Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 NFL Offseason Preview: NFC West

2008 Overview: The Arizona Cardinals were two minutes away from Super Bowl glory after finishing the regular season 9 and 7. However off season problems with wide receiver Aquan Boldin might hamper their chances of making it back in 2010. Other than the Cardinals there were very few bright spots for the division. The St Louis Rams end up with the second pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year after winning just two games last season and just five the past two seasons. For the second time in three years the San Fransisco 49ers finished 7 and 9 but this time it was thanks to interm head coach Mike Singletary as they won four of their final 5 games of the season. And after finishing the last four seasons as division champions, injuries lead to a difficult 4 and 12 season for the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals was the story of a crazy NFC playoffs, being the underdog at home in a win against Atlanta, being a huge underdog the upset of Carolina, and was not favored one more time in the NFC Championship win over Philadelphia. That led to Arizona having the lead in the Super Bowl with under two minutes to go before Santonio Holmes spectacular near the sideline of the end zone ended their improbable run.

New Faces: Key Players
Arizona:Bryant McFadden,

San Francisco Dre Bly, Damon Huard

Seattle:T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ken Lucas

St. Louis:Kyle Boiler

2009 Predictions
Most Improved Team:Seattle Seahawks-Injuries kept the Seahawks down in 2008 but with a healthy Matt Hasselback and a new weapon for him to throw to in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle very well could be back to the top of the division. Oh yeah and their defense won't be too shabby either, especially with #1 draft pick Aaron Curry in the lineup.

Team On The Slide:St Louis Rams-Its very hard for a team that only won five games in two years to be on more of a slide but I think the Rams will do it. The Rams released their best receiver Tory Holt, running back Steven Jackson has had injury problems the past few years and Marc Bulger isn't the quarterback he use to be. New head Coach Steve Spagnuolo will bring much needed help to the defense, but the offense will keep the Rams spiraling in 20009

Player In The Spotlight:Chris "Beanie" Wells- The Cardinals first round pick will be in the spotlight in 2009 as he tries to fill in the shoes of former running back Edgerrin James. Injury problems in Well's career had some scouts labeling him as "soft" coming into the 2009 NFL Draft. Granted he won't be carrying the ball every down with the emergence of of 2008 rookie Tim Hightower, but Wells should expect the bulk of the load. If he can stay healthy, the Cardnials will be in good shape to make it back to the playoffs in 2009.

Division Winnner:Arizona Cardinals-I think the Seahawks will put a little bit of pressure on the Cards, but at the end of the day Arizona has too much firepower on offense for the rest of the teams in the NFC West Division. Like the Chargers, the Cardinals didn't do much in the offseason besides sign Bryant McFadden on the defensive side of the football, but this division is rather weak and Arizona should come out on top.

2009 Projected Standings
Arizona Cardinals- 10-6
Seattle Seahawks- 8-8
San Francisco 49ers- 6-10
St. Louis Rams-1-15

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Small Victory For The Mountian West Conference

Finally a win for the Davids of college football...well at least for one conference of Davids. With the Mountain West agreeing to sign an agreement allowing the conference champion to automatically qualify for a spot in one of the the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowls it might be the beginning of the end of one of the worst post season ideas in sports history. Never in any other sport has an undefeated team end up in second place. But in division one college football it has happened a handful of times this decade alone. Yes this agreement doesn't mean there will be a playoff in college football next year or the year after but this agreement just is stalling the inevitable.

Division One College Football Can Make A Playoff Work
I wrote this paper for my college english class and I thought I would share it with you
As the University of Utah football stepped off the Superdome field after a 31 to 17 win over South Eastern Conference (SEC) foe Alabama, the taste of victory was bittersweet. Sweet because they beat a historic SEC foe and finished their 2008 campaign with an undefeated record. Bitter because they wouldn’t be crowned the National Champion of Football. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system has recently screwed teams out of a chance for a national championship. Before the 2008 Utes team, Boise State went undefeated in 2006, ending the season undefeated and without a title. In 2004 three teams finished the season undefeated, but only the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans walked away with the crown as National Champion. How can you have a sport where a team which finishes their season without a blemish and not have them be the champion? There are so many flaws with the BCS the only real way to make things right is to have a playoff system in Division I college football. My question is why don’t they have one? Why after so many hiccups with the current system they don’t try and change it? And is there a chance it can be changed for the future? People who are against it say it would make the season too long, it would make college football too much like the pros, it would affect the students final’s schedule, or it would be financially worse for the sport. Excuses, excuses, excuses. The fact is Division 1 College Football can make a playoff system work, and if it moves to a playoff type format it would get rid of the disparity surrounding the BCS’s faulty ways of crowning a champion.

Before we get into how the Bowl Championship Series works we have to go back and see how it was created. The 1997 National Championship was supposed to slate the Michigan Wolverines and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Michigan, however, was already committed to play a Pac 10 team in the Rose Bowl. Both teams won their bowl games that year. The hard thing for voters was longtime Nebraska coach Tom Osborn had announced prior to the bowl games that he was retiring after the season. Like every coach Osborn wanted to go out on top. In the end the AP poll had voted Michigan as the National Champions, but the Coaches poll picked Nebraska as the National Champion. This led to a big mess in college football because there was no clear-cut winner in 1997. The result of this conundrum led to the creation of the Bowl Championship Series, which made it so the top two teams had to play each other for the National Championship. While I will say the BCS is better than ending the season with a split national champion, sometimes the BCS makes college football fans feel like there is still a split champion when they don’t let undefeated teams play in the title game. Ones in favor of the BCS say a little parody is good for the sport, but how is a split national champion bad for the sport while leaving an undefeated team out of a national championship is ok? It just does not make sense to me.

The 1997 split championship left College Footballs National Championship in the hands of a computer system. The Bowl Championship Series is based on four elements: the teams ranking in both AP and Coaches Poll, computer rating, the strength of a teams schedule, and their overall team record. The first number the BCS truly looks at is rankings in the polls. Then they move on to the seven computer rating systems, which includes Anderson & Hester, Billingsly, Colley, Massey, New York Times, Sagarin, and Wolfe. They take the averages of these computer ratings and use this as the second number in the BCS formula. Then, they look at strength of schedule, which used a measure that combines the records of each team’s opponents and the records of their opponents opponents. This number is divided by 25 and is used as the third number. Finally, each team receives a point for every loss they have. All this information is calculated and the BCS computers spit out a number. The lower the number, the higher the BCS ranking is, and the more likely a team is to play in the National Championship Game. I know math helps determine post season probabilities in almost every sport, but this system is so complicated and a little unfair if you ask me. Yes, teams who play a tougher schedule deserve to be recognized for it, but what if there is a mid major team who cannot help the conference they play in but they play tough teams in their out of conference schedule? They get screwed out of a chance at a national championship. Teams like Florida and Oklahoma are afraid to schedule teams like Utah because they are worried about hurting their BCS rating if they happen to lose that game. This is why a playoff needs to implemented. So the Goliaths have to play the Davids in order to be crowned National Champions.

Student athletes have been the main discussion on why the BCS should stay the way it is. Some college presidents think student athletes are spending too much time on the practice field and too little time in the classroom. A study has shown the average college football player spends an average of 44.8 hours a week on gridiron duties. It’s like having a full time job on top of going to school. Orin Starn, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University had this to say about the issue, “As college football has become a multibillion-dollar business with millionaire coaches and enormous TV contracts, the season has progressively stretched--from as few as five games back at the dawn of college football in the late 19th century to as many as 14 between league championships and bowl games. A playoff system would likely add yet more games, and that would mean more chunks of time, travel, and training for 19- and 20-year-old students who are already way overstretched--spending far more time on football than their studies and a genuine college experience." I have to agree with Professor Stram and I honestly believe this is the BCS’s best claim on why not to have a playoff. The word student comes before athlete for a reason, they are there to get an education because most college players won’t ever play at the next level and they need to be prepared for life after football. Plus, college is quoted by some as the best four years of your life because of the experiences you have. However, I still think a playoff would work. Why don’t they cut the regular season down by one game? Or why don’t they have the every team end like the Big Ten teams do right before Thanksgiving? The Ohio State Buckeyes ended their 2008 regular season on November 22nd this year. They didn’t end up playing their bowl game until January 3rd. Forty-two days passed between games for the Buckeyes. They can put a playoff during that time period. Division 2 and 3 football does. So does Division 1AA. If they play the playoff games within that period of time, they can get them done and then the players won’t be affected come finals time. There are ways to mold the college football schedule in order for it to fit within the academic calendar.

One of the cornerstones of college football is the regular season means something. In other sports, a team can drop a few games and still be in the running for a championship. In college football they say every game means something. "In Division I(-A) football, every game is a playoff. Once you lose one game, you're mostly out. If you lose two, you're definitely out. We got 12 playoff games. Teams take that approach. That's probably why there's so much interest. You stub your toe, you can never get back in,” said Michigan Wolverine Head Coach Rich Rodriguez . That’s all fine and dandy coach Rodriguez, but sometimes the regular season doesn’t fix things. What do you say to a team who has done their part and won all their games in regular season play and you won’t give them a chance to play for a national title? What do you say to the 2004 Auburn Tigers and Utah Utes? What do you say to a 2006 Boise State Broncos team? What do you say to a 2008 Utah Utes team? Just because there is a playoff doesn’t mean the regular season doesn’t mean anything. You won’t see teams with .500 records playing for a championship. Just the ones who deserve a chance will get to play.

One thing the BCS does for college football is keeping the season a one semester sport. Some of the people against a playoff think if there were some type of a playoff implemented it would make the season too long and could possibly spill over into the second semester. Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference Commissioner and BCS coordinator, said in an interview with Sports Business Radio’s Brian Berger, “I have been talked about football staying as a one semester sports because you don’t want to take the first two weeks of a new semester and have teams so a meshed and so visible and in such demand that they can’t get really a grip on their academics early in the year.Slive goes on to say, “I think the Presidents are concerned about that and I think all of us are concerned about that.” I understand Mr. Slive’s point of starting a new semester and not wanting the sports championship conflict with the start of a new semester. I get that. But serious people are really complaining about the length of the college football season and I don’t understand. I hear fans everywhere whine when the season is over. Making the season longer with a playoff would help hype the sport even more because a playoff would add suspense to the sport. Again going back to Ohio State, they had 42 days in between the end of their regular season and their bowl game. Use that down time to implement a playoff.

Injury is evident in any contact sport and as the season wears on, the wear and tear on the human body becomes more and more. This wear and tear leads to a heightened chance of injury. Doubters of a playoff system think a longer season would lead to a bigger risk of injury. Iowa Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz said, “We ask so much of these guys it's just unbelievable. We ask an awful lot of them as far as the football part, yet we want them to be exemplary students, we want them to be exemplary citizens, and that's all right, but how much more blood do we want to take out? At some point you have to put the welfare of the players (first). That should be our guiding light on all of our thinking. If we go down the playoff road, then we're not thinking that way. We're appeasing someone else, not the players.” I do agree with Coach Ferentz that we ask a lot of college athletes and of course there is a bigger risk of injury, but it shouldn’t stop the NCAA from having at Division One college football playoff. Football, like most sports, is a team sport and one person shouldn’t make up a team. Injuries are a part of sports. It would be there regardless of how long a season is. Besides, I have heard teams with national champions that lose some of their best talent to injury and they were still able to win the crown. A real champion battles through injury and finds ways to win. Injuries just show a teams true color and willpower.

Sports, like other things, is a business, and college sports is no exception. The BCS has made hundreds of millions of dollars a year from companies wanting to advertise their product with bowl games. The last reason some people don’t want to change the BCS is because it would be financially worse for the sports. Back when the BCS first started, various estimates showed a full blown tournament could generate 250 to 400 million dollars. Who even knows how much it would be today. I think a playoff is a goldmine for college football. I will say the one thing about the BCS is one company can have most of the 3 hours of advertising time to themselves. It is great how companies can show their best products and promote themselves for the length of a football game. However, they could have a ton of sponsors for a playoff. Heck it seems like everything is sponsored now-a-days. They could have the halftime show sponsored by someone, and the pregame show sponsored by another person. Heck the first down and 10 marker I’ve see be sponsored by someone. People who think a playoff won’t make money are crazy.

Figuring out the right number of playoff teams is something many experts and I have been looking into. You could take a blueprint from other Divisions of College football. Division 1AA has a 16 team playoff, meaning no one gets a bye in the first round. Division II Football has 24 playoff teams which are selected by Regional Rankings with the top six teams from each region going to playoffs. The top two from each region get byes in the first round of the playoffs. Division III football has a 32 team bracket with no one getting byes in the first round either. The proposal I like is the one Mountain West Coordinator Craig Thompson just recently sent into the BCS for evaluation. Under his proposal it would rank the ten teams playing the BCS bowls 1-10. The 9th and 10th ranked teams would be done after their game was over, but the winners of the Orange, Fiesta, Rose, and Sugar Bowls would move on to keep playing. Those teams would move to the semifinals played one week after the BCS bowls were finished and then one week after the semifinals they would have the National Championship. Why I like this proposal so much is because there is a limited amount of teams who can play for a championship, preserving the importance of the regular season in College Football. I think the other playoff formats in College Football wouldn’t work for Division I. It needs to be simple.

As you can see there are many reasons or what I like to call excuses for why there is no playoff in Division One football. None of these, in my mind, are valid reasons for keeping college football in only bowl game format. Even President Obama agrees there should be a playoff. In an interview on 60 Minutes with Steve Kroft, the President said this about the BCS and his thoughts on a college football playoff, “This is important. I think any sensible person would say that if you got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season and many of them have one loss or two losses there is no clear decisive winner that we should be creating a playoff system.” Obama goes on to say, “I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this so I am going to throw my weight around a little bit I think it’s the right thing to do.” How can you tell an undefeated team they can’t play for a national championship? College football is the only sport which an undefeated team isn’t the national championship, which leaves a bittersweet taste in those teams’ mouths. If there is to be justice, there needs to be a change and a change soon.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009 NFL Offseason Preview: AFC West

Over the next several weeks I will preview every division in the NFL, giving you teams who will rise in 2009, who will fall, and where each team will end up in 2009. Getting started with this week with the AFC West.

2008 Overview: The AFC West was seen as a joke to some football fans. San Diego and Denver ended the season tied for the division championship at 8-8 with San Diego winning the division due to a tie breaker. Oakland played spoiler late in the season last year, ending 2008 on a 2 game winning streak including beating Tampa Bay the last game of the season costing the Bucs a playoff spot and ultimately Jon Gruden his job but sadly finished the season 5 and 11. Oakland hasn't had a winning season since they were in the Super Bowl back in 2002. The injury plagued Chiefs had one of the worst seasons in team history, finishing 2 and 14 as Herm Edwards was shown the door and Carl Peterson resigned. San Diego was able to knock off Indianapolis before losing to eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round.

New Faces: Key Players
Denver: Kyle Orton, Chris Sims, Brian Dawkins,

Kansas City: Matt Cassell, Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas, Mike Brown, Bobby Engram,

Oakland: Jeff Garcia, Greg Ellis. Lorenzo Neal
San Diego: None

2009 Predictions
Most Improved Team: Kansas City Chiefs: Its hard not to pick a team which only won two games last season. New GM, New Coach, New Quarterback, and new veterans should help this team win some ball games this year. They won't win half of their games but I think they can win 5 to 6 games in 2009.

Team on the Slide: Denver Broncos: They showed Mike Shanahan the door, they traded Jay Cutler, and it looks like Brandon Marshall could be on his way out as well. Things just don't look good for Denver fan in 2009. They very well could win just three games in 09.

Player in the Spotlight: Matt Cassell: Cassell needs to prove to Chiefs fans that he isn't a one hit wonder. Cassell had an excellent year filling in for injured quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 3,693 yards 21 TD and only 11 INT's. Now can he put up similar numbers with less talent and a shaky offensive line.

Division Winner: San Diego: The Chargers didn't do much this offseason, but they shouldn't have any problem winning this division by two or three games this season. The bigger question is will Philip Rivers take the Chargers to the next level. LT just turned 30 years old and with his injury problems the past couple years he may only have two years left in the tank so San Diego's window of winning a Super Bowl is closing rather quickly.

2009 Projected Standings
San Diego: 11-5
Kansas City: 5-11
Oakland: 4-12
Denver: 3-13

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Tribute To Ed Thomas

Many people who have followed my blog in the past know I do more criticizing of people in the sports world rather than give them praise. It is just how I operate. However today I want to talk about a man who people should look up to and model themselves after whose life was tragically taken away by a former player and student. Many people don't know this but my parents live in the state of Iowa just about 70 miles away from where Ed Thomas's lived in the town of Parkersburg. I remember the storm that ripped Parkersburg to shreds and I remember the E:60 story on how Thomas used football to uplift the spirits of a community in shambles. Forget that he has 292 wins as a head coach. Forget that he won two state titles. Forget he has four players right now playing in the NFL. Forget that he went to the 1A State playoffs in Iowa 19 times. He will be remembered for all of that sure, but its his heart people should remember. The fact is he cared more than anyone about making boys into respectable young men. In a sports state where we see the Iowa Hawkeyes have 26 arrests in 26 months because of lack of life skills being taught and probably questionable players being recruited to the school, he focused on making boys into stand up gentlemen. He taught them life lessons. Ed Thomas was a model coach. Someone who if you want to be a coach at any level you would want to be. He won over 77 percent of his games while making his boys into men. Now a days you would be lucky to have that winning percentage without having some guys who make the news for all the wrong reasons. Sure he had some bad eggs (including the man who would end up taking his life) but Thomas always gave people a second chance and pushed them to learn from their mistakes and become a better person through the experience. A town of 1800 in Iowa is all over ESPN because of the death of their head coach. That doesn't happen by accident.

Remembering Him
I want to share some of the things people have said about Ed Thomas from people who knew him best.

"We didn’t just lose a football coach. We lost an icon,” said Tom Teeple, Thomas's Barber-Des Moines Register.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He really cared about every one of those players like (they) were his own kids. It’s just hard to believe that somebody would do something like this.”-Brad Meester, Jacksonville Jaguars Center-Des Moines Register

A rock is gone. A year ago, Ed Thomas reminded us of all that was good in the human spirit; the strength of community; the power of hope. Wednesday, he reminded us of the frailty of life; the senseless; the random; the tragic; the dark side that festers deep within us all.-Sean Keller, Des Moines Register Columnist.
"This is Iowa's John Lennon assassination. This is something and someone no one will ever forget."-Ken Miller, 1460 KXNO radio host in Des Moines-ESPN Story

"I wish I could give an organ. I wish there was just something I could. I had just signed a new contract he and I hadn't talked about it yet. And I just can't fathom the idea that he and I won't speak again."-Denver Broncos center Casey Wiegmann-ESPN Story

He demanded more out of me than I thought I had in me, and you know what? That's one of the things that made him such a great man-Taylor Schrage, former player-Des Moines Register.

In 37 seasons he not only he made Falcons football what it is but he made people better for just knowing him. The shoes left by Thomas are bigger than any high school, college, or even professional coach ever left. He not only won games, he won with class. He won while making his players better people. That is the mark of a great coach and a great human being. R.I. P Coach Thomas. Many will miss you. The man who took Thomas's life 24 year old Matt Becker will be on trial July 2nd.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Five Players I Think Will Be Busts In The NBA

Its NBA Draft week and the players I loved to watch in college will go to the dark side and get paid to play the game most of played since they were in elementary school. With every draft you see players taken in the first round just flat out stink in their sports. Here are some first round locks who will fall flat in the NBA.

1) Jrue Holiday-Seriously I don't understand why he left college. This kid has so much promise when he came to UCLA. The hype led to a season where he didn't average double digits yet ESPN says he is "the most complete freshman" in the draft and has been rumored to go as high as #4 to the Kings. The most points he scored in a game was 20....against Florida Atlantic. The kid better be taking classes during the summer because I honestly think he will do about what he did in college in the NBA. Be an ok player who will do good things on the defensive side of the ball but not one that is going to score in the double digits consistently and won't be a leader on the floor. I don't care that Holiday wasn't a real fit to UCLA's system. Players should be able to adjust to the offense they play for and Holiday didn't do that at all. Holidays stats-8.5 ppp 3.8 rpg 3.7 apg

2) Brandon Jennings- The player "too good for college" is gonna wish he went and played at Arizona. Jennings averaged 7.6 points in the Euroleague and the weaknesses he has including not being good in a half court game and fading away when he shoots could mean he could be a scoring bust for anyone who takes him. As for defense he is average, he is good at keeping shooters in front of him but they still can shoot over him and blow past him into the lane It will take him a few years before he maybe considered a regular starter in the NBA and won't be playing 40+ minutes much. Jennings stats-7.6 ppg 1.6 rpg 1.6 apg

3) James Johnson-The big man from Wake has some upside to him, but inconsistency will kill him in the NBA. There were stretches where you wondered if Johnson was day dreaming on the court. Needs to work on not taking bad shots, especially early in the shot clock and needs to drive to the basket instead of taking the outside shot. He can be a force inside he is a big boy that won't be pushed around to much and is a pretty good rebounder. Time will tell though if he can play inside for 82 games against the best players. My guess is he can't. Johnson stats-15 ppg 8.5 rpg

4) Jodie Meeks-All I have to ask is why. Why didn't you go back and play for a coach that has NBA coaching experience? Why didn't you go back to a program that with Meeks would have been favored to win the SEC title and could play for a national championship. He is a Ben Gordon prototype however I really don't think he will be a first round pick. If you leave early from college you go because you are going to be a first round pick and get paid millions. Meeks won't do that. He needs to work on his ball handling skills and was too soft on defense at Kentucky. Yes he can put up big numbers scoring (54 at Tennessee last year) but I think he would benefit more if he went and played one more year at Kentucky. Meeks stats-23.7 ppg 3.4 rpg 1.8 apg

5) Austin Daye-Can you say stick man? He needs to beef up or he is going to get pushed around like a pinball. He settles to much on the outside shot and needs to learn to drive the ball a little bit more to the basket if he is going to make it in the NBA. Like Johnson he needs to work on consistency shooting the basketball. Could very well fall out of the first round like Meeks.- Dayes stats-12.7 ppg 6.8 rpg

The NBA Draft can be seen June 25th at 7pm EST. Join me and wave good bye to the stars of the college seen and see them enter the dark side.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Doing The Crime Without Paying The Time

The news of Donte Stallworth being suspended from the NFL got me thinking today. If you haven't been following this closely Donte Stallworth has been in trouble for manslaughter after killing a man with his car while he was under the influence of alcohol. Stallworth if convicted could of seen 15 years in prison. He ended up getting 30 days in jail. How is it that the NFL dishes out a tougher penalty than the feds? I have to commend Roger Goodell for suspending Stallworth because do you honestly believe he will have learned his lesson after 30 days in jail? I mean Michael Vick served a longer term for killing dogs then Stallworth is going to for killing another human being. There is something really wrong about that. Unfortunately this has happened before in all major sports. Kobe Bryant just had to hand over what in his world is considered pocket change when he was in court for sexually assaulting another woman at a hotel he was staying at. We all know Adam "Pac man" Jones seems to have a problem with staying out of fights at night clubs yet he had how many second chances before finally enough is enough? But back to Stallworth, if it was you are me we would totally be in the slammer for at least a decade with probation after we got out. When Stallworth gets out he has only two years probation. Unfortunately society somehow has made these athletes play on a social playing field that is well above normal peoples level. Just cause they are in the spotlight means they get treated differently. Thanks to Roger Goodell Stallworth won't get off as easy as some of his sports colleagues in the past have. Its about time someone did something about this.