Are you ready for some football? Are you ready for some fantasy football? After watching lawyers and other assorted blowhards on both sides try to steal the game we all love this last summer, it’s time to play real football. More than enough ink has been spent writing about them. Thankfully they can go crawl back into the cesspools they came from for the next decade. On with the show!
So, while the guys on the field prepare to beat the hell out of each other, starting with the last two Super Bowl champions meeting in Green Bay Thursday night and stretching through a double-header for Monday Night Football , I have sat and thought hard about who was going to win this weekend. Some of them just jumped out at me as no brainers. Others required more thought than that. The last few were gut shot picks. It’s a little more scientific than taping the games to a wall and throwing darts. So, without further ado, I present my Week 1 selections. Please don’t laugh too hard.
So, my fantasy football league is a pick’em confidence game. One (1) is the game I had the hardest time picking and 16 represents the gimme game of the week in my opinion. Home team is in CAPS.
GREEN BAY vs. New Orleans: This game represents a matchup of the last two teams to take home the Lombardi Trophy. It also has two teams that can light up the scoreboard like a pinball machine. Aaron Rodgers, the up and coming super star who finally stepped out of the shadows of Brett Favre against Drew Brees, the man who resurrected the Saints after Hurricane Katrina and brought a Championship to a city desperate for anything to cheer about. Scoring points isn’t going to be an issue. This game will come down to defense vs. defense. In the end, I went with the hometown Cheese heads. These two will likely see each other again in the Playoffs. That game could be a different result, but I saw what the D did to people last year. Pack 28, Saints 17. Confidence: 10
Atlanta vs. CHICAGO: Matty Ice returns to the field with his cadre of weapons to throw or hand the ball off to. He received a new toy in this draft, and though had a much shorter off-season, seems to have connected well with Julio Jones formerly of Alabama. As if opponents didn’t have enough problems keeping up with their receivers last season. They face an aging, decrepit, and disgruntled Bears defense that I’m not quite sure is even the third best in the division. Lance Briggs wants to get paid like he was part of the ’85 Bears D or get traded and the other cornerstone, Brian Urlacher is about as fragile as a Faberge egg. Oh, did I mention the Bears still have Jay Cutler as their QB. Remember him? He quit on them at the end of last season. Yeah, him. Atlanta easy 34-10. Confidence: 6
CLEVELAND vs. Cinci: Can we just anoint this the “Toilet Bowl” and get it over with? These two teams, even in week one are probably playing for the 2nd and 3rd picks in the draft behind Buffalo. This is one of those games that I’m not even sure Sunday Ticket will bother to air. Cleveland has a couple pieces in McCoy, Hillis, and Cribbs (though with the new kickoff rules, his effectiveness in putting points on the board have pretty much been negated). The Bengals, who are a complete mess thanks to their inept, dumbass of an owner, have a QB that so wants out he’s willing to leave $11 million on the table. Lemme repeat that. Carson Palmer so wants to be traded, he’s willing to retire/hold out and leave $11 million unclaimed. Chad Ochocinco is gone. TO is gone. Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski get to battle it out for which one of them gets to get sacked most this season. There are still receivers in Cinci (they weren’t lucky enough to follow Ochocinco out-of-town), but without a competent QB, it’s gonna be rough. Cleveland 17-14. Confidence: 11
KANSAS CITY vs. Buffalo: May god have mercy on the Bills’ souls. Matt Cassel and company come back reloaded after a season where they won the AFC West. The Bills get to take on the best team running the football from last season with over 160 yards a game. Try and stop that and you get to deal with Dwayne Bowe. There’s not much in Buffalo to get excited about this season. It’s a no brainer. KC big 34-7. Confidence: 16
Philadelphia vs. ST LOUIS: I think this will be a fun, offense-filled game between Mike Vick and Sam Bradford. Vick has his receivers and his legs, and last year Bradford showed that he was going to be the next really good to great QB in the league nearly taking the Rams from last place to the playoffs as a rookie. He is the real deal and I expect tons of improvement under his new coordinator Josh McDaniels (great OC/QB developer, shitty head coach). It just won’t happen in week 1. Too many weapons and a great D in Philly. Eagles 27-17. Confidence: 14
Detroit vs. TAMPA BAY: Detroit’s D is gonna be fun to watch this year, especially when Nick Fairley gets back into action. Between he and Ndamukong Suh, good luck. Even without Fairley, keeping Suh off your QB was tough work and Tampa is gonna have issues keeping Josh Freeman upright. If he can, they have a good shot to win. Detroit 21-17. Confidence: 2
Tennessee vs. JACKSONVILLE: Jacksonville decided to cut their starting QB, David Garrard, just a few days from the start of the season. That’s gonna go over well. On that alone, and the veteran presence of Matt Hasselback at QB in Tennessee to help mentor Jake Locker, Tennessee wins and wins easily 24-6. Confidence: 5
Pittsburgh vs. BALTIMORE: This was the hardest pick of the week. These teams just love beating the hell out of each other. Joe Flacco has shown he is a great QB. The Baltimore D is still, well, the Baltimore D. Their sole mission—make the opposing QB think about retirement. Big Ben is back and feeling good. He got married, which means for once his off-season, lockout included, was quiet. Not the same for James Harrison. I don’t think he’ll be getting a Christmas card for Roger Goodell this year. At the same time, his issues last season with the league and his talk this off-season, I believe a BIG season is to come from him. By a hair from Polamalu, I am taking the Steelers 17-14. Confidence: 1
HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis: No Peyton Manning, no chance in hell the Colts are going to be very good this season. After the news of his third neck surgery, second since the NFL draft hit, this team will be lucky to win 6 games this season. That isn’t a knock of Kerry Collins. It’s more on the fact that the entire offensive system is built around Manning. Houston has always been loaded offensively and they bring in one of the best defensive coordinators in Wade Phillips. Collins will be able to do a few things, but not close to enough. Texans make an early statement that the division is now theirs and win 30-10. Confidence: 9
ARIZONA vs. Carolina: Cam Newton can play the QB position and will be a hell of a player in this league. It just will take some time. Newton does have the likes of Steve Smith around to throw the ball to, so it isn’t like they’re totally bare. Arizona is a couple of seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Many of those pieces are still there and they may have finally found the right QB to lead them in Kevin Kolb. He is out from the shadows of Donovan McNabb and Mike Vick in Philly. He still has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and he now has to start living up to that monster contract he signed. A little more experience and speed in AZ. Birds over Cats 24-14. Confidence: 8
SAN DIEGO vs. Minnesota: Philip Rivers vs. Donovan McNabb. Sounds pretty good right there. Then you look under the marquee. There are actual supporting actors in San Diego in the likes of Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson. Hopefully Rivers’ shoulder will survive throwing it 50 times a game without a running game. McNabb has his own cast including Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian. McNabb is also looking to regain that form that took him to multiple NFC Championship games while in Philadelphia. He’ll get there, but I have to go with the team that’s been together forever, or so it seems to a guy living in Denver. Bolts 27-21. Confidence: 7
Seattle vs. SAN FRANCISCO: The best part of this game may be the renewal of a rivalry brought to the NFL from the Pac-10. No, not the players; the head coaches. Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh plain don’t like each other. It goes back to Harbaugh taking over at Stanford and not kowtowing to Carroll’s Trojans as had been the norm for the rest of the conference. Instead, Harbaugh lead Stanford to victories in two of their three meetings. Neither team is really all that awesome. Alex Smith is still the QB in the Bay Area. I swear he’s got naked photos of someone in the 49ers hierarchy to still have a job. Seattle has Tavaris Jackson who never got a fair shake in Minneapolis, but now is the clear starter and has a familiar face to throw the ball to in Sidney Rice. He has a pretty good receiving core otherwise and a running game. He should fare well. Seattle wins 24-14. Confidence: 4
NY Giants vs. WASHINGTON: The circus that was the Redskins last season has more than convinced me that it wasn’t the coach who made the QB when Mike Shanahan and John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls here in Denver. He doesn’t have a starting QB. He made a disgrace of himself last year with his fight with Albert Haynesworth in the media. He is on the hot seat. His owner spends money like toilet paper. It’s time to do something with it. Every year we’re told that Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat. Every year he comes prepared to play. No difference this season. He’s still got Eli Manning and he’s still got that defense. Giants in a laugher 28-6. Confidence: 12
New England vs. MIAMI: Bill Belichick hates losing. He also hates being embarrassed when he does. This was the case in New England’s loss at Detroit in the pre-season. You can expect that he will be looking to take out the frustration on that loss on someone. Sadly for the Dolphins, they’re first up on the schedule. Miami has a QB no one likes, not the fans, not the GM apparently since he did everything but take the Bronco training facility hostage to get Kyle Orton. If Chad Henne can get the ball to Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush, they might make some games interesting. NE 31-7. Confidence: 15
DENVER vs. Oakland: The last time the Raiders came into Mile High Stadium (you can shove your corporate sponsorship), they bitch slapped the Broncos to the tune of 59-14. While there are new players in that locker room, the key players from that game for Denver are back. And don’t think they’ve forgotten. They quit and quit convincingly on Josh McDaniels last year. From all indications, they’ve taken very well to John Fox and John Elway is clearly putting his stamp all over this roster. They have shored up the poorest
defenses in the league from a year ago. The Tim Tebow debate has been dispensed with after the pre-season in which he played like he’d never played football before. The Raiders fired the most consistent coach they’ve had since John Gruden lead them to the Super Bowl almost a decade ago. Can Jason Campbell keep up the run he had last season and go undefeated in the division? He’s got the running game with McFadden and Heyward-Bay to pass to. If they buy into the new coach Hue Jackson’s game, they may be ok. They LOVED playing for Tom Cable. Going homer here. Broncos win 31-14. Confidence: 13
Wish me luck!
Imagine my surprise when I turned on ESPN and the first thing I see on the ticker are the words “University of Miami”, “NCAA investigation”, “72 current and former player”, “convicted former booster”, and “Ponzi scheme” in one scroll. Actually, there was no surprise. We’ve already had, in no particular order, Ohio State, LSU, Auburn, North Carolina, USC, and Boise State, among others, visited by the NCAA since the BCS Championship game back in early January. The details of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster’s shenanigans with former and present players as
well as coaches and administrators takes the cake. Jim Tressel’s lies to cover up his star QB’s garage sale is absolutely nothing compared to what is coming out of Miami this week. By comparison, Tressel should be able to go to Columbus and demand his job back. If even just the parts that have been confirmed are true and nothing else, the penalties that should be levied against Miami should ensure that the school isn’t a viable football program till somewhere around 2020. If all of it is, and given what’s been confirmed so far, there’s nothing to say the rest isn’t, the ACC should be looking for a new school to join the conference. As I see it, the death of the University of Miami football program is nigh.
This story isn’t just about a convicted felon feeling betrayed by those he thought owed him something. Revenge is definitely part of this story. He says so himself “Some of those players—a lot of those players—we used to say we were a family. Well, who do you go to for help when you need it? You go to your family. Why the hell wouldn’t I go to them?” Shapiro felt a sense of entitlement given what he’d done for all these young men over the years. With so much of the Yahoo! Sports story independently verified as there is, he does have a right to feel a little betrayed and hellbent on revenge. Yahoo! Sports Investigative Reporter Charles Robinson was able to confirm much of Shapiro’s story through interviews with former players and coaches, as well as pictures, credit card receipts, and other documents provided to him by Shapiro and his attorney. He definitely did his homework before putting pen to the proverbial paper.
The most damning part of Shapiro’s story is that the same information he has given the NCAA and to Yahoo! Sports, he first gave to Federal Prosecutors. As part of his deal to walk away with only 20 years at Club Fed, he had to recount almost dollar by dollar where the money went. He gave them the same documents that Robinson went through and the NCAA is presently sorting through. So much as one lie would have ensured that he never sees the light of day again. That he’s presently serving just the 20 years tells me that he’s telling the truth. If the Feds are convinced his story is legit, what’s the NCAA gotta think?
The NCAA has not handed out a “death penalty” to a program since SMU in 1986 which wiped out the 1987 and 1988 seasons at the school. And really, has SMU even been heard from since? After that, the NCAA said it would not hand out any others due to the ripple effect it caused throughout all of college football. Some contend, it was the downfall of the Southwest Conference. They are re-thinking that stance. I am happy to see that NCAA President Mark Emmert has said he will leave all options on the table. This is not the first time Miami has been all over the NCAA’s radar. They have had off-field issues going back to the 1980s and issues of improper benefits to players, namely via one Luther Campbell, a member of the rap group 2 Live Crew. He rewarded players for doing such things as scoring touchdowns, making big hits, injuring players, etc. Players and others associated with the program in the 90s had their hands all over the Pell Grant cookie jar for over $200,000. This is on top of the more than $400,000 in other benefits provided to players. The NCAA whacked 30 scholarships from the school and took away one bowl game trip from them; several if you include the damage from fewer scholarships.
This scandal broke just a week after Emmert held a summit of athletic directors, college presidents and chancellors, as well as conference chairmen in an effort to re-write the NCAA rulebook. His basis—there is too much time being spent investigating misdemeanors, and worrying about being “…busy catching the jaywalkers as they walk into the bank while someone is taking the vault out the back” as Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe put it. It is time for the NCAA to stop worrying about the petty things like a text message checking up on a recruit or a telephone call. Those things, with the advent of computerized cell phone records will catch themselves. Time needn’t be spent pretending college athletics are Mayberry. It’s time to think of it as the Old West and clean it up accordingly.
The NCAA will employ its “willful violators” clause so that it will be able to investigate all of Shapiro’s allegations back to the beginning in 2002. They are now free to act on the entire sordid story of sex, money, gifts, and everything else that this story includes. The NCAA will both tell Miami that they are not above the law and give a nuclear bomb sized message to everyone else that the free-for-all in every sport the last few years is over. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 17 schools that play D1 football (I refuse to use the dumbass name Football Bowl Subdivision) have never been hit with a major violation by the NCAA since 1953 when those records began being kept. FYI, there are 120 D1 schools. It is pathetic, however, that it took the sports equivalent of a Danielle Steele novel to get to this point.
Ohio State had Terrelle Pryor and his merchandise for tattoos saga along with Jim Tressel’s cover up and subsequent termination. North Carolina had academic improprieties and improper benefits in its football program that lead to the termination of (former Miami coach during the Pell Grant scandal) Butch Davis. BCS National Champion Auburn is under fire for potential major recruiting violations including how Heisman Trophy winner and NFL overall #1 draft pick Cam Newton ended up in their laps. Three time and current NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun of Connecticut was suspended three games for recruiting violations. If you put all those violations together along with the issues at USC, they don’t even begin to match the depth of Miami’s hole. Miami has cash payments, gifts including jewelry, car rims, and trips. It has meals at some of Miami’s most exclusive restaurants. VIP access at clubs you find Hollywood A-listers frequenting. There were sex parties at hotels and then on Shapiro’s million and a half-dollar yacht involving prostitutes. It had Shapiro even paying for one of these women to have an abortion to help the player who got her pregnant. “I was doing him a favor. He might have wanted to keep the baby.” All this was given to players voluntarily by Shapiro and all the players had to do was call him up and ask. Shapiro also placed bounties of up to $5000 if players were to knock out players on the opposing team a la Luther Campbell. He was a game show host in a better suit.
I think what has me jumping up and down screaming about all this is the people who should have stopped it, knew about it. Yet they let it go on, undeterred. It was either done as a recruiting tool (Shapiro says he was able to steer kids to the school) or simply for the money. School President Donna Shalala attended last week’s NCAA summit in Indianapolis. When she took the Miami job in 2001, she promised to run a school where the athletics department, hard hit by scandals past, would be a beacon of cleanliness and compliance for all of college athletics to follow. Uhhhhh, oops? What the hell. You’ve already hit a single, double, and triple over the past 25 years with the NCAA. Why not swing for the fences this time, right? If there ever was a picture to prove that college athletics is all about the Benjamins, may I present to you the photo provided by Shapiro that shows
him with former basketball coach Frank Haith and Shalala at a fundraiser. In that photo, Shapiro’s speaking on a microphone addressing Haith and the other attendees. Off on the side is Donna Shalala drooling over a $50,000 check just handed to her. I’m guessing I just answered my earlier question didn’t I? Shapiro admits that a simple search by the school would have shut him down years before the Feds ever figured out what he was up to. “That’s the whole problem right there. Let’s not kid ourselves. The whole time I was out there rocking and rolling, they were just waiting for the big check to come. And you know what? If I wasn’t sitting in jail right now, they probably would have gotten it, too.”
This went on for the better part of ten years. Coaches and administrators in two sports were included in the evidence presented by Shapiro to both the Feds and the NCAA. The players acted more like they were on an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous than in school. Did they even bother to remember to go to class? Did they even have time given their social calendars? Now former players are trying to save the program. Players like Gino Torretta are blasting previous coaches Larry Coker and Randy Shannon as well as Shalala over this and how, as an alum, he’s disappointed that he may not get to see Miami play football again. Torretta blames the adults, or at least those that should have been acting like adults, for not doing their jobs protecting the student athletes asking “Why didn’t you ask: What kind of business are you in? Why do you want to give money to Miami when it isn’t your school? Those are simple questions.” They are. The zeros on the checks apparently made everyone stupid.
These former players have it right! The coaches are dealing with 18-21 year old young men who see piles of cash, naked women, big screen TVs, mansions, and anything else they could imagine. It’s what the Price is Right would look like on pay per view. It was on their watch. The school rakes in millions from their TV contracts, endorsements, and their affiliation with the ACC as part of the BCS. Second to the athletes, these are the things that needed protecting by the school’s athletic leaders. The former athletic director, Paul Dee, the same man who levied probation and other punishments upon USC over Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo as head of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, praised Shapiro for his commitment to the Miami program. If there was ever a proper definition for the phrase “the inmates are running the asylum” I think I just found it. Dee told USC at the time “High-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance.” Is it really that easy to be so prophetic, ironic, and hypocritical at the same time?
Yahoo! Sports took their time making sure they had verified as much of Shapiro’s story as they could before they went live with it. The NCAA has been looking into it since roughly March. Federal Prosecutors believed enough of the story that they allowed Shapiro’s 20 year deal to stand. This is a story of money, cars, yachts, hotels, prostitution, trips, mansions, and so many other salacious things that the NCAA’s decision should be simple. The pain will cross every part of the school. That the scandal hit the office of the President of the University of Miami, it probably should. She put money above everything, including quite possibly the future integrity and finances of the school’s academics. The NCAA should wipe South Beach with the carcass of the Miami football program. Mark Emmert’s summit and tough talk certainly haven’t been enough to get the message across.
Like anyone else watching this last weekend’s action at the PGA Championship in Atlanta, Tiger Woods was sitting likely at home in Florida asking himself “who the hell are these guys?” Off mic, I am sure Jim Nantz was doing the same thing. No one has heard of any of these players before last weekend. I am picturing them standing outside the clubhouse begging security to let them in. Yet, one of them ended up winning the most
prestigious tournament in all of golf. Tiger Woods, meanwhile, displayed for the world one of the biggest meltdowns in professional sports. His game this week couldn’t have looked any worse if he played his two rounds drunk. The look on Tiger’s face at points in his rounds looked like all he wanted was a hug. Along with finding that hug, he needs to find his game again.
Tiger is definitely healthier than we’ve seen him at any point in the last year or so. His leg looks good, he’s walking without a limp or the need to use his driver as a cane (it had to serve some purpose since he can’t find a fairway to save his life). Lord knows all the personal trials he’s been through the sordid details of mistress after mistress coming out of the shadows to say that at some point in time she’d slept with Tiger. We’ve seen the pictures and video from the scene of his Escalade meeting a fire hydrant and a tree. We all know the hell from which he has had to emerge. He could practically write the sequel to Dante’s Inferno at this point. We all know he took time off to deal with his personal demons and get those affairs settled. Now he can add physical health onto the list of completed items.
In all this, we’ve seen something I don’t think anyone has ever seen from Tiger. That would be humility. His recent transgressions and injuries have given him a new perspective on life and golf, I believe. He’s been better with the media. He’s had a different approach to his game. Even in his struggles, he appears to like the game more than he has in a long, long time. If he can get his game all working together—right now some days his iron play is great, others his driver cooperates, and others he actually gets along with his putter without the need of it ending up in a water hazard–he can not only enjoy the game, he can enjoy it returning to his dominating self. In the last 13 majors, there have been 13 different champions. No one person has been able to come along and say “I am the man. Come get some.”
What that will take is one more act of humility. I am sure that Sean Foley is a good swing coach. Good will not and should not cut it for Tiger Woods. He might be a more humble man than we saw in previous years. He is still a competitor. He still says he will not enter a tournament unless he believes he can win it. Sean Foley is good, Hank Haney and Butch Harmon are great. Tiger’s swing has golf balls going off on world tours. His putter is not cooperating. The difference is not his talent, but his confidence. There was just that extra something in his game under Harmon and Haney that made him an unbeatable, unstoppable force. Since Woods named Foley as his coach, he has won nothing. He has contended in nothing. The results under Haney and Harmon are unmistakable.
Under Butch Harmon, Woods won eight majors, including what are considered three of the most dominating major wins in the history of golf—1997 at the
Masters, a win by 12 strokes. 2000 at the US Open played at Pebble Beach, a win by 15 strokes. 2000 at the Open Championship played at St. Andrews, a win by 8 strokes. His swing was a thing of beauty. His putter rarely if ever failed him. Tiger’s largest issue recently has been his inability to hit the ball straight off the tee. When the ball is going anywhere and everywhere, it is virtually impossible to get back on track, to put yourself into a position where you’re putting for eagle or birdie or even par. Bogies have become the norm for Tiger and that’s not who he was or can be again. Under Harmon, Tiger’s driving accuracy in six years of tutelage was 68.7%. Hit the ball straight, win the tournament.
Hank Haney offered Tiger much of the same as Butch Harmon. It was a slightly different approach to the game, but the effects were similar. In reality, Tiger hit the height of his career under Harmon, but his winning ways under Haney were nothing to sneeze at. He won his other 6 majors under Haney’s watchful eye. None of those, however, were by more than three shots. He also was slightly more inconsistent hitting accurately with Haney than with Harmon, though many players would kill for the 57.8% number during their roughly seven years together. Still pretty damn good.
Tiger Woods’ game is with the majority of his golf balls—in the rough, woods, and the water. It doesn’t really matter which of these guys he goes and gets. He needs someone to completely disassemble whatever it is he calls a golf swing right now and start all over again. We all know we won’t be seeing him between now and next season, probably sometime right before the Masters in April. There is an advantage with either of them and that is familiarity. They already know who they’re working with. They already know how he is wired. They know the tricks to get into his head. His swing
issues are as much mental, hey try going through what he just did and think your game will be fine, and they can deal with those just as well. Haney was coaching Tiger upon the death of his father in 2006. Picture the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil on a golf course; that was Woods upon his return to play across two continents to end the season.
Tiger has done much to repair his image, his personality, and almost every part of his life following the bottom falling out Thanksgiving 2009. Seeing him play the last two weeks was painful. His game is in need of total reconstruction surgery. That look was apparent on Tiger’s face. His largest act of humility still awaits him this off-season—to go get that hug he needs from Hank or Butch.
I need to get this out of my system so I can enjoy all the great sports (hello NFL football!) the rest of this week brings, including the PGA Championship being played down in Atlanta. Stevie Williams needs to carry the bags, tell Adam Scott how far from the hole he is, and suggest a club to play. He needs to stop talking to the media. David Feherty should be suspended from both CBS and the Golf Channel for the remainder of the PGA season for giving us a soap opera Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, or the rest of us needed or wanted.
Adam Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational, not you Stevie Williams. You are there for to help Adam Scott decide which club to use, tell him where he is in relation to the hole, warn him of any dangers, suggest shots, offer moral support, and hand him a bottle of water when he needs it. That’s it. You don’t swing the club; you don’t make the final call on how a hole will be played. The check doesn’t get written to you. You didn’t make that masterful putt from 30 feet away. You didn’t blast it 300 yards down the middle of the fairway. You were masterful at handing Adam Scott the club he asked for and answering when he asked for a distance. You didn’t do anything earth shattering. Adam Scott did. His name is the one on the trophy.
I know that David Feherty asked you for an interview. You could have politely declined the request and deferred to Adam. He was, after all, the man who did win the tournament and should have the spotlight. Your feud with Tiger over when and how you were fired was of little consequence. Nearly every person in America can point to a time in their lives where they were fired from a job. Have you seen the economy and unempoloyment rate lately? No one cares. I don’t give a damn whether you were fired over the phone, in person, or by singing telegram. You were fired. The end. Instead of taking your lumps and allowing your new guy’s play to do the talking for the week, you decided to completely pull the rug from under Adam Scott and his masterful win.
“There were a lot of expectations today. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little nervous. The people here this week have been absolutely unbelievable. And all the people back in New Zealand, including my family. It’s been the greatest week of my life. I’ve been caddying for 33 years and that’s the best week of my life…and I’m not joking.”
I have watched you live and on SportsCenter do some stupid things. I’ve seen you take cameras from cameramen doing their jobs. I’ve seen you get
into it with the gallery. This far and away takes the cake. Hell, it takes the rest of the bakery with it. There are fans, photographers, players, caddies, reporters, and PGA officials who all probably wanted a piece of you before last weekend. I think Sunday evening they’d have all stepped aside and let Adam Scott have the first pound of flesh. That he didn’t fire you on national television and is still going to pay you, you should go buy yourself a lottery ticket. There is only one person on the planet that was probably happy to see you act like you did and that was your previous employer, Tiger Woods. When he is asked, and he will be, he should have absolutely every liberty in the world to say “That was the reason I did what I did. His ego has gotten the better of him.”
Didn’t you, shortly after Tiger axed you say on New Zealand TV “You could say that I’ve wasted the last two years of my life…” Waste? Waste what? It’s not like Tiger not playing left you destitute on the street. In the dozen years you were with Woods, he earned more than $82 million in earnings on the golf course. At 10%, that’s $8.2 million into your pocket. Wasted? Really? You should be kissing the ground the man walks on. Just be glad you get to wear tennis shoes and not golf spikes. Those would REALLY hurt for all the time you’ve spent putting them in your mouth of late.
This could have been ended by you very quickly. When David Feherty shoved a microphone half way down your throat, you could have been your normal charming self and told him where to go, causing even the CBS censors to blush or you could have politely told him “You know, David. I am happy to help in this win, but you really should be over talking to Adam. He’s the man who won this golf tournament.” Over. Done. Kaput.
Speaking of David Feherty, he deserves some of the blame for the circus of this week. He made the decision to go speak with Stevie Williams, even though the only interview he should have requested (and did, and received) was with champion Adam Scott. He’s been around the game long enough. He was well aware that anything dealing with Tiger Woods would blow up. He was looking for a story; something juicy and gossipy to have something for the talk circuit leading up to the PGA Championship. It was completely uncalled for. Scott’s win and Tiger’s ineffectiveness were more than sufficient cooler talk.
And yes, I am serious. David Feherty was the main reason that Adam Scott wasn’t answering questions about his play or how he felt about the win or whether he felt the win gave him momentum heading into Atlanta this week, he spent most of the time talking about the most over-hyped, over
valued caddy in golf. This was his 8th win on Tour, and second biggest next to winning the 2004 Players Championship. He won by four shots, and his game was so smooth and had such confidence he could have played in his sleep. That should have been the things he spent his time talking about. David Feherty was a large part of why it was the last thing on everyone’s mind.
Adam Scott was denied his moment in the spotlight on one of the larger, more hallowed tournaments on the PGA calendar. David Feherty made him an afterthought. No caddy should ever be made larger than the golfer he works for. David Feherty was knocked down the first domino Sunday evening. He should have to pay for it. He knows better. He’s been a golf reporter forever now. He should sit the remainder of the season. Let someone who will respect the game have the interviews and make the calls he makes from the fairways and at the end of rounds.
Sunday evening was a disaster in every sense of the word. The best player last week won, don’t get me wrong. It would have been nice if the media and his caddy, for that matter, were paying attention to that. Tiger Woods and his trials, tribulations, and everything else aren’t news; the next generation of golfers taking the game by storm is. These kids haven’t taken crap from anyone else and they’re not about to start taking it from any caddy. If there were any doubt, the rule remains–caddies are seen, never heard.
I am having a hard time understanding why there is a so-called “controversy” here in Denver regarding who will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos this season. There’s a question? Really? No there isn’t. Who gives the Broncos the best shot at winning football games? That would be Kyle Orton. Emotions aside, Orton is the answer, always was the answer, and unless he gets hurt, will be the answer for this season. Veterans win games
in the NFL. They’ve been there, they’ve seen it, they’ve done it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not adding to the bon fire Merril Hoge began via his Twitter account and SportsCenter appearance last week. Tim Tebow doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment. He is an intelligent, hard-working, athletic leader who will enjoy success in the NFL if he continues to put in the work. What other 23-year-old has published his memoirs? He’s got it all together. He’ll be fine. Right now, however, the Broncos best chance of winning games and seeing the playoffs is with Kyle Orton under center.
The idea of the NFL is to put the best players on the field who give the team the best chance of winning football games, unless you’re the Oakland Raiders and then you just place an ad on Craigslist and hope for the best. That is what training camp is about. It’s about evaluating talent and skill. With that in mind, Tim Tebow has work to do. Work that Kyle Orton has already put in. Some of that’s due to Orton just being older, wiser, and being in the league longer, some on the lockout that kept Tim from being able to work with the coaches who are in the best position to teach him and help him excel at the things he needs to, and some of it being to how Tim played at the University of Florida. It is his success at Florida and his work ethic that will make him a good quarterback in the years to come.
Emotions have been running high here in Denver since the lock out ended. Most Bronco fans want Tebow. Tim has a lot going for him; things that fans are clamoring for and have been since one John Elwaytook his Lomardi Trophy and rode off into the sunset more than a decade ago. Tim displays leadership, intelligence, work ethic, athletic ability, decent arm, and quick legs that make him hard to catch once he takes off down the
field. He did have six rushing touchdowns last season.He’s at practice before the coaches, and we all know NFL coaches live in their offices once training camp kicks off. Everyone who meets him is drawn to him. Think back to that now famous speech he gave following a loss to Mississippi in September 2008. He took that pledge to two BCS National Championships. He came into the NFL fully entrenched in that pledge. It is who he is. It is what he believes in. It will be what propels him to success. It’s the creed he lives by and will push his Bronco teammates to live and play by. More so, he gets the game. He understands that a hell of a lot is expected out of the quarterback position in the NFL. That very speech at Florida makes the case. He’s just not quite there yet. He showed glimpses of it in his three game audition last season, but it also showed that work remains and that’s why Orton is the answer right now.
I am watching two completely opposite forces in action at play here–the fans’ emotional attachment to Tebow vs. the Broncos’ coaching and management staffs’ need to do their jobs of putting the best team on the field. Fans love a winner. Fans love a sports star who does things the right way–works hard, stays out of trouble, grew up with the life lessons that Tebow has had. It’s a hard thing for management to overcome. I applaud John Elway and John Fox for not letting any of that cloud their judgement. If the entire debate came down to leadership, likability, discipline, and work ethic, the Broncos should just go right on ahead and cut Orton today. The fans can’t see past their current ass-kissing to see that there is far more involved than that. Tebow’s mechanics need work, especially from under center. He needs work making the reads down field as well as getting the ball there with accuracy. He was less than a 50% passer last year while Orton was nearly a 60% one. In college, Tebow worked mainly from shot-gun formations and if the pass wasn’t there immediately, he took off. NFL offenses don’t run that way. They are far too complex and intricate and take more than the 3.5 seconds Tebow let pass before he took off. It takes making the reads down the field and trusting that your offensive line will hold up long enough to make them and get rid of the ball. It takes learning to quickly read defenses and potentially changing the play before the snap if necessary. These are all things that Kyle Orton can do and do very well. Tim will get it in time, but not before week 1 of this season.
If people are still not convinced, and I doubt the ardent Tebow fans aren’t. For you, I am sorry and I still hope that you will be Broncos fans when they win games with Orton at the helm. In fact I will guarantee that you will be the first ones standing up and cheering when they win. I am a numbers guy. I don’t hold a business degree for nothing, you know. For one thing, they don’t lie. Orton played 13 games last season while Tebow started the final three following the “don’t let the door hit ya in the ass” firing of Josh McDaniels. Stretching each’s stats to a full 16 game season, I rest my case:
2010: 361 comps 613 att (58.8%) 4496 yards 25 TDs 11 INTs 87.5 rating
2010: 213 comps 432 att (49.4%) 3472 yards 21 TDs 16 INTs 77.7 rating
A shade under 4500 yards and close to 60% passing with a better than 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio is far superior to less than 50% passing with less than 3500 yards and nearly equal numbers when it comes to touchdown to interception ratio. Case closed. Once Tebow fixes those things in his game that need to be fixed, those numbers will improve. Again, the NFL is “win now”. The numbers clearly indicate who’ll do that more consistently.
Like I said, this isn’t even a controversy. The bigger problem the Broncos have to answer are on the other side of the ball. It isn’t who will be throwing it for them, but who’ll be stopping the other guy from throwing it. The Broncos could put up points last season. That wasn’t the big deal. The big deal was they couldn’t stop anyone else from scoring on them. Some weeks looked like an arena league score. They have addressed their needs defensively taking Von Miller with the #2 overall pick in the draft and have a key piece returning healthy to the lineup in QB killer Elvis Dumervil. Word from camp is that both have been virtually unblockable. The Broncos didn’t need to make a splashy play in free agency, and they didn’t other than addressing a need in bringing in Willis McGahee.
One thing I will give Tim credit for is his handling of all the criticism heaped on him recently, notably the harsh and unwarranted words of ESPN analyst Merril Hoge. Merril went to his Twitter account and said “It’s embarrassing to think the broncos could win with tebow.” He continued and expanded on his post later on SportsCenter adding “He is awful as far as his accuracy goes and what’s kind of even more disturbing, he’s probably worse moving and running around with the football and throwing than he is from the pocket.” First of all, Hoge admits his analysis (I thought analysis was supposed to be built on fact and not fiction) is based on video from last season. While Tim admittedly has taken a little bit of a step backwards this season, much of that can be attributed to not being there working with the coaches best trained to get him NFL ready. What did he expect from a rookie–Joe Montana? John Elway? Noe Namath? You played running back, dude. Go grade them and leave the quarterbacks to the guys that actually played the position. Tebow won’t be a bust. He needs time to develop the rest of the skillset he needs. He has the tools to get there and do it, now he has the people around him to finish the job.
Rational thought will always beat out emotion. Emotion pushes people to be rash and not think thinks through. It doesn’t take statistics or talent into account. People don’t want to think about the NFL being a business first. People want wins and they want the guys they like. I’m sorry, but you sometimes don’t get what you want, fans. Yes, they relate to Tebow more than they do Orton. Tebow is there front and center. Kyle goes about his work in relative obscurity, but gets results. John Elway is a hall of fame quarterback. John Fox is a long time coach in the league. They understand that the fans want Tim Tebow. They also understand is that their only concern is to produce wins. I will put money that if they were to start Tim Tebow right now, before he is totally polished, and the team goes 3-13 or 4-12, those same fans clamoring for Tim will be the same ones demanding Elway and Fox’s heads on platters. In other words, the fans need to leave the choices to those in the best position to make them.
This is only a controversy in the minds of the fans who aren’t getting what they want. That’s life; we don’t always get what we want. Tim Tebow has come to accept that in being pushed to the back up role and now it’s the fans’ turn to learn this valuable life lesson.The NFL can be a harsh place. It’s a privileged place to be. The fans need to take their emotions and direct them in a way that will be helpful to the team they support. They need to show up at games and cheer and be loud and make things as miserable as possible for the opposition. They need to leave the business side of the game to the leaders who get paid to make the tough and right calls. The sooner the fans come to realize this, the sooner they’ll also see that there was never a controversy and the answer is just as easy as I do.
Plaxico Burress has said all the right things, and by all accounts done all the right things since getting out of prison after shooting himself outside a New York night club. Now, he is looking to put that episode of his life behind him and move on with his football career. He does have one person in the NFL he can turn to for advice, someone who has been down a similar path in the recent past. Michael Vick came out of prison after his incarceration for running a dog fighting ring and has made a successful return to the NFL. He has also done everything he can to show his remorse by taking up causes that promote animal welfare and adoption. He is speaking to children and other groups about his mistakes and what he has learned and from them. Plax has talked a lot about seeing all those positive things Michael Vick has done in Philadelphia and how he’d like to model himself after that.
“He’s been a good friend of mine for a long time. For him to come back at that elite level, it just shows a lot about him and his driveand his makeup. I’m just happy for him, and if it wasn’t for maybe him going through what he went through, maybe I wouldn’t be here today.” — Plaxico Burress on Philadelphia QB Michael Vick
I have a big problem with him using Mike Vick as an example. If he is going to that, the first thing he needed to do after he got out was to pick up the phone and sit down and talk with him–a loooooooong talk. I look at it like this: Vick went to Philadelphia, a team with order, respect, discipline, and strong coaching. Plax’s team of choice? The New York Jets, the antithesis of the Eagles. He made his decision after sitting down with both the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. He was also scheduled to meet with the San Francisco 49ers who just hired former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a coach that runs a clean, well-oiled, disciplined program. He had the chance to go to a team of Phily’s caliber. He could have gone back to Pittsburgh or to the New York Giants. He has won with both teams. Instead he chose a team that is more reality series hot air than Super Bowl contender.
Instead of heading to play for a coach with a Super Bowl pedigree, he chose to play for Rex Ryan, a coach that comes to press conferences in
costumes, makes guarantees of winning the Super Bowl every year, and based on the HBO series Hard Knocks, says “fuck” more often than the entire cast did in a season of The Sopranos. He is a coach that has verbally sparred with the most successful franchise in the NFL, maybe in all of sports, over the last 20 years, the New England Patriots. He has trash talked quarterback Tom Brady, New England’s three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Super Bowl MVP, questioning his work ethic. Rex’s bark is truly worse than his bite. He can’t even lead his team to one Super Bowl. If he’s going to question anyone’s work ethic, he should start with his own. If he didn’t have to, he wouldn’t have needed to state: “We have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us.” Has anyone even heard Tom Coughlin or Mike Tomlin speak since training camp opened? I think Vick would have told him to avoid a team like the Jets. He needs a place where he can go to work, practice hard, go about the business of preparing for the season without a three-ring circus going on just off the field each and every day.
Instead, he could have gone and played for Coughlin. A coach he may not have gotten along with in the past. In fact, the two were near divorce when Plax went to jail, but they did win a Super Bowl together. He knows the system. He knows the players. He and Eli Manning teamed up 244 times for 3681 yards and 33 touchdowns. Did I mention the Super Bowl win? If he was serious about changing his ways, he would sit down and hash out his differences with the coach. He also talked with the team that drafted him in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney family runs a fairly tight ship. There is a reputation of honor, of winning, of championships that has been established through decades of good play, hard work, and great coaching. Players are given some latitude, but they understand the expectations that go along with wearing the black and gold. It is a place where you go, work hard, play for your teammates, and don’t let things off the field control your emotions. These are the kinds of situations that someone emerging from jail needs. That was and continues to be a big part of Michael Vick’s success and resurgence in Philly. There are rules, there are restrictions and expectations. You’re expected to show up, work hard, learn your job, and prepare for each and every game as though it were the Super Bowl. You don’t go to the circus. No matter how much you try to ignore it, you are bound to become part of it, especially when your coach is the NFL’s equivalent to PT Barnum.
Michael Vick went to Philadelphia, a team loaded with veteran leadership on both sides of the ball. Players who commanded the controlled
the locker room. It can now be said that when others come into the fold, he is one of those veterans helping the new guys get acclimated. If Plax had followed the Vick Plan, he would have gone to one of a pair of quarterbacks who are both widely accepted as the leaders of their teams, veterans, and have gone a combined three for four in the Super Bowl. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger know what they’re doing and they go in everyday to prepare themselves and their teammates physically and mentally to play each and every game. Instead he chose to catch passes from Mark Sanchez, a quarterback that, with weapons like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and LaDanian Tomlinson, couldn’t even reach the big game. He is playing with a quarterback that has trouble taking his team down the field and consistently scoring. The differences between the three are very telling…
2010: 339 comps 539 att 4002 yards 31 TDs 25 INTs 85.3 QB rating
Career: 1932 comps 3332 att 22646 yards 156 TDs 113 INTs 80.2 QB rating (7 seasons; 1 SB win, 1 appearance)
2010: 240 comps 389 att 3200 yards 17 TDs 5 INTs 97.0 QB rating
Career: 1766 comps 2800 att 22502 yards 144 TDs 86 INTs 92.5 QB rating (7 seasons; 2 SB wins, 3 appearances)
Those are the stats of the stars and leaders that Plax could have played with. In choosing the Jets, he chose to go to a place with an unproven quarterback that appears to lack the leadership to get his team to the Super Bowl. His stats don’t even compare to the other two…
2010: 278 comp 507 att 3291 yards 17 YDs 13 INTs 75.3 rating
Career: 474 comp 871 att 5735 yards 29 TDs 33 INTs 70.2 rating (2 seasons, 0 SB wins, 0 appearances)
Plaxico has been all about doing the right thing since he got out of jail. The problem is, he hasn’t. He is trying to say and do those things while wearing Jets green. In those colors, there will come a time when the pressure and the emotions of his teammates and Rex will be too much to overcome. Those are colors that give players the liberty to say whatever the hell they want whenever they want. They provoke their opponents. They make grand guarantees. Like Bernie Madoff, they write checks they can’t cash. Vick has listened to Andy Reid’s opinion and his teaching and it has worked very well. Plaxico, if he listens to Rex Ryan, will be in a lot more trouble than he needs to be in. There is no leadership on that team. No one to stand up and lead Plaxico down the path to redemption. Being with the right people people is just as important as saying the right things to the media.
Plaxico needs stability, discipline, strong coaching, and teammates willing to help keep him on the straight and narrow. He will not get that from the Jets and Rex Ryan. That goes against everything Rex believes and stands for. He’s more like that parent who wants to be their teenager’s best friend instead of a parent. He showed up at training camp sporting a tattoo down his leg. No way Coughlin or Tomlin do that. No even Andy Reid would do that, either. None of these men care about being liked. They’re there to coach and win football games to the best of their abilities. That’s how you win respect in the league–win Super Bowls, not talk about it. These are the men that Plaxico needs to surround himself with. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that’s what Plax has heaped to Mike Vick since his release, he would have signed with one of the other teams he talked to. Actions speak louder than any words ever will. Plax’s actions indicate, maybe he hasn’t learned as much as everyone believes he has.
I am, like most people, happy to see the NFL owners and players come around and figure things out and make a deal to end the lockout. I didn’t want to spend the next four months watching the World Domino Championships or synchronized swimming. It’s hard to build fantasy lineups for those events. It was good to see everyone hugging it out at the end and saying all the right things and acting like this was truly the work of all sides willing to work together for the better good. They said they did it because they all care about us, the fans.
(Cue the screeching car brakes) Wait, what? I had to go back and listen to the press conference between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith and everyone else who spoke. “Football is back!” Goodell exclaimed. The sport is back, people are flocking to buy tickets and go watch training camp to see who signed where. It’s everything that the NFL could have asked for. That includes getting the fans back hook, line, and sinker. With everyone looking so happy, the NFL has made it appear as if everything is normal again. It hardly feels that way to me. I must be in the minority, but as a fan, I’m not feeling any better. I don’t feel the same excitement I did before. I’m not as enthusiastic as I was before. I don’t think any fan should be. The rich got richer and the fans got nothing. Eagles fans have special permission to party a little bit after hitting the free agency jackpot, but just a little bit.
The players got their money. The owners got their money. The networks that air the NFL got their games and money back. The golden goose is alive and well. What exactly did the fans get? A sack of deflated footballs. Sure we get to watch the games, go to the games, and spend money at the games. When this deal was put together and the fans put through hell, we were beyond the last thing on their minds. A couple of teams lowered ticket prices and a total of half at least left prices alone. Those two teams, Tampa and San Diego, had a combined 11 TV blackouts last year for failing to sell out their home games. I doubt the drop was out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re still forcing us to pay high prices. Remember, 18 teams raised prices going into last season. Since 2005, the average ticket price is up 30% since 2005 to $76.47 a ticket. Wow, they’re really thinking about us. On the bright side, DirecTV is now including its NFL Sunday Ticket “free”, but that’s only if you pay them for any package not called “basic”. A great deal—for DirecTV.
Fans were interviewed throughout this mess and they all said they were disgusted; disgusted with the players, disgusted with the owners. Fans were angry that millionaires and billionaires couldn’t agree over money, something both sides already have way too much of. The fans weren’t in the debate when the sides were sitting at the table arguing or in the media hurling insults at one another. It was all greed. The players wanted half the money. The owners wanted more than half the money. The players wanted this. The owners wanted that. It’s too bad that disgust hasn’t manifested itself into any action now that the lockout is over. It would be nice to see these people going to watch training camps protesting. It would be nice if season ticket holders renewing their packages argued for discounts. The league has $9 billion to split. The fans should get something out of it.
Teams have been offering things like free parking and free admission to training camps. Are you kidding me?! “We’re talkin’ about practice!.”
That’s not what packs stadiums, sports bars, and gets people all excited about fantasy football and whatever else they do. Practices aren’t what people care about. They care about the games. Where are the deals for those, Mr. Goodell? Where are the lower ticket prices in all markets? Where are the concessions to the fans? You made them with the players to get this deal done. Remember, no matter how much the networks and the sponsors and everyone else pay you, if not for the fans, you would all have nothing. The fans made the league into the behemoth it is. It wasn’t the stars, or any owner or the commissioner. It was the fans. We were the ones that paid the prices you charged for tickets even when you raised them year after year after year. We were the ones buying the hats, the jerseys, and the t-shirts. We were the ones that voted to increase our taxes to help pay for your new stadiums; stadiums you said would make the game experience even better for us, bring additional revenue to the market you play in, and make the team more competitive because the great players would want to come play for you in your state-of-the-art facilities. We, the fans, have given you everything you wanted. In the end, all we have gotten is screwed.
We deserve better than just a “Football is back” cheer. We have bent over backwards to help the league succeed. Anymore and we’d be human Slinkys. I wish more fans would be angry. I wish they would show their anger and not buy tickets, not buy souvenirs, not play fantasy football, not watch games on TV. I know I am asking too much. People are just happy the games are back. Their falls and winters revolve around a game they love too much to quit. People are hurting for jobs just to make ends meet and these already richer than imaginable crybabies are worried about how to split $9 billion among themselves. Why aren’t more people screaming about this? I feel like people should be more upset, yet ticket sales were up something like 22% in the secondary buying markets such as stubhub.com as soon as the lockout ended. They’ve done nothing to help the fan.
If one executive or player came out and said it was always about the money, admits the truth, I can live with that. I wrote in another piece that fans aren’t stupid; they’re savvier than most people make them out to be. We roll our eyes and laugh when Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, or Kevin Mawae stand before a microphone and state that they had to figure these things out to make the game bigger and stronger for the fans. We know better. We know it is all built on greed. I’d like for one of them to come forward and at least be honest about it. We’ve given them so much, we deserve at least that much back.
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