Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

NFL Season Preview

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

The NFL season is almost here, which means its time for Jeff Lail and I to make our predictions for the upcoming season. Listen to find out our Over/Under predictions on each NFL Team, our selections for the Division winners, and you’ll be surprised to find out our Super Bowl match-up. In OT we pick the MVP and Rookie of the Year and much more. All on the Ridiculous Things Podcast:

Date: 9/2/2010
Length: 1 Hour
Guests: Jeff Lail

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Categories: Humor, NFL, Podcasts, Sports

Taking Your Talents to South Beach (Part 2)

In this episode, Jeff Lail and Steven Burleson join the podcast to talk about introducing the business of sports into the everyday workplace.  Part 2 begins with a discussion about Sabermetrics and evaluating how we hire and train people in various industries as well as managing risk when hiring new employees.  Jeff applies this principle to the Student Activities environment and I approach it from the perspective of the retail business.  Steven joins at the end of the podcast and we introduce these principles to ministry.  Despite the technical difficulties throughout (I actually get kicked off the broadcast at one point), this turns into a fascinating conversation on hiring principles and the criteria (tangible and intangible) that is considered when hiring and training new employees.

Date: 8/19/2010
Length: 1 Hour
Guests: Jeff Lail and Steven Burleson

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Taking Your Talents to South Beach

…or You’ve Been Traded for a Player to Be Named Later.

My recent podcast on Ridiculous Things where Jeff Lail and I discuss the potential of combining sports contracts/trades/free agency to the everyday workplace.  I focus on the retail business while Jeff focuses on higher education.  We both agreed that this was Part 1 with other podcasts to follow on this subject.  I opt for the no trade clause and Jeff wants to get called up to “The Show.”

Date: 8/14/2010
Guest: Jeff Lail
Length: 1 hour

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It’s Groundhog Day! Again…

…or why you hate Brett Favre but deep down you know you’re following the story.

Much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you woke up Tuesday to the same old story that you wake up to every day/year.  Brett Favre is retiring.  This time it’s definite.  Well, maybe it’s definite this time.  It’s definitely a maybe.  And like the droning sounds of Sonny and Cher that blare through the alarm clock, I heard the same droning on talk radio Tuesday and Wednesday morning from every reporter, coach, player and analyst in the NFL.

So…without further delay, here’s my obligatory Brett Favre post.

I’m late to the party! (And lay off I was enjoying my two days at the beach)
The Brett Favre retirement party that is…if Brett is indeed retiring.
He definitely is this time!  Well, maybe.
Once again we’ve entered into the summer soap opera “As the Brett Turns.”

In case you didn’t hear and were truly living Groundhog Day, ESPN reported Wednesday that Brett Favre indicated to several teammates that he plans to retire.

Then, only 24 hours later, ESPN reported that Brett Favre will play if his ankle is healthy, also after reports that Favre took part in throwing drills at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg.

Casual sports fans loathe hearing his name.
Packers fans are disgruntled that he left and now plays for the Vikings.  Oh yeah, did I mention they hate each other.
Vikings fans are starting to doubt him at best and distrust him at worst.
Ed Werder camps outside his house.
Vegas is taking bets on him.

ESPN is infatuated with him, often reporting stories based on little information and going “all hands on deck” to cover his retirement/return.  Remember Brad Childress chauffeuring Favre from the airport?   ESPN was all over that.  And considering July/August is the most vacuous time in the pro-sports schedule, ESPN was dying for the Annual Brett Favre Retirement/Return story.

The NFL needs him.  Last year he was #1 in jersey sales.  This year, post draft, he is still #5 and sure to rise once the Tim Tebow hype wanes.    He was one game away from another Super Bowl.  One monumental interception away from the Super Bowl.  A Super Bowl, which would’ve featured Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, two of the greatest QBs of all time.  The New Orleans story was a sweet consolation prize for the NFL as it was able to showcase the Saints as the hope for a city that is still trying to (and may never) recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, as well as overcoming their own dubiousness as a franchise that went from “Ain’ts” to Saints.

The Vikings are desperate for him.  Do I need to remind you that Brad Childress picked up Brett Favre at the airport? Now there are reports that the Vikings are willing to pay more for a Brett Favre return.  He’s scheduled to make $13 million this year, but the Vikings are willing to increase that deal to $20 million ($16 million guaranteed, $4 incentives).  Why?  Brett Favre = revenue.  If you don’t believe me, check out the Minnesota Vikings average ticket prices without Brett Favre. That’s a $30 drop (per ticket) in two weeks!  Forget about Favre making the Vikings a playoff contender.  Without him, they’re losing millions in revenue.  $20 million is a bargain when you’ll make that back in 4 games worth of tickets, concessions, and memorabilia.  I’m surprised there isn’t a story out there that projects how many millions the Vikings would lose without Favre.  Not to mention that the Vikings are trying to get approval for a new stadium.

Lessons to learn from “As the Brett Turns”

1.  If you don’t like the coverage, change the channel and watch Shark Week.  A Brett Favre retirement/return may be tiresome news (considering we’re on our 1,637 episode of “As the Brett Turns”), but it’s still news.  This latest wave of Favre reports was set off when Favre reportedly texted “This is it” to several teammates.  An entire network moves on 3 words:  “This is it.”  Was he talking about the Michael Jackson documentary?  The Vikings’ season and finances hinge on his return.  The outcome of the NFC North and the NFC playoffs depend on his return.  If you think I’m crazy for saying that, check out how Favre’s retirement/return affects betting lines in Vegas.  Obviously, the Vikings and the NFL will move on without Favre, but until that time comes, the ESPN will continue to send Ed Werder to the “Waffle House” every off-season and every former and current coach, player, executive, sports anchor, and day-jobber with a twitter account will chime in on the retirement/return.

2.  Favre retirement/return stories are always entertaining.  Without these ridiculous sub-plots the NFL would be slightly more boring this season.  Only slightly because this season we have Dez Bryant refusing to carry pads, TOcho and the Bengals, Shanahan shutting out Haynesworth until he passes a routine running drill, Roethlisberger’s latest bar rendezvous, and McNabb’s return to Philadelphia as a Redskin.  Again I’ll remind you that Childress picked up Favre at the airport.  Can you imagine your new boss meeting you in a black SUV with a “Your Name” sign?  Bonus: every season we go through this is another season I get Frank Caliendo impersonations of John Madden and his man-crush on Brett Favre.  And don’t forget Wrangler commercials.

3.  It’s all about the money.   Don’t let the reporters or news stories fool you.  Never believe anyone when they say “it’s not  about the money.”  It’s always about the money. People who say “it’s not about the money” either a) already have plenty a ridiculous amount of money and don’t need more but will take it and are merely in denial or b) make a minimal amount of money but would take substantially more if offered to them and are hypocritical.   If it’s not about the money , the Vikings Brad Childress wouldn’t have picked Favre up at the airport last year.  If it’s not about the money, the Vikings wouldn’t be offering Favre an additional $7 million to return on top of his current $13 million.  If it’s not about the money, then ticket prices wouldn’t have dropped substantially when Favre announced his retirement.  And Favre is a magician.  He doesn’t need more money, but he texts “This is it” and *poof* he gets offered $7 million extra to return.  By the way, that’s a lot of Wrangler jeans.

4.  Favre is a flip-flopper/waffler like the rest of us.  Put yourself in his shoes.  You’re 40+ years old.  You’re middle name is Lorenzo.  You’ve played professional football for 19 years and possibly starting your 20th, i.e. ending your second decade in the NFL. You’ve made 285 consecutive starts.  You have the chance to return to a team that’s gift wrapped for you, including one of the best RBs in the league, a solid defense, and an offensive scheme that you could run with your eyes closed.  Your coach looks like Herman Stiles from Evening Shade.  You don’t have to attend OTAs or minicamp and you don’t have to be ready until the regular season.  You missed out on your 3rd Super Bowl by one play, you’re interception of course.  The Saints destroyed you, flattened you several times and you injured your ankle along with countless other body parts.  In short, you looked 40 years old if not older.  You want a chance at redemption but maybe your body can’t handle another run…or maybe it can.  Hell, I have a hard enough time choosing a movie to rent from Netflix, let alone a career decision like this.  I think its a no-brainer that he returns, but my middle name isn’t Lorenzo, and I don’t earn an extra $7 million by texting my friends.

5.  Brett Favre is one of the greatest QBs that ever lived.  Statistically, he’s in the top 10.  However, no QB  has ever been relevant this long.  And no QB has captivated (good and bad) the NFL, ESPN, and fans in the way Brett Favre has.  Entire off-seasons are devoted to reporting his retirement/return.  Casinos are taking prop bets on Favre returns.  When Vegas opens up bets based on whether you retire or go back to work, that’s when you move the dial.  If you send some of your friends a 3 word text and you’re company offers you $7 million extra, then you’re important.

Perhaps Brett Favre will see his shadow once again, and return to the NFL.
Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve seen the last of The Groundhog.

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Categories: Humor, Movies, NFL, Sports

John Fox Should Go…and His Gum

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Banned in 49 States

I’m writing here because my other website has been censored by WordPress.  Here is the message I received:

Warning: We have a concern about some of the content on your blog. Please click here to contact us as soon as possible to resolve the issue and re-enable posting.

I’m pretty sure it was the Christmas Vacation quote that got me blacklisted.
Until  I can get the other blog off the Vatican’s banned blog list, I’ll be posting here.

Get in the Zone but not AutoZone

You’re In the Zone.
And John Fox is on the Hot Seat.

This season the Carolina Panthers are 2-4, with losses to Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, and Buffalo.  In those losses, Carolina was outscored 61 points by its opponents.

Carolina’s two wins this season are against Tampa Bay and Washington.  In those wins, Carolina outscored its opponents by only 10 points.

If St Louis, Cleveland, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City weren’t so bad (a combined 2-32), you could make an argument that Carolina is one of the worst teams in the league.

“Jake The Steak”

The focus at this point is on Jake Delhomme.  Consider his stats this season:

  • Jake Delhomme  106/177 59.9% 1172 yds 4 TD 13 INT 56.5 Rating

In terms of QB rating, there are only three Quarterbacks in the NFL worse than Delhomme this season:

  • Josh Johnson  63-125  50.4%  685 yds  4 TD  8 INT  50.9 Rating
  • JaMarcus Russell  74-160  46.3%  891 yds  2 TD  8 INT  47.2 Rating
  • Derek Anderson  60-137  43.8%  605 yds  2 TD  7 INT  40.6 Rating

Many Panther fans out there (a conservative estimate would be 70-80%) including myself, have been calling for Jake Delhomme to be benched, cut, or traded.  It makes sense.  He has thrown three times as many interceptions as touchdowns so far this season.  Sure he’s accurate with a 60% completion percentage but out of his other 71 throws, 13 of them (or 18.3%) are going to the other team as interceptions.

At the current rate, Delhomme is projected to throw 35 interceptions this season.  The current record is 42 interceptions held by George Blanda for Houston in 1962.  Delhomme is on a 7 game stretch (including the dreadful playoff lost to Arizona last year) of 18 interceptions and 3 fumbles.  On top of that, in Carolina’s last two playoff losses Jake Delhomme was 32-69  49.2 %  401 yds  2 TD  8 INT  1 Fumble  35.0 Rating.

Jake and the Rocky V Phase

Watching Jake Delhomme recently is like watching Rocky V.  It’s part of the franchise so you watch it, but you can’t wait for the nightmare to be over.  It’s a predictable plot.  A loveable loser comes out of nowhere, wins the title, and after all his successes he loses it all and returns to loveable loser status, except he’s not as loveable this time around. At the end you’re wondering why you wasted two hours of your life.  Jake Delhomme is in the Rocky V phase of his career.  Let’s hope he doesn’t make it to Rocky VI (aptly named Rocky Balboa in the hopes we might forget the aberration of Rocky V).  Kurt Warner is currently in the Rocky VI phase of his career and almost made it to the unheard of Rocky VII phase.

Moore or Less Feeley

The problem with benching or cutting Delhomme (the trade deadline has already passed so that Titanic has sailed) at this point is: 1) the Panthers recently signed 34 year-old Delhomme to a 5 year $42.5 million contract extension.  You don’t sign a Quarterback to that kind of contract unless he’s the guy,  the ace, the franchise player.  If they bench or cut him now, the Panthers would be saying “he’s not our guy anymore; he’s not our franchise player.”  In essence, they would be paying franchise money to a backup to hold a clipboard and wear a headset.  Even if they wanted to trade him at the end of the season, they wouldn’t get much value for him.  2)  Also, look at talent (or lack thereof) behind Delhomme on the bench:

  • A.J. Feeley  23 Games  372-665  55.9%  4070 yds  27 TD  29 INT
    69.6 Rating
  • Matt Moore  10 Games  69-122  56.6%  793 yds  3 TD  6 INT
    64.0 Rating
  • Josh McCown  47 Games  610-1058  57.7 %  6584 yds  35 TD
    40 INT  71.3 Rating

First of all, you have to eliminate McCown from the discussion because he’s on the Injured Reserve list.  Between Feeley and Moore, they have around 2 seasons worth of experience, their completion percentages are worse than Delhomme’s, they both have more interceptions than touchdowns, and while their QB ratings are better than Delhomme’s, it’s not much of an improvement.  You’re talking about replacing a former (strong emphasis on former) Pro-Bowler with an un-proven career backup.  You’d basically be saying, “our year is over and we’re looking forward to the draft.”  I’m not against that, but it’s going to be a long season watching Feeley and/or Moore getting sacked and throwing interceptions.  Meanwhile Jake Delhomme keeps cashing in those paychecks.

“He Called You Wildcat Before”

The other option is for Carolina to shift to a Wildcat (anytime I hear this word I picture Dennis Hopper, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed) style offense.  The only time I’ve seen this work for the Panthers in a game situation was in 2006 against Atlanta.  Jake Delhomme was out with an injury and Chris Weinke (yes that Chris Weinke) was the backup.  Carolina rushed 52 times for 183 yards and passed 7 times for 11 yards…and won 10-7.  I could see this being folded into Carolina’s offense, but not as a solution to the Quarterback problem.   Eventually, somebody has to throw the ball and I don’t trust a running back anymore than a Quarterback who’s lost his arm, his mind and his mojo…unless that running back is Bo Jackson.  Bo knows Wildcat.

The Usual Suspects

So what is Carolina’s problem?

The consensus is Delhomme at this point as I’ve argued above.  Rocky V.  We’d love to forget it but Burt Young always had this uncanny sense of unintended comedy and so we tune in, even with commercials.  A change at Quarterback is bound to happen, but it’s unlikely to help.  For every Tom Brady and Kurt Warner, there are a million Feeleys and Moores (i.e. that Weinke).  If they go Wildcat, it will be an entertaining year which will bring a losing season, but not a first round pick.  Read below for the explanation.

Blame it on the Rain (or Hurney)

You could make an argument that the front office is to blame.  Why did they franchise Julius Peppers for 1 year $16.7 million when he probably won’t re-sign next year and when Carolina foolishly refuses to utilize him as a versatile DE/OLB?  Why did they sign 34-year-old Jake Delhomme to a 5 year $42.5 million after a 5 interception playoff loss, when you know he’s on the post-30-year-old down slope of his career?

In terms of draft picks, if you look at the draft dating back to 2002, Carolina has done relatively well in the first round: Julius Peppers, Jordan Gross, Chris Gamble, Thomas Davis, DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, and Jonathan Stewart.  Chris Gamble would be the weakest of the picks but he was a late first rounder.  Carolina was one of the teams that passed on Aaron Rodgers in 2005 when they drafted Thomas Davis at 14, and in 2008 Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart at 13 and Jeff Otah at 19, while Baltimore took Joe Flacco at 18.  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are a good running back tandem, but you have to consider that you’ve spent two first round picks for the production of one running back.

Outside the first round, Carolina has bombed.  None of the wide receivers have panned out: Walter Young, Keary Colbert, Drew Carter, and Dwayne Jarrett.  The only quarterbacks they’ve drafted since 2002 were Randy Fasani and Stefan LeFors, who never saw the light of day.  The best pick outside the first round that still plays with the Panthers, would either be Travelle Wharton or Dante Rosario.  Yeah it’s that bad.

To top it all off, Carolina didn’t have a first round pick in 2009 since they traded up in 2008 to get Jeff Otah.  Philadelphia ended up with the pick and took Jeremy Maclin.  And unless they work some trade magic, they won’t have a first round pick in 2010 since they traded up in 2009 for second round pick Everette Brown and fourth round Mike Goodson. Unless they find a diamond in the rough, a Tom Brady or Terrell Davis, 2010 could be another painful season to watch.

Carolina has made some head-scratching moves as of late.  It’s like watching a senior citizen trying to operate a computer.  It has entertainment value but you have a deep-seeded urge to take over the whole operation before something expensive gets irreparable damage.  But overall, Carolina is still talented and  great teams win with the talent they have.  A great coach can make average players good and good players great.

It’s Merely a Flesh Wound

Another argument that people throw out there is injuries. If you look at Carolina’s injury report, the players that have been injured through the season: Steve Smith, Dante Rosario, Na’il Diggs, Jonathan Stewart, Thomas Davis, Brad Hoover, and Jeff Otah and Everette Brown.  It’s part of the game.  Obviously, if half of your starters are out with injuries it’s going to create problems.  The second stringers don’t have comparable talent and the game experience.  Injuries happen to every team though.  Great teams play through injuries.  Without Tom Brady last season, the Patriots went 11-5 and would’ve made the playoffs if they had been in any other division.  Injuries aren’t the problem.

All of these factors have contributed to an abysmal start to the 2009 season, but it’s not why Carolina is playing their worst football in 8 years.

The Violet Beaureguarde Factor

My argument is the predictable but underrated argument that coaching is the problem.
This is why I think it’s time for the Panthers and John Fox (and his gum) to part ways.

In the Willy Wonka of NFL coaches, John Fox is Violet Beaureguarde.  You know John Fox has broken Violet’s gum-chewing streak.  Andy Reid is Augustus Gloop (Wade Phillips is a close second), Eric Mangini is Veruca Salt, Josh McDaniels is Mike Teevee, and Sean Payton is Charlie Bucket (with an honorable mention for Brad Childress).

Andy Reid will be sucked into the Chocolate river after trying, awkwardly and unsuccessfully, to include Michael Vick into the offense, as well as losing Brian Westbrook to injury and once again giving up on running the ball midway through the season by gorging himself on the West Coast Offense.  John Fox will become a giant blueberry after the three course dinner gum, which he will chew all season.  Course 1 is the appetizer: Jake Delhomme 4 TD 13 INT.  Course 2 is the entree: Matt Moore/A.J. Feeley.  Course 3 is the dessert: Wildcat sans-quarterback.  After this season, John Fox will be rolled out and juiced.  Eric Mangini is a bad egg and will plummet down a garbage chute into the Chocolate Golden Egg Sorting Room, but we won’t feel bad because we’re tired of his incessant whining.  Josh McDaniels will become miniaturized by Wonka-vision…it just seems fitting.  And Sean Payton, after the fizzy lifting drink experiment with Reggie Bush, returns to earth with Drew Brees to win the lifetime supply of chocolate and a sweet ride on the Wonka-vator.  I almost went with Brad Childress as Charlie Bucket, only because Brad Childress moped around all off-season waiting for his Golden Ticket.  Picking up Brett Favre at the airport would be the fizzy lifting drink experiment (a hilarious yet disturbing mental image), but I just don’t see Brad Childress giving back the everlasting gobstopper.

Back to reality.

John Fox began coaching the Panthers in 2002 and in 118 regular season games he has a 65-53 record with a .551 winning percentage.  Above .500 that’s good right?  At the end of last season he was tied at 10th with Lovie Smith and Mike McCarthy who have since passed him, and if you consider there are 9 new NFL coaches this year, that places Fox in the middle of the pack.

Out of 8 seasons with Fox as Head Coach, the Panthers have only had 3 winning seasons. In 2003 they went 11-5 and earned their first Super Bowl appearance where they lost to the New England Patriots due to poor clock management at the end of the game and a costly special teams penalty when John Kasay kicked the ball out-of-bounds.  This was one of those “Oh Crap Moments” when you look at whose coaching your team and you look at whose coaching the other team and you know your team is doomed (Rams fans we feel your pain).  In 2005, the Panthers went 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship game where they lost to Seattle after 4 turnovers (3 INTs, 1 Fumble).  In 2008, the Panthers went 12-4 and lost in the Divisional round to Arizona after 6 turnovers (5 INTs, 1 Fumble).  That puts Fox’s playoff record at 5-3.

The problem with Carolina is that they haven’t executed their game plan.  If you look at this from a business perspective, every business has a mission statement.  The mission statement reflects who you are and how you do business.  For the Panthers, the mission statement is tough defense, by stopping the run and creating turnovers, and managing the game on offense by running the ball, gaining field position and reducing turnovers.

John Fox is an old school coach who is a defensive coordinator at heart.  If you don’t buy that, look at the defensive teams he’s coached: Steelers, Raiders, Giants.  The one exception you could make is San Diego, but still those three teams are old-school hard-nosed defensive teams where the mission statement would be to create turnovers and manage the game on offense.  If John Fox had his way the Panthers would run on every down and he’d make the other team beat them in the air.

These stats tell you everything you need to know about the Panthers this season:

  • Rushing Defense 133.2 yds/g (26th), Passing Defense 149.7 yds/g (1st), Total Defense 282.8 yds/g (4th)
  • Rushing Offense 128.7 yds/g (8th), Passing Offense 183.8 yds/g (22nd), Total Offense 312.5 yds/g (20th)
  • Passing Attempts 194, Rushing Attempts 176
  • Points Scored: 15.7 points/g  (25th)
  • Points Allowed: 24.2 points/g (23rd)
  • First Downs: 18.5/g (19th)
  • Red Zone %: 57.1 (13th)
  • Red Zone Def %: 61.1 (27th)
  • Takeaways:  Interceptions 3 (Tied 28th), Fumble Recoveries 4 (Tied 12th)
  • Giveaways:  Interceptions 14 (32nd), Fumbles 7 (Tied 25th)
  • Turnover Differential: -14 (32nd)
  • Sacks: 15 (Tied 14th)
  • Third Down Efficiency 25-75 33.3% (23rd)
  • Time of Possession 29:41 (16th)

Carolina is putrid on offense.  They’ve scored 11 touchdowns and committed 21 turnovers.  They’re lousy on third down and struggle to get first downs throughout the game.  They’re average in the red zone while getting outscored by 10 points a game, which is amazing considering the turnover margin.  On defense, Carolina has fared well considering they’re on the field for a good portion of the game.  When your offense turns the ball over twice as much as they score, it’s hard to hold your ground.  Nevertheless, the defense is giving up more rushing yards than it gains and it is middle of the pack when it comes to stopping teams on third down.  Carolina is lousy defending in the red zone and is not putting enough pressure on the other team to get turnovers: only seven all year.

It’s time for John Fox take his three course dinner gum and go.  Out of 8 seasons only 3 have been winning seasons, two embarrassing playoff losses and a Super Bowl loss that was like re-living every St Louis fans nightmare from 2002.  And to make matters worse, this season the Panthers are already 2-4, beating only Washington and Tampa Bay (two of the worst teams in the league), and Carolina is not executing its game plan.  Carolina has gotten away from it’s mission statement.  Stop the run (26th) and force turnovers (Interceptions 28th, Fumbles 12th) on defense, run the ball (8th– they actually do this well) and minimize mistakes (32nd) on offense.

You can blame Jake Delhomme all you want, and he may soon be replaced, but Carolina has lost its identity and is not executing its game plan…its mission statement.  This is not just a player problem, it’s a coaching problem, and after 8 seasons it’s time for the Panthers to roll John Fox into the juicing room.

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-da-dee
If you are wise, you’ll listen to me

Until next time.
You’re in the Zone.


Categories: Humor, Sports
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