Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hard Knocks 2012: Atlanta Falcons?

After the lockout took away our beloved Hard Knocks for one year, NFL fans are even hungrier for the hit HBO show this year.  No matter which team is featured, the show will be great, but I am mildly surprised by the teams that they have entertained as potential candidates thus far.

It first surfaced this morning that the Jacksonville Jaguars were a candidate, that Hard Knocks was interested in featuring the Jags and that the Jags wanted to be on the show.  Then, later in the day, we heard reports that the Falcons were "very interested" in being featured in Hard Knocks.

Now, it's being reported that the Falcons have been offered the gig, and there's no reason to think they won't accept.  I'm sure Falcons fans are thrilled by this news, but the rest of the NFL's fans are left scratching their heads.  Sure, the Falcons are a good team with a bunch of solid players, but I find them to be one of the most boring teams in the league, especially off the field.  There aren't too many characters or high-profile position battles, and those are the things that make Hard Knocks great.  

So while I would have much rather seen the Lions or Saints (Wouldn't that be something, coming off of the bounty scandal?) featured on Hard Knocks, I am just happy to have the show back again this season.  This has become a preseason tradition, and football fans across the country have been captivated by Hard Knocks story lines.  This year will be no different.

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Madden Cover Vote - Final Four

I was only 2/4 last week, as Patrick Willis surprised me by upsetting Victor Cruz and Calvin Johnson really surprised me by beating fan favorite Rob Gronkowski. I'm sort of disappointed that Gronk is gone. He's the man and would've been the first tight end to ever grace the cover.

For voting reference, here are the previous winners...
2001 - Eddie George
2002 - Daunte Culpepper
2003 - Marshall Faulk
2004 - Michael Vick
2005 - Ray Lewis
2006 - Donovan McNabb
2007 - Shaun Alexander
2008 - Vince Young
2009 - Brett Favre
2010 - Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu
2011 - Drew Brees
2012 - Peyton Hillis

Left Bracket

1. Cam Newton v.s. 11. Patrick Willis - I love the idea of Willis on the cover, but I'd be shocked to see him upset the number one overall seed. He does have the positional argument going for him, as there's only been one MLB on the cover, and Willis is very deserving to follow in Ray Lewis' footsteps. Still, Newton is perhaps the most physically gifted quarterback we've ever seen, and with Gronk gone it's his tournament to lose.
My Vote - Cam Newton
Prediction - Cam Newton

Right Bracket

1. Aaron Rodgers v.s. 6. Calvin Johnson - As much as I hated to see Gronk go, I love seeing Megatron get the attention and I hope for his sake he wins it. He deserves it after all those terrible quarterbacks he had to deal with before Stafford finally got healthy. I just can't vote for Rodgers. He should've won it last year, and now he's just too old of news. A wide receiver has never been on the cover alone, and Calvin is more than worthy of being the first. Also, Calvin beat Gronk, one of the most popular players in the league. That means Detroit fans are probably out to get their man on the cover.
My Vote - Calvin Johnson
Prediction - Calvin Johnson

To vote, click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Angry Rant: Bobby Petrino Gets What He Deserves

by John Huffstetler
of 11on11sports

Up until last week's car crash, most people had forgotten about how Bobby Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons unceremoniously following just 13 games with the team back in 2007. The recent revelations that Petrino was having an illicit affair with a 25-year-old assistant caused every Falcons fan (like myself) to have the same reaction... "I'm not suprised, Petrino is a dbag." This is vindication for every Falcons fan who blindly rooted against Arkansas over the past 4 seasons because of the coward who coached the team. Petrino left the Falcons at arguably the worst point in Falcons franchise history after Michael Vick was arrested on his well-publicized dog-fighting charges. Instead of fighting through the turmoil and trying to elevate his players to another level, Petrino left town after posting a pathetic 3-10 record.

The best quotes regarding Petrino's tenure with the Falcons came in 2010 from the Defensive Coordinator under Petrino in 2007, Mike Zimmer. Zimmer lambasted Petrino with incredible quotes that made Petrino sound like the biggest clown on the planet. Here are his quotes:

"He's a gutless (expletive), quote that."

"He came in and said he resigned, he would talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has ever talked to him since. Not that anybody wanted to."

"He is a coward. Put that in quotes. He ruined a bunch of people's lives, a bunch of people's families, kids, because he didn't have enough nuts to stay there and finish the job. That's the truth."

Probably three of the best quotes I've ever heard and it sums up Petrino's tenure perfectly. Now, after 4 seasons with 0 SEC West titles to show for it, Petrino is out and will probably never get another head coaching job at any program of note (though I'm sure some desperate Sun Belt team will come knocking at some point). I feel for Petrino's family and wish them all the best, but Petrino got exactly what he deserved.

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Urban Meyer: Will he rule the Buckeyes for years to come?

Upon reading the fantastic article by Sporting News writer Matt Hayes, chronicling the rise and fall of the Florida football team, I immediately speculated, as we all did, about the future of Ohio State football. After a very tumultuous end to the Tressel era, this article makes Urban Meyer seem like a very questionable hire, considering he will be entering into a program that already has a certain sense of entitlement ingrained in the players' minds. But there's no denying Urban Meyer's skill as a recruiter, talent evaluator, and creativity on the football sidelines. So, both short-term and long-term, will this move pay off for the Buckeyes, or will they be left in limbo for the next few years, as their counterpart Wolverines were during the dark days of DickRod?

This is a question that won't be answered for years to come, as we have never seen Urban Meyer build a college football dynasty. Granted, he has only held three head coaching jobs in his career, and two of them were mid-major programs, but he still has yet to prove himself long-term. His success at Florida was phenomenal, but some may argue it was the result of great players, most notably a great quarterback, and not the result of Urban Meyer. At the same token, Urban Meyer knew Tim Tebow was his guy, and he recruited him as such, so you have to give him credit for that.

The fact that Urban Meyer, reportedly, let the players run his team is the eye-opener. This simply does not work in any level of football, especially college football where there is such a high turnover rate. At a school like Florida, players are around for three years, and then they are gone. Basically, Urban Meyer recruited his first class, they played from 2006-2009, he didn't see nearly as much success in 2010, and he was gone the next year. He lost control of the team because he never had control in the first place--the players did. So once Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, and Tim Tebow were out of the picture, so, too, was the authority at Florida. And while this attitude certainly helped Meyer recruit these guys, it created a whirlwind of doubt among players and fellow coaches about whether the guy could lead a team. So the supposed "Circle of Trust," which consisted of the aforementioned players, held all the power, and they weren't afraid to show it.

After interviews with many players, Matt Hayes said three incidents resonated in most of their minds, all involving Percy Harvin during his time at Florida, among others. The first was during conditioning, where every Florida football player was climbing stadium steps in preparation for training camp. According to sources, Percy Harvin said, "This fucking ends now," and took a seat for the remainder of conditioning. The next day, the entire team was playing basketball for conditioning. The next incident was with Harvin and another coach, Billy Gonzales, the receivers coach for Florida at the time. According to former players, Harvin grabbed Coach Gonzales by the neck and threw him to the ground, eventually being restrained by two coaches. Following the incident, Harvin was never disciplined by Meyer or anyone else, allowing him to think that this type of behavior was not only acceptable, but the norm.

The third incident involved Harvin and two other members of the "Circle of Trust," Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez. For the 2009 season opener, all three failed drug tests for marijuana, and they were forced to sit out due to university sanctions. But, instead of letting this news leak to the press, Urban Meyer put all three in walking boots for the game, and he told the media that they were all suffering from injuries.

During his tenure at Florida, Meyer built this culture of entitlement for his players, and he allowed it to grow by letting his players get away with things like failed drug tests and violent encounters with other coaches. He did so until he didn't feel respected by his players anymore, and he ultimately left Florida because of it. The story reminds you of Frankenstein, where Urban Meyer created this monster, but instead of fighting it to get revenge, he ran away from it, only to create another one at Ohio State.

Another incident happened after Meyer left Florida, but it seems to be a direct result of the culture he built in Gainesville. During Will Muschamp's first few months on the job, three players were arrested on separate drug possession charges. Janoris Jenkins was one of them, and he was dismissed from the team and finished up his college career at North Alabama. He is now a projected first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but it is his almost infamous quote after the incident that still resonates in players' minds. Jenkins told an Orlando newspaper, "If (Meyer) was still the coach at Florida, I'd still be here." Not exactly words of encouragement for the Buckeyes, and definitely a testament to Meyer's character.

So we've seen Urban Meyer's successes during short stints with programs. He won a BCS bowl at Utah, won two national championships at Florida, but he has never been with a program longer than six years, as either an assistant or head coach. Some may chalk this up to a rise to the top of the coaching ranks, and that his tenure at Ohio State will be for life. I see it as a guy who does everything it takes to win right now that he can't sustain a program any longer than he did at Florida. Either way, there's definitely something shady going on in Urban Meyer's programs, and it'd be interesting to delve into the team politics at Utah and Bowling Green.

So, back to our original question--will Urban Meyer be successful at Ohio State? I think the answer is yes. At least initially. In two or three years, once Meyer is able to get his players in the system, Ohio State will be a national title contender. The question is, has Meyer learned from his mistakes at Florida to figure out how to make his success sustainable. The answer to that is yet to be seen, but I'm leaning towards no.

Meyer seems to have been using this tactic of a player-first coach to attract talent, but he has become almost afraid to discipline his players. He covers up for them and teaches them nothing about character, which is much different from having his players' backs. So while Ohio State could find great success in the next 5-10 years, they will be back in the same position once Urban Meyer jumps ship again, unless he can change his persona and his tactics as a coach and disciplinarian.

Bryan Thomas, a former Florida safety under Urban Meyer, summed up the coach best. He said, "As far as coaching, there’s no one else like (Meyer); he’s a great coach. He gets players to do things you never thought you could do. But he’s a bad person. He’ll win at Ohio State. But if he doesn’t change, they’re going to have the same problems."

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Angry Rant: Just Make the Goal Posts Higher!!

by John Huffstetler
of 11on11sports

How many times over the last few college and pro football seasons have we seen a crucial potential game-winning or game-tying field goal sail over the uprights to be judged good or no good by one guy standing over 30 feet below the ball? Field goal kickers have huge legs and and tons of spin on their kicks; as a result, many balls fly directly over the uprights while moving dramatically left or right. How can the system be to put one guy below the uprights and have him decide if the kick went in? After watching the Syracuse/Toledo game last CFB season, it's clear the refs can't even judge the kicks that clearly go wide!

Or how about this game winner in OT by the Dallas Cowboys' Dan Bailey over the Washington Redskins in week 11 this past season (kick about 45 seconds into the clip):

Maybe it went, and maybe it didn't. I have no idea. The kick was curling wide and went directly over the uprights. Can the human eye accurately determine from over 30 feet away if a ball crosses just inside or just outside of a large bar? Absolutely not. Here is another example from Oklahoma St./Iowa St. from this past season:

This kick essentially determined whether or not Oklahoma St. would play in the title game this past season. This "missed field goal" changed the entire season. Alabama wouldn't even have been in the title game if this was called good. I'm not arguing that the kick was definitely good, I'm arguing that none of us have any idea if it was good. Lastly, here is Boise St.'s only loss in the 2010 season to Nevada:

Again, this was a huge kick with national title implications that was determined through a controversial judgment call by one individual. So why not just extend the uprights? Every fan will still be able to see the field (the field goal posts aren't wide enough to be obstructive), but these ridiculous judgment calls will disappear. How difficult could it be to accomplish this? Extend the uprights another 15 feet to avoid this nonsense. Implementing some kind of technology to determine the exact location of the ball as it crosses above the uprights would work as well. Putting a chip in the ball that tracks its GPS in comparison to the uprights seems logical based on modern technology.

Every aspect of rule changes in professional sports has been designed and should continue to be designed to remove the human element of officiating from the game as much as possible (why do you think we're replaying almost everything now!). The human eye is terrible and inaccurate. Just look at research on the flaws of eyewitness testimony. Humans are idiots who make mistakes in their judgments ALL THE TIME. Any move to limit human involvement in determining the winner of a football game (or any other sport for that matter) should be utilized. Removing this antiquated system of human judgment and replacing it with a more accurate system is essential to preserve the integrity of the game.

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Tank time for the Philadelphia 76ers?

Written by: Ray Hagan @rayhagan19

Courtesy of

The Philadelphia 76ers were seen as a promising young team coming into the 2011-12 season. Thanks to a schedule-aided early season run of dominance, some national pundits began to muse that maybe this team was better than they'd given it credit for. Doug Collins was garnering talk as Coach of the Year, Lou Williams was a potential 6th Man of the Year, and Andre Iguodala was, if not living up to his extension, at least not playing well beneath it.

Now here we sit, just after Easter Sunday, the NBA Playoffs looming and the once-promising Sixers season is unravelling faster than the mummy in Monster Squad (dated reference #1). There are rumblings that players want Doug Collins out, Spencer Hawes hasn't been the same player since his return from injury, suddenly Iguodala is sniping at teammates (at least those shots aren't missing.) And the team is clinging to its playoff life by one game against Milwaukee.

Which leads to the real question. As a Sixers you even want this team to make the
playoffs? I know, that as a "true fan," no fan should ever want their team to lose...but sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward. In the NBA more than any other league, getting from the middle of the pack to the top is tougher than getting from the bottom to the top. That's why I say it's time to blow this thing up. It's time to dismantle this roster like a building in the game Rampage (dated reference #2).

It's obvious by this point that Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner
can't coexist. Both players need the ball in their hands to be successful. One of them has to go. Iguodala has gone from a potential glue guy to possible cancer. He's not the number one scoring option on a legit contender. He needs to be the poor man's Ron Artest. Thankfully his trade value has never been higher. The Sixers won't get a tremendous player for him, but they can get a piece that helps, instead of trying to fit this square peg into a round hole.

Elton Brand must be "amnestied." They might as well call it the Elton Brand rule. He's tailor-made for the amnesty clause. He jumps about as high as me on a pogo ball (dated reference #3). Those who said along with me the Sixers should have signed Josh Smith instead of Brand can now begin saying, "I told you so."

Finally, the Sixers absolutely positively must do two things:

1.) The Sixers must miss the playoffs. A lottery pick is essential. The odds of landing a top pick are minuscule, but minuscule is better than non-existent. Moreover, this is a deep draft even a late lottery pick could yield a legitimate talent.

2.) Doug Collins must be retained as coach. Doug has to come back and out his heart and soul into the new Sixers core and try to teach them how to win. No one brings the passion that Collins does and he has this team with Brand who can barely move playing NBA-best defense.

This is a team that needs to have the old flushed out...and the new blood brought in. If you're a true Sixers fan, you need to root not for wins, but for one step back and two forward.

Be sure to check out other great articles at FreeTheSportsman.

Lamar Odom Rumors: The Wrong One Came True

by Chris Huffstetler

Amidst a tumultuous relationship in Dallas, rumors were swirling about yet another rocky relationship between Lamar and his Shrek-like wife, Khloe Kardashian. A few days ago, Shrek herself came out of her house in the swamp to put an end to the rumors. Today, Lamar Odom was put on the inactive list for the rest of the season, thanks to a lack of effort and a bad attitude in Dallas. It's a long time coming from an Odom who we saw as the difference maker when the Lakers were able to knock off the Celtics in the NBA Finals a few years ago. Instead, he has turned into a whiny, selfish, basketball player who won't do whatever it takes to get his team the victory.

The thing is, I think Odom is in over his head. The guy can still play basketball at a high level, and he is certainly a very good 4th option on a basketball team. Having said that, this marriage is dragging him down. Everyday, the guy wakes up, and this is staring at him right in the grill. After awhile, that can take the life out of a guy. Seeing that he worked so hard in a basketball career, and the ugly Kardashian was his big prize. Anyway, I think this marks the end of a career, and a sour end at that.

I don't want to see the offspring of these two.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Forget Manning-Brady, we've got Luck-Griffin

Ok, maybe forgetting about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning while they attempt to add one more title to their legacy is a little extreme, but I truly believe that the NFL is about to enter a special era.

To me, Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III could be the NFL's version of Bird vs. Magic. You've got the down to earth white guy with the less than impressive facial features and the apparent distaste of fame, and the larger than life black star with a skill set the game hasn't been before. And the central features that all four of them share are a unique understanding of their sport and a burning desire to be the very best.

Of course, Bird and Magic weren't in the same draft class. They were one year apart. Plus, what made their rivalry so special was that it came about during a time when the NBA was dying and desperate for a new face of the league. The NFL doesn't exactly need any more stars, and there's obviously much more parity than there was in the NBA in the late seventies, which allowed Bird and Magic to meet in the finals for almost the next decade. Still, like Magic was in the West and Bird the East, Luck will be in the AFC and Griffin the NFC. So Super Bowl battles could be in their future.

This is a lot of bold talk about two guys who haven't even been drafted yet, but I'm just convinced that both of these guys are sure-thing stars that will be two of the main faces of the league in no time. Here's to hoping that they can live up to the hype, so that one day we'll legitimate champions for Manning and Brady to pass the torch to.

Bubba Watson and the Pink Driver

Bubba and his pink driver are victorious at the Masters. I'm really happy for this guy, and you could tell it meant a lot for him to win this one. It's good to see one of the Golf Boys take home the green jacket, and Bubba definitely had the best chance of all of them. Now that the Masters is over, it's really all down hill in golf from here. Still, golf is the second best sport to watch on Sundays (no, not behind NASCAR).

Anyway, if you are in the same boat as I am, wondering where Bubba Watson got that pink driver, what kind of driver it was, etc--I've got the answer for you. The driver is a Ping G20 driver, 8.5 degree, obviously made for a lefty. Unfortunately, I have yet to find it on sale to the public, but I'm sure we will be seeing it in the near future after that incredible Masters victory. In the meantime, here's a pinterest page with driver pictures from all angles.

UPDATE:  You can buy the exact Ping driver that Bubba made famous on Sunday, starting June 1st in golf shops nationwide.  Click through to Ping's announcement here.

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