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STERIODS: Contrasting the NFL & MLB

This time last year, Hank Steinbrenner came out and stated that he didn’t “like baseball being singled out” when it came to the attention by media and congress over the steroids issue.  He later commented, “Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs.  I don’t know how they managed to skate by.  It irritates me.  Don’t tell me it’s not more prevalent.  The number in football is at least twice as many.  Look at the speed and size of those players.”

In the wake of A-Rod’s admittance of steroid use between 2001 and 2003, I do think it’s interesting to contrast why there seems to be a double standard between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and football.

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

I do think it is amazing that guys like Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison–two prominent defensive players in the NFL–can test positive for steroids/HGH and no one truly seem to care.  Do football fans not care about the integrity of the game?  Do fans and maybe even the media enable these players because they want to see brutal collisions on the field?

I do think, though, that there are a few differences between baseball and football in regards to this issue.  Harrison, and to some degree, Shawne Merriman, admitted that they were wrong.  They were willing to accept their penalties.  That doesn’t make what they did okay, but these players and others did not break NFL policy and continue to lie about it time after time.  They didn’t play the “he said, she said” game.

That’s not to say that some of the players in the MLB should admit guilt if they aren’t guilty.  But, at least in the court of public opinion, they all certainly aren’t innocent.  Barry Bonds?  Palmeiro?  Clemens? Maguire?  Sosa?   There is this “hush, hush” mentality among these big name players, and yet damning evidence mounts against them that would appear to seriously cloud their credibility.  With A-Rod stating that he did indeed take performance-enhancing drugs–after a 2007 interview with Katie Couric where he flatly denied this claim–an entire era of baseball has an enormous blemish on it.

Another distinct difference between baseball and football in regards to steroids is the actual benefit.  It is known that steroids can give you a boost in strength, muscle, and speed.  HGH, a substance that Rodney Harrison was found to be taking this time last year, is widely believed to aid in the recovery of injury.  When Harrison apparently took the drug, he was attempting to recover much quicker from an injury than he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  Again, this doesn’t justify his actions.

Harrison Tested Positive

Harrison Tested Positive

But at the same time, we as fans cannot begin to fathom the wear and tear on one’s body that playing in the NFL induces.  There are former players that have a hard time going about their day due to massive injuries.  ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, a former offensive lineman, has admitted to having at least twenty knee surgeries.  And some former players even suffer from dementia due to the brutal sport of football.

Another issue is the impact steroids has on the game of baseball and football.  Baseball is much less of a team sport than football.  Essentially, baseball is a pitcher versus a batter.  If the pitcher is taking steroids which in turn allows him to throw the ball with a bit more velocity, that is an advantage.  If the batter is utilizing steroids to allow him to hit the ball further, that could potentially turn a double play into a home-run.  That is, most certainly, an advantage.

These factors decide games.

Can games really be decided by steroids in football, though?  Does steroids help you read a defense better?  Does steroids allow you to make every single tackle on the field?  Does steroids give you the drive to study film, decipher signals, or enhance your vision to see the hole?

Football is a team sport.  If one person–or for that matter, a few players–are using steroids on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I am not convinced that that is an advantage.  It may make you a bit stronger.  It may make you a bit faster.  But, unlike baseball, I don’t think those benefits can make you and your team better.  I’ve seen guys come into the NFL who are complete physical specimens (Former number 1 overall pick in 2000, DE Courtney Brown, springs to mind), and yet could barely crack the starting lineup.

Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Courtney Brown: Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Guys who are the strongest and fastest and yet their careers never take off due to injury, an inability to pick up the playbook, or a complete lack of heart.

Remember, you need the physical tools and talent in the NFL, but football is most certainly a mental game.  Akili Smith and Michael Vick could throw the ball out of the stadium and into oncoming traffic on the highway, yet they were both mediocre quarterbacks.

Smith Didnt Work Out for the Bengals

Smith Didn't Work Out for the Bengals

I am not saying that players cannot and do not benefit from steroids in the NFL.  In 2006, when Merriman was suspended four games for steroids, he still racked up 17 sacks in 12 games.  That is an incredible stat.  At the same time, in 2007, in just 15 games, Merriman still registered 12.5 sacks.  That is a very good total, still.  And while steroids may have contributed to Merriman being able to get around the corner and sack Peyton Manning a couple extra times, steroids absolutely cannot aid you if you bite on Manning’s play fake and he throws it over the top to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown.

Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that baseball is a numbers game.  Home runs, batting averages and bases stolen–it’s what baseball fans care about, from age 8 to 80.

Quick, name me how many yards Emmitt Smith gained in his career?  How many touchdowns did Jerry Rice retire with?  How many sacks did Reggie White have?  How many consecutive games has Brett Favre played?

Even the most die-hard NFL fan would be hard pressed to answer those questions.

Yes, baseball is about the numbers, and if a player is on steroids and has a chance to balloon his numbers into the stratosphere, that is something that the common baseball fan can’t stand.  No one wants someone to eclipse Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth without knowing they did it the old natural way.

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pro Bowl is Merely a 2009 Campaign for Teams

With the Presidential election over, and the excitement of primaries, caucuses, and delegates far behind us, some people may be in withdrawl.  Whatever will you do without politicians verbally sparring with each other as they fight for the chance to be the next President of the United States?

2008 Campaign

2008 Campaign

There is, however, a solution.  Afterall, nobody really watches the NFL Pro Bowl.  Though it airs in beautiful Hawaii each year (though this year will be the last for the Aloha state), the actual game is boring.  Players obviously play not to get hurt, and the game itself is, truly, more meaningless than the last exhibition game in the pre-season.

With that said, there may be a few reasons to tune in.  Free agency is right around the corner, and many players playing in this game (Albert Haynesworth, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and more) will be free agents.

On ESPN’s NFL Live, Haynesworth was discussing his future.  He said he doesn’t know what the Titans will do, but that he’s open to seeing what other teams show a strong interest in him.  Haynesworth then picked up a Colts helmet, posed with it, and stated that he could see himself in Indianapolis.

Peyton Manning was soon interviewed and stated that the Pro Bowl really is like a campaign.  Players from a given team will court a soon to be free agent–hanging out with them in Hawaii, going out to eat, etc–and then when free agency rolls around, that player has signed with that team.

Look no further than when Terrell Owens wanted out in San Francisco.  In the Pro Bowl that year, he was getting quite friendly with Ray Lewis and Donovan McNabb.  That off-season, he was traded to Baltimore (temporarily) before landing in Philadelphia.

Oddly enough, Houshmanzadeh has already expressed a potential interest in playing in Philly, as well.

One has to wonder, if this kind of politicking does indeed work, is it any wonder why the awful teams never seem to get better?  Surely, it’s not all about camaraderie–money is the number one motivating factor.  But, if there aren’t a lot of Detroit Lions players at the Pro Bowl to openly campaign to a popular soon-to-be free agent, one would have to assume that he would be less likely to sign there.  Bad teams need all the more representatives present to showcase the organization in a good light.  Afterall, it doesn’t take much convincing to sign with the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.  If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, however, one would probably want to hear from a few players on the team about why signing in Kansas City would be such a wise move.

Manning/Delhomme

Manning/Delhomme

And while it is ultimately about money, no player wants to be stuck in NFL Purgatory–also known as Oakland.

February 8, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Play In Super Bowl History?

Since the Super Bowl ended, many pundits and fans alike have stated that James Harrison’s interception return for a touchdown was the greatest play ever in Super Bowl history.

James Harrison

James Harrison

But I just don’t see it.

It was an excellent play, to be sure, but best ever?  While I appreciate that the interception helped prevent a Cardinals touchdown–and more importantly Cardinals momentum–I don’t regard that play as the best ever.

For starters, it happened at the end of the second half.  This wasn’t with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Second, while an interception return for a touchdown is incredible, I’ve seen Ed Reed this season have more spectacular interception returns than the Harrison scamper down the sideline.  In my eyes, that play was more of an indictment of Arizona’s inability to tackle a linebacker running out of gas.

I’d argue that Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopping Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson on the very last play of regulation in Super Bowl XXXIV was much better.  The Titans needed a touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime.  Mike Jones, a relative unknown, prevented Kevin Dyson from gaining the extra yard that he needed.  Despite Steve McNair’s efforts on that drive, the Titans came up one yard short.  Ironically, weeks before, the Titans had benefited from the Music City Miracle–a play that essentially came down to whether the lateral from Frank Wycheck to (oddly enough) Kevin Dyson was indeed a lateral or forward pass.  Was it a yard forward or behind?  Well, weeks later in the Super Bowl, it was clearly one yard short.

Kevin Dyson

Kevin Dyson

In my opinion, though, last year’s catch by David Tyree was the best in Super Bowl history.  In fact, NFL Films President Steve Sabol wrote an NFL.com article about it last season.

The Giants were all that stood in the way of the Patriots being immortalized for all time.  Down 14-10, it’s 3rd and 5 at the Giants 44 yard line.  There’s one minute and fifteen seconds left in the game.  Manning takes the snap and finds a way to elude the grasp of  Jarvis Green and Adalius Thomas.  Manning hails the ball down the middle of the field, and a wide receiver that nobody heard of battles with a Hall of Fame safety in Rodney Harrison.  Tyree pins the ball to his helmet while falling backwards.  He holds onto the football.  First down, Giants.

Just four plays later, Manning hits Burress in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.  The rest is history.

For my money, that’s easily the best play in Super Bowl history.  It had drama and significant ramifications, but more importantly, it left you in awe.  After an entire year, I still cannot understand how 1) Eli Manning was not sacked, forcing an almost impossible fourth down attempt and 2) how David Tyree–who only caught four passes in the regular season and whom teammates stated was dropping passes all week in practice leading up the big game–could find a way to hold onto the football in such a tough, high stakes situation.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cardinals and NFL Parity are Alive and Well

With Arizona’s big win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night, one thing was clear as day to me.  Parity is alive and well in the NFL–and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Cardinals Equal NFL Parity

Cardinals Equal NFL Parity

First, let’s start with the good.  The Cardinals are a team that hadn’t hosted a home playoff game since, quite literally, Harry Truman was President–in 1947.  Arizona was mired in the muck of a suffocating losing culture.  The Cards–who were everyone’s “surprise/breakout team” for the past five years–continously found ways to disappoint and live far below expectations.

The idea that the Cardinals can turn that negativity into inspiration and take the entire league by storm is an immense accomplishment.  When the Cardinals didn’t take Terrell Suggs, people laughed.  When Matt Leinart seemingly struggled in Arizona, people moaned.  And when Edgerrin James appeared to be starting his retirement early, fans were filled with apathy.  But now, the Cardinals–who have never sniffed a Superbowl title–are now just one game away from playing in one.  That is the power of the NFL, and that’s why we love this game.  An underdog can become top dog with hard work and preparation.

But there’s a downside.  A big one.  While it’s great to see a team like Arizona go from rags to riches–what does that say about the rest of the league?  Afterall, the Cardinals only won nine games this season.  Contrast that to the Titans–who won thirteen–and were bounced out of the playoffs after just one game.

Let’s also not forget how the Cardinals finished the year.  They lost four of their last six games–their two wins coming against the Rams and the Seahawks; their losses all coming against playoff teams (except the Patriots, who should’ve went to the playoffs with an 11-5 record).

So how does a nine win team go into Carolina–a team that was undefeated at home–and make the Panthers look like an expansion team?  Well, certainly film study helped a lot.  It was clear that the defensive backs of Arizona were reading Jake Delhomme and properly jumping the routes of the receivers.  Arizona, over the past few games, has also developed a running attack which has served them well in the absence of Anquan Boldin.

And while the famous words of “any given Sunday” are always relevant–this wasn’t supposed to happen.  While no team “deserves” anything, based upon the way the Cardinals played in the regular season, do they “deserve” to be in the NFC Championship game?  This is the same team that benefited tremendously from a weak NFC West division.

Unlike the 2001 New England Patriots who were a genuine Cinderella story–starting quarterback Drew Bledose goes down, Tom Brady steps in, and the team doesn’t miss a beat–the Cardinals weren’t a strong team throughout the season.  In 2001, the New England Patriots took a team with zero star quality and simply out played and outcoached their competition each week.  And while they were disrespected every week and never given a chance all the way to the Superbowl, you never got the sense that the Patriots didn’t earn their right to be there.  One has to wonder this with the Cardinals.  Aside from two wonderful playoff games, have they earned their way into the NFC Championship game?

And therein lies the issue with parity.  It’s wonderful because it allows competition in every division and at every position.  It’s not so wonderful, though, because the difference between the great teams and the okay teams is quite negligible, and, unlike in decades past, a team of perrenial losers can beat a team destined for the Superbowl.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mangini Fills First Head Coaching Vacancy

Word came down today that Eric Mangini–the head coach who was fired just ten days ago from the New York Jets–will become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.  The Browns were the first team to fire a head coach–the Raiders and Rams notwithstanding–and they are certainly the first team to fill a head coaching vacancy.

Eric Mangini

Eric Mangini

But how good will Mangini be?  Will he really be able to turn around a Cleveland Browns team that has only went to the playoffs once since returning to the league ten seasons ago?

Mangini comes with a bit of baggage, himself.  He was known as a guy who wasn’t good with the media, often excluding them from practices and being very limited in his answers in press conferences.  Mangini also is, of course, the man who ratted out the Patriots in 2007’s infamous “spygate.”

But Mangini has had some success, too.  In just three seasons with the Jets, he went to the playoffs once and was on the cusp of the playoffs this season.

The Future of Winslow and Edwards Uncertain

The Future of Winslow and Edwards Uncertain

Mangini will have his hands full this off-season.  Cleveland holds the No. 5 pick in the draft, and both Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow only have one year remaining on their contracts.  Edwards is coming off a horrendous 2008 season, capping it off with blaming the fans for his woes in the city.  And Winslow’s 2008 campaign was marred by invisibility on the field and injury off it.  Winslow reportedly had a staph infection late in the season, and lashed out at former General Manager Phil Savage for not caring about him, stating that Savage treated him like a “piece of meat.”

Whatever the case, the entry of Man-genius to Cleveland will be interesting to watch.  With reports out of Cleveland stating that Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is tapped by Mangini to be their defensive coordinator, we could be seeing a completely new attitidue in Cleveland this season.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | 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

The Future of Matt Cassel

What will happen to Matt Cassel next year? He’s an unrestricted free agent as soon as the curtain falls on the 2008. When you Google “Matt Cassel 2009” you can find articles and forum posts titled “Could Matt Cassel [wind up with (insert team here)]?”

Does Matt Cassel become a viable fantasy starter in 2009? With 21 TDs and 3,600 yards it’s understandable why he’s a hot commodity as an unrestricted free agent. But consider the surrounding talent in New England – a great head coach, a veteran offensive line, the best deep threat in the history of the NFL, and a terrific underneath receiver with skills after the catch. How many teams have this combination of talent? None.
Still there are teams that could provide him elements of the Pats environment that helped him become a highly successful first-year starter.

Here is a quick look around the map at where he could potentially fit in:

Detroit: Placing Jon Kitna on IR against his will told us long ago that they’re in the hunt for a new QB. Calvin Johnson has a chance to be a better deep threat than Moss, but beyond Megatron, there’s not much else here. Kevin Smith has been playing very well without a dominant offensive line in front of him, but beyond these two players there’s no stability for the offense system unless the same coaching staff remains in place. If the Ford family retains Rod Marinelli, this will be a run-oriented offense that will want to go deep off the play action pass.

Chicago: The problem here is Cassel would have to work with young receivers with little to zero experience. At the same time, he’s pretty good in a short passing attack and he’s developing into an effective cold weather player. I’m convinced that Chicago isn’t satisified with either Orton or Grossman as their future quarterback and will be, at least, taking a look at the free agent market or, more likely, targeting young talent in the draft.

New York: If Brett Farve retires, the Jets will be left with Kellen Clemens and a cast of young quarterbacks with intriguing, but not blue chip, futures.  Even though Mangini is gone, I could see the Jets going after Cassel to put the middle finger in the (rival) Patriots face.

San Francisco: Cassel could be the type of guy the Niners would try to build around. The surrounding talent is young, but more experienced than Chicago. The issue will be the offensive coordinator/system San Francisco adopts. Shaun Hill has done enough to keep my attention as an option, but the 49ers have to be done with giving Alex Smith “the potential” label.  Could Shaun Hill have passed for 3,000 plus yards behind a New England line with weapons like Moss and Welker? Perhaps. Arizona is eventually going to build around Leinhart, and when they do, a guy like Warner could be viable working with Hill.

Minnesota: Strong running game? Check. Solid offensive mind? Check. Quality deep threat? Check. Compatible offensive matt casselsystem? Big question mark. It seems to me if Minnesota decides to pursue a quarterback they are going after McNabb, who has worked with Childress and won’t need any development.

St. Louis: Marc Bulger is a fine passer when he has time, but he’s frail and gets hit a lot. A recipe for disaster and this team is ripe for an offensive overhaul.

Early Verdict: I’m betting on San Francisco or Detroit. If Cassel winds up in either destination, I think 3600 yards and 20 scores would be a huge year for him. I don’t expect him to retain starter status numbers in 2009. If you do, I think he’ll disappoint.

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

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Best/Worst NFL Desicions of 2008

With the New Year right around the corner, let’s look back at a few of the best and worst decisions of the 2008 NFL season.

BEST:

1)  Starting rookie quarterbacks–Choosing to start young guns Matt Ryan and Joe Flacoo truly paid off for the Falcons and Ravens, respectively.  Both players managed the game well, looked poised in the pocket, and limited their mistakes.  Ryan and Flacoo never hit a rookie wall and just may have changed the thought around the league that rookie quarterbacks should never hit the football field early.

2)  Michael Turner to the Falcons–While everyone knew that Turner had great ability, no one knew quite what to expect from Tomlinson’s career backup.  Turner’s decision to go to Atlanta was met with skepticism, as the big man signed with one of the worst teams of 2007.  Seventeen touchdowns later, Turner was the best free agent signing of the 2008.

Matt Cassell

Matt Cassell

3)  Keeping Matt Cassell–A career backup everywhere he went, the Patriots made a great decision in both developing Cassell and not cutting him.  For years, Cassell looked awful in pre-season games, and he was close to being cut several times over the years.  The Patriots were smart in keeping Cassell around, as Tom Brady’s injury proved how necessary it is to have a quality back-up.

WORST:

1)  Not Trading Derek Anderson–This is not hindsight.  The Browns should’ve traded Anderson the minute after the pro-bowl ended.  His numbers last season looked good, but Anderson faltered down the stretch in 2007.  His ineptitude against the Bengals in December of 2007 cost the Browns a playoff birth.  And Anderson couldn’t hit his receivers in the pro bowl–a game that doesn’t allow opposing defenses to blitz.  GM Phil Savage refused to trade Anderson and closed the door on the possibility of a training camp competiton involving Brady Quinn.  Anderson eventually signed a long term contract with Cleveland, and Phil Savage simultaneously signed his own death warrant.

Derek Anderson

Derek Anderson

2)  Jets Release Chad Pennington–Pennington was always a pretty good quarterback.  Not great, but he did a lot of things well and was football smart.  While one cannot argue that his weak arm is better suited in warm Miami than cold New York, Pennington was always good for minimizing his mistakes.  Favre, while certainly a gun slinger, is a turnover machine.  The choice to trade for Brett Favre and subsequently release Pennington came back to bite them in week 17.  It also cost Eric Mangini his head coaching job.

3)  PacMan Jones Gets a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Chance–This is all on Roger Goodell.  At some point, a man such as PacMan Jones needs to learn that his beahvoir is not acceptable, and that priveleges he has enjoyed in the past will be stripped away due to his reckless behaivor.  Regarding Jones and the NFL, his priveleges were always taken away–but only temporarily.  Whether it’s his dozens of arrests, his fight at a night club which resulted in someone getting shot and paralyzed, or his “incident” with his own bodyguard, it’s clear that PacMan Jones just doesn’t “get it.”  And for someone who acts so stupid off the field, he should’ve forver lost the privelege to suit up and play.

December 30, 2008 Posted by | NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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