Monthly Archives: December 2012

Pistons Should Be Courageous With Cousins.

I’m writing this under the assumption you’re aware of two key factors regarding Demarcus Cousins: He’s a monumental tempermental shithead and he’s one of the top five most gifted power big guys in the NBA. Since he plays for the Sacramento Kings, a team that hasn’t been competitive or relevant in the Association since the beginning part of the previous decade (Divac, Webber, Bibby & Peja vs. the Lakers), I won’t fault for you wondering which black hole, in which galaxy Demarcus Cousins had fallen into after he left Kentucky after his freshmen year. If you knew just a little about Cousins, it’s also not unreasonable for you to think that his petulent attitude got him excommunicated from the league.

For some background on his behavior just this year, Cousins had a confrontation with former Spur, turned (their) analyst Sean Elliot.

Just last week Cousins cursed out his coach and was suspended by the team.

Regardless of his immense talent, because of his juvenile attitude, Cousins’ name has always been bandied about in trade rumors. Perhaps I’m overreacting to the latest set of them, but it feels like Cousins and the Kings (who, organizationally, are nearly as dysfunctional as their on court employees) have reached a breaking point in the their tumultuous relationship.

From Marc Stein’s ESPN column

There’s a growing sense among potential suitors that under-fire Kings general manager Geoff Petrie, who has overseen zero trips to the playoffs under five coaches in the six-plus seasons since Rick Adelman left town, would be willing to move Cousins, preferably in exchange for a dependable veteran of quality or two who could bring some instant improvement to a franchise stuck in lottery land and still plagued by an uncertain future in terms of where this team will be calling home in the long term.

And more…

Front-office sources say that Boston and Detroit, just to name two teams, have let it be known that they are highly interested if and when Cousins does become available. Rest assured there will be more.

Oh. Really. This isn’t the first time, well after the ’10 draft, that Cousins’ name has been linked to the Pistons. The first few times I scoffed at it, but not so much this time. This time I was like, ‘what the hell, let’s screw around with the NBA trade machine,’ which we’ll get to in a moment. While Sacremento is in organizational disarray (that’s fancy for clusterfuck), I’m also wary of the Pistons having the proper, stable environment from ownership, down to the coaches and players to corral Cousins’ enigmatic ways and turn him into a more reputable NBA citizen and ultimately match an All Star berth to his talent. Now that I think of it, Cousins talent and troubled ways could mimic the path of former Jail Blazer Zach Randolph. Cousins would’ve seemlessly melded into those miscreant Portland teams. Good God, he’s got some Rasheed Wallace in his DNA as well. With proper guidance and the desire to recalibrate the attitude, Cousins can also transform as Randolph did, or at least tone it down as Wallace did. Randolph, an All Star just once, as a Grizzlie, rather quietly has very ably averaged 17 and 9 with quality shooting percentages (47 FG, 77 FT) over an 11 year career.

All that said, I still wouldn’t want Cousins in Detroit. Unless…

I’m about to pour gasoline on myself and start sparking matches, but in the NBA to relocate from the lottery to the top four of the playoffs you cannot be averse to risk.

Think, what do the Pistons lack?

OK, funny guy, ‘GOOD PLAYERS’ was not the answer I wanted. They need a ruthless, give-me-the-damn-ball wing scorer. I wrote about this in early November when some suggested Memphis may want to shake some cash off the payroll if they couldn’t improve upon last year, and Rudy Gay could be one of those financial casualties.

If the Pistons want Cousins – yes, his draft classmate Monroe will have to go (I’d keep Drummond) – they should get his perplexing teammate, Tyreke Evans, in the swap as well.

The Pistons trade bait wouldn’t get the Kings into the playoffs, but the pieces they could provide are a few endearing personalities to move forward with (for when they move to Va. Beach or wherever).

Because there’s no untradeable mega contracts involved a deal wouldn’t be painfully complex, and there’s a variety of ways to bring Evans and Cousins to Detroit, depending on what the Kings desired outside of Monroe.

He may be redundant to John Salmons and Marcus Thornton, but if the Kings want Rodney Stuckey and Monroe, they got it! See, it works.

Cousins and Evans don’t have long deals and Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette, Austin Daye, and Will Bynum have deals that expire this coming June. So if Evans doesn’t prove to be a cold blooded scoring assassin, it’s possible the Pistons could hit the reset button in the not-too-distant future.

I still have my doubts about the Pistons culture, and under Lawrence Frank and Joe Dumars, Cousins and Evans could be the same problematic malcontents they are now in Sacramento, and Detroit could wind up with yet another player-led coup d’etat on management. Oh wouldn’t THAT be fun!

Like I said though, in the NBA if you wanna – forgive such elementary language – GET GOOD, you can’t be bashful at the high rolling NBA transaction table.

I’m fairly certain I’m not the only skeptic when it comes to Brandon Knight’s long term outlook as a lead guard, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s still just 21. Inconsistencies are to be a expected. To a point with him.

I’m intrigued by a rotation that looks like this after my masterful swap:

Knight
Evans
Prince
Cousins
Drummond

Key bench contributors: Maxiell, Daye, CV, Bynum, Singler

Barring an eruption from Mt. Cousins, hold on because this may sound preposterous, but in the East, that’s a team that possibly sneaks into the back of the playoffs. It would certainly be more enjoyable than the dreck the Pistons send out their now. In the NBA if you’re going suck, at least be an exciting style of suck. Right now, the only player you’d pay to watch (or accept free tix and paid parking) on the Pistons is 19, plays less than 25 minutes a night and has an offensive repertoire that’s limited to what degree of ferocity he’ll dunk with.

More on the risk factors from a preseason scout’s look at the Kings.

Cousins has all the tools. It’s amazing to see the talent he has — along with the lack of discipline he shows. It’s like he always knows better, even though he takes a lot of bad shots. He yells at the referees and doesn’t get back on defense. Look, everybody makes those mistakes sometimes, but Cousins seems to do it regularly. He looks as if he has very little control of his temper. It is sad. Whether he’s yelling at a ref or dunking on somebody and pounding his chest, he always looks like he’s miserable.

Detroiters are experienced in this type of behavior thanks to the recent assheadedness of Titus Young.

Evans has no clue how to play. He needs to be moved out of that organization. It has been a disaster because they didn’t know where to play him, which is not necessarily their fault — although we may look back and recognize that it was their fault. They tried him at the point, then at the 2, then the 3; he has never known what he was trying to be, and it has been too much on him. I definitely don’t think he’s a point guard. Maybe in the end he’s just one of those guys who doesn’t have a position and nobody knows what he really is. The only sure thing is that he needs to be in a new system away from that whole environment.

He’s not a great shooter and he’s not a great passer. He’s a guy who has played point guard most of his life, but he was a scoring point guard who was so strong that he overpowered guys. He was never really a point guard who can help you win. Maybe his best spot in the end is going to be as a sixth man, your third guard. There’s nothing wrong with that — Kevin McHale and Manu Ginobili were sixth men. He might be a Jamal Crawford type of sixth man. He’s obviously got some tools because of his size and strength and what he’s able to do with the ball at his size. But what does it tell you about Sacramento that after three years in the NBA he still doesn’t know what to do with his talent?

I’ll take the risk with Evans by leaving him at one position and saying, ‘here boy, go shoot.’

I can assure you this, the Pistons are not going to substantially improve by organically letting their young players evolve paired with lucking into one more elite college talent in the lottery. They need to be brazen. They need to risk another mutiny. They need to play with a match around gasoline and hope the match either doesn’t light or the proper authorities are nearby to hose them down.

Acquiring Cousins and Evans is just that. It could be artfully successful and get the Pistons back on the NBA map or it could be idiotic, but who cares, no one goes to the Palace anyway unless Lebron’s in town.

Does Porcello Do Coffee?

Quick, who’s going to win the American League West in 2013?

“Los Angeles, they have Hamilton, Pujols and Trout!” I’m amenable to that rather obvious choice. Texas? Their kids (Olt, Profar, Felix, Ogando) will have to help Beltre carry the load, so I envision them battling with reigning champion Oakland for second place and potentially a wild card. The safe bet though, even with the financially hamstrung Yankees and the reloading Red Sox, is that BOTH wild cards will come from the AL East. (GO RAYS!)

Next question. Who’s going to finish LAST in the West.

“Easy, Seattle.” Eh, wrong. That was your Pavlovian response, so no demerits for you. Remember, The Astros have transferred to the AL West, and since I’m as certain as Santa is jolly and heavy, you can’t name a single Astro, I think they’re the surefire bet to own last place in that division until some of their prospects, like Jonathan Singleton and Jarrad Cosart emerge as contributors. If they don’t, then maybe the Texas League is looking to expand.

If your deductive abilities have led you to predicting a fourth place finish for Seattle, then I think we’ve created a reasonable pecking order for the AL West in 2013.

If I recall correctly, the Mariners started terribly in 2012 (what else is new!?), then had a sniff (they had a big nose ) of the wild card mid-summer before ultimately finishing 19 games behind Oakland for the West and 18 games behind Wild Cards Baltimore and Texas with a 75-87 record. It’s not far fetched to think that the Mariners, who lack any significant star productivity behind Felix Hernandez, will once again see their postseason hopes evaporate somewhere around the 100 game mark.

If you’re agreeable to that forecast, then you’ll offer me the opportunity to pitch you on a potential landing spot for the Tigers Rick Porcello; who seems to be the expensive-ish odd man out of the Detroit rotation.

At this very moment – yes, roughly three solid months before Opening Day – the Tigers seem intent to go to battle with the bullpen as is, which means they could be fashioning a closer with zero Major League experience. For those unfamiliar with my tastes, I’m not very keen on that Tigers blueprint, especially when this is VERY much a World Series (WIN) or bust type of business that Mike Ilitch has underwritten.

So if I were GM-ing the Tigers, I’d call Seattle and gauge their interest in Rick Porcello. Look, in the situation the Mariners are in they may have little desire to take on a four million dollar (or so) pitcher. But, even with Safeco being shrunk a bit in ’13, perhaps they see a pitcher, in Porcello, who can thrive in their park with a sturdy defense behind him, which is what the Mariners will provide.

We have to come to terms that Porcello’s trade equity is increased substantially by finding a team that can offer him half his starts in a big park. Some of the teams housed in those stadiums don’t need another starter such as the Giants or Dodgers. San Diego probably doesn’t want the four million bucks tacked on to their payroll, perhaps the same with the Mets. Seattle seems to be a good fit. Though I won’t deny that there could be a half dozen ways to move Porcello OR even hold onto him and stash Drew Smyly away for the inevitable injuries the Tigers rotation will endure.

The Mariners traded away former closer Brandon League in the middle of last year and gave those duties to someone we’ve never heard. Seriously. I had no clue who Tom Wilhemsen was. All he did was save 29 games with an ERA of 2.50 and struck out more than a batter per inning for a team that had a nice second half after they dumped League and Ichiro. You can have that type of success when you throw 96 and have a ground ball percentage four points above league average, and limit your line drives (he’s four points above league average there too). I won’t get real SABR-y with you, but his numbers would tell that the guy’s tough to hit.

Seattle may have zero interest in giving up a quality performer such as Wilhemsen who’s not even eligible for arbitration for two more years. Though it doesn’t hurt to ask. It’s not crazy to think they couldn’t find another pitcher to replicate most of what Wilhemsen accomplished last year, and in return they receive something that’s much harder to acquire; a relatively (you’ve seen the price of starters these days, right?) inexpensive 24 year old veteran starting pitcher whose fastball velocity was up by 2 mph last year, and is deserving of his reputation as a ground ball hurler. When he’s not getting smacked around that is. That’s for the Mariners to work out though, if they were to have interest in this swap I’m proposing.

If I was too wordy, my apologies.

Porcello for Wilhemsen.

And I, I mean the Tigers finally get a cheese throwin’, veteran reliever without much wear and tear who could start the season as closer and allow Bruce Rondon to work his way into that role.

**Post posting update**

Came across this from Joel Sheehan’s (bold?) MLB predictions for 2013.

4. Surprise! Yay! — Last year, the Orioles and A’s were considered among the worst teams in baseball headed into the season, then rode strong pitching to 90-win seasons and the ALDS. This year, the team to watch is the Padres. San Diego went 42-33 in the second half last year, led by MVP candidate Chase Headley and rookies Logan Forsythe, Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal.

Grandal will miss 50 games to start the season (testosterone), but the rest of the team returns and could be bolstered by rookie raker Jedd Gyorko and a step forward by centerfielder Cameron Maybin. The real question is the pitching, which could rise or fall on the health of Andrew Cashner and Cory Luebke. There’s no parallel for the Padres in the AL — only the Mariners, if all their young pitching arrives quickly, are a potential surprise, and even that is a longshot in the deadly AL West.

OK, so maybe the Padres WOULD add Porcello to the payroll, if they think the Dodgers big spending isn’t going to buy them victories, and the Giants can’t possibly do THAT again.

You can snicker at their projected ’13 rotation here.

In a park the size of Petco, I can buy Porcello being the third best starter in that Padres rotation.

What should the Tigers get in return for this type of potential swap? Would the Tigers swallow the 7 million for a proven closer in the form of Huston Street? The arbitration eligible (but cheaper than Porcello) veteran setter upper Luke Gregerson would work as well. How that guy can throw his slider over 80% of the time and dodge elbow surgery is one of MLB’s great mysteries. He’s the anti-Zumaya.

I should’ve listened to myself. There are too many deals to speculate on revolving around Porcello for my brain matter to handle. I think that’ll be it, for now.

Diamonds Are Forever. Just Find Them.

We’ll constrict it to the Martin Mayhew regime, but many have long, and appropriately, questioned the Lions drafting acumen. Questioned is probably bathing it in sugar. Being successful in the NFL draft is an amalgamation of science, art, team philosophies, relentless preparation, and as absurd as it may sound, luck is welcome too. No team bats a thousand when it comes to what seems to be the no-brainer picks in the first round, even at the top of the round. This is a place where Mayhew has actually acquitted himself rather adroitly in drafting Stafford, Suh, Fairley and this past year Riley Reiff.

This may or may not be true, but wild Internet rumors have it that the NFL draft is actually seven rounds in length. Teams don’t hit their first pick 483 feet, circle the bases and call it a day (unless they’ve traded all their picks for say a no-doubt-about-it franchise QB). Not only are teams free to get inventive by moving up, back and diagonally towards future drafts during the seven round NFL draft, they’re also permitted to select players who may play well beyond their draft status. That’s especially needed when the word bust becomes the noun associated with your top picks.

Winning and championship teams are all built differently through varying degrees of success in the draft, a clever trade or two, luring the proper free agents, and of course having the right man in charge to bring it all together every Sunday (or Thursday, or Saturday, or Monday).

I view it very much as an apples to oranges discussion when it comes to grading drafts, and which teams ‘win’ the offseason. OK, your draft apparently sucked, but that undrafted free agent who leads the team in tackles makes up for it. OK, you had no cap room for quality scheme-fitting free agents and your draft was mediocre at best, but you’ve got a scholarly group of coaches who are getting the most out of modest talent. Point made? At the end of the day, if you want all the fruit to look alike dump it all in the blender, and see which fruit smoothie, or teams in this case, has won the most games; and they do it with regularity.

This blog post isn’t to scour through every team acquisition to create clarity as to why the Patriots are a legimate decade long dynasty, and why the Lions are decade old debacle. The results speak for themselves. And that would take an eternity, and I’m sure there’s another impending apocalypse we must brace for.

What this post is here to serve is something that’s been on my mind about the Lions for many months now. How come they don’t ever get ‘lucky’ in the draft? Where’s their 6th round stud? Where’s the undrafted guy they signed right after the draft who’s become the heartbeat of the team and possibly a local cult hero? Look, sometimes it’s just flat luck that Marques Colston, a 7th rounder from Hofstra (HOFSTRA!), turns into one of the game’s finest receivers. But, the successful teams through diligent research often create that ‘luck.’ Ben Franklin said, diligence is the mother of good luck. Good Luck is also a quarterback in Indianapolis.

Think about it. Who is that player on the Lions? Joique Bell? It took a couple organizations passing on him for the Lions to find him, even when he right under their nose, not even mileS away at Wayne State.

Think on that while you read on. This excerpt from Grantland’s NFL Pro Bowl team finally inspired me to do the research and write about this brain teaser the Lions have put before me.

Defensive Lineman: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati. The criminally underrated Atkins has 10.5 sacks on the year, the highest total for a 4-3 interior lineman since Rod Coleman had 10.5 for the Falcons in 2005. Atkins is more than his quarterback takedowns, though; he’s a force of nature on the interior who easily penetrates into the backfield and disrupts plays on a regular basis. Pretty impressive for a fourth-round pick who makes $540,000 this year.

Atkins is arguably the very best interior lineman in the game. His value is immeasurable, at least until they’ve gotta make him disgustingly rich, and likely overpaid. Ndamukong Suh’s rookie contract guaranteed him 75 times Atkins 2012 salary. To drive the stake in deeper into the chest of Lions fans, since Marvin Lewis took the reigns, the BENGALS are a far better franchise than the Lions. Most teams have been better than the Lions for forever, but the Bengals take more criticism than they deserve. Geography (in the division with two of the league’s great franchises) is their worst enemy.

Still haven’t figured out who THAT player is on the Lions, right? Maybe Cliff Avril, a third rounder? That’s a quality find. Another third round choice, DeAndre Levy? Extremely serviceable but certainly not a difference maker on the Lions defense.

I decided to go through each team’s roster and see which were capable of uncovering THAT player I was looking for. A diamond in the rough. A gem. It’d be foolish not to concede that finding one doesn’t guarantee a team anything. It’s just one of the many ways though of judging a team’s ability to bring in the right personnel, or at least the ones that can be coached up beyond their talents, and perhaps cover up for one of those busts early on, or a miss in free agency.

My filtering process was no one above the fourth round, baseline contributions of Avril/Levy, and the team had to have first dibs on giving that player a shot; except in a couple of very extraordinary cases. I also left out offensive linemen. Simply too hard to evaluate from my perspective.

Falcons have Thomas Decoud and the Cardinals have Andre Roberts. Though both third rounders.

Ravens – Dannell Ellerbee 4.5 sacks. 81 tackles. Undrafted.

Bills – Stevie Johnson 7th round, 224th overall. Probably a Pro Bowler with a better QB.

Panthers – Greg Hardy 11 sacks. 6th Rnd, 175th.

Bears – Corey Wooten 7 sacks. 4th Rnd, 109th.

Bengals – Vontaze Burfict 101 tackles undrafted. Burfict is the fix-job of the ’12 draft. Also, the aforementioned Atkins.

Browns – This was a struggle, but Buster Skrine 75 tackles 11 PDs. 5th Rnd, 137th.

Cowboys – Miles Austin. Not what he once was, but undrafted.

Broncos – For his production, I’m astonished I’d never heard of LB Wesley Woodyard. Undrafted. 105 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INTs, 6 PDs. Wow.

Packers – Nothing. But some moon shots with Rodgers’ beneficiaries in Jones, Cobb, Nelson, Hayward as 2nd/3rd picks.

Texans – Arian Foster. Heard of him? Un-freakin-drafted.

Colts – Another tough one because the defense is putrid. So, Vick Ballard 4.1 avg behind a pathetic offensive line. 5th Rnd, 170th.

Jaguar – Don’t laugh. Leading receiver and quality deep threat Cecil Shorts 4th Rnd, 114th.

Chiefs – Justin Houston a third rounder with 10 sacks.

Dolphins – This is one of those speciality cases. I make an exception for one of the leagues most consistently dominant pass rushers, Cam Wake, discovered in the CFL.

Vikings – Brian Robison 7.5 sacks 4th Rnd, 102nd.

Patriots – Player evaluation is on a whole ‘nother level here. This could be its own post, but we’ll abide by the spirit of one player, so Aaron Hernandez 4th Rnd, 113th. He could be the best TE in the league if not for the Pats already having the the best TE in the league.

Saints – We already referenced Colston, so let’s use the undrafted Lance Moore.

Giants – This is ice cold water on 31 teams. Victor Cruz undrafted from UMass. You don’t wanna know about Bradshaw either. Two Super Bowls.

Oakland – They’re so awful at almost everything, I’ll be kind and provide two: Denarius Moore 5th Rnd, 148th and TE Brandon Myers with 72 catches and 4 TDs, 6th Rnd, 202nd.

Eagles – They’re a dumpster fire now, but in the past; Brent Celek 5th Rnd, 162nd, Trent Cole 5th Rnd, 146th and with a more succinct body of work, Bryce Brown 7th Rnd, 229th.

Steelers – Antonio Brown 6th Rnd, 195th.

Chargers – A long time target for Rivers, Malcom Floyd, undrafted.

Rams – Another specialty case because he’s the only target that’s a threat to defenses for Sam Bradford; Danny Amendola. Undrafted signed by Cowboys, though debuted for the Rams.

49ers – Because he’s one of the three best LBs in the NFL, I could’ve sneaked in third rounder Navorro Bowman, but I’ll adhere to my guidelines. Dashon Goldson 4th Rnd, 126th. 10 PDs 3 INTs. If you watch a Niners game you hear his name frequently.

Seahawks – A few choices here as well, but we’ll go with an authentic Optimus Prime, Richard Sherman 5th Rnd, 154th.

Buccaneers – No dice here.

Titans – CB Jason McCourty 6th Rnd, 203rd. 11 PDs 4 INTs.

Redskins – Alfred Morris 6th Rnd, 173rd and for good measure because I’m unfamiliar with him, Perry Riley with 112 tackles. 4th Rnd, 103rd.

My philosophy on drafts, in just about any sport, is this: while it’s impossible and totally unrealistic to be triumphant with every draft pick – and even the shrewdest teams will occasionally eye up the crosshairs on their own feet – I’m accepting of a team having a bust or two. Just be sure to put some balance into the football cosmos by unearthing a Richard Sherman or a Victor Cruz when teams have already gotten lazy and start high fiving their early picks.

To reiterate, discovering a late round or an undrafted steal doesn’t guarantee you squat. It’s simply a measure in which to evaluate a team’s personnel acumen. In this particular line of ingenuity – and so, so many others, the Lions fail.

Easily Adrian.

Without looking up any stats – though I will in a moment to the sake of thoroughness – there’s an ample list of potential NFL MVP’s.

Stop me if a name causes you to raise an eye brow.

Peyton. Brady. Ryan (meh). Von Miller. JJ (S)Watt. RG3. Aldon Smith. Rodgers. Russell Wilson…uh, oh beginning to reach. **I glanced at stats, the only player I passed over when shooting from the hip was Megatron**

I know I’m omitting one name, but since he’s the guts of this post we’ll come back to him.

I came up with nearly ten candidates for the NFL’s MVP of the 2012. I think even a modest fan can make a very good argument for each of the stars I listed. 

I’ve got this blog. I don’t have an intelligent, sabr-friendly site like FootballOutsiders or a scout savvy site such as ProFootallFocus, and I surely don’t have the access of some of the game’s finest scribes. With all that said, I wouldn’t hesitate to label myself a veritable avid and informed observer (remember, I’m too objective to be a ‘fan’) of the game. As much as anyone you’ll probably watch the sport with. For the last five years, every fall and early winter, my Sundays have been wall to wall football from 12 to 12. That doesn’t even include all the storylines that attract me during the week. Friendly conversations, dozens of articles from all degrees of league enthusiasts, and scanning the talk radio dial. Forgive me for brandishing my resume in your face.

I just wanted to remind you of my intense fervor I have for the NFL.

I can’t remember a season such as this where there have been so many extremely viable candidates for arguably the league’s most prestigous individual honor.

The MVP debate, in almost any sport, any year, usually becomes contentious at one point or another. Often it’s among just a couple of candidates though. In football it’s typically a QB or two, and maybe another player having an astonishing season.

The questionable players listed above are who, Ryan and Wilson? Calvin Johnson has ZERO shot at winning the award but that’s his team’s fault, not his. Calvin along with him may be the game’s best players. If Ryan’s Falcons finish 14-2 (@Det, vs. TB), his case deserves to be heard. Russell Wilson can almost have a Heisman type of moment if he can lead the Seahawks over the 49ers this Sunday, and then snatch the West away in Week 17; Possibly leading Seattle to an 11-5 record. Would Matt Flynn have done that? Not likely, or he would’ve seen the field long before mop up time the last two weeks, after Wilson engineered two of the most dominate team performances of the season.

As for the rest of that list, their stories tell themselves. In fact, with a few, they can submit career resumes and we can all say “oh, you did THAT again?”

Like I said, I left one name off my initial list. If you’re thinking I was dimissing Adrian Peterson, you’re quite wrong.

He’s the irrefutable MVP of the 2012 NFL season. It’s really an elementary argument as to why Peterson should be distinguished.

Peterson may or may not break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing of 2,105 yards. In the season’s final two weeks, Peterson will face a stout Texan defense aiming to secure HFA in the AFC, and then Green Bay who’ll likely be fighting for a bye in the NFC. If Peterson’s to break the record, he’ll certainly have earned it. Though if he meets his average of 129 yards/game the next wo weeks, he’ll still fall roughly 35 yards short of Dickerson, but possible ahead of Jamal Lewis for second most yards in a season of all time. Quite an accomplishment for a guy, you probably heard (or looked it up!), who had his knee eviscerated about a year ago. Then again, as early as late summer, I’d said AD was bionic, so I had little doubt he’d be back and successful. To this level? I’m somewhat stunned. But I suppose if you’re going to call someone BIONIC, it’s probably best not to put restrictions on your expectations for them.

Oh, that elementary reason why AD is the MVP! Everyone else on that list has had help. For the quarterbacks, it’s usually a running game, a stellar wide out or a defense. I’ll spare you further details, because the point is made and this is supposed to be about Peterson.

I mean really, can you even name another Minnesota Viking? Sure you can! Christian Ponder. He of a substandard 78 quarterback rating. Ponder’s backup, Joe Webb, must be pretty lousy if he can’t get the mistake prone Ponder (top pick or not) off the field. I know we’re getting to the point where ELITE is becoming its own cliche, but whatever the antonym of elite is, well, that’s Ponder.

Hey wait, the Vikings have one of the most dynamic all purpose players in the game, Percy Harvin. You’re right. Except for that fact Harvin has only played in nine games this year, and hasn’t seen the field since the beginning of November.

You’re probably racking your brain trying to combat my argument for AD by thinking of the Vikings second best receiver. I guess that would be red zone friendly TE Kyle Rudolph and his 8 TDs out of 48 catches. Scan the Vikings stats yourself. Underwhelming is a kind adjective to describe the talent around Peterson. If Minneapolis was an island in one of those ten thousand lakes the state has (is that accurate, did someone count?) Peterson would be in complete isolation. Let’s just call AD The Bionic Omega Man. You kids look that up.

For good measure the Vikings defense is no better than mediocre. So not much help there for AD.

Vikings opponents know all Minnesota has is Peterson and he’s simply been, not unstoppable, but downright omnipotent. Coming off a horrific knee injury just adds a layer of awe to Peterson’s miraculous season.

A season that may slot him as the NFL’s all time leading rusher for a season. But also a season that should crown him MVP, regardless if it’s a .500 one team-wise, and pad his stats to potentially becoming the G(RB)OAT. Or least put him in that discourse with Barry, Emmitt and Sweetness.

 

 

 

Standing Up For The Royals.

I know the Royals have a reputation as notorious cheapskates, BUT, if they only would’ve taken my advice of dealing Alex Gordon for Cliff Lee, they wouldn’t be getting their blue and white blood spattered all over the web for dealing super prospect Wil Myers (and others) for James Shields and Wade Davis.

Wil Myers was the most productive positional player in minor league baseball last year. 37 homers, 109 RBIs, .314 average and a .987 OPS across two levels. Because the Rays, who plunder their partners in seemingly every deal (even where both teams lose), I’m certain those 2012 numbers Myers put up will be his FIRST HALF in Tampa whenever he makes his arrival. That’s. A. Joke. But since it’s the Royals, just a year or so off the Sanchez (DFA’d) for Melky (sorta won a batting title) transaction, maybe the joke’s on me.

You’re right. Myers for MVP!

I don’t get caught up in the hype of prospects like I used to. I think I got too carried away as a kid when Donruss flamboyantly tagged a player a RATED ROOKIE. As a ten year old baseball card collecting kid, in my thesaurus, RATED ROOKIE was just another way of saying Hall Of Fame. That means you Andy Benes.

Candidly, I didn’t even really buy into Trout and Harper until they consistently produced in the Majors. As decorated as Trout was in the minors, his cup of coffee as a 19 year old with the Angels in 2011, where he batted .220, didn’t offer much foresight into what the baseball-breathing planet got from him this past season. I might like to be progressive minded and enjoy all the shiny new toys, but I’ve got to have something concrete to support my excitement. Sometimes, no, maybe even often times, triumphant minor league numbers…stay there.

So, really, I don’t know what Wil Myers will be. As one of seven people outside of Florida who follow, and even cheer for the Rays, I hope Myers reaches an All Star level, and quickly.

Even if Myers doesn’t smack down his best Mike Trout impression on the AL, and he posts more typical rookie numbers (let’s say .260/18 homers/70 RBIs), I would still need some avid convincing, as the rosters stand at this moment, that the Rays aren’t the favorites in the verrrrrrrrrrry wide open AL East.

Losing Shields and Wade Davis (compliments to him for an outstanding season from the bullpen) is just not a big deal for the Rays. David Price won his FIRST (as in, more are likely) Cy Young, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore as a top three can fairly easily go nose to nose with the Tigers top three of Verlander, Fister and Scherzer. Some combination of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, the newly acquired Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizza (from the Royals), and others in Spring Training will battle to fill out the back end of the Rays rotation.

For good measure, the rebuilt infield of a healthy Longoria, Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist and James Loney eradicates the Rays defensive short comings from 2012.

If there’s a way the Rays fall into a catcher who isn’t an instant out, they vault past the Tigers, for me, as favorites in the American League. Of course…other transactions pending, like Josh Hamilton.

Ahhhhh, the Tigers. American League Champions. A team built to power its way through October with emphatic pitching. They’ve upgraded their outfield situation by bringing in Torii Hunter, and they’re still exploring what to do with the short stop position. Let’s not forget that the Tigers fended off the rest of the AL Central with just 88 wins.

Let’s bring the Royals back into this. They’ve got Shields and Davis in this deal, on top of having already brought in Ervin Santana and resigned Jeremy Guthrie. Not really a collection that scares you, but at least it rids them of having long time first overall draft bust, Luke Hochevar from being too close to the top of the rotation.

I, like many, thought the Royals, with their young core ready to emerge, would win more than 72 games in 2012. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have solidified themselves and provided us with what to expect annually from them. But the kids with All Star upside, Mike Moustaskas and Eric Hosmer, struggled mightily last year. Will they get it this year? I can’t say, because I thought they’d have gotten it last year. 2013 would be an optimal time for Hosmer and Moustaskas to blossom. If not, and Myers is a legend (remember, he’s a Ray, he will be!), this deal is the Shakespearean tragedy the internet is saying it is.

The second half of this decade may have the Royals plagued with regret for having given up Myers, especially when/if James Shields can’t maintain his pristine health or leaves after 2014, but for the short term, I may be the only one in this expanse known as the Internet that believes the Royals made a clever little deal to try and briskly close the not-so-insurmountable gap between themselves and Detroit – a team who should be dreading that Greinke deal. It gets Verlander 30 million a year starting in 2015.

Yes, the Internet is obliterating the Royals today. Google it if necessary. But they’re used to it. It’s been that way before even the web existed. Another few days of poignant criticism won’t do any further damage to the Kansas City psyche. Besides, since they didn’t heed my advice to do a Lee for Gordon swap in order to keep Myers, then maybe they’ll go another uncharacteristic route I suggested.

Sign Josh Hamilton on top of this.

The Chiefs Shouldn’t Have Played.

I was not in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs playing their game yesterday in the aftermath of the horrifying circumstances surrounding Jovan Belcher.

I didn’t think that less than thirty hours later, athletes who draw so much of their violent aggression (see a Ray Lewis or Drew Brees pregame huddle) needed for their craft from raw and archaic old-fashion human rage, could summon the emotions needed to excel at their jobs. Or even protect themselves when necessary.

Hell, I thought the Chiefs, especially Romeo Crennel who witnessed Belcher’s suicide, would be so emotionally drained and dazed that a lack of focus could very well lead to devastating injuries on their side of the ball. Imagine yourself a Chiefs player, and in the throes of a play the thought of anything surrounding Belcher implants itself in to your mind. His empty locker. Not seeing him on the field. The face of the child he made an orphan. The sound of a gunshot. Playing a game just hundreds of yards from a chalky white line of his demise. In that fraction of a second your professional focus has escaped you. While attempting to execute something you’ve done hundreds and hundreds of times for the better part of your life, the fundamentals become Aramaic to you, and you’re now completely vulnerable. Missing a block gets your quarterback concussed or worse. Being unaware of your surroundings for the blink of an eye causes you to be oblivious to a block you’d have needed to defend yourself from.

A distracted mind on the football field is a recipe for a tragedy on top of a tragedy.

To corroborate my feelings, know that 89% of the bettors yesterday took the Panthers plus the points. I don’t call those people callous individuals for capitalizing on a grieving football team. It’s what I would’ve done too.

I don’t think the Chiefs should’ve played that game. I don’t think I was wrong. I did, hwoever, underestimate the resolve of everyone in the Kansas City Chiefs organization.

I don’t think Romeo Crennel is a very good NFL Head Coach. I don’t think Brady Quinn is an NFL starting quarterback. Some days it’s better to be a better human being than it is to be good at what you do. Yesterday was that day for Crennel, Quinn and many others associated with the Chiefs.

This morning the Chiefs define resiliency and resolve. Their handling of the situation reminded me of this article from The Atlantic. It’s a psychologically based political article I read after the election. It speaks to how every four years people threaten to leave the country because their candidate didn’t win the White House. They rarely ever make good on their ‘threat.’

I only compare the article to the unfathomable Chiefs situation because of my takeaway. It’s a note I made for myself on my iPhone. It’s part scratch paper, part journal.

I may be reading too much on an article that’s focus is politics, but my takeaway was that people have more resolve than they give themselves credit for.

The second foible that explains why defeat only stings briefly is our tendency to overestimate how long psychological pain will last. Just as you might treat a deep gash with antibiotic ointment and bandages, we’re equipped with a sophisticated psychological immune system that targets serious psychological injury.

Basically, we’re tougher than we think. There was no one more resolute than most associated with the Chiefs, beginning in the early morning hours of Saturday.  

Also, it’s hard to share thoughts about the Chiefs and not acknowledge the powerful sentiments Brady Quinn shared after the game. He may be a substandard NFL player, but he’s the pinnacle of what it is to be a remarkable human being with his words yesterday.

“It was tough,” Brady said. “I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don’t think that you can win in this situation. The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently.

“When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us.

“Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”

I can profusely support what Quinn said. For someone who’s been bludgeoned by the depressive side of bipolar disorder – probably since I was a teenager – I can assure you ‘how are you doing’ has frequently been something I dread having to reply to. For you that’s a simple, throw away greeting. But for me, that phrase has often been an agonizing reminder that things suck.

I’m not saying anyone who struggles to respond when you ask them how they are, or what’s up, is psychologically or emotionally damaged, just know that many people like, I have, hear those words, then in an instant evaluate everything, and realize that those who’ve offered that greeting, statement, or question aren’t prepared for emotionally charged fastball under the chin that could come at them.

A closing thought on Belcher. We can guess about any concussions that potentially rewired him into a killer, but if anything positive can come of this, it’s that ALL athletes susceptible to violent head truama should have thorough mental evaluations before and after every season.

Lions NOtes (emphasis on the ‘NO’ as in No Good).

Two thoughts I earnestly had before the Colts final two drives, while considering topics/angles to discuss on Monday’s show:
 
Win this, finish strong, perhaps heroically claw to 8-8, or with that schedule 7-9, annnnnnnnd I’ll take “Things To Build On for $500 Alex!”
 
Then before the Colts final scoring drive, this would show some chutzpah (Thanks Mom) to deny Luck Off. ROY points.
 
But then…
 
Other randoms:
 
Titus is the inescapable eye sore of an ugly sweater. It’s always in the closet, but you can never use it. Broyles got hurt (and as I write this at 12/2 5:09pm it feels like another wasted draft pick), Robiskie was inactive, Mike Thomas was active, but invisible and Scheffler was dazed from a clean helmet to helmet at one point. You couldn’t depend on it being Titus, but it would’ve been nice to have an extra receiver around with the litany injuries.
 
The Lions are 3-7 in one score games. You could claim ‘oh, they’re so close!’ You’d be fooling yourself though. They’re only THAT close because of 81 and 9 week after week. H/T to 90 for a second consecutive disruptive game.
 
The Colts are 5-0 in games decided by 4 or less. Make it 5-0 if we include OT wins. I hope voters consider that, and any growth to that stat, when it’s time to decide Luck or RG3 for ROY. It’ll be close. A basic tale of the tape. RG3 has the stats. Luck doesn’t. Luck has the magical wins. Colts will be in the playoffs. The ‘Skins could be too. Both defenses stink like a sewer. The receiving options as a whole are unimpressive on both sides. RG3 has a running game with Alfred Morris. The Colts have…
 
The Lions defensive line ate the Colts line up all day. They hammered Luck over and over. He sucked most of the day. Bad decisions, misfires. Looking like the rookie of all rookies. But he’s 3 years from being the best QB in the game. Final two scoring drives for the Colts, 18 plays 153 yards in just 2 minutes 30 seconds. Perhaps he and Bruce Arians cunningly planned to tire out the Lions line all day! Right. Brady and Manning has rolled off the tongue for a decade. You should sharpen up on saying Luck and RG3.
 
The officials missed at least 3 calls I can remember, sorry no specifics, on the Colts. They didn’t miss Nick Fairley’s horse collar.
 
Utter brilliance by Luck to throw into the end zone on one of the games final plays, rather than test his luck (zing!) by charging for the end zone. If he falls short, game over. Like for Georgia Saturday night, and for the Saints before halftime Thursday night.
 
Same ol’ Lions: Of course Nick Harris’ worst punt of the year came at the most unfortunate time.
 
If the Tigers are truly looking for a speedy extra outfielder who snares everything, Stefan Logan fair catches with the best of them.
 
I’m a ‘question the execution, not the play call’ kinda guy, but throwing on 3rd and 5 did seem like something to serious consider. Take away the Bell 67 yarder, and the Lions ran for 29 times for 71 yards on the day. 2.5 per carry.
 
I don’t have much faith in the Lions ownership to send the entire coaching staff packing if they don’t manage another win this season, but you can’t tell me more than half the organizations in the league wouldn’t sack their staff for regressing from 10 wins to 4 or 5 in less than 12 months.
 

Stern Wasn’t Angry.

You know the story by now.

Gregg Popovich, already without the injured emerging 2nd year star Kawhi Leonard, sat Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Danny Green last night against the Heat. Can you blame him? Well yes, some can and we’ll address them shortly.

The Spurs excursion was a rugged one. Six games (Bos, Ind, Tor, Wash, Orl, Mia) in eight days, and last night was their fourth in five days. That’s a stretch that looks like last season’s compressed schedule, not this year’s 82 games in 5 plus months.

Tactically it was a sharp move by Popovich, though I’d expect nothing less from him. He lack’s Phil’s fist of titles, but Pop is his coaching equal.

In the broadest of spectrum, Spurs veterans have absolutely nothing to prove. They’re in no need of sending a message to the Heat, by going into their building and knocking them off. They need to travel the path of least resistence to secure as much home court as they can for the playoffs as they can. It’s going to be grueling season long task to keep the Lakers, Clippers, Memphis and OKC behind them.

See now? Have your key producers beat up on a vastly inferior opponent in Orlando – where only Green played more than 30 minutes anyway – get them out early, then sit them for the far more difficult game in Miami – the second night of back to backs, and the last game of the odyssey.

If there was something to be achieved by sitting the starters, Pop shrewdly experimented by seeing which of his reserves would rise to the occasion of challenging the league’s best player, and the rest of his defending champion teammates. Five of the nine understudies reach double figure points, and only one scored less than six. The genius of Gregg Popovich.

Bench-Gate, if you will, drew the ire of the Commissioner. “I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said in a statement that was released after the Spurs-Heat game had tipped off. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.” Um, right.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think Stern was really that teed off. Pop has league clout, and Stern, the marketing whiz he is, knows he’s fairly powerless in this instance. I think, especially in issuing the statement with such speed, Stern was simply making a preemptive ‘you naughty Spurs know better than doing this on a TNT game!’ Show off a little anger and frustration, threaten punishment (or perhaps act on it in a rather meager way) and it enables him to deflect the approaching wrath of those wronged by Popovich’s stratagem.

Allow me to don my best Hamlet. (Note – I played Horatio in an MG 5th grade play) “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

Those poor, poor Miami fans, already plundered by the vile Jeffrey Loria, who had to suffer through watching their future Hall of Famers – awful, just awful. I bleed for them! Demand swift refunds for having to endure another near triple double from Lebron! TNT was probably a bit peeved, but only because their sponsors and advertisers who bought into the program were probably expecting the matchup to be one cadre of All Stars against another.

It’s tough to convince me that TNT was even miffed though. They were fortunate enough (or was this another one of Stern’s masterful ploys!?!?!) to have Barkley on the broadcast with Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan. Pay no attention to the man who benched his starters, just follow the colorful color analyst who just happened to be on the broadcast. Hmmmmmmm.

Barkley ALWAYS makes for great entertainment. In fact, his back and forth bickering with Miller was semi-First Take-ish. I wonder if there’s a future in that type of color analysis?

You know how this gets settled, peacefully? A light brushing of the wrist publically for Popovich. And then a private c’mom-Pop-pick-your-spots better-so-I-don’t-have-to-deal-with-this-s%it from Stern or Spurs management after they get their tirade from corporate partners. In the future Pop is more thoughtful to the feelings of the fans, and he sits his guys more strategically. If there’s even a way to do that.

Some Matt Math.

Still critical of Matthew Stafford’s throwing mechanics? I’m not. He’s undoubtedly up there in arm strength with Cutler, Newton, Flacco and Rodgers (the names that come to me first). Strength and velocity doesn’t always yield results. And questionable arm strength – Peyton, Alex Smith – doesn’t always preclude you from success.

I’ll concede, accuracy likely above all other traits is the physical skill QB’s most need to succeed.

I lack no confidence is Stafford’s ability to be an elite NFL passer. I’m even willing to accept the sidewinding, sideslingin’ throw that he wildly sails from time to time. Even when they wind up in the hands of defenders. The good plays outweight the bad plays in his right arm.

Now, his decision making and QB IQ (LOS reads, moving secondaries with his eyes)…well, that’s where I’d like to see improvement.

Anyway, you know what I thought of when the topic of Stafford’s throws comes up. His completion percentage. It sits at 61%. Acceptable, but not terrific. That ranks him 19th in the NFL.

Then I reminded myself that Lions drop a lot of passes. A quick Google search turns up this (subjective, in all likelihood) list, which the Lions sit atop. 33 drops.

Allow me to work out some very simple math.

I averaged out the number of drops from that list of all 32 teams. That number is 20. I reasonably (no?) added 20 completions to Stafford’s 296 of 488 passes.

His completion percentage jumps to 65. That would rank him 9th beyond Tom Brady in the completion % standings, and put a nice shine on his stats and performance.

**One could contend that the Lions have more dropped passes than any team, because they throw the most passes. By that, they’re dropping 1 of 14.7 passes. Though the Broncos are in that same range.

La Russa Would Be Proud.

After the Bears were embarassed by the 49ers on MNF, I gave you my feelings on the Niners. Summary, you know the defense is punishingly excellent, but the offensive personnel is underrated.

Yep, I’m a believer that if you have two in any relationship, quarterbacks, girlfriends, your success will be short lived. Even two dogs can be a hassle at times. Ask my mom.

There. Are. Exceptions. Jim Harbaugh, who is quite similar in personality and orneriness to Jim Schwartz (ahh, the fine line between Ws & Ls, and genius & unemployed), is dating two quarterbacks right now. It’s obvious why it’s working -and why it should continue to work – isn’t it? It goes back to my thought above. They don’t have Brady, Brees or a Manning (or other), but their other 21 are superior to yours.

Ehh, I’ve gotta do it again, but more briefly now. Line is nearly inpenetrable. Gore is healthy. Recievers are competent, and a strength if you include Vernon Davis. Front 7 has four of the very best in Justin, Aldon, Willis and Bowman. The secondary will break you into a million pieces. And maybe now with Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter done, they’ll finally unleash LaMichael James.

When your 21 are that substantial, does it matter who the QB is? Nope. Harbaugh just has to manage the situation now. Not necessarily on the field as much as psychologically between Smith and Kaepernick. Moreso with Smith though. Who potentially becomes a very high draft pick for the Niners when QB needy teams – and there are many – come calling in the offseason.

There’s my opinion on how Harbaugh is manipulating the most critical position in sports like he’s Tony La Russa in the 8th inning of a 2 run game in October, while facing a lineup that goes L, R, L, R, S. Or, like he’s an indecisive toddler trying to pick which toy to play with.

This is Bill Barnwell’s opinion and further examination of what we’ve never seen before in the NFL.

Using a closer quarterback would have other advantages, too. It would keep Kaepernick out of the game in run-focused situations in the fourth quarter (unless he’s wanted as a running threat on a particular play), which is a way for him to stay as healthy as possible for more meaningful situations. Since the 49ers win most of the time, it would be a good way to keep Smith fit and fresh for a late-season or playoff scenario in which Kaepernick gets hurt or needs to be benched.

On another note, I’ve never felt better about my preseason Super Bowl pick. I kept picking the Saints till I got them right in 2010, but I feel GREAT about Niners/Pats thanks to the math from FootballOutsiders.

Team Conf App Conf Win SB Win 16-0 15-1
NE 54.9% 33.1% 19.8%
SF 53.0% 33.8% 18.9%
DEN 46.3% 24.9% 14.4%
HOU 54.6% 24.9% 10.5% 4.4%
CHI 30.1% 15.6% 7.9%
BAL 33.3% 14.0% 5.9%
GB 24.8% 12.1% 5.8%
ATL 44.9% 17.2% 5.4% 2.5%

 

 

Matchup Chance
Randy Moss Reunion Special (NE-SF) 11.3%
Super Bowl XXIV rematch (DEN-SF) 8.2%
Super Bowl XX rematch (NE-CHI) 5.1%
Harbaugh Bowl (BAL-SF) 4.7%

The Lions are NOT mathematically eliminated from the postseason.  

NFC North

Team Rec WEI DVOA Mean Wins #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 DIV BYE WC TOT CHANGE
CHI 8-3 25.1% 10.8 11.3% 14.9% 14.3% 5.0% 32.2% 12.9% 45.4% 26.1% 45.1% 90.6% 14.0%
GB 7-4 21.6% 10.5 4.7% 12.8% 22.2% 12.8% 33.4% 4.3% 52.5% 17.5% 37.6% 90.1% -2.7%
MIN 6-5 -3.2% 7.7 0.0% 0.1% 0.6% 1.3% 1.6% 3.7% 2.0% 0.1% 5.3% 7.4% -2.5%
DET 4-7 5.0% 6.6 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 0.6% -0.3%