Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Your 2013-2014 NCAA Basketball Realignment Primer

Pretty much everyone has had their Midnight Madnessessessess (which now are not only not held at midnight anymore but don't even signify the start of practice) so we're now staring at those exhibition games leading up to the cupcake starts to the regular season.

I love college basketball, but even I have to get a bit warmed up to the season.  Unlike pretty much every other major sport (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, college football), there isn't any big-time launch to the season.  The season just kind of ... starts ... without any real fanfare aside from the college you probably root for.  With the World Series ending, the NFL and college football in midseason form, the NHL a month old and the NBA set to tip off, we may not remember all the changes happening to college hoops.

So let me take you on a trip around the country to see what has changed on the realignment landscape for this season.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE:  One of the biggest changes will be in the new-look ACC.  Big East powers Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join this season to add to the already historically and currently strong Duke and North Carolina.   This year, the focus will be on the culture war of the addition of three more (with Louisville coming next season, four more) Big East teams into the ACC.  The Big East is a more coach driven, physical league.  The ACC is much more offense minded and free flowing.  It will be interesting to see those philosophies collide.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE:  The other huge deal is the breakup and rebirth of the Big East conference.  With the ACC taking seven Big East schools over the last decade and others leaving for other conferences, the non-football schools of the Big East have formed a new version of their league.  Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul left to start the league and have added Butler, Creighton and Xavier to the mix.  It will be interesting to see the culture of this league.  Sure, those Big East schools have had a nice history, but you can argue that Butler, Creighton and Xavier have been more relevant recently.  Butler went to consecutive NCAA Championship games and Creighton has a Player Of The Year candidate on their roster. 

The Big East is also the biggest hoops conference to be down with the new Fox Sports 1 network.  This will be a very interesting conference to watch this season.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:  When the Big East reformed, the AAC was also created in its wake.  The AAC is comprised of schools that the "new" Big East left as well as the ones the conference added to take the place of the schools departing for the ACC and Big Ten.  In all honesty, the AAC looks like the old Conference USA when it was formed nearly two decades ago.  UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida were left when the "old" Big East broke up (Louisville and Rutgers are staying for this season only and will leave for the ACC and Big Ten, respectively, next summer).  Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU come from Conference USA while Temple joins after leaving the Atlantic-10.  There are more moves on the horizon (more C-USA squads), but this is your lineup this season.

The attitude of this league this season will be what to watch.  Louisville is a national title contender and just laying over before moving to the loaded ACC.  Rutgers isn't on that level, but you know their heart isn't into this league, either.  Neither is UConn or Cincinnati who have made it known that they'd love to move to the ACC as well.  Temple and the other former C-USA schools thought they were joining the Big East and instead have formed this bastard league of sorts that is just a better version of the league they just left.  Who knows how this will work.

CONFERENCE USA:  Speaking of the C-USA, obviously they are under a huge transition.  As I just mentioned, pretty much all of their big dogs have left to form the new AAC.  What is left is Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB and UTEP who will continue to be in the league while East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will stay this year before bolting to the AAC.  Joining in is Charlotte (Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (Colonial), Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio (WAC), Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas (Sun Belt).  Understand that?

C-USA gets dropped a few pegs in this race.  Not only did they lose their big teams in Memphis, Houston and SMU this year, but they gain a lot of lower tier teams in the process.  This will be a huge 16-team basketball league this season with virtually no history in it.  Unless you went to one of these schools, you're bound not to care or even remember who is in this league.

ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE:  This is a conference in an interesting transition.  One year ago, you could say that the A-10 was standing on a strong platform basketball wise.  Not only was the league probably the best non-football conference out there, but schools like Butler, VCU and George Mason (all Final Four teams over the last decade) wanted in.  Now it is a bit different.  With the 'new' Big East forming and the old one turning into the AAC, the A-10 has had some big time defections.  Xavier and Butler left for the Big East, Charlotte left for the Conference USA and Temple bolted to the AAC.  There are also rumblings that Saint Louis, Dayton or St. Joseph's could be prime candidates for a possible Big East expansion.  Instead of the A-10 being the 2nd biggest conference in the northeast ... it now may be the 4th after the Big East, AAC and the ACC now that they have Syracuse, BC and Pitt.  

The A-10 isn't left in shambles, however.  George Mason is on board now and heads a league that still has VCU, Saint Louis, Dayton and UMass as well as many of the other leftovers.  Davidson will be coming next season.  It does lose a lot of spark without Temple, Xavier and Butler but the league is okay and in a decent spot to add some basketball only strongholds if they can themselves hold off the Big East.

COLONIAL:  Remember a few years back when the CAA was rising and looking like they could overtake the A-10 as the top non-football hoops conference?  That died down a bit and looks like ancient history with their defections.  A year after VCU left, now George Mason, Old Dominion and Georgia State leave.  They add College of Charleston, a decent program, but nothing like the ones that have left.

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE:  The MVC were also one of those elite non-football leagues.  But they took a huge hit this offseason when Creighton left for the Big East.  They did add Loyola-Chicago, which gets them into a huge metro area.  I doubt that any of the current membership is of any desire to a bigger league to leave, but we'll see.

HORIZON LEAGUE:  Loyola-Chicago, mentioned above, is gone to the MVC and was replaced by Oakland.  Alrighty then.  Oakland (which is in Michigan, by the way) is a pretty good hoops program.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE:  One of the actual winners in this whole deal is actually the MWC.  Remember that the MWC were once looking at their membership bolting for other leagues?  Boise State and San Diego State were heading to the Big East in football and where-the-heck-ever for hoops?  Other schools were looking at merging with C-USA?  Well, everyone else's problems became a great thing for the MWC as everyone decided to stay, they've added some strength and they pretty much killed off the WAC (a regional 'rival') in one swoop.  

Everyone stays (TCU did leave last year for the Big 12) this season and they've added Utah State and San Jose State.  Utah State has been a very good basketball program over the past several years and helps an already stout hoops conference.  UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado State have been very good basketball programs and make the MWC just a notch under the Pac-12 basketball wise.

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:  All this movement claimed one casulty -- the WAC in football.  The WAC is dead in football as it disolved into various other leagues.  It still survives in basketball, but isn't as impressive as it was, say, 20 years ago.  New Mexico State is really the only member staying.  Idaho is for this season but will be leaving for Big Sky next year and leaving all old references to the WAC to NMSU.  Seattle joined last season and will remain in the league.  In comes six new schools.  Cal State-Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon University, UMKC, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley all join up.  Quite a roster, eh?  

It is sad.  The WAC has been around for 50 years and have had some pretty good schools in its membership (Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, Air Force, UNLV, Boise State, TCU and Hawaii).  Now it is a very bottom rung league that, I'm sure, will get lower.  You know New Mexico State will try to bolt for any league that asks them (C-USA or MWC ... heck even the Sun Belt would be better).

SUN BELT:  The death of the WAC also helped the Sun Belt.  The Sun Belt was looked at as the worst of the FBS conferences.  Well, it still is, but the WAC leaving made them a bit more stable.  They've had a ton of movement as well, but the league has a nice tight geographic footprint in the mid south now and is to place to be for some smaller schools wanting to make the leap in football.

Again, they lose FAU, FIU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State to Conference USA.  Joining is Georgia State, Texas-Arlington and Texas State.  Not really a solid trade, but they're still here.  It is one of those leagues in flux as membership will change again next year (notably Western Kentucky leaving for C-USA), but it is still living on.  

The Sun Belt, like the WAC, has had a nice history and some decent programs come through it (Charlotte, South Florida, VCU, Old Dominion and UAB) but isn't what it once was.

SUMMIT:  Missouri-KC leaves for the WAC and Oakland to the Horizon.  They do add Denver (from the WAC).

PATRIOT LEAGUE:  The Patriot actually won in this.  They get Boston University and Loyola-MD (from the America East and MAAC, respectively).  Two quality programs and the Patriot didn't lose anything.

MAAC:  The MAAC lost Loyola-MD above and has added Quinnipiac and Monmouth from the Northeast Conference.

AMERICA EAST:  Boston U left for the Patriot and that's a big loss.  UMass-Lowell comes from Division II.  

WEST COAST CONFERENCE:  WCC is best known as the conference that Gonzaga is a member of.  Now Pacific is a member of that league as well making this a 10-team league (BYU joined last year).

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE:  Usually rated one of the worst leagues, it may got even worse.  They've added Houston Baptist, New Orleans, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.  Who are these people?  

Let's see.  That is it!  Well, a lot went down from Syracuse moving to the ACC and Incarnate Word joining the Southland Conference.  But they all start in just days away from trying to make their dreams of an NCAA tournament berth a reality.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sportz' 2013-2014 NBA Preview

Can LeBron and the Heat steamroll their way
to a 3rd title?
The NBA starts up next week and I'm sort of excited.  I am admittedly a Lakers fan and I don't see us having a good season.  Lots of questions and not the talent of past years.  Still, I love basketball and love the NBA so there is a ton to watch along the way.


1-NETS (4th seed in Eastern Conference)
2-KNICKS (5)
4-CELTICS (12)
5-SIXERS (15)

The Nets and Knicks should be playoff bound with the Nets possibly in the championship contender category.  Brooklyn has a load of talent that must be molded but I think they have a great shot to beat Miami in a 7-game series.  I'm not as high on New York.  Sure, they'll win their share of games but I don't see them going far in the postseason.  Toronto could be the team to sneak into a #7 or #8 seed.  We all know that the Celtics sold off their parts (aside from Rondo) to build for the future.  However, Philly will most likely be the worst team in the league this year and could beat them in the Andrew Wiggins chase.


1-HEAT (1)
2-HAWKS (6)
4-MAGIC (11)
5-BOBCATS (13)

Miami's sole focus is winning their 3rd straight title.  So don't get caught up into anything that happens during the season.  It's all about May and June.  Atlanta is stuck in the friend zone where they're not competing for a title at all but aren't bad enough to miss the playoffs.  Washington is the trendy pick to make the playoffs and I can see it.  They played well down the stretch last season and if John Wall can show the leadership they need from him, they have a great shot at a playoff spot.  Orlando is in a bit of a rebuilding mode though they have some exciting parts already.  Charlotte can't score but I'm interested to see if they will be that tough defensive squad they'll need to be to be competitive. Aside from that, they're looking forward to the return of the Hornets.


1-BULLS (2)
2-PACERS (3)
5-BUCKS (14)

Chicago and Indiana have the best chance to knock off Miami in the Eastern Conference.  The Bulls played them tough last year and now has a healed Derrick Rose to provide the star power.  They are defensively solid and aren't afraid of anything.  Neither is Indiana who took Miami to the brink last year.  They've rounded the edges to their team and get Danny Granger back to bring more offensive punch.  After that, not much.  Detroit should see a nice rebirth with some talent infusion ... but does Josh Smith really fit?  I'm interested to see how Chauncey Billups (yep, he's back) mentors Brandon Jennings.  Cleveland has all the young talent to build a playoff team and are hoping a solid season could possibly bring LeBron James back next summer.  Milwaukee was that #8 seed last year and watched all their offense bolt via free agency.  They'll be strong players in the Wiggins sweepstakes.


1-ROCKETS (2nd seed in Western Conference)
2-SPURS (4)

The Southwest will be tough.  I think the Spurs will ultimately be the better team but the Rockets are built for the regular season.  I see them really blasting off (no pun intended) while the Spurs will pace themselves to get strong come playoff time.  I like Memphis but I don't see them being that strong team without Lionel Hollins.  Dallas has talent but nothing cohesive to make a big difference.  I can see them stealing a playoff bid though.  New Orleans has a young exciting team but not good enough to contend for anything yet.


5-JAZZ (14)

Oklahoma City is still the class in the West and I think both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook desperately want to get back to the Finals.  I see Durant as possibly knocking LeBron from the MVP perch.  After them is a downer.  I think Denver will really suffer from their offseason moves ... especially letting go George Karl.  Minnesota is ready to ascend, but I just can't hook my cart onto them until I see them fully healthy and believe that they'll stay that way.  Portland, to me, isn't much different than last season so I see them in the same light.  Like Denver, too much has left Utah to have me believe in them.


3-LAKERS (11)
4-KINGS (13)
5-SUNS (15)

A new beginning, eh?  The Clippers could end up with the top seed when all is said and done.  They have talent, continuity and are deeper than anyone in the league.  Golden State is exciting and now have Andre Iguodala who can defend those tough wings.  Injuries always haunt them, though, but they can make a run.  Everyone wants to talk about the Lakers.  Again, I'm a Lakers fan and maybe I'm a bit down on them.  I don't think Kobe will be back to form until late in the season, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are just too old and banged up and the talent surrounding them is suspect.  Plus, there are too many teams that are too good in the West to allow the Lakers to sneak into the playoffs.  The Kings and Suns are still building, though it seems that Phoenix has decided to go the Philly way and bottom out.


Heat over Pistons, Bulls over Wizards, Pacers over Hawks, Nets over Knicks
Thunder over Wolves, Rockets over Nuggets, Clippers over Grizzlies, Warriors over Spurs

Heat over Nets, Pacers over Bulls
Thunder over Warriors, Clippers over Rockets

Heat over Pacers
Thunder over Clippers

Heat over Thunder

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Does the NBA's Finals Format (2-3-2) Really Matter?

Would a 2-2-1-1-1 format have changed last year's Finals?
The NBA has unanimously voted to change the Finals format from the 2-3-2 setup to a typical 2-2-1-1-1 style.

So what does it mean?

Well, it should matter competitively.  In the playoff, 14 of the 15 series used the 2-2-1-1-1 format with only the Finals using the 2-3-2 (for the uninitiated, the 2-3-2 means the team with the better record plays the first two games of the series at home, the next three on the road and the final two at home.  A 2-2-1-1-1 format means the team with the better record plays Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 at home).  The 2-3-2 mainly came about in the 1980s when the Lakers and Celtics or Sixers met up in the Finals nearly every season and players, coaches, media and the like had to keep flying cross country four times to do the Finals.

This is 2013 and teams fly on private planes.  Reporters have laptops, internet and smart phones to do their jobs covering the Finals.  Media outlets have access to each Finals city (ESPN won't have a problem moving their coverage back and forth).  We can have a Clippers-Grizzlies playoff series with hardly any issues with travel for a 2-2-1-1-1 format so what's a little more flying?  The need for having just two "site changes" isn't really there anymore.  The logistics have changed.

So let's look where it would really matter: on the court.

True, there would be more travel for the players.  I don't see this as that big of a deal anymore.  Again, each team would've played a 2-2-1-1-1 series three times before getting to the Finals.  And again, the travel plan isn't the same as it was 30 years ago.  Comfy flights with a lot of ways to coach in the air.

What will change is the feeling of the Finals.  The underdog entering the Finals had that feeling that if they stole Game 1 or 2 in the favorite's building, they'd have three straight games at home to wrap it up.  That doesn't seem fair to the team with the home court advantage.  At the same time, that underdog better win all three games at home (effectively beating a better team three times in a row in the same building ... even if it is yours) or they risk going back to the big dog's place and having to win both games.

The NBA did have a bit of storyline due to this as there were times where the underdog held a 3-2 Finals series lead heading into those final two games.  It appears that the underdog is pulling off an upset when in reality, the team with the home court advantage hasn't even lost that advantage yet.  Heck, it happened last year.  The Spurs held a 3-2 Finals lead over the Heat after the three game stretch in San Antonio.  Miami went back to South Beach and pulled off wins in the final two games and won the series.  Partly because of that, we regarded it as a thrilling series.  It worked!

But not often.  That has only happened four times in the 2-3-2 era (1988 Lakers, 1994 Rockets, 2010 Lakers and 2013 Heat).  Aside from those instances, only the 2005 Finals (Spurs-Pistons) went to a Game 7 during the 2-3-2 format.

In the 30 years prior to that change, we saw TEN Game 7s ... obviously twice as many as the 30 years since.  Note that the 1971 series between Milwaukee and Baltimore had a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format, the 1975 (Warriors-Bullets) and 1978 (Sonics-Bullets) Finals in a 1-2-2-1-1 format -- with the '78 series going to a Game 7.  So the thrill isn't really there in the 2-3-2 format.

I didn't really care either way.  I'm 38 years old so it has basically been the way it is my entire life.  However, I do see the need to change it back to the old way.  Here's hoping we see a lot more great Finals.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NFL Coaches On The Hottest Seats

We are nearly halfway through the season so it is fair to see which head coaches are sitting squarely on the hot seat.

1-GREG SCHIANO, BUCCANEERS:  Tampa hasn't won a game yet this year and everything is falling apart.  The whole Josh Freeman saga made the Bucs look bad.  Losing makes them look worse.  It seems as if his deal is wearing thin at T-Bay and a change could be coming.

2-TOM COUGHLIN, GIANTS:  Coughlin, it seems, is always on the hot seat.  Throughout his entire tenure in New York, he has always got a lot of heat for his team's shortcomings.  Then, of course, he's won two Super Bowl championships as well.  So which is it?  Do you keep riding with him because he has proven he's able to get it done or is it finally time to cut bait and start with a new voice in the locker room?

3-RON RIVERA, PANTHERS:  He's always on this list.  Some say it is amazing he kept his job last offseason.  However, he does have his team sitting at 3-3 so it may not be a slam dunk this year either.

4-LESLIE FRAZIER, VIKINGS:  Minnesota made the playoffs last year but 2013 has been a bust.  Their remaining schedule is bonkers so it seems slim that they'll dig out of it.  Maybe Josh Freeman shows enough to keep Frazier around.  To me, this may be it.

5-REX RYAN, JETS:  Funny.  When you have high expectations and you start 4-3, everyone wants you gone.  When no one expects anything from you and you are 4-3, suddenly your job is a bit safer.  While his coaching may not be any better, the lack of antics and circus has cleared the head of these Jets.

6-DENNIS ALLEN, RAIDERS:  This is an interesting one.  Allen has done next to nothing in Oakland.  However, Allen is the GM's guy and this roster wasn't comprised to win now.  The franchise will have a ton of cap room coming to make a big free agent splash.  The question is if Allen is believed to be the guy to handle the squad when it is overhauled.  I think he gets a least a one season crack at it.

7-MIKE MUNCHAK, TITANS:  I think that he's done a decent job in Tennessee.  However, Bud Adams isn't getting any younger and may want to bring in a guy he think can take a mediocre team further along.

8-JIM SCHWARTZ, LIONS:  To me, the Lions are a team that has all the talent in the world but is held back by something.  Schwartz could be that something.

9-JASON GARRETT, COWBOYS:  Look, the NFC East isn't very good right now.  The Giants have been putrid, the Redskins are still fighting their way through RG3's knee injury and the Eagles don't really know who their quarterback will be.  This is Dallas' division to lose.  They are the most talented team and have every opportunity to win it.  If they don't, could Jerry Jones look somewhere else?

10-GARY KUBIAK, TEXANS:  His Houston teams have underachieved a bit and this year's team has been in full melt down.  It could be time to make a change.

11-MIKE TOMLIN, STEELERS:  I know Pittsburgh fans are angry, but this isn't all Tomlin's fault.  The team is old and they've been dealt a lot of injuries (then again, most teams are).  The Steelers don't make drastic changes for change sake ... especially at the head coaching position.

12-GUS BRADLEY, JAGUARS:  Even if the Jags have a historically bad season, Jags ownership cannot hold that against Bradley.  However, this is Jags ownership we are talking about ... so who knows.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Is LeBron Right About the Celtics Double Standard?

Recently, LeBron James opened up about a possible double standard by former Boston Celtics Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.  A quick recap:

-After Ray Allen stunned the Celtics by signing with rival Miami during the 2012 offseason (he was a free agent), Garnett, Pierce and Rivers (who were currently Celtics) slammed Allen in different ways about his loyalty to them and/or his destination.

-Ray Allen hit a monumental three point shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to save the season for Miami.  The Heat would go on to win Game 7 and the NBA Championship.

-After rumblings of a possible retirement, Doc Rivers ... however it went down ... was traded out of Boston to the up and coming LA Clippers.

-Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded to the up and coming Brooklyn Nets.

Now LeBron is asking why it was wrong for Allen to leave via free agency to Miami, but it was fine for Rivers to, outsiders looking in, weasel his way to the Clippers while KG and Pierce get run out to pasture in nearby BK.  It is a valid question, though I'm not really sure which side I'm on.

To be honest, I don't agree with that whole Celtics whining last year.  Ray Allen was a free agent and was free to sign anywhere he wanted.  I get that it's tough to see him leave for Miami, who beat the C's in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals (remember that Boston had Miami on the brink of elimination in that series).  I get that it could be viewed as a slap in the face that he took less money and a smaller role in Miami.  However, Allen was chasing a title and felt he had a better shot in Miami.  All things being equal, wouldn't you view it the same way?

KG, Doc and The Truth can be pissed all they want.  But Allen wasn't wrong.  I can't agree with that logic.

On the other side, what about what LeBron said?  Technically, those three Celtics (among others) were traded by Boston to their new destinations.  Sure, this wasn't one of those instances where those guys were upset where they were sent.  All three basically helped facilitate their trades by open discussions.  I'm sure that those three would've been cool to take one last shot together with the Celtics, but Boston was ready to blow it all up and start their rebuilding process.

While I will agree with LeBron that it does look a bit hypocritical ... and it certainly makes their comments look childish ... I cannot put their leaving Boston in the same terms.  The organization wanted that "Big Three Era" over so they could bottom out, get some draft picks and get a high selection in a should-be loaded 2014 NBA Draft class.  Garnett and Pierce were teetering on retirement but took that opening to latch on with a talented team that is a contender.  Rivers, instead, was a bit slimier by being under contract with the Celtics and then working his way out to the Clippers.

All I know is that next time any professional athlete opens his mouth about loyalty, they realize what time they live in and how loyalty often works.  Today, Peyton Manning will be going into Indianapolis to face the Colts for the first time ever.  If anyone today could say they were merged with a franchise, Manning and Indy would be it.  Instead, business happens.

Business as usual.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What Should Josh Freeman Do?

It is very rare that a quarterback that is very capable of starting is out there as a free agent during the season.  Josh Freeman went from franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay to benched, to inactive, to released in a matter of weeks.  Now he has a ton of options to resurrect his career.

Don't get me wrong: being a QB in this league is tough and I don't think you could just plug in any QB in any situation and it is a perfect marriage.  Still, it is an opportunity for some down trodden teams to quickly upgrade a tough position to fill.

So where could Freeman go?  It could all go down on Monday and here are just some (uneducated) options:

MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  Makes a lot of sense.  Christian Ponder doesn't have that franchise hold on the job like he may have had a year ago.  Matt Cassel played well against the Steelers last week but isn't much more than a journeyman at this point.  You have a decent defense and Adrian Peterson running behind you.  Domed stadium and a chance (at least in later seasons) to be a playoff team?  Could be a perfect fit.

OAKLAND RAIDERS:  The Raiders are always in the mix on situations like this.  A guy with an unceremonious exit?  Fine.  A guy allegedly in the league's drug program?  Fine.  Throwing out your future plans of Terrell Pryor as your franchise guy?  Fine.  It's the Raider thing to do so you can bet your bippy that it may happen. 

BUFFALO BILLS:  The Bills need help right now.  E.J. Manuel is banged up and Kevin Kolb is done for the season.  Freeman could come in right now and start.  The problem is that Manuel is the Bills' future and he's shown some nice things already.  So if Freeman wants to be the no-doubt starter then Buffalo isn't for him.

CLEVELAND BROWNS:  The Browns' quarterback situation is either good or bad.  Hard to say.  Both Hoyer and Weeden have been banged up but both have played well enough to have the Browns in first place in the AFC North.  Cleveland could decide that they could cash this in and go for it by adding Freeman (a la the Raiders adding Carson Palmer a few years back).  I know they like what Hoyer has done, but don't think they couldn't be tempted. 

ARIZONA CARDINALS:  I know that Carson Palmer is the starter ... right now.  Palmer is basically a journeyman now who is leading a bad offense.  Freeman could allow Arizona to start fresh with a QB of the future who can win now.  He'd have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and ... well.  Still, not a bad job to have even though you'd be staring at the Seahawks and Niners for a while.

NEW YORK JETS:  The Jets are in sort of the same boat as the Bills.  They drafted Geno Smith to be their future.  Mark Sanchez is serviceable if Smith needs to sit a bit.  But would Freeman go into an already toxic situation where the coach, in this case Rex Ryan, could be dumped at the end of the season?  Probably not. 

HOUSTON TEXANS:  I know there is a lot of anti-Matt Schaub feelings in Houston, but I doubt that the team changes horses mid stream.  They may decide to look in a different direction next season via the draft (Johnny Football, anyone?) but not right now.  However, Freeman could decide that he could be that next man in Houston and if there is a feeling that he could sort of sit a bit this season and then take over the job next year, he may bite.  Not likely, but not crazy either.

ST LOUIS RAMS:  Tough one, but Sam Bradford hasn't taken this team very far since he was the top overall pick.  Could Jeff Fisher decide it is time to get a Steve McNair type of quarterback to helm his team?  Maybe. 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES:  This is a similar situation to the Texans as well.  Michael Vick is only in a one-year deal so Freeman knows that they have no future invested in him.  Freeman could work in Chip Kelly's fast break offense and would be an intriguing option.  Yes, the Eagles have floundered to 1-3, but the NFC East is so bad right now that they could fire into a division title and a playoff spot. 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS:  If this was a quarterback who just desperately needed to start and had little option, then Jacksonville makes sense.  But why in the heck would Freeman leave that mess in Tampa to go across state to deal with the worse mess in J-ville?  There are tons of better jobs out there that he doesn't have to take on this one.

Now, the Bears, Chiefs, Chargers, Bengals, Titans and Panthers could be spots if those teams decide that they need to go into a new direction.  Of those teams, only the Titans (who's franchise QB Jake Locker is injured) may do so without much hesitation.  Still, Locker is their guy so it would be difficult for Freeman to know he'd have a fair shot at the gig long-term.  There is grumbling in Cincinnati among fans over Andy Dalton, but all he has done is lead his team to the playoffs in both his seasons (and is a win away from tying for the AFC North lead). 

Meanwhile, he would only go to the Broncos, Patriots, Packers, Lions, Ravens, 49ers, Colts, Falcons, Saints, Giants, Steelers, Redskins, Cowboys, Dolphins or Seahawks if he was fine being the backup.  For a loooooong time.  Unless he decided to sit for a few weeks and see if an injury occurs to any of these starting quarterbacks (it isn't that far-fetched), I don't see him signing with these teams.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hey, MLB ... Chill With The Champagne!

Another day in October ... another night of champagne. 

Yes, baseball loves to celebrate and it usually is popping corks like it is popping foul balls.  In this day of one-game wildcard playoffs and the 163rd game of the season, it seems as the sparkling wine and plastic sheeting industries are rolling in dough.

Stop it.

It used to be that this wasn't a big deal.  In the pre-expansion era days, the winner of each league during the regular season was heading to the World Series.  Those teams would pop champagne when they clinched and a tradition was born.  No biggie, since the season is a grind and winning your league was and still is a big deal.  Obviously winning the Series is a huge deal and worthy of an enormous celebration.  All good.

When the division format began in the early 1960s, celebrating when clinching a playoff spot during the season continued to be the norm ... as did winning the title.  But with a playoff round, winning the League Championship Series also became cause for celebration.  Okay ... a third champagne blast.  A little annoying, but I get it.  So ... clinch playoff spot, win pennant and win Series.  Not to shabby.

Then 1995 came along.  Three divisions plus a wild card team in each league meant we add yet another round of playoffs.  While it riled up purists, I was fine with it and it has been wildly successful.  However, along with another round of playoffs came another champagne shower.  Really?  Seriously?  I mean, jump up and down, get excited and hugs all around ... but champagne???  Do we see that happen when the Miami Heat knock out the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs? 

It has been annoying and I'm usually only reminded it when it happens.  Again, I look at it as if the Heat ousted the Bucks. 

Now with this one-game wildcard playoff, there is yet ANOTHER opportunity for champagne to pop.  Unreal.  It has gotten ridiculous.

The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a spot in a one-game playoff with the Texas Rangers on Sunday.  They beat the Rangers on Monday to clinch a wild card spot.  Champagne.  They then beat the Cleveland Indians in the one-game wildcard game.  Champagne.  Say they beat the Boston Red Sox in their five-game divisional series.  Yes, more champagne.  Then the Rays hypothetically beat the Detroit Tigers or Oakland Athletics in the ALCS.  Champagne.  Deserved, but more of it.  Now, if the Rays complete the deal and win the World Series?  The big daddy champagne!

Soooooo the Rays could have five champagne showers in about a three week span.  Unreal.

To me, here is the ranking of when champagne should be popped for baseball games:

Of course.  You are champs, you deserve the spoils.


I normally would put this below getting to the championship series in every other sport, but in baseball it has been tradition to celebrate getting to the postseason.  It isn't an easy thing to do.  Only 10 of the 30 teams get in (compared to 12 of 32 NFL teams and 16 or 30 NBA/NHL teams).  It is a big deal that deserves a celebration after a long, grueling 162 (or 163) game season.  This isn't the NBA or NHL were mediocrity makes the postseason.  Also, once you qualify for the MLB playoffs you have just as great a shot of winning the whole thing as anyone (ask the Cardinals of a few years ago). 


Over 50 years ago, clinching a playoff spot and winning the pennant were the same thing.  Now they are rounds apart.  Still, winning your league and representing it in the World Series is a big deal. 

After that, I don't see any other reason to pop champagne ... outside of personal acheivements like a perfect game or a record being broken or something.  No wild card wins.  No division round wins.  I don't need to see the St. Louis Cardinals spraying 'pagne jumping around like fools wearing t-shirts and goggles because they won a divisional series.  You won a World Series a couple years ago and went to the NLCS last year. 


In other sports, I'm even more harsh.  In the NFL?  Champagne after you win the NFC/AFC Championship game and after winning the Super Bowl.  NBA and NHL should only pop the cork when they win their respective championships.