Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Archive for March, 2009

Thoughts on the Sweet 16

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 26, 2009

So far I’ve actually done better in my NCAA tournament pool than normal.  I was actually in first place after round one with 28 of 32 first round games correct (I missed on Arizona, Dayton, UCLA and Wisconsin).  I didn’t fare near as well in the second round however, although I got 12 of 16 teams still remaining in the field (I had Utah, West Virginia, Florida State and Texas moving on past the second round).  Someone in our office pool at work got all 16 second round games right, which I have never seen before.  Needless to say that person is way out in front now.  I think this year’s tournament is still shaping up to be as wide open as ever, and while I stick to my original Final Four of Pitt, North Carolina, Memphis and Louisville, with Memphis winning it all, I offer some thoughts on the matchups to come this weekend.

East Region:

– Pittsburgh vs. Xavier: I have to admit that I am surprised to see the Musketeers still alive and kicking, since I had them losing to Florida State in the second round.  Thing is. the Seminoles didn’t make it that far, and Xavier gave a very impressive performance against Wisconsin in the second round.  Pitt struggled big time in round one against 16 seed East Tennessee State and also needed to hold off a charge from Oklahoma State in round two, so this could be interesting.  Pitt looks to be most vulnerable of the number one seeds heading into the regional semifinal, but I also think they lucked out in their matchup with Xavier.  Pitt has size inside especially with DeJuan Blair, and they are well used to physical play in the Big East.  Xavier has good guard play but does not have the size or depth inside to contain Blair and company.  I like Pitt, and I don’t necessarily expect this to be close.  

– Duke vs. Villanova: The Blue Devils nearly gave one away to Texas in the second round, benefiting from several Longhorn mistakes down the stretch.  Villanova got a big scare from American University in round one, needing to rally from a 14-point deficit to win, but then destroyed UCLA in round two.  I still think Duke has been too reliant on the three this season, and as hot as the Wildcats are coming in to this one, I don’t like the odds for the Blue Devils here.  This should be a great game, but I think Scottie Reynolds steps up big and wins this game for Villanova.  

I still like Pitt to beat Villanova in the regional final in a Big East rematch.  

South Region:

– North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: The Tar Heels showed how talented they are with two easy first round wins, although LSU kept it close for awhile in the second round.  Ty Lawson is healthy now to give North Carolina an even bigger talent edge.  Gonzaga has won two tough games against fellow mid-majors, and needed a last second shot to beat Western Kentucky in round two.  I like the Tar Heels to win this one easily.  Their athleticism will just be too much for the Zags.  

– Oklahoma vs. Syracuse: This should be a terrific game.  Blake Griffin has been phenomenal for OU in their two wins so far, while Syracuse has shown no ill effects whatsoever from all their overtimes in the Big East tournament.  Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone flabbergasted Arizona State in round two, and I expect it will do the same to the Sooners.  Oklahoma needs a monster game from Griffin inside, but they’ll also need to knock down the threes against the zone, something that is not one of their strengths.  Syracuse has one of the best penetrating guards in the country in Jonny Flynn, and he won’t be afraid to attack Griffin and company on the offensive end.  I think the defense of the Orange will be the difference, and I see them squeaking out a close one against Oklahoma.

Whether they end up playing the Sooners or the Orange, I like North Carolina in the regional final.  The Tar Heels have way too much talent not to make the Final Four.  

West Region: 

– UConn vs. Purdue: The Huskies have arguably been the most impressive team in the tournament so far, especially with the way they ran a red hot Texas A&M team out of the gym in the second round.  Purdue has been quietly solid, having won a close one against a good Washington team in the second round.  Still, as good as the Boilermakers are playing right now, it won’t be near enough.  Purdue doesn’t have anyone who can guard Hashim Thabeet.  UConn wins easily.  

– Memphis vs. Missouri: This will be entertaining.  Both teams play a fast paced style and like to play pressure defense.  Memphis easily handled Maryland in round two after struggling in their first round game against 15 seed Cal State Northridge, while Missouri nearly blew a big lead to Marquette in round two and rallied to win.  Both teams rely on forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets in transition, so I think both teams will be successful in that area.  I like Memphis in this game (even though I’m a Missouri alum) because of their ability to score in the half court, and their overall defensive ability.  This will be close, but I think Memphis prevails.  As a Missouri alum, I plea to Mike Anderson to say in Columbia and not be tempted by the Alabama job.  You’ve got a good thing going Mike, let’s keep it that way. 

I think Memphis-UConn would be a fantastic game.  I think while UConn has been dominant in this tournament, I still have a hunch that Memphis’ defense will be able to help turn the game in their favor.  That is a matchup I would definitely pay money to see.  In the event that Missouri upsets Memphis, I would take UConn against the Tigers.  

Midwest Region:

– Louisville vs. Arizona: The Wildcats easily got through Utah and Cleveland State as a 12 seed.  I honestly thought they would lose to Utah, but Arizona has shown that they have talent to win if they get the right matchup.  However, Louisville is not it.  While Louisville did struggle with a good Siena team in round two, they’re still as complete as any team in the country.  A Rick Pitino team with several days to prepare is usually bad news for opponents.  I like Louisville to win, although Arizona might keep it close early.

– Michigan State vs. Kansas: These teams met in January, with the Spartans blowing out the Jayhawks in East Lansing.  This will be on a neutral court, and Kansas is much improved since that meeting.  Both teams looked solid in their winning their first two tournament games, so I expect this to be competitive.  If Kansas can get another good game inside from Cole Aldrich, this should be very interesting indeed.  In the end though, I think the Spartans are the better defensive team and that will come through in the end.  I do however have to admit that I did pick North Dakota State to beat the Jayhawks in one of my pools simply because I can’t stand Kansas, so take that with a grain of salt.  Still, I like Michigan State to win a close game here.  

I think Louisville win the regional final regardless if the opponent is Michigan State or Kansas.  The Cardinals are too athletic at both ends of the floor for either team.  

I still like my Final Four that I picked before the tournament started.  I still like Memphis to stifle Lousiville in one national semifinal, and I like North Carolina to beat Pitt in the other.  In the end, I still pick Memphis to win it all because of their defense.  Regardless, this is a round of 16 that I am looking forward to like no other in recent years.

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My Final Four Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 19, 2009

Clearly picking the NCAA tournament is a very inexact science, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  This year things are wide open, but I’m also having a hard time seeing a lot of big time upsets.  Nevertheless, we’ll give it a stab.  As always, picks are to be taken with caution.

East Region:

First Round Surprises: I only see one lower seed winning in the first round here.  I’ve got 11 seed VCU upsetting UCLA.  Virginia Commonwealth upset Duke in the first round two years ago, and they hung tough with Oklahoma in non-conference play during the regular season.  The main reason I am making this pick is I am really not sold on UCLA.  I’ve watched the Bruins play several times this season, and they are maddeningly inconsistent.  Plus, they make the cross-country trip to Philadelphia.  I don’t like those odds for the Bruins.

– Second Round: I do have a big shocker here.  I have 7 seed Texas beating 2 seed Duke to move on to the sweet 16.  I think the Longhorns are way too talented to be a 7 seed.  I know they have really underachieved, but when you’ve got the Big 12’s all-time leading three point shooter in A.J. Abrams, a talented swingman in Damion James, a beast inside in Dexter Pittman, and an array of talented guys off the bench, I think the Longhorns are prized for a surprise run.  I also think Duke is way too dependent on the three, and that’s not a good recipe for tournament success.  I also like Florida State to beat Xavier in a 5-4 second round matchup.  The Seminoles have one of the country’s best players in Toney Douglas.

– Sweet 16 and regionals: While I think Texas will take down Duke, I don’t think they have quite enough for Villanova.  The Wildcats, like many Big East teams, are going to prove their worth in this tournament.  The Big East is clearly the best conference this season and it will show.  On that note, I like top seed Pitt to easily handle Florida State, setting up an all-Big East regional final.  Pitt is a dynamite team with great guard play and a tremendous force inside in DeJuan Blair.  I like Pitt to win a close one in the regional final against Villanova and make the Final Four.

The pick: Pitt

South Region: 

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got two here.  I think Western Kentucky, a 12 seed, will beat the 5 seed Illinois.  For the life of me I can’t see how a mediocre conference like the Big Ten has seven teams in.  Western Kentucky has a nice team with good tournament success in the past, and I like them against an overrated Ilini team that will be without its best player in Chester Frazier.  Frazier says he’ll be ready for round two, but that won’t be necessary.  I also like Michigan, the 10 seed, to beat 7 seed Clemson.  I know what I just said about the Big Ten, but Clemson is such an enigma, sometimes they’re awesome and sometimes they’re beyond awful.  I think their performance will be somewhere in the middle, and I like the Wolverines to handle the Tigers.  

– Second Round: I actually have the top four seeds (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Gonzaga) moving on to the Sweet 16 here.  I just think they’re the best teams in this region.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I like the top seeded Tar Heels to hold off Gonzaga.  Ty Lawson will be healthy by then, and even though the Zags are athletic, they won’t pose much trouble for the star studded Heels.  I also like Syracuse to beat Oklahoma, a mini 3 over 2 upset.  I thought Syracuse showed tremendous character in their awesome 6-OT win over UConn in the Big East tourney, and while Blake Griffin gives OU a chance to win any game, I don’t think he’ll be enough against the Orange.  Besides, Oklahoma couldn’t beat either of the top two teams in their own conference, Kansas or Missouri.  In the regional final, I think North Carolina’s athleticism will be too much for Syracuse and their zone defense.

The pick: North Carolina

Midwest Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three lower seeds winning here, including my biggest shocker of the entire tournament.  I’ve got 13-seed Cleveland State beating the 4-seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  I like the Vikings because they proved to be a better Horizon League team than Butler, who was ranked in the top 20 most of the year.  Cleveland State also beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome during the non-conference portion of the year.  Wake Forest has amazing talent, but the Deacons have just been too inconsistent.  I like the upset.  I also have a couple of smaller upsets here based on seeding: USC over Boston College (10 over 7), and Siena over Ohio State (9 over 8).  After Siena made the sweet 16 last year, I’m not prepared to pick against them again.  Many pundits are picking 12 seed Arizona to beat the fifth seed Utah, but I like the Utes.  I don’t think Arizona belongs in the tournament at all after going 9-9 in conference play (in a year where the Pac 10 is down too boot), and I think Utah is better than people are giving them credit for.

– Second Round: I’ve got an upset here, as i like West Virginia (the 6 seed) to take out the three seed and defending national champ Kansas.  I almost picked the Jayhawks to lose in the first round to North Dakota State, but I thought my status as a Mizzou alum may have been clouding my judgement, so I have them losing in round two instead.  In all seriousness, I really like West Virginia, and I think the Jayhawks don’t match up well with the Mountaineers.  West Virginia’s rigorous Big East schedule will pay off and they will not be afraid of Kansas.  I also like top seed Louisville to move on, as well as Utah, who I like to squeeze by Cleveland State.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think Louisville will be able to handle Utah pretty easily, and I also like the 2 seed Michigan State to beat West Virginia.  The Spartans are a lot better now than they were early in the season, and Tom Izzo’s teams have proved over the years that they’re never an easy out.  That being said, I don’t think they have quite enough to topple Louisville, who just happened to win the rugged Big East Tournament.  Rick Pitino’s crew was under the radar most of the year, but there is a reason why they are the top overall seed in the tournament.

The pick: Louisville

West Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three of them here, including 11-seed Utah State surprising Marquette, the 6 seed.  Utah State has proven to be a tough out in the past, and while Marquette comes from the Big East, they just haven’t been the same team since Dominic James was shelved for the year to injury.  The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 without him in the lineup.  Plus, this will be a de facto home game for the Aggies in Boise.  I also like Maryland to beat Cal in a 10-7 matchup, while I like Texas A&M to beat BYU and get the mini-upset in the 9-8 matchup.  The Aggies were as hot as anyone before stumbling in the Big 12 tourney, and I think they’ll rebound here.  A&M beat BYU in a 9-8 matchup last year as well.

– Second Round: The only lower seed I have moving on here is Purdue, who I like to beat Washington in a potential 5-4 matchup.  Both teams have struggled against elite competition, so this is more of a hunch than anything else. I like the top three seeds, UConn, Memphis and Missouri to move on.  Mizzou could have a tough second round matchup against Marquette (who is only seeded as low as they are because of James’ injury), but since I have them playing Utah State, the resurgent Tigers move on without too much trouble.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think UConn will handle their opponent easily whether it’s Washington or Purdue.  I also like Memphis to squeak one out against Missouri.  It is interesting to note the the last loss for Memphis came to UAB when Mike Anderson was the coach.  Anderson of course now coaches Missouri, but I think Memphis has to guard play to answer Missouri’s pressure defense.  I also like the 2-seed Memphis to beat UConn in what would be a great regional final.  I believe Memphis should have gotten a number one seed because of their tremendous defense (the Tigers give up three points less per 100 possessions than anyone in the country).  UConn may have Hashim Thabeet inside, but Memphis will be able to be physical enough to defend him.  I like the Tigers in this region.

The Pick: Memphis

Final Four:

I think if these four teams make it we’re in for some great basketball.  I do like North Carolina to beat Pitt because I think the Tar Heels are more athletic and they have a coach with championship experience in Roy Williams.  I also like Memphis to surprise Louisville, again because of the Tigers’ defense.  A Memphis-North Carolina title game would definitely be interesting.  Memphis lost the title game to Kansas last year, while the Heels are trying to get titles for Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson.  In the end the Tar Heels may have more athletes, but I believe defense wins this event.

That’s why I like Memphis to win the national title.  Take it for what you will.   Enjoy the hoops!

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Two Words For Jay Cutler: GROW UP

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 16, 2009

So apparently Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler finally met face to face this weekend.  They did not follow my advice of having the meeting be just the two of them, but rather were joined by Cutler’s agent Bus Cook and general manager Brian Xanders.  As usual we have two different interpretations of how the meeting went down.  Now, I have not trusted Chris Mortensen as of late because of his tendency to jump the gun (especially when he was convinced Mike Shanahan was going to Kansas City when everyone knew that would never happen), but in this case it seems he tracked down both Cutler and McDaniels, so we are able to draw our own conclusions without need for his analysis.  

Basically, Cutler will not show up for team’s “voluntary” meeting tomorrow meeting.  In fact it seems as he has once again left Denver altogether.  I use voluntary in quotes because while the start of any team’s offseason program is technically voluntary according to the collective bargaining agreement, every player knows these types of things are anything but voluntary if they actually want to make the team and be on good terms with teammates and coaches.  In Cutler’s case, any time at the team’s facility should be absolutely necessary for him because he is learning a new offense that is radically different from Mike Shanahan’s system.  Furthermore, it is clear that Cutler and his agent have requested a trade.  Now, this does not mean the team is required to grant the request, and based on statements made by the team they haven’t and don’t plan to.

Cutler has two years remaining on his contract with the Broncos, and Denver technically controls him for a third year as well because they could choose to use a franchise tag on him and keep him around another year.  The Broncos if they choose could not grant the trade request, and if Cutler declines to show up for required team activities, they can start fining him.  If Cutler’s not careful, and the Broncos choose to play hardball this way, Cutler could find himself a) out of a lot of money and b) so far behind in learning the offense that if he does show up in say, August, he will be declared not ready to start and could find himself watching Chris Simms from the bench.  In addition, Cutler will rapidly fall out of favor with his teammates, if he hasn’t started to already.  If the Broncos go this route, they could end up with a very rocky distraction throughout the season dealing with a quarterback who doesn’t want to be there.  It’s no secret that this is no way for a team leader to behave.  Personally, I hope new addition Brian Dawkins gets ahold of Cutler so he can knock some sense into him.  

I’m on record saying that the Broncos would have been crazy to deal Cutler for Matt Cassel.  I think it would have been a very foolish move on Josh McDaniels’ part.  We may never truly know the real extent of those negotiations.  Was Cassel dangled in front of McDaniels and the coach said no thanks?  Or did McDaniels actively try to get Cassel, only to jump in the fray too late?  As I said, we may never know.  Regardless, at this point the equation has definitely changed.  I still think Cutler can be a great quarterback in this league, but the more I’ve seen of his attitude in the past two weeks, the less I’m sure if he really has the tools besides raw talent to be successful in the long run.  I still think he’s clearly getting bad advice from somebody, but in the end he’s a big boy and makes his own decisions.  I really hope the Broncos and Cutler can still work this thing out, because I think if Cutler gets his head on straight, he might find that McDaniels’ offense would suit him extremely well.  As a fan I want them to work this out, and I want Cutler to continue playing quarterback for the Broncos.  After all, how many teams have continually searched for talented quarterbacks only to never find one?  However, if they can’t work this out by say, draft day, and they decide they don’t want to hold pat and keep him essentially locked in Denver for two years against his will?  As much as it pains me to say this, I say deal him to Detroit, a place where Cutler has said he doesn’t want to go.  If the Broncos do that, I promise you that around midseason Cutler will realize too late what a good thing he had in Denver, and perhaps he’ll be able to learn a lesson.  To be frank though, the available options at quarterback for the Broncos are not good.  The Broncos could go with a journeyman veteran like Jeff Garcia or Byron Leftwich, or they could draft a quarterback and start over.  Perhaps they deal with Cleveland and get Brady Quinn, who is familar with McDaniels’ offense having run it under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.  Either way, it’s a significant downgrade talent wise from Cutler no question, but at some point, is the 5-year old attitude worth the trouble?  

In the end Cutler needs to grow up.  The biggest problem right now is Cutler’s attitude is not acceptable and frankly if he doesn’t want to be here, I say don’t let the door hit you on the way out pal.  Because if Cutler keeps going this route, it doesn’t matter how much potential he has.  For all he knows, he might just be another Jeff George, someone with big potential and a rocket arm, but a really poor attitude that keeps getting in a way and keeps holding him down in mediocrity.

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ENOUGH! Shut Up and Play!

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 12, 2009

This is an open letter to Jay Cutler.  I know the odds of him actually reading this are as good as Kansas suffering a 60 point loss to a 15 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament (please?  please?), but it seems like he is getting really bad advice from someone or multiple someones, so here we go:

Dear Mr. Cutler:

First let me say that you are an amazing talent.  Your arm strength alone makes you one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League.  You’ve shown a great deal of ability in your young career, throwing for a Broncos record 4,526 yards last season and 25 touchdowns.  You’re not afraid to try and make a play, which I greatly admire in a quarterback.  I know your will to win rivals that of any player in the league.  Simply put, the Broncos would have been crazy to trade you for Matt Cassel.  That would be such a downgrade in the quarterback position that there would have been a riot outside Josh McDaniels’ house if he actually pulled the trigger on such a ridiculous deal.  McDaniels knows this, that’s one reason of many why he didn’t pull the trigger on the deal.  The important thing is, you weren’t traded.  That’s the key thing here.  The Broncos didn’t trade you because they want you to be their quarterback, now and into the future.

I can understand your frustration about being mentioned in trade rumors.  Hell, I’d be really upset too if I saw my name on the ESPN bottom line in reference to a potential deal.  If that’s how I found out my name was being bantered about in trade talks, of course it would be upsetting.  No one is faulting you for that.  The thing is, you weren’t traded!  The Broncos are well aware they would have been crazy to trade you for a quarterback who has had one good year and still very unproven over the long haul.   Do you really think the Broncos would be dumb enough to get rid of you when the other available options at quarterback are less desirable than a Tennessee jersey would be to a Vanderbilt graduate?  Are you really crazy enough to think Josh McDaniels would rather turn the offense over to Chris Simms than to have you running it?  

I’m not going to be dishonest, I can’t say the Broncos didn’t have any discussions regarding you or any other player on the roster.  The important thing is, the Broncos didn’t act on them. they didn’t trade you!  There is a reason Pat Bowlen decided to make a coaching change: the team’s 24-24 record over the past three seasons.  This means that no one on the team can ultimately be considered safe.  That’s just the truth.  Any new coach coming in would have looked at the roster the same way McDaniels did, and it’s impossible to say any coach would have retained everyone, that’s just the way it is.  

What you have to remember is that being mentioned in trade talks does not mean that the team doesn’t like you or doesn’t think you’re a great player.  To the contrary, it could mean you’re very valuable.  I want to give you a list.  This list is of great players in many sports (past and present) who have been traded at some point in their careers:

– Joe Montana 

– Brett Favre 

– Steve Young 

– Eric Dickerson 

– Herschel Walker 

– Champ Bailey (you may know him)

– Clinton Portis 

– Jerome Bettis 

– Eli Manning and Philip Rivers 

– Dirk Nowitzki 

– Scottie Pippen 

– Kobe Bryant 

– Kevin McHale and Robert Parish 

– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

– Rasheed Wallace 

– Curt Schilling 

– Jeff Bagwell

– Randy Johnson (twice)

– Manny Ramirez

– Lou Brock

– Tom Seaver

– Pedro Martinez

– Mark McGwire 

– Sammy Sosa (twice)

– Nolan Ryan (multiple times, and he’s arguably the best pitcher of all-time)

– Ozzie Smith (greatest shortstop of all-time perhaps?)

– Wayne Gretzky (easily the greatest NHL player of all-time)

– Patrick Roy (more wins than any goaltender in NHL history)

– Ray Bourque 

– Brett Hull

– Peter Forsberg

This list is just a sampling, but I think it more than proves the point.  Look at this list and what do you see?  You see all-stars, hall of famers, some of the greatest players who have ever lived.  (Frankly I think the list of NHL players who haven’t been traded might be a much longer list).  The point here is that teams will do anything at all to try to win and improve.  The point here is that all-stars are not exempt from the possibility of being dealt, that’s just the reality of it.  While admittedly some of these teams got fleeced, in many cases the team trading the all-star got a boatload in return.  Herschel Walker for example got traded for 12 guys, including draft picks that turned into Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.  

The thing you need to keep in mind, Mr. Cutler, is that for the Broncos to deal you it would take an amazing package.  The Broncos aren’t just going to give away a Pro Bowl quarterback like yourself, but if someone were to give them an offer they couldn’t refuse (say three Pro Bowlers in exchange), they would have to look at that.  This does not mean they don’t like you or don’t think you are a great quarterback, they are simply trying to put the best team on the field that they can.  In the end, they quickly saw that you are a much better quarterback than Matt Cassel, and that is why that deal was not made.  When Josh McDaniels told you on the conference call that no one is untradable, he certainly did not mean he is looking to deal you, he was merely trying to illustrate the business of the NFL.  Trust me when I say the Broncos are not looking actively to trade you, but you have to think as if you were the GM.  You would want to put the best team out there that you can right?  The Broncos want you to be their quarterback, as proven by the fact that they turned down all proposals for you.  Just because they talked does not mean they were seriously considering a deal.

My advice to you is: report to camp on Monday.  Sit down with Josh McDaniels (no one else, for I believe your conference call included too many people) and air out EVERYTHING.  Make sure it’s face to face.  Make him look you in the eye.  Be honest with him.  Tell him what you’re feeling and why.  Give him a chance to explain things to you.  He’ll be honest with you.  I would be highly surprised if he didn’t tell you that you are a very important part of the team and that he didn’t want you around.  This is the only way this can be buried in the past.  Surely you can see that this would be much more efficient and smarter than pouting to your buddies and not reporting.  After that? Prove to the Broncos why you are indispensable.   Play your butt off and help the Broncos win football games.  Be the leader the Denver Broncos need you to be.  Take charge in the huddle.  Instead of expressing your frustration and your hurt feelings in your current manner, channel it into your performance in workouts and on the field.  Frankly your current behavior is not that of a team leader.  You think you have a stronger arm than John Elway?  Prove it.  You want to win? Go out there and get it done.  The Broncos need you.  You really don’t want to be labeled as another athlete who held out and ruined his career.  Besides think about it: do you really want to wake up and realize you’re a Detroit Lion?  I can assure you that their left tackle is not near as good as Ryan Clady, and I guarantee you would find yourself wishing you were back in Denver with McDaniels.  

Be a man here, not a child.  If you play this right, this might just give you the kick needed to really get your career off the ground.   If you don’t, you might already be in the process of kissing your promising career goodbye.  The choice is yours.  

Sincerely,

Reid Fischer – a concerned fan

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An Active Denver Offseason. Will It Make a Difference?

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 9, 2009

The Denver Broncos have certainly been active this offseason, there’s no question about that.  The question is: are they a better team?  I think in many ways they could be, but being active isn’t always the best move.  The truth is we won’t know for sure until the first game kicks off in September what kind of impact all these moves will have.  Still, you can’t say that new coach Josh McDaniels isn’t putting his stamp on things.  Here are some of my thoughts on the Broncos’ offseason so far.  

Best signing: Brian Dawkins  I don’t care if he’s on the wrong side of 35, Dawkins can still play.  He made the Pro Bowl last season and basically carried the Eagles defense through December and to the NFC championship game.  Most importantly, he is a tremendous veteran leader that was sorely missing in the Broncos locker room.  To hear Eagles fans say how upset and disappointed they are that Dawkins is leaving tells me all I need to know.  Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense, and the Broncos haven’t had a leader like him since Al Wilson’s departure.  Dawkins will make everyone around him better, and that alone makes this a great signing.  The fact that he joined the Broncos also means he believes they are capable of winning.  That is a very encouraging indicator.  

Worst signing: Lonnie Paxton To me this is the biggest head scratcher of the players signed by the Broncos.  The Broncos already had a long snapper in Mike Leach who was nothing but flawless for seven years.  I mean literally, he was PERFECT.  Not a single botched snap his entire time in Denver.  This goes for extra points, field goals and punts.  So why on Earth did McDaniels find it necessary to replace him with Lonnie Paxton?  This was one of the few areas on the roster that didn’t require any tinkering.  For that matter, why commit $1 million signing bonus to Paxton when there are so many other needs on the roster? Leach had two years left on his contract, so money wasn’t an issue.  I do realize that Paxton has been flawless in New England as well, so this opinion is not a reflection on his ability.  A good long snapper is a luxury, and the Broncos already had one.  They should have kept Leach.  Reports say that several players are upset at Leach being let go.  

The Jury is Still Out: Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington, LaMont Jordan The Broncos now have more running backs that seemingly any team in NFL history.  These three players will join an already crowded backfield that includes Ryan Torain, Peyton Hillis, Selvin Young, Tatum Bell and Michael Pittman.  Obviously not everyone is going to make the team, but it seems clear that McDaniels is going with the running back by committee approach that worked so well in New England.  Early reports have Buckhalter and Torain being considered the front runners for the starting role, but both have big time injury history. I do like Arrington as a potential third down back and Jordan is a solid runner between the tackles.  If Buckhalter can stay healthy (which he hasn’t three years in a row) his talent is a tremendous upgrade.  It remains to be seen how many of these backs make the roster, but considering the Broncos very wisely kept running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Rick Dennison, it seems that the Broncos running game will continue to be very solid no matter who is back there.  

Quietly Solid: Ron Fields, Andra Davis, Jabar Gaffney Fields comes over from San Francisco, where he played for new Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.  If the Broncos are indeed switching to a 3-4 defense, than nose tackle is arguably the most important position.  Nolan has to have tremendous confidence in Fields if he brought him over, so he’ll at least get a chance to compete for that role (I also hope B.J. Raji of Boston College is there when the Broncos are picking at 12 in the draft, but it seems like he’ll be well off the board by then).  Andra Davis is a solid linebacker who will be counted on to make big plays for the Broncos.  He is also a fiery player in the mode of Brian Dawkins, so it will be nice to see the defense have some attitude again.  I also like Gaffney as a third receiver.  If the Broncos employ a lot of three receiver sets, he’ll be a nice addition as another reliable target for Jay Cutler, particularly if the team is without Brandon Marshall for significant time.  

Please Don’t Do it: Tony Scheffler Reports indicate the Broncos are actively shopping Tony Scheffler.  I plead with McDaniels, STOP!  I mentioned the three receiver sets, these were very common in the Patriots offense and I’m sure McDaniels plans to use them in Denver.  The Broncos have one of the league’s best blocking tight ends in Daniel Graham, and McDaniels is of course familiar with him from their time with the Patriots.  This all being the case, McDaniels may feel Scheffler doesn’t really fit his offense.  The thing is, Scheffler is one of the league’s best pass catching tight ends, and of all the receiving threats in the Broncos offense, he has by far the best rapport with Cutler.  If Marshall is gone for half the season, McDaniels will really be glad he has Scheffler.  Keep him, don’t under any circumstances deal him.

Most Boneheaded Move of All: Brandon Marshall This one has nothing to do with the coaching staff or the personnel department.  This is about Marshall himself being a complete idiot.  He was already suspended once last year for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after several domestic incidents.  His suspension was reduced to one game after he pleaded with Roger Goodell that he would stay out of trouble.  He did seem to mature during the season, even getting involved with charity work in the community.  He even broke up with his girlfriend who seemed to be the cause of most of these incidents.  He is now engaged to a new girl.  So what does he do?  He gets in a fight with his new fiancee at an Atlanta nightclub.  Charges were actually pressed against both of them, and they were dropped the next day.  Thing is, the NFL doesn’t care one bit about dropped charges.  They can punish Marshall completely independently of the legal system, and odds are they will.  To be frank the league was very generous last year and cut him a break based on false promises.  Now that Marshall got in trouble again, he could be suspended for as much half the season, 8 games.  Further, he has just one year on his contract, and he has kissed any hope of an extension goodbye.  Even if he goes free agent at the end of the year, he has surely cost himself millions of dollars.  Brilliant move Mr. Marshall,  you screwed over yourself and the team.  Great work.  

Honestly, I’m not sure how these pieces will all fit.  I’d like to think the offense will be good (the solid offensive line will return intact and untouched), but Marshall’s absence would have a big impact.  It remains to be seen how Jay Cutler’s attitude will affect his season.  Which running back(s) will carry the load?  I like the fact that the new staff is not shy about shaking up the defense.  Top corner Champ Bailey, pass rushing specialist Jarvis Moss and tackle machine D.J. Williams will return to try and fit in with the new pieces.  It does seem that McDaniels thinks he can try to win now, instead of completely gutting and starting over.  The Broncos schedule will be brutal (NFC East and AFC North, plus New England and Indy), so it will be interesting to see what happens.  The draft is of course important too.  Stay tuned.

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Cutler Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 4, 2009

Perhaps this story is finally showing signs of having a resolution.  Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels have scheduled a meeting, presumably one where they will try to iron out their differences and move forward.  The Broncos have once again made it clear that they have no intention of trading Jay Cutler.  Their unequivocal statement coming from owner Pat Bowlen himself should put any other silly rumors to rest (including one I saw today that had Cutler and a draft pick going to Cleveland for Brady Quinn and Shaun Rodgers.  Please).  What we’ll never know is how serious the Broncos actually were in making a run at Matt Cassel, and whether they initiated the discussions or considered a move after another team proposed it.  Whether or not they considered it or discussed it should be completely irrelevant.  The point is the deal for Cassel was not made for whatever reason, and the Patriots sent him to Kansas City instead.  The only reason this became a story is Cutler’s reaction.  If Cutler hadn’t complained to the media about his feelings, this would be a complete non-story.  The fact that Cutler got wind of the discussion means that someone leaked the details of the talks to him, but he should realize it’s not unusual for any player’s name to be bantered about in talks.  Just because a player’s name comes up, it does not mean a deal is around the corner.  

It seems as though what we have here is a situation that happens more often than is actually reported in sports. Team A calls team B to talk trade.  Team B listens.  Team A says it wants team B’s star player.  Team B counters with what it would take from team A to make that happen.  Team A dangles a player that it knows will be enticing to team B.  Most of the time these discussions are very cordial and very rarely get serious.  The players never hear about it.  If they did, every player on every team in every league would be stressed out every day about potentially getting dealt.  In this case, the Broncos cannot be faulted for exploring any option to make their team better.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in three years and blew a three game lead with three to play last season, so no one on the roster can really be considered safe.  In the end, they decided that the offers on the table were not worth pulling the trigger on, so that’s what Cutler needs to realize.

Cutler has a 17-20 career record as a starter, so he hasn’t yet proved himself a consistent winner, but you certainly can’t deny his arm and potential.  I think in the end the Broncos realized you don’t trade a Pro Bowl quarterback for one who had one good year or one who is unproven that they could get in the draft.  This is what Cutler needs to realize.  It is understandable that he would be upset if he indeed thought the Broncos didn’t want him and were actively looking to deal him.  That being said, he isn’t showing much leadership ability by whining and cowering and pointing fingers.  To be quite frank, Cutler has a ways to go if he wants to be a true leader.  Last year he only spoke to the media after wins, not after losses.  The quarterback MUST make himself available after every game, no exceptions.  He can’t keep getting flapped when things aren’t going well, and this goes for on and off the field.  He has a tendency to make bad throws when he gets frustrated, and he also has a hard time dealing with reality off the field when something is going against what he thinks should be happening.  Part of this is a natural adjustment to a young player taking a leadership role, but a lot of it is common sense that he needs to understand.  

I don’t mean to completely rag on Cutler here.  It goes without saying that the Broncos would have been completely nuts to trade him for Cassel.  His progression in many ways isn’t that much different from any other quarterback who has finished his third year.  He is without question a top 10 QB in the league (as Cassel cannot be considered yet), and he should be a top 5 one by the time his career his done if he continues to improve.  His arm strength and ability to grasp playbooks and read defenses are off the charts.  He has a will to win and a drive to be successful.  He certainly can’t be faulted for the team’s atrocity on defense the last three years, including a franchise record rushing day allowed to San Diego in the finale last year.  (I am amused when the defense has blown several games the past few seasons and all anyone wants to talk about is Jay Cutler, and before him Jake Plummer.  Cutler certainly isn’t blameless for the team’s collapse, but he’s not out there missing tackles either.) With the tools the Broncos have on offense, the team has a chance to be even more successful on that side of the ball this year with McDaniels offering his proven fresh ideas.  

Hopefully all parties learned something here.  Hopefully McDaniels learned as a young coach that talks can’t ever be trusted to be kept private, especially if they start to turn serious.  Hopefully Cutler can realize that he needs to show maturity in these situations and realize that no player is ever untouchable.  In the end, I really think the two sides will be able to put things aside after Monday’s meeting and work together to try and win football games.  I think the two sides have no choice, considering Cutler has two years remaining on his deal, and the Broncos don’t have any remotely serviceable options at quarterback out there to even look at should they deal Cutler.  McDaniels realizes Cutler’s talent gives him a great shot to win, and I think Cutler will eventually see that McDaniels’ offense will have a lot to offer.  

Of course, the Broncos now have another issue looming, and that’s how many games Brandon Marshall might miss after being involved in another altercation in Atlanta.  We all know Roger Goodell is not kind to repeat violators of the league’s personal conduct policy.  More on that coming soon.

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It’s a No Brainer: Stick with Cutler

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 2, 2009

First, my apologies for the long delay between posts.  That’s what dental surgery will do to you.

I would like to say that I am generally pleased with the Broncos offseason movement (especially the signings of Brian Dawkins and Correll Buckhalter), but I am very, very disturbed by the latest saga involving Matt Cassel going to the Chiefs.  This is not in any way because I am concerned about Cassel landing in KC, but because of the ripple effects and rumors that happen to involve the Broncos.  This is the background, or at least as concise a summary as I could find.  Basically, in trying to digest information from all of the reports out there, it seems that the Buccaneers called the Broncos, and inquired about getting Jay Cutler.  This would make sense for Tampa Bay because they are in desperate need of a quarterback after jettisoning Jeff Garcia.  Depending on the report, it seems that the Lions and Patriots were also involved in the discussions about a potential multi-team deal.  I’m not sure exactly what the deal would have been for sure, but the root of the rumor seems to be that Cutler would have ended up in Tampa, Cassel in Denver, and perhaps Tony Scheffler going to Detroit and maybe the Broncos first round pick (12th overall) to New England.  There were also reports of other various draft picks being exchanged, including Detroit’s number one overall selection going somewhere if they landed with Cutler instead of the Buccaneers.  

Of course this is all rumor and didn’t happen, so the rumors should be a moot point.  Conversations like this happen all the time.  Most people don’t know that John Elway was thisclose to being traded to Washington following the 1991 season.  This is when Dan Reeves and Elway were really butting heads and ultimately the Broncos chose to keep Elway and they fired Reeves.  The point is that a conversation does not mean a trade is imminent or even on the table.  If I am the GM of an NFL team, and I was stuck with Dan Orlovsky or Brian Griese at quarterback, of course I’m going to call every team to see if I could maybe swing a deal for their QB.  Just because the Broncos take the call and chat doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be eager to deal.  In this case, the Broncos very wisely decided that they would rather not make the deal, and now Cassel is in Kansas City (along with Mike Vrabel), and the Patriots got a second round pick for him in exchange.  Cutler is still the quarterback of the Broncos.  As the attached link indicates though, Cutler is very upset about being mentioned in trade rumors at all, and now the pressure is on Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders to repair the relationship with their quarterback immediately if not sooner.  This needs to happen today.  

Now, if at any point at all Josh McDaniels thought he would rather have Cassel than Cutler, then he seriously needs to get his head examined.  I realize McDaniels and Cassel have a working relationship, and perhaps the new Broncos coach would be more comfortable with Cassel than he would be with an unknown commodity Cutler, who frankly has shown to have an attitude problem at times.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone who knows anything about football could make a rational argument that Cassel is a better quarterback than Cutler.  Admittedly, Cutler has shown at times to make bad decisions (witness his 18 picks last year), but he really came a long way overall in his third season.  He made the Pro Bowl after setting franchise single season records for yards and touchdowns, and his ability and potential have still yet to be completely tapped.  He even said that he was over his disappointment over the Mike Shanahan firing, and was really excited to work with McDaniels.  Cassel had one good year, but was it him? Or was it the system in New England?  Was it actually McDaniels working with him that made the difference?  Besides, wasn’t it McDaniels ability to work with quarterbacks that was one of the biggest selling points of him getting the job?  Wasn’t one of the biggest reasons he was hired was so that he could work with Cutler and help control his on-field decision making and attitude?  

From Cutler’s perspective, if he is really that bent out shape about being mentioned in a rumor, than he frankly needs to grow up.  It seems that the Broncos weren’t actively shopping him around, but rather were listening to other teams that called.  Frankly the management team of any franchise should always listen, because you never know.  What Cutler should realize is the Broncos decided not to deal him in the end, so regardless of whether McDaniels was flirting with the idea of Cassel or not, he ultimately decided against it.  So it would be very immature of Cutler to demand a trade now.  I think ultimately this relationship can be repaired, but the damage control needs to be done now, and certainly by draft day.  

I really think that what happened here is that the Broncos’ were not the initiators of these discussions.  I believe other teams (specifcally Detroit and Tampa) called the Broncos making an offer or offers.  I believe some deals may have been discussed, but McDaniels and Xanders were not behind it.  I believe they listened and discussed, and maybe even got to stage of drafting a potential deal, but of course they decided not to act on it.  Cutler needs to realize that just because another team called the Broncos and asked about him, and just because a deal may have been floated, does not mean that the Broncos want to get rid of him.  Obviously they don’t, because they declined the deal.  The Broncos staff however needs to realize that their franchise quarterback is a very sensitive individual, and perhaps should have more clearly and unequivocally denied the rumors if indeed they are on board with Cutler staying.  Frankly, unless the name on the other end of the conversation is Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, or Ben Roethlisberger (maybe a couple of others), the Broncos should say thanks but no thanks and hang up the phone.  Of course it is McDaniels’ prerogative if he really thinks that Cassel would have been a better fit, but it would have really concerned me to see Cutler traded and Cassel plugged in.  Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Matt Cassel, period.  This doesn’t mean that Cassel won’t find success in Kansas City, for he just might be good fit there, but I would rather have Cutler any day of the week.  If my team’s quarterback was Tyler Thigpen, I would be excited to get Cassel, I just wouldn’t want to get rid of Cutler to get him.  I just hope now that Cutler isn’t so disgruntled that he gets traded somewhere and becomes a star, while the Broncos are still looking for a quarterback in five years.   I implore McDaniels and Xanders to repair this damage quickly.  The last thing the Broncos want is an unhappy Culter counting down to his free agency eligibility.

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