Potential basketball playing tight ends

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks earlier this past week. The storyline for Seattle is that Graham makes them the odds on favorite in the NFC. For the Saints, it’s time to rebuild now that they’ve gotten rid of Drew Brees’ most effective pass-catching threat.

With much less fanfare, Julius Thomas signed as a free agent in Jacksonville. My question: are these guys that difficult to replace? Both were undervalued — if people knew Graham was going to be this exceptional, he probably would not have lasted until the third round; Julius Thomas was a fourth round pick.

What they have in common, along with Antonio Gates, is that they all played college basketball. Going back to Tony Gonzalez, the history of basketball tight ends is really strong. I can’t remember it ever not working out.

I did a quick perusal of college basketball rosters. I was looking for guys between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-9 who were solidly built, athletic and probably not on the NBA radar. Honestly, I don’t know if 6-foot-9 would be too tall for some reason but I have some of those guys.

Branden Dawson — Michigan State — 6-6, 225 pounds — SR

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I think 225 pounds might be a little light; I would check that scale. Regardless this guy is a monster and he can jump. I bet he’s fast enough too.

Treveon Graham — VCU — 6-6, 225 — SR

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The Saints draft Treveon they can probably keep all those Jimmy Graham jerseys they have lying around. This is the type of guy that is perfect. He’s playing high level college on a team that requires him to do a lot athletically — they press constantly. But, he might not be quite good enough to play in the NBA. Definitely a hard-nosed guy too.

Darius Carter — Wichita State — 6-7, 245 — SR

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Classic case where a smaller school guy is a little undersized at his position but for an NFL tight end he would be huge. He’s a good leaper, which is becoming more and more important for a tight end.

Coreontae DeBerry — Cincinatti — 6-9, 275 — JR

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I think this guy used to play football. To show how athletic he is, he’s a big shot blocker at 6-9. I don’t know if him being that tall is a problem, but good luck pushing him around at 275 pounds. Now, you might want to wait a year because he’s a junior. Side note, he has an awesome name.

Nnamdi Amilo — UCONN — 6-3, 225 — JR

nnamdi_amilo

Look at how built this guy is. Athleticism might be questionable because he walked onto the team after playing intramurals; actually I change my mind, that’s a plus because this isn’t a mid major — UCONN won the title last year. He has to be an incredible athlete to be able to do that. And you know with that back story that he won’t get a big head.

Thomas Gipson — Kansas State — 6-7, 265 — SR

Thomas Gipson

This is the one guy who I question whether he’s fast enough. If he is, he’s basically the exact same size as Jimmy Graham. Now, Gipson’s weight has fluctuated. You might want to just convince him to bulk up to 300 and play him at tackle; he has quick feet, but he’s not the explosive leaper as some of the other guys on this list.

Joe Thomas — Miami — 6-7, 245 — already graduated

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You already went to the well once with Jimmy Graham and this guy is a tank. Plus it would make for confusing NFL conversations because of all-pro Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

JayVaughn Pinkston — Villanova — 6-7, 235 — SR

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Justin Anderson — Virginia — 6-6, 228 — JR

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Both of these guys are athletic enough and, I think, swol enough to work. The problem is that it would make sense for both guys to get drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Anderson is slotted for late first round in this mock draft.

Rico Gathers — Baylor — 6-8, 275 — JR

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People are already speculating that he might be bound for the NFL. He apparently doesn’t like this talk; he’s leading the nation in rebounding, so I understand. But, I’ll put it this way — the ceiling for his NBA future would be Kenneth Faried, who is a bit of a specialist anyway. He’s probably projecting more like Reggie Evans, who can’t stay on the court because of flaws in his game. His ceiling as an NFL tight end is the best in the league.

Cliff Alexander — Kansas — 6-8, 240 — FR

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That same mock draft still has Alexander as a late round pick in the first round. I’m not buying that though. He might be a steal in the second round but I would really want him to go back to school, mainly because he’s a power forward, he’s a little undersized and he doesn’t seem to understand how to play. I don’t know how the NFL’s age thing works with a guy who has NCAA trouble in basketball but this would be a chance to steal an otherworldly athlete.

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Fixes for College basketball

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I watched a bunch of college basketball on Saturday and I saw quite a few games with final scores in the 50s. It’s hard for me to believe but teams in the ’90s used to score 100 regularly. Once teams started playing quality opponents regularly this season I can’t think of anybody outside of Kentucky that has scored 100 points much less both teams in the same game.

This is an offense problem and a pace of play problem. A lot of people blame this on the belief that players are less skilled because they don’t stay in school as long. I don’t think that is accurate; if it was, would Kentucky be rampaging through their regular season schedule right now?

I believe a couple of rule changes would rectify these problems:

1. 28 Second Shot Clock

Thirty-five seconds is too damn long. San Diego State yesterday waited till the end of the clock to get a shot up all game against Boise State. It would be one thing if every team was like Wisconsin and got a good shot up, but most of the time it was “Crap there are 5 seconds left on the clock, I’m going to hoist up a wild three that will carom off the back board.” Shave off 7 seconds and I think it will encourage players to shoot faster.

2. Defensive 3 seconds

Teams just pack the paint all day long in college. I would do the defensive 3 seconds just like the NBA: it’s a free throw and the ball. You don’t call it all the time but often enough to keep people honest. The offense of most teams at this point is drives and threes. Making driving a little easier would help the other.

3. Three timeouts per half total

The last 2 minutes of a college basketball game are agonizing with timeouts and clock reviews. At this point Pandora is out of the box with reviews, but we can limit all these timeouts. I would add that coaches who don’t use a timeout in the first half get an extra one in the second half.

4. Fewer games

Teams are playing 12 and 13 non-conference games. Cut that number in half. The first game of the college basketball season doesn’t start until football conference championship games are over; that was the second week in December this past year. Trust me, no casual fans are paying attention before then. I think conference tournaments are kind cool, but in the monster conferences is there a reason to have everybody play each other if there an end of season tournament? I think fewer games helps keep people fresh and would maybe increase offense.

5. Realign conferences

At this point, everyone understands that college football rules the roost for money and prestige in college sports, but why let football screw up all of these rivalries in basketball? First, put the band back together in the Big East. No Big East fan I ever met wanted that conference to disband when it was time for basketball (Boston College goes back to the Big East). Mizzou and Texas A&M go back to the Big 12 and Maryland goes back to the ACC (although Louisville makes sense in the ACC).

For college basketball, have the conferences make sense geographically — again I think this difference in travel will make players less tired and hopefully more offensively fruitful. SMU was meeting UCONN today for the fifth time in the history of both schools and UCONN had never won. The appropriate response to that factoid is “Who gives a crap?” or “Why the Hell are SMU and UCONN?” playing each other again?”

Death to the big 3 model

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I irrationally hate the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s weird because I was definitely part of the club last summer that wanted LeBron to go back home, in part because the good people of Cleveland deserve a championship. Logically I still feel that way, but I hated watching them in the early part of the year — the way Blatt and coach LeBron have used Kevin Love is still frustrating and I think that is carrying over to the Mosgov era.

I found myself rooting hard for Golden State in the game on Thursday and then LeBron went apes**** in the third quarter to allow the Cavs to pull away. Even though the Cavs are entertaining now, I’m going to root against them all playoffs. What I dislike is the way the Cavs were assembled — they were atrocious every season after LeBron left, lucked their way into three number one picks and only got two right but still convinced LeBron to come back and form a new big three.

Nothing would put the nail in the coffin of the big three era like a Golden State and Atlanta finals this year. Actually, any team in the west besides the Thunder would drive that point home.

Kevin Durant is my boy; I’ve loved his game since college. Westbrook, because I can’t ignore his amazing play, is growing on me. Sam Presti also put the Thunder together the right way — he got all of his top picks right, let the team grow and has assembled a pretty good supporting cast now: Steven Adams, Enes Canter, DJ Augustin and Kyle Singler (although I still dislike Singler and Josh McRoberts from their days at Duke; Oddly enough, I let that go for Kansas guys but it lingers for Duke white guys).

But if the Thunder are able to vault themselves out of the 8th or 7th seed, it tells the whole league — “You know what, everybody was right, you need at least one superstar.”

Atlanta, Golden State, Memphis, Washington, Toronto, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Portland and The Clippers are all assembled as teams not a big three and scrubs. Yes obviously Dirk and Duncan are lasting superstars, Curry and Thompson are amazing, and CP3 and Blake are just at the tail end of their prime together, but the narrative has never been — with any of those guys — this guy or tandem will carry you to a title without any help.

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This all relates to the tankapalooza going on in Philadelphia — the league’s most egregious but not only case of front-office designed tanking. Philly GM Sam Hinkie just traded his best player, Michael Carter Williams, for the Laker’s draft pick he is hoping will fall just outside of the top five. The fly in the ointment is that the Lakeshow are also aggressively tanking. So are the Knicks and kind of Boston. Hinkie also gave away KJ McDaniels, who people tend to like.

As a fan, I agree with what Hinkie is doing. There is a model throughout sports that shows that one of the best ways to build a title contender is to suffer a few years of awful. The Tigers in the early 2000s and recently the Royals have shown that this works. However, in baseball, you can easily recognize that teams are waiting for their young players to come around. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs are on the precipice of those young pedigreed guys making an impact.

That has not been the case for the Sixers. Everybody thought MCW was a piece of the future and then they dumped him. Embiid and Noel are building blocks but Embiid has not played yet. I think what happens in this years playoffs could inspire Philly to speed things up.

They have their pick, and they have a pick from the Heat if it falls out of the top 10 (a safe bet). If the lottery works out the way it should based on record, Philly would have the No. 2 pick and pick No. 16. Let’s say they pick Emmanuel Mudiay from SMU at 2 (if they like him, it might be part of the reason to get rid of MCW) and Jerian Grant from Notre Dame (his brother is already on the team) at 16. With the two big guys and a veteran wing, that’s a good enough starting five (in an on paper, potential sort of way; I see Grant as a 2 in this scenario) to at least see how they play with each other. If they get the Lakers’ pick this year — in the 6 to 10 range — Kelly Oubre from Kansas makes sense and now you have a potential future starting five. That is unless the two bigs can’t play at the same time and then I would suggest drafting Frank Kaminsky with Miami’s pick.

But if a Thunder and Cavs finals happens, then its oh my God, we need at least two superstars, I could see Hinkie trading Noel for picks.

Decisions coming for quarterbacks and coaches in Denver

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I’ll come out and say it … Peyton Manning should retire.

A lot of people seem to be tiptoeing around this while talking about his disastrous first-round performance against the Colts. I think the torn quadriceps injury is indicative of the fact that he can’t physically handle the rigors of playing quarterback in the league. He’s 38 years old and he’s played a lot of games.

Here’s some things he can do when his playing days are over:

  • Be a full-time pitchman. Imagine how many more commercials Papa John’s, Buick and Nationwide could squeeze if they had all fall and winter too.
  • Make a billion dollars as a quarterback guru. You see these quarterback whisperers pop up all over the place — none of them are Peyton Manning.

A scenario to consider: the Patriots win the Super Bowl and Tom Brady and Peyton Brady retire in the same off-season. After another disappointing year, Drew Brees retires the next off-season.

The NFL front office might poop a brick if this actually happens.

I did a ranking of the league’s dependable quarterbacks. Here’s how that list would look (in order of dependability) with those three guys off of it:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Matt Ryan
  • Russell Wilson
  • Joe Flacco (I put him up here on the strength of another good playoff showing)
  • Eli Manning (I’ll move up Manning too, although the last two years have been a disaster)

And for good measure the 50 percent of the time dependable quarterbacks:

  • Cam Newton (he’s the closest)
  • Matthew Stafford
  • Andy Dalton
  • Alex Smith
  • Jay Cutler
  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Colin Kaepernick (but I think he might be bad)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (somewhat shaky)
  • Carson Palmer (if he ever plays again)

With both lists, and there are big question marks on that second list, that’s 16 quarterbacks. If you’re keeping track, the NFL has 32 teams. Anyway, the reason I think it’s good if Brady, Peyton and Brees all retire, all in tier one by the way, is because it will lower the bar of NFL quarterbacking.

Right now, every young guy gets judged against Brady and Manning and I don’t know why that’s fair. Think about it, what does everybody say about quarterbacks — you’ve got to study film until your eyes bleed, you’ve got to stay after practice and work the receivers and you’ve got to be the first one in the building and the last to leave. Brady and Manning are exceptionally good at reading defenses and making adjustments — like on a supernatural level. People think that if you’re smart and you work hard you can just do that and that’s not really true as Kurt Warner pointed out yesterday on Mike&Mike.

Let’s take Cam Newton for example. I think the perception of Cam changes if the bar gets lowered a little. People will see the things he can do — throw deep, pick up first downs with his legs and be durable — more than the things he can’t — run a 4-wide offense like Peyton Manning.

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I think part of the reason people might convince Manning to stick around is his 2013 performance: 68 percent completions, 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns, only 10 interceptions and 8.3 yards per pass. But I think we should take into account: Peyton was playing with by far the best set of skill position players he’s ever had and the scheme, with lots of short throws, helped compensate for a loss of arm strength.

It’s a good thing one of the purveyors of that scheme, head coach John Fox, is still around … Hold on … Wait, you’re telling me the Broncos fired John Fox?

What the Hell is going on out here?

Seriously, the Broncos are out of their collective horse minds if they think they can find a better coach than John Fox.

Here’s the active coaches who have coached in a Super Bowl:

  • Bill Bilechick (3-2)
  • Tom Coughlin (win, win)
  • Mike Tomlin (win, loss)
  • John Harbaugh (win)
  • Pete Carroll (win)
  • Mike McCarthy (win)
  • Sean Payton (win)
  • Jeff Fisher (loss)
  • Jim Caldwell (loss)
  • Andy Reid (loss)
  • Lovie Smith (loss)

So John Fox is one of four active coaches, because he’s already got a job with the Bears, who’s coached two Super Bowls. All the rest of those guys are happily married with their current teams. Jim Harbaugh (loss) would have been an interesting candidate but he’s stuck with the Michigan job for now.

Now there are some other guys floating around. I think I’ll break them down one-by-one.

Mike Shanahan

I like to think this is what he looked like when he watched RG3's knee explode.

I like to think this is what he looked like when he watched RG3’s knee explode.

  • Won two Super Bowls
  • Best team: 1998 Broncos, 14-2 and Super Bowl champs
  • Improbable playoff run: 2000 Broncos at the helm of Brian Griese
  • Playoff run that should haunt him: 1996 Broncos that lost to the expansion Jaguars
  • Playoff record with John Elway: 7-1
  • Playoff record with anyone else: 1-5
  • Ruined RG3’s career

This would be beyond crazy, so let’s move on.

Bill Cowher

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  • Won a Super Bowl with 2005 Steelers
  • Lost Super Bowl to great Cowboys team with 1994 Steelers
  • 149-90 regular season record in 15 seasons all with Steelers
  • 12-9 postseason record
  • Won division eight times
  • Best team: 2005 Steelers, 11-5, won super bowl
  • Improbable playoff run: 2002 Steelers with Tommy Maddox at the helm
  • Playoff run that should haunt him: 2001 Steelers, lost to Patriots in AFC title game (if there was a year to beat the Patriots it would have been that one)

If Cowher is seriously considered, people need to realize that he has not coached for nine years. That’s a long time.

Jon Gruden

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  • Won a Super Bowl
  • Best Team: 2002 Buccaneers, 12-4 and won the Super Bowl
  • Took over that team after it was built by Tony Dungy
  • Record since then is 45-51
  • Made the playoffs five times
  • Had a sub .500 record three times
  • Improbable playoff run: 2005 Buccaneers who somehow went 11-5 with Brian Griese and Chris Sims
  • Playoff run that should haunt him: 2001 Raiders, tuck-rule game that Ray Lewis was yelling about earlier this week
  • Has gradually been becoming a real life cartoon on ESPN since 2009

Do we think players could take him seriously now? This would be like John Madden trying to coach in the 80s.

Tony Dungy

tony_dungy

  • Won Super Bowl
  • First black coach in NFL history
  • Built Bucs into a Super Bowl caliber team, although the Bucs’ record did get worse the final three years he coached them
  • Regular season record: 139-69
  • Made playoffs 11 times
  • Playoff record: 9-10
  • Improbably playoff run: 1999 Bucs lead by Shaun King, lost to the Rams in part because of a controversial call
  • Playoff run that should haunt him: 2008 Colts, Brady was hurt this year and the Patriots missed the playoffs

Dungy is who my Broncos fan coworker wants. He should know that Dungy has a lot of examples of playoff runs that should haunt him: the Bucs were championship caliber for three seasons and lost to the Eagles in the divisional round two years in a row. The 2005 Colts were 14-2 and were the more talented team than the Steelers that year who in fairness did win a crazy game.

Let’s compare that to Fox

John Fox

  • Lost two Super Bowls
  • Took over 1-15 Panthers team and they went to the Super Bowl just two years later
  • Regular season record: 119-89
  • Playoff record: 8-7
  • Record with the Broncos: 46-18
  • Made the playoffs seven times
  • Has four sub .500 seasons including a 2-14 year that got him fired in Carolina
  • Best team: 2013 Broncos, 13-3 and lost Super Bowl
  • Improbable playoff run: 2011 Broncos, the Tim Tebow team
  • Playoff run that should haunt him: 2008 Panthers who lost to the Cardinals at home but Jake Delhomme did have six turnovers in that game
  • That same Jake Delhomme was the Panthers quarterback when they made the Super Bowl in 2003

I think the Tim Tebow year gives Fox the edge over Dungy in my opinion. Fox was willing to completely change his offense and philosophy to fit Tim Tebow’s skills.

Even if Peyton comes back and Broncos get Dungy, I think letting Fox go will come back to haunt them.

David Blatt and other coaching abominations

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Press Conference

Everybody, David Blatt is submitting a historically awful coaching season.

I’ll break it down:

  1. He was gifted the best player in the league who is either in his prime or very close. That player is also A. very unselfish, B. an extremely gifted defender and C. extremely coachable.
  2. Included under the Cavs preseason Christmas tree was the ultimate stretch four, who is a rebounding machine and a talented passer. Kevin Love is not that bad of a defender either.
  3. A talented point guard who can get into the lane whenever he wants.

Now the Cavs are certainly flawed:

  • Their bench is terrible.
  • Anderson Varajao is already (predictably) out for the season.
  • Dion Waiters was (predictably) a head-case, chemistry killer.

All of that said, the Thunder are 18-19. As you remember, they started the season without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and they play in the West, which is a million times better than the East. Their bench and overall depth are also terrible. The Cavs are 19-18 and their top three guys have been (mostly) healthy all year. What? How?

David Blatt is getting destroyed by Scott Brooks!

I admit that I fell into the same trap as everybody else. “I like that Blatt won all those games in Europe. I like that he’s bringing a different pedigree to the NBA.” Now that resume from Russia and Israel looks a lot less impressive. Like a gunfighter from Sweden.

I think I would have fired Blatt already. The whole, “well the 2011 Heat got off to a slow start” argument has worn off right? Everyone expected this team to be an offensive juggernaut. Maybe that was an unfair but this team should not be the fifth best team in the East.

This got me thinking of other historically awful coaching performances:

Sean Payton, 2014 Saints

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All they had to do was go 8-8 and they win the worst division in modern NFL history. And they couldn’t do it, with Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Jimmy Graham and three talented receivers. Sure, their defense was not good, but solid was all they needed. At the end of the season, they lost got crushed by the Panthers and beat handily by the Falcons at home. In the words of Will Ferrell, what the Hell happened! Is the Super Dome haunted?

Mark Richt, 2008 Georgia Bulldogs

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This team had Matthew Stafford, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi (I know but on a college team with AJ Green?), Justin Houston (admittedly a freshman) and Geno Atkins. That team lost three games. Three.

Bob Stoops, 2008 Oklahoma Sooners

Bob Stoops

This team had Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams and Gerald McCoy. They made it to the National Title Game, I’ll give them credit for that, but they got beat pretty bad by Florida, 24-14 (a more lopsided game than the score would indicate). But this spot is more of a life-time underachievement award for Stoops. I believe people ripped on the Big 12 in part because loaded Oklahoma teams kept coughing up big bowl games. The 2006 team, with Adrian Peterson as a junior, had a lot of those same players (notably as freshmen) and lost three games — notably the famous Fiesta Bowl to Boise State.

Dusty Baker, 2001 San Francisco Giants

Dusty Baker

Another life-time underachievement position because Baker also disappointed with very good Cubs and Reds teams. In 2002, people praised Baker for getting the Giants to the World Series. In retrospect, they should not have lost to the Angels. Oh my God, Barry Bonds hit .370 that season with 46 home runs, 100 runs and RBI each, had a staggering 198 walks for a .582 on base percentage and 1.381 ops. But that team wasn’t all Bonds all the time. They had Jeff Kent who hit .313, Benito Santiago (who had a decent offensive season), and Reggie Sanders (who wasn’t great but was a very solid player). They’re pitching staff had a top three of Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt and Livian Hernandez. Go back and look at the Angels roster.

But they lost to the Angels in seven games. What is inexplicable is the year before when they did not make the playoffs (2001 when Bonds hit 73 home runs).

Bobby Cox, any year in the ’90s that wasn’t 1995

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Now that It’s official a certain fact needs to be shouted from the rooftops. THE BRAVES TOP THREE PITCHERS WERE ALL HALL OF FAMERS. Um, that hasn’t really happened before. If this the rest of the Braves team was a bunch of castoffs and journeymen or if they could only keep Maddux, Smoltz and Glavin together for a couple years, I would give Bobby Cox a break. People give Cox a break because they won one World Championship, but give any other strong manager of the era that team and he would win at least two. In particular, the losses to the 1993 Phillies and 1997 Marlins seem particularly egregious in retrospect.

Bill Self, 2014 Kansas Jayhawks

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Bill Self had the best two players in college basketball — Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid — and they lost in the second round of the tournament to Stanford. In case you’re checking, Stanford had zero NBA players that year. The game was also in St. Louis, which I’m sorry to say is a partisan Kansas crowd. I don’t care that Embiid was hurt. Self still had the best five players in the game. Every year that goes by the 2008 National title win looks flukier and flukier. (Also, screw Kansas.)

John Calipari, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Kentucky Wildcats

John_Calipari

There’s been a significant amount of revisionist history foisted on the public these days about John Calipari. Pundits have been praising Calipari for his X’s and O’s work, in game coaching and that his teams play hard. They even give him credit for convincing players to sacrifice minutes. I believe this talk is inspired by the fact that the 2014 Wildcats might go undefeated and thus become the greatest college basketball team of all time. The coach of that team has to be an all-time great right? All of those people need to chill out because Kentucky should have won five titles in a row. Were Coach K, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino or Brad Stevens had been given this much talent, he would have won at least twice by now. I believe Calipari is the best recruiter of all time but he also has a prodigious history of leaving flaming bags of poop at two different programs in the form of NCAA sanctions as he walked out the door to a better job.

Mike Brown/Mike D’Antoni, 2012 Lakers

Mike-Brown

If you think I’m being unfair to one coach or the other, Brown could easily make this list for his job manning the Cavs during the first LeBron era and D’Antoni did a horrible job with the Knicks. However, this season went so poorly that the emotional stress convinced Dwight Howard to flee the sinking Lake Show ship like it was on fire. The raging dumpster fire that is the 2014 Lakers owes its inception to these two guys.

Scott Brooks, Thunder 2011 to Present

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It’s not Scott Brooks fault that the Thunder traded James Harden. It’s a move that looks more perplexing every day, especially when Harden should win the MVP for the Rockets. Still, he’s had three of the top 25 players in the league, including two in the top 10 the past five years and has no hardware to show for it. The Spurs have made the finals twice in this span and the Thunder happen to be the worst match up for the Duncanettes.

College Football Hodge Podge

There is but one game in the college football season, afterwards the amount I care about football will dip considerably. There’s still a few debates out there though.

The great Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota argument

Marcus Mariota

If I was the GM of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I would take Mariota and hire someone from Oregon, starting with Mark Helfrich and working my way down, to teach the team the Oregon offense.

Now, I do think the system quarterback criticism is interesting. Mariota throws to a lot of open receivers — I’m not going to act like he doesn’t. On one hand, Sam Bradford was called a system quarterback and I’m very open about my dislike for the former Oklahoma QB. However, the No. 1 criticism against Aaron Rodgers was that he was a system quarterback. This just in: Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in football.

My point is that the system quarterback stuff is bull crap and if teams are that worried about it install the system for your particularly offensive challenged team.

I don’t think Winston is going to bad. If I was taking Winston I would run the same offense Baltimore used with young Joe Flacco, which is pound the ball on the ground and throw deep, The one place where Winston is undoubtedly a better quarterback (other than attracting off the field attention) than Mariota is his ability to throw bombs.

Who I would hire to be my NFL coach

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I swear this will lead to a college football point. Here’s my top NFL coaching candidates:

  • Mark Helfrich
  • Urban Meyer (especially if Ohio State wins)
  • Art Briles
  • Kevin Sumlin
  • Hue Jackson
  • Teryl Austin
  • Rex Ryan

What I would avoid like the plague is any guy who was an NFL coach and now is not, except for Sexy Rexy who had some unfortunate circumstances. Any one who wants to give Mike Shanahan a job deserves to have their young star quarterbacks ruined. So there’s no way anyone would give Mike Martz or Brian Billick a job, right? Why isn’t Mike Shanahan looked at as Stegosaurus? Sure Brian Billick was lucky to have the greatest defense of all time. Shanahan had John Elway and road Terrell Davis into the ground. And that was 15 years ago.

The problem with my list is that college coaches may not want to leave the friendly confines of their local campuses. Jim Harbaugh is showing everyone that you can make just as much money and not have to deal with as much crap. Win-win. Brian Schottenheimer just left an offensive coordinator position with the Rams to take and o coordinator position at Georgia. Normally that’s a big step down, but these days …

Who I like in the national title game

oregon_ducks

I think a concept that does not get discussed enough by ESPN types is the idea of having a deserving program. I understand that it is a subjective and fluid though. But, Oregon has paid its dues as a program. The Ducks have progressively gotten better and better since the Joey Harrington days in the early 2000s. It’s undoubtedly the power program in the Pac 12 and it would take a fat recruiting scandal to ruin that. They should have a national title.

While it was wonderful that the Buckeyes defeated Alabama, I know their fans will be the biggest of beat downs if Ohio State wins the title. Even though 2002 was a dozen years ago, it’s not long enough to bring a title back to Columbus. They need to wait another decade.

The NFL’s Biggest Problem

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Every five years or so the NBA goes through a philosophical revolution. These days the association is about spacing the floor, perimeter defense and hitting corner 3s. At this point, having two low-post oriented big men is a detriment. Probably in five years, the league will swing back the other way — possibly spurred by the glut of big men coming from college this year.

Baseball also undergoes these changes in attitude, with, I think, one emphasizing speed and contact on the near horizon. Their philosophical changes just happen to be 10 or more years apart.

The NFL, in the past anyway, usually had their philosophical modifications happen naturally through coaching or personnel. The NFL is in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

I think the League is in a very similar situation as the NBA in the early 2000s. Back in the era of Allen Iverson and young Kobe Bryant, the NBA was viewed as bereft of likeable stars and rife with troublemakers. However, the style of play was also consistently frustrating. The knuckleheads were gradually weeded out of the league and rule changes encouraged a more entertaining, offensive style of play. For awhile LeBron was the most hated and popular player in the league, and he’s never been in any criminal trouble.

Yes, player conduct is a huge issue for the NFL. Yes, concussions are a threatening long-term issue. But the reason the NFL is getting beat in the ratings by The Walking Dead is that the NFL has been extremely boring this year.

The problem, I feel, is that teams are far too dependent on quarterbacks and there just aren’t enough good ones in the league. Here are the winning quarterbacks in the league:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Tom Brady
  • Peyton Manning
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Phillip Rivers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Russell Wilson
  • Drew Brees (hanging on)
  • Matt Ryan

And some borderline guys:

  • Matthew Stafford
  • Cam Newton
  • Colin Kaepernick
  • Eli Manning (maybe it’s unfair for a two-time super bowl winner but he needs to stop throwing so many picks)
  • Joe Flacco
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Andy Dalton

I would put Carson Palmer in that second group if there was an indication he was actually going to come back and play. Let’s examine that list. Ten teams every week have an offense that works because of their quarterback alone. Seven more teams have an offense that works about 50 percent of the time because of their quarterbacks. There are 15 more teams that are varying degrees of unwatchable because of their quarterback play.

Now that last sentence is not entirely accurate, because the Eagles are competent in spite of their quarterback play. And there in lies one of my fixes. Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh are two of the best coaches in the league coming from college. For most of NFL history, college coaches have struggled to transition to the pro game, with exceptions like Jimmy Johnson. But the NFL drastically needs injections of new blood. All the open jobs at the end of the year should go to college guys, Art Briles probably first.

Second why are so few quarterbacks transitioning successfully into the league? Is that defenses are just so talented? Here’s the elite defenses in the league:

  • Seattle
  • Arizona
  • San Francisco
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Buffalo
  • Houston
  • Cincinnati
  • Miami
  • Baltimore

Actually there’s more quality quarterbacks in the league than defenses. That makes sense because it’s harder to play defense than it used to be Also, none of the defenses this year could hold a candle to the best units from a decade ago.

NFL offenses are too complicated. I think back to Robert Griffin III’s rookie year. Part of the reason he was so successful is that the offense was simplified and modified to his strengths. Granted, Griffin’s injuries have been a big factor in the decline in his play, but why did they change the scheme when it worked like gangbusters the year before? Let’s look at Russell Wilson. Wilson has endured sustained success in Seattle because he doesn’t try to do too much and he isn’t asked to do too much.

I think coaches go out of their way to make these offenses so complicated as a testament to their genius. Then they complain the quarterbacks can’t make the reads. Maybe if there weren’t five reads on each play it would be easier.

Another solution, treat running quarterbacks like running backs and change them out every three to four years. Sometimes you’ll have an elite talent like Mariota, Newton, Wilson or Griffin, maybe you try to get five years out of one of those guys. But you could also run a Tebow or Dak Prescott into the ground. You just don’t pay them as much.

While I’m solving NFL problems, I’ll tackle the concussion issue as well, and it might very well help the style of play too.

Positional weight limits, combined with softer helmets (I believe there is a style that has foam outside of the shell).

  • Offensive lineman: 300 pound maximum
  • Defensive tackles: 290 pounds
  • 3-4 Defensive ends: 270 pounds
  • 4-3 defensive ends: 260 pounds
  • Linebackers: 240 pounds
  • Pass rushing linebackers: 250 pounds
  • Cornerbacks: 200 pounds
  • Safeties: 210 pounds
  • Tight ends: 230 pounds
  • Wide Receivers: 210 pounds, unless their over 6-4 then they can be 220
  • Running backs: 230 pounds
  • Quarterbacks: 240 pounds (because many of them are so tall)

Seriously, do any of these positions need to weight more than this?

been in seri