Friday, January 29, 2010

Pro Bowl is fine before the Super Bowl

You won’t see Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Philip Rivers playing for the AFC “all stars” in this Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Miami.

Ditto for Drew Brees and Brett Favre for the NFC.

The Pro Bowl – being played for the first time before the Super Bowl – seems like a good idea for some and a bad idea for others.

It’s a bad idea in that you won’t see any Super Bowl players from the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts. But some like me believe it’s a good idea since football season should end with the Super Bowl.

No matter when you play it, the Pro Bowl is anticlimactic.

The argument against this week’s game certainly is based on Super Bowl participants being excluded. But when you think about it, a high percentage of Super Bowl players in the past decided to skip the game for various reasons. (Why play in a meaningless game after being involved in the ultimate championship game?)

Even this year, players are skipping the Pro Bowl. Ones such as Brady and Favre are healing from injuries; Rivers’ wife is due to have their fifth child near game time.

So the AFC is left with the likes of Matt Schaub, Vince Young and David Garrard at QB. The NFC will go with a more formidable group of Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo.

It may seem too bad that you won’t see any 2010 Super Bowl players in this game. But would you really have wanted to watch them anyhow if the Pro Bowl was played after the Super Bowl?

NFC 31, AFC 27

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

AL West is gaining on the Angels

The Anaheim Angels may finally be getting some competition in the AL West division that they have dominated for so long.

Certainly the Oakland A’s made a move in the right direction by signing pitcher Ben Sheets … as long as he’s over the elbow surgery that sidelined him all of last season.

Sheets joins a formidable rotation with two-time All Star Justin Duchscherer, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden.

In addition, the A’s have added punch and pop with new center fielder Coco Crisp and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

The Texas Rangers certainly have added power with the free agent signing of former Angel Vladimir Guerrero to an already potent offense.

Plus, with Nolan Ryan included in the team’s new ownership group, look for Rangers’ pitchers to take on some of the toughness Ryan displayed in his Hall of Fame career. No more babying pitchers; let’s see how far they can go in a game rather than how soon they can come out!

As for the Seattle Mariners, the likes of standout pitcher Cliff Lee and former Angel third baseman Chone Figgins will be a definite upgrade in 2010.

The Angels? Not only have they lost top players to division rivals; they also lost ace John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox.

When the Angels look back, they are going to find people are gaining on them this season.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Union-Tribune love affair with Norv Turner is sickening

Sometimes, it’s best just to sit back and let others do the talking for you.

Such was the case in the Sunday edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

We all know Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee has a (sports) love affair with Chargers coach Norv Turner … and the paper’s columnists follow his lead.

Our only comment is that Marty Schottenheimer was 33-17 in his last three years with the Chargers. Norv Turner took over the same group – with more maturity – and has gone 35-19 the past three years.

It’s a virtual push between Schottenheimer and Turner; but you’d never know it by the U-T writers who blame Marty for everything that went wrong in his era … and Norv for nothing that has failed in his tenure.

Enjoy the reading:

A different take on U-T’s love affair with Norv
By D Brent Mote

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s two sports columnists, Nick Canepa and Tim Sullivan, as well as Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee, have such a bromance going with Norv Turner you wonder if they exchange Valentine’s cards. Fortunately, they back up everything they write with facts, right?

Well, to quote Mark Twain (or Benjamin Disraeli or Charles Wentworth Dilke, take your pick), “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Which means if you crop the statistical picture just right, you can support any position you care to take.

So, in the spirit of balance, here’s what I think of the “facts”:

•Turner has more playoff wins than Sid Gillman and George Allen combined.
Wow. Could that be right? Yes, it is, but it’s also misleading.
Allen lost a lot of playoff games. It kind of defined who he was. You know, the Marty Schottenheimer of the 1970s. Additionally, there were fewer playoff rounds in the ’60s and ’70s. In some cases, a lot fewer. As in one.

•Turner has a better winning percentage with the Chargers than Bill Walsh had with the 49ers or Chuck Noll had with the Steelers.
Walsh coached 10 years with the 49ers, Noll 23 with the Steelers, Turner three so far with the Chargers. This is like comparing apples and applesauce. If you include the time Turner spent in Washington and Oakland, his winning percentage drops significantly, well below the other two men.

•Turner led the Chargers to a 13-3 record with little or no running game.
Absolutely true. Trouble is, Turner inherited the second best running game in the league and turned it into the worst. (OK, next to worst.) LaDainian Tomlinson went from a league-best 1,815 yards in 2006 under Schottenheimer to 730 this year, and from an NFL-record 28 touchdowns rushing to 12.
Turner has stated repeatedly that he has a commitment to running the football. What he hasn’t said is he has a commitment to running the football well. Look, when you take the No. 2 rushing attack and turn it into the 31st, you’re either exaggerating your commitment or you don’t know what you’re doing.

•The poor running game isn’t Turner’s fault; LT has lost a step.
Yes, he has. But continually slamming him into the line doesn’t help. He’s not built for that, never was. In fact, any sane person would stop doing it at some point. Or, to quote Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

•Turner has the best winning percentage in Chargers history.
Well, why wouldn’t he? At 14-2, the Chargers were one of the most talented teams in the league when Turner took over and few coaches have been given the keys to a juggernaut like that right off the bat. I could be wrong, but I think a dancing bear could go 8-8 with this team. Which, if you recall, Turner did last year.

•Unlike Schottenheimer, Turner is cool under pressure.
I don’t know if “cool” is the right word. “Aloof” or “spaced” might be better, but regardless, it’s worked — until Sunday. Sunday, Turner was anything but cool. Sunday, he was a sputtering basket case. He almost jumped headfirst into a pile for a loose ball at one point.

•Turner is an offensive genius.
True, he is. Sometimes. Other times, not so much. Sunday’s loss to the Jets falls into the “not so much” category. I think we need to find out if Turner has a twin brother and if the two like to pull the old twin switcheroo from time to time because the man we see on the sidelines is not always the same guy. He can’t be.
Look, I wish Norv Turner well. I want him to win a Super Bowl with San Diego. I’m not even sure I want him fired anymore. (Yeah, like that was going to happen.)
But what I really want is some honest, unvarnished criticism of the guy, so maybe, just maybe, he won’t continue to make the same mistakes year after year and maybe the Chargers will finally win that Super Bowl we all crave.

And that is a fact.

Here’s more:

THE TOADY:Marty Schottenheimer takes over an average team, turns them around after several years, creates a 14-2 team that plays competitively but loses their first game in the playoffs to an equal or superior team, the New England Patriots. For this fine effort he is fired.

Norv Turner is handed an exceptional team, and, for several years, guides them to fewer and fewer wins. Then, in 2009, they complete a 13-3 season, and, after a first-round bye (during which players rested, returned to health, and had an additional week to game-plan and strategize) play an uninspired and poorly coached game in losing to the underdog New York Jets.

For this poor effort he is awarded a contract extension.

The Chargers need a true leader, not a misplaced offensive coordinator whose main selling point is that of being a “toady” for Smith and Spanos. The Bolts will not reach the Super Bowl as long as Turner is head coach.

Bill Geyer

Rancho Palos Verdes

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jets ready to stun the world in AFC title game

Joe Namath won’t quite say so; so we’ll do it for him.

The Jets are going to shock the world and beat the Colts in the AFC Championship game Sunday.

It won’t quite have the impact as when Namath and the New York Jets surprised the NFL world by beating the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, 16-7 … but it will be close.

The Indianapolis Colts will know how their Baltimore predecessors felt after the Jets come in and turn the football world upside-down again this weekend.

Hey, it won’t be news to Jets coach Rex Ryan. He’s been predicting a Super Bowl victory/parade for the past couple of weeks.

If anybody can stop Indy’s potent offense, it’s the Jets.

As the San Diego Chargers discovered last week, you basically can’t/don’t throw to the side where Jets’ CB Darrelle Revis is in coverage. That leaves one side to throw to … and Peyton Manning will find that very disruptive this week.

Oh, sure, people will recall how the Colts were beating the Jets before Manning and his mates were pulled four weeks ago (and saw their undefeated season go up in smoke.) But the Colts were only winning by five points in the third quarter at the time.

Ask the Chargers. The more they let the Jets stay close last Sunday; the more New York had a chance to win.

The Jets rely heavily on three “rookies:” head coach Ryan, QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene.

Can they stun the NFL again this week? We say “yes.”

Jets 16, Colts 14
Saints 27, Vikings 23

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Will Chargers release Vincent Jackson due to character issues?

General Manager A.J. Smith is on record as saying that the San Diego Chargers will get rid of players who are not of good “character.”

Oh, really?

Let’s see what the Chargers do with standout wide receiver Vincent Jackson before judging whether they are all about character.

It has been well documented that Jackson was arrested one year ago and charged with drunken driving. (His lawyer was successfully able to put off the court case throughout the 2009 season so that Jackson could play without possible suspension.)

This comes after Jackson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving in 2006 and drew five years probation. Yes, the current charge is within that five-year period.

On top of this, we have discovered that Jackson hitched a ride to Sunday’s playoff game against the New York Jets with QB Philip Rivers because Jackson was stopped by police on game day for “loud music” and then was found to be driving without a personal license in a car with expired registration.

When all of these matters are sorted out, Jackson will likely draw a 2- to 4-game suspension from Commissioner Roger Goodell at the beginning of the 2010 season.

The obvious is that Jackson is not a man of “character.” The bigger question is whether the Chargers will let him walk due to his lack of character.

It would be easy to let LB Shawne Merriman and CB Antonio Cromartie leave before next season due to personal issues they’ve experienced. After all, their production has slipped.

But Jackson had his best season ever in 2009 and continues to get better. What happens from here will be very interesting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Should Chargers fire Norv Turner?

Should Norv Turner be fired as head coach of the San Diego Chargers?

Of course it’s not going to happen; not with his good buddy A.J. Smith as the general manager.

But should it happen in the wake of Sunday’s 17-14 stunning upset loss to the New York Jets in the AFC Divisional playoffs?

History says yes, at least according to Smith’s logic.

Three years ago, Marty Schottenheimer was fired after a 24-21 AFC Divisional loss (also at home) to the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Schottenheimer went 14-2 that year, but it wasn’t good enough to keep his job.
Sure, Turner is 3-3 in the playoffs for San Diego; Schottenheimer was 0-2. But that’s what you expected with Schottenheimer, a guy who historically turned around bad teams and lost in the playoffs.

The Chargers were 23-57 in the five years preceding Schottenheimer. He then went 47-35 the next five years, including the playoffs. (Quite a turnaround, indeed.)

With Turner, the Chargers haven’t taken it to the next level. He took over a loaded team yet has only advanced past the Divisional round one more time than his predecessor.

And this season’s 17-14 loss to the Jets was reminiscent – and perhaps as bad – as what is perceived to be the worst playoff loss in Chargers history, a similar 17-14 defeat to the undermanned Houston Oilers in 1979. The Oilers were minus QB Dan Pastorini, RB Earl Campbell and WR Ken Burroughs due to injury but still won as Dan Fouts of San Diego threw five interceptions.

Jets coach Rex Ryan knew what he was talking about when he said the Chargers were "due" for a bad game this weekend. After all, Philip Rivers had his worst game in months (two interceptions, 76.9 passer rating) and Nate Keading, with the best field goal percentage in history, missed three kicks vs. New York.

Stupidity also played a part vs. the Jets. How else do you explain Shaun Phillips being penalized for a head butt or Vincent Jackson drawing a 15-yard flag for kicking a challenge flag thrown by Ryan?
Back to the original question: Will Turner be let go? Answer: Not likely.
Should he go? Let history do the talking.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jets hope Rivers shuts down, shuts up

The New York Jets want to shut Philip Rivers down so they can shut him up.

Easier said than done.

Rivers is the hottest QB in the NFL right now. His San Diego Chargers have won 11 in a row, scored at least 20 points in every game and there is no end in sight.

Give credit, though, to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. He is talking so big that he has probably convinced himself the Jets can beat the heavily-favored Chargers this Sunday in the AFC Divisional playoffs.

Rivers should have plenty to talk about. Even if the Jets shut down Chargers WR Vincent Jackson with CB Darrelle Revis in coverage, the Chargers can still find Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd wide open (or finally establish a running game with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.)

For the Jets to win, their vaunted rushing attack will have to fare well against San Diego’s not-so-good rushing defense. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene have both shown they are more than capable RBs behind a line featuring three Pro Bowl selections: center Nick Mangold, left guard Alan Faneca and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

If the Jets get behind early, they will have trouble catching up behind rookie QB Mark Sanchez. That’s why San Diego can put the game away before halftime if it jumps out to a sizeable lead.

In fact, look for Rivers to go long on the first play of the game to Jackson … just to test Revis and make a statement for the Chargers.

Speaking of statements, visiting teams have won 50% of NFL playoff games since 2002. So it’s not impossible to win on the road in January.

Last week, both AFC teams won on the road while NFC teams were 0-2 away from home. Look for the exact opposite to happen this weekend.

Chargers 24, Jets 17
Colts 24, Ravens 20
Cardinals 31, Saints 27
Cowboys 23, Vikings 20

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is timing right for 'L.T. Style Electric Glide?'

LaDainian Tomlinson’s “L.T. Style Electric Glide,” video on YouTube is hilarious.

Tomlinson dances around in a bright, bright, bright white suit and raps about what he does best on the football field.

It brought laughs to his teammates … and probably most everybody who watched it in the past several days. (It’s a side of LT we’ve never seen before.)

The video, a Nike commercial shot 2 ½ years ago, was released over the weekend on YouTube.

Here is part of the story published by the great Associated Press writer Bernie Wilson regarding the video:

The video starts out with Tomlinson turning on a boom box and saying, “What it do? My name's L.T., I've got a new dance for you all.”

He raps about waving to his mom, saying hi to his wife, reading the defense, catching the pass, throwing the ball, about safeties not being able to see him “because I move my hips, toward another six.”

If the Chargers need an updated theme song on the road to Miami to replace their dated disco smash, "San Diego Super Chargers," this might be it.

Two minutes and 14 seconds worth of a dancing, rapping L.T. ends like this:

"Stiff arm the guys, hit that hole.
"Let's see a touchdown dance. Celebrate.
"Now challenge that call. You don't like that call.
"Pick up the blitz. Here comes the blitz. Take a knee. Another victory."

It's certainly not "The Super Bowl Shuffle," but there's potential for more.

"My teammates and I might do a remix on it," Tomlinson said with a laugh.

"It was entertaining," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "He's taken a good jabbing for it all morning."

"I'm jealous, man," said outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has a spasmodic "Lights Out" sack dance. "I thought that was pretty cool to do that. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm going to find a way to top that."

Not so fast. While the Chargers are getting a good laugh over the video, what about their opponent in this weekend’s AFC Divisional playoffs … the New York Jets?

The Jets already feel disrespected by opening as a 9-point underdog. Watching a video of LT strutting around might only get them more fired up for Sunday.

Yes, the video may be a laughing matter to most. But it will probably only increase the bunker mentality of “Us vs. the World” that the Jets are already portraying.

If you haven’t seen it, here is “L.T. Style Electric Glide:”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ravens, Jets could upset AFC Championship picture

The Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers have both opened as at least one-touchdown favorites in this weekend’s NFL Divisional playoffs, but they better be careful.

The Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets each demonstrated over the past weekend that they are teams to be reckoned with. In fact, they could become the first No. 5 and No. 6 seeds ever to meet for a conference championship … which would set up yet one more game at the old Meadowlands home of the Jets.

How about those Ravens? With their 33-14 win Sunday at New England (the Patriots’ first-ever playoff loss at Gillette Stadium), they even caused the hometown fans to boo Tom Brady and his teammates.

Baltimore will be a formidable foe for Peyton Manning and the Colts led by its strong running game with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. And the Ray Lewis-led defense, which caused Brady to tie a career playoff high with three interceptions, is always a force in the postseason.

As for the Jets – coming off a 24-14 playoff win at Cincinnati – they pose an interesting strength vs. strength against the potent Chargers offense led by Philip Rivers and pass catchers Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd. New York has the league's No. 1 defense and will match up against that San Diego offense with a defensive roster including cornerback Darrelle Revis, probably the best cover back in the NFL.

Not only that, the Jets can control the ball with a running game including the likes of Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. They will be facing a San Diego defense that has been hard-pressed to stop the run all season.

Yes, Indianapolis and San Diego should each win this weekend and advance to the AFC Championship Game. But don’t be surprised if at least one of them is missing come the conference title game.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In Green Bay, is the Pack back?

The Pack is back!

Some 43 years after winning the first two Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers may indeed be back.

Certainly, they are not mentioned among the consensus most-feared teams going into the playoffs. Lately, that distinction seems to belong to the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.

The Packers?

They may be the wild card team nobody wants to play; the team capable of winning three straight road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.

The Packers are the first team in history for two straight seasons to have the same quarterback who passed for 4,000 yards, the same running back surpass 1,200 yards and the same two receivers go beyond at least 1,000 yards.

Welcome to the worlds of QB Aaron Rodgers, running back Ryan Grant and receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.

With apologies to the Arizona Cardinals, whom the Packers travel to meet this Sunday, Green Bay may well have the most potent offense in the wild card round of the playoffs.

The Packers come in with seven wins in eight games; their only loss being at Pittsburgh on a last-second miracle by Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace and the Steelers.

But is the Pack all the way back? We’ll start finding out this weekend.

Cincinnati 24, New York Jets 13
Dallas 24, Philadelphia 20
New England 21, Baltimore 17
Green Bay 33, Arizona 31

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mountain West Conference rules bowl season

There are two sides to the argument of whether college bowl games determine the superiority of conferences.

Some say the bowl games have little meaning in determining which conferences are truly the best. Others say they carry great weight.

We tend to agree with the latter since teams should be at their peak during the postseason while meeting squads they (normally) did not play during the regular season.

That being said, it appears as if the Mountain West Conference is No. 1 this postseason. (And to think the MWC does not even receive an automatic BCS berth!)

The irony is that all four MWC teams listed as underdogs in the bowl season were winners: Wyoming (New Mexico Bowl), Brigham Young (Las Vegas Bowl), Utah (San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl), and the Air Force Academy (Armed Forces Bowl.)

Just as ironically, the only MWC team to lose in the postseason was favored to win. But Texas Christian just didn’t have the know-how to stop Boise State’s fake punt when it mattered most in the Fiesta Bowl.

Speaking of, what if Boise State joined the MWC? How could the BCS possibly exclude a conference that would then include traditional powerhouses Boise State, TCU, BYU and Utah?

The MWC certainly made its mark with two wins over the supposedly superior Pac 10 this postseason: BYU over Oregon State and Utah over Cal. And on the topic of the Pac 10, have you noticed how that conference is only 2-5 this postseason?

With two bowl games (out of 34) remaining, here are the conference standings:

Mountain West, 4-1
Big East, 4-2
Big 12, 4-3
Big Ten, 4-3
Southeastern, 5-4
Western Athletic, 2-2
Atlantic Coast, 3-4
Conference USA, 2-4
Pac 10, 2-5
Sun Belt, 1-0
Independents, 1-0
Mid-American, 0-4

Sunday, January 3, 2010

BCS afraid of Texas Christian, Boise State

As sure as the Denver Broncos will always choke down the stretch, the BCS choked at the thought of having Boise State and Texas Christian University play anybody but each other this postseason.

That’s why TCU and the Broncos will meet in Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl.

Just think: If the Horned Frogs and Boise State (both non-BCS teams) were to play BCS squads, they could upset the system by both being winners.

And since the BCS excludes universities such as TCU and Boise State from automatic qualification, it would hate to see the little boys upset its big boys.

Let’s face it; both the Horned Frogs and Broncos would surely beat such BCS qualifiers as Iowa and Georgia Tech (Orange Bowl foes), as well as Sugar Bowl loser Cincinnati.

And the BCS certainly wouldn’t want the non-BCS schools playing Florida with the real possibility of the Gators being beaten by a non-BCS team.

After all, Utah (a fellow Mountain West Conference member of TCU’s) embarrassed Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl to finish No. 2 in the nation. And that came after the Utes beat BCS member Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

As for Boise State? How could we ever forget the Broncos upsetting Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day 2007?

No, the BCS will not let Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference nor TCU get a shot to beat a "name" school in a BCS game.
In reality, there would be too much egg on the collective faces of BCS officials if two non-automatic qualifiers were to beat teams that gain automatic BCS berths in the same postseason.

TCU 27, Boise State 20