Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's hump day....

We're hearing it's going to be the best and the biggest women's hockey game in history. Thursday, it's the Gold Medal skate to the finals for the USA women, up against the Canadiens. Both teams have had their wins in games against each other. Team Canada was solid in the late Fall and early Winter. But Team USA is red hot now. This will be must see TV. Make sure you find it on whichever NBC outlet televises it.

I don't know what Yancy Gates did to incur Mick Cronin's wrath. But you can't leave your most dominant inside presence on the bench for the final seven minutes of regulation and all of overtime in a game you absolutely have to win to get into the NCAA Tournament. Marquette should send Mick a giant 'thank you' card for that one.

It's all about seeding now for Xavier. If the Muskies win out, I think they can snag a seven seed in the NCAA's. Joe Lundardi, from ESPN, had an interesting observation about this team. He told me that teams will key on Jordan Crawford in the tournament because Crawford is the only threat the Muskies have. But Lunardi was quick to add, in most NCAA Tournament games, it all comes down to the final three minutes, when most teams have only one 'go to guy'. And the Muskies have Crawford.

I'm glad the Reds signed Jonny Gomes. But honestly, I'm hoping that either Todd Frazier or Chris Heisey has a the kind of spring training camp that makes it impossible for the Reds to send them back to the minors. Gomes didn't attract a lot of interest in the off season (he was holding out for a major league deal which the Reds finally gave to him) because teams didn't know if the 2010 Jonny Gomes would be able to replicate what he did in 280 at bats in 2009. Personally, I think he will. But I'd sure like to see Heisey or Frazier make it a tough call for Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker.

Check out my latest podcast on www.kenbroo.com. My guest this time on The Broo View Podcast is Wes Bunting, from the nationalfootballpost.com. Wes is the college football guhru at NFP and has an inside look at this week's NFL Combine. You can find this current episode on the front page of my web site.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Random thoughts for a random kind of Tuesday....

Can snow removal be that tough? I'm just asking.....

The Reds are picked to finish 11 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central this season. So says the PECOTA theorists and numbers crunchers at Baseball Prospectus. St. Louis, predicted to win the division with 88 wins in 2010. Are the Reds really eleven games worse that the Cards? I'll give you Prince Albert at first, Matt Holliday in left, Yadier Molina behind the plate and the top of the rotation with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. But you'll have to concede Brandon Phillips at second, Scott Rolen at 3B and Drew Stubbs in CF. And, I'll take Francisco Cordero to close over Ryan Franklin. The Cards may win the division, but not by eleven over the Reds.....

I'm hearing more and more grumbling about the Bengals having the audacity to offer Pac Man Jones a tryout. I'll grudgingly accept Matt Jones, who had his trouble with coke, among other things, while with the Jags. But Pac Man Jones? The 'Make It Rain Man' from Vegas?

Let me ask you this: when the Indianapolis Colts want to get better, do they look at thugs? Or do they draft smartly? When the Giants Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg by carrying a concealed weapon into a New York City night spot, what did the Giants do? They suspended him indefinitely even though they were in the middle of trying to make the playoffs. When the Colts Mike Doss got into trouble, Indy cut him. The Bengals then signed him. Just when you thought the Bengals were about to behave like a responsible organization, they go back to their future. And they wonder why they can't win.

If you had any doubts about the Big East being the best conference in college basketball, they should have been erased after what happened inside of 36 hours this weekend. Sunday, Rutgers goes on the road and beats Georgetown. Rutgers has struggled all season and the Hoyas will skate into the NCAA Tournament. Then, Monday night, Connecticut goes on the road and knocks off #3 Villanova. That's two road upset wins inside of a day and a half.

Xavier is back home Wednesday night against St. Joe's. I have a feeling the Muskies will now run the table into the Atlantic 10 Tournament and reach, at least, the finals. If all of that happens, they'll be no worse than a #7 seed, maybe higher.....

UC needs to beat one of the big three left on its schedule to get in, IMHO (Georgetown, Villanova or West Virginia) and the Bearcats have to take care of business with Marquette, DePaul and South Florida. But if they beat at least one of the 'big three' they have left on their schedule, it will be the NCAA clincher.....

I'm into the Olympics big time. But if NBC doesn't change its mind and put the USA vs Canada men's hockey game on 'over the air' TV, I think the network is making a big mistake. NBC has a vested (monetary) interest in the NHL. How can you have that and not put your home country's hockey game on TV, banishing it to cable? The rumor is, the game goes to cable so NBC can televise ice dancing. If the suits at NBC like ice dancing so much, why did their programming department pass on the chance to buy the Dancing With The Stars franchise, which instead was gobbled up by ABC,

Like I say...I'm just asking here....
We got a long way to go and a short time to get there, as the late great Jerry Reed used to sing...

Monday, February 08, 2010

It's Tuesday and it's snowing...wait a minute, it's February in Cincinnati, why is this a shock to anyone?

This may have been the last Super Bowl you’ll be able to enjoy for awhile. There will be at least one more, after this upcoming season. But the talk around that game will be more about labor troubles in the NFL than about blocks and tackles. The NFL is headed for a road block.

The owners want out of their basic bargaining agreement with the players association. The owners signed off on a new deal in 2006. But, within months, there was buyers remorse.

Now the NFL owners have exercised an opt out. They want a do over. And the players union is in no mood to give them one. I’ve been told by people who should know that the real intent of the owners here is to permanently break the union.

In 2006, when Paul Tagliabue was the NFL commissioner and the late Gene Upshaw ran the NFLPA, the owners signed off on a deal that guaranteed their players 59-percent of the teams gross revenue. It was then, and remains now, the highest ‘cut’ of any of the four major sports. The owners say, it’s too high. And since 2007, or there abouts, they’ve been girding for a lockout. The target season: 2011. Everything the owners have done leads you to believe they will lock out the players in 2011, effectively stopping the games. The owners have hired the man who engineered the National Hockey League’s player lockout from a few years back. The owners have negotiated a contract with their television partners that will guarantee them payments form the networks, even if there are no games to televise.

Now you’re thinking, OK, 2011 is a long way off. But the impact will be immediate. Because the owners have opted out of their agreement with the players (which incidentally they had every right to do, given the contract language) 2010 will be an uncapped year. That means teams can spend as little as they want on player salaries this upcoming season, or a much as they want. Guess which side teams like the Patriots, Redskins and Cowboys will come down on. Guess which side your Cincinnati Bengals will choose.

Owners with deep pockets and big egos, like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder could spend past imagination to try and build a championship team. Don’t think it could happen? In 2007, Snyder spent $130-million more than the Minnesota Vikings. Not $130 million dollars in salaries. $130-million dollars MORE than the Vikings.

Ir’s more than just dollars. It’s the stark reality of trying to fix a football team that might be just a player or two away from being really good. Think, your Cincinnati Bengals.

Up until this year, a player with four seasons of NFL under his belt would be available for some form of free agency. Not now. In this uncapped year of 2010, the years of service goes up to six. That will cut down on the free agent pool. Players like Denver’s Elvis Dumervil and San Diego’s Darren Sproels, are now off the market.

The top eight playoff finishers from the previous season would be allowed to sign free agents only at the rate at which they lose them. So maybe there’s a silver lining after all, to the Bengals stinking it up in the first round of the playoffs.

Each team would be allowed to restrict two eligible free agents with "franchise" or "transition" player tags, rather than one., further limiting the free agent pool. In essence, the chances for a team that is, shall we say frugal, of getting better overnight, aren’t all that good.

You heard a lot of rhetoric this week from the union boss, Demaurice Smith and from NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. You’ll hear a lot more in the coming weeks and months. With no deal in place by this time next year, the strike rhetoric will overwhelm the game. A lot of voices are saying today that the NFL and it’s union won’t allow it to get to a point where the 2011 season is interrupted, that there is too much money on the line for both sides to kill this golden goose. But we heard that in 1982 and again in 1987. And both times a major piece of the seasons were interrupted.

It could happen again.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I thought the Super Bowl ads were lame this year. Maybe it's because we've seen so many good ones in years past. This years didn't hit the mark for me, except for this one:

I'm told Leno flew in 'stealth' last week to tape this, in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, home to the Letterman show. In fact, Jay and Oprah were in the 'green room' watching Letterman tape his show. After that was completed, the CBS stagehands set up a living room set in the balcony of the theatre. The whole thing took about 25 minutes to tape. Letterman, reportedly, wrote the script. It was just brilliant. And witnesses say Leno and Letterman got along, putting aside their personal feud of about 15 years.
I mentioned this on my radio show Sunday, on 700 WLW: the Saints didn't have to be the better team Sunday to win the Super Bowl. They just had to be the better team for three hours, beginning at 6:25p EST. And, they were.

But it's still my contention that for the 2009 season, the best team in the NFL was the Indianpolis Colts. They were beaten by the better team Sunday night.

And I’ve been thinking about this all week. Why is Indianapolis so good? What makes that team the bell cow for every other team in the NFL, including the Bengals? And why do the Colts have a team that’s good enough to play in this game today and the Bengals don’t?

The easy answer is that the Colts have the best player in the game, Peyton Manning. But that also dismisses the other 30 teams in the league. So it’s deeper than that.

The better answer is drafting and assessing talent. If you’ve listened to this show for a moment, you know that I’ve consistently said the biggest problem the Bengals have, the one thing that has held this franchise back from contending is it’s process of player procurement. The Bengals struggle with it. The Colts excel at it.

In 1997, Indianapolis finished 3-13. They had the number one pick in the ’98 draft. They chose Manning. Could’ve taken Ryan Leaf. They Colts took Peyton Manning. In 1999, they finished 13-3 and won the AFC East.

But look at the other moves that came after that.

Also in ’99, they got Manning’s center, Jeff Saturday, off the unemployment line. Baltimore had cut him. He’s been the anchor of the Colts line ever since.

At right guard is Kyle DeVan, free agent pick up this past off season. Undrafted free agent. He was playing in the Arena2 league. He’ll start today in the Super Bowl.

Left guard, Ryan Lilja. Like DeVan, an undrafted free agent. He starts today. The Colts found him when the Chiefs let him go in 2004. That year, the Bengals were busy signing players like Kurt Kittner and Allen Augustin, names forgotten three minutes after they were signed.

The guy protecting Manning’s back side, left tackle Charlie Johnson, was a sixth round pick in 2006. The Bengals passed on him and took wide receiver Reggie McNeal. Johnson starts today. McNeal wound up posing for mug shots. Oh, in that same round in 2006, after the Bengals passed on Johnson and took McNeal, the Colts found the guys who’ll start at free safety today, Antoine Bethea. Correct me if I’m wrong haven’t the Bengals spent a lot of money and time trying to find safeties lately?

You get where this is going? The Bengals could have picked wide receiver Pierre Garcon in 2008. Instead, they passed on him twice in the 6th round of that draft. They took Corey Lynch and Chris Harrington. And don’t get me started on Jerome Simpson from that draft.

One of the best wide receivers in football was a first round pick in 2001. So was Justin Smith. The Colts took Reggie Wayne number 30 overall. Smith came here fourth overall.

And it’s not just offense. Don’t you think the Bengals would have saved a lot of free agent money, if they’d drafted defensive end Robert Mathis in 2003, instead of taking Kahlid Abdullah? Mathis had nine and a half sacks and five forced fumbles this season. Abdullah played two years here and had ten tackles total in his entire career. The Bengals took Abdullah two picks before Mathis.

And it’s knowing where the players fall through the cracks land, and how they’d fit into your system. Defensive tackle Daniel Muir for example. The Packers let him go in 2008. The Bengals could’ve claimed him. He’ll start for the Colts today. He was an undrafted free agent out of Kent State.

The Colts started undrafted free agents at safety, cornerback,and middle linebacker. Gary Brackett is the middle linebacker. Great story. He walked on at Rutgers, defensive captain by his senior season, undrafted free agent, starting in the Super Bowl today.

Why, in 2005 when they were desperate for cornerbacks, did the Bengals pass on Kelvin Hayden in round two and take Odell Thurman? Why did Hayden start in the Super Bowl and Thurman is in the UFL?

You like Dwight Freeney? Me too. Could have had him in 2002. He went one pick AFTER the Bengals took Levi Jones. What did Freeney have this season, 13 and a half sacks? And Jones is where right now? The Bengals also passed on Jeremy Shockey, Albert Haynesworth and Ed Reed in the first round of that draft. How’d that happen?

The answer to all of these questions is two words: Bill Polian. Actually, it’s four words: team President, Bill Polian. In ’97, he was fired by the Bills. The Colts didn’t waste a moment signing him. Why not? He got the Bills to four Super Bowls and the Colts, at least in their Indianapolis days, never had a whiff of one.

Polian had a vision, and more important, had a plan. He knew what kind of players he needed in his system to win. That’s why in the ’99 draft, he took Edgerrin James and passed on Ricky Williams. The Saints traded their entire lot of draft picks to get Williams AFTER Polian took James. Polian spent just one pick. The Saints spent six picks to get Williams.

There was the Corey Simon fiasco a few years back. But under Bill Polian, the Colts haven’t been big free agent spenders. It’s all about drafting, finding the players that should’ve been drafting and coaching.

For eleven seasons, the Colts have had a plan. Where have the Bengals been the last eleven seasons, or for most of the eleven before that.

Under Polian, the Colts have had their whiffs. But not many. The Bengals have faired better with some selections than Indianapolis. Rudi Johnson in round 4 instead of the Colts starting guard, Ryan Diem. Maybe a wash.

Look, I don’t know Bill Polian from the next guy. To be completely honest, in my first go round at channel 5 years ago, Polian was in Buffalo and was a jerk to deal with. I don’t sense anything warm and fuzzy about the guy. But he knows talent. And that’s why you should know this:

When you watched the Super Bowl, you saw a lot of guys playing for the Colts who easily could have been Cincinnati Bengals. And had they come here, instead of there, it might just as easily have been the Bengals in who played in Super Bowl XLIV.
Just another Manic Monday....

BTW, whatever happened to Suzanna Hoffs and the Bangles?

Whoa...didn't see this one coming, Saints win the Super Bowl! You can think the genius coaching of the Saints' Sean Payton. 4th and 1 from the Colts one, right before halftime, Payton elects to 'go for it'. The Saints didn't get into the end zone. But it left Peyton Manning and the Colts backed up. Payton had all of his time outs left. He knew if he held the Colts to 'three and out', he'd get the ball back in decent field position. It happened exactly that way and the Saints wound up with the three points they left on the field just moments before.

The on-sides kick to start the second half was pure genius, and headsy. And challenging the two point conversion try that the Saints didn't get on the field, but was reversed on replay, was another indication that Payton had his 'A' game going and Jim Caldwell, the Indianapolis coach, did not. By the way, there is NO way that two point conversion should have been overturned on replay. Despite what the NFL chief of officials says, it was not a successful conversion by strict interpretation of the NFL rule book.

I'm particularly happy today for the Cincinnati connection on that Saints squad. Former Lakota High and UC star, Troy Evans was a big contributer on special teams. And did you see him out there for the pre game coin flip? Zach Strief, the Milford High standout by way of Northwestern, will be wearing a Super Bowl champion's ring. And the linebackers coach for the Saints happens to be the son of Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. When you factor in the time Sean Payton spent on the late Randy Walker's coaching staff at Miami University, Southwest Ohio didn't do all that badly on Sunday night.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tuesday rumblings and ramblings...

If Colts DE Dwight Freeney can't play (torn ligament in his ankle) I think it greatly cuts down on what the Colts want to do defensively. Freeney downplayed the significance of his absence, should it occur. His contention is that the Colts are better in their secondary and at linebacker than they were even two years ago, and less reliant on their front four. But you tell me how a team isn't affected when their best defensive player is out, or not near 100%? If this game developes into a track meet, like it could given both offenses, not having Freeney will greatly hurt the Colts, IMHO.

Big day for high school football players is coming up tomorrow. And it's a big day for college football coaches. It's National Signing Day, where scholarships are handed out and players will make or break college coaches.

Check out my latest Broo View Podcast. It's on my web site www.kenbroo.com. My gues this week is Brian McLaughlin, the recruting writer for The Sporting News. Our conversation is how the NCAA needs to bring some sanity to the process of recruting players, and how it might be a good idea to have an early signing period, much like college basketball. If you're on the fly, here's a quick link.