Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Saddest Day of Football

We all look forward to it. Super Bowl Sunday, Colts vs. Saints. Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees. Sean Payton vs. Jim Caldwell. Without a doubt, Miami is about to host a great football game. But for most sports fans, next Sunday marks the beginning of the end. Whether or not your hometown team made the playoffs, only one fan base will have the means to survive the long off-season.

February - The Super Bowl Champion has been determined, and the long wait for redemption begins. We can no longer there is no team to adopt for the playoffs, now that they have finished. The NBA All-Star weekend is officially soured for all cities outside of Indianapolis (yes, I'm picking the Colts). Even the Pro Bowl is ruined. Not that it was exciting anyway. How frustrating is it to see your team's star players enjoying themselves in light-colored Hawaiian shirts and laughing it up on the sidelines while their fans wallow in the misery of another lost season?

March - Not only is the misery piling on, but players begin to leave via free agency and retirement. Cardinals fans finally realize their entire franchise just retired, bringing them back to where they were pre-Warner. The Brett Favre retirement saga begins as he continues to destroy his once god-like reputation. But most importantly, the realization that Sunday's finally have no meaning for another six months actually becomes real. Now there's officially no reason to get up before 3 p.m.

April - Mel Kiper and Todd McShay systematically make more and more appearances on Sportscenter, creating/altering mock drafts until they're ultimately proven wrong on the day of the NFL draft. Hopeful Raiders' fans watch the deranged Al Davis destroy a once perennial force in the NFL. Baseball season begins, and with it, a new hope. John Kruk and crew question whether it matters if the poor start of either the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, etc. really matters when we all know it doesn't. The basketball playoffs begin. Maybe an upset or two happens, but ultimately no seed below #4 advances to the conference championship.

May - More NBA playoffs. We like it more since it's higher quality basketball, and for those fan bases involved, it can become very exciting. NFL free agents begin to sign with new teams, and some real hope emerges. Finally a little excitement for the 31 losing fan bases. Maybe Minnesota can find that missing piece. Maybe New Orleans can find a defensive lineman. Maybe Cleveland, Saint Louis, and the rest of the bottom feeders can lure a quality free agent. Most importantly, maybe fans can start to really believe again.

June/July - By far the two worst months of sports. With only the monotonous rhythm and slow pace of baseball to look forward to, television becomes severely less appealing. Being able to choose between multiple sports/teams is one of the under-appreciated advantages of winter television. So without this choice, we dream of football. Of returning to our team's glory days. Of some groundbreaking trade to change the fortunes of our team. We even travel to watch training camp just to catch a glimpse of what we know is coming in only a few months.

August - Pre-season. Real football is so close. The time we most like to speculate, even if we all acknowledge that what we see means nothing. For anyone who watched Hard Knocks, the Bengals did not look like a division winner. The Patriots always go 0-4, but end up in the playoffs. One or two injuries derail a once promising season. Random late round draft picks develop into stars and fantasy owners scramble to draft them/pick them up off the waiver wire.

September - Football is finally here. The slate is clean and the world is right again. Only 5 months from a possible Super Bowl championship.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Can Do Better, Clayton

No, I am not talking about Brett Favre (although he should retire also). I am talking about ESPN's John Clayton. Normally I am not one for bashing writers, but his most recent article on espn.com compels me to comment. Of his ten proposed questions relating to the Super Bowl, only one provides any insight into the game otherwise (the injury status of each team).

Que
stion #1: Is there a significance of having the Saints and Colts in the Super Bowl?

Quality question. It's not as if Katrina, the Superdome as a shelter for New Orleans' residents and the history of losing for the Saints have not already been mentioned 400 times by everyone who follows football. Or the impact on Peyton Manning's legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Question #2: What's the biggest strategic decision the Colts have to make?

Did we not wonder all of last week how the Jets would handle the Colts' three wide receiver sets (the staple of their offense)? Pay attention, John. Even worse, he does not even speculate. He simply restates everything we witnessed during the AFC championship game.

Question #3: What's the history between these two teams?

They did not play this season, so really it's irrelevant. Maybe it's nice to look at, but completely irrelevant to the game at hand.

Question #4: Will running be a big part of this Super Bowl?

Each week either of these teams plays, the question is always, will they run the ball consistently? If the answer has been no for 20 straight weeks, why would it change in week 21? Yes, the Saints had 6th best rushing attack, but that was only a result of averaging 403.8 yards per game. And blowing out plenty of teams, allowing them to pad their rushing stats.

Question #5: Which quarterback has an edge?

I am actually astounded he would even ask this. Anyone with a pulse already knows the answer. Drew Brees is great, but Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning.

Question #7: What team will benefit more from the extra week of preparation between the championship games and the Super Bowl?

Once again, John, turn on your brain for a second. NFL fans are not dumb. We know Peyton is the master of preparation. We know he'll take advantage of every weakness of the Saints' defense he can. Maybe it would be more appropriate to look at how the Colts defensive speed matches up well with the Saints.

Question #8: Are there themes that might emerge during the hype of Super Bowl week?

Firstly, I have to attack the grammar. The way the question is phrased is like asking if the sun will rise tomorrow. But even if Clayton phrases this idea with an open-ended question, come up with something better than Reggie Wayne wearing a hard hat to symbolize the team's hard work.

Question #9: Aside from the end, which point of the game should viewers watch closely?

Frankly they should be watching the whole thing closely considering this is the Super Bowl. Clayton argues that it should be the last two minutes of the first half because each team has a propensity for scoring at this time. But just because Manning and Brees put up points in the final two minutes of the half does not make it the most compelling time to watch. How about the entire 4th quarter? Or every time one team gets in the red zone, since cashing in for six instead of three will be crucial? These moments could actually decide the game. Seven or three points at the end of the half amidst a shootout will probably be less noteworthy.

Question #10: What is each team's biggest weakness on defense?

Anyone who has watched the Colts in the playoffs, say, for the last 10 years, knows its run defense. Cadillac Williams and the dreaded Tampa Bay offense ran all over the Saints. I realize he's trying to address the casual fan, but please give us some sort of insight beyond a quick google search.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conference Championship Picks

At this point in the season, it is the football Gods, not logic or reason, that determine the Super Bowl participants. While it's easy to pick the Colts and Saints, the last nine seasons have not
featured the top seeds from the NFC and the AFC. It's boring and usually less effective to pick the higher seeds during March Madness; the same goes for the NFL. So how do we decide who will upset the seeded hierarchy? By choosing the teams with whom the Gods are aligned. Here are ten non-football reasons (talent level of the teams, matchups, etc.) reasons to pick the Jets (+8, yes I'm picking them not only to cover, but also to win) and the Saints (-3.5) to make the Super Bowl.

NEW YORK JETS

1. Swagger - Rex Ryan has had it since the beginning of the season. The Jets have picked it up.

2. The "eff you" factor - The Colts rolled over in week 16, allowing the Jets playoff birth. Now the Jets have the chance to throw it back in the Colts', and especially in Jim Caldwell's face.

3. Irony - Going along with reason #2, it's almost too perfect that the Jets would demolish Cincinnati and Indianapolis after being handed a playoff birth on a silver platter by those very teams.

4. Player/coach - No player/coach (Peyton Manning) has ever led a team to a Super Bowl.

5. Drought - The Jets are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the most years in a row without an AFC championship (39). They're due, I would say.

6. Home Field Advantage - Home field teams in the AFC Championship games are 6-6 in the last 12 years. No home field advantage.

7. Mark Sanchez - A Rookie QB potentially making the Super Bowl.

8. Joe Namath - He claimed this Jets team has many similarities to his Super Bowl III Jets squad. Another de facto Super Bowl win guarantee?

9. Superstition - Rex Ryan uses a pizza-stained New York Titans sweatshirt as a good luck charm.

10. Mark Sanchez #2 - According to Scouts Inc. of espn.com, Mark Sanchez has a grade of 20. To put that in perspective, Tom Brady is a 94. Brady is over 4 and 1/2 times better.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

1. Pre-game - At a generous 6'0 and probably the weakest player on the team, Drew Brees serves as their pre-game motivator. Who Dat?

2. Class - The Saints re-signed Deuce McAllister last week as an honorary captain for the coin toss.

3. Brett Favre - The only quarterback to throw two interceptions in overtime to cost his team a playoff game.

4. Brett Favre #2 - Without his Super Bowl season, his playoff record is 10-10. Not so clutch.

5. Superdome - From the house of hundreds of thousands of uprooted New Orleans residents to conference championship host. The ultimate feel-good story.

6. Tortured Franchise - 7 playoff appearances in 42 seasons, 3 playoff wins. 28 losing seasons. Ouch. The NFL at least owes them a Super Bowl appearance.

7. The "eff you" factor (for Drew Brees towards the media) - Somehow he's still not considered to be one of the best NFL QB's along with Brady and Manning. He's small, he's white, he's dangerous.

8. Mardi Gras - Who wouldn't want the craziest Mardi Gras ever after a New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory?

9. Brad Childress - No pedophile coach has ever reached the Super Bowl.

10. Sean Payton - The Bill Parcells coaching tree already has two Super Bowl winners (Coughlin, Belichick). Here comes #3.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Those Who Can, Those Who Cannot

Jerry Jones and A.J. Smith did not fire Wade Phillips and Norv Turner. What do these two coaches have in common? They're good coaches, but they cannot win a Super Bowl. While their offensive and defensive minds might be great, their personalities do not fulfill the requirements of an NFL head coach. Players have big personalities, and even bigger pay checks. But when Mike Tomlin speaks in the Steelers locker room, you know that all his players listen. When Bill Belichick gives instructions, the Patriots know to pay attention. Obviously, there is not a "formula" for successful coaching. While the Tom Coughlin's of the NFL may be strict as hell to achieve success, the even keeled personality of a Tony Dungy keeps every team under control.

That said, can we blame owners like Jones and Smith for their decisions? As much as fans clamor for firing the coaches, it's not as if Norv Turner and Wade Phillips were utter failures. And is it really worth it to sacrifice the prime of several great players to install a brand new coach and system? Probably not. So while you criticize, be wary. Buffalo hired Chan Gailey because no big time coach (Bill Cowher) wants to destroy his coaching reputation by attempting (and probably failing) to revive a floundering franchise.

So what NFL coaches actually have the ability to succeed? The ones whose personalities are reflected in their team. Regardless of how it happens, in order for the team to succeed, players must buy into the coach's system. Being a head coach is not about having a great offensive or defensive mind (Wade Phillips); it is not only about handling, but controlling the team environment. A lame imitation of an overweight used car salesman cannot run America's team. It takes a strong personality like Rex Ryan or Tom Coughlin to handle New York.

So who can actually win a Super Bowl and why? The only way to analyze this properly is through a massive 24 analogy.

The Jack Bauers (i.e. Those who can impose their will on anyone because they know that their opinion is the only one that should count. Jack Bauers succeed regardless of the personnel at hand).

Rex Ryan - He may be overweight and overconfident, but his Jets are one game from the Super Bowl.
Tom Coughlin - The face that combines anger, disappointment and "did you even listen to anything I ever taught you" is quite the motivator.
Mike Shanahan - In three seasons he'll probably be a George Mason.
Bill Belichick - Only here out of respect. Belichick/Brady mystique = gone.
Mike Tomlin - The most popular kid in school.
Sean Payton - The true architect of the Annexation of Puerto Rico.

The Ryan Chappelles (i.e. Those who pad their regular season resumes like it's their job)

Wade Phillips - One lucky s.o.b. YEE-HAW!
Norv Turner - Just another in the long line of San Diego coaches messing up a potential dynasty.
Brad Childress - Do not let your children near him.
Andy Reid - The only man with one permanent facial expression.

The Tony Almeidas (i.e. If they had more surrounding talent they would approach Jack Bauer status)

Mike Singletary - He's picked it up since dropping his pants.
John Harbaugh - The ultimate worst hiring turned great hiring.
Jack Del Rio - Anyone that can win with MJD and a bunch of 18th round fantasy draft picks deserves respect.
Mike Smith - Also a potential George Mason candidate.
Tony Sparano - Is it just me or shouldn't the Dolphins (based on skill level of the personnel) be a 65 overall in Madden? Yet somehow they keep churning out wins. Thank you, wildcat.
Ken Wisenhunt - Once Kurt Warner retires, a guaranteed George Mason.
Mike McCarthy - The second least recognizable/personality among coaches besides Jim Caldwell.

The George Masons (i.e. The coaches still relying on previous success to maintain their jobs)

Marvin Lewis - Only here because he should have been fired before this season. Anyone who saw them in Hard Knocks is still shocked at their success.
John Fox - If there had been a Chloe O'Brien category, he would've been number 1. Go back to defensive coordinator.
Lovie Smith - Someone needs to explain how he is still employed by the Chicago Bears.
Jeff Fischer - Great coaches do not need their owners to save the season.

The Sherry Palmers (i.e. The annoying plot line that you wish would just go away already so we could move on to bigger and better things)

Raheem Morris - Any coach that fires both coordinators before the end of his first season might as well hang it up right then and there.
Josh McDaniels - He has surpassed Jay Cutler as the most hated NFL employee.
Tom Cable - Beats women, terrible team. The only good move was to bench JaMarcus. Now Al wants him starting again. This is why Raiders fan deserve the most pity in the NFL.
Eric Mangini - He probably deserved to keep his job for next year, but his sad attempt at a Belichick style team only makes me angry.
Gary Kubiak - When will the Texans not be everyone's sleeper pick? I'll pencil them in for 8-8 in 2010 right now.


The Cole Ortizs (i.e The jury is still out, but we like their potential)

Pete Carroll - His success at USC forces us to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Steve Spagnuolo - #2 on the Chloe O'Brien list, but his team's talent level makes him a potential Tony Almeida.
Todd Haley - His team works hard for him. Always a good sign.
Jim Schwartz - They didn't go 0-16. 'Nuff said.
Chan Gailey - Even Jerry Jones admitted that he shouldn't have fired him.
Jim Caldwell - 15-0 in games with starters normally would place a coach higher, but not a glorified figurehead.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Divisional Round Picks

Ray Rice, Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice proved that the NFL can still be a league of rushing and defense (We're excluding the Packers vs. Cardinals game because that was more like an auction than a football game). This pound it out/stout defense style of football has caused an unfortunate effect that ocurrs way too often in the NFL: Bandwagoning.

The Cowboys could not win a playoff game under Tony Romo and Wade Phillips before last week. Now they're everyone's overrated underdog, a true tribute to the one and only Ben Wallace. It's true that playoff football has taught us that being hot is more important than being talented. The Vikings killed most of their momentum at the end of the regular season (besides Week 17 when the Giants managed to roll over worse than they did against the Panthers), while the Cowboys headed into the playoffs with huge wins over Philadelphia and New Orleans, leading to their current 4 game winning streak. In order to truly understand this bandwagoning effect, 85% picked the 3 point underdog Cowboys according to vegasinsider.com. Vegas probably could have gotten away with making Dallas the 3 point favorite in this one. But before I jump on with everyone else, let's realize the the supposed fearsome front seven of the Cowboys has faced the likes of LeSean McCoy (twice), Clinton Portis, and Pierre Thomas/Mike Bell. Not exactly a wrecking crew. So let's be realistic. Minnesota has explosiveness on the outside with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and Brad Childress will not be dumb enough to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson less than 25 times.

Minnesota Vikings (-3) over Dallas Cowboys

After 2 weeks, Baltimore was the NFL's #1 team. Halfway through the season, they were in the middle of the pack. By the end, they had snuck into the playoffs. After their 33-14 dismantling of the Patriots, Ray Rice is unstoppable, and defense is once again dreaded. But let's analyze the stats of that game. Joe Flacco's stats: 4/1o, 31 yards, 1 INT. Meanwhile, the Baltimore backfield ran the ball 52 times. Don't expect Flacco to stand idly by while his team wins the game this week. Also, anyone who saw Brady first interception knows it looked more like the guards converging on Brucie in The Longest Yard than anything else. Last week's game only proved that the Patriots were not good. Baltimore dared the Pats to run, and they didn't. And so they paid for it. Baltimore will probably do the same against Indianapolis. Except instead of Brucie, Paul Crewe will be standing back there. And I'm not talking about throwing the game at the beginning of the first half Paul Crewe. I'm talking about 4th and 2o, 2o yard run, evading tacklers left and right Paul Crewe. Watch out, guards.

Indianapolis Colts (-6.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Jets and the Chargers are the ultimate bandwagon matchup. Rex Ryan's top defense/rushing attack vs. the 11 game winning streak of the Chargers. Vincent Jackson vs. Darrelle Revis. You have to love ESPN for the headline article about Revis' cover skills, as if Tim Graham's analysis enlightened us in any way. He watches tape! OH MY GOD! What a revelation! The Chargers have the 13th ranked rush defense, not top of the line. Mark Sanchez (hopefully I do not jinx it) has possibly found a way to avoid turnovers. On the other side, Vincent Jackson is only one of many weapons Rivers has, and Revis cannot cover all of them. And to Rivers' advantage and Rex Ryan's annoyance, Rivers actually has a better passer rating against the blitz. So which bandwagon do we jump on? The Chargers. But the line is too high, so the Jets will cover.
New York Jets (+7) over San Diego Chargers

Last year Arizona was the ultimate bandwagon team. After stumbling into the playoffs, Larry Fitzgerald decided it was time to become the best receiver in the league. Last week, he proved his Michael Jordan status with officials when he blatantly pushed off Charles Woodson for both touchdown passes. Apparently the Defensive Player of the Year still doesn't get any calls. New Orleans, like Minnesota, found a way to kill all their regular season momentum when they needed it. The difference here, however, is defense. Drew Brees is unquestionably dangerous when throwing the ball. But Kurt Warner's 29/33, 379 yards and 5 TDs proved he can do it too. So this game will not be about stopping opposing offenses. It will be about limiting damage. Field goals instead of touchdowns will be crucial. I trust Arizona's defense more than New Orleans'.

A small point on last week's game. No one in the media seemed to comment on the luck of the last play. Yes, it was a great sack/fumble/recovery play, but had Aaron Rodgers not flailed his leg out and accidently kicked the ball up in the air and directly into Karlos Dansby's arms, maybe the Packers recover. And one play earlier (maybe it was two) Aaron Rodgers overthrew Greg Jennings for the game winning touchdown. Talk about a play one player will remember over and over for the next 8 months. In a game full of offfense, a bad throw, a missed field goal and a fumble changed the course of the game and the post season. Go figure.

Arizona Cardinals (+7) over New Orleans Saints

Last Week: 2-2
Overall: 2-2

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wild Card Weekend Picks

Herman Edwards is now an analyst for ESPN. He was fired (twice) because he could not win in the NFL. How does this qualify him to make playoff picks? Wouldn't this make him even less qualified? But we are not dumb enough to listen to these "analysts," because making playoff picks is like picking the first round of March Madness. We all claim to use some combination of statistics, visual evidence, and logic to make our picks, but we all know that this is a load of crap. No one in their right mind would have picked the Cardinals, Giants and Steelers (the Wild Card team) to win the Super Bowl before the playoffs started. With that being said, here are my picks.

New York Jets (+2.5)
over Cincinnati Bengals

This game is like picking the lesser of two evils. It's true the Jets do have the top rated defense and running attack in the league, a consistent formula for success and Rex Ryan's go to stat. The Jets also won 37-0 against the Bengals last week, something we cannot ignore. But Mark Sanchez's interception-friendly right arm plus Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph equals potential disaster. Meanwhile, Cincinnati quietly had a terrible offense the whole season. The highly touted Cedric Benson only had 1251 rushing yards in 15 games and a 4.2 yards per carry average. While these numbers are respectable, they are not at all impressive. Darrelle Revis will once again shut down the only threat on the outside in Chad Ochocinco, leaving it up to the likes of Andre Caldwell to lead the team to victory. Good luck.

Dallas Cowboys (-4) over Philadelphia Eagles

Everything about Dallas is clicking. Tashard Choice, Marion Barber and Felix Jones are healthy. The defense is finally hitting its stride. Tony Romo seems to have finally passed the interception bug onto another person (Mark Sanchez). The Eagles, on the other hand, rely too much on the big play. On an unrelated note, how dumb was it of Jerry Jones to hire a coach who has never won in the playoffs to coach Tony Romo, who has been continually criticized for choking in December and losing in the playoffs? I'm tempted to say that the Cowboys will not go beyond round one, but I will hold my tounge. If anything good can come out of this game, it would be a punt finally hitting the extra-jumbo jumbotron.

New England Patriots (-3.5)
over Baltimore Ravens

Richard Seymour was traded away because Belichick secretly knew this team was not a championship team. But now, New England has the ultimate rallying point: Wes Welker's injury. Yes, it hurts them. His league leading 123 catches cannot be replaced. But since their chances were small (I will not say non existent), this injury could in fact help them. Anyone who saw Welker's tears would want to win it for him. This extra motivation could give them the boost they need. A few reasons to pick Baltimore: who was covering Welker when he made his ACL/MCL tearing cut? That's right, Bernard Pollard, the same man who destroyed Brady's knee. Also, who's the 5th receiver on the Ravens? You're right again! David Tyree.

Green Bay Packers (-1) over Arizona Cardinals

Everything logical about this game favors the Packers. Without Ben Rothlisberger's bullet pass to Mike Wallace tip toeing the sideline, the Packers would be on an 8 game winning streak. Last week, the Cardinals played hard in the first quarter. But aftering going down 14-0 against these same Packers, they took their starters out. Anquan Boldin probably won't play. Yet last year, Arizona had anti-momentum heading into the playoffs. While I may pick the Packers here, this is by far the hardest pick. It's also hard to pick against the Packers when everyone is rooting for an eventual Favre/Rodgers rematch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Start the Starters

Every year we see it: NFL teams that have locked up a playoff seed rest their best players, and teams with no chance in the postseason throw in the towel, hoping for a high draft pick. This year, the lack of competitive balance allowed the Jets to sneak into the playoffs even though Rex Ryan deemed them hopeless only a few weeks ago. So how should the NFL avoid this? A simple talking to by Roger Goodell probably will not suffice. To counteract the problem, here are a few preliminary changes to league policies and playoff rules.

Change #1: Playoff Opponent Choice

In today's NFL playoffs, there's essentially no difference between the #5 and #6 seeds. With parity in the NFL at its highest, sometimes the #6 team is stronger than the #5. Therefore, while home field is an important advantage, the highest seed of the divisional round (#3) should be allowed to choose its opponent. In terms of match up, some teams might prefer to play the #5 as opposed to the #6, even if the #5 has a better record. This would prevent teams like Arizona and Cincinnati from choosing to roll over. The immediate grudge match created would also be a great added element of the playoffs. In this scenario, the #3 seed is essentially telling its opponent, "you suck," and the match up would inevitably become an immediate "eff you" game for the opponent.

Change #2: Regular Season Salary Cap Incentives

To stop the #1 and #2 seeds from benching starters, add a bonus to regular season success: Salary Cap incentives (I realize that next year is an uncapped year, so this is for when the cap resumes). Let's give an extra $5 million towards the following year's cap for every win that puts the #1 seed's total team wins over 12, and an extra $3 million that puts the #2 seed team total wins over 11. Since most #1 and #2 teams win at least 12 games, there's incentive to pick up those extra 1, 2, or 3 wins.

Coaches are the ones who tank games, not players. We know that if the starters are playing, they will play hard. Therefore, it's really the coaches and front office who need the incentive. Even though parity is one of the defining elements of the NFL, dynasties make sports interesting. And it is not as if an extra $5-15 million in the cap allows for any league-altering difference. But it would be just enough to stop teams from resting their starters.

Now that I've somewhat repaired the NFL playoffs, let's address the tanking problem.

Change #3: Add a Bottom Feeder Playoff OR the NFL D-League

Teams tank to get the #1 pick. Instead of encouraging the tanking, let's take the 6 worst teams in the NFL and apply the same playoffs rules described above. The winner will obtain the #1 pick, and the teams eliminated in the first round will receive picks 5 and 6 (Record, then Head-to-head matchup, then coin flip determine whether 5 or 6.) No team wants to be considered the worst in the NFL. This system gives players on these poorer teams further chance to showcase their talent. While the players may have less incentive to perform (since the high draft picks will eventually replace them in the starting lineup,) they will have the opportunity to showcase themselves so that they might be considered for other teams' rosters. Same goes with coaches. Though they might be fired anyway, it gives them further opportunity to prove their worth.

If you don't like the loser playoffs, another possibility would be to go English Premiere League on the NFL: the bottom 8 teams are not allowed to compete in the NFL, but rather in a secondary league of their own. In this NFL D-League, each team would play every other team twice, without playoffs. Every year after, the top four teams of the new NFL D-League reenter the NFL, and the bottom four teams of the NFL drop to the NFL D-League. The draft rules would remain the same, with the worst team of the NFL getting the 9th pick, the worst team of the NFL D-League getting the #1 pick and the top team of the NFL D-League getting the 8th pick. This way, NFL teams have incentive to compete despite their record, and NFL D-League teams must fight to make their way back to the NFL.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nate the Terrible

It cannot be denied that Nate Robinson single-handedly won last night's game against the Hawks. Those who watched the game witnessed his dominance. But let's be honest about so called "Kryptonate" for a second. His performance last night hurt the Knicks. We already know that Nate Robinson is a scorer. This season he's shooting 49.6% from the field and scoring 13 points per game in 23 minutes of playing time. We only witnessed this efficiency to a greater degree last night.

During Mike D'Antoni's post game interview, he kept repeating "it's all about winning" (or some form of that). These few words provided a great deal of insight into what Nate's performance will mean for the Knicks' future. When he took over the game, D'Antoni simply put the ball in his hands on every possession. Meanwhile, the rest of the Knicks team went trips right and let him go one-on-one. While this strategy was successful, it is not a formula for success for any NBA team.

Real Knicks fans know the truth. We have seen Nate for a few years now; he's great in bursts, but he does not know how to be a secondary scorer. Nate is no LeBron or Kobe; he cannot night in and night out take over a game. Obviously he was able to do so last night, but can we really see him continuing this domination for the rest of the season? D'Antoni knows he cannot. Nate sat because he attempts to have these performances every game. It just so happened that all of his contested jump shots went in against the Hawks. What happens when they start to clang off the rim? Even worse, Nate's 41 points gave his camp even more ammunition to petition for more playing time, which will only cause more internal team strife. Before D'Antoni pulled Nate from the rotation, the Knicks were terrible. Miraculously they started winning when their undersized volume shooter sat on the bench. This cannot be a coincidence.

As mentioned before, Nate's offense is a given. But for anyone who watched Mike Bibby walk his way into the paint on countless possessions saw the same thing D'Antoni did. He cannot play defense for his life. There are plenty of other small guards in the league, but none are as defensively inept as Nate. He even admitted during his post game interview that he knew he had to work hard on defense if D'Antoni was going to play him. So let's put this game in perspective. He was inserted into the lineup because David Lee and Al Harrington went a combined 9-30 for 24 points. They needed an offensive spark, and Nate gave it to them. But these guys will not be ice cold all the time. And unlike Nate, they contribute with defense and rebounding. So while I am happy as a Knicks fan that we stole a game from the Hawks, I'm afraid for the long term effects of Nate's reappearance.