Friday, January 30, 2009

Decoding the Offense: Game 15 vs Baltimore

Here are the very misleading stats from the Baltimore game. It is nice that Romo and the passing game in S11 has impressive numbers and all, but we know the numbers were pretty much picked up as the game was getting out of hand late.

The final numbers for the final game at Texas Stadium:

68 Offensive plays – (21 runs/47 passes) Here is how we break it down:

1st Down plays (26 = 6 different packages – 7 runs/ 19 passes)

“12” – 6 (1 runs for 29 yards, FD/5 passes for 11 yards)
“21” – 1 (1 runs for 9 yards)
“22” – 2 (1 runs for 3 yards/ 1 pass for 0 yards)
“11h” – 2 (2 runs for 7 yards)


“S11” – 13 (1 runs for 0 yards/12 passes for 40 yards, FD)
“S11H” – 2 (1 run for 2 yards, 1 pass for 0 yards)

2nd Downs (24 plays – 5 looks – 8 runs/16 passes):

“11” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“12” – 5 (2 runs for 8 yards/ 3 pass for 27 yards, FD)
“21” – 3 (2 runs for 4 yards/ 1 pass for 0 yards, INT)
“22” – 4 (4 runs for 15 yards, 2 FD)

“S11” –11 (11 passes for 82 yards, FD,2 TD to Witten, TD to Owens)

17 3rd downs for the Cowboys – 3 looks (6 runs, 11 passes) (8 for 17, 47%)
“22” – 1 (1 run for -1 yards) 0-1


“S11” – 14 (5 run for 15 yards, 2 FD, TD Choice/ 9 passes for 80 yards, 5 FD, INT) 8 for 14
“S11H” – 2 (2 passes for -5 yards, Sack) 0-2

1 4th down
“S11” – 1 pass for -2 yards – 0 for 1

Regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

21 runs - 47 passes

UNDER CENTER (25 – 14 runs/11 passes)

“11” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“12” – 11 (3 runs for 37 yards/ 8 passes for 38 yards, FD)
“21” – 4 (3 runs for 13 yards/ 1 pass for 0 yards, INT)
“22” – 7 (6 runs for 17 yards, 2 FD/ 1 pass for 0 yards)
“11h” – 2 (2 runs for 7 yards)

SHOTGUN (43 – 7 runs/36 passes)

“S11” – 39 (6 runs for 15 yards/ 33 passes for 202 yards, TD to Witten, TD to Owens)
“S11H” – 4 (1 run for 2 yards, 3 passes for -5 yards, Sack)

Shannon Sharpe Speaks

Our man, over at has posted the Shannon Sharpe greatness from yesterday's show. Check it out, it is worth hearing.

My Apologies, Pittsburgh

Sorry, Steelers fans: But I am picking you to win the Super Bowl on Sunday.

The good news is that I am 2-0 picking Steelers games in these playoffs. The bad news is that I am 2-6 picking the other games, including picking against the Cardinals when they played the Panthers and the Eagles.

Too much defense. Too much running game. Too much time proving that they can take down top receivers in this league. I am not saying they can shut down Larry Fitzgerald, but Randy Moss and Terrell Owens were held below 50 yards each this season when Dick Lebeau wanted to lock it down.

I really think the Cardinals are still a 9-7 team, and I believe the better team is the Steelers. I trust them more, and while the Cards are a nice story….the Steelers are better. Just like the Patriots last year.

Steelers 24, Cardinals 21

20 the key number?

The Arizona Cardinals are 0-4 this season in games in which they score 20 points or less.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 12-1 when they've allowed 20 points or less.

The Cardinals' formula for Super Bowl XLIII seems simple, then. Somehow, someway, they have to find a way to score three touchdowns against the Steelers' defense.
"I think it will be our biggest challenge of the year, without a doubt, on the biggest stage, which just adds to it," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said.
Some pundits have proclaimed this Steelers defense the best the NFL has seen in the last 20 years. That's debatable, but there's no question as to its dominance this season.

Pittsburgh ranked No. 1 in scoring defense (13.9 points), No. 1 in total defense (237.2 yard), No. 1 in passing defense (156.9) and No. 2 in rush defense (76.9).
"I'm a game-time dude, but at the same time you have to look at (those numbers)," tight end Leonard Pope said. "They're not ranked No. 1 for nothing. They fly around to the ball, they stop the run and they bring blitzes about every other play. They've got a great defensive line, linebackers and also the secondary. The guys just make plays all over the field."

Other than that, the Cardinals should have it easy.

Arizona has discovered a running game in the playoffs, averaging 111 yards on the ground after rushing for just 73.6 yards in the regular season. But it will be difficult to maintain that output against Pittsburgh.

"This game won't be any different than any other," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We're going to go out there, stop the run, and make them one-dimensional. That's what we do."

Fortunately for the Cardinals, their strength offensively is their passing game. Rather than try to slug it out with the Steelers - a battle they'd undoubtedly lose - they'll try to spread the field and get the ball to wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

"They make big plays," Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said. "Anytime you can make big plays in games, it really limits what the defense can do."

A key for the Cardinals is how they'll handle the exotic blitz schemes of Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Arizona might see nine players on the line of scrimmage one play; three pass rushers the next and a zone blitz on third down.

If the Steelers can create chaos and confusion with their packages, they've won half the battle.

Who gets Obama’s support?

At the end of a photo-op with President Obama after a meeting with his economic team yesterday, the White House pool reporter lobbed a Hail Mary.

"Steelers or Cardinals, sir?"

It was the kind of "who are you rooting for" question that, when put to the president of the United States, usually gets batted down with some noncommittal platitudes.

Yesterday, though, both Obama and Vice President Biden made clear they want Pittsburgh to win the Super Bowl on Sunday.

"I have to say, you know, I wish the Cardinals the best," Obama replied. "You know, Kurt Warner is a great story, and he's closer to my age than anybody else on the field. But I am a longtime Steelers fan."

He went on to explain that Steelers owner Dan Rooney was "an extraordinary supporter" during his presidential campaign. Franco Harris, the Steelers' Hall of Fame running back, and the team's current head coach, Mike Tomlin, also backed his candidacy, Obama said.

"So . . . I wish the best to the Cardinals," the former senator from Illinois continued. "They've been long-suffering. It's a great Cinderella story. But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that's closest to my heart. All right?"

With that, Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania, chimed in with a laugh: "We agree on that one, too, boss!"

Can Edge keep it going?

Edgerrin James' strong postseason is likely to hit a wall against a Pittsburgh defense that allowed just 3.3 yards per carry during the regular season (and 2.4 yards per carry in its first two playoff games). If Arizona is going to get anywhere on the ground, the best bet might be a draw play. It's a favorite strategy of Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and our game charters marked Arizona with more draw plays than any team except New England. Meanwhile, the Steelers' defense allowed a surprising 8 yards per carry on regular-season draws, more than any defense except Kansas City.

On the other hand, there are reasons to believe that draw plays won't do any better than other runs against the Steelers. They've tightened up on draws in the postseason, allowing San Diego and Baltimore just 11 yards on six draws. And while the Cardinals like to run the draw, they aren't particularly good at it. The Cardinals averaged just 3.9 yards on draws during the regular season, much less than the NFL average of 5.5 yards. Even in the playoffs, the Cardinals have averaged 4.1 yards on draws.

A better way for Arizona to take advantage of Pittsburgh's pass rush tendencies might be the screen pass. Fifty percent of Arizona's running back screens this season met our definition of success (based on down and distance), one of the best figures in the NFL. Remember, the touchdown that sent the Cardinals to the Super Bowl was a screen pass to Tim Hightower. While the Steelers were overall the best defense in the league against running backs in the passing game, they were only average against running back screens.

The one aspect of the Cardinals' play that has improved the most during the postseason has been pass defense. Statistically, much of this improvement comes in the red zone, where the Cardinals ranked 22nd in DVOA during the regular season. Their numbers for the postseason are excellent -- but that's entirely because of two red zone interceptions thrown by Jake Delhomme. Donovan McNabb and Matt Ryan still combined to complete 9 out of 11 passes in the red zone. Three of those passes were touchdowns, and three more gave the offense first-and-goal.

Now on to Hockey….

You really have to be in to Dallas Stars hockey to watch a game on your laptop using your slingbox in a hotel outside Tampa, Florida. The hotel internet lags, and you can barely follow the puck. Ralph and Razor slur their words a bit, and the video is far from ideal, but….

This was Detroit. This was a huge win that puts the Stars right where they want to be. The Stars are now tied for 7th in the West, and they are now officially “hot”.
They opened a 4-0 lead on Thursday night, with some very rare power play conversions on the road, and then showed fine composure in the 3rd period after some help from the officials in the 2nd period. The Stars have now won 5 of the last 7 games against Detroit going back to last spring’s playoffs. It almost makes you wonder if the Stars may have actually built some confidence should a playoff pairing between the two teams happen.

Detroit sure looks odd right now. Fighting a losing streak and some complacency, they finally look like they are fighting against the long dog days of winter. No Henrik Zetterberg didn’t help them, but I think their real issue is that Chris Osgood is really playing poorly recently.

Meanwhile, the Stars roll on with a solid PP, some reasonable play in their own end, and most notably, controlling the Red Wings offensive explosion. You see, when the Stars go into Detroit, much is made of Marty Turco’s issues, but I also think the Stars make sure he sees more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canadian Turnpike (the previous quip stolen from Don Cherry).

Last night’s performance was the fewest shots allowed on goal in the 11 trips to Joe Louis Arena since the lockout. 24 shots is all they gave up. In games in which the Stars allow 25 shots or fewer, the Stars are 2-0 in Detroit. Marty has to be good, but the defense has to help him.

Great win, and now with a ton of home games in February, I am feeling much better about April being occupied with some playoff hockey around here.

Keep rehabbing, Brenden. You may have something to hurry back for…

The game story from Heika

The Stars earned their win against one of the best teams in the league by playing strong, structured team hockey and taking advantage of special teams play. Dallas went 3-for-5 on the power play and killed two Detroit power plays in the third period.

The Stars won three consecutive games for the first time this season and pushed themselves to 22-18-7.

They are 5-1-2 since that earlier loss to the Wings.

"We've been competitive in the last 20 games or so, and now we've put a string of games together," Tippett said. "We've got a long way to go before the end, but I think our team is coming around."

And nothing will give a team confidence like a win in Detroit.

Dallas was 2-7-0 in its last nine visits and goalie Marty Turco had never won a regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena, bringing in an 0-8-2 record here.

Turco, who had 22 saves, said he felt the confidence of the team surge in a third period when Dallas allowed just four shots on goal despite facing the best home power play in the NHL for 2:55.

The London Times tells its readers to watch the Super Bowl ….

Buy Dan’s Shirt

UFC 94

It's tough to blame B.J. Penn for leaning on a mental crutch to get him through those first few minutes of physical peril in the octagon with Georges St. Pierre.

In the days leading up to their heavily anticipated title bout at UFC 94 in Las Vegas, Penn has improbably proclaimed that the UFC welterweight champion is a quitter who won't have anything left if Penn can just survive the initial onslaught of arguably the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world.

"That's how I'm going to beat him, because I'm going to get through all of his skills," Penn said. "You know he's tough and he's all of these things, but once I get through, he's going to be empty on the inside, and that's how I'm going to finish him."

St. Pierre (17-2) might be the favorite in the MGM Grand Garden's rematch of the two top UFC stars' memorable March 2006 bout, but Penn (13-4-1) is far from a one-in-a-million underdog after winning the UFC lightweight title early last year and defending it last May.

"I love to be the underdog," Penn said. "I haven't been the underdog for a long time. Fighters who don't believe I can win this fight, it's simply because they don't believe in themselves, that they could go out and beat a great champion at a higher weight."

UFC 94 Saturday Night

So Awesome: Rice Owl gets ejected

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Decoding the Offense: Week 14 vs NY Giants

Here are the numbers I ran from the final win of the Cowboys season, the home game against the Giants. This, of course, was the bizarre game that was played the week of the “rat” incident where Terrell Owens had the entire locker-room taking sides over his idiocy. That incident was the last moment I cared to have him on the team, by the way.

Anyway, the Cowboys in this game were reasonably productive in some phases, but 2 more disconcerting signs of problems:

• Another horrendous 3rd down effort (3 for 11)

• And, when running under center, the Cowboys tried 14 times for 45 yards. Of course, 38 yards came at the end of the game when Tashard Choice broke a TD run to seal the game. So, the other 13 carries against the Giants front yielded a very impressive 7 yards...TOTAL! Wow.

So, Jason Garrett was even more reliant on the shotgun, which put Romo back as a sitting duck, and the blitzes were on in S11. 3 more sacks in that formation.

But, in the rare game in which the Cowboys won the turnover battle, they grabbed what would be their last win of the season.

55 Offensive plays – (20 runs/35 passes) Here is how we break it down:

1st Down plays (25 = 6 different packages – 14 runs/ 11 passes)

“12” – 7 (3 runs for -3 yards/4 passes for 49 yards, 2 FD)
“21” – 5 (5 runs for 2 yards)
“22” – 6 (4 runs for 45 yards, TD Choice/ 2 passes for 3 yards, SACK)
“knee” - 1


“S11” – 5 (1 runs for 0 yards/4 passes for 29 yards, 2 FD)
“S12” – 1 (1 run for 4 yards)

2nd Downs (19 plays – 6 looks – 3 runs/16 passes):

“12” – 2 (2 pass for 14 yards, FD)
“21” – 3 (1 runs for 2 yards, FD, 2 passes for 25 yards, FD)
“23” – 1 (1 pass for 1 yard, TD to Anderson)

“S11” –11 (2 run for 41 yards, FD/ 9 passes for 96 yards, 3 FD, TD to Crayton, Sack)
“S12” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“S02” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)

11 3rd downs for the Cowboys – 2 looks (3 runs/8 passes) (3 for 11, 27%)
“22” – 1 (1 run for -1 yards) 0-1


“S11” – 10 (2 run for 11 yards, FD/ 8 passes for 13 yards, 2 Sacks, 2 FD) 3 for 10

Regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

20 runs - 35 passes

UNDER CENTER (26 – 14 runs/11 passes)

“12” – 9 (3 runs for -3 yards/ 6 passes for 63 yards, 3 FD)
“21” – 8 (6 runs for 4 yards/ 2 passes for 25 yards, FD)
“22” – 7 (5 runs for 44 yards, TD to Choice/ 2 pass for 3 yards, SACK)
“23” – 1 (1 passes for 1 yard TD to Anderson)
“knee” -1

SHOTGUN (29 – 6 runs/23 passes)

“S11” – 26 (5 runs for 52 yards/ 21 passes for 138 yards, TD to Crayton, 3 Sacks)
“S12” – 2 (1 run for 4 yards,1 pass for 0 yards)
“S02” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)

Decoding the Offense: Game 13 At Pittsburgh

I have to believe this is the most shocking post of the month. As we hit Jan 29th, I have finally gained enough life-force to ponder the Cowboys December. So, you will randomly find the offensive breakdown of the final 4 Cowboys games here sometime in the near future. Here is Game 13 – the disaster at Pittsburgh.

As I look at this garbage, a few things jump out at me – and I think they are related:

• The Cowboys shotgun package sucked
• The Cowboys 3rd down package sucked (3 for 14)
• The Cowboys 3rd down package is their shotgun package

And don’t think for a second that this is where Romo/ Owens/ Williams/ Garrett/ Witten/ Crayton and the gang all had their little disconnect.

As I look at the other games in December, it doesn’t get better.

65 Offensive plays – (27 runs/38 passes) Here is how we break it down:

1st Down plays (28 = 5 different packages – 15 runs/ 13 passes)

“12” – 12 (7 runs for 14 yards/5 passes for 17 yards, FD, INT)
“21” – 5 (4 runs for 16 yards, FD/1 passes for 0 yards)
“22” – 2 (2 runs for 3 yards)


“S11” – 8 (2 runs for 12 yards, FD/ 6 passes for 57 yards, 3 FD)
“S12” – 1 (1 pass for 11 yards, FD)

2nd Downs (20 plays – 7 looks – 7 runs/13 passes):

“12” – 7 (3 runs for 65 yards, 2 FD /4 pass for 13 yards, FD, SACK)
“21” – 3 (1 runs for 2 yards, 2 passes for 0 yards)
“22” – 1 (1 pass for 3 yards)
“12H” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)

“S11” – 6 (3 run for 10 yard, FD/ 3 passes for 0 yards, INT)
“S12” – 1 (1 pass for 12 yards, TD to Owens)
“S02” – 1 (1 pass for 6 yards)

14 3rd downs for the Cowboys – 3 looks (4 runs/10 passes) (3 for 14, 21%)


“S02” – 1 (1 run for 1 yard) 0-1
“S11” – 12 (3 run for 25 yards/ 9 passes for 14 yards, 2 Sacks, INT) 3 for 12
“S11H” – 1 (1 pass for 9 yards) 0-1

3 4th Downs – 3 looks (1 runs/2 passes)
“22” – 1 (1 run for 0 yards)
“S02” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“S11” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)

Regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

27 runs - 38 passes

UNDER CENTER (32 – 18 runs/14 passes)

“12” – 19 (10 runs for 79 yards, 2 FD/ 9 passes for 30 yards, 2FD, INT, SACK)
“21” – 8 (5 runs for 18 yards/ 3 passes for 0 yards)
“22” – 4 (3 runs for 3 yards, 1 pass for 3 yards)
“12H” – 1 (1 passes for 0 yards)

SHOTGUN (33 – 9 runs/24 passes)

“S11” – 27 (8 runs for 47 yards/ 19 passes for 71 yards, 2 INTs, 2 Sacks)
“S12” – 2 (2 pass for 23 yards, TD to Owens)
“S02” – 3 (1 run for 1 yards, 2 pass for 6 yards)
“S11H” – 1 (1 pass for 9 yards)

Day 4: Super Bowl XLIII

It is highly possible I try to offer more blog stuff as the day goes on, but here is some early stuff…

Super Bowl Facts and Figures …from the International Press…

AT STAKE — National Football League Championship for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

PARTICIPANTS — Arizona Cardinals (NFC) and Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC). This is the first appearance for the Cardinals and the seventh appearance for the Steelers.

SITE — Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. This is the fourth Super Bowl played in Tampa and the second at this Stadium.


DATE — Feb. 1, 2009.

GAMETIME — 6 p.m. EST.

NETWORK COVERAGE — By NBC-TV to more than 200 stations throughout the United States.
Westwood One Radio to 500 stations within the United States. The Armed Forces Television will also provide broadcast to 180 countries throughout the world.
The game will be distributed internationally by the NFL and NFL International to more than 220 countries and broadcast in 30 different languages.

PLAYERS SHARE — Winners: $78,000 per man. Losers: $40,000 per man.

PLAYER UNIFORMS — Arizona will be the home team and use the West bench. The Cardinals have their choice of wearing its colored or white jersey.

OFFICIALS — There will be seven officials and two alternates appointed by the Commissioner's office.

TROPHY — The winning team receives permanent possession of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, a sterling silver trophy created by Tiffany & Company and presented annually to the winner of the Super Bowl. The trophy was named after the late coach Vince Lombardi of the two-time Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers before the 1971 Super Bowl. The trophy is a regulation silver football mounted in a kicking position on a pyramid-like stand of three concave sides. The trophy stands 20 3/4 inches tall, weighs 6.7 pounds and is valued more than $25,000. The words "Vince Lombardi" and "Super Bowl XLIII" are engraved on the base along with the NFL shield.

ATTENDANCE — To date, 3,276,834 have attended Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at the 14th Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

A great feature on the Steelers Deep Snapper who is also known as the guy from Ft Worth who was moving couches until the call, and now he is in the Super Bowl

After I got cut I was out of work for probably a month before I decided, all right no one is going to call. I have to go back to work. I got bills to pay. I have to take care of myself. I started to get workouts with teams. I had a ton of workouts but no one was biting. I started coming to the realization that maybe my time in the NFL is up and I need to start focusing on my career. I graduated form TCU with a degree so I tried to use my degree to get a job. The problem is in Fort Worth the job market is horrible so I couldn’t find a job. I started to sign up for police testing. I was going to try and do the fire academy. I signed up in several cities for police academy work.

I was working for Bonilla Moving Company to make some money. I also did some work for Bell Brothers Moving Company. It was whenever I had work there. If I could work for the other guy I would. I tried to work as much as I could. It was enough to get by, to pay my bills. Sometimes we’d work 60, 70 hours a week. Sometimes we’d work 12 hours a week. It just depended on what kind of jobs we had. It kind of stunk because you never knew what days you were going to have off. Everyday you’ve had to call in and see if you were off. Then it got to the point you wanted to work every day, but you couldn’t because there was no work.

I did everything, drove the trucks and pulled the trailers. We kind of did it differently than most people. Most people have big trucks that do it. We had one big truck and we had long car trailers that we’d pull. At the time I was working, I was the main one that could pull trailers on our crew. So I was usually the one driving on those days. There were four of us working together. We were all pretty good friends. We got along well.

It can be tough work, it depends on the customer. Movers charge hourly. We try to tell them that the more ready you are, the better it goes, the faster we go and the cheaper it is. You can show up at a house and you don’t have any clue. Usually you go in about a month in advance and you give them an estimate. After the estimate, you tell them basically what you think it will cost. You go off that estimate. A month later you have no idea if all that stuff you estimated is packed boxes. If you have to pack them it’s going to take longer. If they’ve got clutter or they want to take everything in their house or they want you to go other places. You never have any idea what you’re moving when you get there. The hard thing is that you’ve got to find out if you’re moving pianos and that kind of stuff. That stuff has to be planned out.

I knew I wasn’t going to be a mover forever. I was just doing that to hold off until I could get a job. I had one job offer. It was basically to work at a nursing home and I was going to manage the facilities and the maintenance staff. Basically I was in charge of making sure the floors were clean and the bathrooms were cleaned and that kind of stuff. They offered me a really low amount for a year and I couldn’t bite on that. I was better off staying with the moving company. I had a little leeway; if I could get a workout with some team I could leave.

Right around the time that I was going to go for one of the police tests, probably a week before my first test popped up, I got a phone call from the Steelers. Greg had gotten hurt and was done for the season. It meant a lot to me when Greg got hurt and they put their trust in me and brought me back in.

It was really exciting. But the truth was that they called me and said, ‘look here’s the deal, we’re going to bring three other guys in and you’re going to have to snap against them and we’re going to take the best one.’ I had a history with the Steelers and I wanted to come in. I felt like I had gotten a lot better than where I was and I wanted to prove to them that I was better and that I’ve improved. Then I saw the guys I was snapping against and they both had been in the league for a few years. It’s a little intimidating going against guys who had experience and I have no experience. I think once I got out there and started snapping I was just back in the normal rhythm and wasn’t even thinking about it. Then we were all sitting in the locker room and they pulled me out of the group and we started to walk up stairs and they said ‘let’s go sign some papers,’ and I thought I was going to drop to my knees and bawl. I wanted to hug people and it was just great.

We were discussing the Super Bowl the other day with regards to previous Bowls that have had point spreads similar to this one, where the Steelers are favored over the Cardinals by 6.5 points.

With a historical look, there are 10 games that have had a spread between 6 and 8 points

SB8 – Mia -6 over Minn Mia
SB10 – Pitt -7 over Dallas Dallas covered
SB23 – SF -7 over Cinn Cin covered
SB25 – Buf -7 over NYG NYG outright
SB26 – Wash -7 over Buf Wash
SB27 – Dal -6.5 over Buf Dal
SB33 – Den 7.5 over ATL Den
SB34 – STL 7 over Tenn PUSH
SB38 – NE -7 over Car Car covered
SB41 – Ind -7 over Chi IND

5 times favorite won and covered
3 times underdog lost and covered
1 time underdog won outright (NYG)
1 push

So, 9 times out of 10, the favorite did at least win the game. So, that suggests a 90% win sample, but of course, the Patriots were favored by 14 last year…

In baseball news, the Rangers are gaining national ridicule for their 2 tone batting helmet

The Rangers' helmet is such an instant classic of bad design, it immediately leapfrogs all the competition and becomes the worst batting helmet in MLB history.

8 Major League Free Agents still looking for work ….

Here is a rundown of the best of the unemployed:

1. Manny Ramirez. The Man-child and the Dodgers appear to be in a stalemate, with the team holding at $45 million for two years and Ramirez wanting a deal for four or five years for between $25 million and $30 million per. The Giants, who are in excellent financial position, look like the biggest threat; although at least publicly they're saying they won't go crazy for Manny after diving into the market early. San Francisco already signed Edgar Renteria, Randy Johnson, Bobby Howry and Jerremy Affeldt, a commitment of more than $20 million for 2009, but if they don't get Ramirez the question has to be asked: Wouldn't that $20 million-plus have been better spent on Manny? The Angels and Mets say publicly that they won't go for Manny, while the Yankees already have upgraded their offense immensely with Mark Teixeira. So until further notice the two great West Coast rivals look like the favorites.

2. Bobby Abreu. He is one of three players in history with a .400 on-base percentage, 300 steals and 200 home runs (Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson are the others) and one of three with 100 RBIs in each of the last three years (Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols are the others), yet for some reason Raul Ibanez, whose numbers aren't even in Abreu's ballpark, was the more popular pick this winter. Ibanez signed for $31.5 million over three years with Abreu's former Phillies team, but Abreu would do well to get $20 million for two right now. Ibanez scored points for his deserved rep as a great guy and a clubhouse leader, but Abreu certainly isn't a negative influence in any way. The two perceived knocks on him are minor (that he's interested in stats and fears the wall) and shouldn't preclude anyone from signing him. The Dodgers (if they fail to sign Manny), Braves and perhaps Reds, A's or Giants could be possibilities after he didn't jump at a Rays offer and saw former teammate Pat Burrell take it (Tampa was OK with that since it really only needed a DH). With the Mets taking hits for ignoring Manny, perhaps they'll make a play for Abreu after they solve their more pressing pitching problem.

3. Adam Dunn. After five-straight years of 40-plus home runs, it's no wonder he was
said to be seeking $100 million. Yet Dunn will have to settle for a fraction of that. Unless the Dodgers see him as a viable Manny replacement, his only real hope for any sort of substantial payday may be Washington, which desperately wants a left-handed power hitter.

4. Oliver Perez. The Mets are in for more than $30 million over three years, but talks seem to have slowed a tad over the last couple days for the talented 27-year-old lefty. The Rangers and Brewers look like they could become possibilities, though it isn't certain how willing either of those teams is to do a multiyear deal. Despite the negotiating hiccup, the Mets, whose GM, Omar Minaya, loves Perez, still make the most sense.

5. Ben Sheets. Even after he provided updated medical information, the market doesn't appear to be moving too fast for one of baseball's better pitchers. Sheets started the All-Star Game last year and went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA overall, but teams appear focused on the flexor tendon injury that caused him to miss a playoff start. Don't believe the knock that he's soft, as this is the same guy who threw a four-hit shutout to beat Cuba in the 2000 Olympic final. His career is very similar to that of A.J. Burnett, who cashed in for $82.5 million. Sheets has never had major arm surgery, has pitched 200 innings three times -- not counting 198 1/3 last year -- and has only once been below 140 innings. The Yankees flirted with him, but right now he might have to settle for an incentive-laden deal, perhaps with Texas, which has been talking about a one-year commitment.

6. Orlando Hudson. He was hoping for $50 million over five years but he plays the wrong position (second base) in the wrong year. Indications are that he was hoping for the Mets or Yankees to create a need by trading their current starters, Luis Castillo or Robinson Cano. But no one wants Castillo, and the Yankees still see great potential for Cano. The Nats are a possibility, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggested the Braves could sign Hudson and move Kelly Johnson to the outfield, as they would have for Rafael Furcal.

7. Orlando Cabrera. Edgar Renteria's $18.5 million, two-year deal must be a mirage. This guy is better. But where's he going? Oakland's a guess, but yours might be as good as mine at this point.

8. Garret Anderson. Here's another terrific hitter caught in a nightmare of a hitting market. He's been among the more productive outfielders in the AL over the last several years, and while he has seemingly been around forever, he's still only 36.

Henrik signs for 12 years with Detroit …hometown discount….

The reasons behind Henrik Zetterberg's decision to become a lifetime Red Wing lie in what happened on the team plane ride home from Columbus on Tuesday night and in a conversation he had a few weeks ago with team legend Steve Yzerman.

Zetterberg's deal, announced Wednesday, is for 12 years and $73 million, which will keep him in Detroit until he's 40 and, at $6.08 million a season against the salary cap, will help ensure the Wings remain competitive.

"I've never seen any reason to go anywhere else," Zetterberg said. "I really like it on the ice and off the ice. I have great teammates, a great coaching staff, owners who we know will have a good team every year. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't stay. I love it here, and I want to be here forever."

Owner Mike Ilitch described himself as "absolutely ecstatic" when he heard the news, which comes less than two years after Pavel Datsyuk agreed to a seven-year deal worth $46.9 million. Both are Wings draft picks, and neither has played for another NHL team.

Coincidentally, Zetterberg won't play tonight against Dallas, but he said his back spasms have improved and that he may be ready this weekend. Nicklas Lidstrom (elbow) and Datsyuk (hip) will be back, and defenseman Derek Meech can play up front. The Wings are debating putting defenseman Brad Stuart (torn cartilage in the rib area) on long-term injury reserve and calling up someone from Grand Rapids.

Zetterberg easily would have drawn offers upward of $8 million a season from other teams had he become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but then he'd be giving up being a Wing. That was at the heart of what Yzerman, a former teammate and now a vice president, told Zetterberg when they talked.

"I had some understanding of what he was going through and what his feelings were and what not," Yzerman said. "What I just wanted to stress with him was that I thought was important for him -- he's that type of player and has that stature -- that he should play for one organization his entire career. Actually there were two that I mentioned, the Detroit Red Wings and the Swedish national team. Those are the two jerseys you'll see Henrik play in now. It really creates an incredible legacy for him."

Speaking of Detroit, the Stars have their last meeting with the Wings this evening, and I know many of us are quite interested to see how well Dallas can stand up to their demons and a great hockey team at Joe Louis Arena. I think the Stars generally try to skate with a burden of bad memories up there, and that generally allows them to get beat pretty badly before the game even begins.

Are they in a better spot mentally? I hate to be a pessimist, but seeing Detroit has lost 3 straight, I must confess I am not overly optimistic…

Meanwhile, James Mirtle has some very tough talk about Fabian Brunnstrom’s first year

He's been by far the weakest defensive player on a Stars team that has really struggled with its goals against this season and seems completely clueless in his own zone. And that's with coach Dave Tippett playing him against the weakest opposition possible, mainly the other teams' fourth lines.

Only four players in the entire NHL have seen more goals per minute go in their own net at 5-on-5 this season, and two of them play for the Islanders.

He makes $2.225-million, is nearly 24 years old and isn't an NHL-caliber player. Not even close.

Sean Avery wasn't the only bad signing in Dallas this summer. And I'm sure teams like Vancouver and Detroit aren't all that unhappy they missed out.

I don’t believe that he is “not even close” to being an NHL caliber player (double negative?), but I do think even the Stars will admit that he sure could have used a year in the AHL. The trouble is, the Stars appear to have promised him that he would be given every opportunity to play with the big club in his first year. This is just a re-hab assignment to the AHL, and he will be back very soon.

I still believe that they are pleased with his upside down the road. The pressure on him to immediately be a stud scorer has been immense by people who followed his signing sweepstakes last spring, but the key for him is going to be to find a role. He is not a 4th liner, but he is stuck there until he is better defensively. It is a tough spot for this season, especially now that Dave Tippett wants his best players on the ice at all times because every night is very, very important in this playoff run.

Great idea for Goalie Gear ….

Sweet Child O Mine

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 2 at Super Bowl XLIII

Day 2 is a very early morning (sort of) as we need to get to Media Day at Raymond James Stadium. 9:00 am is the Cardinals, 11:00 am is the Steelers. Wacky bits will be harvested.

That means a short blog. So, a few quickies:

Pat Kirwan is my football leader. He is sort of booked on the show at 1:30. If this happens, you won’t want to miss it.

Kirwan’s latest looks at the way to get to the Super Bowl

The word "culture" has become the in-vogue term to describe the fiber of a franchise. Culture, in the NFL sense, means creating a winning environment based on shared beliefs and practices.

A tale of two franchises

In this century, no NFL franchise has spent more time on the concept of culture than the New England Patriots. With three Super Bowl championships, they have become a model for changing the culture of a franchise. Head coach Bill Belichick has educated all who work for him to cultivate a team that believes in one common goal -- winning.

The Patriots, however, are by no means the only team that rid themselves of a losing culture. They are just the most recent.

Ron Wolf did it in Green Bay, Bill Walsh in San Francisco, Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, Mike Shanahan in Denver, the Mara family in New York and the Rooney family in Pittsburgh. Each had a way of developing a set of attitudes that changed the beliefs, practices and customs of an entire organization.

This year's Super Bowl pits one of the long-standing successful franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers, against the upstart Arizona Cardinals. Ironically, it was the Cardinals who tapped into the Steelers model when they hired three Pittsburgh coaches to come to the desert and turn a lost and failing franchise into a winner.
Building a winning culture isn't just an idea; it's a process that takes vision and a plan. Bill Parcells proved in Miami this season that it doesn't have to take years to change the culture of a franchise.

Here are the ingredients a coach or front-office executive must closely look at if he wants to build a Super Bowl winner. He might not hit on every category, but he'd better hit on most of them:

1. The owner -- Everything starts at the top, and the owner of the team must know what it takes to win, be willing to listen and not turn back when things get rough. Coaches such as Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh or Tom Coughlin in New York are blessed with owners who know what it takes to be successful and inherited programs with a foundation in place. Bob Kraft in New England is a perfect example of a man who learned how to win by studying other successful programs and trusting his coach. Less than half the teams in the NFL have this component covered.

2. The tradition -- Make no mistake about it: A coach or general manager who takes over a team that has won in the past can influence the current group by showcasing the franchise's previous glory as a model. The Dallas Cowboys aren't playing very well right now, but they have tradition. The Super Bowl teams of the 1970s gave rise to the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s, and those two experiences eventually will give rise to the next winning team. The Steelers' tradition of winning is a big reason they overcame the toughest schedule in the league this season to reach Super Bowl XLIII.

3. The quarterback -- The most important position on the field is the best place to start if a coach or GM wants to change the culture of a losing team. Trading for Brett Favre was Ron Wolf's first move when he left the New York Jets and went to the Green Bay Packers as GM. Troy Aikman's arrival had an awful lot to do with the culture change in Dallas, as Joe Montana and Steve Young did in San Francisco. Six of the last 10 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. Without a very good QB, changing the culture might never happen.

4. The staff -- In order to really create long-term change, a coach and GM must fill the roster with good players who also are great men. It doesn't take too many personnel mistakes or bad apples in the locker room to drag a once-proud franchise to the bottom. Smart scouts and great teaching coaches are critical. Belichick does a great job training his scouts to find the type of players he wants, and they rarely bring back guys with character issues or a lack of intellect. Once those players are on the field, the teaching takes over, as evidenced by QB Matt Cassel's performance this season. Look at the Cardinals' offensive line, coached by Russ Grimm. Starting left tackle Mike Gandy has tremendously improved under Grimm. Also consider the effect of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on his team's success.

5. A special trait -- Sometimes a coach or GM can develop a special trait that's so strong, it can carry the team. Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens' GM, built the NFL's finest defense, which carried the team to a Super Bowl XXXV victory. Denver head coach Mike Shanahan built a running game around Terrell Davis, making the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl champions (XXXII, XXXIII). The Bears believed they had a special defense when they lined up against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, but it wasn't good enough, and Chicago still hasn't recovered.

6. The tough decision -- The coach and, more importantly, the GM must be able to make the hard decision that appears cold on the surface but is the right thing to do in the long run. Cutting a player, firing a coach or dismissing a scout isn't easy, but the smart teams pull the trigger when necessary. Trading Montana and going with Young wasn't easy, but it enabled the 49ers to continue their winning culture. Sometimes, the decision can backfire, as with Kurt Warner. You have to wonder how many more Super Bowl trips the Rams would have made if Warner was still there.

7. The team -- The locker room is where teams can be made or dismantled. There's no fooling the players when there's a weak link in the locker room or a player interested in self-promotion over what's best for the team. The Cowboys might presently suffer from this issue, and it could be what holds them back from a return to glory. On the other hand, the strong winning culture in the Patriots' locker room has helped players such as Rodney Harrison and Randy Moss flourish in their new home.

8. The building -- There's probably not enough attention paid to this issue. I learned a number of valuable lessons from Parcells and Belichick when they came to the Jets. Everyone was under evaluation. The doctors, trainers, equipment men, travel department, security, public relations and groundskeepers all were under the microscope. Too often, people who are in contact with the players and have little or nothing at stake professionally breed a losing culture in the building. I like to call it the "here we go again" way of thinking. It exists in every business, and as long as it does, losing will creep back into the workplace.

9. The media -- Making information public can be devastating to the security of an operation. I know the media has a job to do, but they don't have a right to know a club's inner workings. Leak word that a GM is trying to trade a player, and watch what it does to the locker room. The media can't help improve the culture of a team, but they sure can help destroy it with a few ill-timed stories -- usually leaked to them by disgruntled employees. I don't think it has to be a "one-voice" mentality, but I do believe the best teams restrict the flow of information.

10. A bit of luck -- Every team needs some luck. For example, the last four teams left standing in this year's playoffs (Steelers, Cardinals, Ravens and Eagles) all received 16 starts out of their quarterback. Great preparation is more reliable than luck, but if something fortunate happens -- like getting a borderline call or an opponent missing an easy field-goal attempt -- it doesn't hurt.

Kirwan on the QB’s in the Super Bowl

National Football Post updates its top 100 for the 2009 draft

Obligatory story on Radio Row in the Tampa paper

With the Super Bowl in Tampa this week, this is the place to talk sports. The epicenter of sports talk is at the Tampa Convention Center. More than 400 radio sports talk show hosts are in town doing their shows live.

You hear radio talk show hosts talking about subjects ranging from who has the better defense, whether Arizona belongs in the big game to what was the best Super Bowl ever.

Steve Duemig, the talk afternoon host of WDAE The Sports Animal here in Tampa, says they call Radio Row "The Pit," because everybody is reporting the same thing and when athletes walk in, they know they are not coming out soon. Everyone wants to talk to the big names.

Duemig says some big name athletes come to Radio Row and usually they are pretty good about hearing some of the same questions over and over. However, he adds most of them are selling something. Whether they are representing Campbell Soup or something else, there is a reason they are coming into town.

But Duemig says not every athlete that comes to Radio Row is great. He says you can always tell before they sit down for the interview -- if the jocks have a bad attitude, he always makes it a short interview. However, if it's fun, the interview can last for two segments. Duemig says he looks for athletes that enjoy themselves off the field.

This is Duemig's 12th Super Bowl on Radio Row and he says without a doubt his favorite moment came not from a football player but horse racing jockey, Jerry Bailey. Duemig says listeners kept calling in and asking questions and Bailey was such a good interview he didn't want to let him go.

Outside Radio Row and the Convention Center, the NFL Network is broadcasting live, with a much more sophisticated set up than the guys on Radio Row, but most of the radio guys mind the cramped quarters at all.

Duemig says it is a blast, especially after they get off the air. He says that's when everyone gets together and it is like a convention.

Here is an email:

Dude you are the one to ask about this….

The Ticket, in its infinite wisdom has updated the website and all the previously saved links/ browser settings have apparently changed. I pull up and stream the Ticket. Can you search out the new link for me? Sorry to ask something so mundane of the on-air-personality, but you are the one I trust to know or get this info.

As someone who does listen to the ticket through my Motorola Q, I do need to update my streaming link with all of the web changes at the station. So, before you panic about not being able to stream the station, try this:

Listen live Link

Con Te Partiro …not the Stepbrothers edition…

Wire in 5 minutes

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wayne.

Today is Wayne Gretzky's Birthday. He is 48.

He is everyone's hero in Hockey. When someone asks you who your favorite hockey player is, they really want to know who your 2nd favorite is. They assume you are smart enough to know that Gretzky's is everyone's #1.

Sorry. It is true.

In honor of his birthday, please enjoy two of the most wonderful links that you can kill some time with:

First, Read all about the 61 records that he holds ....yes, that is right. 61.

And then, here is the Gretzky page ...that includes 99 reasons why 99 is the greatest....

Here is a bit of it:

* Gretzky wins his first of eight consecutive Hart Trophies in 1979-80 as the MVP of the League.

* With the 51 goals in 1979-80, Gretzky becomes the youngest player (19 years, two months) to score 50 goals in a single season.

* Sets an NHL record for most assists in one game by a first-year player, with seven on Feb. 15 vs. Washington.

* On Dec. 30, 1981 against Philadelphia, Gretzky scores his 50th goal in an unimaginable 39 games. The previous mark was 50 goals in 50 games by Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy.

* Captures his second League scoring title in 1981-82 after becoming the first player in NHL history to record over 200 points, collecting 212.

* Sets an NHL record for most goals in one season with 92 in 1981-82, breaking Phil Esposito’s record of 76, set with Boston in 1970-71.

* Breaks his own mark of most assists in a single season with 120 in 1981-82.

* Nets 10 hat tricks in 1981-82 to garner yet another record.

* Surpasses his own mark for most assists in a single season with 125 in 1982-83.

* Sets NHL Stanley Cup Playoff records during the 1983 postseason with 26 assists and 38 points.

* Establishes a new record by notching at least one point in 51 consecutive games, tallying 61 goals and 92 assists for 153 points during the streak in 1983-84. The next longest streak is held by Mario Lemieux, who had a 46-game scoring streak in which he scored 39 goals and 103 points.

* During the 1983-84 regular season and playoffs, Gretzky scores a combined 100 goals (87 regulars season, 13 playoffs).

* Sets an NHL record with 12 shorthanded goals and ties his own mark with 10 hat tricks during the 1983-84 season.

It is really exhausting just to read all of it.

Byron said it best in an email to me last week:


RE: Hat tricks; I think the Stars will end with 6. That’s right 1 more in 40 games, because I believe they will make some changes that focus on defense via trade.

You also brought up Wayne Gretzky. This might not be the place, but what amazed me about him was when Messier moved into 2nd place all time in points, he was around 900 points behind “The Great One.” 900 points in the NHL by itself is a fantastic career. To think that some of those 50 hat tricks he had, he scored more than 3. I know he had 5 in a game at least once.. So its conceivable when you add assists, he could have had more than 200 points in those 50 games. Unbelievable. 200 NHL points for a career is better than you and I will ever have.


Wow. Let that soak in.

Happy Birthday, O Great One.

Super Bowl XLIII - Day 1

Welcome to Super Bowl XLIII, as Tampa is back in the mix for the first time since Super Bowl XXXV, when Ray Lewis and the Ravens knocked those New York Giants around the ball yard.

I have never spent any time in this city, so I don’t really have my bearings, but the truth is this: In any of these Super Bowl cities, we spend 80% of our time in the same convention centers that every city has. I am not here to complain, but the truth is we could be in Jacksonville, Detroit, San Diego, or Tampa, and chances are we will still be in a large convention hall surrounded by dozens of other radio stations who will all do as we do: blab on and on about whatever.

It is what it is…It is fun, it is repetitive. It is the Super Bowl.

So, on an airplane that had Norm Hitzges, Gil Brandt, Michael Irvin (followed by Barry Horn who was covering Irvin sitting on an airplane having a bag of peanuts – he said it went very well, to the shock of us all), and our old pals Ben and Skin, we had enough radio blowhards to fill a city.

Because of that, it sounds like we missed one heck of a Mavs game

They fell behind by 31 points in the second quarter and played such uninspired basketball that a national ABC audience had to be switching to the Winter X Games before halftime. Or maybe a televised chess match, which would have been more gripping.

The Mavericks looked as if they were content to take a 2-2 trip back home. They won a tight game at Philadelphia to start the journey a week ago and had a huge win at Detroit.

The other two stops might as well be wiped from their memory. They lost by a combined 58 points at Milwaukee and Boston.

"I don't think they're 40 points better than us," said Dirk Nowitzki. "We have to chalk this one up to a bad game. But that's this league – you win some big games, and you have some disappointing losses."

The Mavericks arrived for the afternoon game with no staying power. They trailed, 15-14, with 4:44 left in the first quarter, then got outscored, 12-0. The Celtics' lead never dropped below 10 and topped out at 84-49.

"We wanted to go undefeated," Jason Terry said of the road trip, "but that's two games where we didn't follow the game plan, and if we're going to be a good team, we can't let that happen."

Defensively, the Mavericks were poor. Combined with an uncanny shooting game by the Celtics, particularly in the first half, it was an ugly scene.

The Celtics shot 65 percent in the half, including 8-of-9 from the field by Ray Allen, who had 20 points in the half and 23 for the game. Kevin Garnett and Eddie House also had 23.

"I wasn't happy with the defense," coach Rick Carlisle said. "When the shots weren't going early, it affected us defensively, and we've got to fight against that. It's disappointing, but you learn from it and take something from it."

Mike Bacsik is back with more:

Will the Mavs finish in LAST place?

Last place in the NBA isn't the worst record. Last place in the NBA is the team with the best record not to make the playoffs. There can be some exceptions, like 2 years ago when the Hornets just missed the playoffs in Chris Paul's 2nd year. They were building a winner and the arrow was pointing up. The worst record will get a pick in the top 4. And if there is only one constant in sports, it is that a NBA championship is won by superstars, not 5 pretty good players. A top pick can land a team a superstar. The last pick(14th) in the lottery won't.

The 2008-09 Dallas Mavericks look like they will be the 9th place team in the West. Do you believe this Mavs team will get better or worse after the all-star break? All indications point towards a Dallas Cowboys December collapse for these Mavs in March and April. The problem with just being bad enough to miss the playoffs but good enough to beat the doormats is that you usually can't get better through your draft pick. The Mavs will most likely have the 14th pick. What has the 14th pick produced the last 5 years? '04 Kris Humphries, '05 Rashad McCants. '06 Ronnie Brewer, '07 Al Thornton, '08 Anthony Randolph. No all-stars, no true difference makers and the end of the lottery.

The Mavs have very little to look forward to. There is no young star ready to emerge on this roster. The Thunder have Durant, Green, and Westbrook. The Grizzlies have Mayo, Gay and Conley. The 1st pick this year will get the stud from OU, Blake Griffin. The Mavs are one of the older teams in the NBA. Kidd, Terry, Dirk, Damp are all over 30. Howard is 28 and is regressing on the court. Not to mention his off the court problems in the past. The other players on the Mavs could be replaced without anybody noticing a difference in team success or failure.

Everybody who looking forward to the 2010 free agency period, stop dreaming! Why would a top free agent want to come to a team with an ageing star in Dirk, no solid role players, an organization that has never won a championship, and no draft pick in 2010 to help? Mark Cuban has said he never wants the Mavs to be a middle of the road team. He doesn't want a team that hangs around the 40 win mark and has no future of winning a championship or no way to win the lottery and get the next Duncan or Shaq. Cuban now has a team that is middle of the road, a team that will fight for 8th place in the West after finishing 7th last year. He has an old team with no young studs. Will Mark Cuban stay true to his word and drastically change this team or will he spin the truth and sell a bad product like the other Dallas high priced owner/bad parole officer does?

Goose ponders whether Warner is in the HOF

Eleven Hall of Fame quarterbacks have combined to win 23 of the 42 Super Bowls. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four apiece, Troy Aikman three and John Elway, Bob Griese, Bart Starr and Roger Staubach two.

Historically, if you win two Super Bowls you can book passage to Canton. Only two quarterbacks who have won multi-Super Bowls are not enshrined – Tom Brady, who is not yet eligible, and Jim Plunkett.

Kurt Warner could join that group of multi-Super Bowl winners Sunday, when his Arizona Cardinals play the Pittsburgh Steelers. He won his first Super Bowl as quarterback of the St. Louis Rams after the 1999 season.

Brady will one day be enshrined, but there's no guarantee with Plunkett. He re-invented himself with the Raiders in winning those two Super Bowls. But he never even went to a Pro Bowl in his 16-year career.

Warner twice has been the best quarterback in the league, winning NFL MVP honors in 1999 and 2001 with the Rams. That alone makes him a Hall of Fame candidate. The path Warner has taken to championships would enhance both his legacy and candidacy.

Warner took the worst NFL franchise of the 1990s to a Super Bowl in 1999 and the worst franchise in NFL history to a Super Bowl this season.

The Rams owned a 45-99 record in the 1990s with six last-place finishes when Warner became the quarterback in 1999. St. Louis won it all that year.

The Cardinals won only two playoff games and two NFL titles in the first 87 years of franchise history. No team had a longer championship drought than the Cardinals at 60 years. This franchise hadn't won a playoff game since 1998 or a division title since 1975. Thanks to Warner, Arizona finds itself playing for an NFL title Sunday.

This morning, I watched the Senior Bowl, finally. I will leave it to the National Football Post to cover it fully ...But, Harrell did not look the part...

The play of QB Pat White is going to force scouts to take a closer look at him as a quarterback. He isn’t your prototypical pocket passer, but he creates plays on the move and has the arm strength to make all the throws. The kid wants to play QB at the next level, and I think the team that drafts him will need to force White to prove he isn’t an NFL-caliber signal caller before they move him to WR. He’s the type of athlete that can add a throwing dimension to the “wildcat” formations of the NFL.

The other quarterbacks had their moments, but Texas Tech product Graham Harrell really struggled. He lacks arm strength and seems to be a bit scheme limited at the next level. However, don’t count him out by any stretch. If he finds the right kind of offense (west coast scheme), I believe he can not only play, but will play well at the next level.

Small schools quarterbacks Nathan Brown and Rhett Bomar ran hot and cold, but there’s definite potential there. Bomar has a big arm and is a good athlete, but concerns about his accuracy linger. He has never completed more the 59 percent of his passes in a college year and needs to improve his timing in the short-area passing game. Brown, on the other hand, simply needs time to adjust to the next level. He was the only QB all week to consistently stick the deep out and displays the timing and anticipation skills to make scouts wonder just how high his ceiling is. He’s only 6-1 and has a lower than ideal release, and his passes wobble a bit down the field, but he flashes NFL-caliber talent. Brown intrigues me and would definitely be worth a mid-round pick to see how far he can develop.

What cities love the NHL the most?

HBO debuts free boxing …as Sugar Shane beat Margarito silly…

With the sport of boxing and the U.S. economy both taking a beating, HBO is shifting its strategy and relocating many of its big fights from pay-per-view (PPV) to its network.

HBO Sports chief Ross Greenburg hopes the move to make more top-tier fights available to HBO customers will infuse some life into the sport.

"The sport needs more eyeballs," he says. "It's ironic, but while in bad times you'd expect the sport to suffer, it could actually trigger the opposite effect."

In 2008, HBO Pay Per View offered eight events, bringing in $190 million in revenue based on 3.7 million buys.

But as the economy worsened, buy rates began to drop. Even midsize events that were projected at 300,000 buys were dipping below 200,000. A big December fight between PPV king Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao did garner nearly 1.3 million buys, but sponsor rebates may have padded that figure.

HBO's shift means satellite and cable providers will have fewer pay-per-view boxing events in 2009. The network probably won't do its first PPV bout until May, a proposed fight between fan-favorites Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao. By May of last year, HBO had already done four events.

"It's tough to get people excited about dishing out 50 bucks every month in this economy," Greenburg says. "Everyone overreached in 2008; there were too many pay-per-view events."

The first example of HBO's strategy is its World Championship Boxing airing of the Jan. 24 bout between "Sugar" Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito, which Greenburg says would have absolutely been on PPV last year.

Shocker of my weekend? Finding out Dexter married his sister

Email of the Weekend (from one of the great emailers of this blog’s history)


By signing on with the new Irvin-produced American Football Idol, Jerry Jones has completed his metamorphosis into P.T. Barnum presiding over the three-ring circus that is the Dallas Cowboys. Seriously, what does Ringling Brothers have that the Cowboys don’t? We’ve got clowns, fat men, strong men, a red-headed geek, a guy who can catch 6 footballs at once. And now we’ll have Michael Irvin and Dieon Sanders bringing their big bag of distraction and “look at me” attitude to a Cowboy training camp that is already chock full of distractions and “look at me” attitudes.

Once again, you only have to ask ‘What would New England do?’ to know whether this is a good idea or not. Would New England sign up with this show? No, of course not, especially if the Patriots were coming off as disastrous and distraction-filled a season as Dallas, which of course they would never experience because they are New England and don’t permit distractions.

Dave in Tulsa

Speaking of Irvin, a Super Bowl classic from Detroit:

rangers batting stances

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ask Sports Sturm: Baseball America Rankings

I am very interested in the Baseball America rankings that have just been released that show that the Texas Rangers have the #1 ranked farm system in all of baseball. This would seem to indicate that the following 10 players will soon be the framework of a very powerful, young baseball team for years to come:

1.Neftali FelizRHP
2.Derek HollandLHP
3.Justin Smoak1B
4.Elvis AndrusSS
5.Martin PerezLHP
6.Taylor TeagardenC
7.Engle BeltreOF
8.Michael MainRHP
9.Julio BorbonOF
10.Max RamirezC/1B

Table Tutorial

We can only hope that this is the long-term case. Baseball excellence is on the horizon. For a franchise that boasts just 1 finish higher than 3rd in a 4 team division in the last 9 years, and just 1 season of over 80 wins in the last 9 years, it is badly needed.

The Rangers were last ranked #1 in 1990. Here is what that group looked like:

1.Juan GonzalezOF
2.Rob NenRHP
3.Donald HarrisOF
4.Dean Palmer3B
5.Brian BohanonLHP
6.Kevin BelcherOF
7.Dan PeltierOF
8.Scott Coolbaugh3B
9.Monty FarissSS
10.Eric McCrayLHP

Table Tutorial

That team did not win in the next 5 years, but in year 6, Juan and Dean Palmer were pretty large parts of the first Rangers team to ever win a division. 6 years from today is January 2015.

Which leads us to this episode of Ask Sports Sturm:

I am a big Rangers fan, and a bigger fan of the truth. Is this ranking a big deal? Is this the equivalent of national signing day in college football? Is there a strict correlation between being ranked highly here and performing well on the diamond? I know this is a lot of questions, Bob, but the bottom line is: Can the Rangers screw this up?

Brent, Ft Worth

Well, Brent. There is only one way to figure this out, and that is to spend days, weeks, and months tracing every ranking Baseball America has ever done, and seeing if we can find any correlation between ranking and winning in the big scheme of things.

Sadly, I don’t have that much time. I have a few hours on this Thursday night to see if I can see any connections.

At the outset, I see some initial issues to sort through. For instance, Is there any accepted time span between the time the list comes out, and the time we expect the big league performance to be affected? I would suggest 3 years is about right, but that is hardly an exact science. For instance, in the 2006 rankings, the Atlanta Braves were ranked #7 – partly because this young kid that was ranked #3 on their list. His name? Elvis Andrus. 36 months later, we are still wondering if the Rangers might be rushing him to the big leagues. In fact, the Braves list in the 2006 list is very interesting. Ranked #7 in baseball, here is their top 7 prospects:

1.Andy Marte3B
2.Jarrod SaltalamacchiaC
3.Elvis AndrusSS
4.Yunel EscobarSS
5.Anthony LerewRHP
6.Joey DevineRHP
7.Chuck JamesLHP

Table Tutorial

Now, here are the 2006 Rangers, ranked #16:

1.Edison VolquezRHP
2.John DanksLHP
3.Thomas DiamondRHP
4.Joaquin AriasSS
5.Eric HurleyRHP
6.Ian Kinsler2B
7.Armando GalarragaRHP

Table Tutorial

And then, ranked #1 36 months ago, here are the Arizona Diamondbacks:

1.Stephen DrewSS
2.Conor Jackson1B
3.Carlos QuentinOF
4.Carlos GonzalesOF
5.Dustin NippertRHP
6.Miguel MonteroC
7.Garrett MockRHP

Table Tutorial

Interesting, eh? 36 months later, which of these 3 lists would you rather have? #7 Atlanta looks the weakest of the 3, and the #16 Rangers are somewhat comparable to the #1 Diamondbacks. Arizona with the bats, the Rangers with 3/5ths of a rotation. So, if 3 years isn’t enough to judge these lists, is it 4 years? Should the ’04 list have told us who the best teams in 2008 would be?

2008 Final Four teams? Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Boston

2004 Baseball America Rankings for these teams?

Philadelphia 21st (Howard, Hamels)
Los Angeles 2nd (Martin, Loney, Billingsley)
Tampa Bay 9th (Delmon Young, Kazmir)
Boston 23rd (Hanley Ramirez, Papelbon, Pedroia)

Is there a correlation? I know it is fun to put payroll rankings and show no connection between success and money. Isn’t it fairly easy to do the same thing here?

Here is another way I tried to look at it; the final column takes the team’s ability to make the playoffs in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th year after the #1 ranking. So, in 2003, if Cleveland was ranked #1, we check to see if they made the playoffs in 2006, 2007, and 2008. No-Yes-No. Of course, the "*" means the World Series Title was won - which appears twice, for the 2003 Florida Marlins, and the 2005 Chicago White Sox.

Year RankedTeam #1Playoffs 3-5 years
1996LA DodgersN-N-N
2000NY YankeesY-Y-Y
2001Chi SoxN-Y*-N
2002Chi CubsN-N-Y

Table Tutorial

So, you see we have 10 teams and 3 years for each teams. In the 3rd year after being ranked #1 by Baseball America, these teams made the playoffs 4 times (40%). In the 4th year, they made the playoffs 6 times (60%) and 1 World Series Title, and in the 5th year, they made the playoffs 6 times (60%). The overall playoff rate was 16 for 30 or 53%. But, in fact, if you take Atlanta out of the mix, the mark drops to 7 for 21 or 33%.

For grins, I thought I would cross reference those numbers against the teams that are ranked dead last each year in Baseball America (and yes, I realize that until 1998, last meant #28):

Year RankedTeam #30Playoffs 3-5 years
2002St LouisY-Y*-N

Table Tutorial

The Good News: The teams ranked last only made it to the playoffs 6 out of 30 times (20%). In the 3rd year, 4 times (40%). In the 4th year, twice (20%). and then maybe the best piece of evidence, in the 5th year after being ranked last, the ten teams in our sample size made it to the playoffs 0 times (0%).

The Bad News: The teams ranked 30th have JUST as many World Series Championships as the teams ranked #1 in the focus years. The 2002 Angels and the 2005 Cardinals were both teams overcoming the last place spot.

And what role does money play? What does it profit a team to grow a bunch of prospects but not keep them around when they become stars? Should the Rangers have either a) avoided Mark Teixeira on draft day or b) paid to make him a career Ranger? Or did they flip him perfectly?

The Yankees raised Jeter, Bernie, Mariano, and Posada - and then paid hundreds of millions to keep them. Over $440 million to be exact to just those 4 players.

Those Braves were also a team that grew their own, and then paid to keep them until they deemed them no longer useful. The two consistent winners in the sample appear to be the Yankees and Braves. Two teams that over the last 15 years have drafted very well, and paid very well. Perhaps we should note both as traits of winners, rather than which ever one supports our agenda.

To answer the questions of Brent, It is hard to say I see a direct correlation between the ranking and a World Title. But, it surely is a significant note. There is no doubt the Rangers are now stocked with quality. Baseball America is not a Rangers publication, nor does it have any reason in my estimation to do the Rangers a P.R. favor.

To many of us, including me, the proof will always have to be found in the major league pudding. For some of these teams, I feel that the rankings were reflected on the field. The Atlanta Braves are a top notch organization that did it all. They grew talent, they acquired talent, and they paid talent. I think you must do all 3.

In a short answer, "yes" it means plenty. But, "no" it does not mean everything. I certainly hope to have a more definitive answer for questions like these, but honestly, too much goes into building a franchise to just fall back on a list in a magazine.

Building a winner requires plenty of things; Smarts, Luck, and Health are all on that list. I think JD and the cast of the Rangers are on the right track, but I believe evidence shows that Baseball America and the Rangers did not realize what the Rangers had in 2006.

Time will tell if they have learned from their experience.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bucks, Bacsik, and Hat Tricks

I honestly am not sure I know what to say anymore about the Dallas Mavericks. Last week, I already indicated it is time to give it up with regards to believing in this nucleus. But, wow.

I had no idea that the Milwaukee Bucks are able to beat the Mavs by 34.

But, alas.

I would like to hereby apologize to Norm for doubting the difficulty of winning a game in the Kohl’s Center. I guess I still over-rate the Mavericks.

Milwaukee Pounds Dallas

The joy of the Mavericks’ exhilarating victory in Philadelphia was extinguished by a blizzard of 3-pointers, long 2-pointers and a few dunks Wednesday night as the Bucks treated the basket like an arcade game.

If this had been the State Fair of Texas, the Milwaukee shooters would have left Fair Park with a truckload of stuffed animals.

The Bucks made 83.3 percent of their shots in the second quarter and followed it with 73.7 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter, well, by then, it didn’t matter.

The second game of the road trip was a disaster for the Mavericks, who were pummeled by the Bucks 133-99.

The Mavericks were hoping their dramatic victory over the 76ers on Monday on a last-second shot by Dirk Nowitzki would give them momentum. Instead, the Bucks handed them their worst loss of the season.

"I’ve very disappointed and I’m sure the team is, too," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "The momentum carried in the first quarter and then after the first, it was bad. There’s not much else to say. I’m extremely disappointed."

The Mavericks had a decent start, leading 30-22 after the first quarter. Despite having a sore wrist and ankle, Josh Howard seemed back to his old self, scoring 12 points in the first period. The Mavericks also limited the Bucks to 29.2 percent from the field.

In the second period, however, the Bucks erupted. Michael Redd, one of the top shooters in the league, missed all three of his field goals in the first period, but went 4-for-4 in the second.

And reserve guard Ramon Sessions hit all six of his attempts and had 17 points in the period as the Bucks scored 42 points, which is a season high by a Dallas opponent.

Charlie Villanueva led the Bucks with 32 points, Redd finished with 27 and Sessions had 21.

"It’s just embarrassing," Dirk Nowitzki said. "It was no defense at all. They got whatever they wanted — wide-open shots, drives, layups."

And now, making his “Bob’s Blog” debut, is the great Mike Bacsik. He is part major-league baseball player, part Mavericks fan. And, I have offered him a forum anytime he wants it to write about his Mavs without filter to this audience (for whatever that is worth).

So, today, Mike tackles the Diop trade:

Minor Trade for MAJOR Mistake

Last Friday the Mavs traded away DeSagana Diop to the BobCats for two spare parts, Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Can Carroll and Hollins help? Yes, but not enough to decide an outcome of a game. First let me rant about the worst free agent signing in the NBA this off-season. Then I will get to the two players the Mavericks acquired.

Diop is a career backup Center at best. The MAJOR mistake by the Mavs was to use their entire Mid-Level Exception(MLE) 5 years $32 million on a guy who's best numbers in his career are 3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. I don't think anybody thought at the end of the 2008 season the Mavs biggest need was a backup Center with no offensive game. Diop was traded last year in the Harris-Kidd trade to New Jersey. The Nets didn't even have a Center on their roster.(Mavs got both of N.J. Centers, Magloire and Malik Allen) Diop was so bad for the Nets that after a few games he couldn't get off the bench. But because Gana was on the 2006 NBA Finals team Cuban and Donnie had to have him back. Now, what has been one of the biggest needs for the Mavs in the last 5 years? A Shooting Guard/Wing Player. Who was available in free agentcy? C.J Miles, Matt Barnes, Michael Pietrus, J.R Smith, and James Posey all signed for the same amount or less with their current team. Now compare those guys with Matt Carroll and you see how bad the Mavs screwed up.

On to what the Mavs got for Diop. Matt Carroll has a nice 3 point shot. Unfortunately that is all he has. He is a catch and shoot white boy. A comparable player for Mavs fans would be Tim Legler. These guys have a place in the NBA but they are not difference makers. Why did the Mavs want him? Because he makes less money then Diop. Plain and simple. Carroll is owed $21.4 million over the next 5 years. Diop 5 years at $32 million. In the 2010-11 season Carroll will make $4.3 compared to Diop's $6.5. It's not much but I guess every penny helps if the Mavs are to pry away a top free agent that year.(Don't count on it) The other player the Mavs acquired is 7 foot center Ryan Hollins. Honestly I knew very little of him. So I went to see what his draft card said 2 years ago from Chad Ford of ESPN. Chad Ford says "He's long and athletic and he can block shots. He's been an underachiever at UCLA, but if he ever gets it, he could be good. He has potential to be a pro if he has time to develop, but it will take a lot of work. He's really a major project for a team to invest in, reminiscent a bit of Loren Woods of the Toronto Raptors." He is insurance on a Mavs team that only has one other center, Dampier. Hollins contract expires after this season.

This will go down as a nothing trade. Two teams getting rid of trash they didn't want anymore. What shouldn't be forgotten is, when the Mavs needed the MLE to fill a huge hole, they got nothing. It's sad to think over the last 3 years a few of the right moves and the Mavs would still be a top 5 team. Now in July of 2009 you can look forward to David Stern saying "With the 14th pick in the 2009 NBA draft the Dallas Mavericks select _____." Not all because of Diop, but his signing is one of the major problems this year.

Good stuff, Mike. Keep it coming.

Art Garcia speculates about the end of the Dirk Era

If Mark Cuban's team continues to slide as Nowitzki continues to age, moving the former MVP could become a legitimate option. Nowitzki agrees, pointing to the departures of former teammates and close friends Steve Nash and Michael Finley.
"When Nashy left and Fin left, some guys said they would never trade me and I'm untouchable," Nowitzki told "I said, 'Screw that.' If they can get Kobe tomorrow or Shaq in his prime five or six years ago, you've got to be stupid not to do it.

"Whatever Cuban wants to do, he's running the show, it's his franchise, he spends a lot of money every year on us, and if they can get better by getting rid of me and want somebody else, have a shot at a franchise player, then just go right ahead."
Nowitzki's tone was hardly defiant. He just laid out his thoughts in a matter-of-fact chat after a recent Dallas home game. Nowitzki's contract expires in 2011, though he can opt-out after next season and join the blockbuster 2010 class.
Europe's greatest NBA export is not actively looking to leave Dallas. But the precedents set by a pair of 7-footers who took their former franchises as far as they could go makes the concept, at the very least, viable.

Here, The MacMahon blog entry o the day

I'd imagine the Mavs' annual trip to Milwaukee causes some grumbling around those parts. After all, the draft-day Dirk deal ranks right up there with the most lopsided trades in recent NBA history.

If the Mavs traded Robert "Tractor" Traylor straight up for Pat Garrity, the Bucks still would have been on the bad end of the deal. But Garrity was just a throw-in with the big German.

Dirk has developed into the best European ever to play in the NBA. Traylor has developed into a tub of goo who lasted a grand total of two seasons with the Bucks and started all of 73 games in his NBA career, which he tried to resuscitate by playing for the Cavaliers' summer league team last year.

Just for giggles, let's compare the career stats of Dirk and Tractor Traylor:

Points -- 18,026/2,085
Rebounds -- 6,846/1,640
Assists -- 2,150/312
Blocks -- 826/306
Steals -- 744/280
All-Star appearances -- 7/0

Tony Romo speaks

"I think leadership sometimes comes with your ability to perform and your personality," Romo said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "And some of it comes with experience. In a lot of ways, I think I've gotten to the point where I've gained experience.

"I'm definitely going to take a more active approach with that as we move forward from last year to this season. I'll be very excited to get back out there and be with the guys and figure out a way to improve and get better and do the things we need to do to win. Period."

"I think this was definitely the most trying physical year I've had in my athletic career," Romo said. "Sometimes you have to go through that, and if you do go through something like that, you can be stronger."

Romo did not want to talk about his relationship with Terrell Owens, joking, "Haven't we been through that already?" or his practice performance, which sources questioned late in the season.

However, Romo has said he treats practices like games in order to be ready for any situation that might arise when things are for real, and his coaches have never questioned his work in practice.

"I promise you," Romo said, "this football team is going to be a good football team next year."

On the day the Rangers grabbed Omar Vizquel, two Rangers links: A JD ESPN Chat where he says very little ….and BBTIA offers a large prospect mailbag that has quite a bit

Big night for the Stars, as they get a much needed win in Florida. I think any of us watching it were not terribly optimistic as we hit the first intermission and the Stars looked like they were not going to finish anywhere but last in this two team battle. They had no energy, and they had no real intention of competing.

Well, as usual, this team that came out of the gates sleep walking sprung to life without any warning and that left all of us (including Razor) wondering if the teams had switched uniforms during the break.

The “compete” level in the Stars really was apparent in the final 40 minutes, and it was nice to see the best players playing well. Brad Richards was really good; Modano scored another of those crazy “no angle” goals – he has scored from that very spot at least 100 times, but each time it looks like he has no angle.

A few other notable items to discuss from the night in Florida include Matt Niskanen’s fighting career which might not lead to a career in the octagon when he is done with hockey.

Full marks for courage, the results need improvement for the sake of his body.

His 1st fight in 08-09 – that ugly night in Boston with Sherriff Hnidy

His 2nd fight in 2008-09 – Stillman with a strong punch to the kisser

Meanwhile, the headlines today screamed about another hat trick for the Stars this one was the very first in the career of the great Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro actually scored the natural hat trick with his empty netter last night, and has to love the taste in his mouth as he hits the all-star break.

The hat trick tied the team record for the Stars, as they now have 5: Brunnstrom, Parrish, Eriksson, Neal, and now Ribs. 5 also was achieved in 1998 and 2004, so the Stars have nearly 40 games to get magical #6.

That, of course, led to this email from a fan:

Hey Bob,

There seems to be an abundance of hat tricks this year for the Stars. This can't be normal, but since I'm biased and really only focus on Stars hockey, maybe it is. Though being the genius sports mind and celebrity that you are, what is the record for the most number of hat tricks a team has had in a single season? Surely the Stars have to be creeping up on that???

P1 Dan

Thanks, Dan, although your use of the word celebrity is both reckless and ridiculous.
But, to his question of whether the Stars are creeping up on the record for hat tricks in a season….uh…No.

The 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers appear to have the record with 21 hat tricks in one year , so 5 will not get it done. Think about that. 21 hat tricks? 1 every 4 games?

In fact, Gretzky had 10 in 1 season. Twice!

According to this , here are some jaw-dropping hat trick numbers:


Year Player, Team HT
1981-82 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton 10
1983-84 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton 10
1980-81 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders 9
1988-89 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh 9
1991-92 Brett Hull, St. Louis 8
1917-18 Joe Malone, Montreal 7
1970-71 Phil Esposito, Boston 7
1975-76 Rick Martin, Buffalo 7
1992-93 Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo 7

And then this:


Player HT
Wayne Gretzky 50
Mario Lemieux 40
Mike Bossy 39
Brett Hull 33
Phil Esposito 32

That is right. 50 hat tricks. 50. Just 49 more Ribs.

Enjoy your All-Star break.