Archive for April, 2005

The 2005 NFL Draft

April 25th, 2005 Comments off

You know what I can’t do? I can’t offer anything approaching expert analysis of the NFL draft. Why? Because it’s a full-time job, and I’ve already got one of those. And, yeah, I wish my full-time job involved scouting and assessing college players seeking to enter the NFL, but it doesn’t. What I can do is offer my impressions — as a fan, as a long-time observer of the league and the draft, and as general know-it-all — of what I observed over the weekend and what I think might happen with a few of the players selected. If you find some value in that, read on. If not, go to one of the usual places and find the expert analysis you’re looking for.

Let’s start with coverage. And that amounts to me saying I don’t think I’ll ever watch the draft on ESPN again after having listened to Sirius NFL Radio’s coverage this year. I ended up listening to the draft on Sirius after having watched it on ESPN for years and years due to circumstances that made it impossible for me to spend Saturday in front of the TV (specifically, I’ve been redoing my porch and if I want it finished before summer rolls around for real, I can’t afford to miss a minute of potential work time — even when it means not watching the draft and getting rained on like fucking Noah).

The broadcast couldn’t have been better. Adam Schein, who I listen to daily on the Afternoon Blitz, did a phenomenal job of hosting. No surprise there for me. I don’t love Schein. He’s a bit of a radio guy for me (which is to say he sounds like what he is — a guy who went to Syracuse to learn how to be a radio host, and did, and now sounds like a guy who went to a big communications school to learn how to be a radio host — which, when you were raised on ’70s FM underground radio, can’t help but hit you as a bit slick and insincere, even when you think the host in question is probably entirely sincere). But Schein is certainly a fine radio host. He’s great on the air daily, because he knows how to keep things moving and he makes his callers feel like their contributions are valued (which does exactly what it’s intended to do — keeps the callers calling and makes the rest of the listeners feel like they’re a part of the show too). And he was perfect on draft day, making sure all the assembled experts — from Schein’s weekday partner John Riggins to Cris Carter to Pat Kirwan and Gil Brandt — were part of the discussion leading up to and following each pick. And that discussion was great. Far more often than not, the panel predicted exactly who would be picked by each team and explained why that player would be the pick and what the implications were for the team. They also spelled out in detail — and with compelling arguments to support their positions — whether they believed each pick was the right one.

Sirius also got lots of draftees on the radio shortly after they were selected. The interview with Aaron Rodgers, the Cal quarterback who was supposed to be a top pick and ended up going to Green Bay at 24, was worth the whole day by itself. (Mr. Rodgers, while clearly delighted to be going to the Packers, is not happy about having been bypassed by 23 teams and plans to make as many of them as possible pay for the insult once he takes the reins from Brett Favre in a year or two.) All in all, a great way to take in the draft.

As for my thoughts on the draft itself, well, here’s what little I’ve got concerning the teams I care about (and a few others where something actually comes to mind).

I know there are a lot of Patriots fans who are nonplussed (and a few who are actually disheartened) by New England’s selection of Logan Mankins in the first round. I’m not. Here’s why: First, I’ve heard Brandt singing the guy’s praises a few times and if there’s one thing about pro football I know for absolute certain it’s that Gil Brandt is still the greatest scout in the history of the game. Second, there are no better assessors of talent currently working in the league than Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. And the fact that they took a guy who was projected as a second- or third-round pick at 32 tells me they saw something in this guy that’s so special that they weren’t willing to chance letting him go elsewhere. O-line means an awful lot to the Pats, and they had a big hole to fill with the departure of Joe Andruzzi in free agency. Obviously, they believe Mankins is good enough to merit a first-round pick. And given what I’ve seen over the last four years, I’d can only take their word for it. The rest of the Pats’ draft looks as solid as any other to me, but what the hell do I know?

I’m very excited about Oakland’s first- and second-round picks, Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt. Guess I couldn’t call myself a Raiders fan if I weren’t partial to speedy guys, and these are two speedy, speedy corners. Although has Washington’s 40 time at 4.48, I’ve seen it listed elsewhere at 4.25, which is lightning fast. And Routt, who was a track star in high school and college, was projected by some experts as a first-round pick. So that’s nice. Says the end is near for Charles Woodson, a guy who has become king of the underachievers, a guy who has lost all discipline. And, with luck, it means new life for Oakland’s secondary, which has been a serious problem the past two seasons.

Other than that, there are just a few things I know in my gut from having been a fan for so long.

One of those is that Rodgers is certainly going to turn out to be a better NFL quarterback than San Francisco’s #1 pick, Alex Smith. And Jason Campbell, the guy Washington grabbed at 25, is gonna be better than either of them, though it may be a while before he gets a chance to prove it since the Redskins are determined to continue to challenge the Raiders for the title of league’s most disorganized team. How do I know this stuff? Well, I know Rodgers will turn out to be better than Smith, because he was considered a potential #1 pick himself and because San Fran passed him up largely because had they picked him over the higher-priced Smith it might have looked like a money move. I also know Rodgers will be better than Smith because he then slipped all the way to 24, and whenever the top 23 teams in the NFL draft agree on a player whom the outside experts like, they always turn out to be wrong. And I know Campbell will be better than both of them because no one even considered drafting him ahead of those guys even though he’s generally seen as equal in raw talent — and, again, draft consensus among NFL teams is virtually always wrong. (I also know that someone picked in the second round or later will go on to have a better career than at least two, and possibly all three of those guys. Maybe it’ll be Oakland’s third-round pick, Andrew Walter or New England’s seventh-round pick, Matt Cassel. Probably not. More likely, it’ll be Cleveland’s third-round pick Charlie Frye. Or maybe not. But it’ll be someone.)

Similarly, I know that Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who went to Tampa Bay at 5, will turn out to be better than his Auburn Ronnie Brown, whom Cleveland grabbed at 3. That’s not because Cadillac started ahead of Brown at Auburn, but because Brown got drafted first and the guy you could’ve taken is always better than the guy you took. It’s a simple fact.

I’m very sad to see that the New York Jets drafted kicker Mike Nugent in the second round. It was nice to know you could count on the Jets to blow big kicks at the end of games. Those days, it would seem, are over.

I’m equally sad to see that Denver appears to have figured out that you can’t get by with a one-man secondary. That’s too bad, because I really, really liked knowing that however good they made their offense, Denver would never be a true factor because of their defensive weaknesses. I don’t think they’ve solved all of their problems on D, but they’ve clearly discovered that they exist, which is the first step.

And I’m glad to see that Pittsburgh doesn’t really seem to feel the need to address the loss of Plaxico Burress in free agency. (No, I don’t think gangly fourth-rounder Fred Gibson is gonna get the job done there.)

And, one last thought (for today at least). With the exception of Matt Jones, the college quarterback turned wide receiver, who went to Jacksonville at 21 in the first round (and who I believe is gonna be a huge force in the NFL — I was very relieved the Jags grabbed him before the Steelers could), the player I’m probably most interested to see on the field is Brandon Jacobs, the Southern Illinois running back the New York Giants grabbed in the fourth round. Jacobs, who transferred from Auburn rather than compete for carries with Williams and Brown, is fucking gigantic: 6′ 4″, 256 pounds. But he’s fast for his size, running a 4.56 40. He’s mostly a third-down back (though he could line up at H-back — or at tight end if he’s got the hands he’s supposed to have), and even if that’s all he does, he could be a major factor for the Giants. He should really help Tiki Barber, who, incredible a season as he had in 2004, could use a little relief. I can picture Jacobs breaking through the line and picking up some serious yards a few times a game. (This kid averaged 6.7 yards per carry in college, so he’s got the ability to explode.) And, let’s be real here, if this giant gets into the secondary, it doesn’t much matter how much faster than him the DBs are, because he can probably keep moving with two or three of those guys riding on his back. Could be exciting to watch.

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Go Ahead And Touch The Damned Dial

April 19th, 2005 Comments off

I’ve got just one question regarding this thing with Monday Night Football moving to ESPN. Does this mean that as of the end of the 2005 season fucking Hank Williams Jr. will finally be out of my life for good? Because if that’s the case, I don’t much give a shit what else happens (I mean, as long as there’s a game on some channel on Monday nights), I’ll be a happy guy.

Seriously, I mean I know there’s a lot of noise being made about this move out there, but what’s the difference? There’s still gonna be a Monday night game. And there’s still gonna be a Sunday night game. And Al Michaels (who’s a douchebag, but a great play-by-play guy) and John Madden (who’s an idiot — albeit a mostly loveable idiot — about everything but football, but a great analyst, because he knows every goddamn thing there is to know about football) will land somewhere. And the Sunday night crew from ESPN, which one has to imagine will end up doing the Monday Night games, will still suck, only on a different night. And there will actually be yet another NFL studio show — since NBC will be doing one on Sundays whereas ABC never did one on Mondays (ESPN did it then, but it was mostly the same as their Sunday night show) — and it’ll probably include Bob Costas and a few other mostly insufferable, self-satisfied jackasses. And, the important thing will be that the games will still be the games. So the beat goes on — except, I hope, not for fucking Bocephus.

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Stupid Shit Comes In Threes

April 15th, 2005 Comments off

So after who knows how damned long without much of substance going on in football worth commenting on (yeah, yeah, free agency — but, shit, man, does the world need one more goofball analyzing every fucking signing?) all of a sudden there’s all kinds of stuff happening that simply has to be noted, and it happens on an amazingly busy day for me. Still, I can hardly be expected to resist. So, in as few words as I can hold myself too (or as many as time will allow, depending on how it works out):

Smart, guys. Real smart.
Here’s a piece about some draft prospects — remember, the NFL draft is just around the corner, April 23 & 24 — who pissed positive for pot at the fucking combine. What the fuck? I mean, is it just me or is it beyond fucking idiotic to go into a situation where you’re gonna be sized up for the potential to make hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of dollars — and you know that sizing up is gonna include a piss test, and you know pissing positive for weed will cause you, at the very least, to slip in the draft (which means slip in potential pay) — with goddamn pot lingering in your system? What the hell is wrong with these guys? Now, don’t get me wrong. I still think the NFL has no business testing anyone for pot (or any other drug that doesn’t enhance performance) or having a policy about anything that doesn’t hurt a players’ ability to perform on the field. But the fact of the matter is that the league does have a fucking policy on that; it’s a legal policy; it’s a policy that has the OK of the NFL Players Association; and it’s a policy that the league has demonstrated it plans to enforce. So, gents, put the fucking joint down when you know you’re gonna have to piss. Just put it down. Yeah, smoking dope is fun. And, yeah, there’s really absolutely nothing wrong with smoking dope. And, yeah, it’s your last semester in college, and shit if that stuff isn’t everydamnedwhere you look, but this is your fucking career here. And to top off the fact that you’re now gonna slide in the draft — not because anyone thinks pot hurts your ability to perform, but because everyone knows pots hurts your ability not to get fucking suspended by the league and no one wants some pothead riding the pine while their team’s playoff chances are on the line (as they are every week in the NFL) — you’ve also gotta face getting pissed twice a month for at least the next season, which means that instead of quitting pot for like a month, you now pretty much have to quit for a year. So you fucked yourselves twice. Morons. Morons.

T.O. the asshole strikes again
It’s what, two and a half months since Terrell Owens won the respect of pretty much everyone in the football watching world with his gutsy performance in Super Bowl XXXIX and here he is determined to throw it all away. T.O. wants to renegotiate his seven-year, $49 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, because, get this, last year when he agreed to the contract his then-agent had no leverage in negotiations. It’s true, of course. Terrell didn’t want to play for the 49ers anymore, and he didn’t want to be traded to the Ravens, so he squirmed his way out of that deal with help from the league and the Eagles and, no fucking kidding, Philly used it’s strong bargaining position to its advantage. Because that’s what you do in business. So poor goddamn Terrell now has to play football for a measly $7 million a year. Can you believe it? He can’t. And he wants a do-over, only this time with him in the catbird seat. But that’s not how business works. If Terrell wanted more money, he could have gone to Baltimore, where he’d have held all the damned cards. But he wanted a chance to win championships, so he settled for what the Eagles had to offer. And when you make those kinds of compromises, you’re expected to live with them. I keep thinking what would I do if the person who sold me my house were to come back and say, “You know, when I sold that house, I just needed to get out of town and move to Boston. I wasn’t in a good bargaining position and you took advantage of that to negotiate a good deal. Now I want some extra money.” I say I keep thinking, by the way, not keep wondering, because I don’t have to wonder. What I’d do is laugh in their face. You live with the deals you make. Crybaby. Fuckwad.

Ron Mexico
I was trying to figure out if I had anything to say about the whole Ron Mexico thing when Scott wrote to ask for my take. You know about the Ron Mexico deal, right? Ever since it came out in a suit that Atlanta Falcons quarterback apparently uses the alias Ron Mexico, people have been ordering Falcons shirts with Vick’s number and the name Mexico on them from the NFL Shop. But no more says the NFL. The league has banned sale of the shirts. Why? Who knows? Well, actually, I know. It’s because the NFL, a great league in many ways, has a big fat stick up its ass when it comes to anyone having any kind of sense of humor about it and its precious product. I mean, look, something tells me Vick can handle the heat. Actually, something tells me that with the suit that’s hanging over him hanging over him, he’s probably got bigger things to worry about than whether people are having some fun at the expense of his porn star name or whatever it is. (This is not to imply Mr. Vick is, was or ever will be a porn star, by the way, Mr. Attorney Whatever-Your-Name Is — but go ahead and send the cease and desist letter if you must; I could use the page views — it’s a gag about aliases — you know the thing where you’re porn star name is like your middle name plus the street you were born on, neither of which may be the case with Vick, if he even uses that name — but, oh, fuck, you know what? It’s a joke about his stupid alias. Get it. Stupid name. Stupid.) I don’t know. To my mind, this, not anything to do with rules changes, is why the league deserves the tag No Fun League.

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Champing At The Bit

April 13th, 2005 Comments off

The NFL has announced its 2005 schedule (for team-by-team schedules, go here) and, baby, I’m licking my chops. Just 148 days to go (and only 10 until the draft, which is very exciting).

Both the Patriots and the Raiders have four prime time games on their schedules. So, given that one of those, the September 8 season opener, will pit the teams against each other, that’s seven extra exciting night games for me. And I think the fact that the defending champs will play both the first and last night game of the season (they play the Jets in the Meadowlands the day after Christmas), is pretty neat.

The rest of the Monday Night Football schedule don’t look so bad, either. I mean, I’ll be a bit surprised if the New Orleans/Atlanta matchup still means anything (other than possibly affecting the Falcons playoff seeding) come December 12 and I’ll be absolutely shocked if Green Bay (which has fallen apart during the off-season) has anything left to play for when they travel to Baltimore December 19, but that Pats-Jets game could turn out to be huge. And Pittsburgh-Indianapolis (November 27), Indy-New England (November 7), Baltimore-Pittsburgh (Halloween) and the proper MNF opener (that is, the first game on an actual Monday night) September 12 between Philadelphia and Atlanta should be spectacular.

A lot of the Sunday night games look great, too. I can’t wait to see the reception Eli Manning gets when the Giants travel to San Diego September 25. The San Francisco-Arizona matchup in Mexico City October 2 should be an interesting spectacle, even if it promises to be a pretty awful game (I think Arizona should be just improved enough to put a hurting on the still-rebuilding Niners). And it’ll be interesting to see Romeo Crennel lead his Cleveland Browns against their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers November 13. If that game were scheduled early in the season, I’d be expecting a bit of a train wreck, but by week 10, the Browns ought to be fairly well adapted to Romeo’s system. The Steelers still have probably too much firepower for the Cleveland (Romeo and Phil Savage are obviously building for 2006 or 2007), but Crennel’s Ds have given Bill Cowher’s Steelers fits in the past — and quarterbacks who have big rookie years often stumble a bit in their sophomore campaigns — so you never know.

Thanksgiving looks a bit disappointing to me. I mean, I believe Detroit will be a much better team this year than last, but it looks to me like Atlanta’s improving, too, and I can’t imagine the Falcons will have too much trouble running away with that game. Denver at Dallas should be better if the Cowboys find a way to protect Drew Bledsoe, since Denver’s deteriorating secondary won’t be able to keep up with the Dallas wideouts if Drew has time to find them. But I expect Denver to have a lot of offensive success this season, so if their pass rush can be effective, they could have it put away early.

Looks like a suitably tough schedule for the defending champs to me. I don’t see a true no-questions-about-it gimme on the slate, though I can’t imagine the New Orleans, Kansas City and Tampa Bay games will be the toughest the Pats have ever played. And I’m not expecting Nick Saban to have his Dolphins in good enough shape to present too much of a challenge to New England even as late as January 1. (Still, the Fins shouldn’t have beat the Pats last season, so, you know, anything’s possible).

Looks to me like the Pats should finish somewhere between 12-4 and 15-1. How the Raiders will do has everything to do with whether Kerry Collins can get the job done and whether the defense figures out how to play football. I’m gonna guess 8-8, maybe 9-7, which wouldn’t be as horrible as last year, but doesn’t get you into the playoffs.

But you know what? Why am I making predictions now? There’s still a draft, months of training and potential transactions, and a pre-season to go. We’ll see.

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