Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Are you #$@%ing kidding me??

"We have not developed our younger players, and that’s bothersome."
-- Matt Millen 11/28/05

I already hate Dick Jauron.

At least I think I do. Because if it was his decision to start Jeff Garcia this Sunday against Minnesota, the Lions should be the first team in NFL history to fire two head coaches in one week.

I don't get this. I don't get it at all. I am completely #@$%ing baffled. Did Matt Millen not say on Monday that one of his biggest problems with the Steve Mariucci coaching regime was the failure to develop the team's younger players?

So the next logical move must be to start a 35-year-old quarterback who's led the Lions' offense to a grand total of 33 points in two-and-a-half games, and whose best apparent skills are to run around like the proverbial headless turkey and throw passes that hang in the air almost as long as that Roary the Lion blimp floats around Ford Field.

I'm trying to make sense of this. Did someone check the back of Jauron's neck for a mind-control device, the signal from which could be traced back to a house belonging to a "S. Mariucci"?

Does Jauron think Garcia gives the Lions the best chance to win what's essentially a must-win game on Sunday? Does the coaching staff and front office think the best way to develop the young wide receiver corps is to have Garcia throwing passes to them? Do certain outspoken defensive backs decide who starts at quarterback now? (More on Dre "The Truth" Bly later today, or some time tomorrow.)

Can it be any more obvious that Joey Harrington's career in Detroit is officially over? (And I realize I'm probably in the minority of Lions fans who think that shouldn't be the case.) This can't just be Jauron sticking to that old, tired "a player doesn't lose his job to injury" coaching axiom. Millen and the Lions' ownership had to have signed off on this move, too. Either that, or Jauron has balls the size of cantaloupes and is giving Millen a huge middle finger with a number 5 on it.

Someone explain this to me. At this point, I'm ready to make different plans for Sunday at 1 pm.

(Image from "Heart of the City" © 2005 Mark Tatulli)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lions presser post-mortem

Well, I was a bit disappointed by that press conference, if only because I was hoping (and expecting) some antagonism between Matt Millen and the media. Remember how the press attacked Mike Ilitch and Randy Smith when Phil Garner was hired as the Tigers' manager? Now that was a press conference. Of course, the late Joe Falls was on hand that day to demand some answers. Maybe that's what was missed in Allen Park today. Either that, or Millen's just too big, too scary a guy to take on.

You never know; Millen could pounce from behind that podium and attack someone. He still has that ruthless linebacker look in his eyes. At least when he's not sheepishly defending his 20-55 record as Lions president and general manager.

Hoo boy. 20-55? Wow, that doesn't look good at all - especially when you type it out like that. That had to have been the pink elephant in the room. And as far as I could tell while watching the press conference, the Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski was the first (and maybe only) one to point it out, asking Millen what mistakes he thought he'd made during his five years in Detroit.

But the press conference made it official: Steve Mariucci is out as Lions coach. Dick Jauron is the interim replacement. And Greg Olson will call the plays as offensive coordinator. In his brief remarks to the press, Jauron practically read from the sports cliche handbook, flatly stating that the Lions "had five more games, and would play them one at a time." However, I was intrigued by his comments that the defense performed poorly on Thursday because players were "freelancing," rather than working within the system.

Millen denied that any "emergency meeting" was called after the Thanksgiving Day massacre vs. Atlanta, saying that the decision was made this morning. Why did he wait?

"I was angry after that game," he said. "It was disturbing to watch. I did not want to make that decision based on anger."

After lamenting how difficult the decision was, based on Mariucci's quality as a person, Millen made it quite clear why a coaching change was made. He believes the roster is "capable of making a playoff run." He twice stated that the staff has "not developed our younger players, and that’s bothersome."

"The talent is there," he said. "And it hasn't played up to that level."

When asked whether a new coach should tailor his system toward the available players, or make the roster play his system, Millen said, "I think every coach has to adapt to what you have, and what you get."

There you go. In his eyes, Millen did his job. He brought in good players. But Mariucci didn't do his job. He didn't win games.

Of course, if the Lions have to hold another one of these press conferences in the near future, there won't be much question as to whether or not Millen did his job well.

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Maybe I should've waited a couple of hours

WDFN and WXYT are confirming FOX Sports' report by Jay Glazer that Steve Mariucci has, in fact, been fired as Detroit Lions head coach.

Dick Jauron will take over the position, and according to WDFN, a couple of other assistants, including offensive line coach Pat Morris, are joining Mariucci out the door.

How lame is this duck?

Weren't the Lions supposed to have a new (interim) coach by now? But here we are on another Monday, frustrated with the result and wondering what happened. And the Lions didn't even play a game yesterday. On Thursday night and Friday morning, the dismissal of Steve Mariucci was reportedly imminent. I spent a good chunk of my holiday Friday listening to WXYT, waiting - as the news vultures were - for what seemed like an inevitability.

But as I write this, Mariucci is still the Lions head coach. On Thursday night, FOX 2's Dan Miller (who used to host a radio show with Matt Millen before he came to Detroit) reported that meetings were taking place to discuss a coaching change.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Yet nothing happened on Friday. What went through Millen's mind during the day? After sleeping on it, did he not want to make a decision based on anger and embarrassment, following the Lions loss to Atlanta? Did he prefer to take the weekend to sort through his thoughts and explore his options?

Did he want to wait until the Fords returned from their Thanksgiving excursion before making a final decision? Was he concerned that firing a man during a holiday weekend might seem heartless?

Did Mariucci's likely interim replacement, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, not want the job? And if that was the case, was that reluctance based on loyalty to Mariucci? Was he worried that leading the Lions through the remaining lost cause of a season would taint his resume? Was it about money? Or did Millen question whether Jauron would be a suitable replacement?

As usual, there are nothing but questions surrounding the Lions. But if anything is to be salvaged from what has now officially become a miserable season, Millen needs to answer some of those questions - especially the ones surrounding the coaching staff - immediately.

When Mariucci wasn't fired on Friday, I briefly thought that may have been the right move. After all, there are only five games left. What would really be different? Even if Jauron was installed as head coach, he's not going to have that job once the season ends. And the players would surely realize that. So what would be the point of changing one dead coach walking for another? Just ride this out, and plan for next season.

But maybe a firing could happen later today, and this is why it should: Millen has to figure out what he has here. And he can't do that while Mariucci is running his sideways offense and sending passive-aggressive messages to players like Joey Harrington and Kevin Jones. He's coaching out of sheer desperation now. Substituting Jeff Garcia at quarterback with three minutes left in the first half on Thursday was the hasty kind of move a teenage boy makes on a first date. That was grabbing for his date's breast before she could get out of the car. Does Millen really want five more games of that?

Playing for a coach whose job is on life support would allow the team to let itself off the hook, and Millen needs to know who will take some accountability for their play. Who can be counted upon next season? Who wants to live up to their potential talent?

Is Harrington the quarterback Millen thinks he is? Are the wide receivers capable playmakers that can stretch a defense down the field and influence the outcome of a game? Is Jones the type of running back who thrives on a heavy load of carries, gets stronger as a game wears on, and can tire out a defense? Millen won't know unless he lets Greg Olson run the offense, as he did through the final games of last season. Harrington and Jones have never looked better.

And though the consensus is that Millen is so popular with Lions ownership that his job is safe, these last five weeks could indicate exactly what sort of leader he is. Is he the kind of guy who will make tough decisions when they need to be made? Is he capable of steering this franchise toward prosperity? Does he really know what to do with the power that the Fords have given him? Or is he ultimately just playing fantasy football?

As Tom Petty once sang, the waiting is the hardest part. Five more weeks of this could be excruciating.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

This is idiotic

I wasn't going to post a blog today. It's a holiday, and no one's reading. But it is total bull$#!+ that Steve Mariucci benched Joey Harrington for Jeff Garcia with three minutes left in the first half. Even the FOX announcers (Troy Aikman, especially) are bewildered.

Maybe I'll eat these words along with my turkey later if the Lions come back to make this game interesting. But has a coach ever been fired during a game? This asinine decision reeks of desperation. Does Mariucci even watch the game when he's "coaching"? Does he really think Harrington is the reason the Lions are down 17-0? Was that interception his fault?

I'm so close to turning off this game entirely.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Closer than it should've been

Usually, I write about the Michigan game on the following Sunday, but I guess I needed more time to collect my thoughts this week. I was certainly shocked to see Michigan give up two straight touchdown drives to Ohio State, blowing a nine-point lead. I also felt like I'd watched it all before. Anthony Gonzalez's 26-yard catch at the end of the game that all but assured the outcome felt much like Gary Russell's 61-yard run in the Minnesota game. And Antonio Pittman's game-winning touchdown felt like John Stocco doing the same thing for Wisconsin.

To me, it was sort of like watching a pro wrestling match (yes, I used to be a huge fan). You know almost exactly what's going to happen, even if the opponents are different. You've seen the same moves, the same sequence of events before.

On Saturday, I said I thought Ohio State should win the game because they're the better team (though I still predicted a different outcome). Maybe that opinion led to the feeling of resignation I had once the game was over, because I wasn't that mad about it. The game was close only because of Ohio State's mistakes.

Should we have expected Michigan to win a game in which it was held to 32 yards rushing? 32 yards. That's only 32 more than I gained, and I spent most of the afternoon shoveling my mother's crab dip into my mouth. (By the way, that was really good $#!+, Mom!) If Chad Henne (or, as I like to call him now, "Smilin' Chad") hadn't played his best game of the season (25-of-36 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown), would Michigan have even stood a chance? (It would've been nice to see him take some shots downfield, too, but he either wouldn't or couldn't.)

The decision early in the fourth quarter to essentially settle for a field goal by running a quarterback sneak on third down bothered me. I didn't think a nine-point lead would be enough. As it turns out, a 13-point lead wouldn't have made a difference either. I was also bothered by the defense on the final drive, in which Michigan played like they didn't want to give up a touchdown, seemingly forgetting that Ohio State only needed a field goal to win. Up until that point, it seemed like the defense had figured out how to stop the Buckeyes offense. Of course, once they got aggressive again, Troy Smith got away from the pressure.

What the hell was Tyler Ecker thinking when he tried to fight for more yardage, rather than step out of bounds to stop the clock? Maybe he thought he had to make a play, knowing they were still so many yards away from a score.

And while we're talking about out-of-bounds plays, I'm sure many fans will point out that Gonzalez had stepped out before catching that final dagger. (Did the referee say he was pushed out?) Yet what was he doing behind the Michigan defensive backfield in the first place?

Despite all that, however, I'm still not that upset because it was so clear that the Buckeyes were better. That's not easy to accept, of course. And I imagine I'm in the minority with that opinion. In past years, Michigan won, even when they were the inferior team. A big difference, of course, is that there's now a coach in Columbus who knows what to do with that talent and knows how important it is to win this game.

Maybe I'll get more angry about this loss as the week wears on, and I hear more sports talk radio chatter calling for Lloyd Carr's head. (I won't join in that sentiment, however.) Maybe I'll console myself with the possibility that Michigan could still somehow, inexplicably play in a New Year's Day (Jan. 2) bowl game (Outback Bowl) if Ohio State is invited to a BCS game.

But I'll certainly look back at this season and ponder why this team was so disappointing. I'll wonder if they were overrated from the very start. I'll question whether or not a quarterback change would've made a difference. I'm sure I'll mull over whether or not this is the beginning of a downward trend or just one of those struggling seasons that Michigan has been fortunate enough not to experience in recent history. And I'll damn sure want to know what Michigan has to do to beat Ohio State. I'm getting sick of losing to those guys - better team or not.

(Photo by John Greilick / The Detroit News)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday skittishness

Did I really go this whole week without writing about Michigan-Ohio State? Even after reading Bob Wojnowski's hilarious column in yesterday's Detroit News? Or accounts of the apeshit craziness of Ohio State fans from MGoBlog and Blue Cats and Red Sox?

I experienced that insanity first-hand during my only visit to Columbus. Fans wore "Fuck Michigan" t-shirts, of course. I heard a few "Michigan sucks!" chants. And while walking through the tailgating area, I saw a fan holding up a rubber head on top of a stick. The head was wearing a Michigan football helmet, and had fake (I think) blood dripping from it. And oh, there was a dick in the head's mouth. This was before the opener against Miami (Ohio) in 2001.

Yesterday almost felt like a holiday, with sports talk radio devoting entire shows to the game. And here I am, writing about the Lions. (But there was a lot of interesting stuff going on this week. Steroid policy in baseball, anyone? The now 8-0 Detroit Pistons?)

But after sleeping on it, and having a heartfelt chat with myself in the mirror this morning, I realized that trepidation may have compelled me to write about other subjects. I'm really nervous about this game. I've tried to take solace from sportswriters (including "the evil" Drew Sharp) and broadcasters picking Michigan to win. But I just can't shake the feeling that Ohio State is the better team, and I'm not sure the home-field advantage is enough to overcome that.

What really makes me nervous is Chad Henne. This would be a fine time for his best game of the season, but I don't know if he has it in him. He looked sharp last week, which was encouraging, but that was against Indiana. He can't miss the throws he's been missing in big games this season - too long on deep balls, behind on slants, etc. Yet I think Ohio State's defense could pressure him into doing just that. If Henne's responsible for more than one turnover, I don't think Michigan can overcome that.

(Photo by John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

However, I don't think Troy Smith will look as Heisman-esque as he did last year, when he ran for 150 yards and passed for 241. Michigan seems to have learned how to defend spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks. Yet despite the defense's strong play this season, it's been vulnerable against the run in several games. So I'm still nervous.

Mike Hart will play, which is a big boost to the Michigan offense (despite the improving play of Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson). And we'll hear plenty of cliches from writers and broadcasters about how he's the heart of the Michigan offense. But cliches often have the ring of truth to them, and if Hart can grind out tough yards and first downs as he normally does, helping to keep the Ohio St. offense off the field, that help Michigan's chances greatly.

Yet A.J. Hawk will likely have something to say about that. I would love nothing more than for the Michigan running backs to bowl him over and show he's overhyped. But he's not overhyped (well, maybe a little bit), and I'm sure we'll hear his name far too often from Brent Musburger and Gary Danielson. (Maybe playing the Brent Musburger drinking game would help ease my nerves.)

So yes, I'm nervous. I talked with Lil' Sis (of Penn State phone call fame) yesterday and she seemed shaken when I expressed my anxiety. She didn't exactly help me with that, but she did say something that I'm going to carry into today's game. "Michigan has to win this game," she said. "Lloyd has to beat Tressel."

Doesn't that say it all? Lloyd Carr's record against Jim Tressel can't fall to 1-4, can it? His record against Top 10-ranked teams is too good (though not nearly as sterling as it used to be). And he can't possibly want to give those "John Cooper" rumblings more fuel.

So despite my head telling me Ohio State should win this game, I'm going to go with the heart on this one. (Credibility? Have you seen the name of this blog?) Michigan's playing at home. They're sick of losing to the Buckeyes. They're still mad about last year's bomb-sniffing dog traveshamockery in Columbus. And nothing would make the salvaging of what previously looked like a lost season more complete than a victory in this game.

Michigan 26, Ohio State 23. My fingertips should be bloody nubs by dinnertime.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dinner with Roy?

Hi, Roy – thanks for meeting with me today. I know you’re a busy guy with practice and all that. I just wanted to talk with you about your game last Sunday.

Yes – yes, it was a fantastic game. You’re right. Yes, I heard that you’re the first Detroit Lions receiver in ten years to catch three touchdown passes. What was I doing ten years ago? Well, probably buying liquor, since I’d recently turned 21. I’m pretty sure I fell in love, too. Oh man, you should’ve seen her. She was a frea—

Oh, I see what you’re getting at. Sure, I was watching the Lions. They finished 10-6 that year. I cheered for them like a madman. I love the Lions.

Yes, I still love the Lions. Why would you ask that? No, I just act that way because I care so much. I’ve thought many times about becoming a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but you guys are my team. You represent Detroit. The Steelers don’t do that for me. Although Hines Ward is a great wide receiv—

Yes – yes, I know you had three touchdown catches on Sunday. Hines Ward only had one? No, I didn’t know that. You keep track of those things?

Look, Roy, I’ll get to the point and tell you why I asked you here today. I want to apologize to you. I want to apologize for a lot of the things I’ve been saying about you over the past month.

Oh, you know what I’ve been saying? Right. Yes. That’s why this is a bit awkward. But please, just let me say what I wanted to say. It’s important to me, okay?

I’m sorry for questioning your toughness. Yes, I know you’re not a punk. I never said that. I don’t use that word.

What did I say? Oh. Well… I said you had female reproductive organs. I know. I know. Yes, I used that word. And I’m sorry for that. I know it was a muscle pull. Do I know what that feels like? Sure, I do. I have muscles too, Roy. Maybe you can’t see them, but—

Please read more of “Dinner With Roy”…

No – no, I didn’t play professional football. No, I don’t know what that’s like. I’m just saying I have muscles, too, and I’m pretty sure I pulled something while raking leaves this weekend. Look, Roy – please let me finish, okay? This isn’t easy for me.

Did I say I’m sorry for saying you have female sex organs? Okay. I’m also sorry for saying that I’d rather have Terrell Owens on my team, “because at least T.O. wants to play.” No, I don’t really want T.O. I was mad. I was emotional, okay?

I apologize for saying you should be wearing a pink leotard and slippers, instead of pads and cleats. No – no, I don’t like pink. Sure, it’s an okay color. Yes, I’m sure you could get away with wearing it. You could pull it off, Roy. May I continue?

I’m sorry for saying your middle initial, “E,” stood for “effeminate.” No, I don’t know what it stands for. Eugene? Yes, that’s a fine name.

I’m sorry for saying you chose the number “11” because the numbers looked like your legs – women’s legs. That was mean. Do I respect women? Of course I do.

Okay, I know you have to go. Yes, I’ll pick up the bill. I just wanted to thank you for meeting with me today, Roy. After Sunday’s game, I was feeling bad about what I said, and I wanted to get that off my conscience.

Hey, have a good game against Dallas, okay? I hate those Cowboys! Yes, I know you’re from Texas. Yes, I’m sure you’ll have a great game for all your fans back in Texas. That's why I'm starting you on my fantasy team this week! You’re the man!

Oh! Sorry, man. Yes, I know your thigh still hurts. I’m sorry I slapped it. I just get excited about football. That’s why we’re here, right?

Yes. Sure, we could meet again. That’d be great. What? No, I’d love to shave your head for you. That’d be cool. It’s the least I could do.

Yes, I know you had three touchdown catches on Sunday, Roy. Take care.

(Photos by Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News)

So close, but not this time

While watching the Knicks-Lakers game on Wednesday night, ESPN's crawl mentioned that the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Ned Colletti to be their new General Manager. I shrugged my shoulders. Mostly because I'd never heard of the guy. And he wasn't a big name, like Theo Epstein. I figured I'd never give this story a second thought, unless Colletti made a big - or terrible - trade or free-agent signing.

Then I read Lee Jenkins' piece in yesterday's New York Times. The Dodgers' GM search was close to being a very interesting story.

See, the Dodgers - the team of Jackie Robinson, the team historically known for breaking barriers - almost hired baseball's first Asian-American General Manager. Hang on, there's more. If the Dodgers would've promoted Kim Ng, the team's assistant GM, they would've hired baseball's first female GM, as well.

As it is, she lost out to Colletti. She finished second in the job search. But as Ng points out, it was "groundbreaking that a woman even interviewed."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? I'm not sure if Ng would be hired by another organization. Jenkins' article points out that she's dealt with some unfortunate sexism and racism during her time in baseball. But she's a name to keep an eye on. This is a story to keep an eye on.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Never tear us apart

Call me a romantic, but I usually like to see couples succeed. Life's hard enough, and you need someone to share the experience with. That's why I'm trying not to get too mad about the love story that exists Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia. They're just trying to get through this together. And, well, I find that touching.

It's been tough the last couple of weeks for these two. Garcia's left leg was (supposedly) healthy, and everyone (except Joey) was happy! But the mended leg couldn't take the weight of the entire Lions franchise upon it, and it buckled. So Mooch had to go with someone else at quarterback, which surely hurt Jeff's feelings. But even when Mooch chose Joey, he was thinking about Garcia the whole time.

So there's been a bit of a triangle. It's like Meredith, Derek, and Addison on Grey's Anatomy.

(Image by Daniel Mears /
The Detroit News)

But strong couples talk to each other, and work through these things. Joey's played well, but despite all that, Mooch felt empty. He still wanted his guy, his Golden Boy. And if Mooch has his way, it looks like they'll be together again. I think they're going to work it out, you guys! See what happens when couples want to stay together?

... Well, it's the only thing that makes sense to me. Do you have any better explanation for why the starting quarterback is even a question going into Sunday's game vs. Dallas?

This was bound to happen

Did you see who scored the final goal in Calgary's 3-1 victory over the Red Wings last night?

Even if he's playing for another team now, I'll always root for the guy. And I doubt I'm in the minority.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Did he just say... ?

"They look better now than they ever looked under Larry Brown."

-- Stephen A. Smith, during ESPN's "NBA Shootaround," referring to the 7-0 Detroit Pistons.

Quite frankly, I agree with the guy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why won't you let me enjoy this?

Aren't Mondays just more pleasant when the Lions win? My sheets were smooth and toasty warm when I woke up this morning. Food tastes better; today's coffee and muffin were terrific. And I'm sure my turkey sandwich at lunch will be wonderful.

The air feels fresher running through my nostrils. My lungs and muscles are energized. I wanted to walk up to several of my fellow citizens and just give them a hug. (But I didn't, because I have personal space issues - especially in the morning.) I love people today.

(Photo by Paul Sancya/ AP)

My point is, I just want to enjoy this. How often do you get to see our Detroit Lions, our Honolulu-Blue-clad gridiron gladiators, look that good in a game? How good does it feel to know that there is a team worse than the Lions? Thank you, Arizona Cardinals. Thank you.

Three touchdown catches for the wide-receiver-previously-known-as-Cowardly-Lion, Roy Williams? Has it really been ten years since a Lions receiver had that kind of performance? (And was Roy a little more motivated, facing his fellow 2004 1st-round pick, Larry Fitzgerald?) Hey, that means the embattled Joey Harrington had three touchdown passes! No interceptions, either. Do we have a quarterback of the future again? (Not if you ask Steve Mariucci, apparently. More on that later.)

And not to be overdramatic (or hyperbolic), but could the most important play of the Lions' 2005 season have been the 4th-and-1 early in the first quarter, with the game not even three minutes old? It was an abnormally gutsy call by the coaching staff, which was rewarded by Kevin Jones breaking free for a 36-yard run. Two plays later, Harrington hits Williams for a touchdown. The Lions had only a 7-0 lead, but had asserted themselves over the Cardinals.

Of course, I can't just sit back and completely enjoy this. Steve Mariucci won't let me. How does Kevin Jones get only 14 carries? He gained 81 yards on those carries, and according to my calculator, that is 5.8 yards per rush. Is that not good enough? Does Mooch point to Shawn Bryson's 44 yards on seven carries and say, that's 6.3 yards, so Bryson's better? Had he called more plays for Jones at the end, letting him gain yards and run time off the clock, would Arizona have made the game close toward the end?

Mariucci has to be the only coach in the NFL who thinks Bryson and Artose Pinner collectively deserve the same number of carries as Jones. Who doesn't think Jones is better? The opposing defensive coaches look at the ceiling and thank a higher power when Mooch takes Jones out of the game. I bet if you asked Bryson and Pinner's family and friends who should play, they'd say Jones, too. What is Mariucci looking at that we don't see? What planet is he on?

(Image from "Mutts" © 2005 Patrick McDonnell)

And then there's how Mooch handles his quarterbacks. Joey Harrington might have had his best game as Lions quarterback. (You could argue his 2004 game against the Giants was better.) He completed 69% (22-of-32) of his passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Okay, it was against a terrible Arizona defense. But he played well when he was supposed to.

So after one of the best games any of us has seen Joey play, what does Mariucci say when asked who will start next week? Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press:

"It was a good performance. And so we're obviously going to take that into consideration. But we're also going to take into consideration Jeff's health.

"We will consider playing Jeff when he can practice without a lot of pain and feel good, feel mobile. But until then, Joey's going to win games for us and play and that sort of thing. Let's just let the week go on and see where these guys are, see how Jeff feels. I have confidence in both guys."

Does Jeff Garcia make Mariucci sleep on the couch when he plays Harrington at quarterback? Do they go into a room and cry together when they realize Joey has to play? What game was Mariucci watching yesterday? Didn't Joey deserves at least a public pat on the back? Does Mooch think riding Joey like a mule will keep him motivated to play well? Or is he secretly (or not-so-secretly, as it were) miffed that his Golden Boy isn't healthy enough to play and make him look like he knows what the hell he's talking about?

Would Garcia's noodle arm have made some of those throws yesterday? And for all the praise heaped on Garcia for his mobility, Harrington eluded the pass rush and ran for yards when he had to.

To me, this is the most damning indictment on Mariucci as Lions coach. It appears that he would rather be right than win games. And everyone involved with the Lions - players, coaches, management, and fans - deserve a hell of a lot better than to sit back while Mariucci appeases his ego.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Snoooooozer - Did I miss anything?

Full disclosure: I fell asleep at halftime, and didn't wake back up until the fourth quarter. But hey, Michigan looked sleepy to begin the game. Once Indiana provided the cold splash of water by scoring a touchdown on their first drive, however, they never had a chance.

Had I not been told that Matt Gutierrez had been playing since halftime, I probably would've stayed asleep. But I wanted to see the guy play. And I did see that nice, light-on-his-feet 12-yard run. Along with play-action fakes that were apparently so good that the ESPN2 cameraman kept following Gutierrez long after the running back had moved upfield. (And I missed 1/4 of the game, but was that some of the worst camera work you've seen for a nationally televised game recently?) Of course, there was that fumble, but that was a nice play by the Indiana defender. (Adeyanju?) It'll take me until next season to stop wondering what kind of weapon has been sitting on the bench.

(Photo by John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

I'll have to man up and make sure I get enough sleep during the week, so I'm not sleepy for Michigan-Ohio State. But if Michigan wants to run out to a 41-7 lead in that one, I'd be happy to snooze through the rest of the game.

♦ I thought Chad Henne (17-for-24, 174 yards, three touchdowns) looked sharp yesterday. I know - consider the competition. But Michigan needed Henne to play well at first, because Michigan's running game had trouble clicking.

Garrett Rivas should consider changing his first name to Jesus. I invoked his name - Jesus, Rivas! - twice yesterday after his missed field goal and extra point. And I'm sure the same happened in front of many TVs yesterday. But I breathed deeply and remembered MGoBlog pointing out that somehow, Rivas is actually one of Michigan's best all-time kickers.

But let's talk about the real heroes yesterday. Fellow Michigan fans, how much do you love "my" Iowa Hawkeyes today? C'mon, you watched the game on ESPN, right?

Drew Tate threw for two touchdowns, and Albert Young (who's only a sophomore - watch out) ran for 127 yards, which adds credence to those "Michigan would've won that game if Mike Hart had been healthy" beliefs. And when Wisconsin needed to get the ball back on offense, they couldn't stop Iowa from pushing them around and opening holes for Damien Sims. I haven't been able to see all of Iowa's games this season, but if that wasn't the offensive line's best performance of the season, I'd be surprised. Sorry, Barry.

Now, all of those chaos theory scenarios - Well, if Wisconsin loses their next two, MSU beats Penn State, I wear my lucky jersey, the moon is in waxing crescent... - Michigan needed for a Big Ten championship and BCS bid are falling into place. But can MSU really beat Penn State next week? No, I don't think so, either.

And my little sister says they're jumping up and down in South Carolina after Spurrier beat his alma mater and Son of Bowden defeated Father Bowden. Everyone's happy this morning at Sweaty Men Endeavors! Let's go have a McGriddles!

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Killing some time

♦ So are all my fellow Michigan fans joining me today in rooting for Iowa? C'mon, it's okay. You need the Hawkeyes today, my friends.

♦ My favorite thing about the NBA season so far, besides the Pistons' 6-0 start? The Indiana Pacers' new uniforms. It's not that I think they look great or spectacular. They're just not those ungodly yellow-with-blue-pinstripes monstrosities we've all had to look at for the past eight years. My retinas couldn't take looking at those things for another seven-game playoff series. So thank you, Pacers.

(Photo by Frank McGrath/ Pacers)

♦ But don't get too excited, Indiana. Did I mention the Pistons were 6-0? Sure, it's still early in the NBA season, and this was kind of a short road trip, but any time an Eastern team finishes a West Coast swing undefeated, that's impressive.

♦ Week 10 of the NFL season, and I've finally finished Sports Illustrated's NFL preview. Just in time. Now I can sound like an expert. Loved the features on NFL playbooks and how a play is designed and implemented. If you didn't know or remember, SI picked the Carolina Panthers to win the Super Bowl. That pick ain't lookin' too bad. The Panthers certainly look like the best team in the NFC right now. Of course, SI also picked the Lions to finish 3rd in the NFC North, above the Bears. All the picks can't be gems.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

The disgust is real, not simulated

Just when I think ESPN's SportsCenter has gone too far ("Fact or Fiction," "Hot Seat," etc.) and must be stopped, they top themselves with something even more ridiculous. Have you seen these simulated press conferences they've been running over the past week? Steve Phillips pretends to be the General Manager of a baseball team - Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, etc. - and takes questions about offseason plans from a fictional press corps (sprinkled with a few actual reporters).

It's not a stretch for Phillips to play GM; he used to have that job with the New York Mets. But these are essentially skits, and Phillips looks like a trained monkey who's been asked to sing and dance so his bosses can laugh and clap along. What's even worse is that good reporters, credible journalists like Sal Paolantonio, Jeremy Schaap, and Buster Olney are being forced to participate in this charade, too. They're being good sports, but looking closely into their eyes, I swear I can see them calling their agents and updating their resumes. (Of course, if you're not on ESPN, where else are you going to do sports reporting on TV, other than local news stations? You think that came up in a meeting or two?)

On one hand, I want to give ESPN credit for trying something different from a typical taped piece. On the other, I like those features. And I'd imagine most sports fans think they're fine, too. ESPN already has good baseball analysts like Peter Gammons and Tim Kurkjian; just let them run down a team's offseason checklist. Don't put on dinner theater; don't ask your analysts and reporters to engage in role-play. Just let them do their jobs, and give us the news and information we want.

▪ ▪ Just when I think I'm having an original thought, Deadspin beats me to the punch. (And frankly, they should.) They've been all over this for the past week. I love it.

Wish I'd have seen it

Was last night's Pistons-Suns game really not on TV last night? Seriously? The Eastern Conference champions against the team which had the best regular season record in the Western conference last year? Not on WB20. Not on FOX Sports Net. Did I miss the game on another channel? Was it the late game on TNT? I know it was a late start on a Thursday night, and I probably wouldn't have watched the whole game anyway.

But I would've liked to see how Detroit approached Phoenix's up-tempo style. It looks like they handled it just fine, winning 111-104. Chauncey Billups had 27 points and 11 assists. Is it possible he's playing even better under Flip than Larry Brown? We knew he'd score more. But he's been racking up the assists, too.

So that's 5-0 to start the season. And the Pistons appear to be having a lot of fun. (How are you doing with the Knicks, Larry? Oh, 0-4? That's a shame.) And tonight's game vs. Portland is on ESPN, so I'll stop complaining about TV coverage. But I'd have rather seen the Suns than the Blazers.

(Photo by Barry Gossage/ Getty Images)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What do you want, a cookie?

The big story in Lions Country (I know, I know - I apologize) this morning? Charles "Cheech" Rogers looked sharp in practice yesterday! Hell, yeah! Chuck didn't just show up at the Lions' practice facility. No, no, no! He put on his helmet and pads! He didn't just jog, he ran!

"It's good to see him running," said Joey Harrington in the Detroit News.

Did anybody else have Chris Rock's voice in their head as they read that news? You know, his joke about people who want praise for something they're supposed to do, something normal people do every day?

"He was just sharp today," Steve Mariucci said to the Detroit Free Press. "He had some explosion. He had some quickness in and out of breaks. He caught the football. He did the right thing every time. I thought he was into the practice. I thought he gave us a good day's work."

He caught the football! That shuffling noise you just heard was the Arizona Cardinals changing their game plan for Sunday's contest.

Cheech didn't drop the football. He didn't let it hit the ground, his pads, or face mask. Hell, no - Half-Baked Chuck kept that football right in his hands! How many NFL receivers do that? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! He looked sharp!

To paraphrase Chris Rock, he's supposed to catch the football, you low expectation-having mother$@#%er!!

Should I just go to the movies on Sunday afternoon?

(Photo by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Getting robbed, indeed

Yes, I should know better, but I had to kill some time this morning, so I read Rob Parker's column in the Detroit News. Ol' Rob thinks the Philadelphia Eagles' suspension of Terrell Owens was much too harsh a penalty for his recent behavior. They should accept his apology. The Eagles knew what they were getting into. He's just too damn talented to keep off the field. And don't you know people make mistakes sometimes?

Hey, Rob's right about those mistakes. For instance, he made one in his column by neglecting to mention that Owens got into a fight with Hugh Douglas in the locker room and then challenged his teammates to take him on after that. ("You want some? Anyone else want some?") Gee, that seems like a rather important part of the story, Rob. You don't think that had anything to do with Owens getting kicked off the team?

Rob then points to Keyshawn Johnson to support his argument. See, he was suspended by Tampa Bay, but hasn't been a problem since going to Dallas. It can happen! Yes, Rob! Wait - you think Bill Parcells had anything to do with that? Rob?

Of course, that wasn't the most infuriating thing in today's paper, but hey, that's why we have two blogs now. Deep breaths... deep breaths...

♦ By the way, the best thing about Owens' "press conference" on Tuesday was easily the guy who asked his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, "What have you done for your client besides get him kicked off the Eagles?" Rosenhaus's response? "Next question." A all-time classic moment! Who asked that question? He needs to be cloned and sent to Detroit by Monday.

(Photo by Rusty Kennedy/ AP)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Feeling Minnesota? Is that what you call it?

I don't know about you guys, but I went out to rake my yard after the first quarter. So there probably won't be a lot of game insight today. Beyond Boxscores and Out of Bounds watched so I didn't have to. Thanks, guys. And I'm with you (and you too, Evan), please fire Steve Mariucci.

You could just tell. My inner glutton-for-punishment Lions fan popped up with excitement a couple of times when they threw downfield a couple of times. Yes! Does Mariucci finally get it?

But he didn't. And neither did his players. It was Groundhog Day. No Vikings defenders were blocked. There were no spaces for the running back to move. No time for the quarterback to throw. Passes overthrown and underthrown. The defense gave up third-down conversions.

(Image by Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News)

Once the score was Vikings 24, Lions 0, I was looking for other stuff to do around the house. My yard has never been so clean. Not a leaf in sight. If Roy Williams can't be bothered to play, I don't know if I can bother to watch. (Was that a mouthpiece or a pacifier in your mouth, Roy?) With eight more weeks of this stuff, my house might have an addition and patio deck by January.

Of course, I was suckered back in, once the Lions cut the margin to 24-14. I should've just stayed outside and stepped on the rake so the handle would smack me in the face.

And here's the worst thing of all - the Lions are just fucking boring to watch. As Mike O'Hara writes in today's Detroit News, when William Clay Ford fired Darryl Rogers in 1998, he did because "We're losing and we're boring."

What's different now? How can this possibly get any better?

Scottie Vines was the leading receiver (nine catches for 109 yards) for a team that has used first-round draft picks on Charles Rogers, the aforementioned Roy Williams, and Mike Williams the past three years.

♦ That same team, the one with all the "talent" at wide receiver, lined up with Vines, Glenn Martinez, and Eddie Drummond on the last chance the Lions had in the fourth quarter. And on that 4th down, with seven yards to go, Joey Harrington threw a four-yard pass to Vines.

♦ Believe me, I'm hardly one to criticize someone for being out of shape, but look at A-Little-Too-Big Mike Williams huff and puff down the field. Look how thick he is. (And he never fights for the ball.) Is he really in shape? For that matter, is Roy Williams, now infamous for the thigh that hurts too much to play? Is that why Cheech Rogers was left back in Michigan? Don't you think that's yet another problem with the Lions? How many of these guys are in condition to play a full game?

♦ Don't you wish Thighmastered Williams would start a fight with his teammates, maybe a behemoth like Shaun Rogers or Dan Wilkinson, in the locker room?

♦ I don't like it when I agree with Drew Sharp. But that's how bad this Lions season has been. I'll have to help an old lady carry her groceries today, or find some other good deed to make myself feel better.

♦ Finally, did you catch the end of the Raiders-Chiefs game, after the Lions game was over? Did you see Dick Vermeil go for the win and call a running play, down by three with five seconds left? I want a man like that coaching my team. Can you imagine Steve Mariucci ever making a call like that? Ever?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Welcome back, DEE-troit

Who were those guys playing the Philadelphia 76ers last night at the Palace? It was like watching an all-new team on the floor. Carlos Arroyo? Carlos Delfino? And some guy named Darko? It's hard to knock much that Larry Brown did in Detroit the last two years, but one of his biggest shortcomings was failing to get much from the bench players.

Sure, you could say Brown kept them glued to their seats because they couldn't play (or weren't practicing hard), but don't you have to use the regular season to find out what you have? The Pistons came close - damn close - to winning another NBA championship last year, but would they have been even better if Brown had kept the roster fresher by giving the reserves more playing time?

On offense, the Pistons played like a team that shed Brown off its shoulders. Enjoying their new freedom, they ran up and down the floor to create easy baskets, and rode Richard Hamilton's hot shooting touch (as Chuck Daly's Bad Boy teams used to do) while no one in a 76ers jersey could stop him. And the defense didn't seem to suffer too much with the new system, either. How do you get all those easy fast-break baskets if you're not blocking shots and rebounding misses?

Of course, you can't get too excited when there are 80 more games to go. And Philadelphia had to be tired after playing Milwaukee the night before. But that's the NBA. The Pistons looked like a team that couldn't wait to start the new season last night. All those so-called experts who picked Indiana or Miami to win the Eastern Conference could look pretty stupid in June.

▪ ▪ And was that a big middle finger Rasheed Wallace was giving to the NBA's new dress code? A baseball cap, bomber jacket, blue jeans, and sneakers? (I wish I could find a photo.) As a guy who hates tucking his shirt in, I salute you, 'Sheed.

You're a fan when it HURTS

I've been reading a lot about Theo Epstein's shocking resignation from the Boston Red Sox on Monday. The Boston Globe seems more involved than it would like to admit, with Dan Shaughnessy's column that supposedly convinced Epstein he needed to leave, and his "Hey, don't blame me - I'm just a sportswriter" response the day after. ESPN.com has had some interesting insight too, from Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Bill Simmons. Ken Rosenthal has thoughts, too.

But none of those writers has captured what it feels like for a fan of the team. And on that note, I have to mention Sam's Red Sox fan take on the situation at Blue Cats and Red Sox. Of course, I'm biased - Sam's a favorite of the Sweaty Men. (I was going to say we sweat all over her, but that has all sorts of other different connotations. Ahem.) And if you read my stuff, you probably read hers.

How do people react when they know you love a certain team and something crazy just happened? They want to know how you feel. Fellow fans want to commiserate and figure out what the hell is going on. You can't get to a TV fast enough. The internet doesn't have enough websites for you to check. And worst of all, you feel it. Sam felt it before she even knew what happened. She just knew something happened. That is being a fan. And sometimes, sportswriters forget what that's like. (Is it any wonder why blogs are so popular?)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Letting go of a grudge

This news is a couple of weeks old now, but I've been meaning to write about it. While one Houston (Astros) was losing in the World Series, another Houston (Allan) was retiring from the New York Knicks. Since it seemed like Allan left Detroit for New York because he didn't want to play sidekick to Grant Hill, I think it's kind of funny that he had to get in line behind another Houston when he announced his retirement.

So how did that move to New York work out for Allan? The New York Knicks' official site calls him "one of the greatest players" in team history. It was certainly a good move financially. (And a lowball contract offer is supposedly another reason he wasn't interested in staying with Detroit.) Houston signed two contracts with the Knicks, worth $156 million total - seven years/ $56 million and six years/ $100 million. (He left $40 million behind when he retired, however.) And from 2001 to 2003, you could argue he was one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, averaging 21.5 points per game.

But isn't it the bling on the ring fingers we ultimately care about? How close did the Knicks get to a NBA championship with Houston? Oh - pretty close in 1999, actually, before losing to San Antonio in five games. (And Houston hit the series-winning shot vs. Miami in the first round of the playoffs.) The next year, the Knicks lost to Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals. And from then on, it's been something of a long slide down to mediocrity. That slide was likely helped by Houston's ridiculously large $100 million contract eating up a huge portion of the team's salary cap.

But the Knicks did come close to a NBA title at one point, which waters down the argument I originally wanted to make. It's been almost 10 years since Houston signed with the Knicks, but the Pistons fan in me still holds a little bitterness. He and Grant Hill were supposed to be the future of the team; fans hoped they'd be the new Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and lead them to new championship days. I suppose that was silly. Almost as silly as the grudge I still hold against Houston. The Pistons have long since moved on, reclaiming its place as an Eastern Conference power, and winning another NBA championship.

Houston certainly had the right to leave. He chafed under Doug Collins' oppressive reign as head coach. He wanted to be a team's #1 star, and where's a better place to do that than in New York City? And maybe the guy never really liked Detroit all that much. Maybe he always dreamed of playing in New York. What's wrong with that? Nothing, of course.

But Detroit fans don't like players rejecting them and their city. You love us, we love you. We already have an inferiority complex, a chip on our collective shoulder. That's one of the things that makes winning so sweet when it happens. And I think the Pistons and their fans ultimately got the better end of the deal. Sorry, but I can't help but gloat a little bit about that.

♦ If you're interested, here's more on Houston's retirement from The NBA Source and MSGNetwork.com.

♦ And look at that, another NBA season starts tonight! I will somewhat shamefully admit that I'm not too excited about that - yet. The Sports Dude's NBA preview is helping me with that, however. And I foolishly signed up for a NBA Fantasy Basketball team, thinking it would make me more interested in the regular season.

But of course I'll be paying attention. I think Detroit is being underrated by many so-called experts who are charmed by the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (who went way too far in changing their roster, if you ask me). Watch out - the Pistons want to prove they can win without Larry Brown.