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Former Duke Standout and Syracuse QB Greg Paulus on Joining Navy Staff: “It’s Something I Want To Take Advantage Of”

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Former Duke Standout and Syracuse QB Greg Paulus on Joining Navy Staff: “It’s Something I Want To Take Advantage Of”

Posted on 08 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Greg Paulus
For Greg Paulus, he has tried his hand at a lot of different endeavors over the last several years.

He has suited up as a point guard for Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke basketball teams, starting three years for the Blue Devils, and after his senior season at Duke, Paulus-once a top prep quarterback-took a shot at football for his hometown Syracuse Orange in 2009 as he pursued his master’s degree.

And now, Maryland area basketball fans-who once rooted against the 24-year old from Medina, Ohio for playing at Duke-might now be behind him as last week he signed on to become an assistant coach for Billy Lange at the Naval Academy.

For Paulus, he told WNST‘s own Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” that it is quite an honor to not only be given an opportunity to coach the game of basketball, but to also to do it at an important and prestigious place like the Naval Academy.

“To come to the Naval Academy, this is such a unique and special place. The tradition, the people…it is such a prestigious institution. I do feel lucky to be a part of it with the people and the tradition.”

There is just something that is very special about being part of a Naval Academy, and the military academies.”

Paulus actually is now following the same footsteps that his former coach in Krzyzewski did, as his Blue Devil coach not only played at Army, but he also coached the Black Nights‘ basketball team.

“Coach K referenced those things, and talked about them all the time, and told stories about when he played at West Point and coached West Point. To be a part of that, and to have this type of opportunity to be around Coach Lange and his staff, its something I want to take advantage of.”

Paulus brings an impressive resume to the Midshipmen as a member of the Duke Blue Devils. While he was only a three-year starter, losing starts in his senior season to then-sophomore Nolan Smith, he averaged close to 10 PPG his first three years as a Blue Devil, while contributing with 4.3 assists per game.

He earned freshman All-ACC honors in 2006, and his 187 assists that year were third-most in Duke history in a single season. As a junior, he hit 42% from 3-pt. distance, connecting on 82 shots.

But after a senior year in which he didn’t see much action, Paulus did look toward his future, first as an NBA player.

“Whenever you’re in high school or college, your dream is to play at the highest level. When I was in high school, I didn’t know if I was good enough to get a scholarship or play college basketball, so when I was playing  basketball, I dreamed and worked out to try and make it to the NBA,” Paulus said.

But after it looked like his basketball career was coming to an end, Paulus decided to dig deep into his past and see if he could resurrect another career of his: football.

He attended the University of Syracuse as a graduate student, and joined the Orange football team. In about a month, Paulus was named the team’s starter.

“It was a lot of fun,” Paulus said.  “It was great to play football again. It was different. I made my decision right before I graduated from Duke, and I only had about two months or so to learn a playbook, and get back home and meet the guys, and get myself ready to go.”

Paulus used the same grit and determination in Cameron Indoor when it came to trying to achieve on the Syracuse football field.

“With the preparation, there was a lot of it. And trying to get myself from basketball to football shape, putting on weight, different type of training. It was fun to do, but it took up a lot of investment and a lot of time.”

Paulus finished the 2009 season winning four games, while passing for 2,025 yards and 13 scores. His 67.7% completion percentage for one season is best in school history.

Greg Paulus

All-in-all for Paulus, it was another shot at chasing another one of his dreams.

“When I was throwing the football around, I believed I still had it. I just had a lot of fun doing it. So I wanted to get back there and do something that I loved, and was just as passionate as anything else.I feel really lucky to have that opportunity. Syracuse football has a rich tradition. And obviously Duke basketball speaks for itself,” he said.

Paulus did say that he didn’t care which sport panned out for him; as long as he continued to keep doing something that he loved, that was all he cared about.

“I wanted to play in college and play in the NFL, and if football came and basketball didn’t, that would have been great to go out there and play football. I was lucky enough to have some opportunities, and going down to Duke was a dream come true, and to have the opportunity to come to Syracuse and play for a year.”

And now, Paulus is focused on helping the Midshipmen and coach Billy Lange continue their progression in a tough, Patriot League schedule.

And he said he couldn’t have learned more from a coach like Mike Krzyzewski, who he is ready to try and emulate as much as possible in his first shot at college coaching.

“There are so many things that I learned from Coach that I will take with me, not just for coaching, but for the rest of my life.”

Mike Krzyzewski

The list goes on on how many things Mike Krzyzewski was excellent at as coach.

“The way he carries himself-the fire, the way he relates and communicates with people, how he is such a professional and how he still has that hunger and that fire, and his communication skills are unbelievable,” Paulus added.”The way he got the most out of his players; those are just to a name a few.

Paulus knows all he needs to do is have an inch of the same coaching principles as Krzyzewski, and he should do just fine.

“But I have such great respect in the way he does it and how he does it, doing it the right way, and hopefully I can a little of that and bring it to where I am.”

Paulus said he knows the Patriot League well, and he feels like this schedule is going to be a tough challenge for he and his new co-workers to face.

“I’m real excited to be a part of Navy and the Patriot League. I know the teams well being from Syracuse. I’ve been to a few Colgate games. I have some friends that attend each of the schools in the Patriot League.”

“I know its very competitive, and the league has taken a couple levels up. You see teams that have a chance for a 14-15 seed in the Tournament, and they’re playing really well. We saw that with Lehigh this past season and their success.”

“The teams are getting so much better. It’s a very competitive league, and I’m really excited to be a part of it and to see where we stand and what we need to do to get to the top.”

Keep tuned into WNST and WNST.net as we welcome Greg Paulus to the Maryland Sports Community! WNST-We Never Stop Talking!

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Blog & Tackle: Not a good day

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Blog & Tackle: Not a good day

Posted on 04 June 2010 by Chris Pika

Seeing the press release stating that Dave Trembley was fired as Orioles manager reminds me of how hard the decision is from the inside and how it affects an entire organization.

I was part of two franchises in the NFL in a PR/new media capacity, the Saints and Falcons. During the time I was in New Orleans, Jim Haslett lost his job after a 3-13 campaign in 2005 in the wake of the forced move of the Saints to San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, I was in Atlanta when Jim L. Mora got the gate after some bad seasons.

Coaches know that when they are hired, more than likely, they won’t be able to choose their final day with the club. It’s part of the territory. So are the calls for their heads in every medium after losses or when the team misses the playoffs.

I don’t know Dave Trembley. But from what I’ve read, he isn’t any different than Haslett or Mora. Each of them worked very hard to move up the ladder and get one of a very limited set of jobs in the world. They all were grateful for the opportunity, and even more grateful were the families who supported their dreams.

Today, it’s the families I think of. When you make a change, it’s the wife and children who’ve had to deal with the uncertanty that comes with public speculation. They know it’s part of being in a coach’s family, but it’s not any easier for them to know that their dad or husband is out of a job. Their assistant coaches don’t know if they will still have their jobs when the “new guy” come in. You can feel the stress in every part of the building.

Many of us have had to come home and have the difficult “out of work” discussion with the spouse and kids. It’s no different for a shift worker, a corporate suit or a baseball manager.

Most of the time, the coach knows he’s “dead man walking” when he goes through the front office in the days before a change. People who may have shared a meal, or a joke, with the coach aren’t sure what to say or how to say it. The front office feels different on those days as more doors are closed and rumors run rampant.

Ultimately, the coach keeps going to work and trying to succeed until the boss tells him that his services are no longer needed. And once it’s done, no one is sure how to approach the departing staffers, even if just to wish them well.

We can debate the merits of Dave Trembley’s tenure, his successes and failures. That’s fair in sports and part of the fan experience. Tomorrow, we can debate the next man to occupy the office, and what he needs to do to turn the club around. Today, though, is for taking a moment to thank a decent man for his service and understanding that a change is much more than a press release for those involved.

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Blog & Tackle: Second chance for Stallworth

Posted on 17 February 2010 by Chris Pika

All eyes will certainly be on wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth and the Baltimore Ravens after the club signed him Wednesday – a second chance for a man whose horrible personal decision cost another man his life less than a year ago.

The football move to add depth to the wide receiver corps is a good thing for a Ravens team in need of playmakers. He was 21st among wide receivers from 2005-09 in yards per reception (14.8) and 11th among WRs in average yards after the catch (5.3) over the same five-year period. Stallworth is not a No. 1 receiver any more, but he will be someone opposing defenses will have to account for.

Stallworth has had a lot of personal accounting to do over the last year.

He was convicted of second-degree DUI manslaughter in the death of Mario Reyes in March 2009. He admitted to drinking the night of the accident, and received a sentence of 30 days in jail, 1,000 hours of community service, two years of house arrest and 10 years probation. He also lost his Florida driving privileges for the rest of his life.

He served just 24 days in jail – a sentence that angered many of those who fight for tougher drunk-driving laws – and he avoided a civil lawsuit by reaching a financial settlement with the Reyes family. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the 2009 season, and he was reinstated the day after Super Bowl XLIV.

So, Stallworth was eligible to return to work, and the Ravens have given him an opportunity to re-prove himself.

I worked around Stallworth during his first four seasons in the NFL with New Orleans (2002-05). I won’t say I knew him well outside of the locker room, but I had plenty of conversations with him about football and his career after practices and games. You also get a real sense about a player by watching him interact with his teammates and coaches when the media isn’t around.

Stallworth was well-liked in the locker room, and he worked hard on the practice field. He’s had a lot of injury issues (hamstring, heel) during his career, and his prep work before practices and games was painful to watch as his hamstrings were stretched to the limit like a track athlete’s would be before a meet (Stallworth ran track and jumped in high school).

The early-entry to the NFL (he was drafted No. 13 overall out of Tennessee after his junior year) battled those injuries in his first two seasons to start just 10 games among the 24 he played, although he had eight TD catches as a rookie in 2002.

The next two seasons he caught fire, with 767 yards and five TDs in 2004 and 945 yards and seven TDs in 2005 during the club’s disastrous 3-13 Katrina season. In August 2006, he was traded to Philadelphia, and later was fourth on the team in receptions for the Patriots during their undefeated regular season in 2007. He battled injuries again in 2008 with Cleveland, and his numbers tumbled.

Stallworth’s one-year signing does not present a significant risk to the Ravens. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter points out, both Derrick Mason and Kelley Washington are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, and Stallworth is the only veteran WR under contract in Baltimore right now. He still has the burst of speed and good hands to be effective as a possession receiver for Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense. He has been working out, and obviously the Ravens looked at both the football player and the person before offering him a contract.

I wouldn’t dare to tell anyone what to think of the Ravens signing Stallworth, especially in light of his conviction. But I can say this from my perspective: He is a very thoughtful person who seems to “get it” about the game and life. I read the quotes from Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh, and all spoke about his horrible decision, and the consequences for both the Reyes family and for the man who chose to drink and drive.

Stallworth has to live with that result each day, and while he paid a financial sum, he can never repay the emotional debt to Reyes’ family.

“I will never get that morning back,” he said in the Ravens’ press release. “It weighs on me every day and will for the rest of my life. What I can do is move forward, try to be a better person, try to convince others not to do what I did and warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving. I have to show otherwise that what happened doesn’t reflect who I am. I have to prove that, and, hopefully, I’m on my way to doing that.”

Maybe the prevalent “it will never happen to me” mentality in locker rooms or the local bars might come to a momentary pause when hearing Stallworth’s message.

“I will make the best of it, and some people may listen to me because I will be playing,” he said. “I hope I can do some good in delivering a message that could help someone or prevent someone from doing what I did.”

If anyone thinks twice and doesn’t climb behind the wheel after a couple of drinks because of Stallworth’s fatal mistake, that will be the most important unseen catch of his career.

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Colts’ Super Bowl loss takes Manning down a peg? Not in my book

Posted on 09 February 2010 by Drew Forrester

And the great debate about Peyton Manning rages on, made much easier and more poignant now that his team lost Super Bowl 44 on Sunday night to the New Orleans Saints.

I’ve read gobs and gobs of articles, blogs and web-analysis of Manning in the 48 hours since he jogged – slump shouldered and all – off the field in Miami with an “L” to his credit in the big game.  I haven’t found many people interested in defending Manning over the last two days.

I suppose I will.

Sort of.

I’ll start by saying this:  Peyton Manning isn’t the greatest quarterback ever.  Frankly, I’m not sure how you say “he (or she) is the best ever” but I’m always quick to say “the best of their generation” or “the best since they came into the league” or “the best of the last decade”.

If you pressed me for an answer to the question that I just wrote shouldn’t be answered – who’s the best QB ever? – I’d go with Joe Montana.

But in terms of Peyton Manning, I will say this:  I think he’s the best QB in the game today.  That’s my statement on Manning.  He’s the best QB playing football, on planet Earth, right now.

The criticism(s) of him in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Saints is not only surprising, but, given some of the so-called “experts” who have piled on, remarkably unfair and unbalanced.  But that’s just if you ask me.

It baffles me to no end that folks say of Manning, “Look at his playoff record, he’s 9-9 in those games. That just shows you he’s not very good under pressure.”

That’s quite an assessment.  He’s played 18 career post-season games and lost 9 of them.  Who beat his team in those 9 games?  The Lions?  No. Every playoff loss comes against a quality team.  After all, don’t playoff losses come against — playoff teams?

I also like how people say, “Yeah, but look at what he’s done in the Super Bowl.”

Sure, I will.  He played on a team that won one.  And he’s now played on a team that lost one.   Tons of great quarterbacks lost Super Bowl games. Hall of Famers galore lost Super Bowl games.  S*it happens, as the saying goes.  Or, using my favorite phrase, “the other team tries too.”

Pointing to Manning’s loss on Sunday and establishing that it somehow blemishes his career means Tom Brady’s loss to the Giants scars his run in New England.  Right?  Not to me.  The fact that Brady and the Patriots were sleepwalking throughout most of their January home playoff loss to the Ravens a month ago…does that change the way Brady will be judged someday?  I highly doubt it.  Last time I checked, no one wins them all.

I love when folks whisper this:  ”Look at what Manning’s done in crunch time.”

Crunch time?  What the hell are the playoffs?  A Sunday walk in the park?  Last time I checked, ANY game where you either win or go home can be called “crunch time”.

Using Manning’s 9 post-season losses to somehow diminish his greatness also disrespects the 9 post-season games he WON to date.  Does anyone remember that Manning and the Colts once went into Kansas City and won a post-season game?  Wasn’t that “crunch time”?  And that was back in the day (2004) when the Chiefs were nearly invincible at Arrowhead Stadium.  Need I remind anyone of January 13, 2007 when the Colts came to Baltimore and — well, never mind, you know the rest of the story.  (And yes, I certainly recall that Manning couldn’t get the Colts in the end zone on that fateful day in Charm City…but I know he played the next week and the Ravens didn’t.)

I realize a lot of people in Baltimore have an axe to grind with Manning because of the team he plays for…I wish people could be more objective in Baltimore, but in this case, I sort of get it.

So while I can sort-of-justify our local football fan’s inability to smartly dissect Peyton’s career-to-date, I can’t let the rest of the nation off the hook so easily.

Peyton Manning is a great Quarterback.  They already have 80% of his bust in the molding process at Canton.  He’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday no matter what you say or what you think.

But I can’t get over how folks across the country have taken one game and one loss and made it into a career defining moment.  Had the Colts won on Sunday night, you know what his detractors would have said?  ”Yeah, OK, Manning has 2 Super Bowls.  But Tom Brady has three.  Talk to me when Manning gets to three.”

And speaking of Sunday’s game, a majority of the experts have said the New Orleans win goes on the back of two people — Sean Payton for his gutsy, go-for-broke style and play-calling, and Drew Brees, the MVP of the game.

So which is it?  Did Payton and Brees WIN the game or did Manning LOSE the game?

Bob from Hereford called the show this morning and made an interesting point about current-day quarterbacks.  Bob said, essentially, that if he had to pick one quarterback, right now, to play for HIS team in the Super Bowl, he’d go with Ben Roethlisberger.  I might agree with that, personally, even though we all loathe the Steelers and the thought of giving them any credit.  Bob’s right, though.  If you wanted to hand pick one guy right now who embodies “big game” player, Big Ben might be it.  That is, until he loses his first Super Bowl.  That said, Roethlisberger has lost two playoff games in his career – only two – and guess what?  They’ve BOTH been at home.  That’s the weird stat of the day, eh?  Big Ben is 8-2 in his playoff career, but both “blemishes” have come in the cozy confines of his own building.  What’s that say about him?  Nothing.  If you ask me.

Where do you rank Dan Marino on your all-time list of quarterbacks?  He’s in nearly everyone’s top 10 and some say he’s a Top-5 all-timer.

We all KNOW he never won a Super Bowl…he only played in one, in fact.  So what’s his career playoff record?  How about 8-10?

Yep, the great Dan Marino, one of the best EVER, wasn’t even a .500 performer in the post-season.  ”The other team tries too.”

I always look at the balance of someone’s career and throw everything into consideration when evaluating them.  I do that with every sport, including golf and tennis.

Could they win on the road?  What about when they were down 3-games-to-1 or losing 20-10 going into the 4th quarter or trailed 5-2 in the 8th inning?  Did they produce the magic moment, the big goal, the huge TD pass or the big 2-run double?

In tennis, the question always is:  ”Can he or she win on all the surfaces?”

In golf, there are players who have won a bunch of “regular” tournaments but can’t break through and win a major.  Some guys in Europe make tons of money playing on the courses over there but they can’t play on the PGA Tour with any success.

Baseball players – particularly pitchers – are always judged differently based on whether or not they spent any time in the American League.  The same goes for hitters.

I’m judging Peyton Manning on his full body of work to date.  He’s won in virtually every stadium, in big games, in week #5 games, in games that meant your season was on the line and in games where by winning, you become a champion.

Peyton Manning has done it all.

And yes, that includes losing.

Joe Montana lost big games too.  At home, even.  So did John Elway.

But to take the Indianapolis Super Bowl loss on Sunday night and somehow attach that to Manning as if it might somehow tarnish his legacy is silly and, to me, more indicative of a personal agenda than it is a reasonable, thorough research of the facts that might persuade you to say “that Manning isn’t as good as everyone thinks.”

He’s as good as his record indicates, in my mind.  And by “record”, I’m mostly hanging on to the fact that he’s been in the league for 12 seasons and has played post-season football in 10 of them.  Start your search now for someone in that time span who can boast a record of similar accomplishment.  I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done.

Summary:  Peyton Manning is a great quarterback.  He’s the best quarterback in football, right now.  And without him, the Colts would almost certainly not even be a .500 team in the regular season.  Then again, the same could be said for the Saints and the Steelers, for example, if you took Brees and Ben out of their lineup.

If Manning wins a couple of more Super Bowls, some might wind up putting the “best ever” label on him.  If not, he’ll go down as a guy who didn’t win enough titles to be mentioned in the same breath as Montana and Elway.

For now, though, taking one loss in the Super Bowl and somehow magnifying it into some kind of career-statement is just not right.

It’s one game.  His TEAM lost.

Joe Flacco has a career winning percentage as a post-season quarterback (3-2) but I don’t see anyone applying the “great” tag to him just yet.

There are 52 other players on the football roster who can – if the circumstances warrant – have as much to do with the team winning and losing as the quarterback.

You think I’m wrong?

Someone recovered the on-side kick for the Saints the other night to start the 2nd half.

Do you know his name?

Me neither.

But we always know the quarterback’s name.

And he always gets the blame.

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (2/4/10)

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (2/4/10)

Posted on 04 February 2010 by Jack McManus

9:35-

Warren Sapp is next up. He talks with the guys about his possible entrance into the Hall of Fame. Drew explains that he thinks Sapp is a slam dunk for the hall. Sapp next talks about the first time he met Ray Lewis. Lewis stepped into Miami’s lineup at age 17 due to injury to a starting linebacker. Sapp watched Lewis mature into the player he is. Sapp next talks about how the Colts’ management ruined the chance for a perfect season for both the fans and the players.

sapp

9:11-

Tim Brando is next up with Drew. He mentions his travel plans that could be affected by the impending snowstorm. He starts off by discussing Tony Bennett’s impact at Virginia. Bennett has been a breath of fresh air at UVA. He goes on to call Maryland and under-exposed team. He states that Maryland does not have many household names and could surprise many people later in the season. Before leaving, Brando predicts the Saints will win the Super Bowl.

milbourne

8:50-

Drew now welcomes in Merton. Merton reminds everyone that Indy has taken the Colts and turned them into a winner. Drew asks if they could take the Orioles away as well. Nestor tells Merton that he will be wearing a Saints championship shirt at the scouting combine.

8:48-

Nestor and the rest of the crew down in Florida discuss the average commenter on blogs. Most of them seem to be negative everyone agrees.

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/27/10)

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/27/10)

Posted on 27 January 2010 by Jack McManus

9:35-

Bob Woods, asistant coach of the Washington Capitals now joins Drew. He talks about the team’s win last night. The team got a balanced effort, scoring 7 goals while not getting a point from Alex Ovechkin.

9:09-

David Downs, the Executive Director of the USA Bid Committee is the next guest. He begins by talking about how MLS attendence is only a  small factor in deciding which cities will have World Cup games if the USA becomes the host country. He points out that although Baltimore does not have and MLS team, the game played at M&T Bank sold out and drew lots of national attention. Downs states that about 12 cities will host games. Those cities will not be determined until about 5 years before the World Cup would take place in America. Downs also explains that all 18 cities still in the running have an equal opportunity right now.

8:53-

Sideline Reporter for the Colts, Kevin Lee is now up. He starts off by talking about the idea of resting players in the regular season. The Colts and the Saints were both proven correct by reaching the Super Bowl. Indy fans still contend that the Colts should have played for the perfect season. Lee states that he is happy with how things have worked out. He next explains how the Colts reacted to being down 11 points before halftime. The bench was still calm during the entire game despite the deficit. Lee also explains that most, if not all, of the injured Colts will be able to play in the Super Bowl.

7:48-

Shaka Smart joins Drew early this morning. Smart is the head coach of the VCU basketball team. His Rams will face off against Towson tonight. Smart agrees with Drew that the top of the CAA is terrific this season. He also points out that his team has improved during the season and he hopes to finish conference play strong. He calls Towson a “dangerous” team to play.
smart

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Saints and Colts Challenging Conventional NFL Logic

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Saints and Colts Challenging Conventional NFL Logic

Posted on 27 January 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

It’s probably kind of fitting that The Who will be playing halftime of this season’s Super Bowl, one in which the scoreboard could easily resemble that of a pinball machine. Indeed when the Colts and Saints assemble in Miami in just under two weeks, it may be time not only to throw out the record books, but also a step toward rewriting conventional NFL logic across the board.

If you’re going to challenge one time tested NFL axiom, you might as well challenge them all. In beating a path to Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints and Colts are not only proving that NFL success may no longer be as simple as a stout defense and clock consuming running game, but also challenging the conventional NFL model on how championship teams are assembled.

 

The most glaring similarity between the two clubs obviously begins at the quarterback position. Alas, if finding quarterbacks the caliber of Peyton Manning or Drew Brees were easy, then every franchise would have one, and the Colts and Saints would likely be suddenly much more mediocre by comparison. Since quarterbacks like that don’t grow on trees, let’s begin by saying that both franchises are somewhat lucky in that regard.

 

How they came by those quarterbacks on the other hand, is another matter altogether. While the Colts found themselves in the enviable position of picking first in the 1998 draft, and did manage to avoid the potential Ryan Leaf trap, picking Manning was as much of a no-brainer as there has likely been in the history of the NFL draft. The Saints on the other hand took a leap of faith on a quarterback in Brees, who never quite won the confidence of the staff in San Diego, and who suffered a pretty daunting shoulder injury on basically the eve of his free agency. In fairness, Brees did eventually find a little success in San Diego, but not before being benched for Doug Flutie for a season, and seeing the team draft their heir apparent at quarterback in Phillip Rivers. Still, a season ending shoulder injury as he went into free agency only added to the questions in an already lukewarm at best market for Brees.

 

With afranchise QB in place, NFL wisdom would lead you to believe that protecting that investment would become priority number one, and that doing so with highly regarded offensive linemen or prospects would be in order. For the Saints and Colts however, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

The Colts’ offensive line boasts Charlie Johnson a 6th round draft choice in 2006 at left tackle (where he’s backed up by ’07 2nd rounder Tony Ugoh) and Ryan Diem, a 2001 4th rounder at right tackle. Between them, the Colts start 3 un-drafted free agents, left guard Ryan Lilja, signed and released by Kansas City in 2004, center Jeff Saturday, once property of the Ravens as an un-drafted free agent, and right guard Kyle DeVan an un-drafted free agent in 2009 have all done an admirable job at keeping Manning upright and healthy.

 

On the Saints side, right tackle John Stinchcomb, a second rounder in 2003, comes with the highest credentials. He’s joined by a pair of 4th rounders in left tackle Jermon Bushrod (2007) and right guard Jahri Evans (2006), and a pair of fifth rounders in left guard Carl Nicks (2008) and center Jonathan Goodwin, drafted by the Jets in 2002, and signed by New Orleans as a free agent in 2007.

 

In both cases it would seem that the prowess of the quarterback offsets whatever shortcomings the offensive line may have to deal with. There’s also little doubt that both clubs benefited from good scouting, and probably wound up with talent beyond where player’s draft positions would suggest. Still, it would seem that a true franchise quarterback earns his salary by allowing the team to cut corners in his protection.

 

Instead of spending big money to protect their quarterbacks, it seems that both the Colts and Saints have placed a priority on stocking the skill positions with talent, and have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to do so through the draft.

 

The Colts have spent countless draft picks on offensive skill position players, and have had success on a lot of them too. Reggie Wayne (2001), Dallas Clark (2003) and to a lesser degree Joseph Addai (2006) have all been first round hits for the Colts and their offense. Additionally though, the Colts have spent recent first rounders on Anthony Gonzalez (2007) and Donald Brown (2009) who although the book is nowhere closed on either, have thus far provided little to justify their lofty draft positions.

 

For their part, the Saints have tried as well to bolster their offense with high draft picks, but with far less success. Reggie Bush, ordained by many to be the top overall talent in the 2006 draft, has proven to be little more than a fragile special teams ace so far, who can provide some interesting, if not consistent, wrinkles on offense when healthy. Without the spirited efforts though of un-drafted free agent (2007) Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell (signed by Denver in ’06 as an un-drafted free agent, and signed off waivers by New Orleans in ’08) the Saints wouldn’t likely be anywhere close to the peaks they’ve reached already this season.

 

In the receiving game, it’s much the same story for the Saints. They spent a first rounder in 2007 on Robert Meachem and a second rounder in 2004 on Devery Henderson, who both remain buried on the depth chart behind Marques Colston (7th round 2006) and Lance Moore (un-drafted free agent by CLE in 2005, signed by NO in 2007). And at tight end, it’s former first rounder Jeremy Shockey, cast off from the Giants as a potential locker room distraction (to put it mildly) and former third rounder David Thomas gotten from the Patriots in exchange for a 2009 7th rounder.

 

On defense, both sides seem to benefit from the security in knowing that even if they allow a score, they have an offense capable of getting it back. There’s probably a lot more inherent freedom to gamble on defense when you know that the offense will spot you a mulligan or two. What’s more, even if gambling on defense leads to a quick score for the opposition, all that means is a quick turnaround for the opposing defense to have to deal with the likes of Brees or Manning again.

 

For the Colts, their defense, much like their offensive line, is a who’s who of late round draft choices and un-drafted free agents. Amongst their starters on defense, the Colts boast only one first round draft choice (Dwight Freeney 2002) and one second rounder (Kelvin Hayden 2005). The rest of the defensive line consists of 5th rounder Robert Mathis (2003) and un-drafted free agents Antonio Johnson (2005), Daniel Muir (2007) and Eric Foster (2008). At linebacker they have two 3rd rounders in Phillip Wheeler (2008) on the outside and Freddy Keiaho (2006) on the inside, along with 4th rounder Clint Sessions (2007) and un-drafted free agents Cody Glenn (2009), Ramon Humber (2009) and Gary Brackett (2003). And in the defensive backfield, Hayden is complimented with un-drafted free agent corner Jacob Lacey (2009), un-drafted free agent safety Melvin Bullitt (2007) and 6th round safety Antoine Bethea (2006). That’s how you build a defense on a budget, and by putting an offensive juggernaut in front of them, set them up for success.

 

The Saints too have opted for defense on a budget, but have done it somewhat differently. In addition to a number of their own draft picks, some very highly, on defense especially, the Saints have done a great job at raiding the cabinets of other teams for talent.

 

On the defensive line they have first round draft choices in Sedrick Ellis (2008) at tackle and Will Smith (2004) and end, and have complimented them with a trio of un-drafted free agents, cast of by other teams in Paul Spicer, Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray, along with Anthony Hargrove the former 5th round draft pick of the Rams (2004) who had worked his way off of a couple of rosters due to drug and character issues.

 

At linebacker, the Saints have corralled a trio of free agents cast of by other clubs too in Jonathan Vilma (NYJ), Scott Fujita (KC) and Scott Shanle (acquired for picks from St. Louis). And in the defensive backfield the Saints have mixed it up, with un-drafted free agents Jabari Greer and Randall Gay (via NE) and 2009 first rounder Malcolm Jenkins and 2008 second rounder Tracy Porter. At safety they sport 2006 second rounder Roman Harper and compliment him with Darren Sharper, drafted by Seattle in the second round in 1997, and acquired through free agency after a stay in Green Bay.

 

At the end of the day, when you have to pay quarterbacks as highly talented and well regarded as the likes of Brees or Manning, it means having to cut corners elsewhere in order to facilitate it. Conventional (salary cap era conventional) NFL logic used to point to the draft as the best place to find those players. Hitting on early draft picks has long been the formula for keeping the budget under control. It seems that the Saints and Colts may have found an even cheaper, and possibly more efficient way to fit that need.

 

If these teams had done a better job though at drafting in the early rounds over the last few seasons, the results could have been much more dramatic than the show that we’re likely to see on the field in Miami. Either way, they’re likely to change the way teams look at doing business.

 

Maybe The Who said it best:

“Not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation,

I’m just talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-generation”

 

 

 

 

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/20/10)

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/20/10)

Posted on 20 January 2010 by Jack McManus

9:43-

Chad Reuter is live in Orlando. He is covering the East-West Shrine Game. He states that many of the players in this game have great potential. Reuter discusses some of the wide receivers available. He explains that the underclassmen who declared early have boosted the class of pass-catchers. He calls Golden Tate a possible target for the Ravens in the draft. on the topic of quarterbacks, Reuter explains that after the second round, not much talent will be available. He also believes that Tim Tebow will drafted much higher than many people expect.

tate

9:27-

Dave Steckel of the Capitals is now on with Drew. Steckel scored the game winning goal last night against the Detroit Red Wings. He talks about the leadership Alexander Ovechkin provides as a captain. Next, Steckel talks about maintaining focus during a time where the team is running away with its division. Steckel also discusses the upcoming Olympic break. The players spend much of their time relxing before spending the latter part of the break to get back into shape.

9:10-

Bob in Parkville calls in to talk about the earlier segment on Marvin Harrison. Bob believes that Harrison definitely shot the man in question. He goes on to say that this type of issue is far too common in the NFL. He states that nothing in any other sport compares to this.

8:54-

Lomas Brown, of ESPN is next welcomed in. He begins by talking about the Colts-Jets game coming up this weekend. He is torn on which team he believes will win. As for the NFC Championship Game, Brown thinks the Vikings defense puts the team in a position to win. He states that Brett Favre came back to win a Super Bowl not just reach the NFC Championship. Finally, Brown talks about the CBA bargaining. The owners are asking for the players to assume a large loss in the percent of profits.

8:50-

Merton is the next caller. Drew quickly jumps on Merton’s offer to take the Orioles from Baltimore too. He thinks Indy could turn the team in to a winner just like it did with the Colts. He makes sure to treat us with the Colts fight song before he leaves.

8:46-

Art in Bel Air calls in. He wants to let Drew know he agrees that fans who no longer care for Matt Stover just because he played for Indy are wrong. He doesn’t care what team Stover chose to play for if it was the best situation for him.

8:25-

Head coach of the Towson basketball team, Pat Kennedy is the next guest. Drew lets Kennedy know that whenever he accompanies a local team to Philly they lose. Therefore, Drew will stay away from the city for now. Kennedy admits that the losing hurts his team, but morale is still high. He states that the team is doing well in the paint right now. He is not upset about the team’s level of play despite the fact the team has not met expectations.

8:07-

Jason Fagone of GQ joins Drew to talk about his story on Marvin Harrison. After publishing this story ESPN has revealed that the FBI is restarting investigations on Harrison. Fagone discusses with Drew how Harrison has returned to where he grew up despite his monetary success as a pro football player.

8:01-

Miles from Owings Mills wants to make it clear that most Baltimore fans would welcome Stover back with open arms if he were to return next season.

7:54-

Dan in Fallston is the next caller. He blames Stover for demanding a guaranteed contract from the Ravens when he knew the team did not give them out. Drew emphasizes that Ozzie Newsome made the decision on Stover and the idea of John Harbaugh not wanting Stover is false.

7:43-

Lots of discussion on Matt Stover this morning. Bill in Essex talks about Matt has almost destroyed his legacy in Baltimore by going to play for the Colts. Drew points out that the Stovers are very sensitive to these types of issues becuase of their desire to be a part of the community.

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Head Coach Wanted – No Experience Necessary

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Head Coach Wanted – No Experience Necessary

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL is a copycat league, there’s no denying that. Every off season, like clockwork, teams of little fortune try like mad to emulate the successful practices that they’ve seen implemented by other clubs. It’s a league of trends, and those left behind said trends are likely to find themselves out of contention and likewise out of favor with their fans.

One of the interesting new trends in the NFL of late has been the propensity of teams to look beyond the usual suspects in attempting to fill their head coaching positions. Perhaps in no small part due to the recent success of such upstart coaches as Mike Tomlin of the Steelers or the trio of rookie coaches in John Harbaugh, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano who all led their teams to playoff appearances in their rookie campaigns last season, teams have all seemingly begun to reach for the next young star in coaching.

 

After the early successes of Harbaugh, Smith and Sparano, the NFL reacted in kind. Eight head coaches were hired last off-season, and among them, only Mike Singletary who had coached a handful of games as the interim coach had previous NFL head coaching experience. What’s more, at the start of the 2009 season, only 3 of 32 NFL coaches even had rings as head coaches, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Mike Tomlin.

 

It’s probably a good thing that Superbowl credentialed coaches like Brian Billick, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher have settled nicely into the TV ranks, because based on current trends, it could be quite some time before the league could consider them attractive coaching candidates again. Guys like those are left hoping these days that the likes of Coughlin or Mike Shanahan can do big things in regard to reversing the current trend.

 

Look no further than Shanahan’s own situation to illustrate how far the plight of the recycled head coach has come. Do you really think that Washington was on Shanahan’s short list of attractive destinations before gauging the lack of perceived interest that the market seemingly had in him?

 

If this season had proven anything however, it may have proven that finding the next young rock star coach may be easier said than done. Of the 8 aforementioned head coaching positions filled last off-season, only Rex Ryan and Jim Caldwell saw their fortunes advance beyond the regular season. The rest of those teams are left to ponder whether their leap of faith was actually the right move.

 

In the playoffs however, a surprising, if not disturbing trend has arisen this season. In the 8 playoff games staged so far this season, all but one have been won by the teams with the least experienced coaches. Among the 3 coaches who went into 2009 with   Superbowl hardware, only one even qualified for the playoffs, and for his efforts, Belichick’s Patriots were rewarded with perhaps the playoffs’ most unceremonious ouster.

 

In the opening weekend, second year coach John Harbaugh watched his Ravens bounce the Patriots along with Bill Belichick, his 15 seasons of experience (10 in New England) and his three Superbowl rings right out of the playoffs. Additionally, Ken Whisenhunt, in his 3rd season saw his Cardinals eliminate the Packers led by Mike McCarthy in his 4th season at the helm. Rookie Jets’ coach Rex Ryan saw his team take out Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, in Lewis’ 7th season as head coach. And in the read between the lines match up, Andy Reid in his 11th season in charge of the Eagles lost to Wade Phillips, whose coaching career began 6 seasons before Reid’s, but Phillips only has 8 total seasons spread out over 3 cities of head coaching experience, and has only been in charge of the Cowboys since 2007.

 

The second round saw the only upset to the trend when 4th year coach Sean Payton saw his Saints eliminate Whisenhunt’s Cardinals. Otherwise, Brad Childress in his 4th season and the Vikings took out Phillips’ Cowboys, and a pair of rookies in Rex Ryan and Jim Caldwell beat out the oft-recycled Norv Turner and the grizzled second year vet in Harbaugh.

 

None of that likely gives us any indication of which way to go this weekend, as both championship games will feature head coaches of equal tenure. Childress and Payton, both in the head coaching ranks since 2006 will meet on the NFC side, while a couple of rookies in Caldwell and Ryan will duel it out for the AFC. And once the dust settles in 3 weeks, one thing will be for sure, there will be one more coach going into next season with that elusive Superbowl hardware, as a first timer is now guaranteed to win; it’s just matter of which first timer.

 

Experience is a funny thing. In a 16 game NFL season, every game is bound to pose a new quandary, we’ve seen evidence of that here in Baltimore over the last 2 seasons, as Harbaugh has found his way admirably, but has also endured a lot of lessons learned on the job. For years, we’ll be left to debate whether the Ravens’ success over the last two seasons happened as a result of the Harbaugh regime, or despite it. Hindsight will surely show that at least a few of the young coaches who saw success this season would fall into the latter category.

 

One thing that’s probably not debatable though, is that Harbaugh is surely a better coach today than he was two years ago. Heck, he’s probably a better coach today than he was on Saturday in Indy. Experience is what’s made him better, and what will continue to do so.

 

Why experience is no longer seemingly valued in the NFL is beyond me, but that seems to be the trend. It could make things very interesting going forward, as most of the veteran candidates for head coaching jobs will likely have to gravitate to college or coordinators’ jobs until their stocks rise again. If the NFL is a coordinators league anyway, the impact on the field could be interesting.

 

Once upon a time, experience made you rich; now, in the NFL at least, it just makes you undesirable. In this league though, everything is subject to change on a moment’s notice. Something tells me that there are a lot of former coaches secretly cheering for Coughlin and Shanahan.

 

 

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The NFL Isn’t a Passing League Just Yet

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The NFL Isn’t a Passing League Just Yet

Posted on 14 January 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

Despite the proclamations of many, the NFL still looks to be a running league, at least once playoff time rolls around.

The NFL has become a passing league. You don’t have to look too deeply to find evidence of that. Quarterbacks are piling up unprecedented numbers, referees are calling penalties downfield much more tightly, and every so-called expert fit to offer an opinion seems to agree that the NFL, and football leagues at all levels for that matter, is becoming a passing league.

 

The question though is, are they quite there yet? Fans in Indianapolis, Arizona, New Orleans and even San Diego are sure hoping so. If the league favors the passing game these days, there are few teams better equipped than those to air it out and run it up. And with 3 of this weekend’s games being staged in domes, and the other in sunny San Diego, there’s virtually no chance that conditions are anything but ideal for primed offenses to open things up this weekend.

 

In terms of getting to the playoffs, a strong passing game may be the key, or at least a big part of the formula. Seven of the top eight passing offenses from this season qualified for postseason play, and 5 of those remain alive into this weekend’s action. That’s partly because 4 of those teams earned byes for the first round of the playoffs – a testament to their success no doubt – but among those who played only Dallas managed a win.

 

New England’s 3rd ranked pass offense fell to a Ravens club that finished the season 18th in passing yards, and only completed 4 passes themselves on Sunday. The sixth ranked Cowboys advanced as well, against the 10th ranked Eagles, and in doing so out rushed Philadelphia nearly 3 carries to 1. The 7th ranked Packers fell to the 12th ranked Cardinals in a shootout for the ages, and the Cards may consider themselves lucky to have escaped a game that most conceded would boil down to who had the ball last. It’s probably still worth mentioning though, that with a 17 point lead early, and a 31-10 lead just after halftime, Arizona probably wins easily if they use Beanie Wells and his 6.5 yards per carry for the game, more than 14 times. This weekend, the 2nd ranked Colts, 4th ranked Saints, 5th ranked Chargers and 8th ranked Vikings will try to join the Cowboys in reversing the run first trend.

 

When you look at running stats, the trend remains the same, where the Jets (1st), Ravens (5th) and Bengals (9th) are the only top 10 running offenses to gain entry to the playoffs without a top 10 passing game too. (The Saints and Cowboys are 6th and 7th respectively, but also boast top 10 passing offenses) But again in last weekend’s action we saw 3 of 4 games go to the team who ran the ball better during the season, and arguably all 4 went to the team better equipped and more committed to running the ball in their playoff games. (Make your own determination on what decided that Packers / Cardinals game)

 

If you’re looking for a read on this debate, from an offensive standpoint, this weekend’s games couldn’t provide a better “boxer vs. puncher” analogy, especially in the AFC. On Saturday the Jets will take a #1 running game and a #31 passing game to San Diego, where conditions should be ideal for anything, to face a Chargers offense ranked 5th in passing and 31st in rushing. On Sunday the Ravens will take the 5th ranked rushing offense and 18th ranked passing offense to see a Colts offense that ranks 2nd in passing, but 32nd (that’s last) in rushing.

 

On the NFC side the offensive match ups might be a little trickier than the numbers may bear out. When the Cardinals travel to New Orleans on Saturday, they’ll be offensively overmatched on both sides, at least statistically. The Saints pass offense ranks 4th in the league to the Cardinals at 12th, but the Saints also boast the 6th ranked rushing offense, while the Cardinals come in at 28th. In Sunday’s match up, Dallas brings the 6th ranked passing offense and 7th ranked rushing offense, the Vikings come in at 8th in passing and 13th in rushing.

 

While the Saints look better equipped in both ways offensively, the Cardinals have found some rhythm in their running game since expanding the role of Beanie Wells, still with the fear that either of their backs could put the ball on the carpet at any time, Arizona looks like they actually feel safer with Kurt Warner and the passing game, and probably have more top end talent in the passing game than New Orleans if not their depth, especially if Boldin is healthy. The Saints look like they can beat you offensively any way they choose, but also seem to have lost momentum over the seasons closing weeks.

 

While the Cowboys have the edge statistically over the Vikings in both offensive phases of the game, it’s tough to argue that there’s a more dangerous back in football than Adrian Peterson, and despite his down year offensively, a fresher Peterson for the playoffs could become a scary proposition if the Vikings choose to lean on him. The passing edge favors Dallas statistically too, but in a much closer fashion, whether you’d rather have Brett Favre or Tony Romo quarterbacking your playoff team may be a no-brainer, but both have been known to make some pretty curious decisions in crunch time, usually though, in Favre’s case they work.

 

While the AFC games seem clear cut offensively, with one team looking to run and the other to pass, in the NFC, it may come down to which team is better able, or better equipped to be the dominant clock controlling ground game on game day.

 

On the defensive side of things, the argument may look much different. As it pertains to regular season rankings and making the playoffs, 7 of the top 10 run defenses earned playoff berths, and four of them remain as week 2 approaches. However, in this weekend’s match ups, Green Bay and the leagues top ranked rushing defense lost to the Cardinals, ranked 17th against the run, although run defense was of little consequence in that match up, as both teams looked utterly off balance and unprepared when faced with the few rushing attempts they did see. And the 7th ranked Bengals rush defense lost to the 8th ranked Jets, in what was statistically a push going in, and was basically a push for the day too, with Bengals equaling the Jets’ yardage total, but in less attempts, for a better average, but less time of possession.

 

The 5th ranked Ravens run defense disposed of the 13th ranked Patriots, in a game where running and run defense was clearly the deciding factor, and the 4th ranked Cowboys run defense took out the 9th ranked Eagles, in a game where the Cowboys ran 35 times for 198 yards and 2 TD and the Eagles managed just 13 attempts for 56 yards and no end zone trips.

 

Of the top 10 pass defenses for the regular season, only 4 earned spots in the playoffs, and all 4 also had top 10 run defenses as well. Over the weekend it held up like this, the 1st ranked Jets and 8th ranked Ravens predictably disposed of the 6th ranked Bengals and 12th ranked Patriots, but the 23rd ranked Cardinals beat the 5th ranked Packers and made them look like anything but a top 5 pass defense, and 17th ranked Eagles lost to the 20th ranked Cowboys’ pass defense.

 

In this weekend’s match ups, the Ravens bring the 5th ranked run defense and 8th ranked pass defense against an Indy team that will look to test that highly ranked yet somehow highly maligned Ravens’ secondary. The Colts’ run defense, for their part, ranks 24th in the league, and may have benefited a lot from the Colts’ prolific winning streak and ability to force teams into catch up mode. As for their pass defense, the Colts come in at a middle of the road 14th. This one seems simple to figure out, the Ravens will try to run, and the statistics say that they should be able to. The Colts will look to pass, big surprise, and although it looks statistically like they might have some problems, and the Ravens secondary seemed to go to another level in Foxboro on Sunday, I’ll still believe that when I see it.

 

As stated above, San Diego will probably be looking to air it out against the Jets and will have their work cut out for them. It’ll be cut out for them no matter how they choose to attack a Jets defense that ranks 1st against the pass and 8th against the run. If the Jets defense does what they’re capable of, then this one could fall to rookie Mark Sanchez, or more likely the Jets running game. For their part, the Chargers rank 20th against the run, so they’ll have their work cut out for them there. The rookie Sanchez will have to deal with a San Diego pass defense that ranks just outside of the top 10 statistically at 11th, but who may have to load up the box in an effort to stop the Jets’ prolific running game.

 

On the NFC side, in what looks to be a shootout, Arizona is obviously utterly under equipped to deal with an offense like the Saints’. The Cards pass defense ranks 23rd in the league, and their run defense isn’t much better coming in at an unimpressive 17th. It looks like Sean Payton and Drew Brees will have their choice of how to attack the Cards’ defense, and if you saw them last week, it’s tough to argue that this Arizona team is ready for an offense like the Saints. Defensively the Saints come in ranked 23rd against the run, despite playing much of the season from far ahead. And like the Cardinals, the Saints’ pass defense is even worse ranking 26th in the league. Like Brees, Kurt Warner should have his choice of how to go after the Saints defense, but seems less likely to rely on the running game if it’s close. This may be another case of whichever team scores last wins, but the Saints didn’t look good before they elected to shut down, if they take time to get warmed up, this one could start like the Cardinals’ last game. We may get to see if they learned anything about running the clock from that one.

 

And in the other game, the Cowboys with the 20th ranked pass defense and 4th ranked run defense have a pretty clear game plan. They have to hope that their highly regarded run defense can minimize Adrian Peterson, and will have to take their chances against Brett Favre. If the Vikings decide to lean on Peterson though, Dallas may find out just how good he is, which could open up things for Favre and the passing game. The Vikings defense, ranked 7th against the run and 19th against the pass, will hope they have what it takes to minimize the damage from Dallas’ three headed backfield, and will have to hope that Tony Romo lives up to his reputation for making mistakes in crucial moments.

 

So whether or no the league has gone fully to a passing league, just yet at least, is still debatable, but this weekend’s games should provide an interesting case study in what wins playoff games, particularly in the AFC. I’ll stick with defense and running, until it’s proven otherwise, and last weekend’s games seem to support that notion. That’s playoff football; right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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