Friday, November 16, 2007

The Seven Deadly Sins

Pride and Lust -

Barry Bonds was indicted on perjury charges yesterday.

Dave over at the Coffin Corner already has this pretty well covered, but I did want to cover a few things in regards to this.

According to the AP report, Bonds started taking the cream, clear, and anabolic steroids the year after the "magical" steroid induced home-run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1997. Pride and lust took over. It wasn't enough for Bonds to be considered among the best players in baseball. He wanted everyone to call him the best period.

He clamored, yelled, and screamed for the love of the fans and the louder he yelled, like a five year old pitching a fit, the more we looked at him as a petulant little child. He lusted for our approval, and couldn't get it outside of his home stadium.

Now he has a federal prosecutor to deal with - those with the 95 percent conviction rate. And that's after those who settle without going to court.

I've run the numbers before, and it turns out that people that beat the rap in federal court comes to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 out of every 1000 cases. Five. This is what pride and envy has gotten Bonds.

Of course, comically, Bonds has threatened to boycott the Hall of Fame. With the way this is coming down, don't be surprised if he never gets there.

Gluttony and Greed -

Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras rolled the dice believing that they could get $350 million over the next year from some chump. Boras called that figure a starting point for negotiations, meaning he believed that he could have gotten his client more than that. The positive spin that is put on this is that A-Rod has signed, consecutively, the two biggest contracts in the history of Major League Baseball.

However, it can't be overlooked that Boras overestimated his client's worth by a minimum of $80 million, and possibly more. That translates to $8 million per year or a total of 29 percent of the overall contract's average annual worth. That's a huge mistake.

Envy -

As the Patriots batter their way closer to an undefeated season, the 1972 Dolphins from Don Shula down through the players are handling the threat to their record with something considerably less than class and aplomb. If anything, Shula is coming off as envious of what is happening, firing preemptive strike after preemptive strike - pretty much calling the Patriots season tainted and claiming his 1972 Dolphins as the best team ever.

I find it funny that someone whose own team was fined a first round pick for tampering talks about someone else doing something outside of the rules, and then claims that his team - one that played the third weakest schedule in the history of the NFL during the Super Bowl era - was the "best ever."

I respect what the Dolphins accomplished, but let's face it, they did it against the weakest competition of any Super Bowl winner - and to start shouting "look at me, we were better," does nothing but tarnish the 'Phins' legacy.

Sloth -

Adam "Pacman" Jones applied for reinstatement to the NFL and was turned down. Part of Jones' enforced off-season during which Roger Goodell told the troubled corner that a shortening of his suspension would be based on how he handled the time he had off.

Jones, who has had to perform community service in relation to one of his many arrests, gave inner city kids in Atlanta tickets to his pay per view wrestling event in the hopes of satisfying his community service requirement. For a guy trying to show his employers that he's working to do the right thing, that's about as lazy as it gets.

Wrath -

The fans outside of New England are angry. It is frustrating to be a fan of sports in other cities, and I do not fault the fans out there for that (but at least talk intelligently about the teams - don't just sit there and yell "they suck," it belittles you and the team you root for). The Red Sox wrapped up their second World Series title in four seasons, and look like they will be the team to beat in the AL East for at least the next couple of seasons.

The Patriots are in the middle of what could be a run at history, the Celtics are off to their best start since 1972, the Revolution is on the verge of a possible championship, the Bruins look like they might be able to contend, and Boston College is looking like a lock for a bowl game in spite of recent struggles.

There have been a lot of comparisons to New York and the Yankees, but let's face it - no city, not New York, not San Francisco, not Atlanta, not Dallas, has ever played host to such a serendipitous convergence of excellence from its sports franchises.

And that seems to have pissed off the rest of fan-nation.

C'est la vie.

One last note -

Am I the only person who sees the irony in the fact that three years ago the Ravens drafted a young quarterback in the sixth round named Derek Anderson, yes, the same Derek Anderson who has led the Browns to second place in the AFC North, and had a chance, in spite of a bad game, to maneuver the team to a tie for first against the Steelers last week, while the Ravens can't find a quarterback that can do jack. How does that happen with an "offensive genius" like Brian Billick? How does someone like that so grossly underestimate the talent at the team's keystone position?

I don't know how good Anderson is going to be, but let's face it, he's better than anything the Ravens have.

Monday, November 12, 2007

RoY and QB Rankings

A quick shout out to Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for winning Rookie of the Year honors. Pedroia garnered 24 of 28 first place votes for 136 points, while Tampa Bay's Delmon Young was second, receiving three of the remaining four first-place votes and a total of 56 points, and Kansas City pitcher Brian Bannister received the remaining first place vote and a total of 36 points.

Neither Daisuke Matsuzaka nor Hideki Okajima showed up in the voting. I will grant that Bannister put up a better ERA and WHIP than the Dice-man, however, pitching 165 innings in Kansas City without the pressure of a pennant race is not really the same thing as pitching 204 2/3's in Boston...ever. I'm not saying that Bannister didn't deserve at least consideration for the honor, because he did - I just believe that his 3.87 ERA in Kauffman Stadium isn't necessarily significantly better than a 4.40 in Fenway.

But the real shame here is Okajima receiving no consideration. It's almost like a sick joke. This is an award voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), the guys who are supposed to know baseball inside and out. The prevailing attitude among this group is that a reliever doesn't play enough to merit this sort of consideration - the same reason that relievers seldom win the Cy Young, even if he gave the best performance of any pitcher on the season.

The reason this is a tragic joke? Without Okajima, the Red Sox are sitting at home in October watching someone else win the World Series. He was, arguably, the most important piece in the Sox championship run, bridging the gap between the team's starters and Jonathan Papelbon in dominant fashion for almost the entire season. Essentially, this he is what the team has been missing since 2004. At the very worst, his name should have come up.

Field Generals...Colonels...Majors...Captains, so on and so forth...

After some of the comments, I wanted to talk a little bit about the quarterbacks in the league. This is my own personal ranking based on a number of criteria - I considered who I would pick if I were starting a franchise right now, but that wasn't the be all and end all. I looked at personnel and what the quarterbacks have had to work with, longevity, potential, and their ability to win with what they have been given. Here goes...

The elite -

  1. Brett Favre - Last year he would have been a little farther down the list as I really did believe that we were looking at the last gasps of a guy eying retirement. However, throughout his career the Green Bay QB has done more with less than any quarterback in the history of the game, and he's doing it again this year. He has played with only one sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, and that guy played defense (Reggie White).
  2. Tom Brady - The question the pundits have always asked is what would this man do with the tools that Peyton Manning had at his disposal. For the first time in Brady's career he has a wide receiving corps that rivals any that Manning has had since he came into the league. What's he doing? Currently on pace to shatter every single season quarterbacking record in the books (at least the non-dubious ones).
  3. Peyton Manning - I know there will be those out there that accuse me of being a homer for putting Manning behind Brady, but consider the following - many of the national writers are excusing Manning's performance this past weekend because of the many Colt injuries, however, I think we're finally seeing what Manning could have done had he and Brady swapped teams/tools. We know what he's capable of while driving a Ferrari, let's see how well he handles a Mustang. For those of you that want to say the Patriots were never as decimated, I give you the 2004 edition - rookie at center, right guard in his first NFL season hadn't played football since high school, they started Brandon Gorin at right tackle because starter Tom Ashworth was lost after six games (the then third-year man was out of the league by the end of his fourth season) - essentially 60 percent of the O-line had never played together before - number one draft pick TE Ben Watson was lost for the season, their top receiver from two of the three previous seasons was lost to the defensive side if the ball due to injuries to Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, Gus Scott, and Asante Samuel, leaving Brady with top receivers David Givens, David Patten and Bethel Johnson. Between offense and defense, the Pats at one time or another were starting back-ups or rookies at eight spots (nine if you include nickel corner). Now it's time to see if Manning can step up and make the people around him better. The game against the Chargers was not a good start.
Up and Coming -
  1. Ben Roethlisberger - Before I put Big Ben among the elite, I want to see more consistency from him. Yes, I know he was injured this year, but even in the year that he helped the Steelers to a Super Bowl title, he was never the one taking the team on his shoulders when times got tough, and when you look at the game that he played in the SB, it can be argued that Pittsburgh won in spite of him rather than because of him.
  2. Carson Palmer - A year ago he would have been behind Brady and Manning. This year, I'm just not completely sure if he's improving or regressing, and it's hard to tell with the team with which the Cincy braintrust has surrounded him. One thing we do know is that he's got the arm.
  3. Tony Romo - Another that I'm not completely sold on. What happens when one of the children that Dallas has at receiver reverts to their problem child ways? Terry Glenn, and Terrell Owens have a pretty spotty history. How does Romo handle it if and when one of these guys reverts to form and has a hissy fit? That will go a long way to showing us where he's really at.
The Jury is Out -
  1. Derek Anderson - Streaky and erratic, but impressive when on. Ugly against Pittsburgh this weekend, consistently throwing behind receivers on five yard in-cuts that was tantamount to missing on center screens.
  2. David Garrard - Appears to have potential, but to me he looks like a carbon copy of Byron Leftwich. Maybe a little more consistent than Leftwich, and with marginally more mobility. But only time will really tell.
  3. Jason Campbell - Is showing signs of progressing, but has thus far been unable to beat quality teams. The only team with a winning record that Washington has been able to beat has been Detroit (6-3, and to be honest, looking at Detroit's remaining schedule, the idea that they could finish as bad as 6-10 or 7-9 is not unrealistic). Sure he's young and this is part of the growing process, but until he's able to come up big against somebody with a winning record other than Detroit, Redskins fans should forget about the playoffs this season.
  4. Jay Cutler - He has the physical ability to make any throw. Potential doesn't always lead to success in this league, and it wouldn't be the first time Shanahan has drafted a QB with an elite arm (Brian Griese had a cannon, but not the head). It's still too early to tell which way Cutler will go, but the potential is certainly there, and that's the only reason I have ranked him ahead of some of the others in the next category.
Comfortably in the middle -
  1. Drew Brees - Part of the continuing deterioration between Shottenheimer and AJ Smith was Shottenheimer's belief that Brees should have been kept and should have been starting over Rivers. Last season he did more with less than Rivers and he did it with the hopes of a region riding on his back. One of the most touching moments in sports this year was the reception the people of New Orleans gave the Saints upon returning from the playoff loss in Chicago.
  2. John Kitna - Kitna is having a career year in Detroit under Mike Martz. The question is whether or not they can sustain for the remaining seven games against competition significantly harder than what they had in the first nine. That said, Kitna was always a better quarterback than he was generally given credit for, and there's a reason he's almost always been the guy keeping the seat warm for the young rookie. However, he has also almost always made it difficult for a coaching staff to justify benching him for unproven talent. If there's a guy that epitomizes the words, "pretty good, but not great," it's been Kitna.
  3. Kurt Warner - Statistically, he still puts up good numbers. Unfortunately he's been doing it for years on teams that don't exactly excite those that like to watch good line play. While I'm not really a fan of Warner's, I believe that in many ways he's a lot like Drew Bledsoe - a big, fairly immoble guy who can still win if he has a decent line in front of him.
  4. Matt Hasselbeck - I never saw in Hasselbeck what Mike Holmgren saw in him. He's solid, dependable, and not a whole lot else. Should he be a starter in the league? Certainly. However, I don't believe he could have made the Pro-Bowl were it not for a lack of talent at the QB position, particularly in the NFC over the last couple of years.
  5. Eli Manning - I think he's made strides this season, but I'm still not sold on him. Too often he can disappear for large periods of time in important games, and his performance in London, the weather not withstanding, against a struggling Dolphins team was not one that builds confidence for the future.
  6. Matt Schaub - I think Schaub could still go in either direction. If the Texans continue to block for the pass the way they have been (btw, Mr. Schaub, welcome to the wonderful world of what it feels like to be David Carr), then Schaub should just reserve a room at the local hospital so he can be treated for the concussions that will be coming his way.
  7. Joey Harrington - I'm not a Harrington fan, but I think that he takes way too much heat for the failings of the Detroit Lions during his tenure in the Motor City. No, Harrington is not a great quarterback, and even in my rankings here he is 17th overall, marking the top of the bottom half of the league's regulars, but given the right situation, I think Harrington still has the potential to make a solid career.
  8. Damon Huard - Irony, thy name is Huard. Huard, who is a middling starter and the best option the Chiefs have had for the last two years, was recommended to take over Dan Marino's starting position by Marino himself as he was going into retirement. Then coach Dave Wanstedt gave the job to Jay Fiedler instead. It's no coincidence that both Wanstedt and Fiedler are out of the NFL, but Huard is still chugging along. With John Beck's start this weekend, it will mark the franchise's 12th starting QB since Marino's retirement in 1999.
Heading in the wrong direction -
  1. Kyle Boller - The former first round draft pick has never successfully convinced anyone that he's any better than a back-up. Dangerous territory for Ravens fans whose oft-injured starter, Steve McNair, is once again on the bench with an injury. For a team whose head coach is supposed to be an offensive guru, it's nothing short of amazing that he, along with the front office, has been unable to identify a quarterback who could still play at a high level in the NFL.
  2. Philip Rivers - Rivers is still young enough to turn it around, but he is definitively regressing from last season. My bet is that AJ Smith still thinks it's about the talent picks and not the way the talent is coached.
  3. Marc Bulger - After the saber-rattling for a new contract this off-season, Bulger needed to come in and perform. He hasn't. I wouldn't be surprised if the people of St. Louis rose up and put his head on a pike in front of the gateway to the west, the Arch of St. Louis, nor would I blame them.
  4. Chad Pennington - He is what he is, and he's never been anything different - a smart quarterback with a wet noodle for an arm. Until recently you could at least count on him to play well enough so that he wasn't beating himself, he wasn't making the mistake that would cost his team. That hasn't been true this year.
  5. Donovan McNabb - It could just be the knee injury, but I'm not completely sure that McNabb has ever completely recovered from the physical and emotional beating he took in the Super Bowl and during the subsequent year. Both he and Andy Reid have, during the course of his career, held him to a ridiculous standard, putting the team totally and utterly on his shoulders when it would have been wiser to let the runners help shoulder the burden. As such, I think that Reid has burned through McNabb in much the same way that Bill Parcells burned through Joe Morris.
  6. Steve McNair - Ever since his last year or so in Tennessee it was obvious the injuries had taken their toll and his body was no longer able to function at the top levels needed of an offensive field general. Each year he's been in Baltimore, he's looked progressively worse.
  7. Trent Green - Five simple words - "time to hang it up." Green was a solid quarterback for a number of years, and a stat machine, but he hasn't been the same since the concussion last year in KC, and he's on the way to an early case of dementia or Alzheimer's if he comes back. The future is now in Miami, and Trent Green is not a part of it. If Green is the opening day starter next season for the 'Phins, then Wayne Huizenga needs to do the good people of Miami and Trent Green a favor and fire himself, sell the team, and leave it in the hands of someone not running it into the ground.
  8. Brian Griese - Marginally better than the man who started the season for the Bears, but has never won anywhere, why does anyone really think that he's going to be a significant improvement over Grossman. He has all the physical tools, he's just never had the head.
  9. Rex Grossman - Possibly the biggest head case starting regularly at QB over the last season and a half, Grossman, like Griese, has the physical tools, but has yet to show he has the head to use them with anything approaching consistency. Grossman has alternately been the best or the worst quarterback in the league, and there was/is never any telling which Grossman was/is showing up for the game.
Not even on the map -
  1. JP Losman - It's hard to be on the map when you lose your job to a rookie that couldn't win games in college. Losman has a lot of potential but has been wildly inconsistent since being anointed the Bills starting QB (remember, he didn't outplay Bledsoe, he was cheaper and more mobile...really an indictment of the Bills ability to put together a solid offensive line).
  2. Vince Young - Teams are defending Young the way they defended Michael Vick, forcing him to be a quarterback and look for receivers from the pocket. The result has not been pretty for the second year QB. I believe I mentioned some time ago that this was what defenses were going to do to him. Until he can consistently burn teams from the pocket, we'll be watching the second coming of Michael Vick (sans the off-field issues).
  3. Alex Smith - Going the wrong way fast. Is there a possibility that the 'Niners will be looking for their QB of the future for the second time inside of five years in the next draft or two?
  4. Cleo Lemon - Sure, Lemon has a higher QB rating than either Young or Smith, but what matters more? The ability to put up decent passing numbers, or the ability to help your team get into the win column? And now he's on the verge of being benched.
  5. Tavaris Jackson - Has just been brutally bad whenever I have seen him. If weren't for the running game, this team would be down with Miami.
I'm sure I'm missing someone here, but this is the list as I see it - for example I don't have any of the Panthers QB's. But that is a whole separate issue.

Let the arguing begin.

Pats spend off-weekend relaxing, Shula calls bye tainted.

It was either that or, "Shula notes Pats failed to win over weekend, unaware they were on their bye."

Currently the AFC East is a hotbed of perfection. Possibly for the first time in the history of the NFL, the same conference is hosting two teams in pursuit of a record with a goose-egg. The Patriots are 9-0, with their toughest competition likely coming from the Steelers, and maybe the Giants.

The Dolphins, the one-time paragon of winning with a 14-0 regular season back in 1972, are fighting for another perfect season - they're seven losses away from 0-16. Of course the perfect season that the 'Phins is a dubious honor to say the least.

Miami likely has four chances out of their final seven games to avoid becoming the first non-expansion team to go an entire season without a victory, and the first team since the NFL expanded to a 16 game slate. Those four games? A rematch with the Jets (1-7), and games against the struggling Ravens (4-5), Bengals (3-6), and Eagles (4-5).

I have my doubts that Miami can go into Buffalo and beat the Bills, or go to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers, let alone go to New England and pull out a win there.

Sure, there's a reason for the term, "any given Sunday," and an upset could happen. However, I'm guessing that the Dolphins will be the underdog in every game remaining on their schedule, so even if they beat the Ravens, it will technically be considered an upset.


Last night the Chargers won ugly, the Colts lost ugly, Tony Dungy coached ugly (that time-out to argue a penalty was mind-bogglingly stupid, and ended up costing the team at the end of the game), and the Colts special teams - from top to bottom - were ugly.

Vinnie Iyer at the Sporting News was busy trying to put the best spin possible on this loss from the Colts standpoint. He notes that the Colts should not be counted out because of two losses in a row. He's right about that. What he is wrong about is that Manning played like a champion - in spite of playing poorly.

The Colts lost because of a variety of reasons - Manning being one of them. Special teams (Adam Vinatieri left six points on the field), and, as previously mentioned, Dungy and some poor coaching decisions.

When a quarterback throws six interceptions, you can't absolve him of responsibility in a loss.

What this did remind me of - the old argument about swapping the teams of Brady and Manning to see how well each would have done. I seem to remember a couple of years back (2004) that the Patriots went 14-2. Their leading wide-out was David Givens with 874 yards. Reggie Wayne already has 870 with seven games left. Leading receiver for Pats tight ends that year was Daniel Graham with 364 yards, if Dallas Clark (405 yards) remains out, Ben Utecht could still top 300 yards receiving. Joseph Addai (pace for 1400-1500 yards) is comparable to Corey Dillon (1635).

Manning was brutally bad - and the argument that the Colts O line is banged up. The Patriots were starting former Tampa Bay practice squader Russ Hochstein whom Warren Sapp famously said couldn't block Tony Kornheieser. The team started corners Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland, and used wide-out Troy Brown as their nickel corner. In spite of losing weapons to an injured defense, losing protection (line-men), and losing Ben Watson for all but one game of the season, the Brady never looked as bad as Manning did yesterday.

I think we have our answer as to who does the most to elevate his team to the next level.