There’s an old Chris Rock comedy bit in which he jokes about O.J. Simpson seeing his ex-wife, Nicole, and her new boyfriend, Ron Goldman, driving around Los Angeles in the expensive automobile Simpson once purchased for his spouse.
Rock then opined that seeing Goldman cruise the town in those wheels was just too much for O.J. to handle. It was the ultimate sign of disrespect from both the new boyfriend and the ex-wife.
“I ain’t saying O.J. shoulda killed her,” Rock said. ”But I understand…”
Well, that brings me to today’s news that the Ravens have shipped wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49′ers for the equivalent of a box of athletic tape and a year’s supply of deer antler spray.
And I’ll sum it up the way Rock summed it up:
“I ain’t saying the Ravens shoulda traded Anquan Boldin…but I understand.”
The Ravens position on Boldin and the deal to the 49e’rs is simple: They don’t think he’s a seven million dollar football player anymore. That’s not Drew saying that…that’s the Ravens saying that.
That much is clearly evident when you realize the Ravens are under the salary cap as of today. In other words, they weren’t being forced to do anything with Boldin by Tuesday’s start of free agency. Last Friday, they asked him to take a paycut, but they did so simply because they felt he was no longer a player capable of playing up to the level of the seven million-plus he was going to “cost” them (salary cap wise) in 2013.
A Ravens staffer confirmed to me on Monday the Boldin-to-San Francisco deal was all about money and the perceived value of a player now entering the October of his career.
Boldin’s contract for 2013 is six million, with the remaining monies connected to the salary cap coming as a result of his signing bonus back in 2010.
So, that’s that. The Ravens decided, as an organization, that Anquan Boldin is no longer a player who can command a six or seven million dollar salary.
At least not in their eyes.
My guess is plenty of teams around the NFL would pay Boldin that kind of money, including, perhaps, the team he was traded to on Monday. There are whispers that the Browns were interested in the veteran wide receiver, but Ozzie Newsome isn’t in the business of helping his AFC North rivals.
It does, however, say something about Boldin’s value when the only thing the Ravens could get for him was a 6th round draft pick.
I like Boldin as a player. I thought he was a smart pick-up back in 2010. He was a good regular season performer who seemed to be more productive when the post-season rolled around, notwithstanding a crucial end-zone drop in the fourth quarter of the January 2011 playoff loss at Pittsburgh. He was a gamer. The bigger the game, the better Boldin seemed to play, particularly in this most recent playoff run when he was superb in the AFC title game and the Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.
Everyone is an expert these days. Every network has a panel of “experts” willing to offer their two-cents worth of analysis and prediction on who win the Super Bowl. When I was a kid growing up during the single-digit Super Bowl era, there was just one expert, Jimmy “The Greek” Synder.
Over the past few years (YouTube era), there have been various animals whose handlers attempt to become famous with a correct prognostication of NFL’s big game. Here are my favorites for this year’s match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
Jimmy Fallon Puppy Predictors
Teddy Bear the talking porcupine
NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes on July 3rd, that’s correct, JULY!
On Saturday, the eve of Super Bowl XLVII RAVENS FEVER HITS LAUREL PARK. The Laurel Park racing office showed its support for the Baltimore Ravens by naming the first six races on Saturday’s card with a Ravens-related theme…
The T Sizzle (race 1)
Heydiddlediddle, Rice up the Middle (race 2)
Wacco for Flacco (race 3)
Ray’s Last Ride (race 4)
Ed Reed’s Two Tickets to Paradise (race 5)
Go Ravens Purple Pride (race 6)
For the last three weeks, the virtual finish line on Laurel Park’s simulcast signal has featured a “Go Ravens” logo.
Also on Saturday the national horse racing spotlight will be on Florida, New York and California as Kentucky Derby prep graded stakes races are on tap at Tampa Downs (FL), Aqueduct (NY) and Santa Anita (CA). Of the three, the (Withers Stakes) race in New York may have the least impact on the Derby picture.
Let me explain. The powers-to-be at Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) developed a new “Derby Point System” that will determine the pecking order as to which colts, geldings and/or fillies are given the chance to “Run For The Roses”, if more than 20 are entered in the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby. This “system” anointed specific races where points would be awarded to the first, second, third or fourth place finishers. Of the 3 traditional prep races run this weekend, only the Sam F. Davis (@ Tampa) and Robert B. Lewis (@ Santa Anita) are designated “point system” races. Therefore, one would think these two races would attract the most interest, leaving the Withers to play second (or in this case third) fiddle. Not quite, eight (8) are scheduled to run in the Withers, while the Robert B. Lewis only attracted four (4) Go figure?!
First up will be the $200k G3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, race 9 (Post Time 4:18pm EST) on the card at 1 1/16 miles over the inner dirt course. The prohibitive Morning Line favorite is #2 – Revolutionary (3-5) who broke his maiden by 8½ lengths in his fourth career start. On paper this Todd Pletcher trainee appears to be a standout, but we know races aren’t run on paper, so he’ll need to turn back 7 rivals on the track. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will start a pair of talented colts #1 – Long River and entrymate #1A – Valid (7-2 M/L). The former ran 4th in the G2 Jerome last out while the latter was broke his maiden at Laurel Park in a convincing manner on last day of 2012. Other contenders here are #3 – Escapefromreality (6-1) will be the likely pacesetter as he stretches out to two-turns from two career sprints; #4 – Amerigo Vespucci (15-1) still looking for respect after getting SHOW purse money at 39-1 in the Count Fleet Stakes as is #5 – Siete de Oros (8-1) who at 41-1 lost to Vyjack by a head in the G2 Jerome on Jan. 5th.
WITHERS PLAY: $10 WIN / PLACE #1/1A Entry and $2 Exacta box 1-2-4
Next up at Santa Anita is the $200k G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, contested at 1 1/16 miles, the 4th race on the card. Post Time is set for5:03pm EDT. Really?! Only 4 horses… really?! Hard to believe with all the so-called Derby candidates on the west coast, this race came up so short. Even more pathetic, only 2 horses were nominated by the Jan. 24th deadline. Only one of them was entered, #2 – Flashback (9-5). Trainer Bob Baffert always has his horses Road to the Roses well mapped out. So my thoughts are this son of Tapit has been prepping for for the Lewis since winning his career debut on Dec. 8th. I envision a gate-to-wire victory. Looming the biggest threat is #4 – He’s Had Enough (7-5) for the connections who sent out I’ll Have Enough. Both #1 – Little Jerry (8-1) and #3 – Den’s Legacy (4-1) will fight it out for the minor shares and points.
ROBERT B. LEWIS PLAY: $30 WIN #2
Lastly on Saturday is the $200k G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Downs,11th race on the card, Post Time 5:23pm EST). The 9-5 Morning Line favorite is the Mark Casse entry of #1 – Northern Lion and #1A Dynamic Sky. The latter won the $100k Pasco Stakes over this course on Jan. 12th. His stablemate exits a 5½ length maiden score at Gulfstream Park travelling today’s distance of 1 1/16 miles. Other of note are #4 – My Name Is Michael (4-1) recently turned over to the capable hands of Graham Motion after 4 lifetime starts over the synthetic surface at Woodbine; #5 – Speak Logistics (3-1) last seen finishing 7th in the G1 BC Juvenile last November and #8 – Falling Sky (5-1) who was purchased for $425k this month, after ending his 2 year old campaign with a victory in a tough Optional Claimer at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 15th. The rest of the field comprises of 3 Also-Rans from the Pasco Stakes, a Nick Zito maiden winner at Tampa and a turf winner who broke his maiden in a $12,500 Claiming race.
SAM F. DAVIS PLAY: $10 WIN / PLACE #8 and $1 Trifecta P/W 4,5, 8, 9 w/ 1 w/ 4, 5, 8, 9
Recapping the previously posted pathetic selections at Laurel Park from Saturday, Jan. 26th had just 4 winners from 9 races (2 Top Selection; pay-offs shown in BOLD type) having $2 WIN pay-offs of $5.40 (2nd), $4.60 (6th), $3.60 (8th) and $6.40 (9th).
The BEST BET of the Day (5 0-0-0) Ciguaraya (4-1 PT; 5-1 M/L) raced 4-wide in the early stages, loomed a serious threat while being asked at the 5/16th pole, but was unable to sustain that drive, flattened out and finished 5th of 10.
The LONGSHOT PICK (5 0-0-1) Mister Dish (7-1 PT; 8-1 M/L) was unhurried early but then moved into contention, splitting foes and looked like a threat at the head of the stretch, but flattened out in the final furlong, salvaging 3rd place purse money, returning $4.80 to SHOW.
For Saturday races the weather forecast calls for Sunny skies with no chance of precipitation, meaning the track will be FAST at Laurel Park on Saturday Feb. 2nd . Selections for all races posted were handicapped based on making multi-race wagers such as DOUBLE’s, Pick-3’s and Pick-4’s using all three (3) listed for each race in each leg.
1st race – $10,000 Maiden Claiming for 3 y.o. – 5½ furlongs
#5 – Dublin Gulch (6-1)
#1A – Whatsthequestion (2-5) note: POE #1 – Light of My Life *** SCRATCHED ***
#4 – Mountain Bird Song (8-1)
2nd race – $5,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. & up – 6 furlongs
#5 – Flavor (9-2)
#3 – Ninety Five South (8-1)
#2 – It’s Never Too Late (2-1)
3rd race – $15,000 Claiming for F&M 4 y.o. & up – 5½ furlongs
#4 – Monster Sleeping (5-1)
#1 – Vicarious Won (8-5)
#7 – Changingoftheguard (6-1)
4th race – $14,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. & up – 6 furlongs
#1 – Dinny Dinosaur (10-1) $$$ LONGSHOT $$$
#6 – Lemon Juice (8-1)
#2 – Azicharmyou (5-1)
5th race – $5,000 Claiming N2L for F&M 4 y.o. & up – 7 furlongs
#4 – Miss Bad Girl (7-5)
#1 – Sicut Quercus (5-1)
#8 – Brightlingsea (4-1)
We are going to hear for the next 11 days how cool it is that the two head coaches in the Super Bowl are brothers. It’s one of those human interest stories that, as Glenn Clark (Host of the Reality Check) says, is truly “American”. Of course, this is really interesting and compelling but I’ll let someone else tell the Harbaugh brothers’ story.
What is more compelling to me is that these two brothers made two of the gutsiest moves in the entire regular season and ended up in the Super Bowl because of them. I’m talking about John deciding to part ways Cam Cameron for Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator with three weeks left in the season, with Jim Caldwell having no prior experience calling plays within games. I’m also talking about Jim deciding to stick with Colin Kaepernick, after an Alex Smith concussion, while Kaepernick had no prior NFL starting experience.
These would come to be their defining moments. They knew it at the time. They stuck with their guts and look at where they are.
John went with Jim Caldwell after almost two full seasons of fans clamoring for Cam Cameron’s head. Even though the Ravens offense was in the top half of the league while Cameron was play caller, he still went to the chopping block. Perhaps John knew that it was Cameron holding Joe Flacco back from being what he has shown in the playoffs. Perhaps he was waiting for it to click with the two. Nonetheless, it never did and John went with the unproven Caldwell. Sure Caldwell had head coaching experience but calling plays in game is a totally different animal. The future seemed bleak after the Ravens fell to the Broncos in their first game with Caldwell calling plays, putting up zero points in the first half. However, an offensive epiphany in the Giants game showed a glimmer of hope for the playoffs after the team rested their starters in Cincinnati.
Jim went with Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback after veteran Alex Smith went down with a concussion. Even after Smith was able to return, Jim stuck with the unproven 2nd year man (Kaepernick) over the guy who nearly brought them to the Super Bowl a year earlier (Smith). Jim liked what Kaepernick brought to the table. His dynamic playmaking ability, speed, and arm strength were all things Smith did not possess. One thing Smith did have though was superb decision making ability. Smith rarely turned the ball over. This was something Jim did not know if Kaepernick was capable of. No one did. Kaepernick ended the season with ten touchdowns and three interceptions. The gamble paid off.
Throughout the playoffs, the Ravens faced some of the best quarterbacks the league has to offer; the potential rookie of the year, the potential MVP, and a three time champion. They would have to put up points. They did, putting up thirty points per game on the way to the Super Bowl. Jim Caldwell’s play calling and thus John Harbaugh’s decision have played a huge part in that. Under Cam Cameron, the Ravens passed on sixty percent of their plays. Under Caldwell they are passing only 52% of their plays. They are getting the ball into the hands of their most dynamic player more. That would be Ray Rice. With that decrease in passing you would think that Joe Flacco’s numbers would be declining. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Flacco’s numbers have gotten better. He is the one who has led this team to the Super Bowl throwing for 8 touchdowns in three games and zero interceptions. Caldwell isn’t calling for more passes, he is calling more efficient passes; utilizing the middle of the field, screen plays, more complex routes, and more unpredictability.
The same can be said for Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s skills have led to a myriad of new options for the 49ers; the most notable of these being the read option like that of Washington’s or Seattle’s. Kaepernick usually has three options on such a play. He can hand off to the running back, keep it for himself, or pass to a wide receiver. My co-host on the Weekend Warriors, Jeff Kryglik, breaks down how to stop this here. The lack of film on this new offense, as is the case for Jim Caldwell’s offense, has led to great success for the 49ers and obviously a Super Bowl berth.
The Ravens and the 49ers have had great success because teams have yet to “open the book” on their offenses…and obviously because they are talented. Each team will have about a week and a half to figure each other out and that’s what it is going to come down to. Who figures out how to stop the other team first? This is going to be a high scoring game and it will be close. What defense makes a play at the end? What defense finally finds the key?