Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Farce of the 40

The combine is this weekend. The best college football players from around the country congregate in Indianapolis to be measured to the quarter-inch, weighed to the half pound, and poked and prodded in determining their health. After that, they are subjected to a battery of tests such as the 40-yard dash, the bench press, the shuttle, and so on. The scouts examine all the results and compare them down the second decimal place against each other, searching for the player that could be draft gold. It is sad though, because the combine really provides no merit.

I'll start with the 40. I've heard rumors about how Devin Hester ran a 4.1 and about how Darrell Green repeatedly ran in the 4.2s. But they didn't really run that fast. This article provides all the information you need on the 40 if you're really interested. I will echo some of its sentiments, but for the full monkey, read that. It has some good evidence. How can guys in t-shirts, baggy shorts, and sneakers running on artificial turf run that fast? The truth is they cannot. Well how do they get those times? Hand-timing. The NFL does not use electric timing, so it depends on 30-some scouts holding stopwatches to record these times, which is a somewhat corrupt system.

If a scout has a favorite prospect, he can easily shave a few notches off his time, making him look better to the team. If a team has a problem with a prospect, the scouts can fudge his times, pointing to bad combine performance as their reason for not drafting him. If their decision is second-guessed later, they always have bad combine performance to fall back on.

Another problem with the 40 is the circumstances. You have a football player. Starting in a sprinter's stance. Not wearing pads. And not carrying a football. Does that accurately translate to on-field ability? I don't think so. A player will run differently if they're wearing pads. A player will run differently if they are carrying the football. A player will run differently if they are carrying the football. A player will run differently if there are 11 other faster men out there chasing him. And at the combine they want him to run a 40-yard dash to determine his draft? Please.

The best analogy for the combine I have heard is "a test for which the students already know the answers." That describes it perfectly. The players know exactly what will be at the combine, and therefore can train specifically for those events. They can train to run a fast 40, they can train to bench press 225 pounds more times than anyone. But does any of this translate to on-field ability? Not really. Does Mike Mamula sound familiar? He vaulted himself to the seventh pick in the draft in the late 1990s because of his combine performance. However, he was not much of a player on the field, thus labeling him a workout warrior and a draft bust.

If I was a GM searching for talent, I would most likely stick to looking at on-field performance when evaluating talent. Certain gems can be revealed through the combine, but would do you really want to go by tests the students have all the answers for?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Action-Reaction: February 17, 2008

Not much news going on right now. I do not have that much to say either.

Action: Roger Goodell is under fire because he said SpyGate was closed but now it is open, or something to that point.
Reaction: I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but I'm calling it as I see it. I think that if the Patriots had beaten the Giants, this would not have been reopened. They could have been displayed as a team that fought adversity and accusations all season long and reached their ultimate goal. But now the Patriots can be displayed as the ones who "almost got away with it." They can take the Patriots down, all the way down, because they are not the undefeated golden children of the NFL.

Action: The circus, I mean Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, was on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Reaction: I watched about an hour of the "festivities" as I called them and, as they all say, someone is lying. I personally think it is Clemens. Clemens came off as just guilty. And arrogant. Almost Bonds-esque arrogance. While McNamee owned up to his mistakes and admitted to his credibility issues, Clemens skirted the questions he was asked when it was pointed out that he had credibility issues just like McNamee. What bothered me the most was just that Clemens looked guilty. Boy, did he look guilty. He only made eye contact occasionally when being questioned, often looking off to the side or looking down at papers in front of him. While McNamee was speaking he was jotting down something on papers he had in front of him as well. McNamee, however, kept his eyes on the questioner most of the time and was very calm and collected while he was talking. I do not know if McNamee had any of the same treatment, but Clemens speaking to his lawyers before answering some of the questions just sort of sealed it. My opinion. I've also talked to some diehard Yankees fans who think Clemens is guilty as well. Tough sledding ahead for the Rocket.

Action: Former Ram Willie Gary is suing the Patriots for taping the Rams' final walkthrough at Super Bowl XXXVI.
Reaction: Who is Willie Gary?

Really short edition today, but I must take this opportunity to promote next week's edition of Action-Reaction: The Farce of the 40.

You draftniks will never be the same.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


First off, I was going to write a blog defending Bill Belichick for his actions at the end of Super Bowl XLII, but since every member of the media outside the New England area and ESPN is against him, it would be pretty pointless for me to do so. I'm not in the mood to be torn apart right now.

Second of all, the Patriots only lost because Belichick was wearing that hideous red sweatshirt, not his trusty old gray one.

But my main point. Did anyone else watch Today on Monday morning? Did you notice anything about who was reporting on the Super Bowl? Yep, that's right, NBC had former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber covering Super Bowl XLII from Glendale.


Now that has to be one of the most awkward television moments ever, but I have to applaud Tiki, as he did a fantastic job. But still, the sight of Tiki Barber interviewing a champagne-drenched Eli Manning about just winning the Super Bowl after essentially saying that the Giants had no shot at winning under Tom Coughlin or with Manning at quarterback just brings out all the awkward emotions in me.

As most of you know, Barber left the Giants after the 2006 season at the ripe age of 31 and was publicly criticized for letting his team down and walking away from the game. Personally, I agree with him in his agreeing to walk away from football. When you're 60-years old, do you want to be able to walk around or do you want to be stuck in bed reminiscing about the glory days? I'd like to have my health.

When I used to ask my mom if I could play football, she would tell me a story about Johnny Unitas and his son. The story goes that young his son was deciding between golf and football and went to his dad, the legendary quarterback for guidance. According to the story, the elder Unitas said that if his son wanted to be able to walk, he should play golf. I don't know how true that anecdote is, but it is still powerful.

Barber may not have had a good "football reason" (ie injury, fatigue, contract dispute, no playing time) to retire, but he had a career waiting for him in TV, a job he rightfully took. I don't know how good his performance on the tube has been, however. His early season criticisms of the Giants provided extra drama and really made him look stupid. I thought he would do a good job, but he has not really lived up to expectations.

So yeah.

This blog was supposed to be about Belichick.

But instead, it is about Barber.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Action-Reaction: February 3, 2008

I'm actually writing this on Saturday like I'm writing it on Sunday, but that's because I want to get up and post it before the Fox pregame starts at 9:00 AM ET. Really, who even watches it? I'm going to be homework. But now it's Sunday. And it's 8:51 AM. Probably won't beat Fox.


Action: The New England Patriots put their quest for an undefeated season on the line tonight against the New York Giants in Glendale, Arizona in Super Bowl XLII.
Reaction: The ________ will beat the _______ by a score of __-__.

Ha sorry. Didn't want to get too far ahead of myself. So here's a little meditation on each team.

The New England Patriots. Love them or hate them, they are still 18-0, looking to go 19-0 and complete the first undefeated season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They have boyishly good-looking Tom Brady and the highest scoring offense in NFL history. Fun for the defenses.

The New York Giants aren't supposed to be here. They were left for dead after Week 2. But they're here. They've won 11 straight road games (not that it matters, neutral site) and have plenty of momentum.

Let's take a closer look.

Tom Brady. Yes, the man has three rings (and Gisele Bundchen). Eventually, he'll probably have to sprout extra fingers, but you cannot deny how great his play has been of late. The addition of Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Wes Welker has helped him even more, as he had been doing more with less for years. Brady's been here before, so he knows the drill.

On the other side of the ball is Eli Manning. Manning has been consistent this postseason, but he did throw an NFL-high 20 interceptions during the regular season. Many people are playing the waiting game, waiting to see if the Eli we all know and love (except Giants fans) shows up.

Edge: New England (duh).

Running Back
Laurence Maroney
has come on strong of late and showed he can carry the load if the passing game is not producing desired results. Kevin Faulk is the most underrated member of the Patriots, but, hey, he has three rings. Faulk is definitely a player to watch. He can do it all. He can run, block, and pass, and, along with Welker, is Brady's safety valve on third downs. Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel provide bruising short-yardage ability.

Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw have made everyone forget Tiki Barber (except Tiki Barber) and the two combine for a great change of pace combination. Jacobs, weighing in at 264 pounds, is a wrecking ball, while Bradshaw is fearless and quick. Bradshaw has had some fumbling issues this season which should be something to watch. Jim Finn is a solid fullback.

Edge: Even. We'll only know after the game.

Wide Receivers
Ah yes, the Patriots' wide receiving corps, the most daunting in the league. Randy Moss has not shown up at all this preseason, but has still managed to impact games on the ground, showing the Belichick will get him involved as much as possible. Moss can stretch the defense like he did on his record-breaking touchdown catch in December, or go across the middle. The Giants will use Gibril Wilson to try and get some hits on him early and intimidate him across the middle. Donte' Stallworth has not produced as much as people expected this season, but his value is still there. He provides a decoy to stretch the field for Moss, Welker, or Gaffney to get underneath. Speaking of Wes Welker, no one expected him to do this at all this year. I thought he was the most overrated acquisition in the history of the NFL, but he has proved myself and everyone else wrong. Welker is essentially another running back on the field, but one's been able to stop him. Teams seem more willing to left him hurt them underneath than to let Moss or Stallworth hurt them deep. Finally, Jabar Gaffney. This is the one member of the Patriots organization I hate the most. Was he even supposed to be on the team this year? I don't think so. But he's still there, making crucial plays. It's one of those things that's like, "They have Moss, Stallworth, and Welker. Why are they going to Gaffney?"

If the Patriots do anything in this game, it should be to double cover Plaxico Burress. This is the one thing the Packers did not do that really miffed me. They don't need to double him the entire game, but every once in a while, throw another safety over the top on him. Burress absolutely did not many things to Al Harris that cannot be mentioned on this blog, but getting some extra hits on him with a safety should do some good. Amani Toomer is still quick (witness his touchdown catch against Dallas), but the man is playing on a reconstructed knee and the Patriots corners are faster. Belichick should be able to spare some single coverage on Toomer to cover Plexi-glass. Steve Smith provides a viable third option, but he is inexperienced which could cause some problems.

Edge: New England.

Tight Ends
The Patriots tight ends are solid. Ben Watson is a viable red-zone target (3 catches, 2 touchdowns in the playoffs) and he has the right combination of size and speed to create mismatches within the linebackers. Kyle Brady is primarily a blocking tight end who is used most of the time in motion.

Kevin Boss has been a pleasant surprise in place of Jeremy Shockey. Heck, The Baltimore Sun says that Boss is a more complete player than Shockey. Who knew? After Boss however, the depth isn't there like it is in New England. Boss will garner some looks from Manning, but he will have a hard time shaking the Patriots linebacking corps.

Edge: New England.

Offensive Line
The New England offensive line has been flawless this year. Matt Light will have his hands full with Osi Umenyiora, but when these two teams met in December, the Patriots O-line was not at full strength. The line will switch around its blocking schemes, sometimes doubling Umenyiora, sometimes doubling Strahan.

The Giants offensive line is a little banged up. Rich Seubert is probable, and I think the durability of this line is in question. Other than that, The Sun says that the Giant's O-line is "nothing special."

Edge: New England

Offensive Edge: New England.

Defensive Line
New England has a front line of Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and Sir Fine-a-Lot himself, Vince Wilfork. Seymour and Warren get good pressure from the end spots while Wilfork can push through almost everything up the middle. Combined with the fact that the Patriots use many different looks with their linebackers on the line to confuse the offensive line, Manning could be in for a long day. Seymour and Warren have good speed for defensive ends as well as monstrous strength.

The crux of the Giants defensive line is their defensive ends. Tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield can hold their own stuffing the run, but if the Giants want to have a chance in this game, they need to put constant pressure on Brady the whole game. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora got pressure on Brady in the December meeting, but neither of them could get to him and sack him. The X-factor becomes Justin Tuck who will have to be rotated in to keep Strahan and Osi fresh the entire game. Strahan really wants this ring, and I think this will be a defining moment for Osi. Osi had 13 sacks during the season, but six came in one game and only seven came in games against first string offensive tackles. Something to think about.

Edge: Even.

New England is old, no question about it. Based on name recognition, Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas, and the other dude I'm forgetting would be the best corps in the league. However, they are not Methuselah and have accepted age. They're still good, don't get me wrong, but the first time Brandon Jacobs takes aim at one of these linebackers, how they react will be imperative to the outcome of the game.

New York's crew might actually be better. Antonio Pierce anchors the middle with Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor on either side. If I recall correctly, Torbor got some great hits on Brady in December, but with Belichick's mind, I don't see that happening again. The linebacking corps will have to change up their looks, adjusting the fact that they will have to cover Wes Welker occasionally. They are definitely more athletic than the Patriots group, but they don't have the experience.

Edge: New England, but only because of experience.

Defensive Backs
First off, Plaxico Burress and Randy Moss have a height advantage on all of these corners.

Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs will be on Toomer and Burress the whole game. James Sanders will most likely be used to shade and give help to whichever needs it the most while Rodney Harrison will be a fifth linebacker in the box, taking aim at Jacobs.

The Giants cornerbacks are very inexperienced. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross have both been in the league less than four years. The Giants aren't putting Jason Seahorn out there either (hey, he got burned by Brandon Stokley seven years ago, maybe he wasn't that good anyway). Sam Madison is another solid corner, but he has been injured this year and has gotten burned occasionally. R.W. McQuarters will come in on some nickel and dime situations. James Butler will probably in the box like Harrison, while Gibril Wilson will have the daunting task of playing centerfield against this passing attack.

Edge: I'll say Even again.

Stephen Gostkowski is 1-2 in the postseason but has made nine of his last ten. He isn't Vinatieri, but he has a good leg and the game may be under the retractable roof.

NFC Championship Game hero Lawrence Tynes will have scrutiny thrust upon him again this week. If he misses, he probably won't have a chance to redeem himself. Bill Belichick does not like to give second chances.

Edge: Even.

Chris Hanson has been solid this year, but the Patriots have not really had to punt that much either.

The roof might be closed due to chances of showers, so Jeff Feagles, one of the best directional punters, should have a great day.

Edge: New York.

Ellis Hobbs holds the NFL record for longest kick return, a 108-yarder in Week 1, while Wes Welker is dangerous in the open field. Both are fast (no dip, why did I write that?).

Domenik Hixon is hoping for déjà vu again against New England. Hixon broke off a kick return for a touchdown in Week 17. R.W. McQuarters handles the punt return duties, but he fumbled last week, so watch for New England to go for the strip.

Edge: Even.

Bill Belichick is the master motivator. He has drilled the us-against-the world philosophy into the heads of his players. The news that the Patriots taped the St. Louis Rams final walk through before Super Bowl XXXVI will not distract them. It only provides more ammunition for Belichick to use. He knows that there are a lot of people out there who don't want the Patriots to win. He wants to win and he knows that he can win.

Tom Coughlin was a dead man after Week 2. The Giants were 0-2, had been blown out 35-13 at home by the Packers, and had lost 9 of their last 11. He quickly righted a sinking ship and has taken them all the way. Hopefully, he has defrosted by now.

Edge: New England.

Now for the moment of truth. Kimmie Meissner is picking New England, and I will have to agree with my hometown hero (my sister went to middle school with her).

The New England Patriots will win Super Bowl XLII, their fourth title in seven years, over the New York Giants by a score of 34-24. Tom Brady will throw three touchdown passes to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney while Laurence Maroney adds another on the ground. Stephen Gostkowski will add two field goals. Eli Manning will throw two touchdowns, one apiece to Plaxico Burress and Kevin Boss, while Ahmad Bradshaw breaks the plain once. In addition, Lawrence Tynes will go 1-2 on field goals.

Tom Brady wins Super Bowl MVP for the third time as he completes 24 of 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jerramy Stevens, We Hardly Knew Ye

Jerramy Stevens, you should be ashamed of yourself.

No, not for your comments before Super Bowl XL and then your subsequent choking.

For your past. You are a despicable human being. You deserve nothing of what you have.

Oh, excuse my outburst right there. I need to explain myself. The reason for my outburst is a Seattle Times in-depth feature on the 2000 University of Washington football team entitled "Victory and Ruins" that exposes the team's run-ins with the law and the lack of discipline provided by coach Rick Neuhisel and athletic director Barbara Hedges. The team featured felons and players who had misdemeanors and players charged with sexual assault. Perfect for the stereotypical athlete getting off on crimes.

Which brings me to Jerramy Stevens. Stevens was one of four players given his own section in the feature. His was entitled "Convicted of assault and rape, star player received raft of second chances." The actions of Stevens that are chronicled in this disgust me. I don't need to describe them. You can read the article yourself. But what is even more appalling is the action (or lack thereof) taken by the state of Washington and the school itself.

Here's FanNation's own Big Ben68 with his reaction to the Stevens article:

Holy f*cking hell...Stevens has done a lot of s*it and gotten away with just about all of it...

I don't want to sound like an athlete-hater, because I'm not. I am an athlete and I participate in athletics at my school. But I really hate special treatment given to athletes. It's something that just really gets me. In my Honors Algebra II class last year, one of my teammates on track spent an entire quarter with a 70 before being moved down a class. The track coach was our teacher. There was another incident in the fall at my school where the school received pictures of various students, including three defensive starters on the football team, drinking on the morning of our school's first night game in its 43-year history. All athletes had to sign a pledge when the season started accepting responsibility and discipline if something like this happened. The common understanding was that we would be suspended from athletics for a year. The three football players missed two games. Members of the women's soccer team that implicated did not miss any time, according to some people. The extent of their punishment was supposedly writing an apology and apologizing in team meetings. However, our administration did not release any information, so the details still remain cloudy.

But what University of Washington did was horrible. Who knows how many people their football players hurt? Stevens was obviously out of control and the school barely did anything about it. Read the article. Read about what he did in high school. This guy is a disgrace. And the ignorance. To me, ignorance is the worst thing an athlete can have. Ignorance to rules, ignorance to authority, and ignorance to the team. Stevens had them all. He probably would not be drafted on the first day in the NFL Draft today because of his character issues. Stevens deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Pacman Jones as well. And Cedrick Wilson might have to join him.

It is a disgrace to the NFL that they have players like these associated with the league. One moment, you are reading about Brett Favre, but the next you are reading about Pacman Jones or Rae Carruth. Sadly, the NFL has members from both ends of the spectrum.

Now I don't have any personal connection to Stevens. I have Madden NFL 2002, in which Stevens is a backup tight end to Christian Fauria on the Seahawks, but I never really played with the Seahawks. Before Super Bowl XL, Stevens' 15 minutes of fame, I immediately disliked him. I was rooting for the Seahawks, but listening to this guy talk made me want to hurt him. I laughed at him after he dropped those three passes.

In the words of a article, "The 2000 Washington Huskies were horrible people:"

We'll say this, and it'll be the last time we ever say it: We wish Joey Porter would have put his face through a wall.


Anyway, you owe it to yourself to read the Seattle Times feature.

Thanks for reading.