Saturday, July 4, 2015

The DeAndre Jordan Bungle. Blame Paul and Doc Rivers.






Who's to blame for LA Clippers defensive whiz/center DeAndre Jordan defecting to the Dallas Mavericks, instantly dropping the Clips among the also-rans in the NBA's Western Conference title race?

Point the finger at point guard/ team leader Chris Paul for starters. He helped create an atmosphere that alienated Jordan to the point where he took less money to go to an inferior team. Jordan's exit leaves a giant hole in the team, one that can't be filled this season because he made his move after all the free-agent big men had been signed. The blame for that unfilled hole, which ruins the upcoming season, belongs to head coach Doc Rivers. But that's a separate issue.

First let's look at Paul, who was instrumental in driving Jordan away.  According to two sources close to two Clippers' players, Paul made Jordan's life miserable for years with his relentless badgering. Paul is a fanatical competitor who thinks players should be focused on work, work, work, all the time. He has little patience with a hang-loose guy like Jordan. He also was constantly pestering Jordan about his lousy free-throw shooting. The bickering, reported the sources, witnessed by those with seats near the Clippers' bench, was just the tip of the iceberg. The arguments in the locker room were louder and nastier.

According to the sources, nobody on the Clippers is crazy about Paul, whose somber, non-nonsense, super-authoritarian attitude turns players off. Teammates compare him to Michael Jordan , who was a hard-driving dictator in the Chicago Bulls' heyday. Michael took the fun out of playing. Arguably, say the sources, so does Paul. As DeAndre's stature rose in the NBA, he felt he was above being picked on by Paul. He simply had enough and wanted out.

Something else bothered Jordan about being a Clipper. He also wanted to play a bigger role in the offense. He was fed up with being the third option, behind Paul and Blake Griffin. Recognizing that was on his wish list, Dallas promised to make him an offensive star.

Everything, said the sources, pointed to Jordan leaving for Dallas, particularly since he's a Texas native who went to Texas A&M. Sources said it was 90-10 that he'd sign with the Mavericks. Why didn't coach Rivers see this? Others said it was clear Jordan couldn't wait to get out of LA. So why didn't Rivers take some steps to lure another decent big man, like Tyson Chandler or Robin Lopez, before they signed elsewhere? Instead, he was dragging his feet, allowing Jordan to leave the team high and dry. Colossal blunder by Rivers.

By the way, this sudden need for a center also probably means curtains for the Clipper career of Jamal Crawford, the No 1 offensive bench weapon,  He'll be the prime trade bait in their search for a replacement for Jordan. Losing Crawford will take considerable punch away from the offense, just like losing Jordan will subtract significant power from the defense...

The Clippers really blew it.in the Jordan case on several levels. Regression, here they come.

Nice work, Chris Paul. Good job, Doc Rivers.



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Thursday, June 11, 2015

How NBA Refs Have Been Fixing Finals






The NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors, are surprising close, and surprisingly entertaining. You can thank the refs for that.

Without their calls--or non-calls-- the Warriors, by far the most talented team, would have cruised to a four-game sweep  But, with help from the refs, all three games have been competitive, with the first two going into overtime. The underdog Cavaliers, even without two of their three best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are leading the Warriors 2-1. That's amazing since nearly all experts picked Golden Sate to romp in four or, at the most, five games.

Fans are loving it. So is the ABC TV network. These Finals have the biggest ratings in years. At first the Finals looked to be a low-rated, mismatched loser, with most fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area not caring to see Golden State be Goliath. But, with the undermanned Cavs playing David, they are whipping up on the Warriors.

How is this possible? It's very simple. The refs have set a rugged tone, beginning with the first game, that overwhelmingly favors Cleveland.  While an excellent defensive team. the Warriors are basically an offensive juggernaut that relies on the jump-shooting skills of guards Stef Curry and Klay Thomspon. They play a fast-paced style that uses bullet-passing to get their shooters open shots. But that's not what's happening in this series.

With the aid of the refs, the Cavs, a thuggish half-court team, are bullying the Warriors, beating up on them at every turn. The Warriors are best at a high-scoring, wide-open, fast-paced style. But these games are low-scoring, slow-paced, wrestling matches. They're much like those Eastern Conferences playoffs back in the day, with teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons and Celtics locked in bruising defensive battles, with scores in 80s..

What the refs are doing now is not calling penalties on the Cavs when they are roughing up the Warriors. There is so much Cavalier hacking and clobbering that goes on with the refs looking the other way. The refs are subtly encouraging this pro-Cavs style of play.

There was one play in the third game where Cleveland's LeBron James barreled into slender Curry from behind, bowling him over, without a whistle on James. It was shocking. Meanwhile the refs are letting James be in freight-train mode, without penalty. On many of his many drives to the basket, where he'll plow into two or three Warriors, he could easily be called for charging. But he almost always gets by with no penalty.

James' constant pounding and extra-rough tactics of other Cavs take their toll on the Warrior players, who don't have the energy to make their offense run more smoothly. This tiring style of play is a boost to the Cavs. The result is a bunch of ugly games, with the sleek, race-horse Warriors sinking into the sludge with the rhino-like Cavs.

How is it all going to play out? It's possible that the Warriors may get down and dirty and beat the Cavs at their own game. Or maybe this wrestling-style of play is so wearying that the Cavs, who aren't very deep, may wear down in the last few games.

It may not be pretty but the games will probably be close, which will attract fans. This series will probably go six or seven, unless the Cavs shock the world and win in five, which is unlikely. Even if it ends in five it's already been a much more entertaining series than expected.

Whatever happens you can bet the refs--the puppeteers pulling the strings with ABC in mind--will be guiding the action in a direction favorable to ABC. Naturally the network, as usual, will deny any hanky-panky.

But knowledgeable folks in the gambling and gangster underworld will tell you that the network, in this case, is full of crap.









Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Ugly Adrian Peterson Stain







This fall, after a year layoff, RB Adrian Peterson will be back terrorizing defenses, most likely for his old team, the Minnesota Vikings. But when he's bulling through the line, knocking over defenders like bowling pins, that's not what I'll be envisioning. What I'll be seeing won't be pretty,

I'll see Peterson running, all right, but not through defenses. I'll see him not carrying a football but a switch, which is a thin, bare tree branch about a foot long. He'll be chasing a four-year-old boy, looking to grab him and whip him with the switch..Whenever I see Peterson playing ball that's the image that will dominate.

I won't see Adrian Peterson, the great running back, the highest paid RB in NFL history. I'll see Adrian Peterson, the child abuser. I saw pictures of that youngster after a brutal Peterson whipping. It was ugly.

He sat out nearly all last season after being indicted September 11 by a Texas grand jury for severely beating his four-year-old son in May of last year. Following a media furor and a laughable Vikings penalty--a puny, one game suspension--Peterson got a more suitable punishment. He was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, ending his season. For months all we got from Peterson was a lot of whining and bitching, like he was being mistreated and misunderstood. He kept saying he made a mistake. But what he did, violently whipping his little son, is much more than a mistake. It goes much deeper than that.

Reinstated by the NFL in April, Peterson is back with Minnesota. Yeah, yeah, he's apologized and said some of the right things, about therapy and parenting and discipline and blah, blah, blah. Funny, but I don't believe him. His apologies don't right true. He claims he's a changed man. I don't believe him. What he's saying sounds rehearsed and insincere. Something is haywire deep down in his core, something that allowed him to viciously punish his son in the first place. My sense is that what was wrong hasn't been repaired.

I had the same problem with QB Michael Vick, when he was reinstated by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 after serving a 21-month prison sentence for his role in operating a dog fighting ring. When I watched him play I couldn't get those horrible animal-cruelty images out of my head. It tainted any game I saw Vick play in. But Vick worked hard to show the world he had changed his thinking about dogs. Gradually those gruesome images faded for me. After a while I could see Vick the football player again, and not that other monster.

Now Peterson will taint Vikings' games for me the same way. Maybe he'll eventually convince me and other doubters like me that he really is a changed man and finally close the book on that dark chapter of his life. The Christian thing for me to do is to be forgiving and him a second chance.

I'm working on it.

Pardon me, but, like many other Peterson haters, I'm not there yet--not even close. Will I ever get there? In this case, I'm not so sure.









Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Greedy NBA Ignores Dwight Howard Guilt








Did anybody really think the NBA would suspend Houston Rockets' center Dwight Howard for tonight's game?  No way that was ever going to happen. Remember this is the money-grubbing NBA we're talking about.

What happened is that Howard clobbered the Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut at the 8:06 mark in the third quarter of the Houston's 128-115 victory on Monday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Howard was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul.

Rod Thorn, president of the NBA's basketball operations, announced that, upon review, the penalty would stand.  If it had been upgraded to a Flagrant 2, Howard would have been suspended and unavailable for tonight's crucial Game 5. The Warriors' lead the series 3-1 and could claim the Western title with a win.

Actually the call should have been changed to a Flagrant 2. It should always have been a Flagrant 2. When the foul happened the refs blew the call. What Howard did was worse than what Atlanta forward Al Horford did to Cleveland's Matthew Bellavedova in the second quarter of Game 3 of that series, which got Horford ejected immediately. In reviewing the Howard foul the league had a chance to right a wrong. So if the NBA was being fair and consistent Howard would be on the same Flagrant 2 boat as Horford and would not play tonight.

But, let's face it. What's important to the NBA is money. Fair play and consistency in penalties, who cares? The NBA wants a big audience for tonight's game. If it promises to be competitive, people will watch. Without Howard, it wouldn't be competitive and many fans wouldn't tune in, which hurts ratings, which hurts the NBA's wallet.

Consequently the NBA does what is necessary to attract the biggest audience, which means Howard plays, and fair play be damned. So that bogus Flagrant 1 stays a bogus Flagrant 1. This is just more evidence for conspiracy theorists who swear the NBA rigs games based on TV ratings.

Chalk up another stain on the NBA's soiled integrity..
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Real Story Behind The Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan Feud.








All of a sudden, in the wake of the LA Clippers' choking away the Houston Rocket series, a feud between Clippers' point guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan is taking center stage. Is there really a feud? If so what's behind it?

According to three sources close to the Clippers, here's what's going on. It's basically a clash of attitudes. One source referred to Paul as a "mini Jordan," meaning he thinks of himself as the Clippers' answer to Michael Jordan. Remember, Michael was the hard-nosed, dictatorial leader of the Chicago Bulls in their '90s heyday. Paul has tried to assume that lofty, tough-guy,.Jordanesque position as leader of the Clippers, but he has run into some opposition. One player who doesn't relish that attitude is DeAndre Jordan, a hang-loose, laid-back kind of guy.

The essence of the feud is that Jordan doesn't like Paul's pushy, bossy attitude. To Jordan, it feels like he's being shoved around and he doesn't like it. When Paul came to the Clippers a few years ago, Jordan was still raw and just a promising player, while Paul was a hot-shot All-Star. Jordan was just a second-tier player, so he had to take a subservient position to big-time Paul. But since then Jordan has blossomed into one of the top three defensive players in the league. He's a potent force who's actually more valuable than Paul. Finding another first-rate point guard would be a lot easier than finding an athletic, shot-blocking, top-notch rebounding rim-protector like Jordan.

Quite simply, Jordan has become a huge force on the Clippers--and he knows it. He feels he's above being pushed around by Paul. But Paul only knows how to be one thing--a pushy leader. That's his way. It doesn't please his teammates. Rumor has it that when he left the New Orleans Hornets in 2011, some of those players were happy to see him go.

He and the Clippers' other star, Blake Griffin, clashed when Paul first came to the team. Griffin, then, was the No.1 guy but Paul asserted himself right away as top dog. Griffin balked. There was bad blood between them for well over a year, before they finally declared a truce. When Doc Rivers came to the Clippers, replacing Vinnie Del Negro as head coach, his first order of business was to smooth relations between his stars.

Actually, this Paul-Jordan feud is nothing new. These two have been at odds since last year. The conflict has just been getting steamier in the last few months. Rivers has had to do what LA Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson did with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal--play referee. Jackson's biggest job on those championship teams wasn't dealing with Xs and Os but playing mediator between those two, making sure they didn't kill each other.

There have been many flareups between Paul and Jordan, report the sources, including some heated locker-room arguments and some conflicts that have been visible at court side during games. So far, though, the beefs have been neatly covered up. That's been possible because the LA media isn't as blood-thirsty and tabloid-oriented as media in other big cities.

One of the issues is that Paul has been riding Jordan about his horrible free-throw shooting. Sources say Paul thinks Jordan hasn't been working hard enough to improve this weakness. Jordan, however, resents Paul butting in.

Another problem, report the sources, is that Jordan is miffed at Paul doing his Michael Jordan imitation when he hasn't had the success that Jordan had. Michael helped the Bulls win many championships so his teammates felt obliged to succumb to his harsh leadership tactics. Paul, however, hasn't even been able to lead the Clippers to a conference championship game. So DeAndre resents him acting the tough-leader role when he hasn't lead them to anything close to a championship.

The feud is surfacing now because DeAndre is about to become a free agent. He can either sign a max deal with the Clippers, for $100 million, or go to another team for less money. Dallas has been mentioned as a possible new team for Jordan, a Texas native who was born in Houston and went to Texas A&M.

Clipper fans fear that if Jordan is not on good terms with Paul that may push him to leave Los Angeles. That's not necessarily true. There have been horrible fights between NBA players, sometimes to the point of fisticuffs, and that never forced the warring parties to jump ship. Do you think things were smooth on those Michael Jordan championships teams?. Actually they were plenty rocky. That was also true on Pat Riley's Knick teams and, way back in the old days, there was plenty of player strife on Bill Russell's Celtic teams. Recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a mess for months, but the players, led by LeBron, resolved the conflicts. Problems can be successfully handled internally. They don't have to break up teams.

This is where Rivers comes in. It's up to him to smooth over any problems and convince Jordan to stay with the Clippers. My guess is that he will stay. Paul and Griffin learned to co-exist. So can Paul and Jordan. If Jordan leaves, blame Rivers for being a lousy mediator.

By the way, expect a bunch of media stories in the next few weeks quoting Clipper players and various other sources denying there's any rift between Jordan and Paul.

Ignore those stories. That's just publicity b.s.






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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why Clippers Will Beat Rockets In Game 7









Look for the LA Clippers to climb out of that hole they tumbled into Thursday when they lost game 6 at home to the Houston Rockets, 119-107. But losing is the wrong word to describe what happened. What the Clippers really did was choke the game away.

It was really ugly. So, naturally, were the late-game stats. With about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Clippers were ahead by 19 and cruising. Then they barreled into an iceberg, turning into the Titanic. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter, a historic playoff turnaround. Actually they just scored 12 points in the fourth. It was 15 because Chris Paul.buried an uncontested three-pointer at the buzzer. At one point during that epic collapse they went nearly seven minutes without a field goal.

But that's all past. Forget that colossal choke. Sunday is a new day for the Clippers, a day of redemption.
The Clippers you see Sunday won't be that wobbly outfit that turned to jelly with the game on the line on Thursday.

In Thursday's game LA was pressing ferociously in the fourth quarter, pressing so hard on offense they forgot to play defense. The Rockets scored so easily because the Clippers defense was non-existent. LA players, crippled by the pressure, slipped into a mental fog and visibly slowed down, making the Rockets several steps faster. The more the Clippers pressed the more they crumbled. For the Rockets it was almost like pregame practice. Coach Doc Rivers was no help. He was powerless. He had never seen anything like it. He didn't know how to stop the bleeding.

The strangest part of the loss was that Houston's fourth quarter blitz happened with their best player, James Harden, who hadn't played very well most of the game, on the bench. The Clippers were mostly destroyed in that quarter by two so-so role players, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, who scored 29 of the 40 fourth quarter points.

Here's why the Clippers will win Sunday. First of all, in the back of their minds on Thursday, they knew they had another game, that Thursday's game wasn't the end of the series. That sense of urgency that usually short-circuits such meltdowns wasn't in play. But now they have that sense of urgency. For another thing, this game is more important to the Clippers. Winning it means they go to a conference finals for the first time in franchise history. That gives them extra motivation. The Rockets have won NBA championships so it's not as crucial to them.

The game is particularly critical for Chis Paul, one of the great point guards of the last decade. He has never been to a conference final, never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. This game is his chance to finally silence his critics. Even if the Clippers get to the finals and lose, it won't be so bad for him. But not reaching that level, once again, will gnaw at Paul and pump up his critics for the entire off season. He's desperate to win this game and his desperation will fuel his team.

One key stat is in the Clippers' favor. Teams that get a 3-1 lead in a seven game series win it 96% of the time. However there's another stat that works against them. In game7s in playoff history, the road teams have prevailed overwhelmingly, 24-95. But the Clippers can offer a stat which counters that one. They have been pretty good in game7s in recent years with this core unit. In the last three years the team has won its last three game7 efforts, including one on the road in Memphis in 2012. And, don't forget, just about two weeks ago, the Clippers beat the Spurs in a grueling game7, a team that's far better than the Rockets.

Another thing in the Clippers' favor. The Rockets wouldn't have won without spectacular games by Brewer and Smith. Those guys are unlikely to run wild again. The Clippers will see to that.

One more thing. The Clippers are favored by 2. Odds makers and gamblers have a sense that Thursday's game was an aberration, a blunder that, odds are, won't happen again on Sunday.

The worse in this series is behind the Clippers. They won't slip into that abyss in consecutive games. They are too talented for that.








Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight Fix--Aftermath







A funny thing happened on the way to the fix of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Pacquiao's bum shoulder got in the way.

There was certainly a plan for a Pacquiao win. Would Mayweather have gone through with it and spoiled his spotless record with a loss? We'll never know.

The dream outcome would have been a close, action-packed Pacquiao win. That would have guaranteed a rematch that would have done two things--set up another whopping,  money-making, pay-per-view bout and kept interest in boxing alive among casual fans in America for another year or two. But Pacquiao's ailing shoulder ruined that plan. It turned out there was little action in the fight because, with only one good shoulder, Pacquiao couldn't make a dent in Mayweather's steel-curtain defense. The fight, a Mayweather cruise, was a snooze-fest for all except the knowledgeable boxing fans who appreciate the nuances of the sport.

This is what happened, according to sources in touch with both Pacquiao's camp and the depths of boxing's seamy underworld. A plan for a Pacquiao win, which made sense and was on the table, wasn't possible because, with his bad shoulder, no one would believe he could beat Mayweather. A healthy Pacquiao couldn't realistically beat Mayweather, so a wounded Pacquiao would have no chance. A Pacquiao win would look like what it was--a fixed fight. That plan, say the sources, was nixed when it was clear Pacquiao was hurt.

So what was left?. Just to capitalize on the inside info about Pacquiao's shoulder, which had been carefully guarded. The sources say the word dribbled out about Pacquiao's bad shoulder days before the fight. Naturally some who knew took advantage by betting on Mayweather. The wagering, of course, report the sources, was handled smartly and discreetly, with relatively small bets, scattered worldwide, made through many proxies, so there would be no.spikes to arouse suspicion. Apparently some people made a lot of money on this inside info.

Where do things stand now? A rematch is certainly possible once Pacquiao's shoulder heals. Since people now know he wasn't really healthy, this effort against Mayweather doesn't really count. The rematch wouldn't generate the same, high-level interest, particularly since this fight wasn't exciting and both aging fighters would be even older. But there would still be a decent payday for all concerned.

And the fix? We'll have to see which way the wind is blowing then.







Friday, May 1, 2015

Mayweather--Pacquiao Fight Fixed? You Bet It Is






Is the mega-million-dollar superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fixed? Damn right it is.

There have been rumblings for months, from deep in the bowels of the gambling-boxing-gangster underground, that things will go according to a script in this fight. Forget who's the better fighter. Forget who has the longest reach or superior footwork or the quickest, deadliest jab or who's more skilled at dodging jabs. None of that matters. It would matter if this was just fighter against fighter. But that's not what this match is all about. It's about money, about business..

What matters in this case is the business of boxing. What will happen in this fight is what's best for business, what will make the most money for those involved, what will make money for gamblers who know the script.

A Pacquiao victory makes sense, since it would set up a rematch, which would be the best thing for the sport.

There's another fortune to be made from a rematch. If good guy Pacquiao whips bad-boy Mayweather, that would set up a lucrative rematch. Mayweather would win that, setting up a third, best-two-out-of-three bout. Fans would be enthralled, the pay-per-view business would be booming and boxing would be, for the next year or two, a prominent sport.

But if Mayweather wins easily, boxing is dead. It's that simple.

Here's the problem. Boxing, a dominant American sport in the first half of the 1900s, is on its last legs in this country. Most of the American public doesn't give a damn about it. So, after this huge Mayweather-Pacquiao payday, boxing would be dealt a knockout blow if Mayweather pummels Pacquiao. These are the only fighters who matter on a national level. Pacquiao is the only fighter who has a chance against Mayweather, who has already announced he'll quit after one more fight, one that he'll certainly win since, after Pacquiao,  there's no real competition. That would mean no more big pay-per-view bouts. Mayweather could retire.undefeated, at 49-0. But his chances of making millions would also retire. Mayweather, who's made $420 million in his career, is a notorious spendthrift, like Mike Tyson was at his worst. Insiders insist that he's a candidate for bankruptcy. So money-hungry Mayweather surely doesn't want to derail the gravy-train.

Is fixing a fight possible? Of course. What nearly destroyed boxing in the last half century is flagrant corruption--bribing officials, boxers taking dives, etc. You think those shady elements have abandoned the sport? No way. People who know how to make a dive look good are still around. Fixing a fight is much easier than fixing a basketball or football game since there are fewer people involved.

By the way, if Mayweather wants to win this bout, he could do it. According to knowledgeable insiders, against a dedicated, focused Mayweather, Pacquiao wouldn't have a prayer.

A Mayweather win is a victory for honesty. But it's also a victory for stupidity since it would deal a death-blow to the sport and eliminate the possibility of a big-bucks rematch, taking money out of Mayweather's pocket. There's a crooked plan in place. Mayweather just has to follow the script.

Does honesty or corruption rule in this fight.? I'm betting on corruption.







Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winston vs Mariota? Winston By a Mile







All this fuss about which Heisman Trophy QB should be No.1 in Thursday's draft, Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, is wasted energy. It's obvious. The Tampa Bay Bucs have the first pick and they should use it to draft Winston.

Why? Because he's more ready to be a pro QB than Mariota. He's a version of Andrew Luck when Luck was coming out of Stanford. He's linebacker-size, can make all the required throws and is fairly elusive for a big man. Ignore all the arguments that makes Mariota look equal to Winston. He's not. Mariota is a super scrambler and has terrific speed but those qualities don't make him equal to Winston. Mariota is not nearly as accomplished a passer. According to some expert observers in the NFL underground, Winston is already better than half the QBs in the league and he hasn't even been to a NFL camp. These observers see Mariota as a potentially decent QB after several rocky years in the league.

Being drafted by Tampa might be lucrative but it won't be any fun. This Tampa team is a mess. The QB picked by Tampa is stepping into a disaster area. Without question he'll get off to a slow start. They have a horrible offensive line and no first-rate power RB to take the pressure off the rookie QB, who is going to be battered unmercifully. Winston comes from a Seminole system that's closer to what's run in Tampa and other pro teams. He can adapt faster to the Tampa system than Mariota. In his first few years at Tampa, Winston would unquestionably be a more productive QB than Mariota.

Here's what's wrong with Mariota. Yes, he can make the throws used to measure a QB's arm strength and can make them accurately. Yes, he's a good citizen. But too many are blinded by his speed and athleticism. They think those special qualities make him a better prospect. But they are overlooking and woefully downplaying something crucial and obvious. He has to unlearn so much from all those years in Oregon's QB-friendly spread system. That's MAJOR. That system, which works well against less skilled college defensive players, is designed for easy reads by the QB and gets receivers open quickly. For a fast, speedy QB like Mariota, it's a dream situation. Arguably he's the best spread QB ever. Like any good college spread QB he piled up great numbers against modestly talented college players. But it's way different in the pros, without the comfort of that system, which allows the QB to start a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. In the NFL the receivers won't be as open and the reads will be a lot tougher. Another rap against Mariota is that, against the best college defenses, he made slower reads and, faced with a strong rush, abandoned the pocket way too soon. In the NFL such tendencies would sidetrack offensive threats.

Oregon is not a QB factory. That system masks all sorts of weaknesses that show up when Duck QBs transfer to the pros. Look for Mariota, like all spread QBs making the transition to the NFL, to struggle early on. If he starts out in Tampa, with those crappy offensive players, he will REALLY struggle. Wherever he goes, Mariota will stumble his first few years. He's also very likely to get injured. No way will he be a good pocket passer right away, so he'll rely more on running, which is more dangerous in the NFL because the defensive players are so much bigger, stronger and faster.

While he's a far better choice than Mariota for Tampa, Winston does have his flaws. For one thing, he threw 18 interceptions last season, which is a serious red flag. Also, he's very immature, with the mentality of a college frat boy. What you read in the media was the tip of the iceberg. A lot more problems were handled quietly, without media scrutiny. In some ways he's a more talented version of Johnny Manziel. That juvenile mind-set might have a lethal effect his work ethic, which could hurt his rookie season.

But if Winston, who's loaded with talent, approaches his job with some maturity and works reasonably hard, he'll have a decent season and be far more productive for the Bucs than Mariota would ever be.









Friday, April 10, 2015

How Boneheads Baalke and York Ruined the 49ers








To angry Niner fans, San Francisco 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York are
irresponsible, short-sighted egomaniacs who put themselves before the team. Their colossal blunder has set the Niners back three-to-five years. It's becoming more and more clear that this is a broken team--and these are the jokers who broke it.

Their stupid move? Firing head coach Jim Harbaugh at the end of last season. It was completely unwarranted. Riddled with injuries and unsettled by the looming loss of their coach, the team stumbled to an 8-8 record and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's four years as coach,  But his first three years were incredible. He's the first NFL coach ever to reach the conference championship game in his first three seasons on the job. That record alone should have bought him several more years as Niners' head coach.

But here's what got him fired. Baalke and York had been butting heads with him all last year. It was no secret that they hated each other. Harbaugh had little respect for either of them, considering them meddling clowns who were full of bad ideas and were constantly interfering with his efforts to do what he thought was best for team. Make no mistake, Harbaugh is surly, hard-headed and hard-boiled, with limited "people" skills. He's a rigid no-nonsense guy who doesn't massage egos or play office politics. But he's also a great coach.

Harbaugh considered Baalke and York clueless obstacles and treated them as such. They couldn't stand that. By last summer it was clear that Harbaugh was done as the Niner coach. Baalke and York weren't going to put up with a coach who disliked and disrespected them. No matter that Harbaugh was the team's best coach since the great Bill Walsh and one of the two or three best in the history of the franchise. No matter that, in just a few years, he had transformed the Niners from doormat to powerhouse by emphasizing rushing and killer defense. But even winning a Super Bowl couldn't have saved Harbaugh's job.

Harbaugh was a lame duck last season and the team knew it. Consequently, the locker room was a land mine of emotions. Players aren't going to perform well in an atmosphere riddled with uncertainty and toxicity. Key injuries, particularly to the line-backing corps--the heart of the defense--didn't help. Under those circumstances, coupled with a power surge by teams in their division, an 8-8 season was pretty good.

Bottom line--Baalke and York screwed up. They dumped an excellent coach because they couldn't get along with him. Harbaugh is like many great coaches--difficult to get along with and more than a little crazy. Vince Lombardi was a mean-tempered bully who was hated by everyone. Bill Belichick is an abusive ass who treats people like pawns. Bill Parcells was like that too. Tom Landry was arrogant and nasty. So is Nick Saban. But this is the cream of the coaching crop. They're hard to get along with but they win and win and win. Their bosses should just accept that they are miserable bastards, leave them alone and let them go about coaching. But Baalke and York couldn't do that.

Replacing Harbaugh with a first-rate coach would have been acceptable. But there was a problem. Top coaches weren't interested in the Niners. Word was out in coaching circles that working for Baalke and York is no picnic. Why would a first-rate coach, with other options, go to a place where a giant like Harbaugh got the boot for a stupid reason like a personality conflict with the bosses?

So what did Baalke and York do? They hired an underwhelming, inexperienced nobody, Niner defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They replace greatness with an obscure position coach whose only head-coaching experience is leading the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe for ten games, winning six, in 2006. This guy isn't dynamic, has little credibility and doesn't command respect the way Harbaugh did. That superb coaching staff assembled by Harbaugh? Mostly gone. Tomsula has been hiring a new staff. So far, however, none of the new coaches has been that impressive.

Meanwhile there has been a blizzard of changes involving key players. Workhorse RB Frank Gore, the heart and soul of the team, signed with the Colts. Pro-Bowl offensive guard Mike Iupati jumped to division rival Arizona. Top-notch linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland have retired, while defensive end Justin Smith is considering it.. Defensive end Ray McDonald left to join the Bears. The status of  super LB NaVorro Bowman, who missed last season with severe injuries, is uncertain. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been shopping himself around the league, has one foot out the door. None of the recent Niner signees, like RB Reggie Bush and WR Torrey Smith, are game-changers. Meanwhile, in the midst of all these changes, struggling QB Colin Kaepernick, who will be operating behind a much weaker offensive line, has to reverse his drastic regression. Don't be surprised if he has another lousy year.

This is a team in turmoil. If Harbaugh was still in charge, he could, while fighting off Baalke and York, probably successfully navigate the Niners through these troubled waters. But can the new guy, Tomsula, do it while he's learning how to be a head coach and busy earning the trust of skeptical players? Wouldn't count on it.

What Niner fans can count on is a mediocre season. In fact, don't count on a good season for at least the next two or three years. The Niners will be in rebuilding mode. With boneheads at the helm, though, you can imagine how that's going to go.