Monday, November 27, 2006

This NFL Season Isn't As Bad As I Thought It Was

I was all set to write a post about how disappointing the current NFL season has been about two weeks ago, but upon further reflection I realized that there are a few great storylines and just the general disappointment about the lack of consistent and quality team performances. Let’s start with the poor consistency afflicting the NFL.

As I see it, there are only two teams that really have it together—the Chargers and Colts—and all the rest are either hot and cold or just plain bad. Even these two have their faults. The Colts have a sieve for a defense and the Chargers defense has been poor of late and the team only seems to play well after falling in a hole. Every other team has even worse problems.

The Bears and Rex Grossman, after a great start, have shown themselves to be quite inconsistent on offense. New England is winning but it hasn’t been pretty. Same with Baltimore. Last year’s Super Bowl participants have been anything but championship worthy. Seattle is barely leading a division with San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis in it and Pittsburgh is 4-7. Although the injury bug as hurt both teams, especially Ben Roethlisberger whose run-in with a car windshield and appendectomy seem to have sapped him of his winning ways. Not to mention the maddeningly inconsistent Panthers, Bengals, Cowboys, Jaguars and woeful Giants. And don’t forget the now forgettable Eagles.

After this superficial examination, I found that there are several great stories this season. At the head of the class is Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson. This season the new LT is a man among boys collecting TDs like they were Beanie Babies in the late 90s. He has 25 touchdowns with five games to go; he is the third leading rusher in the NFL; and, he has thrown for a couple scores as well. Bar none, LT is the best player in the NFL right now and by the end of his career will be one of the all-time greatests. Unfortunately, LT’s season is overshadowing a pretty good season for Larry Johnson, the leading NFL rusher, who has led a resurgent Chiefs team to playoff contention.

A former Charger is having a great season as well. Drew Brees signed with the Saints after suffering an injury in his final game of last season and San Diego decided to go with Philip Rivers as the QB of the future. Brees is leading the league in passing yards and is leading the Saints towards the playoffs. Moreover, Brees is throwing to 7th Round Rookie-wonder Marques Colston who is having a ROY-type season. This is certainly proof that Brees wasn’t a fluke for San Diego the past two seasons and is great for the New Orleans franchise which hasn’t had much good luck recently. (And don’t look now but Joey Harrington is starting to redeem himself in Miami right now.)

Finally, after several seasons of two, three and four wins, the San Francisco 49ers appear to be turning the corner. The Niners are only 5-6 but this is far greater than anybody expected and the team is theoretically in contention for a wild card spot. This rebirth has been fueled by RB Frank Gore, who had two knee major injuries at Miami and ended up behind Willis McGahee on the depth chart. Gore is the second leading rusher in the league and hopefully, for this Niner fan, will help turn the team into a playoff team.

It just goes to show how great the NFL is that even with a down season overall in quality, the league can still deliver compelling stories.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Joey Harrington Is A Genius

There hasn’t been too many times that you could say the above about Joey Harrington since he entered the NFL as the third pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2002 NFL Draft. He has been a resounding disappointment for his entire career. But, his decision to sign with Miami makes him look at least somewhat savvy since he is the current starter over Miami’s other off-season quarterback acquisition, Daunte Culpepper. This brilliant decision making has gone unnoticed for far too long and I am here to bring attention to it. Although, it’s not like he is really tearing it up as a starter in Miami.

While in Detroit, Harrington had a career record as a starter of 18-37, more interceptions than touchdowns and a fairly low passer rating. Because of this ineptitude Detroit traded him to the Miami Dolphins during the 2006 off-season. These certainly aren’t numbers that could win him a starting job in the NFL and he knew it. There were a number of teams (Cincinnati, Denver and Miami) he could have signed with but he would have been a backup at each team. However, he determined that his best chance to win back a starting role (presuming that is what he wanted) would be in Miami behind Culpepper. So, for once in his career Harrington has made the correct read, although he "won" the starting job after Culpepper was benched with an injury, and let's praise him for it.

By the way, what the hell is up with the new hair-do for Harrington? He kinda has a Keanu Reeves look going on.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Neil Everett The Poet

Yesterday, incredibly tragic news came out of Coral Gables, Miami. Senior Miami defensive end Brian Pata was shot and killed in a presumed homicide. Awful, just awful news. So, I watched the 11 p.m. Pacific SportsCenter and Neil Everett leads off with this.
Brian Pata was shot in the head.
And, now he's dead.

You stay classy, Neil Everett. Seriously, couldn't he come up with something that didn't rhyme and was maybe a bit more, uh, respectful?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vegas, Baby! Vegas! writer Ian Thomsen wrote an interesting article full of all sorts of NBA goodies, particularly the following little story about Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman lobbying the NBA for a Vegas franchise:
The Las Legas mayor, a former mob lawyer, is intent on recruiting a pro sports
franchise. Goodman recently returned from a tour of the NBA's preseason training
camps in Europe -- accompanied by a pair of Vegas showgirls named Pam and
-- where he lobbied Stern and NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver,
informing them that he has commissioned an arena study that is expected to recommend by year's end a site (probably in downtown Las Vegas) for a new building. (emphasis added)
So that's how they do it? At least the Mayor is upfront about what he is willing to do for the Commissioner to get a team. There is no beating around the bush, so-to-speak.

Coach Fight!

In Sunday's Arsenal - West Ham United match, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and West Ham manager Alan Pardew had a little dust-up after West Ham went up 1-0 in the 89th minute. I could understand Wenger being upset because of losing to lowly West Ham, but a physical altercation? That's awesome! Predictably, the two didn't shake hands after the match. But, Pardew has extended an apology to Wenger. (The fight is at about the 1:00 minute mark.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This Is One Euro Fad I Hope Doesn't Catch On

On Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League Liverpool defeated Bordeaux 3-0. It was a great match for Liverpool but it was marred with an ugly incident. Bordeaux's Brazilian midfielder Fernando Menegazzo headbutted Liverpool's Norwegian international John Arne Riise. This was worse than the Zidane headbutt in the World Cup final because Menegazzo went head-to-head with Riise and drew blood. If this is the latest craze in European sports, then I hope it doesn't come to the U.S.

Highlights from the match are below and the headbutt is at the 1:15 mark.

NBA Season Already?

The Blazers season opener against Seattle is tonight and it is the first time in several years that I am looking forward to the season, although it will probably end up as a losing season. The reason for this optimism? Well, it boils down to what I perceive as a change in direction of the franchise. It was hoped that this change had started several seasons ago but the front office seemed to bungle all the chances it had with poor draft choices and foolishly overpaying players like Darius Miles and Zach Randolph.

Although Miles and Randolph are still on the team, the rest of squad appears to be made of good character and a willingness to put the team before itself. Rookie Brandon Roy is also a light of hope because he appears to be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, a team player and a high character guy. LaMarcus Aldridge, another rookie, seems to be in the same mold. Second year players Jarrett Jack and Martell Webster also give me hope for a brighter future because they have improved their game in the offseason.

Finally, although I am loathe to admit it, Zach Randolph may actually be a bright spot for the team. Maybe with Miles out indefinitely with a knee injury and ZBo being the only real scoring threat Randolph can show that he can be a good character and that he is fully recovered from his microfracture surgery. His teammates seem to believe in him this year and have voted him co-captain with Pryzbilla.

So, here's to the future and hopefully an entertaining season by Portland.