Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When 14-1 Isn't Good Enough

There's been a good deal of debate this week regarding Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell's election to bench his starters midway through Sunday's eventual loss to the New York Jets. This is a rare situation where I have a strong opinion about something like this, so I'm going to spout it: Caldwell was an idiot for pulling his guys.

I completely understand his logic about not wanting to risk an injury to one of his best players. Without Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, or Reggie Wayne, the Colts are probably still fighting for a playoff spot, and they'd be in bad shape in the playoffs if they lost any of those four to injury.

But they did play half of the game, right? Was that half of football intended to just be a scrimmage, trying to stay fresh without worrying about winning? I doubt it. Manning and the Colts were out there trying to win the game right up until the point they were pulled from the game. Everyone on the team has been saying the right things, which suggests that they buy into the coach's ideas on the matter, and that's great. They all think that the move will put them in the best possible position to win the Super Bowl, which Caldwell and GM Bill Polian have reiterated over and over as being the ultimate goal.

Do you know what Manning, Freeney, Clark, and Wayne all have in common, though? They've all already won a Super Bowl. Winning another one would be great, and solidify all of them as among the best at their positions in this generation of players. But the possibility of going 19-0 for a completely undefeated season, a season that would trump the '72 Miami Dolphins as the greatest NFL accomplishment of all time, should have overtaken the desire to "stay healthy."

It's so rare that anyone has an opportunity to be considered among the best all time at anything. The 2007-2008 Celtics went 66-16 and rolled through the playoffs, but people don't even consider them to have been among the top 3 Boston teams of all time. The Yankees only won 103 games in their 2009 World Series winning season, so they're just the best team this season, not a candidate for the best team ever.

Think back to the 2007 NFL season. It was capped off with a great Super Bowl, but a Super Bowl most memorable because it was the Patriots' chance to unseat history. When you remember that game, and that season, you'll remember that the Giants won the Super Bowl, but you'll remember it most because they beat the Patriots to preserve the '72 Dolphins' place in lore. The opportunity to be legendary is so rare that we'll remember vividly even those who came up short.

How dare Caldwell and Polian deprive this team of the opportunity for perfection. How dare they sacrifice history for a perceived improvement of their chances at winning a Super Bowl. For me, no matter how well this team does (and there's a reasonable chance that they win it all), I'll always wonder what might have been.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 16 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 17, Redskins 0

It's too bad that the Redskins have to play a game in week 17, because this game seemed like a perfect bow to put on Jim Zorn's tenure in Washington. A horrific, grotesque bow.

Offense: D
Defense: C-
Special Teams: C+
Overall: D+

Getting shut out by the Cowboys is a tough pill to swallow, but particularly bitter when it's a home game. The Redskins' farthest drive in the game was their last, a 51-yard march that ended when Washington once again got into a bad down-and-distance situation, and couldn't convert. When you can't make big plays down the field, you have to get yourself into good situations through runs and short passes. When you can't extend drives, you have to go for home runs. When you can't do either, you're the Redskins.

I've often wondered how a team would fare if they had a great punter but little else. Turns out, they would get shut out by the Cowboys. Hunter Smith is a real asset on this team, with five of his eight punts putting Dallas inside their own 20 yard line. But field position only gets you so far, and Washington couldn't do anything with theirs.

About the only positive you can take away from this game is that it looks like the Cowboys have as little faith in Shawn Suisham as the Redskins did. Three times they elected to go for it rather than give Suisham a 47-52 yard field goal attempt. So at least one other team doesn't think much of the same kicker.

Next week pits the Redskins against the San Diego Chargers, who have absolutely nothing to play for, and who probably will be sitting half of their starters. I think Stan Humphries is slated to start at QB.

Around the League
  • San Diego is playing as well as anybody in the NFL right now. If you've got money burning a hole in your pocket and you want to bet on someone to win the AFC, I think the smart money is on the Chargers.
  • Hmm, the Patriots might be back. Uh oh.
  • Has any team ever swung as hard as the Giants from last week's domination of the Redskins to this week's embarrassment against the Panthers?
  • What the hell happened to the Saints?
  • In a game with intense Mattingly fantasy football implications, the Ravens fell to the Steelers. A pair of running back fumbles were NOT appreciated.
  • The Packers sure are peaking at the right time.
  • I told you Cutler would be fine. Or if I didn't, I told other people, and they can attest to the fact that I said it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 15 vs. New York Giants

Giants 45, Redskins 12

Oh no.

Offense: C-
Defense: D
Special Teams: D
Overall: D+

It would be fair to wonder how much the coaching/front office situation might have distracted the players this week. The hiring of Bruce Allen has led everyone in town to believe that Jim Zorn is 100% finished as the Redskins' head coach, and they're all probably correct. So it's not unreasonable to think that the resignation of Vinny Cerrato and the addition of Allen might've caused some players to lose focus.

But the cause for this awful performance was beyond just a lack of focus. The offensive line prevented the 'Skins from getting any sort of momentum, though I'm willing to attribute some of that to the Giants' elite front four. But outside of a 20-yard scamper by Marcus Mason, the running game was stifled. Jason Campbell wasn't ineffective at quarterback, but he was sacked five times and threw two interceptions, so it's not like the passing game offered much more.

When you give up 45 points, though, blame has to be directed at the defense. Eli Manning is generally overrated, in my book, but the Washington defense was all too happy to let him have open looks all night. You know I'm not crazy about passer rating as a statistic, but when you get up to 144.4, that's sort of beyond the "reasonable doubt" zone.

Ways to improve? I don't know. I feel like you just want to get through the end of the season without costing yourself anything for next season, injury-wise. So I'd limit the snaps of guys like Fred Davis, Devin Thomas, and honestly, Quinton Ganther. The young fella can play, and perhaps most importantly, he seems to have a nose for the end zone that nobody's had in this town since Terry Allen.

Around the League
  • Despite the Colts' victory, Jack Del Rio finally forced Maurice Jones-Drew down the throat of his opponents, and the result was a competitive game against the best team in football. Maybe continue to employ your best player, Jackie boy?
  • Can we finally put to rest the idea that Tony Romo turns to a pumpkin after December 1st?
  • Jerome Harrison and Joshua Cribbs shredded the Chiefs like tissue paper. Like red and yellow tissue paper. Am I the only one who's not surprised that Mike Holmgren agreed to come to town after that showing?
  • While the Bengals couldn't pull off a victory, they played a fantastic game against the Chargers. Chris Henry would've been proud.
  • Was JaMarcus Russell the problem the whole time? Suddenly the Raiders are a tough spot on the schedule. The Raiders.
  • It might just be me, but the way that the Ravens are playing, I'd hate to get matched up against them in the first round.
  • I think the Golden Gophers and Vikings must've gotten on the wrong planes, because Minnesota looked like a college team against the Panthers.
Dallas next week. Here we go.

Monday, December 21, 2009

BCS Rantings and Ravings

I'm going to try to not go all the way off about the BCS and what a joke it is, because I've done that here, here, and here. Additionally, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports did a great job of spelling out all of the different ways that colleges, fans, and teams could benefit from a playoff system in this article, posted a couple weeks ago. I'm just going to talk about this year, and the different games that led us to our current BCS bowl lineup. And, what the heck, make some picks too.

Rose Bowl
(8) Ohio State vs. (7) Oregon

This feels like the least nationally relevant Rose Bowl in a long time, but maybe that's just because USC was bad this year. "Bla bla, they still went 8-4 and beat Ohio State." Yeah, and they lost to Washington and Arizona. Don't argue with me; using USC's standards, they had a terrible year.

Anyways, this game seems to be Oregon's to lose. They're one of the hottest teams in college football, and their offense has posted 37+ points in six straight games. The coolest thing, though, is that at the end of the season, we might be able to look back at the Oregon/Boise State game in week one as a matchup of eventual top five teams. Makes me almost wish I had watched it...almost. It was 19-8, that doesn't look like the kind of score that I want to see.

Prediction: Oregon 34, Ohio State 17

Sugar Bowl
(5) Florida vs. (4) Cincinnati

This game probably spells the biggest trouble for defenders of the BCS. While TCU certainly has a valid gripe, Cincinnati is an undefeated team from a "power conference" (as long as the Big East gets an automatic BCS bid, you can't argue me on that). Like the 2005 Auburn team, Cincinnati has a chance to be an undefeated team from a BCS conference that never got a chance to play for the championship.

By the way, one of the clearest ways that you can tell that there's a problem with the BCS is that the team that loses the BCS title game doesn't finish the season ranked #2. If the title game is supposed to be between the #1 and #2 teams, doesn't that mean that the loser is the #2 team? Does anyone think that the Cardinals weren't the runner-up team in the NFL last season? Sigh, ridiculous.

It probably won't matter, though. Florida should beat Cincinnati and wrap up one of the great college careers of all time for Tim Tebow. I don't know how good he'll be in the NFL, but I definitely look forward to it.

Prediction: Florida 35, Cincinnati 25

Fiesta Bowl
(6) Boise State vs. (3) Texas Christian

Undefeated TCU takes on undefeated Boise State in what I am now calling the Joe Mattingly NCAA Championship game. Alabama and Texas can fight for the intercontinental title; this game is for the heavyweight belt. Because this game should be awesome.

TCU has one of the strongest running attacks in college football, with three different players averaging at least 50 yards rushing per game, plus 43 more yards per game from their quarterback. Oh, and said quarterback, Andy Dalton, has a ho-hum passer rating of 159.6.

Meanwhile, Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore has 39 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions this season, and they've scored 42+ in ten of their thirteen games. Did you catch that? Par for this team is six touchdowns. Their competition is a little suspect, but they beat currently 7th-ranked Oregon in their season-opener, so they're at least pretty good.

I have more faith in Boise State being able to close the deal, because they've been playing big teams in big games for a few years now. They know how to react to big game situations, whereas I could see TCU getting a little star-studded.

Prediction: Boise State 44, TCU 39

Orange Bowl
(10) Iowa vs. (9) Georgia Tech

In the "who gives a damn" BCS game, Iowa plays Georgia Tech.

Prediction: Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 22

BCS Championship Game
(2) Texas vs. (1) Alabama

It's hard not to look at this game and only think about the last game each of these two teams played. Alabama handled Florida with relative ease, and it took Texas three different bonehead plays by Nebraska to pull out the Big 12 title. Honestly, the Cornhuskers looked like the better team in that game. So how can I look at this game and see anything but a rout by the Crimson Tide?

Trick question; I can't. There's just so much talent on both sides of the ball for Alabama, and Texas' best player (Colt McCoy) seemed lost during the Big 12 championship game. Some of that can be attributed to playing against perhaps the most skilled player in the country, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. But it's not like McCoy will be facing my Magruder High School Colonels in the BCS title game. They allowed the fewest points per game and second fewest yards per game in the country this year.

It's gonna be a bloodbath.

Prediction: Alabama 33, Texas 6

Enjoy the games, everybody. I mean, as much as you can enjoy an essentially meaningless collection of postseason games.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Disney World '09

I went to Disney World again, December 2nd through the 6th. It was a fun trip, though I'm starting to realize that I need some freshness in future trips, if they're going to happen. My mom and my youngest brother are fun, but I think I'd like to have the opportunity to mix things up from time to time, and that's not easy with a three-person group.

I had a sore foot for the entire trip (and still do today), so all the walking around wasn't great. I'm sure that also contributed to the trip being not as much fun as last year. No pictures this time, sorry, you'll just have to trust me when I say I was there. :)

We stayed at the Contemporary Resort, which is a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. The value of this convenience is substantial. Since the Magic Kingdom is my favorite park, it gave us the opportunity to mix in a Magic Kingdom trip whenever we wanted (just twice, but still). The resort also has lots of the standard Disney amenities: swimming pool with a slide, convenience mart, several restaurants, and an arcade.

The coolest thing about our room, though, was the view. Our room faced the Magic Kingdom, which had two big positives. First, we could see Cinderella's castle lit up at night, glowing in the distance. Second, we were able to appreciate the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks show from our pair of balconies. I'm a man who likes his fireworks.

Longtime readers may remember that our group really enjoyed the Yak and Yeti restaurant in Animal Kingdom on last year's trip. We went back again this year, and it was good, but not as good as last year. I think part of the reason is that this year, we elected to go with Disney's dining plan, which lets you choose a drink, an entree, and a dessert. It's nice, and it's a good deal, but appetizers can be just as good as main courses. It was a shame to feel like we ought not order appetizers, so that we didn't waste our dining plan. So, that part I regret.

  • Read a full-length book in less than 24 hours.
I read all of one book and part of another during the trip. I bought Slam by Nick Hornby in Dulles Airport on Wednesday morning, and finished it Wednesday night in Orlando. It was very good, though the first half was better than the second half. I bought Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk in the Orlando airport, and finished it a few days ago. It was also good, though if you know anything about Palahniuk, you know it had its share of depravity. Not necessarily in a bad way, and it definitely adds to the story, but it does prevent me from recommending the book to people who I don't perceive as having at least some level of depravity (so yes, Greg, you can borrow it). I decided somewhere in the middle of Slam that I wanted to read more books, and Chip let me borrow High Fidelity, so I started reading that (though at a normal, non-vacation pace).

Now, as I promised to Plundo, the review of Disney attractions that I saw for the first time this trip.

  • Went on a new ride (or rides) at a theme park.
Snow White's Scary Adventures (2/5)
There are a lot of rides at Disney World that are pretty similar. Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Little Nemo, etc. They're all slowish rides along a track that follow a particular Disney story, and Snow White is no different. Part of the problem for me is that I never found Snow White particularly entertaining. The ride was fine, but I'd put it behind most similar rides.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (4/5)
Okay, truth be told, it's more of a three star attraction, but it was a four star experience. It's essentially a brief comedy show where they use real-time cartoons on a movie screen stage. What makes it pretty funny is that the monster comedians actually interact with people in the audience, reacting to what they say, and calling people by their names. They have a separate screen at the front that shows who they're talking to, and how they react. What made our experience particularly good is that my mom was one of the audience members featured in the show. Embarrassment is always funny. :)

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress (1/5)
I considered giving this ride zero stars out of five, but that goes against the grading standard. Plus, it's got some marginal value. You get to sit, which is nice, and I hear that it's especially good when the weather is hot, because it's indoor and air conditioned. The attraction sits you in a rotating theater that goes through a few different years, and the scenes play out with an animatronic guy telling you about all of the new technology of that particular era. If possible, it's more boring than it sounds. Also, the guy has a dog who lives to be like 80, which would be cool, but come on.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (4/5)
There are two parts to this attraction. There are a few action scenes with lots of stunts, including an airplane, machine guns, explosions, spears, and of course, a giant rolling boulder. The rest of the show is in between, where they involve the audience, make some jokes, and talk about what it's like to make a movie, and do stunts. The in between time is okay, and the stunts are pretty bad ass. Boom. Four stars.

Soarin' (5/5)
My sister had reported that Epcot's Soarin' was kind of a disappointment when she had gone on it, and that the line was astronomically long. The line was very long, but I thought the ride was fantastic. You sit in a row of chairs that gets lifted, putting you in front of a giant screen. The screen then goes through several hang-gliding scenes, with ups and downs, mixing in smells to go along (orange orchards and pine trees were what I remember). I think you have to let yourself just watch the screen, rather than look around at the other riders, but as long as you do that, it's an awesome ride.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 14 vs. Oakland Raiders

Redskins 34, Raiders 13

Well, crap. Now none of us knows what to think. While Jim Zorn might not be pleased with having relinquished his play-calling responsibilities, I think he's probably the only one. Back-to-back 30+ point outbursts and suddenly the Redskins are a team people don't want to play. I'm interested to see how the rest of this season goes.

However, it was the Raiders, so let's temper our excitement just a little.

Offense: B
Defense: B+
Special Teams: B-
Overall: B

First things first, Graham Gano was a solid replacement for the ousted Shaun Suisham. I'm still not 100% sold on the idea that Suisham had to go, but Gano at least looks like he won't be a liability.

The point total makes the offense look better than it actually was, but they did have a nice day. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the offense's day is that, despite gaining only 295 total yards, they were able to post a season-best 34 points. In the second half, when their defense (or rather, Jamarcus Russell) was consistently giving them good field position, the Redskins were able to capitalize, posting 17 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

After watching Quinton Ganther, Rock Cartwright, and Ladell Betts in the past few weeks, I'm convinced that the Redskins will do their best to find a way to divest themselves from Clinton Portis. I know Portis has been a solid performer for years for the Redskins, but when you're running a team in a salary capped league, the per-dollar performance of players becomes the most important factor, and Portis just isn't good enough to warrant his massive contract.

Brian Orakpo looks legit, his performance plus the noticeable turnaround by the hodge-podge offensive line has me thinking less and less that Washington should've drafted Michael Oher instead of Orakpo, despite the cinematic quality of Oher's life.

Around the League
  • While it's still awesome, I'm now a little scared. What will Pittsburgh fans do if the Steelers miss the playoffs? Loot? Murder? Get jobs???
  • I think the failures of the Cowboys late in the season are overblown, but it's amazing how the Chargers just refuse to lose after Thanksgiving.
  • The Eagles' win over the Giants was just an awesome game to watch. And it was the occasional game that had no fantasy significance for me, which meant I could just watch it...
  • ...and not lament the fact that Aaron Rodgers let Ryan Grant do the heavy lifting on Sunday in the Packers' win against the Bears.
  • The Titans and Ravens dropped Macho Man elbows from the top rope against the Rams and Lions, respectively, showing that the difference between an average team and a bad team in this year's NFL is considerable.
  • The Falcons nearly beat the Saints without Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. And people still think New Orleans is better than the Vikings?
  • Speaking of, the Vikings simply manhandled the still impressive Bengals on Sunday, holding Carson Palmer to 94 yards passing. Maybe you're skeptical of Favre being able to continue his torrid pace, but the pudding is...just look at the pudding.
  • Inexplicably, Kurt Warner's three turnovers were one too few for me to win my fantasy game this weekend. You couldn't have dropped the ball on the turf one more time, guy?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 13 vs. New Orleans Saints

Saints 33, Redskins 30 (OT)

Maybe it's just my TV, but Sean Payton's face looks jaundiced. Seriously, that thing is a gross yellow color.

Offense: A-
Defense: B-
Special Teams: C-
Overall: B-

I just got back from Disney World, but Sunday's game was as wild a ride as Big Thunder Mountain, with ups and downs, twists and turns, and low-hanging metal pipes that you're pretty sure are going to hit you in the head, but that's just an optical illusion, and also they're probably made from Styrofoam.

What was I talking about? Oh right. So yeah, the Redskins made a game of it against the Saints. Washington had its highest point output of the season with 30 points, but they were playing a New Orleans team that has scored under 30 points only three times this season. Going into the Saints' last drive with 1:52 left, down 7 points, was there any question that Brees would be able to pick apart this defense and make it downfield for the tying touchdown? I can say with some confidence that most Redskins fans were already aware of our fate.

The offense looked totally in sync for perhaps the first time all season. Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther seem as good a duo as Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, meaning one or both of the latter two might not be back next season. Jason Campbell did well, but I think not as well as people in Washington (I'm looking at you, LaVar Arrington) are saying. While he did a good job of spreading the ball around and keeping the offense moving, he threw a bone-headed interception as they were marching down for what could have been the game-winning drive. Washington fans needed this win to believe that our team might be headed in the right direction, and Campbell once again gave it away.

The defense doesn't get glowing marks despite their ability to keep pressure on Drew Brees and stifle the Saints' rushing attack (by the way, Mike Bell had a nine-yard run late in the game that he celebrated outlandishly, and I just wanted to slap him and say, "You've done nothing all day, shut your mouth"). LaRon Landry gave up two touchdown passes when he got himself out of position, and Kareem Moore was stripped of an intercepted ball by Robert Meachem, who took it in for a touchdown.

But Shaun Suisham was the goat (and now the sacrificial lamb) for this loss, and deservedly so. A 23-yard field goal is a gimme, and you've got to hit it. High snap? Please. It's a 23-yard field goal. You count on your kicker to be able to deal with a bit of adversity, especially on short field goals, and come through. I don't think Suisham should have been cut, but he deserved to have to deal with people saying that he should be cut. I doubt the Redskins will do any better without him, though.

Around the League
  • Of course, as soon as I start talking up the Vikings, they get slugged by Anquan Boldin and the Cardinals. News flash: Boldin is damn good.
  • We all wanted the Titans to beat the Colts. It didn't happen, though, and now the Titans have a two-game deficit to climb back into the playoff picture. I'm still rooting for them; the more of Chris Johnson we see on TV, the better our lives are.
  • The Dolphins may have edged the Patriots, but all the panic and people saying that New England isn't very good is just rubbish. They're still a likely playoff team, and nobody wants to have to play them.
  • Welcome back to Atlanta, Michael Vick. What a dominant team you've brought with you.
  • The Raiders beat the Steelers. No analysis, it's just awesome.
  • The Seahawks handed the 49ers their first division loss this season, leaving only the Bengals (already swept the AFC North), Colts (5-0), Vikings (5-0), and Saints (3-0) as undefeated in their respective divisions.
  • Welcome to the top of the NFC wild card standings, Green Bay. There are cookies and coffee on the table.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is It OK To Scrutinize Tiger?

If you've been within 50 yards of a TV, computer or ham radio in the last week, you know the greatest golfer of the last 20 years, Tiger Woods, has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. And by a "bit of trouble" I mean that he is accused of having two affairs as well as being in a possible domestic dispute with his wife (connecting the dots, the dispute would most likely be regarding the affairs). Following the lead of other philandering high profile celebrities, athletes and politicians before him, Tiger offered a nebulous apology to his family and fans, despite not ever actually naming the transgression for which he was apologizing.

So Tiger is apologizing, and if he isn't going to tell us why, we can only assume it is regarding his rumored adultery. From this two schools have of thought have sprung. The first is "Leave Tiger and his family alone, we all make mistakes and nobody should have their personal life on display for the entire nation". The second is "OMG, this is America, tell us every dirty detail!". While the former argument is certainly more noble, the second is without a doubt what is going to happen.

So the question is "Is it OK to scrutinize Tiger?". Should we let him handle this domestic issue privately or is it ok for the public to learn any news that may become available? The answer is actually surprisingly simple: It's ok! So what makes it ok? First off, Tiger is a celebrity by choice (as are almost all athletes, actors and artists). He has chosen a high profile life in exchange for the fame and fortune of being one of the world's elite athletes. If the intense media scrutiny ever became too much or too invasive, Tiger could have simply walked away from golf. After all, nobody really gives a fuck if David Duvall (the #2 golfer in the world a mere 10 years ago) or an accountant in Pennsylvania is cheating on his wife. So just the act of being a professional athlete opens you up to more public interest (as Jayson Williams or Rae Carruth would attest), but there is another reason why it is ok for the public to have interest in Tiger.

Aside from being a professional athlete, Tiger Woods has openly accepted the role of celebrity and has used his celebrity to influence the America consumer for his own well being. Since he has come onto the PGA tour, Tiger has used his persona to invite himself into your living room to pitch Nike golf shoes, Buick automobiles, American Express, Gillette razors and many other products. Without going into an advanced class in advertising, the basic premise is "hey Tiger is a good guy and a winner, I should buy this product that he supports". Now the important part of this argument is that Tiger is a winner AND a good guy. He has used his squeaky clean personal life, his cool demeanor and his hot-ass Swedish wife to convince the American consumer that you should buy the products that he supports because if you do, you can be just a little bit like Tiger...a winner. In exchange for using all aspects of his persona to endorse a product, Tiger profited obscenely.

Being a celebrity has a cost. That cost is public interest. Tiger seems like a smart guy and surely he had to have known that as he accepted endorsements the public would become more interested in him. Woods freely chose to accept this public interest in exchange for huge endorsements. Unfortunately for Tiger, when you trade your persona for millions of dollars, you trade your entire persona: good, bad and adulterous (the argument of whether or not that is fair or right is open to debate, but there is no debating that it is the way it is). Tiger willingly made this trade and now has to live with the scrutiny.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 12 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles 27, Redskins 24

Well, the Redskins put up a good fight. They scored over 20 points for the second time this season, and held a lead until halfway through the fourth quarter, both rarities for this team. Was it a great performance? No sir. Two really dumb interceptions by Jason Campbell pretty much iced the 'Skins chances. But at least now we don't have to accept that the game is over whenever the other team scores 17 points.

Offense: C
Defense: C
Special Teams: C+
Overall: C

Campbell and Donovan McNabb actually had fairly similar days, statistically. The real difference in this game was in each team's ability to run the football. With Albert Haynesworth out of action again, the Eagles were able to get solid gains consistently with LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver, racking up 120 yards between them. Washington, meanwhile, ran for just 82 yards on 25 carries.

The game was just another piece of evidence in proving how huge (literally and figuratively) Haynesworth is when it comes to the defense. Without him, the Redskins are simply an average defense that can be exploited. But with him, and with a healthy DeAngelo Hall, they're one of the five best defenses in the league.

And that's not homer-ism (well, not just homer-ism); that's the truth. Washington ranks tenth in points allowed, and sixth in yards allowed per play. They've allowed exactly one more point than the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've allowed the fewest first downs of any team in football. They still have the best pass defense in football (though their rush defense is in the bottom ten). Make no mistake. They've seen some improvement, but the offense is still to blame for the 3-8 record. With an offense that could control the clock and extend drives, this is undoubtedly a playoff team.

Sigh. Once again, we're relegated to next year.

Around the League
  • What a crummy bunch of Thanksgiving games. The Packers, Cowboys, and Broncos won by an average of nearly twenty points.
  • Remember when I said that Jack Del Rio was a crummy coach? He had David Garrard drop back to pass 42 times on Sunday. In case you were wondering, the Jags averaged 5.1 yards per rush on 19 carries.
  • The Browns defense looked better, but I'm concerned about their new motto: "Just allow enough points to lose." Anyone else expecting someone to pick up both Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn this offseason? (I'm looking at you, Oakland).
  • San Diego is playing like a Super Bowl team. Not that I'd know what one looked like; I'm the guy who predicted that the Saints and Vikings wouldn't even make the playoffs...and that the Dolphins, Panthers, and 'Skins would.
  • Every week Manning and the Colts look a little more vulnerable. They do also win, though.
  • The Titans? The freakin' Titans? They're one game out of the wild card, and the 59-0 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots is ancient history.
  • Maybe the Steelers would've won with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, but Dennis Dixon wasn't the guy whose arm tackles Ray Rice was blasting through.
  • Okay, we get it. The Saints are really good, and everyone was really stupid not to sign Drew Brees when he left the Chargers. I think Colston just caught another TD.
Speaking of the Saints, they come to town this weekend to play the Redskins. I thought about getting tickets, but I'm actually leaving for Orlando tomorrow morning to visit Mickey and the gang for a few days. I fly back in on Sunday, so there's a decent chance I lied about not missing any more Redskins games. Sorry about that.

What Is The Rule 5 (or Rule V) Draft?

It's a question that's dogged Major League Baseball for years, because it's something that seemingly only 10% of baseball fans are even aware of, and only 1% actually understand. I should know, I was part of the 90% for a long time, and part of the 99% until just recently. But the Rule 5 Draft (sometimes called the Rule V Draft) is part of the game play in MLB Front Office Manager, so as I started to get more and more into my Nationals team, I did more and more research into the various quirks and rules of baseball.

The Rule 5 draft has existed 1959, though it's operated under the current rules (with minor tweaks) since 1965. It was designed in order to prevent teams from stockpiling talent in the minor leagues.

How Does It Work?

The Rule 5 draft takes place annually at baseball's winter meetings. The draft order is the same as in the amateur (or Rule 4) draft; that is, in reverse order of record from the previous season. Older players who aren't on a team's 40-man roster are available for other teams to draft at a price of $50,000, paid to the player's current team. These players have to be kept on the major league roster for the duration of the following season, or be offered back to their original team for half of the original price (so $25,000).

Eligibility Rules

Not all minor league players are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. First, players on a team's 40-man roster are not selectable in the draft. The 40-man roster includes a team's 25 active players, as well as 15 players designated by the organization.

Additionally, younger players are not eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Players who were 19 years or older when they signed with the team are protected from the Rule 5 draft for four years, whereas players who signed before age 19 are protected for five years.

Who Benefits?

There are two main beneficiaries of the Rule 5 draft. First, the small market team. These teams can't afford to sign premium free agents to fill out their starting lineups or have $5 million utility bench players, but they can acquire solid minor leaguers at league-minimum salaries to help with depth. The other beneficiaries are the minor league players themselves. The sooner a minor league player gets to the major leagues, the sooner he becomes eligible for arbitration, and eventually for free agency. The redistribution of talent helps to expedite that process.

But Does Anyone Ever Actually Work Out?

It's a fair question. If a player is left unprotected after 4+ years in the minor leagues, is there much of a chance that he's actually going to pan out? Usually not. There are between ten and thirty players drafted regularly in the Rule 5 draft, and most of them end up being no better than role players. Of the 21 players taken in the 2008 Rule 5 draft, 13 of them have been offered back to their original teams.

But, as I'm sure you know, there are always a few exceptions, or it wouldn't be worth me writing about. Fantasy owners of today may be surprised to find out that several relevant players were Rule 5 acquisitions, such as Joakim Soria, Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton, and Dan Uggla. For those of you who were baseball fans in the 1980s and 1990s, you may be surprised to discover that John Wetteland, Kelly Gruber, George Bell, and Bobby Bonilla were all Rule 5-ers. Additionally, superstar pitcher Johan Santana was a Rule 5 acquisition by the Twins, who yanked him from the Astros (oops).

But unquestionably, the most famous Rule 5 draftee was outfielder Roberto Clemente. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, then left unprotected in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. A mere 3,000 hits, 12 All-Star Game appearances, 12 Gold Gloves, and 1966 MVP trophy later, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. Not too bad for a Rule 5-er.

Baseball has its parity issues. Payroll discrepancies are considerable, and the differences in payroll generally correlate with performance. But between the Rule 5 draft, compensation draft picks, and the amateur draft, there are plenty of opportunities for a small-market team to be successful. I'm sure you've already heard me say this a hundred times, but read Moneyball. It'll remind you that, while money talks, it can't sing and dance, and it can't walk.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...