Wednesday, December 7, 2011


There’s big news in the three major sports this week.  One of those issues is the pursuit of Albert Pujols, who I have said from the end of last season will stay in St. Louis.  That’s all I’m going to say on the baseball matter because, quite frankly, the news of his signing might happen before this article gets published. 

As for the NFL…

As we enter the awkward college football lull between the end of the regular season and the start of the bowl games, NFL scouts have already begun to examine this year’s crop of NFL products.  Andrew Luck, the second coming of Peyton Manning, seems destined, rather fittingly, for Indianapolis.  Luck’s credentials and talent have been highly touted by scouts, writers, and this blog. 

As I sat on the couch Monday Night watching the recap of the San Diego – Jacksonville game (game being in the loosest sense of the word), Steve Young, whom I consider to be by far the best of the ESPN football maidens, said that Rivers’ success and the subsequent disappointment of rookie quarterback Blain Gabbert should be a clue to NFL front offices that we are in the midst of a golden age for quarterbacks and, if you’re not 100% comfortable with who’s under center, it is imperative that you select a new one immediately.  Young argued that even though Gabbert has played just 11 games this season, he’s already seen enough for Jacksonville to try again.  The heart of the hall of famers argument is valid: You must have a good quarterback to succeed and with the new CBA, rookie wages are far lower and, therefore, coaches should throw their new players into the game, see what happens, and if they are left unsatisfied, just consider the pick a bust and move on. 
Young's sensational football career, intelligence, and, most importantly,
modesty make him the best member of ESPN's football crew.
When was the last time someone selected a quarterback in the first round and let him sit and wait a year? Not only has such strategy become virtually unheard of, but any coach who decides to do such a thing might as well be signing up for a media and fan-base crucifixion (see Tim Tebow).  Is this because the American population is a 4G-wi-fi-DVR-fast-and-now society that cannot tolerate a potentially talented player sitting on the sidelines during team failures or has “recent success” in quickly starting rookie quarterbacks brought about the end of quarterback patience?  The questions now is, can Luck and Manning coexist?  Why is this a question?  Not only can they, but they should.  In fact, if they do not coexist Indianapolis management will have successfully ended a decade of success, rather than just easily flow into another one.  Writers across the country are entertaining the idea of a sign Luck, trade Peyton scenario.  I find this idea to be totally Christopher Bridges.   

For all thus mumble-jumble about “the year of the quarterback” and increased premium on the pass attack, we seem to have either forgotten or failed to truly recognize the mediocrity of quarterbacks selected in the first round over the last 5 years.  More importantly, the starting-since-game-one quarterbacks seem to be unable to take the step from decent rookie year to Pro Bowl caliber. 

Excluding this past draft class, there have been 12 quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2006 and they are: Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, JaMarcus Russell (just had an automatic gag reflex), Brady Quinn (again), Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, and Tim Tebow.  While some of had immediate success their rookie season, either individually or by leading his team to the postseason (Young, Ryan, Flacco, Sanchez, Bradford), the continuing progression has just not been there.  Cutler was the only quarterback left with a starting job at the start of the 2011 season from the 2006 and 2007 draft classes.  As for Matt Ryan, whose outstanding rookie season essentially abolished the wait-to-play approach, actually has a career QB rating (86.5) lower than the one he posted in his rookie season (87.7).  Fellow 2008 draft-mate, Joe Flacco, had seen his passer rating improve with each season, that is, until the current one which has been the worst of his career.  Sanchez has improved his rating each year, but still commits over 15 turnovers each season and has never completed 60% of his passes for a season.  Josh Freeman had tremendous success in 2010, posting a quarterback rating of 95.9.  He’s currently 20 points below that mark.  Bradford, last season’s Rookie of the Year, might not even got to double digit touchdowns this year.  Cutler is the only first round quarterback since Aaron Rodgers to eclipse 4,000 yards passing in a single season.  Rodgers actually hit that mark in his first season replacing Favre (something none of these first-rounders even whiffed).  Additionally, Rodgers’ numbers have steadily improved each of his first four seasons, as have the total number of wins for his team.
Ryan's nickname, "Matty Ice" has nothing to do with the excuses he comes
 up with now that he's an adult.  Other college nicknames included
Matty-stone and Mil-Matty's Best.
The point I’m trying to make is that Steve Young and all those who think quarterbacks should get thrown into the action early are wrong.  There’s a reason the concept of resting young quarterbacks is a decades long approach; it makes them better in the long run. 

Still, all these young quarterbacks have plenty of time to cement themselves among the NFL elite, but the seeming three-year-plateau is a curious trend.  This season’s rookie quarterback class has been impressive, especially Cam Newton and especially especially Andy Dalton (not a first round pick).  Will these two be among the NFL’s elite in 2013 or will we still be seeing 3,500 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, which, by comparison to the established NFL quarterbacks, is perfectly average.  I hope not, but if we are trying to find the future star quarterback from the 2011 class, I think that role lays with Jake Locker, who has thrown just 21 professional passes (2 for touchdowns).  Bookmark this article; you heard it here first: Jake Locker for 2015 MVP.   

In other news, there is an NBA season.  Let me rephrase that.  By some incredibly surprising miracle, the largest collection of selfish, pompous, clueless, ill-advised individuals were able to accept something that, for months, had been easily within reach but, for the above personality traits, was previously seen as an unacceptable deal.  If the effects of the NFL lockout, which was nothing more than a mere annoyance by comparison, are any indication of what we can expect to see in basketball, get ready for an injury ridden, inconsistent, but, ridiculously exciting/heart-attack-inducing and competitive bite-sized season. 

If you still haven’t seen the LeBron James ESPN interview you absolutely must see this riveting, candid conversation.  But, if you’re the type of person who wants first-round quarterbacks to play immediately, I’ll just give you a summary.  LeBron basically said he (A) was stupid and selfish to announce his decision on national television and would absolutely do it differently this time around, (B) was responsible for Miami losing the NBA Finals because he tried to be a player is not, (C) has improved his attitude and post game, (D) is hungrier than ever before, and (E) is tired of being the villain and is just going to be himself. 

A. Yes, he was stupid.  The first time I heard about “The Decision” I knew LeBron was leaving Cleveland, the only question was to where.  When he said South Beach, I was shocked.  Miami was the one place I never expected; how could he join with a rival like Wade?  Miami is Wade’s team!  Wade has already won a championship, doesn’t LeBron need to surpass him?  But, this is how I would have approached the situation if I was 6’8 and 250 pounds of pure beast (I am, but for the sake of this argument let’s just pretend I’m not).  LeBron was a free agent and that means, free to play wherever he wants.  Real basketball fans understand this.  Real owners understand this.  Yeah, Miami was a cop-out, but that was LeBron’s prerogative.  My problem is how it was done, which, as LeBron now seems to fully grasp, was self-indulging and cold. 

B. Yes, he did.  LeBron really means he was as aggressive as Gandhi.  

C. If this is true, LeBron will earn his third MVP award through voter unanimity.  If this is true, the Heat will win the NBA Finals.  If this is true, Wade and Bosh are officially extraneous.  If this is true, get ready for the greatest single season of all time.  If this is true, get ready for those “will be better than MJ” comments to have the tiniest possible sliver of validity, but infinitely more than it has had before.  If this is true, can it be Christmas?

D. Good.
If LeBron has actually improved his play in the post, even Wade will be
nothing more than an extra bonus.   
E. Let’s get this straight; I will never root for The Heat.  Ever.  But, hate?  So what if they started a new wave of basketball and have forced the future creation of super powers, essentially eliminating team loyalty and legitimate competition.  Nobody would accuse the Marlins, Yankees, or Red Sox of destroying competition, granted the lack of salary cap makes it strategically necessary for teams to spend the money they have earned.  I will always root for true teams, like Dallas, OKC, and Chicago to come out on top because these organizations are counter-culture and represent old school basketball, but I still can’t wait for them to play Miami.  No matter how they got there, the best basketball will be in South Beach for now and for the immediate future.  Of course, you won’t see any lamenting from me if the Heat never win a championship.  Still, as much as I don’t want to say it, I’m over it. 

Let’s just see some good basketball.    


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