowl party.

"The Saints just need to limit turnovers and control the clock if they want to pull the upset."
"Didn't Peyton Manning just win his 4th MVP award?"
"New Orleans seems like they are a team of destiny."
"You just gotta convert those third downs!"
"Don't sleep on Reggie Bush!"
"Whomever said defense wins championships would cry about this Super Bowl!"
"Third and long? I'd blitz."
"It's amazing the Colts are here with a rookie head coach."
"I got a few bucks on this game."
"Damnit! I left my squares sheet at home!"
"Drew Brees has had one hell of a postseason!"
When there is a penalty called for holding, just say, "yeah, he was tackling him!"
"You think Brett Favre is gonna really retire?"
"Where did these Indy receivers come from?"
"Dallas Clark is a jack of all trades."
"Hard to believe New Orleans is in the Super Bowl instead of the Super Bowl being in New Orleans."

#23-DON'T WIN THE COIN TOSS: The team that wins the opening coin toss is just 20-23 in the game. That averages out to ... well ... the flip of a coin. However, the coin toss winner has been the Super Bowl loser in 10 of the last 13 games.

SB-43: Cardinals won the toss, lost the game
SB 42: Giants won the toss ... and the game
SB 41: Bears won the toss, lost the game
SB 40: Seahawks won the toss, lost the game
SB 39: Eagles won the toss, lost the game
SB 38: Panthers won the toss, lost the game
SB 37: Buccaneers won the toss ... and the game
SB 36: Rams won the toss, lost the game
SB 35: Giants won the toss, lost the game
SB 34: Rams won the toss ... and the game
SB 33: Falcons won the toss, lost the game
SB 32: Packers won the toss, lost the game

SB 31: Patriots won the toss, lost the game

A little aside to this is that last year the Arizona Cardinals won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Steelers chose to receive which means the Cards were the first team in Super Bowl history to win the coin toss and kickoff.

#24-NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE UNDERDOG: Okay, the New Orleans Saints aren't favored to win this game. Don't fret! We all know that NO ONE was picking the Giants to win Super Bowl XLII.

Here is a short list of huge upsets:
Super Bowl III: The Baltimore Colts came in as 18-point favorites. They left watching the Jets' Joe Namath fulfilling his prediction of an upset.
Super Bowl IV: The Kansas City Chiefs spanked the Minnesota Vikings, despite being a 12-point underdog.
Super Bowl VII: Oddly, the undefeated Miami Dolphins entered the game as 1.5-point underdogs to the Washington Redskins.Super Bowl XXV: The Buffalo Bills would begin their four game Super Bowl losing streak by succumbing to the Giants, who were 7-point dogs.
Super Bowl XXXII: The Denver Broncos, an 11.5-point underdog, ended the AFC's thirteen game losing streak by beating Green Bay.
Super Bowl XXXVI: These New England Patriots began their dynasty by beating the St. Louis Rams, who were 14-point favorites.
Super Bowl XLII: The 12-point dog Giants ended the Patriots perfect season with a magical game.

See, it can happen. Just because we all think one way doesn't mean we cannot be shocked. After all, those 2001 Rams were juggernauts who were former champions and were heavy favorites. They left without the trophy.

#25-BUT DON'T DISMISS THE FAVORITES: Yeah, there are upsets, but don't count on them. The favorite has won eight of the last 11 Super Bowls. In fact the favorite is 30-13 in the Super Bowl. Teams favored by at least 7 points are 19-6.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sigh. Naked Pictures of Greg Oden Surface

There is nothing more embarrassing than having some naked pictures of you plastered all over the internet. Usually it is some actress or singer that gets exposed. I guess it is NBA players as well.

Portland's Greg Oden just found out that there is a naked picture of him circulating the net.

Oden seems like a really nice guy. He's approachable, funny and not full of himself. If he could stay on the court and establish himself in the league, he'd be a superstar. Instead, Oden missed his rookie year, played less-than-average in his first official season and now is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

He has all but become a punchline. Portland's next Sam Bowie. But this kinda trumps all of that. Why in the heck would you decide to take a naked picture of yourself? It isn't like this is his first round of embarrassing photos posted on the web. Remember a couple of years ago, a bunch of pics showing Oden partying were leaked. But this is on another level.

Oden's reps say that this was, indeed, their client and Oden himself has apologized for these pics. Kudos to Oden for actually admitting this and not spinning it as someone else's mistake.

See, I told you he was a good guy.

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 26-30

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#26-UNDERCOVER BOSS: The trend now is for the network broadcasting the Super Bowl loves breaking in new shows or extended shows following the game. CBS will debut "Undercover Boss" after Super Bowl XLIV. It joins Extreme (ABC-1995), Homicide (NBC-'93), Davis Rules (ABC-'91), Grand Slam (CBS-'90), The Wonders Years (ABC-'88), Hard Copy (CBS-'87), The Last Precinct (NBC-'86), MacGruder and Loud (ABC-'85), Airwolf (CBS-'84), The A-Team (NBC-'83) and Brothers and Sisters (NBC-'79) as shows who debuted after the Super Bowl.

Some other big-time heavyweights have also appeared right after the game. Lassie, All in the Family, 60 Minutes, CHiPs, Archie Bunker's Place, Friends, The X-Files, The Simpsons, Survivor, Grey's Anatomy, House and The Office all have been post-Super Bowl shows.

#27-PEYTON'S BAAAAACK: Peyton Manning will be the 18th quarterback to start multiple Super Bowls. John Elway leads the pack with 5 Super Bowls, while Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly and Roger Staubach have all started four. Only Craig Morton and Kurt Warner have started Super Bowls for two different teams.

#28-FUTURE SUPER BOWL SITES ARE PRETTY INTERESTING: No team has ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium. It really is remarkable that this has never happened. Well, it could happen soon.

Both Indianapolis (XLVI) and New Orleans (XLVII) will be hosting games soon. Next year the game is in Cowboys Stadium. Dallas just won the NFC East and the franchise has been to more Super Bowls than any other team.

#29-CBS SETS A RECORD: CBS will be televising their 17th Super Bowl. That breaks a tie with NBC (16 times). ABC has shown 7 Super Bowls; FOX has televised 5. FOX will show the game next year with NBC tying CBS with their 17th telecast in 2012.

#30-ROOKIE HEAD COACH: Colts head coach Jim Caldwell is just the fifth rookie head coach to take his team to the Super Bowl. The last rookie who did it was Bill Callahan with the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The last rookie coach to win was George Seifert in Super Bowl XXIV (Niners over Broncos). The other rookie coaches to take their teams to the big games are Red Miller (Broncos, SB XII) and Don McCafferty (Colts, SB V). McCafferty, like Seifert, won his appearance.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 31-35

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#31-COLTS KNOW BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN: The Indianapolis Colts are the only franchise to play in a Super Bowl as an AFC and NFC team. Well, they never were an "NFC" team, but the Colts played in Super Bowl III as the NFL representative against the AFC Champ Jets. Two years later, the Colts won Super Bowl V as a member of the AFC.

When the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, the NFL's Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns moved to the American side of things. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls (and been to another one) but all were as the AFC champ. Cleveland is still waiting for their first appearance.

#32-VALIDATION OF THE "ROONEY RULE": Jim Caldwell will be the fourth African-American NFL head coach to take his team to the Super Bowl and the fourth in the last four years. Mike Tomlin and Tony Dungy won in their appearances while Lovie Smith lost to Dungy in Super Bowl XLI.

#33-TOP SEEDS ACTUALLY MEET: Believe it or not, but this is the first time that the No. 1 seed in the NFC and AFC will meet in the Super Bowl since 1993. In each year since the Bills and Cowboys met, one of the top seeds fall before getting to the big game. For a look at what the top seeds did during the drought, check out The Tygrrrr Express.

#34-NFC SOUTH IS ALL IN: With the Saints reaching their first Super Bowl, it completed the NFC South's participation in the game. The Saints join the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers as Super Bowl participants. The only divisions that don't have all of their members with appearances is the AFC North, AFC South and NFC North.

No division has all their members with Super Bowl championships. The NFC East (Eagles didn't win), AFC West (Chargers) and AFC East (Bills) have seen three of their four members win a title. The NFC East is the only division to have each of their members in multiple Super Bowls. The Cowboys have been to eight, the Redskins have been to five, the Giants have been to four and the Eagles have been to two.

The odd thing is that each team in the NFC South has been exactly once to the Super Bowl. The Panthers and Falcons lost their only time there, while the Bucs beat the Raiders in their moment.

#35-NFC EAST TOPS THEM ALL: The NFC East easily has the most Super Bowl champions than any other division. The 11 titles won bests the AFC North for the top honors. Interestingly, the two participants in this year's game play in divisions that are the two worst at racking up titles.

The NFC East dominated from 1986-1995. In that span, the Giants ('86, '90), Redskins ('87, '91) and Cowboys ('92, '93, '95) went to and won 7 of 10 Super Bowls during that decade. The only other Super Bowl champ was San Francisco ('88, '89, '94).

Here's a rundown of the divisions:

11-NFC EAST (Cowboys-5, Redskins-3, Giants-3)
7-AFC NORTH (Steelers-6, Ravens-1)
6-NFC WEST (Niners-5, Rams-1)
6-AFC EAST (Patriots-3, Dolphins-2, Jets-1)
6-AFC WEST (Raiders-3, Broncos-2, Chiefs-1)
4-NFC NORTH (Packers-3, Bears-1)
2-AFC SOUTH (Colts-2)
1-NFC SOUTH (Buccaneers-1)

As for Super Bowl appearances, the NFC East wins this title again:

19-NFC EAST (Cowboys-8, Redskins-5, Giants-4, Eagles-2)
16-AFC EAST (Patriots-6, Dolphins-5, Bills-4, Jets-1)
14-AFC WEST (Broncos-6, Raiders-5, Chiefs-2, Chargers-1)
10-NFC WEST (Niners-5, Rams-3, Seahawks-1, Cardinals-1)
10-NFC NORTH (Packers-4, Vikings-4, Bears-2)
10-AFC NORTH (Steelers-7, Bengals-2, Ravens-1)
5-AFC SOUTH (Colts-4, Titans-1)
4-NFC SOUTH (Panthers-1, Bucs-1, Falcons-1, Saints-1)

Monday, January 25, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 36-40

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#36-THERE IS AN EXTRA VINCE LOMBARDI TROPHY OUT THERE: Excuse this one taken from my FanHouse post but it is rather interesting:

There have been 43 Super Bowls to date ... yet there are 44 Vince Lombardi Trophies (given to the Super Bowl winning team) out and about. How is that?

Well, that little ditty comes to light after the recent passing of Rams owner Georgia Frontiere. Frontiere's husband, former-Colts and Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom, is the reason behind the story:

However, when Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, Frontiere's late husband, traded the Colts for the Rams in a franchise swap in 1972, he decided he wanted to keep the Lombardi Trophy the Colts won in Super Bowl V. When Super Bowl VII took place in Los Angeles, Rosenbloom told the Colts he was going to put on a display of Super Bowl trophies and asked them to bring it to the West Coast. They did. There was no display, and Rosenbloom never returned the trophy. After the Colts complained to the league office, former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had a duplicate made for the Colts, which remains in Baltimore (it was originally shipped to Indianapolis when the team moved but a deal was struck and it was returned to Maryland). The original Super Bowl V trophy? It presumably was in Frontiere's possession and now belongs to her heirs.

So, there are two Vince Lombardi trophies awarded for Super Bowl V ... yet neither are with the franchise that won it. The original was in St. Louis with Frontiere with the other in Baltimore, the Colts old digs. Meanwhile, Indianapolis can only show off the trophy they won two years ago.

#37-SCORE EARLY AND OFTEN: The team who scores first in a Super Bowl is 28-15. However, the team who has scored first has lost five of the last eight Super Bowls.

*Teams who score at least 30 points are 21-1.
*Teams that score the first TD are 31-12.
*Teams leading at the half are 33-8 (there have been two ties)

#38-AFC LOVES FEBRUARY: The Super Bowl will be held on February 7th. Since the first February Super Bowl in 2002, the AFC is 6-1 in those games:

Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots beat Rams on February 3, 2002
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots beat Panthers on February 1, 2004
Super Bowl XXXIX: Patriots beat Eagles on February 6, 2005
Super Bowl XL: Steelers beat Seahawks on February 5, 2006
Super Bowl XLI: Colts beat Bears on February 4, 2007
Super Bowl XLII: Giants beat Patriots on February 3, 2008
Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers beat Cardinals on February 1, 2009

#39-ANOTHER FLORIDA SUPER BOWL: This will mark just the third time that consecutive Super Bowls will be held in the same state. This year's Super Bowl in Miami follows last year's in Tampa. Super Bowls II and III were both held in Miami. California hosted Super Bowls XXI (Pasadena) and XXII (San Diego).

#40-A DIFFERENT KIND OF PRO BOWL: For the first time ever, the Pro Bowl will be held before the Super Bowl ... and in the same city. The NFL moved its game to Miami, the host of Super Bowl XLIV and the plan is to keep it that way. Every Pro Bowl since 1980 was held in Honolulu. From 1973-1979, the NFL did rotate the site of the Pro Bowl every year but it wasn't held at a Super Bowl site. From 1950-1972, the game was held in Los Angeles.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV: No. 41-44

The "44 Stops to Super Bowl XLIV" is a series that will feature stories, stats and interesting trivia that you can use to act smart as you prepare for Super Bowl XLIV. I've done this on SPORTZASSASSIN.COM for Super Bowls XL, XLI, XLIII and for AOL's FanHouse for Super Bowl XLII.

#41-MATT STOVER IS AN OLD MAN: At 42 years and 11 days, Colts kicker Matt Stover will be the oldest player in Super Bowl history. Stover replaced the injured Adam Vinateri as Indy's kicker mid-season. Stover was drafted by the Giants back in 1990 (but didn't play). He would move on to the Cleveland Browns the next season and would stay with the franchise during their move to Baltimore (1991-2008). He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2001.

#42-NEW YORK MISSED OUT ON SUPER BOWL XLIV ... TWICE: The New York Jets fell just short of making it to the Super Bowl. A couple years ago, a win may have meant the Jets would be playing a home game for the Lombardi trophy. Back in 2005, the NFL voted that Super Bowl XLIV would be held in New York, provided the city financed and built a retractable roof stadium by 2008. That didn't happen, so the NFL re-opened the bidding with the runners up (Miami, Atlanta, Houston) and chose South Florida yet again.

#43-WHAT'S THE NAME OF THE STADIUM AGAIN? This will be the fifth Super Bowl held in the stadium that houses the Miami Dolphins. The problem is that no one remembers what it is called.

In Super Bowls XXIII and XXIX, it was known as Joe Robbie Stadium. It was called Pro Player Stadium during Super Bowl XXXIII. For Super Bowl XLI, the place was called Dolphin Stadium. And for Super Bowl XLIV, it will be known as Sun Life Stadium.

What makes this even more bizarre is that the stadium was called Land Shark Stadium for the 2009 season. The name changed back to Dolphins Stadium after the season but last week the stadium reached a deal with Sun Life Financial.

#44-THE COLTS LOVE MIAMI ... PRETTY MUCH: The Indianapolis Colts are back in a Super Bowl in Miami. That's the site of their only two Super Bowl championships. Back in Super Bowl V, the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys in what has been dubbed "The Blunder Bowl" in Miami's Orange Bowl. The Indy Colts won Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium. Of course, they've also lost a Super Bowl -- Super Bowl III to the New York Jets.

So that makes four Super Bowls for the Colts ... with all of them in Miami.

My NEW ACC Realignment Theory

I'm fine with the ACC's basketball league being a 12-team outfit. I'm not fine with the alignment of teams in the football divisions. I hate it. I still cannot figure out who plays where and what and who is Atlantic or Coastal or ... it's stupid.

You can't do geography since it would break up the Big Four (more on that later) so I think we should go Old and New School. Make the Central division up of originial ACC members and the Atlantic division those teams that were admitted afterwards. Pretty simple.

COASTAL: Clemson, Duke, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest
ATLANTIC: Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech

The one big, bad thing about this is that the traditional football powers would all be linked into one division. I mean, the whole reason that BC, FSU, Miami and Va Tech were added to the league was because the ACC wanted to be a bit more powerful on the football side of things. In the Coastal Division, only Clemson is a true football program.

So we could do the geographical thing"
NORTH: Boston College, Maryland, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
SOUTH: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina

Should Big East Break Off Into Divisions?

The Big East is actually the Really, Really Big East since it boasts 16 members. Looking at their standings, it is a lot to actually consume.

So I'm in favor of breaking up the Big East (but that's for another time). Instead, let's look at how to split up the conference into divisions. But how?

FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL: My favorite one is seperating the football and non-football schools into their own divisions. It will kind of keep the flavor of the football teams' magic. The schedule for either of the eight-team division scenarios could involve playing the other seven teams in your division twice (14 games) and then rotate playing four of the teams in the other division (4 games).

FOOTBALL: Cincinnati, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia
NON-FOOTBALL: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova

EAST/WEST: There is also the ol' geographical method. Seems like a good idea since there are five teams who reside in the midwestern portion of the country.

EAST: Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's, Syracuse, UConn, Villanova
WEST: Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pitt, South Florida, West Virginia

FOUR DIVISION FORMAT: An interesting, albeit unlikely option, is having four mini-divisions. The 16-team WAC did this back in the mid-to-late-1990s which resulted in half the teams leaving the conference and forming the Mountain West.

The problem I have with this is that it kind-of breaks up some natural rivals and splits up the three NY/NJ teams. The lone good thing about this is the scheduling. You can play the other three teams in your division twice (six games) ... then every other Big East team once (12 games).

NORTH: Providence, St. John's, Syracuse, UConn
EAST: Georgetown, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Villanova
CENTRAL: Cincinnati, Pitt, South Florida, West Virginia
WEST: DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sportz' Super Bowl XLIV Pick ...

Colts over Jets, 20-10

Saints over Vikings, 34-24

This Super Bowl Should Be Interesting ... If Nothing Else

It is very rare when I really don't care who gets or wins the Super Bowl. Of the four teams left, I really have no hate towards any of them and, aside from the Jets, I've had a fantasy player on each of the teams remaining ... so I've grown to watch these guys play.

So whatever the Super Bowl will be, I'm fine with it. (By the way, I'm rooting for a Colts-Saints game just because). Each possible matchup brings all kinds of intrigue:

COLTS-SAINTS: This would be the best one for me. These two teams spent most of the year as the clear No. 1 seed in their conferences. If not for their rocky endings to their seasons (Colts lost their last two; Saints lost their last three) then we'd really be on their bandwagons. You get high octane offenses going against rollercoaster defenses. Two dome teams battling in Miami ... where the Colts won the last Super Bowl there. Sean Payton versus Peyton Manning. Manning going up against his dad's team and the team he grew up rooting for. Not to mention that having the Saints in the Super Bowl would be amazing in itself.

COLTS-VIKINGS: Another great possibility. Think about Favre vs Manning for their second Super Bowl win and a capper to their legacy. You have the meticulous robot going up against the gunslinger. Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game up against each other. Not to mention the sack machine defense of the Vikings going up against the nearly unsackable Manning.

JETS-VIKINGS: The Brett Favre Bowl. Remember that Favre was dealt to the Jets last year ... then he retired on them so he could then un-retire and become a Vikings. Nice! Who would've thought that these two could meet in the Super Bowl? I'd love to see the Jets defense up against Favre and see what Rex Ryan can come up with with two weeks to prepare for him. The only issue is seeing if Mark Sanchez ... a rookie QB ... can handle what Minnesota can come up with two weeks to prepare.

JETS-SAINTS: This one is interesting just because you have such an explosive offense going up against a stingy defense. This one really will be another clash of styles. Again, what can Ryan come up with while having two weeks to prepare. And imagine a Miami Super Bowl with both Saints and New York fans there!

NASCAR Is Going Back to "Rubbin' Is Racin'"

NASCAR announced that maybe they are getting too NFL-ish and stomping out too much fun in the sport. So today they said that they'll relax some of the rules, increase horsepower and let these drivers get more aggressive.

Let me make this known right now: I'm not a NASCAR fan. I grew up in Charlotte where NASCAR is king so some of the knowledge rubbed off on me and, in my older years, I've acquire a bit more knowledge on the sports (for fantasy leagues, mainly). So I'm not one of those die-hards that clamored for the change.

But I am in that fringe sports fan set. The same one that only watches the final round of a golf tournament if Tiger is in the mix. The same one that wants to see boxers go at it full tilt. The one who only watches soccer during the World Cup. And the one who can keep an eye on a NASCAR race if there is actually something to watch.

The sport has gone stale. The reasoning is that the past decade the sport grew leaps and bounds. It became a very, very, very lucrative sport and we all know that when a corporation realizes it has a cash cow on their hands, the carry it around wearing their white gloves and try to place rules to make the "sophisticated person" more comfortable with their sport. The NFL has done well with this by basically limiting any kind of fun during a game.

The problem with NASCAR is that while they've gotten to this height and exposure, they really killed the momentum. I'll catch a race or two (usually I'll watch the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600) and find myself bored. We non-racing fans always joked that the sport is just four left turns ... and now it is. It seems that more laps are under caution than ever, little dings and dents become show stoppers and the one time that it gets good ... another yellow flag.

Seriously. I've become that "I'll turn it on during the last 10-15 laps to see who wins" guy because I know that there will be five cautions during that time and it doesn't make a difference what happened before then. It is so boring.

So maybe the spirit of Dale Earnhardt will come back to these people. Aggressive, raw and intense. They should hope so or the sport will keep falling back.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

North Carolina Will NOT Make the NCAA Tournament

This has been an interesting season for the boys of Chapel Hill. Coming off a National Championship, watching pretty much every starter get drafted by the NBA, dealing with a hellacious schedule and a lot of inexperienced players and you knew this was more of a transition year at North Carolina.

That's fine. You can't win the championship every year. The Heels have already lost seven games this year (including three in a row). One was to No. 1 Texas. Another was to No. 2 Kentucky. A third was to No. 5 Syracuse. Yet another was to No. 16 Clemson and No. 18 Georgia Tech. Last night, a good Wake Forest team came into the Dean Dome and crushed the Heels. Okay, the seventh loss against the College of Charleston is bad. But that's quite a tough schedule.

Right now, the Heels sit at 12-7 and reeling. Sure, UNC has played a brutal schedule (which do include wins over Michigan State and Ohio State) but they are running out of losses. To me, I put the limit at 13 (that would include a loss in the ACC Tournament and make them, at least, 19-13). That means the Heels only have five more regular season losses before things get dicey.

Well, there are those two games against Duke, probably the ACC's top team. Despite UNC's hold over the Blue Devils, that could easily turn into two more losses. Three to go.

The Heels make return trips to both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest (remember, both won in Chapel Hill) which should result in two more losses. One left.

That's where it gets interesting. The Heels could win the rest of those games. They could also lose a majority of them. North Carolina does have a favorable home schedule aside from Duke. NC State, Virginia, Florida State and Miami come calling. However, the Heels are winless on the road this year and have to make trips to Maryland, Boston College, NC State and Virginia Tech -- along with the games with Duke, Ga Tech and Wake that I previously mentioned. I don't think Carolina can win all those games. They'll lose at least one of those, probably at least three.

That could put the Heels with 14 or 15 losses and despite the tough schedule I don't think it's good enough to get into this tournament. Sure, the landscape of the NCAA is a bit down this year so there is a better chance they could slide in.

It just is a shame that the Heels even got to go through this. What a disappointing season.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

True or Hoax? -- An All-White Basketball League

A buddy of mine emailed this to me today. If is from the Huffington Post about an all-white basketball league. No black players, no foreign players. Just the white guys.

The commissioner ... shockingly ... said this:
Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." ...

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."
Racism at it's best, folks.

The commish, Don "Moose" Lewis says he doesn't hate black people ... he just doesn't want them in his basketball league. He said that "the white game of basketball, which is essentially a fundamental game, works." Yeah, because the NBA and college basketball are really struggling right now.

Now, there are internet rumors that this may be a hoax. Maybe, but what kind of sick hoax is this? To have a press release on a basketball league banning "people of color" during the MLK holiday is pretty disturbing. It may be a publicity stunt, but good luck when you get that publicity headed your way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yeah, the Vikings Ran Up the Score -- Who Cares?

The big controversy coming out of Sunday was the fact that the Dallas Cowboys felt that the Minnesota Vikings ran up the score on them. Up 27-3 with just two minutes left in the game, the Vikings went for it on fourth down and threw a TD pass.

Dallas was irate since they believed that it was running up the score and poor sportsmanship.

Well, it is ... but so what?

My stance on this has always been that running up the score is fine in professional sports but not in the amateur ranks. In high school and college sports, you can have a gross mismatch of talent going against each other. For a mighty team to spank a team filled with guys who just want to play is wrong. I've been on both ends of this and it actually doesn't feel good either way.

As for pro sports, I don't care about running up the score. You are professional athletes! You get paid to play the game! How can you complain when you cannot stop your opponent from scoring? Are you saying the only way you can compete is if the other team quits against you? I don't buy that. Especially since when Dallas got the ball, it wasn't as if they were sitting on the ball. They were trying to score. Despite the unlikeliness this happening, Dallas could've scored a long TD, got the onside kick, scored another long TD, get another onside ... okay, you know what I'm saying.

I've seen enough comebacks during my time that I can understand when a team keeps stepping on their opponent's throat. Sure, a 24-point comeback with two minutes left seems very unlikely, but it isn't out the realm of possibility. Coaches stress playing for the entire 60 minutes.

You can say that I'm reaching on that point and you are probably right. But as professional athletes, you cannot complain that you cannot stop the other team.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Baseball Hall of Fame Voting is a Joke

I'm not a fan of Halls of Fame (or is it "Hall of Fames"?). It is voted on by people who, mostly, never actually played the game. For some ungodly reason, there is a morals hurdle that voters seem to want to place on the nominees. And the voting makes no sense.

It's a bit of old news that Andre Dawson finally got enough votes to get into the Hall. Apparently 2010 was when he was worthy of making it because he wasn't close his first eight years on the ballot. I guess this extra year of not adding anything to his career made a difference.

That's the old argument. Either you are a Hall of Famer or you are not. We've heard all this before (note: read this article about how it took Joe DiMaggio three years on the ballot before he got into the Hall).

Here is my problem: David Segui got a vote.

Yes, someone who is given a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame decided that David Segui should be in. What? And Ray Allen thinks the fans get All-Star voting wrong. This is David Segui who had a career .291 batting average, 139 home runs and 684 RBIs (or is it RsBI?) in 15 seasons. Segui played for the Orioles, Mets, Expos, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rangers, Indians and the Orioles again. He also admitted to using steroids and HGH.

Even diehard baseball fans probably haven't thought of Segui for years until reading this. Yet one voter honestly believes that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Roger Maris, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire and Joe Jackson are out ... but Segui can be in?

That's ridiculous and that voter should have his "voting honor" taken away immediately. These Hall voters are the first one to tell you how high and mighty they are and how big of a responsibility it is to have a vote. They are first to tell you that fans have no idea what a Hall of Famer really is. Yet, David Segui.

Segui hit more than 20 home runs in a season ... once. He drove in more than 100 RBIs ... once. He played more than 150 games in a season just three times. He is not a Hall of Famer by any way of looking at it. Well, there is one way that gets him in -- whomever voted for him.

If you read the linked article above, you'll see that only half of the voters voted for DiMaggio on his first ballot. Even two years later when he was finally voted in, there were over 11% of voters that felt he still shouldn't be in. So you have voters who believe that DiMaggio wasn't a Hall of Famer and one guy who thinks Segui is??? You've got to be kidding me!

Heck, on this last ballot, two people felt Ellis Burks was a Hall of Famer. Two people voted for Eric Karros. Kevin Appier and Pat Hentgen each got a vote. Yet five-percent of voters didn't think Babe Ruth deserved to go into the Hall when he was elected.

It is moronic. So the next time you hear or read that someone has a Baseball Hall of Fame vote, you might be encountering the biggest moron (or hypocrite) in the world.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's Get Rid of Taking a Charge

I love basketball. I'd love it even better if they got rid of "taking a charge".

I'm not against calling offensive fouls. If an offensive player bowls over his defender, that should be called. I'm talking about sliding underneath a guy who is driving and "drawing a charge." I hate that play.

I'm writing this now because I'm watching the Syracuse-West Virginia game and I've seen it called at least four times. On three of the four times, the defender just moved into the offensive player's way to draw the charge. I hate that and think it is abuse of the rules.

Again, if the guy was standing there and someone just runs over them, call it. But I don't see how a defender can get credit for really creating the contact by hurrying up and standing in front of them. Despite what the announcers may say, it really isn't good defense. It is a bail-out if anything.

Think if charges were eliminated? It would mean more exciting plays, more scoring and less guys in foul trouble. The NBA did a great thing by putting that restricted-area arc under the basket to punish those who try to take an under-the-basket charge. It doesn't happen. While there are charges in the NBA, it is rare to see anyone do the "step in" charge that just litters college basketball.

If anything, make it a no-call. If both players meet at the same spot at the same time (or a split second from each other), how can that really be a foul?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hall of Fame Should Add a 'Group' Category

I was on Redskins Insider and read this about an idea to have "Groups" enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I like it!

Of course, the premise of the article is the fact that none of the offense linemen from those 1980s Washington Redskins team resides in the Hall. Despite the fact that The Hogs are one of the best known offensive lines in league history, they don't get any Hall love.

I think they should. Maybe not give them all individual busts in the Hall, but have a plaque with their pictures and names on it recognizing both the individual and the group. They deserve it. Former Hog George Starke believes it's time:
"I think the way the Hall of Fame is selected is fundamentally wrong to begin with," says Starke. "Football is a team sport, and they put individuals in the Hall of Fame. The Hogs are the greatest line to ever play, so the Hogs should go in as a group, not individuals. To pick one or two out doesn't make any sense. How you going to do that, right? They should do it as a group.

"They should have a different category in the Hall of Fame for groups, like the Doomsday Defense or the Fearsome Foursome. They should have a group dynamic for the Hall of Fame."

Sure, in an instance like The Steel Curtain, there are several guys that are actually in the Hall. Same goes to the Purple People Eaters and Fearsome Foursome. I'm not saying you should let every famous group get in, but units like The Electric Company should at least have the opportunity to make it in.

I think The Hogs are a given. They were the driving force of three Super Bowl titles (four appearances) and has given us the Hogettes. Individually, it is hard to recognize one of those guys who was the best or should get Hall consideration (Russ Grimm is at the top of that list) so let the entire unit get a plaque or something.

As Starke said, football is the ultimate team game. Yes, there are many individual players that transcend the sport. But for every Hall of Famer out there, their usually is a group of guys that were playing at their ultimate skill and talent to allow that player to reach those heights.

It's time we honor them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Interesting Crop of QBs In NFL's Divisional Round

Man, there are some great quarterbacks left in the NFL playoffs. We have three Super Bowl champions, six Super Bowl appearances and a lot of playoff experience. We also have some of the greatest storylines amongst these guys that you can choke on.

1-PEYTON MANNING, COLTS: Manning is the NFL's lone four-time MVP. He is virtually the quarterback and offensive coordinator in one swoop. No one has more command of his offense than Peyton. Storyline? Manning hasn't been the best postseason quarterback. Will this be another year where Indy comes up short?

2-DREW BREES, SAINTS: Brees is a freak. Deemed too small to be a franchise quarterback, Brees nearly set the passing yards record last year and set the completion percentage mark this year. Despite numerous injuries in the Saints' offense, Brees kept this offense rolling. Storyline? Well, there is bringing New Orleans to the Super Bowl and not the other way around. There is also a possible clash with the Chargers and Philip Rivers in the Bowl. Remember that San Diego dropped Brees for Rivers a few years ago.

3-PHILIP RIVERS, CHARGERS: If Rivers was on the east coast, we'd all be crowning him as one of the greatest QBs. Rivers' problem is that Brees' insane passing stats get in the way, Peyton's MVPs get in the way and the fact that the guy that San Diego dealt away for him (Eli Manning) plays in New York and has won a Super Bowl. Storyline? Well, this is the first time the Chargers have been one of the favorites to win the whole thing. Oh, and there's that Brees game that could be huge.

4-BRETT FAVRE, VIKINGS: Favre owns tons of records, never takes a game off and at 70 years old still flies around the stadium. Storyline? Well, this is why he came back. This is why the Vikings waited all offseason for him. Minnesota went all in and now you're at the big table. You gotta cash in.

5-KURT WARNER, CARDINALS: Warner has three of the top passing yard games in Super Bowl history as well as the all-time passing yardage leader in the big game. He's the rare guy that has led two franchises to the Super Bowl. Storyline? The cat's out of the bag that Warner will retire after the playoffs. He's a nice guy with a great story and people root for him to succeed. Plus, we wouldn't mind seeing that arm in another Super Bowl.

6-TONY ROMO, COWBOYS: He's finally won a playoff game so, technically, everything beyond this is cheesecake. Storyline? Well, Dallas is the league's glamour team and if Romo could get them back in the Super Bowl would add to his aura.

7-JOE FLACCO, RAVENS: How is this? Two seasons, two playoff appearances. A win over the Colts and that would be two AFC Championship games. Granted, the defense and three-headed running attack are the calling cards for the Ravens but Flacco will be asked to do a little more if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. Storyline? Flacco is the least known of these QBs ... and that may work out best for him.

8-MARK SANCHEZ, JETS: Sanchez was far exceeded any expectations. Just getting to the playoffs was a remarkable achievement. Winning a game was even better. For the Jets (who seem to be crashing the party), all this just represents a bright future. Storyline? One good thing about Sanchez is that New York really doesn't rely on him to win games. They have the best defense and the best rushing offense. That is how they got into the playoffs and that's how they beat Cincinnati. But there is a little Broadway Joe in Sanchez and his legend will grow the longer the Jets stick around.

Sucks to Be a LA Clipper, Doesn't It?

It's funny, the Clippers are just one of those franchises. One of those franchises that you just wish could start fresh and new somewhere else. Burn the old and build new. The former Buffalo Braves (who weren't that bad) turned San Diego and Los Angeles Clippers is a cursed franchise.

(Note: I don't believe in curses)

Think about the Clippers for a minute. Since their first season as the "Clippers" (1978-1979), they've had just two winning seasons. They've made just four postseason appearances. They've only won one playoff series. One. Not counting the strike shortened 1999 season, the Clippers have had seven seasons where they failed to win 20 games. They've had 17 seasons where they lost at least 50 games. Ugh.

Add to the fact that the Clippers play in the same city as the Lakers ... a team with 15 NBA championships, including four last decade. Did I say "play in the same city"??? I meant "play in the same freakin' arena" as the Lakers.

All this isn't new to any of you. I'm amazed that the Clippers have so many fans. Not just because they suck but because you could make your life easier and just be a Laker fan. It's not like most franchises where they are the lone game in town and all of that.

So it is fitting that Blake Griffin's rookie season will not happen this year. No, his busted knee needs a little more work so he'll sit out this season. Classic.

Of course this conjures up Danny Manning and Michael Olowokandi. Like Griffin, Manning and Olowokandi were number one overall picks. All three missed considerable time due to injury. Manning blew out his knee during his rookie season, came back and became an All Star. When he could get out, he bolted. The Kandi Man just plain sucked.

That happens. But look at what the Clippers have had happen to their draft picks. If I was Eric Gordon or Al Thornton, I'd be a bit worried. Yaroslav Koralev (#12, 2005) had a cup of coffee with the Clips before heading back to Europe. Shaun Livingston (#4, 2004) had one of the ugliest sports injuries you will ever see and his career still hasn't gotten back on track. Chris Wilcox (#8, 2002) was a complete bust ... until he was dealt to the Sonics in the middle of his fourth season. That same draft brought Melvin Ely (#12, 2002) who did nothing.

There is also Darius Miles, Maurice Taylor, Lorenzen Wright, Terry Dehere, Randy Woods, Elmore Spencer, LeRon Ellis, Bo Kimble, etc.

There is also Antonio McDyess ... who the Clippers drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 1995 draft. They dealt him to Denver for Rodney Rodgers and a draft pick that turned into Brent Barry. Awesome. Oh, and the Danny Ferry fiasco. The No. 2 pick refused to play for the Clips and went to Italy. Los Angeles would end up dealing him to Cleveland for Ron Harper. They used a No. 6 pick on Hersey Hawkins and then dealt him for Charles Smith. Better yet was using a No. 3 pick on Byron Scott and then dealing him to the Lakers for Norm Nixon.

You can go on and on and on and on about the owner, the lack of talent and the guys who look for the first opportunity to leave.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Good and Bad of Mark McGwire's Steroid Admission

Mark McGwire used steroids. He said so. All that does is validate all those suspicions we've had for years.

So, what does this all mean? Is this good or bad? Does it really even matter?

To be honest, it doesn't matter. McGwire's admission is relatively meaningless since he's been out of baseball for nearly a decade. Meaningless since he can't and won't be punished for any of this. Meaningless since baseball won't take away his statistics or records. In the realm of the ability to settle this matter ... it falls short.

I will say that I'm glad that he admitted this. I'm in the camp that all these roid users should come out and admit they've done wrong. Just as I said, baseball can't really do anything to you unless you outright lie to authorities (and even that is a tough rap to pin as well). "Apparently" the weight of all these secrets is harmful to your health. Get it out there!

Of course, that won't happen ... especially for those like McGwire who have already retired. Look at the backlash that Big Mac has taken over the past 36 hours. Has Pete Rose's situation gotten any better once he admitted he bet on baseball? Nope. So why would anyone come out and put themselves through that public ridicule?

I'm fine with baseball keeping these inflated statistics. You can't know how many of McGwire's home runs were off pitchers who were also using steroids. Cheating or not, they got away with it. But I'm also fine with not allowing these people into the Hall of Fame. If Rose can't get in there despite none of his playing statistics were helped by his gambling, then these steroid users ... admitted or not ... shouldn't get in there. That's more effective than any asterick.

The sad fact in this is that ... and I know everyone hates to hear this ... but steroids works. Remember that McGwire was broken down in the early-to-mid-1990s. He couldn't stay on the field due to injuries and when he was playing his stats were horrible. In the years he admitted to using steroids, he became a legend. He went from Rob Deer to Babe Ruth. He was given endoresment deals, huge salaries and became larger than the game. That summer of 1998 will be remembered by everyone despite the participants both being linked to steroids.

It's like selling your soul to the devil, only that the devil really can't come to collect.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

All 8 Divisions Represented In NFL Divisional Round

AFC: Jets (East), Chargers (West), Ravens (North), Colts (South)

NFC: Cowboys (East), Vikings (North), Cardinals (West), Saints (South)

What is all of that mean? All eight NFL divisions are represented by one team in the playoffs. With eight teams left, every division has someone.

The AFC East, AFC North, NFC East and NFC North each had two teams make the playoffs. None of them had both teams advance to the divisional round.

Looking Back at My NFL Predictions

See, I'm the type of cat that can admit when he's wrong. And pretty much everyone had some wrong in their preseason NFL picks. So, let's go back to my prediction post to see how well I did:

1-Giants (12-4)*
2-Eagles (11-5)*
3-Cowboys (11-5)*
4-Redskins (6-10)

I think that the NFC's three best teams reside in this division. So it will be one heck of a battle to sort them out. I think they all get into the playoffs since the NFC East gets to play the AFC West this year and will get a chance at stockpiling some extra wins.

Well, both Philly and Dallas made the playoffs and I was dead-on with their records. My disappointment was the Giants who just fell off the face of the earth in the middle of the season.

1-Panthers (10-6)*
2-Falcons (8-8)
3-Saints (8-8)
4-Buccaneers (4-12)

This was a tough division to figure out. Carolina's schedule is brutal and I have them getting off to a poor start. I'm not as trusting in Atlanta as everyone else is (I don't think Turner is going to turn in another outstanding season ... just a hunch). I love the Saints offense but loathe their defense. And this is finally the year when Tampa bottoms back out.

Well, the Saints defense did enough to vault the Saints to the NFC's elite. I'm satisfied with every other pick in this division, despite Carolina not winning the division as I predicted. Yet, they were only two wins off what I thought.

1-Vikings (11-5)*
2-Packers (9-7)
3-Bears (8-8)
4-Lions (4-12)

I'm not a big fan of Minnesota bringing in Brett Favre, but the Vikings have a very easy schedule to open up the season. I think they start off hot and then cool off a bit down the stretch. I think the Packers will give them a fight but come up a few wins short. The Lions finally win a few games!

I did pretty good here. The Lions and Bears didn't win as much as I thought they would, but the rundown is spot on.

1-Cardinals (10-6)*
2-Seahawks (7-9)
3-Niners (7-9)
4-Rams (4-12)

I think Arizona easily has the best talent in the division. The Rams and Seahawks defenses are poor enough that Kurt Warner and the gang run through the division again. Seattle and San Francisco will attempt to battle for a wildcard spot but just won't have enough balance to do so.

Arizona won this division pretty handily and I was spot on with their record. Seattle disappointed me a bit ... while the Rams stunk it up worse than predicted.

Wildcard: Cowboys over Panthers, Eagles over Cardinals
Divisional: Cowboys over Vikings, Eagles over Giants
NFC Championship: Eagles over Cowboys

Not too shabby. I have the Cowboys and Vikings facing off in one Divisional game. Too bad the Eagles won't be in the Super Bowl.

1-Patriots (14-2)*
2-Dolphins (8-8)
3-Jets (6-10)
4-Bills (5-11)

After the one-year hiccup with Tom Brady out for pretty much the entire season, New England will be back to their old ways. I think they could actually go undefeated again which would be simply remarkable. There are just a couple games out there that I think could slip them up. The Dolphins regress a bit since the schedule just got tougher and New England getting back on top. The Jets start off slow but build it up as Mark Sanchez and the Rex Ryan defense get rolling in the second half of the season.

The Pats won the division but didn't look as mighty as I thought. Obviously the Jets were the big surprise in this division. Everything else was pretty solid.

1-Colts (12-4)*
2-Titans (12-4)*
3-Texans (6-10)
4-Jaguars (5-11)

I am surprised that I have the Colts winning 12 games, too. But there they are in a fight with the Titans. I guess that's my faith in a healthy Peyton Manning and a Haynesworth-less Tennessee team. Houston gets off to a good start and then flounders. The Jack Del Rio era in Jacksonville will end.

I was right to keep my hunch about the Colts. I was wrong in thinking the Titans would be back near the top. Houston and Jacksonville were much better than I had thought.

1-Steelers (13-3)*
2-Ravens (11-5)*
3-Bengals (5-11)
4-Browns (4-12)

Pittsburgh with Baltimore tailing them again. These are easily the class of the division and both have a good shot at getting to Miami for the Super Bowl. The Bengals will be a bit improved but not drastically.

Not to happy here. The Steelers flamed out and the Bengals came out of nowhere to win the division. B-more wasn't as strong as I thought, but they did come through with a wildcard berth.

1-Chargers (10-6)*
2-Chiefs (7-9)
3-Broncos (5-11)
4-Raiders (4-12)

San Diego easily wins this but takes a few hits from the shock of facing good NFC East teams. Don't ask me why or how Kansas City wins seven games but that's what I have. Denver will really sink since they don't have that high powered offense to outgun their horrible defense.

San Diego did win the division with even more ease than I thought. The surprise was the Broncos who went 6-0 before crashing down the standings.

Wildcard: Titans over Chargers, Colts over Ravens
Divisional: Steelers over Colts, Patriots over Titans
AFC Championship: Patriots over Steelers

Of the divisional teams, I only got the Colts right ... though I did predict a Ravens-Colts playoff matchup. Does that count for something?

SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: Patriots over Eagles.

Well ....

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jets-Bengals Game Continues to Get Screwed

I feel sorry for the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.

Not only was their Week 17 game moved to the 8:30pm time slot ... which made it the final game of the regular season ... they then have to play each other in the first game of the postseason. How is that fair? How come the Jets and Bengals had to play until midnight, get home hours after that and then have to play with the shortest of weeks?

They also get to have the make-shift broadcast team as well. Since NBC will be televising both games on Saturday, they are putting their normal broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the epic Eagles-Cowboys tilt. That means the Jets-Bengals game gets ... wait for it ... Tom Hammond, Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs.


Hammond is a fine football announcer. He's one of the few reasons to watch Notre Dame games. But you get mouthy Theismann who will clown around too much and Gibbs who I can't remember ever analysing a game from the booth. As a Redskins fan, Gibbs is a god to me and Theismann was one of my idols when I was a small fry ... but this just doesn't sound right.

Sorry guys.

Congrats to College Football for Another Pointless Season

Let me start this off by throwing praise at Nick Saban and Alabama. Gutty win and great season. They were the best team this season and it showed tonight.

That being said, I'm tired of college football honks telling me how important every game is. It's the exact opposite.

For Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati the season was meaningless. Despite navigating through the regular season undefeated, all three were shut out of any National Championship game. To make matters worse, the BCS decided to pit Boise and TCU against each other and still not allowing them to face a big-time BCS conference foe. What if Boise State beat Florida? What would you say then?

Now figure that the 33 bowls that preceded tonight's game were meaningless as well. Just neat little excuses for boosters to take a holiday vacation, cities to make some dough off of these travelers and for sponsors to plaster their products all over the place. Don't get me wrong: I like the bowls but they aren't as grand or important as they once were.

That brings me to the Citi BCS Championship of the World or at Least a Computer Program Bowl. We went through all that ... the entire season and waiting a month for the game to happen ... and the biggest monkey-wrench of them all was thrown into the mix. Just five plays into the game, Texas' Colt McCoy goes out with a shoulder injury. So instead of the mighty matchup we were maybe, kinda, hopefully expecting we get to see a freshman QB who has barely played go up against an Alabama defense that totally dominated Tim Tebow.

The sad thing is that Alabama didn't really play that well. If not for a couple of bad plays by the Longhorns freshman QB, Texas would have won that game.

And that was it. That just ended one of the most anti-climatic seasons I can remember. The whole Bradford/Tebow/McCoy Heisman race was instead won by a sophomore that no one heard of when the season started. Five teams entered bowl season undefeated ... two stayed that way after tonight.

And only one gets to call themselves champions. At least every game counted for you guys, eh Boise State?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Poll Question: Who Will Win Super Bowl XLIV?

With 1,409 people voting so far, here is what you said in my latest poll:

Who will win Super Bowl XLIV?

1-Chargers (23%)
2-Colts (17%)
3-Vikings (11%)
4-Cowboys (9%)
5-Eagles (8%)
6-Saints (7%)
7-Packers (6%)
8-Patriots (6%)
9-Other (3%)
10t-Bengals (1%)
10t-Cardinals (1%)

*I started this poll before Week 17 so "other" could constitute a number of choices.

*Both the Packers and Patriots finished with 6% of the vote, but Green Bay is ranked higher because they received 10 more votes.

*The Bengals and Cardinals finished with exactly the same amount of votes

Wildcard Round Playoff Predictions

It's snowy, I'm sick and I just want to get this over with ... lol. Here are my quick picks for this weekend's Wildcard Round:

JETS OVER BENGALS: I'm not going by the paranoia here in The Nati that the Bengals have no shot to win this game. I think they have a great shot and that what happened Sunday night doesn't portend what will happen on Saturday. However, the cold and snow at Paul Brown Stadium lends to a game that is won in the trenches, on defense and with a solid running game. New York is just better than the Bengals in all of those phases ... especially with Cedric Benson banged up. Jets 24-Bengals 14

COWBOYS OVER EAGLES: I think this game will be a bit closer than Sunday's, but not by much. I've not been as impressed with Philly as seemingly everyone else has been this year. Dallas, as much as I hate it, is playing their best football in years. Cowboys 31-Eagles 14

RAVENS OVER PATRIOTS: Should be the best game of the lot. New England just has too many injuries and losing Wes Welker makes an already great Ravens defense a lot more stout. I know it's tough to count Tom Brady out, but Baltimore nearly won in New England earlier this year. Ravens 20-Patriots 13

PACKERS OVER CARDINALS: This is a game I just don't know how it will turn out. You never ... EVER ... know what you are going to get out of Arizona. They could come in here and lay a complete egg like they've done in several spots during the year. Or they could come in and blow the roof off the joint like they've done at other points. I'm going with what I do know: Aaron Rodgers has quietly been an elite passer this year and the Cards have some big injury concerns in their secondary. Packers 34-Cardinals 24

So, according to my picks I have Ravens at Colts, Jets at Chargers, Packers at Saints and Cowboys at Vikings. Wow! Four awesome games!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"NBA Jam" Coming Back?

Word is that there will be a new NBA Jam game coming soon. Awesome! But will it work?

Let's go back a bit. Anyone in their 20s and 30s should know NBA Jam pretty well. It blew up in 1993 and arcades and game consoles were addicted. Me, I was in high school and college then and I remember hitting the arcades with my buddy and having those huge two-on-two matchups with complete strangers. It was great. I also had the game on Super Nintendo and Sega CD (remember that?).

It would be cool to see a new one. The only guy that may be in both the old version of the game and the new one is Shaquille O'Neal. Now we'll get to see those monster jams by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. We see rim rockers from Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Blake Griffin. Now there are three more teams (Memphis, Toronto, Charlotte) than there were back then.

But will it work? Hard to say. Arcades are gone since everyone has arcade-quality systems in their homes. I can sit at home and play the game on PS3 on an HDTV. Still, I think it will have a place ... especially among people like me who remember the fun we used to have playing it.

So who should be the two-man teams for each franchise?

BOSTON: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett
NEW JERSEY: Devin Harris, Brook Lopez
NEW YORK: Nate Robinson, David Lee
PHILADELPHIA: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand
TORONTO: Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh

ATLANTA: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith
CHARLOTTE: Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson
MIAMI: Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley
ORLANDO: Vince Carter, Dwight Howard
WASHINGTON: Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison

CHICAGO: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng
CLEVELAND: LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal
DETROIT: Ben Gordon, Charlie Villenueva
INDIANA: Danny Granger, Troy Murphy
MILWAUKEE: Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut

DALLAS: Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki
HOUSTON: Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming
MEMPHIS: OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph
NEW ORLEANS: Chris Paul, David West
SAN ANTONIO: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan

DENVER: JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony
MINNESOTA: Johnny Flynn, Al Jefferson
OKLAHOMA CITY: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant
PORTLAND: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge
UTAH: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer (or Paul Millsap if you think Booz is gone)

GOLDEN STATE: Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette
LA CLIPPERS: Baron Davis, Blake Griffin
LA LAKERS: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
PHOENIX: Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire
SACRAMENTO: Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin

Breaking Down ESPN Magazine's "31 New Rules"

The latest ESPN The Magazine has an interesting article about changing sports. They are doing what all of us sports nuts have done at some point or another: lay out our list of changes if we were the Czar Of All Sports.

I'm going to look at the list of 31 and rank how I feel about them in order.

No. 1 - MANDATE UNIVERSAL REPLAY (ESPN's #1): I'm in full agreement here. I love tradition, but I also know that we live in an age where you can sit at home and instantly replay anything at any time. We live in an age where fans sitting at the stadium can instantly watch a replay on the gigantic video screens. So why not let the leagues have those same tools to correct wrong calls?

-SCRAP THE ALTERNATE POSSESSION RULE (ESPN #5): I hate the arrow in college basketball. Jump it up!

-LET HIGHER SEEDS PICK PLAYOFF FOES (ESPN #16): I'm big on this one too. The Colts and Saints should be able to pick their opponent next week. The Patriots and Cowboys should be able to do so this week. I think the same thing should happen in the baseball playoffs.

-UNIFY FOOTBALL'S RULES (ESPN #8): I like this. The NFL and college have too many rule differences. Keep the NFL's rule on down by opponent contact and keeping two feet inbounds. Keep college's wide hashmarks and lack of a two-minute warning.

-SEED NBA PLAYOFFS WITHOUT REGARD FOR CONFERENCE (ESPN #15): I've been big on this for a long time now. During much of the last decade, the Western Conference Finals has been the de-facto title tilt. Have all six division champions make it in, along with the 10 next best teams. Seed them one to 16 and have them play regardless of geography.

-ENFORCE EXISTING RULES (ESPN #30): Yes! Enforce the rules that already on the books before .

-NO DH (ESPN #22): Love it. I hate that guys can make a career out of just being a hitter and nothing else. Pitchers need to hit!

-BAN THE WHIP (ESPN #28): Jockeys should not be allowed to beat a horse with a stick -- it's animal cruelty!!!

-LIMIT CATCHER VISITS (ESPN #4): I think we all can get behind this one.

-MAKE FALL EASIER (ESPN #29): Basically they want more playoff teams in baseball. I'd like that too.

-DROP THE DROPPED THIRD STRIKE (ESPN #23): I don't see why catchers have to throw out a guy when he drops the third strike.

-CHANGE FIELD DIMENSIONS (ESPN #13): This will never happen because it means dumping several rows of those high priced seats. But it does stand to reason that our playing fields need to be made bigger. A bigger court would make basketball more fun. A larger field would be awesome for football. But it ain't happening.

-MAKE PITCHERS PITCH AND HITTERS HIT (ESPN #3): Make pitchers have to pitch once they get on the rubber. Make hitters have to hit once they get in the batters box. No stepping off the mound or stepping out of the box.

-ALLOW 30 SECONDS OF PENALTY-FREE TD CELEBRATION (ESPN's #10): Love this. Let these guys have fun when they score a TD. We are!

-TOSS GOLF'S SCORECARDS (ESPN #7): I see you working. Same as instant replay, we live in a time where a golfer's score is instantly on a gazillion websites. Why should they bother keeping their own score when a freakin' camera follows them around at all times? There's nothing better than someone signing a scorecard that contains an error and become disqualified.

-FIVE MINUTE PENALTY FOR FLOPPERS (ESPN #25): This is for soccer, folks. But how much better would soccer be if it wasn't filled with guys falling down as if they were just shot.

-LET MMA FIGHTERS ATTACK DOWNED FOES (ESPN #18): Remember when MMA was raw and violent? Still is, but not to that extent. Now if an MMA fighter gets into trouble, he falls to the canvas and his opponent cannot kick or stomp them. Let 'em!

-NO FOULING OUT (ESPN #19): I get it, but don't like it. I think that if there was no real penalty for fouling, then the game will get more violent and ugly.

-STANDARDIZE TRUNK LENGTH (ESPN #11): I'm not a fan of boxers who wear their shorts and protective padding near their nipples.

-CONTRACT 40-MAN ROSTERS (ESPN #9): Yeah, there's nothing better than watching a mid-September contest between the Brewers and Padres and seeing both managers use a ton of pinch hitters and relief pitchers. Still, over half of the league uses this time to bring up their top prospects to get big league experience.

-ALLOW A LITTLE ROUGHING THE PASSER (ESPN #21): I agree that QBs have it easy nowadays. While I'm not big on roughing the passer, these guys don't need to be handled with white gloves.

-IT AIN'T OVER ... (ESPN #31): Basically it is a revamping the argument about overtimes in sports. I'm with it on shootouts (hate 'em), but little else.

-MAKE NASCAR DRIVERS EARN STARTING SPOTS (ESPN #14): I get why NASCAR automatically gives the top 35 point leaders a starting spot. Sponsors and ratings. What would happen if Dale Jr. doesn't qualify for a race? That ain't happening.

-ELIMINATE THE NBA'S AGE LIMIT (ESPN #12): I'm actually in favor of the age limit. Yeah, you don't get that first year of LeBron or Kobe ... but you also won't get stuck paying busts Kwame or Korleone.

-TWEAK THE NHL'S WAIVER SYSTEM (ESPN #27): I'm not knowledgeable about what happens in hockey's waiver rules.

-SEED 16 WORLD CUP TEAMS (ESPN's #6): I couldn't care less.

-SEED FOR SURFACE IN TENNIS (ESPN #17): Don't care about this, either.


-BRING BACK THE PERFECT TEN (ESPN #24): Figure skating? Come on!


-SPIKE NFL PACE OF PLAY (ESPN's #2): Their solution is the limit offenses one huddle per set of downs and then shorten the play clock to 35 seconds. I like the thinking, but I'm not sure I'd like what the NFL would look like if this happened.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back on the Jim Zorn Era

The Jim Zorn Era ending this morning in Washington. While it's sad to see someone lose his job, it wasn't like no one saw this coming for months. So when we look back, what will Redskins history think of Zorn?

A complete mess.

It isn't all Zorn's fault. He never should have been hired to be the head coach in the first place. Remember that when Joe Gibbs retired, owner Daniel Snyder hired Zorn to be the offensive coordinator before even hiring a head coach. Instead of doing the sensible thing and hiring then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the gig, he ran off everyone and ... well, I don't know what he was trying to do. Two weeks after getting the coordinator job, Zorn was offered the head coaching job. Nice.

At his first news conference, Zorn said he was happy to be with the "black and maroon". Okay, he's a Seattle guy and probably didn't know much about the Redskins lore. But why did Zorn have on his plate the role of head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach? Zorn's highest level of coaching was quarterbacks coach in Seattle. Why give him too much to do?

Anyone could see that this was a recipe for disaster. But the Joe Gibbs Redskins left a lot of talent, a young quarterback that can be worked with and a stellar defense. When the Redskins shot out to a 6-2 record to begin the 2008 season ... and with Jason Campbell playing at an MVP level ... it all looked like one of the shrewdest moves Snyder ever made.

Then it all came crashing down. The Skins would go on to lose six of their final eight games and finish last in the highly competitive NFC East. There were some grumblings that Zorn may be fired as a plethora of big name coaches with Super Bowl experience hit the market. Zorn looked like he was in over his head and new leadership may be needed before he lost the team.

That had nothing on the 2009 season.

Zorn inherited the easiest beginning of a schedule that anyone has ever seen. After facing the Giants, they got the lowly Rams, Lions, Buccaneers, Panthers and Chiefs. In those six games, Washington's opponent walked into the stadium without a win on the season. The Giants, Lions, Panthers and Chiefs all recorded their first victory against the Redskins.

It was a horrible stretch. Not only did they end the Lions zillion game losing streak, they also barely beat the Rams (9-7) and Bucs (16-13). St. Louis finished the season with the league's worst record (1-15). Zorn was stripped of his play-calling duties, as they were given to recently hired consultant Sherman Lewis. It didn't help that the offense started showing life after this change was made.

Because the second half of the schedule was so brutal, this failure to capitalize on cupcakes doomed Zorn's future. The Redskins lost 10 of their last 12 games (though fighting valiantly from Weeks 10 to 14) and Zorn was a dead man walking.

Zorn's a nice guy and I think he'll land on his feet back to what he was: a QBs coach. He was quirky, entertaining and pretty humble. But he wasn't a good head coach. Still, it says a lot when your players keep on fighting for you ... which was happening late in the year. When Vinny Cerrato was fired and Bruce Allen named as his replacement, the writing was on the wall and the team just mailed it in.

Zorn's era ends with a 12-20 record ... the same as the disasterous Steve Spurrier era that preceeded Joe Gibbs second stint in DC. This was a franchise that hadn't had a head coach with a total losing record with the Skins since Bill McPeak from 1961-1965. Since Snyder took over, we haven't had a winning coach (six straight, if you are counting).

When we look back at Zorn, we'll see a guy that couldn't contain all the responsibilities laid upon him. We'll see a guy that cared and was passionate about his job during his time here. We'll see a guy that, despite all the swirling dark clouds surrounding him, was professional and kept plugging away.

The new coach isn't walking into an empty cupboard. The defense was one of the NFL's best this season and rookie LB/DE Brian Orakpo is a budding star. The problem will be on the offensive side where there really isn't anything to be hopeful about. Can Jason Campbell be a winning quarterback? Is Clinton Portis' career in the end stages? Can the young receivers make that third-year improvement we see from wideouts? Can they replace the entire offensive line?

The Redskins begin trying to answer those questions now.