QB Nightmare

Posted by on October 31st, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

The NFL, it’s a quarterback’s league.
If you have one, you better keep him healthy.  If you don’t have one, you better get one, and hope you don’t make a mistake. 
Name me a star quarterback.  Quite easy.  Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Colin Kaeperneck, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, Aaron Rogers and Joe Flacco and that’s it.  There are 32-teams  in the NFL, and there are 12-established quarterbacks who can win you a game anytime, anywhere.
The rest of the teams, you either have up and down guys like Alex Smith, Matt Stafford or Matt Ryan, or wild throwers like Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  And then you have kids, having a real hard time.
It is stunning how much is expected of the guys taken at the top of the NFL draft board.  And that’s the rub.  The best college QBs go to the worst team, who draft early.  The kid QB gets thrown into the water early, gets battered, and has a horrible season or two.  Sometimes they come out of it, but many times they are so damaged, emotionally or physically, the career never takes off.
Look at the household names taken atop the last two drafts, and what has happened to them and their teams.
Robert Griffin III has had 3-major injuries in two seasons in Washington, that coupled with coaching and coordinator changes.  The issue for the Redskins read-option guy, can he stay healthy, and can they teach him to stay in the pocket?  So far the answers are no and no.
Cam Newton sure surprised many people with his stat driven rookie season, but NFL teams figured out how to defend the read-option and his explosiveness went away.  He is struggling, coming off ankle surgery, and last night’s (10-28) performance is an example of trying to re-teach a college athlete, how to play in the pros.
EJ Manuel is sitting and suffering in Buffalo, as they try to rebuild around him, and he staggers week to week with productivity, to the point he has been benched for a journeyman Kyle Orton.
Geno Smith’s career is going much like the Jets, in reverse and maybe down the drain.  Work ethic, preparation questions, injuries, interceptions.  You name it, he is experiencing it right now, standing behind old man Mike Vick.
Sam Bradford, cursed by injuries to the same knee two years in a row, and further cursed by playing for a bad Rams team.  There is upside but there is no health right now.
Mike Glennon, one of the many issues in Tampa.  Thrown into the fire at the end of last season, he had good and bad days.  Now with this year’s (1-6) start, he is overwhelmed.
Jake Locker cannot stay on the field, and off the injury list in Tennessee, in the final year of his contract.  3-different injuries in 2-seasons have made him a huge question mark as to whether he really is the guy.
Ryan Tannehill, pushed onto the field in Miami, shows flashes, but just does not seem to have the consistency yet.  That plus he has an ever changing offensive line, no run game and possible instability in the coaching staff.
Blake Bortels looks the part in Jacksonville, puts up good passing yardage numbers, but the turnovers are in neon lights.  In 21-quarters since they named him a starter, 15-turnovers and 18-quarterback sacks, and not much of a team around him.
Derek Carr
His brother had his career destroyed in a span of 3-years with the expansion Houston Texans.  This Carr seems composed, doesn’t take alot of hits, makes some throws, has yet to turn it over much, but has a horrid team around him at (0-8).
Teddy Bridgewater started the season as the 3rd QB in Minnesota, now he is the starter.  Working under guru Norv Turner, his weekend outings have been up and down.  Sacks and picks are still very much part of his stat sheet.  Of course not having suspended RB-Adrian Peterson would hurt any QB.
Johnny Manziel is now Johnny Backup and he will shortly become Johnny Unhappy in Cleveland.  His preseason outings were wild; make a good play, then take a hit or turn it over.  He might be a tougher version of Doug Flutie, but who knows if he can really play at this level.
Being a rookie quarterback is so hard.  The speed of the game, the complexity of the playbook, the reading of defenses, the pressure, the hits, the media, the leadership qualities you must exhibit.  It just overwhelms you.
If you have one San Diego, or New England, or Denver or Indy, appreciate it. There are at  least almost two thirds of the teams desperate for someone to do the job, in a quarterback-driven league.  12-good ones, a bunch of middle class guys, and at least 10-other teams wishing they had someone other than the guy starting for them at quarterback this weekend.

The Real Giant

Posted by on October 30th, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

Every button the man pushed worked.  The next one he pushes will be to open the door to the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.
The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years under ex-Padres manager Bruce Bochy.  How could you not feel good for a career lifer; a journeyman catcher, who had to fight to stay in the major leagues, and who will now likely be standing on the steps in Cooperstown some day.
The World Series, with all its glory, history, and bling, is only a seven game series, a small sample size.  Has there ever been a more dominant presence than what we saw this last week than 25-year old Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner?.
3-World Series victories, two as a starter, and then last night’s masterpiece, five shutout innings, 68-pitches worth, on two days rest.  
In the era of pitch counts, protecting arms, big salaries, this was old fashion hardball.  Give me the ball and get out of my way.  When they recorded the final out, Bumgarner had rung up 270-innings on the mound, a spectacular statistic, considering the value of arms, the price club’s pay for those arms, the breakdown factor and all.  But he has another ring.
And Bumgarner has captured the hearts of baseball fans, with a (5-0) career record in the World Series, and an ERA of 0.25 and an opponents batting average in the Fall Classic of (.195).  
There have been great ones before, Koufax, Whitey Ford, and the likes, but this is a historical accomplishment.
Bochy pushed all the right buttons, from going to Jeremy Affeldt out of the bullpen in the second, to his ace out of the pen in the 5th.  Putting a glove in leftfield to make a critical play, to staying with a young 2nd baseman thru thick and thin in the pennant race.
It takes a ‘team’ to make this happen, and never so more last night.  Yes the story was Bumgarner, but it was also Pablo Sandoval’s 3 hits and (.429) average in the Classic; it was Hunter Pence adding 2-more hits and finishing with a (.444) batting average.  It was Joe Panik helping turn two double plays, and Juan Perez critical catch on a slicing fly ball, to stop a rally.
All hands on deck was the phrase in that Giants clubhouse last night in pregame.  All showed up, and when the name was called, the button pushed, you saw the end result.
Bochy, the leader, Bumgarner the ace, the lineup with bat and glove, making it happen.
A Giant accomplishment by the San Francisco Giants, again.

Final Night of the Season

Posted by on October 29th, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

Kansas City is know for many things, home of Blues music from back in the day; fine steakhouses; the famous BBQ; Harry Truman, and Arrowhead Stadium.  
Tonight it will host the 7th and final game of the World Series, as the Royals take on the Giants to end a wild Fall Classic.
It’s been explosive, entertaining, and unexplainable, this autumn of baseball between the two wildcard teams.  The country has virtually ignored the Series,posting likely the lowest TV ratings in the history of baseball, an average of 12M viewers per night.  The rival NFL, for example, had 23M watching the Chargers-Broncos game last Thursday night.
Across America, very few could name players on the Kansas City roster.  They know the Giants used to have Barry Bonds, the most hated man in baseball, and had the ‘Freak’ Tim Lincecum, and now a 3rd baseman nicknamed Panda Bear, but for the most part, people aren’t watching and don’t care.
But in Kansas City they do.  They are passionate.  Royal Blue is the color of the day on the Midwest prairies.  It’s been 29-years of pain, agony, disappointment, and cheap skate ownership under David Glass.
Now they are flourishing with a bunch of kids, who have grown up together thru the bad times, to experience this tonite.  lst round picks like Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon.  A developing star in Eric Hosmer.  A vibrant young arm in Yordano ‘Ace’ Ventura, and a bullpen loaded with blazing fastballs.
You just never know what is going to happen night to night, at least in this series.  Five blowout games so far.  In what was supposed to be a battle of the bullpens, the classic has become an  war of big bats, launching hits everywhere.  
Jake Peavy won 7-games down the stretch to help get the Giants here.  He got blown out in 2-World Series starts, and might be the reason they lose.
Tim Hudson will start for San Francisco against journeyman Jeremy Guthrie.  Neither is expected to be around long.
The big storyline will be how quickly Giants manager Bruce Bochy has to go to pitching ace Madison Bumgarner on 2-days rest, and how many innings he can last.  The other big story will be how quickly Ned Yost waves to his tidal wave of relievers, and can they bounce back after getting beat up in other games.
America is indeed missing the electricity of this series.  It’s not Yankees-Red Sox-Dodgers, but it has been fun to watch.
Kansas City, known for lots of things, might wind up known as the best team in baseball, World Series winners, and they might be serving steaks and barbecue into tomorrow morning if the Royals have their way.  

NBA Season Opens

Posted by on October 28th, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

It’s upon us, opening night in the NBA.  New faces in new places, and some of the same old places too.  The storylines are everywhere.
Miami…What will life be like after LeBron took his talents from South Beach, back to the Lakefront?  Yes the Heat retain Chris Bosh, the big shooting forward, and the aging guard DeWayne Wade, but there is no LeBron James and that means the Heat drift off to oblivion, regardless of Pat Riley’s GM-leadership abilities.
Cleveland…King James has come home to rejoin the Cavaliers, and all is forgiven, the hate, the anger, the resentment, the owner’s attack on the players credibility.  LeBron James is not only back, but power forward Kevin Love came in the Minnesota Timberwolves huge trade.  It means the Mistake on the Lake has become the place to be go see hoops this winter.
Chicago…Look what the wind blew into the Windy City, high scoring slick Lakers free agent forward Pao Gasol.  He joins Jokim Noah and Derrick Rose in a dynamic offensive team.
New York…Big Chief Triangle is calling the shots, GM-Phil Jackson, who just could not stay away from basketball.  His trusted guard Derek Fisher is now his rookie coach.  And Carmelo Anthony is there to try and become a better team player.  This will be a real test of wills, Melo’s talents vs Fisher’s system.
Golden State…They have firepower led by Steph Curry, and now they have a respected coach, but still a rookie, in Steve Kerr.  This will be fascinating to watch unfold.
Los Angeles…The Clippers are the team in town, but till they win a banner and a ring, they won’t really grab the hearts of LA no matter how bad the team across the hallway is.  Doc Rivers has Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, a developing center, and a loaded bench of grinders.  But they must play into June (the finals) to really get respect.  Oh, and Donald Sterling will not be sitting courtside any longer.
Los Angeles…This will be painful to see, 39-year old Kobe Bryant, with newcomers Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer and young rookie phenom Julius Randle.  The rest of the roster are refugees.  The team that used to be “Showtime” has gotten bad in no-time at all..
Portland…Rip City has been building and this may be the year they take a big step forward, with veteran depth coming from Chris Kaman and Stevie Blake to compliment Aldridge and Lillard.
Houston…They’ll have to prove it to the world, that any team that employs Dwight Howard can be called a team rather than a group of individuals.  James Harden is a star too, but they need more.
Enjoy it in some cities, many others will suffer from it, but it is what the NBA has become since packages are put together to create Dream Teams.  Free agency now in basketball means a select group of good teams, and plenty of bad ones too.

Chargers Mid-Season Report Card

Posted by on October 27th, 2014  •  0 Comments  • 

The Chargers have reached the halfway point of the season, and if you had said Labor Day weekend, they’d be (5-3) and in the playoff hunt, you would have been satisfied.  You shouldn’t, because halfway home, this is half a football team, with many problems, and a mean-street schedule still to come.  Here’s my Mid-Season Report card.
Team (C)…We knew they would be strong on offense with Rivers, the wideouts, the tight ends, but we could not foresee the loss of their two most experienced offensive lineman, Hardwick-Clary, and the rash of injuries that took out the 3-Musketeer running backs I wrote about in September.  The defense has problems everywhere, and there really does not seem to be a strong solution unless somebody has some Holy Water to offer.  Still to come, Baltimore, San Francisco, New England, Kansas City, Denver of the last eight to play.
Ownership (C)…Dean Spanos still has not made any progress for a decade on a Stadium, and that’s what he is supposed to be working on.  Sellouts seem to be becoming a problem as we go forward.  His son’s accomplishments, AG, is hanging new banners above the stadium, while John acts like a decision-maker in football deals when we all know it is Telesco’s team.  When Rivers career is concluded, what happens to the team, and whose team will it be, San Diego or LA?.
General Manager (C)…Tom Telesco continues to whiff in free agency, which is why he tends to avoid it, and this year’s draft has nowhere equal to last year’s haul because of nagging injuries.  Refer back to my end of preseason columns where I said they needed a slugger nose-tackle and a tough guy corner.  He didn’t get it either and look where they are now.  And now it is apparent Manti Te’o is just a guy, with a chronic foot problem.
Coach (B)…Mike McCoy has them ready, the holes in the roster not withstanding.  Good coach, good play call mind, good game plan strategy.  But he is losing the media, and the fans with his condescending attitude in answering questions honestly.  Marty Schottenheimer was straight forward, Bobby Ross was too.  McCoy no longer gets the benefit of the doubt, and his blatant answer-non-answer on injuries, leads to his nickname “Mike McFib.”  He is big on ‘we’ve got to clean this up’, well he should clean his media relationships up.
Assistant Coaches (A)..Ollie Wilson has done wonders with the running back situation.  Coach JoeD is special when it comes to teaching.  John Pagano uses what bullets he has is in the gun, you just wish he had more quality shells to launch in his blitz package.
Quarterback (A)…Philip Rivers is a Gold Star player, and a Gold Star person.  Fiery, competitive, fearless, bold, passionate, productive.
Running backs (C)…On paper it looked great, now they are all on the injury list with freak, fluke and true football injuries.  Will Ryan Mathews return for five quality weeks?  They need him.  Donald Brown concussion was a terrible cheap shot hit.  They miss Danny Woodhead’s diversity.  Branden Oliver is a more physical version of Darren Sproles, out in space, but he has had little space to run.
Wide receivers (A)..Malcom Floyd has become the go-to guy now, completely healthy from what I feared was a serious neck injury, however, they don’t run crossing patterns for him any more, just single coverage deep calls.  Teams are defending Keenan Allen differently, and he is learning to make adjustments.  Eddie Royal has had a great first half-but now the challenge to keep him healthy.  Ditto for Antonio Gates, who you hope won’t wear down the second half.
Offensive Line (D)…Captain-my-Captain, losing Nick Hardwick, then not having Jeromey Clary has been a setback.  Rivers is taking too many hits, too many pressures, and King Dunlop is nothing like we saw a year ago, and DJ Fluker has not held up well either.
Defensive Line (C)…The GM didn’t address it with veterans in the offseason, and this is the end result, people mugging them at the point of attack.  Corey Liuget cannot do it by himself.  If he had speed on the side, it would make a difference.
Linebackers (C)..Disappointing.  Dwight Freeney’s motor still runs, but he does not have the horsepower he used to have.  Missing Mel Ingram has been a blow.  MIA-Donald Butler doesn’t look like the same player, and still waiting for the phenom Te’o to be something more than on the injured list.  Thank goodness for the professionalism of Jarrett Johnson.
Defensive backs (D)…The good, Eric Weddle’s consistency.  The bad, the injuries that torment the others.  The ugly, anyone who plays cornerback.  Jason Verrett is the future and has shown lots in short spurts but this labrum injury seems to be a significant issue.  Wishing and hoping for the older Brandon Flowers won’t make him what he used to be in KC.  Shareece Wright has not come back yet post-knee injury.  Richard Marshall is this year’s Derek Cox, and Addae and Gilchrist can hit, but they surely cannot cover.
Special teams  (A)…Novak-Scifres has been extraordinary.  The return game is lacking, which is a surprise, considering all the skill around the league.
Outlook (C)..The national media, which does not pay close attention, had the Chargers atop the power ratings just 10-days ago, not so anymore.  Know all the story before you make a judgement should be their code.  There are 7-teams fighting for 2-wildcard spots in the AFC, seperated by just 1-game in the standings.  The problem, 5-of the power teams still left on their schedule have a combined record as of (25-12) as of this morning.  It won’t be easy.