Archive | November 2013

Heisman Race Update: Jameis Down, but Who is Up?

Now that Jameis Winston is under investigation for sexual assault and is putting him in a purgatory of sorts, the Heisman Trophy race is wide open. One by one, preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunners, have dropped off the radar.

johnny manziel vs lsuJohnny Manziel, whose numbers have been amazing this year, lost in embarrassing fashion to LSU this past weekend with one of the poorest outings in his young career. Marcus Mariota, whose stock had plummeted after losing to Stanford, took another hit when Oregon lost to Washington State. Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty got shellacked on the road at Oklahoma State this weekend, too.

Who is left? Alabama’s starting quarterback AJ McCarron is the frontrunner right now, but his body of work leaves many scratching their heads. Will it be addition by subtraction? Or will a dark horse run the table? Boston College running back Andre Williams, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr (the younger brother of NFL QB David Carr), and Northern Illinois dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Andre Williams has been reliable and durable, eclipsing the 2,000 rushing yard mark. Oh, and he can use the “Truck Stick” on helpless defenders, put to Super Mario Bros. sounds:

Derek Carr has been a consistent and precise quarterback for a dangerous Fresno State Bulldogs team. Jordan Lynch has led his team to an undefeated record to a possible BCS bowl berth, again. But, Lynch’s lackluster performance in the Orange Bowl against Florida State last year may be on Heisman voters’ minds.

Let’s look at these contenders’ stats (via ESPN.com)…

McCarron’s stats this year:

aj mccarron

PASSING STATS
YEAR TEAM CMP ATT PCT YDS AVG TD LNG INT
201 190 277 68.6 2399 8.7 23 54 5

What stands out to me is that McCarron is not Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, as far as flair or pizzazz, but he gets the job done. He is a steady, consistent, Alex Smith-type presence under center. So there’s that. He’s thrown 23 TD’s and only 5 interceptions, but I was intially worried about his 43.5% completion percentage against a very good Virginia Tech defense. But, with 7 games with over 70% completion percentage I am not worried about his accuracy. Then again, he’s on a championship team.

Andre Williams’ stats:

andre williams BC

RUSHING STATS
YEAR TEAM ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
2013 320 2073 6.5 80 16

Williams has averaged 29 carries per game, which I haven’t seen a running back see for a long time. He is the go-to feature back for BC and helped them to a good 7-4 record. He’s had FIVE games of 200+ yards rushing: 204, 263, 295, 339 and 263. He’s had SIX games with over 30 carries! This guy is a workhorse! And, he gets 6.5 yard per carry, which makes it much easier for his terrible QB Chase Rettig. Or much easier for him to get a first down in the next two carries.

Derek Carr:

derek carr fresno state

PASSING STATS
YEAR TEAM CMP ATT PCT YDS AVG TD LNG INT RAT
2013 350 502 69.7 3948 7.9 39 75 4

The guy is a passing touchdown machines. He’s only had TWO games where he threw only two TD passes (at Hawaii, at San Diego State). His lowest completion percentage in a single game was 61.4%, which is not bad at all. He had SEVEN games where he threw over 70% completion percentage. He’s also had to throw most of the time, with 70 pass attempts in a double overtime thriller against Rutgers. But, his competition is not very good, with the likes of Idaho, New Mexico, and Hawaii.

And, he just lost to San Jose State this week, which unofficially knocks him out of the week.

Jordan Lynch:

jordan lynch

PASSING STATS
YEAR TEAM CMP ATT PCT YDS AVG TD LNG INT RAT
2013 207 312 66.3 2418 7.8 21 66 5
RUSHING STATS
YEAR TEAM ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
2013 221 1434 6.5 61 17

Lynch is a balanced quarterback, but in watching tape his throwing motion is a step up from Tim Tebow. He’s had SIX games of 100 yards rushing with 150 yards passing in the same game. But, his opponents were not impressive such as Iowa, Ball State, Purdue, and Idaho. Will he make a BCS bowl? Let’s see what happened last time it happened:

Who do I think will win? It’s going to be McCarron or Williams. McCarron will most likely be the winner because Alabama will probably win the championship and the Heisman has gone to quarterbacks the majority of the last decade. I can’t see Derek Carr sneaking up and grabbing the award, having played a softer schedule than McCarron and Williams. I would be shocked if Lynch snuck into the top 3 finishers.

NBA Recap: Spurs, Pacers, and Blazers ROLLING

If any team is not named the LA Lakers or Miami Heat, we do not hear any news about them, even if they’ve only had a couple of losses so far in a young season.

damian lilliardWhat teams are running the gamut in the NBA so far? The San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers.

spurs big threeThe Spurs are 13-2, but lost to the Thunder this past Wednesday night 94-88 on the road. Still, their stats are good and tell us why they’re rolling early in the season. They are 4th overall in assists per game at 24.6, are 11th in points scored per game at 101.2 and 14th overall in rebounds per game (43 per game). These indicate that Coach Gregg Popovich’s system is running smooth. And, Tiago Splitter is leading the team in rebounds per game at 7.3 and Tony Parker is scoring 17.7 points per game. A balanced system, indeed.

indiana pacersThe Pacers are 14-1 and are not getting any ESPN love. ESPN wanted the Heat to beat the Chicago Bulls’ record last year, but they aren’t calling for the Pacers to do the same. Paul George is scoring 23.7 points per game, Roy Hibbert rebounding 8.9 per game and blocking 3.9 shots per game. They are going to be the top 2 in the Eastern Conference, considering the injury to Derrick Rose for the Chicago Bulls. Their team stats are not impressive, but they’re playing Coach Frank Vogel-ball of possession and giving the ball to Hibbert or George.

Best part of ESPN’s SportsCenter, even when they are hosing the Pacers? The Hangover star Ken Jeong interviewing Roy Hibbert:

The Blazers are 13-3 and are flying under the radar, with the well-documented struggles of the LA Lakers, Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. According to ESPN.com, They’re scoring 104 points per game (7th overall), 8th in rebounding at 44.4 per game, and 9th in assists per game. LaMarcus Aldridge is torching opponents at 22.1 points per game and 9.6 rebounds, while second-year pro point guard Damian Lilliard is averaging 5.8 assists per game and is scoring 19.9 points per game.

How is ESPN not reporting this? Why did ESPN air the LeBron James-led Miami Heat visiting the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. the Spurs?

Oh yeah, the network that brought us Tebowmania and Mark “Sanchize” Sanchez hoopla decided that the best team in the Eastern Conference versus a bottom-dweller should be aired over Spurs-Thunder.

Thanks Skip Bayless and ESPN.

Greatest Thanksgiving Day NFL Player: Barry Sanders

Happy Thanksgiving!

To commemorate this great day, full of Turkey Bowls, great meals, some ok-to-mediocre NFL games on this holiday, here is a tribute to the one, the only, Barry Sanders.

barry sanders

Barry Sanders was a legend when I was growing up, with his moves that embarrassed defender after defender. His number 20 is a revered number in Detroit and a fan favorite for Lions fans. After he retired in 1998, after an outstanding 10-year pro career, there was little hope in Detroit. That was because of current ESPN NFL/college football analyst Matt Millen’s terrible work as their general manager.

Among his inglorious draft picks, Millen drafted quarterback Joey Harrington of Oregon, a first round bust, and wide receiver Charles Rogers, the no.2 overall pick from Michigan State. Harrington is now a college football analyst for Fox Sports 1 and Rogers is in jail for not reporting to a court hearing for drug screenings, having struggled with drug problems during his life in and out of football. This timeline is just sad (click HERE).

Here’s one highlight video:

His career numbers? Jaw-dropping, considering he could have had more if he played a couple more years (per ESPN.com):

ATT YDS TD
3,062 15,269 99

He even has a rap song after him, rapped by D.C. native Wale (pronounced Wah-lay). Warning: NSFW language (some cussing):

What is Barry up to now? Just chillin’ back in Detroit, helping local residents in charity efforts and appearing on television from time to time. Here’s one appearance on Fox Sports 1’s Crowd Goes Wild show:

And, his son Barry Sanders Jr. is playing for the Stanford Cardinal football team. He is still learning the college game and hasn’t started yet, but here’s one SICK move he pulled during a game this season:

Unfortunately, it seems that he is divorcing his wife of 11 years. We hope it turns out better than some of the nastier divorces we have seen.

But, I tip my hat to Barry Sanders. I definitely miss seeing you on the TV every Thanksgiving.

Top College Coaches to the #NFL?

steve spurrier redskinsEver since Steve Spurrier and other college coaches broke into the NFL (and mostly flamed out quicker than anything), the NFL will continue to poach coaches instead of looking to assistants on their own staff or on other teams.

Here are some college coaches who could go pro (per Bleacher Report, which actually surprised me with some decent reporting for once):

  1. David Shaw, Stanford
  2. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
  3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  4. Art Briles, Baylor
  5. James Franklin, Vanderbilt

Bleacher Report put Boise State’s Chris Peterson as number 4, but I feel he’d stay in Boise for as long as he would like and he hasn’t budged for any top college job. I feel it’s safe to say Peterson won’t be headed to the NFL anytime soon.

david shaw stanfordDavid Shaw could follow his former boss John Harbaugh to the NFL, but he seems to like coaching at Stanford. Considering how his pro-style offense prepped Andrew Luck, I have no doubt NFL owners will be calling him to try to convince him to jump ship to the big leagues and a bigger paycheck. He did sign an extension recently, but he could leave if he really wanted to. Stanford is back to their glory days, but will their coach stick around?

Kevin Sumlin has led Texas A&M to greener pastures in the SEC. Now that his elusive QB Johnny “Football” Manziel is probably headed to the pros, why won’t he? He would have to rebuild his A&M defense and offense at the same time. He made Manziel a household name. Plus, NFL owners have been rumored to covet him when the season ends. Why not move onto bigger and hopefully better things?

Any Notre Dame head coach that wins will have his name in NFL coaching rumors. Brian Kelly is no different. Considering how his pro-style offense have worked at his previous stops at Cincinnati and Notre Dame, why not jump to the NFL? He hasn’t stayed very long at any of his college stops, so this would not surprise me. Plus, he made the championship game with an overachieving Notre Dame defense led by Manti Te’o, who was a second-round pick to the San Diego Chargers. He knows how to coach. However, he doesn’t produce top NFL talent like Alabama, with Seattle Seahawks WR Golden Tate and Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd being the most noteworthy as of late.

Art BrilesArt Briles’ innovative offense, where the wide receivers literally line up WIDE and force DB’s to blitz early or run yards to get to the quarterback, has people drooling at his potential in the NFL. He developed Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon, Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright and Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams. He somehow also built a decent defense out in Waco for the Baylor Bears, which hasn’t happened for some time. Yes, he signed a recent extension, but has that stopped anyone from jumping to the NFL?

James Franklin and Vanderbilt football. He was Maryland’s defensive coordinator and heir-apparent when he bolted for Vanderbilt in the SEC and never looked back (and is something I regret to this very day as a Maryland Terps fan). He has developed Vandy into a SEC East powerhouse with a 22-15 overall record. Vandy has not been this relevant in decades! His bold, passionate demeanor is only outdone by his coaching, where he has done a fantastic job with what he has. He even coached Aaron Rodgers’ younger brother Jordan this year. His teams have held their own, even if it is the second-rate school in Tennessee. NFL owners love intensity and he brings that day in and day out. Look out for his name in the NFL soon.

#NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat, plus Top Replacements

schiano and freemanAs usual, the coaching spiral continues as coaches lose, get on the hot seat and ultimately get fired. I hate that coaches lose jobs when it is not completely their fault, but that’s the nature of the beast. Who are the teams that may be looking for a new coaching hire? Who will be some prime candidates to replace some coaches on the hot seat?

HOT SEAT:

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Greg Schiano)
  2. Washington Redskins (Mike Shanahan)
  3. Houston Texans (Gary Kubiak)
  4. Minnesota Vikings (Leslie Frazier)

Schiano has had a terrible two seasons in Tampa Bay with a 9-17 record overall. That’s a 0.346 winning percentage and that doesn’t cut it in the NFL (per Pro-Football-Reference.com). Stats-wise, his team has been underachieving and unimpressive, with his run defense in his first season ranking 1st in how many rushing yards they gave up to their opponents per game and yards per rush attempt. Also, the fan base and local media are livid with how Schiano has destroyed their once-proud franchise and ran their franchise QB Josh Freeman out of town. Freeman, by the way, is backing up Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel in Minnesota. Schiano should be gone, but who knows when it comes down to the owner and GM.

Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Washington RedskinsMike Shanahan has been on the hot seat since he left Robert Griffin III in the playoffs last season, where RGIII tore his ACL and was out of commission. This year’s 3-7 record does not help his case, in addition to a historically porous defense and inconsistent offensive playcalling by his son Kyle. Too often, they would get yards on the ground to start then would pass to finish games. It did not help that the first couple games (if not the entire season), they started behind as their defense could not stop anyone. He is 24-34 overall in four years as a head coach with a 0.414 winning percentage. As a Redskins fan, believe me when I say I’ve watched enough to know he’s not cutting it.

Gary Kubiak  has Matt Schaub, a veteran QB, Andre Johnson as his top wideout, and defensive lineman JJ Watt at his disposal. They started 2-o to start, but lost 9 consecutive games where Schaub threw pick-6’s in 4 consecutive games to set a NFL record. And, Kubiak suffered a heart attack during a game vs. the Colts and showed how the stress of the job can get to a head coach. I’m glad he’s recovered and easing his way back into coaching. They’re out of the playoffs right now with a 2-9 record. They should have had a better season and I would say that he will be fired at the end of the season with a 61-61 record in 8 years in Houston.

leslie frazierMinnesota’s Leslie Frasier, a great defensive mind, was given a terrible QB in Christian Ponder. He has an All-Pro running back in Adrian Peterson, who has labored back from a terrible knee injury to fall 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing record last season. His team has not contended with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers in the NFC North division during his tenure. With a 18-30 overall record, Frasier will probably be gone sooner rather than later.

Who are some of my favorite head coaching possibilities from the NFL ranks? Here’s some names that Bleacher Report suggested:

  1. Lovie Smith
  2. Jack Del Rio
  3. Ken Whisenhunt

lovie smithI like Lovie Smith because he has a great defensive mind. He built the Chicago Bears defense into what it is today from a basic Cover 2 scheme. They made the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their starting QB and lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts that year. I’d love to see the Redskins hire him to fix their defense and be the first black head coach of the franchise (as they also had Doug Williams back in the day as the first black QB to win a Super Bowl).

Jack Del Rio may get the job at USC, or might not. But, he’s really improved a bad defense from the Mike Shanahan days to be relevant in the AFC West title hunt this year. He had to deal with bad management in Jacksonville as their head coach, who gave him little-to-nothing as far as talented personnel in a tough AFC division (where he had to face the Peyton Manning-led Colts and the up-and-coming Texans). He should be considered a top head coach candidate for a desperate team.

Whisenhunt has revitalized San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ career this year and that is no mistake. He was the Cardinals’ head coach that led them to the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner at the helm as quarterback, and then was let down by his front office who got the likes of Matt Leinart, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton to replace Warner. Rivers has cut down his interceptions from 15 last year to 8 this year and is still an effective NFL starting QB. His QBR has also jumped from 40.57 last year to 70.33 this year, due to Whisenhunt’s coaching (per Pro-Football-Reference.com).

What do you think of this list? Who did I leave out?

Mark Jackson vs. Jason Kidd: Tale of Two Coaches

jason kidd announcementThe Brooklyn Nets made a media headline splash when they hired the newly-retired point guard Jason Kidd to be their coach. But, he has not had the success in his rookie year that Mark Jackson did, who was a very well-respected guard in his playing days.

What gives? Why the big difference in records in their first year? Why did Mark Jackson do well when Jason Kidd did not?

mark jackson coachFirst, Mark Jackson spent years as a NBA TV analyst for TNT. Compared to his playing days, he had a courtside vision similar to a head coach or an assistant and could dissect plays and teams as if he were a coach. He was my personal favorite alongside Steve Kerr and Jeff Van Gundy, and I really miss him as a NBA announcer. Here’s one example:

Mark Jackson had a vision for his team and worked with his general manager and owner to get his type of guys. Jarrett Jack, Steph Curry, David Lee Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Carl Landry…those were the guys that Jackson wanted and molded into a Golden State Warriors team that made it into the second round of the playoffs last year.

Who was on Golden State before that? Andrins Biedrins, Louis Amundsen, Monta Ellis, Reggie Williams, pre-Linsanity Jeremy Lin, Acie Law, Victor Radmanovich, and Al Thornton (per Basketball-Reference.com). Yes, Curry and Lee were on the team before, but Jackson has used them and maximized their potential and output.

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd never had that opportunity and never coached. Being a coach on the court as a player is different than being an actual head coach. He barely retired when the Nets hired him. Adding to that, Kidd was given high expectations in his first year as the coach of the Nets. Saddled with one of the most expensive rosters in recent history, which is definitely in the NBA luxury tax territory, Kidd had to win-now because his team owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, said so. But, he did not have the luxury of putting together his team and forging an identity with the likes of an aged Kevin Garnett, old Paul Pierce, a big-shot-taking Joe Johnson, big ego Deron Williams and scoring post-man Brook Lopez.

Jason Kidd, overwhelmed as a new head coach in The Association, even coached the preseason summer league team for the Nets to get more coaching experience. Sorry Jason, that’s a good start, but you’re coaching your bench players. He should’ve let his assistants take care of the summer league.

Kidd’s Nets stand at one of the worst records of 3-9, dead last in their division. In Jackson’s rookie year, his Warriors were 4th of 5 teams in the Pacific Division at 23-43, but have improved since then because of retooling his roster the way he wanted to.

#NBA News: Spurs stay Under the Media Radar, again

spurs big threeBlame the media. The San Antonio Spurs continue to grind out victories and success, two things that many organizations would want to have in a heartbeat. But, the ESPN’s of the world ignore the sustained success of the Spurs because they seem too boring!

Boring? Racking up win after win is boring? Making the NBA Finals last year and barely losing to the Miami Heat, who were on the ropes in Game 6 until this crucial 3 by Ray Allen:

Coach Gregg Popovich is a masterful head coach. He’s been a fixture in San Antonio since 1996, which is a little longer than Tim Duncan’s tenure in San Antonio. His personnel specifically work in his system. Heck, Robert Horry was a key contributor on one team, Steve Kerr shot 3s like he was on the old Michael Jordan-led Bulls and Stephen Jackson made his name by playing with the Spurs. They should’ve had last year’s, if not for Ray Allen’s 3, Danny Green and Gary Neal’s cold streak and ultimately, Manu Ginobli’s historic ineffectiveness.

gregg popovichHe has a lifetime record of 905-423, a winning percentage of 0.681. He is fifth all-time behind Phil Jackson, Boston’s Red Auerbach, Laker’s John Kundla and Pat Riley. He has won four NBA Finals: 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007. Did you remember that? Who are other multiple Finals-winning coaches in the league today? Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat.

Seriously. He’s the only multi-Finals winning coach other than Spoelstra in the coaching ranks. Doc Rivers has won one championship and lost another, Mike Brown has lost one championship in his first stint at Cleveland and Rick Carlisle won one with the Mavericks in 2011. Check Wikipedia.

Pop, as people call him, is not a friendly interviewee on TV. It’s because he feels he should be spending time strategizing and not talking with the media. He wants to win. Take a look at NBA.com’s “Best of Coach Pop” interviews:

And now for Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle pulling a “Pop”:

The Spurs are winning and sit at 11-1. You know if the Heat were 11-1, the media would be talking about the unbeatable Bulls season record of 72 wins in a season. Is winning boring after all?