Archive for April, 2007

Where’s My Private Suite, Mr. Goodell?
April 30, 2007

I must admit, I felt very sorry for him. For hour after hour, every time I looked up , he was still there. Just sitting there. Looking sad and pathetic. Waiting to hear his name called. But it never was. Eventually he sequestered himself in another room, which almost made me feel worse. Like he didn’t want anyone to see him so sad. But eventually, the call came. I collared him and took him outside for a potty break.

Yes, I’m talking about my dog. I was staining my deck on Saturday and didn’t give the dog as much attention as he normally gets when I’m home. What, you thought I was talking about Brady Quinn? Yeah right. I didn’t feel sorry for him at all on Saturday and still don’t.

Let’s look at the facts of the Brady Quinn situation: Here is a young good-looking guy who is going to be a millionaire before his 23rd birthday. Should anyone really feel sorry for him that his ego got a little bruised because he wasn’t taken higher in the NFL draft? Isn’t that preposterous? Yes, it is true that he won’t make as much as a 22nd overall pick then he would have made as a 7th pick or a 9th pick, but he will make millions of dollars nevertheless. Furthermore, if Quinn proves himself with Cleveland, the team that eventually traded up to get him as their second first-round pick (after Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas), he will earn tens of millions more.

But ESPN and countless others talked about Quinn and talked to Quinn as if he was a concerned father waiting outside of a bank where his daughter was being held hostage by bloodthirsty crooks. Or as a concerned father awaiting news if his enlisted son had survived a suicide bombing in Baghdad. ESPN’s Suzy Kolber threw every “how does this make you feel?” question to an ever-increasingly distraught Quinn. I just wanted Quinn to retort, “At least I didn’t get propositioned by a drunk Joe Namath on national television. That would really make me feel like an ass.”

Eventually of course, Quinn got the word that the Cleveland Browns had traded picks with the Dallas Cowboys and Quinn had been selected by the Browns as the 22nd overall pick. It’s a perfect situation for Quinn — he is originally from Dublin, Ohio, and he should be able to compete (against Charlie Frye) right away for the Browns starting QB job. Plus, he can look forward to lining up for years behind big Joe Thomas. (Unless Thomas decides to take some game days off to go fishing with his dad.) So now no one feels sorry for Brady Quinn. But I never did.

Now I feel sorry for the Dolphin fans who have to deal with more uncertainty with their team’s quarterback position. Granted, they might work out a trade for Trent Green, but even if they land Green and he stays healthy (a big if), how much does the 37-year-old QB have left in him? Is John Beck, the BYU quarterback Miami drafted in the second round, the QB of the future? Is Cleo Lemon? What will become of Daunte Culpepper? What a mess. But hey, Dolphin fan, at least you have Ted Ginn, Jr. He could be a real solid third receiver. If his sprained left foot, which is still in a boot, recovers in time for camp. Which he says there is no guarantee of.

I’ll give the Minnesota Vikings a pass for now for not taking Quinn two picks earlier, opting to go instead with Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. While the Vikings’ quarterback situation is arguably worse than Miami’s — Brooks Bollinger and Tavaris Jackson are the extent of the purple’s QB depth — Peterson’s upside is much greater than Ted Ginn Jr.’s, and the Vikings are badly in need of playmakers on offense. Peterson, along with Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson, is as much of a sure playmaker as there was in the 2007 NFL Draft. Either Bollinger or Jackson should be capable of handing the ball off to either Peterson or Chester Taylor, which could be the extent of their offense next year. Which might be more than the Packers will have. But more about that, and the Packers shaky draft selections, later.

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The Packers Need Players. Hey, There’s A Draft Coming Up. What A Remarkable Coincidence!
April 26, 2007

Rarely do more people talk about something that they really know nothing about then with the NFL Draft. Most people who pontificate for hours about whether their favorite team should take this safety out of Florida or that cornerback out of Alabama have probably never seen either player actually play and no one really knows which players will best make the transition from college to pro football. It would be like if people argued endlessly about which will be the next Australian rock band to make it big in America. Which is a trick question — not because most people don’t know which bands are big in Australia nor which Australian bands will hit big in the US, but because I have insider information that Midnight Oil is primed for a big comeback. Yes, the time has indeed come to say fair is fair.

I’ll be honest. When it comes to college players eligible for this year’s draft, I barely know Levi Brown from Leon Hall. But I do know what the Packers need. And that’s how the Packers and other teams should draft, based on need. I know there are arguments out there that teams should just pick the best athlete available when they’re on the clock, but teams that follow that logic face the possibility of turning into the Detroit Lions, who overloaded on first-round wide receivers to the point that if Matt Millen were to select a WR with his first pick this year (and the second overall), he would be more hated in the Motor City than Rosie O’Donnell at a NRA convention. The irony here is that this is a year that they probably should take a wide receiver with Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson likely not going to go to the Raiders with the first pick. But I digress.

The Packers need a running back. They need one badly. They need a running back like Britney Spears needs some good PR. Like NBC needs a hit show. Like the greater Madison area needs a gaggle of White Castle restaurants. (C’mon, can’t someone make this happen?) They should take California RB Marshawn Lynch with their first pick (scheduled to be 16th overall). Even if Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson starts to slip, the Packers should still plan on Lynch due to questions surrounding Peterson’s durability. Not that Ted Thompson would trade up to snag anyone. That’s just not his style. The only obvious problem with Lynch? His character. He’s been shot at and been accused of sexual assault. Charges were never filed in either instance, and anyway, the Packers sent a message with the pickup of Koren Robinson last year that they care about character issues about as much as Dr. Phil cares about hair care.

Next the Packers need a wide receiver and a tight end. Do I think the Packers will use their first three picks on offense? No, but they probably should. Unless that whole Randy Moss trade thing is still happening, which I doubt. (Especially if the Raiders take LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first pick overall; if they take Calvin Johnson, then maybe Randy Moss is on his way to Lambeau.) The Packers should concentrate on tight end first, not only because Bubba Franks and Donald Lee are a far worse combination than Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, but also because the talent pool is so much smaller for tight ends in this and most any draft. If the Packers are lucky, TE Zach Miller from Arizona State will still be there in the second round (pick 47).

Otherwise, the Packers need help at the cornerback and safety positions. Your guess is as good as mine as far as who might still be available in the fourth and fifth rounds, when they should be looking at filling these needs. Safety is a more immediate concern, as Charles Woodson and Al Harris are as good a cornerback tandem as any in the league. Problem is, they’re both old (at least NFL player old, not old like Oak Ridge Boys old). So if the Packers see someone in a middle or later round that they think has long-term potential, great. Otherwise, cornerback is probably a need that can wait a year. Although next year they might be concentrating on getting someone to compete with Aaron Rodgers for the open quarterback position. Oh wait, did I unintentionally start the 2007 Brett Favre Retirement Watch? Crap.

Brewers Bringing The Power / Basketball’s Second Season Starts
April 19, 2007

OK, I was fairly negative last week about the Brewers’ pitching — which hasn’t really improved much — so it’s only fair that I give equal time to note a preseason prediction made by Brewer Nation that has been coming true: The Brewers are developing into a pretty potent offensive team.

After Thursday’s completion of a two-game sweep against the Pirates, the Brewers rank fourth in the National League in runs scored (68), second in the NL in hits (135), home runs (15), total bases (220), slugging percentage (.440, which is total bases divided by at bats) and third in batting average (.270). And the team stats certainly do reflect a team effort, as almost everybody is doing their part — the veterans Geoff Jenkins (.325 batting average and .386 on-base percentage) and Bill Hall (9 RBIs) have been seemingly inspired by the play of Rickie Weeks (leads the team in home runs, runs scored, and total bases) and Prince Fielder (16 hits, including five doubles). And there are signs that the offense bug may be catching on — JJ Hardy broke out of an early-season slump on Thursday to go 3-for-5 with four RBIs, while Corey Hart went 2-for-3.

Even if the Brewers’ pitching never lives up to its preseason hype — and it certainly isn’t bad right now, with closer Francisco Cordero and number two starter Chris Capuano standing out the brightest — you have to like the Brewers ability to continue to compete in the NL Central, a division that, like last year, will not have a runaway leader. But Milwaukee, here in the midst of a string of 23 straight games against NL Central opponents, could put the baseball world on notice that they are the team to beat in the Central, especially with the Cardinals (1-6 at home?) and Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, who guaranteed before the season started that he would win the Cy Young and the Cubs would win the World Series is currently boasting a less-than Cy Young worthy ERA of 7.77) currently in tatters.

If you’re like me, you only really start to focus on the NBA when the playoffs start. I mean, they last eight months just by themselves, so it’s not like you don’t get enough pro basketball by waiting until the best-of-sevens begin. And now, without Joey Crawford and without the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA playoffs are finally here.

You know what I love about the NBA playoffs? There is always something about them that doesn’t make any sense. Like the Houston Rockets/Utah Jazz series: Utah is the higher seed, but the Rockets get home-court advantage. What? Or the Dallas/Golden State series. Dallas is the highest seed (deservedly so), but their season record against the eighth-seeded Warriors is 0-3. What?

So, here’s who I like in the opening round: In the East, it will be Detroit, Cleveland, New Jersey, and the Bulls. In the West, Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Houston.

Enjoy the NBA playoffs, but remember to get outside a little bit while they’re going on. Because by the time they’re done, it’ll be autumn.

Them NFL People Is Smart
April 13, 2007

You have to hand it to the NFL. Everything the league announces, whether interesting (flexible scheduling, a new commissioner) or not (anything having to do with NFL Europe) — seems to make news. Besides the fact that the NFL Scouting Combine actually gets a heavy dose of national coverage — hey, Joe Thomas is about to do sit-ups! — nothing is a better example of the NFL’s marketing genius than the hootenanny that is made over the annual release of the NFL’s schedule.

I frankly have no idea when or through what manner the schedules of the other major sports are announced. I think that leprechauns sneak into my house and attach Brewers, Twins, and Badgers schedules to my refrigerator, because I never have any recollection of when or where I picked them up. But I know when that NFL schedule is announced. You can’t avoid it. Talk of the release, the best match-ups, which team got the most primetime games, even the schedule’s impact on your fantasy football team, is everywhere. Hey, it’s even here in your favorite blog.

The irony is that with parity in the NFL, it’s very hard to know, especially in the second half of the season, what will be a “can’t miss” game and what will be a “let’s fondue on that day” game. That’s of course the whole reason that NBC fought for and got flexible scheduling for its late season Sunday night games. When you look at a MLB schedule, you can pretty much know that a Yankees/White Sox or a Red Sox/Indians series is going to be interesting no matter where it falls on the calendar. Same with the NBA — it’s unlikely that a Lakers/Suns matchup is going to be upstaged by a Bobcats/Bucks showdown.

But that Thanksgiving weekend Broncos @ Bears game that looks so intriguing in April could be deemed a yawner by Halloween. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be looking to contact that weird cousin of yours that has the NFL Sunday Ticket just so you can see that Cleveland @ Arizona game in December.

So, with all of those caveats in mind, here’s a quick look at the Packers 2007 schedule:

On paper, The Packers have one of the easier schedules in football, as their opponents had a combined winning percentage of .492 last year. But a closer look at that number shows that that stat holds true because of the weak NFC North — the Lions are the only team in the division whose opponents had a better-than-.500 (.504) winning percentage in 2006.

While the schedule may be favorable overall, it doesn’t start out that way — of the six games before the bye, only two — at Minnesota (I don’t see the Vikings doing anything positive next year; can you believe that Brad Childress may be a worse coach than Mike Tice?) and Washington at home look like gimmes. But that second-week game against the Giants is very winnable, especially considering how much Eli Manning is likely to struggle not that he doesn’t have Tiki Barber to carry the load. Otherwise those Philadelphia, San Diego, and Chicago early games look tough. Yes, they are all in Green Bay, but the last time the Packers enjoyed a measurable home field advantage, Howie Mandel was collecting unemployment.

If the Packers survive the first half of their schedule, look for fans to be making plans for the playoffs. Nothing in the last six weeks looks challenging, except for that December 23 game at Chicago, and chances are Rex Grossman (if healthy) will be too concerned about a Christmas party at the Playboy Mansion to play even at his normal level of mediocrity.

Oh, and the Packers have another game on the NFL Network — November 29 at Dallas. Sorry, Charter subscribers.

Oh, and no matter what the endless stream of ESPN analysts try to shove down your throat, Monday Night Football is not the biggest game of the week anymore. Although now with Theismann out of the booth, it should be a lot more watchable.

Jack Tatum and the Brewers
April 10, 2007

A very sad story broke last week — no, I’m not talking about the Brewers stretch of four losses in five games, we’ll get to that later — I’m talking about the death of former NFL wide receiver Darryl Stingley.

Despite being a first-round pick out of Purdue University by the New England Patriots in 1973, Darryl Stingley is not as well known today for his football career as he is for the gruesome way that his career ended: On August 12, 1978, he was the victim of a then-legal football hit that broke his fourth and fifth vertebrae and left him a quadriplegic. The hit was administered by Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders. During a preseason game.

In August of 1978, I was on the cusp of manhood. Well, not really . . . I was almost seven years old. But I was just at the age where I was getting into football and specifically football trading cards. And while I don’t recall ever actually seeing the Tatum hit that paralyzed Stingley — you can see it now on YouTube — I distinctly remember knowing of the incident and being freaked out by the football cards I had of both players. I was too much of a packrat and a collector to throw them away or sell them, but I recall feeling like I had the cards of a murderer and his victim, which for me didn’t sit easily alongside my cards of favorite players like Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Foreman.

Jack Tatum is not a murderer, obviously (he wasn’t even penalized, much less fined or suspended, for the then-legal hit), but he hasn’t exactly been too likable in the twenty years since. After being barred from Stingley’s hospital room by Stingley’s family, the two men never spoke and Tatum never apologized. In fact, Tatum has been shockingly brazen in his lack of remorse, saying “I don’t think I did anything wrong that I need to apologize for,” and cashing in on his image as a “dangerous” football player with the publication of three books — all written after the hit on Stingley — with the insensitive titles of They Call Me Assassin, They Still Call Me Assassin, and Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum.

Some would say Jack Tatum received his payback in 2003 when his left leg was amputated below the knee due to a staph infection caused by diabetes. To his credit, Tatum has recently worked to increase diabetes awareness, even creating the Jack Tatum Fund for Youthful Diabetes. But he remains steadfastly unremorseful about how he robbed Stingley of his career and his mobility. No wonder I’m still creeped out by him — something in there isn’t human.

Well, I’m feeling pretty smug about my preseason prognosis for the Milwaukee Brewers, who as of this writing are 3-4 and stuck in a three-way tie for third place in the weak NL Central . I wrote here a couple of weeks ago that while the Brewers were the “sexy” pick by many to win their division, I thought that they didn’t have the talent nor experience to live up to the hype, and I picked them to finish fourth in the division. Of course I’m writing this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek (mmm, leftover Easter Candy somehow got stuck in there) as not only is the season all of one week old, but they are only a game out of first place. But they’re only a game out of last place, too, and what was hoped to be the team’s strength — the starting rotation — is largely to blame. Milwaukee’s team ERA of 4.35 is tied for twelfth in the league, while their starters have given the team only two quality starts (defined as completing at least six innings and allowing no more than three earned runs), which is next to last in the league, ahead of only the hapless Washington Nationals.

I know it’s early. But I’m sensing less confidence around Brewer Nation as a feeling of “same old Brewers” starts to creep in and a feeling of “I told you so” creeps in to my head.

Someone Beat The Blogger!
April 4, 2007

I personally can’t believe it, but it is true. Someone has beaten the almighty Blogger. Well not physically. I haven’t been beaten physically since high school, and even that was only on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. And some Thursdays.

No, I’m talking about the Beat the Blogger contest. The results are in, and someone actually filled out a more accurate bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament than the one I posted.

So congratulations to Pat Skaleski of Madison. For her uncannily spot-on predictions, she has won an official 2007 NCAA Final Four basketball and a generous Subway Restaurants gift card. And when I say generous, I mean Pat should go for the extra meat and cheese. It’ll be covered. At least on the first sandwich.

Actually, most of the entries I received were hurt by the lack of real surprises this year. Many people, including myself, assumed there would be the usual 5/12 upset and most stretched it to include at least one 4/13 upset prediction. And, not surprisingly for a contest that originated in Madison, pretty much everyone had Wisconsin going further than the second round. Not to bring up that sore subject again.

In my defense of being slaughtered by Ms. Skaleski (OK, she only beat me by seven points under my scoring system), I did have Florida pegged as the national champions. And even though I probably would have rooted for Ohio State under most circumstances, it’s hard not to love the story of the 2006-2007 Florida Gators. Unless you have close ties to Ohio State.

So again, congrats to Pat Skaleski and thanks to all the readers who entered. We’ll try to do it again next year!