PRAYERS ANSWERED?

•March 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

 

Dave is the first Sports Daggers contributor to calm down enough to gather his thoughts on the Redskins moving up to the #2 pick in the draft to select Robert Griffin III, here they are…..          

Everyone knows the dearth of QB talent the Redskins have had since their last Super Bowl victory (January 26, 1992 in a 72-degree Minneapolis Metrodome, a 37-24 win vs the Buffalo Bills– and no, I did not look up any of that because it’s ingrained into my brain as possibly the last great pro football moment of my life).  However, due to their success throughout the ‘80s, not many people acknowledge the lack of QB talent they had DURING their championship years.  A 26 year-old Redskins fan can honestly say that the best QB he’s ever seen don the burgundy & gold is… umm… who?  Mark Rypien?  For a season maybe.  Mark Brunell?  He won a playoff game!  Against Chris Simms… ouch.  Brad Johnson?  Record-wise, check, playoff win, check… I think we have a winner!

 

Tebow Almighty, I’m going to be sick.

 

            The NFL has always been a quarterback-driven league, but that fact has been amplified over the last decade.  The rules have changed in favor of the passing game, and the effect of these amendments is apparent by looking at the last 9 Super Bowl winning QB’s:

            2003: Tom Brady

            2004: Tom Brady

            2005 Ben Roethlisberger

            2006: Peyton Manning

            2007: Eli Manning

            2008: Ben Roethlisberger

            2009: Drew Brees

            2010: Aaron Rodgers

            2011: Eli Manning

 

            The last Super Bowl-winning QB that WASN’T a Top-10 signal-caller?  The aforementioned Brad Johnson (unfortunately after his Redskins tenure).

 

            All these points are a clear-cut rebuttal to everyone that has gone on record saying that the Redskins traded too much in order to position themselves to get either Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck.  Yes, three 1st Round draft picks (and a 2nd) are a TON to give up in order to move up four measly spots in a draft, in fact, it’s too much to give up… for most teams.  Sadly, the flagship franchise of the Nation’s Capital is not one of them.  This move means that the Redskins now have a smaller margin for error as far as the NFL draft and Free Agency go, but they have positioned themselves to add something that they haven’t had since at least 1985, and possibly (depending on your definition) ever… an elite franchise quarterback.

 

            Tebow-willing, this will be the start to a decade or more of solid-to-spectacular quarterback play for the burgundy & gold, and I’ll soon have “February ?, 201?” burned into my brain.

It Could Have Been a Great Sports Weekend

•December 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

If you have listened to any of the Hog and the Curtain college football shows you may remember that my scenario for an 8 team playoff would consist of the champions of the 6 BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, Big 10) and 2 at large schools.  This would mean the 8 teams vying for the championship would be LSU, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Oregon, Alabama, and either Stanford, Arkansas or Boise State.  The biggest flaw here is that the conference system is so screwed up right now that I’ve had to back off this particular plan and go with another.  If I ran the NCAA here is how this weekend would have gone.

Friday December 9th 8:00pm FedEx Field Landover, MD– The 112th edition of the Army-Navy game moves to prime time on CBS allowing this under valued football game to remain the only game to watch.  Hopefully in this scenario Army converts the 4th and 6 and gets to reach their goal of “singing second”.

Here’s where it gets really good, following the exact BCS rankings 1-8 we begin our tournament.

Saturday December 10th 12:00pm Tiger Stadium Baton Rouge, LA– #8 seed and seriously overlooked Kansas State has the unenviable task of taking on the top seeded LSU Tigers in the first ever Division 1A playoff game.  K State keeps it close for a while, but LSU is just too much to overcome as they pull away in the second half for a 38-17 victory.

Saturday December 10th 3:30pm Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, AL– One of the more anticipated match-ups features perennial BCS buster and #7 seed Boise State taking on Nick Saben, Trent Richardson and the fierce Alabama defense.  Kellen Moore is efficient and this game goes back and fourth until Bama’s run game and defense finally secure the victory 21-17.  Boise gains some respect but it wasn’t meant to be.

Saturday December 10th 7:00pm Boone Pickens Stadium Stillwater, OK – Unlike the first 2 games of the day this will not be a defensive struggle, there are more fireworks in this one than the 4th of July.  There are multiple lead changes and over 1,000 yards of total offense before Arkansas finally makes the costly mistake.  Blackmon goes for 175 and 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys prevail 56-45.  We are now set to finally see which team is better Alabama or Oklahoma State.

Saturday December 10th 10:15pm Stanford Stadium Stanford, CA – These teams already played once this season and it didn’t go well for the Cardinal.  Tonight Andrew Luck puts on a show, and shows why he’s going to be the number one pick in the draft, unfortunately Oregon is too athletic, too deep, and too fast.  They are challenged more than in the first match-up, but can’t derail the Ducks, who had a chip on their shoulders for having to play in Stanford despite being Pac-12 Champions.  In the end Oregon was too much and scores the victory 42-27 in Andrew Lucks last game as a collegiate.

Sunday December 11th 7:30pm Downtown Athletic Club New York, NY – Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, and the honey badger are all in attendance a day after their playoff performances, but the award goes to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.  He becomes Baylor’s first Heisman Trophy winner and charms everyone during the presentation show.  Ironically he is wearing a burgundy and gold suit saying he has always wanted to be a Washington Redskin.  OK the last part is a bit of wishful thinking, Time to grab another snack and get ready for Giants and Cowboys on Sunday night.

There are plenty of people that will say the BCS still stinks, and that Wisconsin should have made it over Boise or Arkansas, but the majority of fans are thrilled at the amazing day of action they just witnessed.  We will be back in a week to preview this version of the final four, but in the meantime think of how this day compares to others on the sports calendar.  In my opinion it’s right up there with the Super Bowl, and March Madness.

Dave Needs a Hero…

•November 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“The Dave” or Powdered Cake if you listen to Perl had plenty to say about the possible return of the “real” Tiger.  Take a read and let him know if you agree or disagree.

 

The last few weeks in sports have been, well, flat out crazy.  Sports fans have experienced every emotion possible… almost.

 

There’s something missing…

 

There have been major upsets, missed FGs, and BCS chaos.  There’s been Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, and Tim Tebow.   There’s been an MLS Cup, a Sprint Cup, and a Presidents Cup.

 

There’s still something missing…

 

There’s been Joe Paterno, but no awareness.  There’s been Jerry Sandusky, but no scruples.  There’s been Penn State, but no joy…

 

That’s definitely not it.

 

What could possibly be missing?  There’s also been hockey, football, and basketball for God’s sake! 

 

The problem is it’s been hockey with no Sydney Crosby, football with no Peyton Manning, and basketball with no NBA.  Not to mention, unfortunately now there’s Ali, but no Frazier.

 

And there it is… true Greatness.  Ali and Frazier epitomized greatness.  As do those players that are currently playing hooky.  The only example of greatness available on a routine basis right now is Aaron Rodgers’ ongoing masterpiece, which leads me to this past week’s Presidents Cup.  For 12 years, we were privy to front row seats to The Tiger Woods Show.  Like him or hate him (or golf, for that matter), he put on a display of greatness unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  Then two years ago, that all ended.  The next twenty-four months were filled with scandal, seclusion, injury, rehab, swing-changes, and practice.  Which left us (up through three days of this year’s Presidents Cup) with a version of Tiger Woods that showed flashes of brilliance but lacked consistency, lacked putting ability, lacked confidence, lacked… greatness.  Then, on Hole 4 in his 1-on-1 match with Aaron Baddeley on Sunday, he was faced with an important, long putt… a 10-footer that would halve the hole.  The same type of putt he has consistently (amazingly) holed for years.  The same type of putt he has narrowly been missing for months.  And he drained it.  Then on the next hole, like a great shooter in basketball, he stepped back and hit a 17-footer.  The next hole, a 21-footer… and the rout was on.

 

Now granted, I have no insight to the inner-workings of Tiger Woods’ mind, but I have been watching the body language of professional athletes for three decades, and it seemed like something clicked.  As a fan, I may just be seeing what I want to see, but this may be the first paragraph to the final chapter in Tiger’s major golf career.  And I sure hope I’m right because we’ve only got another two months of Aaron Rodgers left this year, and we need another ace in the hole.

MLB’s Wild Card(s)

•November 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

Major League Baseball has made some big changes this week as part of its latest CBA.  First and foremost, as you’ve probably heard, in 2013 the Houston Astros will move to the AL West, evenly dividing MLB into six five team divisions.  The move carries with it the consequence of interleague play throughout the season.

The most exciting change to me is the new playoff system.  MLB has added a second wild card team in each league, possibly starting as soon as the 2012 season. It’s not the most controversial move, but it has drawn a few complaints.  One of the more common criticisms that I’ve seen has been that baseball is trying to manufacture drama, to which I say: a) duh, especially in light of the drama of “game 162” this past season.  The circumstances which led to that night were fluky, but the result was so good they should attempt to recreate it; and b) in attempting to manufacture drama, baseball may have stumbled into a better playoff system, and stumbling into  improvements is Bud Selig’s M.O.

The reason I think it’s a better sytem is because the best team in each league finally has a true advantage.  Not as much as they did in the days when they earned a ticket to the World Series or LCS, but more than they have in the current system.  I think there are two reasons for this, the biggest being the assumption that wild card teams will go with their aces in the playoff, plus they’ll have to deal with whatever attrition that results from the all-hands-on-deck nature of an elimination game. Not only is that a real disincentive to be satisfied with a wild card, and should hopefully bring a little drama back to the division races, but playing in that type of game just a day or two before the start of the real playoffs will weaken the wild card team – “fattening frogs for snakes,” as John Thompson would say.

The other reason is that, attrition aside, over time the league winners will face slightly worse teams on average in the first round.  It could be argued that this cheapens the playoffs, as Mark Zuckerman thinks. It might a little, but first and formost it cheapens the wild card, and it’s about time.  Let’s be honest: the wild card is a gimmick, in baseball more than any other sport.  Until now, it’s allowed a non division champion essentially a free chance at the post-season with no real penalty, and they’ve already won it all four times.  Even worse, in the AL’s case, it’s become the AL East’s at-large bid.  The new system might occasionally dillute the quality of the wild card team, but is that enough of a factor to outweigh the pluses of a wild card play-in game?  The amount of dillution should be small, if not negligible.  Zuckerman points out that over the past 16 years (lopping off the results of the truncated 1995 season), the teams that would have won the second wild card have an average win total just shy of 89. The average win total of wild card winners over the same period is 93, and that does represent a big difference (though it is a number clearly driven up by the Red Sox and Yankees).  But remember, only one of the teams will make it to a five game series, and given that the second wild card team can be expected to win the playoff more or less half of the time (probably less, but how much less is yet to be determined), the average win total of the advancing team, using the last 15 years of results, could be expected to be at least 91.  There’s a difference there, but just enough to slightly tip the odds in the league winner’s favor without producing a noticeable drop in quality for fans.

I’ve always thought that 162 games is way too many to take everything and then throw it in a blender, but I’m fine with putting the wild card teams into such unpredictable circumstances (even though I hope the Nationals will be one in the near future), especially if it helps the division winners.

There are also some less promising changes in the CBA.  Particularly stupid is the limitation of draft spending, the as-of-yet unknown details of which will determine the degree of terrible that the move is.  Who spends on the draft? Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Washington, you get the point.  Teams that can’t (or won’t, at least yet, in the case of Washington) compete with the big markets in ML payroll and use the draft as their means of building a competitive franchise.  Tampa has indisputably achieved this, Kansas City looks to be on the verge of doing the same, and there are even significant signs of hope in Pittsburgh.  I don’t know why Bud, who is always giving lip service to parity, would hobble those teams like this, although I suspect it has less to do with competition than it does limiting the power of agents.  At any rate, as innovative as the new playoff system is, I’m not sure it’s as impressive as finding a way to reduce spending in a manner that helps the big market teams.

In the end, the new playoffs will be the most visible change to baseball. I’m sure that all the things I like about it were a pale force™ compared to the increased playoff revenue, but that’s ok.  And as opposed to the previous playoff system, which mirrored formats seen in other sports for years; and interleague play, which was a true money-grab still in search of a real purpose, the second wild card and one game playoff is a true innovation.  It’s new, it’s different, it’s creative.  So regardless of how revenue-driven a change it is, it’s one for which Bud Selig deserves credit.

Time For Tebow

•October 10, 2011 • 3 Comments

It isn’t very pretty when the ball comes out of his hands, his release looks totally different than that of Brady or Rodgers, heck even Rex Grossman throws a prettier ball, but with Tim Tebow, these things don’t matter.

My reasons for why Tebow should be Denver’s starting quarterback do not come from his performance yesterday, but yesterday solidified my case. If you didn’t watch the Broncos-Chargers game yesterday don’t look at Tebow’s stat line of 4/10 for 79 yards and a touchdown, you see Tebows impact will never come across in a box score. The only thing you need to know is that the Broncos were down 16 points in the 4th quarter when Tebow walked onto the field.

For the first 3 quarters yesterday the Broncos home field advantage sounded more like Sunday mass than a rivalry game against a hated division opponent. Enter Tim Tebow. The fans immediately start to get into the game, players immediately start to run a little faster and hit a little harder.

After a successful quarterback draw for a TD, Willis McGahee converted a 2 point conversion to cut the lead to 8, a 1 possession game.

On the next drive Tebow hits Moreno for a screen pass that explodes down the sideline for another TD. On the 2 point conversion Tebow lobs it up to Brandon Lloyd and for a split second it looks like a tie ball game, but right before crashing to the ground the ball squirted out of Lloyds fingers.

There would be no fairy tale ending for Tebow or the now rampant Broncos fans, it was close, but on this day the Chargers would survive.

Tim Tebow isn’t going to magically turn the dreadful Broncos into a playoff team, in fact they are still probably going to be awful. The thing is they are even worse with Kyle Orton under center. After almost 30 years of watching football I totally understand that on a lot of teams in the NFL Kyle Orton would be better suited to quarterback a team than Tebow right now, but the Denver Broncos aren’t one of them. Orton was a dreadful 6/13 for 34 yards and an interception. Much like Tebow’s stats don’t tell the story, Ortons don’t either. Orton was running for his life and trying to hit mediocre receivers that were being smothered by the Chargers corners. This isn’t about Orton, it’s about Tebow and his ability to lead.

Tebow is only in his second year, and is already learning a new offense in a year where he had no off season to do so. The Broncos are a bad team, and if you’re going to be bad, do it with a guy that can excite a fan base, a guy that inspires his teammates to give all they have, and a guy that you need to evaluate at some point anyways.

I don’t know whether Tim Tebow will end up being a franchise quarterback in Denver, but I do know Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn will not, so give Tebow a chance to learn on the field where you either make it or you don’t, and I for one am not betting against him.

Opportunity Lost

•September 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Even the most optimistic of Redskins fans doesn’t think this team is one of the best in the NFC, most don’t think the best in the NFC East, and some think the play offs are a long shot.  Losing a game against a division opponent is always painful, and when it’s the Cowboys it stings for just a little bit longer.  Last night was so much worse on so many levels.

The Redskins lost to a team that didn’t score a touchdown.

The Redskins lost to a team that was devastated by injuries.

The Redskins lost to a team that had a quarterback ducking and grimacing anytime contact was imminent.

The Redskins lost to a team that couldn’t snap the ball from the center to the quarterback.  The exchange between center and quarterback is an after thought, and the Cowboys botched it 5 or 6 times.

There are many reasons why the Redskins lost last night, but the fact of the matter is the game was on a silver platter, and they did not take advantage of a weak opponent.  Sure Romo showed some toughness, but he certainly didn’t play a good game.  The game was played between two teams that displayed horrible offense as opposed to the great defense we kept hearing about on ESPN.

I could blame the loss on Grossman’s fumble, the bothched FG attempt, the 3rd and 21 defensive play call or the coverage on the play, I could even blame Orakpo’s hydration levels, but it just doesn’t matter.  The Skins had a chance to go 3-0 and could have, in essence, been 2 games up on the rest of the NFC East.  They didn’t do it because they didn’t play well.  The frustrating thing is they didn’t even have to play well.

As Skins fans we still have reason to be optimistic about the future, and even optimistic about the remainder of this season, but if the season ends a game or two short of the play offs think back to Monday September 26th, when the biggest rival we have tried to give us a game, and we didn’t take it.

The Lockout is Over

•August 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When looking at the title of this blog you must think I’m way behind the times, the lockout ended months ago, but while most people were following the NFL lockout, the contributors to Sports Daggers were involved in a lockout of our own.  Fear not, the lockout has been lifted, and the blogs will resume at a not so rapid pace.

Even though Dave and I are both life long Redskins fans, we normally don’t see eye to eye on most things Redskins.  He wrote a blog the other day that takes a quick look at the organization as a whole, and I have to say, I agree with almost all of it.  Enjoy his thoughts, and keep an eye out for a piece I’m putting together that will be finalized after the complete and final roster is determined.

Redskins State of the Union

With one game left in the pre-season, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Week 1 of the regular season is in sight, and this is the time of year when everyone… EVERYONE… still has hope.  Over the past 20 years, the NFL has morphed into a league where dynasties are virtually extinct and any team has the capability to rise to the top in any given year.  The advent of free agency, stricter salary cap rules, expansion, and roster limits that cannot withstand the recent rash of (diagnosed) injuries have all contributed to the lack of consistency at the top and frankly, the increasing mediocrity across the league.  In the 19 years since 1991 (the year of the Redskins’ last Super Bowl victory), 12 different teams have won a Super Bowl, 22 different teams have made a Super Bowl appearance, and 27 (of 32) have at least taken the field for a Conference Championship game.

The five teams that have ordered pizza for ALL of those Championship games?

The Cincinnati Bengals & Detroit Lions (two perennial losers), the Cleveland Browns & Houston Texans (two teams that haven’t EXISTED for the full 19 years), and… you guessed it… the Washington Redskins.

Thinking big picture, that’s hard to believe.  But for those of us that have followed the Redskins day-in and day-out, we’ve seen the endless cache of front office-futility for ourselves and could not be less surprised.  After Super Bowl XXVI, the Redskins’ roster deteriorated quickly due to age, injuries, and underwhelming draft picks (see: Howard, Desmond).  Which was followed by the sale of the franchise to a young, wealthy wanna-be that had less business making personnel decisions for a professional football team than I have entering a dunk contest (FYI: I’m white, 5’11”… and white).  This new ownership led to more-than-a-decade’s worth of ambling, inconsistent, and sometimes downright insane, decision-making.  Through every trade, free agent signing, or coaching change there was a lingering cloud that followed.  There was a sense that no matter what changes took place, there was no actual progress being made.  Despite any apparent step forward, there was a feeling of impending disappointment.

Enter Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen.  In only 20 months, the current Head Coach and General Manager have stripped the roster, stockpiled draft picks, and instilled the sense of a real foundation for the franchise.  The talent cupboard is admittedly depleted.  But there is a distinct aura of positivity, exuberance, and direction.

The most successful franchises over the last 19 years have been the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, Colts, and Eagles; and despite the aforementioned introduction of free agency and salary cap rules, the blueprint for long-term success in the NFL has not changed. The common thread between all those teams is a foundation.  A foundation built through continuity… continuity within the roster, within the coaching staff, and within the front office.

Now, Coach Shanahan and Bruce Allen have only just begun to lay the groundwork for the future, but in order to build anything you have to start at the base, and for the first time in nearly two decades, the Washington Redskins appear to have found solid footing.