Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Feeding me cold pizza when I need love

TV, you're such a cruel mistress to me. You gave me so much pleasure last night, only to hurt me this morning. How can you bring me joy, yet mere hours later cause me pain?

I don't know if it's a temporary situation, but my local cable provider, Comcast, has added the NFL Network to its basic cable package. Maybe it's only on for this week, with the Super Bowl in town. (If it was added before this week, I didn't notice - and I flip channels, baby.) It could've been done since the NFL recently announced that eight games would be shown on the network next season. Or maybe - maybe - Comcast decided to give us poor saps more for our money, as monthly rates are about to increase.

I figured I'd never get to watch NFL Network unless I either upgraded to digital cable, got Direct TV or Dish Network, or began spending all of my leisure time in sports bars. (And that might not be a bad idea, with the sports bar by my house having free wireless internet.) But there I was, spending almost every free moment - taking only a one-hour break to watch 24 - last night watching NFL Films specials on the Seahawks, Steelers, and old Super Bowls. And NFL Total Access! Rich Eisen, Lincoln Kennedy, and Rod Woodson interviewing Bill Cowher! And Mike Holmgren! Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward! Shawn Alexander and Steve Hutchinson! How long have other people been watching this? How long have I been deprived?

I fell asleep with NFL Network on. Yes, we spent the night together. I don't mind saying it. I'll do it right here on this blog! It kept me warm and spoke in my ear as I drifted off to sleep. And you know what? I loved it! I'm in love! I'm telling my mother tonight!

Right now, I'm watching a replay of the Steelers' Super Bowl Media Day session! Where else can I see reporters ask Hines Ward questions like, "Did you know your jersey is the #7 seller among women? Tell me what you think about that." (Suddenly, I don't feel so envious that Sweaty Men Endeavors wasn't miraculously granted the Super Bowl media credential that we actually never asked for.)

But I understand that it's healthy to give each other some space in friendships and relationships, so I hung out with some different channels this morning. I watched the Academy Award nominations on ABC this morning, and then switched over to E! for some banal post-announcement interviews. (Why? Because I drank too much coffee this morning and needed to come down.) It didn't have the thrill of last night, but not every moment can be special. But then, TV turned on me. Maybe it was jealous of all the attention I was giving my new best friend. Maybe it was mad at me for leaving it on so long through the night. I don't know.

What I do know is this: I briefly flipped over to ESPN2's Cold Pizza, which hired Gilbert Gottfried as its Super Bowl Media Day correspondent. I don't know if that's his official role with the show this week, but I'm hoping he was only hired for Media Day. Because if he's on for the whole week, then I'm not going to watch Cold Pizza for the 15 minutes per week of my time that I previously gave the show. (And that's up from the usual five minutes because they're broadcasting from Detroit, like everyone else this week, and I'm a sucker for a live TV remote in my home area.)

Gilbert, go back to The Aristocrats. You were great in that.

And you, TV, you will pay tonight. I'm going to let you know exactly what I think of you. You've been a bad girl. And I'll show you what happens to bad girls. But after we watch NFL Total Access and Sounds of the Game. And if I'm not tired after that.

Monday, January 30, 2006

We link because we love

▪▪ One of the many fans from the Pacific Northwest coming to Detroit for the Super Bowl will be former Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley. Has it really been 14 years since he was paralyzed in a game at the Silverdome? 14 years since he was carted off the field and gave a "Thumbs Up" gesture to the crowd? Here's a profile on Utley by the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin. He'll be holding a news conference in Detroit on Thursday.

▪▪ Beyond Boxscores, The Wayne Fontes Experience, and Kevin Antcliff have each written about the rumors of Mike Martz taking the Lions' offensive coordinator job, so I'll link to them since they were first on the story. The general consensus? It sounds like a great idea, especially in the short term. But it could also be a disaster. So it probably won't happen, but it's fun to fantasize about.

On paper, this just doesn't make sense. Martz's philosophy doesn't seem to mesh with what Sgt. Hulka said he was looking for from an offense. Unless you consider that Marinelli said he was more interested in coaches who were strong teachers and leaders, rather than assistants who followed the same strategies. As long as Martz isn't in charge of clock management and timeouts, I think it could work.

▪▪ Here's a funny Super Bowl headline from Cracked's parody of ESPN.com (which I found at Deadspin):

Detroit Native Jerome "From Detroit" Bettis to Play Super Bowl in Detroit (His Hometown)

▪▪ I haven't found any negative sports columns about Detroit yet. Maybe they read this piece from Saturday's Detroit Free Press by Michael Rosenberg, with a "Guide to Ripping on Detroit," and realized how unoriginal such columns would be. Nah, they're probably still coming. Anyway, here's a sample:

"Here is a little bit of local historical trivia that you probably have never heard: When the Tigers won the World Series in 1984, somebody set a police car on fire. Really, it's true! Is that hilarious or what? Man, just imagine all the cutting-edge burning-police-car humor you can muster out of that one."

▪▪ Rosenberg's colleague, Mitch Albom, sticks up for Detroit in his front-page column today. Or at least he tries. I'm not sure lines like "Your expectations are so low, we are bound to exceed them" are the sell job Detroit was hoping for. But hey, it's nice of Mitch to come back to Detroit for a week and write about sports. (Oh, I know - he has been. Last week, he told us it was time to "show the Pistons some love." Just in case we haven't been watching since November.)

▪▪ If you've ever wondered what happens to the t-shirts that were made for the losing team in a championship game, this article from Slate answers the question. Quick answer: They're shredded or donated to third world countries. So if you swear you saw a "Philadelphia Eagles 2005 Super Bowl Champions" shirt on a kid during a trip to Haiti, you probably weren't hallucinating.

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When Kobe plays a great team

Previously at Sweaty Men Endeavors:

"Man. Y can't ya'll accept greatness as it is?

"Haters need to shut up."

"This is probably just straight out Kobe hating."

"It's pretty damn sad that no matter what Kobe does he is still gonna get hated on."

You know, being called a "hater" last week hurt me. My mother and sister shook their heads and told me I wasn't raised that way. Friends called me up and asked what had happened to the man they once knew. Little kids kicked me in the shins. Dogs pooped on my lawn. Worst of all, people left me alone at the bar while I cried over many, many shots of whiskey. Alone, with my tears.

So I took a long dip in "Lake Me," and pondered what I wrote about Kobe Bryant. If I preferred to point out Kobe's selfishness, calling him a "ball hog," rather than appreciate his 81 points, what kind of a basketball fan was I? What kind of person did that make me?

Kobe's performance was almost the greatest individual scoring total in NBA history. Yet he accumulated those 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, who are currently tied for the third-worst record in the league. (Which team are they tied with? Larry Brown's New York Knicks. Uh-oh. What's that I taste in my morning coffee? Is that hatorade?)

But what would happen when Kobe played a real team, one with the best record in the NBA? This is the true story, of two teams, picked to play in an arena, oppose each other, and have their game taped. To find out what happens, when players stop being being polite, and start getting real. Last night, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, was the real world.

And in the real world, Kobe is a phenomenal talent. Racking up 39 points against what's probably the best defense in the NBA is certainly impressive. However, approximately 17 of those points were scored against Detroit's second-string defenders, while Tayshaun Prince was on the bench. And he needed 28 shots to get that total (and, really, when you take the fouls into consideration, it was around 35 shots), which was twice the number of anyone else in the Lakers' lineup. But as many pointed out last week, I wouldn't pass the ball to Kwame Brown, either. (Kwame's shot total? Two. But in fairness, the other starters shot in double figures. And Kobe had one more assist than he did last week, so you know he's trying.)

Basketball is a beautiful game when one guy runs into three or four defenders and throws up a shot while three of his teammates stand wide-open, isn't it? But hey, Kobe scored baskets in several of those instances. To not acknowledge that (or point out any three-pointers taken 25 feet away from the basket) is, quite frankly, straight-out hatin'. And I don't want to be a hater. It's too expensive to buy all that whiskey while wallowing in self-loathing.

On the other side of the court, however, the team that was actually built as a team, not an individual showcase for a glory hog, had each of its starters score in double figures. And at the end of the game, the Pistons tallied more points, which resulted in a win. How about that? Detroit 102, Los Angeles 93. That was Detroit's 11th straight win, by the way. And they're 37-5 on the season. The Lakers are 23-20.

Does pointing that out make me a hater?

"Best team in the league right now," Kobe said to the L.A. Times after the game. "Not much to say."

Actually, Kobe, I think you said it all.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

I haven't had my morning coffee yet, but...

Did Michigan really beat Michigan State last night? I was nowhere near a TV or radio during the game, but heard the final score on the way home. 72-67? A sell-out crowd? The students rushed the floor after the game? Seriously?

The fact that I didn't bother recording the game probably indicates how I thought the game would turn out. But I'll admit I haven't watched very much Michigan basketball this season, even six games into the 2006 Big Ten campaign. I've been a bad, bad Michigan (basketball) fan. I haven't been a hater, but I haven't been a believer, either. I will obviously have to make more of an effort.

So does Tommy Amaker finally have an NCAA tournament team? And can Michigan parlay this into a win over Wisconsin on Saturday?

▪▪ Todd Schulz of the Lansing State Journal thinks this loss probably cost MSU a chance at the Big Ten championship.

▪▪ The Detroit Free Press's Michael Rosenberg says this was the type of game bitter inter-state rivals should always play. (I agree with Evan and Big Al - Rosenberg is Detroit's best sports columnist right now.)

(Photo by Rod Sanford/ Lansing State Journal)


I'm not fully awake yet, so...

Help me out here. Is Ron ("Mad Dog") Artest now with the Sacramento Kings or did he turn the trade down again? I'm having trouble keeping track of this. Let's see if I have this straight: Indiana traded him to Sacramento, but Crazy Ron said he didn't want to play there, so the deal was off. A day later, Run-Into-the-Stands Ronnie says "Oh, I was just kidding," agrees to the deal, and will now play for the Kings.

Do I have that right? Did I miss anything? Oh, Ron! Who knows what you'll do next? You rascal! You're probably just a misunderstood nice guy, like the Maloof brothers said. I could just pinch your cheeks. C'mon over here, Ron! Who's my big Tru Warier? Who wants a noogie?

Can we go back to watching basketball now? There's a 35-5 team on their way to an NBA championship that I'd really prefer to devote my attention to.

Meanwhile, Peja Stojakovic wants to let everyone know that he's also fine with being traded, and will be okay. Thanks for asking.

(Photo by Matt Kryger/
Indianapolis Star)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why we love 'Sheed

From ESPN's recap of the Pistons' 107-83 victory over Minnesota last night:

During a dead ball late in the second period, Wallace turned to Wolves coach Dwane Casey and barked, "You know he can't guard Chauncey," referring to Minnesota's Marko Jaric. The taunt turned out to be prophetic, when Billups single-handedly guided Detroit on a 25-8 run that closed the quarter. He made four 3-pointers and had 18 of those points, the last 11 against Anthony Carter after he subbed for Jaric.

Can we get 'Sheed "miked up" for a game? Get to work on that, ESPN and TNT. Stick the mike right in his headband. He has to be way more entertaining than anything we get from NFL players and coaches. Just run 'Sheed on a 10-second delay for those encounters with the referees and the technical fouls that will inevitably be assessed.

No, Minnesota - you can't have Flip back. And at the risk of opening the door for the Kobe Lovers Club again (though I certainly love all the feedback and traffic you've thrown here), I'd rather have Chauncey Billups on my team. You can have the 81 points. We'll take the Larry O'Brien championship trophy here in Detroit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lighten up, Francis

As regular readers of my mother ship blog know, I love children. They're our future. We can teach them well, and then let them lead the way. But our future is apparently in trouble. Because somewhere along the line, we forgot to teach the children how to take a joke. And if you can't take a joke - especially when you've set yourself up for playful derision and ridicule - maybe you're not ready to get along in modern society. Perhaps you should consider a career in the military. Or the monastery.

Have you heard the story of Joshua Vannoy, a 17-year-old Pennsylvania high school student who decided it would be funny to wear a Denver Broncos jersey (No. 7, John Elway) to school, only to be "dehumanized" by his Steelers fan teacher? The educator apparently made his student sit on the floor of the classroom and asked the rest of the class to pelt the young man with balls of crumpled paper.

(Photo via AP)

It should be pointed out, however, that a test was scheduled during this particular class period, so perhaps the teacher's judgment could be called into question a bit. Maybe not the best idea when a kid's worried about taking a test. But maybe he was trying to lighten the mood on a tense day. The teacher, John Kelly, insists that "it was silly fun," and "can't believe [Vannoy] was upset."

"If he felt uncomfortable, then that's a lesson," he said to the Denver Post. "That's what [the class] is designed to do." The class, by the way, is an honors course on ethnic relations.

Vannoy claims he was so shaken and humiliated by the experience that he left 20 questions on the 60-question exam blank. (I'm betting he'll get to re-take that test.) He also says that he wants out of Kelly's class because the teacher is "going to want revenge somehow," now that this incident has reached the media.

Say, how do you think the story reached the media? I found three different articles on this story, with three different pictures of Vannoy posing in his Broncos jersey for cameras. In each of them, Vannoy has just the right look of persecution and humiliation.

I don't suppose it ever occurred to the kid that his teacher might be joking. Having a few friends who work in education, I'm all for respecting the authority of your instructor. But c'mon - telling the kid to sit on the floor? Calling him a "stinkin' Broncos fan"? Asking his classmates to throw wads of paper at him? Does that sound serious? That never struck him as vaguely humorous? A bit goofy? Never mind that he was wearing a jersey from the Broncos, the team playing the hometown Steelers for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, and knew that might open him up to a joke or two. The teacher wearing a Steelers jersey might have been another tip-off.

How about just saying, "No, I'd rather take my test" and laughing it off?

Plus, we're talking about a 17-year-old kid. He's not too far from going into the real world. You think he won't be teased when he wears a Broncos jersey in a Steelers town? Check out this story from Deadspin. A guy shrink-wrapped his co-worker's cubicle and draped a Steelers flag over it! It only gets worse (and much more creative). So he might as well learn to laugh. Or keep the sports jerseys in his closet. Life's too short, man.

(Image from "Pearls Before Swine" ©2005 Stephen Pastis/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Please be better two weeks from now

What a disappointing day of football. The salsa I ate with my chips was more exciting. The conference championship games are usually better than the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Denver and Carolina seemed to forget that. At one point during Steelers-Broncos, I switched to figure skating on NBC because it was more interesting. And during Panthers-Seahawks, I kept looking at the clock, wondering how much time I had before Grey's Anatomy was on.

However, I do enjoy watching teams play at their best, when everything's clicking. And if both Pittsburgh and Seattle bring those games to Detroit in two weeks, that could be a fun Super Bowl to watch.

▪▪ Aren't the Pittsburgh Steelers the best thing that could happen for a Detroit Super Bowl? There seem to be so many fans in the area already. But Pittsburgh's roughly a four-hour drive away, so it's a short trip for diehard followers. And who's a better ambassador for Detroit than native son Jerome Bettis? He was already selling the city during the Steelers' post-game press conference. And if the national media is focused on Bettis's homecoming, maybe they (those who haven't had their Detroit-bashing columns ready for months) won't have time to complain about where the Super Bowl is being played.

▪▪ Hey, don't forget Larry Foote's coming home, too.

▪▪ My favorite thing about the Panthers-Seahawks game? No Gatorade shower for Mike Holmgren. The FOX cameras showed the players getting the cooler ready, but never got a chance to douse their coach. I think this may have been Holmgren's shrewdest display of coaching genius. Rather than stand in one place and wait for the end of the game, Holmgren handed off his headphones with two minutes or so remaining and sought out people to congratulate. So the players couldn't draw a bead on him. Thank you, Mike Holmgren, for sparing us the most overplayed, cliche, old bit gesture in sports.

▪▪ Bill Cowher wasn't so fortunate, though. Oh, well.

▪▪ Which Jake had the worse game, Plummer or Delhomme? The stats say Delhomme. But I say Seattle's defense never gave him a chance. Even when receivers were open, somebody was in his face. Plummer made poorer decisions, which took the Broncos out of the game. And I know Denver fell behind early and fast, but didn't they give up on the run too soon? How did they win games all season?

▪▪ Do you think Chicago's Lovie Smith and Ron Rivera watched the way Seattle handled Steve Smith, and then wondered why the #@$% they didn't do that? That has to be the most baffling coaching strategy of the 2006 NFL playoffs.

▪▪ How #@$%ing cool was that new Nike commercial with the AC/DC soundtrack? Oh, my inner latent metalhead was tingling. After listening to the opening of "Rock 'n Roll Ain't Noise Pollution," and watching all those athletes (including Tom Brady, among several others) get up and train, I was pumped up. So pumped up that I got out of my chair... and went to the bathroom. But I could, like, go jogging today because I was so amped. Or take the garbage can to the curb with authority.

(Photo by Peter Diana/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

A little hatorade with my morning coffee?

Have I become a jaded basketball fan? Why else would I be less than enthusiastic about Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance last night? Obviously, it's impressive; 81 points is the second-highest scoring total in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain has scored more in a game.

But I'm glad this happened on the same day as the NFL conference championship games. Kobe's been overshadowed, relegated to third place in the sports news of the day - at least on the broadcasts and web pages I've seen and heard this morning. Sorry, Kobe. I just saw the highlights on SportsCenter, and I'm reading the recaps of the game at latimes.com and ESPN.com, so I know this really happened.

And I probably agree with Marc Stein, who said that Kobe's 81 points is more impressive than Wilt's 100 because Kobe plays on the perimeter and can't just overpower opponents as Wilt did. Also, the Lakers were twice down by 18 points in the game, but came back to beat Toronto, 122-104.

Yet here I am, shrugging my shoulders. It's not that I'm jaded, though I'm not nearly the NBA fan I used to be. How can you not love basketball after watching our beloved Detroit Pistons (now 33-5) play? (And how sweet was that reverse dunk by Ben Wallace at the end of last night's game?) No, it's that I just can't stand Kobe Bryant. Have we seen a more outwardly selfish player? Dominique Wilkins often seemed more interested in putting on a show. And Allen Iverson's a ball-hog. But did either of those guys have the apparent disdain for his teammates that Kobe does? Here's a quote from Mike Bresnahan's story in today's LA Times: "As the Lakers seemed to be slipping toward a third straight loss, Bryant seethed and had little to say to his teammates."

Wouldn't the Lakers have given the Pistons more of a series in the 2004 NBA Finals if Kobe had made an effort to pass the ball to Shaq? (Not that I'm complaining, mind you.) Don't you get the sense that Kobe is scoring all of these points not because he has to, but because he wants to? It's not necessarily that Kobe thinks this is the only way the Lakers can win games. Judging from the boxscore of last night's game, it doesn't appear that his teammates gave him much help. But since Kobe took 46 shots, how would we really know? It seems like this is how Kobe wants to win games.

And as a basketball fan, I think that stinks. I don't want to see that. Sure, it's fun to see someone take over a game and have a dominating performance. But only when it happens within the natural flow of a game. Basketball is so much more fun to watch when everyone is involved, when there's passing, cutting, and motion around the court, when teammates set screens to get shooters open, when guys make great passes to set up open shots. That's not Lakers basketball right now.

You know what else shouldn't be Lakers basketball? Those hideous white home uniforms. Wear the gold next time you score 80, Kobe.

(Photo by Lori Shepler/ Los Angeles Times)

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Too good to be ignored

The article is four days old, so I'm a little late with this. But if you didn't see it, Chauncey Billups got some national love from the New York Times last week. Sure, Liz Robbins probably wrote the piece because the Pistons were playing the Knicks, but she makes a case for Chauncey making the All-Star team. Too little, too late?

Friday, January 20, 2006

They're so vain

Wasn't yesterday's press conference at Allen Park supposed to be about the Lions, and their new head coach, Rod Marinelli? Yet as I watched the tape of the presser again last night, and listened to some audio of the interviews conducted afterwards, it seemed like there were people in attendance more interested in being the story than writing one.

(Photo by Bill Emkow/ MLive.com)

It reminded me of a comment the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice made on his blog a couple of months ago. To me, Justice is one of the best sportswriters/ columnists in the country (and not just because of his superhero name). Not only is he a good writer with great instincts and insights, but he has a strong sense of what makes a good story. He knows how to do his job, and doesn't get swayed by what the fans think he should be doing.

Here's what he had to say about grandstanding journalists:

First rule of journalism is this: if you've got a good question, if you're really looking for information, you don't ask it in a news conference.

Whenever you hear a reporter asking a tough question in a news conference, that reporter isn't interested in the answer. He's only interested in letting everyone know how tough he is.

Hmm, does that apply to anyone you saw or heard at the Marinelli press conference?

Later in the post, he demonstrates how reporters really get information, and what sorts of questions they ask. They don't fling unanswerable questions at someone in some fraudulent display of bravado and phony machismo.

¿Quien es mas macho, Rob Parker? Wow, what a tough guy. No wonder he calls himself "America's angry black sports columnist." Did he have his shirt unbuttoned with full chest hair showing when he told Marinelli that "fans were tired of the talk," and asked if the Lions were going to make the playoffs next year. Greg Eno used the word "asinine" to describe Parker's question, which seems entirely appropriate. Journalism professors should use it as an example of what kinds of questions not to ask.

For one thing, it's essentially asking for a "yes" or "no" answer, which doesn't make for a good quote. And, as Evan said in response to yesterday's post, what the hell was Marinelli supposed to say? In his column for today's Detroit News, Parker envisions the answer he (and, ostensibly, we) wanted:

"Of course, we are going to make the playoffs next season. There's enough talent here to get that done. We just have to get some things straightened out. And if we don't make the playoffs in the next season or two, I won't be here. You guys will be right back here with a new coach."

Isn't making the playoffs an obvious expectation for the Detroit Lions? If it wasn't, Marinelli wouldn't have been introduced as the Lions' new coach yesterday. Back here in reality, Parker knew Marinelli wasn't going to answer that question (or his ridiculous query about Marinelli's age). And it was silly to expect that the coach would. But Parker was going to ask it anyway. Why? Because he wants to show how big his huevos rancheros are, with everyone watching. He wanted to ask the "tough questions" that no one else in the press corps was asking. And by doing so, he was making himself the story.

And hey, maybe it worked. I'm not writing about Mitch Albom's questions on quarterbacks, am I?

But Parker wasn't the only cowboy in the press corps yesterday. After the press conference, the Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp asked Matt Millen why Detroit fans should believe his third coaching hire will be right this time. And the Oakland Press' Pat Caputo asked Millen about his accountability, pointing a finger for emphasis. More bold questions - the kinds that fans and readers supposedly want their sportswriters to ask. The kinds of questions that need to be asked!

But no, they don't need to be asked. Not when they won't generate a good answer. Not when their only intent is to make the subject squirm and/ or frown. Maybe that makes for a great sound bite (and Caputo's buddies at WXYT were patting him all over the back yesterday for taking on Millen) or a funny clip on TV when Millen testily answers, "How do you want me to answer that question?"

But is it really good journalism? Did you learn anything more about Matt Millen or the Lions' plans after those questions? (I suppose some might say yes.) Did you think Millen was going to reconsider his plans right there on the spot and resign? So what was really accomplished, other than looking tough in the eyes of fans and colleagues? Did those writers get any good copy for their articles today? Parker had to make up Marinelli's answers to fill out his column.

I'm really not trying to tell these guys how to do their jobs. Okay, maybe I am. But I like journalists. I admire sportswriters. I'd love to be one, in case this blog didn't tell you otherwise. But just as the Parkers, Sharps, and Caputos of the world were presumably demanding more from Marinelli and Millen yesterday, I'm asking for more from the reporters and columnists who cover the teams I follow.

You probably thought yesterday's press conference was about you. Didn't you? But guess what - I didn't pick up today's newspapers to read about you. I wanted to read about the Lions' new head coach. Write the story, don't be the story.

▪▪ Check out Tom Kowalski's thoughts on his colleagues' behavior, courtesy of MLive's Highlight Reel.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stand up straight, men! It's the Marinelli Live Blog!

10:00 - Here we go. Millen slumbers up to the podium almost sheepishly, with a forced smile. ("Please don't ask me mean questions.") He looks like me when I have to go to church.

10:03 - "We've been patient," Millen said. "It was thorough." There's your slogan for the 2006-07 season. The t-shirts are probably being printed as we speak.

10:05 - Marinelli addresses the press with "Good morning, men." He doesn't ask anyone to stand at attention, or drop and give him 20, though, which has to be a relief to the press corps.

10:06 - Marinelli begins with sort of an Oscar acceptance speech, running through his coaching mentors and philosophies, and the players who worked hard for him - "great men." But will he finish defining himself before the orchestra plays him off the stage?

- He looks much younger than 56. To me, Marinelli's age was one of the red flags in his hiring. But he's a young, energetic-looking 56. That'll probably change. Millen, who's going on 48, looks much older.

10:08 - Marinelli again addresses the media as "men." This press conference would be much more fun if drums and flutes, or "Ride of the Valkyries," were playing in the background. ("I love the smell of muscle balm in the morning!")

10:10 - Call me a sucker, but as Marinelli talks about how he wants his team to play, and how he coaches, he looks like he's ready to pick up the podium, tear it apart, and tackle someone. Compare that to the awkward dorkiness of Marty ("The bar is hiiigh") Mornhinweg.

10:11 - First question from the press. Marinelli didn't bark back to the reporter, "Ask me like you've got a pair, son!" which is kind of disappointing.

10:13 - "Look at my tape," he says when asked how he sold himself. "That's who I am." You think he ever pulled that line on a first date?

10:15 - When asked about his offensive philosophy, Marinelli said he wants to "run the ball. With power. And I want to defend it with power." Somewhere in Texas, a tear runs down the face of Roy Williams. Elsewhere, Damien Woody just put down his party sub.

10:16 - First speed bump of the day: Did Marinelli just mention Eric Hipple as a quarterback he had a good relationship with? Not sure that was the right name to drop, Rod... er, I mean, sir. Brad Johnson? Okay, that's a little better.

10:18 - Marinelli points out that he wasn't just a position coach, he was an "assistant head coach." What does that involve? "Interaction with the team... being involved with practice schedules. I've trained to be a head coach." No word on whether he got to wear the headphones with the microphone, though.

Stop slouching, son! Keep reading!

10:21 - Here's the sell job: Marinelli is the anti-Mariucci. "You got to change habits with men... how you work, how you practice... how much you enjoy practicing in pads because it's good for you."

10:23 - When asked about Joey Harrington, he says "I don't know what he was taught, or asked to do." But he sees talent. Somewhere, Tom Izzo is nearby to console Mooch in this moment of need. ("It's okay, Mooch. It's okay. You're still my tough guy.")

10:25 - Larry Lage asks Marinelli if he has the confidence to do the job. "See, I've got confidence." I'm waiting for him to challenge a reporter to "come up here and kick me in the Jimmy!" Go on up there, Larry!

10:27 - Rob Parker, bad-aaassss sports columnist: "Fans are tired of the talk. Is this team going to make the playoffs next year?" Marinelli answers with coaching cliches ("It's a show-me game," "It's every Sunday").

10:29 - But Rob won't back down! That's what you're facing, Coach! Rob Parker is the voice of the fans, sir! "Come oooooooooon, Wod!" What a face-off! It's like watching Sgt. Foley and Zack Mayo go at it in An Officer and a Gentleman. ("You're out!" "I got nowhere else to go!")

10:31 - A line has been drawn. Sgt. Marinelli doesn't like the personal questions. "Don't be too personal." Don't ask him about serving in Vietnam, Nancy!

10:34 - A key question from Tom Kowalski: How do you sell practicing in pads to a team that hasn't done it for five years? Ooooh, Killer - you just walked into the Sargeant's wheelhouse. "I believe in morale," he says. "It's not about punishment... it's about improving... getting better."

10:35 - Sarge isn't done yet. He practically gives a clinic in tackling, right there at the podium. "It's a game of hips when you tackle, not push and shove." He looks ready to tackle Kowalski right now. "You play this game low!"

And after that, Marinelli and Millen went outside, took off their shirts in the show, bumped chests, and killed and ate a deer raw! Well, TV cameras didn't show that. But I think that's what happened.

The whole press conference seemed like a direct response to all the criticism the Lions have been taking, a show for the media and the players. Too soft? This guy is hard. "No excuses, no explanations - just standards." This man watches tape and pushes players to be men. (I'll have to go back and count how many times "tape" and "men" were said.) He ain't filmin' Ford commercials, people!

Again, maybe I'm an easy sell. If so, I'll drop and give you 20. But I was impressed by Marinelli. Was he saying what we all wanted to hear? Sure. (Unless you were hoping for an offensive guru.) I thought there was a little too much "Well, I know what I'm talking about - because I watch tape and you don't" from him. But we want someone to come in here, kick ass, take names, and forge a winning football team. And it looks like that's what we're getting.

I do wonder, however, if Millen's gone a little too far to the other extreme here. Steve Mariucci ran a country club locker room that was easy on the players. His replacement is running a boot camp. It would've been nice if Millen faced the press to answer for this, but maybe he felt he gave the press their shots when he fired Mariucci.

If not for the fact that his former players seem to love him, I'd worry that he'll burn these guys out fast. Of course, there's a big difference between running one single unit and overseeing an entire team. But if players - and people - really want to be led, maybe this is the right guy. I reserve the right to change my mind, however, until we see what kinds of assistant coaches Marinelli is able to bring in. Will we get the wizard offensive coordinator so many of us are hoping for? (My magic 8-ball says no.)

So when does training camp start?

(Image from "Get Fuzzy" ©2006 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

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That's our Millen!

We know Matt Millen wasn't hired for his people skills, but apparently he still has something to learn about extending common courtesies. Remember how he left Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci hanging on their job status? Was he wrong to leave Jim Haslett waiting by the phone? Or is this typical of the process, and these coaches are sore over not getting a job? You make the call. This is from John Clayton's ESPN blog:

Matt Millen didn't win friends the way he hired Rod Marinelli, the assistant head coach of the Bucs. He didn't call any of the other candidates involved in the process after making the hire. Former Saints coach Jim Haslett had been waiting by his phone Wednesday because Millen told him he would fly to Detroit on Wednesday to meet William Clay Ford. Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm, one of the early leaders for the job, never heard he was out of the running. Neither did interim coach Dick Jauron. Basically, Marinelli met with Ford and earned Ford's blessing to get a deal done. Millen also didn't announce the finalists to the media as he said he would.

That's our Millen! He doesn't have time to let anyone down gently. He wants to [pound the podium] win, and he wants to win now.

Here's what Clayton had to say about Millen's latest "M" boy:

Marinelli had to be in Fantasyland on Wednesday. Since coming to the NFL in 1996 after a stint as defensive line coach for USC, Marinelli has been considered one of the best pure coaches in the business. He's been masterful on the defensive line for the Bucs. He's been a prime candidate for defensive coordinator jobs but has been refused the chance to interview for those jobs because he's been under contract. Marinelli let his contract run out and won the lottery by getting a head coaching job.

Press conference in 90 minutes. If I get a chance, I see a live blog in our future...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yes, a coach by tomorrow

As Kevin Antcliff mentioned in the last post's comments a couple of hours ago, Rod Marinelli has reportedly been hired as the Detroit Lions' new head coach. Both all-sports stations in town, WDFN and WXYT, along with the Detroit Free Press, are confirming the news. Chris Mortenson also joined in the fun on this evening's SportsCenter.

And according to mlive.com and Terry Foster's blog, the Lions will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. Any guesses as to what the news might be?

In the meantime, the aforementioned Mr. Antcliff saved Marinelli a lot of trouble by putting together an excellent list of what the Lions need to fix. The new coach has time to look it over by tomorrow morning's presser, doesn't he? Maybe the president/GM could give it a glance, too.

A coach by tomorrow?

Based on what you read and whom you choose to believe, all of last week's anxious interest over Russ Grimm being named the Detroit Lions' head coach may have been for naught. If you haven't heard or read it already, ESPN's John Clayton reported that former Saints coach Jim Haslett could get the Lions job as soon as today or tomorrow. Following up on that, Booth Newspapers' Tom Kowalski said he thought Grimm was no longer a candidate, and Matt Millen would hire Haslett or Tampa Bay defensive line coach (and assistant head coach) Rod Marinelli.

How did Grimm fall out of the race? With the Steelers still alive in the playoffs, Grimm isn't available for any more interviews until they're eliminated (which could be 2-3 more weeks). Meanwhile, other teams are hiring head coaches. And as they put together their staffs, the pool of quality assistant coaches shrinks. (If you remember, one of the biggest problems Millen reportedly had with Steve Mariucci was the inexperienced staff he put together.) Plus, Haslett and Marinelli are drawing interest from teams such as the Bills and Raiders.

Based on his head coaching experience with New Orleans, Haslett would seem to be the favorite. And that kind of drives me crazy. In six years, his teams only had two winning seasons. His best record was 10-6. His worst, which you can certainly attribute to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, was this past season's 3-13. Every other season was either .500 or one game over or under. To me, this means that Haslett is essentially a less clownish Wayne Fontes. That'd be an improvement over recent seasons, and Millen apparently thinks Haslett would bring in a toughness and discipline that the team is currently lacking. But is he the big upgrade that Lions fans are hoping for?

And that brings us to Rod Marinelli, whose name made me say "Who?" when I heard him mentioned as a candidate two weeks ago. Hardcore fans who follow the game very closely might already be familiar with Marinelli, but I imagine most Lions fans had a similar reaction to mine, especially since Monte Kiffin gets most of the credit for the Buccaneers' defensive performance.

Since I'm admittedly out of my element on this, I thought I'd e-mail an authority on all things Buccaneers. "Cutthroat Pirate," who runs the amazingly thorough Pewter Pirates blog, seemed like just the guy to help us out in this time of ignorance. He had nothing but sky-high praise for Marinelli and said some things that could provide some warmth on a snowy day in metro Detroit. Here are some excerpts:

"Rod Marinelli is the total package for a head coach. Marinelli, in my opinion, has been the reason that Monte Kiffin’s defense is number 1 and has been in the top 10 for over ten years... [He] will be a better coach than Lovie Smith or Herm Edwards. He has been a Buccaneer for ten years, and has learned from Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden."

"I think he is a players' coach, but more level headed then Herm Edwards, who is also a players' coach, but very emotional. You must also remember that Marinelli has a Super Bowl ring and Herm does not. He knows what the big game is and what it takes to get there. He is so good that the Buccaneers did not want to lose [him]; this is the reason for them blocking coaching offers in the past. They even went so far as to throw the title 'Assistant Head Coach' on him, because a team could only promote him to head coach. Since he is the assistant head coach over Kiffin, this tells you something also. I truly believe that the Buccaneers were hoping to keep him a Buccaneer for life, in case Kiffin ever left or retired, then Marinell could be our defensive coordinator."

"He will run a very aggressive 'Tampa 2' defense. I think he has learned a great deal about offense under Gruden. So with the WRs you guys have, I look for him to be a better on offense than Lovie Smith’s Bears."

That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Better than Lovie Smith or Herm Edwards? We'd take that, wouldn't we? You have to like that pedigree. It can't be a bad sign when a team is afraid of losing an assistant to another team. And if you were worried Marinelli was just a defensive guy who'd implement a conservative, ball-control offense, it sounds like he's taken some tips from one of the better offensive minds in the NFL, as well.

Could he also be the Lions' defensive coordinator if Haslett gets the job? Possibly, but one would think he'd then take the Raiders job if it was offered.

Honestly, I have no idea who the Lions should hire anymore. Before the season ended, I hoped the Redskins' Gregg Williams or the Chargers' Cam Cameron would be heavily pursued. But Williams took himself out of consideration early, and who could blame him? Daniel Snyder pays him like a head coach, and he's the heir apparent to Joe Gibbs in Washington. Not a bad way to go. And Millen never seemed interested in an offensive-minded coach, which eliminated Cameron. Like Beyond Boxscores, I'm a bit baffled as to why Tim Lewis hasn't received more interest. And I expressed my concerns over Grimm last week, but how could you not be impressed with anyone affiliated with the Steelers after what they've done the past two weeks? Maybe he's still in the running. The Lions haven't officially eliminated him from their search.

I'm essentially throwing up my hands here. There hasn't been a "hot" coach this offseason that every team was pursuing. No one has that "it's his time" glow surrounding him, either. So who's to say the Lions aren't looking at the best available guys? Would you be happy with Jim Haslett and/or Rod Marinelli? (Do you feel more strongly, one way or another, after reading Cutthroat Pirate's opinion?) Do you hope Grimm is still a candidate, or are you relieved he's apparently been dismissed? Do you just want this year-long (ahem - since 2006 began) nightmare to be over?

▪▪ P.S. Could Dick Jauron really get the Bills' head coaching job? Did Ralph Wilson not watch the Lions' last five games?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Making plays and taking blame

So who made the Play of the Weekend in the NFL playoff games?

▪▪ Was it the Patriots' Ben Watson? He came out of nowhere to tackle Denver's Champ Bailey after intercepting Tom Brady and running it back 100 yards (an amazing play in itself). It looked like he ran off the bench to make the tackle. And he almost forced a turnover on the play, too! Every NFL coach should show a tape of that play before training camp next season.

▪▪ Was it Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger? With the Colts' Nick Harper on his way to a possible touchdown after picking up Jerome Bettis's goal-line fumble, Roethlisberger desperately reached back and lunged for Harper's feet, tripping him at the 40-yard line. A quarterback saving the game for his team with a tackle?

▪▪ Am I underselling Carolina's Steve Smith? How about the play in which he ripped the ball away for Chicago's Charles Tillman, resulting in a 46-yard gain? Or that sweet deke on Mike Brown to score Carolina's first touchdown? (Actually, I was most impressed by Mike Minter's touchdown-preventing tackles at the goal line.)

♦ Did Peyton Manning affirm his status as one of the NFL's all-time babies by taking a shot at his offensive lineman for not picking up the Steelers' blitzes? "I'm trying to be a good teammate here," he said. "Let's just say we had some protection problems."

Let's just say you're an @$$hole for saying that, Peyton. It's never your fault, is it? Never mind that the referees bailed you out by ruling Troy Palomalu's interception as an incomplete pass. (What the $#@% did the replay officials see on that play?)

Unfortunately, that "can't win the big game" reputation will stick for yet another season. Peyton now has more time to bug stock boys to sign loaves of bread for his little brother and beg the buffet staff for their aprons.

♦ As a new member of the Manly Beard club, I was going to write about the long-haired-and-bearded look that's now the new black for NFL quarterbacks. But Kevin Antcliff already did it so well, with an excellent point-by-point comparison of the hirsute quarterbacks in Sunday's AFC championship game. (But how do we explain the success of Seattle's nearly hairless Matt Hasselbeck?)

(Photo by Matt Freed/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hire the resume, not the mustache

This originally began as a comment on Greg Eno's blog, Out of Bounds, where the topic du jour is the prospect of the Detroit Lions hiring Russ Grimm as their new head coach. But as my fingers kept typing and the comment grew longer, I decided it might fit better as an entry here instead. But please, read Greg's post first.

Greg thinks Grimm would be a good hire because of the expertise he'd bring to this team as Pittsburgh's current offensive line coach, along with an attitude that suits a blue collar city. I like the tough mentality and persona Grimm would presumably bring to Detroit, too. And I agree he'd be embraced by the fans as "one of us." If Grimm could be to Detroit what Cowher is to Pittsburgh, I would regularly jump up and kick my heels together while walking down the street.

But I'd feel a whole lot better about Grimm if he was in demand by other teams and worked as an offensive or defensive coordinator at some point.

There's a reason coordinator jobs are the natural step to a head coaching position. Those coaches proved they could run an entire unit and oversee a staff. And in most cases, they called plays, which should give a clear indication as to a preferred scheme or philosophy. (Is he aggressive? Does he take risks? Is he conservative? Does he play it safe?) Being a position coach might prove you can teach technique, but it doesn't show if you can lead a team.

I can think of two people off the top of my head that went from position coach to head coach: Mike Tice and Herm Edwards. I realize that's not really a representative sample. But I'd say Tice didn't work out and Edwards did. Which was the rule and which was the exception?

According to Nick Cotsonika in today's Detroit Free Press and ESPN.com's Michael Smith (thanks to MLive.com's Highlight Reel for the link), Grimm could be the Lions head coach as soon as the Steelers are eliminated from the playoffs. And if that kind of buzz is surrounding Grimm before Millen's even interviewed him, doesn't that indicate he's probably already made his decision? Isn't that exactly what happened with the Mornhinweg and Mariucci hirings?

So what's really changed, other than Grimm looking more like a "Millen guy"? More interviews? What did they matter if Millen already knew he wanted to hire his buddy? That just makes the whole process even more fraudulent than the failure to interview coaches before Mariucci was hired.

(What would've happened if each candidate showed up for his interview with the same type of macho mustache Grimm and Millen sport on their lips? Machismo, baby! Does Singletary still have his mustache?)

Maybe Grimm really is the best candidate. But it doesn't look that way when it sounds as if a decision's been made before a fair interview process has been completed. I really hope Millen knows what the #@$% he's doing this time. Because this is beginning to look familiar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fernando Vina is still stealing money

Did you see that Fernando Vina, who received $6 million from the Tigers, presumably to play second base for them for two seasons, rather than hop back-and-forth from the disabled list, signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners?

Vina talked about retiring last season, but apparently, if you just smear ointment on all that money and place it directly onto your torn hamstring and/or knee, all the owie get better! And if you use the bigger bills, you'll heal faster. Oh yeah, it's totally homeopathic, especially if you, like, use herbs and stuff. But you won't know if it works, of course, until your contract runs out, so don't push it.

Lookout Landing
doesn't think the signing makes much sense unless Vina can coach Seattle's younger players on proper goatee grooming. So that leads me to this question:

How the #@$% did Fernando Vina convince another organization to let him steal money?

While writing this from a bookstore cafe, I can see the Personal Finance section with all kinds of books on how to make the most of your money, how to make a fortune, etc. How does Fernando Vina not have a book in that section? Where is How to Sucker a Baseball Team by Showing You Can Field Grounders at Second Base? I might buy that book. You wouldn't need Suze Orman or Jim Cramer with that advice to work with.

As a Tigers fan, I was grateful to Vina - along with Rondell White and Ivan Rodriguez - for signing with Detroit following the 119-loss 2003 season, which you might find in an encyclopedia under "really #@#%ing terrible baseball team." These guys showed that baseball wasn't completely dead here if free agents would come over to play. But there's a key word in that last sentence: "play." Vina played 29 games for the Tigers during the two years of his contract. That's only 29 more games than you or I played, in case you were wondering. So Vina was paid almost $207,000 each time he took the field.

They should make a movie about this guy. Screw jewel thieves or bank robbers. His uniform should be an ensemble of black knit cap, turtleneck, and jeans. Oh, and bring that stuff that you can spray in the air to see where the lasers are, so no alarms are set off. I think he can use it to oil his baseball mitt, too.


Wait - didn't I write this already?

So the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame class was announced yesterday, and for yet another year, Jack Morris (and Alan Trammell along with him) was left wanting. As Brian said at Beyond Boxscores, equally compelling arguments could probably be made for or against Morris (and Trammell) at this point. I'm surely looking at this through Tigers-colored glasses, but I just can't imagine that a pitcher as good as Morris isn't considered worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Maybe it's lazy of me, but I wrote about this last year when Morris was passed over, and nothing I could write now is different from what I wrote then.

But it really bothers me that pitcher Jack Morris wasn't among the class of 2005. I'm biased, to an extent, because Morris was the best pitcher the Detroit Tigers had during my lifetime as a Tigers fan. But I think fans of the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins would agree with me, as well. Morris led all three of these teams to World Series championships as their ace starting pitcher. In the 1991 World Series, Morris pitched a 10-inning shutout for the Twins, beating the Atlanta Braves in Game 7. Considering the circumstances, it was one of the best pitching performances in the history of Major League Baseball. Morris didn't reach 300 wins, considered the gold standard for Hall of Fame starting pitchers, but his 254 shouldn't be dismissed - especially considering how significant many of those wins were for his teams. He won more games in the 1980s (162) than any other pitcher.

Just substitute "2006" for "2005" and "Bruce Sutter" for "Ryne Sandberg" and "Wade Boggs," and the whole post is up to date. Next year, I'll try to write something fresh on the subject, if the matter comes up again (and it probably will).

In the meantime, ESPN's Buster Olney says Sutter's Hall of Fame induction could be an especially important one for two reasons:

1) It opens the doors for plenty of other closers now, as Sutter's career and statistics resemble those of several modern-day short relievers, such as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.

2) This was the last Hall of Fame class that won't have the question of steroids hanging over its career achievements. For instance, how do you think Mark McGwire will fare next year?


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Who dey? Who dey keepin' the hot stove warm?

There was some excitement in Tiger Town last week when rumors of Detroit being interested in trading for shortstop Miguel Tejada hit the newspapers and internet. Who would the Tigers give up in such a deal? Should they take on such a player (and his salary)? Would Tejada really make Detroit a better baseball team? Or did they really want to be involved in a multi-team deal to get a different player?

Unfortunately, it appears that the suddenly moody Tejada has swung the other way and decided he would now like to keep playing shortstop at Camden Yards. So the hot stove is running a bit cooler at the moment. But as Billfer pointed out yesterday, January has been a big month for the Tigers over the past two years. So the offseason might not be over yet.

But I'd like to refer Tigers fans to one of the Baltimore Sun articles on Tejada's desire to remain in Baltimore. In a story about Orioles Vice President Jim Duquette informing teams that any potential deal was now off, several of the trades being discussed, along with the players involved, were revealed.

Still, plenty of intriguing names entered the mix. The Philadelphia Phillies offered Bobby Abreu and at least another player; the Chicago Cubs mentioned Mark Prior, Corey Patterson and Rich Hill; the Houston Astros discussed Brad Lidge, Adam Everett and Brandon Backe; and the Detroit Tigers offered Carlos Guillen, as well as a prospect and another major leaguer.

I'm sure the orange-and-black-striped football team 260 miles to the south won't mind me using one of their favorite slogans (and mascots) and applying it to the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

Who dey? Who dey? Who dey? Who dey other players would've been involved in the deal? (My father, along with my many writing instructors, are cringing right now.)

Surely, the minor leaguer would've been Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson, or Joel Zumaya, the prospects every team seems to be asking for in a deal. Which other major leaguer was Baltimore asking for? Probably not Omar Infante, since Guillen was already in the deal. Brandon Inge? Craig Monroe? Carlos Pena? If Dmitri Young was involved, wouldn't the Sun article have mentioned him?

Can't we have some fun by rolling up in a blanket of rumor and speculation? It could keep us warm until the next puff of Tigers news drifts into the air. Or until spring training begins - whichever comes first.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Quarterbacks on my mind

▪▪ I don't often feel bad for professional athletes, but I really felt bad for Carson Palmer after he was hurt in yesterday's Bengals-Steelers playoff game. After a fantastic season in which he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, helping the long-suffering Bengals back to prosperity, Palmer seemed ready to take his place among the elite of NFL quarterbacks with a good playoff run.

Unfortunately, that all ended for him and the Bengals when Kimo von Oelhoffen tackled him at the knees. Palmer crumpled to the ground with two torn knee ligaments, and Cincinnati's playoff hopes fell with him. Man, wouldn't you have wanted to see how that game turned out if Palmer hadn't been injured? I hope he's able to recover and resume his status as a top-flight NFL quarterback. I'd hate to see such a promising career cut down before achieving its full potential.

▪▪ Another quarterback I feel bad for is Matt Gutierrez. Here's a guy who just never got a chance to realize his potential at Michigan. That's not to say he was treated unfairly. He just got injured at the wrong time, with the wrong guy behind him. Chad Henne's precocious abilities impressed coaches and fans, and once he established himself as a player, he wasn't going to be replaced at quarterback. That's how football works sometimes. Despite the old adage, you actually can lose your job to injury.

I said a couple of times during this past season that Michigan should play Gutierrez at quarterback. Henne was struggling, and I thought the coaches owed it to the rest of the team to see if making a change might have helped. Henne's play eventually improved, but I think one of the underlying questions for Michigan's 2005 season will always be whether or not Gutierrez could have made a difference. Unfortunately, we'll never know. Not just because the 2005 season is over, but because Gutierrez officially ended his Michigan career by transferring to Idaho State, a Division I-AA school. (Here's the Idaho point of view on the story, via MGoBlog.)

▪▪ Can Vince Young do in the NFL what he did in last week's Rose Bowl? Now we get to find out. I have a feeling this could be a disaster if Young isn't handled correctly. Not because his skills can't find a place in the pro game; he just seems too talented not to succeed, doesn't he? But I wonder if a NFL team eager for a fast return on its investment - for instance, a team that drafts him #1 overall - will try to rush him onto the field. And then a coach who hasn't figured out how to use him yet will shoehorn his talents into a conventional pro-style offense, rather than work to tailor a scheme around what he does best. (Can that spread offense work against NFL defenses?)

(Photo by Harry How/ Getty Images)

Young could be something we've never seen before in the NFL. But it'll take time. He's not going to just step onto the field and run through, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers as he did to Michigan and USC in the last two Rose Bowls. If Young is fortunate (and we know he will be financially), he'll need to be drafted by a team that already has a quarterback. Then he can sit back, learn the pro game for a couple of seasons, and maybe be shuttled into the lineup for specialized packages like short-yardage or 3rd-and-long, where his running skills would be an immediate asset that defenses have to watch closely. (Remember how Pittsburgh used Kordell Stewart at the beginning of his career?) But if Young is expected to be "The Franchise" within a year or two, it might not end well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Beat me to it - Part 2

So what did I miss while hanging out with friends last night? Well, yes - Dancing with the Stars. But I would've rather sat in my bedroom and stared at the wall. Had I been noodling around on the intranets, I might have seen that the Detroit Tigers - our widdle Motor City Kitties - are looking to get into the Miguel Tejada business.

Lee at Tiger Tales and Brian at Beyond Boxscores wrote about this yesterday, while I was either spending time with my new love or trying to lift gargantuan mugs full of Stella Artois. I heard the story on the radio early this morning, while trying to get my eyes to fully open. By the time I got to the SME2000 laptop to read more, Billfer's Detroit Tigers Weblog had already chimed in. They all beat me to it.

The Detroit News' Tom Gage is looking for fire in the smoke of Dave Dombrowski's no-comment stance, which resembles his behavior while the Tigers were after Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. Billfer sees smoke, too. Lee speculates - astutely, I think - that Detroit isn't necessarily looking to acquire Tejada, but might be looking to participate in a multi-team deal. And Brian thinks this makes no sense, given the Tigers' cautiousness this offseason.

Me? I'm betting Dombrowski called Baltimore to see what it would take to get Tejada. Even if he anticipated an answer he might not like, why not take a shot? Tejada's a great player, and Dombrowski knows the Tigers currently have young prospects (Verlander, Zumaya, Granderson) highly coveted by other teams, along with a surplus of 1st base-DH players (Pena, Young, Shelton) which might interest the Orioles.

Though Tejada's an exciting, hard-working player whom I'd go to Comerica Park to see, I hope this is nothing more than a rumor. Besides the very real possibility that he would be unhappy with a Tigers team-in-progress, I think giving up the young talent Dombrowski has worked so hard to require might compromise the Tigers' rebuilding efforts. Yes, you develop young players not just to supplement your own team, but to use them in trades for veteran talent. But Detroit isn't quite "there" yet, is it? And do they really want to add another outlandish contract to the payroll?

To me, changing development plans on the fly to acquire a big-money, potentially unhappy player could be the Juan Gonzalez trade all over again. Maybe that's an unfair comparison; Tejada's arguably a better player than Gonzalez (and less of a headcase), and Dombrowski's a better GM than Randy Smith. But I think such a move could have the same destructive effects.

(Photo by Harry How/ Getty Images)


Beat me to it - Part 1

I was ready to pull my hair out in clumps last night while watching SportsCenter. The theme of the show seemed to be whether or not the 2006 Rose Bowl was "the greatest college football game ever." Is it me, or does no one else do this? Who else is so (giddily) eager to declare something "the greatest" or "the best" almost immediately after it happened?

Okay, if USC-Texas was the best game ever, name a better one, Ian.

Sweet Jesus, am I allowed to think about it? Some of us have watched more than a few college football games in our lifetime. Was this Rose Bowl even the best BCS championship game ever? Are you sure it's the best game we've seen in 2006 so far? How about a game with two halves of outstanding football? Did you watch the first half of the Rose Bowl? I don't know about you, but I was ready to go to bed and find out who won in the morning.

Anyway, I was ready to go on and on about this, but then I read this morning's piece by The Betting Fool at SFGate.com. What was the title? "The greatest column in the history of sports journalism." He beat me to it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pimpin' ain't easy

Today feels more like a pointing day than writing day. So if you'll indulge me, my index finger is first directed at Kevin Antcliff's new blog. He's waiting for your attention and love, so give him a look. If you listen to Detroit sports talk radio, and are a fan of WDFN's Sean Baligian, Kevin has a quickie interview with him. Man, I don't get any interviews with members of the media. My lower lip is pouting with envy.

Next, my finger is pointing over at Deadspin, which probably doesn't need the pimpin', but will get it anyway. If you haven't checked it out before, Deadspin looks at the sports news of the day and the popular chatter in Blog Nation from a different angle than you might be used to seeing. All served up with generous portions of wit and snark, too. And for Detroit sports fans, they've posted a few entries which might pique your interest.

▪▪ Want some dirt on the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons from a former beat writer? (End of the Bench and True Hoop have more on this.)

▪▪ Who hates the Michigan Wolverines in the blogosphere?

▪▪ How popular is the Tigers' Kenny Rogers with the ladies?

▪▪ Mitch Albom: Love him or hate him?

▪▪ Which blogs hate the Detroit Red Wings?

I'm putting the finger away. Back to writing tomorrow - I hope.

Dear USC,

We know exactly how you feel.

The 2004 Michigan Wolverines

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hey Matt! Who's the coach?

You know, I didn't want to stare, but I could've sworn that was Mike Tice flipping my eggs this morning. (Or maybe it was another Mike; they're all blurring together for me right now.) Hey, I said over easy, man!

Bad time of year to be a NFL head coach, eh? How many firings are we up to now? Eight? Or is it technically seven as long as Matt Millen doesn't officially axe Dick Jauron? One would think he'd learn how not to leave a coach hanging by now.

And that leads me to the current talk of the town: Who will be the next coach of the Detroit Lions? Oh, that rumor mill is a-churnin' right now! Thankfully, Brian at Beyond Boxscores pulled together the latest rumors for us. Could Jim Haslett be the guy? How about Russ Grimm? (Doesn't he have the perfect surname for a Lions coach?) Mike Singletary, anyone? Al Saunders seems to be the favorite in several circles.

(Photo by Daniel Mears/
The Detroit News)

While loitering shopping at Barnes and Noble over the holiday weekend, I flipped through last week's Sports Illustrated, in which Peter King listed his top coaching candidates:

1. Tim Lewis: Giants defensive coordinator. Only 44 years old, despite his impressive 19-year coaching resume (which includes a 2001 Pittsburgh unit that led the NFL in total defense.)
2. Gregg Williams: Redskins' defensive coordinator. But as of yesterday, officially off the list for this year, thanks to a contract extension.
3. Pat Hill: Fresno State head coach. In case you went "Wha... ?" like me, he has the gold star that comes with being a former Bill Belichick assistant.
4. Russ Grimm: Steelers offensive line coach/assistant head coach. Pittsburgh has that tough defense and running game. Plus, he's macho mustachioed, like Millen.
5. Al Saunders: Chiefs offensive coordinator. Quick, name more than one Chiefs wide receiver. Yet KC had the NFL's top total offense. What could he do with the Lions' roster?
6. Eric Mangini: Patriots defensive coordinator. Again, the Belichick gold star. Only 34 years old. Is he the defensive version of Jon Gruden, who got the Raiders job at 35?
7. Maurice Carthon: Browns offensive coordinator. Had the same job with the Lions in 2002. Does previously working in Detroit make him more or less likely to be interested?
8. Mike Martz: Former Rams head coach. We know he coaches a great offense. Not so good with the defense, though. And it seems like he doesn't quite get that.
9. Dan Reeves: Currently a consultant with the Texans. I have one word for you: Retread. Oh, wait - I have five more: Are you #@$%ing kidding me? But Peter King knows his stuff.
10. Jim Schwartz: Titans defensive coordinator. Great coaching pedigree, working under Belichick, Williams, and Jeff Fisher. And another young buck, at 39 years old.

I know a lot of people, including Out of Bounds' Greg Eno and the eponymous Kevin Antcliff, favor an offensive guru as the next Lions' head coach. And The Sports Inferno's Terry Foster says the Lions' ownership wants offense, too. I can definitely see the appeal. Joey Harrington chucking the ball down the field to Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and Mike Williams, along with giant holes for Kevin Jones to run through would make Sundays fun again. I've always loved wide-open, offense-oriented football, and have dreamed of seeing that in Detroit.

But is that really how you win in the NFL nowadays? I can feel my opinions making a turn. Like Brian, I'm leaning toward wanting a defensive coach in Detroit, such as Tim Lewis. Teams built around a defense and running game tend to forge a toughness that could give the Lions an identity they've sorely lacked over the last five years. They seem to find their way to winning more quickly. Even the superstar offensive teams, like the Colts, didn't become true Super Bowl contenders until they put a quality defense in place.

Of course, many defensive coaches tend to favor boring, conservative offenses, which would hardly take advantage of the resources currently on Detroit's roster. And that's a big concern. But a good coach looks at his available talent and tailors his schemes and philosophies accordingly. Look at what John Fox does with Steve Smith in Carolina. He knows the Panthers can win games when Smith gets the ball. But he wants to push the other team around, too. And we know Bill Belichick is a defensive coach. But he knew he had an innovative coach in Charlie Weis, and let him run the Patriots' offensive accordingly.

That's the sort of flexibility and creativity Matt Millen needs in his next head coach. Do I have faith he'll do the proper homework and find the right guy? Frankly, no. But what can we do, other than hope the third time's the charm for him?