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Don’t Fall in Love with the Measurables

With the 2009 NFL Combine getting ready to kick off this weekend, hundreds of players are currently in Indianapolis getting prepared to jump high, run fast, and throw hard.

Scouts for all 32 NFL teams will be intently watching to see which prospects showcase their talents the best, and which fall flat and disappoint.

The NFL combine is the start of a long journey for these young men.   Players across the country gather to dazzle NFL teams and to boost their draft status.  Post combine, some players are heralded as improving their stock; others are deemed to be the combine goats.

Regardless of who runs the fastest or jumps the highest, it should be said up front–do not fall in love with the measurables.

Sure, it’s easy to do.  A running back projected to go in the third round runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and showcases unique agility and an ability to catch the football.

Ofter, these players will be regarded as “great athletes” by Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, and many other pundits.

Try not to fall for it.

That’s not to say that the combine cannot showcase an otherwise unknown talent for the entire league to see.  Players come in and have great success in the league despite limited opportunities in college and great combine and pro day workouts.

But I keep thinking back to the 2005 draft.  All the talk was about which running back would go off the board first–Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, or Ronnie Brown.

Brown works out at the 2005 combine

Brown works out at the 2005 combine

Brown went to the combine and ripped it up.  Ran a great time, excelled in the drills, and looked to have an unique combination of speed and power.  Brown improved his draft status, and was selected as the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.

Now, Brown is a solid back in the league.  Solid.  I wouldn’t say great by any stretch.  He shares time with Ricky Williams, which is fine, as this is a popular trend in the league.

With that said, Brown has never had more than ten rushing touchdowns in his pro career.  He gained 1,000+ yards just once.  And while his average per carry is solid, he’s not an every down back.  Per year, he carries the ball about 220 times every year.

As a comparison, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings carried the ball 368 times in 2008 for almost 1,800 yards.  Peterson also shared a bit of time with Chester Taylor in the backfield.  And though he had more success and a stronger body of work in college, Peterson was drafted seventh overall.

So buyer beware.  If I were advising an NFL team, I would tell them that the measurables are great, but use it as a guide on draft day.  Don’t live and die by the numbers these players amass as they work out in shorts and sneakers at the combine this weekend.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Are the Colts Perrenial Playoff Losers?

The Colts are king of the regular season.  They consistently win 10+ games every year.  Their coach has an even keeled demeanor and their team has some of the best collection of talent in the league.

Manning Contemplates his Playoff History

Manning Contemplates his Playoff History

With Saturday night’s loss to the 8-8 San Diego Chargers, however,  it must be asked…why do the Colts lose so much in the playoffs?

Here’s some playoff history of the Colts that dates back to 2000:

•Jan. 3, 2009 – AFC Wildcard – San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17

•Jan. 13, 2008 – AFC Divisional – San Diego 28, Indianapolis 24

•Feb. 4, 2007 – Super Bowl XLI – Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

• Jan. 21, 2007 – AFC Championship – Indianapolis 38, New England 34

• Jan. 13, 2007 – AFC Divisional – Indianapolis 15, Baltimore 6

• Jan. 6, 2007 – AFC Wildcard – Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8

• Jan. 15, 2006 – AFC Divisional – Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 18

• Jan. 16, 2005 – AFC Divisional – New England 20, Indianapolis 3

• Jan. 9, 2005 – AFC Wild Card – Indianapolis 49, Denver 24

• Jan. 18, 2004 – AFC Championship – New England 24, Indianapolis 14

• Jan. 11, 2004 – AFC Divisional – Indianapolis 38, Chiefs 31

• Jan. 4, 2004 – AFC Wild Card – Indianapolis 41, Denver 10

• Jan. 4, 2003 – AFC Wild Card – Jets 41, Indianapolis 0

• Dec. 30, 2001 – AFC Wild Card – Miami 23, Indianapolis 17 (OT)

• Jan. 16, 2000 – AFC Divisional – Tennessee 19, Indianapolis 16

As the record shows, over the past decade, the Colts have made the playoffs nine times.  In nine trips to the post season, they have won the Superbowl once, and went to the AFC Championship only twice.  They have lost in the wildcard round three times, while falling in the divisional round four times.  And in their AFC Championship win against the Patriots in early 2007, it must be noted that the Colts were down by 18 points.  One could argue that Manning and the Colts won that game just as much as the Patriots lost it.

So why is this the case?  No one really knows.  Some may want to blame Dungy, a laid back coach who often chooses (like last season) to rest his starters before the playoffs begin.  Compare that to what Giants coach Tom Coughlin did against the Patriots in week 17–where New York played as if the last game of the season was the Superbowl instead of a meaningless game for the Giants.  Does that have a genuine effect?  No one knows for certain.

Some want to blame Peyton Manning or the finesse offensive scheme.  Is Manning a poor playoff quarterback?  Are the Colts too much of a soft team during the regular season to compete with the tougher, more aggressive teams in the post season?

We’ll probably never know for certain.  But be sure to share your thoughts on why the Colts have so many problems in the playoffs.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Straight Cash’s Wild Card Weekend Picks

This NFL Wild Card weekend will have dirty birds, rookie QBs, MVPs, All-Days, Burners, Bolts and Colts. It also features all 4 home teams as underdogs — first time I’ve ever seen that. Let’s get to the picks. Short and sweet.

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals, 4:30pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: ATL -2, o/u 51

The pick: Over 51

It’ll be a shootout in the desert. The Falcons will score points because the Cardinals are 0-6 against teams who were in the top 10 in rushing (the Falcons are ranked #2 behind the Giants). Then, after a steady diet of Mike Turner and Jerious Norwood, Matt Ryan will open up the field against Arizona’s 22nd ranked pass D. On the other side, Arizona will take to the air because they are dead last in rushing, and so we’ll see the Kurt Warner show against Atlanta’s very shaky secondary. This game may also get messy with the presence of John Abraham and his 16.5 sacks. Though a lot of things point to an Atlanta win, you cannot count out Captain Kurt at home. He will go down chucking the ball to his talented trio of receivers, and if he misses, well that’s just better field position for the dirty birds. One big stat: the over is 9-1 in Arizona’s last 10 home games.

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers, 8:00pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: IND -1, o/u 50

The pick: IND -1

The Chargers may be on a roll with 4 wins in a row to close the season, but if you look closely they were against the doormat Chiefs, lowly Raiders, and self-destructing Broncos and Bucs teams. The Colts are riding a 9-win wave themselves with quality victories over the Steelers, Patriots and a 23-20 Week 12 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm. In this matchup of two premier QBs, I’ll take Indy’s 6th ranked pass D over the 31st ranked San Diego pass D (only the Seahawks were worse). It will be close throughout, but look for the Colts to slow this game down, and finish with a vintage Peyton Manning, long, drawn-out, antsy, multi-audible, drive.

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Baltimore Orioles at Miami Dolphins, 1:00pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: BAL -3, o/u 38

The pick: BAL -3

Baltimore’s D will be too much for Pennington and Miami. In their 27-13 Week 7 win over the Dolphins, the Ravens stopped the vaunted Wildcat offense allowing only 71 rush yards and forcing a pick 6 courtesy of Terrell Suggs. Look for Baltimore to bring the same defensive gameplan and challenge Pennington to go deep (not his strength) where my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Mr. Ed Reed (and his 9 INTs), will be waiting. All rookie QB Joe Flacco has to do is his best Kerry Collins imitation and take care of the ball and make simple, low risk plays, and leave the rest to Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Suggs and company. The Dolphins’ and Pennington’s comeback story has been inspiring this year, but it ends this weekend.

A little help on "O" please

A little help on "O" please

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings, 4:30pm EST, FOX
Line/Total: PHI -2, o/u 41

The pick: PHI -2

If the Eagles were facing any other NFC playoff team, I might think twice about picking them because of their inconsistency and much too frequent brain farts. But against the one-dimensional Vikes, it makes it easy for D-guru Jim Johnson to scheme up ways to stop Adrian Peterson and expose the Vikings passing game. Yes, Minnesota has the top-ranked rush defense, but Philadelphia isn’t too shabby at #5. The difference is that Philly has a very efficient McNabb, who’s making the right reads of late. Also, the Eagles 3rd ranked pass defense will feast on Minny’s 25th ranked pass offense. Nothing else here other than the Eagles secondary has been swarming, and if any bit of the intensity brought against Dallas shows up, it’ll be a long day for Tavaris Jackson. Hopefully, we don’t get any of this on the sidelines.

USC’s KO of Penn State started the year off right. Straight Cash record for 2009: 1-0

Good Luck everyone.

January 3, 2009 Posted by | General, NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How I Would Fix the Detroit Lions

Lions Fans Incognito

With the season now over and the Detroit Lions having turned in the worst season in NFL history, here are a few steps I would implement in attempting to turn around this downtrodden franchise.

1) I would first bring in general managers who know talent—both of the past and present. I wouldn’t hire immediately, but I would bring them in to evaluate my team. I’d like to know what some of the football minds around the league really think of my squad. Evaluate my players, coaching staff, and gameday strategy. Give me your honest opinion—it would allow this team to not live in the bubble of ineptitude that it has gotten far too familiar with.

2) The second thing I would do would be to reach out to Lions alumni. Get Lem Barney on the phone. Ask Herman Moore to come and talk to the team. And make sure that Barry Sanders gets some sort of advisor role with the team. I would connect the present to the past for both the players and the fans.

3) The third thing I would do is lower ticket prices. In the economically ravaged streets of Detroit, times are tough. Times are even worse when your team has never been to the Superbowl and has been putrid since Michael Jackson sang “Thriller.” I would display some good faith, and lower ticket prices a bit to appease my loyal fan base.

4) The fourth thing I would do is hire competent people. This sounds obvious, but Matt Millen was the GM in Detroit for almost a decade. He had no experience whatsoever for the position, and his team was dreadful year after year. Yet he always kept his job. I would certainly allow my hires to fail because you cannot succeed if you don’t, to some extent, crash and burn. But I wouldn’t tolerate poor play or inexcusable team management. The Ford family enabled Matt Millen—I wouldn’t stand for it.

5) The last thing I would attempt to do is change the losing culture. Losing really and truly is a disease. Ask the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, or Houston Texans. When a losing culture infects your franchise, you find ways to lose. You snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I would do my best to surround my team with winners. Not coaches who talk a good game, but ones who have actually won consistently at the pro level. I would rid my team of lazy, apathetic players and replace them with savvy veterans and young players willing to make an impact (similar to how the Patriots built their franchise). I would constantly reiterate to my team that if the horrendous 1998 Rams can go from the toilet bowl to the Superbowl—and the 1-15 Dolphins of 2007 can go from laughing stock division champs, then there’s no reason that the Lions cannot regain their once mighty roar.

What would be some things you would do to turn around the Detroit Lions? I want to hear from you Sportsfly.com readers!

January 1, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NFL 2008: Crazy

As 2008 draws to a close and 2009 brings us the beginning of the playoff season, we should look back on what makes us love football so much.

The great thing about the NFL season is that, no matter what you think you know, you really know nothing.  When the NFL schedule was released in spring 2007, everyone thought the Cowboys would be Superbowl champs.

Crazy.

Everyone thought the Dolphins and Falcons would be battling for the number one pick.

Crazy.

Many thought that Tom Brady would help lead the Patriots deep into the playoffs and that the Eagles were getting ready to say goodbye to the Donnovan McNabb era.

Brady Goes Down

Brady Goes Down

Crazy.

Early in the season, many thought that the Redskins were a great team and that Jason Campbell was emerging as an elite quarterback.  Many thought that the Buffalo Bills had finally become contenders in the AFC East.

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that the hard-nosed Tampa Bay Buccaneers would lose all of their games in December, including a match-up against the lowly Raiders, thus ending their playoff hopes?  Who would’ve thought that in the same game–in the fourth quarter no less–that running back Carnell Williams would tear up his knee yet again after a year long rehab?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that we would’ve seen a team like the Patriots come so close to immortality in February and just ten months later, see the Detroit Lions get inducted into the Hall of Shame?

Lions go 0-16

Lions go 0-16

Crazy.

Who could have forseen that this time a year ago, Michael Vick began his prison sentence.  Just one year later, his Falcons have a franchise quarterback, a coach of the year candidate, and a playoff birth?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that Drew Brees could throw for over 5,000 yards (coming 16 yards shy of the passing record) and 34 touchdowns and not even be in serious contention for the MVP award?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought than the Patriots could go 11-5 and miss the playoffs, while the 8-8 Chargers host the 12-4 Colts and the 9-7 Cardinals host the 11-5 Falcons this weekend?

Crazy.

This has been a season of surprises and jaw dropping moments.  As Don Cheadle (below) once said, the “crazy” is why we love it.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dead Fish Handshakes and New England Heartbreaks

Better luck in '09 Bill, Love Eric.

Better luck in '09 Bill, Love Eric.

After two years of bitter resentment and an epic rivalry of bad blood, Eric Mangini found a way to keep hated rivals, the New England Patriots, out of the playoffs. In doing so he lost to the Miami Dolphins…and consequently his own job. The former 1-15 Dolphins were able to extend their record to 11-5 and inch above New England to take the AFC East title.

This isn’t another one of StatDrgon’s conspiracy theories. I’m not proposing that the Jets “threw” the game to keep New England out of the playoffs, but I’d like to remark on the incredible coincidence that the future of the Patriots’ season fell to the hands of the New York Jets and Eric Mangini. Essentially, all that New England needed on Sunday was a victory from the Jets. Unfortunately (for New England) the Jets were not able to provide a win for their northeast rivals.

The name Eric Mangini makes Patriots fans shutter. To understand fully, one must be familiar with the history of ill will between the two organizations.

After 5 seasons of coaching with Belichick and the Patriots (2000-2005), Mangini left to take head-coaching position with the Jets. The terms and way that Mangini left sparked a rivalry between the two coaches. Over the next year New England filed tampering charges against Mangini for soliciting (then) current players and assistant coaches to abandon their commitment to the Pats organization and join him in New York. The feud came to a culmination in 2007 when, amidst of a perfect season, the Patriots were accused of videotaping other teams defensive signals. New England was reprimanded $750,000 in fines and the forfeiture of a 1st round draft selection for the following year. The incident, known infamously as ‘Spygate,’ sparked the criticism and condemnation of the Patriots organization and brought up questions of illegitimacy regarding three previous Championship seasons. Eric Mangini was the advocate and spokesman for accusations against Belichick in Spygate 2007. The actions taken by Eric Mangini, at this time, exacerbated the discord between himself and the New England Patriots.

When Tom Brady (QB- New England) went down for the season this year, Mangini must have felt like a kid on Christmas day as the window to the AFC East Title was opened. The Jets posted some significant victories throughout the first half of the season, beating the Patriots in overtime as well as handing the (pre)undefeated Titans a first loss. However, the season fell apart and all hopes of a playoff run were demolished as the Jets lost 4 out of the 5 final season games.

By Sunday the Jets were mathematically eliminated from the post season, however, the game against Miami was significant for Mangini in order to prove worth to the Jets organization. He was not able to do so as the Jets faltered 17-24.

This morning the New York Jets announced that they would be letting Coach Mangini go.

Had Mangini nothing to ‘play for’ yesterday, I would have been sold that losing was a tactic to keep the Pats out of the playoffs and prove dominance over hated rival Belichick.

As rivalry proves to be the driving force for creating exciting drama in sports, I can only hope that Eric Mangini finds a new job where he can effectively crawl under Belichick’s skin again, and vice versa. I would be beside myself with grief if I were not able to witness dead fish handshakes for years to come.

And that’s what the StatDragon is breathing fire about!

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Fantasy Football, News, NFL, Talkin Trash | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Burning NFL Questions

1.  Wasn’t this one of the most exciting final weeks of football you have witnessed in a long time?

2.  Was there any doubt that Romeo Crennel and Rod Marinelli were going to get canned?

3.  Speaking of firings, though, did Mangini really deserve to be fired after having two winning seasons in three years?

4.  Will Jerry Jones finally realize that team chemistry is what is needed in the locker room, and not just talent?

Tony Romo

Tony Romo

5.  Can everyone stop trying to replace Donnovan McNabb now?

6.  Isn’t it great to see Chad Pennington finally get some well deserved credit?

Chad Pennington

Chad Pennington

7.  Is it me, or are the Ravens the scariest team in the playoffs?

8.  Was it a bad decision to have Ben Roethlisberger play in a meaningless game against the Browns and get hurt, or just part of the game?

9.  Does anyone really expect much out of the Cardinals in the post-season?

10.  Although the Titans had nothing to play for, how does such a great team get shut out against a division rival?

11.  How many games in 2009 will it take for the Lions to finally win one?

12.  Wasn’t it a shame that Drew Brees came 16 yards short of breaking the passing record?

13.  Isn’t it a bigger shame that an 11-5 team like the Patriots can miss the playoffs, while the 8-8 Chargers get to host a playoff game?

14.  Aren’t you happy you don’t have to hear Terrell Owens’ garbage in the playoffs?

15.  Speaking of the Cowboys, why is Bradie James picking fights with fans–does he think think he is recently fired Browns GM Phil Savage?

16.  Speaking of Phil Savage, will he be remembered most for extending Romeo Crennel after just one good year in 2007 or refusing to trade a hot and cold QB in Derek Anderson while his stock was high?

17.  Can someone explain how Tampa Bay blew a playoff opportunity by losing to the Raiders?

18.  Can someone explain how the Broncos blew a three game lead in their division?

19.  Don’t we all hope Brett Favre doesn’t drag out his retirement drama for months and months?

20.  Now that it’s playoff time, why can’t the NFL bring back the Don Cheadle commericals?

December 29, 2008 Posted by | NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20 NFL Questions

Braylon Edwards of the Browns

Braylon Edwards of the Browns

1. Why does Braylon Edwards blame the fans of Cleveland for his icy reception instead of blaming his own two hands?

2. Speaking of Cleveland, how in the world can the Dolphins go from 1-15 in 2007 to potential division winners in 2008, but the Browns haven’t come close to that in the ten years since their return to the league?

3. Do you think the winless Buccaneers of 1976 really want the Lions to win a game?

4. Why can’t T.O. simply utter these two words when posed a question?: No comment

T.O.

T.O.

5. After seeing the success of the Patriots during this decade, why does Jerry Jones continue to invest in trouble making divas?

6.  Is it possible that GM Carl Peterson actually fell on the sword to save his buddy Herm’s job?

7. Is  anyone else as tired as I am of these Miller Lite “More Taste League” ads?

8. And can I just watch a football game without being bombarded about commercials discussing erectile dysfunction, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer?

9. Don’t you hope that this disappointing season won’t be an aid in moving the Bills out of Buffalo?

10. Can we please do away with the Pro Bowl and just have skill competitions?

11. Speaking of the Pro Bowl, did Brett Favre really deserve to be voted in?

12. Aren’t you surprised that you haven’t seen Peyton Manning in more ads this year?

13. When Al Davis inevitably fires his interim head coach, who in the world will want to coach this team?

14. Is wide receiver Jerry Porter the worst free agent signing of the off-season?

15. Isn’t Michael Turner the best free agent signing of the off-season?

16. Do you think the San Diego Chargers regret letting Turner walk away? 17. If he had a decent quarterback, wouldn’t Adrian Peterson be well over 2,000 rushing yards by now?

18. Isn’t it hard to believe that recently convicted O.J Simpson was one of the best backs the NFL has ever seen?

19. Aren’t you tired of ESPN’s John Clayton reporting a story one day, and contradicting himself the next?

20.  How is it that no matter who coaches the team (who plays for the them), the Steelers always win?

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL, Talkin Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments