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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the eve of 2010 draft, Browns can start to erase a decade of futility by making smart choices tomorrow night

Anyone who is even a casual follower of the NFL knows that, since the Cleveland Browns rejoined the league as an expansion franchise in 1999, they have been among the worst ballclubs in professionall football.  The Browns have had only two winning seasons in that time span, going 9-7 in 2002, and 10-6 and 2007, with 2002 being their only playoff appearance.  Counting games played by the old Browns, I believe the last time Cleveland actually won a playoff game was in 1989.  That is a span of over 20 years without a playoff victory. Browns fans have started to feel a little like the late Rodney Dangerfield: they don't get no respect.  Many people point to the instability of the head coach position as a primary reason for their failures.  Others will even go as far as to say the Browns are cursed.  I believe, however, that there is a more practical reason for the Cleveland Browns' shortcomings.  More specifically, I believe that Cleveland's year in and year out poor performance on the football field can be directly attributed to their poor track record in NFL drafts since rejoining the league. Names like Tim Couch, Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Kellen Winslow,  Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, and Kamerion Wimbley have in part given credence to the moniker 'Mistake by the Lake.'  Especially when some of the names that the Browns' brass has passed up on include Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Peterson, and even Beanie Wells, Mark Sanchez and Rey Maualuga in last year's draft. 

But there still is hope for Cleveland fans.  The Browns went out and drafted an individual who has had over 20 years evaluating NFL talent.  He has also led two different teams to the Super Bowl, winning one of them with the Green Bay Packers.  He is  now charged with not only running the business of the Cleveland Browns, but also restoring crediblity to an organization with a proud history that includes not only Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Lou Groza, and Otto Graham, but also Brian Sipe, Clay Matthews Sr. and Bernie Kosar.  And he must do that first and foremost by rebuilding through the draft, starting with 2010.   That's a lot of pressure for anyone, even someone with such lofty credentials as Mike Holmgren has. 

My advice to Mr. Holmgren and company before the 2010 NFL draft is not to get cute; draft players according to need and availability, but be efficient about it.  If a player you like falls into your lap at number 7 then draft him; but with over 10 picks in this year's draft there is no need to overpay for a player.  Eric Berry(the safety from Tennessee) would be good at number 7, but so would  S Earl Thomas of Texas; you don't need to trade up to number 4 in order to get Berry.  Likewise, if you were really impressed by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, and he is available in the second round, you should take him; but again there is no need to trade up back into the first round to get him.  Sure there are many people who believe that McCoy may be the next Drew Brees, and I tend to agree with that sentiment, but if you can get McCoy in the second round then you have the flexibilty to let him learn from the sidelines during his rookie season.  The main thing Holmgren, Heckert(Tom Heckert, the Browns' GM), Mangini and company must realize is that by trying too hard to fake out the media(and, by extension, the 31 other NFL franchises) they may be doing the franchise more harm than good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

As the OSU Spring game nears, Duron Carter still MIA

This Saturday the Ohio State football team will renew its annual Spring game scrimmage, and while the two questions on everyone's mind will be 'has Terrelle Pryor finally taken the next step?' and 'with all the depth at running back, will there be a clear cut go-to-guy?',  I think that there are a few questions that many fans have overlooked.  Mainly, what has happened to Duron Carter?  And, once he is back on the field, can he live up to the enormous expectations placed upon him since arriving in Columbus?  Carter, the son of former Ohio State standout wide receiver Cris Carter, was touted as a four star recruit coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  And being the son of arguably the best receiver of all-time in OSU history, expectations were high for Duron during his freshman season.  However, after a relatively slow start to begin the season, Carter began to struggle in the classroom as well, and by the end of the season he was declared ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl vs. Oregon.  Currently Carter still has not completed the courses necessary to reinstate his eligibilty, although the OSU coaching staff has gone on record as saying that Duron Carter is taking the steps necessary for reinstatement and should be eligible for the season opener against Marshall.   Should Carter rejoin the team, and start to fill some of those lofty expectations placed upon him as a freshman, it could totally change the dynamic of the Buckeye offense, as it allows them to run more three and four-wide sets.  But here is the real kicker:  Duron Carter's size and athleticism, combined with Devier Posey's emergence as the number one receiver, would make him the ideal candidate to move to the defensive side of the ball like they did with Chris Gamble.  With all of the talk surrounding how good the Buckeyes could be if Duron Carter actually lived up to the hype, you have to wonder what must be going through his head right now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How the draft should actually play out-the first ten picks

If we have learned anything from previous drafts, it is that who teams should pick and who they actually end up drafting are two completely different things.  I have seen several mock drafts, and based on what I have read, and my own opinion of what teams need in the draft, here is my projection for the first ten picks:

1. St Louis Rams-Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma-the Rams need a franchise qb and even though they want to trade out of this pick, the Browns aren't willing to give up what the Rams are asking for this pick
2. Detroit Lions-Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma-There are many people who believe that Suh will be taken here.  I am not one of them.  Most draft experts believe the difference between McCoy and Suh is marginal at best and the Lions are excited about the combination of size and speed that McCoy brings to this position.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska-the most talented player available in the first round he is an immediate upgrade for a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2007
4. Washington Redskins- Dan Williams, DT Tennessee- Many people believe that the Redskins will take Russell Okung left tackle out of Oklahoma State, with this pick.  I am not in that camp, as I see the standoff between Albert Haynesworth and the 'Skins still unresolved on draft day.  The acquistion of Williams should be a clear signal to Haynesworth that Washington is ready to move in a different direction.
5. Kansas City Chiefs- Eric Berry, S Tennessee- The Browns wish that he would fall to them at number 7, but this scenario is to enticing for KC to pass up.  He has been compared to Ed Reed.  Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
6. Seattle Seahawks-Russell Okung, LT Oklahoma State-The Seahawks have many holes to fill, like the Browns, but Okung is a gift to Seattle at no. 7 for an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks.
7 Cleveland Browns - trade pick to San Francisco for the number 13(or 17th) and 49 picks-  The Browns wanted Eric Berry at this pick, but he wasn't available. San Francisco, worried that Oakland might draft Jimmy Clausen at number eight was more than happy to give up its two of its first three picks  for this pick.  The Browns then offer to trade the number 13 pick to the Texans for the number 20 pick and compensation, as they really want to draft either DE Brandon Graham from Michigan, DE Jared Odrick from Penn State or S Taylor Mays from USC but they don't want to pay either of them what a 13 pick would command.  If the Browns can't move down from 13 they end up selecting S Earl Thomas out of Texas.  If the Browns land either Graham or Odrick in the first, either of whom would be a great fit for Mangini's 3-4 defense, don't be surprised if the Browns wait until the 3rd or fourth to draft a safety, maybe even someone like OSU's Kurt Coleman. As for drafting Colt McCoy, the popular belief is that Holmgren, never a man to use a high pick on a qb in the past wont this year; but the addition of the 49th pick only confuses things.  Should Cleveland swap with the 49ers for the 17th pick they most definitely draft Graham.
8.Oakland Raiders-Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State-Al Davis, upset that Clausen isn't available because the 49ers took him, loves Bryant's speed and cannot resist taking him here.  Many boards have Bryant going to Cleveland; I cannot see them taking him for two reasons: they were able to land Mohamed Massaquoi in the second round last year, and Bryant has the same agent as Crabtree, making negotiations almost a guaranteed nightmare.
9.  Buffalo Bills-Trent Williams, T Okalhoma- The Bills would have loved for Clausen to have slipped here but are glad to have an individual who should help a unit that gave up 46 sacks last season.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars-CJ Spiller, Clemson-he is another back in the mold of Fred Taylor who makes a nice complement to MJD in the Jags backfield.

That's how I see it playing out, definitely will be fun to watch the first couple of rounds, and by no means is Sam Bradford a lock to go number one.  Has to be one of the hardest drafts to predict in a while.

Suh would be best choice for Rams at number one

Here I go, already stirring up the pot with the draft less than a week away.  Yes I am very aware that just yesterday I stated that the Browns should go for the top pick and draft Sam Bradford.  And I still say that if Mike Holmgren and company believe him to be the best quarterback available, and the price is right, they should go get him.  But I do not believe he is the best player in the draft.  No I believe that distinction goes to former Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, the guy who was previously thought to be the first pick taken.  If the Rams do decide to keep the first pick, I do not see how they can pass on this guy.  He was an absolute beast at Nebraska, and for those of you watching the Big 12 championship, he almost single-handedly took Texas out of the BCS title game.  Sure, the Rams need a quarterback, and sure they have passed up on opportunities to draft qbs in recent year's  But the number one pick is all about taking whomever you believe to be the best available, and last I heard the Rams believed Suh fit the bill.  He would be a great addition to a defensive front that already has Chris Long and James Laurinatis.  As for finding a quarterback, Colt McCoy could still be available in the second round, and, its not as if Bradford is going to turn them into an instant contender.  So while public sentiment in St. Louis might be against not taking a qb this year, there is always the possibility that the Rams wait until next year and draft someone like Jake Locker of Washington or Ryan Mallet of Arkansas.  Either way, by selecting Suh the Rams should take comfort in knowing they took the best player available, which is what having the number one pick is all about.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Browns need a franchise qb

The Cleveland Browns have struggled to be competitive since returning to the league in 1999 for a couple of reasons, imo. The first is that since returning they have failed to significantly upgrade their team through the draft or free agency. More importantly, however, I feel that they have not found themselves a 'franchise quarterback.' That could all change next week, if the Browns make an offer to trade up with the St. Louis Rams for the first pick and select Sam Bradford.  Team president Mike Holmgren obviously believes that Bradford has the potential. And he should know, having coached two pro bowl quarterbacks himself in Brett Favre(who also help him win a Super Bowl and is more than likely a first ballot hall of famer) and Matt Hasselbeck. It is apparent that Jake Delhomme is just a short term solution. The Browns could get Bradford, and they should not have to give up the proverbial 'kitchen sink' to swap picks with St. Louis. In my estimation, they could offer St. Louis NT Shawn Rogers, the number 7 pick, and a third and fifth round pick in next year's draft. If the Rams balk at that offer(or something similar), then the Browns should stay pat at 7 and select someone like S Eric Berry of Tennessee, but they should be ready to select Texas QB Colt McCoy in the second round if he falls that far. The Browns have many needs, but becoming a playoff contender won't happen unless they solidify the qb spot. One only has to look at last year's playoffs for proof.

Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 NBA Playoffs: Cavs best chance for a title?

With the 2010 NBA Playoffs to start tomorrow afternoon, there has been a lot of discussion regarding first round matchups/the resting of team's superstars as they get ready for the playoffs. And while there are certainly interesting storylines around the league as the first round begins, such as the matchup between the Spurs and Mavericks as an example, I would like to take this opportunity to go on record as saying that this season represents the best opportunity that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to win it all. General Manager Danny Ferry went out in the offseason and signed Shaquille O'Neal to add some depth at center, where Zydrunas Ilgauskas has performed admirably but often gets fatigued or into foul trouble come playoff time. If Shaq is even back to 90% healthy, the minutes that he and Ilgauskas share in the paint will be gravy for the Cavs and a potential matchup nightmare for any team that has to face them. Ferry was not done adding to the team, and, after the all-star break signed forward Antwan Jamison, whose scoring should mean that James will not have to have a hot hand every night in order for the Cavs to win. Combine those additions with the pleasantly surprising play of forwards JJ Hickson and Jamario Moon and you have a very deep roster indeed. That depth should allow them to easily defeat the Bulls on the way to beating an aging Celtics squad for a return to the Eastern Conference Championship. The Orlando Magic, the Cavs biggest threat in the East, have gotten slightly worse in my estimation, giving up the verstaile Hedo Turkgolu for the otherwise one-dimensional Vince Carter. And should the Cavs make it to the finals I believe they will be playing the Denver Nuggets, not the Lakers, for the title. The Lakers have been too inconsistent as the season comes to a close; unlike Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls I do not believe the Lakers under Jackson can just flip a switch and get back to the finals. So, in the end, I believe it will be an epic battle between LeBron's Cavs and Carmelo's Nuggets which will go the full seven games, with the home team Cavs winning game seven and bringing the city of Cleveland its first ever NBA Championship.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New York Yankees a class act all the way

Whether you love or hate the New York Yankees, the fact remains they are one of the classiest organizations in all of sports. Yesterday's ring ceremony only furthered my opinion on this matter. As many of you were aware, before yesterday's game between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels. the Yankees were presented with their 2009 World Series rings. Hideki Matsui, on the Yankees roster last year, but playing for the Angels this year, was also presented with a ring. When Matsui's name was called, he was greeted with a standing ovation by the Yankee crowd, and all of the current Yankees (who received a ring) went out to embrace their former teammate. Say what you want about the Yankees, that the organization buys World Series, that they are the evil empire, but you cannot deny they are a class act. If yesterday's actions are indication, they are still acting with the same class that made them 'America's Team' all those years ago.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arguments for a college football playoff system

As university presidents and chancellors get ready to vote on the expansion of the NCAA men's basketball tournament from 64 to 96 teams, it is worth revisiting the issue of expanding the BCS into a playoff system.  The same university presidents and chancellors who are dead set against creating a playoff system, ostensibly for monetary reasons, are going to vote for expansion of the basketball tournament, again for monetary reasons.  And while I am against the expansion of the basketball tournament(you can read about it in my post dated February 4th, 2010), today I would like to address the issue of why the universities and colleges should be in favor of a football playoff and how they can make it work in the short term.  The biggest argument for a college football playoff system would again have to be monetary.  Major conferences such as the Big Ten are losing so much money currently that they have been forced to seek other schools to join their conference.  Opponents of a playoff system would argue that there is no way that a college football playoff system could bring in more money than the current bowl system.  But I will have more on that in a bit.  The next reason why universities should make the move to a football playoff system would be to allow the national champion to be decided on the field, rather than by some computer or human poll.  Playoff detractors would say that a plus one or playoff system would be no more objective than the current BCS system, and they may have a point.  But I will tackle that issue as well shortly.   So without further ado, here is my proposal for a college football playoff system:

  • maintain the current bowl system minus the BCS championship game, with the winners of the four BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange) playing in the National Semifinal, with the winners of those two games then going on to compete for the National Championship.  The 25+ other bowl games would be virtually unchanged, and payouts for these games would be the same as well.  This would then eliminate the need for a BCS championship game; payouts for the BCS bowl games would remain the same, and teams that participated in the National Semifinal and National Championship games would then receive additional payouts.  If university presidents and chancellors don't believe that this simple expansion format would bring in more money than the current system, they shouldn't expect that a 6 seed versus a 22 seed in basketball will bring in more money, either.
  • the six BCS conference champions (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, PAC-10, and SEC) will receive automatic berths into the four qualifying bowls, with the remaining two at large bids going to the highest remaining teams ranked in the BCS top 12 who also happen to have the best record.  Opponents of this plan would argue that a 1 loss Florida team should be included in the playoff before an undefeated Boise State or TCU because they have a better strength of schedule.  I would argue two points: a) Florida could have played its way into this playoff by beating Alabama in the SEC championship, and b) a team like Boise or TCU should be rewarded rather than punished for completing a perfect season.
  • the four BCS bowl games will take place on January 1st, with the National Semifinals taking place the following Friday.  All other bowl games will take place according to however the networks and conferences choose to schedule them before or after Jan 1.   The National Championship game will then be played on the Saturday before the pro football Conference Championship games.  This will allow for complete broadcast of the National Championship without disrupting the NFL's schedule.  University presidents who argue that this is too long to wait to determine a national champion should have never agreed to have the BCS title game January 8th, either.
  • there may be concerns that a playoff will cut into the student athletes exam time, but let's get real, it's not as if the university heads currently care to much about the well being of the student anyway.  If that's the case then what about the notion that expansion of the basketball tourney to 96 teams will cut into mid term exams? And we're only talking four schools here, not 32, so I am sure some exceptions can be made.
The time has come for university presidents to act and disband the BCS as we currently know it.  Adopting a playoff system like the one I have described not only settles things on the field, but it would also bring in more money than the BCS does today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

One and done? The new NCAA crave

Think your college basketball team has what it takes to win it all? Well, if recent trends hold up, they had better win now, or you might be looking at an NIT championship the following season. There is a new fad among the college ranks called one and done, whereby an athlete enrolls at a university for his freshman year, plays one season of ball for the university team, and after the season is over declare himself eligible for the NBA draft. This is a direct result of the NBA's recent collective bargaining agreement that states an individual must be at least one year out of high school before he can enter the draft. The league and David Stern created this rule to encourage players to stay in school; the results have been mixed so far, with many players taking advantage of this one and done philosophy. This year Kentucky was the winner(or perhaps the loser) in the one and done sweepstakes: freshmen John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Erik Bledsoe all declared themselves eligible for the June draft and will likely be lottery picks. Even a storied program such as Ohio State has not been exempt from this phenomenon. A year after they lost to Florida in the final, the 2006-2007 OSU freshman class lost Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook to the NBA the following season. Centers Kosta Koufos and BJ Mullens would follow suit for OSU and become one and dones as well. This has put pressure on many programs such as OSU and Kentucky to in some cases overrecruit in the hopes that one or two of the players they have an eye on will sign a letter of intent. The effect it has on fans could not be more polarizing, however. On the one hand, you have many fans such as those rooting for Kentucky(or OSU in 2007 for that matter) who are just glad to have even one season of success. When a player such as a BJ Mullens leaves early and struggles, however, many fans are quick to dismiss that player as even having attended their school. In fact, in Columbus, a couple of sportsradio dj's have even gone so far as to say that if Mullens had returned to OSU, the Buckeyes might have been worse off, an interesting point but one will never truly know the answer to.(They also believe that Mullens won't make it in the NBA; try to guess what they said he'll be doing). This phenomenon is not limited to college basketball, either. At my place of employment, the Cardinal Health National Logistics Center in Groveport, Ohio, we are not exempt from the one and done fad either. In fact, one of our star performers (a guy we nicknamed Ken-rod, in part because he called me J-rod and then proceeded to add -rod to everyone else's name as well) had only spent six months with the company and now he is headed off to corporate. And how can you blame him? I mean he's guaranteed thousands more than he would make at the NLC (I mean he probably does, I never really asked him), he gets to sit in a nice comfy chair all day, and can come and go as he pleases. What's not to like? In my opinion, this one and done fad is far from over, and recent failures of players such as Koufos and Mullens will do little to deter future college prospects from repeating the same mistake. This one and done will not stop until the NBA realizes that the risk with such players might be more than the reward that comes from drafting them. And the real losers in this battle are not the players themselves but the fans, who will continue to go these guys' games hoping they bring home a championship, only to leave the game with a sense of "what if' when they fail to win it all and then leave for the NBA. For that reason, my hat goes off to Duke University, whose team not only won it all, but more than likely every player will graduate with some type of degree and do something more than make three pointers in Tulsa, Oklahoma before applying to work at Citgo.